Dedicated to You – Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman – 2010 GRAMMY Awards/Best Jazz Vocal Album

Greetings Readers…

Over the weekend, I got a chance (while putting together the last podcast) to listen to another one of the nominees for Best Jazz Vocal, Mr. Kurt Elling. I listened not only to the release for which he has been nominated, but some of his earlier material as well. What attracted me to this artist was first, his style. If you can follow me on this, his delivery is articulate, knowledgeable, smooth and confident. Note that I’ve spoke nothing about his vocal talent thus far but those few things aforementioned draw a direct correlation to his smooth vocal delivery as well. His delivery brings to mind a certain air of sophistication, the type of sophistication that is part of jazz. If I were to compare his vocal delivery to a jazz instrument, I’d say saxophone comes to mind. Couple that with the elegance the selections on this nominated CD, I’d say it makes for a winning combination. I definitely have been enjoying the renditions he’s done in tribute to Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane. I’d recommend it to any jazz lover’s collection.

Here’s the electronic press kit (EPK) for Kurt Elling’s new Concord Jazz album “Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman. The CD was released on June 23rd, 2009.

Kurt Elling Online
Official Website

Julian Lage – Soundpoint/Nominee for Best Contemporary Jazz Album – 52nd Annual Grammy Awards

Greetings readers. A somewhat frigid night here in the DC Metro area. I hope those in similar weather conditions are keeping warm.

The other day I perused this category and took a listen to Julian Lage. I had never heard of this nominee until this the nominees list came out, and was pleasantly surprised to find him as a guitarist. Being a child prodigy, musically, is nothing new at all, but being prodigious in a number of different genres and combining them into one style is no so commonplace. Receiving accolades from various music luminaries at such a young age is also uncommon. Being a guitarist, I’m naturally biased to him as a nominee (this goes for Mike Stern as well). What I found myself thinking about his style of music was…it didn’t quite match what I thought a contemporary jazz album should sound like. Lage’s style, to me, has somewhat heavy folk influences across the board and my experience with contemporary jazz, listening to it for 30+ years, doesn’t quite jive what that (I lend the same mindset to Mike Stern’s “Big Neighborhood” with the rock influences, as well). As I listened to the tracks from his most excellent release, Soundpoint, I became increasingly impressed by each song, particularly his rendition of Miles Davis’ “All Blues”. Equally impressive is the height of musical stature that he’s grown into, by not only releasing a Grammy nominated album, but already (by age 21) being a sideman to jazz great Gary Burton. Here’s Julian discussing Soundpoint, released on Emarcy Records:

To me, Soundpoint is a collection of very well done, intricate arrangements and performances that encompasses the mastery of his instrument. I find it interesting that the selections themselves find themselves in this category, but I enjoy them nonetheless. I wonder if he will, in the future, perform his arrangements with a larger electric ensemble or continue bring his compositions in a group such as this. In any event, it will be a welcome addition to my collection

Julian Lage Online

Official Website
All About Jazz


Stefon Harris and Blackout/Urbanus – Nominee for Best Contemporary Jazz Album – 52nd Annual Grammy Awards

Good evening readers. It’s Friday night, a little after 10pm and I’m finally settled down in the studio after a LONG work week. Hope this blog post finds you well. Stefon Harris and Blackout is a group of young, very talented jazz musicians that have been nominated in Category 44 – Best Contemporary Jazz Album, for their release, Urbanus. As I listen to the CD in the background, I think of the category they’re nominated for, and the category keyword that remains most descriptive is the adjective contemporary. Take a listen to Stefon discuss the essence of Urbanus, the second CD as the group, Blackout

Stefon Harris, is what is known in the jazz genre as a “young lion”, due to, of course, his age in comparison to the age of legendary jazz musicians who have achieved what he is doing, but at a later age. I first discovered Stefon by his second CD, Black Action Figure, which was released in 1999 on Blue Note Records. I’ve always liked the vibes (Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson, etc), and to hear a fresh new, and young vibraphonist on the scene was akin to cool water and I’ve been a fan ever since. Fast forward to the more recent recordings from the group, Blackout, He is associated with the subgenres hard bop, post bop and progressive jazz, but infuses comtemporary stylings into his music. He’s quoted in the December 2009 issue of Ebony Magazine as saying “There is a misunderstanding of what jazz is…jazz is incredibly pliable..our music is about the here and now; it is not about the past. People think we’re mixing jazz and hip-hop, but I think that this is what jazz is now. My music is indicative of my generation… and old school artists and fans should embrace all jazz forms”.

I, especially as a musician, agree full circle with that. I’m definitely liking this release, and see Stefon Harris as being on of the primary vibraphonists on the jazz scene for years to come.

Stefon Harris & Blackout

Stefon Harris – Vibes/Composer
Marc Cary – Keys
Ben Williams – Bass
Terreon Gully – Drums
Casey Benjamin – Alto sax

On the web:
Official Website
Facebook Fan Page
Ben Williams (bassist) – Twitter
Stefon Harris discusses Blackout
NPR Favorite Sessions: Stefon Harris and Blackout at WBGO-FM

“Just a little bit of Jazz” – The 52nd Annual Grammy Awards

Greetings readers….

I trust this post finds you well AND in good spirits. Here we are approaching the end of another year…December 2009. While we are close to that end, it’s conversely just the beginning (again) for the annual Grammy Awards…The 2010 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, to be exact. I was chosen to provide the official podcast for the nominees in the Jazz category last year and I am extremely honored to be picked by The GRAMMYs to be the official community blogger for this year’s award category of Jazz. Honored in that this genre represents the indigenous music of America…born and raised here. Even so much so, that the drumset, an instrument so foundational to the genre, was originated in the US.

Jazz, in itself, has taken an evolutionary journey. While the foundations of classical jazz, hard bop, bebop, ragtime, etc are very much alive, there have been many sub genres culminating from the formation of what I like to call jazz hybrids…neo-jazz, nu-jazz, hip-hop jazz, acid jazz, jazz fusion etc. While we do and will always have jazz purists, the evolution of this great musical art form remains to breath life into generation after generation of music lover.

Tomorrow, December 2 at 9pm ET/PT, The GRAMMYs Nominations Concert LIVE! will air on CBS. Hosted by LL Cool J, the show will have a host of phenomenal performances, along with the category nominee announcements. I can’t think of a better kickoff to the greatest and most respected music awards show ever.

This year, The GRAMMYs have fully embraced and leveraged social media to the greatest possible extent, Facebook and Twitter, being among the two major entities. This, I am sure, is just the beginning of what’s store.
Picture 1

The GRAMMYs theme this year is “We’re All Fans” , a mindset and mantra, if you will, that says EVERYONE, from the professional agency columnist to the everyday listener, is a fan of the universal language of music. The GRAMMYs blogger community Twitter link is where you’ll be able to catch not only my thoughts on the jazz nominees but other chosen community bloggers that were given the opportunity to share their thoughts on the nominees they are covering up until the award ceremony itself Sunday, January 31, 2010.

There are some exciting things in store between now and then, so let’s get ready for the ride. Again, I express my sincere thanks to The GRAMMYs for choosing me to represent the bloggers worldwide to represent and cover the nominees in the category of jazz, You know I’ll be keepin’ it jazzy from “hear” on out!

The GRAMMYs Official Twitter Link
The GRAMMYs Facebook Fan Page

Let’s go!


The Sunday Soundtrack – Jazzin’ It – The 51st Annual Grammy Awards

Welcome all, to this special edition of The Sunday Soundtrack. I’ve been graciously asked by The Grammys to do a special podcast featuring the jazz nominees. This Grammy podcast mini-collective also includes three other podcasters in our massive – Fave of The Friday Favecast, who will feature the R&B/Soul nominees, Todd Kelley of Flowink, who will feature the Hip-Hop nominees, and Macedonia of BSOTS (Both Sides Of The Surface), who’ll be producing a “Grammy-on-shuffle” podcast of various category nominees.

I think I can speak for all us in extending thanks to The Grammys for bestowing upon us such and honor as this It’s definitely with great pleasure that I bring to you my picks in each Jazz nominees category. I think you’ll like the colors on this musical palette.

My picks, in Categories 45 – 49, comprise the following playlist-on-shuffle:

  • Lazaro – Yellowjackets/Lifecycle (feat. Mike Stern) Best Contemporary Jazz Album
  • Gone With the Wind – Cassandra Wilson/Loverly Best Jazz Vocal Album
  • Son of Thirteen – Pat Metheny/Day Trip Best Jazz Instrumental Solo
  • I Love You Porgy – Chick Corea & Gary Burton/The New Crystal Silence Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group
  • Sub-Conscious Lee – Bill Frisell/History, Mystery Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group
  • Awful Coffee – Carla Bley and Her Remarkable Big Band/Appearing Nightly Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
  • Mean What You Say – The Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra/Monday Night Live At the Village Vanguard Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
  • Maharina – John McLaughlin/Floating Point Best Contemporary Jazz Album
  • All Blues – Miles from India Best Contemporary Jazz Album
  • So Romantic – Stacey Kent/Breakfast On the Morning Tram Best Jazz Vocal Album
  • On Feb 3rd, my podcast will be featured by The Grammys during their Salute To Jazz.

    Special thanks to The Grammys for selecting me to feature the Jazz nominees via The Sunday Soundtrack. Thanks to all for checking out the podcast. Definitely tune into The Grammys next Sunday, Feb 8th, and most definitely check out my fellow podcasters doin’ it big, representing The 2009 Grammy Awards, podcast style.

    Lastly, if you’re on Twitter, we’re all there too:
    Fave/The Friday Favecast
    Todd Kelley/Flowink
    The Grammys
    The Sunday Soundtrack

    Be sure to check out all the other podcasters in my blogroll!