DownBeat: John Hébert’s Byzantine Monkey

September 14, 2009

Bassist/composer John Hébert continues to gather accolades for his long-awaited debut release, Byzantine Monkey (Firehouse 12 Records). The latest is a four-star review by Peter Margasak in the October issue of DownBeat.

“On his first album as a leader he displays a sonic vision that’s all his own,” Margasak writes, “even while sticking mostly to a support role. The leader has written nine lovely themes, some ebullient, some sorrowful, some fragile, and he directs his cohorts to elucidate and dance around the melodies with a mix of freedom and communicativeness.”

“In particular,” he adds, “the intertwining lines of Tony Malaby, brawny and fat, and Michaël Attias, lithe and stinging, provide an exuberant dance on contrast.”

Hébert and his sextet, also called Byzantine Monkey, will celebrate this release at New York’s Cornelia Street Cafe on September 25th and 26th.

Last Chance To Vote In DownBeat’s 2009 Readers Poll

August 14, 2009

DownBeat Readers Poll

Monday, August 24th is the last day to have your say in DownBeat’s 74th annual Readers Poll, so please consider this the nudge you need to help get out the vote!

If we can elect an African-American man with an Islamic name President of the United States, getting non-mainstream jazz artists and labels some love in a poll like this should be a snap.


Yes We Can! Vote For Change! Somebody get Shepard Fairey on the phone!

Results will appear in the December issue.

DownBeat Puts Darcy James Argue In The Hot Box

August 11, 2009

We know what you’re thinking, “Nobody puts Darcy James Argue in a Hot Box!”

And normally you’d be right, but DownBeat is the exception. The September issue finds Argue’s acclaimed debut, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam Records), entered into the Thunderdome-like monthly reviews feature called The Hot Box.

Okay, it’s not quite that extreme, as all four CDs that enter usually get to leave as well (often with a limp), but it does involve four critics holding four buzzed-about new records to a higher standard in what might be more accurately compared to a Senate confirmation hearing.

Do 33 year-old steampunk big band leaders have a wiser and more empathetic insight into the major issues of the day? That’s a question for another time, but we can report that our hero fared well.

“With his throbbing beats, drones, brass choirs, space-age eeriness and billowing clouds of sound, Argue is clearly an original,” declared Paul de Barros in one of the capsule reviews.

In the featured review, Jim Macnie wrote, “There’s a critical consensus around this disc, but few pundits are stressing just how gorgeous Argue’s motifs are. Infernal Machines is addictive not only for its architecture, but for its fetching way with color…we’ll be remembering it for quite some time.”

Argue and the group will next perform on back-to-back nights in September at the New Languages Festival and The Jazz Gallery. Stay tuned for more dates in October and November to be announced soon!

iC Media Poll Results: Part 2

July 20, 2009

Print publications

Today we explore the results from the second of five sections of our recent survey of 50 prominent jazz writers and editors.

This section, called Web and print habits, asked about the jazz-related publications, blogs and Web sites these professionals are reading, how they access them, and if what they read there impacts their own work.

As shown in the chart above, we first asked respondents to indicate which of the eight major jazz magazines they read on a regular basis. The list, which featured English-language publications only, included AllAboutJazz-New York, Cadence, DownBeat, Jazz Improv, Jazziz, JazzTimes, Signal To Noise and The Wire. We also made it possible for people to write-in any other publications as well.

The clear winner was AllAboutJazz-New York with 54.5%. The runner-up was Signal to Noise with 51.5%, followed by DownBeat and JazzTimes, which each scored 48.5%. The Wire (39.4%) and Cadence (18.2%) were next, while Jazziz and Jazz Improv each scored less than 10%.

One write-in vote each was cast for Cuadernos de JazzCoda, Improjazz, Jazz Journal and Ritmos del Mundo.

Print influence

We then asked if the coverage in these publications influenced the respondent’s own work (i.e. discovering new releases, coloring their judgement of artists/releases, etc.).

The results (above) were clear as 85.3% answered in the affirmative.

Web sites

Next we asked which jazz-related Web sites respondents visit on a regular basis, again spotlighting eight popular choices and giving people the chance to write-in any others they prefer. was the clear favorite with 77.4%, with finishing a close second with 61.3%. Next came Bagatellen with 32.3%, followed by and NPR Music, which each earned 29%. Avant Music News (16.1%), Jazz Corner (12.9%) and PopMatters (6.5%) also got multiple votes.

A significant number of write-in votes were cast for blogs, which we tackle in the next question, but Point of Departure was a popular choice (an admitted oversight on our part), as were Pitchfork and Dusted.

Web influence

Again, the majority (82.4%) indicated that the content of these sites influence their own work.

When tackling the subject of blogs, we asked respondents to list five of their favorites. Oddly enough, more than half skipped this question completely, and only 37.5% filled in all five slots. Some even dedicated one or more of the slots to expressing their dislike for reading and/or discussing blogs at all.

The calculations don’t apply to write-ins, but the most popular choices were Destination: Out, Do The Math, Free Jazz, Jazz Beyond Jazz, Lerterland and Secret Society.

Blog influence

But this time, when we asked if what they read on these blogs influenced their own work, only 44.4% said yes.

Blog access

When it comes to accessing the blogs they read, the Web is by far the most popular way with 94.1% giving that answer. Using a built-in blog reader in one’s browser and using a stand-alone RSS feed reader represented the rest of the vote with 8.8% each.

Twitter account

Finally, we asked if any of the respondents have a Twitter account.

Unlike with the blogs, everyone who took the survey answered this question, but only 35.3% said yes.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the third section of our survey, Personal Listening Habits, which features questions about writers’ interaction with jazz radio, their preferences for format (CD, MP3 and vinyl) when purchasing music for personal use, and the amount of music they purchase in a given year.

Please stay tuned!

DownBeat: Michael Musillami Trio + 3’s From Seeds (Playscape)

July 13, 2009

“Guitarist Michael Musillami has a tone that’s impossible not to love,” declares James Hale in his 4 1/2 star review of Musillami’s latest record in the August issue of DownBeat.

“On From Seeds,” he adds, “Musillami has expanded his trio by adding saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, vibist Matt Moran and trumpeter Ralph Alessi. That makes for a potent sextet, and the guitarist’s writing provides a rich variety of settings.”

2009 DownBeat Critics Poll

July 11, 2009

DownBeat‘s August 2009 issue is now reaching subscribers, and with it the results of the 57th Annual Critics Poll.

We’d like to congratulate everyone recognized in the various categories by the 120 voting writers, but especially our current clients and the musicians whose releases we represented in the past year.

Jason Adasiewicz:
Vibes and Vibes, Rising Star

Darcy James Argue:
Big Band, Rising Star and Composer, Rising Star

Taylor Ho Bynum:
Trumpet, Rising Star

Gerald Cleaver:
Drums, Rising Star

Harris Eisenstadt:
Composer, Rising Star

Mary Halvorson:
Jazz Artist, Rising Star; Jazz Group, Rising Star; and Guitar, Rising Star

John Hébert
Acoustic Bass, Rising Star

Nicole Mitchell:
Flute and Flute, Rising Star (winner)

William Parker:
Acoustic Bass

Garrison Fewell Featured In DownBeat

May 13, 2009
Photo by Rosetti © Phocus

Photo by Rosetti © Phocus

Veteran guitarist/composer Garrison Fewell is featured in the Players section of the June 2009 issue of DownBeat.

The article, written by Shaun Brady, discusses Fewell’s two recent releases, The Lady of Khartoum and Variable Density Sound Orchestra, on Boston’s Creative Nation Music label, as well as his long and distinguished career as a performer and educator.