The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
CD Reviews  |  Classical  |  Live Reviews  |  Music Features

Year in Jazz: Playing for keeps

By JON GARELICK  |  December 22, 2008

UTILITY STRING: Jenny Scheinman released two CDs, played her vocal music at the MFA, and was the lead “voice” of Bill Frisell’s string ensemble.

Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite things from among the people, CDs, and performances I wrote about this year.

WFNX Jazz Brunch Top 10 of 2008
1. Cassandra Wilson, Loverly [Blue Note]
2. Patricia Barber, The Cole Porter Mix [Blue Note]
3. Brian Blade, Season of Changes [Verve]
4. Todd Sickafoose, Tiny Resistors [Cryptogramophone]
5. Marco Benevento, Invisible Baby [Hyena]
6. Aaron Parks, Invisible Cinema [Blue Note]
7. Pat Metheny, Day Trip [Nonesuch]
8. e.s.t., Leucocyte [Emarcy]
9. Maceo Parker, Roots and Grooves [Heads Up]
10. Esperanza Spalding, Esperanza [Heads Up]
Brian Blade Fellowship
Blade has become the man in jazz drumming, most prominently with Joshua Redman in the '90s and Wayne Shorter in the '00s. But he's got a string of pop credits that includes Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, and Daniel Lanois. His Fellowship Band, with co-composer and keyboardist Jon Cowherd, represents the merger of Blade's pop and jazz sides and a general movement in jazz among players under 40 toward creating jazz from the kind of pop they grew up with (as opposed to the pop Sonny Rollins grew up with). Blade, Cowherd, bassist Chris Thomas, reedmen Myron Walden and Melvin Butler, and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel released only their third album since 1998, Season of Changes (Verve), tore it up at Newport last August, and (with a slightly different line-up) filled Scullers for two shows in November.

Rudresh Mahanthappa
Colorado-raised alto-saxophonist Mahanthappa didn't begin to explore seriously the music of his parents' native country till he traveled to India as a Berklee student in 1994. Since then he's continued to travel there, studying and developing his own vision of the music, and he's continued to collaborate with fellow Indian-American Vijay Iyer. In February, he brought pianist Iyer as part of a quartet to the Gardner Museum for an exciting concert. In September, Mahanthappa released Kinsmen (Pi), perhaps his most fully realized Indo-jazz fusion yet, a collaboration with veteran Indian alto-saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath and an ensemble that included violinist A. Kanyakumari and guitarist Rez Abassi.

Carla Bley
Bley's local performances have been rare in recent years, so it was a treat to see her at Scullers in April with long-time collaborators Steve Swallow and Andy Sheppard — her Music with Legs trio. They played her 20-minute suite "The National Anthem," the beautiful slow tango "Tropical Depression," the rock-beat "Sidewinders in Paradise" (which of course quoted "Stranger in Paradise"), the Monkish bebop "Doctor," the sinister matinee-movie waltz "Valse Sinistre," the Norwegian folk "Útviklingssang," and her eternal cyclical waltz "Ad Inifinitum." This was the intimate, small-group Bley. Later in the year came Appearing Nightly (ECM) — Bley in her daunting big-band mode. Maybe we can get her back live with the big band in 2009?

Danilo Pérez
Backstage after the Wayne Shorter concert at Berklee in December, the doorkeeper warned one of her colleagues: "Everybody's a friend of Danilo's." That would be Danilo Pûrez, the indispensable pianist in Shorter's quartet, and Boston's foremost jazz citizen — a teacher at Berklee and New England Conservatory, an international star who makes Boston his home and boosts the local scene every chance he gets, and a hero in his native Panama, where he's created an annual music festival that's the centerpiece of his educational-outreach foundation. This year he released The Panama Suite (ArtistShare) as well as an album of compositions and arrangements by Claus Ogerman, Across the Crystal Sea (Decca). And, oh yeah, he played the Regattabar in his great trio with Ben Street and Adam Cruz.

Jenny Scheinman
Scheinman has been a utility player for years, the go-to violin gal for Norah Jones, Lucinda Williams, Vinicius Cantuária, and especially Bill Frisell. At the same time, she's been exploring various Latin and European-folk and klezmer-influenced solo CDs. But this fall she released two CDs on Koch, Jenny Scheinman and Crossing the Field — the first a roots-based vocal album, the second an instrumental disc that traveled from covers of Ellington's "Awful Sad" to her own dense compositions for strings. At the MFA in June, she proved a great singing frontwoman, with a no-bullshit vocal attack. Meanwhile, in April she was the lead string voice with Frisell's Quartet 858 at the Regattabar. An indie-jazz diva either way.

Esperanza Spalding
Spalding had been turning heads since she arrived at Berklee as a 17-year-old — singing in counterpoint to her flowing acoustic basslines and tearing into the instrument with scary virtuosity. Her Heads Up debut, Esperanza, leaned in a pop direction, emphasizing her singing and the lyrics rather than her distinctive scatting. But here was Milton Nascimento's rarely covered "Ponta de Areia," Baden Powell's "Samba em Preludio," and, yes, "Body and Soul" — only in a 5/4 arrangement and sung in Spanish. When Spalding was projected on the big screen at Newport as part of George Wein's All Stars, she brought the house down doing the bass/voice thing to the Johnny Mercer/Sonny Burke standard "Midnight Sun."

1  |  2  |   next >
Related: The band's the thing, Jenny Scheinman, Cassandra Wilson | Loverly, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Entertainment, Pete Wentz, Eric Harland,  More more >
  • Share:
  • Share this entry with Facebook
  • Share this entry with Digg
  • Share this entry with Delicious
  • RSS feed
  • Email this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Today's Event Picks
--> -->
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   SCHOLARSHIP GIGS  |  July 22, 2009
    Newpoli and Steven Bernstein do their homework
  •   JOY, NOT JAMMING  |  July 17, 2009
    King Sunny Adé and his African Beats, live at the Courtyard at the Museum of Fine Arts, July 15, 2009
  •   BILL FRISELL | DISFARMER  |  July 15, 2009
    Nonesuch (2009)
  •   BOYS' LIFE  |  July 14, 2009
    Hung and Entourage measure success
  •   MUSIC AS MEMORY  |  July 07, 2009
    Marco Benevento, live at the Museum of Fine Arts, July 1, 2009

 See all articles by: JON GARELICK

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2009 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group