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Harry Connick, Jr.: True Love: A Celebration of Cole Porter (Verve)

With the timbre of his voice sounding more Sinatra-ish than ever, Harry Connick, Jr. isn’t just the chairman of the board on True Love: A Celebration of Cole Porter. The famously multitalented singer, pianist, and actor wrote the arrangements for the top-notch 16-piece Los Angeles studio band featured on all 13 tracks. He also conducted … Read More “Harry Connick, Jr.: True Love: A Celebration of Cole Porter (Verve)”

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Champian Fulton & Cory Weeds: Dream a Little… (CellarLive)

Perfection is overrated in music. Too many jazz artists are releasing albums that feel worked over in post-production to the point that all possibility of a mistake, which is to say life, has been carefully planed away. There’s nothing sloppy or slipshod about New York City vocalist/pianist Champian Fulton and tenor saxophonist Cory Weeds’ live … Read More “Champian Fulton & Cory Weeds: Dream a Little… (CellarLive)”

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Nicolas Bearde: I Remember You (Right Groove)/ Orice Jenkins: Centennial Cole (Truth Revolution)

Nat King Cole didn’t need a milestone birthday to elicit a flood of tribute albums. A bona fide pop star and racial-barrier-breaking icon at the time of his death from lung cancer in 1965 at the age of 45, he’s been saluted and celebrated on dozens, probably hundreds of discs, including the 1991 megahit Unforgettable…with Love by … Read More “Nicolas Bearde: I Remember You (Right Groove)/ Orice Jenkins: Centennial Cole (Truth Revolution)”

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Live Review: 2019 Monterey Jazz Festival

Much like Ernest Hemingway’s famous description of how bankruptcy happens (“Gradually and then suddenly,” he wrote in The Sun Also Rises), the pervasive presence of women instrumentalists at the Monterey Jazz Festival seemed to materialize in an instant, but actually resulted from a long, often underground buildup. Last year’s breakthrough, with more than 15 ensembles … Read More “Live Review: 2019 Monterey Jazz Festival”

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Mark Winkler: I’m With You: Mark Winkler Sings Bobby Troup (Café Pacific)

Mark Winkler wanted another bite of the apple, and Bobby Troup’s zesty book of rhythm patter, swooning ballads, and novelty numbers provides plenty of creative nourishment. His second album devoted to the songs of the jazz-steeped pianist, songwriter, singer, and actor, I’m With You offers a welcome reminder of Troup’s sturdy book. Winkler’s 2003 album … Read More “Mark Winkler: I’m With You: Mark Winkler Sings Bobby Troup (Café Pacific)”

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Michael O’Neill Quintet with Tony Lindsay: Pacific Standard Time (Jazzmo)

Vocalist Tony Lindsay is best known for his two-decade-plus tenure in Santana, a run that included Carlos Santana’s career-reviving monster hit Supernatural. But don’t even think of filing Pacific Standard Time in the bin of mediocrity reserved for rock ‘n’ rollers trying to eke out a second or third act via a misguided run at … Read More “Michael O’Neill Quintet with Tony Lindsay: Pacific Standard Time (Jazzmo)”

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Eliane Elias: Love Stories (Concord Jazz)

Taking in the recent loss of João Gilberto, trying to put his pervasive influence and incalculable contributions into perspective, seems just a little bit easier listening to Eliane Elias’s Love Stories. The São Paulo-reared pianist, vocalist, and composer includes only one song associated with the bossa nova patriarch, Roberto Menescal and Ronaldo Bôscoli’s “O Barquinho,” but … Read More “Eliane Elias: Love Stories (Concord Jazz)”

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Sara Gazarek: Thirsty Ghost (MRI)

The profusion of exceptional jazz singers who’ve come into their own since 2010 shouldn’t obscure the stellar vocalists who emerged in the 21st century’s first decade. For the most part their rise hasn’t been as dramatic as the Salvant-Swiftians, but creative growth in jazz is a long game, and Sara Gazarek is playing to win. … Read More “Sara Gazarek: Thirsty Ghost (MRI)”

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Judy Wexler: Crowded Heart (Jewel City Jazz)

Since releasing her 2005 debut album, Easy on the Heart (Jazzopolis), Judy Wexler has carved out a jewel-like niche as a gracefully swinging singer who brings penetrating insight to American Songbook-adjacent material often overlooked by her colleagues. Her fifth release, Crowded Heart, finds her radically expanding her purview with a program of songs by contemporary jazz musicians, and each … Read More “Judy Wexler: Crowded Heart (Jewel City Jazz)”

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Peter Eldridge/Kenny Werner: Somewhere (Rosebud)

Intentionally or not, the opening track of Somewhere is a bit of misdirection. Sounding like a suave supper-club crooner, Peter Eldridge eases into Cindy Walker’s “You Don’t Know Me” buoyed by pianist Kenny Werner’s pillowy string arrangement. Eldridge sounds resigned rather than devastated at his anonymity, and he doesn’t come close to prying the song away from … Read More “Peter Eldridge/Kenny Werner: Somewhere (Rosebud)”

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Tierney Sutton Band: ScreenPlay (BFM Jazz)

Los Angeles jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton doesn’t deliver every recording wrapped in a conceptual bow, but her discography is studded with well-executed thematic projects, including albums focusing on songs associated with Bill Evans, Frank Sinatra, Sting, and American folk music. Even releases with no overt concept are animated by the capacious interpretive skills of her … Read More “Tierney Sutton Band: ScreenPlay (BFM Jazz)”

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Claudia Villela: Into the Fire, and Out Again

It’s tempting to describe Claudia Villela as a musician’s musician, considering that some of her most ardent fans and supporters are also her most illustrious colleagues; Pat Metheny has sung Villela’s praises, as have Kenny Werner, Vitor Gonçalves, Béla Fleck, and Jaques Morelenbaum. But it’s a double-edged superlative that implies an artist is better appreciated by … Read More “Claudia Villela: Into the Fire, and Out Again”

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Natalie Cressman & Ian Faquini: Setting Rays of Summer (Cressman Music)

Some albums arrive without precedent, a world unto themselves. While bringing to mind the sophisticated, jazz-infused post-Tropicalia songs of Brazilian composers like Guinga, Milton Nascimento, and Marcos Valle, Natalie Cressman and Ian Faquini’s unusual duo album Setting Rays of Summer sounds as fresh and revivifying as a clear mountain stream. A guitarist, vocalist, and composer born in … Read More “Natalie Cressman & Ian Faquini: Setting Rays of Summer (Cressman Music)”

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Patrice Jégou: If It Ain’t Love (Prairie Star)

Patrice Jégou doesn’t yodel or throat-sing on her second album, If It Ain’t Love, but the Canadian-born vocalist leaves little doubt that she could produce a polished track employing either technique if she set her mind to it. A classically trained mezzo-soprano who found her way to jazz relatively late, Jégou possesses a sumptuous instrument and impressive stylistic breadth. The question … Read More “Patrice Jégou: If It Ain’t Love (Prairie Star)”

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Concert Review: Carla Bley and Ethan Iverson at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival

There are any number of Northern California jazz festivals that have been around longer than the one in Healdsburg, but none save the granddaddy of them all in Monterey has a history thicker with interconnected relationships. The Wine Country web emanates from festival founder and guiding spirit Jessica Felix, whose longstanding friendships with jazz artists … Read More “Concert Review: Carla Bley and Ethan Iverson at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival”

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Mary Stallings: Songs Were Made to Sing (Smoke Sessions)

Mary Stallings tends to inspire superlatives, and Songs Were Made to Sing is sure to coax another chorus of well-deserved, overdue praise. Released on the verge of her 80th birthday, the album captures an ageless artist at full power, a peak she’s been hitting consistently since Concord relaunched her recording career with a series of excellent … Read More “Mary Stallings: Songs Were Made to Sing (Smoke Sessions)”

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Camila Meza: Ámbar (Sony Masterworks)

Since arriving in New York from her native Santiago, Chile in 2009, Camila Meza has gradually emerged as a singular artist with boundless creative ambition. As a singer, she’s been a key member of trombonist Ryan Keberle’s pan-American ensemble Catharsis, while Cuban pianist Fabian Almazán has used her twinned guitar and vocal skills as the fulcrum … Read More “Camila Meza: Ámbar (Sony Masterworks)”

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