Favorite 2014 Sightings

Having been privileged to participate in several year-end “best of” recordings polls (including Francis Davis’ esteemed poll for NPR (http://www.npr.org/blogs/ablogsupreme/2014/12/19/371282561/the-2014-npr-music-jazz-critics-poll), as well as assorted critic’s polls I’ll decline to belabor Independent Ear readers with my favorite recordings for 2014. However, taking a page out of the recent NYT critic’s picks for the best performances, and as someone who in engaged professionally in presenting & producing concert and festival performances and who has offered frequent commentary on various aspects of live jazz presentation, I will give you my two cents on what we’ll call my favorite concert sightings of the year just past.

Please note that the only order here is alphabetically by venue or event – and yeah, this list is largely DC-centric for certain – and for the sake of full disclosure I will refrain from the obvious conflict of listing any performances I had a hand in presenting or producing (including, for obvious biases, the 2014 DC Jazz Festival, which I had NO hand in presenting/producing). Herewith, my favorite performance sightings from 2014:

January 31: Tootie Heath/Ethan Iverson/Ben Street Trio (nothing like a multi-generational band)
March 21: Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith (loved the brass band-centricity!)
May 16: Kris Bowers
August 15: Orrin Evans (R.) Quartet (w/J.D. Allen on tenor!)
September 12: Stefon Harris Quintet (debut of the vibist’s new band after a hiatus to tend to SF Jazz Collective business)

CLARICE SMITH Performing Arts Center (Univ. of MD)
March 25: Kenny Barron‘s Platinum Quintet (time to record this band!)

Revive Big Band

April 5 (KC Jazz Club): Revive Big Band (the absolute best representation of jazz-meets-hip-hop extant!)
May 11 (Concert Hall): Blue Note at 75 (Wayne Shorter, Bobby Hutcherson, Norah Jones, Robert Glasper, Jason Moran, etc. Need I say more?)
December 31 (Terrace Theatre): Harry Connick, Jr. (subbing for Branford Marsalis in a major surprise!)

February 15: Trombone Summit (Frank Lacy, Delfeayo Marsalis & Steve Turre ending with a second line through the hall! This was a true sate of the modern jazz trombone!)
February 15: Christian McBride Trio (what a doubleheader! McBride, Ulysses Owens and Christian Sands somehow found a way to up the ante from the raucous Trombone Summit they followed!)

MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL (it was an exceptional year at MJF!)
September 19: Sangam (Charles Lloyd/Zakir Hussain/Eric Harland, in the first of Charles’ triumphant 3-performance residency)
September 20: Charles Lloyd/Gerald Clayton Duo (though the ultra-busy Jason Moran is Lloyd’s regular pianist, apparently Gerald Clayton is next in line, and if so someone needs to pick Charles Lloyd’s brain to find out what he knows about picking pianists – the man has uncanny vision; the telepathy between he and Clayton was simply brilliant!)
Charles Lloyd2
September 21: Brian Blade Fellowship (first personal sighting of this band trumped anything they’ve laid down on record, and that’s considerable!)
September 21: Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet (with Walter Smith lll on tenor and special guest vocalist the haunting Becca Stevens, the thoughtful trumpeter came full circle from his MJF debut as a student)

MONTY ALEXANDER JAZZ FESTIVAL (Easton, MD; what a pleasantly delightful weekend drive up to Maryland’s Eastern Shore this turned out to be; one of those unexpected pleasures that make life worthwhile.)
8/29: Etienne Charles (the Trini trumpeter brings some of the most cogent and entertaining island pride ever delivered to jazz music.)
8/30: Monty Alexander (at the festival named in his honor, the Jamaican maestro reprised his Jilly’s days – Sinatra, Rat Pack and all – with Allan Harris as vocal sidekick)
Monty & Allan

8/31: Dee Daniels (love those singers who in addition to an ability to swing at any tempo, always bring a touch of the Holy Ghost in their performance, and Dee Daniels epitomizes that sensibility; apropos playing the Sunday brunch closer to the weekend)

NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL (like Monterey, these two old warhorses continue to be must-travel opps for any serious jazz enthusiast; this year Mother Nature did her best to disrupt NJF, particularly on a soggy Saturday, but Sunday’s final session was worth the trip alone)
August 3: Vijay Iyer Sextet (this was the most complete music I’d ever experienced from the erudite physics genius; particularly his telepathy with drummer Marcus Gilmore)
August 3: Ron Carter Trio (no small ensemble better exemplifies the elegant swing equation than this trio with the down-here-on-the-ground soulman Russell Malone on guitar)
August 3: Ravi Coltrane (don’t dare sleep young Kush Abadey on drums; and Ravi just keeps getting’ up)
August 3: Danilo Perez Panama 500 (with the folkloric magician Roman Diaz on percussion, the Jazz Ambassador to Panama brought new iterations to the Latin perspective)

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