It may be cold in the Big Apple but a great deal of steaming Jazz activity is on tap as the concert scene is in full bloom, the club scene is teeming with delicious music and important CD releases are pouring out.
From February 19 to the 21st, Jazz at Lincoln Center will celebrate the music of Jazz Revolutionary Ornette Coleman in performances that feature the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with leader/ trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and guest soloist Dewey Redman. Redman, a high school classmate of Coleman’s, was a frequent collaborator and, after graduating from college, came to New York to begin a four- year recording association that resulted in many significant free Jazz milestones. Perhaps no figure in Jazz history has risked more in order to create a new artistic path than Ornette Coleman. For decades his music lay dormant in vaults of record companies and the innovative vision, which was largely misunderstood by even the most prestigious among Jazz critics when it arrived in the 50’s virtually, disappeared from the Jazz world. Jazz at Lincoln Center has been at the vanguard of a recent revival in Coleman’s music and this month’s concerts should do much to resurrect the wonderful artistic contributions of this Jazz Master. The shows will be presented at Alice Tully Hall.
Legendary pianist/ singer Barbara Carroll has commenced a new Sunday brunch series at the Algonquin which promises to be a special Jazz treat for Gotham dwellers and visitors. Carroll, who, of course, performed on 52nd St. in the halcyon bebop days alongside Charlie Parker, Paul Desmond, Stan Getz and just about every other important bopper has continued on through the years as a must see performer always prominent on the New York scene and appealing to a wide audience with a pop standard menu to accompany her Jazz repertoire. If you drop in to the Algonquin to see her ask her to play/sing the esoteric tunes from a Broadway flop “Nick and Nora”. The music is sensational and no one has been prescient enough to recognize its brilliance. Carroll performs flawlessly and the new setting on Sunday will be a welcome respite from the February freezes. Carroll will appear with stalwart bassist Jay Leonhart. I can’t wait!
This month Blue Note will release a new CD from explosive chanteuse Norah Jones dubbed Feels Like Home. Pianist/composer/educator Geri Allen has recently signed with Telarc and will soon release her first CD in 6 years. A singer new to the recording studios, Warren Bloom has released his premier CD Miracle Morning on the Rock Chain label. Bloom’s high tenor range is a rare find in the CD’s genre and this uniqueness should find a cult for this mellow singer/guitarist.
Perhaps the most singular CD of the new year is a fascinating release from Darius Brubeck for the Heads Up label. Entitled Africa Straight Ahead the CD spotlights the best music and musicians from the South African Jazz Scene. A major departure from the many unsuccessful attempts to establish cause and effect between the continent’s folk and dance activity and the ever changing American Jazz scene, this CD, conversely, shows the enormous influence of American mainstream Jazz on the present day South African scene. Darius Brubeck is a director and professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Natal in Durban South Africa and is in a perfect position as a teacher, pianist/composer and bearer of one of the most famous names in Jazz, to provide a truly accurate picture of what is really going on down there. Africa Straight Ahead joins a litany of other CD’s released by Heads Up that feature prominent contemporary Jazzers; this collection of CD’s is dubbed the “Heads Up African Series”, and critics as well as fans would do well to listen people like Moses Khumalo, Zim Ngqawana, McCoy Mrubata , Bheki Mseleku and Andy Narell. These players are exciting and in the absence of live appearances (which, hopefully, will occur soon) this series is the only way to follow a Jazz scene that has enormous significance for all of us.