Herb Snitzer Unveils “A Jazz Memoir” This Sunday at the Tampa Museum of Art

I’d be remiss if I failed to take notice of great jazz photographer Herb Snitzer‘s new book “Glorious Days and Nights: A Jazz Memoir” (University Press of Mississippi). It’s a collection of beautiful, telling photos, mostly focused on his work in New York City between 1957 and 1964 for the magazine Metronome.

Herb will sign copies of the book, his sixth, during a reception this Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Tampa Museum of Art. The exhibition of his work continues through May 15 at the museum, 120 W. Gasparilla Plaza in Tampa. For more information, call (813) 274-8130 or visit the museum’s web site.

As noted by Amazon,”This book includes Snitzer’s very best jazz photographs. He reveals the essences of the artists, their struggles, joys, and pains. A number of Snitzer’s jazz images have become iconic, including Louis Armstrong with the Star of David, Lester Young at The Five Spot Café in New York City, John Coltrane reflected in a mirror, Thelonious Monk with piano keys reflected in his sunglasses, and Miles Davis at Newport. With eighty-five black and white images of jazz giants, Glorious Days and Nights provides a long-awaited testimony to the friendships and artistry that Snitzer developed over his remarkable career.”

I’ll be forever grateful to Herb for lending a quintessential portrait of Monk (above) to the CD project I produced several years ago, Monk in the Sun.

Listening Post, Week of Jan. 24, 2010: Garaj Mahal, Nickel Creek, Teenage Fanclub, New Orleans Funk, Wild Tchoupitoulas

Five releases in rotation at home and in the car – a list without comment (in alphabetical order):

Garaj Mahal, More Mr. Nice Guy (Owl, 2010)

Nickel Creek, Why Should the Fire Die (Sugarhill, 2005)

Teenage Fanclub, Bandwagonesque (Geffen, 1997)

Various Artists, New Orleans Funk (Soul Jazz, 200o)*

Wild Tchoupitoulas, Wild Tchoupitoulas (Island, 1992)*


Jazz Fest 2011: Sonny Rollins, Jeff Beck, Robert Plant, Wilco, Arcade Fire + More

Saxophone giant Sonny Rollins, by many accounts the greatest living jazz musician, is one of many artists sure to give a lift to this year’s lineup for Jazz Fest (New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival).

Jazz fans will also be happy to see the great bassist Ron Carter on the bill, as well as pianist Ahmad Jamal. In the not-so-much category: Smooth jazz acts Kenny G and Fourplay.

The initial lineup, announced today, also includes a fleet of heavy old-school rockers, including Jeff Beck, Robert Plant, Gregg Allman, and John Mellencamp. Predictably, laidback-lifestyle salesman Jimmy Buffett is back.

On the Americana/altcountry/folk side: The Avett Brothers, Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, Ricky Skaggs, Punch Brothers, Arlo Guthrie.

Rockers (modern, indie, more): Wilco, Arcade Fire, The Strokes, The Decemberists.

World music: Ivan Lins (Brazil), Boukman Eksperyans, Tabou Combo, Wyclef Jean (Haiti).

Blues, R&B, funk, etc: Robert Cray, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Bobby Blue Bland, Keb’ Mo’, Charlie Musselwhite, John Legend & the Roots, Maceo Parker with Pee Wee Ellis.

More: Edie Brickell, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Kid Rock, Cyndi Lauper, Michelle Shocked.

A cavalcade of great New Orleans and Louisiana artists: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, The Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Mystikal, Pete Fountain, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers, Better Than Ezra, Rebirth Brass Band, Galactic, Tab Benoit, The Radiators, Cowboy Mouth,  Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Marcia Ball, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Ellis Marsalis, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Sonny Landreth, Henry Butler, Papa Grows Funk, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, John Boutté, Terence Blanchard, Amanda Shaw, The New Orleans Bingo! Show, Jon Cleary, Partners N Crime with 5th Ward Weebie, Soul Rebels Brass Band, Joseph Zigaboo Modeliste, Glen David Andrews, Anders Osborne, Buckwheat Zydeco, George Porter, Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners, Big Freedia & Sissy Nobby, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes, MyNameIsJohnMichael, Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr. & the Zydeco Twisters, Zachary Richard, Warren Storm – Willie Tee & Cypress, Honey Island Swamp Band, Bonerama, John Mooney & Bluesiana, Nicholas Payton, Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Jeremy Davenport, Deacon John, Donald Harrison, Astral Project, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & the Golden Eagles, Banu Gibson, Shamarr Allen, Pine Leaf Boys, Mia Borders, Hot 8, Mahogany, New Birth & Pinstripe Brass Bands, Roots of Music Marching Crusaders Band, The Creole Wild West Mardi Gras Indians.

And, oh yeah, Tom Jones, Bon Jovi, Fantasia.

Jazz Fest this year runs April 27-29 and May 5-8.


Joe Lovano Us Five, “Bird Songs” (CD review)

Joe Lovano’s “Bird Songs” CD is a loving but not reverential salute to the music of Charlie Parker. See my review, as published in Las Vegas City Life, here. Or read the somewhat varied text below.


Joe Lovano Us Five, “Bird Songs” (Blue Note)

Every jazzer alive owes a debt to Charlie Parker, the saxophonist-composer who helped create bebop, a language that was foundational to all the jazz that followed. Given the requisite level of technical virtuosity, and able accomplices, most any talented and dedicated saxophonist can turn in a convincing tribute to Bird. Simply pick the now-familiar tunes, crank the tempos and hold on for dear life.

Joe Lovano, for his second album with his Us Five group — which includes pianist James Weidman and rising-star bassist Esperanza Spalding — opts for a different strategy, with compelling results. Partial to the bigger, deeper tenor, he mostly chooses that horn over the smaller, higher pitched alto, sometimes turning to the mezzo soprano, straight alto or two-soprano aulochrome.

He uses the group’s double-drummer approach to give Parker tunes unexpected rhythmic twists, going it alone with the two percussionists — Otis Brown III, Francisco Mela — on “Koko,” and opening up “Dewey Square” for an extended percussion jam. And he turns several pieces on their heads, downshifting the usually lightning-speed “Donna Lee” to a ballad tempo, building the friendly melody of “Moose the Mooche” over a repeating bluesy line, up-ending “Yardbird Suite” for “Birdyard,” and creatively mixing three Parker pieces on “Blues Collage.”

NEA Jazz Masters: Which of These Artists Is Not Like the Others?

I’m a longtime supporter of the work of pianist Ellis Marsalis and his more famous progeny, having written almost universally positive features and CD & concert reviews on all of them over the 25 years or so.

They deserve plenty of kudos for — at the very least — helping promote the art of jazz, helping keep it alive. And trumpeter-bandleader-composer-arranger Wynton is practically a household name, a worldwide ambassador for the music.

But it strikes me as a bit odd to see saxophonist Branford (50), Wynton (49), trombonist Delfeayo (45), and drummer Jason (33) named National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters alongside the others on the list — their dad (76), also known for his enormous influence as a teacher, and flutist Hubert Laws (70, left, below), saxophonist Dave Liebman (64, right), composer and multi-instrumentalist Johnny Mandel (85), and record producer and writer Orrin Keepnews (87).

Does it not beg the definition of the title?

Should musicians under 60 or 70 really be honored as “masters”? Not sure.

The awards ceremony and concert is Tuesday night at Lincoln Center from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. EST. That show and the Jan. 10 panel discussion with NEA Jazz Masters will both be streamed live at Arts.Gov.

Best CDs of 2010 — Beyond Jazz

Yes, I’m late on the upswing on this, but … herewith a dozen of my favorite non-jazz CDs of 2010.

Sorry, trendsters, but no Kanye, Arcade Fire or Vampire Weekend here. Instead, my list is dominated by roots rock, jam band, blues, funk, fusion, and Americana.

In alphabetical order:

  • Black Crowes, Croweology (Silver Arrow)
  • Black Prairie, Feast of the Hunters’ Moon (Sugar Hill)
  • Galactic, Ya-Ka-May (Anti-)
  • Garaj Mahal, More Mr. Nice Guy (Owl)
  • Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, I Learned the Hard Way (Daptone)
  • Los Lobos, Tin Can Trust (Shout Factory!)
  • Stanton Moore, Groove Alchemy (Telarc)
  • Anders Osborne, American Patchwork (Alligator)
  • Matt Perrine, Bayou Road Suite (Threadhead)
  • Tom Petty, Mojo (Reprise/WEA)
  • Trombone Shorty, Backatown (Verve Forecast)
  • Derek Trucks Band, Roadsongs (Sony Legacy)


Who’s Killing All the Great Jazz Heritage Sites of America?

Is it indifference, apathy, ignorance, or impossibly tangled civic bureaucracies that are letting jazz heritage sites — historic birthplaces, old venues — in New Orleans and elsewhere variously fall apart and be razed?

Or maybe there are multiple culprits?

Regardless, another one just bit the dust: The childhood home of Sidney Bechet was knocked down in October, according to a report by the Associated Press.

“In the push to rebuild from Hurricane Katrina and eliminate eyesores, officials unwittingly approved the demolition of the (home),” according to the story. “While many landmarks still stand, the city lacks markers at many places where pioneers lived and learned how to play. Other cities have razed jazz history, too, but the spate of New Orleans demolitions in recent years has alarmed enthusiasts.

“Last year, the city tore down the Halfway House, a venue that had been turned into a pesticide business and later damaged by fire. It’s now a parking lot.

Meanwhile, the Gallo and Dixie theaters and the Naval Brigade Hall are gone since Katrina. The homes of several jazz musicians — including Louis Nelson, Willie Guitar, Ed Garland, Danny Barker and Buddy Bolden — have been torn down or fallen into disrepair in that time.”

More here.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu, back when he was lieutenant governor, was a HUGE supporter of the arts, vowing to better recognize the New Orleans & Louisiana “arts economies” and leverage the value of all things jazz for the good of the region’s tourist industry.

Was that mere lip service? Shouldn’t his mission extend to saving the city’s key historic jazz sites?