Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Brunswick project taking off

New Brunswick is an often-overlooked oasis of terrific jazz, much of it safely cocooned within Rutgers' scattered venues.

Recently, a group of in-town jazzbos launched the New Brunswick Jazz Project, aimed at increasing the visibility and awareness of jazz in the Queen City. Headed by Rutgers prof – and Posi-Tone Records artist -- Ralph Bowen, the group has emerged as a solid source of jazz performers around town. I had a chance to review Bowen's Due Reverence for AllAboutJazz.com recently – you can read the review here.

The group has been organizing events in recent weeks, and Thursday, saxophonist Todd Bashore and his quartet will perform at Makeda at 338 George St. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., runs to 11 p.m., and there's no cover charge. The quartet includes pianist Orrin Evans, Yasushi Nakamura on bass, and Chris Brown on drums.

This show is a bit of a tune-up date for the group, which will be recording in August, ahead of Bashore's departure to hook up with the Max Weinberg Big Band for an upcoming tour.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summertime, and the re-issues are jumpin' ...

It's the middle of the summer, apparently not the best time to release a new CD. For those willing to try, beware of the competition!
According to AllAboutJazz.com's CD release schedule, this month has been rife with re-issues. From John Coltrane to Charles Mingus, Louis Armstrong to Bill Evans, it's been a crowded field of big names. Revamped, re-issued, reworked or re-mastered, it's a tough crowd to go against.
Next month perks up, though, with releases from Dave Liebman, Esperanza Spalding, Brian Bromberg, Vijay Iyer, Kenny Werner and Jeff Berlin.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Brains, beauty ... and a bass

If you've not listened to Esperanza Spalding, you're missing out on a rare treat.
Spalding is a 25-year-old dynamo, maybe the best thing to happen to jazz in a decade or two because she has the star quality missing from so many young players. Eldar and Julian Lage are exciting players, but Spalding is not only a capable player -- she's also a singer capable of making a song her own.

Check out this video of her performing Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed":

We can thank Pat Metheny for this treat: the story goes Esperanza was ready to quit Berklee after spending two semesters lugging her bass around, and switch to a political science major. But Metheny told her not to, pointing out she has the undefinable quality that can make an artist rise above others.

Need more proof? Here she is Jimmy Kimmel's show:

How can jazz be dying when it draws someone so full of life?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fairy tales can come true ... it can happen to you

Choosing to be a musician is a commitment for the long-term, especially if one aspires to be a jazz musician. For every Jamie Callum or Eldar, there are thousands of determined players woodshedding every day and dreaming of having a hit record.
They may have even already recorded the tracks that will break through – and don’t know it. That’s what happened to New Jersey pianist Joel Zelnik.
Zelnik is a regular performer in New York and Northern New Jersey clubs, where he and his wife Francine Evans draw crowds with their tributes to Frank Sinatra, Big Band girl singers and other shows.
His career began in the late 1960s, when he formed the J. Zelnik Trio. The group’s swinging performances earned them lots of fans, including Dr. Billy Taylor, who would feature tracks from an LP recorded by the trio in 1970, Move, regularly on his radio shows.
Turns out, Move is a big hit in Japan … in 2010.
The album wasn’t a big seller initially, in fact, when the son of the trio’s drummer David Rosenburg, who died some years after the recording was made, wanted to hear his late-father’s work a few years ago, the only copy anyone seemed to know about was on Zelnik’s shelf.
Zelnik made a copy of the recording and sent it to Jay Rosenburg (son of David). Jay enjoyed it so much, he began a one-man crusade to spread the music of the J. Zelnik Trio.
Thanks to the Internet, Japanese businessman Keisuke Taniguchi became a fan, investing time and money in producing a CD to release in Japan.
Search online for the J. Zelnik Trio and a handful of Japanese sources pop up – using Google’s translator, a few things were clear: the album is legendary among jazz fans there (and they are a dedicated and informed bunch); it features such tunes as “Tune Up,” “A Minor Thought” and “Will You be Mine”;… and it’s selling out.
It’s such a hit, the Japanese Think! Label has already arranged to release a follow-up, Joel Zelnik Trio Live At Steinway Piano Gallery.
Both recordings are available stateside from Dusty Groove’s American site, dustygroove.com.