As I write this, I am sitting in the Gran Hotel Havana in beautiful Barcelona, Spain. My friend Joan Cararach, Artistic Director of the Barcelona International Jazz Festival, and the festival promoter Tito Ramoneda asked me to join them in a collaboration to cross-promote our festivals. CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival (Aug. 6th-8th) and Voll-Damm Barcelona International Jazz Festival (Nov. 3rd-Dec. 4th) are now sister festivals. By the time you read this, I will have had the opportunity to perform with two of Barcelona's fine musicians, Horacio Fumero on bass and Jordi Rossy on drums, in a celebration of this international ...read more
When Clean Feed first started I never imagined that we would have almost 200 releases after nine years. I guessed that we would put out about two or three records every year and have a hundred CDs released after a lifetime. I think one of the reasons for this thinking was the fact that we were based in Lisbon, a city that doesn't have a scene like New York, Chicago, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm or Oslo. But soon after I realized that this handicap was actually the label's biggest advantage since not having such a strong scene of ...read more
Growing up in an Iraqi-American household in Chicago, I was exposed to many musical influences from an early age: first Louis Armstrong, then Lutheran Hymns, then the Beatles, then Hendrix, then Miles. Arabic music, though constantly playing in the background during family gatherings, did not capture my attention until I was in my mid-teens and my sister Dena started a Middle Eastern music ensemble, called Salaam. I was intrigued by their music, but knowing that it used 'quarter tones,' it seemed impossible for me to approach Arabic music on the trumpet, until I discovered recordings of Egyptian trumpeter Samy El-Bably ...read more
You know that party game where you present people with a forced choice that's actually a litmus test for distinguishing between two kinds of people? Here, let's play--pick one (and only one): Matisse or Picasso? Federer or Nadal? The Daily Show or The Colbert Report? Since I am a jazz composer" by training and self-identification, it seems like I'm always being asked to play this game: improvisation or composition? I am not alone in this--every composer who allows the element of indeterminacy to inflect their music has to grapple with the tension between these two forces. But ...read more
Toward the end of last year, the National Endowment for the Arts published results of its study on Public Participation in the Arts. One finding is that over a six-year period, less than 8% of Americans attended jazz events. So annually, out of some 300 million Americans, less than 2,500,000 attend jazz clubs, concerts and festivals and even those numbers may be dwindling. American popular culture has become primarily commercial, often putting the mind in a passive rather than active mode and while some advances in technology that might serve greater ends are taken up by games ...read more
By Bobby Matos Well-informed historians and critics have stated that they believe jazz is America's only art form or its most important art form. Obviously, to music scholars and experts, most pop music derives from jazz, including R&B, rock, hiphop and other subgenres. One of jazz music's most important styles, however, is often ignored or not acknowledged to be a part of jazz. Latin jazz, originally called AfroCuban jazz, is often perceived as being a foreign entity and is often denigrated. In Ken Burns' documentary Jazz, it is only briefly mentioned. The truth demands a ...read more
Like many other jazz musicians, I am fortunate enough to travel all over the globe and present this wonderful music. While I haven't been playing professionally for an extremely long time--only about 15 years--during those years I have seen quite a bit of change in the world and on the jazz scene. Not that it compares with New York of the '30s, '40s or '50s, but, compared to 2009, think of how much more work there was in the late '80s and early to mid '90s. What about the wonderful jam sessions all over New York run by people that ...read more
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