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.
…with a link to my review of her last appearance @Birdlandjazz. My review of this album will appear in the May edition of the magazine, out shortly.
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.