Jazz at 100 Hour 99: Highlights of the Current Decade (2011 – 2018)

Kamasi Washington

This is the last of a series of five programs featuring jazz since 1990, presented as a single selection for each year to reflect trends, career highlights and new artists, at least as the narrative appears from the temporally-challenged context of the last 25 years. The idea to attempt such an abbreviated one-track –per-year survey comes from a terrific essay from critic Gary Giddins, “Postwar Jazz: An Arbitrary Roadmap (1945 – 2001).” As we approach the present our perspective gets more-and-more limited. In this hour, our 99th of 100, jazz since 2010.

2011. Vijay Iyer. “Little Pocket Size Demons.”
Pianist Vijay Iyer has been recording in a bewildering variety of settings and with a plethora of partners since the beginning of the new millennium. Perhaps no artist over that period has received such critical acclaim. Accelerando was his second outing with a trio that included Stephen Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. In the NPR list of the Top Jazz Albums of 2012, Patrick Jarenwattananon wrote, “Quite possibly my favorite single thing on record this year is track seven, ‘Little Pocket Size Demons,’ on the Vijay Iyer Trio album Accelerando. It’s a version of a Henry Threadgill composition which was lopsided and rumbling enough when it was originally scored for seven people; pared down for trio, it’s relentless intensity from the gun.”

Little Pocket Size Demons. Vijay Iyer Trio
(Vijay Iyer-p, Stephan Crump-b, Marcus Gilmore-d). From Accelarando. 8/8 – 8/9/2011

2012. Wadada Leo Smith. “Lake Ontario.”
A fifty-year veteran of the jazz avant-garde and a member of AACM since 1967, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith has recorded an unprecedented series of ambitious extended works in the past few years, including Ten Freedom Summers (2011), Great Lakes Suites (2012) and America’s National Parks (2016). “…Great Lakes [Suites] reunites Smith with saxophonist and flutist Henry Threadgill, who rarely records as a sideman anymore, and whose headlong solos contrast nicely with Smith’s. The pianoless rhythm section features bassist John Lindberg and drummer Jack DeJohnette … and DeJohnette hasn’t sounded this fiery (or this sensitive, as the music demands) in years.” – Francis Davis, NPR

Lake Ontario. Wadada Leo Smith Quartet
(Wadada Leo Smith-tp, Henry Threadgill-as/fl/bfl, John Lindberg-b, Jack DeJohnette-d). From Great Lakes Suites. 12/20/2012

2013. Cécile McLorin Salvant. “Woman Child.”
In 2013, Cécile McLorin Salvant, winner of the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, teamed with up-and-coming Julliard-trained pianist Aaron Diehl and the results were recognized as the 2013 NPR Music Jazz Critics Award for best vocal album. Phil Barnes of All About Jazz wrote, “There is a clear talent and intelligence in the best performances here —the self-penned title track is an absolutely wonderful moment of vulnerability.”

WomanChild. Cécile McLorin Salvant Quintet
(Aaron Diehl-p, James Chirillo-g/ban, Rodney Whitaker-b, Herlin Riley-d, Cécile McLorin Salvant-voc). From WomanChild. 5/13/2013

2014. Henry Threadgill. “In For A Penny, In For A Pound.”
With few personnel changes, Henry Threadgill has recorded with Zooid since the turn of the millennium. Karl Ackerman (All About Jazz) writes, “Henry Threadgill and his most long-established group, Zooid, return for the ensemble’s most creative and ambitious collection. Almost thirty years ago, Threadgill told Chicago’s Pulitzer winning writer, Studs Terkel, of the influence of marching bands that he saw in that city’s frequent street parades. That influence—along with that of his founding status in the [AACM]—are apparent in the adventurous collection In For a Penny, In For a Pound.” This extended work was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2017.

In For A Penny, In For A Pound (Opening). Henry Threadgill Zooid
(Jose Davila-tb/tu, Henry Threadgill-as/fl/bfl, Liberty Ellman-g, Christohper Hoffman-cel, Elliot Humberto Kavee-d/per). From In For a Penny, In For a Pound. 12/8 – 12/9/2014.

2015. Kamasi Washington. “Final Thought’”.
Perhaps no release in 2015 generated more ink than tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington’s sweeping three-CD debut, The Epic. “Washington’s intrepid concepts are in full force in this auspicious project, one that integrates fiercely swinging jazz with R&B, and touch of spiritualism realized by his ten-piece band ‘The Next Step’ with a full string orchestra and full choir. As fresh as anything in recent years The Epic feels like a throwback to the past as it echoes the deep lineage of the likes of Sun Ra, John Coltrane and African American church music. Yet these are informed through the saxophonist’s personal experiences growing up in Los Angeles and the surrounding area where he’s a member of the musical collective called the ‘West Coast Get Down’ … From start to finish Washington’s 172 minute release is appropriately titled and among 2015’s best jazz releases.” – Mark F. Turner, All About Jazz

Final Thought. Kamasi Washington & The Next Step.
(Ryan Porter-tb, Kamasi Washington-ts, Cameron Graves-p, Brandon Coleman-org, Miles Mosley-b, Tony Austin-d, Ronald Bruner-d, Leon Mobley-per). From The Epic. 4/5/2015

2016. Craig Taborn, “ The Great Silence
After more than eighty appearances as a sideman and a growing catalog under his own name, pianist Craig Taborn’s 2017 CD Daylight Ghosts, may be his breakout as a composer and band leader. “Taborn has assembled a stellar lineup here, with guys he’s worked with extensively: Chris Speed on tenor sax and clarinet, Chris Lightcap on bass, and Dave King on drums. They are all prodigious instrumentalists in their own right, and their individual résumés are themselves impressive. But under Taborn’s guidance they are able and willing to subordinate their talents to the group concept itself, and this is crucial, as this record is first and foremost about the richness of the music, rather than a showcase for the players’ technical feats … Some of the pieces … [are] built around thorny melodic structures, with ostinato phrases emerging and sometimes overlapping as a way to open up each piece for further exploration, or to establish an infectious groove. … But as engaging as the energetic pieces are, so too are the atmospheric, reflective ones. Taborn is comfortable with openness and space on his recordings, and there is a sense of quiet awe on ‘The Great Silence’ …” – Troy Dostert, All About Jazz

The Great Silence. Craig Taborn Quartet
(Chris Speed-ts/cl, Craig Taborn-p/key, Chris Lightcap-b/b-g, David King-d/per). From Daylight Ghosts. 5/2016

2017. Tyshawn Sorey. “Cascade in Slow Motion.
“Let no one think that Tyshawn Sorey’s use of a piano-bass-drums trio on Verisimilitude, his sixth album (and one of his strongest), brings it closer to the conventions of jazz or anything else. Drummer-composer Sorey remains as determinedly unique as ever, playing a quiet music that develops gradually and draws at least as much from modern classical music as from avant-garde jazz and creative music. It merely employs more familiar instrumentation to do so this time. Actually, there are some moments that flirt with convention. The opening track, “Cascade in Slow Motion,” finds pianist Cory Smythe playing a spare, inquiring melody (and a solo that closely follows that melody) with regular accents from bassist Christopher Tordini (who switches to bow just before the piece’s end) and loose, brushed drums from Sorey … Sorey’s genius comes through sounding as fresh and insightful as ever. The Pulitzer Prize committee that has honored both Ornette Coleman and Henry Threadgill in the past decade might want to get their ears on Verisimilitude.” – Michael J West, JazzTimes

Cascade in Slow Motion. Tyshawn Sorey Trio
(Cory Smythe-p/elect, Christopher Tordini-b, Tyshawn Sorey-d/per). From Verisimilitude. 7/2017

When faced with critic Gary Giddins’s famous challenge to name five jazz musicians under forty, you can now comfortably name Cécile McLorin Salvant, Aaron Deihl, Kamasi Washington and Tyshawn Sorey featured in this hour and Esperanza Spalding featured in the last hour. Write that down, it will be on the test. It’s second century, jazz is in good hands.

On February 26, 1917, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded “Livery Stable Blues.” It was the first jazz recording. We have broadcast 99 one-hour programs to tell the story of recorded jazz in the intervening 100 years, culminating just now with Tyshawn Sorey.

We have heard the creative work of hundreds of players, composers, arrangers, and bandleaders famous and obscure.  Each of these contributors to this rich history had colleagues and bandmates with whom they grew up; teachers formal and informal; and mentors.  They played in basements, living rooms, high school gyms, clubs and theaters. They were part of a local scene.  Like politics, all jazz is local.

In the next hour, we will celebrate the local scene … our local scene … the wonderful jazz scene of Charlottesville, Virginia.  Current jazz in Charlottesville in the final hour of Jazz at 100.

Recordings.
Vijay Iyer. Accelerando. ACT Music 9524
Wadada Leo Smith. Great Lakes Suite. Tum CD 041
Cécile McLorin Salvant. WomanChild. Mack Avenue MAC 1072
Henry Threadgill Zooid. In For A Penny, In For A Pound. Pi 58
Kamasi Washington. The Epic. Brainfeeder BF050
Craig Taborn. Daylight Ghosts. ECM 2527
Tyshawn Sorey. Verisimilitude. Pi 70

Resources.
Ackerman, Karl. Henry Threadgill Zooid: In For A Penny, In For A Pound. May 14, 2015. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound-henry-threadgill-pi-recordings-review-by-karl-ackermann.php
Barnes, Phil. Cecile McLorin Salvant: WomanChild. All About Jazz. February, 19, 2014. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/cecile-mclorin-salvant-womanchild-by-phil-barnes.php
Davis, Francis. The 2013 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll. NPR Music. December 18, 2013. https://www.npr.org/sections/bestmusic2013/2013/12/16/251761858/the-2013-npr-music-jazz-critics-poll
Davis, Francis. The 2014 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll. NPR Music. December 19, 2014. https://www.npr.org/sections/ablogsupreme/2014/12/19/371282561/the-2014-npr-music-jazz-critics-poll
Davis, Francis. The 2015 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll. NPR Music. December 21, 2015.
https://www.npr.org/sections/ablogsupreme/2015/12/21/460527087/the-2015-npr-music-jazz-critics-poll
Drostert, Troy. Craig Taborn: Daylight Ghosts. All About Jazz. February 5, 2017.
https://www.allaboutjazz.com/daylight-ghosts-craig-taborn-ecm-records-review-by-troy-dostert.php
Jarenwattananon, Patrick. Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2012. NPR Music. December 13, 2012. https://www.npr.org/sections/bestmusic2012/2012/12/07/166760734/top-10-jazz-albums-of-2012
Turner, Mark F. Kamasi Washington: The Epic. All About Jazz. September 30, 2015. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/the-epic-kamasi-washington-brainfeeder-review-by-mark-f-turner.php
West, Michael J. Tyshawn Sorey: Verisimilitude. JazzTimes. October 22, 2017. https://jazztimes.com/reviews/albums/tyshawn-sorey-verisimilitude/

Annotated playlists and streaming links for all the Jazz at 100 broadcasts: Jazz at 100

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