Jazz music, news and views

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Is Coming

Like so many others, I pull out A Charlie Brown Christmas each holiday season. As a jazz fan, I'm usually ambivalent about the music I hear this time of year. On one hand, it's good to have jazz in people's ears. On the other, it reinforces the mainstream view of jazz as background music.

But how can someone feel bitter about music during the holidays? In spite of myself, I'll lean towards optimism: people hearing a good deal of jazz, even for only one month out of the year, is a great thing. And I can't possibly hold a cynical attitude when my holiday stress is broken by hearing Vince Guaraldi. "Christmastime Is Here" and the "Linus and Lucy" theme are familiar to most, but I've always been more excited by "Christmas Is Coming" and "Skating."

A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy)
Vince Guaraldi (piano)
Fred Marshall (bass)
Jerry Granelli (drums)

I wrote a bit more about Mr. Guaraldi's classic soundtrack at the "Talkin' Jazz" blog here last year.

Happy Holidays, whatever you're celebrating.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Jazz creep

The following items were gathered fairly randomly, but they all seem to illustrate jazz quietly and marginally entering the mainstream, which I thought was happening less and less these days:

>> The December '08 issue of Blender has several year-end lists of recommended songs to download. (I don't regularly read this magazine. It's my roommate's, I swear.) For whatever reason, a jazz list is buried in there (the parentheticals below are theirs):
Jazz: They Still Make That?

1. Medeski, Martin & Wood: "Bubblehouse"
2. The Flying Luttenbachers: "Fist Through Glass (94A)" (Terrifying face-painted drummer Weasel Walter's ensemble gets as close to death metal as instrumental jazz ever will.)
3. Sonny Rollins: "G-Man"
4. William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Orchestra: "Sunrise in the Tone World"
5. Masada: "Piram"
6. Don Byron: "I Want to Be Happy"
7. David S. Ware: "The Way We Were"
8. The Bad Plus: "Karma Police"
9. Clusone 3: "Tico-Tico No Fuba" (The Netherlands have become an unlikely mecca for jazz, thanks in part to this trio, who particularly liked to deconstruct old standards named after birds.)
10. Henry Threadgill: "Try Some Ammonia"
11. Ornette Coleman: "Sleep Talking"
>> I've been listening to TV on the Radio's Dear Science for the past week, and only recently noticed Matana Roberts is credited for alto sax and clarinet on "Lover's Day," which was great to see (and hear). By the way, her blog, Shadows of a People, has come to a close. There are some seriously heavy ideas there, so peruse* it when you have some time.

>> Speaking to TVOTR, there was also a curious quote from Anne Hathaway elsewhere in the aforementioned mag: "I just started listening to them [TVOTR] and they're terrific. I was, like, 'Where have I been? What rock have I been living under?'" Not that Hollywood starlets can't listen to great music, but this made more sense when I saw that Tunde Adebimpe has a role in a new film starring Hathaway called Rachel Getting Married. I'd only heard about this film to begin with because Donald Harrison is in it.

>> My roommate introduced me to the sitcom "The Big Bang Theory," which I really don't care for. This "vanity card", however, revealed the former musical aspirations of its producer, Chuck Lorre. ("Vanity cards" are mini-essays penned by Lorre himself and displayed at the end of each episode where a production company credit would normally be.)

* Misuse of the word "peruse" is a pet peeve of mine.
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