Last Post of the Year

Nice to see the NYE gig tomorrow listed in the New York Times:

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Marcy’s husband Rob took a shot of the two us the last time I played at Zinc with Tootie Heath:

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That same night Tony Creamer got a nice candid of Tootie and I with Dylan Reis playing bass:

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Of the many think pieces I read this past year, one really stood out, The Decade Comic Book Nerds Became Our Cultural Overlords, by Alex Pappademas. The article is about film, but there are ways in which his devastating analysis of social media group-think transfers to everything else.

Pappademas nails it in his article, but that doesn’t mean 2019 wasn’t a great year for movies. Indeed, the three pictures I had high hopes for all delivered: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Irishman, and Knives Out.

The Irishman is a grand sendoff, a full-throated “official closing statement” on a style and a generation. More unexpected was the mysterious Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which I loved so much that I went back to see it again a week later. Both of these huge, slow-moving epics are more complex than their critics think. Both will stand the test of time.

Early on in the Bad Plus years, James Diers told me to watch Brick, the first film by Rian Johnson, which places a hardboiled crime story inside the convoluted high school milieu of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Knives Out is Johnson’s long-delayed follow-up to Brick. While Brick draws on Dashiell Hammett, Knives Out draws on Agatha Christie. Both have good scores by brother Aaron Johnson.

Knives Out didn’t have anything to do with high school, but it did remind me of Whedon’s amusing Much Ado About Nothing. After either the Avengers or Star Wars, the directors do a smaller scale passion project, perhaps to keep their head in a more creative game.

While the Scorsese and Tarantino movies are almost a dismissal of modernity, Johnson creates magic from the most timely of concerns. Again, a great year for movies, at least for the kind of movies I like.

This past year I continued teaching at NEC. (All I really want to do is sit around and talk about jazz, so they almost don’t need to pay me for hanging out with some of the upcoming best and brightest.)  The ECM disc Common Practice with Tom Harrell, Ben Street, and Eric McPherson came out in October. Commissions, tours, recordings, and special projects are in place for 2020. I am very lucky to do what I do….

Selected gigs from the last 12 months:


12 Billy Hart Quartet with Dayna Stephens, Ben Street at Winter Jazz Fest

29 — Feb 3 Billy Hart Quartet with Mark Turner, Ben Street at Village Vanguard


8–10 MMDG Pepperland in Boston

28 “Bud Powell in the 21st Century” at NEC


8-9 MMDG Pepperland at Krannert Center

10 chamber music with Derek Bermel and members of Seattle Symphony

14-16 Dance Heginbotham “Easy Win” Philadelphia

18 MMDG “Pepperland” UK tour begins


(all month) MMDG “Pepperland” UK tour


3-4 trio with Ron Carter and Al Foster at Zinc Bar

8-11 MMDG Pepperland at BAM

17 quartet with Dayna Stephens, Ben Street, and Eric McPherson at Jazz Gallery

28 trio with Robert Hurst and Nate Wynn at Cliff Bells, Detroit


1-8 duo tour with Mark Turner, including Healdsburg and Spoleto

14-15 Jazz te Gast festival in Holland, a collaboration with Marike van Dijk and many excellent European musicians; premiere of my orchestral piece, “Solve for X”

Lo-fi video of dress rehearsal of “Solve for X”, with Reinout Douma conducting the Noordpool Orchestra:

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(email me if you want the full score)

20–22 MMDG Pepperland at ADF

25-29 Village Vanguard, either duo with Mark Turner or quartet with Tom Harrell, Ben Street, Eric McPherson


19 Brahms G major violin sonata with Johnny Gandelsman, premiere of “Tiny Trio” with Johnny and Michael Nicolas, Bay Chamber Concerts, Maine

22-27 Langnau workshop, including duo gig with Ron Carter


2 Billy Hart quartet with Mark Turner and Joe Martin at Newport (afternoon); Jon Batiste extravaganza at Newport (evening)

19-24 Billy Hart quartet with Mark Turner and Joe Martin, Beijing and Tokyo, also one night of duo with Mark Turner in Tokyo

30-31 trio with Larry Grenadier and Al Foster at Mezzrow


10-21 trio with Joe Sanders and Jorge Rossy European tour


15-17 quartet with Tom Harrell, Eric McPherson, and Ben Street in Boston, NYC, and Philly

18 two solo pieces as part of gala tribute to Cecil Taylor at NEC

22-27 Billy Hart Quartet with Mark Turner, Ben Street at Village Vanguard


1-2 one piece duo with Mark Turner as part of gala ECM at 50 at JALC

13-16 MMDG Pepperland at the Kennedy Center

19-27 duo with Mark Turner European tour


6 solo piano set at Spectrum, Brooklyn

13-14 trio with Dylan Reis and Tootie Heath at Zinc Bar

Memories 2019:


with Tom Harrell (photo by Angela Harrell)


dessert with Carla Bley (photo by Ruth Cameron)


Al Foster and Ron Carter


Pepperland UK: Yegor Shevtsov, Brian Krock, Vinnie Sperrazza, Clinton Curtis, me, Johan Henkens, Rob Schwimmer (photo by Jacob Garchik, who should really be in the photo)


Barry Harris, final set of his September week at the Vanguard


Sarah Deming at Thanksgiving (photo by Marcy Harriell)


Mark Turner, me, Sarah Deming, Ben Street in Vanguard kitchen (photo by John Rogers)


selfie with Craig Taborn at ECM event


the squad helps me practice


between Mark Turner and Jeff Ballard (photographer unknown)


I bought my brother Spencer a lawn tractor


met up with some old pals in Birmingham (photo by Rob Schwimmer)


Bertha Hope and Vernita Ramsey at Van Gelder studios


Larry Grenadier and Al Foster


Mark Turner and Joe Martin


On my wife’s side of the family, Xmas 2019: Bernice (97) had Donna, who had Nikki, who had Tyler, who had David (5)

Bonus track: Composer Alvin Singleton (DTM interview) sent me this great photo of Singleton taking his archives to Columbia University.



Good-bye 2019, and hello, 2020!