New jazz concerts, CDs for the new spring season

Jamaican jazz piano virtuoso Monty Alexander’s live album Uplift on Jazz Legacy Productions will be released March 29.

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As I review many a press release and think about upcoming jazz-related happenings, Abbey Lincoln’s recording You Gotta Pay the Band comes to mind. She’s backed by Hank Jones on piano, Charlie Haden on bass, Mark Johnson on drums, plus Stan Getz is featured, along with Maxine Roach on viola.

MN Orchestra’s upcoming shows

The Minnesota Orchestra announced its Jazz at Orchestra Hall series line-up for 2011-2012. Led by Artistic Director of Jazz Irvin Mayfield, the three-concert series welcomes back to the Twin Cities the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis; Lizz Wright and Kurt Elling; and ushers in “A Love Letter to the City of New Orleans” featuring Mayfield with host Soledad O’Brien plus special guests. Both Wright and Kurt performed at the Dakota in February.

The Minnesota Orchestra also announced its 2011-2012 U.S. Bank Pops Season. Headliners to include Chris Botti, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Golden Dragon Acrobats, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and the King’s Singers. And Doc Severinsen returns with his  traditional holiday program. Highlights include a concert featuring both the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra in a “farewell” to Orchestra Hall prior to its scheduled renovation.

New music from Monty Alexander

In other jazz-related news, Monty Alexander is set to release the live album Uplift on Jazz Legacy Productions on March 29. Jamaican jazz piano virtuoso Alexander is acclaimed all over the world.

“Music is a healing force,” says Alexander, who is joined by bassist Hassan Shakur, drummer Herlin Riley, and drummer Frits Landesbergen (on one track). “My hope is that by the end of a concert, and by the end of this album too, everybody will be taken with a feeling of uplift. That’s what I always want to do.”

Featuring performances from Alexander’s concerts over a three-year period, Uplift includes renditions of standards like “Come Fly with Me” and “Body and Soul” and originals like “Renewal” and “Hope.”

Uplift album tracks include “One Mint Julep” and a stride-meets-Monk take on “Sweet Georgia Brown,” with a nod to two of Alexander’s musical mentors.

“The real heroes on that tune for me were Nat ‘King’ Cole and Oscar Peterson,” he explains. “Nat Cole had a real simultaneously hot and cool style in his fingers, and Oscar Peterson’s mastery of the piano, powerful rhythm and full orchestral approach was very affecting to me.”

Monty Alexander will also release an album on Motéma Music in spring 2011entitled Harlem-Kingston Express-Live at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. For more on Alexander, go to

Nat “King” Cole’s show iTunes

Speaking of Nat “King” Cole, I ran across an interesting article posted at “The Nat King Cole Show: From the Small Screen to Your Computer Screen, Finally” by NPR’s Karen Grigsby Bates (originally posted Feb. 15). The Nat King Cole Show aired in 1956 for about a year. iTunes began to release a set of re-mastered episodes from the Cole family vault on Feb 15. Apple is offering 25 shows in groups of four to be offered over the next six months.

The article also states that Cole’s show went off the air as a casualty of skittish advertisers that worried they’d lose Southern consumers if their products were promoted on the show. Cole said that “Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark.” Now Nat’s back in living rooms, now on computers and smart phones.

Smokey releases Cracker Barrel exclusive CD

Did anyone catch Smokey Robinson on Tavis Smiley Late Night on PBS last week? I missed the show but read this little tidbit of news online:

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is working with Smokey Robinson to promote his newest CD, Now and Then, which features 12 songs. Six are live versions of “Going to a Go-Go,” “I Second That Emotion,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” and “The Tears of a Clown,” recorded in 2010 during various performances. The other six are from his 2009 CD, Time Flies When You’re Having Fun, which includes “Time Flies,” “Don’t Know Why,” and “Girlfriend.” The CD is now available only at Cracker Barrel.

Now and Then is the first release by an R&B artist in the Cracker Barrel exclusive music program, best known for featuring country and bluegrass artists.

“I am glad to have my new CD, Now and Then, available exclusively at Cracker Barrel,” said Robinson. “I think many of my fans are also Cracker Barrel fans, and having my CD available when they come in to have a meal will please them. With almost 600 locations and a website, I am confident that my fans will be able to get this CD easily, and that’s important these days when places that sell music are becoming rarer.”

For more information: http://cbmusic.crackerbar insons-new-cd-now-cracker- barrel.

Next up at the Dakota

Rachelle Ferrell (March 20), and Robert Glasper (March 28) with the trio, not the Experiment band — Glasper, who is appreciated by fans and peers alike for his high level of creativity, recently appeared at the Blue Note jazz club in New York City. He and his band shared the stage with Lupe Fiasco plus two surprise guests, Kanye West and Mos Def, who delivered a lively freestyle performance. Robert’s Blue Note CDs, Canvas, in My Element and the 2009 release Double Booked, are all worth checking out. Will he play “Butterfly” live? We’ll see.

As for Ferrell, her rendition of “My Funny Valentine” is right up there with Dianne Reeves’ version. Can’t get much better than that.

Robin James welcomes reader responses to