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Lee Konitz Nonet: Old Songs New (Sunnyside)

The title might just as easily have been Old Freedoms Reimagined. Lee Konitz, who in 1949 as a member of the Lennie Tristano Quintet helped blaze the trail for free improvisation on the landmark “Intuition,” here explores a very different, but no less challenging, kind of freedom. Rather than creating spontaneously with no preset plan … Read More “Lee Konitz Nonet: Old Songs New (Sunnyside)”

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Roberto Fonseca: Yesun (Mack Avenue)

Is it necessary for jazz to be “challenging” or “complex” in order to be considered “good”?  Pianist Roberto Fonseca blazes few new trails here, despite his blending of styles and influences that some might consider disparate, if not oppositional. “We have a little mambo and rumba, some reggaeton and hip-hop,” he says in the online … Read More “Roberto Fonseca: Yesun (Mack Avenue)”

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Metropolitan Jazz Octet: It’s Too Hot for Words– Celebrating Billie Holiday (Delmark)

Billie Holiday tributes can get pretty lachrymose, but Chicago’s ebullient Dee Alexander is not one to throw a pity party. Here, as is her wont, she both honors her source material and reimagines it, aided by some brilliant arrangements as well as deft accompaniment (and first-rate solos) from the Metropolitan Jazz Octet. Although she doesn’t … Read More “Metropolitan Jazz Octet: It’s Too Hot for Words– Celebrating Billie Holiday (Delmark)”

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James Carter Organ Trio: Live from Newport Jazz (Blue Note)

Recorded at the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival, this set finds saxophonist James Carter picking up where he left off in Chasin’ the Gypsy, his 2000 tribute to Django Reinhardt, recasting some of the fabled guitarist’s most venerated pieces as funk-seasoned organ trio workouts. The idea might strike some Reinhardt diehards as apostasy, but in fact, … Read More “James Carter Organ Trio: Live from Newport Jazz (Blue Note)”

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Sounds of Liberation: Unreleased (Columbia University 1973) (Dogtown)

Sounds of Liberation was a young musical collective based in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood in the early 1970s. Their music, an innovative but accessible blend of free jazz and funk, both invoked and expanded on the ideas of artists as diverse as Pharoah Sanders, Curtis Mayfield, the Last Poets, “Mother Nature”-era Temptations, and Hubert Laws. They … Read More “Sounds of Liberation: Unreleased (Columbia University 1973) (Dogtown)”

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The OGJB Quartet: Bamako (TUM)

OGJB—Oliver Lake, Graham Haynes, Joe Fonda, and Barry Altschul—characterize themselves as a “leaderless” quartet. In that spirit, the compositions featured here serve as sketches to be built and elaborated on (and often entirely reconfigured), not as templates or structural frameworks. Unison passages are tightly executed, yet with just enough raggedness to their edge that the … Read More “The OGJB Quartet: Bamako (TUM)”

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Michael Eaton: Dialogical (Destiny)

“Serious play” may be a cliché by now, but it exemplifies the spirit that dances through this set.  Apropos to the title, the emphasis is on mutuality: unison melody lines dissolving into contrapuntal interplay (both improvised and otherwise); shifting time signatures (often juxtaposed against one another); abrupt alterations in voicing. The dialectic between group cohesion … Read More “Michael Eaton: Dialogical (Destiny)”

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Avery Sharpe: 400: An African American Musical Portrait (JKNM)

This four-movement suite, which both invokes and honors the 400-year history of African-American people from the arrival of the first slave ships in 1619 to the present, resonates with tonal, improvisational, and lyric richness, befitting both the subject matter and the ongoing legacy of bassist Sharpe, one of our premier musicians and jazz educators. Like … Read More “Avery Sharpe: 400: An African American Musical Portrait (JKNM)”

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Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Be Known (Spiritmuse)

The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, formed by percussionist Kahil El’Zabar in the 1970s, is among the most venerable carriers of the legacy of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. The current Ethnic Heritage lineup features, along with El’Zabar himself, trumpeter Corey Wilkes, baritone saxophonist Alex Harding, and cellist Ian Maksin. Its sound is buoyed, … Read More “Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Be Known (Spiritmuse)”

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JC Sanford’s Triocracy: Pyramid Scheme (Shifting Paradigm)

JC Sanford first formed Triocracy, with its distinctive lineup of trombone and two reeds, in 1998. The current edition, featuring trombonist Sanford along with Andy Laster (alto and baritone sax and clarinet) and Chris Bacas (tenor and soprano sax and clarinet), continues to explore and expand upon the “chamber jazz” concept that has been the … Read More “JC Sanford’s Triocracy: Pyramid Scheme (Shifting Paradigm)”

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Tom Harrell: Infinity (HighNote)

A powerful spirituality illuminates Tom Harrell’s work, but that doesn’t mean that there’s anything pretentious or dogmatic going on. An irrepressible sense of play also abounds; trumpeter/flugelhornist Harrell sounds both delighted by his musical quest and enraptured by what he discovers. “The Fast,” this set’s opener, might easily have been titled “The Feast”—it’s a veritable … Read More “Tom Harrell: Infinity (HighNote)”

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Craig Harris: Brown Butterfly (Afro Future Concept)

If ever there was an ideal candidate for a jazz tribute, it’s Muhammad Ali. His boxing style was jazz poetry in motion, of course, but he was also a living signifier of black pride—a man whose resistance in the face of racism and imperialist American arrogance defined his era and his legacy every bit as … Read More “Craig Harris: Brown Butterfly (Afro Future Concept)”

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Greg Ward Presents Rogue Parade: Stomping Off from Greenwood (Greenleaf)

If, as critic Larry Kart has postulated, jazz is “a form of self-enactment in sound,” then this “enactment” must become ambiguous, even contradictory, as the very concept of “self” in our culture becomes increasingly fluid and ineffable. Case in point: Stomping Off from Greenwood’s opener, “Metropolis,” which melds influences and identities with shape-shifting abandon. Quin … Read More “Greg Ward Presents Rogue Parade: Stomping Off from Greenwood (Greenleaf)”

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Dezron Douglas: Black Lion (self-released)

This six-track EP showcases both the versatility and musical depth of bassist Dezron Douglas, whose ensemble includes tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard, altoist Lummie Spann, trumpeter Josh Evans, and drummer Jeremy “Bean” Clemons, along with, at various points, keyboardists Willerm Delisfort and David Bryant. Douglas, who studied under the late Jackie McLean at McLean’s Institute of … Read More “Dezron Douglas: Black Lion (self-released)”

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Rafael Zaldivar: Consecration (Effendi)

Keyboardist Rafael Zaldivar invokes traditional Afro-Cuban spirituality in both his music and his message, but his thematic scope is far-ranging. His keyboard work is devoid of pyrotechnics; he uses space to create depth, then fills it with precisely articulated arpeggios and single-note punctuations to build a delicate tension. That tension is then dispelled by the … Read More “Rafael Zaldivar: Consecration (Effendi)”

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Cyrus Chestnut: Kaleidoscope (HighNote)

This is serious play at its most elegant and satisfying. Cyrus Chestnut takes on fare ranging from original compositions through the works of Mozart, Ravel, and Satie, along with a hymn (“Lord I Want to Be a Christian”), a classic from the Great American Songbook (“Darn That Dream”), and most audaciously, a scrap from the … Read More “Cyrus Chestnut: Kaleidoscope (HighNote)”

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