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 Monday, 30 November 2015
Last Minute Gifts of Jazz PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Saturday, 23 December 2006
Patricia Barber’s Mythologies

Oops, there’s only two more shopping days and you still need a gift for your favorite jazz fan? Fear not, the possibilities are endless! Some suggestions from the Jazz Police:

Tickets to a live performance: Check the schedules at your area jazz venues and pick up tickets for a favorite performer. Or better yet, get a gift certificate for a favorite venue. Most venues have calendars on their websites.

CDs and DVDs: It’s been another bountiful year of great jazz releases. The current (January 2007) issue of Down Beat lists their top-rated recordings of the year; look at the reviews posted on Jazz Police, JazzINK, All About Jazz, Jazz Review, etc. for some ideas for something unusual! Some specific recommendations of recent releases that might fly below the radar screen (and thus less likely to be duplicates!):

  • Nancy Kelly, Born to Swing (Amherst Records). One of my favorite vocals of the past year and beyond, Kelly swings like there’s no tomorrow as she spins her enthusiasm across an array of standards. Houston Person provides a delightful guest appearance.

  • Daniel Smith, Bebop Bassoon (Zahzah Records). The bassoon is quirky by itself, and in the hands of classical/jazz master Daniel Smith, this music will just make you smile while you tap your feet.

  • Eyran, Solotude (Eyran Records). A prolific recording artist who is far below radar screen in most of the US, Israeli pianist Eyran Katsenlogenbogen specializes in solo jazz performance. His takes on standards here is creative and orchestral.

  • Laura Caviani, Going There (Caviani Music). Minneapolis-based keyboard giant, Caviani tours nationally with vocalist Karrin Allyson, but in her home environs she’s better known as an inventive composer and improviser. Her fifth release with Bob Bowman and Todd Strait features mostly original repertoire and her public debut as a vocalist.

  • Mattias Lupri Group, Metalix (Summit Records). Lupri brings 21st century explorations to the vibraphone, creating eerie, celestial soundcapes with saxmen Myron Walden and Donny McCaslin. “Metalix” is billed as a “wondering and wandering suite”—and what a lovely off-beat journey it is.

  • Patricia Barber, Mythologies (Blue Note). Critically acclaimed for years, this Chicago-based vocalist gets a lot more notice with a major label contract yet is hardly in the jazz mainstream. Her latest release is the culmination of research and experimentation via Guggenheim grant—a personal interpretation of Ovid’s Metomorpheses.

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    Out to Lunch Quintet © Andera Canter

    Out to Lunch Quintet (Jazz Police/Artist Quarter records). Five accomplished Minnesotans went where few or no jazzers have dared go before—deep into the music of Eric Dolphy. Recreating the famed Out to Lunch recording, this is not an imitation or mere tribute to one of the great sessions of the 1960s, but a full reconsideration of Dolphy as heard through the ears of contemporary masters. (See for ordering or check CD Baby.)

  • Jim Tomlinson (and Stacey Kent), The Lyric (Token Productions). If Stacey Kent had top billing, this might be a higher profile release, but this is her husband’s band. Nevertheless, Kent is all over this recording and delightfully so; Tomlinson for his part provides a sweet voice of his own on tenor as the ensemble swings through common and uncommon covers. Kent is credited with whistling on one track to boot!

  • Vijay Iyer/Rudresh Mahanthappa, Raw Materials (Savoy Jazz). Those who like their jazz toward the edge and with global influences will find much to enjoy in this duet release from two of their generation’s most interesting innovators. Piano and sax without other pulse setters sing through original compositions that meld beautiful tones with intriguing storylines.

  • Fred Hersch, In Amsterdam: Live at the Bimhuis (Palmetto). He’s finally getting the recognition his talent has always deserved. Hersch is one of the most inventive and lyrical poets of jazz piano, and here alone he is nothing short of magnificent.

  • Lynne Arriale Trio, Live (Motema). Not as well known in this country as in Europe, Lynne Arriale has been recording some of the best piano trio music of the past decade. The bonus here is the DVD which allows the listener to observe the telepathic interplay of the trio as well as hear the energy and soul of the live gig.

  • James Williams/Bobby Watson, Soulful Serendipity (We Always Swing, Inc.). Released without much fanfare, this is a bittersweet pairing of sax and piano that brings out the best of two legends of their generation. Recorded live three years ago in a “house concert” format, the release in 2006 came two years after Williams’ untimely death.

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    Uptown Quintet, Live in New York (Cellar Live) brings together some of New York’s finest for a brass circus featuring the highly regarded Ryan Kisor on trumpet. Recorded live at Smoke, the group indeed smokes on this diverse set.

  • Kelly Rossum, Line (612 Records). Talented improviser and composer Rossum leads a stellar quartet (no keyboard) through a list of originals that teeter on the edge of avant garde. Good things come in brass packages.

  • Katie Gearty. This self-produced debut highlights a fast-rising Minnesota-based vocalist who can sing anything in any genre and make it swing.

  • Walter Smith III, Casually Introducing Walter Smith(Fresh Sound/New Talent)/Patrick Cornelius, Lucid Dream (Patrick Cornelius). Two young up-and-coming saxmen pull together equally prodigious ensembles for engaging post bop magic.

  • Eldar, Live at the Blue Note (Sony). This barely 20-year-old pianist tips his hand to Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson yet brings his own imprint of spontaneous invention and technical facility that is downright scary.

For fans of vocal jazz, it was a very good year for such high flyers as Diana Krall (From This Moment On, Verve), Nancy Wilson (Turned to Blue, MCJ Jazz), and Ann Hampton Callaway (Blues in the Night, Telarc)—can’t go wrong here. Ditto Keith Jarrett’s The Carnegie Hall Concert (ECM) for fans of introspective piano.

Books. Given the scant coverage of jazz in the print press, it is amazing how many new books are published on the genre each year. A delightful gift idea is the newly released Alive at the Village Vanguard (Hal Leonard Books), the autobiography of Lorraine Gordon, who took over the reins of the VV following the death of husband Max Gordon. This is not simply a history of the club, but really a history of a remarkable woman who loved jazz from the beginning but came late into the world of club ownership. For a really special gift, pair this with Max’ story of the club, Live at the Village Vanguard (De Capo Press), which indeed is a history of the club and jazz in Manhattan. Same story, two different perspectives.

Subscriptions. Give a gift that lasts all year—a subscription to a top jazz magazine. The most popular in the US are Jazz Times, Downbeat and Jazziz; all provide reviews of recordings, interviews with musicians, features on all aspects of jazz; Downbeat provides more coverage of blues and “beyond” while Jazz Times tends to provide more jazz news and directories of festivals and jazz education programs. Jazziz addresses jazz as a cultural entity as much as musical dimension and has the world’s largest circulation of any jazz periodical. Since die-hard jazz fans may already subscribe to one or both, you might consider some less-known publications such as Planet Jazz and Jazz Improv.

  • Downbeat, (monthly, $35/year; CD reviews, artist interviews, blues and “beyond” in addition to jazz)

  • Jazz Improv, (quarterly, $40/year; large journal with numerous CD and product reviews, artist interviews, in-depth features for fans and musicians, sampler CD included with each issue)

  • Jazziz, (monthly, $70/year; mini-subscription available for 3 months; “the voice of new jazz culture,” includes reviews, news, featured artists, monthly CD sampler)

  • Jazz Times, (10 issues per year/$24; CD and product reviews, special features, artist interviews; annual education supplement and director of jazz festivals)

  • Planet Jazz, (514) 931-5821 (Published twice per year; international journal published in Canada and emphasizing Canadian venues, festivals and artists. An interesting alternative to the American jazz press.)

Jazz Gear. A number of vendors and venues have t-shirts, hats and other items that make great gifts as well as souvenirs. Of course the first place to shop is right here at Jazz Police for that special t-shirt, mug, or bear. Other sites:

  • Blue Note Records— (T-shirts with Blue Note Logo and some record cover reproductions, some jazz)

  • Blue Note (club)— (Wide range of gift items including shirts, sweatshirts, glassware, hats, accessories)

  • Downbeat’s Vinyl Freak—800-535-7496 (T-shirts and sweatshirts for vinyl collectors with theVinyl Freak logo)

  • Gear Ink— (T-shirt reproductions of famous photos of jazz and blues legends)

  • Jazzitude— (T-shirts with great quotes from jazz legends; mugs and other gear, too.)

  • Jazziz— (t-shirts, golf shirts, several designs)

  • Jazz Review— (t-shirts and baseball cap from one of the most comprehensive jazz websites)

  • Jazz Threads (Jazz Times)— (T-shirts and sweatshirts of classic photos, a portion of sales is contributed to the estates of the artists)

  • Village Vanguard— (T-shirts, baby booties, cap from the most famous jazz club of them all)

Of course you probably deserve a present yourself. Happy shopping!

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