Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Introducing the Open-Minded to Jazz

Patrick Jarenwattananon, proprietor of NPR's A Blog Supreme has asked an interesting question of his readers: name five albums you would recommend to somebody looking to get into modern jazz. It's not as easy as you might think - modern jazz has fallen off the cultural radar it seems, replaced by the idea of jazz as a museum piece. How to to convince the open minded music fan that jazz is a living, breathing artform, viable in the 21st century? Try these:

1. Ben Allison - Peace Pipe (Palmetto, 2002) Already an NPR favorite with his track "Disposable Genius" from this album used as a theme for the radio program On the Media, this is a wonderful album of fascinating and colorful compositions, jazz improvisation and world music with the addition of Mamadou Diabate's beautiful kora.

2. Bill Frisell - The Intercontinentals (Nonesuch, 2003) Another great example of jazz soaking up the sound of the world, guitarist Bill Frisell takes the rich and exotic music of Mali, Brazil and elsewhere and crafts it to his own unique blend of improvised Americana.

3. The Bad Plus - Prog (Heads Up, 2007) For those who still see jazz as stodgy background music for the pipe and slippers crowd, how about a bracing dose of The Bad Plus? This piano trio's thrilling mix of cheeky rock and pop covers and beautiful original compositions will certainly raise eyebrows.

4. Rudresh Mahanthappa - Kinsmen (Pi Recordings, 2008) Musicians of South Asian descent like Mahanthappa, Vijay Iyer and Rez Abbasi have given jazz a fascinating shot in the arm over the past ten years. Compiling music from across multiple cultures and melding them in the all encompassing crucible that is modern jazz, this is the essence of modern jazz.

5. William Parker - Raining on the Moon (Thirsty Ear, 2002) Bassist William Parker is usually presented as the iron man of the avant-garde, but he's much too diverse to fall into any one category. This R&B inspired album is pure joy, featuring the beautiful singing of Leena Conquest and Parker's great band anchored by the awesome percussion of Hamid Drake.

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