Billie Holiday, Béla Fleck & The Flecktones: The Week in Jazz

The Week in Jazz is your roundup of new and noteworthy stories from the jazz world. It’s a one-stop destination for the music news you need to know. Let’s take it from the top.


New Billie Holiday Film in the Works: A new documentary about jazz legend Billie Holiday is currently in the world. Billie is to be directed by James Erskine, and it will follow the singer’s life through the eyes of Linda Lipnack, a fan and literary journalist who began a biography in 1970 and left behind a wealth of taped material consisting of over 200 hours of interview with such Holiday contemporaries as Charles Mingus, Sarah Vaughan, old lovers, school friends and even the FBI agents who arrested her, among others.

Verve and Impulse! Launch New Vinyl Series: Verve and Impulse! Records are making some of their most beloved must-have albums from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s available once again on vinyl via a new series, Vital Vinyl. The series was launched on February 22 and includes albums from such artists as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Wes Montgomery and many more.

Records Store Day 2019 Releases Announced: This year, record store day is slated to be back on April 21. The annual event, inaugurated in 2007, celebrates the culture of the independently owned record store, and it takes place at various independent retailers worldwide. Jazz releases this year include records by Louis Armstrong, Sun Ra and Charlie Parker among many others. Click here to check out the full Record Store Day 2019 special releases.

The Gig: Live Music & More

Béla Fleck & The Flecktones Celebrate 30 Years with Extensive U.S, Tour: The original lineup of groundbreaking quartet Béla Fleck & The Flecktones – led by banjoist Béla Fleck, with Howard Levy on piano and harmonica, percussionist-drumitarist Future Man and bassist Victor Wooten – will be touring North America this year to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Dates include a set at the Playboy Jazz Festival on June 8, Telluride Bluegrass Festival on June 21 and the inaugural Béla Fleck & The Flecktones: Friends & Family set for May 30 at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, near Morrison, Colorado. Click here for more the full tour schedule.


The Festival Circuit

Jazz at DC: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., announced the lineup for the second season of Direct Current, a showcase of contemporary culture that runs on March 24-April 7. Pianist Jason Moran, the Kennedy Center’s artistic director for jazz, helped plan the programming which, as far as jazz is concerned, will include a number of improvising musicians, including vocalist Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones (March 25), guitarist Mary Halvorson (March 27 and 28), vocalist Magos Herrera (April 7), pianist Henry Threadgill (April 5), pianist Vijay Iyer (April 6), saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell (March 28) and drummer Tyshawn Sorey (March 29).

The World’s Newest Jazz Fest at Princeton University: Jazz at Princeton University and its director, saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, will present its first jazz festival on April 13. Bassist Dave Holland is headlining the day-long event. Other acts scheduled to perform include the Donny McCaslin Quartet, Ingrid Jensen and Tia Fuller, among others. Mahanthappa says via a press release that “it promises to be a fantastic day of music, as well as an opportunity for the community at large to come together and enjoy what we hope will become an annual tradition.”

New Release Cheat Sheet

Branford Marsalis Quartet, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul (OKeh Records)

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis’ quartet has been a model of daring, unapologetic artistry for the past three decades. Pianist Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis have been part of the group for 20 of those years, while drummer Justin Faulkner has been aboard since 2009. On their new album, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul, they reach a new peak, addressing a kaleidoscope of moods with inspiration and group commitment. This is their first album since 2016’s Upward Spiral with guest vocalist Kurt Elling and their first pure quartet effort since 2012’s Four MF’s Playin’ Tunes. “Staying together allows us to play adventurous, sophisticated music and sound good. Lack of familiarity leads to defensive playing, playing not to make a mistake,” explains Marsalis. “I like sophisticated music, and I couldn’t create this music with people I don’t know.”

Catherine Russell, Alone Together (Dot Time Records)

Alone Together is vocalist Catherine Russell’s seventh album as a leader. It is a search for truth that draws on the celebrated composers and lyricists of the Great American Songbook and the songwriters of the swing and blues eras. In fact, the 13 timeless songs on her new outing ask timeless questions. This is true of Irving Berlin’s contemplative “How Deep is the Ocean,” Russell’s philosophical reading of the popular swing era hit “You Can’t Pull the Wool Over My Eyes,” and Louis Jordan’s fun blues tunes “Early in the Morning” and “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” among others. Alone Together features the core musicians of Russell’s touring band, including guitar virtuoso and musical director Matt Munisteri, pianist Mark Shane, bassist Tal Ronen and drummer Mark McLean.

Dave Liebman, On the Corner Live: The Music of Miles Davis (Ear Up Records)

Saxophonist and NEA Jazz Master David Liebman began his musical relationship with trumpet legend Miles Davis in the summer of 1972 when he participated in the recording date that would birth On the Corner. On his new album, Liebman revisits the music from this prolific electric period in Davis’ career. On the Corner Live: The Music of Miles Davis was recorded live in 2015 at the 3rd & Lindsley venue in Nashville, Tennessee, and also features saxophonist Jeff Coffin – the brainchild of the album who spearheaded the project from its inception to conclusion and whose independent label Ear Up Records is releasing the album – plus bassist Victor Wooten, drummer Chester Thompson, guitarist James DaSilva and keyboardist Chris Walters.

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