Pat Metheny Introduces What’s It All About

Available June 14.

Love for Japan: A Charity Project founded by Bluey (Incognito)

New Grammy Category Reorganization Eliminates Contemporary Jazz

Grammy AwardIt’s going to be a lot tougher for modern jazz instrumentalists to get recognition starting next year. The number of categories to be recognized at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2012 will drop from 109 to 78. You can check out the Recording Academy’s press release for the reasons but here’s what is of interest to contemporary jazz fans.

There is no longer a Best Contemporary Jazz Album or a Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual Or Group category. The Jazz field drops to four awards: Best Improvised Jazz Solo, Best Jazz Vocal Album, Best Jazz Instrumental Album, and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. On one side, I like that there doesn’t have to be an adjective to separate contemporary jazz from other jazz. It’s part of the big jazz family. On the other hand, it’s going to be tougher to compete with every type of jazz.

The Pop field also sees a category eliminated that contemporary jazz artists were frequently nominated in: Best Pop Instrumental Performance. Spyro Gyra and George Benson are artists that immediately come to mind that were nominated in that category in the last few years. Best Pop Instrumental Album remains so there is a chance there. Bela Fleck and Fourplay have been nominees in the category.

In another blow to instrumentals, the Best Rock Instrumental Performance has also been eliminated. I remember Pat Metheny winning that years ago for “The Roots of Coincidence” but don’t recall any other jazz artists being in contention since.

What are your thoughts on these changes? Add a comment!

Top Names Assemble for Jazz for Japan Benefit Recording

Jazz for Japan benefit recordingJazz For Japan is a benefit album recorded in two days by 25 of the top jazz musicians in the world benefiting the earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. The recordings took place last week in Los Angeles at Capitol Studios in Hollywood. Legendary and Grammy nominated performers include: Kenny G, Christian McBride, Marcus Miller, George Duke, Rickey Minor, Tom Scott, Billy Childs, Boney James, Lee Ritenour, Keiko Matsui, Bob James, and many others.

Larry Robinson, Jazz For Japan producer states; “This project came about after discussing the tragic aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan with my co-workers. I told them that many of the American jazz musicians tour Japan numerous times a year. It was at that moment the seeds of Jazz For Japan were born. Within five days we called all our jazz friends and put together this truly amazing line up of musicians to record at Hollywood’s famous Capitol Recording Studio who all donated their time.”

The album features jazz standards including “Maiden Voyage,” “Body & Soul,” “Watermelon Man,” “So What,” “Sophisticated Lady,” etc. along with a DVD release including interviews with the artists stating their support and sympathy for the Japanese people. “You, the Japanese people inspire us with your resilience. We are trying to send our strength with what we have – and that’s music,” states Steve Gadd (drummer, performing on “Maiden Voyage”, and “So What”).

Jazz For Japan is being produced by Avatar Records and is available now worldwide via iTunes with profits benefiting the International Red Cross in Japan.

Roy Ayers Project Documentary

The Roy Ayers Project is first and foremost a documentary, produced by digital media professionals, telling the life, music, and philosophy of the great Roy Ayers. It is also art, talented artists who use their gifts to express themselves through canvas, murals, and other mediums capturing the spirit of Roy Ayers. It is also performance, bringing together Roy Ayers himself with talented musicians to perform live at venues across the country. The Roy Ayers Project is about sharing the essence and legacy of one of the greatest musicians ever to live. This trailer is the first installment of the documentary, which features the legendary drummer from The Roots, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson.

Keep track of this must-see project on Twitter, Facebook, and on the Web.

Today’s Jazz Stars Interpret Disney Classics

Ever imagine The Bad Plus doing music from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast? How about Joshua Redman doing a cover of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story? Those notable artists are among the dozen contributing to the forthcoming compilation Disney Jazz Volume 1: Everybody Wants to Be a Cat.

The title of the album comes from the song “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat,” from The Aristocats, which is given an upbeat, grooving treatment by Roy Hargrove’s quintet. You’ll also hear Disney classic songs like “The Bare Necessities” and “It’s a Small World After All” performed by a diverse lineup. “I wanted to get a group of people together who would represent the many styles of jazz,” says producer Jason Olaine, who also called Dave Brubeck, Esperanza Spalding, Regina Carter, and Nikki Yanofsky for the recording.

Writing in the album liner notes, Ashley Kahn praises the top-drawer prowess of the performers: “It’s exceedingly rare that one finds this range of talent on one jazz album. If one desired an accurate measure of today’s scene in all its flavors and formats, here it is on one disc.”

I’m looking forward to hearing this. Disney Jazz Volume 1: Everybody Wants to Be a Cat is in stores February 15.

Herbie Hancock Quote from 1983

I’ve been researching contemporary jazz in the 80s and 90s and came across this great 1983 quote from Herbie Hancock:

I don’t mind being classified as a jazz artist, but I do mind being restricted to being a jazz artist. My foundation has been in jazz, though I didn’t really start out that way. I started in classical music, but my formative years were in jazz, and it makes a great foundation.

Torcuato Mariano Debut (1994)

From 1993-1994, I produced a newsletter to promote the late night “new music program” for KBIA-FM. Following is an article I wrote for one of the newsletters:

Paradise Station, the debut recording from Torcuato MarianoRarely do debut solo albums come to the station as solid as Torcuato Mariano’s Paradise Station (Windham Hill). From the start, it’s evident that the guitarist knows how he wants his music to sound. The CD features Mariano demonstrating his ability on guitars and other instruments on his own world-influenced compositions.

Born in Buenos Aires, Mariano ended up in Brazil during his adolescence. He started playing nightclubs in 1980, working with artists such as Johnny Alt, one of the most renowned Bossa Nova players in Brazil. He played in bands with the country’s more notable players, Djavan, Ivan Lins, and Leo Gandelman. These influences, plus those of Pat Metheny and Jeff Beck, have helped Mariano develop a personal style that comes across in a big way.

Mariano knows how to write and arrange a memorable song. The uptempo tracks, “A Train to Uberaba” and “2350″ are only two of the twelve examples presented on this release. His playing is equally good and he has a strong group of worldly musicians to back him up. It’s the influence of both Mariano’s background and these musicians that really makes Paradise Station stand out. It’s still early to say, but so far Torcuato Mariano has got the nod for debut of the year.

Get the Paradise Station CD from Amazon.com!

ContemporaryJazz.com Store Launches

ContemporaryJazz.com StoreThe ContemporaryJazz.com Store will feature a number of different categories, from new releases to best of lists. It’s just starting out and there are two departments to shop from so far – new releases and the 1988 store. Items are purchased from Amazon.com, which this site is a member of its affiliate program.

The new releases has six recordings that came out this week. More will be added.

The other department is 1988. This is the first of the yearly departments I’ll be adding as I develop content for 1989 contemporary jazz recordings and beyond. The 1988 department has the best-selling contemporary jazz recordings for that year – including music from the David Sanborn, Tuck & Patti, George Howard, Steve Kindler, Spyro Gyra, Najee, and more! Stop in there and see which recordings you remember!

Site Update

I apologize for the lack of new content for the last few months. In March, I pretty much dropped off the modern jazz map. I stopped updating the site, let ContemporaryJazz.com Radio go, and tweeted less frequently. I haven’t abandoned the site but there will be some changes in the future. I have plans for ContemporaryJazz.com. I’m not sure when these will happen but I hope you’ll continue to check in from time to time, follow me on Twitter, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

I’ll give you my idea of the direction of the site. It will be focused on when the music was labeled as contemporary jazz and not smooth jazz. I have so many press releases, magazines, and other materials from the time I started listening to the music. I want to revisit the time when everything was exciting to me.

Stay tuned!