Hitomi Oba, Dominic Thiroux, and Jessica Jones at Blue Whale

Jessica Jones, Hitomi Oba — Blue Whale — 7/24/12

By Alex W. Rodriguez for LA Weekly West Coast Sound

This was is my first piece for LA Weekly — and what a great set to review! Jones and Oba, her former student, brought all original music and sounded fantastic. It also featured a cameo from Ambrose Akinmusire, another former student of Jones, who sounded amazing even as a last-minute addition.

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Alex Pinto and Laura Maguire, co-founders of the SF Offside Festival

Six Creative Presenters Finding New Audiences for Jazz

By Alex W. Rodriguez for A Blog Supreme/NPR Jazz

I wrote this about a month ago for NPR Music, and in the midst of end-of-the-year shenanigans forgot to link to it here at the blog. In case you missed it, do have a look: the piece gives an overview of six jazz presenters that are finding new ways to reach out to jazz listeners.

The most recent example of me parting with money in exchange for music

This weekend, NPR Music intern Emily White wrote a well-meaning (and well-written) reflection on her relationship to music — namely, the fact that she never purchased any, given the free and easy access with which she has grown up.

I, too, have purchased little music since my regular trips to the Used Jazz CD shelves at Everyday Music in high school, unless you count pre-ordering a few things through Kickstarter campaigns (the latest of which, Darcy James Argue’s new record, has four hours left and has reached its goal!) In fact, I think the last piece of music that I directly purchased was Argue’s previous album, back in 2009.

But that’s largely because I have had the good fortune of falling into the jazz journalism world, where I am given promotional copies of music for review. Given the excellent stuff that comes across my desk, I am rarely compelled to reach out and buy more.

But this strongly-worded and well-argued rebuttal to Emily’s confessional has me thinking a little bit more closely about the ethics of my music listening habits. And with your help, I’d like to publicly lay out a set of guiding principles for my future listening, and check back later to see whether or not I was able to live up to my aspirations:  Read the rest of this entry »

Fred Wesley at the Oceanside Jazz Festival

In case you were wondering, Fred Wesley still knows how to get down. At the tender age of 68, the Funkiest Trombonist of All Time overcame a long cross-country flight and a bout with acute bronchitis to serve as the guest artist for the Oceanside Jazz Festival, an all-day celebration of local college and high school jazz ensembles.

I drove down to Oceanside to catch the final concert, which featured the Mira Costa Jazz Collective and Mira Costa Oceanside Jazz Orchestra (operating under the clever acronym MOJO) directed by Steve Torok with Wesley as the guest soloist.  Read the rest of this entry »

Tomorrow night, I will be driving down to Oceanside to see perhaps the greatest living trombonist, my childhood trombone hero Fred Wesley, sit in as a guest artist for the Oceanside Jazz Festival. I’m looking forward to checking out the vibe, and hearing what Fred has to offer the next generation of potential funkateers.

Tickets are still on sale — do you really want to miss a chance to hear a living legend doin’ it to death?

In Los Angeles, An Immigrant’s Dream Becomes a Jazz Hub

By Alex W. Rodriguez for A Blog Supreme/NPR Jazz

This piece is a part of the Jazz Journalists Association’s Jazz Day Blogathon, celebrating jazz in local communities in honor of “Jazz Day.” Click the link for updates from all over the world!

Behold: A white piano trio that is not full of shit

This morning, I finally caught up with the jazz internet hoopla surrounding the Toronto-based trio Badbadnotgood (BBNG). I will not link to any of their music here, because they have received plenty of attention already.

I will, however, link to Peter Hum’s excellent take.

Read that, and then come back to see why I even bothered weighing in: because this group exposes the racist underbelly that haunts today’s systems of music distribution and consumption, something that many jazz musicians have been diligently and intelligently resisting for decades.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Back home again at UCLA's Schoenberg Hall

Wow, that was a crazy month! And another begins, as I return to campus for spring quarter here at UCLA. This quarter system is a real trip . . . between the 10-week courses and the lack of seasons here in Los Angeles, there is a very different academic ebb and flow than the one became accustomed to on the East Coast.

But enough complaining — I am eager to take on some new courses and extremely grateful and humbled to have had the opportunity to present at last week’s EMP Pop Conference. Despite the fact that our panel was programmed at the same time as a gathering of powerhouse music writers (Greil Marcus and Ann Powers, anyone?) we had a solid turnout, including a number of my friends and former classmates at Rutgers. David Adler, Nate Chinen, and Phil Freeman all gave fantastic, engaging papers, and we had time for a lively Q & A session afterwards. Thanks also to the Music of our Heart for a nice blog recap.

I’d add a small quibble, though, to the characterization of the conference as a “Deep Hang.” I would call it wide, perhaps — the sheer size and buzz of the conference was invigorating, but the depth was uneven at best. There was plenty of deep thinking going on in some places, though: a fantastic roundtable conversation moderated by Greg Tate featuring Vijay Iyer, Jose James, Mazz Swift, and Butch Morris was one highlight. Morris held court for much of the session, defending the word jazz from its recent slough of detractors, and all four shared heavy insights into the role that cities have played in shaping their unique musical visions: “nodes in the network,” as Iyer eloquently called them. Guthrie Ramsay’s panel “Cities, Hegemonic Sound, and Blackness” was another deep and real take on issues of representation in African American music culture, and the closing keynote speech by ?uestlove was highly entertaining for its charming geekiness.

Best of all, though, was the simple act of reacquainting myself (just a little bit) with the city that I left behind last year. Attending the opening reception at Le Poisson Rouge, I caught a whiff of nostalgia for my first concert in the City, hearing Claudia Acuna, Jason Moran, William Parker, and others at the 2009 Winter JazzFest. And I had the pleasure of reconnecting with my three closest friends from Rutgers — Sean Lorre, Paul Brady, and Jared Negley — while catching the Gerald Clayton Trio’s impeccable set at the Jazz Standard. This confirmed the theory that I presented in my paper on Saturday: that “the hang” plays an important role in shaping music communities, and that jazz musicians are especially astute when it comes to making hangs happen.

As I return to my nose-in-the-books life here in Los Angeles, then, I’m exceedingly grateful to have stocked back up on the New York vibe, and hope that the spirit of the hang continues to help me along for another ten-week dive into the depths of academia.

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Mary Lou Williams and Jack Teagarden, hanging

I’m taking a quick break from my finals week bonanza (this quarter system really takes some getting used to) with a link for those of you who might be curious to take a look at what I’ll be presenting next week at the EMP Pop Conference in New York. It’s a preview of my paper, “Deconstructing the Hang: Urban Spaces as Cross-Cultural Contexts for Jazz Improvisation.”

If you’ll pardon the slightly cumbersome academic prose, I’d love to hear what any of you think about the idea — that “the hang” as it is conceived of in the jazz community has something to offer those engaging in ethnographic fieldwork more generally. Again, the link is here — thanks for taking a look, and if you’re in New York next week, I hope to see you there on Saturday from 4-6 p.m.

Clearly, it’s worth checking out, because even Stephen Colbert is jealous that he won’t be presenting on an awesome panel with David Adler, Nate Chinen and Phil Freeman!

Pyeng Threadgill, Photo by Xabi Ezpeleta

So far, one of my favorite parts of the academic lifestyle is the occasional ritual known as the Academic Conference. After having a great time presenting at graduate student conferences nearly two years ago (one of which I recounted at this very blog), I resolved to get back in the game this spring. After getting settled at UCLA, I sent out four applications, hoping that one or maybe two might take interest in my work.

Much to my surprise, all four conferences invited me to present a paper! So it’s a busy springtime full of travel, which started two weekends ago at the International Society for Improvised Music conference at William Paterson University, near my old haunts in New Jersey. Next weekend, I’m heading north to Eugene, Oregon to present at the West Coast Conference of Music Theory and Analysis. Later in March, I’ll be back in the New York City area to present at the EMP Pop Conference. I cap it all off with a trip to Vancouver, BC for the Analytical Approaches to World Music conference in May.

After coming back from the ISIM conference, I must admit — the bar has been set very high.  Read the rest of this entry »

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