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AAJ's Top 15 Interviews of 2009

AAJ Staff By

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With nearly 150 interviews published in 2009, AAJ continues to provide the most extensive jazz coverage on the web. We also expanded our interview coverage to include, for those surrounding new CD releases: associated Daily Download tracks; accompanying CD reviews; contest giveaways; and more.

As always, AAJ provided coverage of well-known artists like Sonny Rollins, Steve Kuhn, Marian McPartland and Jim Hall, as well as artists deserving of broader recognition like Britain's Portico Quartet and Tim Garland, American trumpeter Ben Neill and guitarist Julian Lage.

While every interview published provided valuable insight into the artist, here are fifteen of the year's best (in alphabetical order):

Gary Burton
Forging Ahead

Interviewed by: R. J. DeLuke
"I got started in Nashville and knew a lot of the country musicians. I got my first record contract from Chet Atkins who saw me playing in a local club in Nashville and who decided to talk to RCA and get them to offer me a long-term contract," says this renowned musician born in a small Indiana town, less than 300 miles from the country music capital of the world."

Exploring New Compositional Frontiers

Interviewed by: John Patten
After forming in 2002, Berlin-based Cyminology has been exploring the rich musical territory bound by the backgrounds of members Cymin Samawatie, pianist Benedikt Jahnel, drummer Ketan Bhatti and bassist Ralf Schwarz. Holding the foursome's unique tapestry of styles together is Samawatie's vocal and compositional work, built around classical Persian poetry, as well as her own writing.

Bill Dixon
In Media Res

Interviewed by: Clifford Allen
Trumpeter and composer Bill Dixon is one of those rare figures in creative music who was both there as it took its initial steps and currently remains at the forefront of contemporary improvisation. In the last two years, he has directed or co-led orchestral configurations and recorded and performed with hand-picked small groups of international renown. The modern brass language and its expansion of vocal sounds into areas hitherto rarely occupied by any instrument certainly are reflected in Dixon's years of solo work and sculpting of sound.

Jon Hassell
Fourth World and Balancing the North and South of You

Interviewed by: John Kelman
He may well be one of the most insidious influences in modern music. Trumpeter, composer and deep thinker Jon Hassell may not have the same name recognition as, say, Miles Davis, but his unmistakable approach to music—he calls it Fourth World music—has affected musicians around the globe, ranging from now friend/co-conspirator Brian Eno, British post-rock crooner David Sylvian and singer/songwriter Tim Elsenburg (aka Sweet Billy Pilgrim), to jazz-centric artists including trumpeters Arve Henriksen, Nils Petter Molvaer and Matthias Eick, as well as guitarist Eivind Aarset, and samplers/producers Jan Bang and Erik Honoré.

Charlie Hunter
Seven-String Samurai

Interviewed by: Douglas Wright
Jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter is not a musician who's comfortable resting on his laurels. With nearly twenty albums under his belt and no sign of stopping in sight, Hunter continues to wow audiences with the wizardry of his seven-string guitar technique, by which he lays down bass grooves and simultaneously wings guitar solos along the frets with flawless finesse. This has earned him a reputation as an intrepid musician and an incredible showman who draws packed crowds into jazz clubs across the U.S. and overseas to see his magic at work. But the razzle dazzle of his unique virtuosity is second fiddle to the music itself. His albums have run the gamut from blues to bebop, free jazz to funk fusion, with Hunter constantly experimenting with new sounds and rhythmic arcs, all the while perfecting that pocket counterpoint between the guitar and bass.

Gary Husband
There were these three Yorkshiremen...

Interviewed by: Ian Patterson
Gary Husband has long cemented his reputation as one of fusion's premier drummers—hell, even Billy Cobham thought two was better than one and hired him as a second drummer. Husband's flexibility has seen him drum in the NDR Big Band, with jazz-funk outfit Level 42, and in a trio format with guitarist Robin Trower and bassist Jack Bruce.

Vic Juris
Tension and Release

Interviewed by: Victor L. Schermer
Vic Juris is one of the premier jazz guitarists in the business today. Perhaps less known than some of his peers, he is nevertheless admired by all of them and has accumulated, since his emergence on the scene in the 1970s, an impressive portfolio of live performances and recordings. His international career has included associations with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Phil Woods, Jimmy Smith, Don Patterson, Sarah Vaughan, Michel Legrand, Chico Hamilton, Dave Liebman, Gary Peacock, Richie Cole, Mel Torme, Eddie Jefferson, and the prodigal exemplar of the Django Reinhardt tradition, Bireli Lagrene. High on his list of creative gigs has been his association with the highly accomplished David Liebman Group since 1991.

Jonathan Kreisberg

Interviewed by: Matthew Warnock
In a day and age when it seems that jazz, and jazz guitar, has been through just about every transition, amalgamation and innovation possible, there are still new voices emerging to take the music forward into unexplored and exciting territory. One of the guitarists that is leading this charge is New York-based picker Jonathan Kreisberg. With a strong foundation in the jazz tradition, and a personal vision of the genre's future, Kreisberg is winning over crowds and critics alike with his albums and concerts held around the world.

John Law
Deeper Into the Music

Interviewed by: Jakob Baekgaard
Classical music and jazz are often perceived as two radically different art forms that cannot be merged. The truth, however, is that the worlds of jazz and classical music still remain fairly separated, but there is a handful of artists, especially pianists, who have been able to navigate between the two worlds while still working distinctively within the idiom of jazz. These artists include pianists Brad Mehldau, Tord Gustavsen, Enrico Pieranunzi and Keith Jarrett. Add to this list the name John Law.

Barney McAll
Dynamic Pianist And Composer

Interviewed by: Simon J. Harper
Composer and pianist Barney McAll is a leading light of the new Brooklyn—the New York borough that is the fount of much that is new in jazz. The spectrum of McAll's music is wide, ranging from mood-setting jazz ensemble recordings to electronica. But it all comes down to the notes, and their relation to each other. As McAll says about growing up with and learning music, "If you have a piano in the house that's a start." Organic music is both the source and the destination.

Christian McBride
Getting the Inside Straight

Interviewed by: Esther Berlenga-Ryan
If we think about it for a little while, it's possible to believe that there is something almost mystic and undeniably powerful about jazz. The way it developed through the years and its constant ignition-like energy; the creativity of those who lead the way and those who continue the journey today; the improvisation that takes over souls and willingly delivers its magic for an amazed world to listen. That is when Christian McBride comes in handy. His versatility has been praised and admired for years, making it seem as though the 37-year-old bassist extraordinaire should be in his late seventies by now.

John Patitucci
Celebrating Jazz Heroes

Interviewed by: R.J. DeLuke
As sayings go, "One man's trash is another man's treasure" is pretty straightforward, especially for those enamored with garage sales. For lovers of jazz music, it may hold a bit more significance, for it played a fateful role in the life of one of today's superlative artists in the genre. John Patitucci is one of the finest bass players in jazz. A mainstay of the Wayne Shorter quartet for years, he's also blessed the world of music by augmenting the art of folks like Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, B.B. King, Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker, George Benson, Dizzy Gillespie, Natalie Cole, Queen Latifah, Sting, Carly Simon, Joshua Redman, Freddie Hubbard, Tony Williams, Mulgrew Miller, and many more.

Keith Rowe
One Bird Flying Through

Interviewed by: John Eyles
In early June 2009, multi-instrumentalist Keith Rowe made one of his rare visits to London to play a concert at Cafe Oto as part of Another Timbre's Unnamed Music Festival in a trio with saxophonists Martin Kuchen and Seymour Wright, before heading north to Leeds to play another set the following evening with the same trio. Having been in the audience for the first night of the festival—and seeing fine sets by Sebastian Lexer and Aleks Kowalski, Rhodri Davies, Lee Patterson, Louisa Martin and Lucio Capece, and by Tom Chant, Angharad Davies, Benedict Drew and John Edwards—on the second night, hours before he was due to perform, Rowe agreed to give an interview to All About Jazz.

Kermit Ruffins
Swingin' and Smilin'

Interviewed by: Tod Smith
There's a rebirth occurring in New Orleans music, and trumpeter/vocalist Kermit Ruffins finds himself front and center. While the post-Katrina recovery has meant many things for the Crescent City, in a number of ways it's been musicians who have taken the lead in bringing the city back to its traditions. Prior to the storm, many musicians and fans of the traditional New Orleans sound spoke despairingly about the musical future for the city that many considered to be the place where jazz got its start. Musicians found it increasingly difficult to sustain a career in their chosen field, and many abandoned their beloved home for apparently better opportunities.

Theo Travis
From Prog to Jazz and Back Again

Interviewed by: Bruce Lindsay
British musician Theo Travis has one of the most varied performing and recording histories to be found among contemporary jazz musicians. A talented saxophonist, flautist and composer, Travis has performed solo, in duos and quartets, in straight ahead jazz combos and in electronic, improvisational groups.

In addition to the above interviews, special mention goes to two articles written by veteran AAJ contributor R.J. DeLuke, collecting interviews with a wide variety of artists into subject-specific pieces:

  1. 1959: The Year Classic Albums Were Born: Discussions with Bob Blumenthal, Gary Burton, Herbie Hancock and others about the year that saw either the recording or release of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (Columbia/Legacy, 1959) and Sketches of Spain (Columbia/Legacy, 1960), Charles Mingus' Mingus Ah Um (Columbia/Legacy, 1959) and Dave Brubeck's Time Out (Columbia/Legacy, 1959).

  2. Large Ensembles: Is There a Place in This Large Music World?: In conversation with Dave Rivello, Jacam Manricks, J.C. Sanford, David Shumacher, Chris Jentsch and Nicholas Urie, R.J. examines the reemergence of the large ensemble in jazz.


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