JJA Awards for Journalism and Media Announced

A long list of talented jazz journalists picked up Jazz Journalists Association (JJA) Awards in ceremonies held today at the Blue Note in NYC.

I couldn’t get there, but, hey, I was there in spirit!

“Professional Journalist Members of the JJA made open nominations in a first selection round; those who received the most nominations advanced to the final ballot,” as outlined by the JJA (I’m a member).

Kudos to the following:

+ Lifetime achievement in jazz journalism: Ted Panken

+ Jazz periodical: DownBeat

+ Jazz blog: Ethan Iverson‘s “Do the Math”

+ Jazz book: “Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth,” by John Szwed

+ Robert Palmer-Helen Oakley Dance Award for Excellence in Writing in 2015: Nate Chinen

+ Willis Conover-Marian McPartland Award for Broadcasting in 2015: Linda Yohn, WEMU

+ Lona Foote-Bob Parent Award for Photography in 2015: Ken Franckling

+ Jazz Photo of the Year: Patrick Marek

+ Jazz Album Art of the Year: Mike Park, for Kamasi Washington, “The Epic”

For more details, visit the JJA online

Jose James Has the Blues (And That’s Good) — CD review

JoseJames_YesterdayIHadTheBlues_cover

Jose James, “Yesterday I Had the Blues” (Blue Note)

Jose James may or may not have been afflicted with the blues at some point in his life. A decidedly deep-blue soulfulness nevertheless shades the nine songs heard on the Minneapolis-born singer’s tribute to Billie Holiday, who would have turned 100 this Tuesday. The set features music written or popularized by Holiday, whose influence as a jazz singer and performer still looms large.

Each of these tunes is played at a luxuriously slow tempo, by three musicians who understand the underappreciated art of grooving in  way-laidback mode: Jason Moran on piano and Rhodes, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Eric Harland.

An appealing aural spaciousness and resonance are at the heart of the sound of this Don Was-produced recording, starting with opener “Good Morning Heartache,” as the trio begins with a heartbeat rhythm and relaxes into opening chords before James glides in, singing notes on the lower end of his range. Mid-song, Moran offers an understated solo. The singing and playing, here and elsewhere, feel marvelously lived-in.

Unhurried, too, is the defining feel of “Body and Soul,” which opens with unaccompanied piano and voice, and then Patitucci, his bass woody and grinding, and Harland go it alone at the start of “Fine and Mellow,” which opens up for a bending, stretching solo romp by Patitucci. “I Thought About You,” entirely absent of bass and drums, is pure intimacy, regret, and nostalgia, bolstered by Moran’s series of crystalline piano flurries and swinging solo.

The disc closes with two Holiday favorites, a version of “God Bless the Child” bolstered by a heavy backbeat and warmed by Moran’s Rhodes piano, and a haunting, spiritual-like take on “Strange Fruit,” complete with handclaps and James’ own stacks of humming vocals.

“Yesterday” won’t soon be forgotten.

Madeleine Peyroux’s New Single: A Cross Between Billie Holiday and Hall & Oates?

peyroux1Madeleine Peyroux has often — and somewhat accurately — been described as a singer who channels Billie Holiday.

Her way laidback style of singing is sometimes quite expressive, albeit on other occasions her voice is paired with music that is deadly lethargic.

Marc Silver, in a piece on NPR, says that “You Can’t Do Me,” a single from Peyroux’s forthcoming CD, makes him feel “as if  Holiday and the self-proclaimed ‘rock and soul’ boys (Hall & Oates) had a musical moment.”

To my ears, the tune sounds more like Steely Dan, not Hall & Oates, is in the mix. That makes sense, given that Walter Becker co-wrote the song.

Madeleine Peyroux, \”You Can\’t Do Me\”

Read Silver’s review here.

The song was co-written by Peyroux, Becker, and album producer Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, Holly Cole). The CD, Bare Bones is due for release March 10.

Silver’s review:

“Madeleine Peyroux Finds Rock And Soul

In the secret labs of music collaboration, where deceased singers are
matched with living partners, has anyone ever tried to bring Billie
Holiday and Hall & Oates together? Probably not, but when Lady Day
enthusiast Madeleine Peyroux sings “You Can’t Do Me,” it’s as if
Holiday and the self-proclaimed “rock and soul” boys had a musical
moment.

The song, from Peyroux’s new album Bare Bones, starts with an insistent
piano chord — very “Rich Girl.” In her silkily melancholy voice,
Peyroux tells her lover he can’t “do” her the way he did before,
because when he does, it makes her feel “bust like an Internet
millionaire / boom like a Lebanese belly dancer / bang like a new
year’s firecracker.”

The droll list goes on, colored with a jaunty wah-wah guitar, organ
trills and Peyroux’s own delicate touches, such as the way she colors
the word “blue” with aural shades of indigo. But instead of sounding
like a vintage jazz singer, the way she usually does, Peyroux traffics
more in rock and soul. Hall & Oates would be proud.”