Eric Hirsh

pianist, composer, producer

Towards a Tipping Point – 2012 Jazz Releases from the Triangle

January 13, 2013 by Eric | 6 Comments

I was listening to the radio (WKNC’s Post Rock Block to be precise) on my drive home from Raleigh to Durham this evening, excited for the upcoming recording session for The Beast + Big Band, and thinking about how both Peter Lamb and the Wolves and The Mint Julep Jazz Band are both working on Kickstarter-funded albums. I wondered just how prolific my jazz colleagues were in 2012 as measured by commercially released recordings. We don’t yet have enough newsworthy happenings to warrant a journalist to champion consistently the scene or to put together a year-end list. Inspired by the Independent Weekly’s annual appraisal, I couldn’t rest until I determined how many local jazz albums came out in 2012 for myself.

Without further ado, here are the 12 jazz and jazz-related albums Triangle musicians released in 2012, organized approximately by release date. If I’ve missed an album, please let me know and I’ll update the post.

Jim Ketch, A Distant View (Summit Records)

Jim Ketch, A Distant View

Buy on Amazon

Kate McGarry, Girl Talk (Palmetto Records)

Kate McGarry, GirlTalk

Buy on Amazon

Ecco La Musica, Morning Moon (Big Round Records)

Ecco La Musica, Morning Moon

Buy on Amazon

John Brown, Quiet Time (Brown Boulevard Records)

 Buy on CDBaby

Doug Largent Trio, Right In The Pocket (self-released)

Doug Largent, Right In The Pocket

Buy from artist website

Branford Marsalis, Four MFs Playin’ Tunes (Marsalis Music)

Branford Marsalis, Four MFs Playin Tunes

Buy on Amazon

Keith Ganz & Kate McGarry, Smile (Edition Longplay)

Keith Ganz Kate McGarry, Smile

Buy from German vinyl store

Jo Gore and The Alternative, The Herstory (self-released)

Jo Gore, TheHerstoryjpg

Buy from artist website

The MPS Project, Goes Without Saying (self-released)

The MPS Project, Goes Without Saying

Buy on CDBaby

Ira Wiggins, When Freedom Swings (IWiggs Music)

Ira Wiggins

I can’t find an album cover. But here is a press release. I’m pretty certain it has been released – it shows up on jazz radio charts here and there.

Yolanda Rabun, Christmastime (Yodyful Music)

Yolanda Rabun, Christmastime

Buy on CDBaby

Nnenna Freelon & John Brown Big Band, Christmas (Brown Boulevard Records)

Nnenna Freelon, Christmas album cover

This CD marks my first credit as a big band arranger. I arranged Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmastime Is Here” as a 3/4 Latin songo. A far cry from the original melancholy ballad.

Buy on CDBaby

I think the Triangle made a fine showing in 2012 in that this list reveals a good diversity of styles. Not only will you find straight-ahead jazz, but also some contemporary/progressive, some blues, some neo-soul, even some world influences.

Coming next week: the year ahead – what to expect from the Triangle jazz scene in 2013. I’m going to make a lot of calls and tweets to my artist friends and determine as many albums slated for release that they’re willing to tell me about. I already know that Stephen Anderson, Kim Arrington, Peter Lamb, and Scott Sawyer are on that list. More details to come!

Also, I recently made a list of Triangle jazz musicians on Twitter. Please let me know if I should add someone to the list!

Top Five Artists Whose Work I WishTo Explore Deeply in 2010

December 27, 2009 by Eric | 0 comments

Over a year ago I wrote a post about my top 10 favorite albums, mostly with a metric of personal fondness more than any sort of aesthetic consideration. As I look ahead to 2010, I see a very busy technologist (researching instruments for Zenph Sound Innovations) and bandleader (with The Beast and Orquesta GarDel) and new-husband (hi, Lauren!).  I want to make sure I am never too far from my deep passion for the arts, that need to appreciate and explore music, soaking it all up and seeing what sticks in the end.  There are a few artists in particular whose work and whose real-life struggles and philosophies have struck a chord with me, yet I’ve not yet had the time to get to know their music.  So in the spirit of end-of-year listmaking, here are my top five artists to get to know better in 2010.

5. King Tubby

Who knew that a sound engineer from Jamaica would have such a significant influence on electronic and hip hop musics?  Mixing (and re-mixing) as an art form, I love the delay-drenched sound of dub music, and it’s high time I take an in depth survey of one of the great pioneers.

4. John Hollenbeck

He is being called a modern jazz master.  With a prodigious output ranging from big band to chamber music to experimental improvisation, I identify with a lot of Hollenbeck’s contrapuntal/ostinato/polyrhythmic concepts and look forward to studying them.

3. Darius Milhaud

I love this guy, there is something fun about a French composer ahead of his own time falling in love with jazz and the music of Brazil.  What’s his take on it?  Let’s listen to La creation du monde and find out!

2. Astor Piazolla

I suspect one could spend a lifetime studying the music of this tango innovator.  He tried to write “proper” classical music, was ashamed of his jazzy tangos until Nadia Boulanger chided him for not being true to himself.  The rest was history, I suppose.  Such a fantastic combination of heart-string romanticism with improvisation with exacting composition, and I can still appreciate that it is based on music of the people, music for dancing.

1. Charles Ives

I’ve been told on occasion that my career path and my music remind people of Charles Ives.  How is it that an insurance salesman could conjure such poignant images of American life in such quirky compositions?  Again, a man ahead of his time.  I cried a bit when I heard “The Things Our Fathers Loved” from 114 Songs as well as “The Unanswered Question.”  I also look forward to reading a collection of his essays and other writings.


Wayne Shorter, Fela Kuti, Bob Dylan, Me’Shell NdegéOcello, Nas