Jazz, more than any other genre, is a baton relay. Elder generations pass off the music to their heirs, who then themselves become veterans and the cycle repeats. Where some people see tumultuous shifts, we see an unending font of vitality. Jazz is like a Thanksgiving turkey, made more succulent by the application of new creative marinades.
Pianist Vijay Iyer (On The Cover) has become one of the premier practitioners on his instrument; he continues a long piano tradition with his ECM trio debut and a concert at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Temple of Dendur. Drummer Carl Allen (Interview) took lessons learned from folks like George Coleman, Freddie Hubbard and Jackie McLean and handed them down as the longtime Artistic Director of Jazz Studies at The Juilliard School. This month he performs at Smoke with his band fêting his influences Elvin Jones and Art Blakey. And clarinetist James Falzone (Artist Feature) continues the rich Chicago jazz tradition, bringing his new all-reed sextet to Roulette. And to celebrate Women's History Month and their many contributions to the history of jazz, we have front-loaded our CD reviews with a gaggle of female-led and co-led albums (pg. 14-19).
If you don't learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it, which is not what jazz is about.
On the Cover: VIJAY IYER
By Suzanne Lorge; photos by Lena Adasheva and Bart Babinski
Pianist Vijay Iyer has not followed the usual path to acclaim in the jazz world. He received little formal training in piano and is a largely self-taught composer. While studying the sciences at Yale and University of California-Berkeley in the '90s, he was playing in jazz clubs and touring Europe as a sideman. Even as he was garnering academic credentials in math and physics, he was starting to write his own jazz compositions. "None of that was normal," he admitted with a laugh in a recent phone interview. Not normal, perhaps, but not confused or aimless, either. Iyer's trio is at Metropolitan Museum of Art's Temple of Dendur Mar. 7th.
Interview: CARL ALLEN
By Alex Henderson; photo courtesy of Carl Allen
When Carl Allen, now 53, first emerged in the '80s, the term "Young Lion" was often used in connection with the New York City-based drummer and Milwaukee native. Allen has built a long résumé working as a sideman for jazz heavyweights like alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, flugelhornist Art Farmer and tenor saxophonist George Coleman. His own catalogue has ranged from two albums for Atlantic Records to dates co-led with bassist Rodney Whitaker for Mack Avenue. 2014 found Allen forming his group The Art of Elvin, which has been paying homage to the legacies of Art Blakey and Elvin Jones. Allen is at Smoke Mar. 6th-8th with Buster Williams and Mar. 27th-29th with his The Art of Elvin project.
Artist Feature: JAMES FALZONE
By Clifford Allen; photo by Peter Gannushkin
Chicago-based clarinetist James Falzone, a stalwart figure on the Windy City's improvisation scene for the better part of 15 years, would be intriguing enough on the basis of his varied output—he currently leads three different units in addition to a host of sideman and solo appearances—but being an improvising composer requires only a fraction of the responsibility to which Falzone has committed himself. Falzone's Renga Ensemble is at Roulette Mar. 4th.
Encore: ALPHONSE MOUZON
By Anders Griffen
Looking over the career of musician Alphonse Mouzon a steady, inspired output is revealed. From his beginnings drumming behind pianist McCoy Tyner and as an original member of fusion supergroup Weather Report, Mouzon has sustained an active musical career for decades.
Lest We Forget: BETTY CARTER
By Donald Elfman
Betty Carter was a one-of-a-kind artist. She remains the embodiment of modern fullest jazz singing, her art comprising composition, daring improvisation, a unique sense of time and harmony and a desire to find and teach young talented vocalists and instrumentalists.
Record Label Spotlight: RUNE GRAMMOFON
By Ken Waxman
Helping to define and preserve sometimes uncategorizable improvised music was one of the goals of Norwegian Rune Kristoffersen when he started his Oslo-based Rune Grammofon (RG) label in 1997. "A new scene was forming with young artists doing exciting music," he recalls. "But they had nowhere to release the music since the majors weren't interested." Kristoffersen decided to fill the gap and, as of the end of 2014, RG has released 176 sessions touching on aspects of folk, jazz, ambient, electronic and rock.