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NEA Jazz Master Bobby Hutcherson returns with “Somewhere in the Night”

New York City is the jazz capital of the world and Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in Jazz at Lincoln Center is one of the music’s greatest venues. On October 10, 2009, over the course of two sold-out sets, legendary vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson recorded what would become Somewhere in the Night. The album, which is being released on Kind of Blue Records on Sept. 25, 2012, also features the Joey DeFrancesco Trio — guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Byron Landham as well as its organist namesake.
Of the organist, Hutcherson says in a news release, “One thing about Joey, he knows how to play. He doesn’t play at the same volume all the time. He can play very soft and then he can increase his volume a lot. Because of that, he’s very aware of what volume to play with the vibraphone. Even while he’s soloing, he plays at different volumes. It makes it really good, you know.” 

He continues, “Although he’s full of ideas, he never gets in the way because he sure is very good at tempo. And I don’t mean tempo as speed … I mean tempo as being able to understand what he’s playing at any speed, you know, the tempo of life. He paces his notes, so they don’t come out cluttered. He understands how to deliver a certain thing, and that’s an important thing to do.”
Somewhere in the Night manages to capture the live energy of a band in top form. The opening track “Teddy”, written for Hutcherson’s youngest son, sees the vibes master build a mammoth improvisation that builds in intensity and tempo, while “Little B’s Poem”, written for Hutcherson’s oldest son and the composer’s most famous work, is given new life nearly fifty years later by rephrasing the melody into a vamp that leads into a spectacular group improv.
Hutcherson pays tribute to his late mentor, Milt Jackson, on the legend’s “SKJ”, and displays his virtuosity on Duke Ellington’s “Take the Coltrane”. Coltrane’s “Wise One” was the title track of a previous Kind of Blue release by Hutcherson and is reinterpreted here thanks to DeFrancesco’s accompaniment. The organist leads with an improvisation before Bernstein and Hutcherson contribute their touching statements on the melody.
Hutcherson says of the title track of the album, “every time I play with Joey, we play that. I always love to hear Joey and listen to his bass line. Yeah, and that tempo, there’s a longing feeling in it.” Both Hutcherson and DeFrancesco showcase their ballad chops on Ned Washington and Victor Young’s “My Foolish Heart”. The vibraphonist says, “it’s good to think about the song, singing the lyric, because you know the instrument should be something of a voice. It should be an extension of it. The things that you listen to that really grab you right away are things that make you feel like it’s human.” 

Hutcherson, a California native and long time resident of Half Moon Bay, spent his formative years in New York, arriving there more than 50 years ago. Hutcherson has put his stamp on jazz both as a leader and as a sideman on classic records such as Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch and Jackie McLean’s One Step Beyond. Among the constant gigging and studio sessions, Hutcherson recorded two albums in the mid-sixties pairing vibes with the Hammond organ, a popular combination of the era. Grant Green’s Street of Dreams (1964) and Big John Patton’s Let ‘Em Roll (1965) went largely overlooked but saw Hutcherson’s melodious sound combine with the Hammond to produce a blanket of silky resonance. Forty years would pass before the vibraphonist reteamed with the B3 on Joey DeFrancesco’s Organic VibesSomewhere in the Night continues the relationship between the two musicians. 

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Dates for Jazz Connect Conference at APAP|NYC 2013 announced

On January 10-11, 2013, in New York City, the Jazz Connect conference will bring together a broad range of elements and constituencies of the jazz community in a series of workshops, panels, plenaries and special events, all dedicated to expanding the worldwide audience for jazz. Organized by JazzTimes and the Jazz Forward Coalition and supported by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP), this hands-on interactive conference aims to share best practices, provide tools to empower individuals and organizations, and establish a voice for jazz.
The jazz industry and community has been looking for a time and place to aggregate since the spring of 2009 when the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) folded. Various entities have been convening around APAP|NYC, the world’s largest networking forum and marketplace for performing arts professionals, but until now there has not been an overall tent for the entire jazz community to share its resources and collective power.
An initiative to create a stand-alone jazz confab began with APAP|NYC 2012, with multiple sessions over the course of six days, including: an all-day DIY seminar hosted by JazzTimes, a welcoming address, a series of pecha-kucha presentations (short visual presentations) from innovators in the field, three panels at APAP and a culminating town-hall session presented by the Jazz Forward Coalition. The Jazz Connect organizing committee decided to adapt the model further to create a focused event dedicated to the jazz community in 2013.
Peter Gordon, co-founder of Jazz Forward Coalition, president of Thirsty Ear Recordings and one of the conference’s organizers, sees the gathering as a well-timed opportunity for jazz to shape its future.

 “Though we live in uncertain times, market disruption is also market opportunity,” he says in a news release. “As the music industry positions itself to be part of the massive reorientation of how people discover, consume and experience music, jazz is left to decide whether to be part of the revolution or be left behind. We have assembled a vast number of thought leaders to guide, cajole, shape and give inspiration for jazz culture to thrive in the coming years-mapping a strategy to take jazz from an often marginalized genre to a well-known powerhouse.” 
The 2013 Jazz Connect Conference will have two full days of panels, workshops and presentations, featuring artists and professionals from all over the globe. Lee Mergner, publisher of JazzTimes and also an organizer of the conference, says that although the industry has changed since the days of the JazzTimes Convention and the IAJE Conference, the importance of bringing people together to discuss issues and best practices remains. “We’ve seen a real seismic change in the jazz industry, with more artists, organizations and companies operating with less resources,” says Mergner. “It’s become a much more DIY genre, and now more than ever, jazz people need to get together face-to-face in order to deal with all the challenges they face-from new models for touring to the effect of changing technologies.”
The Jazz Connect conference, held during the day at the Hilton New York Hotel and Sheraton New York Hotel, will also feed into the nighttime performances of Winter Jazzfest. “It’s important that the jazz community connects with the world at large, whether that be general music listeners or the mainstream media,” explains Mergner. “Winter Jazzfest has become a hotbed for both new and established artists to showcase their performance chops. And it’s attracted new and younger audiences to the music.”
In addition to the two full days of sessions preceding APAP|NYC, Jazz Connect will assist with programming of sessions during APAP|NYC 2013 addressing issues related to the community of arts presenters about how they interact with the jazz genre.
“One of our missions is to be a convener of the various performing arts,” says Mario Garcia Durham, president and CEO of APAP. “APAP|NYC has hosted similar platforms for theater and dance in the past, and we are dedicated to be a support system for jazz, one of the country’s classical art forms and a unique expression of American identity. The 2012 Jazz Connect gathering was a stellar success, and we want to continue to support jazz professionals and practitioners.”
Admission to the Jazz Connect conference is free. The Jazz Connect conference is organized by a committee of industry professionals, including Marty Ashby, Sara Donnelly, Erika Floreska, Peter Gordon and Lee Mergner.
For more information about the Jazz Connect conference, call (617) 315-9154 or e-mail
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Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra to conclude 10th anniversary season on May 10-11

According to a news release, Arturo O’Farrill’s Grammy Award-winning ensemble, the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, will conclude its 10th Anniversary season with a celebration titled, “Música Nueva 5: Big Band Poetry Jam & Beyond” at Symphony Space in New York City. 

Performance times are at 8 p.m. Friday, May 11, 2012, and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 12, 2012, at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th Street in New York City.
The program will celebrate the Nuyorican Poetry movement and the Latino community, and the artists will mix the classic sound of mambo, boogaloo, and salsa with hip-hop, acid jazz, and alternative improvisation. 

Additional guests for the evening include poet and curator Angel R. Rodríguez, Sr., as well as Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda and turntablist DJ Logic. Spoken word artists include Sandra María EstevesTato LavieraOdilia Rivera SantosCaridad “La Bruja” De La LuzCirca ’95 (PattyDukes & RephStar), and Christopher “Chilo” Cajigas. The arrangers for the two-night engagement include O’Farrill, Todd BashoreAdam KromelowJason LindnerAdam O’FarrillJay Rodríguez, and Bill Ware. 

Founded in 2002 by O’Farrill to perform the full repertory of big band Afro Latin jazz and commission new works to advance this culturally rich genre, the ALJO was a resident orchestra at Jazz at Lincoln Center from 2002 to 2007. In 2007, the ALJO left Lincoln Center to pursue the twin goals of developing new audiences for big band Afro Latin jazz and of creating a robust educational program for young performers. O’Farrill founded the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance that same year to pursue both the performance and educational aspects of this uniquely pan-American art form.
The ALJO is currently in its fifth season in residence at Symphony Space, and it continues to tour nationally and internationally to critical acclaim, performing over the past several years at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Boston Symphony Hall, the Newport Jazz Festival, The Joyce Theater (with Ballet Hispanico), Megaron Concert Hall (Athens, Greece), and the Taichung Jazz Festival (Taichung, Taiwan), among countless other venues. The ALJO received a Grammy nomination for its 2005 album, Una Noche Inolvidable (Palmetto), and in 2009 earned a Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album for its release Song for Chico (Zoho). The Orchestra’s newest album, 40 Acres and a Burro (Zoho), was a 2012 Grammy nominee for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.


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CBS to feature Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra this weekend

Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra 

Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra will be featured on a CBS Evening News national broadcast at 6:30 p.m EST Saturday, Feb. 4 (alternate air-date is 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5). Check your local CBS listings here.
The network will broadcast an interview with O’Farrill, which was recently filmed at Birdland in New York City. Topics of discussion will include the O’Farrill family, nonprofit Afro Latin Jazz Alliance and its resident Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, educational outreach, Cuba, and the recent Grammy category cutbacks.  Performance footage of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra’s recent 10th anniversary benefit at Symphony Space and a recent performance at Birdland will also be broadcast. 
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Pianist Monty Alexander celebrates 50 years in music with two-week engagement at Blue Note

Monty Alexander Photo by:  Alan Nahigian

In a career spanning five decades, pianist Monty Alexander has distinctively bridged the worlds of jazz, popular song, and the music of his native Jamaica. With over 70 albums to his name, Alexander celebrates his 50th year in music with an ambitious, two-week engagement at New York’s Blue Note, on Monday, February 20 through Sunday, March 4.

 Alexander will present the engagement in two parts: Part 1 – The Full Monty: 50 Years in Music! (February 23 – 28) and Part 2 – Jamaica Meets Jazz – A One Love Celebration (February 29 – March 4). The featured body of work and lineup will vary throughout the engagement, with each evening focusing on a project from Alexander’s extensive career (six projects total will be presented throughout the engagement). Special guests throughout the two weeks include Russell Malone, Christian McBride, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Pat Martino, Freddie Cole, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ernest Ranglin, John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton, and Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar, among others.

“I derive great personal joy and satisfaction from being able to present music that can bring out people of all persuasions and life styles,” says Alexander in a news release, “from Kingston, Jamaica to New York and the rest of the world – that’s my Harlem-Kingston Express train. That is what this Blue Note booking is all about.”
Part 1 of the engagement will kick off on February 20 with a performance by one of Alexander’s working ensembles, Harlem-Kingston Express, featuring special guest, guitarist Ernest Ranglin. They will perform music from their Grammy Award nominated debut, Harlem-Kingston Express: Live! (Motéma Music – released in June 2011).
On February 21 and 22, Alexander will bring back his long-standing Triple Treat project. Originally consisting of guitarist Herb Ellis and bassist Ray Brown (a group that toured and recorded together throughout much of the 80s), Alexander will reinvigorate the trio in a program titled “Triple Treat Revisited,” featuring one of the “living descendants” of Brown, bassist Christian McBride, as well as guitarist Russell Malone, who appeared on Brown’s last recording, along with Alexander.
Alexander’s Uplift! trio project (stemming from the March 2011 Jazz Legacy Productions release of the same name) will perform on February 23 and 24, featuring organist Lonnie Smith and guitarist Pat Martino respectively. On February 25 will showcase Ivory & Steel, a project that reflects the music of Trinidad and the steel drum tradition (much like the Iron & Steel group Alexander led in the 70’s and 80’s).  
With “A Night at Jilly’s” on February 26, Alexander will honor the first jazz club he performed in when he arrived to New York City from Jamaica in 1963 – Jilly’s. It was here that Alexander began to establish himself on the U.S. scene. During his three year’s at the club, he had the privilege of accompany the great Frank Sinatra.  Special guests for the evening will include vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater and Freddie Cole.
Closing out Part 1 of Alexander’s engagement will be “The Montreux Alexander ’76 Trio Reunion” on February 27 and 28, dedicated to one of the pianist’s most celebrated albums, Montreux Alexander: The Monty Alexander Trio Live! at the Montreux Festival. The show will feature the original trio, with bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton.
Alexander goes directly to his Jamaican roots with Part 2 of the engagement. On February 29-March 2, Alexander will present “Monty meets Sly & Robbie,” performances with drummer Sly Dunbarand bassist Robbie Shakespeare. Sly & Robbie are two of reggae’s most recognized trailblazers and collaborated with Alexander on his album, Monty Meets Sly & Robbie. The pianist will conclude the engagement by bringing back his Harlem-Kingston Express group for two final nights on March 3 and 4. Special guests for these performance dates are TBA.  

Alexander has been on the express track and now, in this 50th year of phenomenal musicianship, he shows no sign of slowing down. In 1961, the urban sophistication of jazz and the American songbook, and an invitation to accompany none other than Frank Sinatra, lured the teen prodigy Alexander away from Jamaica and the art form most associated with that nation. The move led to an extraordinary career in jazz, reggae and popular song including collaboration with greats such as Tony Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, Bill Cosby and Bobby McFerrin.  

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Sami the Great kicks off 2012 with sell-out CD release party

Sami the Great 
Indie-pop songstress Sami the Great celebrates the New Year with her new album at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7 at the Mercury Lounge in New York City. Alongside Sami will be fellow New Yorkers, Tony CastlesSlowdanceThe Sanctuaries and many more. The show  is sold out. The anticipated, self-titled CD is Sami’s first full length project.

Sami Akbari, known musically as sami.the.great, is driven by her overwhelming desire to write and play music. She frequented open mic nights in college, often taking home cash prizes for her highly anticipated performances. She moved to New York City two weeks after receiving her degree in 2005, and quickly began landing gigs at local venues, including The Living Room, Joe’s Pub and Mercury Lounge as well as other venues around the country.

Her latest EP, “Nothing Left to See,” features five original songs written by Sami and a cover of Sting’s “Roxanne.” The disc not only reveals the trajectory of Sami’s songwriting career, but also her deft combination of emotion and wit, of melancholy and humor. Like her live show, the album reflects the notion that great things come in small packages and showcases a small-framed singer whose impassioned voice fills the spaces and lives around her.  

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Veteran soul singer Shirley Murdock stars in “I’ll be Home for Christmas” in December

Over the last two decades, veteran soul and gospel vocalist Shirley Murdock has dreamed up a new career as an actress in the new holiday musical entitled, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Murdock co-stars with R&B veteran Freddie Jackson in the comedy that also features Lisa Page Brooks and Sam Logan. In it, Murdock portrays a feisty pastor’s wife who keeps order in her husband’s church and has her eye on her son being paroled from prison right before Christmas. The musical will be staged at the Newark Symphony Hall (Sarah Vaughan Concert Hall), 1020 Broad Street in Newark, NJ, at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16 and Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011. For more information, call  (973) 643-8014.  All tickets are $38.32. On Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011, at 3:30 p.m., the show will make its debut at the famed Apollo Theater, 253 West 125th Street in New York. Tickets range from $55 to $90. For more information, call (800) 745-3000 or go to

Meanwhile, Murdock’s current radio single “Dream” is in the Top 30 of Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs chart. It’s one of a dozen musical chestnuts that Murdock either wrote or co-wrote for her first ever live concert CD “The Journey” (Tyscot Records) that features cameos by R&B divas Kelly Price, Regina Belle and gospel powerhouse Beverly Crawford.  This will be Murdock’s second gospel project with Tyscot Records. Her 2007 label debut, Soul Food, included the chart hit “I Love Me Better Than That.” For more information on Murdock, go to or to her Facebook page at

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Jazz Journalists Association announces musical lineup for awards show in June 2011

According to a recent news release, pianist Randy Weston headlines the artist lineup, and tickets are now on sale at for the 15th annual Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards gala, to be held on Saturday, June 11, 2011, from 1 to 5 p.m. EDT at City Winery, 155 Varick St. at Vandam in New York City.
Randy Weston/African Rhythms
Photo credit Ariane Smolderen
Besides Weston, trumpeter Wallace Roney’s sextet, Canadian flutist/soprano saxophonist Jane Bunnett with Cuban-born pianist Hilario Duran and special guest Candido on congas, singer Gregory Porter (a nominee for the JJA’s Male Vocalist of the Year Award) and the Hammer Klavier Trio from Hamburg will perform at the event. The JJA gala, a fundraiser for the non-profit professional organization that promotes coverage of jazz in all media, will also feature announcements and presentations of the Awards to winners, and introductions of “Jazz Heroes” honored for extra-musical jazz activism in locales across the U.S. (in order to highlight the decentralized aspect of jazz activism, the JJA is not inducting “A Team” jazz activists this year). 
The Jazz Awards is being produced as live streaming video, viewable online (and later archived) at Free satellite parties have been convened to watch the Awards in Berkeley, Boston, Nashville, Phoenix, Portland OR, Seattle and Washington, D.C, among other sites.
The general public may purchase tickets to the Awards gala in New York for $150. Ticket reservations, the list of all nominees for 2011 JJA Jazz Awards, details about the satellite parties and videos of the performers are also available at

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Mitch’s Reflection: Jazz legend Hank Jones dies at 91 in New York City

Hank Jones, pianist and jazz legend, beloved husband of Theodosia, dear uncle to his nieces and nephews across the country, friend to music, inspiration to countless musicians, died May 16, 2010, in New York City, after a brief illness. He was 91 years old and would have been 92 on July 31.
Jones’ longtime manager and Justin Time Records representative Jean-Pierre Leduc says in a news release,”Today we celebrate his spirit, his gift, his joy, his wisdom and his friendship. Hank lived and breathed music, and was never far from a keyboard, even at the end. His incredible burst of productivity these last few years – concerts, recordings, fundraisers, clinics – was unprecedented and truly remarkable.”
Born in 1918 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Hank Jones grew up in Pontiac, MI, the eldest of the acclaimed Jones Family, which included trumpeter, composer and bandleader Thad Jones and drummer Elvin Jones.
Jones started playing in local bands in Michigan, Ohio and Buffalo before moving to New York City in 1943. His first job was with Hot Lips Page at the Onyx Club on 52nd Street, where in 1945 he joined Billy Eckstine’s big band. The following year, he joined Coleman Hawkins, and from 1947-51 he toured the world with the Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) accompanying Ella Fitzgerald. In 1952, he joined Artie Shaw and then worked with Johnny Hodges followed by Tyree Glenn. In 1956 he joined Benny Goodman and the CBS studios as staff pianist in 1959, a position which would last for 17 years. Additionally, Jones accompanied Marilyn Monroe as she sang “Happy Birthday Mr. President” to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in 1962.
Although the thought of retirement had crossed his mind, at 87, Jones stayed busy playing concerts worldwide, recording and performing at jazz master classes at various schools, such as Harvard University  and New York University. 
Jones’ recent awards include a Congressional Achievement Award, NEA Jazz Master (1989), induction in DownBeat Magazine’s Jazz Hall of Fame (2009), Jazz Journalists Associations Pianist of the Year (2009) and a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award (2009).
Jones released his most recent album,  Pleased to Meet You, as a co-leader on Justin Time Records in October with label mate pianist Oliver Jones. Before his death, Jones recorded as a guest artist on a duets album with vocalist Hilary Kole, August 10 release on Justin Time. His final recording is an album of duets with bassist Charlie Haden, due out late this year on Universal France.