2020 cannot be over fast enough. What started out as a promising year lurched to a bizarre, tragic and disgusting stop with the pandemic, police violence and the presidential election. Musicians found themselves gigless and tourless, forced to navigate the new reality of music through a screen or on a street corner. Even here at the gazette we transitioned to digital editions (who would have thought we could miss newsprint-stained fingers) in an uphill battle for survival. And even though the calendar may change, the problems and fear will remain in 2021. But, with the hopefulness of a New Year's Resolution or shiny new gym membership, there is cause for some optimism, as long as the painful lessons of the past year are not forgotten and those who believe in the beauty of art, the sanctity of citizenship and the need for community continue to act as agents of change.
We present this final edition of 2020 with our usual eclectic range of coverage: legendary alto saxophonist Charles McPherson (On The Cover); longtime cornet explorer Graham Haynes (Interview); up-and-coming alto saxophonist Alexa Tarantino (Artist Feature); two sides of the jazz coin in bassoonist Karen Borca (Encore) and trumpeter Bill Hardman (Lest We Forget); and historically-minded French imprint Frémeaux & Associés. And even if you cannot (or, rather, should not) gather with your loved ones this holiday season, you can still show you care by sending them something from our Holiday Gift Guide (mail it early as we all know what the post office is like these days).
We close by thanking musicians for persevering, clubs for reinventing, listeners for supporting and you, dear readers, for sticking with us. Best Wishes for 2021.
On the Cover: CHARLES McPHERSON
By Robert Bush; photos by Tariq Johnson & Antonio Porcar courtesy of the artist
2020 looked to be the year of alto saxophone icon Charles McPherson. The music world at large had finally seemed to be leaning toward a greater appreciation for the 81-year-old master...Last December he assembled a stellar band to cut his 30th album as a leader, Jazz Dance Suites, at the Van Gelder Studio. Then the coronavirus exploded and it all fell apart. An April debut with the San Diego Ballet was an early casualty; a European summer tour was next; an album release tour starting at Dizzy's Club in September was scrapped as well as a week-long artist residency at the Berklee College of Music. Not to mention a "Charles McPherson Day" in his hometown of Joplin. McPherson live-streams Dec. 19th at gmfjazzsummit.com/concerts-online-special-charles-mcpherson.
Interview: GRAHAM HAYNES
By Anders Griffen; photo Adriano Bellucci courtesy of the artist
Graham Haynes is a cornet player and composer who, for over 40 years, has been exploring and fusing together disparate musical influences including classical and electronic music, African, Arabian and South Asian music, drum 'n' bass, hip-hop and jazz. His father, Roy Haynes, is one of the greatest jazz drummers of all time. As a performer the younger Haynes has worked with Jaki Byard, Ed Blackwell, Butch Morris, David Murray, Vernon Reid, Bill Laswell, Steve Coleman, Cassandra Wilson, Meshell Ndegeocello and The Roots, among many others. He has nearly 200 album credits as a leader and sideman. While also working as an educator and lecturer, since 2000 his work has focused on chamber group composition and multimedia projects. He left his study of classical composition at Queens College in the late '70s to become a player and now he has come full circle as his lifelong study has led him to compose for the orchestra. Haynes live-streams Dec. 4th at roulette.org.
Artist Feature: ALEXA TARANTINO
By Russ Musto; photo Anna Yatskevich courtesy of the artist
Few decide what their life work will be before their tenth birthday. Even fewer are fortunate enough to have that youthful dream flourish into adulthood. Alexa Tarantino, one of those rare individuals, born on May 30th, 1992 in West Hartford, Connecticut, remembers, "I must have been probably a third grader and my parents took me to the local high school jazz concert and that's where I got the bug." The show was at what would be her future alma mater, Hall High School. She says, "Every March or so they put on a big show called Pops 'n Jazz and I saw Erica von Kleist play there and told my parents 'That's what I want to do.'" Tarantino live-streams Sundays at alexatarantino.com/projects/quarantine-concerts-with-steven-feifke.
Encore: KAREN BORCA
By Alex Henderson
The bassoon has never been a common instrument in jazz and most of the players who drew praise played it as a secondary instrument (Illinois Jacquet, Garvin Bushell, Frank Tiberi). Karen Borca has been making the bassoon her primary instrument for well over half a century, building an impressive resumé in avant garde through associations with pianist Cecil Taylor, alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, bassist Alan Silva, percussionist Paul Murphy and others. Borca live-streams Dec. 1st at artsforart.org/onlinesalon.html.
Lest We Forget: BILL HARDMAN
By George Kanzler
Many trumpet players who rose to fame from the mid '50s to the end of the 20th Century attended the famous finishing school known as Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. But only one was a Jazz Messenger in three different decades, with tenures in the '50s, '60s and '70s, all documented on Blakey recordings. That was Bill Hardman, who is somehow overlooked in most rosters of the great hardbop trumpeters of the last half of the 20th Century. He shouldn't be.
Record Label Spotlight: FRÉMEAUX & ASSOCIÉS
By Marilyn Lester
Anyone who's ever experienced the vastness of a large department store such as Harrod's in London or Macy's New York will instantly recognize the metaphor when applied to French independent record label Frémeaux & Associés. The catalog offers a stunningly vast collection of reissued sound recordings, from soup to proverbial nuts.
Special Feature: HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE
Recommendations for the jazz lover in your life (and/or yourself) such as jazzy holiday albums, books, boxed sets and miscellany.
(this month's performance/streaming venues in parentheses):
Mars Williams—An Ayler Xmas, Vol. 4: Chicago vs. NYC Astral Spirits/Soulwhat
Warren Wolf—Christmas Vibes Mack Avenue
3D Jazz Trio—Christmas in 3D Diva Jazz
Christian McBride—For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver Mack Avenue
Count Basie Orchestra—Ella at 100: Live at the Apollo Concord
Ab Baars/Joost Buis—Moods for Roswell Wig
Frode Gjerstad/Fred Lonberg-Holm/William Parker/Steve Swell—Tales From Fundacja Sluchaj (Arts for Art)
Doug Webb—Apples & Oranges Posi-Tone
Farnell Newton—Rippin' & Runnin' Posi-Tone
Brian Charette—Like The Sun s/r (Soapbox Gallery)
Regina Carter—Swing States: Harmony In The Battleground Tiger Turn/eOne
Thelonious Monk—Palo Alto Impulse
Ricardo Grilli—1962 Tone Rogue
Juliet Kurtzman/Pete Malinverni—Candlelight: Love in The Time of Cholera Saranac
Joel Ross—Who Are You? Blue Note (Bar Bayeux; The Jazz Gallery)