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Gene Ess: Apotheosis (SIMP)

While several of these songs’ arcs have a triumphant spirit, in keeping with the nature of apotheosis, guitarist Gene Ess isn’t obsessed with peaks and conquest. Reconvening Fractal Attraction, a style-fluid electric quintet with the signature frontline pairing of guitar and (mostly) wordless vocals, Ess continues to build momentum while also digging deeper into the … Read More “Gene Ess: Apotheosis (SIMP)”

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Johnny Griffith Quintet: The Lion, Camel & Child (GB)

Long ago, Friedrich Nietzsche laid out the evolution of the human spirit with a useful metaphor: the concept of three metamorphoses, in which the camel, lion, and child come to represent the phases of development or arrival. Now saxophonist Johnny Griffith has adapted that concept for his own musical purposes. Each movement of this album’s … Read More “Johnny Griffith Quintet: The Lion, Camel & Child (GB)”

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Steve Kuhn Trio: To and From the Heart (Sunnyside)

We don’t necessarily need a reminder about pianist Steve Kuhn’s eminence in the trio domain; his work in that realm has been well-documented and greatly respected. It is, however, always a pleasure to receive a gift such as this. To and From the Heart capitalizes on the creative rapport that Kuhn has developed with bassist … Read More “Steve Kuhn Trio: To and From the Heart (Sunnyside)”

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Javon Jackson: For You (Solid Jackson)

The 20th album from tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson presents a series of dedicatory designs suffused with a sense of appreciation. It’s a collection that’s both sincere in tone and forthright in its displays, playing up the best qualities behind this shining veteran’s music. With tradition always in mind but keeping the settings varied, Jackson salutes … Read More “Javon Jackson: For You (Solid Jackson)”

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Ralph Peterson’s GenNext Big Band: I Remember Bu: Alive Vol. 4 @ Scullers Featuring Donald Harrison (Onyx)   

Having come under the tutelage of Art Blakey (a.k.a. Buhaina, or “Bu” for short), drummer Ralph Peterson knows a thing or two about the value of mentorship. His time as a Jazz Messenger proved life-changing and he’s long been paying it forward through more formalized lines, teaching and rearing up-and-comers at one of jazz’s foremost … Read More “Ralph Peterson’s GenNext Big Band: I Remember Bu: Alive Vol. 4 @ Scullers Featuring Donald Harrison (Onyx)   “

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Cuong Vu 4Tet: Change in the Air (RareNoise)

The bracing RareNoise debut from trumpeter Cuong Vu’s 4Tet—2017’s Ballet: The Music of Michael Gibbs—played up a blended dynamism leavened by respect for its honoree. This followup, built around original contributions from within the ranks, has more to do with self-sufficiency fostering the oneness of four. By inviting the project’s musical stakeholders to essentially act … Read More “Cuong Vu 4Tet: Change in the Air (RareNoise)”

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Christian McBride: Christian McBride’s New Jawn (Mack Avenue/Brother Mister)

The term “jawn”—a catch-all piece of Philly jargon covering everything from object to idea—speaks to the home turf and high-level hipness of Christian McBride, as well as the broadness of vision at play here. And this most certainly marks the start of a new chapter for the distinguished bassist, serving as the launch of his … Read More “Christian McBride: Christian McBride’s New Jawn (Mack Avenue/Brother Mister)”

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Satchmo Goes Digital

Photo above: Louis Armstrong in a rehearsal for the album Disney Sings the Satchmo Way, Hollywood, May 1968 (photo: Jack Bradley). This is one of approximately 16,000 photographs that are part of the online Louis Armstrong House Collections; see more in the slideshow. The Louis Armstrong House Museum Collections—constituting “the world’s largest archives for a … Read More “Satchmo Goes Digital”

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Walking Distance Featuring Jason Moran: Freebird (Sunnyside)

No, we’re not talking Lynyrd Skynyrd requests here. Walking Distance—the charmingly cheeky and technically adept combination of alto saxophonist Caleb Curtis, tenor saxophonist Kenny Pexton, bassist Adam Coté, and drummer Shawn Baltazor—is freeing Charlie Parker’s music from the shackles of its comfort zone. Bird is most certainly the watchword throughout, but a deftly jumbled one. … Read More “Walking Distance Featuring Jason Moran: Freebird (Sunnyside)”

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Geof Bradfield: Yes, and … Music for Nine Improvisers (Delmark)

The acts of spontaneous creation and development associated with improvisational theater are clearly homologous with the ideals of jazz. Sometimes it just takes a supremely creative spirit like saxophonist/composer Geof Bradfield to illuminate that fact. Alternating between numbers featuring different trio configurations and works for nonet, Yes, and … Music for Nine Improvisers highlights Bradfield’s arranging … Read More “Geof Bradfield: Yes, and … Music for Nine Improvisers (Delmark)”

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Bill Warfield: Of Spinning Wheels and Turning Points

A sturdy lead trumpeter, ensemble-juggling bandleader, writer of renown, and longtime head of the jazz program at Lehigh University, Bill Warfield, 66, seems to embody the ideal of the musical multi-hyphenate. But it all could have turned out so differently. A little over 50 years ago, two car accidents derailed Warfield’s progress on the trumpet. … Read More “Bill Warfield: Of Spinning Wheels and Turning Points”

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Bradley’s: An Oral History of a Hallowed Hang

To the average passerby, the street-level space at 70 University Place in Manhattan, just a few blocks south of Union Square, holds little significance; it currently houses a garden-variety sports bar. For jazz musicians and fans in the know, however, it’s a landmark. There, from 1969 to 1996, stood Bradley Cunningham’s eponymous saloon—a spot that … Read More “Bradley’s: An Oral History of a Hallowed Hang”

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Marcus Miller: Laid Black (Blue Note)

Marcus Miller’s Blue Note debut, 2015’s Afrodeezia, drew from the African diaspora, presenting a globetrotting musical mélange driven by his experiences acting as a UNESCO Artist for Peace and a spokesman for that organization’s Slave Route Project. This followup finds him firmly planted on U.S. soil, employing the sounds of modernity born at said route’s … Read More “Marcus Miller: Laid Black (Blue Note)”

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Dan Weiss: Starebaby (Pi)

What can you expect from drummer Dan Weiss’ heavy-metal-inspired quintet Starebaby? An eviscerating, exploratory edge, yes; utter mayhem, no. Weiss brings the same exacting standards to Starebaby that were previously evident in his Indo-jazz hybridizations and sui generis large-ensemble projects. The eight doom-laden tracks presented here are incredibly powerful, but they rarely come off as … Read More “Dan Weiss: Starebaby (Pi)”

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Jamie Baum Septet: Bridges (Sunnyside)

For many, religion is the most divisive of matters. For flutist-composer Jamie Baum, however, it turns out to be the ultimate unifier. On this fourth album from her expandable septet, Baum explores the musical common denominators beneath different ancient belief systems. Offering touches of modernization while remaining steadfast in honoring core values, Baum creates a … Read More “Jamie Baum Septet: Bridges (Sunnyside)”

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Peter Erskine & the Dr. Um Band: On Call (Fuzzy)

In June of 2017, drummer Peter Erskine’s fusion-friendly Dr. Um Band laid down new tracks in front of an audience of engineers at Sweetwater Studios in Fort Wayne, Ind. It was literally a master class on the art of recording. Eight weeks later, while working his way through Italy with the same outfit, Erskine was … Read More “Peter Erskine & the Dr. Um Band: On Call (Fuzzy)”

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Steve Gadd Band: Steve Gadd Band (BFM)

Drumming icon Steve Gadd has always sounded happiest when laying down golden tracks in the studio and serving as a sideman to the stars, only choosing to assume the mantle of leadership on rare occasions with session-men assemblages like the Gadd Gang or, more recently, the Gaddabouts (fronted by vocalist Edie Brickell). But in forming … Read More “Steve Gadd Band: Steve Gadd Band (BFM)”

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Ryan Keberle & Frank Woeste: Reverso – Suite Ravel (Phonoart/Alternate Side)

In the early part of the 20th century, plenty of classical composers were quick to label and dismiss jazz as lowbrow entertainment. France’s Maurice Ravel, however, wasn’t one of them. He completely opened his mind and ears to the music during a visit to the U.S. in 1928, checking out the scene at the Savoy … Read More “Ryan Keberle & Frank Woeste: Reverso – Suite Ravel (Phonoart/Alternate Side)”

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Dafnis Prieto Big Band: Back to the Sunset (Dafnison)

Dafnis Prieto has always been one to think big in his music, but this is the first time he’s opted to actually go big. For this dynamic date, the drummer-composer assembled a 17-piece big band that proves more than capable of alternately playing with heat and heart, meeting this music’s complex rhythmic demands and delivering … Read More “Dafnis Prieto Big Band: Back to the Sunset (Dafnison)”

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Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano: Embrace (RareNoise)

Arriving mere weeks before Roswell Rudd’s passing late last year, Embrace can’t help but take on a valedictory air. It may very well be the final gift left to us by one of jazz’s most singular personalities. Rudd’s goodbye comes not in the shape of a free-blowing fête, Dixieland throwback or Malian encounter, but through … Read More “Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano: Embrace (RareNoise)”

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Florian Hoefner: Coldwater Stories (Origin)

This solo-piano recital illuminates the intersections where composition and improvisation, man and nature, and action and reflection meet. All of the music appreciates the moment yet exists in a state of becoming. While Florian Hoefner utilizes these modest pieces as vehicles to explore the nexus between the preconceived and the purely extemporized, he doesn’t deliver … Read More “Florian Hoefner: Coldwater Stories (Origin)”

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Dr. Lonnie Smith: All in My Mind (Blue Note)

Judging from these seven live tracks, Dr. Lonnie Smith’s celebratory 75th birthday stand at New York’s Jazz Standard this past summer must have been a soulful gas. With his prismatic swirls, dramatic gestures, tidal swells and unforeseen detours, Smith delights in defining the young-at-heart aesthetic. A variable-intensity trio showcase, All in My Mind touches on … Read More “Dr. Lonnie Smith: All in My Mind (Blue Note)”

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Dave Bennett: Blood Moon (Mack Avenue)

Clarinetist Dave Bennett’s Mack Avenue debut, 2013’s Don’t Be That Way, showcased an artist capably tackling and updating music associated with Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman and Pete Fountain. In essence, it positioned him as a next-gen swing king with a penchant for taking playful strolls. This follow-up, while retaining that image and ideal … Read More “Dave Bennett: Blood Moon (Mack Avenue)”

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Mario Pavone’s Dialect Trio: Chrome (Playscape)

Bassist Mario Pavone has been digging into the depths and moving toward the outer limits for half a century, both as a flexible backbone of and a communicative partner in bands led by Paul Bley, Bill Dixon and Thomas Chapin, and as a leader with expansive visions all his own.  The jazz avant-garde holds him … Read More “Mario Pavone’s Dialect Trio: Chrome (Playscape)”

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Live Review: Dave Douglas Presents “Dizzy Atmosphere” at JALC

For Dave Douglas, the art of the tribute has never been about the act of strict repertory theatre. In saluting undersung trumpeter Booker Little, honoring trailblazing pianist-composer Mary Lou Williams, nodding toward Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy (with his own Brass Ecstasy) and highlighting the importance of any number of horn heavies through his role as … Read More “Live Review: Dave Douglas Presents “Dizzy Atmosphere” at JALC”

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Sam Newsome & Jean-Michel Pilc: Magic Circle

Pioneering soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome and thinking man’s pianist Jean-Michel Pilc need no words or paper to guide them in an open-minded tête-à-tête. Their simpatico relationship and respective skills simply take them wherever they need to go. For this program, these two old friends settled into a Brooklyn studio, had the engineer give the green … Read More “Sam Newsome & Jean-Michel Pilc: Magic Circle

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Matt Mitchell: A Pouting Grimace (Pi)

Why has Matt Mitchell become the go-to pianist for so many jazz artists on the fringe? His output provides the best answers, by highlighting a broad skill set and a paradoxical musical makeup that blends rigorous organization and free will in fluid proportions. Whether investigating Bird with Rudresh Mahanthappa, exploring biology through sound with Steve … Read More “Matt Mitchell: A Pouting Grimace (Pi)”

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