If there is a theme to 2020, a single word that encapsulates the year, it would be loss. Apart from the obvious and tragic loss of so many people from COVID-19, we as a country suffered other losses: a loss of innocence, thinking that disease was a problem only in what we thought of as "less-developed places"; a loss of confidence, whether it be in institutions from the health care system to the post office, or within ourselves, faced with an invisible threat; a loss of civility, unable to understand those different than ourselves; a loss of community, born of isolation and communication behind screen names and avatars; a loss of experience, simple yet absolutely vital pleasures like concerts and dinner parties and human contact; and a loss of truth, that no longer could something mean something incontrovertibly, without spin or politics or belief subverting it. It then is appropriate that much of this issue focuses on loss (pgs. 10-21): our monthly obituaries, including the long list of those lost in the past year; an In Memoriam spread to the legendary percussionist Cándido; and a special section of CD Reviews given over to those gone silent in 2020.
From all this loss must come introspection, lest no progress be made. How did we get here and who is the "we" that got "us" here? Does the future hold more loss and division or will nobler impulses possibly prevail? Just as no one could have predicted events of the past 12 months—from pandemics to police violence to protests to political theater—so too are the next 12 months not yet known to us. But we can assert some control over the outcome. There is hope. And that hope is the best part of us as a society. To reinforce that, we offer our Best Of 2020 in jazz as a small sign that the past year wasn't all tragedy and hate and fear but also celebration, creativity and inspiration. And if that could happen alongside everything else in 2020, then the future may not be so bleak after all.
On the Cover: JOHN LEWIS
By Alex Henderson; photos by Alan Nahigian
As co-founder and musical director of the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ), pianist/composer John Lewis played a vital role in the Third Stream movement, fusing jazz and European classical music. But Lewis was a versatile musician capable of playing everything from blues to bop to Brazilian jazz. An Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony for Lewis takes place in early 2021.
Interview: ETHAN IVERSON
By Tyran Grillo; photo Giancarlo Belfiore courtesy of the artist
The career of musical polymath Ethan Iverson has taken the pianist—and his pen—around the world and then some, in both the geographic and creative senses. Since striking oil
in collaboration with bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King as The Bad Plus, Iverson has simultaneously broadened his palette and focused his sound throughout
a range of far-thinking endeavors. Among those is his landmark Bud Powell in the 21st Century, a big band project recorded December 2018 at the Umbria Jazz Festival and released at the end of this month on Sunnyside Records. You can continue to track his various trajectories in his web archive, DO THE M@TH. Iverson live-streams Jan. 29th at smallslive.com.
Artist Feature: AYELET ROSE GOTTLIEB
By Eliott Simon; photo Julie Gauthier courtesy of the artist
Universal connections across love, loss, mysticism and motherhood are themes that permeate vocalist/composer Ayelet Rose Gottlieb's work. Song-cycles filled with new spaces and old places host her multi-genre yet globally spiritual music... Gottlieb's current release, 13 Lunar Meditations: Summoning The Witches, is an astounding compendium of lunar-inspired poetry set to her unique blend of transcultural conceptual jazz. A talk on 13 Lunar Conversations live-streams Jan. 12th at ayeletrose.com.
Encore: DOUG CARN
By Anders Griffen
Doug Carn is a multi-faceted musician best known
as a unique organ player, lyricist and composer. He has performed all around the world, including at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and he was the face of the Black Jazz record label in the '70s.
Lest We Forget: LEM WINCHESTER
By John Pietaro
The jazz pantheon is built as much on legend as star power. Lem Winchester, a vibraphonist unjustifiably absent from most historical documents, cast a shadowy oeuvre through a mythic tale. In a career spanning just three years, Winchester magically touched the music of leading figures including Oliver Nelson, Ramsey Lewis, Benny Golson, Jack McDuff, Shirley Scott, Roy Haynes, Hank Jones, Art Taylor, Tommy Flanagan, Toots Thielemans, Frank Wess and more, only to die in an ironic accident.
Record Label Spotlight: TAO FORMS
By George Grella
Tao Forms is drummer Whit Dickey's new record label, but it's not solely his, nor, if you checked out its releases, would it seem new. In every aspect, it looks and sounds like the natural development of music making for Dickey and the circle of creative New York City jazz musicians in which he belongs.
Special Feature: BEST OF 2020
Our selections for the Best Of 2020 in Albums, Musicians, Up-And-Comers, Labels, Cover Art, Boxed Sets, Jazz Books and miscellaneous categories: Solo, Latin, Vocals, Live, Large Ensembles, Unearthed Gems, Tributes, Debuts and Reissues.
IN MEMORIAM: CÁNDIDO CAMERO
Remembrances of the legendary percussionist by Amaury Acosta, Ivan Acosta, David Amram, Kenny Burrell, Neil Clarke, Duduka Da Fonseca, Giovanni Hidalgo, Dick Hyman, Arturo O'Farrill, Jimmy Owens, Sonny Rollins, Bobby Sanabria and Samuel Torres.
(this month's performance/streaming venues in parentheses):
Ellis Marsalis—The New Orleans Collection: Ellis Marsalis Newvelle
The Royal Bopsters—Party of Four Motéma Music
Keith Tippett—The Monk Watches The Eagle Discus Music
Ennio Morricone—Peur Sur La Ville (Soundtrack) WeWantSounds
Stanley Cowell—Live at Keystone Korner Baltimore SteepleChase
Jacques Coursil—Hostipitality Suite SAVVY
IST—At The Club Room (for Simon H. Fell) Confront
Various Artists—Pièce commémorative: Pour Simon Confront
Erroll Garner—Feeling Is Believing Octave-Mack Avenue