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Jazz from the Fringes: Week 3 at the Guatemala International Jazz Festival

J.D. Swerzenski
Staff Writer
j.d.swerzenski[at]trinity.edu

It's the thrilling conclusion of the Guatemalan International Jazz Fest, and I'm back in my balcony perch in the Teatro Dick Smith in downtown Guatemala City to catch the Native Jazz Quartet. The star attraction of the band, other than their American-ness (a big deal in this country), is the presence of drummer and vibraphonist Jason Marsalis (playing strictly the later for tonight.) Having a Marsalis, really any of them, on your bill is sort of the jazz equivalent of having a Renoir or Matisse in the collection; it just lends an air of legitimacy. Naturally, the place is packed.

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Jazz from the Fringes: Week 2 at the Guatemala International Jazz Festival

J.D. Swerzenski
Contributing Writer
j.d.swerzenski[at]trinity.edu

I am back at the International Jazz Festival in Guatemala City, a week to the day since I ventured out for my first taste of Guatemalan jazz, and about two weeks since I learned there was such a thing as Guatemalan Jazz. On that first trip, in which I had caught saxophonist Marco Castelli and his merry band of fellow Italians, I had entered with plenty of preconceived notions regarding what jazz in a non-first world country would sound like. Castelli’s style, which toed the line between the Django-inflected gypsy style and Looney Tunes circus sounds, both dispelled and confirmed many of these suspicions. But then one show can’t be fully representative. So back I am.

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Jazz from the Fringes: Week 1 at the Guatemala International Jazz Festival

J.D. Swerzenski
Contributing Writer
j.d.swerzenski[at]trinity.edu

Jazz is a fundamental American Art Form. You don’t need a 10 disc Ken Burns documentary to be at least aware of this fact; it’s sort of at the core of jazz’s whole story. But then jazz doesn’t belong to the States; some of the most forward thinking music in the genre has been produced in spots all over the globe, especially in recent years. So what’s the state of jazz outside the US? I decided to check in on the outside the States state of jazz from the not-so-likely locale of Guatemala City, Guatemala.

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Catching a Little of Everything: The 2013 New Orleans Jazz Fest

J.D. Swerzenski
Contributing Writer
j.d.swerzenski[at]trinity.edu

At seven days, ten stages and roughly 500,000 attendees, New Orleans’ Jazz and Heritage Festival is a monster, one that I’m still trying to process. It’s also bursting with personality, be it through the food, music or people, all of which was wonderfully on display throughout my three days wandering the grounds. So after catching the every sort of music from the likes of Second Line, Salsa, any other genre that's a second cousin twice removed, and eating my weight in gumbo and Po’ Boys, here’s the best of what I made from the festival.

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Vijay Iyer Trio: The Best Rhythmic Cacophonous Swirl Today

Live at Mayne Stage, Chicago, 18 October 2012 (Show Review)
J.D. Swerzenski
Contributing Writer
j.d.swerzenski[at]trinity.edu

I, like most music bloggers, am unnecessarily obsessed with best of lists. So much so in fact that I felt compelled this past week to compile a premature list of my favorite jazz releases of the year, one which I was surprised to see, consisted almost entirely of piano trio records: The Bad Plus, Trio M, Alfredo Rodriguez, Brad Mehldau, etc.

I wasn’t exactly sure as to why until last night, when I had the chance to see the Vijay Iyer Trio, who put out my favorite record (jazz or otherwise) of this year, Accelerando.

Taking to Chicago’s Mayne Stage this past Thursday, the band spent the majority of their 2 ½ hour set pulling material from both Accelerando and 2009’s Historicity, two records that affirm, in my mind at least, the piano trio as the most potent unit for creative and forward thinking jazz on the scene today. Seeing them live only strengthened this view.