Pixar, Mal Waldron, Chick Corea & 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.


62nd GRAMMY Nominations Announced: The nominations for the 62nd GRAMMY Awards were announced Wednesday morning at a live-streamed press conference, including those for the jazz categories. Jazz nominees this year include Chick Corea, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Christian McBride, Esperanza Spalding, Catherine Russell, Jazzmeia Horn, Joey DeFrancesco, Branford Marsalis and Joshua Redman, among others. Winners will be announced at the Annual ceremony, which will take place on January 26 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Click here to meet the 2020 GRAMMY Jazz Nominees.

ECM to Release Extended Edition of Its First Album: ECM Records will reissue Mal Waldron’s landmark 1969 album, Free at Last, as an extended edition and audiophile vinyl double album on December 13. The LP features the pianist leading a trio with Isla Eckinger on double bass and Clarence Becton on drums. Free at Last was recorded in Ludwigsburg on November 1969 and was released later that year, to become the first official release for the German label. This special extended edition features revisited and remastered audio, additional takes, texts and photos.

Pixar Releases Trailer for New Jazz-Themed Movie: Disney and Pixar have shared the trailer for Soul, the new movie that will hit theaters on June 19, 2020. Jazz and soul take center stage in this upcoming animated feature, which tells the story of a middle school teacher (voiced by Jamie Foxx) who dreams of being a jazz performer. Soul also features the voice acting talents of Tina Fey and Questlove, among others. The film is directed by Pete Docter, who previously helmed the critically lauded Inside Out (2015).

Craft Launches New Stax Records Series on YouTube: Last Thursday, Craft Recordings launched The Memphis Masters, a new limited edition video series about the legacy of the iconic Stax Records label. Each episode will revolve around an album or collection from a singular artist or group from the label’s roster and will be made available on YouTube. The first of these is about Booker T. & The M.G.’s 1971 album Melting Pot. The Memphis series features insightful interviews and contributions from artists of multiple generations. The series was created in partnership with Memphis Record Pressing and Memphis Tourism, and directed by Andrew Trent Fleming.

Rozina Pátkai Adapts Poetry to Creative Jazz Settings on New Album: Hungarian jazz singer Rozina Pátkai adapts the poetry of great writers to a creative jazz setting on her latest album, Taladim, out now. The album was released on November 1 and features Pátkai’s soft and appealing voice interpreting poems by such greats as T.S. Eliot, Fernando Pessoa, Fernando Garcia Lorca and Paul Verlaine, among others. Also featured on Taladim are János Ávéd on tenor, soprano and occasionally piano, acoustic guitarist István Tóth Jr., cellist Ditta Rohmann, András Dés on percussion (both acoustic and electronic), and Márton Fenyvesi on synth bass.

UMe Shares First-Ever Official Videos for Iconic Christmas Songs: UMe shared a series of new animated videos for some of the most iconic Christmas classic songs ever recorded. These videos were created by Ingenuity Studios and inspired by the style of vintage UPA cartoons throughout the ’50s and ’60s. Among the songs chosen for this new holiday-themed series are Dean Martin’s “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and Frank Sinatra’s “Jingle Bells.” “These songs were chosen for their enduring popularity year after year,” says Bruce Resnikoff, President and CEO of UMe, “and the new videos will allow us to deliver them to fans and new audiences alike across digital platforms.”

Oldest Professional Songwriting Team Creates New Album: 102-year-old lyricist Alan R. Tripp and 88-year-old jazz pianist Marvin Weisbord teamed up to create eight brand new original songs for a new album titled Senior Song Book. Arguably the oldest professional songwriting team around, Tripp and Weisbord’s songs are performed here with big band-style orchestration and move easily from swing to tango to rumba. “We found a secret,” says Tripp. “If you write music in the old style of the 1940s, the big bands, people love it. Not just older people, but younger people.

GRAMMY Museum to Host Screening of New Chick Corea Documentary: The GRAMMY Museum will host legendary musician/composer Chick Corea for a special screening of the documentary Chick Corea: In the Mind of a Master on November 26. The film follows Corea in the process of writing and arranging his new album, Antidote, which was released earlier this year and just received a GRAMMY nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album. Chick Corea: In the Mind of a Master is also due to premiere on the Scientology Network on December 1.

The Gig: Live Music & More

NYC Readers Jazz Awards to Take Place on November 24: Hot House and Jazzmobile are presenting the NYC Readers Jazz Awards at the Birdland Jazz Club, New York City, on November 24. The nominees for its 32 categories were selected out of the 80000 votes cast by jazz lovers all over the world. Veteran broadcaster Mark Ruffin will be among the honorees. This year’s NYC Readers Jazz Awards also celebrates the 55th anniversary of Jazzmobile, and a portion of the net proceeds will be donated to support their mission to present high-quality education and performance programs.

The Bad Plus in Rockport on March 22: Acclaimed New York-based jazz trio The Bad Plus – including bassist Reid Anderson, drummer David King and pianist Orrin Evans – return to the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, Massachusetts, on March 22. There, they will perform music from their latest release, Activate Infinity, out now via Edition Records. This is the first record by The Bad Plus since Evans joined the trio in 2018.

Adam Rudolph to New Album Release Show in New York on December 13: Percussionist/composer/bandleader Adam Rudolph will be performing the CD/LP release show for his latest album, Ragmala – A Garland of Ragas, at the Elebash Recital Hall in CUNY, New York, on December 13. He will be leading an ensemble of around 40 musicians, including his groundbreaking Go: Organic Orchestra and the boundary-pushing Indian classical musicians of Brooklyn Raga Massive, with whom he recorded his illuminating and forward-thinking new record. “This album feels like the culmination of everything I’ve been reaching for in my creative pursuits,” says Rudolph via a press release. Ragmala is out now via Meta Records. 

Kansas Smitty’s To Release New Album Via Newly Relaunched Ever Records: !K7 Collective has announced the relaunch of Ever Records with the signing of Kansas Smitty’s, an exciting London-based group that in addition to specializing in their own original music runs its own atmospheric basement bar in East London, which boasts some of the best jazz performances in the British capital. Kansas Smitty’s, led by American saxophonist/clarinetist/composer/arranger Giacomo Smith, will release their new album in Spring 2020 via the newly relaunched label. Meanwhile, they have shared a new single, “Riders,” ahead of their major show at London’s Alexandra Palace on November 23, which is part of the London Jazz Fest presented by Ronnie Scott’s. A four-piece iteration of the ensemble will also be joining the legendary bandleader Guy Barker live on stage at the Royal Albert Hall on December 19.

The Festival Guide

First Artists Confirmed for 2020 Cheltenham Jazz Festival: The Cheltenham Jazz Festival, one of the leading jazz festivals in the UK, has announced the first round of names for the lineup of its upcoming edition. Bebel Gilberto, Blind Boys of Alabama and Amadou & Mariam are among the artists to have been confirmed for the festival’s 24th edition, which will take place in the Gloucestershire town’s Montpellier Gardens from Tuesday 5 to Sunday 10 May 2020. “We are really spoilt for choice with the huge wealth and breadth of amazing new talent and to be able to present these young artists alongside the jazz legends that Cheltenham is so well known for is a fantastic opportunity,” said Cheltenham Jazz Festival head of programming Dave Gaydon via an official statement.

New Release Cheat Sheet

Marius Neset and London Sinfonietta, Viaduct (ACT)

Norwegian-born saxophonist/composer Marius Neset has affirmed his place in the top echelon of modern European jazz via a number of releases for the Munich-based label, ACT Music. His self-produced fifth album for the imprint is arguably his most restlessly diverse statement to date. Viaduct presents a pair of extended pieces he wrote and that was originally commissioned for the opening concert of the Kongsberg Jazz Festival in 2018. These pieces are performed by the solid pairing of his own Scandi-Brit quintet and the world-renowned 19-piece London Sinfonietta and organically integrate wide-ranging influences for a compelling and immersive listening experience.

Marta Sánchez, El Rayo de Luz (Fresh Sound)

El Rayo de Luz is Madrid-born, New York City-based pianist/composer Marta Sánchez’s fourth album as a leader. Here, she takes to the studio with her quintet – including saxophonists Chris Cheek and Roman Filiu, bassist Rick Rosato and drummer Daniel Dor – to record a set of compositions that sometimes appears even more adventurous and compelling than anything she has ever recorded before. The music, in fact, is influenced by her daily life as an active musician in New York City’s polyglot music scene. “Having the opportunity to play with a broad spectrum of musicians inspired my compositions and improvisations by making it possible to access a broad palette of harmony, rhythm and melody,” she says via a press release. 

Sefi Zisling, Expanse (Tru Thoughts)

Trumpeter Sefi Zisling is one of the top jazz and funk musicians of Tel Aviv’s music scene. His new album, which builds on the success of his acclaimed debut LP Beyond the Things I Know, channels the explorative spirit of some of his childhood heroes, including John Coltrane, Grant Green and Fred Wesley. Expanse is, in fact, quite a journey, presenting an adventurous mix of varied styles, genres and creative approaches, including afro-beat, psychedelic funk, spiritual jazz and more. Recorded at a collaborative live session with some of Zisling’s most talented musician friends, Expanse is also a project dedicated to the documentation of in-the-moment creativity, capturing the essence of a classic jazz session.

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