Welcome, 2014

Happy new year! I hope you all were able to find a bit of time over the holidays for a break, a few deep breaths, and some reinvigoration. After a wonderful eight days in Saskatchewan, I was ready to go for the New Year.

Nothing can quite prepare me for my trip to New York each year for the APAP conference and Winter Jazzfest, but I always have a blast. On this most recent trip, I spent four days and four nights meeting with agents, musicians, friends and family, and saw a ton of music. I won't bore you with all the details; here are some particularly standout moments:

  • Wallace Roney's performance, with large ensemble, of Wayne Shorter compositions written for, but never performed by, Miles Davis.
  • Melissa Aldana's Crash Trio - great to hear the 2013 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition winner live.
  • Ryan Truesdell's Gil Evans Project - brilliant Gil Evans compositions and arrangements performed brilliantly.
  • Ryan Keberle & Catharsis - a short showcase set which showed off Ryan's beautiful writing and trombone playing. Plus - I had never before heard Mike Rodriguez, who is a pretty fantastic trumpeter…
  • On the same showcase, the duo of Ben Monder and Theo Bleckmann. Completely unpredictable, completely spellbinding. Their last tune started with Theo talking nonsense into a plunger, continued with Ben turning the distortion to 11 and finally evolved into Norwegian Wood.
  • Darcy James Argue's Secret Society. His Brooklyn Babylon suite was one of the best things I've heard recently from a big band, and that big band played it so very well.
  • The trio of Jeff Ballard, Lionel Louecke and Miguel Zenon.
  • A high-energy, get-everyone-in-the-room-dancing set from the No BS! Brass Band.
  • Kurt Rosenwinkel's New Quartet.

I'm always excited to bring he energy and inspiration of New York back to Toronto, and, looking at the calendar, it seems as though I will find lots to inspire me here at home over the next few months.

Since it's the beginning of the year, it may be appropriate to make a resolution or two. I certainly hope to be seeing more live shows this year. I hope to be writing blog entries on a more regular basis (lucky you!). And I hope that, in all of the conversations which take place about jazz in the next twelve months, no one says that jazz is dead, dying, on life support, requiring rehab, or any other metaphor to suggest that jazz, on the whole, is in some kind of trouble. I politely suggest that any person who thinks that jazz music, as an entire genre, is in some kind of peril, is simply not paying attention to the plethora of incredible music being made these days at home or abroad, the crowds and ovations that some of the music is garnering, and even some of the mainstream crossover now taking place. If you want to talk about audience numbers, or marketing challenges, or coverage (or lack thereof) in various media outlets, great - let's chat. But let's leave the hyperbole at home.

Finally, had my you-know-what been together before the holidays, I would have posted a pretty fun link which served as a happy distraction. Luckily, it seems to still be up and running (even if no longer entirely seasonally appropriate), so here it is - have fun!



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