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Ben Monder: Excavation

Guitarist Ben Monder flashes a technique that’s close to ridiculous here, though you might miss it if you aren’t looking for it. On “Mistral,” the first number and a tune that sets the tone for everything that follows, only pedal tones from bassist Skuli Sverrisson accompany Monder. Fingerpicking broad chords, the guitarist surges through streams … Read More “Ben Monder: Excavation”

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Paul Motian Trio 2000+One: On Broadway, Volume 4: Or the Paradox of Continuity

This really is the Paul Motian Trio 2000 plus one, strictly speaking. For this set of old Broadway ballads and flinty, hard-luck songs, Motian invites two guests to play with his trio-pianist Masabumi Kikuchi and singer Rebecca Martin-but he keeps them totally separated: Neither appears on any track featuring the other. Anyone who knows anything … Read More “Paul Motian Trio 2000+One: On Broadway, Volume 4: Or the Paradox of Continuity”

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Sunny Jain Collective: Avaaz

“My focus with the Collective for the past five years is to fuse music from my South Asian heritage…with music from my Western upbringing.” So writes drummer Sunny Jain about his band and his music. It is a quick and easy way to describe exactly what he does. Jain’s music isn’t nearly as heady or … Read More “Sunny Jain Collective: Avaaz”

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Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin: Stoa

Swiss pianist Nik Bärtsch and his band have an undeniable knack for minimalism. Stoa belies some other influences, like prog rock and electronica, and Bärtsch loves him some Eastern philosophy, but composers like Steve Reich loom large over this shiny acoustic machine of repeating rhythms, arpeggios and staggered chords. The band builds long, arching structures … Read More “Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin: Stoa”

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Frank Kimbrough: Play

Pianist Frank Kimbrough usually records with his working bands. But any self-respecting post-Bill Evans pianist will make exceptions for anyone who played on Waltz for Debbie. One night at the Village Vanguard, Kimbrough talked drummer Paul Motian into joining him and bassist Masa Kamaguchi for a one-off recording session. The band spent five hours in … Read More “Frank Kimbrough: Play”

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Liberty Ellman: Ophiuchus Butterfly

When last we had heard from him, Liberty Ellman was charming the pants off of discerning listeners. He could write clever, oblong compositions full of overlapping rhythms; he favored Steve Coleman’s sophisticated funk and classic bebop equally; and his hollow-body electric guitar sounded terrific alongside Mark Shim’s saxophone. For that side of Ellman, consult the … Read More “Liberty Ellman: Ophiuchus Butterfly”

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Medeski, Martin & Wood: Note Bleu

For their forthcoming project Medeski, Martin & Wood plan to reunite with guitarist John Scofield. The recording, a sequel to Scofield’s excellent A Go Go, won’t be on Blue Note, MMW’s label since the mid-’90s; it should be on the trio’s new, independent label. Not surprisingly, Blue Note marks the occasion with Note Bleu, a … Read More “Medeski, Martin & Wood: Note Bleu”

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Rashanim: Masada Rock

It seems like most jazz musicians come to hate capitalism as a matter of course. That doesn’t seem to be the case with contrarian John Zorn. The Ray Kroc of the New York City experimental set continues to brand like a Madison Avenue executive on speed. The latest franchise in his expanding Masada universe is … Read More “Rashanim: Masada Rock”

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Pat Martino: Remember: A Tribute to Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery’s music fundamentally influenced Pat Martino not once but twice. Martino built on Montgomery’s style as a young guitarist and returned to Montgomery’s records to relearn the guitar after suffering a brain aneuryism in 1980. With a nod to symmetry, Martino decided to record a second tribute to Montgomery, the first being The Visit … Read More “Pat Martino: Remember: A Tribute to Wes Montgomery”

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Marshall Gilkes Quartet: Edenderry

For his debut recording as a leader, trombonist Marshall Gilkes gives himself the widest possible exposure. Every tune is his save for Rogers and Hammerstein’s “This Nearly Was Mine.” Pianist Jon Cowherd, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Johnathan Blake provide solid accompaniment and play with energy, and Gilkes takes plenty of solo space. The nicely … Read More “Marshall Gilkes Quartet: Edenderry”

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George Russell and the Living Time Orchestra: The 80th Birthday Concert

Sadly, George Russell did not celebrate his 80th birthday in America. Unable to get funding in the U.S. to stage these concerts, Russell took his music to Europe, which has long revered the composer and theorist. The 80th Birthday Concert is culled from two performances by Russell’s Living Time Orchestra–one in London and the other … Read More “George Russell and the Living Time Orchestra: The 80th Birthday Concert”

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Benoit Delbecq Unit: Phonetics

Pianist Benoit Delbecq claims a wide range of unusual influences, both musical and extramusical. One of the odder sources he has mentioned is Oulipo, the French-speaking literary movement that creates works using constrained writing techniques, and Delbecq’s latest CD sounds like a musical offshoot of it. The pianist finds dazzling creativity through the careful use … Read More “Benoit Delbecq Unit: Phonetics”

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Don Peretz: Foremen

Late on Foremen “A Theme” comes on like a blast of urban cacophony and ends just as abruptly. With this small slice of Ornette Coleman, Don Peretz’s band seems to be saying, “Yeah, we can be tough if we wanna.” Most of the time the drummer’s quartet fronts a friendlier, more accessible side, and Peretz … Read More “Don Peretz: Foremen”

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Luigi Archetti and Bo Wiget: Low Tide Digitals II

The sober title may seem better suited to a book of art photography, but the graceful, electro-acoustic soundscapes that Italy’s Luigi Archetti (guitar) and Switzerland’s Bo Wiget (cello) craft on this CD earn the name. In fleeting moments, you can actually discern the conventional sounds of their instruments; far more often, wide, slowly developing electronic … Read More “Luigi Archetti and Bo Wiget: Low Tide Digitals II”

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Groundtruther: Longitude

Drummer Bobby Previte and guitarist Charlie Hunter perform and record together as Groundtruther. Their ongoing collaboration has spawned a sophomore effort that, like its predecessor, Latitude, features a guest player-in this case, DJ Logic. They’ve also gone on, inexplicably, with the nautical-themed song and recording titles. The music will be less of interest to pirates … Read More “Groundtruther: Longitude”

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Gush: Norrkoping

Gush is Mats Gustafsson (reeds), Sten Sandell (piano) and Raymond Strid (drums), a Scandinavian free-improvising trio that’s been around since the late ’80s. It’s clear from this recording that they’ve learned a thing or two in their time together. On three very long improvisations (the shortest lasting nearly 14 minutes) the three seem to follow … Read More “Gush: Norrkoping”

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John Surman: Way Back When

“What you are hearing accurately reflects the sound of the ’60s.” That’s saxophonist John Surman on the long-lost jam session tapes just released as Way Back When. Seems he’s talking about the recording quality-neither he nor Cuneiform opted to remaster or re-edit a dank, murky minute of it-but he could be talking about the music … Read More “John Surman: Way Back When”

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Marc Ribot: The Ghost in the Guitar

Marc Ribot has long been one of the most unpredictable and unique guitarists on the scene. In his latest career twist, Ribot has created a group dedicated to investigating the music of avant-garde sax giant Albert Ayler. Aaron Steinberg tell us how Spiritual Unity stepped into the light with its self-titled debut on Pi.

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Nguyen Le Quartet: Walking on the Tiger’s Tail

Inspiration for guitarist Nguyen Le’s new recording, Walking on the Tiger’s Tail, came from the ancient Chinese writings Le has been reading lately. Far Eastern musical elements have a place on the album, as do elements of South Asian music, electronica, prog rock and heavy metal, but Le uses them in small and subtle ways. … Read More “Nguyen Le Quartet: Walking on the Tiger’s Tail”

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Enrico Pieranunzi, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian: Special Encounter

Liner note author Ira Gitler writes that this was originally conceived as a ballad session. In its slightly more varied final form, Special Encounter maintains that twilight mood. Italian pianist Pieranunzi splits song credits with his bassist, Charlie Haden, and tosses in a few standards for good measure. With the exception of a briskly paced … Read More “Enrico Pieranunzi, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian: Special Encounter”

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Curtis Fuller: Keep It Simple

There’s nothing brash or unconventional about trombonist Curtis Fuller’s latest, Keep It Simple. Still active and playing well at 70, Fuller hews close to the Jazz Messengers-style bebop and modal jazz he’s been playing since the ’50s. Fuller brought a solid band into the studio and delivers a casual, satisfying record of standards and modal … Read More “Curtis Fuller: Keep It Simple”

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John Scofield: That’s What I Say: John Scofield Plays the Music of Ray Charles

As soon as he died, Ray Charles was everywhere: Alicia Keys conjured him at the Super Bowl, his final recording pulled down a Grammy and Jamie Foxx portrayed him in an Academy-smooched biopic. This may be more Charles than anyone can reasonably be expected to handle, but guitarist John Scofield is betting that we want … Read More “John Scofield: That’s What I Say: John Scofield Plays the Music of Ray Charles”

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Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, and Michal Miskiewicz: Trio

Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko discovered pianist Marcin Wasilewski, bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz in 1993, when they were teenagers. They’ve been touring and recording with Stanko ever since. It is an odd sight, watching Stanko, an elder statesman of European jazz, front a very good band of young and preternaturally gifted Poles with … Read More “Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, and Michal Miskiewicz: Trio”

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John McNeil: Sleep Won’t Come

The title refers not only to the eponymous composition and the general vibe, but also to the trumpeter’s occasional affliction. The artwork includes a few shots of John McNeil cheerfully posing with cup of coffee and red, puffy eyes the size of half-dollars. Because, one supposes, there isn’t a lot going on outside when insomniacs … Read More “John McNeil: Sleep Won’t Come”

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Dave Douglas/Louis Sclavis/Peggy Lee/Dylan van der Schyff: Bow River Falls

From the Banff Workshop and its 2002 director, Dave Douglas, comes Bow River Falls, an appropriately bare, spacious quartet performance actually recorded inside the Canadian national park. Banff has its own recording studio? Who knew? For the rhythm section, Douglas recruited Pacific Northwesterners: drummer Dylan van der Schyff, who also contributes with his laptop, and … Read More “Dave Douglas/Louis Sclavis/Peggy Lee/Dylan van der Schyff: Bow River Falls”

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Rudresh Mahanthappa: Mother Tongue

Ethnicity served as loose inspiration on tenor saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa’s previous recording, Black Water (Red Giant). With Mother Tongue, the sociological interests take a more literal role. Armed with a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, Mahanthappa asked questions to native speakers of some of the various languages spoken in India. … Read More “Rudresh Mahanthappa: Mother Tongue”

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Tony Malaby: Adobe

Coming up on a decade in the New York City jazz scene, saxophonist Tony Malaby has made himself into a valuable resource. Mario Pavone, Paul Motian, Fred Hersch and Sakoto Fujii, among others, look to Malaby as a keen addition to their latest projects. The native Arizonan may keep a full schedule, but he still … Read More “Tony Malaby: Adobe”

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Derek Bailey and the Story of Free Improvisation by Ben Watson

This book is “designed to be contradictory, argumentative and unfinished” Ben Watson announces in his introduction. An uneven mix of criticism, Marxist theory, digression and insult is undoubtedly the book as Watson describes it, though not in the provocative way he suggests. The best of it comes early on, where Watson allows the guitarist and … Read More “Derek Bailey and the Story of Free Improvisation by Ben Watson”

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Freedom Is, Freedom Ain’t: Jazz and the Making of the Sixties by Scott Saul

“The fortunes of hard bop were linked to the fortunes of the civil rights movement, and so the story of one sheds light on the other,” writes Scott Saul in Freedom Is, Freedom Ain’t: Jazz and the Making of the Sixties. Saul wants the history of jazz and jazz culture to tell a larger social … Read More “Freedom Is, Freedom Ain’t: Jazz and the Making of the Sixties by Scott Saul”

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