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The Year In Music: Jazz Pared All The Way Down
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The Year In Music: Jazz Pared All The Way Down

Music Articles

The Year In Music: Jazz Pared All The Way Down
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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The year 2010 saw jazz go big with some jazz artists recording with very large ensembles: big bands, swing choirs.

But NPR's Patrick Jarenwattananon says the opposite was also true.

PATRICK JARENWATTANANON: It was a big year for jazz musicians who focused on their small groups - like, their really, really small groups.

(Soundbite of music, "Blue Swagger")

JARENWATTANANON: It's a brave jazz musician who is willing to make a true solo album. But one soprano saxophonist has made his last two albums completely unaccompanied. His name is Sam Newsome.

(Soundbite of music, "Blue Swagger")

JARENWATTANANON: Newsome is one of at least two solo sax records this year. And there's also music from solo bass clarinet, solo bass, solo guitar - there's a handful of those - and at least one solo voice recording.

(Soundbite of song, "Comes Love")

Mr. THEO BLECKMANN (Singer-Musician): (Singing) Comes a rainstorm, put your rubbers on your feet. Comes a snowstorm, you can get a little heat. Comes love, nothing can be done. Hmm-hmm-hmm-hmm.

JARENWATTANANON: That's the standard "Comes Love," sung by Theo Bleckmann. For his 2010 solo album, Bleckmann took a big box of percussion instruments and toys with him to a Swiss monastery. He accompanies himself here with the Indonesian frog buzzers.

(Soundbite of song, "Comes Love")

Mr. BLECKMANN: (Singing) Dont try hiding, cause there isnt any use. You'll start sliding when your heart turns on the juice

JARENWATTANANON: Jazz musicians are used to working with collaborators, supporting them with rhythm and harmony, as they take their solos within a group. Jazz pianists are perhaps best equipped to record solo. They can accompany themselves, in a sense. They can play melodies and harmonies at once.

(Soundbite of song, "Autumn Leaves")

JARENWATTANANON: A lot of pianists released solo albums this year, at least 10 by my count. Matthew Shipp is one of them. He's known as an adventurous improviser, fond of dissonances and free exploration. But he also likes to play hymns and jazz standards.

(Soundbite of song, "Autumn Leaves")

JARENWATTANANON: It's rare for jazz musicians to record solo albums; getting there takes a lifetime of practice and invention. But this year, a lot of jazz musicians showed that off.

Patrick Jarenwattananon, NPR News.

(Soundbite of piano music, Autumn Leaves)

MONTAGNE: Hear more about the year in music on our jazz blog at NPR.org/ablogsupreme.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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