Due to the real-time nature of digital news, we’re extra sensitive to the timeliness of the content in our print magazine. But jazz is relatively dateless as far as art and entertainment go, so most issues read with a satisfying degree of immediacy by default. This October book is different, though, mostly because the transition from summer to fall is one of the most dramatic of the year, second only to perhaps the holiday season.
More to the point, there’s an unavoidable disconnect at play in the issue you’re holding. We edited this magazine through heat waves and festivals, in weeks when New York City is weird and forlorn, and you’re reading it with fall in full swing: The air is crisp, kids are back in school and the concert calendar is bursting with high-profile bookings. It might seem like the important summertime events covered herein-Keith Jarrett’s latest Umbria episode, Terence Blanchard’s killing set at Newport-took place eons ago, but they didn’t.
And there are plenty more indelible summer moments where those came from-especially in relation to Newport. Making that trek worthwhile was Mary Halvorson’s quintet, especially its saxophonist, Jon Irabagon, whose solos embodied both stalwart technique and a deep understanding of avant-garde vocabulary. Also breaking new ground was Amir ElSaffar’s Two Rivers, whose Newport-commissioned work combined the spirit of Impulse!-era ’70s jazz with the virtuosity and harmonic sense of the globally reaching NYC scene. Steve Coleman’s Five Elements, a band I’ve found offputtingly mechanistic in the past, swung with earthy panache thanks to drummer Marcus Gilmore.
Closer to quote-unquote jazz tradition was Jim Hall’s fantastic quartet set featuring bassist Scott Colley, drummer Lewis Nash and guest guitarist Julian Lage, an hour of easygoing, empathetic sojourns through standards. And Chicago’s Dee Alexander proved one of the music’s most underrated divas, with a bell-clear sound, impressive narrative skill and inventive scats derived from muted brass solos.
Hopefully your summer had some musical high points of its own.