Top 10 Favorite Ornette Coleman Tracks

I missed out on commemorating Ornette Coleman’s recent birth anniversary but am posting this now in commemoration of the more mundane occasion of “Ornette time” as the Wesleyan Jazz Ensemble prepares to sink their teeth into his “Humpty Dumpty.” (students: thanks for doing your homework by reading this and listening to these!) It’s difficult to…

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The Power of “Wow”

Turning my “f*%*” into “wow” has been transformational. I’ve probably spent more time trying to craft that opening sentence (in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m trying to sell you something) than on the rest of this, but elaborating on a passing suggestion in Pema Chödrön’s latest book really has made a big difference…

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Top 10 Favorite Rufus Reid Tracks

The great bassist/composer Rufus Reid turns 80 today and is still going strong, glory hallelujah. He has multiple legacies that would each be the envy of most. As a bassist he is one of the pillars of his generation, anchoring important sessions by giants such as Joe Henderson, J.J. Johnson, Stan Getz, Marian McPartland, George…

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Top 10 Favorite J.J. Johnson Tracks

In sports there are some particularly superlative athletes who also stick around long enough for observers to remark that if you divided their careers in half, each half would represent a career worthy of the corresponding hall of fame. While that’s not the way jazz works, exactly, the same principle applies to J.J. Johnson, who…

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MLK and Hope for Humanity

In this moment I am conflicted about sharing my annual written reflections on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his legacy, and its applicability to living a more meaningful and moral life today. The violence worldwide (particularly the ongoing and overwhelming scale of killing of Palestinian civilians), the tenuous state of democracy both abroad…

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Top 10 Favorite Les McCann Tracks

I remember exactly where I was (what car, on what road, in what direction, on what radio station) when, as a college undergraduate, I first heard the iconic 1969 performance of “Compared to What” by Les McCann and Eddie Harris. I could count on one hand the number of Les McCann references I heard from…

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Top 10 Favorite Gregory Tardy Tracks

I have been a fan of saxophonist Gregory Tardy’s music for over two decades and am thrilled to have the opportunity (on 10/28/23) to join him on the proverbial bandstand for the first time, presenting a program of his compositions and personal reflections to wrap up the 2023 Jazz Up Close series. Though he’s only…

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