One of Louis Armstrong’s final performances (and favorite recipes) to be released this month

Rarely-Heard Recording Includes Original Cookbook of Louis’ Most-Loved Recipes

This release comes from Smithsonian Folkway Recordings.

Jazz icon Louis Armstrong, always the consummate entertainer, turned a 1971 award ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington DC into an impromptu performance ­despite recent poor health.  It was one of his last concerts before he passed away 5 months later. Joined by longtime band-mates Tyree Glenn and Tommy Gwaltney, Armstrong shows no signs of frailty while singing, and to everyone’s surprise, playing trumpet on classics including “Mack the Knife” and “Rocking Chair.”  The recording, originally a limited vinyl release by the National Press Club in 1972, will be available widely for the first time via Smithsonian Folkways Recordings on April 24th as part of the Smithsonian’s celebration of the 11th annual Jazz Appreciation Month.  Armstrong often signed letters “Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours,” which makes for an apt title for the recording especially since his favorite recipes ― everything from Louisiana Caviar to the Sazerac ― are included in the liner notes, as they were in the original pressing.

Listen to “Hello Dolly”

The second half of the album finds Tyree Glenn and his band back at the National Press Club paying tribute to Louis shortly after his passing.

Smithsonian Folkways will make the album available digitally (stream and download) for the first time while offering physical versions in print as on-demand CDs (with digital liner notes) available from

The release will be commemorated with a ceremony and concert on Friday, April 27th, at the National Press Club. The event will begin at 2:30 p.m. and will consist of a press conference featuring officials from Smithsonian Folkways, the National Press Club, and the Louis Armstrong Foundation and a discussion with Q&A with musical experts. A reception will follow with the album played in its entirety.

‘Satchmo at the National Press Club: Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours’

11 tracks, 58 minutes:

1971 Press Club Concert featuring Louis Armstrong

1.         Introductions (When It’s Sleepy Time Down South)

2.         Hello Dolly

3.         Rockin’ Chair

4.         Boy from New Orleans

5.         Mack the Knife

Tribute concert to Louis Armstrong featuring Tyree Glenn and Tommy Gwaltney

6.         Royal Garden Blues

7.         Mood Indigo

8.         A Kiss to Build a Dream On

9.         Love For Sale

10.       It’s Alright with Me

11.       Crazy Rhythm

“Now in Stores” XVIII

Here are five more recent jazz releases worth giving a listen to:

1. The Absence by Melody Gardot (Verve – May 29, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

The Absence is the third record from Grammy-nominated Melody Gardot. Produced by Heitor Pereira, renowned for his work as a film composer (Despicable Me, It’s Complicated, From Prada to Nada) and world-class session guitarist (Sting, Seal, Caetano Veloso), the Brazilian-born, US-based artist shared Melody’s enthusiasm for driving off the beaten path of Western pop, jazz, blues and soul. And he was as adventurous as Melody when it came to inventive sonic ideas. From the deserts of Morocco to the streets of Lisboa, from the tango bars of Buenos Aires to the beaches of Brazil, The Absence captures the essence of each of these exotic locales, while at the same time remaining quintessentially Melody Gardot.

2. Ode by Brad Mehldau (Nonesuch – March 20, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Ode is pianist Brad Mehldau’s long-awaited 2012 studio set playing trio with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard, their first studio recording since this “graceful powerhouse” of a lineup, as the New York Times recently put it, made its Nonesuch debut in 2005 with Day Is Done. This time, however, all the tunes are Mehldau originals, written with Grenadier and Ballard in mind. As the pianist elaborates, “I feel that what they bring to the music in the performance here is inseparable from the tunes themselves. It was music I wrote to play with them specifically.”

3. Be Good by Gregory Porter (Motema Music – February 14, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Since his solo debut Water in May 2010, Grammy nominee Gregory Porter has rocketed from talented unknown to one of the most relevant and virtuosic vocalists on the international jazz scene today. Over 10,000 physical and digital units of Water have sold so far, and the album continues to sell steadily.

4. All Our Reasons by Billy Hart (ECM Records – March 26, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

The quartet heard here was formed in 2003, and originally billed as the Ethan Iverson/Mark Turner Quartet. When Billy Hart asked if it could be his band for a gig in his hometown of Montclair, New Jersey, the other members unanimously voted to give it him permanently. As the Billy Hart Quartet, the four musicians have continued to play a number of dates each year, often at New York’s Village Vanguard. In 2005 the group recorded a well-received debut album for hard-bop label High Note. Since then, as Ethan Iverson notes, the music has become more free and spacious, qualities that fit well with ECM’s priorities. “All Our Reasons” was recorded in June 2011 at New York’s Avatar Studios, with Manfred Eicher producing.

5. Strictly Romancin’ by Catherine Russell (World Village – February 14, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Strictly Romancin, Catherine Russell’s fourth album for World Village, is a paean to natural attractions: to a lover, an art form, to one s family heritage. Our heroine explores love s foibles, failures and bliss, from amorous to humorous. This acclaimed vocalist embodies the lost art of song savvy, inhabiting the lyric and allowing each melody to shine. On this fourteen song collection, Russell takes us on a journey from Harlem dance hall to Parisian Café, from Store Front Church to Uptown Cabaret blurring distinctions between the carnal and the eternal in a musical tour-de-force. For these sessions, Russell reunites with the team from her previous chart-topping album Inside This Heart of Mine, including recording engineer Katherine Miller, producer Paul Kahn and Musical Director/Guitarist/Banjoist/Arranger Matt Munisteri, who contributes his expansive vision to the project.

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JazzWeek Jazz Radio Airplay Chart for week of 3/6/12

Here are the top 25 played jazz releases on jazz radio for the week of March 6, 2012, according to

Airplay Rank/Artist/Album/Label

1 CATHERINE RUSSELL Strictly Romancin’ (World Village)

2 BRUCE BABAD A Tribute To Paul Desmond (Primrose Lane)

3 STEVE TURRE Woody’s Delight (HighNote)

4 JIMMY OWENS The Monk Project (IPO)

5 CARMEN LUNDY Changes (Afrasia)

6 JEFF HAMILTON TRIO Red Sparkle (Capri)

7 MATT WILSON An Attitude For Gratitude (Grainfed / Palmetto)

8 CHICK COREA Further Explorations (Concord Jazz)

9 MARK SHERMAN The L.A. Sessions (Miles High)

10 GREGORY PORTER Be Good (Motema)


12 AKIKO TSURUGA Sakura (American Showplace)

13 GARY SMULYAN Smul’s Paradise (Capri)


15 JEREMY PELT Soul (HighNote)

16 JACK DEJOHNETTE Sound Travels (eOne)

17 CHRISTIAN TAMBURR Places (Tamburr Worldwide)

18 PAUL MCCARTNEY Kisses On The Bottom (Hear / Concord)

19 JOSH RZEPKA Into The Night (Self-Released)

20 CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE BIG BAND The Good Feeling (Mack Avenue)

21 CLIPPER ANDERSON The Road Home (Origin)

22 EHUD ASHERIE Upper West Side (Posi-Tone)

22 JAMIE OUSLEY A Sea Of Voices (T.I.E.)

22 GEORGE BENSON Guitar Man (Concord Jazz)

25 CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE Conversations With Christian (Mack Avenue)


‘Radio Music Society’ from Esperanza Spalding misses the mark

There is no doubt that Esperanza Spalding is riding a high. Last year she became the  first jazz musician to ever win the Grammy Award for Best New Artist (sorry, Justin Bieber). Her last album, Chamber Music Society, peaked at number one on the Billboard jazz charts.

So, her popularity is at an all-time high, and the Portland-raised bassist and vocalist seems ready to take her talents to the next level.

Hipsters that feel that you are supposed to like Esperanza Spalding and her music for no other reason than it is Esperanza Spalding and her music will disagree with me, but her new release, Radio Music Society (Concord Jazz, March 20,2012) doesn’t meet expectations.

Spalding assembles a variety of fantastic musicians to take part in Radio Music Society, including the likes of Joe Lovano, Leo Genovese, Terri Lyne Carrington, Jack DeJohnette,  Billy Hart, Jef Lee Johnson, Lionel Loueke, Algebra Blessett, Lalah Hathaway and Gretchen Parlato. Additionally, the album offers those who purchase it the ability to download music videos for each song.

Grooves lack depth

There was no shortage of hard work that went into this album. The compositions and arrangements are certainly creative and thoughtful, and Spalding reminds us that she is one hell of a bass player on both electric and acoustic.

But from the opening track, Radio Song, throughout the finish, I am left needing more. Songs like Radio Song and the Stevie Wonder tune I Can’t Help It are arranged to supply a deep groove, but the grooves that you want, that you could drive a car into, simply aren’t deep enough.

While I felt that in previous albums that Spalding’s voice was  presented like an instrument that was part of the group, here it most certainly takes the lead. And once again, there is no lack of effort or creativity when it comes to her singing. However this may be a case where too much effort and creativity could likely be the problem. The songwriting is average at best, but perhaps seemingly due to trying too hard.

Take out the vocals?

Complex is not always better, and one mistake that can easily be made is to think that the listener cares more about ability and complexity than the simple ability to understand what is being sung and if it sounds enjoyable or memorable. Spalding’s lyrics put to the Wayne Shorter song Endangered Species might be a good example of this.

I remember an established vocalist telling me that a truly talented vocalist best communicates the song they are singing by making the song personal and expressing that emotion through their voice. If the lyrics in the songs on Radio Music Society are personal to Spalding, that gets lost in translation to the listener. I would love to hear an all-instrumental album from Spalding, or at least something with minimal vocals where she can further explore her wonderful talents on the bass.

Following the Grammy win last year, and the minimal odds that a record company would agree to that, we likely wont see that any time soon.

“Now in Stores” XVII

Here are five more recent jazz releases worth giving a listen to:

1. Radio Music Society by Esperanza Spalding (Heads Up – March 20, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

It has not taken Esperanza Spalding long to emerge as one of the brightest lights in the musical world. Listeners familiar with her stunning 2008 Heads Up International debut, Esperanza, and her best-selling 2010 release Chamber Music Society, were well aware that the young bassist, vocalist and composer from Portland, Oregon was the real deal, with a unique and style-spanning presence, deeply rooted in jazz yet destined to make her mark far beyond the jazz realm. That judgment was confirmed on February 13, 2011, when Spalding became the first jazz musician to receive the GRAMMY® Award for Best New Artist. With the release of Radio Music Society, her most diverse, ambitious and masterful recital yet. Each of the 12 songs are accompanied by conceptual music videos, which further express Esperanza’s inspiration and story behind each track. Shot in various locations including New York City; Barcelona, Spain; and Portland, Oregon; all videos will be available to purchasers of Radio Music Society as a digital download or a DVD on the deluxe version.

2. Accelerando by Vijay Iyer (Act Music & Vision – March 13, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Accelerando sees Vijay Iyer and his telepathic trio mates bassist Stephen Crump and drummer
Marcus Gilmore light up material that ranges from a brace of bold originals and pieces by great jazz composers to surprising interpretations of vintage pop and funk tunes.

3. Floratone II by Bill Frisell (Savoy Jazz, March 6, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

On Floratone II, Frisell and original members (Matt Chamberlin, Tucker Martine, Lee Townsend) build on the successful concept that NPR proclaimed ‘the most riveting instrumental music to emerge this year. The original Floratone project was released on Blue Note in 2007 and was hailed as one of the best records of the year by jazz and mainstream outlets alike As one jazz’s most prolific and beloved artists, Bill Frisell continues his award-winning streak with yet another stunning body of work on Savoy Jazz.

4. The Well by Tord Gustavsen Trio (ECM Records – February 7, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

First and foremost it was a very natural process for me. After the release of “Restored, Returned” we did some touring with the full quintet line-up and some touring as a quartet, but the quartet was the formation that kept developing the best as an ensemble. So it felt logical to keep that momentum and to write and build a repertoire for the quartet. Also it is a group of musicians that I really like to travel with and really like to play with, so it has over the past two or three years definitely developed into my main formation for touring.There are definitely strong parallels between playing with Tore and playing with a singer in that Tore is really a strong melodic thinker. He never plays too much. He is extremely into the lyrical side of the themes. And his phrasing is really singing. The way I interact with Tore is very much the same combination of supporting and challenging as you use with singers. But in the relationship between saxophone and piano it is natural to enter even more flexibly in and out of foreground and background roles, whereas the singer’s role almost by definition is in the foreground. Kristin Asbjørnsen did some very beautiful ensemble singing without words on our previous album – and when she does that it is just the same democratic interchange of musical flow as it is with an instrumentalist – but still a singer with words will always be more to the front. So with a sax player it is easier to be flexible in terms of changing roles or changing places within the ensemble.

5. The Continents: Concerto for Jazz Quintet & Chamber Orchestra by Chick Corea (Deutsche Grammophon – February 7, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Making music for a combination of orchestral musicians and jazz musicians has end-less possibilities. Appreciation for the abilities each has for the other makes for an atmosphere charged with high interest, creative communication and new ideas. This was the setting for the composing and recording of The Continents for me, a dream come true. The process of making the recording was magical. The morale of the musicians plus the recording team was so high that we finished recording the six movements of the concerto a day and a half under schedule. After saying goodbyes to the orchestra musicians, the Quintet had an impromptu jam just for fun. Of course, the recorder was on. I then had the next evening to record some piano solo bits that I thought would fit the cadenza sections of the concerto. After recording those, I felt there was still something incomplete about The Continents recording. So I decided to try to get to what it was by improvising on the piano by myself I felt that the basic material was somehow lacking something was missing.

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