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The Shape of Sound

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Jazz is much more than elegant dinner music. To the open-minded, improvisation can provide a means of transportation to unpredictable new domains of the mind and spirit. Since the very early days, jazz has also been an ally of other art forms, including dance, poetry, and visual art. In the balance, the superimposition of styles provokes as much inspiration as response. The arc of melody, the color of timbre, the texture of harmony, and the flash of motion are all interconnected in intuitive ways.

We've documented the visual aspect of jazz performance at All About Jazz for some time, but this month we're proud to launch a brand new Visual Arts Center which has several advantages over its predecessors. It's easy to navigate, fully searchable, and stocked with a collection of over 2300 images. More are being added on a daily basis (including a stunning 800 in the last week alone).

In addition to photos of the classic masters, the Visual Arts Center offers hundreds of shots of younger players and international stars, paintings, and explorations of alternative media. The names of participating artists are shown clearly for easy access, galleries can be scanned several thumbnail images at a time, and any image can be expanded to full size by a simple click. Try out the search engine, too: entering "Miles" will return not only several images of the Dark Prince in action, but also Colorado's own Ron Miles and various participants in Miles Davis tribute celebrations.

With the onset of 2005, we spent some time looking back at top events from the last year , including new recordings, reissues, box sets, books, DVDs, downloads, clubs, labels, and more. Michael Ricci whittled down his massive pile of weekly Publisher's Picks to just 18 final selections ; over a hundred contributors also cast their votes, resulting in a consensus list which balances a number of predictable winners with some unexpected surprises. The number one pick: Don Byron's Ivey-Divey . Finally, individual contributors including C. Michael Bailey , Doug Collette , John Eyles , Ken Franckling , C. Andrew Hovan , Nils Jacobson , Dan McClenaghan , and Mark Sabbatini also weighed in on their own personal highlights from the year just past.

The beginning of the year also marks the massive annual conference of the International Association for Jazz Education ( IAJE ), held this January in Long Beach. A number of AAJ contributors were there in full effect. Craig Jolley and Forrest Dylan Bryant both report back on happenings at the event, which involved thousands of jazz lovers of all stripes. AAJ columnist Bret Primack led a discussion about downloads, and he devotes his latest column to the The Future of Jazz , which, not surprising, overlaps the digital realm. Not too far away in inspiration, Chris Burnett devotes his own column to The Internet and the Jazz Artist.

Our regular features continue this month with hundreds of other reviews and articles , including a heap of book reviews . One highlight is Larry Kart's thought-provoking collection Jazz in Search of Itself, reviewed by E.J. Iannelli . Round About New Orleans columnist Tod Smith sits down with Dan Storper, head of Putumayo World Music, to talk about the road that led to Putumayo's recognizable global sound and the label's most recent pair of records focusing on the sounds of the Crescent City.

Those are this month's highlights at All About Jazz. Before you dip into the words on the music, we recommend you warm up by perusing the galleries in our brand new Visual Arts Center . The shape of jazz is very human, rarely predictable, and quite often revealing about the sounds it reflects.


Image credits:
Miles Davis by Alessandro Curadi
New Orleans Jazz Fest 2004 by Ellen Rosenberg


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