Amel Larrieux is one of my favorite singers from the 1990s, when she debuted with Bryce Wilson to form the duo Groove Theory (Epic Records, 1995). Later, in 2000, her debut solo album, “Infinite Possibilities,” also on Epic, became my favorite. Although she is a singer to be reckoned with, Larrieux never attained the acknowledgement she deserves. Her diversity as a vocalist made it difficult for her to be categorized; she continues to forge her own vocal trail.
Larrieux isn’t a jazz vocalist or R&B singer; she is just a wonderful singer with a jazzy spirit and a soulful sound. She will perform a host of sweet originals, as well as some old-school greats on Dec. 28 at 8 p.m. at the Highline Ballroom, a venue that has become the mainstay for artists who never follow the familiar path, located at 431 W. 16th St. between Ninth and 10th avenues.
Her live shows are always different, taking on new dimensions at each turn. Larrieux manages to easily move through a wealth of musical influences, from jazz to gospel, funk and R&B with traces of West Africa and Indian ethnic styles, giving her a totally distinctive sound of her own that can’t be pigeonholed or duplicated.
She has contributed to film soundtracks, collaborated with the Roots on several tracks and was recognized with a Grammy nomination for the Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for “Where is the Love” by bassist Stanley Clarke.
As Larrieux gets ready to release her next solo album, “Ice Cream Every Day,” she continues to push the envelope of creativity and exploration. Tickets are $25 in advance.
It is somewhat of a bad joke that jazz is America’s stepchild, although it is America’s only art form and America’s original music. At any rate, jazz will step forward again as Wynton Marsalis becomes CBS News’ cultural correspondent, which was announced by CBS News Chairman and “60 Minutes” Executive Producer Jeff Fager and CBS News President David Rhodes.
In this position he will contribute to “CBS This Morning” and “CBS Sunday Morning.” It should be noted that Dr. Billy Taylor was the first jazz musician to join the network with his jazz segment on “CBS Sunday Morning.”
Marsalis’ first CBS News appearance will be on Jan. 16, as the nation observes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. “Wynton Marsalis and CBS News have a strong connection that goes back many years,” said Fager. “His appearances on ’60 Minutes,’ including his part in our tribute to the great Ed Bradley, were memorable, and the beautiful sounds of his trumpet adorn the network every single week with the fanfare that opens ‘Sunday Morning.’ Now our viewers will benefit from a regular dose of his insights and observations about American culture.”
Marsalis has been artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center since 1987. Under his direction, the organization offers a full array of education, performance and broadcast productions, including national and international touring by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
Celebrated for his contributions as a performer, composer, bandleader and educator, Marsalis has won nine Grammy Awards and is the only artist in history to have received Grammys in five consecutive years. He is also the only artist to have received a Grammy for both jazz and classical music in the same year (1983).
“Walter Cronkite was a jazz fan and a drummer,” commented Marsalis. “Ed Bradley was a mentor and treasured friend. I was an unabashed lover of Charles Kuralt’s vision of America from the road, and Dr. Billy Taylor’s jazz segment on ‘Sunday Morning’ inspired us all. I am honored to be a part of the CBS News family. I look forward to sharing with viewers the incredible variety and richness of our national culture-from ballet to the blues, from barbecue to the backbeat.”
As a composer, Marsalis has consistently broken new ground. His 1997 “Blood on the Fields” was the first jazz composition to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Other notable works include “All Rise” (1999), “Congo Square” (2006), “Abyssinian 200: A Celebration” (2008), “Blues Symphony” (2009) and “Swing Symphony” (2010). He has also composed works for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, as well as for some of the world’s leading choreographers, including Twyla Tharp, Peter Martins, Judith Jamison, Savion Glover and Garth Fagan.
After Taylor retired from CBS, many quietly wondered if jazz conversations would ever be heard again on CBS. Marsalis’ appointment makes it clear jazz will have a voice in the cultural pursuit-a good thing since jazz is so rarely mentioned on television and only on a few radio stations. Marsalis’ background proves he is up for the challenge.
Oddly enough, the thought that always comes to me is, suppose they hired a radical jazzperson such as Stanley Crouch, Jimmy Owens, Amiri Baraka or Dr. Larry Ridley? It is not so much these jazzmen are radical; they would just offer opinions that stray from the madding crowd. It would be good to shake up the proletariat and corporate America.