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Martial Solal: French Modern

“I thank Mr. Hitler,” says a droll Martial Solal, a French-Algerian Jew and France’s foremost jazz pianist. “Because of him I discover music. Without him, I wouldn’t be here-and neither would you.” “Here” is Juan-Les-Pins, a tiny swath of Mediterranean beachfront in the south of France that hosts the historic Festival de Jazz d’Antibes Juan-Les-Pins. … Read More “Martial Solal: French Modern”

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Space is the Place: Jazz Artists Tap into the Power of MySpace

Everyone knows MySpace is a great place to ogle the opposite sex and keep in touch with your friends. But did you know that most of your favorite jazz artists post information-filled profiles and streaming music there? Christopher Porter examines the pros and cons of one of the most popular Web sites on the Internet.

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The Source: The Source

Saxophonist Trygve Seim often comes across like he’s a classical musician holding a jazzman’s instrument. But when he’s around his friends in the Source collective, his more abstract chamber-music instincts give way to something akin to free-jazz balladry. Part of the reason, at least on The Source, is that trombonist Øyvind Brække supplies most of … Read More “The Source: The Source”

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Claudio Roditi: Reflections

The third CD by this tri-country trio is like the first two: pleasant chamber jazz that won’t register anywhere in your brain. Brazilian trumpeter and flugelhornist Claudio Roditi gets the bigger name on the cover, but eight of the 11 tracks are by German pianist Klaus Ignatzek. Two other tunes are by former Roditi employer … Read More “Claudio Roditi: Reflections”

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Klaus Suonsaari and Frank Carlberg: Fallingwater

Drummer-composer Klaus Suonsaari is slowly but surely building a catalog of impressionistic yet edgy ECM-like music on his KSJazz label. Originally from Finland, Suonsaari now makes his home in New Jersey, but he often calls on his native country’s musicians for recording dates, which is the case with these two discs. On Fallingwater, Suonsaari and … Read More “Klaus Suonsaari and Frank Carlberg: Fallingwater”

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Batagraf and Jon Balke: Statements

Norwegian keyboardist Jon Balke started Batagraf as something like an informal drum circle. Leaving his keys in favor of percussion, Balke and drummers Kenneth Ekornes, Harald Skullerud, Helge Andreas Norbakken and Ingar Zach played music just for the fun of it, not with concerts and recordings in mind. But when the collective brought in bata … Read More “Batagraf and Jon Balke: Statements”

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Iro Haarla: Northbound

The great experimental Finnish drummer Edward Vesala has a secret weapon: His wife, Iro Haarla, helped orchestrate much of his music, including his last four albums for ECM with the Sound and Fury band. Vesala died in 1999, but only now is Haarla stepping out on her own with the label that released some of … Read More “Iro Haarla: Northbound”

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Various Artists: Jazz.Toys

Rare-groove collectors are an odd sort. They’ll pay something like $500 to buy an obscure record by a long-forgotten band just to sample a single breakbeat or to drop a lost song into a DJ mix. Marcus Hacker of the German label Perfect Toy is just such a crate digger. He’s a man who would … Read More “Various Artists: Jazz.Toys”

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Enrico Rava: Easy Living

Life is good for Enrico Rava, whose ECM recordings have earned him a reputation as Italy’s greatest jazz musician. The trumpeter’s graceful, subtly attention grabbing-style has also won over American fans.

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Anga: Echu Mingua

After years of playing congas in the legendary Cuban jazz group Irakere and with the Afro-Cuban All Stars, Migel “Angá” Díaz has finally released his first solo CD-though it sounds like a compilation culled from a dozen discs because the tracks are so diverse. That’s the blessing and the curse of the willfully diffuse Echu … Read More “Anga: Echu Mingua”

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In the Country: This Was the Pace of My Heartbeat

Keyboardist Morten Qvenild is one of Norway’s most valuable utility players. He is the “orchestra” in the incredible post-Bjork duo Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, writer and arranger for jazz singer Solveig Slettahjell, former member of pop-prog-jazz instrumentalists Jaga Jazzist and Shining and part of chart-topping supergroup the National Bank. Qvenild gets to display his … Read More “In the Country: This Was the Pace of My Heartbeat”

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The Sound of Young Norway

Tord Gustavsen is one of the latest in a long line of stunning Norwegian jazz artists that ECM has introduced to the world. “We’ve always had a good tradition for modern jazz in Norway,” says Rune Kristoffersen, head of the Rune Grammofon label and formerly ECM’s sales rep in the country. “I think that is … Read More “The Sound of Young Norway”

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Jazz to Ska Mania

Jamaica is known for sunny beaches, Red Stripe and reggae. But the music that Bob Marley made famous around the world has its roots in an early 1960s phenomenon known as ska-a mix of Jamaican folk music and American jump-jazz with the off-beat rhythms emphasized. The musicians who created ska were steeped in jazz and played in big bands or small combos on the island. Christopher Porter talks to some of the biggest names from ska’s heyday, such as Ernest Ranglin, the Skatalites and Monty Alexander, and gets the scoop on how jazz and American R&B helped form the Sound of Young Jamaica.

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Ken Vandermark: Focus

The stink of Ammonia and bleach on the still-wet floor greets the Vandermark 5. It’s one hour before show time at the Black Cat, Washington, D.C.’s premier indie-rock club, and the members of Ken Vandermark’s quintet-bassist Kent Kessler, trombonist Jeb Bishop, saxophonist Dave Rempis and new drummer Tim Daisy-are quickly loading in their equipment from … Read More “Ken Vandermark: Focus”

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Herbie Hancock: Ancient to the Future

Herbie Hancock, one of the greatest pianists and most forward-looking musicians in the history of jazz, is eating lunch in my ear. His chewing is measured, not rushed, and its sound precedes most of his answers to my questions during the first 45 minutes of our interview. Handsome and fit at 62, Hancock sounds relaxed, … Read More “Herbie Hancock: Ancient to the Future”

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Dave Douglas: At Home

Brooklyn’s Park Slope region is as laid-back as its name, befitting the serene demeanor of one of its residents, trumpeter Dave Douglas. “It’s a residential neighborhood, about a block from Prospect Park, which is a fairly wild expanse of green in Brooklyn,” Douglas says as an airplane roars by. “As you can hear, there’s a … Read More “Dave Douglas: At Home”

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The All Rectangle: Ke Ala Mano (The Way of the Shark)

The All Rectangle’s music embodies the sound of modern Chicago jazz-rock: funky, spacey, aloof. The trio of bassist Alana Rocklin, drummer Derek Crawford and electronics-effecter Brad “Kali” Bowden exists somewhere among Isotope 217’s electronica-bred funk-jazz and the Chicago Underground Quartet’s modal-oriented jazzisms, Mwandishi-era Herbie Hancock, electric Miles Davis and the ’90s heavy, dark-dub aesthetic favored … Read More “The All Rectangle: Ke Ala Mano (The Way of the Shark)”

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Markus Stockhausen/Arild Andersen/Patrice Heral/Terje Rypdal: Karta

For Karta, the augmented trio of trumpeter Markus Stockhausen (son of modern-classical master Karlheinz), bassist Arild Andersen, drummer Patrice Heral and special-guest guitarist Terje Rypdal convened in an Oslo, Norway, studio with themes and songs that Stockhausen and Andersen had written. Nearly all of the tunes, though, were discarded once the group started improvising, creating … Read More “Markus Stockhausen/Arild Andersen/Patrice Heral/Terje Rypdal: Karta”

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Elton Dean: Moorsong

It may seem strange that half of the new CD by British experimental-jazz saxophonist Elton Dean sounds like a stab for the opening slot on Medeski, Martin and Wood’s next tour, but it’s true: Moorsong is primarily an organ-driven jam-band album. Dean was a member of rock-jazzers Soft Machine from 1969 to 1972, however, and … Read More “Elton Dean: Moorsong”

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The Chicago Underground Trio: Flamethrower

The various combinations of the Chicago Underground-Duo, Trio, Orchestra and even the Isotope 217 offshoot-are etching its mark on the city’s experimental music legacy as deeply as its Windy City ancestor, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Like fellow obsessively productive Second City experimental saxophonist Ken Vandermark, Chicago Underground leader-cornetist Rob Mazurek releases … Read More “The Chicago Underground Trio: Flamethrower”

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Chicago Underground Duo: Synesthesia

Those keyboard-generated timbres define the Underground Duo’s Synesthesia, which features just the Underground’s core members Mazurek and Taylor. While the CD features some unique soundscapes, and its appeal increases immensely with repeated listens, it’s one of the lesser titles in the group’s ever-expanding catalog. The Duo’s previous CD, 12 Degrees of Freedom, mostly focused on … Read More “Chicago Underground Duo: Synesthesia”

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Isotope 217: Who Stole the I Walkman?

Davis’ specter also lurks over Isotope 217, an electro-acoustic funk-jazz collaboration with Mazurek, Parker, bassist Matthew Lux and drummers John Herndon and Dan Bitney from fellow prolific Chicago sonic experimenters Tortoise. Isotope’s third proper album, Who Stole the Walkman?, is the happy medium between the Trio’s moody acoustic interplay and the duo’s playful electronic spirit. … Read More “Isotope 217: Who Stole the I Walkman?”

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Mount Everest Trio: Waves from Albert Ayler

Mount Everest Trio’s saxophonist Gilbert Holmstrom’s tone’s a little sharp, his sax lines are a little blunt, and his time is a little off. He’s also very powerful: even when he plays with vibrato he sounds like an ass-kicker. On 1975’s Waves From Albert Ayler, Holmstrom and the rest of Mount Everest-drummer Conny Sjokvist and … Read More “Mount Everest Trio: Waves from Albert Ayler”

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Marc Cary: Trillium

When was the last time a piano trio record grabbed you by the lapels, faced you forward, demanded you put down that cocktail and screamed “Listen!” Marc Cary’s Trillium is no mere background music. Backed by one of the best young rhythm sections in jazz-bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits-Cary’s Trillium is his finest … Read More “Marc Cary: Trillium”

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Ben Monder: Excavation

Guitarist Ben Monder possesses such prodigious technique that songs can run away from him as he restlessly crams in every chordal variation. And this is mostly a very good thing, especially on Excavation. While Monder does play single-note lines with a dark, almost underwater-sounding tone, his style is most defined by the speed, agility and … Read More “Ben Monder: Excavation”

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Raphe Malik/Cecil McBee/Codaryl Moffett: Storyline

A genuinely powerful record that reaches out to the far side of improvised music without getting lost there, Storyline is a triumph for trumpeter Raphe Malik. The rousing, edgy postboppers “Minimal Blue,” “Incalculable,” “Ago (Go)” and “First Valve Blues” are tightly constructed showcases for Malik’s broad, deep tone, long and strong melody lines and gut-punch … Read More “Raphe Malik/Cecil McBee/Codaryl Moffett: Storyline”

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Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Freedom Jazz Dance

Freedom, jazz and dancing is what Ethnic Heritage Ensemble has been about for 20 years, so it’s no surprise that percussionist Kahil El’Zabar’s group imbues the Eddie Harris-penned title track with all three. Augmented by guitarist Fareed Haque, Freedom Jazz Dance elevates the Ensemble’s usual two-horns-and-drums lineup to a higher level of tonal beauty. Saxophonist … Read More “Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Freedom Jazz Dance”

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