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AAJ's Best Interviews of 2006: A Baker's Dozen (Plus One)

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2006 was a banner year for interviews at AAJ. Nearly 120 interviews were published, featuring relative newcomers like Adam Unsworth and Nik Bärtsch, established artists including Pat Metheny and Dave Douglas, and jazz icons like Andrew Hill, Dave Holland and Sonny Rollins.

While every interview published provided valuable insight into the artist, here's a baker's dozen (plus one) of some of the year's best (in alphabetical order):

Nik Bärtsch
Commitment, Movement and the Batman Spirit


Interviewed by: Paul Olson
Swiss composer/keyboardist Nik Bärtsch doesn't play jazz, pop, or classical music. Rather, he and his groups Mobile and Ronin play a remarkable synthesis of the above genres, and the result is something Bärtsch calls "ritual groove music. Although Bärtsch has been developing this music—and the elaborate aesthetic and philosophical aesthetic that support and surrounds it—most listeners' first encounter with it has been the new CD from his band Ronin, Stoa, Bärtsch's first album on ECM Records.


Tim Berne
Superstitious Pragmatist


Interviewed by: Paul Olson
Alto saxophonist/composer Tim Berne's been an enormous presence in improvised music for over twenty-five years. Although he didn't pick up the alto until he was nineteen years old, he had moved to New York City and begun lessons with his great mentor Julius Hemphill by the time he was 20, in 1974. Berne's been notable for his do-it-yourself spirit and his decidedly untimid willingness to get out there and play.


Dave Douglas
Music, Commerce and Culture Wars


Interviewed by: Paul Olson
Trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas is one of the best-known players and bandleaders in jazz music. With countless performances, groups and recordings to his credit, his success hardly seems surprising, or anything less than hard-earned.


Roberta Gambarini
Very Easy to Love


Interviewed by: Dr. Judith Schlesinger
Although Italian-born vocalist Roberta Gambarini moved to the U.S. eight years ago, up to now she's been best-known and respected among her fellow musicians. With the release of her North American debut CD Easy to Love (Groovin' High, 2006), the general public is finally being introduced to the exceptional beauty, talent and professionalism that's been impressing top jazz artists for nearly a decade.


Kenny Garrett
Musical Explorer


Interviewed by: Jason Crane
Alto saxophonist and composer Kenny Garrett has released more than a dozen albums over a career spanning nearly three decades. His resume would make the average jazz fan weak in the knees: Freddy Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, the Duke Ellington Band, the Mel Lewis Orchestra, and many others.


Joel Harrison
If You Have to Ask "Is It Jazz? ...It Is


Interviewed by: Jason Crane
Joel Harrison is a busy guy. From his critically acclaimed Free Country (ACT, 2003)—and its resultant commissions and recordings—to his new album of daring arrangements of the music of George Harrison, Harrison On Harrison (High Note, 2005), the 48-year-old guitarist/composer/arranger is constantly looking for news ways to express himself.


Bennie Maupin
Miles Beyond


Interviewed by: Rex Butters
For forty years, Bennie Maupin has played with the giants of jazz, starting with Roy Haynes, Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, McCoy Tyner, and Marion Brown. A call from Miles Davis put Maupin in the line up that recorded his most earth shaking albums including Bitches Brew (Columbia/Legacy, 1969), Big Fun (Columbia/Legacy, 1974) and On the Corner (Columbia/Legacy, 1972).


Helen Merrill
60 Years of Warm Sweet Songs


Interviewed by: João Moreira dos Santos
One of the most distinctive jazz singers ever, Helen Merrill started singing professionally sixty years ago when her warm voice paired with the Reggie Childs Orchestra in 1946. But that was just the start of a long and vivid story which would lead the talented young daughter of Croatian immigrants to make history in jazz by recording with [trumpeter] Clifford Brown and [arranger/bandleader] Gil Evans in the 1950s.


Dizzy Reece
From In to Out


Interviewed by: Clifford Allen
Born January 5, 1931, in Kingston, Jamaica, trumpeter Alphonso Son "Dizzy Reece moved to England in 1948 to continue his jazz studies, as his countrymen alto saxophonist Joe Harriott and tenor man Ken Terroade would also do. Following some time in Paris, Reece recorded with Ronnie Scott, Victor Feldman and Tubby Hayes for the Tempo and Savoy labels before making his Blue Note debut in 1958.


Sonny Rollins
Hardy Perennial


Interviewed by: Victor L. Schermer
Legendary jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins is a "household word, an innovator, and a "hardy perennial in the jazz world. He came up, performed, and recorded with the likes of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane. His musical evolution never stopped, and at 76, he continues to offer a hefty schedule of concerts worldwide.


Terje Rypdal
In a Miles Mood


Interviewed by: R.J. DeLuke
Norwegian guitar icon Terje Rypdal surfaced more than three decades ago as a new guitar voice, but he strode out of the fields of rock music, not jazz. He was influenced a great deal by the electronic jazz/fusion of the late 1960s and early 1970s and his early work with the likes of saxophonist Jan Garbarek and renowned composer George Russell brought him to the eye of American listeners, through the ECM label with which he has been affiliated since 1970.


Jenny Scheinman
Touching Many Strings


Interviewed by: R.J. DeLuke
Jenny Scheinman, a violinist of eclectic style and taste, has been coming into her own in the music world; the jazz music world, if you will. This young woman, raised in an ultra rural section of California, now imbedded in the Big Apple, is full of music. She's also down to earth, and so are the sounds and ideas that spring from her mind and heart.


John Stetch
Blending Heritage and the Jazz Tradition


Interviewed by: Ken Kase
Canadian pianist John Stetch has been quietly building a catalog of fine compositions and recordings since his 1992 debut, Rectangle Man (Terra Nova, 1992). He's played in a variety of formats as a sideman and as a leader, he's fronted quartets and trios that have produced new interpretations of music from the standard jazz repertoire as well as compositions that reveal a unique and ever-evolving style.


Erik Truffaz
Another Day Another Life


Interviewed by: Ian Patterson
Most musicians would be content with one successful band, but Swiss trumpeter Erik Truffaz is not the typical musician. Not content with leading two internationally acclaimed bands, he also finds time to collaborate with the likes of saxophonists Michael Brecker and Joe Lovano, tablaist/producer Talvin Singh and trumpeter Jon Hassell.


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