Joe Pesci, Makaya McCraven, Wynton Marsalis & More: 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.


Makaya McCraven Reimagines Gil Scott-Heron’s Final Studio Album: Multi-instrumentalist/producer Makaya McCraven is releasing We’re New Again, a reimagining of I’m New Here, the final studio album of legendary singer/songwriter Gil Scott-Heron. I’m New Here was originally released in 2010, a year prior to his death. It was produced by Richard Russell of XL Recordings, the same label that will release We’re New Again on February 7. We’re New Again was recorded and produced by McCraven in his Chicago home studio and draws on his electronic, sample-based approach to production, fusing it with improvised live musicianship.

Irreversible Entanglements Release New Standalone Single: Free jazz collective Irreversible Entanglements have shared “Homeless/Global,” a new standalone single that foreshadows their forthcoming LP, due out in the Spring of 2020 via International Anthem and Don Giovanni. This is the first piece of music the band has shared since their 2017 self-titled debut and they explain via a statement that it’s “a studio take that reflects what we do live: take the stage without a map, navigate the world in deep, telepathic, contrapuntal communion with each other and the histories we’re tapping into, push into the known and unknown, and arrive at the end together.”

Dave Liebman Announces New Album: NEA Jazz Master saxophonist/composer Dave Liebman has announced that he will release his new album, Earth, on February 7 via Whaling City Sound. The album features his group Expansions and is described as Liebman’s plea for the planet, making strong statements about humankind, the Earth as a living entity and our coalescence with that entity. Liebman will be celebrating the release of Earth at Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln in New York City on February 28 through March 1, 2020.

Joe Pesci Releases Jazz Album: In case you missed it, legendary actor Joe Pesci is not only among the leads of Martin Scorsese’s star-studded new film, The Irishman. He also released a brand new and somewhat unexpected jazz album titled Pesci… Still Singing on November 29. This is Pesci’s third album to date and features version of such numbers as “Round Midnight,” “I Remember April” and “My Cherie Amour,” among others. It also includes guest accompaniment from Adam Levine on Maroon 5 on two of its tracks.

Ken Burns American Heritage Prize to be awarded to Wynton Marsalis: American Prairie Reserve has announced that Wynton Marsalis has been named the recipient of the 2020 Ken Burns American Heritage Prize. The award will be presented in May 6, 2020, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The Ken Burns American Heritage Prize is named after the American historian/filmmaker and recognizes individuals whose achievements have advanced the collective understanding of America’s heritage and the indomitable spirit of American people. Find out more about the award via the player below.

Christopher Hollyday Announces New Album: Alto saxophonist Christopher Hollyday announced that he will release his new LP, Dialogue, on January 17 via Jazzbeat. This will be his follow-up to his 2018 album Telepathy, which marked his comeback after more than two decades away from recording. Dialogue finds him reuniting the same band from this previous album – with bassist Rob Thorsen, trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos, pianist Joshua White and young drummer Tyler Kreutel – for hot takes on bebop classics and three of Hollyday’s own compositions.

The National Museum of African American Music Seeks Submissions of Creative Artwork from Visual Artists: The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) has issued a call for submissions to all visual artists to submit original artwork for consideration as permanent installations within the museum. NMAAM will open its doors to the public in the summer of 2020. Located in the heart of downtown Nashville, the museum will be the first-of-its-kind institution and home to more than 1500 historical artifacts that reflect the development, influence and impact of African Americans on more than 50 genres and subgenres, including jazz, country, blues, gospel, R&B and hip hop. The addition of original artwork will create a visual experience that aligns with the museum’s content and blends well with the overall aesthetic of the accompanying galleries.

The Gig: Live Music & More

Brianna Thomas and Fa-La-La-La Funk! Live at Harlem Stage on December 19: Rising jazz star Brianna Thomas will be performing a live set of funkified classic holiday tunes plus songs from her eagerly anticipated sophomore album Everybody Knows at New York’s Harlem Stage Gatehouse on December 19. The concert will close out Harlem Stage’s 2019 Fall season, curated by Monique Martin, Director of Programming for Harlem Stage. It will feature the vocalist alongside her band Fa-La-La-La Funk!, including pianist Connus Pappas, bassist Ryan Berg, drummer E.J. Strickland, guitarist Marvin Sewell and percussionist Fernando Saci.

Photo: Matt Baker

Dionne Warwick Joins Peace Starts With Me Lineup: Legendary vocalist Dionne Warwick has been added to the list of performers for “Peace Starts With Me,” the most celebrated peace rally in the U.S. The rally will take place at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The event will also feature such artists as Hezekiah Walker, Yolanda Adams, Kim Burrell and more. The event is co-sponsored by Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) and the American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC).

The Festival Guide

Sage Gateshead (UK) Unveils Gateshead Jazz Program: Sage Gateshead (Gateshead, UK) has announced the program of its Gateshead Jazz weekend-long event, set to take place on March 20-22, 2020. The program will feature some of contemporary jazz’s most exciting acts, including Jamie Cullum, GoGo Penguin, SEED Ensemble, Ibibio Sound Machine, House Gospel Choir and rising star Judi Jackson, among others. Gateshead Jazz is part of a new era of jazz programming at Sage Gateshead which showcases the exciting melting pot of jazz including dance music, Afro-beat, R&B, neo-soul and electronic music from acclaimed and illustrious artists to the hottest rising stars.

Big Names Announced for 55th Heineken Jazzaldia: A handful of big names have been announced for the 55th edition of Heineken Jazzaldia, which will take place in San Sebastian, Spain, on July 22-26, 2020. Artists scheduled to perform include Abdullah Ibrahim, Kenny Barron, Cécile McLorin Salvant, John Zorn, Enrico Rava, Hiromi, Dave Holland, Kurt Elling, Taj Mahal, Graham Nash, Simple Minds and Vintage Trouble and many more. More names will be announced at a later date.

New Release Cheat Sheet

Toh-Kichi, Baikamo (Libra)

Baikamo is the new full-length album by Toh-Kichi, the fascinating duet project of great Japanese pianist/composer Satoko Fujii and drummer Tatsuya Yoshida, who has been called the “indisputable master drummer of the Japanese underground”. Released via Libra, the album finds them merging art-rock muscle with free jazz and contemporary classical abstractions. In addition to debuting their new compositions, Baikamo also features eight free improvisations, each one distinctive and daring.

Teymur Phell, Master Volume (self-released)

Master Volume is bass virtuoso Teymur Phell’s debut LP as a leader. The album is defined by a plethora of influences from a wide variety of style – such as jazz, fusion and funk – and features a great cast of musicians, including Nitzan Gavrieli, Lionel Cordew, Chad Lefkowitz Brown, Itai Kriss, and Daniel Sadownick, along with Mike Stern and Dennis Chambers. “This is the record I always wanted to do. It’s one-hundred percent original music,‘ says Teymur about the album. “There’s something in this record for everyone.”

ChimyTina, A Very ChimyTina Christmas (Outside In)

Vocalist Martina DaSilva and Dan “Chimy” Chmielinski, a.k.a. ChimyTina, have released a new collaborative album of exciting new takes on holiday classics and more, titled A Very ChimyTina Christmas. The LP also includes their original Christmas song, “Diamonds and Pearls,” alongside such classics as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and standards as “My Favorite Things.” It also features guest appearances from saxophonist Lucas Pino, vibraphonist Joel Ross, guitarist Gabe Schneider and bassist Ben Wolfe.

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