Best Jazz CDs of 2008? Down Beat Looks Back

Down Beat’s official critics poll, which isn’t hinged to the calendar year, won’t arrive until August.

But the January issue of the magazine (to which I’m a longtime contributor) offers a list of the jazz CDs that notched the best reviews – highest star ratings – in 2008.

The five-star releases, although all deserving of high praise, may or may not deserve to be called “New Masterpieces”; a decade from now, will these recordings still resonate? Still, I was particularly impressed by the Caine, Haden, and McLaughlin discs. Here’s the list:

  • Gunther Schuller, Journey Into Jazz (BMOP Sound)
  • Uri Caine Ensemble, The Othello Syndrome (Winter & Winter)Uri Caine - The Othello Syndrome
  • Otis Taylor, Recapturing the Banjo (Telarc)
  • John McLaughlin, Floating Point (Abstract Logix)
  • Charlie Haden Family and Friends, Rambling Boy (Decca)

A step down are the 4.5-star releases, including several of my ’08 favorites – Clark, Corea/Burton, Herwig, and Frisell.

Here’s that list:

  • Anthony Braxton, Trio (Victoriaville)
  • Mike Clark, Blueprints of Jazz Volume 1 (Talking House)
  • Chick Corea and Gary Burton, The New Crystal Silence (Concord)
  • Marilyn Crispell, Vignettes (ECM)
  • Prieto Dafnis Sextet, Taking the Soul for a Walk (Dafnison Music)
  • Die Enttauschung, Die Enttauschung (Intakt)
  • Bill Frisell, History, Mystery (Nonesuch)
  • Mike Garson, Conversations With My Family (Resonance)
  • Jon Gordon, Within Words (ArtistShare)
  • Conrad Herwig, The Latin Side of Wayne Shorter (Half Note)Chick Corea & Gary Burton, The New Crystal Silence
  • Grace Kelly and Lee Konitz, GRACEfulLee (Pazz)
  • Moss, Moss (Sunnyside)
  • Rosa Passos, Romance (Telarc)
  • Mario Pavone, Trio Arc (Playscape)
  • Herb Robertson and the NY Downtown Allstars, Real Aberration (Clean Feed)
  • Wadada Leo Smith and the Golden Quartet, Tabligh (Cueniform)
  • Gebhard Ullmann, New Basement Research (Soul Note)
  • Norma Winstone, Distances (ECM)

It’s interesting to note that the music deemed among the best jazz of the year is spread out on nearly as many labels as there are releases. The exceptions – two are on ECM, and two are on Telarc.

The next level down, the four-star CDs, features 124 releases, including several, below, that struck me as particularly outstanding (and in some cases, deserving of higher star ratings):

  • Brian Blade, Season of Changes (Verve)
  • The Blind Boys of Alabama, Down in New Orleans (TimeLife)
  • Anat Cohen, Notes From the Village (Anzic)
  • John Ellis and Double-Wide, Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow (Hyena)
  • Drew Gress, The Irrational Numbers (Premonition)
  • Lionel Loueke, Karibu (Blue Note)
  • Pat Metheny, Day Trip (Nonesuch)Pat Metheny, Day Trip
  • Radiohead, In Rainbows (ATO) – not jazz, I know, but how could this CD NOT be on anyone’s best-of list?
  • Josh Roseman, New Constellations (Accurate)
  • Kurt Rosenwinkel Group, The Remedy: Live at the Village Vanguard (ArtistShare)
  • Esperanza Spalding, Esperanza (Heads Up)
  • Susan Tedeschi, Back to the River (Verve Forecast)

Yes, I’ll be getting around to submitting my Top 10 CD list(s) to one or more publications. But not quite yet.

Kermit Ruffins has released a holiday single, “Christmas Time is Here,” that’s molasses-slow and just as sweet.

The New Orleans good-time trumpeter is out front, singing, before he turns things over to a solo by his pianist (unsure about personnel on this track). Ruffins later comes back to close out the tune with a muted solo.

The single is on the Basin Street Records label. Check it out here.

By the way, Ruffins recently re-signed with Basin Street. The trumpeter, the first signee to the label, recorded six CDs for Basin Street. His new contract is a three-CD deal, with the first one slated to be released next spring, in time for the 2009 edition of Jazz Fest.

For the full story, check the report in Offbeat magazine.

Langerado Lineup: Ryan Adams, The Pogues, Disco Biscuits, Bad Brains, Robert Randolph, Umphrey’s McGee, More

The long-promised lineup for next year’s Langerado, relocated to Miami, was finally announced this morning. Tickets go on sale Friday at noon.

The festival, for its seventh annual edition morphing into a cityside event from a camping festival, is again emphasizing a mix of veteran rockers, independent-minded rock acts, jambands, altcountry artists, and hip-hoppers.

Altcountry favorite Ryan Adams, veteran Irish folk/punk outfit The Pogues, jammy acts Disco Biscuits, Robert Randolph and Umphrey’s McGee, and punk/reggae heavy hitters Bad  Brains, funksters George Clinton &  Parliament/Funkadelic, and electronica/rock/jazz/dub/prog synthesists Tortoise look to be among the more interesting acts (IMO) on a lineup that doesn’t seem to pack the musical punch of earlier editions of the fest. More acts are to be announced, so stay tuned.

The fest will be held at Bicentennial Park on Biscayne Bay, and it’s almost certain that related shows (affiliated or not affiliated with the fest) will be held at nightclubs in South Beach and elsewhere around Miami.

At any rate, here are the complete details, courtesy of the press release:


7TH ANNUAL LANGERADO MUSIC FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES INITIAL ARTIST LINEUP:

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, SNOOP DOGG, RYAN ADAMS AND THE CARDINALS,
THIEVERY CORPORATION, SLIGHTLY STOOPID, FLOGGING MOLLY,
DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL, BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE, COLD WAR KIDS,
GIRL TALK, CHROMEO, MUTE MATH, AND BLACK KIDS

ARE JOINED BY GYM CLASS HEROES, THE FAINT,
THE POGUES, ZAC BROWN BAND, MATISYAHU, THE DISCO BISCUITS,
UMPHREY’S MCGEE, ROBERT RANDOLPH AND THE FAMILY BAND,
MICHAEL FRANTI AND SPEARHEAD, THE VIRGINS, AND MANY
MORE

TICKETS ON SALE FRIDAY DECEMBER 12TH NOON EST AT
WWW.LANGERADO.COM
MARCH 6-7-8, 2009 AT BICENTENNIAL PARK IN MIAMI, FL

Held for the first time this year at Bicentennial Park on Biscayne Bay, Langerado now calls Miami – one of the world’s must cultural cities – home.  Today, festival organizers make an initial artist announcement to make the Magic City proud.  Death Cab For Cutie, Snoop Dogg, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Thievery Corporation (Live), Slightly Stoopid and Dashboard Confessional join Flogging Molly, Broken Social Scene, Girl Talk, Cold War Kids, The Faint, Gym Class Heroes, Tricky, Chromeo, Mute Math, Black Kids, Café Tacuba, The Pogues, The Virgins, Zac Brown Band and more.  Langerado is also proud to welcome back veterans from Langerado’s past including Matisyahu, The Disco Biscuits, Umphrey’s McGee, Robert Randolph and The Family Band and Michael Franti and Spearhead and extend a warm welcome to the many artists performing at the festival for the first time.  Artists will perform on multiple stages throughout the three day event and more artists are still to be announced!

Tickets to the 7th Annual Langerado Music Festival go on sale Friday December 12th at 12pm EST.  Purchase tickets with no additional service charges through http://langerado.musictoday.com and at www.langerado.com.

In addition to world class music, Langerado will offer local arts and crafts, delicious food vendors, and a variety of festival activities for the whole family – all on-site at Bicentennial Park’s 30 acres of waterfront.  With Bicentennial Park located just minutes from Downtown Miami and Miami’s South Beach, visitors and locals can enjoy easy access to Miami’s many hotels, international restaurants and sizzling nightlife. Taking advantage of Miami’s after-hours scene, Langerado will host official late night shows and parties at various local venues throughout Miami including world-famous South Beach, the Design District, Coconut Grove and beyond.  Stay tuned to www.langerado.com for the most up to date information on artists and late night show announcements.

Festival Details as follows:
7th Annual Langerado Music Festival
Bicentennial Park on Biscayne Bay
301 North Biscayne Boulevard, Miami
Tickets starting at $120 for weekend passes; individual day tickets starting at $75.  Langerado is proud to announce that prices for weekend passes and day tickets are all inclusive and there will be no additional service charges.

Langerado will also be offering a layaway plan for purchasers of weekend passes with 3 equal payment spread out over three months.  Visit the Langerado ticketing page at www.langerado.com for more information.

VIP packages that include upgraded amenities such as daily catered buffet, merchandise packages, exclusive viewing decks for the main stages and more will also be available at www.langerado.com.

Children 8 and under are admitted at no charge with paid adults. More details are available at www.langerado.com.

For six years, the Langerado Music Festival has kicked off the United States’ burgeoning festival season with a full weekend of music and art in South Florida. Recognized by such national media outlets as the New York Times, Rolling Stone and Billboard Magazine, Langerado has grown enormously since it’s inaugural year; growing from 3,500 in attendance in 2003 at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, to nearly 25,000 per day in attendance at 2008’s event at the Big Cypress Indian Reservation.

The Langerado Music Festival is produced by Mark Brown and Ethan Schwartz.  Brown is the managing partner of Jam Cruise (www.jamcruise.com).  Schwartz produces and promotes shows in the South Florida area.  Together, the partners also produce the Caribbean Holidaze festival in Runaway Bay, Jamaica ( www.caribbeanholidaze.com).

Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans: Bigger and Better in 2009

Ponderosa Stomp, the increasingly revered rock ‘n’ roots gathering held during Jazz Fest (New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival) week will be bigger and better for its eighth annual edition, April 28-29 at the House of Blues in NOLA.

The expanded Stomp will include three days’ worth of panel discussions — featuring notable rock scholars and pop music critics — and an exhibition at the Louisiana State Museum at The Cabildo.

The fest, organized and largely programmed by anesthesiologist and music head Dr. Ike (Dr. Ira Padnos), will feature the first full set by  Cyril Jordan and Roy Loney of the Flamin’ Groovies since 1971. They’ll be backed by the A-Bones.

Other notables: Lazy Lester, 75, whose 1966 single is the festival’s namesake; Memphis R&B/soul shakers the Hi Rhythm Section, backing Otis Clay (pictured, right); Otis Clayswamp rocker Dale Hawkins (“Suzie Q”); Dan Penn (“The Dark End of the Street”); legendary soul singer Howard Tate; rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson; and James Burton and Dale Hawkins.

Here’s the complete lineup:

For more details, go to the Ponderosa Stomp site; or the event’s MySpace page.

To check out the complete press release, posted at Swag’s Live Journal, click here. To see press reviews of past Stomps, go here.