Riff

Our staff sounds off in the random thoughts category

Streisand Returns to the Village Vanguard

Are you going?

48 years ago, she was the opening act for Miles Davis ( well, according to her website, she WANTED to open for Miles but she didn't get the gig).

Lorraine Gordon, the owner of the Vanguard-  has a deep philosophical connection to Streisand-they both share the same attitude about the causes they believe in and will stop at nothing for what they believe. Two dynamic women who have passions that transcend this business of music.

So, I approach Streisand's return to her acoustic, un- overproduced roots with optimism. Maybe she picked the Vanguard because she is finally ready to allow us to hear her instrument again. You can't hide anything at the Vanguard-  Lorraine won't let you.

She has a new album. Diana Krall is on piano. She makes the connection singing Bernstein's "Some Other Time", a song recorded to perfection by Tony Bennett and the Vanguard's house pianist of that other time, Bill Evans.  I reserve judgment until I hear it.

I am not going to her concert. I didn't even try to enter the lottery to get one of only 80 tickets. I will watch the video along with the gizillions of others next week, after she has had her chance to make sure that it is up to her standards.

Gee, when  we make our monthly broadcast from the Vanguard, you get to hear and watch the artist live. Warts and all. That's jazz.

Village Vanguard on Super Bowl

Yes, it's a commercial for beer...What else do they try to sell during football games?  But check out the great set location.  It's the Village Vanguard!  Right after we finished our December broadcast of the Cedar Walton Trio, a crew of seventeen people, not including actors, took over the club and created this thirty second ad with John Turturro.

Grammy Nominations Announced - Have Your Say

Grammy Logo

It's official - the nominations for the 51st Annual Grammy Awards have been announced. Proof that jazz musicians are versatile? Charlie Haden gets nominated for Best Country Instrumental! Strangest sight? How about drummer Jack DeJohnette in the New Age category!

Nominations are the exclusive domain of National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences members, but that doesn't prohibit you from speaking (or writing) your mind. So have your say. Who should have been nominated but wasn't? Who would you pick to win? Be sure to include category and name of artist. Click "Read more" to see the list. Then make your comments.
<!--more-->Best Contemporary Jazz Album
Randy In Brasil
Randy Brecker

Floating Point
John McLaughlin

Cannon Re-Loaded: All-Star Celebration Of Cannonball Adderley
Various Artists

Miles From India
Various Artists

Lifecycle
Yellowjackets Featuring Mike Stern

Best Jazz Vocal Album
Imagina: Songs Of Brasil
Karrin Allyson

Breakfast On The Morning Tram
Stacey Kent

If Less Is More...Nothing Is Everything
Kate McGarry

Loverly
Cassandra Wilson

Distances
Norma Winstone

Best Jazz Instrumental Solo
"Be-Bop"
Terence Blanchard, soloist
Live At The 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival
Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars

"Seven Steps To Heaven"
Till Brönner, soloist
The Standard
Take 6

"Waltz For Debby"
Gary Burton & Chick Corea, soloists
The New Crystal Silence

"Son Of Thirteen"
Pat Metheny, soloist
Day Trip

"Be-Bop"
James Moody, soloist
Live At The 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival
Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars

Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group
The New Crystal Silence
Chick Corea & Gary Burton

History, Mystery
Bill Frisell

Brad Mehldau Trio: Live
Brad Mehldau Trio

Day Trip
Pat Metheny With Christian McBride & Antonio Sanchez

Standards
Alan Pasqua, Dave Carpenter & Peter Erskine Trio

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
Appearing Nightly
Carla Bley And Her Remarkable Big Band

Act Your Age
Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band

Symphonica
Joe Lovano With WDR Big Band & Rundfunk Orchestra

Blauklang
Vince Mendoza

Monday Night Live At The Village Vanguard
The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

Best Latin Jazz Album
Afro Bop Alliance
Caribbean Jazz Project

The Latin Side Of Wayne Shorter
Conrad Herwig & The Latin Side Band

Song For Chico
Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra

Nouveau Latino
Nestor Torres

Marooned/Aislado
Papo Vázquez The Mighty Pirates

Best Instrumental Composition
"The Adventures Of Mutt"
John Williams, composer
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

"Alegria"
Chick Corea, composer
The New Crystal Silence

"Claire's Closet"
Russell Ferrante, composer
Lifecycle

"Danzón De Etiqueta"
Dave Grusin, composer
Amparo

"Hit The Ground Running"
Gordon Goodwin, composer
Act Your Age

Best Instrumental Arrangement
"Define Dancing"
Peter Gabriel & Thomas Newman, arrangers
Wall-E Soundtrack

"Down In The Valley"
Frank Macchia, arranger
Landscapes

"Duke Ellington's Sound Of Love"
Michael Abene, arranger
Symphonica

"St. Louis Blues"
Bob Brookmeyer, arranger
Monday Night Live At The Village Vanguard

"Yesterdays"
Gordon Goodwin, arranger
Act Your Age

Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)
"Alfie'
Vince Mendoza, arranger
The Look Of Love - Burt Bacharach Songbook

"Grace"
Cedric Dent, arranger
The Standard

"Here's That Rainy Day"
Nan Schwartz, arranger
Still Unforgettable

"Johnny One Note"
Don Sebesky, arranger
With A Song In My Heart

"Lazy Afternoon"
Claus Ogerman, arranger
Across The Crystal Sea

Best Album Notes
Art Of Field Recording Volume I: Fifty Years Of Traditional American Music Documented By Art Rosenbaum
Art Rosenbaum, album notes writer (Various Artists)

Debate '08: Taft And Bryan Campaign On The Edison Phonograph
Patrick Feaster & David Giovannoni, album notes writers

Kind Of Blue: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition
Francis Davis, album notes writer

Rare & Unreleased Recordings From The Golden Reign Of The Queen Of Soul
David Ritz & Jerry Wexler, album notes writers

The Unsung Father Of Country Music: 1925-1934
Henry "Hank" Sapoznik, album notes writer

Best Historical Album
Art Of Field Recording Volume I: Fifty Years Of Traditional American Music Documented By Art Rosenbaum

Classic Columbia, OKeh And Vocalion Lester Young With Count Basie (1936-1940)

Debate '08: Taft And Bryan Campaign On The Edison Phonograph

Polk Miller & His Old South Quartette

To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story

Coda: Trumpeter Jon Faddis and the Naked Campaign

 

It's been a week since our nation's historic election.  One of the most artful methods of election coverage was The Naked Campaign, a series of videos featuring New Yorker illustrator Steve Brodner.  As a project, the Naked Campaign demonstrates that all the tools of drawing, painting, writing, and filmmaking can be utilized to create a distinct point of view.  You don't necessarily have to agree with that point of view, but if you're a jazz fan, you'll certainly appreciate this final installment of the series.  Jon Faddis is the trumpeter.  Considering that Faddis is the protege of Dizzy Gillespie, who ran for president in 1964, it is a coda indeed.
-Josh

"NPR Community" Announcement: Dewey Wins!

Big news this weekend from the mothership. National Public Radio gets in the social media game with their launch of the NPR Community, a public media framework that ties all digital content posted on the NPR website - both from insiders and member station producers (Disclosure: I am the latter) - to the good people who actually consume it on their computers, mobile devices, and other emerging gadgets.

I'll be joining the community of NPR/member station employees, listeners, and visitors to the NPR Music Site for the online cabal. According to Dick Meyer, Editorial Director at NPR Digital Media, "Many big news operations have had open comments and other "social media" functions for quite awhile. Some of you are grizzled veterans of Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and online news commenting; for some this will be new."

He added, "NPR has been cautious because we want to do it right; we want the comments and the conversations to be useful, friendly and civil; we want NPR employees to participate and talk about their work. We needed the right tools and the right philosophy to come together. Now it has." Read the full announcement.

It's another victory lap for John Dewey's assertions on the role of journalism in a democratic society and another perp walk for Walter Lippman's treatise. Or an uneasy alliance of the two competing philosophies. To me, it's Dewey's "Great Society" turned "Great Community" for public radio's content makers and users. Supported by taxpayers like you. Cool. Meyer adds, "We are not launching the project to get more "hits" that will make more money. We are doing it because it is the respectful thing to do for the NPR community."

True, but the service will bring more traffic to NPR's website, and consequently, more underwriting sponsorship. Station managers grappling with overtaxed work forces, limited resources, and budget shortfalls of their own will view this with the requisite admiration, envy, and possibly some concern. Will the largesse, an unintended consequence or otherwise, trickle down to stations? And while everyone in public radio has their eye on growing the audience, NPR Digital and other capitalized public media institutions (including a handful of stations) are making the concept of an audience disappear. It's being replaced with citizens and collaborators and users in a participatory online environment. People who naturally consume information, love to share it, comment on it, and engage with it. Not to mention the occasional conservative hecklers and critics of public media. It's an interesting experiment, and finding a solution to the fiscal equation is like finding the next prime number. But organizations like NPR are risking revenue for innovation. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I'll be hanging out in my bleacher seat on the NPR Community, connecting to the music lover who visits some of the content I contribute (including the WBGO/NPR Music Concert Series, Live at the Village Vanguard). I'm joining because it's my bit part in the whole liberal (and I use that word in its true definition) utopian process. After all, what's a great society or great community without some great music?
-Josh

Notes From The SS WBGO

Ahoy readers. Josh Jackson sends posts from the Village Vanguard so I have decided to do the same from the co-anchor chair during the drive. <!--more-->

On with Eulis Cathey tonight. Pledge central is buzzing after Rob Crocker and Brian Delp had a really fun show and Rob is riding high as he breezes by to catch his train.

Eulis has such a nice and easy style. It's why so many of you like to listen to him. Tonight, he is boosting his mellow moods with some  highlights from the Latin Package. If you all are dancing where you are like I am in the studio, it's going to be a hot night!

We have a theme this drive- sure, it is our fiscal finale, but everyone who calls or makes a pledge during the first week of the drive is entered to win a choice of one of 4 cruises donated by Jazz Cruises LLC. I have never been on a cruise, so I have never understood the lure of just hanging out on the water, but spending a whole week with some of the greatest jazz musicians of today, now that's something that I could go for. So now I am hoping that someone tonight wins the cruise and doesn't have anyone to go wtih and decides to take me. Eulis is playing Pancho Sanchez's take on Watermelon Man from the Latin Package and I am singing along. Then I realize that Pancho Sanchez is going to be on the Playboy Jazz Cruise ( along with Herbie Hancock who wrote the piece). I could be on that cruise and sing along with it live? Oh man, I gotta go!

Eulis has a listener who is a big Oscar Peterson fan and he likes to play an Oscar Peterson selection each Saturday night. It's always a highlight for me as a listener too. One of the thank you gifts is a seven cd collection from the Oscar Peterson Trio and the hard part is deciding which track to play.  One cut on this CD is Oscar's version of Tea for Two, simple but pure Oscar. Always closely associated with Oscar was Art Tatum and we talk about this really interesting CD called a "reperformance" of Live at the Shrine. Tea for Two is one of the selections on that. This is a CD not without controversy- I try to explain it in simple terms- basically it is all about preserving the intonation and removing the distractions inherent with early recordings ( the tracks on this cd were originally recorded in 1933 and 1949). David Tallacksen talked about the technology on this blog when it was previewed at the IAJE in January. It's the kind of cd that you need to own and listen on your own time. A pledge of $88. Totally worth it. You might have seen this cd in a store and thought that it was just another release of something you may have already in your cd collection. That's why the fund drives are so great- they give us the chance to explore some of the special releases that we as listeners may overlook. I'm glad that a bunch of you decide to go for it. And get entered in the cruise giveaway.

The phones aren't ringing as much as I would like. Maybe the audience doesn't understand how important this fund drive is to keeping WBGO on the air. I have to believe that lots of people who listen don't realize that we get most of our funding from our listeners. And of course, the readers of this blog.  Not commercials. So we have to educate. And remind people how important this radio station is to them. How much of a stake that each one of us has to keep this station on the air. And on the web.

Its 4 minutes to go and we haven't made our goal. It feels like a defeat. Because I know how many people are listening. What did we do wrong? Do people not believe us when we say that we are not messing around here, this is really serious? We do our best to get that point across.

And tomorrow we do it all again- hopefully with your help.

The Drive Starts

In the two years that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of this great WBGO family as an employee, I don't think that I have experienced a more unifying experience as our member drives.<!--more-->Think that you are hearing your favorite announcers often? Yes, they are working 6 days a week. Cephas and I are on the air pitching too. I realized that I will not have a single day away from WBGO until early October. Next weekend, I am on the air two days in a row- you may spend your evening listening to me on the air, go to bed listening to me on the air and wake up at a reasonable hour and I will be back on again. And I am not the only one.

Our volunteers put in hours too. I have seen the same familiar faces for two years now. All week long.

And great caterers bringing in food to keep us fueled. I joke that one year I am going to weigh the staff before the drive and afterwards!

And of course, this is all for you. We do get lots of calls and I have met so many wonderful people when i answer the phones and take pledges- I even met my next door neighbor for the first time when he called to make a pledge ( Hey John!)! We have a very wonderful member who pledges at every drive ( that's you Mike). And by some amazing coincidence, I have taken his call each drive. And of course, Joseph from Randolf...

Yes, its hard. Gary has been feverishly working to find the very best thank you gifts for you. Vickie and Joanna are working with our partners to find venues with great tickets to give you. Norma is at the ready to ship them all  to you. Fran and Rita and David R are waiting to enter in all of the pledges.  Maria will be in at the crack of dawn to produce Gary's first and exciting shift, so her husband has to start taking Emily to school. Dan has been busy making us laugh with his wacky graphics on the website ( remember the naked Valentine's Day announcers, or the WBGO bus?) Grey is orchestrating this whole process. We all fall into our member drive time roles. For the time being, this is our focus. And all the while, we are playing great music, planning the member event on September 27th, and keep up with all of the other things that we  do.

Maybe you will listen a little differently now, as you get to know us a little better. Think of all of the people behind the scenes. We are all doing our part to keep WBGO alive. Join us.

Amy's Moodys

moodys1.jpg

I have had the good fortune to have been surrounded these past two years at WBGO by some of the greatest players in jazz. That's what you come to expect when you are a part of the world's most significant jazz radio station. But it's the people who have touched me for more than the music that they create who truly are a part of my heart.

I  love  the Moodys- James and Linda Moody.

<!--more-->

Last year we honored Moody at our Champions of Jazz Gala. The honoree's are chosen not just for what they have contributed as artists, but also what they are doing for the future of jazz. James has instituted a scholarship fund at Purchase College to support the training of jazz musicians. Moody's program is not just about teaching "musicianship". Its about forming the whole person. That's Moody. Being a musician is about being a whole person. His scholarship website says "creating opportunities for the next generation of jazz musicians". And to make sure, he is putting his time and his money where his mouth is. No one knows better than Moody about what it takes to be a jazz musician. At 83 years of age, he has earned the title of leader.

Twenty years ago, Moody met a single mom with twin teenaged boys. That was Linda. A great love story. Three months later they got married. I have never asked them, but it couldn't have been easy. Age difference, race difference. Both with kids. Being on the road. But these are two spectacular people and as you can see from the photo, they must have been just about the hippest couple around- Linda with her West Coast good looks and well, Moody is a jazz musician.

Last month, I was with Stefon Harris and out of the blue he told a story about Moody. They were playing a gig far away from home and right before they went out for the first set, Moody said to Stefon "where is your cell phone?". Stefon showed him and Moody told Stefon to call his wife and tell her that he loved her before he played a single note. That's  Moody. Don't take anyone for granted, especially when you have found your soul mate. Moody and Linda  truly are soul mates. When I heard that story, I called my husband. Then I called Moody and Linda. I had to tell them all that I loved them.

In this past year, I have had the opportunity to get to know them both Moody and Linda. I can say that my world has become richer for my friendship with Linda. Not a day goes by that this woman is not flying somewhere, planning something, getting ready for a host of young students to come visit, asking about my children, organizing, making this world a sweeter place.

So, I love James and Linda Moody. I love to watch them hold hands,  finish each other's sentences, tell stories. And how lucky I am to have had the chance to listen to those stories- and laugh with them. As soon as we can, we will post the link to the Moody interview with Rhonda Hamilton the day before he was given the key to his ( and our) hometown of Newark. You will get to hear - if you didn't hear it live- some of Moody's great stories. With Linda sitting right beside him. Bet you will love the Moodys too...

Homesick

 1.jpg

Excuse me, but I am about to step up on my soapbox.

I was at a dinner party the other night, and I said that I don't really get out much, My days are long between WBGO and my kids. But then someone at the table mentioned a performer who I had just seen, and then another one and yet another one. . . OK, maybe I get out more than I realized. How lucky am I to live in NY. I just pulled out a list of the events that our marketing crew will be attending this summer- I started to hyperventilate looking over the schedule. Add that to all of the ones that we had to pass on because we simply didn't have enough staff,  it is mindboggling. So many great artists- and so much of it is FREE. Simone and Regina Carter FREE thanks to Lincoln Center Out of Doors, James Moody, Cyrus Chestnut, TS Monk FREE at Lincoln Park, Felix Hernandez and Rhythm Revue FREE in Prospect Park as part of a partnership with the Park, Heart of Brooklyn and us here at WBGO on September 27th. The list goes on. Do I take it for granted?

Sound of me climbing onto my soapbox- I write this from a weekend away in another time zone where people whiz by in cars and I seem to go to the movies everytime I visit because that is what art is. That's not a dig to my movie loving/making friends, its just a statement about the lack of choices available here. We metro area NY/NJers sometimes forget just how arts rich are lives are. Even though I work in the arts, I forget too.This is my thank you to all of us who make it our business to insure that the arts are supported. The corporations who despite stock prices tumbling still find room in the budget to underwrite a concert that they know will introduce kids to great music. And that's where WBGO fits into the picture- we make as much of this accessible to those outside of the area with the live broadcasts and interviews that we do, and the blogging too.

So one big group hug- to all who produce, present, and support this great art of live performance- and for those of you who can attend, keep doing your part and  support these events.And for those of you in Japan, and California, and Montreal and Korea and London and Texas who read this blog and listen to WBGO- keep your radio on and keep supporting the arts.

Thanks for listening.

AMY

Sez Me ... The Montreal Jazz Festival

Montreal Jazz Festival Logo
What annoyed me most about the heart attack last year was that I missed the Montreal Jazz Festival. I'm not kidding. FIJM (Festival International de Jazz de Montreal) is one of the most enjoyable times of my life every year. Except for last year, I've gone every summer since 1992. I feel close especially to all the extraordinary folks who run the jazzfest, especially in the press room. Musically, the jazzfest offers an extraordinary variety, ticketed concerts in the evening, free outdoor concerts all day, and everything they do, they do with style, including the t-shirts. Everything happens in or around Place des Arts, in the middle of a metropolis but with the vibes of a carnival. And there's a Pizzadelic in walking distance in three directions.

I'll be there for it all this year, Thursday June 26th through Sunday July 13th, first as a judge for the GM and Galaxie band and composition competition, then broadcasting live from the heart of the festival on WBGO, 2-6:30 Wednesday the 2nd, Thursday the 3rd, and the 4th of July. I'm looking forward musically to the "Invitation" series of Hank Jones, especially the opening concert of duets with Oliver Jones. I've never heard my favorite pop group, Steely Dan, in concert, and they're playing two in Montreal, with Cat Russell as an opening act. I always expect compelling new singers every year, this year "nouvelles divas" Ima and Melody Gardot. And another festival favorite, Dave Brubeck, this year is playing a trio concert and recreating the octet.

One jazzfest ritual I will happily continue is falling by Club Soda at midnight for ... whatever is happening, usually music that's weird, often music that's wonderful. I realized at Club Soda two years ago how much jazz keeps on being re-defined -- and still swings. I wrote an essay for Down Beat to that effect, but too much of the piece, including the point (and punchline) of the piece, was lost editorially. So here's the piece, as meant to be read ...

(Summer, 2006, at the Montreal Jazz Festival)

“Jazz cannot be limited by definitions or by rules. Jazz is, above all, a total freedom to express oneself.”
Duke said so in a 1952 Down Beat – and on the back of the Down Beat t-shirt I was putting on the last day of the Montreal Jazz Festival. I’d never read the t-shirt before, but Duke’s quote was timely. I’d been thinking about the definition of jazz all through the festival.
“How come you can’t hear jazz at the jazz festival?” was the question asked almost verbatim twice when I was interviewed on the fest’s first day by the CBC and talk radio CJAD. During one of the interviews on the Place des Arts, an actual Dixieland band was walking by. “One way you can hear jazz,” I said snidely but truly, “is to pull your fingers out of your ears and listen.”
I’ve been scribbling about jazz in this magazine since 1969 and playing jazz on the radio since 1972, and in all that time I’ve heard no more pointless (or relentless) argument than the question of what is or is not jazz. It’s usually been most disputatious between generations. Many who loved Louis Armstrong hated Charlie Parker. Many who loved Charlie Parker hated Ornette Coleman. Many who loved Miles Davis hated … Miles Davis. What became most evident to me in Montreal was how much every generation re-defines jazz.
“We try to always have music that’s got some element of jazz,”said Laurent Saulnier, officially V.P. of programmation but I always think of him as V.P. of The Edge. He’s always pushing the festival’s musical parameters, especially electronically, and yet he deeply believes that the biggest word in the logo (Festival International de JAZZ de Montreal) should always be bolded. He’s teased me for years about being an old fart, always nudging me to listen especially to the DJs every midnight at Club Soda.
I’ve usually run screaming from anything hip-hop-ish, but (maybe because I’ll soon be 60, one of those zero ages when one looks back and forward much more keenly) I was game to hear a group Laurent was excited about called Plaster.
Three cats, all Quebecois, play keyboards, bass, and drums connected to computers. Though the grooves they generated were often thunderous, there was a playful bounciness to the bits and pieces of melodies they twisted electronically or criss-crossed with samples, including the voice of a wittily distorted politician. I became more and more fascinated by the interplay, especially between keyboardist Alex MacMahon and drummer Philippe Goncalves. These were not, as I’ve often felt about electronica, machines playing. These were musicians playing the machines. These were composers and actual improvisers, especially when counterpointing riffs.
And at the very thought of the word riffs, I almost leapt up shouting “It’s the Basie Band!” I could hear in Plaster parallels to the way Basie built calls and responses of the sections, always with the rhythm solid and propulsive. And how did Basie define jazz? Something about music that makes you pat your foot? Mine was patting like crazy.
I was just as delighted when British singer Jamie Lidell played a midnight gig. Solo on the stage, he worked several electronic whiz-bangs, turning fragments of sound into rhythmic melodies, shifting tempos and moods while keeping a straightahead pulse, all the while singing sounds or words. And when he was joined by the whimsical pianist Gonzales, he was even scatting blues. Too much of the scat singing I hear nowadays is only babble in 4/4. Jamie Lidell, with his voice and his machines, was creatively improvising phrases like a saxophonist or a drummer, like a jazz singer is supposed to.
Maybe I’m getting into an argument about what is and is not hip-hop, but what I’ve heard of hip-hop and electronica sounds too often like a stampede of jive elephants. Lidell’s hipper (and hopper?) pachyderms whirled like ballerinas. I’ve rarely felt any emotion from rap other than lust or anger, but Lidell was charming, laughing, and, as I shouted when I saw Laurent Saulnier dancing in the crowd, “This kid is swinging!”
Not all of these hip-hop-electro-whatevers were so compelling, “jazzy” or otherwise. I quickly became aware which of these new musicians were, like Plaster and Jamie Lidell, creatively to be reckoned with and which were playing only new clichés. Microtone Kitchen, even with six turntables, seemed unable to spin the recognizable shape of a composition, and the grooves were monotonous as the clatter of train tracks. Bauchklang, with six singers grunting electro-funky beats all vocally, sounded to me and (in their pseudo-street posturing) even looked like wannabe rappers on an old Soul Train. And one thing jazz certainly never is is dated.
Continuum is what I was hearing all across the musical spectrum in Montreal. Computers, I realized, offer jazz a new musical technology—no different than when Charlie Christian plugged in. And not all that was new that I heard was electrified.
Don Byron is an artist who’s always played everything (from klezmer to Puccini, from Duke’s Jungle Band to cartoon tunes) as if the music is new now. Byron’s Ivy-Divey Trio (with Jason Moran and Billy Hart) celebrated the Lester Young Trio (with Nat Cole and Buddy Rich) in the jazzfest’s Jesus Room, and affectionately more than reverently.
Likewise in the Salle de Gesu, The Bad Plus was not your father’s Bill Evans Trio. They played what pianist Ethan Iverson whimsically called “covers” (including back-to-back songs of Ornette Coleman and Burt Bacharach) among original pieces that often sounded to me like musical Rubik’s Cubes that they (and especially drummer Dave King) twisted into colorful configurations way beyond Rubik’s geometry.
Around the corner at the Spectrum, the trio EST also bent the usual triangle into other polygons. Though they sometimes involved electronics, even acoustically they played powerfully, often melodies that sounded less like tunes and more like pure momentum. Do they compose in AABA form? No. Could I always pat my foot? No. But even footless, EST was swinging other parts of me quite (I felt jazzfully) headlong.
I should mention that all the while I was waxing ecstatically about “new jazz” at the festival, there was oodles of “old jazz” – although, actually, what Dave Brubeck played in Montreal (and everywhere else he plays) was ageless. Everyone I heard pissing and moaning about not hearing jazz at the festival was not hearing McCoy Tyner! Wayne Shorter! Yusef Lateef! And plenty of straightahead Canadian jazzers we never get to hear below the 49th parallel. I especially enjoyed pianist Lorraine Desmarais fronting a big band with what I characterized in my notes only as punch!!
Streetnix is the most festive jazzband every year at the jazzfest. A quintet fronted by alto saxist Jennifer Bell with trumpet, trombone, tuba, and drums, they can march in the street or play the littlest stage of the Place des Arts, playing anything from Oliver Nelson’s “Hoedown” to AWB’s “Pick Up the Pieces” -- all the while kids are getting faces painted like cats and kids of all ages (like me) are laughing.
I’ve always loved singers, but too often I hear the same songs the same ways. Not so every year in Montreal. Fest faves like Dee Dee Bridgewater and John Pizzarelli were, as always, swinging and funny, him singing Sinatra, her singing chansons. Two other faves of mine were singers who criss-cross songs from all styles, each with unique chops and charms, each with I feel a true jazz sensibility. Susie Arioli sweetly sings songs of Fred Astaire or Roger Miller with a breeziness like the brushes on the snare drum she always plays when she sings. Terez Montcalm, with a Joplinesque rasp in her voice, can get frisky when she’s torchy, singing “For Heaven’s Sake” with an upbeat or spelling “L-O-V-E” with the joy of that word’s every definition.
And speaking of definitions, as I was at the outset, wondering what “jazz” means, whaddaya call Jamie Cullum? He sang pretty much anything and everything. ”Old Devil Moon” and a Dinah Washington song. Something folk-ish. Something rap-ish. He sang a heartfelt “Some Other Time” like I’ve never heard before. He played piano. He danced on the piano. He crawled through the audience singing “Nature Boy” and even conducted a sing-along. What I called him in my notes is Talent To Burn! And I also wrote “It’s all jazz!”
I mean, what was Jamie Cullum really (and wonderfully entertaingly) doing on that stage in Montreal? Same as Jamie Liddell. Whichever British Jamie was performing, he was, with total freedom, expressing himself. And that is what jazz is! Duke said so!
Read my t-shirt …

- Michael Bourne