Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dave Holland, Dr. Lonnie Smith Named NEA Jazz Masters

dee dee

Big congrats to the newly anointed 2017 NEA Jazz Masters: Singer Dee Bridgewater; Bassist Dave Holland, who cut his teeth with Miles Davis; jazz-funk B3 organist Dr. Lonnie Smith; pianist Dick Hyman, probably best known for his work scoring Woody Allen films, and jazz journalist, historian and advocate Ira Gitler.

These jazz luminaries will be honored by the National Endowment of the Arts in ceremonies during a concert April 3, 2017 at the Kennedy Center. The proceedings will be streamed live.

I’ve had the privilege of getting performances by Bridgewater, Holland, and Smith several times over the decades — most recently, I heard the singer at last year’s Chicago Jazz Festival, which I reviewed for JazzTimes (here). Not long before that, I caught her at the Straz Center in Tampa. Smith’s latest, “Evolution,” marked his return to the Blue Note label after 45 years (my review here).

Bridgewater boasts the distinction of being one of only 19 women named a Jazz Master, among a field of 145, according to the Associated Press. “I’ve fought long and hard to preserve my musical integrity, to garner respect in this male-dominated jazz world,” she said in a statement distributed by the NEA.

A $25,000 award will go to each Jazz Master.

For more information on this year’s winners, and the NEA Jazz Masters program, click here.

 

 

 

Dr. Lonnie Smith Returns to Blue Note: The Groove is the Thing

lonnie smith

Dr. Lonnie Smith, Evolution (Blue Note) — Lonnie Smith forever has been all about celebrating and tweaking the classic ’60s B3 organ-combo sound. The turbaned one effectively sticks to that strategy with the Don Was-produced Evolution, his first album for Blue Note in 45 years.

His funk-alicious rhythms undergird a marathon 14-minute reworking of old favorite “Play It Back,” bolstered by Robert Glasper’s contrasting acoustic piano and solo turns from tenor saxophonist John Ellis and trumpeter Keyon Harrold. Saxophonist Joe Lovano guests on soprano on the trippy, wah-edged “Afrodesia” and tenor on the slow-burning “For Heaven’s Sake”; he turns in fruitful solos, but seems a bit underused.

The disc’s core trio — Smith, guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and drummer Jonathan Blake — is featured on a reharmonized “Straight No Chaser” and an extended, rambling version of “My Favorite Things” that opens with a long, slow build before moving to a full gallop.

Dr. Lonnie’s latest is less about extraordinary improvising or, as the album’s title might suggest, taking his chosen form in new directions. But his medicine still tastes good — occasional experimental edges, odd electronic touches, stray trombone blasts (“African Suite”) and all.

(Side note: “Play It Back” has long been in the repertoire of my band Acme Jazz Garage)

 

Jazz for Haiti: Benefits in NYC and Elsewhere; Why Not Florida?

Pop stars aren’t the only ones offering their talents to help raise funds to aid those devastated by the Haitian earthquake.

Jazz musicians are putting their horns where their hearts are, too, starting with tonight’s performance by Groove Collective at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan. The funky acid-jazz outfit will be joined by special guests including trumpeter Roy Hargrove, pianist Vijay Iyer, turntable wizard DJ Logic, P-Funk/Talking Heads keyboardist Bernie Worrell, a trio led by organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, guitarist Lionel Loueke and bassist Richard Bona, Yatande Bwakaiman Vodou Drums, and Swiss Chris.

That’s according to a report published online at Jazz Times, a blog post by Howard Mandel, and the venue’s own site.

Mandel also has rounded up info on several other upcoming jazz benefits around the U.S., including a citywide event Wednesday night in Seattle, and a St. Louis concert on Feb. 9. He also offers a brief but insightful analysis of jazz’s kinship with Haitian music, along with a clip of great bassist Charles Mingus‘s “Haitian Fight Song.”   Click hear to read Mandel’s post.

So where’ s the response to the crisis by jazz musicians in Miami, or by those in other cities around Florida, the U.S. state in closest proximity to Haiti, with the largest population of Haitian-Americans?

Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval is probably the natural focal point for such a benefit concert in Miami. Sandoval heads to New York this weekend for a four-date stand at the Blue Note, but he has no other dates scheduled until Feb. 26, according to his web site. Sounds like opportunity knocking…

(Other artists in Miami are responding with major concerts, including this weekend’s two-day festival at Bayfront Park headed by popular compas group The Dixie Band; and these other events).