Now in Stores

Here is a look at five jazz releases that recently hit the shelves and are worth giving a listen to. Enjoy!

1. harryEvery Man Should Know by Harry Connick Jr. (Columbia – June 11, 2013) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Harry Connick, Jr. has built a reputation for musical and emotional honesty. Never one to rest on his ever-growing list of laurels, Connick exposes his feelings as never before on Every Man Should Know. The new CD contains twelve original songs for which Connick wrote music, lyrics and arrangements.

“No rules, no limits,” is how the multi-talented artist describes the songs in his liner notes for the new collection. “I don t recall ever reaching quite as deeply or confidently into my inhibition pool.”

2. jarrettSomewhere by Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, and Gary Peacock (ECM Records – May 28, 2013) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Now in its 30th year, the Keith Jarrett Trio is widely considered, as the NY Times recently remarked, to have set the gold standard for jazz groups, and this sparkling concert recording from 2009 is issued to mark a milestone anniversary.

The Somewhere in which the Standards trio find themselves is Lucerne, Switzerland with a performance both exploratory and in-the-tradition. The Neue Zurcher Zeitung headlined its review of the show Kontrollierte Ekstase controlled ecstasy an apt metaphor for a set that begins in improvisational Deep Space modulates into Miles Davis Solar, soars through the standards Stars Fell On Alabama and Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea and climaxes with an extended romp through West Side Story, as Bernsteins Somewhere and Tonight are bridged by the freely associative Jarrett original Everywhere.

3. terenceMagnetic by Terence Blanchard (Blue Note Records – May 28, 2013) CLICK HERE TO BUY

“I’ve always believed that in life, what you keep in your mind is what you draw to yourself.” That’s how trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard explains the title of his 20th album, Magnetic, which finds a stunning variety of sounds and styles pulled together by the irresistible force of Blanchard’s vision.

4. peacockAzure by Gary Peacock and Marilyn Crispell (ECM Records – June 11, 2013) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Gary Peacock and Marilyn Crispell made outstanding music together in her trio with the late Paul Motian, the three kindred spirits recording the ECM albums Nothing ever was, anyway (1997) and Amaryllis (2001) each a modern classic. The New York Times called the pair two of the most beautiful piano-trio records in recent memory. The Peacock-Crispell duo project also has a history, albeit one undocumented on disc until now, with Azure. This extraordinary new album proves that these two musicians shared sense of lyricism, their distinctive compositional styles and their profound backgrounds in free improvisation make them exceptional musical partners in the most intimate of settings.

5. walterGet Thy Bearings by Robert Walter’s 20th Congress (The Royal Potato Family – June 25th, 2013) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Robert Walter performs all his own stunts. For 20 years, the San Diego native has been pulling drawbars and pushing the limits of the Hammond B3 organ. As a founding member of the Greyboy Allstars, he helped usher in the funk-jazz renaissance of the early ’90s and has continued to keep one hand comping chords in the instrument’s funky past, while the other explores ever-new melodic terrain. On June 25, his long-standing project, Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, returns with, Get Thy Bearings, via The Royal Potato Family. It was a recent move from New Orleans to Los Angeles that jump-started the 20th Congress who hadn’t recorded a studio album in ten years. The nine-track effort presents Walter’s organ, piano, Rhodes and synthesizer driving an all-star line-up rounded out by guitarist/bassist Elgin Park, drummer Aaron Redfield, sax players Karl Denson and Cochemea Gastelum, and percussionist Chuck Prada.

Ellis Marsalis Center for Music opens in New Orleans

Back in January 2010, I took a cab ride from my New Orleans hotel early that morning to the Musicians’ Village in the Upper 9th Ward. The Musicians’ Village is a community conceived by Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr., to provide adequate housing for artists and musicians of the city who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Once the cab driver stopped telling me that it would be much “safer” for him to take me on a tour to see all of Brad Pitt’s houses rather than drop me off in the middle of what he called a “rough” neighborhood, he let me out and I was able to see this wonderful community.

Photo by Kevin Kniestedt

Of course it ended up being too early in the morning for me to catch any musicians out and about in the Village (as it should be…what decent working New Orleans musician is up and about at 9:30 in the morning?).

I was, however, able to briefly talk to two men who were surveying a lot at the end of the block. This was the site that would end up hosting the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music.

Photo by Kevin Kniestedt

The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music opened on Thursday, hosting local residents, fellow musicians, supporters, friends and family for its grand opening, including Governor Jindal of Louisiana and Mayor Landrieu of New Orleans, and actress, Renee Zellweger.

There was also a performance from Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr., who played a major role in developing the Center as well as the Musicians’ Village (in partnership with Habitat for Humanity).

The Center is not only a performance hall, but will allow opportunity for local students and musicians to take advantage of recording space, classes, computers, and community rooms.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal put it best in his address to the crowd at the dedication:

“The dedication of the Ellis Marsalis Center is about more than money and bricks and mortar. It is another sign of the rebirth of a great city – a city that will be a beacon of entertainment and inspiration for our children and generations to come. Through wars, hurricanes, and floods, one thing has remained unchanged – our people are strong and like none other.”

Emerging Artist: Grace Kelly

No, not that Grace Kelly.

grace kelly albumI’m torn to define saxophonist, singer, songwriter, composer, and arranger Grace Kelly as “emerging”, considering what she has already accomplished. But as Grace celebrates her 17th birthday next Friday (that’s right, she is just 16), one must assume that there is plenty of opportunity in years to come for this young lady to become a household name in jazz.

On his radio program Jazz After Hours this morning, host Jim Wilke suggested that “young” and “talented” can often go hand in hand, and that no one would argue that both can easily be applied to Grace Kelly. After hearing her wonderful recording of Comes Love, it was easy to agree. And, as her website boasts, I am far from the only person to agree.

Kelly, at age 16, has already performed or recorded with Wynton Marsalis, Dave Brubeck, Harry Connick, Jr., Diane Reeves, Phil Woods, Hank Jones, Kenny Barron, Russell Malone, Cedar Walton, Peter Bernstein, and Marian McPartland. That is the very short list. She has also performed at Carnegie Hall, Birdland, and Scullers (another short list), as well as a variety of jazz festivals. She has won numerous young musician and student musician awards, and was named Best Jazz Act in Boston in 2008 by the FNX/Phoenix Best Music Poll. Oh, and she began her first term at Berklee College of Music last fall, on a full ride, again at age 16.

When you hear Grace Kelly play, or listen to one of her arrangements or compositions, you realize that this isn’t one of those situations where a musician will get cut slack simply based on the fact that they are young. Kelly needs no slack to be cut for her, and the attention that she has received and will continue to receive is more than worthy. Her performances and compositions are frighteningly mature and well designed. In fact, the only way you are even aware that the player is a 16 year old is if you are told that.

What is more surprising is that Grace isn’t someone who had a sax shoved in her hands at age two. She, like many of us, took piano lessons as a young kid. She also followed the typical chronological time line that most kids do in school, not really playing the sax until she was ten. Two years later, she was impressing the likes of Ann Hampton Callaway and Victor Lewis.

I am not someone who throws around the word “prodigy”, but there is not much way to avoid associating that word with Grace Kelly. To imagine what she has accomplished in six years is hard enough to believe. To actually hear it is even more unbelievable.

Grace Kelly’s fifth album is now available, titled Mood Changes. Watch Grace play Setting The Bar with Russell Malone below.