The world mourned the death this week of Indian maestro Ravi Shankar, whose name became synonymous with the sitar. Tributes eulogized Shankar as the great connector of the East and West who'd hobnobbed with The Beatles and collaborated with violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin. Less has been said about the roots of the music he spent a lifetime perfecting and innovating.
There's a certain intensity of spirit in jazz and improvised music, to the point where it occasionally aligns with religious worship. You especially see it around Christmastime, when certain musicians who happen to be Christians purpose their craft in observance of the season.
Of course, sometimes jazz musicians just like playing familiar songs.
Here are five records, all from 2012, which run the gamut of Christmas jazz. From deep meditations on the holiday's narrative to more offbeat ways to get into the spirit, inventiveness isn't a scarce resource this winter.
The indie-folk duo Barnaby Bright makes its first appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live in Charleston, W.V. The many instruments the two often use reflect the traditions they've picked up in their travels as musicians. It's not uncommon for the pair to employ harmonium, banjo, ukulele, floorboard bass, thumb pianos and multiple guitars in a single set.
Originally published on Thu December 13, 2012 5:22 pm
Singer-songwriter and guitarist Josh Ritter has blurred the line between narrator and musician. Beyond music, Ritter is also an author; he published his first novel, Bright's Passage, in 2011. He bridges the divide between his two occupations in his lyrics and performances, which always have an air of storytelling about them.
The energy in the room is palpable, as Wynton Marsalis launches into "Dipper Mouth Blues," a tune named for King Oliver's trumpet player, Louis Armstrong. "New Orleans Bump" features the whimsical clarinet of Victor Goines.
Originally published on Mon January 28, 2013 11:41 am
Take a group of heavyweight jazz masters — the kind who helped to make the classic records that defined the modern idiom — and put them together on stage: Of course there'll be fireworks. But the all-star collection known as The Cookers has cohered into a band which has toured for five years now, and released three albums of mostly original compositions. Their latest, 2012's Believe, proudly captures this band's meat-and-potatoes spirit, and brings some deserved attention to its members' storied and ongoing careers.