Since my first DownBeat cover story on singer/songwriter Gregory Porter back in August 2013, he’s come in first place in the male vocalist category of both the DownBeat Critics and Readers polls every year, ahead of such heavyweights as Tony Bennett and Kurt Elling.
His new album, Take Me To The Alley (Blue Note), has cemented his reputation in Europe, where he is already a top crossover star and major concert draw. Maybe 2017 will be his breakout year in the U.S. mass market. In honor of his latest win in the DownBeat Readers Poll (December 2016) here’s my second feature article about him from the June issue. In it we talk about his booming career, new album, and how fame has changed his life.
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.
Here’s a piece I recorded for Capitol Public Radio in Sacramento, courtesy of the station’s director of jazz programming, Gary Vercelli. Thanks, Gary, and thanks, Uncle Sam – that jukebox changed my life!
Joao Donato performing in Tiradentes, Brazil, October 2014
Bossa Nova icon João Donato played and wrote with everybody, from Jobim to Gilberto to Chet Baker and Tito Puente. And at 80, he’s not slowing down. This was one of my all-time favorite interviews. To see why, see the article.
Early in his career, the now-legendary bassist Rufus Reid taught his first bass clinic at a college in North Dakota, using a textbook written by the great Ray Brown. When he rejoined his boss and mentor, saxophonist Eddie Harris, on the road, he told Harris, “I sold 25 Ray Brown books today.” Harris replied, “That’s great. Why don’t you write your own damn book?” He did — and his The Evolving Bassist has been a leading bass instruction book for the last 30 years. Reid is now an award-winning big-band composer. You can read my article about Reid’s life, from the June issue of DownBeat, here.
Ted Nash and Joe Temperley – two of the instructors whose videos you can watch for free at JALC’s online Jazz Academy.
Saxophonists Ted Nash and Joe Temperley are two of the instructors in Wynton Marsalis’ latest venture to make jazz more comprehensible to musicians and fans alike: Jazz at Lincoln Center’s new — and free — online Jazz Academy. You can read about it in my article from the January 2014 DownBeat.
Singer Stacey Kent, a star on 3 continents, and her husband, sax player Jim Tomlinson, enchanted a packed house at Birdland recently. My review is here.
As Greg Osby said, we were “lucky to bask in his aura.” I was lucky to see him at one of his last Birdland gigs. My review – http://ow.ly/rEnTK
My DownBeat cover story on singer/songwriter Gregory Porter is out now. Read it here. Or better yet, support print journalism, and buy it at a newsstand (Barnes & Noble carries it). Lots of great stuff in the issue, including coverage of the Montreal and Toronto jazz festivals (I wrote the latter) and tons of interesting record reviews.
With Tia Fuller, backstage at the Apollo Theater.
What did Tia Fuller learn from playing in Beyoncé’s all-female band? See my interview with the alto sax star — winner of two DownBeat Rising Star awards this year for alto and flute — from the August 2013 DownBeat.
Don Byron at The Rex, Toronto Jazz Festival, June 21, 2013
RT @DownBeatMag “DON BYRON YODELS (REALLY!) & THRILLS @TorontoJazzFest — See the complete Toronto review: ” http://ow.ly/nqWc8
At the 2013 Toronto Jazz Festival in late June, perhaps my favorite moments were with the astonishing Brazilian pianist/singer Eliane Elias and her trio with bassist Marc Johnson and guitarist Steve Cardenas. Here’s the first of my two festival reviews in DownBeat.
Bobby McFerrin at sound check, Adelphi University. Photo by Adam McCullough
After years of singing mostly songs without words, or in improvised languages of his own invention, Bobby McFerrin has returned to singing the type of songs in which the lyrics are as essential as the music, with words that express his deepest yearnings: spirituals. In my interview with McFerrin, he talks about his early career and influences, why he considers himself a “folk” musician, and the process of creating his new album spirityouall.
Covering Toronto jazz fest for DownBeat. Crazy contrast, from Don Byron, one of jazz’s great eccentrics, to Smokey Robinson’s Motown show.
“Free to be Jane Monheit” – DownBeat, June 2013
Jane Monheit, one of the most accomplished jazz singers of her generation, no longer strives for perfection. Here’s my article from the June 2013 DownBeat.
I’m looking forward to seeing this new documentary (great review in today’s NY Times) about just how hard it used to be for women in jazz. This is on my mind especially after my interview last night with the brilliant saxophonist Tia Fuller at the Apollo Theater. Tia will appear there on Saturday in a show called “Great Jazz Women of the Apollo” that includes pianist Geri Allen, singer Dianne Reeves, and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. The show’s a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, and other great ladies of jazz.
Int’w w/Bobby McFerrin today before his show @ Adelphi U. New CD ‘spirityouall’ is gorgeous jazz/blues/Americana http://ow.ly/k79V4
Luciana Souza & Romero Lubambo (photo: Atael Weissman)
RT @jazztimes: Luciana Souza and Romero Lubambo at NYC’s Jazz Standard – my review in Jazz Times http://t.co/vtHYR0b4