As a society, we are obsessed with the notion of "Best". Of course, others' opinions are like deer; we all try not to hit them when we are driving on the highway. But there is something to acknowledging hard work and the winter months often make one nostalgic. To that end, this first issue of 2015 includes our perennially popular feature: the "Best of the Year" in jazz. Peruse our center spread for TNYCJR's top picks in an array of categories, plus 100 honorable mentions (scroll down for the PDF link to the top five original album cover art entries). On a sadder note, we also include a list of all those lost from the jazz world in 2014 (pg. 12).
But we linger only briefly on what has passed in lieu of what is new before us. January brings an always-welcome appearance of the ICP Orchestra (On The Cover) as part of the Winter Jazzfest; two nights apiece by bassist Omer Avital (Interview) at Jazz Standard in support of his new Motéma Music release and big band leader Ed Palermo (Artist Feature) at Iridium;
a rare stateside appearance by French pianist René Urtreger (Encore) at Dizzy's Club; and a tribute to the late Michael Brecker (Lest We Forget) at The Appel Room.
Best friends, best bets, best buys. We're doing our best and that's all anyone can do...
On the Cover: ICP ORCHESTRA
By Clifford Allen; photos by Peter Gannushkin
January 1, 2015 will mark the 48th anniversary of Dutch improvised music collective Instant Composers Pool (ICP). It's quite difficult to imagine playing partnerships lasting ten years, let alone just under 50. Granted, with recent health developments keeping longtime pianist Misha Mengelberg from playing, the sole remaining constant from the beginning is drummer Han Bennink. ICP was founded in 1967 by Bennink, Mengelberg and reedplayer Willem Breuker to present recordings and concerts under the umbrella of collective, creative improvisation that was as free to bring in Monk, Ellington and Herbie Nichols as it was avant garde performance and rugged group interplay. ICP Orchestra is at Le Poisson Rouge and members take part in Round Robin Duets at Judson Church, both Jan. 9th as part of Winter Jazzfest.
Interview: OMER AVITAL
By Brian Charette; photo by Roberto Cifarelli
Bassist Omer Avital was one of the first young jazz phenoms to come to NYC from Israel in the jazz renaissance of the early '90s. He quickly became a central figure at then-very-new NYC jazz club Smalls, where he led a popular sextet for many years. He has worked with numerous jazz luminaries, including Wynton Marsalis, Brad Mehldau and Joshua Redman. Avital is at Jazz Standard Jan. 13th-14th.
Artist Feature: ED PALERMO
By Ken Dryden; photo by Bert Saraco
Mention Ed Palermo and the first thing that comes to mind is the music of Frank Zappa. Already a working jazz professional during college in the mid '70s, Palermo recorded or performed with a number of stars, including Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Tony Bennett and Mel Tormé, besides leading his own groups. But his career began to soar soon after Zappa's death in December 1993, when he started arranging and playing the music of Zappa for his big band. Palermo's big band with guests Napoleon Murphy Brock and Rob Paparozzi is at Iridium Jan. 17th-18th.
Encore: RENÉ URTREGER
By Ken Waxman
Nearly 60 years on, French piano jazz master René Urtreger is probably still best-known internationally as part of the Miles Davis quintet that recorded the universally praised soundtrack and subsequent LP of Louis Malle's film Ascenseur pour l'échafaud in 1957. But Urtreger, 80, who this month plays his first-ever New York gig as a leader, has had a celebrated and far-ranging career in his home country. Urtreger is at Dizzy's Club Jan. 14th.
Lest We Forget: MICHAEL BRECKER
By Alex Henderson
Michael Brecker went down in history as one of the most influential tenor saxophonists of the '70s, '80s and beyond. His big, distinctive tone influenced countless saxophonists in fusion and postbop... Yet Brecker's influence was not limited to jazz and he was held in high regard by many R&B and rock musicians as well. A Brecker tribute is at The Appel Room Jan. 20th.
Record Label Spotlight: SMOKE SESSIONS
By MARCIA HILLMAN
It all began with the neighborhood watering hole, Augie's Jazz Bar on Manhattan's Upper West Side. When its owner Augusto Cuartas hit on hard times and had to close in 1998, current owners Paul Stache and Frank Christopher took over but were unable to reopen the club under the old name. However, in the meantime, screenwriter Paul Auster had written the screenplay for the 1999 movie Smoke in which there was a character based on the former owner, so Stache and Christopher chose that as the name for the new club, which opened in April of 1999... Fastforward into 2014 with the logical evolvement of Smoke Sessions, the club's own recording label. Artists performing this month include Harold Mabern at Smoke Jan. 1st, The Quaker's Friends Meeting House Jan. 8th as part of Winter Jazzfest and Fat Cat Jan. 14th; Vincent Herring at Smoke Jan. 1st with Eric Alexander/Harold Mabern; Jimmy Cobb at The Quaker's Friends Meeting House Jan. 8th as part of Winter Jazzfest and Smoke Jan. 23rd-25th; Orrin Evans at Le Poisson Rouge Jan. 10th with David Murray as part of Winter Jazzfest, Smoke Jan. 11th and Mondays, Mezzrow Jan. 16th-17th and Smalls Jan. 29th with Duane Eubanks; David Hazeltine at Saint Peter's Jan. 14th; and Cyrus Chestnut at Jazz Standard Jan. 22nd-25th.
Special Feature: BEST OF 2014
The year's best in Albums, Big Band Releases, Concerts, Boxed Sets, Debuts, Labels, Latin Releases, Musicians, Reissues, Tributes, Unearthed Gems, Venues, Vocal Releases, New Release Honorable Mentions and Original Album Artwork (see below for these).
(click cover above to download pdf)
(this month's performance venues in parentheses):
Dálava -- Eponymous Sanasar (The Stone)
Vicky Chow -- Tristan Perich: Surface Image New Amsterdam (The Stone; Miller Theater)
Joe Morris -- Balance Clean Feed (The Stone; Greenwich House Music School)
Jon Davis -- Live at the Bird's Eye TCB (Knickerbocker Bar & Grill)
Jon Davis Duo (featuring Gianluca Renzi) -- No Kiddin' Wide Sound Jazz Productions (Knickerbocker Bar & Grill)
Mostly Other People Do the Killing -- Hannover Jazzwerkstatt (Cornelia Street Café)
Sylvain Rifflet/Jon Irabagon -- Perpetual Motion: A Celebration of Moondog Jazz Village (Cornelia Street Café; Delroy's Cafe and Wine Bar; Bar Next Door)
Tubby Hayes -- BBC Jazz for Moderns Gearbox
Florencia Gonzalez -- Between Loves ZoHo
Diego Piñera -- Strange Ways Challenge
Gonzalo Levin -- Octeto Whatabout Music
Larry Goldings/Peter Bernstein/Bill Stewart -- Ramshackle Serenade Pirouet (Dizzy's Club; Winter Jazzfest; Smoke)
Nate Wooley/Dave Rempis/Pascal Niggenkemper/Chris Corsano -- From Wolves to Whales Aerophonic (The Stone; Winter Jazzfest; Ibeam Brooklyn)
Uri Caine -- Szpilman Multikulti Project (The Stone; Winter Jazzfest)
Anders Koppel/Kenny Werner -- Breaking Borders #1 Tiger (The Stone)
Benjamin Koppel (with Jean-Michel Pilc) -- Illuminations: Living Room Recordings #1 Tiger (The Stone; Cornelia Street Café; Somethin' Jazz Club; Dizzy's Club; ShapeShifter Lab; Smalls)
Bill O'Connell And The Latin Jazz Allstars -- Imagine Savant (Birdland; Somethin' Jazz Club)
Charlie Hunter/Scott Amendola -- The Cars, Hank Williams, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington s/r (Rockwood Music Hall)
Brandee Younger -- Live at The Breeding Ground s/r (Winter Jazzfest; Town Hall; Minton's)