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Live Review: “Vanguard: The Music of Ran Blake” in Boston

There came an aha moment at the NEC Jazz Orchestra’s Dec. 6 concert in Jordan Hall that doubled as a reminder of why it was worth the time during this busy season of the year to brave the cold and venture into this venerated space. The moment arrived during the third number, Ran Blake’s “The … Read More “Live Review: “Vanguard: The Music of Ran Blake” in Boston”

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Marquis Hill: Modern Flows Vol. 2 (Black Unlimited Music Group)

There are some albums you really have to strap in for, lest you get whiplash for all of the various genre components that come whizzing by you. This is one of them. “My lyrics and conversation will make your brain smile,” boasts emcee Brandon Alexander Williams on this set’s intro, and the man has a … Read More “Marquis Hill: Modern Flows Vol. 2 (Black Unlimited Music Group)”

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Various Artists: The Savory Collection 1935-1940 (Mosaic)

Certain collections of music are so rich and deep that it feels like a listener could almost swim in them. This six-disc, 108-track set feels bottomless. It also represents one of the greatest provenance accounts in all of jazz. Someone ought to write a short story about it. Bill Savory was a reticent New York … Read More “Various Artists: The Savory Collection 1935-1940 (Mosaic)”

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Arturo Sandoval: Ultimate Duets (Universal Latino)

Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval has always loved the bebop métier, tossing his aesthetic headlong in the directions of the masters Parker and Gillespie, but now he’s brought in a roster of singers to create something of a crossover disc. Prince Royce hits leadoff on a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing,” … Read More “Arturo Sandoval: Ultimate Duets (Universal Latino)”

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Monk Higgins: Extra Soul Perception (Real Gone/Dusty Groove)

A funky little wash of strings, a curlicue pattern of zesty tenor sax soul-jazz from neglected would-be legend Monk Higgins, and this postbop LP immediately has you drenched in funk from its opening title cut. No scolding if you don’t recognize the man’s name: Higgins (1930-1986) was the bluesy enlivener of records by the likes … Read More “Monk Higgins: Extra Soul Perception (Real Gone/Dusty Groove)”

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Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes (Eagle Rock) 

Is it possible to be a fan of jazz and not be a fan of Blue Note Records? At once a kind of steward station, hooking listeners up with recordings that change their lives, and a beacon pointing out where to locate sounds that recalibrate jazz’s possibilities, the label has always been a conductor of … Read MoreBlue Note Records: Beyond the Notes (Eagle Rock) “

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Brad Mehldau: After Bach (Nonesuch)

To play the music of Johann Sebastian Bach well, a knack for sonic alchemy is required. One must be able to make swirling waves of chordal density—the original sheets of sound—feel both propulsive and calm, a deep grounding that’s simultaneously an invitation to travel the world. On this disc, Brad Mehldau gives himself further challenges: … Read More “Brad Mehldau: After Bach (Nonesuch)”

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Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 (Columbia/Legacy)

Jazz is a music of ensembles working toward a shared common goal through improvisatory avenues, but it is most special when focused on partnerships. Bird and Diz. Lady Day and Prez. Dolphy and Little. Ella and Satch. Near the top of any such pyramid belongs Miles Davis and John Coltrane, with this four-disc set bearing … Read More “Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 (Columbia/Legacy)”

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Albert Ayler Quartet: Copenhagen Live 1964 (HatHut)

It takes all of two bars on the opening “Spirits,” from this Sept. 3, 1964 gig, for the Albert Ayler Quartet to establish technical mastery. Gary Peacock’s bass is instantly embroiled in virtuosic cycling patterns, Don Cherry has traced a melody on trumpet, Sunny Murray’s drums have woven a path interconnecting the interests of the … Read More “Albert Ayler Quartet: Copenhagen Live 1964 (HatHut)”

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Various Artists: The Savory Collection Vol. 3—Honeysuckle Rose: Fats Waller and Friends  (The National Jazz Museum in Harlem/Apple Music)

There’s something delightfully rough-hewn and earthy about this third entry in the Savory Collection from the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, available exclusively on Apple Music. We are talking some seriously uninhibited streaming here, from 1938-40, the apogee of the swing era. The heart of this collection is a mighty jam session broadcast on NYC’s … Read More “Various Artists: The Savory Collection Vol. 3—Honeysuckle Rose: Fats Waller and Friends  (The National Jazz Museum in Harlem/Apple Music)”

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Review of Two Art Pepper Presents West Coast Sessions! Albums

Art Pepper: Art Pepper Presents West Coast Sessions! Volume 3: Lee Konitz (Omnivore) Art Pepper Presents West Coast Sessions! Volume 4: Bill Watrous (Omnivore) These Art Pepper sides have a cheeky history. Far below the radar in the first half of the 1970s, the alto saxophonist remerged in ’77 ready to stand once more in … Read More “Review of Two Art Pepper Presents West Coast Sessions! Albums”

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Regina Carter: Ella: Accentuate the Positive (OKeh)

From the rolling, Appalachia-tinged fanfare that opens “Accentuate the Positive,” it’s apparent that we’re not in standard Ella-tribute territory. Regina Carter’s violin has a quality suggestive of leading us back to the woods, where an impromptu rustic dance is happening with plenty of attendant good feeling. Welcome, then, to a corner of the Ella Fitzgerald … Read More “Regina Carter: Ella: Accentuate the Positive (OKeh)”

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Jaco Pastorius: Truth, Liberty & Soul: Live in NYC (Resonance)

It’s curious that we don’t more directly associate electric jazz bass playing with Latin rhythms, given that the greatest practitioner on the instrument featured them so centrally in his sound. This newly unearthed document is a key sonic case in point. Here we have Jaco Pastorius with his Word of Mouth Big Band, live at … Read More “Jaco Pastorius: Truth, Liberty & Soul: Live in NYC (Resonance)”

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John Abercrombie Quartet: Up and Coming (ECM)

A slowly ingratiating album, this set from guitarist John Abercrombie’s quartet wends its way deep into you in the manner of an especially ruminative Bill Evans date. Which is to say, there’s a cerebral quality possessing a delicate swing to animate these deep-textured airs. A lot of that texture is provided by Marc Copland’s piano, … Read More “John Abercrombie Quartet: Up and Coming (ECM)”

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Craig Taborn: Daylight Ghosts (ECM)

The challenge in making a hybrid acoustic/electronic album sound like a genuine blend rests in large part with ensemble play, from which solos emerge—tendrils as extensions of the whole. This four-piece unit, led by Craig Taborn on piano and various electronic accouterments, with Chris Speed taking up tenor saxophone and clarinet, Chris Lightcap on bass … Read More “Craig Taborn: Daylight Ghosts (ECM)”

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Erroll Garner: Ready Take One

Languishing on acetate for nearly 50 years, this previously unreleased cache of Erroll Garner recordings is a sort of Concert by the Studio, if you will, with commentary interposed. Half the material comes from a Chicago studio in late November 1967, with the rest from NYC in October 1969 and a trio of 1971 sessions, … Read More “Erroll Garner: Ready Take One”

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John Coltrane: The Atlantic Years—In Mono

Let’s assume there’s zero chance you’re considering the purchase of a set like this one-six monaural Coltrane albums, sans extras-unless you already own the records in another form. Which is to say, stereo form. Forking over the cash then becomes a matter of hearing something new in music you’ve likely heard a lot of, gaining … Read More “John Coltrane: The Atlantic Years—In Mono”

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James P. Johnson: Classic James P. Johnson Sessions (1921-1943)

Jazz piano masters tend to slot easily into categories. There are seemingly beyond-the-bounds-of-possibility virtuosos (Art Tatum), blues melders (Wynton Kelly) and genre purveyors (Meade Lux Lewis), but few ivory-savants leapt about like James P. Johnson. This box-which has the standard Mosaic heft, with six discs topped to the max-covers a little more than two decades … Read More “James P. Johnson: Classic James P. Johnson Sessions (1921-1943)”

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Live at the Village Vanguard: Christian McBride Trio

Cutting an album at the Village Vanguard is both a rite of passage and an attempt to take one’s own place in a particularly hallowed hall of live recordings. But it’s evident here, with the opening take of Wes Montgomery’s “Fried Pies,” that Christian McBride’s trio is more than capable of advancing on both fronts. … Read More “Live at the Village Vanguard: Christian McBride Trio”

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Charlie Haden and Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Tokyo Adagio

If you’re ever inclined to wonder what Bill Evans’ 1961 Village Vanguard recordings might have sounded like sans Paul Motian’s drums, this live set by bassist Charlie Haden and pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, recorded at the Blue Note in Tokyo in 2005, provides one possibility. Bass and piano is a challenging duet set-up, but opener “En … Read More “Charlie Haden and Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Tokyo Adagio”

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Duke Ellington & His Orchestra: The Conny Plank Session

Unreleased Ellington studio sessions have a paucity to match the plentitude of his vault live releases, so this crafty little quickie-just 29 minutes-is something of a revelation. The unlikely setup: Duke in Cologne in 1970 to record for synth-maven engineer Conny Plank, a man accustomed to working with Kraftwerk rather than swing titans. But it’s … Read More “Duke Ellington & His Orchestra: The Conny Plank Session”

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Eddie Condon & Bud Freeman: Complete Commodore and Decca Sessions

This latest Mosaic juggernaut-eight discs and a mere 199 cuts-doubles as a bulwark against easy labels, which is how one imagines banjoist/guitarist/ringleader Eddie Condon would have wished it. Teamed with tenorman Bud Freeman, and working with ensembles kitted out with one stud soloist after another, this is jazz via the New Orleans collective approach, then … Read More “Eddie Condon & Bud Freeman: Complete Commodore and Decca Sessions”

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Jeff “Tain” Watts: Blue, Vol. 1

Modern jazz rarely gets as flat-out eclectic as it does on this latest Jeff “Tain” Watts offering. The opening “Brilliant Corners” is one of the most confident, strutting takes on Monk you’ll hear, Watts’ kit powering the track with impressive snap and pop, a de facto rhythmic conductor. Sections surge, tempos double, and even a … Read More “Jeff “Tain” Watts: Blue, Vol. 1″

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Miles Davis: Miles Davis at Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4

Even the most special, consistent performers can have venues where they grab a kind of inspired toehold and secure that next level. For an athlete like Michael Jordan, that venue was Madison Square Garden; for an equally dynamic jazz artist like Miles Davis, we’re talking the Newport Jazz Festival. The metrics of this box are … Read More “Miles Davis: Miles Davis at Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4”

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Keith Jarrett: Creation

A live Keith Jarrett recording almost assuredly means instant transport to a given evening in a given city, where an orderly but still surprising program emerges from a player following the logic of his own inspiration. Gigs by Jarrett, now 70, tend to unpack themselves with themes and melodies emerging like musical nesting dolls. This … Read More “Keith Jarrett: Creation”

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Gil Evans Project: Lines of Color: Live at the Jazz Standard

The second outing from Ryan Truesdell’s Gil Evans Project presents a transition to the live medium, and if it’s possible for Evans’ arrangements to have more bonhomie than they typically do, it’s in this setting. Rarely does a big band sound so intimate and almost touchable as it does across this most generous spread: We … Read More “Gil Evans Project: Lines of Color: Live at the Jazz Standard”

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