David Binney: Graylen Epicenter
Dave has long been one of my favorite musicians. This may be the most complete example yet of his incredible talent as a composer and bandleader. Exceptional writing and playing all around.
DeCap Brothers Herentals
Among the many adventures of the Orchestrion project was the chance to meet many of the other musicians and inventors who are working on new instruments. There are some incredible people out there working on amazing things. But by far the most interesting folks working in this area that I met along the way were from Belgium - the DeCap family has been making instruments for more than 100 years and have taken the whole idea of how to best achieve a musical result to the 21st century. The level of dynamic detail to their instruments, the craftsmenship and general implementation of the tech required puts their work in a class utterly by itself. And composer Walter Hus has applied his extraordinary gifts to their instruments to create something really new and beautiful. Walter brings a fluency in formal knowledge combined with deep creativity to this platform that gives it wings. The day that I spent with them at their factory and then Walter's studio were a highlight of the year. Visit their sites to learn more.
Arcana: Musicians on Music by John Zorn
In the 30+ years that I have been around it is finally dawning on me that the only serious commentary on the music that has any long-lasting value comes from musicians themselves. This series put together by the brilliant John Zorn is a case in point. Nearly every essay included in these 4 volumes wipes what we think of as "music criticism" off the boards. Essential reading for anyone looking to gain insights to the processes involved in conceiving a personal point of view in music.
Biutiful by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
A true masterpiece. One of the great film performances ever by Javier Bardem. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is truly visionary and one of the most inspiring artists of our time.
Harvesting Semblances & Afinities by Steve Coleman
One of the best records of the year. Steve is always inspiring - a great musician.
This is another "in general" recommendation. Jonatha is one of my very favorite artists and one of the best singers and performers in the world. Her shows are stunning displays of musicality on all levels and she makes great records and has been doing so for years now, all the way back to her days in the group The Story. I picked this record (which is one of her best) but it could have been any of them.
....Just in general. One of my favorites.
Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered to Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science and Fake History by Damian Thompson
A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World by Tony Horwitz
A fascinating look at the early history of America.
South Pacific - Lincoln Center Theatre
Richard Rodgers at his best. KelliO'Hara, Ted Sperling and many of the others who made "The Light in the Piazza" so great team up to remind us how incredible those songs are. All the hits of course, but especially "This Nearly Was Mine".
John Adams - Dr. Atomic
The recent Metropolitan Opera production of this masterpiece made me seek out this DVD. A different but equally enriching performance. If you ever get the chance to see this live, don't miss it.
We Three - Roy Haynes, Phineas Newborn and Paul Chambers
This is a record I have been listening to for 35 years now and it only gets better each time. The way that Roy was playing this early pre-dates just about anything since in the sense of defining a fresh, modern approach to rhythm. Phineas is a constant inspiration and Paul Chambers is the groove/note choice champ of all time. In a newly remastered version, it is better than ever.
Religulous by Bill Maher
"My product is doubt" - Bill Maher
And also don't miss "Jesus Camp", some of which was filmed in my own hometown of Lee's Summit, Missouri.
Music and the Creative Spirit: Innovators in Jazz, Improvisation, and the Avant Garde by Lloyd Peterson
I am reluctant to include this only because I was lucky enough to be included in it, but after reading it cover to cover this summer I found it to be one of the best and most complete portraits on the state of jazz as it really is right now that has come along in, well....ever. Mr. Peterson asks great questions and gets detailed and deep responses from everyone. And the range and quality of musicians he picked is impeccable. Hearing the diverse points of view from this panoramic group of engaged musicians was inspiring and illuminating to me. Maybe the best book on jazz I have ever read.
Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter by Rick Shenkman
Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky
Galata Museum of the Sea in Genova, Italy
Nelson Art Gallery - Kansas City, Mo.
Vulcania - Volcano Museum in Auvergne, France
Fort Osage - Fort Osage, Missouri
Five unrelated but enriching experiences. All highly recommended.
Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins by Steve Olson
A great book that details the advances made in the study of DNA to clarify the history of humankind.
One of the most inspiring figures to emerge in decades. Plus he loves Miles and Trane!
Joe is an unbelievable improviser, He has always been great and seems to be kicking everything to even higher levels recently. After seeing him this summer I walked away from his performance with such a stong sense of who he has become as a person through his music. He was able to keep ideas going and flowing and turned sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into stories. For me, that quality is the most rare thing to find and almost appears to be a dying art sometimes. His quartet with Harry Allen is one of the best bands out there right now (with Harry himself being another of the keepers of the narrative flame) and is well worth checking out - but the record listed here is one of Joe's most recent solo records.
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up by John Allen Paulos
Two must read books.
Here are four incredible musicians who happen to be guitarists who are making the best music of their careers on their respective recent releases. I have been a huge fan of Bobby since I first heard him with Sonny Rollins and his new one is one of the best guitar trio records ever. Rodney is a total mind blower in every respect and has continuned to grow and expand in every direction using all his amazing facility in an utterly compelling way. I have followed Dave Stryker's playing since his early days in Omaha through his long stay with Stanley Turrentine and his longstanding relationship with the great alto player Steve Slagle (another undersung heavy out there) and he just gets better and better with one of the most joyous feels around. And Vic Juris has been a total monster ever since we both hit the scene at around the same time in the 70's, playing great no matter what the setting. But he has taken the knowledge gained from a long stay in Dave Liebman's band to form a really new way of thinking about melody and harmony on the guitar. His playing is always musical and his pure mastery of the instrument is something to behold.
Steve Swallow with Robert Creeley - So There
Steve Swallow - Real Book
Steve Swallow - Deconstructed
Steve Swallow - Damaged in Transit
One of the greatest musicians of the past 40 years is bassist Steve Swallow. His influence as an improviser is enormous and in particular there are some specific innovations in phrasing on a stringed instrument that began early in his upright career in the 60's that he later brought over to the bass guitar that have had a major impact on many of us since. As a composer, his reach may even be more expansive. His new record addresses the poetry of his friend Robert Creeley. Everything about Steve is inspiring, and this is one of his best projects ever. The other records listed are also essential Swallow.
A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters - Julian Barnes
An amazing tool for musicians with a few really interesting new features.
Murder In Amsterdam - The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance - Ian Buruma
The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina - Frank Rich
The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
One of the privileges we have as traveling musicians is the chance to not only be observed by groups of people all over the world, but to observe those people in return and over the length of a long tour, to get a sense of the pulse of the feeling of the shared culture at large - and to discover just how closely we are all connected even as geography separates us.
As the third in director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s trilogy (Amores Perros and 21 Grams being the first and second films), we are witnessing the emergence of a new and inspirational narrative form.
Black Girl, White Girl - Joyce Carol Oates
Miss Oates has a rare and deep understanding of our culture and finds ways of describing the nooks and crannies of who we are that is remarkably on target year after year, book after book.
Another Oates favorite:
What I Lived For
Four of the best guitarists of our time, all playing regularly around NYC and sounding great no matter what the setting.
Keith Jarrett - Mysteries (Impulse Years 1975-77)
Keith Jarrett- The Impulse Years (1973-74)
Taken as a whole, an almost overwhelming abundance of truly great playing, writing and conception. The last group that could be mentioned in the same breath with the Coltrane quartet and the Miles quintets.
The Light In the Piazza - Adam Guettel
This is the highest concentration of good notes all in one place that I have heard in recent memory. And it may be one of the most original and advanced takes on "pop" music since Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life 25 years ago. Musical theatre is not usually an area that i follow closely but when i heard "Where Glory Goes" from his first show ("Floyd Collins") I knew that I had a new favorite. I saw "Piazza" live four times during its run in NY and have listened to the soundtrack album regularly since it came out - and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
The End of Faith - Sam Harris
Be sure not to miss these three great new guitarists
Also on the guitar front, a veteran too often overlooked. He plays great, has an original style and the skill and the spirit to make slide guitar work in a jazz environment at the highest level while sounding absolutely authentic..
and in case you missed them...
Brian Blade - Brian Blade Fellowship
Brad Mehldau - Art of the Trio Vol. IV: Back at The Vanguard
Donald Fagen - Morph the Cat
"When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" by Spike Lee
An important look at the most significant event in recent American history by one of the best storytellers of our time.