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The Lead Sheet: Top 5 Jazz Stories This Week

Eric Lewis, as ELEW, performs at the Blue Man Group's 20th anniversary after party in 2011.
Jemal Countess
Getty Images
Eric Lewis, as ELEW, performs at the Blue Man Group's 20th anniversary after party in 2011.

An announcement: The end-of-the-week recap, formerly "Around The Jazz Internet" or "The Friday Link Dump," has a new name. Musicians will know that a "lead sheet" is a melodic sketch with chord changes, a reference guide for when you don't know the tune by heart. Here's what you ought to read from this week:

  • The Adventures Of ELEW: Eric Lewis, the virtuosic former pianist for Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, has now rebranded himself as ELEW, a pianist whose covers of classic and modern rock draw from the jazz tradition. He calls it "rockjazz"; he stands without a piano bench, wears body armor, plays events for "the worlds of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, the Obama Campaign, Nascar and High Fashion." As you might imagine, this hasn't exactly been to the taste of many within the jazz community. So why the transformation? Prompted by fellow pianist Ethan Iverson, Lewis sets the record straight in this massive missive, an inside-baseball tale of industry machinations which proves fascinating. Bonus: Iverson responded the next day with more thoughts on the matter. [Do The Math: Five Questions For Eric Lewis]
  • RIP Jazz: One frustrating thing about "[blank] is dead" proclamations is that their ambition is usually half-supported by something resembling logic. That's the case behind "The End of Jazz," by The Atlantic's Benjamin Schwarz. In reviewing Ted Gioia's compendium The Jazz Standards, Schwarz takes an unexpected turn in the last graf, declaring "there is no reason to believe that jazz can be a living, evolving art form decades after its major source" — here he means the so-called Great American Songbook — "has dried up." There's a valid contention somewhere in here: Say, if jazz's mainstream doesn't have a popular standard repertoire that continually develops parallel to it, then it will be hard-pressed to find contemporary resonance. But there's a huge difference between that and declaring the "end" of jazz evolution, in ignorance of the myriad formal, sonic and repertory directions that improvising musicians pursued after the historical moment of the Songbook ended — say, 1960. I guess you could call some of those directions not jazz, if you were in a semantic mood, but if jazz is over, long live the swinging things which took its place and often bear its name. [The Atlantic: The End Of Jazz]
  • Blowing In From Chicago Pt. 1: This year the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation recognizes the pianist and composer Muhal Richard Abrams with a Living Legacy Award. So in advance of that, they invited fellow pianist and composer Vijay Iyer to interview one of his heroes. They talk about learning through imitation, listening to audiences and the early AACM ideals. What comes through clearly is how individualism is a central tenet to his worldview, and how the AACM was set up to support individual pursuits first and foremost. You can hear the nearly 20-minute interview, and past award-winner interviews, online. [Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Jazz: Interviews]
  • Blowing In From Chicago Pt. 2: Here's a profile of a young Chicago-based saxophonist named Caroline Davis who is beginning to make waves on the scene, from Chicago Reader jazz beat writer Peter Margasak. What interests me here is that her story is an average one — not that her talent is average, but the path of multiple universities, part-timing it for a long time, and slow integration into an eclectic musical community seems par for the course these days. At 31, Davis almost seems like a late bloomer among jazz musicians, the most prominent of whom are identified early and promoted through a fast track to exposure. So how do you grow into a career if you're not one of the select few prodigies? Here's one look. [Chicago Reader: Caroline Davis, a saxophonist 20 years in the making]
  • More David S. Ware: The pianist Matthew Shipp left us a nice e-mail last week reflecting on his time with saxophonist David S. Ware, a 16-year tenure in one of improvised music's more prominent bands. Since then, he's been busy trying to document his time with Ware in full, penning pieces for a number of publications, including NewMusicBox, the ASCAP blog and The Daily Beast. One takeaway I'm left with: Even after all this reflection Shipp still can't put his finger on the mysterious quality which so obviously set Ware apart, even within the community of "free jazz."
  • More Links

  • Ron Carter does a short interview with the Denver Westword about the changing role of the jazz bass and more.
  • Phil Schaap, walking encyclopedia, puts the current economic situation for jazz musicians into historical perspective. Also, here's Schaap on music education these days.
  • New Wayne Shorter album coming in February. Includes new compositions, live quartet performances from 2011.
  • New generation supergroup (Christian Scott, Ben Williams, Gerald Clayton, others) to release a covers record.
  • Jesse Fischer, piano and keyboard player, talks about his new release with the Revivalist. He's also a producer/engineer, and has a wide sonic palette on Retro Future. Here's a JazzTimes interview too.
  • You too can learn to be a jazz blogger.
  • Miles Davis does a Japanese liquor commercial, from the '80s.
  • The Jazz Session spoke with saxophonist Hailey Niswanger and trombonist Natalie Cressman.
  • The Checkout sat down with pianist David Virelles and drummer/beatmaker Karriem Riggins, and hosted guitarist Ed Cherry in the studio.
  • Elsewhere At NPR Music

  • Jeff Ballard's band, Fairgrounds, is playing next week at the Village Vanguard. We broadcast on Wednesday, Halloween night.
  • Hear unreleased Charles Mingus live recordings as a First Listen this week.
  • JazzSet features Lewis Nash and Kurt Elling from Newport 2012.
  • Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz features Willie Nelson.
  • Pianist George Cables has a disc reviewed onFresh Air.
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.