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Nancy And Beth: Cabaret Gone Crazy

At New York’s Café Carlyle in May, the “punk-vaudeville” band Nancy And Beth thought broadly. In addition to touching on jazz, country, soul, and gospel, the proceedings included choreographed dance moves and sidesplitting between-tune chitchat. But the scope of the performance was nearly outmatched by the star power onstage: Nancy And Beth—the group formed in … Read More “Nancy And Beth: Cabaret Gone Crazy”

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Erik Friedlander and Throw a Glass See Green

Some use visual art; others look to poetry. But the muse for Erik Friedlander’s latest album, Artemisia, is absinthe, the famously hallucination-inducing alcoholic drink that was only re-legalized in the U.S. in 2007, after a nearly 100-year ban. The New York cellist, whose career is filled with solo albums and John Zorn sideman shifts, hadn’t … Read More “Erik Friedlander and Throw a Glass See Green”

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Rez Abbasi: All Trails Lead to Jim Hall

Despite his important work as part of groups like Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition and Adam Rudolph’s Go: Organic Guitar Orchestra, the New York-based guitarist Rez Abbasi is best known as a leader. Over the course of more than 10 albums, he has engaged with the sounds of South Asia; employed standout players like Vijay Iyer … Read More “Rez Abbasi: All Trails Lead to Jim Hall”

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Before & After: Bill Laswell

Many musicians have worked in a wide range of genres, but few have collaborated with the top names in each of those styles like Bill Laswell has. On bass, or as a producer, he’s made music with some of the most important figures in rock (Iggy Pop, Ramones), reggae (Sly and Robbie, Lee “Scratch” Perry), … Read More “Before & After: Bill Laswell”

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Before & After: Marquis Hill

In both his technique and the way he organizes his music, trumpeter Marquis Hill, 30, strikes a balance between merriment and determination. On his most recent album, the exhilarating 2016 standards collection The Way We Play (Concord Jazz), featuring his band the Blacktet, he solos with seriousness and direction but also tenderness and excitement. He … Read More “Before & After: Marquis Hill”

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Akua Dixon: Living the Dream

“I would say that every obstacle you could probably have as an African-American cellist in jazz, I had,” Akua Dixon said this past spring, over coffee on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. “It would be easy to say what obstacles I didn’t have. But there’s a sense of satisfaction in just continuing on with … Read More “Akua Dixon: Living the Dream”

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Kamasi Washington: An Opinion of Difference

In the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 2017 Biennial show, on view in New York through June 11, there is a small blue room. Inside are three small screens and one large one. Five short jazz tracks play—tantalizing anecdotes that touch on everything from postbop to Brazilian music—while the screens show video of paintings. The … Read More “Kamasi Washington: An Opinion of Difference”

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Philippe Baden Powell: Notes Over Poetry (Far Out)

On Notes Over Poetry, Philippe Baden Powell shares two sides of himself: able bandleader and enthusiastic sideman. The agile pianist—he picked a different instrument than his father, guitarist Baden Powell—leads a substantial rhythm section through tracks that showcase either himself or a guest, with about equal time given to both situations. By doing so, Powell … Read More “Philippe Baden Powell: Notes Over Poetry (Far Out)”

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Colin Vallon: Danse (ECM)

There is no dance music on Swiss pianist Colin Vallon’s Danse. At no point while listening would anyone really think, “This is danceable.” Perhaps he should have called it “Meditate.” The album, which features Patrice Moret on bass and Julian Sartorius on drums, contains pristine minimalist storytelling—sounds best suited for a moody afternoon or late-night … Read More “Colin Vallon: Danse (ECM)”

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Dayna Stephens: Gratitude (Contagious)

Dayna Stephens’ saxophone playing, and the music he makes on Gratitude, is elemental. His big, warm lines are full of notes and intent but also gusts of wind, bodies of water. And his arrangements, fleshed out by bassist Larry Grenadier, drummer Eric Harland and either guitarist Julian Lage or pianist Brad Mehldau in the chordal … Read More “Dayna Stephens: Gratitude (Contagious)”

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John Coltrane: A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters

Veteran jazz fans probably do not often listen to A Love Supreme, saxophonist John Coltrane’s unfathomably important 1965 album of passionate, spiritual jazz. They internalized the LP, performed by Trane’s “Classic Quartet”-pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, drummer Elvin Jones and the leader on tenor-long ago. But now there’s a reason to revisit. In honor … Read More “John Coltrane: A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters”

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Charlie Hunter Trio: Let the Bells Ring On

Let the Bells Ring On, the vigorous first album from seven-string guitarist Charlie Hunter’s trio with drummer Bobby Previte and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, is, on paper, a pretty transparent work. “Anthem USA” takes from rock music; “Hillbilly Heroine Chic” has a country influence. But this clarity extends to more than just song titles. The music … Read More “Charlie Hunter Trio: Let the Bells Ring On”

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DRKWAV: The Purge

DRKWAV, the trio of keyboardist John Medeski, drummer Adam Deitch and saxophonist Skerik, is a vibe band. There is little in the way of harmony, melody or arrangement on The Purge, its debut album. Instead, there is the way the music feels: bleak, foreboding. And there is groove. Lots of it. Deitch, in fact, is … Read More “DRKWAV: The Purge”

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Sam Newsome: The Straight Horn of Africa: A Path to Liberation

On soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome’s The Straight Horn of Africa: A Path to Liberation, the second entry in his The Art of the Soprano series, one hears, in addition to the leader’s ax, the sounds of mbira, synthesizer, flute and clarinet. But that’s all that’s present: the sounds of those instruments. By way of extended … Read More “Sam Newsome: The Straight Horn of Africa: A Path to Liberation”

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Wes Montgomery: In the Beginning

Near the end of In the Beginning, the stunning new two-CD (or three-LP) set comprising early music from guitarist Wes Montgomery, tenor saxophonist Alonzo “Pookie” Johnson takes a solo on “All the Things You Are.” It’s a live show, the year is 1957, and the improvisation is totally happening. Johnson has a big, round sound, … Read More “Wes Montgomery: In the Beginning”

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