The Grammy Awards were handed out Feb. 12 in Los Angeles, with the big winners in jazz-related categories including Chick Corea for “500 Miles High” from the album Forever (Best Improvised Jazz Solo); Terri Lyne Carrington for The Mosaic Project (Best Jazz Vocal Album); Corea, Clarke & White for Forever (Best Jazz Instrumental Album); and the Christian McBride Big Band for The Good Feeling (Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album). Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse won the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category for their take on “Body and Soul.” Bennett accepted the award alongside the late Winehouse’s parents, including her crooner father, Mitch Winehouse. Pat Metheny, a perennial winner, took home a Grammy in the New Age category for his solo guitar album What’s It All About.
Yellowjackets have announced that bassist Jimmy Haslip will take a yearlong hiatus. The longstanding member and co-founder of the band will use the time to focus on his family as well as pursue other artistic challenges. Bassist Felix Pastorius, son of legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius, has been selected to fill in for Haslip. “The primary reason for my hiatus is so that I can spend more quality time with my family,” says Haslip in a news release. “This was not a rash decision and there is no animosity by any means. Everybody is still friends and I’m excited for the band and their upcoming plans with Felix.”
The stunning memoir of the musician, songwriter, poet, and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner
From one of the most influential musicians and songwriters of his generation, The Last Holiday is the remarkable tale of Gil Scott-Heron’s humble beginnings and journey to prominence, climaxing with Scott-Heron and Stevie Wonder’s historic concert tour to support the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. With Scott-Heron’s behind-the-scenes account of his music and collaborators (including Brian Jackson, Bob Thiele), and keen insight into the civil rights movement and our wider place in the world, The Last Holiday confirms Scott-Heron as a powerful artist, and a bracing observer of his times.
“Leave it to Scott-Heron to save some of his best for last. This posthumously published memoir, The Last Holiday, is an elegiac culmination to his musical and literary career. He’s a real writer, a word man, and it is as wriggling and vital in its way as Bob Dylan’s Chronicles: Volume One.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times.
Singer-songwriter Paul Simon and Wynton Marsalis will perform together for three nights at concerts entitled “The Paul Simon Songbook.” The premiere on April 18 will be Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 2012 Annual Gala Concert and will be followed by two public concerts on April 19 and 20. The gala will honor Lisa Schiff, chairperson of Jazz at Lincoln Center, for her leadership over the past decade and bestow upon her the organization’s Ed Bradley Award for Leadership in Jazz. The concert will comprise songs from throughout Simon’s career, all arranged by Marsalis and members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Singer Aaron Neville will also appear.
At the 53rd annual Grammy Awards, held in Los Angeles on Feb. 13, Esperanza Spalding made history when she became the first jazz performer to win Best New Artist, a category that included teen sensation Justin Bieber, hip-hop/R&B artist Drake and alternative acts Mumford & Sons and Florence + the Machine. The victory was considered an upset to much of the Grammy-viewing masses, who saw Bieber as a shoo-in and Spalding as an attractive, gracious-sounding young woman they’d never heard of. Spalding took all sorts of online flak from Bieber’s teenybopper cult. (Giving credit where it’s due, he handled his loss with grace, even if he was too hands-on with the hair.) Pop star Bieber, of course, was featured in a primetime performance with his mentor Usher while jazz’s Spalding was left to do the real work: hosting the pre-telecast awards presentation with Bobby McFerrin (and killing it, by the way) and background-jamming on TV with a Grammy Jazz High School Ensemble.
Legendary pianist and composer Chick Corea combines jazz quintet and chamber orchestra in a genius work of startling beauty. The special 2-disc set is available now in stores and online for download.
Learn more and preview selections from the album at
Smooth Music News (Smooth Jazz Network)
Grammy winning singer-songwriter, Norah Jones will release her new album Little Broken Hearts on May 1. The set is produced by Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) and features 12 original songs co-written by Jones and Burton. Jones says she was inspired to create the cover art for the project by the vintage movie posters that hung in Burton’s Los Angeles studio. “Brian has this great collection of Russ Meyer posters in his studio,” explains Jones, “and this particular one, called Mudhoney, was right over the couch where I sat every day. I always was looking at it and thinking ‘that’s so cool I want to look like her!’ I remember staring at the poster the whole time we made the record. It’s a great visual." Norah is also celebrating the tenth anniversary of the release of her Grammy Award winning debut album Come Away With Me. The album just became the #10 best-selling album of the Soundscan era, selling over 25 million copies worldwide. Jones will tour Europe and the U.S. this summer.
Carlos Santana plans to release a new solo instrumental album entitled, Shape Shifter, on May 15. He says, "It's for people who love 'Caravanseri,' 'Europa,' 'Samba Pa Ti' -- the instrumentals. A lot of people miss hearing the Mexican just playing his guitar. That's a language that's better than Swahili or English or Spanish. I haven't done one in a long time." The guitar legend also kicks off a two-year engagement in Las Vegas at the House of Blues beginning on May 1. Tickets for about 45 of the scheduled shows go on sale tomorrow (March 3).
On Feb. 17, trombonist Phil Ranelin stepped onstage for the first set of a two-night program at Los Angeles’ World Stage Performance Gallery. The performance marked the 40-year anniversary of the release of Message From The Tribeon the Tribe label, a Detroit-based jazz collective that Ranelin co-founded with tenor saxophonist Wendell Harrison. That evening, Ranelin’s quintet grazed a broad range of material from the label’s expansive history—a musical journey that has taken Ranelin from his native Indianapolis to Detroit and L.A.
“Phil’s always had that ‘singer’s’ sound, but with that wide range,” said trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, who played with Ranelin on Message From The Tribe. “I’ve always thought it’s wonderful how he plays that big, wide horn and gets that buttery sound.”
Tribe was the Detroit manifestation of a movement toward artistic freedom that sprouted in the 1960s. Like Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), St. Louis’ Black Artists’ Group (BAG), the artists played and recorded their own music, and like all Detroit musical endeavors of the period, the label existed in the shadow of Motown soul. Read more here
The auditorium of the Jefferson Centerin Roanoke, Va., was filled to full capacity during an uplifting 70th birthday concert tribute to hometown pianist Don Pullen. The all-star band was brought together by baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett, a former musical partner of Pullen’s, and included James Carter on tenor saxophone and flute, Jason Moran on piano, Christian McBride on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. Carter was his usual ebullient self and connected with the audience during his introductions and lively solos.
The enthusiastic crowd included members of Pullen’s family as well as his friends, who all reacted with delight to the two sets of Pullen compositions interpreted with great feeling and energy by all the soloists. Poet Nikki Giovanni read a composition in honor of Pullen, and video excerpts of the pianist in concert were also shown. Pullen’s piece “Big Alice” served as a spirited encore that brought the audience to its feet. At the concert’s close, the musicians gladly expressed their appreciation of Pullen, the audience, music and life in general. Read more here
Mark Schramm and Becca Pulliam
"My name is Roy Haynesand I'm the drummer. Give the drummer some!" the smiling bandleader exclaims at the Terrace Theater of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Haynes is the winner of a 2011 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy, and he does not have to ask for applause. He's already getting a standing ovation.
On March 13, 2012, Haynes celebrates his 87th birthday, and he's still driving the train.
Born in 1925, Haynes grew up loving the Count Basie Orchestra — and especially its stylish and swinging drummer, "Papa" Jo Jones. When Haynes was a kid, the band came through his native Boston. He went downtown and talked his way into the theater by telling the doorman he was Papa Jo's son. Inspired, Haynes took up the drums, and by the summer of 1945 he'd made his way to New York, where he played for dancers at the Savoy Ballroom with Luis Russell's Orchestra.
Blues and jazz singer Catherine Russellsays she frequently listens to the radio while washing dishes. One night, she was by the sink listening to a Chick Webb compilation when Ella Fitzgerald's "Under the Spell of the Blues" came on. The song struck her.
The lyric came on, and it was just a beautiful story, and then I [was] compelled to learn the tune, and then I learned about everything surrounding it," she says.
The result is now one of 14 songs on Russell's fourth solo album, Strictly Romancin', and one of the tunes she sings during Tuesday's Fresh Air in-studio interview and concert. Other songs in the concert include "Everything's Been Done Before," "Wake Up and Live" and "Romance in the Dark." Russell grew up on these tunes, in addition to a mix of rock, blues and classical arrangements.
"My mother had a radio in the kitchen when I was growing up, and we used to listen to William B. Williams Make Believe Ballroom on WNEW-AM," she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "So every morning, I was listening to Ella, the Mills Brothers, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Judy Garland, Peggy Lee. Everything that was popular of the day and before that. ... That really formed my appreciation of phrasing, of how the people sang these tunes in those days."
Former Cream drummer Ginger Baker and Chick Corea Elektric Band drummer Dave Weckl are among the percussion masters who will appear at the first Buddy Rich memorial concert to be held in London. The concert has been held annually following Rich's death in 1987 and this, the 25th, takes place at the London Palladium on 2 April.
The BR memorial concerts came about after Rich (pictured ahead of his 1986 Capital Festival gig in London) asked his daughter Cathy to keep the band and its music alive for each new generation. She settled on the idea of an annual concert and the first was at Carnegie Hall, NY in 1988. Others followed in cities including Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Boston and the idea developed into a showcase for leading jazz performers of the day - not all of them drummers. Previous shows have featured Mel Tormé, Joe Williams, Stan Getz, Steve Gadd, Dave Weckl, Vinnie Colaiuta and Dennis Chambers.
This year's concert will be co-hosted by Cathy and feature the Buddy Rich Big Band along with British musicians who played with Buddy. As well as Ginger Baker and Dave Weckl, the players will include Gregg Bissonette (lately with the Ringo Starr band), John Blackwell (Prince), Ian Paice (Deep Purple) and Elliott Henshaw (Tony Christie) and singing legend Tony Christie himself. Three leading rock drummers will also receive Lifetime Achievement Awards at the concert.
Dave Weckl said of his involvement in the London gig: "Anytime I get to pay tribute to one of the greatest players of our instrument, I am first in line. To be able to play with a great big band and play songs from the Buddy Rich book is one of my favourite things to do as a drummer."
Christian McBride, will headline the 34th annual Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl on June 16 and 17.
James, who has had eight of his 12 albums reach the No. 1 slot on Billboard’s contemporary jazz chart, will be making his fourth appearance at the Playboy Festival. Ramsey Lewis has also played this festival several times, though this will be his first appearance there with his popular Electric Band. As for Sheila E., she’s played at the Playboy Festival seven times with her father, percussionist Pete Escovedo, but this will be her first appearance as a leader. Likewise, Christian McBride will be making his first Festival appearance with his big band, whose album recently won a Grammy for “Best Large Jazz Ensemble.”
Other acts slated to perform this year include Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, The Soul Rebels, the Global Gumbo All-Stars (with Richard Bona, Lionel Loueke, Francisco Mela and Alfredo Rodriguez), Keb’ Mo’, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Terri Lyne Carrington, and The Cookers. As usual, Bill Cosby will serve as master of ceremonies in addition to playing drums with his own group of specially chosen musicians. Featured in this year’s Cos of Good Music are pianist Farid Barron, bassist Dwayne Burno, drummer and percussionist Ndugu Chancler, saxophonist Tia Fuller, bassist Matthew Garrison, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, percussionist Babatunde Lea and saxophonist Erena Terakubo.
For more information, go to www.playboyjazzfestival.com.