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Keith Yaun Quartet: Amen: Improvisations on Messiaen

Jazz history is peppered with well-intentioned attempts to improvise on classical music, from the Modern Jazz Quartet’s elegant spin on Bach to pianist Uri Caine’s recent po-mo pummeling of Mahler. The highly idiosyncratic work of the great French composer Olivier Messiaen-with its emphasis on the subtleties of duration and attack-is an altogether different can of worms, but guitarist Keith Yaun has succeeded masterfully on Amen: Improvisations of Messiaen. As the title makes plain, Yaun and his cohorts don’t perform the five pieces as they appear on paper, but utilize them as remarkable springboards for improvisation.

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