2010: The Year in Jazz
The jazz scene in 2010 was marked by a bit of cultural thaw between the U.S. and Cuba, royal honors for Marian McPartland that led honors galore for living jazz musicians, and significant acknowledgments for late jazz greats across North America. Efforts continued to expand jazz into new realmsor to hold on during the aftershocks of the Great Recession that began two years ago.
On the performance front, nothing could top Sonny Rollins's 80th birthday event at New York's Beacon Theater on September 10. Rollins' regular band was augmented that evening by trumpeter Roy Hargrove, drummer Roy Haynes, bassist Christian McBride, guitarist Jim Hall and saxophonist Ornette Coleman. It was the first public performance together by Rollins and Coleman, the altoist beating the tenor saxophonist to octagenarian status by six months.
Pat Metheny drew attention throughout the year in Europe, North America and Asia with his Orchestrion tour, which featured the guitarist "solo," playing a stage full of instruments triggered either by pneumatics or electronic solenoids controlled by a MIDI system. Metheny keyed it all with foot pedals, guitar knobs and a small electronic touchpad. In a Boston stop, Metheny described the project as "my brain at nine years-old, taken to the 21st century."
Here's a look at other significant things that took place in 2010:
Mark 2010 as the first full year since 2003 that the United States gave visas to Cuban jazz artists. And there were some significant interchanges taking place in both countries due to this thaw in the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. Things started easing in the fall of 2009 when Cuban singer Omara Portuondo became one of the first Cuban artists to receive a U.S. visa under new Obama administration rules, enabling her to collect a Latin Grammy in Las Vegas and to be a presenter on the show.
In October 2010, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra traveled to Havana for a six-day residency that involved both concerts and clinics for young Cuban musicians. The visit, led by trumpeter and artistic director Wynton Marsalis, took place under the auspices of the Cuban Institute of Music.
Then, pianist Chucho Valdés and his Afro-Cuban Messengers made a 12-city U.S. tour that included two nights at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Room in Manhattan and hop-scotched around the Northeast and West Coast. Valdés also performed solo at New York's Village Vanguard before taking his band tour to Europe.
In December, pianist and bandleader Arturo O'Farrill traveled to Cuba with the orchestra of his late father, Cuban composer and arranger Chico O'Farrill, for another emotional cultural and educational exchange. The Chico O'Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra headlined the 26th edition of the Havana International Plaza Jazz Festival, sponsored by the Cuban Institute of Music and the National Center of Popular Music.
Savoring 1930s recording treasures
Without a doubt, it is a treasure trove that will keep historians, critics and hardcore listeners busy for quite a while. The National Jazz Museum in Harlem this year acquired nearly 1,000 discs made in the late 1930sat the height of the Swing Eraby audio engineer William Savory. It is classic material, including Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman. Billie Holiday, Fats Waller and many others. The discs include extended live performances recorded from radio broadcasts. The museum plans to make as much as possible of the Savory collection publicly available at its space in Harlem and eventually online. Copyright issues could complicate and slow the process. Recording engineer Doug Pomeroy is transferring the surviving 975 discs to digital.
Honors and Awards Galore
Marian McPartland, O.B.E.: Pianist and National Public Radio host Marian McPartland was awarded the prestigious "Officer of the Order of the British Empire" by Queen Elizabeth II. She was honored on January 1, 2010 for services to jazz and for aspiring young musicians in the United States. U.K. native McPartland's Piano Jazz is in its 31st year and is NPR's longest-running and most widely carried jazz program.
Blues Trail: Singer Cassandra Wilson was honored with a Mississippi Blues Trail marker in her hometown of Jackson. The dedication ceremony took place in the auditorium of Brinkley Middle School where Wilson got her start in music.