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Evan Parker/Craig Taborn/Sam Pluta/Peter Evans: Rocket Science

Some forward-looking albums can serve as great casual listening. But Rocket Science, four sonic explorations performed live by a collaborative quartet in London, isn’t one of them. On tenor and soprano saxophones is Evan Parker, long a leading light of the European free-jazz scene. On piano is Craig Taborn, an indispensable sideman whose solo and … Read More “Evan Parker/Craig Taborn/Sam Pluta/Peter Evans: Rocket Science”

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Bobby Watson & the “I Have a Dream” Project: Check Cashing Day

Bobby Watson may seem an unlikely firebrand, but that doesn’t mean he lacks political consciousness. The veteran alto saxophonist’s new album celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech simultaneously chides society for the many ways in which that dream remains deferred. The first two tracks set the … Read More “Bobby Watson & the “I Have a Dream” Project: Check Cashing Day”

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Dave King Trucking Company: Adopted Highway

Dave King Trucking Company-King (of the Bad Plus fame) on “drums and cymbals,” Erik Fratzke on electric guitar, Adam Linz on acoustic bass, Chris Speed and Brandon Wozniak on tenor saxes-is back at it with a second album, Adopted Highway-“it” meaning playfully yet authoritatively flitting across musical borders from King’s base in Minneapolis. As King … Read More “Dave King Trucking Company: Adopted Highway”

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Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd: Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project

Pianist Vijay Iyer’s third collaboration with hip-hop artist Mike Ladd started in 2009, when they began interviewing post-9/11 military veterans about their dreams. “Everyone dreams,” the duo explains in album notes, “but PTSD nightmares and stress dreams are often exactly what separate the veteran from the civilian. If so, then we can try to bridge … Read More “Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd: Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project”

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Fred Hersch & Julian Lage: Free Flying

Pianist Fred Hersch and guitarist Julian Lage are similarly masterful players and likeminded souls. Though primarily jazz improvisers, they share affinities for new collaborations, classical forms and soft yet intense dynamics. If they’re more than a generation apart in age, no matter. “For such a young musician,” Hersch writes in his album notes, “Julian has … Read More “Fred Hersch & Julian Lage: Free Flying”

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Matthew Shipp: Piano Sutras

Matthew Shipp kicked up an Internet fuss recently with a dismissive Talkhouse review of Keith Jarrett’s trio album Somewhere. Reflecting on Jarrett’s solo piano recordings of the 1970s, Shipp wrote, “He never seemed to me to have sculpted a specific language system, but instead seemed like someone who had a lot of piano chops and … Read More “Matthew Shipp: Piano Sutras”

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Woody Shaw: The Complete Muse Sessions

The past couple of years have seen the late, great trumpeter Woody Shaw belatedly receive more well-deserved recognition. Last year Sony Legacy brought out The Complete Woody Shaw Columbia Albums Collection, a six-CD box set of his 1977-1981 run with that iconic label. Now comes Mosaic’s seven-disc set of comparably top-notch Shaw albums on the … Read More “Woody Shaw: The Complete Muse Sessions”

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Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch

Stanley Crouch’s much-anticipated biography of Charlie Parker is finally here. Or rather, the first of two scheduled volumes has arrived, this installment bringing Bird from his Kansas City roots to the cusp of stardom and the creation of bebop in New York City. In Crouch’s hands, that relatively short period makes for a riveting read. … Read MoreKansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch”

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Leo Genovese: Seeds

Leo Genovese’s third album as a leader is an arty mix of spirited acoustic jazz and eclectic, electronically enhanced experimentation. The gifted Argentine keyboardist is best known for his work touring and recording with Esperanza Spalding, and she returns the favor by supplying vocals on four of Genovese’s more unusual compositions here. He’s joined on … Read More “Leo Genovese: Seeds”

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Aruan Ortiz & Michael Janisch Quintet: Banned in London

It could turn out that the best live jazz album released in the U.S. this year will be one recorded at a British pizza joint in 2011. That was when pianist Aruán Ortiz and bassist Michael Janisch brought their co-led quintet-an international ensemble featuring established star Greg Osby on alto saxophone, Barcelona’s Raynald Colom on … Read More “Aruan Ortiz & Michael Janisch Quintet: Banned in London”

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Laszlo Gardony: Clarity

Solo-piano albums are usually the work of the most talented and audacious of pianists. Think Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Cecil Taylor and Keith Jarrett. Or recent solo efforts from Vijay Iyer, Geri Allen, Fred Hersch and Craig Taborn. Or, now, the new Sunnyside release from the generally underappreciated Laszlo Gardony. Clarity is actually Gardony’s second … Read More “Laszlo Gardony: Clarity”

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Will Martina: Modular Living By Design

Will Martina is among the cellists who have performed with jazz composer par excellence Henry Threadgill-hence the tribute “Thanks, Henry” on Modular Living by Design, Martina’s third album as a leader and second with pianist Jason Lindner and drummer Richie Barshay as his triomates. There is strong playing throughout here, but the emphasis is on … Read More “Will Martina: Modular Living By Design”

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Noah Preminger: Haymaker

Noah Preminger’s worthy follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2011 album, Before the Rain, is richly rewarding stuff, but the young tenor saxophonist is backed this time by the three new sidemen rounding out his current quartet. The big change is the switch from piano to guitar, with veteran Ben Monder’s stealthy sophistication bringing to mind … Read More “Noah Preminger: Haymaker”

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Grace Kelly: Live at Scullers

The new live album from Grace Kelly opens with “Please Don’t Box Me In,” the alto saxophone prodigy signaling her Esperanza Spalding-sized ambition to add singing and songwriting to her portfolio. That particular tune’s ambitiousness, ironically, makes it the disc’s weakest: The lyrics are earnest and trite, and Kelly’s singing in spots is overblown. “Night … Read More “Grace Kelly: Live at Scullers”

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Elew: Rockjazz Vol. 2

Talented musicians are working hard to make jazz popular again. Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding put out pop-oriented albums last year, and now comes ELEW, as Eric Lewis has rechristened himself, with Rockjazz Vol. 2. ELEW chucked his given name and conventional jazz career aside a couple of years ago to make a run at … Read More “Elew: Rockjazz Vol. 2”

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Dmitry Baevsky: The Composers

Alto saxophonist Dmitry Baevsky’s aptly titled new album is a delectable tribute to nine great composers. The Russian émigré tackles tunes written by a roughly even mix of familiar giants (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver, Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington) and less-heralded heroes (Cedar Walton, Duke Pearson, Tadd Dameron, Gigi Gryce), with an overall emphasis … Read More “Dmitry Baevsky: The Composers”

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Eric Alexander & Vincent Herring: Friendly Fire

It’s been more than half a century since hard bop was born and blossomed. Despite the inevitable passing of many of its creators and brightest lights, the form remains alive and kicking on certain nights in certain clubs. For proof, consider Friendly Fire, the joint live album from veteran saxophonists Eric Alexander (tenor) and Vincent … Read More “Eric Alexander & Vincent Herring: Friendly Fire”

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