2010 in (RVA) Jazz

This past year had its moments. Twenty-ten started on shaky ground with an RVAJazzfest plagued with issues and somewhere in the middle a Jazz Festival that challenged our definition of the genre, but overall it was a year that we can all be proud of.

This past year had its moments. Twenty-ten started on shaky ground with an RVAJazzfest plagued with issues and somewhere in the middle a Jazz Festival that challenged our definition of the genre, but overall it was a year that we can all be proud of. Music in the city had many, many high points, with tons of top notch CDs released and several life-changing live performances given.

Relive the year. Know where we’ve come from so we know where to go next. This year was pretty entertaining, but it’s nothing compared to what’s coming in 2011. With that, here’s a look back at our favorite things from 2010.


We profiled a few musicians (and one journey) who had great things happen or who we felt just deserved some recognition.

Nine Lives: Jason Scott, part 1part 2 – Fight the Big Bull reed player Scott told us his incredible story of where he’s been and where he’d like to go.
Dave Douglas: Artist in residence – Trumpeter to trumpeter, Taylor Barnett asked Douglas some tricky questions before his residency at VCU.
Hooten assumes leadership of big band – Trombonist Bryan Hooten — in his new post at VCU — discussed his big band ideologies.
Karl Morse: Jazz in the Middle East – The unlikeliest place for jazz has become Morse’s home for 10 months.
Nine Lives: Wells Hanley, part 1part 2 – Filling big shoes, Hanley stepped up in his new role at VCU Jazz and in Richmond.
Nine Lives: John D’earth – Most know D’earth as a living legend. Most did not know his life was so interesting.
Stephen Norfleet: Fond farewell – We lost one to the Bay Area. The leader of Devils Workshop Big Band spoke up about his time here.
Chapman’s stick: UTV and The Black Hand – The trombonist talked about his band, his philosophy, and his music series at Black Hand.
Jazz in the East – Richmond went to Turkey, meeting a VCU alumnus at the jazz conservatory that he created there.


If you missed these…well, sorry. Just don’t make the same mistake in 2011.

Luciana Souza Trio: Active imaginations – The Brazilian singer performed at the Modlin Center in February.
VCU Music showcases two trumpeters – Trumpeters Rex Richardson and Dave Douglas both had recitals and performances that were not to be missed.
Kurt Rosenwinkel teams up with UVA faculty – Richmond’s most eager musicians hit the road for Charlottesville to see the young guitar master perform with some of Virginia’s finest.
Marco Benevento Trio: Straying from the norm – The jam/jazz dance party got blood flowing in February.
Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour: All star collective – Albeit a little polished for the more adventurous jazz listeners, these pros do have chops and the ability to put on a good show.
UTV comes full circle (for me) – The “avant-garde pop” band revisited in February what has since become their home: Black Hand Coffee.
Richmond Jazz Collective: Anticipated premiere – The big band premiered with the help of a small ensemble’s replicating yet heartfelt and poignant set directed by Doug Richards.
Recital season – VCU students put their newly acquired skills on display in April and May.
Jason Ajemian & The HighLife: Live high or die hard – The first of two events this year with Ajemian’s HighLife in photos.
Jones and company round out week at The Camel – One week in April “was a good week for seeing jazz at The Camel.”
Tuesdays with Richmond – Lucas Fritz documented his diverse musical evening from The Camel with Ombak and Great Architect to the Cary Street Cafe with The New Belgians.
Rene Marie presses onward – For me, a dream came true at Capital Ale House in May.
Trevor Dunn, No BS! at Balliceaux this week – For some, Trevor Dunn’s raw trio was the perfect wrap to graduation day.
No BS! Brass: Birmingham or Bust, Part 1Part 2 – No BS! Brass brought their energy south with a tour that took them to trombonist Bryan Hooten’s hometown.
Abbey Road at Dogwood Dell – With thousands in attendance, Upper East Side Big Band did their part exposing the masses to big band music through the lens of The Beatles.
Dream Come True – Icelandic pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs performed at The Camel.
DKD and FTBB in RVA tomorrow – In support of their album together, indie rocker David Karsten Daniels and modern big band Fight the Big Bull teamed up live.
Name that toon! – Drummer Brian Jones resurfaced (finally) his original Tom & Jerry music, performed live to the cartoons.
Double take: Glows in the Dark – In July, Glows performed two nights back to back with two different sets of material, showing their range of sound and concept.
Revisiting and reliving Tristano – “Jason Scott can’t get away from the music of Lennie Tristano, and it’s a good thing.”
Second City Slider – Chicago-based trombonist Jeb Bishop came to Richmond with his trio.
Room to spare – Musicircus — Jones’s annual tribute to John Cage — was pared down in number of musicians, giving a different effect from the year before.
Hometown hit – The Flail — with Richmond native Dan Blankinship — played tight jazz with fierce improvisations at The Camel in October.
Let me get that HighLife. – So good we had to have them back, this time at Balliceaux.
Mingus Awareness Project: Return to Richmond – New venue, same love for the legendary bassist.
Crazy eights: SFJAZZ Collective – The all-star collective represented both the possible future of jazz and the reason some people are afraid of the genre. But they played their asses off.

Richmond on record

Recording studios in Richmond churned out the hits this year.

Deep dish: Matt White on Fight the Big Bull’s new record – In the same vein as a “Director’s Cut” audio commentary, White spoke about his band’s critically acclaimed album.
David Karsten Daniels & Fight the Big Bull: Thoreau-ly invested – FTBB’s other release this year was very different.
Ghaphery/Bivins/Davis – Impermanence – Ghaphery calls the style of his avant garde trio “lowecase improv.”
Jimmy Ghaphery – Path – In which one track is of the saxophonist walking around his house while playing.
Introducing Justin Kauflin – Kauflin’s debut album was long-awaited for some (especially me).
Kip Williams – Time – This drummer grooves hard, as his short percussion interludes show us.
High Noon: First Last Stand – Mature, interesting jazz from young players.
No BS! releases No BS! – The brass band’s third album is garnering rave reviews all over.
Jason Jenkins Group – Scenic Roots – A solid straight-ahead outing from the bassist and closest compatriots.
Near Earth Objects – Manual For Self-Hypnosis – The last new release of 2010: a trippy excursion through jazz-funk territory.

Everywhere else on record

Through the year, we feature non-RVA albums, works that we feel people should know about. Take a look back at these. Some top many critics’ best-of-2010 lists.

Luciana Souza Trio – Tide
Thomas Savy – French Suite
Little Women – Throat
The Claudia Quintet – Royal Toast
Quick Take: Polar Bear
Pete Robbins – siLENT Z Live
Loose ends (albums by Barris Harris, Jeff Antoniuk, Tom Lagana, and Anaïs Mitchell)
Loose ends, Vol. 2 (albums by Rafi Malkiel, James Moody, Odean Pope, Jeb Bishop Trio)
Vijay Iyer – Solo
Christmas through song (albums by Matt Wilson’s Christmas Tree-o and more)


“Now, more than ever, RVAJazzfest will really be a spotlight on Richmond’s brilliant music scene.” Given the circumstances (a death in the family and a blizzard), we think the show was pretty great.

Tim Berne: RVAJazzfest Featured Performer
Ombak: On record and in collaboration
Tim Berne cancels due to emergency, Ray Anderson now set to headline RVAJazzfest
Adam Larrabee Trio: Modern brew
Trio of Justice: Without hesitation
RVAJazzfest Update
RVAJazzfest 2010 in photos

Jazz vs. jazzy

If you missed the first post and all the exciting comments that came along with it (117 in all), you clearly have better things to do with your time. But seriously. Read it. Still, the controversy of this festival that hardly included the genre that it was saying to feature didn’t matter to the thousands in attendance. If anything, this was a reminder that music means different things to different people.

All that jazzy: The Richmond Jazz Festival
Richmond Jazz Festival preview, part 1
Richmond Jazz Festival preview, part 2
Scenes from day one at the Richmond Jazz Festival

Making records

We were lucky enough to get into the studio while some bands recorded, chronicling the magic and (sometimes) the many takes.

Ombak returns to the studio
Brass boys in the studio
May: Recording In Our Clubs Month

Drop the Needle

You really stepped up, Richmond. Hear some of the best impromptu sessions hand picked by choice judges.

Drop the Needle #1: The Daniel Clarke edition
Drop the Needle #2: The Bob Hallahan edition


What were your favorite moments of 2010?

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Dean Christesen

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