Rick Braun, in October 2011 issue of JazzTimes magazine, admitted what those who are in the smooth jazz business end have known for a while, notably the demise of commercial radio and its commercial music business. He admits the good side of this is that, “there’s no pressure on the artists to come up with radio-play hits anymore.” With both of the above facts now in play, there has been a mad scramble going on among record companies and artists.
Firmly rooted in the sort of challenging post-bop, pre-free modern jazz epitomized by the pre-electric Miles Davis Quintet of the mid-1960s, and – perhaps – the early 70s ECM sound, the music of Nordic Connect is nonetheless quite un-stodgy and rich in interesting 21st Century influences and flavors. The compositions largely, written by pianist Maggi Olin (though Ingrid Jensen, Christine Jensen and Jon Wikan each chip in some), at times, recall some of the mid-to-late 60s and early 70s Blue Note recordings by Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, as they branched out from Miles' musical orbit. As in Miles' and Shorter's music, a key feature of “Spirals” is the blurring of lines between the front line and the rhythm section. There's also a playfully relaxed, experimental spirit here that you won't hear on a lot of today's modern jazz recordings. A cooperative project involving musicians who are either from Scandinavia, or have Scandinavian ancestry, Nordic Connect also adds ethnic flavors from entirely different settings to create sophisticated, intriguing music that is completely contemporary.
Though the late 90s Exotica / Space Age Bachelor Pad Music mini-trend of the late 90s and early 2000s is long over, vibraphonist Brian O'Neill continues to make original music in this vein under the Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica moniker. Listening to the band's sophomore effort, “Third River Rangoon,” I couldn't help but wonder if he wasn't selling himself short. Many correctly associate exotica with mood music, a hip sort of sound to have on in the background while the primary order of business is sipping a Mai-Tai and eating sushi. From the first track on “Third River Rangoon,” it's clear that there's much more going on here than one would typically hear on any given Martin Denny or Les Baxter LP. Even the CD title, with its backhanded reference to Gunther Schuller's 'Third Stream Music,' suggests that O'Neill and company have loftier goals than merely updating mildly interesting background music from the 1950s.
With his ensemble, Viewpoint, Stix Hooper returns to the stage in a rare appearance, Friday, October 28, 2011 at Zipper Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. Viewpoint is a progressive instrumental based project and is one of Hooper’s many musical endeavors. With special guest, Hubert Laws, 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Award Honoree, along with others, this concert will showcase Hooper’s many eclectic and varied talents.