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JamesOnJazzsquareWelcome to 2013. “When you’re moving in the positive, your destination is the brightest star,” Stevie Wonder sings, and so there it is, the goal for 2013.

Looking ahead, here are some news items to help usher in your 2013 in a terrific and positive way. Plus, my top albums of 2012.

 

It’s Miller Time — sort of

“Miller Time” premiered Sunday, January 6, on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. The legendary bassist, composer, producer and two-time Grammy winner Marcus Miller has created yet another creative outlet with “Miller Time,” his new show on Sirius XM’s Real Jazz.

Photo courtesy of Concord Music Group

Photo courtesy of Concord Music Group

It features acoustic and electric jazz and anecdotes about the many stars with whom he’s worked intimately including Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, David Sanborn and the late Luther Vandross. The show runs for two hours and airs every Sunday at 6 pm and Tuesdays at midnight.

Last year marked Miller’s return to composing and exploring new music of his own on his latest Concord release Renaissance, created with a new band of young and gifted musicians. Renaissance has been nominated for a 2013 NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Jazz Album. Miller is co-hosting the Smooth Jazz Cruise 2013 later this month.

 

Congrats to the Thelonious Monk Institute

The year 2012 was an exciting one for the Thelonious Monk Institute. From their peer-to-peer outreach programs to International Jazz Day, from the educational tour in Russia to the 25th Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, the institute continues to promote jazz and its values across America and the world.

Jamison Ross was the winner of the 2012 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Drums Competition. Justin Brown and Colin Stranahan were named second- and third-place winners, respectively.

At stake was more than $100,000 in scholarships and prizes, including a $25,000 first-place scholarship and a guaranteed recording contract with Concord Music Group. This year’s competition judges included a distinguished panel of drummers: Terri Lyne Carrington, Carl Allen, Brian Blade, Jimmy Cobb, Peter Erskine and Ben Riley.

“The heartbeat of the bandstand, the drums, have been an inspiration to every culture from the genesis of mankind,” said Institute Chairman Herbie Hancock.

The Second Annual International Jazz Day will be celebrated in Istanbul, Turkey, according to a recent Thelonious Monk Institute newsletter. The newsletter also noted that preparations are underway for the 2013 International Jazz Day celebrations.

Herbie Hancock — appointed as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in 2011 — and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova initiated this annual celebration to encourage and highlight intercultural dialogue and understanding through America’s greatest musical contribution to the world. Stay tuned for more announcements.

 

New music by José James

No Beginning, No End by Minneapolis native vocalist and Blue Note Records artist José James is set to drop on January 22. James is vastly becoming an artist to watch in 2013. Watch him as he makes a winter tour stop in his hometown in support of his album on January 29 at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis.

No Beginning No End sums up how I feel about music right now,” James said in a recent label press release. “I don’t want to be confined to any particular style. I decided I didn’t want to be considered a jazz singer anymore and that was really freeing. Once I realized that jazz singing is just something that I do and it’s just a label, it freed me as an artist to just write without any boundaries.”

The late, great vocalist Joe Williams immediately comes to mind when one listens to James’ strong and romantic baritone sound, but it becomes clear soon enough that he’s doing his own thing.

The new and soulful album boasts high-profile collaborators such as pianist Robert Glasper and the 2011 Thelonious Monk Competition winner pianist Kris Bowers. James signing with EMI’s Blue Note Records was announced in September 2012. He has plenty of room to grow, so it will be interesting to see him search for new ways of expressing himself.

Look out: Blue Note is on a roll with a forthcoming album from bassist/composer Derrick Hodge. More details to come.

 

Top albums released in 2012Blue Moon CD

• Kirk Whalum, Romance Language (Rendezvous)

• Jeremy Pelt, Soul (HighNote)

• Ravi Coltrane, Spirit Fiction (Blue Note)

• Marcus Miller, Renaissance (Concord)

• Robert Glasper, Black Radio (Blue Note)

• Eric Reed, The Baddest Monk (Savant)

• Chano Dominguez, Flamenco Sketches (Blue Note)

• Ahmad Jamal, Blue Moon (Jazz Village)

• Clifford Brown with Singers, The EmArcy Master Takes Vol. 2 (Verve Select)

• Charles Mingus, Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964-65 (Mosaic)

 

A dedication

In the spirit and memory of the late poet and activist Jayne Cortez, who passed away on December 28 at the age of 76, I dedicate this column to her and reaffirm my pledge to keep writing and encouraging other fellow writers, in particular women writers of color, to keep writing and moving in positive directions.

 

Robin James welcomes reader responses to [email protected]

 

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