There has been a lot of talk over the past couple of years about coal miners and how their noble lifestyle needs to be preserved, how their hard work must be appreciated and supported. Well, let us tell you, dear reader, that sometimes being half-mile underground seems preferable to compiling our annual Best Of lists. We have to dig through thousands of recordings received over the past judging period to unearth the most precious gems and there is no canary watching out for us overdoing it and asphyxiating musically. But we do it for you and we hope that you discover some new treasures among our Best of 2019 centerfold (pgs. 28-29). And don't forget to take a moment to remember all those who we lost this past year; a complete list is on pg. 12.
But 2019 and the whole second decade of the 21st century is behind us. Look forward to
the future, taking a lesson from trumpeter Steven Bernstein (On The Cover), whose
Millennial Territory Orchestra celebrates its 20th anniversary this month with a concert as part of Winter Jazzfest. Saxophonist Donald Harrison (Interview) and drummer Ronnie Burrage (Artist Feature) also respect the jazz tradition while pushing it forward; see both around town this month, just a few of many recommended concerts in a packed Event Calendar.
On the Cover: STEVEN BERNSTEIN
By Jim Motavalli; photos by Peter Gannushkin
It took a while to arrange an interview with slide trumpet player/arranger/serial group leader Steven Bernstein. "Running late," he would text. When finally brought to earth, however, he had quite a lot to say about his colorful history and an amazingly diverse group of musical activities. But after we talked Bernstein called back to say he wanted to make sure the story was about what he's going to do and wants to do, not just about the large legacy he's already left behind. Bernstein's MTO is at Le Poisson Rouge Jan. 10th as part of Winter Jazzfest.
Interview: DONALD HARRISON
By Alex Henderson; photo courtesy of the artist
When alto saxophonist Donald Harrison made a name for himself in the early '80s as a member of drummer Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and co-leader of a quintet with trumpeter Terence Blanchard, he was hailed as one of the Young Lions: musicians who grew up in the rock 'n' roll era yet committed to playing straightahead jazz. But as time passed, it became obvious that Harrison was also interested in playing everything from fusion, soul, funk, blues and hip-hop to classical music and his associations have ranged from alto saxophonist Benny Carter and trumpeter Miles Davis to the late rapper The Notorious B.I.G. During an in-depth interview, Harrison (now 59) discussed some of his recent projects as well as highlights of his long career. Harrison is at SubCulture Jan. 11th with The Cookers as part of Winter Jazzfest and Drom Jan. 16th.
Artist Feature: RONNIE BURRAGE
By John Pietaro; photo courtesy of the artist
Ronnie Burrage is the kind of drummer bandleaders crave. In addition to masterful skills and innate musicality, his resumé reads like post-modern jazz history, from McCoy Tyner to Defunkt to the World Saxophone Quartet. Also wielding formidable piano skills, Burrage can be seen playing right-handed chords on a keyboard while maintaining a torrential rhythmic onslaught across his other three limbs. Burrage is at Sugarhill Jan. 5th and Smalls Jan. 29th.
Encore: DUSKO GOYKOVICH
By Mark Keresman
While hardly a household name in the U.S. (except in the most hip of households), trumpeter Dusko Goykovich (b. Oct. 14th, 1931 in Montenegro) is a major figure in Eastern European jazz history. While inspired by American jazz, Goykovich expanded his scope to play music reflecting the history of his environment, not merely its classical American roots. As with many performers, he made jazz his own while sharing it with Europe and, ultimately, the world.
Lest We Forget: BOB BROOKMEYER
By Ken Dryden
Bob Brookmeyer (1929-2011) was one of the top valve trombonists in jazz history and an innovative composer and arranger, along with being an accomplished pianist. A tribute to Brookmeyer by Ryan Truesdell is at Jazz Standard Jan. 7th-8th.
Record Label Spotlight: DESTINY
By Eric Wendell
Jazz, as a term, is fluid in how people use it. It is a genre, attitude, adjective and just about every kind of descriptor one can imagine. For the Austin-based label Destiny, the word is just the starting point for a deep exploration of musical characteristics. During its six-year existence, Destiny has released over 20 albums demonstrating a commitment to new, creative voices. Artists performing this month include Tyler Blanton at Fat Cat Jan. 9th and Mezzrow Jan. 22nd; Michael Eaton at Downtown Music Gallery Jan. 19th; Mike Fahie at The Jazz Gallery Jan. 9th-10th with Darcy James Argue; Tom Guarna at Made In New York Jazz Café Jan. 11th with Lenny White and Mezzrow Jan. 26th; and Brad Whiteley at Room 623 at B2 Harlem Jan. 24th.
Special Feature: BEST OF 2019
Our selections for the year's best in Albums, Concerts, Musicians, Venues, Labels, Books and a slew of Miscellaneous Categories.
(this month's performance venues in parentheses):
Sol Yaged/Tino Valpa (with Harry Sheppard)—Your Wish Is My Command Pine Hill
Dr. John + The WDR Big Band—Big Band Voodoo Orange Music
Noah Preminger—After Life Criss Cross
Matt Brewer—Ganymede Criss Cross
Eric Alexander—With Strings HighNote (Smoke)
Tiger Trio—Map of Liberation Rogue Art (Whitney Museum)
Brian Charette—Beyond Borderline SteepleChase (Smalls; The Django at The Roxy Hotel)
Chris Speed—Respect For Your Toughness Intakt (Happylucky no.1)
Human Feel—Gold Intakt
The Clarinets—No Pressure Skirl
Jason Kao Hwang/Karl Berger—Conjure True Sound Recordings (Bushwick Public House; Nuyorican Poets Cafe)
John Coltrane—Blue World Impulse
Claudia Villela—Encantada Live Taina
Javier Girotto—Tango Nuevo Revisited ACT
Sferos—Set It Up As Silence Falcon Gumba
Tomeka Reid/Kyoko Kitamura/Taylor Ho Bynum/Joe Morris—Geometry of Distance Relative Pitch (SEEDS)
Craig Taborn/Vadim Neselovskyi—Da'at Tzadik (Village Vanguard; Winter Jazzfest; The Stone at The New School)
Nate Wooley—Battle Pieces 4 Relative Pitch (Winter Jazzfest; The Stone at The New School)
Entr'acte—Soigne Ta Droite Audiographic
Valery Ponomarev—Our Father Who Art Blakey: The Centennial Summit (Zinc Bar)
Jaimie Branch—Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise International Anthem (Winter Jazzfest)