I was scanning the magazine newsstand the other day and picked up a copy of the June issue of Ebony magazine. It’s their music issue. I open it up, and who is the first person I see? It’s Esperanza Spalding. So, I read the blurb about how the bassist/vocalist would like to model her career after Ornette Coleman and Madonna. Plus, she’s working on her fifth album with Q-Tip as producer. I’m thinking…good news. Also, I hear Heads Up album Radio Music Society has reached number one on Billboard’s Top Jazz Albums chart.
Next, I happened to be doing my regular research for the column, and I find out guitarist Bill Frisell is performing at the Dakota on July 2 and 3, but not before vocalist Rachelle Ferrell makes a return visit to the club on June 7.
So, I’m wondering out loud…hmm…will drummer Rudy Royston, who tours and plays with Frisell on his album Beautiful Dreamers, be joining him for the Dakota gig? Probably not, as that album was out in 2010, and Frisell is promoting a new project. Some of you may recall Royston from saxophonist J.D. Allen’s Sunnyside album Victory! from 2011. I remember seeing Royston in the short film about the makings of this album. He stood out.
Speaking of the Dakota, earlier this month living legend Irv Williams and friends celebrated his retirement at the club. He’s 93 years old, but you’d never know it by his youthful appearance and sound. Also known as “Mister Smooth,” Williams has played with everyone from Billy Eckstine, Fletcher Henderson, Mary Lou Williams and Ella Fitzgerald.
He was inducted into the Minnesota Jazz Hall of Fame and received the Arts Midwest Jazz Masters Award in 1995. For decades, Williams has taught in the St. Paul public schools and lectured at the University of Minnesota. He is a pillar of the jazz community.
Recently I was excited to read online about Cassandra Wilson’s new album, Another Country, which will be released on June 26 by eOne Music. According to a press release, the album is supposed to be a departure from her previous work. On Another Country, Wilson collaborates with jazz guitarist/producer Fabrizio Sotti. She also worked with Sotti on the 2002 Blue Note album Glamoured.
I mentioned the new album to a friend who is really into African American literature. He told me the title is an old term and also reminded me of James Baldwin’s book, Another Country. The guitar-oriented sound on the new album should win Wilson even more fans.
The album track list includes:
1. Red Guitar
2. No More Blues
3. O Sole Mio
4. Deep Blue
5. Almost Twelve
7. When Will I See
8. Another Country
If we’re lucky, maybe she’ll come to town in support of her 18th album. If not, perhaps a trip to New York City is in order. Wilson hasn’t had a return engagement here in the Twin Cities in a minute.
Mark your calendars for June 18 and 19. Stanley Clarke/George Duke Project is on board at the Dakota. Also look out for the club’s upcoming Dakota Fest on July 28. Jason Moran and the Bandwagon (featuring special guests Remix the music of Fats Waller) are at Symphony Center in Chicago on June 1. What? It’s only six hours away.
Robin James welcomes reader responses to [email protected]