December-21st-2004, 01:27 AM
Sad for "real" jazz
By Dan Ouellette
NEW YORK (Billboard) - Wynton Marsalis is arguably the most recognized name in jazz, for his achievements as a performer and ambassador for the genre. His roles as artistic director for Jazz at Lincoln Center and fundraiser for its new Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York have won him deserved praise.
But the charts tell a different story of who's who in jazz. Fellow New Orleans native Harry Connick (news) Jr. far outranks Marsalis, claiming the No. 1 spot on the year-end Top Jazz Artists recap. Connick's release "Only You" (Columbia/Sony Music) is No. 1 on the Top Jazz Album tally.
The Wynton Marsalis Quartet is the No. 9 act on the Top Jazz Artists chart, while the quartet's debut for Blue Note, "The Magic Hour," ends the year at No. 13 on the album recap.
Connick scored big with "Only You," a rare platinum-selling jazz album. It's a fully orchestrated vocal collection of classic songs from the '50s and '60s, featuring Connick crooning into the heart of such gems as Ray Noble's "The Very Thought of You" and Allen Toussaint's "All These Things." While his steeped-in-Sinatra voice is the draw, Connick also delivers fine piano breaks and frees his horn players, on occasion, to take a jazz stretch.
Connick also holds down the No. 3 spot on the Top Jazz Albums chart with his Columbia Christmas disc, "Harry for the Holidays," released in 2003 and recently certified platinum. Connick currently is involved in a spinoff project, the animated TV special "The Happy Elf." Connick serves as host and narrator as well as score composer and producer. It will premiere during the 2005 holiday season.
KRALL SCORES TWICE
Diana Krall claims the No. 2 and No. 4 positions on the Top Jazz Albums chart with, respectively, her 2004 CD, "The Girl in the Other Room," and 2002's "Live in Paris," both on Verve.
The new disc marks a major shift in Krall's artistic role from song stylist (a la Tony Bennett (news)) to composer. For the first time in her career, she recorded originals, all six of which were written with husband Elvis Costello (news).
Key to the success of the disc is Krall's stretch on the keys, making this her strongest jazz outing. It obviously hasn't disappointed fans of her earlier recordings, which leaned on reworkings of standards for success.
Other strong showings on the Top Jazz Albums chart include vocal outings by young singer Renee Oldstead (her self-titled debut on 143/Reprise/Warner Bros.), chanteuse Jane Monheit (her major-label premiere, "Taking a Chance on Love," on Sony Classical) and Billie Holiday sound-alike Madeleine Peyroux (her long-awaited sophomore disc, "Careless Love," on Rounder).
Meanwhile, Norah Jones (news) once again holds the No. 1 spot on the year-end Top Contemporary Jazz Artists chart on the strength of her album "Come Away With Me" (Blue Note), the No. 1 title on the Top Contemporary Jazz Albums recap.
Jones' second Blue Note album, "Feels Like Home," released this year, has not been categorized as a jazz release on the charts. Like its predecessor, it has sold multiplatinum and kept Jones on the road throughout the year. A series of performances in Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are scheduled to keep her busy into the middle of 2005. No new recording projects are in the wings.
Jones' closest challenger has been young British singer/pianist/songwriter Jamie Cullum, whose debut, "Twentysomething" (Universal/Verve/VG), takes the No. 2 spot on the Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.
On the disc Cullum delivers standards with a new twist and stomp. He also raises the hip factor with fresh takes on rock tunes from Jimi Hendrix to Radiohead, and throws in enough catchy and rollicking originals to offer an eclectic package of extroverted jazz-pop crossover.
Smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G and trumpeter Chris Botti (news) rank at No. 3 and No. 6, respectively, on the Top Contemporary Jazz Artists chart thanks to the success of their albums "Ultimate Kenny G" (BMG Heritage/RMG) and "A Thousand Kisses Deep" (Columbia/Sony Music).
Kenny G and Botti and have new fourth-quarter albums ("At Last ... The Duets Album," on Arista, and "When I Fall in Love," on Columbia, respectively) that will no doubt place them high in next year's rankings.
A significant story of 2004 is how two leading Top Jazz Imprints -- Columbia, which ranks at No. 1, and Blue Note, at No. 3 -- did not release straight-ahead jazz albums.
They both banked on past and present successes -- most prominently Connick and Jones. The job of giving worthwhile new talent an opportunity to shine was taken by the increasingly important indies.
Given that the two imprints have a history of breaking new and important artists, jazz fans can only hope they both open their doors wide in 2005 to upstart jazz instrumentalists and vocalists.
December-21st-2004, 01:51 AM
All this means is that "real" jazz doesn't sell well compared to commercially oriented vocal jazz (or ersatz jazz). No surprise!
December-21st-2004, 03:30 AM
I know Tom, no surpise but one keeps hoping!
December-21st-2004, 05:08 AM
No, I think it shows that writers for Billboard are only interested in their silly charts and can happily ignore that the ten CDs that sold the most (in certain selected record shops, not all, including most indies) don't represent the overall mileu of releases/purchases, or the fact that outside of big names, many people are buying a lot of different records by different people, or different records by the same person; not just x's new release because Billboard's mates tell them to.
December-21st-2004, 01:10 PM
Billboard's jazz charts rarely make much sense, and their contemporary jazz chart tends to be nonsensical.
Blue Note did not release any straightahead jazz albums this year? What about the Wynton Marsalis CD, or many others that aren't on the Billboard charts? A bit of a contradiction.
Gee, so does this mean pop albums outsell jazz?
December-21st-2004, 02:38 PM
disgusting, disheartening, dismal ..
..but not surprising somehow ..
faux jazz for martini parties and esy listening ..
the arrangers best friend is his pencil .. the end with the rubber on it ( E.K.Ellington )
January-7th-2005, 10:14 PM
Patently untrue. Bill Charlap's "Somewhere", issued by Blue Note in March, definitely qualifies. One could argue for Greg Osby's "Public". Or Don Byron's "Ivey-Divey", even though he's not exactly nailing Prez note-for-note.
Originally Posted by Lois Gilbert