The Black Entertainment Television Network (BET) and the National Association of Recording Merchandisers have teamed up to produce one of today's best-selling jazz albums, Jazz Now. Almost every type of jazz is covered on this unique 15-song sampler.
Today's jazz has variety - from Latin, blues and swing to pop standards, big band and even bluegrass. Nobody seemed to know what to call Bela Fleck and The Flecktones when they debuted in 1988. Bela Fleck's banjo, a harmonica, a fretless five-string bass and a drum set in the form of a keyboard, called a drumitar, broke new ground in jazz instrumentation. The group has since replaced the harmonica with a saxophone but still commands a sell-out crowd wherever they go. Fleck co-wrote "Zona Mona" with saxophonist Jeff Coffin for their Grammy-nominated album "Outbound."
With such variety, it's no wonder "Jazz Now" is one of the year's top jazz albums. Maybe a Spanish ballad is more your style? Jazz Now has Venezuelan-born tenor saxophonist Ed Calle playing "Spanish Rose." Calle's sax can also be heard on recordings by Frank Sinatra, Gloria Estefan, David Byrne and Arturo Sandoval. His latest album on the Concord Vista label is called Twilight.
Jazz Now also features tenor sax masters Chris Potter, Lew Del Gatto and 33-year-old Eric Alexander. Born in Olympia, Washington, Eric Alexander first learned to play piano but switched to tenor sax when he was 12. He was runner-up to Joshua Redman in the 1991 Thelonious Monk Institute's Saxophone Competition, which opened the door to his acclaimed recording career. "The Second Milestone" is the title track of Alexander's latest album featuring Harold Mabern on piano and Peter Washington on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums.
A compilation of contemporary jazz would not be complete without some great vocal music - an unusual remake of Duke Ellington's "Caravan" by drummer Leon Parker and Guinean vocalist Elisabeth Kontomanou. This version of "Caravan," featuring singer Elisabeth Kontomanou, appears on Leon Parker's album The Simple Life. It's also one of 15 tracks from Jazz Now, produced by BET and the National Association of Recording Merchandisers.
Other Jazz Now artists include singers Jane Monheit and Flora Purim, pianists Keiko Matsui, Kenny Barron and Uli Lenz, saxophonists Bryan Savage and T.K. Blue, violinist Regina Carter and drummer Chico Hamilton. Guitar veteran Pat Martino appears with organist Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Billy Hart on Pat Martino's "Recollection."