Howard Mandel: Best Jazz CDs Of 2009

December 1, 2009


Author, jazz critic and President of the Jazz Journalists Association Howard Mandel posted a list of his favorite CDs from 2009 on his blog, Jazz Beyond Jazz, this past Friday.

Darcy James Argue’s Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam) and The Thirteenth Assembly’s (un)sentimental (Important Records) both earned spots of the 11-title list.

Of the former, Mandel writes, “Recasting the ‘jazz’ orchestra with an ear hip to a spectrum of contemporary composition but most of all sound itself, Argue diplays a nervy ethos by conducting 18 not-very-well-known but gutsy instrumentalists through arresting themes, solid rhythms and energized solos. This is Brooklyn offline, ironic but earnest, and has drawn a following among listeners in their late 20s-early 30s.”

And, he called the debut of Taylor Ho Bynum, Tomas Fujiwara, Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone’s collective quartet, The Thirteenth Assembly, “Chamber music for moderns—a cornetist, drummer, guitarist and violaist walk the lines between structure and improv, sensitivity and humor, questions and suggestions, inherent references to the past and unpretentious confidence they’re in the right place for music now.”

The list was compiled from nearly 1000 CDs Mandel received for review since last November, so naturally there were lots of honorable mentions. John Hébert’s highly regarded debut, Byzantine Monkey (Firehouse 12), was part of the “Also Much Enjoyed” list.

UPDATE: Mandel’s Top 11 of 2009 is now posted at the Jazz Journalists Association’s Web site.


New Darcy James Argue Download

October 17, 2009

Both sets of Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society performing at The Jazz Gallery on September 18th are now available for download.

“Secret Society doesn’t exactly swing so much as groove, stomp and sort of rock,” wrote Howard Mandel in his blog review of the show. “There’s a touch of minimalism somewhere in composer-conductor DJA’s background, and some very sly wit that stops well short of dire irony.”

If you like what you hear, please consider making a donation to cover the 18-piece band’s often overwhelming overhead costs through Fractured Atlas.


NY Times Reports JazzTimes Will Resume Publishing

July 12, 2009

In a story that will run in Monday’s print edition, the New York Times‘ Ben Ratliff reports that JazzTimes has been sold and will resume its publication schedule with an August issue.

Ratliff, who interviewed the magazine’s editor, Lee Mergner, earlier today, also writes the publication plans to retain Managing Editor Evan Haga and that “arrangements are being made to pay contributors what they are owed.”

UPDATE 7/13: Howard Mandel confirms the sale in an interview with Madover Media‘s company director, Joan Lynch, who explains, “we believe in print, in the web, and in delivering the best product we can, hoping to keep Jazz Times the publication aficionados want.”


Harris Eisenstadt Performances In June

June 11, 2009
Photo by Peter Gannushkin

Photo by Peter Gannushkin

Drummer/composer Harris Eisenstadt is laying a bit low this month waiting for his first child to be born, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a few gigs worth mentioning around New York, including a performance with Jessica Pavone‘s new name-challenged quartet and duets with Brahim Fribgane (in Howard Mandel’s ethnomusicology class at NYU) and Ellery Eskelin (as part of Jeremiah Cymerman’s Telluric Currents series).

Band Without a Name is the Name for Now
06/13: Jessica Pavone Presents @ Ibeam (Brooklyn, NY) 

Harris Eisenstadt/Brahim Fribgane Duo
06/15: New York University (New York, NY)

Harris Eisenstadt/Ellery Eskelin Duo
06/19: Telluric Currents Series @ Ibeam (Brooklyn, NY)


This Just In From JazzTimes Management

June 8, 2009


The jazz world has been abuzz with news of the potential demise of JazzTimes ever since Howard Mandel broke the story on his blog on June 3rd.

Tonight, on the magazine’s recently redesigned Web site, comes the first public word from its management about what has thus far been primarily speculation and rumor, but is now official and sad news, indeed.

Let’s hope it really is a temporary situation and that the staff and contributing writers can resume their work soon.

Read the complete statement here.


Improvised Communications To Represent Mary Halvorson

March 3, 2009

Photo by Hilary McHone

Photo by Hilary McHone

Improvised Communications is pleased to announce it has been retained by Brooklyn-based guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson as her exclusive media contact. 

This new arrangement builds on an ongoing relationship that already includes the promotion of her critically acclaimed 2008 debut as a leader, Dragon’s Head, for the Firehouse 12 Records label, as well as two recent concerts by the Mary Halvorson Trio

Ms. Halvorson will be performing with a variety of ensembles over the next few months, as well as appearing on new recordings by Crackleknob, The Thirteenth Assembly and her duo with Jessica Pavone.

Critics have called her “probably the most original jazz guitarist to emerge this decade” (Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader) and “the freshest, busiest, most critically acclaimed guitar-slinger out of downtown Manhattan/Brooklyn right now” (Howard Mandel, Jazz Beyond Jazz). 

“A singular talent,” adds AllAboutJazz.com’s Troy Collins, “Brooklyn-based guitarist Mary Halvorson has come into her own as a composer and improviser with her trio debut, Dragon’s Head…light years ahead of her peers, she is the most impressive guitarist of her generation.  The future of jazz guitar starts here.”

Active in New York since 2000, following jazz studies at Wesleyan University and the New School, Ms. Halvorson leads her own trio with bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith, and co-leads a chamber music duo with violist Jessica Pavone and the avant-rock duo, People, with drummer Kevin Shea. 

A veteran of the ensembles of esteemed saxophonist/composer Anthony Braxton, she has also performed with groups led by Tim Berne, Taylor Ho Bynum, Trevor Dunn, Curtis Hasselbring, Tony Malaby, Nicole Mitchell, Jason Moran, Matana Roberts, Elliott Sharp, John Tchicai and Matthew Welch among many others. 

Learn more at http://www.maryhalvorson.com


Reminder: Mary Halvorson Trio at Roulette February 13th

January 13, 2009
Mary Halvorson by Hilary McHone

Mary Halvorson by Hilary McHone

On Friday, February 13th at 8:30 p.m., Brooklyn-based guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson and her trio will perform at Roulette in New York. 

The group, which also features bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith, will be premiering brand new music in addition to performing selections from its acclaimed 2008 debut, Dragon’s Head (Firehouse 12 Records). 

The record, Ms. Halvorson’s first at the helm of her own ensemble, is featured on best-of-the-year lists in a long list of publications, including AllAboutJazz-New York, JazzTimes, the New York Times, The Wire and the Village Voice.

The success of Dragon’s Head led critics to call Ms. Halvorson “probably the most original jazz guitarist to emerge this decade” (Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader) and “the freshest, busiest, most critically acclaimed guitar-slinger out of downtown Manhattan/Brooklyn right now” (Howard Mandel, Jazz Beyond Jazz). 

“A singular talent,” adds AllAboutJazz.com’s Troy Collins, “Brooklyn-based guitarist Mary Halvorson has come into her own as a composer and improviser with her trio debut, Dragon’s Head…light years ahead of her peers, she is the most impressive guitarist of her generation. The future of jazz guitar starts here.”