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Jazz Journeys—Best of 2010

My friend Jason told me how much he enjoys seeing DJ’s set-lists. (He was the motivation for my posting A Christmas Gumbo set-list.) I thought I would post another; this time, it’s the set-list for my radio program, Jazz Journeys, and my Annual Best Jazz Recordings of 2010, which airs 26 December 2010, 1-4 p.m. ET on wfpk.org. This year was a great year for Modern Jazz releases, with new material from Jazz veterans Henry Threadgill, Roscoe Mitchell and Randy Weston. And new faces are cementing their place in Jazz History with very strong endeavors. Jason Moran and Vijay Iyer are both refreshingly daring in their composing and playing; Mary Halvorsen and Marc Ribot are rewriting approaches to Jazz Guitar; and Mike Reed is quickly becoming a force in The Windy City, a place known for progressive, fresh and bracingly intelligent Jazz. I hope you’ll check it out.

Clouds — Steve Coleman & Five Elements
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Rose Garden — Jason Adasiewicz
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Requiem For A Revolution — Marc Ribot
Moon Traps In Seven Rings (No. 17) — Mary Halvorsen Quintet
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Foxy — Jon Irabagon
Blues For Eight — Odean Pope
Ruby, My Dear — Charles Lloyd
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Street Dance — The Clayton Brothers
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Tight Like This — Brad Goode
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Third Option (For Art Hoyle) — Mike Reed’s People, Places & Things
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It’s Alright — William Parker
Mandela — Abdullah Ibrahim & WD Big Band Cologne
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Dubinland Carnival — John Ellis & Double-Wide
New Orleans (My Home Town) — Kermit Ruffins
Quiet As Kept — Trombone Shorty
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Galizur — The Dreamers
Lamenting — Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green
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Human Nature — Vijay Iyer
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Blue Blocks — Jason Moran
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African Sunrise — Randy Weston & His African Rhythms Sextet
Mothra — Fight The Big Bull featuring Steven Bernstein
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It Never Moved — Henry Threadgill Zooid
Quintet 2007 A For Eight — Roscoe Mitchell
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Danza Nueva — Enrico Pieranunzi Latin Jazz Quintet

A Christmas Gumbo, 24 December 2010

Many of you know I produce and host a weekly Jazz program on WFPK, 91.9 FM,Louisville, called Jazz Journeys. This coming Sunday, the 26th, I will be running down my favorite Jazz recordings from 2010, ones listed in the previous post, and a lot more; it was a good year for music.

I also love music from around the World, and my boss at WFPK, Stacy, let me assemble, produce and host a show I’m calling A Christmas Gumbo, from 3–6 p.m. on Christmas Eve. It’s a literal musical journey from Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole music, to the Bahamas, Jamaica, Africa, Brasil, and the Near- and Mid-East. I’m very proud of it, and hope you’ll consider tuning in, using the link for WFPK above. Remember, it’s Christmas Eve, 3–6 p.m. ET. My Gift of Music From Around The World to you. Set list follows:

Je Me Reveiller Le Matin — Clifton Chenier
Curb Service — The Bluerunners
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Seems To Me — Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys
L’Amour Poisonne — Beau Soliel Avec Michael Doucet
Mamou Two Step — John Delafoise & The Eunice Playboys
French Rockin’ Boogie — Geno Delafoise
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Alle Parti Pour Voi Beau Jacques — Beau Jacques
Sauce Picante Zydeco — Chubby Carrier & The Bayou Swamp Band
Teche — Eddie LeJeune
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Don’t Let Him Ride — Aaron Neville
Hurricane Season — Trombone Shorty
Don’t You Feel My Leg — Dirty Dozen Brass Band with Eddie Bo & Danny Barker
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Don’t Touch That Thing — Sylvia Hall
Police & Thieves — Junior Murvin
Kinky Reggae — Bob Marley & The Wailers
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Satta Massagana — The Abyssinians
Jah a Guh Raid — Burning Spear
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Food For Thought — UB40
Bongo Man — Jimmy Cliff
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Chii Chati Go-o? — Thomas Mapfuno
Mkuru Mkuru — Oliver Mtukudzi
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Water No Get Enemy — Fela Kuti
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Djama — Amadou & Miriam
Assuf Ag Assuf — Tinariwen
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Oulala — Angelique Kidjo
Goat Smoke Pipe — Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars
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Paraiso Di Atlantico — Cesaria Evora
Mulemba Xangola — Bonga + Marisa Monte + Carlinhos Brown
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Cirandar — Seu Jorge e Almaz
Pais Tropical — Jorge Ben
La Renaissance Africaine — Gilberto Gil
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Na Cabeça — Marcos Sacramento
Aristocracia — Suely Mesquita
Seven Views Of Jerusalem — The Teardrop Explodes
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Alai Payuthey — Kalyani Menon (music by A.R. Rahman)
Ever So Lonely — Monsoon
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Galilee Mon Amour — Anouar Brahem
The Gipsy’s Stone — Kuára

Best Records Of The Year — 2010

Jason Moran — Ten

A shockingly gifted pianist with an endless thirst for experimentation, Moran returns to a trio format after recording with guitarist Marvin Sewell for two records, and the results are devastating. Blasting out with “Blue Blocks” built on a driving rhythm from drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Tarus Mateen, Moran’s keyboard stutters and gathers strength, finally resembling two pianos locked in a joyful duet. “Feedback Pt. 2” shows Moran’s taste for sonic adventure remains intact as a Jimi Hendrix sample is twisted into a metallic whisper as the trio swirls through an ephemeral ballad.

Moran further honors his influences with a takes on Jaki Byard’s “To Bob Vatel of Paris” and “Play to Live,” a contemplative, restless piece Moran wrote with Andrew Hill. Also offering takes on classical composer, Leonard Bernstein, with a brilliant reading of “Big Stuff,” “Ten” is an unpredictable, imaginative ride.

Mike Reed’s People, Places and Things — Stories and Negotiations

Recorded live in Chicago’s Millennium Park in summer 2008, Stories and Negotiations is the latest installment in drummer/composer Mike Reed’s People, Places and Things project. Commissioned by The Jazz Institute’s Made in Chicago series, it completes a trilogy of recordings devoted to a remarkable – but often overlooked – era in Chicago music: the years between 1954 and 1960, when the jam-session culture of the city’s hard bop scene began to seed the collective avant-garde of the AACM and everything that followed. Reed convened his working quartet, which features saxophonist Greg Ward, tenor saxophonist Tim Haldeman and bassist Jason Roebke, and invited frequent guest trombonist Jeb Bishop back to the bandstand. But for this album, he also solicited the horns of three jazz masters whose playing and personalities defined the late ’50s in Chicago: Art Hoyle, Julian Priester and Ira Sullivan.

Seu Jorge e Almaz – Seu Jorge e Almaz

Right off the bat, you will be struck by how completely different this record sounds compared to any other released this year. Completely honest, raw and powerful. Many may know vocalist Seu Jorge from Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic or Fernando Meirelles City Of God, but Mr. Jorge is a Brasilian singer who weaves magic through the Samba, to paraphrase a well-known Seu Jorge quote. However, this project is about a band: Almaz. Drummer Pupillo and guitarist Lucio Maia from the stalwart Nação Zumbi; bassist and composer Antonio Pinto from the soundstages of movies starring Seu Jorge. They came together naturally to record a song for a Walter Salles film; they enjoyed the experience so much that they recorded an entire album of music that inspired them. Songs famous within the Brazilian diaspora (Tim Maia, Jorge Ben) mesh with classic American (Roy Ayers, Michael Jackson) and European (Kraftwerk, Cane and Abel) soul songs begging for a bit of psychedelic samba. The recording is both warm and dark; psychedelic and yet grounded, uplifting but at times somber. To listen to it is to join them in the studio, where the the music is foremost at every scintillating moment.

Mary Halvorsen Quintet – Saturn Sings

Mary Halvorson is the most future-seeking guitarist working right now, thinking out loud on her instrument on a level most couldn’t comprehend. But Halvorson’s compositions display that exploration with a telepathic connection between her fingers and the sound, making Saturn Sings her strongest document to date. The overall sound is tamer than some of the earlier work (e.g., the trio record, ”Dragon’s Head,” a best of selection of mine from 2008,) but her compelling technique still shines through. The tunes are highly listenable and as always with Ms. Halvorson, there are some absolutely brilliant guitar passages. The addition of trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition winner and jazz bad boy Jon Irabagon, takes her sound to new, refreshing and funkier heights. A record jazz guitar aficionados should not miss.

John Ellis & Double Wide – Puppet Mischief

Music fans looking for a sheer aural delight from 2010 should look no further than this delightful project. On his sixth album, and second with the Double-Wide quartet, saxophonist John Ellis channels New Orleans via his New York base, although the album is really true to his inspiration of fun fairs and clowns, since it takes off on odd tangents at times, as on “Dubinland Carnival,” which has a decidedly woozy edge to the sound, verging on the surreal. The sousaphone bass of Matt Perrine features heavily throughout, as does the harmonica work of guest Gregoire Maret. Ellis himself contributes tenor and bass clarinet, and there’s a definite tightness to the group, more apparent than on their last disc. The tunes, all by Ellis, are very playful, adding odd little quotes to the music, then jarring off into the unfamiliar, and taking strange, circuitous routes back. But the scenic way works here, adding to the unusual atmosphere of the disc. It’s one to satisfy fans of the band, and brings something a little different to modern jazz while still referring back to its roots.

Marc Ribot – Silent Movies

Marc Ribot is widely recognized as one of the great guitar originals. His distinctively edgy and impassioned sound can be found on the original, and upcoming sequel, of Robert Plant/Alison Krauss’s ”Raising Sand,” and the Elton John/Leon Russell collaboration from this year, plus scores of other popular recordings. A polar opposite of his last release, Party Intellectuals, Silent Movies is mostly filled with gorgeously contemplative compositions performed solo, with minimal overdubs. The album reflects Ribot’s fascination with movies and contains pieces intended to function as music for films; some adaptations of music he has written for film, some for movies that he scored that were never released, some for classic silent films that he scored for his own amusement, and some for films of his own imagination. The record is a masterpiece of Mr. Ribot’s endless imagination.

William Parker – I Plan To Stay A Believer, The Inside Songs Of Curtis Mayfield

In the linear notes, bassist William Parker describes what he calls the inside song: `Every song written or improvised has an inside song which lives in the shadows, in-between the sounds and silences and behind the words, pulsating, waiting to be reborn as a new song. In the 1960s during the civil rights movement there was a musical soundtrack in the background: Max Roach, Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, Jackie McLean, John Coltrane. Curtis Mayfield was right in the middle directing his music to the cry of freedom.’ It’s all here in “I Plan to Stay a Believer,” the chronological song book of Curtis Mayfield, his early days with The Impressions to the Superfly soundtrack, and New World Order from his last recording. Mr. Mayfield’s original socially relevant lyrics are augmented by Amiri Baraka, and on some selections Baraka does poetic voice overs with the lyrics.Lyrics are sung by Leena Conquest and a gospel choir, The New Life Tabernacle Generation of Praise is featured on This is My Country, a standout track on this highly original recording.

Vijay Iyer – Solo

By now, there can be no doubt that pianist-composer Vijay Iyer stands among the most daringly original jazz artists of the under-40 generation,” writes Howard Reich in the Chicago Tribune. The American-born son of Indian immigrants, Mr. Iyer was described by The Village Voice as “the most commanding pianist and composer to emerge in recent years,” by The New Yorker as one of “today’s most important pianists… extravagantly gifted,” and by the L.A. Weekly as “a boundless and deeply important young star.” After the phenomenal success of The Vijay Iyer Trio’s 2009 release “Historicity,” my 2009 pick for Record of the Year, Iyer returns with Solo. The document of Mr. Iyer’s continuing dialogue with history, both his own and that of the music to which he has dedicated his life, Solo encapsulates both Iyer’s career and his distinctive approach to his instrument. The diversity of Iyer’s experience infuses each note of Solo. Iyer’s own compositions, dominating the album’s second act, demonstrate how completely he has assimilated and brought his own vision to creative music. For Iyer, the new album embodies both departure and return. It is a monumental step forward and a defining moment in Vijay Iyer’s artistic life.

Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

Undeniably, Deerhunter’s finest recording to date; an achievement they have hinted at, and now delivered. This is an absurdly endearing record and even after the first listen you know that you are partaking of a dish to which you will return formore and more . No reason why Deerhunter and Bradford Cox in particular shouldn’t be names whispered in hushed and hallowed tones around the world of rock/indie music without fear of ridicule. “Halycon Digest” is an album rich, varied, accessible and beautiful.

Grinderman – Grinderman 2

The first thing that hits you about Grinderman 2 is that you’ve rarely heard anything like it. Their debut album did its job and marked a clear contrast with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Nick Cave & Co. forged a distinctly different way of working together. They cast off musical baggage, shrugged off accepted wisdom, and tested pre-conceptions about who they were as musicians. In the process, they took to the Bad Seeds hallowed legacy with a baseball bat. Their new album, combines the structured invention of their live performance and the unrestrained free for all of their studio improvisation. And they definitely know something about the art of writing songs. Grinderman 2 bears the hallmark of its rapturously received predecessor, yet is more open ended in its structure, more far reaching in its scope, and gloriously lost in its own transports of noise and rhythm.

HONORABLE MENTION FOR 2010:

Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here
Trombone Shorty – Backatown
Das Racist – Sit Down, Man
Fight The Big Bull feat. Steven Bernstein – All Is Gladness In The Kingdom

“Archangel” by Burial

Dub Step at its finest. Just a beautiful song. Enjoy.

Things We Like: Deerhunter’s “Halcyon Digest”

Deerhunter used to offer recordings sheathed in noise that hid the group’s melodicism. But there’s no blanket of noise on their latest, Halcyon Digest, no gimmicks. The record leaves me with the impression that the band is ready to embark on a new path, a melodic and lyrical one at that. Effects and reverb are evident, but they only increase the album’s resolution and the band’s obvious talent. From the swirling effects of opener “Earthquake”, the beautiful shining pop of “Desire Lines” or the single, “Helicopter”, there are a ton of tracks to delight in. Halcyon Digest is an album that feels melodically honest. Check out the fan made video for “Revival,” that’s been floating around YouTube, taken from a 1940 Soviet propaganda film on reviving organs. It’s insanely brilliant, somewhat disturbing, but genius sometimes crawls under your hood.

R.I.P. Gregory Isaacs, The Cool Ruler

Gregory Isaacs, 59, the Jamaican-born reggae singer who was known as the “cool ruler” for his smooth, romantic singing style and who popularized the reggae subgenre known as lover’s rock, died of lung cancer Oct. 25 at his home in London.

Unlike roots rockers Bob Marley and Burning Spear, who popularized songs that reflected world politics and the Rastafarian culture, Mr. Isaacs was best known for his love songs, many of which he wrote.

With his seductive baritone, he often pleaded for love or begged a lover for understanding. Mr. Isaacs conveyed a combination of prowess and vulnerability that brought to mind a Jamaican Marvin Gaye.

Writing in the New York Times, music critic Milo Miles called Mr. Isaacs “the most exquisite vocalist in reggae,” adding that “his lustful songs are not simple seductions or sexual boasts but sensuous daydreams, escapes from tribulation that invite the listener along.” His 1982 hit, “Night Nurse,” had Mr. Isaacs poised for international acclaim. That same year, he was sentenced to six months in a Jamaican prison for possession of unlicensed firearms. Mr. Isaacs maintained that he owned the guns for protection from robbers and political violence, which had engulfed Jamaica in the late 1970s, “just like you have a jacket to protect you from the cold.” It was later reported that he had been arrested 27 times, mostly on drug charges.

Gregory Anthony Isaacs was born July 15, 1951, in the impoverished Denham Town neighborhood of Kingston, where he listened to American rhythm and blues balladeers Sam Cooke and Ben E. King. After winning several talent shows as a teenager, he first recorded in a duo with singer Winston Sinclair in 1968 and joined a vocal trio, the Concords, that recorded in the era’s popular rock steady style.

In 1973, Mr. Isaacs struck out on his own. He started a record company, African Museum, with another Jamaican singer, Erroll Dunkley. There he had several hits in Jamaica with “My Only Lover” (1973), sometimes cited as the first lovers rock record, “Love Is Overdue” (1974) and “All I Have Is Love” (1976). A prominent company, Island Records, started releasing his recordings in the United States in 1982. Mr. Isaacs was so prolific that the Web site All Music Guide estimated he had appeared nearly 500 albums released in Jamaica, the U.S. and the U.K.

Mr. Isaacs appeared in the 1978 subtitled Jamaican film “Rockers,” a plotless, episodic comedy sometimes described as the “A Hard Days Night” of reggae music. He played a local locksmith and is later seen performing in a night club.

Mr. Isaacs was married multiple times, and a complete list of survivors could not be confirmed. He continued to record and tour throughout the 1990s. However in 2007, the London Daily Telegraph reported that addiction to crack cocaine had caused the singer to lose his teeth – a problem that affected his singing.

Nothing But Net Returns

The inaugural post for the Thinking Man’s College Basketball Podcast is available now. If you’re not aware of NBN, or if you’re a fan, it’s available here:

http://www.wfpk.org/2010/10/21/the-return-of-nothing-but-net/

R.I.P.: Ari Up of The Slits

Arianna Foster, aka Ari Up, frontwoman for pioneering English punk band the Slits, has passed away, according to the website of John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd., who was also Up’s stepfather. According to Lydon’s site, Up died “after a serious illness.” She was 48 years old.

Ari Up formed the Slits in 1976 with drummer Palmolive when she was just 14 years old. The band quickly became one of the most notorious of the nascent punk rock movement, not only because its members were predominantly young girls, but also due to their outrageous style and on- and off-stage antics. The Slits appeared topless, caked in mud, on the cover of their 1979 debut Cut, an album that would go on to be massively influential for coming generations of punks and riot grrrls. However, their combination of joyful, hell-raising, ramshackle punk and reggae rhythms would prove difficult to imitate.

The Slits followed Cut with 1981’s more experimental Return of the Giant Slits, and then broke up. Up went on to work with Adrian Sherwood’s New Age Steppers project and record music solo. In 2005, Up reunited with bassist Tessa Pollitt and reformed the Slits, releasing an EP, Revenge of the Killer Slits, in 2006 and an album, Trapped Animal, in 2009. (from Pitchfork.com)

Seu Jorge & Almaz

The Summer ’10 release, “Seu Jorge e Almaz,” is rapidly becoming one of my favorite recordings of 2010. It is a disc that flat-out sounds unlike anything else you’ll hear this year. It’s raw production values harken to Punk, but think Pil, or something slightly dub-drenched. Listening to this remarkable album for the first time you’ll surely be struck first by the deep, soul-piercing voice of that great Brasilian singer, Seu Jorge. Yes: he’s a singer first and foremost. Many may know him as an actor for his screen-stealing performances in the likes of Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic and Fernando Meirelles City Of God, but Seu has known since he was a child that we was destined to sing. First discovered by the late Paulo Moura, he is a Brasilian singer who speaks the truth through samba, to paraphrase a well-known Seu Jorge quote. But this project is about a band: Almaz. Drummer Pupillo and guitarist Lucio Maia from the stalwart Nação Zumbi; bassist and composer Antonio Pinto from the soundstages of movies starring Seu Jorge. They came together naturally to record a song for a Walter Salles film; they enjoyed the experience so much that they recorded an entire album of music that inspired them. Songs famous within the Brasilian diaspora (Tim Maia, Jorge Ben) mesh with classic American (Roy Ayers, Michael Jackson) and European (Kraftwerk, Cane and Abel) soul songs begging for a bit of psychedelic samba. They enlisted producer and fellow Brasileiro Mario C. (Beastie Boys, Jack Johnson) to put the finishing touches on the project. Their album is both warm and dark; psychedelic and yet grounded, uplifting but at times somber. To listen to it is to join them in the studio, where the only bandleader is the music and the only agenda is to follow your heart.

A spontaneous, relaxed vibe flows throughout the record, and it also lives in the repertoire – each musician freely choosing songs which inspire them. “The only leader here is the music” says Jorge. “This project is a place for liberation” explains Antonio, and that freedom is something you feel at the heart of their spacey, psychedelic sound. As Lucio points out, there’s a great tradition of fabulous collaborations in Brasil, and it’s clear this is a band everyone deeply enjoys being part of. Pupillo: “Apart from being beautiful, the words of the song “Errare Humanum Est,” or ‘to err is human’, the lead off track on the project, and one of its best, says everything about Almaz in the sense that taking risks is perfect, it’s good to have the freedom to play and create without being afraid to make a mistake.”

Images From Toronto

Here are some images I snapped around Toronto on Thursday, October 7th, 2010. It was a gorgeous day, with many folks playing hookey to attend the NHL’s Slap Shot event on Yonge Street, celebrating the start of the NHL season, and Toronto’s opening night tilt in the city. They won, too, eh?