Jazz In The Present Tense

Jazz In The Present Tense

  • Gregory Porter
    Photo: Dan MacMedan/WireImage.com
  • Esperanza Spalding
    Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

This year has been a stellar year for jazz music. The boundaries of jazz have been pushed ever since cornetist Charles Joseph "Buddy" Bolden laid down his first improvisational lick back in the late 1800s. So, who is continuing this trend today in the second decade of the new millennium?

Houston-born pianist Robert Glasper's star continued to rise this year with the release of Black Radio. The album made an indelible impression on young people (and the not so young) around the world. Over the years, Glasper has collaborated with the likes of Bilal, Terence Blanchard, Q-Tip, Meshell Ndegeocello, Jaleel Shaw, and Kanye West.

Best New Artist GRAMMY winner Esperanza Spalding continued to cast her spell on unsuspecting music fans this year with the release of Radio Music Society. Whether it is straight-ahead jazz or classical- and R&B-infused songs, Spalding delivered again in 2012.

Vijay Iyer's Accelerando, Christian Scott's Christian aTunde Adjuah, Tia Fuller's Angelic Warrior, Orrin Evans' Flip The Script, Euge Groove's House Of Groove, and Gregory Porter's Be Good are just a sample of the different styles and passions that made listening to jazz exciting for me this year.

On the digital home front, the venerable jazz label Blue Note Records broke new ground with an amazing Spotify app. Imagine being able to access the entire Blue Note catalog dating back to 1939. You can explore the label's music either through an interactive timeline or via an immersive experience within specific styles, artists, instruments and more. The coolest part of the app is called Blue Break Beats, where the app identifies the original source of all those samples you've heard but couldn't quite place.

On a somber note, the jazz community has lost legends and talented musicians such as Von Freeman, Bob French, David S. Ware, Byard Lancaster, Shimrit Shoshan, and Pete La Roca. Los Angeles-born pianist Austin Peralta, 22, died during the week of Thanksgiving. He was considered by many to be a talent beyond the "prodigy" label that was bestowed on him years ago.

But, to end the year in review on a high note, the 55th GRAMMY Awards will be the perfect place to see the very best in music — especially in jazz. I cannot wait to be in Los Angeles in February 2013 so I can share all of the excitement and surprises with everyone.

Stay for the ride — the best is yet to come.

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