Where I've been listening to Lester Bowie's take on "Thriller," courtesy of Josh Jackson.
—Defending Diana Krall: Or less defending than acknowledging her less-than-stellar reputation among certain jazz crowds, and then giving her an honest appraisal of a Carnegie Hall performance — which happened to be good. So says Nate Chinen at The Gig, as does Stephen Holden for the Times. There's something that could be read as backhanded about both reviews; it's the technique of saying "well, she isn't one of the greats, but she does these certain things competently, if not pleasantly." ("On one level, Ms. Krall is a middle-of-the-road pop-jazz diva," Holden writes; "She isn't at all a bad piano player, in a retrograde fashion," quoth Chinen.) In other words, the insult of diminished expectations. I don't think Holden and Chinen meant it that way, though; I think they genuinely enjoyed the performance and found interesting things happening in the music. But are Krall's enjoyable qualities relevant and important things to what jazz is and should be? That's not necessarily a fair question for a reviewer, though I'm still left frustrated that it's left incompletely explored.
Anyway, I've recently learned that host Steve Inskeep of Morning Edition just taped an interview with Krall while she came through the D.C. area. Makes me curious what sort of insights we'll get from her; we jazz people tend to view everything about her from our own biased perspectives. I'll be working on producing an extended cut for the Web — I'm told it was "good tape," as we say here. So look for that — or look to ignore that, if you aren't convinced of her artistic worth.
—Bob Brookmeyer On JazzWax: Speaking of long interviews, today Marc Myers concludes his epic five-parter with (valve) trombonist and composer Bob Brookmeyer. I'll remind you of the JazzWax link, where you can find all five segments. Highlights: pretending not to be able to read music while playing for a boring studio band, candor about his incredible drinking habit; the legendary exploits of Zoot Sims. Reading it all, it's amazing he's made it to nearly 80; thank goodness he has.
—How To Spend $300k In 48 Hours: Here's a fascinating story. In Canada, where apparently the government spends money on producing jazz festivals (wait, what?), Catherine O'Grady received a CDN $338,000 (that's nearly US $293,000) grant to produce a concert for the Ottawa jazz festival. And O'Grady, the festival's executive producer, got it exactly 48 hours before the free show she had hoped to produce. Now, top flight talent tends to be 1) very expensive 2) booked far in advance 3) finicky. So after a day spent fruitlessly tracking down crossover and jazz acts, she finally landed on Terence Blanchard, who was spending a bit of down time between tours in New Orleans. Barely 24 hours later, he and his mostly New York-based quintet were playing to a 3,000 person audience in another country. And apparently, it was a pretty good show. Related: Terence Blanchard's (downloadable) Village Vanguard show.
—Will Friedwald Is Giving Away 14,000 Records: But not to me, unfortunately. The writer, who specializes in jazz and cabaret singing, is giving the jazz records to an unknown public archive in Washington, D.C. Here's a video report with scenes from dude's New York apartment, which is jam-packed with records.
—CHOPS: The Documentary: Via Jazz Lives, word of a newish feature on a bunch of middle school jazz musicians in Florida — who happen to win Jazz at Lincoln Center's Essentially Ellington school band competition. It actually screened here in D.C. in late April, but somehow I missed it. Anyway, here's the CHOPS Web site, and the cutest YouTube clip you'll see today which doesn't involve a pre-pubescent Michael Jackson: