New York City Winter Jazzfest Focuses on Sexism, Immigration, Protest in Jazz

Jazz on the Border: International Musicians and U.S. Visas with Antonio Sanchez, Alexis Cuadrado, Lucia Cadotsch and moderated by Matthew Covey

This panel, featuring musicians, agents, and legal professionals, will discuss ways that U.S. immigration law impacts the U.S. jazz scene. The panel will discuss strategies for avoiding problems, and will be doing a deep dive into some of the unique challenges jazz artists frequently encounter. Special attention will be paid to the changes under the new administration. 2 p.m. Sunday Jan. 14 – The New School Starr Foundation Hall, 63 Fifth Ave., New York City – FREE with RSVP (rsvp@winterjazzfest.com).

Jazz and Gender: Challenging Inequality and Forging a New Legacy with Angela Davis, Lara Pellegrinelli, Arnetta Johnson, and Vijay Iyer, moderated by Terri Lyne Carrington

Jazz has been a transformational, spiritual, and social movement on the global stage – creating an enduring legacy. Also embedded in its legacy are sexism and other forms of alienation. The purpose of this panel is to critically challenge the prevailing code that has historically repressed and continues to render invisible many of the art form’s creative contributors. 2 p.m. Monday Jan. 15 – The New School Tishman Auditorium, 63 Fifth Ave., New York City – FREE with RSVP (rsvp@winterjazzfest.com).

The Long March: A Conversation on Jazz and Protest Through the Generations with featured guest Archie Shepp, Nicole Mitchell, and Samora Pinderhughes, moderated by Ras Moshe Burnett 

Jazz is inherently a music of social commentary and protest. Today, there is a movement of contemporary jazz musicians expressing messages of justice, equality, and freedom. Three talented artists from three generations, who each naturally embody the socially conceptual aspect of jazz performance, will be in attendance. The focus will be on the history of jazz as a functional component in political consciousness and engagement. 6 p.m. Tuesday Jan. 16 – Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St. – $20 ADV / $25 DOS (to be followed by concert with Nicole Mitchell and Tyshawn Sorey)

New Savory Collection release features Bobby Hackett and friends

The National Jazz Museum in Harlem’s Savory Collection will release Vol. No. 4: Bobby Hackett and Friends exclusively on Apple Music and iTunes on Dec. 15. The full multi-volume collection of historical archives will feature swing era jazz artists at the height of their artistry and previously unissued performances, all captured in superb sound quality by sound engineer/technical genius Bill Savory. Starting today, a sample track is available on Apple Music, and the album is available for pre-order on iTunes.

For 30 years, Loren Schoenberg, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem’s founding director and senior scholar, chased down these essential recordings. This edition further emphasizes the importance and excitement of this series, of which the eminent documentarian Ken Burns said: “It’s hard to think of many other historical discoveries that equal the incredible amount of new and vital information that comprises the Savory Collection.”

“In being an integral part of this project since its inception, Apple Music is helping to ensure this wonderful music is not simply limited to jazz collectors’ shelves but reaches a broader audience as well,” said Schoenberg, of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.

As the title emphasizes, the outstanding cornetist Bobby Hackett is prominently featured — on three tracks with his own ensembles and four as a participant led by the fine clarinetist Joe Marsala, with whose group Hackett made his initial impact on the New York scene in 1937. Admired by trumpet giants from Louis Armstrong to Miles Davis throughout his 40-year career, Hackett was already leading his own ensembles by the time of the recordings that open this album after gaining notoriety through his performance with Benny Goodman in his legendary 1938 Carnegie Hall concert.

Here he joins baritone saxophonist Ernie Caceres and pianist Joe Bushkin, with Carmen Mastren, Sam Shoobe and George Wettling on guitar, bass and drums respectively, all under Marsala’s keen leadership for a quartet of rollicking extended pieces filled with dynamic ensemble work and inspired solos. These late 1937 recordings contain the popular standards “California, Here I Come” and “The Sheik of Araby,” as well as blues classics “Jazz Me Blues” and “When Did You Leave Heaven” (also covered by heavyweights like Big Bill Broonzy and Bob Dylan).

A Hackett ensemble’s participation on a 1938 Paul Whiteman radio broadcast bring us the beautiful Gershwin ballad “Embraceable You” and a stomping take on Kid Ory’s “Muskrat Ramble,” with Hackett joined by the brilliant Pee Wee Russell on clarinet, arranger/valve trombonist Brad Gowans, the piano/bass/drums team of Dave Bowman, Clyde Newcombe and Andy Picard, and legendary guitarist Eddie Condon — whose equally legendary “Condon’s Mob” included Hackett as an integral member. Two years later Hackett got together with an NBC house band to add his own brief but memorable contribution to the “Body and Soul” legacy (to be extended seven years later with his beautiful solo on Frank Sinatra’s unforgettable version).

Listeners will also discover three extremely rare recordings by the immortal pianist Teddy Wilson’s 13-piece orchestra, virtually unrecorded in live performances. Recently discovered and to this point the only excellent high audio quality (superb, at that) recordings of this group, these 1939 items feature such masters as tenorman Ben Webster, trumpeters Doc Cheatham and Shorty Baker, altoist/clarinetist Rudy Powell and the sparkling rhythm section of Al Casey, Al Hall and J.C. Heard on guitar, bass and drums. With Wilson’s majestic virtuosity front and center, the band was structured for smooth transitions and elegant voicings, employing the rare — for its time — two trumpet/two trombone brass section creating a uniquely singing dynamic that was as graceful as its leader’s singular artistry and presence.

Of this latest essential release, co-produced by Loren Schoenberg and Ken Druker, with the superb original recordings raised to perfection through the restoration and mastering wizardry of Doug Pomeroy, Schoenberg says: “To be able to share never-before-heard music created by great American artists such as Teddy Wilson and Bobby Hackett is such a thrill — just like an old wine, they improve with age! So much of the music of the Era was played in the musical equivalent of capital letters; these performances are such a joy to hear from bands that played with the lower-case letters too; so relaxed and flowing.”

On Dec. 19, Mosaic Records will release a deluxe, limited-edition six-disc boxed set of the Savory Collection available only through mosaicrecords.com.

Cheryl Fortune takes first spot on Billboard Gospel Recurrent chart, earns award

Per a recent news release, Grammy Award nominated singer-songwriter, Cheryl Fortune, has landed at No. 1 on the Billboard Gospel Recurrent chart with the song, “Fighters.” After 31 weeks on the Billboard Gospel Airplay chart, the song took the top spot on the Recurrent chart with a whopping 725 detections. In other news, the HGAG Music Video and Film Festival selected “Fighters” as best music video of the year during a screening at the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs on the campus of Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas.

“Fighters” is the first radio single from Fortune’s stunning debut album, Simply Cheryl (LuDawn Music/Tyscot), which debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard Gospel Albums sales chart in October. The versatile singer will release new radio singles from the urban inspirational album in January.

Lisa Hilton’s ‘Escapism’ offers relief from worldly distractions

Lisa Hilton often settles in at her piano and riffs on everyone from Miles Davis and Horace Silver to The Black Keys and Green Day, until she can find peace within the notes, letting them fill the room and fall where they languish in this glow of calm with a touch of brooding blues. Then this past year, the world changed a bit and finding that calm seemed a little more elusive.

“Everything is charged with politics, a large portion of our world seems to be emigrating, and climate catastrophe seems constant,” Hilton says in a news release. “There’s been so much turmoil lately; we can’t find a sense of peace surfing the Internet or social networks — we need really positive sources to balance out this time of disruption in our lives.”

For her 20th album – Hilton has recorded an album a year since 1997- she wanted to provide uplift and relief, where listeners can be energized and feel rejuvenated. This became the theme for her latest release, the aptly titled Escapism. The album (available on December 1 on Ruby Slippers Productions) includes the Alan Lerner and Burton Lane standard, “On a Clear Day” and nine Hilton originals ranging from the high-voltage opener, “Hot Summer Samba” to the introspective and ethereal “Mojave Moon.” Each composition seems to generate, by albums end, a mental release or escape all its own.

“Artists have an important role in our culture and community – it is through art and music that our souls and spirits can be energized, balanced and entertained – we all need to “escape” from our challenges,” Hilton says. “I want our music to be a positive force whether you’re listening on the subway, while at work or lounging on a tropical island. Our music embraces the good experiences in our world.”

After working solo on last year’s Day & Night release, Hilton brought back saxophonist JD Allen, trumpet and flugelhornist Terell Stafford, bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston into Avatar Studios for one of the last sessions at that revered and storied studio before it became property of Berklee College of Music on September 1.

“It was definitely nostalgic being at Avatar the last few days before it changed ownership since no one really knows what will happen to it – we hope good things,” she says. “I have recorded ten albums there and I love the rooms, they have a special sound and ambiance. I think the entire band knew this recording was a time to savor the sense of the place – there were excellent solos going on, and we had a great sound captured by our engineer, a true sound icon, James Farber. What tremendous musicians and all leaders in their own right – I feel so fortunate to continue to work again and again with them.”

Escapism is an audiophile’s delight from the team of top engineers that Hilton has worked with for years; besides recording engineer Farber, it was mixed by 23-time Grammy® Award-winning engineer Al Schmitt at the legendary Capitol Studios in Hollywood and mastered by multi-Grammy® Award-winners Gavin Lurssen and Reuben Cohen.

Charles Jenkins’ single ‘Grace’ emerges on gospel music charts

Chicago-based artist Charles Jenkins‘ latest finger-snapper, “Grace” (Inspired People/Empire), boasts an old school Motown sample, the sonorous singing of Fellowship Chicago and a dynamic vocal assist from Le’Andria Johnson. Last week, the inspiring, mid-tempo track debuted in the Top 20 on both the Billboard Magazine Gospel Airplay (No. 19) and the Mediabase Gospel Airplay (No. 18) charts. The song anchors Charles Jenkins & Fellowship Chicago’s highly anticipated and, as yet, untitled third album which is expected to release in either the 4th quarter of 2017 or the first quarter of 2018.

The song hits iTunes and all major digital service providers on July 7. The success of “Grace” comes on the heels of Charles Jenkins opening Bishop T.D. Jakes’ bi-annual MegaFest conference with a rousing performance of the song last week in Dallas, where he taught it to an ecstatic audience of thousands. A few days before, Jenkins headlined WLOU 104.7 FM and 1350 AM’s annual SummerFest concert in Louisville, KY. “He just shut the park down,” says WLOU Program Director, Brodric Purvis in a news release. “It was his first time performing in this market and he really gave Louisville a great concert that they will never forget.”

In another career first, prior to jumping on a plane to head to the aforementioned event in Kentucky, Jenkins commanded the stage at Mamby on the Beach in Chicago. The electronic dance music festival drew 30,000 dance music fans to the city’s lakefront and featured EDM superstars such as MGMT, Flying Lotus, Misterwives and Sir the Baptist. Jenkins and his music crew opened the Saturday festivities with an energetic, rousing noon-day program of his urban-flavored tracks such as “Winning,” “Reach for the Sky” and a club rendition of his signature song, “Awesome,” which spent 24 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Gospel Airplay chart in 2012. The spectacular set has already earned Jenkins an invitation to perform at next year’s event.