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Best jazz CDs of 2011

Publication: Mercury News
Author: Richard Scheinin
Date: December 28, 2011

Miguel Zenón: “Alma Adentro/The Puerto Rican Songbook” (Marsalis Music). The most gorgeously fluid alto saxophonist to come along in a while, Zenón is our Cannonball Adderley. This album is state-of-the-art romanticism, with an edge.

Click here to read Richard’s other picks for the best jazz of 2011. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 29th, 2011 — 11:35am

Miguel Zenón, The Puerto Rican Songbook

Publication: Voice of America’s Jazzbeat
Author: Diaa Bekheet
Date: December 26, 2011

To listen to Diaa Bekheet’s interview with Miguel Zenón, please visit the Voice of America website here.

One of the great jazz albums of 2011 is Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook. It’s a brilliant idea by acclaimed saxophonist Miguel Zenón to preserve the early 20th century’s jazz heritage of his native Puerto Rico. The album is modeled on The Great American Songbook, which features an entire century of American music from such masters as Gershwin, Berlin, Porter, Kern, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bernstein and others. Zenón follows the footsteps of such great American composers and songwriters to offer the jazz public some of the 20th century’s best songs that represent the sounds of Puerto Rico. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 27th, 2011 — 12:41pm

Went on a bender, wrote a year-ender (My best-of-2011 jazz lists)

Publication: Ottawa Citizen Jazzblog
Author: Peter Hum
Date: December 20, 2011

Top jazz CDs of 2011:

1. Milestone, Adam Cruz (Sunnyside)
2. When the Heart Emerges Glistening, Ambrose Akinmusire (Blue Note)
3. Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook, Miguel Zenón (Marsalis Music)
4. A Night at the Village Vanguard, Bill Carrothers Trio (Pirouet)
5. Graylen Epicenter, David Binney (Mythology)
6. Waking Dreams, Chris Dingman (Between Worlds Music)
7. Lines of Oppression, Ari Hoenig (Naive)
8. Verge, David Braid (Independent)
9. Suno Suno, Rez Abassi’s Invocation (Enja)
10. James Farm, James Farm (Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Matt Penman, Eric Harland) (Nonesuch)

To read Peter’s picks for live performances, honourable mentions, piano-centric albums, Canadian jazz CDs, and noteworthy debut CDs, please visit his Jazzblog. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 21st, 2011 — 01:22pm

Live preview: Branford Marsalis

Publication: Time Out New York
Author: Hank Shteamer
Date: December 16, 2011

Chances are your parents know who Branford Marsalis is. A trivial point? Maybe, but it’s still not something you could say about many living jazz artists aside from Branford’s trumpet-playing younger bro, Wynton. What can be frustrating is that Branford the celebrity—one fourth of a postcard-perfect Big Easy musical brood, featured commentator in Ken Burns’s Jazz opus, and former sidekick to both Sting and Jay Leno—tends to obscure Branford the artist. This concert is a good occasion to celebrate the latter, a saxophonist who released Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, one of 2011’s most captivating albums in any genre.

To peg that record—a series of duets with pianist Joey Calderazzo, who joins Marsalis for half of this performance—as jazz would sell it way short. Songs gets its mirth out of the way quickly with “One Way,” the bluesy romp that opens the disc; from there, it’s on to roughly 40 minutes of melancholy: seven extraordinarily patient, uncommonly moving examples of what you might call improvisation-driven chamber music. Sometimes mournful (Calderazzo’s “La Valse Kendall”), sometimes eerie (Wayne Shorter’s “Face on the Barroom Floor”), sometimes just plain wrenching (“Hope,” also by the pianist), the set leaves you feeling spent, amazed and anxious to proselytize the virtues of the real Branford Marsalis.

Appropriately, the second pianist appearing alongside Marsalis at tonight’s all-instrumental “A Duo of Duos” program is Harry Connick Jr., another player whose pop fame (see When Harry Met Sally) overshadows his hard-earned, wide-ranging virtuosity. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 20th, 2011 — 11:09am

2011 jazz round-up

Publication: Dark Forces Swing Blind Punches
Author: Hank Shteamer
Date: December 19, 2011

To check out Hank’s full list of picks for the best jazz of 2011, visit his blog here.

1.Branford Marsalis/Joey Calderazzo Songs of Mirth and Melancholy (Marsalis Music)

As you can see from my 2011 jazz halftime report, published back in June, this one grabbed me early on. Now that the year is winding down, I’m happy to report that it didn’t let go. There’s no embeddable stream of this record, but I implore you to sample it here, especially the tracks “Endymion,” “Face on the Barroom Floor” and “La Valse Kendall.” When mentioning my interest in this album to friends, I’ve received a few raised eyebrows, which pains me. As I discuss in a Time Out NY preview of Marsalis January 9, 2012 “A Duo of Duos” gig at Jazz at Lincoln Center (during which he’ll perform with both Calderazzo and Harry Connick, Jr., the latter of whom won’t be singing), Marsalis’s celebrity still overshadows his art. It’s a trite point at this stage, but the prejudices persist: He’s the saxophone player your mom likes.

And I’m not trying to say that moms wouldn’t love Songs of Mirth and Melancholy. But what I am trying to say is that this is an extremely deep record. There’s so much grace and poetry to this session. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 20th, 2011 — 11:32am

Harry Connick Jr. Trio - Music From The Happy Elf

Publication: Something Else!
Author: Nick DeRiso
Date: December 18, 2011

This plays like Vince Guaraldi for a new generation, as Harry Connick Jr. performs an all-original, Christmas-themed set that recalls the spirit of the season without falling into the cliches that often follow better known Yuletide classics.

And Connick’s done his share — including the 2003 best-selling album Harry for the Holidays, which featured the original vocal version of “The Happy Elf.” There followed a TV program, a stage production and a new children’s book on the same theme — about this helper for Santa who saves a town full of naughty youngsters from missing out on Christmas.

Music from ‘The Happy Elf’, however, stays well away from his earlier holiday projects’ often very standard fare, not to mention their more-expected singer-led big band arrangements. This album — his fourth in the Connick on Piano series for Marsalis Music — instead is, after its first-track reading from the new book, a cleverly delivered trio recording that surprises as often as it delights. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 19th, 2011 — 01:49pm

Dan Bilawsky's Best Releases of 2011

Publication: All About Jazz
Author: Dan Bilawsky
Date: December 18, 2011

Another year is in the books, but the music created and/or released during these twelve months is still around, continuing to serve as a reminder of jazz’s majesty. While some continue to complain that jazz is stagnant or at death’s door, the finest albums released in 2011 say otherwise. I had the distinct pleasure of reviewing approximately 170 recordings released in this calendar year, and the following list represents the best of the bunch.

Click here to see Dan’s picks, including Miguel Zenón’s Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook! Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 19th, 2011 — 11:15am

Harry Connick, Jr.: Music From The Happy Elf (2011)

Publication: All About Jazz
Author: Dan Bilawsky
Date: December 18, 2011

“The Happy Elf” is just one of many numbers that Harry Connick, Jr. dished out on Harry For The Holidays (Sony/Columbia, 2003), but this particular song proved to be the seed for cross-marketing manna, which makes it a microcosm of the man himself. Connick has crooned his way into the hearts of millions, proven himself on piano time and again, conquered the silver screen, and taken Broadway by storm, but his most heartwarming talent may be that of “children’s entertainer.”

The opening track, which puts the music in the background and Connick’s Read-Along narration of his book in the foreground, highlights this new found role for the entertainer par excellence, but his piano takes its rightful place at center stage on the rest of the album. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 19th, 2011 — 11:55am

Joey Calderazzo: Improviser in Top Form

Publication: All About Jazz
Author: R.J. DeLuke
Date: December 19, 2011

Creative musicians are generally an insightful lot: people that have curious minds but also have a sense of direction—a sense of purpose, if not a search for it. They express what they see, what they experience. Pianist Joey Calderazzo is among those.

A man of extraordinary talent at the keyboard, he’s held the piano chair in Branford Marsalis’ band for some 11 years and also spent a long tenure with Michael Brecker. Both of those men have had a huge influence on Calderazzo, and he is unabashed about saying so. He carries lessons learned from those relationships. He also stays in touch with what fellow pianists are doing and with what’s happening on the music scene. He’s interested in probing music, not just playing it.

He’s currently leading his own trio, while still being a vital cog in the Marsalis organization. In fact, 2011 saw the release of a duet record with Marsalis—Songs of Mirth and Melancholy (Marsalis Music)—and the recording of a new Marsalis quartet album to be released in 2012. It has no title yet, but Calderazzo is high on it. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 19th, 2011 — 11:48am

Nate Chinen's Favorite Releases of 2011: Sounds That Come From in the Head and on the Street

Publication: New York Times
Author: Nate Chinen
Date: December 15, 2011

MIGUEL ZENÓN “Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook” (Marsalis Music) The dragonfly speed and lightness of Mr. Zenón’s alto saxophone playing is reason enough to love this meditation on the music of his homeland. So too is his liberal approach to the repertory, mostly classic boleros and ballads, furnished with woodwind orchestrations by Guillermo Klein.

To read the rest of Chinen’s picks, please visit the original article. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 16th, 2011 — 11:51am