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Holly Hofmann: Low Life: The Alto Flute Project

Despite the sobriety of its title, Holly Hofmann’s 12th album is anything but clinical or cynical. Rather, it’s Hofmann’s celebration of the alto flute, a supple instrument of especially sultry timbre. Largely midtempo and expertly played, this album is beautiful, like the special flute it elevates to such rare profile. No matter the tune, Hofmann … Read More “Holly Hofmann: Low Life: The Alto Flute Project”

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Brian Charette: Square One

Hammond organ master Brian Charette leads a spirited, driving trio on Square One, his relatively straight-ahead and winning debut on the American label Posi-Tone. The Question That Drives Us, on the Danish label SteepleChase, features a Charette sextet of unusual voicings on a more complex and worldly outing. Each CD reflects different facets of Charette, … Read More “Brian Charette: Square One”

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The Omar Hakim Experience: We Are One

We Are One is state-of-the-art fusion, suggesting the ’80s never ended. A recording of style, sonics, intermittent tenderness and virtuosity, it’s a smooth, if at times hollow showcase for drummer Omar Hakim, a veteran session man who has played with everyone from Weather Report to Dire Straits. The 10 overly polished tracks, by Hakim solely … Read More “The Omar Hakim Experience: We Are One”

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The Afro-Semitic Experience: Jazz Souls on Fire

This is a band bent on creating a communal experience, and does it ever. Sparked by the impossibly fast, genre-scrambling piano of Warren Byrd and spiced by the resonator and lap-steel guitar of Stacy Phillips, the Afro-Semitic Experience pays homage to, among other forms, Jewish folk, African-American gospel and spiritual music, and such jazz inspirations … Read More “The Afro-Semitic Experience: Jazz Souls on Fire”

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Ted Rosenthal Trio: Wonderland

Pianist Ted Rosenthal doesn’t pair “winter” with “wonderland,” preferring the latter, single word to resonate on its own. You don’t have to wait for Christmas or New Year’s (there’s little material here to suggest Chanukah) to enjoy this festive CD. And while it’s suffused with Rosenthal’s experience and personality, it’s very much a trio effort. … Read More “Ted Rosenthal Trio: Wonderland”

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Jon Batiste and Stay Human: Social Music

This perfectly titled album is a mash-up of time and tempo, jazz and pop, rhythm and blues, modern tunes and warhorses. Sparked by Jon Batiste’s New Orleans-steeped piano, jaunty vocals and melodica (he calls it a “harmonaboard”), Social Music is all about engagement. While Social Music is thoughtful, it is not cerebral. It’s a good … Read More “Jon Batiste and Stay Human: Social Music”

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Shamie Royston: Portraits

Shamie Royston is a vigorous, versatile pianist whose approach spans the roil of “The Beast Within,” the placidity of “Healing Hymn” and the childlike, winning “Ruby Goes to School,” a tune by her husband Rudy, the muscular drummer who helps make this trio debut memorable. Presented as a kind of autobiography, Portraits speaks to Royston’s … Read More “Shamie Royston: Portraits”

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Pablo Ziegler & Metropole Orkest: Amsterdam Meets New Tango

Pianist Pablo Ziegler plunges into a kinetic musical cityscape evoking the downtown of his native Buenos Aires at the start of this ebullient disc, recorded in 2009 in Amsterdam with some of his longtime associates and the Metropole Orkest. This is music both subtle and zesty, an expansion of the New Tango Ziegler has been … Read More “Pablo Ziegler & Metropole Orkest: Amsterdam Meets New Tango”

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Verneri Pohjola & Black Motor: Rubidium

Picture a band on a street corner in the very Nordic north. It’s winter. To keep warm, they spool out blowsy melodies of grave gait and linearity, their authority not immediately apparent. Then, as trumpeter Verneri Pohjola and Black Motorists Sami Sippola (saxes), Ville Rauhala (bass) and Simo Laihonen (drums) gather force and daring, this … Read More “Verneri Pohjola & Black Motor: Rubidium”

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Barry Altschul: The 3Dom Factor

Barry Altschul’s first album as a leader in more than 25 years is a mischievous affair showcasing his irreverent drums, the magisterially sassy tenor saxophone of Jon Irabagon and the twangy (and occasionally bowed) bass of Joe Fonda, Altschul’s colleague from the FAB Trio, which also featured the late violinist Billy Bang. The approach on … Read More “Barry Altschul: The 3Dom Factor”

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Various Artists: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

This double-CD, packing 23 tracks per disc, is loaded with music as far from corporate as can be. A sequel to the acclaimed roots rarities compilation from 2006, The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, Return is heavy on country styles-Appalachia seems to dominate here, more than anything urban. Whether it’s the swampy lilt of … Read More “Various Artists: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of”

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Rudy Linka: Re:connect

Dynamics are critical to Czech-American guitarist Rudy Linka’s latest album, which is dominated by sneaky originals, a sharply tailored cover of Monk’s “Bye-Ya” (titled “Bay-Ya” here) and a quietly pulsating take on “So Weary,” a knowing tune by one of Linka’s mentors, John Abercrombie. Linka’s predominantly single-note style is understated, and he uses atmospheric electronic … Read More “Rudy Linka: Re:connect”

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Todd Marcus: Inheritance

On Todd Marcus’ second album, the bass clarinetist switches between a quartet showcasing his drive and one stressing his more thoughtful side. The tracks featuring pianist George Colligan and Warren Wolf (here on drums rather than vibes) are denser, if no less heartfelt. Performances with pianist Xavier Davis and drummer Eric Kennedy are more liquid, … Read More “Todd Marcus: Inheritance”

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Scott Robinson Doctette: Bronze Nemesis

If Charlie Haden’s Quartet West is jazz-noir, Bronze Nemesis is pulp-jazz. Scott Robinson’s protean and flexible group delivers 12 tracks celebrating proto-superhero Doc Savage, a figure who dominated hundreds of pulp novels in the Depression and war years. The music covers the ominous “Man of Bronze,” the easy swing of “Fortress of Solitude” (Doc’s hideaway … Read More “Scott Robinson Doctette: Bronze Nemesis”

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Hot Club of Detroit: Junction

Drumless as ever and ever more eclectic, the Hot Club of Detroit chooses freshness over predictability on its fourth album. Sparked by the slight yet compelling vocals of French thrush Cyrille Aimée, the tough pop sensibility of new saxophonist Jon Irabagon and Andrew Kratzat’s replacement, Shawn Conley, on bass, Junction is far more diverse than … Read More “Hot Club of Detroit: Junction”

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Felipe Salles: Departure

São Paulo native Felipe Salles blends the visceral and the cerebral on his fascinating fifth album, infusing classical modernist strains with the buoyant rhythms of his Brazilian homeland. And that’s by no means all. Departure spans a hard, shape-shifting blues (“B’s Blues”), Bartók-ian snake-charmer sounds (“Béla’s Reflection”), dappled pastorale (“Adagio Triste,” featuring Salles’ floating flute … Read More “Felipe Salles: Departure”

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Adam Glasser: Mzansi

Adam Glasser’s playful yet plaintive style makes him one of the harmonica’s new masters. As debonair as Toots Thielemans, as soulful as Stevie Wonder and as romantic as Gregoire Maret, he’s also distinctively pungent. As a pianist, Glasser is percussive and rhythmic, driving most of the 13 tracks on his second Sunnyside album, originally released … Read More “Adam Glasser: Mzansi”

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Maceo Parker: Soul Classics

Longtime James Brown horn foil Maceo Parker reanimates soul and funk tropes in this beautifully produced, rocking collection of tunes from the ’60s and ’70s. Backed by the supple WDR Big Band, this spirited collection is anything but archival. Not only does it showcase a sax master still at the top of his very fleet … Read More “Maceo Parker: Soul Classics”

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Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin : Live

Live, this deeply continental and assured sextet is a jam band with the precision of a Swiss watch. Like a sophisticated mechanical timepiece, it’s all in the complications. Where in a watch a complication is a function, like a power reserve indicator or a second hand with its own dial, in keyboardist Nik Bärtsch’s supple … Read More “Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin : Live”

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Denny Zeitlin: Wherever You Are: Midnight Moods for Solo Piano

Denny Zeitlin’s sequel to 2010’s Labyrinth finds the Bay Area pianist in solo mode again, this time exploring standards and rejuvenating originals, foremost among the latter the sunny “Time Remembers One Time Once.” Zeitlin, who has recorded in various formats, clearly loves complexity, in his titles if not his presentation. Subtitled “midnight moods for solo … Read More “Denny Zeitlin: Wherever You Are: Midnight Moods for Solo Piano”

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Wayne Krantz: Howie 61

No doubt “Howie,” the detached boomer of this ironic album’s title track, drives the cool vintage Jaguar on its cover. The stylish song correlates to the arresting image. Style, too, informs many of the metaphors in the vocal numbers master guitarist Wayne Krantz sprinkles over his 10th album. Howie 61 also is homage to “Highway … Read More “Wayne Krantz: Howie 61”

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Hank Mobley Quintet: Newark 1953

Recorded on one hard-swinging late-September evening at Newark’s Piccadilly Club, the two-disc Hank Mobley set showcases the talented tenor saxophonist evolving into a major force, alongside the transitional and complicated piano stylings of Walter Davis Jr., the pungent trombone of elder statesman Bennie Green, Charli Persip’s indefatigable drumming and the under-heard, under-acclaimed bass of Jimmy … Read More “Hank Mobley Quintet: Newark 1953”

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Bob Mintzer Big Band : For the Moment

A love letter to Brazil, this aural travelogue blends tenor saxophonist Bob Mintzer’s compositions with tracks by Baden Powell, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Chico Pinheiro, a São Paulo guitarist and vocalist whose version of “Corcovado” transforms Jobim’s glittery ennui into subtle swing. The musicianship of all involved, including fellow Yellowjacket Russell Ferrante on piano, makes … Read More “Bob Mintzer Big Band : For the Moment”

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John Abercrombie Quartet: Within a Song

Guitarist John Abercrombie, saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Joey Baron construct a mesmerizing fire in this tribute to the (mostly) ’60s jazz that shaped Abercrombie’s musical tastes. Produced by Manfred Eicher in typical crystalline ECM fashion, Within a Song plays tricks with its role models, pushing envelopes that were elastic to begin … Read More “John Abercrombie Quartet: Within a Song”

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Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You): Arturo Sandoval

This slick, exciting CD is trumpeter Arturo Sandoval’s reimagining of the key work of John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, his mentor, inspiration and friend. It recasts more than reanimates his benchmark tunes by way of punchy arrangements from a gang of top-flight conceptualists including the cinematic Gordon Goodwin, the brooding Nan Schwartz and the playful Wally … Read More “Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You): Arturo Sandoval”

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Dr. Michael White: Adventures in New Orleans Jazz, Part 2

Clarinetist Dr. Michael White’s second installment in a project designed to freshen traditional New Orleans material with newer tunes done in that same style has a certain charm; it certainly goes down easy. It’s also limited, and some of White’s choices-particularly a recasting of “Happy Together” that robs the Turtles’ original of its pop charm, … Read More “Dr. Michael White: Adventures in New Orleans Jazz, Part 2”

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Josh Nelson: Discoveries

Pianist Josh Nelson seems the type who, as a boy, gazed at the stars, wondering what kind of life exists out there; his fifth album, with its evocations of early sci-fi and fantasy, bubbles with that sort of wonder and curiosity. It’s a supple disc spanning the solo pyrotechnics of “Tesla Coil,” the romanticism of … Read More “Josh Nelson: Discoveries”

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