“Now in Stores” XX

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

1. Glad Rag Doll by Diana Krall (Verve – October 2, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Diana Krall’s extraordinary new album, ‘Glad Rag Doll’ is an exhilarating and adventurous exploration of new sounds, new instrumentation and new musicians. It stars a singer and piano player, filled with mischief, humour and a renewed sense of tenderness and intimacy. The record reveals itself at that remarkable vanishing point in time where all music; swinging, rocking and taboo, collide with songs of longing, solace and regret. All are made new again in a vaudeville of Krall’s own imagining. It is at once a major departure and a natural progression for the gifted musician. Diana simply calls the album, “a song and dance record.”

2. My Muse by George Cables (HighNote – September 11, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Having absorbed a huge variety of sounds and styles and incorporated them into his playing — from harmonically adventurous post-bop to gospel-tinged blues — pianist George Cables mines the mother load of jazz elements on his 2012 HighNote release, fusing Bud Powell’s feeling, Fats Waller’s juke joint geniality and Art Tatum’s quick wit into his own persuasive utterances. Cables’ searching and intense interpretations use the source material as a jumping-off point for his unique and quirky improvisations, and his writing is more profound and more expressive than ever.

3. Where Do You Start by Brad Mehldau (Nonesuch – September 18. 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Nonesuch releases the Brad Mehldau Trio’s Where Do You Start, a companion disc to the critically acclaimed Ode. Whereas Ode featured 11 songs composed by Mehldau, Where Do You Start comprises the Trio’s interpretations of 10 tunes by other composers, along with one Mehldau original. Ode was widely praised, with London’s Daily Telegraph, in a five-star review, saying that it “shows Mehldau’s inventive powers are as fresh as ever…and the interplay with Ballard and Grenadier is masterly.”

4. Claroscuro by Anat Cohen (Anzic Records – September 25, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Anat Cohen – celebrated the world over for her expressive virtuosity on clarinet and saxophone, not to mention the sheer joie de vivre in her charismatic stage presence – presents the latest record of her evolution with Claroscuro, her sixth album as a bandleader. Claroscuro takes its title from the Spanish word describing the play of light and shade (chiaroscuro in Italian).

5. Manu Katche by Manu Katche (ECM Records – October 30, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Eponymously-titled album from Manu Katche. On his fourth ECM disc, Manus unique drumming sets the scene and direction, with compositions and arrangements radiating outward from its rhythm-patterns. His strongly propulsive yet relaxed groove is unlike any other drummers, and it lifts up the soloists. Personnel in the ever-changing Katche band currently includes Norwegians Nils Pettter Molvaer and Tore Brunborg, first heard together on ECM in the band Masqualero in the 1980s: they still play most attractively together. British keyboardist Jim Watson also makes a strong showing with minimalistically-insistent as well as lyrical piano and thick, swirling organ. Recorded March 2012 in the South of France, and issued on the eve of a major European tour.

“Now in Stores” XIX

Happy Birthday, Canada

Today is Canada Day, the celebration of the anniversary of the Constitution Act from 1867, which united two British colonies and a province of the British Empire into the single country of Canada.

Thanks to Canada for providing us with several jazz musicians, including Diana Krall, Oliver Jones, Renee Rosnes, Michael Buble’, Holly Cole, Maynard Ferguson, and of course, Oscar Peterson.

To the Vocalists

It seems that recently I have been presented with an onslaught of male jazz singers that seem to be…well…confused and moody.

Everyone who likes vocal music likes it for their own particular reasons. Obviously having a good voice and the ability to sing in tune is a nice start. And be it a male or female singer, I enjoy an uptempo vocal tune that shows a little fun or a little attitude, and a ballad that makes its best attempt to tug at the heartstrings.

As far as the female singers go – keep up the good work. I’m happy hearing Dianne Reeves and Roberta Gambarini swing, Maria Muldaur and Ernestine Anderson lay down the law and tell it like it is, and hear Diana Krall and Tierney Sutton sing great versions of ballads like A Case of You and Two For the Road.

I feel like when I am listening to them, their personalities and talents are reflected in the music they are choosing to sing.

But lately, I feel like the guys are letting me down a bit. There are exceptions, of course. Ever since his 2004 recording Twentysomething, I’ve been impressed with what British vocalist Jamie Cullum has been doing.  Cullum, maybe more than anyone that could qualify as a jazz vocalist, reflects his personality in his music. You listen to one Jamie Cullum album, and you feel like you know what you are in for if you were to head out for a night on the town with him. His voice and attitude match his lyrics and music, and it makes sense.

He has attitude. But this attitude doesn’t confuse you, the way I am confused by what other male vocalists of today are trying to convey. It is as if they are so confused about how to express their personality through their voice, that it has just got them feeling mopey, lethargic, and overly contemplative, and that’s how it sounds. Some great male vocalists sang sad songs (Johnny Hartman, for example), but these sad songs had purpose. A girl left them. The dog ran away. We can all relate to that kind of sadness and the voice that is expressing it to us.

But no song is going to tug at your heartstrings, or make you smile or dance, if it doesn’t make sense to you. A song will never matter, no matter how pretty the strings or horns sound in the background, if there is no way for the listener to relate, or in many cases, even understand what the singer is trying to say. And if the singer cannot communicate, be it via the lyrics, emotion, or both, it just doesn’t work.

A Music Lover’s Compulsion: listening notes on Diana Krall

diana-krall(At Chateau Ste Michelle Winery, Woodinville 8/30/09 by Bellamy Pailthorp: KPLU News)

I’m someone who likes to separate work and play. When I’m off the clock from my job as a news reporter at KPLU, I try not to think too much about covering the events of the day, unless there’s an obvious big breaking story. Everyone needs the chance to turn off the left side of the brain, relax, and recharge their batteries now and then — especially heading into the work week after a busy and eventful summer weekend.

Nonetheless, out came my notebook and a pen last Sunday night and I found myself taking detailed notes as I watched – and most of all listened to –Diana Krall performing on the last stop of her latest tour.

In case you somehow didn’t know, Krall is one of my generation’s most famous jazz pianists and vocalists. She’s the only artist I would trust to cover Joni Mitchell’s 1971 song “A Case of You” — and that song was a highlight of my evening. She was in Woodinville playing the picturesque Chateau Ste. Michelle winery – a venue where she’s appeared a few times over the past decade. I sat on the lawn with my date behind a group of people who were celebrating a birthday party. They were really nice, and I didn’t have to pay for my tickets, so I didn’t get too grumpy when I realized their furniture was rendering useless the binoculars I had rented for $5. Maybe I could have found a better spot on the hill, but it was too late to move. I don’t like craning my neck. So I decided to relax instead and concentrate on what I could hear.

Don’t get me wrong: Diana Krall is someone I’d love to watch for hours. I even purchased her latest DVD after the concert. It’s hard not to wonder what that stunning blonde with the quirky deep voice actually looks like in person on stage. But live outdoor performance includes more than visual stimulation – it’s about experiencing a unique moment in time and sharing it with people around you. Despite not actually seeing much of her show, four days later I’m still relishing memories of what I heard – and of how often Krall’s comments and interaction with the audience made me laugh.

Many people in the crowd had been there for a while tasting wine before the show – it’s a great place to have a picnic and you can bring your own everything (excluding cameras)…so I think it’s safe to assume the most vocal people in the crowd had tied a few on by the time Krall started singing, a little after 8pm. During a break after the third song, she turned to the audience and introduced her trio (Anthony Wilson on guitar, Robert Hurst on bass, Jeff Hamilton on drums.) Then she greeted everyone there as if they were friends she hadn’t seen in while.

“How’ve you been?” she asked as the sun was setting in a picture perfect clear blue sky, complete with brightly colored hot air balloons circling overhead. “The weather’s been good, aye?”

She told us how much she loved this corner of the continent (she’s from Nanaimo, BC, which at one point she described as “just up the street” from Woodinville, eliciting lots of laughs). She added that the end of summer is her favorite time of year. Then someone I couldn’t hear, in the expensive seats up close, seemed to have yelled out a question. Krall, who gave birth to twins three ago in December (12/6/06,) responded with as much mischievous soul as she plays the piano.

“How are my boys?!” They’re good, thanks for asking,” she replied. “They’re back at the hotel smoking cigars and playing gin rummy.”

Someone else yelled something and she said: “How’s Elvis?” (That would be Elvis Costello, her husband of six years, who was also touring this summer and played the winery just a week earlier.) She said she didn’t know; she wasn’t even sure where he was that night: “I think he’s in Austin?” she guessed, adding, “I have a picture of him in my dressing room with lipstick kisses all over it – most of them are mine.” And she said something about throwing lingerie on stage at him when she heard him play earlier this summer. As much fun as she’s been having on tour, she was happy that this was the last night.

Later in the concert, (I think it was after she sang “Walk on By” by composer Burt Bacharach, who she called “a great person with fabulous hair” and said she thinks he’s as great as Gershwin,) she mentioned that her twins had started talking recently. That’s been great, she said, but it’s meant not getting a lot of sleep at night, especially in the wee hours – and for different reasons than at other points in her life. Someone yelled out another question and somehow, the subject again turned to lingerie: would she please toss some of hers into the crowd? She said she would if she could, but she had run out on this long tour.

“Honey, I would, but, I’m a mother of twins now. We’re all up here performing without underwear.”

I’m guessing the band members were all blushing. That’s the image that remains in my mind – even though I couldn’t actually see it.

[editor’s note: Diana Krall’s latest CD is Quiet Nights, her tour continues in Hamburg, Germany on Sept. 14th)

Diana Krall Live in Paris

Building a “Trendy” Dream Big Band Part 2 of 2

Following up on the previous post, here is the rest of the band that I’ve created filled with who I believe are the “trend setters” in jazz today. Again, just my own personal thoughts, on some people I feel are hip, cool, and making it happen. Enjoy the trombones, rhythm section, and singers!

The Trombones:

Lead Trombone: Steve Turre

The long, black pointy beard and the jet black hair has been hard to miss when watching the house band of NBC’s Saturday Night Live play. That is not to take away from the fact that he is an amazing trombone player, and has put out some fantastic releases over the last ten years.

Watch Steve Turre play the shells:

Second Trombone: Conrad Herwig

Conrad may be one of the most natural big band guys in this completely fictional and unrealistic big band. Seven albums as a leader and a University of North Texas grad, he’s been recruited for big bands led by Clark Terry and Buddy Rich, just to name a few.

Conrad Herwig plays below:

Third Trombone: Delfeayo Marsalis

It pays to be a Marsalis. But just having the name didn’t make him an excellent trombone player and producer. Chalk that up to studying both at Berklee an touring with Ray Charles and Art Blakey.

Delfeayo Marsalis plays with his father Ellis in this video:

Fourth Trombone: Wycliffe Gordon

“Pine Cone” holds a special place in the hearts of NPR listeners (even if they don’t know it). His composition of the NPR theme song  is just one of many compositions, most of them fantastic.  He can more or less play anything, and is one guy who can make the sounds of the 30’s sound modern and trendy.

Wycliffe Gordon solos with three other trombone greats:

The Rhythm Section:

Piano: Herbie Hancock

Herbie’s last two albums have featured him alongside the most popular names in music from a variety of genres. And for the first time in 37 years, a jazz album, his jazz album, beat out rock stars, rappers, and country singers to win the Grammy for Best Album of the Year. I’d say he is keeping with the trend.

A look into Herbie’s Grammy winning album River: The Joni Letters:

Bass: Christian McBride

Christian is likely the most sought after bassist by big name jazz musicians today. Alot of bassist can play technically perfect, but McBride gives everything he touches a enjoyable personality.

Christian plays with Herbie and Jack DeJohnette:

Drums: Jack DeJohnette

DeJohnette is similar to Christian McBride where he can play anything with anybody, and make it sound wonderful and effortless.

Watch Jack solo:

Guitar: John Scofield

Maybe the biggest guitarist in jazz (aside from Pat Metheny), it is Scofield’s rock influence that sets him apart for me. He adds a hip edge to whatever he is playing.

Scofield with Jon Mayer on the Tonight Show:

The Singers:

Male Vocalist: Jamie Cullum

Can anyone today really be called a “bad boy” of jazz? No one will call this young British vocalist a traditional jazz singer, but that is what I like about him. He’s doing his own thing by recreating songs with his own style. He will never sound like Frank Sinatra, but I don’t believe he really wants to.

Jamie Cullum’s version of Wind Cries Mary:

Female Vocalist: Diana Krall

Krall is the most popular jazz singer today, and she deserves that title. She has her own romantic, sensual style, warranting large crowds and tons of fans. Her biggest fan might be her husband, Elvis Costello, which definitely earns her major cool points.

Diana Krall’s Look of Love video: