2011 – part 2

I just need to add a late release to the highlights of 2011 – Paco De Lucia – En Vivo – Conciertos Espana 2010. An incredible Flamenco live record from Paco’s most recent tour, this double CD set is powerful and artistic and deeply emotional. A total of 8 tracks over the two discs gives the maestro and his sidemen time to develop the songs and go to the essence of what they want to express. Paco plays divine, the band is absolutely amazing and the music really takes you to Spain and its roots. The Spanish edition of this set includes as well a DVD with a 20 minute documentary – a view behind the scenes. The album will be available internationally in early 2012, but for me it is one of the best of 2011.

And while being at it – why not mention my top films and books for the year:

Even so made in 2009, The Farewell Affair only made it to the movies (in Spain) in 2011 – but it has been worth waiting for (even if you didn’t know you actually did wait for it….). A spy movie from the Cold War, based on true facts, it is warm and brutal at the same time, showing how politicians and secret services play chess with human beings …. Extremely well done and gripping, in a suspense as well as in an emotional way.

Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, probably his best since Scoop, is an enjoyable affair with funny and clever references – great entertainment.

Carnage, the latest by Roman Polansky, could have been made by Woody Allen – it has the same neurotic characters and funny clever dialogs he had in his New York films. This is a rollercoaster of emotions and a showcase for the great actors in it – especially Jodie Foster. Check this out!

The Artist – a silent movie made today ? A risk taken by a studio – and it pays off 100 %! This is great entertainment, it is a great story, well presented in an ‘old’ way and still modern and uses sound to highlight certain moments – with surprising effect! Very charming and very engaging.

I admit – I did enjoy Tin Tin and I did like Super 8 as well. They are well done and they give you a few hours of entertainment on the highest technical level and that is all I did expect.

One book stood out for me this year from anything else I read: 1Q84, the three part modern fairy-tale by Haruki Murakami. As in most of his books we are asked to find the borderline between reality and what we want to see, experience … or question if there is a border at all … but as well he pays homage to the strength humans can have in many different ways … A complex book, but a very rewarding one.

Stephane Hessel’s little pamphlet Time for Outrage must rank as the most influential book of the year – translated in all major languages it started the 15M movement of civil disobedience in Spain and other countries and opened a lot of eyes … .A lot for a little book.

Finally … football (or soccer, as it is called in some countries): as a fan, this year, again, was the year of Barcelona FC! Even so in Spain I am a follower of Real Madrid, one has to accept that there is no better club team in the world at the moment! When they play, you can actually talk about the beautiful game, as the English call their football. Movements and control are like a ballet and all seems to be so easy … They will be the one to beat or quite a while !!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas

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and a Happy New Year 2012 !

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2011

hard to believe that another year has passed – a strange one personally – with good things and bad ones … like any other, more or less.

The good ones first – our move to Madrid 8 months ago has been a blessing – the quality of life in this city is incredible and in comparison to London one can live reasonably well and much cheaper and better. Spending more time with my wife is absolutely amazing and I enjoy every second of it. Family and friends are close by and making life more interesting and fun. My daughter turning 18 and her doing well in her studies. And finally slowly getting our business going … slowly! All in all – things are looking pretty good.

The negative ones – the passing of artists I worked with and people close by, first of all my wife’s grandmother, a true character and wonderful lady. Health problems of not to be named friends and people close to us. Paying lots of money to my ex-wife according to a judge who was clearly overwhelmed with the simplicity of the case … discussions with the Inland Revenue … the slowness of the way our business is developing.

The music business is not getting better either – the bigger ones are going to be bigger (Universal signing everyone and buying EMI) and in the niche markets the trend to the independents continues – see the success of small labels at the Grammy nominations, which might not be a bad thing anyway.

There has been a lot of great music this year – on records and live and I want to share a few of my 2011 highlights with you:

Best Jazz Records of 2011

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Just listen to ‘Sonnymoon for Two’ when Ornette Coleman joins Sonny and the two start ‘talking’ … A rare musical moment and worth the album alone, but the rest is pretty amazing as well and shows, that for Sonny age is not an issue – he still has lots to say!! The two Grammy nominations are well deserved and I sincerely hope he gets them both!!

Gerald Clayton – Bond:The Paris Sessions

Julian Lage – Gladwell

James Carter Organ Trio – at the crossroads

Miguel Zenon – Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook

Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo – Songs of Myth and Melancholy

Michel Camilo – Man A Mano

Nils Petter Molvaer – Baboon Moon

Wesseltoft / Schwarz – Duo

Pablo Martin – El Caminero

Josemi Carmona – Las pequenas cosas

Charles Lloyd / Maria Farantouri – Athens Concert

Keith Jarrett – Rio

Giovanna Pessi / Susanna Wallumrod – If grief could wait

Christian Muthspiel’s Yodel Group – huljo

This are my top 15 records in terms of jazz for this year – there are many more great records, but not all can make the list, others I heard about, but haven’t heard them yet – something to do next year.

Live Top 12 of 2011

Kurt Elling – Madrid Jazz Festival

He is simply the best male vocalist around today – and live always incredible – even so on this gig he had to change pianist just the day before and it just gave the performance another edge, but the quality of the band and his show was simply beyond.

Dave Holland and Pepe Habichuela, feat. Josemi Carmona – Barcelona Jazz Festival

Javier Limon – Mujeres de Agua – North Sea Jazz Festival, Rotterdam (especially Eleftheria Arvanitaki and La Shica)

Sergio Mendes – North Sea Jazz Festival

Kristin Asbjornsen – San Sebastian Jazzaldia

Jose James – Jazz Vitoria-Gasteiz

a tribute to Tommy LiPuma – feat. among others Randy Crawford, Diana Krall, George Benson, Dr. John, Leon Russell, David Sanborn, Joe Sample … – Montreux Jazz Festival

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(Trombone Shorty, Joe Sample, Dave Sanborn and Dr John)

Jazzland Sessions – featuring Bugge Wesseltoft, Hakon Kornstad, Ola Kvernberg, Mari&Stein, Knut Reiersrud and special guest Josemi Carmona – Nasjonal Jazzscene Oslo

John Scofield – San Sebastian Jazzaldia

Michel Camilo ‘Mano A Mano’ – Jazz Vitoria-Gasteiz

Pablo Martin – Madrid Jazz Festival

Hiromi – San Sebastian Jazzaldia

and many more gigs in smaller clubs, like the James Carter Organ Trio at the New Morning in Paris, or festivals. But these are the outstanding ones as far as I can recall right now.

… and for 2012 – some of the music will be great and as I have heard a few already – check out the following releases coming in the first quarter of next year:

Charlie Haden and Hank Jones – Come Sunday – recorded just 3 months before Hank’s passing, this beauty of an album will finally be released

Bugge Wesseltoft – Songs – his first fully acoustic solo piano album of jazz standards – you’ll be in for a treat. Sensational!!

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Hakon Kornstad – symphonies in my head – solo sax and loop station master piece. When you think he can’t get better, he will prove you wrong ….!

Wishing you all a swinging New Year!!

Malecon Street

Yesterday evening at the Teatro Calderon in Madrid was the premiere of the new project by Spanish singer Pitingo – Malecon Street. This is as well the title of his 4th record and a slightly new direction for him, as the previous three were either more straight flamenco or versions of popular songs, done the Ptitingo style – flamenco with a choir!!

Malecon Street is about Cuba, is about the ‘forgotten’ composers and song writers of this in music so rich country!

The band is mainly from Cuba, with the exception of Juan Carmona, who joined for two songs and brought a more flamenco enriched flavour to the proceedings. Pitingo, a major star in his native Spain, is a singer of rare qualities – whatever he makes his own, he performs with all he got to put into a song – the power and emotions are amazing and his control is simply exceptional. Of course the recording and show has a few famous Cuban songs in it – Guantanamera and Quizas, Quizas for example, which he tackles without fault. The rest are showcases of his amazing voice and real good song writing. He for sure gets the audience going and at the end he has them all dancing and singing – even more so when he starts his ‘hits’ – the Spanish language flamenco versions of ‘Killing me softly with this song’ and ‘I will survive’. The audience sings and can’t get enough – no surprise – Pitingo is a star and should be one all over the world. Might take some time still, but it could (and should) happen.

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Grammy Nominations

Last week the Grammy Nominations in all categories have been announced – not many surprises there, not even any more that especially categories in niche genres have been cut – including Jazz.

For the US market and a few Asian markets these nominations and later the awards themselves are really important in terms of prestige and sales – in Europe maybe a bit for prestige, but hardly ever for sales.

Unfortunately there is nothing comparable in Europe – every country has a few awards for music or certain genres of music, but there is not one great European Music Award, which celebrates music that is either made or successful in Europe. Local awards never travel – who cares in the UK which act won the French pop or jazz or classical award and vice versa? Midem tried to come up with something for classical, but it hardly ever reached more than the French press.

Maybe it is time for the EBU (European Broadcast Union) to come up with a plan that makes sense, creates key categories in pop/rock, world, classical and jazz and sets up a show that is comparable and builds an award that has prestige.

Coming back to the Grammy nominations: of course I am proud that through my work I am associated with some of the nominated recordings (in the jazz categories) –

Best Improvised Jazz Solo – Sonny Rollins, for his solo in ‘Sonnymoon for two’ from his new album Road Shows, Vol.2

Best Jazz Instrumental Album – 2 nominations in that category – Gerald Clayton, ‘Bond: The Paris Sessions’, as well as Sonny Rollins, ‘Road Shows, Vol. 2’

Other artist I work with which got nominations include Kurt Elling, Chick Corea and Miguel Zenon.

Congratulations to all the nominees and I’ll keep my fingers crossed!