Wadada Leo Smith, Ralph Ellison, Bill Frisell: 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.


Netflix Goes to Motown: Netflix launched a new animated series, Motown Magic, that aims to introduce children to Motown music. Each episode draws inspiration from the classic songs of the ’60s label, featuring the hits of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and others re-interpreted by contemporary artists. The series was made with Smokey Robinson serving as executive music producer.

An Oratorio for Rosa: Rosa Parks: Pure Love. An Oratorio of Seven Songs is the new extended composition of Wadada Leo Smith, written for the iconic civil rights hero Rosa Parks. “Her action generated a movement worldwide for liberty and justice for human beings,” says Smith. This new major work is performed by three vocalists, a double-quartet and a drummer with electronics. It will be released on February 15 via TUM Records.

Blue Note Vinyl Reissues: Blue Note Records is launching the Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series – a series of all-analog, 180g audiophile vinyl reissues mastered from original tapes – in honor of its 80th anniversary. Each title was selected by “Tone Poet” Joe Harley, co-founder and co-producer of the Music Matters audiophile vinyl series, and the first albums to be reissued will be Wayne Shorter’s Etcetera and Chick Corea’s Now He Sings, Now He Sobs on February 8.

The Gig: Live Music & More

Ingrid Jensen at Birdland Theater: Trumpeter Ingrid Jensen will continue her four-night run at New York’s Birdland Theater tonight and tomorrow night (January 25-26). She will be performing “Project O Revisited” alongside pianist Gary Versace, bassist Richie Goods, drummer John Wikan, and will be joined by special guest saxophonist Joel Frahm for tonight’s sets only. Sets at 7 p.m. and 9:45 p.m.

Jazz Roots Celebrates Ralph Ellison: The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County’s 11th Jazz Roots season continues with a highly anticipated Black History Month presentation, “Jazz in the Key of Ellison,” at the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall on February 8. The all-star concert celebrating the musical life of America’s iconic writer Ralph Ellison will also feature writer Roxane Gay as guest host and narrator, and will be accompanied by works and rare clips by African American painter, collagist Romare Bearden.

The Festival Circuit

JALC + Saint Lucia Jazz Fest: Through a first-time, one-of-a-kind collaboration, Saint Lucia Jazz Festival and Jazz at Lincoln Center have announced plans for the 2019 Saint Lucia Jazz Festival Produced in Collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center. The fest will feature some of the finest names in modern jazz performing in intimate venues and public settings throughout the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia from May 5-12. For this inaugural year of collaboration, Jazz at Lincoln Center has programmed a stellar lineup, including artists-in-residence Christian McBride, Ledisi, Etienne Charles, Russell Hall and Patrick Bartley. Additional headliners include Gregory Porter, Dianne Reeves, Catherine Russell, Somi and Veronica Swift. For more information, visit the festival’s website.

Pickathon Announces Initial Lineup: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Sudan Archives have been announced as part of Pickathon‘s 2019 initial lineup. The festival will take place in the woods outside Portland, Oregon on August 2-4, featuring a program promoting discovery, sustainable ethics and pushing the boundaries of genre.

Bill Frisell at Les Paul Festival Concert: Guitarist Bill Frisell will headline the Les Paul Festival Concert on February 16 at the Sharp Theater in Ramapo College, New Jersey. Hailed as one of the most distinctive and original improvising guitarists of our time, Frisell’s career as a guitarist and composer has spanned more than 35 years and 250 recordings, including 40 of his own.


Photo: Austin Nelson

NowNet Arts Festival Defies Geographical Boundaries: NowNet Arts Festival, the annual event featuring premieres of contemporary network arts works by multiple artists for the NowNet Arts Ensemble and collaborating groups, will present works by Ng Chor Guan, Sarah Weaver and a trio performance by Mark Dresser, Denman Maroney and Matthias Ziegler. The works will be performed on February 17 via the internet by artists in different geographical locations – New York, Illinois, London, Toronto and Zurich.


New Release Cheat Sheet

Eric Dolphy, Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studios Sessions (Resonance Records)

Musical Prophet is the first official release of previously-unissued Eric Dolphy studio recordings in over 30 years. This three-disc set includes the albums Conversations and Iron Man – both captured in New York City on July 1 and 3 – plus 85-minutes of previously unissued materials. Released in partnership with the Eric Dolphy Trust and the Alan Douglas Estate with remastered high-resolution monaural audio transferred directly from original tapes, Musical Prophet comes with a 100-page book with rare photos, essays and interviews with such jazz luminaries as Sonny Rollins, Henry Threadgill, Dave Liebman and many more.

Joe Lovano, Trio Tapestry (ECM Records)

Having appeared on a number of ECM recordings over the last four decades, saxophonist-composer Joe Lovano makes his debut as a leader for the label with Trio Tapestry. Recorded at New York’s Sear Sound Studio in March 2018, and produced by ECM label head Manfred Eicher, the new album finds him playing alongside pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi. “We play together like an orchestra, creating an amazing tapestry,” says Lovano. “I brought in the material, but there’s an equal weight of contribution, creating music within the music, and harmonizing it in a really special way.”

Jeanne Lee and Ran Blake, The Newest Sound You Never Heard (A-Side Records)

A-Side Records is releasing previously unheard music from the revered, adventurous duo of vocalist Jeanne Lee and pianist Ran Blake. The Newest Sound You Never Heard collects nearly two hours of stunning recordings from 1966 and 1967, featuring daring exploration and soul-stirring performances of compositions by Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, The Beatles, Ray Charles, Charlie Parker and others. The album is released just a few days before Lee would have celebrated his 80th birthday, in conjunction with the Ran Blake foundation and New England Conservatory, where has taught for more than 50 years.

Feature photo credit: Jimmy Katz

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