Saturday, December 7, 2013

Snow, quiet time and new jazz...

So... the snow and sleet has come and gone - not nearly the 4-6 inches predicted - but still a serene looking blanket of white upon the brown winter hills.  Must be something about a snowfall that invites deep sleep because we were out for 11+ hours!  And now that the baby blessing and open house have been postponed, we have a whole weekend to ourselves (a reality all too rare these days.)

This morning I'm thinking to new sounds (for me) in jazz.  Too much of what is labeled "contemporary jazz" means "easy listening."  One record producer called such songs the stuff that jazz greats cut in 45 minutes in order to pay their bills and market to so-called hip middle age executives to be played in their cars or offices.  There is no effort, beauty or insight in these recordings, just a bland easy groove.  And that is NOT what grabs my heart and soul when I listen to or play jazz. I want to feel some one's story - their wrestling with beauty and joy and suffering in a 21st key - so that I might journey with them and come out in a new place.

One such artist that takes me to a new place is Amir ElSaffar who has been described as a jazz trumpeter "born to an Iraqi father and an American mother... who works in NYC within the jazz, classical and Arabic styles."  Those who follow any of my ramblings on music know that genre bending is a joy to me - and clearly brother ElSaffar plays with what he hears in his soul to help us listen to the 21st century. Check him out @ 

Another artist I've just turned on to is Nicole Mitchell and Ice Crystal: I am a sucker for creative but cool sounds and the way her flute riffs with the vibraphone is soul food for me.  Working with standard jazz stylists, she creates some truly celestial sounds.
And she can get funky and out of the box, too:  she has been the Down Beat rising star flautist for the past 9 years.  In 2009 she was appointed to a post at UC-Irvine.  Check her out @

And then there is Cecile McLorin Salvant who is being celebrated as the BEST jazz vocalist around in a LONG, LONG time.  She is spot-on while being creative, deeply rooted in tradition and innovative and just a whole lotta fun.  And to paraphrase the late, great Ralph Ellison, if jazz ain't fun (he referenced the dance floor) then what the hell are we doing to it?  

She grew up in Miami, spent time in Provence, France, got turned on to improvisation and more and is a total gem.  So please check her out @

Now back to the house cleaning so that our home is ready to ring in our Advent quiet time.

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