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 


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


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

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


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

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


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”.

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


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


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.



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.

First Listen: Chris Potter Sundiata

I did a First Listen of Chris Potter’s Sundiata on my twitter account which can be found here. I always do this on the first Monday each month. After an extra week of accessing the album I’d like to share with you my overall thoughts on Sundiata, but before I do that, here are some screen shots of my live reaction to the album.

Initially I had a very mixed to lukewarm reaction to Sundiata. However, the more I listen to this album, the more I am enjoying a lot of the original music. I’m getting more comfortable with the form of the songs and the melody is clearer to me and having a bigger emotional impact on my listening experience. I still feel this isn’t an absolute must own record or even an essential Chris Potter recording, but it is an enjoyable listen and  I can recommend the album with confidence.

If you haven’t done so already come hang out with me on twitter the first Monday of each month when I live tweet the First Listen Album of the Month. It’s a fun time and challenges me to quickly articulate a feeling I have about an album instantaneously. My twitter handle is @EdwinGarcia88.

Best of February 

Sorry for the delay on the Best of February article. I’ve had some personal issues come up that have made it difficult to write this past week. Anyway, I’m back on the grind and pumped to share with you the best albums of February. This past month had a ridiculously strong line up and it was hard to narrow that down to a short list. Somehow I managed to do so and here it is.
Thundercat: Drunk


Okay, I know I’m cheating, but this is clearly album of the month and album of the year and I had the put it on the list. It is hard to define Thundercat’s latest album, but it’s probably not jazz and definitely not straight ahead jazz. Still, this album has many jazz influences and honestly it’s so good I just felt I had to acknowledge it on the blog. It’s a must listen to album regardless. Very weird, but musically it’s just so rich.
Nate Smith: Kinfolk


Kinfolk is a fantastic record from the drummer/ composer Nate Smith. There is rhythmic complexity, wonderful singers, and a rich soulfulness to this album. You’ll find yourself grooving hard to “Skip Step”, singing along to “Disenchantment: The Weight” and connecting to stories told in interludes such as “Mom: Postcards From Detroit/Floyd/Salem”. I hope Nate Smith will be doing a performance near my area very soon as I’d love to hear some of these tunes live.
Mark de Clive-Lowe: Live At the Blue Whale EP

Technically and EP not a full album, but this recording had to be acknowledged. An impressive live recording, fantastic use of electronics, and a multitude of genres influenced and impacted this EP. I love the madness of it all on this record. Just when things feel like they are going a bit too far, a bit too out, you get brought back in. I kept coming back for more on this album, the energy these musicians had was contagious. It resonated with me as a listener and I can’t imagine the impact it had on the live audience.

Best Of The Rest 

Miguel Zenon: Tipico

The Vitral Quartet: Kites Over Havana 

David Weiss & Point of Departure: Wake Up Call

Nicolas Kummert: La Diversite 
As I stated earlier, this month was very strong. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a couple of months some of the “Best Of The Rest” for February move up in the rankings in my mind, or if an album I snubbed become my personal favorite. So as usual comment any albums you thought I missed below or any that you felt should’ve been talked about more.  Continue reading “Best of February “

Free Jazz Concerts in Chicago 

We have to support the arts if we want them to survive. I know a lot of college students and musicians who want to support the arts, but financially it can be expensive. So I’ve created a list of venues and dates where you can watch a show for little to no money. Hope this helps anyone who wants to support music, but has a tight budget. 

Jazz Showcase

I love the Jazz Showcase so much. So many great performances happen here from local legends to well known acts. If you just want to hear live music every month there are at least a couple of free performances which are usually sponsored by WDCB. Even when there is a cover charge it’s usually 5-15 dollars and even cheaper if you have a student ID. Check them out. 

Green Mill

The Green Mill is usually a little more expensive than the Jazz Showcase, but they also have more consistent free shows. On Thursday’s from 5:30-8:00pm you can check out Andy Brown’s Guitar Cocktail Hour Show, Friday’s feature “The Flipside Show” from 5:30-8:00 pm, and early Saturday morning (after 2am) the Sabertooth Organ Quartet is free. So the Green Mill offers perhaps the most diverse and consistent options for listening to live music for free. 

Other Options

Many other jazz venues have free to very affordable options that are also worth considering. The Whistler has a lot of shows that are free and many feature jazz fusion. Places like Emporium Arcade Bar and Winter’s Jazz Club also have free shows from time to time. They don’t have them as regularly as the other venues, but it’s definitely worth checking out the calendar.

There is no excuse to not listen to live music in Chicago. Even if your budget is tight, there are a multitude of options where you can support your favorite musicians for little to no money. While attending these performance I do advise you to at least buy a drink or two. If you didn’t spend any money getting in please consider buying AND TIPPING your waiter/ waitress. Having a good turnout and a happy staff is a major key for musicians. Even if the turnout is low having a lot of alcoholic beverages sold and a pleasant crowd means the band is more likely to get a call to come back again. If the audience is rowdy and cheap when the manager asks the staff how last night was they will be sure to tell them. So please support the arts, go to a live show, buy a beer, and tip your servers. 

Desert Island Albums 

Stranded on a desert island what five albums would you bring with you? I do a lot of listening to music and approach music from so many different angles, but the idea of what would make a good desert island album never crossed my mind. It would have to be an album that I could listen to forever without getting sick of, it would have to have a diverse set of tunes, and do something the other 4 selections don’t. I didn’t really put any restrictions on myself when thinking of a desert Island album other than no cheating with box sets and things of that nature. So without further ado here is my list of Desert Island Albums in no particular order

John Coltrane- Giant Steps 


I knew Coltrane would be on this list I just wasn’t sure which album. I picked Giant Steps because it has so many classic tunes on it; the title track, “Naima”, “Countdown”, “Mr P.C” and one of my personal favorites, “Syeeda’s Song Flute”. Not even my favorite Coltrane album, but more on that later.

Charles Mingus – Ah Um 


I chose this album primarily because of its variety of music. With tributes to Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington, ballads like “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, and the soulful opener “Better Git In Your Soul”, this album is a brief history of Jazz music. On a desert island this album would feed that desire of hearing different types of jazz music while still being able to listen to a cohesive record.


John Coltrane- A Love Supreme 


This album changed my life. I wouldn’t be a jazz musician if it wasn’t for this album. The minute I heard “Resolution” was the first time I heard real jazz. It left me speechless, and opened up a whole new world to me. On a desert island this seminal album would remind me of why I love jazz in the first place.


Miles Davis – Kind of Blue


Another classic and one of the first jazz albums I loved. This album has been a constant in my life. I go through good stretches where I’m either listening to it on a daily basis or I end up having to play or teach tunes from this album. Can’t imagine not having this in my life or on an island.


Robert Glasper- In My Element 


This isn’t even my favorite Glasper album, but I feel like I would need to have some Glasper in my life. I love the progress Glasper represents for Jazz and music in general. My favorite album from Glasper is either Black Radio 1 or 2, but I love his Trio work so I’d take In My Element on the desert island and be just fine.

What albums would you take with you on a desert island? Would love to hear which albums you’d take that I didn’t and why. Leave a comment below or message me your desert island albums.

Continue reading “Desert Island Albums “

First Listen: Branford Marsalis “I Heard You Twice The First Time”

Earlier this month I did a First Listen of Branford Marsalis’ album I Heard You Twice The First Time. I live tweeted the experience on my twitter @EdwinGarcia88 here are some of the tweets:

And now that I’ve had some time to listen back to the album I’d like to share with you my overall thoughts. I was genuinely surprised with how much I enjoyed this album. I like the Blues as much as the next person, but sometimes an entire album can become tiresome and repetitive. I Heard You Twice The First Time was neither of these things. It was refreshing and changed just enough track by track to keep me interested. Whether it’s the social issues brought up in “Brother Trying to Catch a Cab”, the killer guitar solo on “B.B. Blues”, or the monk inspired tune “Straight from the Ghetto”, I always wanted more.
This album was an absolute pleasure to listen to, and if you’re even remotely in the mood for some blues this album should quench that thirst. The album spans a little over an hour, but feels relatively short. I would consider this album one of Branford Marsalis’ hidden gems, it has good but not glowing reviews and can be found in most record stores for a low price. Pick it up if you can or stream it on your favorite platform.