Just as we were about to send this issue off to print and get ready for some much-needed Christmas cheer, rumblings came from several venues, as well as the much-anticipated returning Winter Jazzfest, that shows were possibly to be cancelled due to the alarming increase in COVID-19 infections as a result of the Omicron variant.
In some ways this was more devastating than similar events back in March 2020. Back then, no one really knew what was happening or that what seemed like a temporary closure would turn into months of lockdown and daily reports of illness and death. Now we are no longer naïve and understand quite well what may lie in store for us. And we have the added burden of a society split along cultural lines, divisions that were always there but amplified by unprecedented circumstances. We are not only facing the continued pandemic but the ongoing battle for truth versus falsehood, responsible citizenship versus misguided notions of liberty.
After a careful return to live performance over the past several months and the joy and renewal that came with that, this latest development is crushing. We hope that it is only temporary but suggest you call ahead before attending any concerts this month.
On the Cover: BOB JAMES
By Anders Griffen; photos by Sunshine Studios and Andrew Ong
Bob James, prolific composer and keyboard artist, is well known for his theme song to the hit TV series Taxi and has been routinely sampled in hip-hop. He has won two Grammys among several nominations and has hundreds of album credits with a range of jazz and pop artists. He has enjoyed a successful career in music for over 60 years: "I have no shortage of fun, surprising, interesting things to be working on creatively." James is at Blue Note Jan. 25th-30th.
Interview: WOLFGANG MUTHSPIEL
By Tyran Grillo; photo by Laura Pleifer
Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel is one of a handful of guitarists whose influence is as robust as his humility. Muthspiel began his musical training in classical violin, shifting to guitar in his teens. And yet while he is now firmly entrenched in jazz-defined spaces, he has never let go of his love for chamber music and the intimate sensibilities required of one to self-express in that genre. Muthspiel is at The Jazz Gallery Jan. 27th-28th.
Artist Feature: ANGEL BAT DAWID
By Kurt Gottschalk; photo by David Raccuglia
Angel Bat Dawid isn't a lot of things. She is not a conventional jazz performer. She is not a conventional performer in any sense. And she isn't an artist who is going to let herself be pigeonholed by pre-existing categories of consumer-based culture. What she is is an artist: a composer, singer, keyboard player, clarinetist, producer and powerful performer. Bat Dawid is at City Winery Jan. 13th, Nublu 151 Jan. 14th and 21st, Zürcher Gallery Jan. 15th, Roulette Jan. 17th and Public Records Jan. 20th as part of Winter Jazzfest.
Encore: STIX HOOPER
By Michael Cobb
Stix Hooper is an acclaimed drummer, composer, producer, educator, manager and radio personality based in Seattle. Along with Joe Sample, he helped found The Crusaders (né The Jazz Crusaders) and is a pioneer in jazz and funk. But Hooper eschews genre labels and firmly believes in the universality of music.
Lest We Forget: FRANK WESS
By Marilyn Lester
Frank Wess (Jan. 4th, 1922-Oct. 30th, 2013) excelled on tenor and alto saxophone, in addition to having one of the most distinctive sounds on flute. A Frank Wess Centennial Celebration with Scott Robinson, Michael Weiss and others is at Dizzy's Club Jan. 19th.
Special Feature: BEST OF 2021
Our selections for the year's best in Albums, Concerts, Musicians, Up-and-comers, Labels, Venues, Books, Artwork and various miscellaneous album categories.
(this month's performance venues in parentheses):
Falkner Evans—Invisible Words CAP (Mezzrow)
Fred Hersch—Breath By Breath Palmetto (VIllage Vanguard)
Vijay Iyer—Uneasy ECM (The Stone; Village Vanguard)
Wadada Leo Smith/Jack DeJohnette/Vijay Iyer—A Love Sonnet For Billie Holiday TUM (The Stone at The New School; Village Vanguard)
Harry Allen/Mike Karn—Milo's Illinois GAC Music (Mezzrow)
Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra (with Catherine Russell)—Good Time Music (Community Music, Vol. 2) Royal Potato Family (Winter Jazzfest)