Top 10 Favorite Kale Dishes

It’s National Kale Day (apparently that’s really a thing) and since kale has gone from bane of my childhood existence to possibly the most important plant in my life, I figured I’d give all my fellow kale lovers (and or the kale-curious) a sense of some of the ways we use it in our household,…

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Top 10 Favorite Dr. Lonnie Smith Tracks

The world is a less soulful, interesting, and spirited place without Dr. Lonnie Smith walking among us. I will leave the broader personal eulogizing to others better-suited, but since I’d already been working on this list I wanted to share it, both for some balm, hopefully, for the Turbanator’s fans and as a point of entry for this towering figure, NEA Jazz Master, and one of the greatest organists ever to walk the planet.

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Top 10 Favorite Bob Dylan tracks (and more)

On the occasion of Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday I’ve been spurred to look at my relationship with his music, one that began with exposure to songs of his that were mainstays on mainstream “classic rock” radio and then radiated in any number of directions since then. I am inspired by his tenacity of artistic vision (even when it changes, sometimes inconveniently). And I’m awed by his truly incredible catalogue of great songs, from earth-shaking protest music to evocative poetry to continuation of folk blues and gospel traditions to flat out catchy pop songs. And while some would say his voice is an acquired taste, I guess I’ve acquired it because I love that too.

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Top 10 Favorite Curtis Fuller Tracks

Curtis Fuller, who we lost this past weekend, is my favorite trombonist in the history of music. His playing is at once soulful, grooving, lyrical, harmonically adept, and technically agile and he was an underappreciated composer and bandleader to boot. I often find myself steering students towards his work to demonstrate how obstacles limiting one’s ability to “shred” needn’t prevent one from sounding great on fast tempos and/or in the company of those who can play with greater technical ease. In his case, in most of the recordings to which I steer people (including 1-9 on this list) the obstacles in question are due to the inherently cumbersome nature of his instrument, but it’s worth noting how much great music he made after he had surgery to remove a lung. For years I assumed that was a weird rumor because I kept going to hear him perform and marveling at how a sixty-something (and then seventy-something) year old trombonist could sound so good even with two working lungs. As a physically impaired jazz musician myself, this elevated Curtis even further in my own pantheon of inspiring figures.

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Top 10 Favorite Albert “Tootie” Heath tracks

In honor of and appreciation for drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath’s acknowledgment and accolades at last week’s NEA Jazz Master induction ceremony, I’ve been listening to a ton of Tootie. He has a distinctive voice on the drums and has been so active for the last 60+ years that it’s quite difficult to narrow down just ten tracks. And as a live performer, what a dynamic charming force he is. I was fortunate to see him at the helm of two remarkable performances by The Whole Drum Truth ensemble for which he was the leader and visionary, bringing together drum giants like Ed Thigpen, Ben Riley, Louis Hayes, and others to show audiences just how much music can be made without pitched instruments.

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Top 10 Favorite Thelonious Monk Tracks

There is so much Monk that has inspired me that I could have easily had a Top 10 for his Blue Note, Prestige, Riverside, and Columbia studio recordings, one for his live performances, one for his sideman work – you get the idea. Ultimately, as with the Mingus list, I chose ten tracks that I love and that covered enough ground that most of what I love about Monk is in there somewhere. So here they are, in chronological order.

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Top 10 Favorite Charles Mingus Tracks

I am, for the third time, teaching a course on the music of Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus for Wesleyan University’s Graduate Liberal Studies program, and as in the previous iterations, it gives me the impetus to listen to a LOT of their music, often falling back in love with things I already dug but…

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Top 10 Favorite Ralph Peterson Jr. Tracks

The jazz world was devastated earlier this week by the passing of Ralph Peterson Jr., a drummer, composer, bandleader, educator, entrepreneur, and all-around volcano of a musician and human, at the age of 58. It feels (and indeed is) soon to be digging in to his vast discography, but I wanted to be able to share some memories with those who might find that nourishing and to point some folks on the margins of the jazz world in the direction of some starting points from which to go down the Sir Ralph rabbit hole that I and many others have been in this week.

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