Norah Jones, Thundercat, Betty Carter: 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.


Previously Unheard Betty Carter Music Out Soon: Blue Engine Records will release The Music Never Stops, the first album composed entirely of previously unheard material by vocalist Betty Carter in 22 years, on March 29. The album documents Carter’s live performance with the JALC orchestra at New York’s Aaron Davis Hall from 1992, six years before her untimely passing and during the early days of the Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Oscar Nod for Terence Blanchard: Trumpeter-composer Terence Blanchard received an Academy Award nomination in the Best Original Score category for his work on Spike Lee’s BlacKKKlansman, which tells the story of an African American detective infiltrating the KKK in the ’70s. Blanchard has been a longtime collaborator with Lee and has worked on the score for many of his previous films, including Malcolm X (1992) and 25th Hour (2002).

Ulysses Owens Jr. Pays Tribute to ’60s Female Songwriters: Drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. explores the songbooks of three female icons of the turbulent 1960s – Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln and Joni Mitchell – on his new album Songs of Freedom, out on March 1. To convey the profound emotions of these powerful singer-songwriters, Owens enlisted René Marie, Theo Bleckmann and Alicia Olatuja, three of today’s most acclaimed jazz vocalists, along with rising star Joanna Majoko.

Photo Credit: Rayon Richards

The Gig: Live Music & More

Norah Jones Announces 2019 North American Tour Dates: Norah Jones announced her summer 2019 North American tour dates, the first leg of which will kick off on the East Coast in Pittsburgh on June 28 and include appearances at jazz festivals in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Saratoga Springs. The tour’s second leg heads out West beginning July 14 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, followed by an evening at Colorado’s famed Red Rocks with iconic vocalist Mavis Staples.

Thundercat NY Blue Note Jazz Club Residency: Acclaimed, genre-defying musician Thundercat announced a residency at the famed Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City for this February. He will play 14 shows, spread out over six nights on February 12-17, with two shows on each night and three shows on February 15 and 16.

The Festival Circuit

ECM Celebrates 50 Years at Big Ears: For its 2019 edition, the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, will honor ECM Records, the border-erasing label launched by producer Manfred Eicher that, for the past 50 years, has pursued new frontiers in jazz and classical music. The fest will feature 20 concerts showcasing ECM artists, including legends like The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Meredith Monk, Carla Bley and Jack DeJohnette, as well as a new generation of artists like Vijay Iyer, Craig Taborn, Avishai Cohen and Shai Maestro. All told, the showcase will represent the largest group of ECM acts performing live under one banner in the United States.

Saratoga Jazz Fest Announces Headliners: George Benson, Norah Jones and Trombone Shorty are among the headliners announced for the 42nd Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, which will take place in Saratoga Springs, New York, on June 29-30. The program will present 22 groups, including 15 festival debuts and seven female-led ensembles.

First JALC Saint Lucia Jazz Festival: The Saint Lucia Jazz Festival will take place on the Caribbean Island of Saint Lucia on may 6-13, and this year’s edition is to be programmed by New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center, with Wynton Marsalis as its artistic director. Marsalis has already confirmed that Christian McBride, Ledisi, Etienne Charles, Russell Hall and Patrick Bartley will serve as artists in residence.

New Release Cheat Sheet

Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom, Glitter Wolf (The Royal Potato Family)

Drummer-composer Allison Miller celebrates the 10th anniversary of her band, Boom Tim Boom, with the release of Glitter Wolf, a collection of ten new idiosyncratic compositions featuring Miller’s deft drum work and compositional adeptness front and center, and all her ensemble’s raw but refined propulsive energy. Glitter Wolf features Miller alongside fellow bandmates violinist Jenny Scheinman, cornet player Kirk Knuffke, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, bassist Todd Sickafoose and pianist Myra Melford, plus three special guest percussionists: John Santos, John Hatfield and David Flores.

Itamar Borochov, Blue Nights (Laborie Jazz)

Israeli-born, Brooklyn-based trumpeter-composer Itamar Borochov follows his excellent Boomerang (2016) with Blue Nights, a new trans-cultural album that synthesizes his experience in bebop, post-bop and elemental rock while drawing inspiration from the various North African and Near Eastern dialects that permeated his consciousness during his formative years in Israel. “To me, so many things from that part of the world are similar to the blues, for instance,” he says. “I’ve pictured that maybe at one point we were all one people. What was the music of that people?”

Ralph Alessi, Imaginary Friends (ECM Records)

For his third ECM outing as a leader, trumpeter-composer Ralph Alessi reconvenes his longtime working and forward-thinking quintet This Against That, with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, bassist Drew Gress, drummer Mark Ferber and pianist Andy Milne. Imaginary Friends is a collection of nine new, impassioned and original tone-poems that Alessi wrote and fully-developed while touring in Europe. Produced by Manfred Eicher, Imaginary Friends follows Alessi’s previous ECM releases Baida (2013) and Quiver (2016).

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