Spalding, Moran lead jazz to a new era

Onward they go. In the pursuit of musical excellence, there are many major players within our realm. So far, jazz audiences have enjoyed courageous music from artists Esperanza Spalding and Jason Moran. Both have graced us with their presence at the Dakota recently, and we saw firsthand why they are invincible.

With her wordless and lyrical singing, and with his assured and well-informed touch, Spalding and Moran are still learning to master their craft before our eyes.

Speaking of presence, it’s a big deal that Moran is playing with the great Charles Lloyd. And it’s a big deal when Prince shows up to your gig, which he did for Spalding’s closing second set at the Dakota on September 22.

According to a current feature article written by fellow DownBeat contributing writer Dan Ouellette, Spalding’s Heads Up debut, Esperanza, ”scored top of class as far as selling the most CDs internationally for a new jazz artist in 2008.”

Prior to Moran’s appearance at the Dakota with Lloyd on September 30, he was awarded a 2010 MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the ”genius” award. The award is an investment in his originality, insight and overall potential.

The current award is $500,000, paid as quarterly installments over five years.

Spalding and Moran are covering a vast range of artistic ground. Having a best-selling international album is an incredible achievement, yes. But sales are one thing and influence is another. In terms of extension and innovation of this art form we know as jazz, the door is wide open for those, including Spalding and Moran, who can help usher in a new musical era.

Who else in the jazz world is emerging with a Michael Jackson kind of musical integrity? I guess it would depend on who you ask: Jazz music label executive.

Seasoned jazz musician. Serious jazz fan. The answers are within striking distance. It’s like asking someone who their favorite designer is: Versace.

Dolce & Gabbana. Chanel. Dior. Vuitton. As in fashion, what counts in the job is ideas and creativity.

New Thelonious Monk Competition winner

On Monday night, October 4, vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant from Miami, Fla., won the Thelonious Monk Competition for Jazz Vocals. Other finalists Charenée Wade and Cyrille Aimée finished in second and third place and won scholarship money of varying levels. Salvant will receive a record deal with Concord Music Group. The competition was held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. For more information, go to www.monkinstitute.org.

Upcoming jazz shows

A first-class stable of talented jazz musicians returning to Dakota for must-see performances including Hugh Masekela (Oct. 20-21) and Bruce Henry (Oct. 22).

Northrop has launched a new Northrop Jazz: Live at the Campus Club concept.

They have announced one concert so far: vocalists Somi (9 pm) and Thomasina Petrus (10:15 pm) on Friday, Oct. 22. Doors open at 8 pm (general admission, cabaret seating only).

In a press release, Northrop described Northrop Jazz as ”the hottest pairings of rising global and local jazz artists in a new intimate and spectacular setting. With one of the best views of the downtown Minneapolis skyline, the Campus Club in Coffman Memorial Union on the U of M campus offers a fresh twist to the local jazz scene. Full bar and food selections available for purchase before and throughout the performance.”

Is the long-running Northrop Jazz Series/Season finished? Good question. Stay tuned for answers.

Also, mark your calendars: KBEM Jazz 88.5 FM is celebrating 40 years of broadcasting on Oct. 23 and 24. For more information, visit www.jazz88.mpls.k12.mn.us.

Robin James welcomes reader responses to jamesonjazz@spokesman-recorder.com.