jazzahead 2017

This year’s event in Bremen was the 12th edition of jazzahead and had the most exhibitors and visitors and, as always, it was good to see old and new friends, having meetings and chats about the state of the jazz business and discuss promising talent and exciting new releases. Jazz industry people from all over the world came to Bremen this year and made it a truly global event. But the showcases were, as every year, the main draw and some of them this time were simply spectacular. After long day of meetings and chats I needed some music and decided to check out Eli Degibri, whom I had met during our panel in New York at Jazz Connect – his quartet of himself on saxes, Tom Oren on Piano, Tamir Shmerling on bass and Eviatar Slivinik on drums ran through some originals showcasing the incredible technique Degibri has. Wonderful his sound on the soprano and powerful his soli on this instrument. Glad I had a chance to check him out.

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After some very interesting dinner conversations at the Karsten Jahnke / Enjoy Jazz dinner on Friday, I had to hear the new project by Marilyn Mazur SHAMANIA. I always liked her compositions and her performance and recordings, since the time I saw her first with Miles Davis. Her 40 minute late night set was pure power – 2 percussionists, drums, piano, bass, vocals and horns make up that all female ensemble – great grooves, really good soli by all musicians and fantastic interplay. It got rhythm and space to improvise, nice little melodies and amazing energy. I just loved it – if anyone wants to check this gig out, go to http://concert.arte.tv/de/marilynmazur-shamania-jazzahead-2017 .

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Saturday was less meetings and more music, starting with German pianist Lorenz Kellhuber, whom I had met at the first Montreux Academy and always wanted to see him live – 30 minutes is never enough if the show is good and his was – a great and inspired trio performance of originals and extended improvisations. A very talented young man indeed, perfectly supported by Arne Huber on bass and Gabriel Hahn on drums.

Next up was Gilad Hekselman, a young guitar player who is making waves in the jazz scene and rightly so – his melodic compositions are timeless and beautiful and his playing ranks with the top on his instrument. The trio with Rick Rosato on bass and Jonathan Pinson on drums is tight and shows great understanding and communication. I am sure this is one musician we will hear a lot from in the coming years.

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Camilla Meza I had heard in New York about 2 years ago – a recommendation by a Spanish friend of mine and I did enjoy her show then, but she really has developed amazingly and her set in Bremen was interestingly diverse with great guitar work by her and some astonishing vocals. Her music is reflecting the two cultures she lives in: her Chilean roots and her New York influence. Effortless she moves between these worlds, sometime expressing them together, sometimes keeping them apart. Her guitar playing is very good and reminds me a bit of George Benson the way she sings along to her soli. Her version of ‘Cucurrucucu Paloma’ was unique and very touching – someone to watch for the future.

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I saved the best for last – the Julian Lage Trio, with Julian on guitar, Jorge Roeder on bass and Eric Doob on drums played a perfect and incredible 40 minute set of Julian’s music from his recent release Arclight and from a forthcoming album, to be released in the fall. Julian is growing musically every year and now is one of the most important young musicians in jazz. His compositions are stylish and accessible, even so the trio’s improvisations leave space to wander and let go. His sound is beautiful and clear and his playing doesn’t leave you asking for more. Not even 30 years old yet and he has become the one guitar player everyone is talking about and he deserves it: he is at home in any musical environment, whether it is duos with Bill Frisell or Nels Cline, the trio format or guesting in Eric Harland’s group. Some of the new songs have a slight Americana feel or influence to them, but overall sound really good, which makes me curious about the new album. Can’t wait to see a full gig in July, when he will be back in Europe and listen to the new album later this year.

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Jazzahead 2017 – for three days Bremen became the jazz centre of the world and showed that, even so the jazz record business is having a tough time, the music is alive and kicking!

For the curious ones: if you want to check out any of the above mentioned shows, just go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=jazzahead%21+2017

Enjoy!!!

 

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Rebel Music

I have been a fan of boundary pushing trumpet player Christian Scott for a while now and go and see/hear him whenever I get a chance – so when he came to Madrid again and performed at Clamores, I was there –  he had as usual a great group of young musicians to support him and the powerful mix of old and new tunes and his impressive stage presence and trumpet playing made a full house and enthusiastic audience enjoy the show. Tracks from his new and very modern (including well used electronics) and exciting album ‘Ruler Rebel’ made a big part of the set list, but as well classics and some of his own compositions from earlier records. Great to hear him again, have a little chat after the show and then go home and listen to his new record, which I can truly recommend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A rebel of some kind was Allan Holdsworth, the genius guitarist who passed away on April 15th, at the age of 70 years. I heard him first on the Nucleus album he played (‘Belladonna’, 1972) and then kind of ‘bumped’ into his name on various other recordings I liked – Soft Machine, Gong, Tony Williams, Bill Bruford and so on and then of course I got some of his own recordings, especially the live album ‘All Night Wrong’, 2002 and ‘Flat Tire’, 2001, the music for a non-existent movie! Few musicians have been so influential and still being almost unknown. A very unique voice has been silenced! Rest in Peace.

A few records I can recommend to listen to, as I had immense pleasure doing so:

Rohey – ‘A Million Things’, Jazzland Recordings – soul, jazz, a bit retro, but still fresh .. and what a voice! Just check it out – I don’t want to put into categories – it is simply a great record with amazing music.

Nels Cline – Lovers, Blue Note – this is album was released already last year and it took me some time to get a copy and listen …now I can’t stop – it is such a beautiful album – the arrangements by Michael Leonhart are just perfect to the sound of Cline …  I am glad there are still labels doing such albums.

Jose James –Love in a time of madness, Blue Note – Jose James can do great jazz and beautiful soul and this album combines both, leaning a bit more into the soul side of his. There a bunch of great songs here, at the moment my favourite is I’M YOURS, featuring Oleta Adams, but that might change as I discover new nuances within the songs with every listen.

I am proud to have been involved in Somi’s new album ‘Petite Afrique’ and even more so when reading reviews like below from Janae Price at VICE (the full article can be found here: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/somis-new-music-is-a-pan-african-loveletter-to-harlem)

“ … For more than 15 years, Somi has been mining her global black identity for music that speaks to the vast beauty across the African diaspora. And right now, her voice is more important than ever, considering that every aspect of her person is under siege in America. As woman, she faces a president who boasts about sexual assault. As a black person, she faces a legacy of state violence that dates back to chattel slavery. And as a descendant of immigrants, she faces a country that is on the verge of succumbing to xenophobic paranoia. But from the pain of these struggles, she’s crafted the perfect salve: her sixth album, Petite Afrique. The album’s name is a reference to Harlem, where Somi planted her roots more than a decade ago. Harlem is a source of inspiration because the New York City neighbourhood embodies both the links and fractures that exist between African-Americans and African immigrants living in America. Unfortunately, Harlem’s unique black culture is one that is rapidly disappearing as gentrification takes hold of the city.

On the new album, Somi’s voice is powerful and soars like a modern day Nina Simone. But her lyrics also strike a chord. With blunt references to the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality, the project is a perfect illustration of some of the biggest issues impacting black people today. In this frenzied and fearful political and social climate, Petite Afrique lends a breath of fresh air to those feeling under represented or misunderstood”.

Tommy LiPuma (1936-2017)

Tommy LiPuma was not just one of the best producers of our time; he was a man living music. Ever fibre in his body was swinging – when talking to him it always ended up being about music, as this was what made him tick.

I first met Tommy when Universal bought PolyGram in 1998 and we started merging the two companies and in our case the jazz activities around the world. For me he became kind of a role model, together with Bruce Lundvall – the ultimate music men – one the producer with a passion and love for the music and artists and the other the executive with equal passion and understanding of the creative being. They were the guys to learn from and to look up to.

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When Tommy was running the Verve Music Group and we had meetings (see above – International Marketing Meeting Verve, I think 2006, Tommy 4th from left) it was always a pleasure to hear him talking about music and artists … he let the business talk be done by someone else, his mind was in making great records and he did over all these years. And all the stories he could tell! I never got tired of listening to him and gladly stayed in touch after we both left Universal – before that he did produce for PRA/Emarcy the two studio albums Randy Crawford did with Joe Sample, which I released outside the US.

I was invited to go to Montreux for his 75th birthday celebration – a star studded affair which only he could manage to get on one stage – the performance schedule for that night (see photo below) tells it all. We had a great time there with music and good food and wine, another of his passions.

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A few years ago he called me once  in the middle of the night, guess it was past 1 am, just to tell me to check out this new kid he heard of – which was no-one else than Jacob Collier! Still going strong and hearing new acts … and the last time we spoke, less than a year ago, he advised me to get a DAC player to improve the sound of compressed digital files ….Music and sound were always on his mind and now I can’t wait to hear his last production, the new Diana Krall album.

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Tommy will be with me forever – as he will be with many people for the rest of their lives. He and the music he created with his artists touched many people and will continue to do so for a very long time. May he Rest In Peace.

Montreux Jazz Academy 2017 +

The third Montreux Academy started last Friday in Lausanne, this year HEMU, the jazz school there, stepping in as the host of the week-long event. 10 young musicians participated this year – the 3 finalists from the Montreux piano, guitar and vocal competitions and one musician picked by the HEMU to represent them in the mix.

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Guitar: from the UK Rob Luft and from Finland, but living in New York, Olli Hirvonen

Piano: Estaban Castro, from New York, is with 14 years the youngest Academy invitee so far; Guy MIntus, Israel-born but living as well in NYC now and Casimir Liberski from Belgium.

Vocals: Arta Jekabsone, Latvian who studied in New York; Cristina Tanase, Rumanian who studied law first before focusing on her singing career; Fabio Giacalone a global citizen being an Italian born in Brazil, who studies as well in NYC; German Erik Leuthäuser, the vocalise expert and Belgian Imelda Gabs, who was chosen by her university to participate in the Academy.

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The event started with a lecture on film and TV music by John Altman – very interesting and captivating. After that it was all about setting up the jam session for after dinner and that where the musicians showcased their abilities and talent. Guy Mintus was selected to run the show and he did a great job to keep the music flowing, adding some really good moments on piano to the overall great mix. From all the talent displayed, in an environment that is not musically what they usually do on their own, Guy, Rob and the vocalists stood out, especially Imelda and Erik, who closed the session with a beautiful Body & Soul, just with Rob on guitar and a little help from Guy at the end.

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The following day I had with my colleagues to lecture these 10 young artists about the music business – in 4 hours we tried to cover all aspects of our industry, including rights issues, working with promoters, agents and clubs well as what to expect from labels. These young musicians were extremely well prepared and had great questions and I simply hope we could give them something on top for their future careers. It has been, as always, a pleasure and honour for me to be there.

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Over the coming days these young artists will have more lectures and do more session, as well as working with some great mentors on their musical development – they will be mentored by Trilok Gurtu, Yaron Herman, Elina Duni, Marcus Miller, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Ziv Ravitz.

 

This year, as young as it is, already took from us a few people we will surely miss in the music world: Al Jarreau was not only one of the most amazing singers of our generation, but as well  one of the warmest human beings I ever encountered – he could lit up a room with his smile, brought good feelings to people and always had a good word for the ones around him. I worked with him on the GRP/Verve recordings he did around 2000 and met him several times then while either doing promo in Europe or when on tour. Unforgettable!

Larry Coryell and his band Eleventh House were an important part in my jazz education … a true master of his instrument and a visionary player.

I heard the drummer of Eleventh House, Alphone Mouzon, on the amazing live recording with Albert Mangelsdorff and Jaco Pastorius and from then on many times with various jazz greats in concert.

Violinist  Svend Asmussen I knew of, because my father liked him and I had a chance to see him in Denmark once as a special guest with Herbie Hancock. Being born in 1916, he was an early and important part of the 100 year jazz history.

Michael Naura was not only one of Germany’s leading pianists, but as well an educator, running a jazz series on radio for many years. His brilliance and wit and competent programs will be missed. May they all Rest In Peace.

an update

Since my New York trip a lot happened in the world and not much of it for the better. In terms of concerts here in Madrid it was a bit quiet, I just went out to see Seamus Blake with his French trio, featuring the pianist Tony Tixier, who was the actual reason for me to go and see this band – he is a very interesting young man, who as well leads his own trio and, even so this wasn’t his music, left his mark on the performance.

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And we went to see our friend La Shica with her new program and as usual she just nailed it – perfect vocal performances and cool song selection make her concerts every single time into a special event.

I missed the Brad Mehldau Trio due to other plans, but was happy to have lunch with Jeff Ballard and Larry Grenadier the day after – great guys and always great to chat with and exchange musical ideas.

A quick update on OKeh for February and March: our German colleagues are releasing two local OKeh signing early this year – triosence, a trio led by Bernhard Schüler (piano) featuring Matthias Nowak or Ingo Senst (bass) and Stephan Emig (drums). Their new album ‘Hidden Beauty’, due in March, is highly recommended – one act to watch out for. The other release is the debut album ‘METAMORPHOSIS’ by the BamesreiterSchwartzOrchestra, co-led by Lukas Bamesreiter (cond, comp, arr) and Richard Schwartz (comp, arr, git), whose music is fresh and challenging, modern but with the orchestra jazz tradition in mind and who, with their incredible band members ,might simply make big band jazz fashionable again in Germany.

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An then there is Somi: that unique singer and songwriter, a mixture of Nina Simone and Miriam Makeba, but completely her own and she proves that again with ‘Petite Afrique’, here second OKeh outing, to be released on March 31st. New York’s Harlem is the centre of this collection of songs, timeless stories of immigration and assimilation, painfully relevant today. Songs like ‘They’re like Ghosts’, ‘Like Dakar’, ‘Black Enough’ and ‘Holy Room’ are simply amazing. And her version of Stings ‘English Man in New York’, which becomes ‘Alien’ and is about being African in New York, is just very well done. Don’t miss that one and try to see her when on tour in March / April and later in the year.

Just a few recommendations: For all who like Fado – check out the following two records, as they are some of the best of what is happening now: Cristina Branco ‘Menina’ and Katia ‘Até ao fim’ – what voices and beautiful songs.

A bit of European jazz history: sax player and singer Bendik Hofseth, known for his work with Steps Ahead and his own recordings, released a special edition of his debut album IX, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its original release. A successful album then, a cool mix of jazz and pop elements, with good  lyrics and great performances, this album still sounds great and relevant now. The set includes 3 CDs (a remastered original, rarities and a tribute CD with other Norwegian musicians performing the songs from the original album) and a DVD from a 1991 live concert.  Check this out!

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Reflections on Winter and Jazz in New York

January and therefore jazz time in New York – Winter Jazz is swinging the city for 2 days of marathon concert events and other shows around these and it is the time when the Jazz Connect Conference is happening with more showcases (as well as in connection with APAP) and panel discussions on the state of jazz today. I came into town for lots of meetings and to moderate the panel at Jazz Connect on Israel – an introduction into this market and its musicians – one of the international aspects of the Conference, which I cover now since a few years. It is always great to meet friends and colleagues at Jazz Connect and this year was no difference, and then of course, it is always great to go out and hear some music … as long as the weather is not getting too crazy. This year the winter said HELLO with cold winds and snow, but all acceptable and not disrupting the festival or my plans on what to check out.

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Choice is the word if you want to describe New York and what happens when you want to go out to hear some jazz – especially during Winter Jazz, but as well in general. I arrived on the 4th and took it easy, but on the 5th I had to see something – originally I wanted to see Jonatha Brooke performing new material at the City Winery, but in the end, as our dinner took a bit longer than expected, Kurt Elling and I decided to go and see John Beasley’s MONK’estra at Dizzy’s – great arrangements of Monk’s tunes performed by an amazing big band and some guests, which that night included harmonica player Gregoire Maret and the wonderful Dianne Reeves. Perfect music after a day of meetings! I heard as well a few tracks of young singer Vuyo Sotashe, who followed the orchestra on stage and he again proved to be a unique talent with lots of control and great songs.

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The so called jazz marathon started on January 6th and the first gig I went to was the Rachel Z and Omar Hakim band, performing at the Zinc Bar, one of the many venues in the Bleecker Street area hosting the festival. Sandro Albert on guitar and Jonathan Toscan on e-bass completed the band, which played some new tracks of contemporary fusion, with power and beautiful little melodies.

From there I took a quick trip up to the Jazz Standard to see Regina Carter with her band playing songs connected to Ella Fitzgerald – some of the famous songs were performed, some less known, but incredibly beautiful ones like Artie Glenn’s CRYING IN THE CHAPEL. Regina is a master on her instrument and these great songs are perfect material for her improvising skills.

Next up was SOMI, who presented some of her new songs at a packed Subculture. As I arrived early I had a chance to hear a bit of the group before her Jacob Garchik’s Ye Olde, featuring Jacob on trombone, Ava Mendoza, Mary Halvorson and Jonathan Goldberger on guitars and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums – jazz and rock and power and subtle playing all perfectly done. Unusual – and really great!! Then Somi came on stage and presented her new songs, from the album Petite Afrique which will be released end of March. Somi is the essential story teller and these beautiful songs are no exception and the band played them wonderful, carrying the emotions and stories she wants to communicate perfectly. Liberty Ellman on guitar, Tory Dodo and piano, Michael Olatuja and Nate Smith managed to make a great singer sound even better. She is one of the best today and her mix of jazz, soul, R&B and African grooves is unique and catchy. A very special show, with a very special talent.

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After a short walk through the wintery and freezing cold NYC I arrived at The Bitter End just in time to see Nir Felder starting his set. The young guitar player was accompanied by Matt Penman on bass and Jimmy MacBride on drums and for me the set was really amazing – Nir seemed to be much more relaxed and less focused on the song format than on the essence of the song and simply let fly … with incredible technique and power. Since I saw him the last time about a year ago, this young man definitely has improved a lot. Glad I made it to that gig.

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Day 2 of the jazz marathon I started with the Michael Leonhart Orchestra – Michael had asked me to come and see his orchestra and I had no idea what to expect – surprise, surprise!!!  He had 26 musicians on the stage of the Poisson Rouge and used these musicians to create some very impressive music! There was no limit to what these guys were able to do under Leonhart’s direction – from arrangements of music to Charlie Browns Christmas to a newly arranged Wu Tang Clan song. He seems to have the history of Big Band jazz within the orchestra, but at the same time is very unique thanks to his compelling arrangements: powerful, deep, thoughtful and emotional at the same time. A very impressive orchestra, under an immensely creative leader. I am looking forward to hear more of them in the near future. My show of the festival and after the usual 40 minutes all bands do in Winter Jazz, this one left me duly wanting for more.

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From there it was a short walk in the snow to the Zinc Bar for Claudia Acuña’s set. She performed with her Chilean Connection band featuring Pablo Vergara – piano,  Pablo Menares – bass, Yayo Serka – drums and Juancho Herrera – guitar and as usually she was best when singing in Spanish. Claudia is a great singer and I always enjoyed listening to her – this show was no exception to that.

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At the same venue I listened then to The Baylor Project, as I had heard some good things about them – and I wasn’t to be disappointed: Jean Baylor and Marcus Baylor together with Shedrick Mitchell on piano and organ, Yasushi Nakamura on bass, Keith Loftis on saxes and Freddie Hendrix on trumpet and flugelhorn delivered a grooving set, supporting the beautiful vocals of Jean Baylor perfectly. Outstanding their rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. One act to watch.

Then off to see the duo of Bill Frisell and bass player Thomas Morgan – another gig that was much too short for my liking, but it gave the audience a taste of their forthcoming album (touching communication on beautiful themes and impressive improvisations from both artists), which will be out in spring this year. A must have.

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I intended to end the night with Marc Ribot and the Young Philadelphians, featuring my friend Jamaaladeen Tacuma. I had seen this project already in Madrid last year, but enjoyed it so much that I wanted to hear them again …. Unfortunately quite a few people had the same idea and the SOB’s was packed to the limit … and waiting outside in the snow at – 9 degrees Celsius wasn’t really what I had in mind …. So I just had a little whiskey at the hotel and got some sleep.

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Winter Jazz again proved to be what the name promised – winter and lots of jazz in New York. Looking forward to next year already.

2016

Looking back to 2016 I can only do with mixed emotions: so many great and important musicians left us these last 12months, but on the other side, so much great music was released or performed throughout the world. A world of immense beauty, but tremendous horror as well.

As every year I will put my Best Of lists together – as always completely based on my personal recollections of these concerts and my individual taste in music. And as every year I will not include in the CD list any of the releases I have been involved in, even so I am extremely proud to have been part of making these recordings.

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CONCERTS OF THE YEAR 2016

  1. Dhafer Youssef / Madrid, Jazz Festival, November + Paris, Theatre du Chatelet, April
  2. Hakon Kornstad / Bremen, jazzahead, April
  3. Still Dreaming / NYC, January (Joshua Redman-Ron Miles-Scott Colley-Brian Blade)
  4. Branford Marsalis Quartet & Kurt Elling / Rotterdam, North Sea Jazz, July
  5. Kenny Barron & Dave Holland / Vitoria-Gasteiz, Festival, July
  6. Julian Lage Trio / NYC, Winter Jazz, January
  7. Melody Gardot / Madrid, July
  8. Terje Rypdal / Madrid, Jazz Festival, November (Mikkelborg, Vinaccia, Tylden)
  9. Somi / Madrid, Jazz Festival, November (Jerry Leonide, Michael Olatunja)
  10. FLY / Madrid, Bogui Club, June

Plus more outstanding shows by James Brandon Lewis, Theo Croker, Tillery, Becca Stevens, Avery Sunshine, AZIZA, Ibrahim Malouf, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Bill Frisell, Gregory Porter, Nils Petter Molvaer and Madeleine Peyroux. Details on all of these shows you can find when going through the various posts of 2016 on my little blog.

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CDs OF THE YEAR 2016

  1. Vijay Iyer & Wadada Leo Smith – a cosmic rhythm with each stroke
  2. Julian Lage – Arclight
  3. Bugge Wesseltoft – somewhere in between
  4. GoGo Penguin – Man Made Object
  5. David Bowie – Black Star
  6. Wolfgang Muthspiel – Rising Grace
  7. Wolfgang Puschnig – Faces And Stories
  8. Robert Glasper – ArtScience
  9. John Scofield – Country For Old Man
  10. Hamasyan/Henriksen/Aarset/Bang – ATMOSPHERES

It is always difficult to pick 10 records out of the mass of great releases every year – further recommendations you will find as well in the various posts of my blog – so much great music has been released, including the 10 releases we had on OKeh Records in 2016, out of which the Bill Frisell ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ and the Branford Marsalis Quartet with special guest Kurt Elling ‘Upward Spiral’, got a Grammy nomination each.

Sadness has been a big part of this almost finished year – sadness about the madness that drives people to terror attacks killing innocent men, women and children; about the horror of war and that mankind hasn’t learned anything in its short period of time on this planet; about intolerance and hate and of course about the long list of musicians and other influential people that left us this year. I wrote about many of these in my blog, especially when I had the pleasure and honour to meet or work with them. A few days ago Rick Parfitt, partner of Francis Rossi in the band Status Quo, passed away much too early. I worked with Status Quo for a few years in the mid and late 80’s and Rick was just a lovely down to earth guy, charming and funny, loving and enjoying good food and wines.He will be missed. The photo below shows Peter Pernica, the PolyGram promo chief at the time, myself, Rick and Francis in 1986. R.I.P.

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Wishing you all the best for 2017: Love, Jazz and Happiness!