Stormy Mondays: Best & Brightest Pianists

I really enjoyed the four part mini-series that ran on the Documentary Channel last month, Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense, which focused on the quiet revolution currently underway in jazz, and the wide and range of musicians who fall into that generation; everyone from Soulive to Bill Frisell to Trombone Shorty to Dakah. So taking a cue from the filmmakers, this week’s stormy Monday focuses on some of the best and brightest pianists on the scene today, the cats forging a new world and ethos for jazz.


The mix opens with Europe’s E.S.T., Esbjorn Svensson Trio doing A Picture of Doris Traveling with Boris – unfortunately yesterday was the first anniversary of Svensson’s tragic death in a diving accident, but the music lives on. Following that is a long track featuring the great iconoclast Jason Moran playing as part of the Charles Lloyd Quartet, easily one of the best cross generational groups in jazz today. Booker’s Garden gives a good sense of the balance his percussive sparseness and melodic flow.

Moving on, Robert Glasper’s double cover of Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage and Radiohead’s Everything in It’s Right Place is a pretty stellar feat, a simultaneous, seamless movement through both tunes. And it’s would be a shame to let such a mix go by with out including a man best known for his electric keys, but whose piano playing is just as mesmerizing: John Medeski, with his cohorts, crushing 7 Deadlies. As always, enjoy!

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3 Responses

  1. The series is a nice antidote to the PBS Ken Burns effort, which tends to view jazz is dying in the 1950’s. Glasper and Matt Shipp, another fine ivory tickler are great when they suggest that if Bird or Trane came back and saw a bunch of guys STILL playing bop and bop related fare without doing anything to advance the music, they would be annoyed and a little let down. The great scene (to me) is when Paul deBaros points to the connection between social forces and a sense of urgency in the music and asks “well, what does Frisell have to do with anything outside of his orbit?” the next frame turns that rhetorical question on its head- it shows Bill playing a smokin’ “Masters of War” with his short lived trio made up of (d) Brian Blade and (organ/piano) Sam Yahel. Yes, it was Yahel’s group that many of you heard opening for Steely Dan…

  2. To Bobby M : Well said!!! Hell yeah, that version of “Masters of War” really is incredible. That performance should live on as one of the more classic performances in the history of music documentaries. The way it was shot even, the color of the stage lights mixed with the 16mm film even brought back feelings of a great Led Zeppelin moment caught on film yet we were actually in the middle of a jazz documentary! That shows the music evolving and to me, that was such a statement on top of a statement, which was indeed captured by the words of Paul de Barros. ( I am actually reading his Downbeat reviews in a whole new light after seeing “Icons Among Us” )
    For me, i was impressed that the story grew out of the honest acknowledgment of the whole “Young Lions” phenomenon that has gone down in history as an obvious changing point in modern jazz history. yep, the term was completely bogus as John Medeski, Greg Osby and Russell Gunn point out. It goes to show you that no matter what type of music, no matter what time period we are in, the record companies will always make desperate attempts to jump on the bandwagon of anything possible that they can exploit in the pursuit of cold hard cash. Who cares who it effects or why it is the way it is to the execs… put a nifty little term on it and spin it around ten times until people think it’s dope as hell. Well, it caused one thing to happen.. a new generation of musicians that could care less about labels and record companies and selling tons of records. That is what the Icons guys are presenting here. A new generation of musicians and music. Marco Benevento anyone ? Yes Please.
    Good to see the true unsung heroes of the Young Lion phase.. Frank Lacy, Donald Harrison and Terence Blanchard. Those are the guys that should be household names just as much as the Marsalis brothers.
    Thank you for this weeks Hidden Track!! Nicely done.

  3. Ish!!! – You are a madman and seemingly obsessed like myself. On point as all hell. Do you play? In New York?

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