Young Jazz Stars from Russia and India

In December 2019 the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz held its International Guitar Competition in Washington D.C.   The Institute, named for Thelonious Monk until this past year, has held competitions going back to 1987 honoring young singers and musicians.   This year’s winner was 30-year old Russian phenom Evgeny Pobozhiy.

A few years ago Evgeny recorded this performance of his composition “the Aether”.  Joining him were two fellow Russian jazz artists and Italian bassist Federico Malaman.

In this more recent recording of his composition “Calumet”, Evgeny starts to show off his chops at about 2:00.  Later in the track you’ll hear a sax solo by Brandon Fields, a session man who’s played with dozens of stars from Ray Charles to Stanley Clarke to Earth Wind and Fire.

In this video we add another young jazz powerhouse, 24-year old bassist Mohini Dey from Mumbai   Oh my goodness.   Rolling Stone wrote Mohini up as an artist to watch in 2012 when she was 15.

And check out this amazing duet with the aforementioned Federico Malaman.

Netflix and Cool

My personal style of Netflix binging is working my way through its catalog of music documentaries.  Recently I watched 2019’s “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool”.   It’s an interesting trip through the entire arc of his career, and I highly recommend it.

I’m among those who consider Davis’ 1959 Kind of Blue one of the greatest albums ever (Rolling Stone slots it in at #12, two ticks above Abbey Road).  Its consistent sales over many decades have also made it the best selling jazz album of all time.   In addition to being a defining work for Miles, the group that recorded it included sax players John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, drummer Jimmy Cobb, and bassist Paul Chambers.  Davis and Coltrane were the gray hair in the group at age 33.

Here’s the second track from Kind of Blue, and please listen to the rest of the album when you have some time.

A few weeks after the sessions for Kind of Blue ended in April 1959, John Coltrane began to record his masterpiece Giant Steps, drawing on Cobb, Chambers and Kelly to help out.   While most of the album features the up tempo compositions Coltrane became known for, “Naima” was a dreamy departure that became a jazz standard.

Just after Cannonball Adderley walked out of the Kind of Blue sessions, he began recording Them Dirty Blues, which featured “Jeannine”.

Catching Up With My Favorites

Over the past few years I’ve come across a few artists that have taken places among my favorites.  So this week I’m checking out what’s new with Lake Street Dive, Snarky Puppy and Chris Thile.

In an amazing convergence, Chris Thile performed with Snarky Puppy at a recent live show.  Chris jumps in to play jazz mandolin at about 2:30. You’ll hear Snarky Puppy’s band leader Michael League say, “We got six minutes, Chris Thile you got four-and-a-half!”. Suitable homage from one supremely talented musician to another.

Chris also dropped by the Steven Colbert show where he played his Punch Brothers song “My Oh My” with Jon Batiste & Stay Human. You don’t often get to see Stay Human play a full song, so check out their work including Batiste’s fantastic piano accompaniment. You’ll see why Thile exclaims “This band!”.

Lake Street Dive’s members seem to have taken time over the winter for some side projects.  Listen to Rachel Price tap into her jazz roots with a 1930’s Gershwin Brothers tune, in a duet with Brooklyn-based guitarist/singer Vilray.

And LSD’s base player, song writer, backing singer and all around super talented Bridget Kearney put out her own album “Won’t Let You Down” a couple of weeks ago. Here’s the video from “Wash Up”.

Vibes Master Gary Burton Calls It A Career

A few weeks ago jazz vibes player Gary Burton announced he was staging the final tour of his 50-plus-year career, and this past Friday he played his last show at the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis.  Not many artists have devoted themselves to this unusual instrument, and I wonder if anyone will ever again play it with Burton’s virtuosity.

According to a feature by NPR, the first use of the instrument in a jazz recording was by Lionel Hampton in 1930 on “Memories of You” by Louis Armstrong.  Legend has it that shortly before this recording, jazz drummer Hampton had come across the instrument at NBC studios, where it was sometimes used to play the network’s distinctive 3-tone identifier chime.

Thirty years after Hampton introduced the instrument, a 17-year-old Burton began his career recording with guitar virtuoso Hank Garland.  Here’s a track from that era with Burton right up front.  The drummer on this track is Joe Morello, Dave Brubeck’s longtime collaborator.

Here are some pure shots of Burton from 1966 and 2010.  Jaw dropping.

And here’s a duet with frequent collaborator Makoto Ozone from 1995. Burton chose Ozone to accompany him on his farewell tour. And if you haven’t had enough, here’s a link to a post from a couple of years ago featuring Burton and  another frequent collaborator, Chick Corea.

More Jazz – Esperanza Spalding

Been covering a lot of jazz so far this year, but there’s so much good stuff out there!

Esperanza Spalding won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011, an unusual feat for a a singing, songwriting, bass-playing jazz artist.  She beat out Justin Bieber, Drake, Mumford & Sons, and Florence + The Machine that year – gives you a feel for the impression she made to stand out in that decidedly non-jazz company.

Spalding released her fifth album “Emily’s D+Evolution” on March 4th.  It was co-produced by Tony Visconti who also co-produced David Bowie’s “Blackstar” (see our recent post).  The psychedelic visuals for the album’s first track “Good Lava” go with its progressive rock/jazz vibe, and you know you want to see her in concert after watching the live video for the album’s second track “Unconditional Love”.

While the new album shows off her eclectic side, Spalding’s career features plenty of straight jazz sensibility as well, winning her praise from the likes of Gary Burton, Pat Matheny, and Joe Lovano. Here she is playing live at the White House earlier this year, and a couple of years ago with Herbie Hancock at the Kennedy Center Honors, singing Sting’s “Fragile”