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MY REFLECTIONS ON MUSIC, LIFE, FOOD AND WHO KNOWS WHAT ELSE . . .

Tag: jazz

Top 10 Favorite Phil Woods Tracks

RIP Phil Woods – here are 10 of my favorite moments by one of the greatest saxophonists jazz has ever offered the world.

Top 10 Favorite John Blake, Jr. AND Johnathan Blake Tracks

A pair of top 10 lists, featuring the brilliant and sadly departed violinist John Blake, Jr. and his son, the powerhouse drummer Johnathan Blake.

Top 10 Favorite Jimmy Greene Tracks

November 25 marks the release of A Beautiful Life, a musically brilliant and emotionally potent new album by Jimmy Greene in tribute to his murdered daughter, Ana Grace. I could write a long essay about Jimmy the human being – we’ve been friends over half our lives by now – his humility, his strength, his faith and his caring responsibility. But that’s not what this is. Instead, I wanted to whet your appetites with some personal highlights from the catalog of Jimmy the musician. Though he is my friend and a major formative figure in my own development as a young musician, I have also been a fan of his music since I first heard his soulful, mature playing when he was 16. It has of course only gotten better. As a saxophonist and composer he has developed a distinct and important voice.

Top 10 Favorite Jack Bruce Tracks

Jack Bruce finally succumbed to his liver woes yesterday at the age of 71. I’ll always be a fan of his most famous work with Cream, and could certainly have done a Top 10 list of just those tunes. But as a person interested in jazz, rock and the sometimes nebulous crosshairs between them, I find Jack Bruce to be a particularly important (dare I say unique?) figure, with credibility in both worlds and a long track record of exploring the intersections. This list was compiled with a particular slant towards showing his diversity in that regard.

Top 10 (x2) Unjustly Obscure Jazz Albums

Of course, given the role that jazz plays in our society there are only a tiny handful of albums that DON’T fit this category (“unjustly obscure jazz album” is kind of like “ice cream flavor containing dairy products”). But there are some albums that I think are exceptional and, in some cases, important in their time, that have been essentially forgotten even among the jazz intelligentsia.

I have divided this list into two categories based on availability. As such, the first ten are albums that deserve wider recognition but that (as of this writing) at least you are likely to be able to find by legitimate means through one of the various online streaming/downloading outlets or as a new CD – the other ten will require some hunting.

Top 10 Favorite Joe Lovano Tracks

Joe Lovano is one of the major musical voices of his generation, having gotten there honestly through a long dues-paying process both in terms of professional apprenticeships and development of his sound. That sound is now somewhat difficult to describe in words, in part because his voice has become so distinct. I can, say, though, that his versatility (in addition to his well-documented virtuosity on tenor and soprano saxophone, he plays various other woodwinds and is actually a great drummer as well) and his vision as a composer and bandleader have been profoundly influential, and yet he continues to be able to fit seamlessly into a wide variety of scenarios.

Top 10 Favorite Victor Lewis Tracks

I’m mega-excited to play with the great Victor Lewis this Saturday at the QJOG Spring Jazz Festival (and yes, nerd-police, we ARE playing “I Wanted to Say”). Looking at the breath of his career is fairly overwhelming and inspiring. If you can’t make it out on Saturday, enjoy the music on this list. If you can, then you’re in for a treat, as everyone is whenever he plays the drums.

Top 10 Favorite “Piano Trio Plus” Tracks

Or maybe “Augmented Piano Trio?” I don’t know what to call it, really, but the Trio plus Chamber-Ensemble on my Ripples album have evoked a lot of questions about the inspiration and methodology behind that music. The hierarchy I had in mind is difficult to articulate. It’s not really “octet music” in the sense of the piano, bass and drums being a rhythm section. Neither, though, is the work of the rest of the ensemble purely decorative window-dressing. Essentially, the trio is the central unit with the rest of the musicians playing a supporting role, but a (hopefully) well-integrated and important one.

the Cast of “Ripples” Part 5: Noah Baerman Trio

As a musician, it is a treat whenever the opportunity arises to play with someone who brings out your best. It is, however, a rare and special confluence when you can play with someone who brings out a “best” that you otherwise wouldn’t have even known was in there. So it has gone for ten years now with the members of my Trio, Henry Lugo and Vinnie Sperrazza.

the Cast of “Ripples” Part 1: The Tech Crew

I will be writing plenty about the musicians who contributed to the making of the Ripples album, but here I want to give a shout-out to all the other folks whose work on producing the album was essential to bringing it to fruition.