The 50 Greatest Live Acts? What? No Prince?

Who doesn’t love a music list? After all, they make great clickbait, right?

Hype Music Festivals (who?) has just published its list of “the greatest 50 live acts right now.”

Conspicuously missing: The mighty, multitalented Prince, one of the greatest live acts of all time (not just right now; his show 20 years ago at the Sunrise Musical Theater was one for the ages); Bootsy Collins and other super-funky acts; Medeski Martin and Wood; any number of great New Orleans artists; and the fast-rising trio Dirty Loops.

Still, lots of great, groove-alicious high-performing acts on the list, including Galactic (from New Orleans), lately taking things to a fever pitch with new singer Maggie Koerner; the amazing, oversized Tedeschi Trucks Band, co-led by miracle-working slide guitarist Derek Trucks and his blues-belting wife and guitar slinger Susan Tedeschi (the band was hot, again, at the Sunshine Blues Festival); the astonishing collective Snarky Puppy; Blues Traveler; Further; Lettuce; the Punch Brothers (sublime at Springfest); My Morning Jacket; Umphrey’s McGee; String Cheese Incident; and Radiohead (naturally).

And, in the No. 1 spot … The Allman Brothers, probably extra smoking-hot these days because the clock is running out on the band.

Here’s the list.

As mentioned, the high energy pop-fusion-funk group Dirty Loops is one of the bands that should have made the cut:

Want to see The Dirty Loops live? The band’s new 20-city tour kicks off Oct. 21 at Irving Plaza in NYC. Details are here.

Abbey Road Studios Off the Chopping Block

Thanks in part to being declared a historic building, London’s famous Abbey Road Studios will no longer be sold by its owner, EMI Group Ltd., according to an AP story published Wednesday.

The studio, home to classic Beatles recordings and albums by Jeff Beck, Pink Floyd, Radiohead and several orchestras, will now be revitalized. The facility is adjacent to a “zebra” crosswalk that turned into a much-photographed tourist destination after appearing on the cover of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album, recorded and released in 1969.

Yep, I’ve been there (with my wife Callie, in 1995) and done that, too. We have the photo to prove it. And it’s awfully encouraging to know that this part of pop-music history won’t be consigned to the scrap heap.

“Former Beatle Paul McCartney said he hoped it could be preserved, while English Heritage — the body that oversees buildings of historic interest — appealed to the government to name it a historic building,” according to the story. “In a statement, English Heritage Chief Executive Simon Thurley said the Georgian building housing the studios “acts as a modern day monument to the history of recorded sound and music.” “

Best Jazz CDs of the Year?

It’s always one of a music critic’s toughest jobs.

How do you pick out the “best” recordings, of any genre, for any given year?

And, given the volume of CDs that continue to be unleashed, who – anywhere – has the time and wherewithal to listen to all the good, or even great, stuff that’s out there?

I never feel like I get it quite right – as soon as one of my year-ender pieces is published, I feel like I ought to go back and sub one of the discs for another that I’ve decided is more deserving.

At any rate, with the certainty that I’m leaving out one or two, or a dozen or more, great recordings, below is my “working” list of the year’s best jazz CDs.

This, of course, doesn’t include my favorites from other genres, a list that would include Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Lucinda Williams’ Little Honey, and the self-titled debut from The Steeldrivers.

An expanded version of my jazz list, with teensy descriptions of each disc, will soon be published elsewhere. When that happens, I’ll link to it.

The Best Jazz Discs of 2008 (in alphabetical order)

  • Brian Blade Fellowship, Season of Changes (Verve)
  • Anat Cohen, Notes From the Village (Anzic)
  • Chick Corea & Gary Burton, The New Crystal Silence (Concord)
  • John Ellis, Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow (Hyena)
  • Lionel Loueke, Karibu (Blue Note)metheny
  • Pat Metheny, Day Trip (Nonesuch)
  • Sonny Rollins, Road Shows, Vol. 1 (Doxy)
  • Esperanza Spalding, Esperanza (Heads Up)
  • Robert Walter, Cure All (Palmetto)
  • Cassandra Wilson, Loverly (Blue Note)

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.

Grammy Noms: Good Love for Radiohead; Plant/Krauss; and jazz noms

Yes, some encouraging news came out of Wednesday night’s hourlong Grammy nominations shindig on television.

I mean, aside from the fact that two of the year’s most impressive releases — Radiohead’s superb In Rainbows, and Raising Sand, the intriguing Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collaboration — were actually nominated for Album of the Year honors (along with a pretty good Coldplay CD and hyped releases by New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne and R&B artist Ne-Yo).

Krauss and Plant also picked up a Record of the Year nom, for “Please Read the Letter,” and three other noms. Radiohead nabbed five noms, too.

According to the Los Angeles Times, there’s a possibility that presentations of jazz and classical awards, typically given short shrift during the Grammy show, will be recorded, packaged with performances and offered to public television and cable outlets.

About time.

Quite a few first-rate musicians were nominated in the jazz categories. The “contemporary jazz” category, thankfully, includes several artists – Randy Brecker and John McLaughlin, in particular – whose music has little in common with the bland wallpaper sounds associated with “contemporary jazz” radio.

Here’s the jazz list, courtesy of Grammy.com:

Best Contemporary Jazz Album

  • Randy In Brasil
    Randy Brecker
    [MAMA Records]
  • Floating Point
    John McLaughlin
    [Abstract Logix]
  • Cannon Re-Loaded: All-Star Celebration Of Cannonball Adderley
    (Various Artists)
    Gregg Field & Tom Scott, producers
    [Concord Jazz]
  • Miles From India
    (Various Artists)
    Bob Belden, producer
    [4Q/Times Square Records]
  • Lifecycle
    Yellowjackets Featuring Mike Stern
    [Heads Up International]

Best Jazz Vocal Album

·
Imagina: Songs Of Brasil
Karrin Allyson
[Concord Jazz]

  • Breakfast On The Morning Tram
    Stacey Kent
    [Blue Note]
  • If Less Is More…Nothing Is Everything
    Kate McGarry
    [Palmetto Records]
  • Loverly
    Cassandra Wilson
    [Blue Note]
  • Distances
    Norma Winstone (Glauco Venier & Klaus Gesing)
    [ECM]

Best Jazz Instrumental Solo

· Be-Bop
Terence Blanchard, soloist
Track from: Live At The 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival (Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars)
[Monterey Jazz Festival Records]

  • Seven Steps To Heaven
    Till Brönner, soloist
    Track from: The Standard (Take 6)
    [Heads Up International]
  • Waltz For Debby
    Gary Burton & Chick Corea, soloists
    Track from: The New Crystal Silence
    [Concord Records]
  • Son Of Thirteen
    Pat Metheny, soloist
    Track from: Day Trip
    [Nonesuch Records]
  • Be-Bop
    James Moody, soloist
    Track from: Live At The 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival (Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars)
    [Monterey Jazz Festival Records]

Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group

  • The New Crystal Silence
    Chick Corea & Gary Burton
    [Concord Records]
  • History, Mystery
    Bill Frisell
    [Nonesuch Records]
  • Brad Mehldau Trio: Live
    Brad Mehldau Trio
    [Nonesuch Records]
  • Day Trip
    Pat Metheny With Christian McBride & Antonio Sanchez
    [Nonesuch Records]
  • Standards
    Alan Pasqua, Dave Carpenter & Peter Erskine Trio
    [Fuzzy Music]

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

  • Appearing Nightly
    Carla Bley And Her Remarkable Big Band
    [WATT]
  • Act Your Age
    Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band
    [Immergent]
  • Symphonica
    Joe Lovano With WDR Big Band & Rundfunk Orchestra
    [Blue Note]
  • Blauklang
    Vince Mendoza
    [Act Music and Vision (AMV)]
  • Monday Night Live At The Village Vanguard
    The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra
    [Planet Arts Recordings]

Best Latin Jazz Album

  • Afro Bop Alliance
    Caribbean Jazz Project
    [Heads Up International]
  • The Latin Side Of Wayne Shorter
    Conrad Herwig & The Latin Side Band
    [Half Note Records]
  • Song For Chico
    Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra
    [Zoho]
  • Nouveau Latino
    Nestor Torres
    [Diamond Light Records]
  • Marooned/Aislado
    Papo Vázquez The Mighty Pirates
    [Picaro Records]