Spring starts strong with jazz bandleader concerts



It’s springtime, and romance is in the air. So, lately I got to thinking… Why is the music of New Orleans so romantic? Go check out Irvin Mayfield at Orchestra Hall on April 6 at 8 pm and find out. If you can’t make the gig, no worries. He’s got a book and an album out by the same name, A Love Letter to New Orleans. 

There are several female vocalists of jazz who have birthdays in March and April, such as Aretha Franklin, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Carmen McRae. Can you think of some of the romantic songs that these ladies have sung? I can.

So, what is the most romantic jazz song in history, either composed or performed? “Body and Soul,” “Embraceable You,” “I’m Glad There Is You,” “All the Things You Are,” “All the Way” and the list of choices goes on and on. Can you pick just one?

As artistic director of jazz for Orchestra Hall, Mayfield’s vision and decision-making should be praised as he has helped present a terrific cast of jazz musicians to the Twin Cities jazz community thus far: McCoy Tyner, Branford and Wynton Marsalis and Lizz Wright to name a few.

And now he brings his quintet and special guests Aaron Neville, Bill Summers and Jason Marsalis to town to play music from the album at the Orchestra Hall gig. In 2009, Mayfield and his septet performed the commissioned piece The Art of Passion with the Minnesota Orchestra.


Terrell Stafford with JazzMN

Speaking of trumpeters, the JazzMN Orchestra welcomes trumpeter Terrell Stafford for its season finale. Stafford will perform with JazzMN on Saturday, April 21 at 7:30 pm at the Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center. The legendary McCoy Tyner called Stafford “one of the great players of our time.” Artistic Director Douglas Snapp is expected to announce JazzMN’s 2012-13 concert series during the concert.

Stafford is a member of the Grammy award-winning Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and also a member of the Grammy-nominated Clayton Brothers Quintet and the Frank Wess Quintet. He has been heard on over 90 albums. As a leader, he has recorded six albums.

Stafford currently holds the positions of director of jazz studies and chair of instrumental studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. Check out his MaxJazz album, Taking Chances, then go see him live if you really want to be amazed.


More recordings, fewer concerts?

Sure, bandleaders and composers Mayfield and Stafford are fortunate to have gigs here in the Twin Cities, but what about all the other stellar jazz musicians out there with albums to support? What’s the point of recording a new album if you don’t get to play the music live for a wide audience, city to city, coast to coast, all around the world?

Is the album what’s up? Or is recorded music meaning less and less? Or are we finally shifting more to live performances? If you survey a vast majority of the latest jazz club calendars, the answer is no. The notion that a jazz artist must tour in support of an album is fading. Instead, there seems to be a lot of recordings in the marketplace, yet a lot less jazz musicians on bandstands.

I don’t have a solution to this situation, for lack of a better word. And no one has asked me for one. Maybe if I’m asked, I’ll come up with an answer. Until then, I can always listen to the recorded music of artists that interest me, and dream of who might be coming to town next. Isn’t it all so romantic?


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