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Jazz Condition -- UPI Arts & Entertainment

By KEN FRANCKLING, United Press International   |   Dec. 11, 2001 at 3:07 PM   |   Comments

Everybody was talking about jazz, or so it seemed, at the start of 2001 when documentary filmmaker Ken Burns' "Jazz" series made its long-awaited debut on public television. Along came the coffee-table books, the recording compilations and a fresh wave of jazz-inspired commercial advertising.

There was great hope for a strong resurgence of interest in "America's music." But we learned that in the world of the fad, and 15 fleeting minutes of fame, things don't change with such ease.

Burns' intent in his 19-hour, 10-part examination of jazz and American culture -- a 20th century American parallel, was to kindle an excitement, or at least a better understanding, of jazz among those who would find it interesting and compelling given the information.

While he didn't intend to preach to the choir -- those who already love the music -- the series was also loaded with fascinating information that revealed new facets even for most insiders.

And the public at-large responded. There was a spike in PBS viewership throughout January rivaling that of Burns' "Civil War" epic a decade earlier.

And the record companies saw a surge in purchases -- perhaps short-lived. In early February, there were an astonishing 18 jazz recordings in that week's Amazon.com list of its Top 100 compact discs. Rounded up, that's nearly 20 percent for a music that could claim 4 percent of the listening audience in prior years.

But in early December there were only a handful of jazz or jazz-tinged recordings on Amazon's Top 100. Those four were Diana Krall's "The Look of Love," Tony Bennett's "Playin' with My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues," pop saxophonist Dave Koz's "A Smooth Jazz Christmas" and the best-selling jazz album of all time, Miles Davis's "Kind of Blue."

There was a lot going on in the jazz world of note in 2001.

JAZZ EN CLAVE: The Latin jazz scene continues to bubble and cross-pollinate with mainstream and bebop as musicians explored their roots and find creative ways to combine jazz with folkloric music from Central and South America and the Caribbean. David Sanchez, Danilo Perez, Luciana Souza, Don Byron and Mark Levine led significant projects.

The most visibility in this sphere came through "Calle 54," filmmaker Fernando Trueba's milestone documentary featuring performances by Paquito D'Rivera, Tito Puente, Jerry Gonzalez, Chico O'Farrill, Gato Barbieri, Michel Camilo and father-and-son pianists Bebo and Chucho Valdes.

WALL TO WALL MILES: Symphony Space's annual, 12-hour free concert "Wall to Wall" explored the music of Miles Davis in March as 28 different ensembles offered their own takes on the trumpeter/bandleaders music and legacy. In October, the Parsons Dance Company debuted a new work called "Kind of Blue," a sleek tribute piece for four dancers that was set to Davis's "So What" composition from -- what else? -- his 1959 album "Kind of Blue."

HOMETOWN RECOGNITION: Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans, but had to escape its squalor and segregation in the 1920s in order to find success as a musician. The city where music percolates as a way of life renamed its airport the Louis Armstrong International Airport in honor of the jazz great's 100th birthday in August.

ELVIS IS IN THE HOUSE: Pop singer Elvis Costello never got a chance to work with bandleader and composer Charles Mingus, but he has been drawn to the firebrand's music. Costello wrote lyrics for several Mingus compositions and adapted his own songs for performance by the Charles Mingus Orchestra, which were premiered in November at New York's Beacon Theater. A collaborative recording is in the works.

STILL A MESSENGER: Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, who turned 40 this fall, was member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers early in his career. This year, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan named Jazz at Lincoln Center's artistic director a Messenger of Peace. The honor is bestowed on talented individuals who agree to help focus attention on the work of the United Nations.

ESSENTIALLY ELLINGTON: The 315 All-Stars, a high school jazz band from metropolitan Syracuse, N.Y., won the sixth annual Essentially Ellington competition at Lincoln Center in May. Seattle's Roosevelt High School Jazz Band finished second among the 15 finalist bands. Atlanta's Lovett School Jazz Ensemble was third. More than 160 bands entered the competition.

DO AS I SING, NOT AS I DO: Gil Scott-Heron, longtime jazz preacher and outspoken poet of black America whose defiant music challenged injustice, racism and America's socio-politics, laid the foundation for rap and hip-hop. He even warned of the traps of substance abuse in his songs "The Bottle," and "Angel Dust." Yet he was sentenced this fall to one to three years in prison in New York for possession of cocaine -- after failing to keep a promise to enter drug rehabilitation.

AIDING RELIEF EFFORTS: An all-star event at Town Hall in New York on Dec. 5 raised some $260,000 to enhance the Robin Hood Foundation's efforts to assist low-income victims of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center. Participating musicians included Joshua Redman, Regina Carter, Cassandra Wilson, Kenny Werner, Ruben Blades, Terence Blanchard, Jane Monheit, Bela Fleck.

AWARDS GALORE: Participants in DownBeat magazine's 66th annual Readers Poll voted tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson into the DownBeat Hall of Fame. Keith Jarrett was named pianist of the year. Joe Lovano took top honors as jazz artist, tenor saxophonist and for jazz album of the year for his "52nd Street Themes" CD on Blue Note. B.B. King had a similar trifecta for blues artist, blues group and blues album of the year for his "Riding With the King" project with Eric Clapton. Jazz vocal honors went to Diana Krall and Mark Murphy.

The voters in DownBeat's 49th annual International Critics Poll saw it a bit differently. Bassist Milt Hinton was elected to the Hall of Fame. Lovano was named artist of the year and Sonny Rollins was voted tenor saxophonist of the year. Jarrett took acoustic piano honors, the Dave Holland quintet was named top acoustic jazz group and Kurt Elling and Cassandra Wilson were named top vocalists. The critics chose pianist Andrew Hill's "Dusk" as named album of the year.

JJA AWARDS: The Jazz Journalists Association honored pianist John Lewis for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz. Lovano was named musician of the year at its June event in New York and his "52nd Street Themes" was named Album of the Year. Jimmy Scott and Dianne Reeves took vocal honors. Dan Morganstern, critic, historian and director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, was awarded the JJA's Jazz Journalism Lifetime Achievement Award.

ON PAR IN EUROPE: Trumpeter Enrico Rava was named the 2002 winner of Denmark's JAZZPAR prize, created in 1980 to encourage the creation and appreciation of jazz. The Italy native follows Muhal Richard Abrams, Miles Davis, Roy Haynes, Geri Allen, Jim Hall, Chris Potter and Marilyn Mazur. It will be awarded, with a $25,000 cash prize, at a concert next April featuring Rava's music.

FINAL BARS: The upward migration to the celestial jazz band continued during 2001. Those passings included arrangers Manny Albam, Ralph Burns and Hank Levy; bandleaders Les Brown, Frankie Carle and Chico O'Farrill; composer-arrangers Milt Barnes and Ed Finckel; bassists Charles Ables, Nico Assumpcao, Paul Bridge and Phil Escovedo; clarinetist Bill Reinhardt, drummers Panama Francis, Billy Higgins, Teddy Holiday and Frank Parker; flute player Moe Koffman; and guitarists Luis Bonfá, Cal Collins, John Collins, John Fahey and Dempsey Wright.

Also, multi-instrumentalists Bill LeSage and Rupert Nurse; organist Jack McDuff; pianists Ike Cole, Smith Dobson, Tommy Flanagan, Frank Emilio Flynn, Stan Freeman, Lou Levy, John Lewis and Moses Taiwa Molelekwa; saxophonists Sylvester ''Sil'' Austin, Helmut Brandt, Joe Henderson, Jerry Jerome, Harold Land, Hank Levy, José "Pín" Madera, Makanda Ken McIntyre, Jack McVea, Jay Migliori, Billy Mitchell, Flip Phillips, Spike Robinson, Buddy Tate, Norris Turney and Joe Viola.

Also, singers Lorez Alexandria, Sonya Hedenbratt, Al Hibbler, Etta Jones, Jeanette Kimball, Susannah McCorkle, Ted McMichael, and Anita Moore; trombonist JJ Johnson; trumpeters Herbie Jones, John Lucas, Sonny Morris, Ken Rattenbury and O.C. Smith, who worked with the Basie band before he had a pop hit with "Little Green Apples."

Also, Jazz at Lincoln Center Board Chairman Theodore Ammon; critic Helen Oakley Dance; record producer and retailer Milt Gabler; photographer Jacques Lowe; big band expert George Simon; and painter and Loft jazz host David X. Young, and jazz producer/promoter/manager Norman Granz.

--

Here are one writer's choices for the top jazz recordings and reissues of 2001.

The 10 best new jazz releases:

1- Tom Harrell, "Paradise," BMG Bluebird.

2 - Avishai Cohen and the International Vamp Band, "Unity" (Stretch)

3 - Denny Zeitlin Trio, "As Long as There's Music." (32 Jazz)

4 - Carmen Lundy, "This is Carmen Lundy" (Justin Time).

5 - Tierney Sutton, "Blue in Green" (Telarc Jazz)

6 - Stefano DiBattista, "Stefano DiBattista" (Blue Note)

7 - Mark Levine and The Latin Tinge, "Serengeti" (LCC)

8 - Ben Allison, "Riding the Nuclear Tiger" (Palmetto)

9 - Orlando Cachaito Lopez, "Cachaito" (Nonesuch/World Circuit)

10- Bob Belden,"Black Dahlia" (Blue Note)

The best jazz boxed sets or reissues:

1 - Miles Davis, "The Complete 'In a Silent Way' Sessions" (Columbia)

2 - Live Trane: The European Tours" (Pablo)

3 - Billie Holiday, "Lady Day -- the Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia, 1933-1944" (Columbia Legacy)

© 2001 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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