I know I know. Spending a week listening to jazz in New York isn’t what most people reading this would consider ‘work’. But my purpose for posting isn’t merely to boast but to add some personal insights that might not have made it into the 400th edition of Jazz on 3 which transmits on Friday 22nd December 2006.
The stated aim of the programme was to take a health check on the city’s current jazz scene and to ask whether it’s still the jazz capital of the world. Well to break the suspense – and just in case there was any serious doubt - the answer to the second part of the question is, in my opinion, a definite yes: with 150 venues and probably the largest concentration of first rate players living in one vicinity it would be hard for any other locality to test.
However (don’t worry there’s more to the programme than that), it’s fair to say not all is entirely well in NYC jazz. Unprecedented rents are making it harder and harder for musicians and venues to get by in Manhattan and if you’re not one of the dozen or so artists guaranteed to sell out esteemed venues such as the Village Vanguard or the Blue Note, getting paid work is more difficult than ever. Furthermore the ailing cd retail industry has recently claimed one of the city’s best loved jazz outlets – Tower Records. For in depth interviews on these topics, plus exclusive recordings of Reggie Workman, Joe Lovano, Bob Belden’s Animation and Assif Tsahar’s Digital Primitives I’d suggest listening to the programme tonight, available on Listen Again until December 27th.
Needless to say, for anyone with an interest in this music (and the means to get there) I’d definitely recommend a trip. Every day of the week there’s a vast range of live jazz being performed in all sorts of venues around the city. I’ve posted some links to specific venues at the base of this text but a general tip is to get out of the city centre and into the suburbs. In particular - head over to Brooklyn where local musicians such as Tim Berne, Jason Lindner and Jim Black together with daring promoters at places like Barbes, Sista’s Place and The Tea Lounge are behind what the New York Times is calling the Brooklyn Jazz Renaissance.
For some photographs from our trip visit:
And for some eyewitness accounts accompanied by my own amateurish movie footage, read on…
Cooper Moore is undoubtedly one of the city’s best kept secrets. Former sideman with the likes of David S Ware and William Parker, his uniqueness is such that, by his own reckoning, he doesn’t even fit into New York’s relatively open-minded downtown avant-garde scene. Why? Well for a start he makes his own instruments: the diddley bow, the twanger and the bango are just a few of the oddly shaped string instruments which protruded from his shopping trolley when he arrived at the Tea Lounge on December 6th. His unique and uncompromising approach has kept him largely undocumented up until the last few years and his association with Israeli-born saxophonist Assif Tsahar, who has recorded Cooper Moore in various guises for his label hopscotchrecords.com. Here he is on diddley bow at the Tea Lounge:
While WKCR’s Phil Schaap has a dedicated core of fans within the city, beyond the station’s broadcast range only a few hardcore online listeners appreciate his singular and scholarly approach to the music. Every weekday morning for the last 36 years he’s presented a radio show focussed on the music of Charlie Parker. His biographical and discographical knowledge is astounding and he delivers his trademark 20 minute links without notes - making Jez’s eyes water in the process. The most remarkable moment however occurred when a listener called in to enquire the source of a particularly high quality pressing of a rare Jay Mcshann side. After explaining he’d mastered it himself, Phil proceeded to sing along to Bird’s solo. When the listener had rung off, we asked Phil to repeat the moment:
Another dedicated historian, this time concerning the music of Miles Davis, is producer, arranger and saxophonist Bob Belden. He helped produce those beautiful “Complete recordings of …” box sets. And when we were in town he happened to be performing the whole of “Bitches Brew” in sequence with his band Animation. You’ll be able to hear that set in full on Jazz on 3 in March 2007:
I just found this and it’s quite good. Joe Lovano talking about his Streams of Expression suite.
Here are some recommended venues. It isn’t an exhaustive list – just a few of the better ones I was able to visit whilst in town.
And look out for Reggie Workman's month long new music festival coming up in February 2007
I hope some of this is of interest
Producer, Jazz on 3
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