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Miguel Zenón's Alma Adentro Receives Top Honors from iTunes!

Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook is the iTunes Rewind 2011 Jazz Instrumental Album of the Year! To see a full list of Apple’s picks for music, television, apps and more, visit here: http://tw.itunes.com/Ib4
  

Submitted by Courtney on December 15th, 2011 — 12:34pm

Harry Connick, Jr. – Music From The Happy Elf

Publication: The JazzPage
Author: Glenn Daniels
Date: December 9, 2011

If you’ve turned on a television any time during the yuletide season in most of the last decade, you’ve probably caught a glimpse of The Happy Elf animated special. Pianist and vocalist Harry Connick Jr is out with a collection of the music from that production, for which he created the original music. The tunes which accompany the story of Eubie, an ebullient little elf who wants to be part of Santa’s sleigh team is now released for the first time in an album package. Connick provides a colorful narrative reading with music at the beginning of project, but it’s his evocative piano work that is at the center of this effort. Joining him are bassist Neal Caine and drummer Arthur Latin, both longtime players in his big band. Even with though title and theme are holiday related, the music here is swinging and bluesy enough to enjoy anytime of the year. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 14th, 2011 — 10:38am

Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo – Songs of Mirth and Melancholy - Instrumental supremos

Publication: The Citizen
Author: Bruce Dennill
Date: December 13, 2011

7/10 BRANFORD MARSALIS AND JOEY CALDERAZZO – SONGS OF MIRTH AND MELANCHOLY (UNIVERSAL)

Branford Marsalis had, for many years, the privilege of playing with piano genius Kenny Kirkland.

Collaborating with two talents of that ilk is not something many musicians will be able to boast about, but Marsalis has lucked out: new musical partner Joey Calderazzo is a keyboard wizard.

Calderazzo is a wonderful writer as well – his One Way is the sort of cheerfully complex, melodious stuff that makes the job of the jazz apologist supremely easy. He’s able to feel as well as Marsalis, matching the latter’s The Bard Lachrymose with his own La Valse Kendall. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 14th, 2011 — 10:36am

The best (and worst) music of 2011: Hank Shteamer's picks

Publication: Time Out New York
Author: Hank Shteamer
Date: December 11, 2011

The best albums

1 Frank Ocean, Nostalgia, Ultra (self-released)
To say that this 24-year-old crooner had a banner year would be like labeling the sun a pretty bright star; but even alongside guest spots on Tyler, the Creator’s Goblin and Jay-Z and Kanye’s Watch the Throne, Ocean’s own debut—a challenging, charming, beautifully paced set of indie R&B—stood way out.

2 Anthrax, Worship Music (Megaforce)
Opening for their old-school thrash peers on the Big 4 tour, these NYC veterans drew bottom billing, yet they emerged triumphant on this hook-saturated fist-pumper of a comeback LP.

3 Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy (Marsalis Music)
One of our few household-name jazzmen and his first-call pianist stepped away from their signature quartet and produced a duo session so stately, it felt avant-garde. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 13th, 2011 — 05:15pm

It’s the most jazz-list-y time of the year

Publication: Ottawa Citizen Jazzblog
Author: Peter Hum
Date: December 12, 2011

The jazz punditocracy has been weighing in on top jazz CDs of 2011:

The list from Patrick Jarenwattananon at NPR’s A Blog Supreme skews to the younger end of the jazz talent spectrum. Miguel Zenón (Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook) and Gretchen Parlato (The Lost and Found) get nods, for example, for their 2011 CDs, while Sonny Rollins does not, for example. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 13th, 2011 — 12:35pm

Critic's picks: Harry Connick, Jr. Trio, 'Music From The Happy Elf'; Ellis Marsalis, 'A New Orleans Christmas Carol'; Geri Allen, 'A Child Is Born'

Publication: Lexington Herald-Leader
Author: Walter Tunis
Date: December 12, 2011

How curious it is that three of the finer releases in an especially weak pack of new holiday recordings belong to jazz pianists whose take on yuletide sounds could not be more varied?

Pianist Harry Connick Jr.’s Music From The Happy Elf may be the most unexpected of the three. A veteran of several Christmas-themed recordings that showcase his big band and traditional (as well as overtly commercial) pop preferences, Elf presents the pianist in one of his most inviting and overlooked settings: the piano trio.

It’s hard not to smile at the percussive cracks of drummer Arthur Larkin and Connick’s sparse piano mischief during Naughty Children of Bluesville (which sounds like O Tannenbaum trying to escape from a blues cellar) or the way the light, lullaby turns of Christmas Day melt into the intimate swing of What a Night.

Music From The Happy Elf is, aside from a 10-minute opening medley with narration, completely instrumental. Add to that the fact that all of the music is original (but revisited from works Connick composed for the stage musical The Happy Elf) and you have a holiday recording risky and refreshing. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 12th, 2011 — 04:58pm

Broadway's Not So Incidental Music for Stick Fly, The Mountaintop and More

Publication: Playbill.com
Author: Stuart Miller
Date: December 9, 2011

Unexpected musicians — Alicia Keys, Branford Marsalis, Terence Blanchard — flavor a new crop of plays on Broadway.

As The Mountaintop, Katori Hall’s debut Broadway play, begins, we hear the voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. accompanied by a trumpet, a lone horn singing with an elegiac yearning.

Those notes did not come easy.

The music was written by Branford Marsalis, best known as a saxophone player, former “Tonight Show” bandleader, jazz composer and recording artist. But he’s part of a new generation of composers and musicians bringing their talents to Broadway, not by writing showstoppers for musicals but by making subtler additions to straight plays. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 12th, 2011 — 01:21pm

The Best Jazz Of 2011

Publication: NPR’s A Blog Supreme
Author: Patrick Jarenwattananon
Date: December 9, 2011

With all acknowledgements that the idea of designating “the best” music is silly, and with full admission that I didn’t get around to every good record released in the last 12 months, and that this process is entirely subjective, yadda yadda yadda: Here is a list of my favorite jazz albums of 2011.

When I stare at this list, I see a lot of interpretation. I see four albums dedicated to imagining new settings for sources as disparate as Latin crooner anthems (Miguel Zenón), American patriotic songs (René Marie), forgotten jazz of the 1920s (Brian Carpenter) and PJ Harvey (Ben Allison). There’s a sort of radical creativity here, unmooring material from its original context and digging up its hidden lessons; it feels natural to our age.

I also see original visions of composition worth underscoring. There are the rollicking intensities from the James Farm collective, the juicy nuggets of the JD Allen Trio, the wandering wonder of Bill McHenry’s pen. This, too, is a sort of radical creativity, this search for new ways to express beauty. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 12th, 2011 — 12:25pm

Karl Stark's Best in Jazz

Publication: Philly.com
Author: Karl Stark
Date: December 11, 2011

Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy (Marsalis Music)
Saxophonist Branford Marsalis consorts with Joey Calderazzo, the pianist of his quartet since 1998, for a session that is surprisingly sublime. Marsalis and Calderazzo sound classical in the best jazz sense: handsome melodies creating beauty and lots of free space for interaction. Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 12th, 2011 — 11:46am

On Music: Branford Marsalis

Publication: The Paris Review Daily
Author: Sam Stephenson
Date: December 8, 2011

It’s sixty-two degrees and raining in downtown Durham, North Carolina, on a Tuesday in mid-October. At noon members of the Branford Marsalis Quartet gather at the former St. Joseph’s African Methodist Episcopal church, built in 1891, now converted into the Hayti Heritage Center, an arts-and-community nonprofit. Their goal is to record a new album over the next few days.

When Marsalis moved his family to Durham from New York a decade ago, the local press assumed he was replacing the retiring director of Duke’s jazz department, saxophonist Paul Jeffrey. But Marsalis, who’d grown up in Louisiana, simply wanted to return to the South and picked Raleigh-Durham because the area had an airport large enough to get him anywhere he needed to go. Later, he began teaching part-time in the noted jazz program at the historically black North Carolina Central University, which is a mile down the road from Hayti.

The original St. Joseph’s sanctuary remains intact: a wood-plank stage, hardwood pews, a balcony, chandeliers, and lots of stained glass. Marsalis began recording albums here in 2006 when he noticed that the room had a unique quality: there is no reverb at low decibel levels; it grows gradually with the sound.

His road manager, Roderick Ward, and sound engineer, Rob Hunter—who have been with Marsalis for twenty-seven and twenty-two years, respectively—spent two days creating a recording studio on the sanctuary’s stage and in adjoining rooms, hauling in seventy crates of equipment and cables and renting a Steinway grand from Hopper Piano and Organ in Raleigh. It’s the sixth time they’ve transformed this space. The advantage of working in Hayti, says Hunter, is that “we can build a studio the way we want to, rather than trying to adapt to an established studio’s specifications.” “The disadvantage,” he adds, chuckling, “is that we have to build a studio.”

I asked Marsalis if he had planned any overarching themes for this recording session. “Musicians who talk about their concept—that’s why all their songs sound the same,” he said. “We select good songs and we play them to the best of our ability. Then we move on to another song and do it again. That’s our concept.” Read more »

Submitted by Courtney on December 8th, 2011 — 05:45pm