Category Archives: Downbeat

After 25 Years of @FOURPLAYjazz…


… these all-stars delivered the goods at the Blue Note. My review here.

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Filed under Blue Note, NYC, Bob James, Chuck Loeb, Downbeat, Fourplay, Harvey Mason, Music Writing and Clips, Nathan East

And congrats to the amazing @CecileSalvant…


…for her 2nd #Grammys nomination in two years, this time for her 2nd album on @MackAvenueMusic, For One To Love, with the brilliant Aaron Diehl (piano), Paul Sikivie (bass) and Lawrence Leathers (drums). What a pleasure it was to write this profile of her, from the August 2014 DownBeat.

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Filed under Aaron Diehl, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Downbeat, Lawrence Leathers, Music Writing and Clips, Paul Sikivie

Congratulations to @KarrinAllyson on her #Grammys Nomination…

karrin-allyson-63191f…in the #Jazz Vocal category, for her imaginative new take on Rodgers & Hammerstein, Many A New Day (@Motema), which she arranged as well as sang. Congrats also to her co-creators, the fabulous duo of pianist Kenny Barron and bassist John Patitucci, and to c0-producer Michael Leonhart. Here’s my interview with Karrin about the project from the November 2015 DownBeat.

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Filed under Downbeat, John Patitucci, Karrin Allyson, Kenny Barron, Music Writing and Clips

GregoryPorter, All-Stars Celebrate Blue Note Records 75th Anniversary at Sea


Kendrick Scott (left), Gregory Porter, Lionel Loueke, Don Was, Marcus Strickland, Robert Glasper, Keyon Harrold and Derrick Hodge aboard the Queen Mary 2 (Photo: Courtesy MGA Media Group)

Here’s the first of my reviews of the Cunard/Blue Note “Jazz At Sea” Festival on the Queen Mary 2, from, focusing on singer/songwriter Gregory Porter’s show with the Blue Note 75th Anniversary Band.  The transatlantic crossing featured performances and interviews with Porter, pianist Robert Glasper, label president Don Was, and a dozen more Blue Note Records artists. My overall review of the week-long crossing will appear in the February print edition of Downbeat.

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Filed under Blue Note, Blue Note Jazz at Sea, Derrick Hodge, Don Was, Downbeat, Gregory Porter, Kendrick Scott, Keyon Harrold, Lionel Loueke, Music Writing and Clips, Robert Glasper

Cunard/Blue Note “Jazz at Sea”

Don Was - Queen Mary 2In late October, I was thrilled to be invited by DownBeat Magazine to cover the inaugural Cunard/Blue Note “Jazz at Sea” cruise – a transatlantic crossing from Brooklyn to Southampton, England aboard the Queen Mary 2. Don Was, the president of Blue Note Records for the last four years, came along to present some of his label’s stars – Gregory Porter, Robert Glasper, and the all-star Blue Note 75th Anniversary Band. It was Don’s first cruise, and he thoroughly enjoyed it. So did I.  I’m writing several pieces about the cruise, one for the print edition (cover date: February), and others for the website.  The first of them will probably appear this week – a review of Gregory Porter, backed by the Blue Note all-stars. I’ll post them as they appear.

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Filed under Blue Note Jazz at Sea, Derrick Hodge, Downbeat, Gregory Porter, Kendrick Scott, Keyon Harrold, Lionel Loueke, Marcus Strickland, Music Writing and Clips, Robert Glasper

West Coast Cool, Courtesy of Singer Mark Winkler

Mark Winkler - Jazz and Other Four Letter Words(From the November 2015 DownBeat)

Mark Winkler

Jazz And Other Four Letter Words


♦♦♦♦  (4 stars)

Whatever happened to West Coast cool? It’s alive and well, judging by the recent output of singer, lyricist and all-around hepcat Mark Winkler. He’s a laid-back song stylist whose swinging approach would not be out of place in the ring-a-ding-ding 1960s, and his latest album, Jazz And Other Four Letter Words, is a gas.

In the tradition of Dave Frishberg and Mose Allison, Winkler is a hip, crafty lyricist with a flexible baritone and dry-martini delivery. His songs have been recorded by artists like Dianne Reeves, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jane Monheit (he recently wrote lyrics to four songs for her recent duo project with pianist David Benoit).

One of the highlights in this well-chosen set is “Your Cat Plays Piano,” which showcases his off-kilter sense of humor: “The thing I like the most/Is when your cat plays piano/Mostly on the black keys/ And I could swear he’s a jazzer/ ’Cause he will not play the melody…” The title tune is a tongue-in-cheek defense of jazz from its critics, in which he recites the many “four-letter words” associated with it, including “Bird, Monk, Chet, Prez, Ella, Pops, Duke and Getz.” Winkler’s passion for life, love and jazz emerges with some regularity from behind the easygoing hipster pose, including “I Chose The Moon,” a moving tribute to his life partner, and the closer, “Stay Hip,” in which he offers the following sage advice to jazz fans: “Don’t forget the ones who came before/ And the ones before that/ But keep your ears open to the latest hap’nin’ cat.”

—Allen Morrison

Jazz And Other Four Letter Words: My Idea Of A Good Time; I’m Hip; Nice Work If You Can Get It; Your Cat Plays Piano; I Chose The Moon; Have A Good Time; I Wish I Were In Love Again; Jazz And Other Four Letter Words; I Never Went Away; In A New York Minute/The Great City/Autumn In New York; Stay Hip. (46:37)

Personnel: Mark Winkler, Cheryl Bentyne (2, 7), vocals; Jamieson Trotter (1–8, 10), Rich Eames (9, 11), piano; John Clayton (2, 4, 7, 10, 11), Dan Lutz (1, 5, 6, 8, 9), bass; Jeff Hamilton (2, 4, 7, 10, 11), Mike Shapiro (1, 5, 6, 8, 9), drums; Larry Koonse (2, 10, 11), Pat Kelley (3, 5, 6, 9), guitar; Bob Sheppard, saxophone (4, 7); Kirsten Edkins, saxophone (6, 8); Walter Fowler, trumpet (6, 8); Bob McChesney: trombone (6).

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Filed under Cheryl Bentyne, Downbeat, Jeff Hamilton, Larry Koonse, Mark Winkler, Music Writing and Clips

Karrin Allyson Makes Rodgers & Hammerstein Swing…

Karrin Allyson…with a little help from the dream duo of Kenny Barron, piano, and John Patitucci, bass. Here’s my interview with the delightful Ms. Allyson from the November 2015 DownBeat.

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Filed under Downbeat, John Patitucci, Karrin Allyson, Kenny Barron

A visionary new album by Luciana Souza

Luciana - speakingbig

The singer/composer Luciana Souza can penetrate to the heart of a lyric like few other singers, but her new album, Speaking in Tongues, all but dispenses with language. Instead she uses her voice as a solo instrument to front her new international jazz supergroup. My review of the album is in the November 2015 issue of DownBeat in more abbreviated form; here is the full review.

Luciana Souza

Speaking in Tongues

Sunnyside Records SSC1410


In ten previous albums straddling the worlds of Brazilian music and jazz, singer-composer-arranger Luciana Souza has plumbed the depths of Brazilian popular song (especially in her three critically acclaimed Duos albums); explored the American songbook, most recently in her moody examination of the dark side of Chet Baker; written her own engaging songs; and set the poetry of Pablo Neruda to music. Known for her pure, haunting alto voice and mastery of jazz and Brazilian rhythms, she is also justly celebrated for her ability to penetrate to the heart of a lyric.

In this long-awaited follow-up to the 2012 Duos III and The Book of Chet, however, Souza cuts language loose, in order to launch a cross-cultural musical conversation with an international supergroup consisting of West African jazz guitarist Lionel Loueke, Swiss harmonica virtuoso Gregoire Maret, Italian bassist Massimo Bialcoti, and American drummer Kendrick Scott. The visionary, startling result, a genre-bending conversation among master musicians, sounds like nothing Souza has done before. The album, including tunes both joyful and austere, belongs as much to her colleagues as to her.

In seven of the nine tracks, Souza vocalizes wordlessly over a United Nations of rhythms: there are up-tempo jams over a funky Afro-pop feel, and somber instrumental ballads. The only lyrics she chooses to sing are two poems by songwriter/poet Leonard Cohen (from his collection The Book of Longing), which she has set to exquisite music.

Loueke’s guitar style, combining the folkloric with the funky, was an obvious inspiration to Souza the composer, who wrote six of the tunes; his influence is especially strong in the sprightly Afro-pop/jazz hybrid rhythms of “At The Fair,” “Straw Hat” and “Filhos De Gandhi,” which are replete with the guitarist’s jaunty, finger-picked runs. Maret, who is often compared to harmonica legend Toots Thielmanns, contributes inventive, lyrical chromatic commentary and solos. Drummer Scott exercises meticulous control over complex polyrhythms, with bassist Bialcoti offering sturdy, almost subliminal support. Producer Larry Klein sparingly adds accents of distortion and other electronica that make the tunes occasionally sound as if they are possessed by demons.

“Singing without words means that I can articulate my own humanity with just sounds,” Souza says. She uses this freedom to explore the full range of her creative impulses as a composer. There is an air of exoticism, mystery and exultation in the up-tempo numbers, and an equally strong sense of grief and resignation in the ballads. Taken together, the songs, those with lyrics and without, seem to say, “life is a joy and a gamble, there are no easy answers or soothing bromides to be had; yet our yearnings, sensual and spiritual, remain.” As, Cohen writes in the album’s closer: “No one to follow / and nothing to teach / except that the goal / falls short of the reach.”

Speaking In Tongues: At the Fair; Hymn; Straw Hat; Split; Filhos De Gandhi; A Pebble In Still Water; Free At Last; A.M.; No One To Follow

Personnel: Luciana Souza, voice; Lionel Loueke, guitar, voice; Gregoire Maret, harmonica; Massimo Biolcati, acoustic bass; Kendrick Scott, drums, percussion

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Filed under Downbeat, Gregoire Maret, Kendrick Scott, Larry Klein, Lionel Loueke, Luciana Souza, Massimo Biolcati

Bebop Lives! 3 generations of Royal Bopsters play Birdland tonight

London, Meader, Pramuk & Ross

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Filed under Amy London, Annie Ross, Birdland, Bob Dorough, Darmon Meader, Downbeat, Dylan Pramuk, Holli Ross, Motema Records, Music Writing and Clips, Royal Bopsters

These Cats Can Sing!

These cats sing their asses off! I’ll be telling their story in an article to be posted shortly at  The new album, The Royal Bopsters Project features guest appearances by vocal jazz legends Jon Hendricks, Annie Ross (two-thirds of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross), Mark Murphy, Sheila Jordan and Bob Dorough. Can’t wait to hear them live at Birdland this week!

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Filed under Amy London, Annie Ross, Birdland, Bob Dorough, Darmon Meader, Downbeat, Dylan Pramuk, Holli Ross, Jon Hendricks, Mark Murphy, Motema Records, Music Writing and Clips, Royal Bopsters

Karrin Allyson Swings Rodgers & Hammerstein on New CD

Thanks to the delightful singer/pianist Karrin Allyson and her husband, conductor and radio host Bill McGlaughlin, for welcoming me to their home on the Upper West Side yesterday. We talked about her terrific new album of Rodgers & Hammerstein songs – with the great Kenny Barron on piano and John Patitucci on bass – for an interview to appear in DownBeat soon. Check out this promo video.


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Filed under Downbeat, John Patitucci, Karrin Allyson, Kenny Barron, Music Writing and Clips

Honored that Newport Jazz Fest producer George Wein cited my DownBeat review

The item below is from Mr. Wein’s blog, “The Wein Machine.”  Thanks to Carolyn McClair Public Relations for the heads-up.


More than 23,100 music lovers turned out July 31 – August 2 for the 2015 Newport Jazz Festival presented by Natixis Global Asset Management. Festival producer and Chairman of the Newport Festivals Foundation, George Wein, shares some thoughts on this year’s event in his regular blog, The Wein Machine.

In a DownBeat magazine review of the 2015 Newport Jazz Festival, Allen Morrison wrote that “a festival as significant and storied as Newport can be a force for good or evil, wielding influence far in excess of its three-day duration. Considering its provenance…it is more than a tastemaker, it’s a market-maker.”

I welcomed these words as I read them in DownBeat. Our staff works literally all year long to produce the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals. We know that there’s a global influence in what we do with these two festivals. The jazz festival in particular has an international significance. Festival producers from all over the world join us to celebrate the beauty and glory that is jazz music.

Also, with all the young and emerging artists we present, there is the chance that you might be getting an early look at potential stars of the future. I have been producing Newport Jazz since 1954 and this year’s festival ranks with the finest I’ve had the privilege of creating.

Rain, Rain stayed away. And all the musicians came out to play. And play they did. To as enthusiastic an audience as I’ve ever seen. Every musician left the stage happy from their performance because of the way the audience received their musical contribution to the festival. Most important to it all is the spirit you, the audience, generates as the music from the different stages fills the air over the Narragansett Bay.

It’s difficult for me to recall any specific highlights because I was too busy running around in my Wein Machine, trying to hear as much as possible. But it is great to see how the festival continues to grow with a younger audience.

The question for me is what do we do next year? It is the same problem I have had for the past 61 years of my life. Keep in touch. I know we will figure out something.

See you at next year’s festival. The dates are July 29-31, 2016.

Don’t lose the beat,


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Filed under Downbeat, George Wein, Newport Jazz Festival

Newport 2015 – My Take (DownBeat, 8-7-15)

Cassandra Wilson at Newport 2015

Cassandra Wilson at Newport 2015

The first of two pieces about the 2015 Newport Jazz Festival.

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Filed under Aaron Diehl, Bill Frisell, Billy Childs, Cassandra Wilson, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Downbeat, Miles Davis, Music Writing and Clips, Rudresh Mahanthappa

Rudresh Mahanthappa – For the Love of ‘Bird’

Talin, the two-year-old son of award-winning alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, is surprisingly aware of his dad’s job. “If he sees me leaving for work,” Mahanthappa said recently over a lunch of pastrami and corned beef, “Talin will say, ‘Daddy working? Saxophone? Toot-toot?’” His DownBeat Critics Poll-winning “Jazz Album of the Year,” Bird Calls, is based on snippets of tunes by Charlie Parker, his major inspiration.  This past weekend, Mahanthappa played his butt off at Newport, as a guest soloist with Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. Here’s my profile of him from the August 2015 DownBeat.

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Filed under Charlie Parker, Downbeat, Music Writing and Clips, Rudresh Mahanthappa

Jazz at Lincoln Center, Sony Launch “Blue Engine” Label (DownBeat)

Wynton at the launch party, chatting with trumpeter Bria Skonberg. On the left is legendary bari saxophonist Joe Temperley; on the right is pianist Monty Alexander.

Wynton Marsalis at the Blue Engine Records launch party chatting with trumpeter Bria Skonberg. On the left is legendary bari saxophonist Joe Temperley; on the right, pianist Monty Alexander. (photo: Frank Stewart, JALC)

Here’s my report in DownBeat on the launch of Jazz@Lincoln Center’s new record label, Blue Engine. The first release will be the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra w/Wynton Marsalis – Live in Cuba, coming in August.

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Filed under Blue Engine Records, Bria Skonberg, Downbeat, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Joe Temperley, Monty Alexander, Wynton Marsalis

Jazz Greats Gather at Jazz at Lincoln Center for Debut of New Jazz Record Label

(L-R) Monty Alexander, Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Cobb, Joe Temperley, Jimmy Heath

(L-R) Monty Alexander, Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Cobb, Joe Temperley, Jimmy Heath

What a swell party last night (6/30/15) at Jazz at Lincoln Center for launch of a new JALC-branded jazz record label, to be called Blue Engine Records. The turnout included these jazz masters and many more of the greatest musicians in New York, among them Christian McBride, Aaron Diehl, Nilson Matta, Ted Nash, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Lew Tabackin, and Catherine Russell. My report will be posted at tomorrow (July 2).

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Filed under Aaron Diehl, Catherine Russell, Christian McBride, Downbeat, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Jimmy Cobb, Jimmy Heath, Joe Temperley, Music Writing and Clips, Nilson Matta, Wynton Marsalis

Singer Chris McNulty’s Exquisite, Heartbreaking CD, “Eternal”

Chris McNulty - Eternal1

(expanded version of CD review in the June 2015 DownBeat)

Chris McNulty


Palmetto PM 2176


The heartbreak of losing one’s child is almost unfathomable. Singer Chris McNulty lost her son Sam McNulty – a.k.a. Chap One, a promising, jazz-influenced hip-hop artist – suddenly and tragically in 2011 at age 30. McNulty has put all she has learned over half a lifetime of jazz singing and songwriting into this exquisite chamber jazz CD, mining her pain, purifying its essence, and transforming it into an expression of haunted devotion.

The Australian-born, New York City-based jazz singer, well-known in her native country and a veteran performer on the international jazz scene, has an unaccountably low profile in the States. She has many gifts as a performer: a rich warm tone, an adventurous spirit, and a direct channel to the emotional core of a lyric. But, beyond the poignant subject matter, what makes this CD a milestone in her  recording career is the combination of McNulty’s talents with those of two expert collaborators: pianist/arranger John Di Martino and her fellow Australian, orchestrator Steve Newcomb, who leads an excellent chamber ensemble in sensitive, imaginative arrangements dotted with excellent solos by bassoonist Ben Wendel, flugelhorn player Matthew Jodrell, and McNulty’s husband John Bollenback on guitar. Di Martino’s occasional well thought-out piano solos are just about perfect.

The lyrics here are intensely personal, but the songs McNulty selected for this tribute album, after culling through hundreds of candidates, are not all dark. They include rarities like Steve Kuhn’s “The Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers,” striking arrangements of more familiar tunes like Billy Strayhorn’s “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing” and “Nature Boy,” and a finely wrought version of Bob Dorough’s “Love Came On Stealthy Fingers.” They illuminate the grief, but also the joyful memories of a special child. Yet the very essence of the album is best expressed in McNulty’s one original, the intensely moving “You Are There” (not to be confused with Dave Frishberg’s song of the same name), which includes the lines, “Wherever I go, you are there / The scent of your soul, it will always be there.”  On this CD, McNulty bares her soul, and one doesn’t dare look away.

Eternal: The Saga Of Harrison Crabfeathers; A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing; What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life; Where Is Love; You Are There; Star Dust; Nature Boy; Yesterday I Heard The Rain; Love Came On Stealthy Fingers; On A Clear Day; With Every Breath I Take; Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Personnel: Chris McNulty, vocals; John Di Martino, piano, trio arrangements; Ugonna Okegwo, bass; Gregory Hutchinson, drums; Paul Bollenback, guitar (1, 10); Mazz Swift, Josh Henderson, Amanda Lo, violins; Trevor New, viola; Meaghan Burke, Marika Hughes, cellos; Jodie Rottle, flue, alto flute; Ivan Barenboim, clarinet, bass clarinet; John Morgan-Bush, French horn; Ben Wendel, bassoon; Matthew Jodrell, flugelhorn (3, 9).

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Filed under Chris McNulty, Downbeat

Gilberto Gil Salutes João Gilberto at New York’s Town Hall

Gilberto Gil at Town Hall in New York City on April 23 (Photo: ©Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos)

The sell-out crowd on April 23 was there for a heady dose of saudade for Brazil, and Gil, accompanying himself on guitar, delivered. My concert review in DownBeat

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Filed under Bossa Nova, Downbeat, Gilberto Gil, Joao Gilberto

Dave Stryker’s Soul-Stirring New CD, “Messin’ With Mister T”


(Expanded version of review published in Downbeat Magazine, May 2015)

Dave Stryker
Messin’ With Mister T
Strikezone 8809

Guitarist Stryker, who in the last quarter century has released more than 20 albums, scored his best-selling album ever last year with Eight Track, his jazz interpretations of 70s pop and R&B hits. Now he’s back with an all-star tribute to his mentor Stanley Turrentine, with whom he played for a decade until the tenor giant’s death in 2000. His debt to Turrentine is obvious – this is where the accomplished, versatile Stryker really got his groove on. It is repaid here in full, in one of the most emotionally satisfying records of the year.

Turrentine, who was a master of phrasing and groove, might be the most blues-drenched jazz tenor player ever, yet he could also bring a level of harmonic sophistication rarely heard in the soul-jazz genre. His strong, confident, masculine voice on the saxophone suggested a depth of life experience, a grown-up sound played with authority. Like Dexter Gordon, he could dazzle you with technique if he wanted to, but he would rather impress you with his depth of feeling.

Messin’ With Mister T includes a gallery of 10 great tenor players, all of whom tip their hats to Turrentine while maintaining their individual voices. Yet the album serves equally as a showcase for Stryker’s soaring flights of melody and Jared Gold’s free-spirited virtuosity on Hammond, with excellent support from drummer McLenty Hunter and percussionist Mayra Casales. Stryker and Gold both go for broke here, building on a solid blues foundation, but, like their inspiration, taking it into more advanced, sometimes startling harmonic and rhythmic territory.

There are many standout performances: Houston Person’s easygoing take on the rollicking blues shuffle “La Place Street;” Jimmy Heath’s simple, magisterial ele-gance on Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood;” and Chris Potter’s show-stopping solo on Coltrane’s “Impressions,” to name three. Javon Jackson, Don Braden, Steve Slagle, Bob Mintzer, Mike Lee, Eric Alexander and Tivon Pennicott turn in equally strong performances. “Sugar,” Turrentine’s best known tune, is reimagined with a laid-back, loping, 6/8 feel, until the entrance of tenor ace Jackson, who waxes bop-eloquent over a 4/4 walking bass. Finally, Stryker brings it home by breaking out Turrentine’s familiar, soulful strut. Messin’ With Mr. T is an overdue, joyous homage to a master.

Messin’ With Mister T: La Place Street; Pieces of Dreams; Don’t Mess With Mister T; In a Sentimental Mood; Impressions; Gibraltar; Salt Song; Sugar; Sidesteppin’; Let It Go (70:36)

Personnel: Dave Stryker, guitar; Jared Gold, organ; McClenty Hunter, drums; Mayra Casales, percussion; Jimmy Heath, Houston Person, Eric Alexander, Chris Potter, Tivon Pennicott, Don Braden, Javon Jackson, Steve Slagle, Bob Mintzer, Mike Lee, tenor saxophones.

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Filed under Dave Stryker, Downbeat, Music Writing and Clips, Stanley Turrentine

Can Jazz Musicians Make Money in the Age of Spotify?

Navigating the Digital Jungle

These days, it’s easier than ever for jazz artists to record, but harder than ever for them to monetize their recordings. For this article, published in the April 2015 DownBeat, I spoke with leading indie artists (e.g., guitarist Dave Stryker and drummer Willie Jones III), label executives and industry analysts. I wanted to find out how musicians are surviving in an age where music consumers prefer to stream their music for free, or nearly so, rather than buy CDs or download MP3s. Surprise: the news is not all bad.

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Filed under Allen Morrison, Dave Stryker, Downbeat, Jana Herzen, Jazz, Motema Records, Music Business, Music Business, Music Writing and Clips, Willie Jones III