Sidetracks

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  • A Midsummer Night’s Stream In recent years, many jazz venues have added live video streaming as a way to add to their revenue and recognition. Theoretically, a live feed should be the next best thing to being there, but in this month's Sidetracks, Thomas Cunniffe discusses the highs and lows of video streaming, and spotlights a club that's trying to set the bar higher.
  • A Non-Review Normally, this space would be filled with a book review. But this month, Thomas Cunniffe became quite frustrated with a new jazz listener's guide he was asked to review. As he writes,This book is a particularly egregious example of shoddy work, which was pushed into the marketplace without recognition of its responsibilities or consequences. Cunniffe uses the faults of the book to address the problems with some of today's jazz scholarship.
  • A Sick Kind of Humor The New Yorker's fake Sonny Rollins interview has probably gotten more attention than it ever deserved, but the suicide of Robin Williams has brought out a new and disturbing element about the Rollins article. In this special edition of Sidetracks, Thomas Cunniffe explores the darker side of the New Yorker's satire.
  • Attracting the Lost Generations Despite a wealth of historical material on the internet, there are many otherwise well-educated people who are unaware of great musicians like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. In this Sidetracks commentary, Thomas Cunniffe urges jazz fans to introduce newcomers to the music before our legacy vanishes.
  • Camille Bertault: The Girl on the Internet Since the summer of 2015, when she uploaded her remarkable scat version of John Coltrane's Giant Steps, French jazz vocalist Camille Bertault has been an internet sensation. In this edition of Sidetracks, Bertault tells Thomas Cunniffe about the inspiration for that video, and her unique and varied background. The article includes four embedded videos (and links to several more) plus a review of Bertault's new CD, En Vie.
  • Dave Brubeck’s “Koto Song” Of all Dave Brubeck's compositions, none have been as completely transformed as Koto Song. Thomas Cunniffe examines 11 Brubeck recordings of the piece and notes the gradual evolution of this delicate masterwork. All of the pieces can be heard through an embedded audio playlist and a video.
  • Ella Fitzgerald at 100 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of Ella Fitzgerald's birth, and the occasion is being marked with a plethora of reissues, compilations and tributes. In this special Sidetracks article, Thomas Cunniffe pays homage to the First Lady of Song with an appreciation of her art, and an overview of this spring's salutes.
  • Interviewing Miles In the first edition of our new Sidetracks feature, Amy Duncan tells of getting the interview of a lifetime with the legendary (and notoriously difficult) Miles Davis. The first-person narrative is part of Duncan's soon-to-be-published autobiography Getting Down To Brass Tacks: My adventures in the world of jazz, Rio and beyond.
  • Jazz and Standup Comedy Standup comedians like Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen and Bill Cosby have readily acknowledged the influence of jazz in their work but few comedians talked about the music in their acts. There were a few exceptions, and Thomas Cunniffe shares them in this month's Sidetracks.
  • Maria Schneider/Dawn Upshaw: “Winter Morning Walks” (ArtistShare 121) Winter Morning Walks is the first album in five years from composer Maria Schneider. It is not a jazz album, but a pair of orchestral song cycles featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw. As it represents a change of pace for both us and the artist, it seems appropriate to present Thomas Cunniffe's review of the album as this month's edition of Sidetracks.
  • Michelle Lordi & the Art of Storytelling Philadelphia vocalist Michelle Lordi loves to tell stories in song. She has a deep abiding interest in the Great American Songbook, but has also found viable material from alternative country singer Ryan Adams and the 1980s pop group, The Cars. In this month's Sidetracks feature, Thomas Cunniffe introduces us to Lordi through her recordings and a recent live performance in Denver.
  • Remembering Amy Duncan Former Jazz History Online contributor Amy Duncan passed away in June 2018. With the exception of a single Facebook post by jazz critic Chip Deffaa, no obituaries or memorials have appeared in print or online since Amy’s passing. In this special edition of Sidetracks, Thomas Cunniffe curates a tribute to our friend and colleague, Amy Hildreth Duncan. (Cover photo by Robert Serbinenko.)
  • Remembering Susannah Few singers could discover the inner meaning of a lyric like Susannah McCorkle. A self-described hopeless romantic, she thoroughly researched the songs she performed, and sometimes added long-forgotten lyrics to her arrangements. McCorkle committed suicide in 2001, but her memory lives on through a newly-released live recording from Berlin. Thomas Cunniffe, who once interviewed McCorkle, discusses her life and artistry in this Sidetracks article.
  • Retro Technology Invent a new recording technology and someone will claim that the old technology was better. The CD vs. LP discussion has gone on for the past several years, but Sony Music is going one step further, claiming that Miles Davis' first 9 Columbia albums were designed to be heard in mono. Thomas Cunniffe speculates on Sony's reasoning in this month's Sidetracks.
  • Summation 2018 As 2018 comes to a close, Jazz History Online recognizes the best new and reissued CDs, DVDs and books that have appeared in our pages over the past 12 months. We also pay tribute to the great musicians and historians who left us in 2018.
  • The Dave Frishberg Songbook When someone says they don't write good songs anymore, they must not referring to Dave Frishberg. Since the early Sixties, Frishberg has created witty, off-beat songs which have the repertoire of many singers. Thomas Cunniffe offers his own salute to this superb musician with a selection of Frishberg's best songs, some performed by the composer himself.
  • The Enigma of Jeri Southern One of the most revered vocalists of the 1950s, Jeri Southern created a series of acclaimed LPs and then abruptly stopped performing and recording. Thomas Cunniffe explores her minimalist style and her recorded legacy in this month's edition of Sidetracks.
  • The Essence of Billie For many jazz fans and historians, there are two categories of jazz singers: Billie Holiday and everyone else. Thomas Cunniffe has a similar rating system for Billie Holiday tribute albums: there's Carmen McRae's and everyone else's. However, two new Holiday tributes by José James and Cassandra Wilson stand up well to comparisons with McRae's classic LP. The similarities and differences are discussed in this month's Sidetracks.
  • The Jam Session: A Vocalist’s Confession In this edition of our Sidetracks column, we introduce you to our newest writer, Nicky Schrire. A progressive jazz vocalist from South Africa, she now lives and works in New York. Here, she describes her experiences at a singers only jam session in the Big Apple.
  • The Summation 2012 Jazz History Online marks the new year with a summation of the year just passed. Thomas Cunniffe's Sidetracks essay discusses the highlights of concerts, books, DVDs, films, and CDs of 2012, and bids farewell to many great musicians who left our world in the past 12 months.
  • The Summation 2013 Jazz History Online marks the new year with a summation of the year just passed. Thomas Cunniffe's Sidetracks essay discusses the highlights of concerts, books, DVDs, films, and CDs of 2013, and bids farewell to many great musicians who left our world in the past 12 months.
  • The Summation 2014 Jazz History Online marks the new year with a summation of the year just passed. Thomas Cunniffe's Sidetracks essay discusses the highlights of concerts, books, DVDs, films, and CDs of 2014, and bids farewell to many great musicians who left our world in the past 12 months.
  • The Summation 2015 As 2015 comes to a close, Jazz History Online recognizes the best new and reissued CDs, DVDs and books that have appeared in our pages over the past 12 months. We also pay tribute to the great musicians and historians who left us in 2015.
  • The Summation 2016 As 2016 comes to a close, Jazz History Online recognizes the best new and reissued CDs, concerts and books that have appeared in our pages over the past 12 months. We also pay tribute to the great musicians and historians who left us in 2016.
  • The Summation 2017 As 2017 comes to a close, Jazz History Online recognizes the best new and reissued CDs, DVDs, concerts and books that have appeared in our pages over the past 12 months. We also pay tribute to the great musicians and historians who left us in 2017.
  • The Unedited Paul Desmond Paul Desmond's blazing improvisation on The Way You Look Tonight (from the Dave Brubeck Quartet's album Jazz at Oberlin) has long been considered one of the saxophonist's greatest solos. An alert JHO reader discovered that the solo was edited when transferred from 10 LP to EP and 12 LP. In this Sidetracks feature, Thomas Cunniffe notes that the edit completely changes the feel of the solo. Both versions are embedded in this article.
  • Those Marching Saints When the Saints Go Marchin' In is one of the oldest standards in the jazz repertory, and its origins are shrouded in mystery. In this month's Sidetracks column, Thomas Cunniffe notes a startling resemblance between the Saints and a crucial part of the Catholic Requiem Mass.
  • Timme Rosenkrantz and the Town Hall Concert (June 9, 1945) The June 9, 1945 Town Hall concert produced by Timme Rosenkrantz was ostensibly a celebration of small group swing, featuring Red Norvo, Gene Krupa, Bill Coleman, Teddy Wilson, Don Byas and Stuff Smith. However, there were elements of the newly emerging bebop style for anyone who was listening. Thomas Cunniffe discusses the music and tells of the concert's fascinating back story in this month's Sidetracks.
  • We…Are…The 2.3 Percent! As if January wasn't depressing enough, jazz fans were told once again that their music represents only 2.3% of the US music market. To make things worse, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival announced this year's lineup--with a preponderance of rock and pop acts. Thomas Cunniffe considers the implications of these events in this month's Sidetracks.