Jazz Loop Says Goodbye

Since 2013 I’ve been writing here on the Jazz Loop. I started this blog so I could be a more diverse, intelligent jazz musician, and fan. I wanted to also continue to work on my writing skills. Being a musician it’s very easy to become a one dimensional human so by writing about jazz I felt I could work on a aspect of my humanity that wasn’t strictly music and make it a part of my musicianship. I feel I accomplished this.

The community I’ve built, the reactions I’ve gotten from my peers, my idols, and musicians around the world is one of my biggest accomplishments in my life. Still, it’s time to say goodbye.

I have very mixed feelings about ending the Jazz Loop. This past year I’ve got more views and interactions from people than all other years combined. It’s hard to walk away from something that is growing at such a fast rate, but I know in my heart it’s what I need to do.

I never did this to be a writer. I did this to contribute to the culture. I’m at a point now where (thankfully) my music career is ramping up in work and with so many students, musical projects, and practicing I feel that if I keep trying to write consistently on The Jazz Loop I’ll be wearing myself thin.

So I’m quitting while I’m ahead. Rather than struggle for a few months trying to do something I know I can’t I’m moving on and saying goodbye.

The site will stay up and I will do my best to make sure it’s never taken down. There are so many posts that are up here that people can get value from such as my Chicago Spotlight, Best Of Year lists, album reviews, and First Listens. Hopefully people will continue to support and share what I have archived.

This is goodbye for now, but maybe not forever. I will still be doing writing on my personal site here. I will be posting updates on my latest projects and maybe a couple of Jazz Loop esque articles if they are appropriate. Also I’m on Medium which you can check out here. On Medium I will be sharing the non music aspects of my life.

So if you like my writing there will be new things to read and if you like my music this year will be my biggest yet. So as the Jazz Loop says goodbye I just want to say Thank you for your time, take care, and, as always, Thank you for staying in The Jazz Loop.

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Best Jazz Albums of The Year 2018

It’s that time of year again! Time to discuss what our favorite albums of 2017 were. My list is in no particular order, but I did put my top album of the year at the top. Let’s get into the list.

Billy Childs- Rebirth

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This album shocked me. The more I listened to it the more I liked it. After a few recent listens this album went from a middle of the pack mention to my favorite album of the year. Songs like “The Starry Night”, “Backwards Bop”, and “Stay” are the reason why,  “Stay” is just a hauntingly beautiful piano intro and when the vocals come in, it stabs you in the heart.

 

Charles Lloyd New Quartet: Passin’ Thru 

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Amazing that this album consists of live recordings only. This is some top notch traditional jazz music. Only 7 tracks, but over an hour long this is sure to be an album I’ve been going back to it throughout the year.
John Pizzarelli: Sinatra and Jobim @ 50

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Fantastic jazz album from the Guitarist and vocalist. You hear his authenticity and passion for this music on this record. I highly recommend this album for anyone who is even remotely interested in Sinatra or Jobim. I find his singing/ humming charming while he solos though I’m sure it will annoy others. Love the track “Agua de Beber”.

 

Jacopo Ferrazza Trio – Rebirth 

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I absolutely adored this album. I really loved the title track “Rebirth”  and thought the arrangements and melodies were beautiful on this album. This was my favorite album of the year at the midway point, but to my surprise it no longer is. Time made me change my mind, but this is still a great album.

 

Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau – Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau 

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Fantastic duo record, great communication and improvisation taking place here. One of my favorite tunes is “Scarlet Town”. Great combination of Americana and Jazz. This list is no no particular order, but if I ranked all the albums this would be a top 10 top 5 for sure.

 

Kneebody- Antihero 

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Hard hitting mix of jazz, fusion, rock, and everything in between. “For the Fallen” really sets the tone for this album and the title track “Anti-Hero” is one of my favorite tunes this year. Great music for working out to or starting the weekend.

 

Diego Barber- One Minute Later 

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I didn’t know anything about Diego Barber prior to this album, but he has my attention now. As many of you know, I’m not the biggest fan of jazz guitar, but here Diego Barber is nothing short of magnificent. Fantastic melodic development and solos that have direction and not just endless noodling. Highly recommend checking this one out. “Atlas” is a highlight for me.

 

Mark De Clive – Live At The Blue Whale EP

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Okay, so technically an EP and not an album, but this just connected with me so strongly that I had to include it. Listen to the opening track “Evergreen” and see if you agree with me.

 

Nate Smith- KINFOLK: Postcards from Everywhere

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While these albums are in no particular order I will say that this one was very close to being my favorite of the year so far. The compositions are beautiful, Nate Smith’s drumming is so refreshing, and the heartfelt meaning and overall concept for the album is well put together. I love “Mom: Postcards From Detroit/Floyd/Salem” and “Retold” being played back to back.

 

Marialy Pacheco: Duets

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This album grooves so hard. The best interaction between two musicians I’ve heard all year. Nothing else to say. Go listen to it today.

 

Anat Cohen & Marcello Gonclaves- Outra Coisa 

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Love me some Anat Cohen! This album features the music of Moacir Santos and is another fantastic duo record for 2017.

Continue reading “Best Jazz Albums of The Year 2018”

Grammy Nominations 2018

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The Grammy nominations were just released last week and I wanted to talk about the nominations for the Jazz categories.

Improvised Jazz solo:

  • “Can’t Remember Why” — Sara Caswell, soloist
  • “Dance of Shiva” — Billy Childs, soloist
  • “Whisper Not” — Fred Hersch, soloist
  • “Miles Beyond” — John McLaughlin, soloist
  • “Ilimba” — Chris Potter, soloist

I feel this category is so impossible to get right. With so many songs and so many solos it’s hard to judge them all and curate the best. Overall I don’t have an issue with any of the nominations it’s just such a hard thing to figure out.

 

Jazz Vocal Album:

  • “The Journey” — The Baylor Project
  • “A Social Call” — Jazzmeia Horn
  • “Bad Ass and Blind” — Raul Midón
  • “Porter Plays Porter” — Randy Porter Trio With Nancy King
  • “Dreams and Daggers” — Cécile McLorin Salvant

I’m not the biggest Jazz Vocal aficionado, but I did enjoy Porter Plays Porter and Dreams and Daggers. I think Cecile McLorin Salvant should win.

 

Jazz Instrumental Album:

  • “Uptown, Downtown” — Bill Charlap Trio
  • “Rebirth” — Billy Childs
  • “Project Freedom” — Joey DeFrancesco & the People
  • “Open Book” — Fred Hersch
  • “The Dreamer Is the Dream” — Chris Potter

I love all of these albums. Each one was a highlight on the months they were released  and Rebirth and The Dream Is the Dream made by best of the year so far post.

 

Large Jazz Ensemble:

  • “MONK’estra Vol. 2” — John Beasley
  • “Jigsaw” — Alan Ferber Big Band
  • “Bringin’ It” — Christian McBride Big Band
  • “Homecoming” — Vince Mendoza & WDR Big Band Cologne
  • “Whispers on the Wind” — Chuck Owen and the Jazz Surge

Don’t think there were any snubs on this list. For me it’s between MONK’estra Vol. 2 or Bringin’ It.

 

Latin Jazz Album:

  • “Hybrido — From Rio to Wayne Shorter” — Antonio Adolfo
  • “Oddara” — Jane Bunnett & Maqueque
  • “Outra Coisa — The Music of Moacir Santos” — Anat Cohen & Marcello Gonçalves
  • “Típico” — Miguel Zenón
  • “Jazz Tango” — Pablo Ziegler Trio

Again my knowledge of Latin Jazz is good, but can improve. I really like Outra Coisa by Anat Cohen & Marcello Gonclaves. I hope they win.

 

I think the nominations this year were pretty good I’m looking forward to seeing who will take home the Grammy on January 28th. Below I’ve attached the La Times article which has all the Grammy nominations listed.

http://beta.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-grammys-nominees-winners-list-2018-story.html

Top Jazz Pianists You Should Be Listening To

I’ve wanted to do a list of the top jazz pianists for a while now. As a jazz pianists myself I’m always looking for new music from others pianists to inspire me. This list will only pertain to current pianist still alive and active in music. So hear is my list of top jazz pianists you should be listening to now.

Bill Charlap

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I’m fairly new to Bill Charlap’s Music but I’ve been into his music for the last 2 years and I’ve loved everything I’ve heard. A great example of some refreshing classic jazz. Check out his album Notes From New York if you don’t believe me.
Hiromi

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One of my favorite album from last year was Spark. I love Hiromi’s compositions, solos, and overall energy she brings to each project she does. Can’t recommend her music enough.
Brad Mehldau

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A true professional pianist. Nothing else to say. Brad Mehldau is a must listen to and a must see if he’s in your town.
Tarek Yamani 

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Just started listening to Peninsular and I’m loving it. Can’t wait to dig into Yamani’s back catalog. I love this album and this pianist is a must listen to.
Vijay Iyer  

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A living legend and just an absolute monster on the Keys. Every album of his I love and his latest album Accelerando is no exception.

Craig Taborn 

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Loved Daylight Ghosts when it came out and I still love it now. Can’t wait to see what Taborn does next.
Gonzalo Rubalacaba 

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Just started listening to his music recently and I’m loving it. Recent release Minione is a must listen. One of the highlights of 2017.
Lara Downes

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My favorite album of last year came from Lara Downes. Her album America Again was a beautiful and powerful record. Can’t wait to hear more music from her in the future and will be digging into her back catalog in the meantime.

Living Legends 

Here are the jazz pianists who are living legends. I almost didn’t include these name because I figured everyone would already know them, but hey you never know. So yeah if you haven’t listened to these musicians yet. Do so immediately.
Ahmad Jamal 

Herbie Hancock 

Keith Jarrett

Cecil Taylor 

Kenny Baron 
This is not a definitive list of jazz pianist, this is not a ranking of the top jazz pianist alive. This is just a list of some of the top jazz pianist I feel everyone should be listening to. Many other pianist who are more than qualified didn’t make the list, these are just some of my favorites and it hopefully inspires you to think of your favorite jazz pianist. What pianist would make your list? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to add more pianist to my list!

The Shape of Jazz to Come 

Where is Jazz going? Will it’s popularity increase in the coming years? What will the music sound like over the next decade and beyond? As a musician and a fan of the art form these are questions I’ve been asking myself, and while  I certainly don’t have the answers I’d like to share my thought on the possibilities for the genre moving forward.

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Jazz is going nowhere 

One thing jazz music has done better than other genres is adapt. As a whole the jazz community is very open to shifting in a different direction. We went from swing, to bebop, to fusion, to hip hop and I’ll think we’ll continue to do so. Other genres have changed but they feel more stuck in their ways. Rock comes to my mind as being a culprit of this. It feels like even when innovation is occurring it’s a smaller group and the majority of the group doesn’t embrace it. Yes Jazz has it’s cranky fans who just want to hear some Bird, but the majority are willing to branch out and that keeps Jazz alive and fresh.
Jazz will remain as “popular” as it is

Because Jazz music is being constantly innovated I think it will stay in its same “popularity” it has now. It will remain respected among musicians and have a hardcore audience that loves it. I like what I’m seeing from artists who are willing to collaborate with other more popular artists and genres. Like Robert Glasper playing with Common, Tony  Bennett with Gaga, and Esperanza Spalding playing music that’s closer to rock.  Universities also help. With Jazz music essentially being a requirement for most universities it fosters more artists and it kind of gives the genre more credibility. If it wasn’t for universities and high schools I think Big Band music would’ve died long ago.

Hip hop will take over

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I think jazz music will sound more and more like hip hop music in the coming years. Many jazz musicians worked on Common’s latest album, same with Kendrick Lamar’s Too Pimp A Butterfly and albums from Robert Glasper and Terrance Martin have so much hip hop music in them that you can even make an argument it’s an even split of jazz and hip hop. I believe the upcoming generation will do even more of this and you’ll be hearing this fusion of genres from the most popular jazz artists from now on.
What predictions do you have for jazz music? How popular will the genre be in the next ten years? What will it sound like? Let me know in the comments below and let’s continue the discussion.

Favorite Record labels

I listen to a lot of jazz music. While doing so I’ve discovered that there are certain labels who have a style that I connect with/ intrigue me so I thought I’d share some of my favorite record labels releasing music today.

Okeh:

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I like Okeh because they are with Sony. Having an association with such a big company is good for jazz and ensures the economic stability for the label. Okeh definitely embraces streaming so all their music is accessible to virtually everyone. Their rosters is absolute stacked with acts such as Dee Dee Beidgewater, Theo Crocker, and Kurt Elling just to name a few. You’ve probably already been listening to some of the latest Okeh records already, but if you haven’t done so I highly recommend checking out their latest releases.

Ropeadope Records

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This is one of the most diverse and “out” labels in all of jazz. Lots of different styles of music are incorporated in virtually every  release of Ropeadope Records. Revolutionary acts such as Snarky Puppy, Terrance Martin, and Spare Parts all call Ropeadope Records home. Still skeptical? Check out their Spotify playlist which has some of their best music from 2016. https://open.spotify.com/user/ropeadope99/playlist/50xOg3jzDpXMnLz1BUuHh2?si=diV6p75Y
Blue Note

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Blue Note is iconic. Some of the most important releases in Jazz history have come from Blue Note and artists like Robert Glasper continue to carry on that tradition. If I had to ensure that one record label would be around forever this would have to be the one. Please keep supporting Blue Note Records and Blue Note artists.

 
ECM

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I like ECM and I also can’t stand them. They have some of the best releases in all of jazz, but they make it so hard to support and listen to them. The albums are all expensive with no online streaming presence. It’s so annoying and I think it handicaps the artists by not giving them maximum exposure. Still, there is something charming about resisting the digital age even if it means you are losing money.  I also like how each ECM record is numbered. So even though they can be completely different artists they are categorized and organized as part of the ECM vision. Another positive for ECM is their album covers. Every ECM album cover is a work of art and has a unique style to it. I can usually tell if an album is released by ECM just by looking at the cover. Support ECM as much as you can, but carefull. It can get pricey.

So there you have it! These are some of my favorite record labels around today. Do you have a favorite record label? Did I not mention it? Leave a comment below and let me know which record labels I should be checking out.

Best of July 

Here we go with the best albums from the Month of July.

Charles Lloyd New Quartet: Passin’ Thru 

My favorite album of the month. Amazing that this album consists of live recordings only. This is some top notch traditional jazz music. Only 7 tracks, but over an hour long this is sure to be an album I’ll be going back to throughput the year. 
John Pizzarelli: Sinatra and Jobim @ 50

Fantastic jazz album from the Guitarist and vocalist. You hear his authenticity and passion for this music on this record. I highly recommend this album for anyone who is even remotely interested in Sinatra or Jobim. I find his singing/ humming charming while he solos though I’m sure it will annoy others. Love the track “Agua de Beber”. 

Stanton Moore: With You In Mind

An all star cast joins Stanton Moore on this album. This album is a tribute to the late Allen Toussaint and I feel it’s a fitting one. It’s a fantastic mix of vocal and instrumental music. It perfectly captures the energy of a bumping jazz club and all that makes New Orleans great. 
The Best of the Rest:

Terrance Martin Presents: The Pollyseeds 
Benny Greb: Gregfruit2

5 Things I Think I Think

Just some random thoughts that I wanted to share with you for 2017 and beyond.

•Idk what the best album of the year is so far

Five months into the year and I feel that we have had a lot of high quality releases without many that stand out above the rest. I mean this in the best way possible. Plenty of really good albums out there but no clear cut favorite for me.

 

•Music has been good this year, but not as good as last year

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I’ve enjoyed this year’s releases very much, but I feel that last year was a bit stronger. The year is still young and I haven’t fully dived into my “Best of the year so far” blog so maybe after more research I will have a different perspective, but for now 206 is beating 2017.

 

•I’m going to go to more summer concerts

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Overall I always want to improve as a performer, writer, and a fan of music. That means going to more performances. I’m certain I will be attending more concerts this summer. Some local concerts I’m looking forward to are Grant Park Music Festival, Blues Fest, Jazz fest, and Ear Taxi to name a few. How about you?
•I’m going to see all Big 5 orchestras

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This is kind of a 2017/18 goal but I want to see all Big 5 orchestras CSO, Cleveland Institute, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Philadelphia Orchestra. Hopefully I can get started this fall and finish by next spring.
•The Jazz Loops Day are numbered

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I’ve loved writing for the Jazz Loop. It’s helped me so much as a writer, as a musician, and as a fan of jazz music. Now that my career is well underway I find myself spending all my time teaching, performing, and recording. This is all fantastic, but squeezing in time to write for The Jazz Loop is getting harder and harder and with my other website needing constant articles as well I think it’s time I fully focus on my career and let The Jazz Loop go. This saddens me a bit as a have so much fun doing this, but I think it’s time. Still, don’t worry I will keep blogging for the rest of 2017 and re-evaluate the situation going on to 2018. I will give all of you an update as soon as I’m certain.
That’s it for today’s blog. Any thoughts on your mind on the Jazz scene? Any concerts or events your looking forward to for 2017? Worried about The Jazz Loop ending? Let me know in the comments below.

Nine For Nine Project Explained

My latest project Nine For Nine has officially begun! I’m so excited to share all of this new music with you. To be brief, Nine For Nine is a project where I will be releasing a new track every 2nd Monday of the month from now until the end of the year. So by the end of 2017 there will be 9 tracks released in the last 9 months of the year, hence the name Nine for Nine. Today I officially launch the project with a solo piano performance of the jazz standard “Maiden Voyage”. Below I shared some of my thoughts about why I chose this tune and what it means to me.

Herbie Hancock’s influence on me has been tremendous. As a musician from Chicago he has constantly been a source of inspiration and motivation. The first album I ever heard Hancock on was The Best of Herbie Hancock: The Blue Note Years. Immediately songs like “Watermelon Man” and “Maiden Voyage” became the benchmark for what I was aiming to be. After that I purchased An Evening of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, that album was so good I almost quit playing the piano altogether. I remember thinking “They’ve done everything there is to do on the piano, I can never achieve that virtuosity so why keep playing?”

I kept playing. And the more I listened to Hancock the deeper my appreciation for him grew. Whether he was doing straight ahead jazz on albums such as Empyrean Isle, pushing the definition of jazz on Bitches Brew, or playing a pop record with Christian Aguilera. Hancock always made an impact and added his voice to a project. Now I’m channeling Hancock to add my voice and make an impact on this project.
So without further to do, here is my Maiden Voyage (horrible pun intended) the very first tune of the Nine For Nine project, “Maiden Voyage”. Thank you for taking the time to listen to this, and I hope you find as much inspiration from Herbie Hancock as I have.

Similarities between Jazz and Baseball

The baseball season is just underway and I’m so excited about watching my Chicago Cubs defend their World Series Title. As usual I try to relate everything to music, everything to jazz, and after thinking about it, I found quite a lot of similarities with Jazz and Baseball and I’d like to share some of them with you.

Pace of Action

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Many people who are not baseball fans argue the game is too slow, takes too long, and there is not enough action. Jazz has similar complaints. Some people feel they can’t connect with the music without a voice, ballads are slow and boring, and there isn’t as much energy in the music as there is in say a rock or hip hip concert. Of course fans of both will tell you there can be a learning curve, but if you stick it out the nuances of baseball and jazz become the most enjoyable parts of the experience. Also the beer is fantastic.

Use To Be National Pastime

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A not so positive similarity. Both baseball and jazz use to be the most dominant entertainment products this nation had. However, baseball fell behind basketball in the 90s and then Football in the early 00s. Jazz had an even briefer time at the top. As rock took over mainstream music in the 70s followed by hip hop in the 90s. While both baseball and jazz will probably never be as popular as they once were. The hardcore fanbases ensure us that they are here to stay.

 

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I’m more worried about the future of jazz then the future of baseball. Baseball has been able to get very lucrative local tv deals so while the sport may not be dominant on a national level it is extremely healthy on a local and financial level. Calling jazz healthy at any level is hard to do. I’m confident the music will continue to grow, evolve, and find a place in society as a respected art form, but without financially backing, ultimately musicians and the art they create suffers. Let’s hope jazz follows in baseballs footsteps and finds ways to have a nice local scene and a profitable business so we can enjoy the music for years to come.