2009 Contemporary Jazz Preview

One constant in the contemporary jazz world is the planning and reliable execution of Heads Up recordings. I just got the list for 2009 and it’s another winner for contemporary jazz fans. I’ll elaborate more in later posts but here’s what’s on the schedule:

January
Incognito – More Tales Remixed – remixes of songs from the latest Incognito release;
Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Live;
Walter Beasley – Free Your Mind

February
Joe Zawinul – 75 – two-disc live set;
Pieces of a Dream – Soul Intent;
Mike Stern – New Morning The Paris Concert;
The Bad Plus Joined by Wendy Lewis – For All I Care

March
Marion Meadows – TBD;
Chuck Loeb – Between 2 Worlds;
Yellowjackets – New Morning The Paris Concert

April
Candy Dulfer; Hiroshima

May
Spyro Gyra; Zap Mama; Stanley Clarke/Hiromi/Lenny White

June
Alexander Zonjic, Andy Narell

August
Najee; Mike Stern; Joe Zawinul DVD

September
Take 6 – a new holiday recording

Grammy Jazz Analysis Part 2

Nominees in the Best Contemporary Jazz Album (For albums containing 51% or more playing time of INSTRUMENTAL tracks.) Shouldn’t they replace the word “album” with “recording?”

Nominees are: Journey by Fourplay, Unspeakable by Bill Frisell, In Praise of Dreams by Jan Garbarek, The Hang by Don Grusin, and the Strength EP from Roy Hargrove (The RH Factor).

The Academy has nominated Bob James and Larry Carlton several times over the last 30 years. James has won with his collaborations with Earl Klugh (1980) and David Sanborn (1985). So collaborations with James can win but Fourplay has yet to score and the stronger competition will make sure that doesn’t happen this year either.

Garbarek returned to the studio after six years with American-Armenian violist Kim Kashkashian and African-French drummer Manu Katch?. The trio’s emotive recording earned accolades.

The Strength EP, from Roy Hargrove and his RH Factor, is a small follow-up to the band?s debut that is big on sound. The great tunes here are firmly rooted in R&B and jazz making this one of the most accessible fusion projects in a while.

Grusin’s The Hang didn’t impress me when I first listened to it but when I saw the performance on DVD, my impression changed. If the Academy sees the DVD too then they might give overdue recognition to these artists who were an important part of keeping jazz going in the 1980s.

However, I think the Grammy will go to Bill Frisell. Many reviews have credited Unspeakable as Frisell’s jazziest album to date. The fact that it was nominated shows that the Academy knows his work. I speculate that they have been looking for a way to recognize him and this is it. Then again, I thought that the Academy would give Joe Zawinul the award two years ago for Faces and Places. By saying that, I mentally overrode my own recognition that Metheny Always Wins (and, of course, the Pat Metheny Group beat Zawinul for their Speaking of Now release).

The Grammys are televised this Sunday. I would write about the show but I won’t have anything to say. They (and I don’t know who to point the finger to) are completely abandoning jazz on air this year.

Grammy Nominees Announced

The nominees for the 45th Grammy Awards were announced today. It will be the most competitive year for the Best Contemporary Jazz Category. As history shows, Pat Metheny always wins. Every nomination = win. And he deserves it. However, this may be the year that that streak is broken. Look at this list: Uberjam – John Scofield; Mint Jam – Yellowjackets; Faces and Places – Joe Zawinul; Deep Into It – Larry Carlton; Speaking of Now – Pat Metheny Group. Wow.

Other nominees in other categories include Norah Jones (lots of nominations), Michael Brecker, Herbie Hancock, Caribbean Jazz Project, Dave Douglas, Wayne Shorter, Gary Burton, and Dave Holland. For the complete list of nominees, visit the Grammy site.

The winners will be announced on February 23 and the awards ceremony will be broadcast on CBS.

Sunny Skies Ahead

Weather Report Live and UnreleasedLooked outside the window lately? The forecast for Weather Report fans has been sunny this month. On October 1, the two-CD set Live and Unreleased hit stores. Performances from 1975 to 1983 are captured in the collection and you’ll find all of the group’s signature songs. The release was produced with the full cooperation of Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter, making this the first official Weather Report album in over 15 years.

Joe’s new solo release, Faces and Places made its U.S. debut in mid-September. The CD is the perfect blending of world music and jazz. You won’t believe that Joe is 70 years of age when you hear how this music moves. Joe’s plugged-in sound, combined with the world influences, makes for one of the best jazz listening experiences this year.

Victor BaileyFaces and Places is out on ESC Records, which is also releasing Victor Bailey’s new solo effort in the U.S. this week. Victor was Weather Report’s bassist when the group dissolved in the mid-80s but continued his relationship with Joe in the Zawinul Syndicate and beyond. That’s Right has a top-notch band – Omar Hakim, Bill Evans, Jim Beard, Dean Brown, Lenny White, and Bennie Maupin. I haven’t heard the CD, but I’ve very interested in one of the tracks that ESC’s web site describes. On “Black on the Bach,” Bailey overdubs four tracks of interlocking bass parts – arpeggios, solos, counterpoint, call-and-response -to merge J.S. Bach and the blues. That, in addition to Bailey’s established playing ability and the calibre of other musicians on this CD, will make me consider buying this CD without even a sample listen.