First Listen: One Step Beyond 

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Earlier this month I did a First Listen of the Album One Step Beyond by Jackie McClean. For this project I listen to an album for the first time and I live tweet my thoughts and reactions to it. Afterwards I write up a blog post showing those tweets and some closing thoughts on the album after a week or so of listening to it. Below are the tweets 

I’ve done a “First Listen” on five albums and this was by far my most enjoyable experience. I instantly connected and enjoyed this album. From front to back I was engaged, energized, and feeling the grooves. I new little to nothing about this album prior to doing this “First Listen” and I was pleasantly surprised with how good One Step Beyond” is. I can’t recommend this one enough. It’s a must buy.
Quick note that I will be releasing my “Best Album of the Year So Far” post on June 12th so be sure to check that out. I’m working really hard on it and currently have over 30 albums in contention and the list is growing by the minute. Any albums you’d like to see on the list? Let me know in the comments below. And until next time, Thank you for staying in The Jazz Loop.

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Joe Henderson: Power to the People 

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I’ve been wanting to do a deep dive on this album since the first time I listened to “Black Narcissist”.  For one reason or another it’s been years and I still haven’t listened to this album from front to back. So I amended this issue this month and would like to share my thoughts on the album Power To The People.

The album begins on an incredibly high note with “Black Narcissist” definitely my favorite track on the entire album. I love the 3/4 time signature, love the slash chords and the melody cuts like a knife through this harmony. It’s just a brilliant tune, an instant classic and a jazz standard.

The following track “Afro- Centric” is  also a jazz standard and was really quite a progressive tune for the time. This tune shows where jazz was heading, lots of electronics, funky rhythms and experimental “out” soloing. I like this track, but I don’t live it. I feel like the general population embraces this tune more than I do.

This album is rather short at 7 tracks so I won’t go into every one of them in depth. I will say that all tunes fall into 2 categories. Out experiential jazz, or mother traditional jazz music. If you cut this album in half into 2 EP’s you would have two dramatically differ works. In general I’m more of a progressive experimental jazz person, but on this album I tend to like the more “traditional” songs better. My personal favorites are “Black Narcissist” and “Opus-One-Point-Five”.
Overall I have to recommend this album because of “Black Narcissist” alone. I love that tune that much. Still even looking at the other 6 tunes it’s a worthwhile listen. The album is short and sweet with a variety of different styles and sounds. It may have taken me a few years to give this album a thorough listen to, but I’ll be returning to it much sooner than that.

First Listen: Factory Girl 

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Earlier this month I did a First Listen of the Album “Factory Girl” by Corey Christiansen. I live tweeted the experience which you can check out below.

Now that I’ve listened to the album for a couple of weeks I’d like to give you some of my final thoughts on it.
Overall the album is an enjoyable experience, however I’d say it’s more like an “average” release from Corey Christiansen. It’s a good album overall, but I prefer listening to Lone Prairie and Roll With It over this album. Corey Christiansen is notorious for changing up his style with each and every release so I’m sure the next album will be a refreshing change of pace. Still, if you like American music, this will definitely be an enjoyable album to listen.

Best of May 

 

One Minute Later- Diego Barber 

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This is my favorite album of the month. It has a nice relaxed vibe, and I just love the compositional approach of the album as a whole. Some of my favorite tunes are the opener “Jacaranda” and “Big House”. Will most likely be hearing about this album in my midyear recap.

Outspoken- Masaa 

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Most of my Jazz listening is very American based so I’ve been making an extra effort to look at the Jazz world beyond the U.S.A. This exploration lead to me to Masaa. Fantastic group and their latest album “Outspoken” has some great tunes like “Sawa” and “Uber Mir” to back up my claim. Check it out.
Best of the Rest: 

These albums are very strong and I feel that I need a few more listening to solidify my opinion on them. I’ve put these albums here on the Best of the Rest and maybe they can make an appearance on my midyear recap.
Zacc Harris: American Reverie
Misha Mullov- Abbado: Cross- Platform Interchange
Louis Hayes: Serenade for Horace

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.

Best of April

April was fantastic jazz wise.  So let’s jump right into the top albums of the month.

Bryan and the Aardvark: Sounds from the Deep field 

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My favorite album for the month of April, I loved the melodies, the atmospheric vibe, and the instrumentation and focus of each song was different. This was a bold and daring project from a bold and daring group. Can’t recommend this group and this album enough.

 

 

Matt Holman: Tenth Muse

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This album won’t be for everyone. This is definitely a more “out” experience, but if you have the patience/ ear for it this album is a joy. I love songs like “Fragment 147” and “Fragment 4”. Matt Holman continues to push us past our comfort zone in the best way possible.I usually have 3 top albums and a couple others listed as “Best of the Rest”. However, this month I felt the other selections were all very equal to each other so I have just two standout and three under “Best of the Rest”

Best of the Rest: 

Anne Mette Iverson: Ternion Quartet

Mike McGinnis: Recurring Dreams

Mina Agossi:UrbAfrika

Nine For Nine Project Explained

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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.

First Listen: The Hudson Project 

Earlier this month I did a First Listen of the album “Hudson Project” on my twitter account. Below I attached some screenshots of my initial reactions.


Since then I have listened to the album some more and would like to share how my thoughts have changed/ developed.
After repeated listens The Well”, “Modern Day Tuba”, and “Bass Desires” are songs that stand out and showcase different members of the group really well. These tunes show us how well this group can work together. Overall, I wouldn’t consider this an absolute must own, but I found it to be a fun record to listen to.

Best of March

Lots of solid releases came out for the month of March. I feel the variety was quite vast even if I didn’t really vibe with all of the music. So here are my picks for the top albums from the month of March.

 
Billy Childs: Rebirth

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The four time Grammy winner does it again with this album of all original compositions. I love the rhythmic and melodic development of the music here. Tunes like the title track and “Stay” grab your attention immediately and for different reasons. The title track is high energy and fast, “Stay” is a slow, honest, emotional, ballad. When the vocals come in on “Stay”, it cuts you like a knife. Check it out. This is the best album of the month.

 

Kneebody: Anti-hero

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Kneebody is definitely one of those groups that pushes the boundaries of what jazz is, what it can be, and what it can do. This album has lots of electronics and effects which help establish its sound and some fantastic  arrangements as well. How they arrange for the tenor and trumpet could be a compositional masterclass. Tracks I highly recommend are “For The Fallen”, “Drum Battle” and “Yes You”.

 

Jazz at Lincoln Center: Music of John Lewis

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Fantastic classic Big Band jazz music here. If you at all enjoy big band music this ensemble is a must and this latest recording is a delight. I love Jon Batiste here, I feel he doesn’t really get the respect he deserves in the jazz world because of his other work, but Batiste can play. A couple key tracks I recommend are “Animal Dance” and “Spanish Steps”.

BEST OF THE REST
Christian Scott: Ruler Rebel
Max Zentawer Trio: Reduce to the Max
Miles Okazaki: Trickster

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.