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Lee Konitz: Conversations on the Improviser’s Art by Andy Hamilton

In jazz circles there is always talk about the importance of individuality, and there are always legions of musicians striving to play like someone else. A journeyman striver who patterns himself on one of the music’s geniuses may practice hard, embed in his brain and muscle memory an arsenal of phrases and techniques, reach high … Read More “Lee Konitz: Conversations on the Improviser’s Art by Andy Hamilton”

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Ron Carter: Dear Miles

The press release accompanying the advance copy of this recording contains a quote from Ron Carter: “I wasn’t ready to do an album like this before, for fear of getting swallowed up by the Miles tribute aura.” There was little chance of that. A musician with Carter’s strengths is unlikely to be lost in the … Read More “Ron Carter: Dear Miles”

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Wayne Bergeron : Plays Well With Others

Bergeron’s high-note trumpet work is astonishing, as always, but that is only one element of this big-band CD’s appeal, and he keeps it in proportion. His exchanges with his old boss Maynard Ferguson on the F blues called “Maynard & Waynard” have the inevitable element of stratospheric competition. Yet, even that track, nicely arranged by … Read More “Wayne Bergeron : Plays Well With Others”

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Bill Charlap: Duets

Striking as he was on previous Hoagy Carmichael and Leonard Bernstein tributes, pianist Bill Charlap continues developing in subtlety and expressiveness, as evidenced by this adventure in Gershwin. Charlap swings as hard as he did in his heretofore best album, Distant Star (Criss Cross, 1997), but is light-years beyond it in artistic refinement, somehow managing … Read More “Bill Charlap: Duets”

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Woody Herman: The Complete Columbia Recordings of Woody Herman and His Orchestra & Woodchoppers (1945-47)

Three years ago in JazzTimes, I expressed the hope that Columbia would one day reissue The Thundering Herds, the LP era’s most comprehensive collection of the label’s 1940s Woody Herman recordings. Columbia chose, instead, to license its 1940s Herman masters to Mosaic. With its customary thoroughness, Mosaic goes well beyond The Thundering Herds. To give … Read More “Woody Herman: The Complete Columbia Recordings of Woody Herman and His Orchestra & Woodchoppers (1945-47)”

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Woody Herman: The Woody Herman Shows, 1944-1946

Woody Herman’s First Herd epitomized an unrepeatable phenomenon of the big-band era: popular success that was also a musical triumph. Jukeboxes and radio stations filled the air with the band’s best-selling records, and Herman was on radio live every week with his sponsored program. This release has a generous sampling of air checks from those … Read More “Woody Herman: The Woody Herman Shows, 1944-1946”

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Bill Mays: Mays’ Days

In 1959, 15-year-old Bill Mays, the son of a fundamentalist preacher in California, had jazz revealed to him by a god of the piano. Earl “Fatha” Hines, resident pianist at the Hangover Club across the bay in San Francisco, was making an appearance near the Mays home in Lafayette. Mays had been playing the piano … Read More “Bill Mays: Mays’ Days”

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Kenny Barron Trio: Live at Bradley’s

Bradley’s, the lamented Greenwich Village headquarters of jazz pianists, lives on in this 1996 set by pianist Kenny Barron’s trio. Barron, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Ben Riley stretch out in performances of five pieces captured with admirable fidelity by engineer Jim Anderson. Unaccompanied, Barron evokes Art Tatum and the song’s era in his opening … Read More “Kenny Barron Trio: Live at Bradley’s”

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Bob Brookmeyer New Art Orchestra: Waltzing With Zoe

With personnel changes, discipline and the familiarization that comes with time and hard work, Bob Brookmeyer has molded his New Art Orchestra into an ideal vehicle for the profundities and felicities of his mature writing. Over the past several years, his skills as a composer have converged in a creative cauldron in which he melds … Read More “Bob Brookmeyer New Art Orchestra: Waltzing With Zoe”

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Svend Asmussen: Still Fiddling

Svend Asmussen was 83 in 1999 when he recorded Still Fiddling. His attributes-flawless violin tone and technique, room-filling sound, irresistible swing-were intact. One of the greatest European jazz artists, little known in the United States, Asmussen has for decades been a star in Denmark, resolutely maintaining his native country as his home base and rarely … Read More “Svend Asmussen: Still Fiddling”

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Diane Delin: Talking Stick

On Talking Stick, the Chicago violinist Diane Delin swings hard in the company of an excellent rhythm section headed by pianist Dennis Luxion, a Bill Evans devotee. On three tracks, she floats over her arrangements for an 18-piece string section created by overdubbing six instruments. Her tone, light with a fast vibrato in the upper … Read More “Diane Delin: Talking Stick”

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David Berkman: Leaving Home

Pianist Berkman follows his Communication Theory CD of two years ago with more in the same instrumentation and the same vein-modern mainstream jazz verging on 20th century classical chamber music. Again, Chris Cheek is the tenor saxophonist, Sam Newsome the soprano saxophonist. Dick Oatts replaces Steve Wilson on alto and flute. Ugonna Okegwo and Brian … Read More “David Berkman: Leaving Home”

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Dave Douglas: Witness

Songs are effective vehicles for the delivery of outrage, and the history of protest music is only slightly shorter than the history of music itself. Musical expression of political protest reached its greatest concentration in the 20th century, which provided not only inexhaustible fodder for it but also the technical means of delivering protest messages … Read More “Dave Douglas: Witness”

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Beegie Adair: Dream Dancing

Pianist Adair is a 30-year mainstay of the Nashville music industry who has managed to make a reputation as a jazz pianist in a city not noted for jazz activity. With one previous CD for Mike Longo’s CAP label and four for the gift-shop label Green Hill, Adair’s Cole Porter album launches the new Green … Read More “Beegie Adair: Dream Dancing”

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Kenny Barron/Regina Carter: Freefall

Barron, the veteran pianist, and Carter, the young violinist, range through nearly an hour and 10 minutes of duo playing that exults in the swing-era felicities of Johnny Hodges’ “Squatty Roo,” the unbounded invention of the title tune and an expanse of musical territory in between. They explore the not-so-plain-old B-flat blues in Thelonious Monk’s … Read More “Kenny Barron/Regina Carter: Freefall”

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Terence Blanchard: Let’s Get Lost

In this fine collection of Jimmy McHugh songs, Blanchard uses his rich trumpet tone and exquisite sense of harmonic proportion to create lyrical melodies in his improvisations. In straightforward solos like those on “I’m in the Mood for Love” and “Exactly Like You,” he keeps his mannerisms under control and makes them the seasoning, not … Read More “Terence Blanchard: Let’s Get Lost”

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Billy Childs Trio with George Mraz, Billy Hart: Bedtime Stories: A Tribute to Herbie Hancock

Because Billy Childs employs his composing and arranging skills on a wide and varied front, his activity in writing music in Los Angeles means that he travels seldom and records less often as a pianist than his talent warrants. As this CD testifies, when Childs concentrates on his jazz playing, he exceeds the promise that … Read More “Billy Childs Trio with George Mraz, Billy Hart: Bedtime Stories: A Tribute to Herbie Hancock”

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Ron Carter: When Skies Are Grey

When Skies Are Grey is the newest addition to the series of albums that Carter began in 1961, when he first recorded under his own name. Like its dozens of predecessors, the album has an unmistakable character that arises from elements central to his music: a unique melodic-harmonic language; unhurried musical story-telling to engage the … Read More “Ron Carter: When Skies Are Grey”

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Sonny Rollins: This Is What I Do

Rollins radiates good humor and passion on this CD of three originals and three standards. “Sweet Leilani” is an unlikely jazz vehicle, but so were “Wagon Wheels,” “I’m an Old Cowhand” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business” before Rollins transmuted them. The ersatz Hawaiian classic, made of eight bars played twice, is an almost … Read More “Sonny Rollins: This Is What I Do”

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Randy Sandke and the New York All-Stars: The Re-Discovered Louis and Bix

There is triple fascination on trumpeter Randy Sandke’s stimulating The Re-Discovered Louis and Bix : the unearthing of genuinely interesting pieces written by Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke that were either not recorded or not released; inventive and resourceful arranging by Sandke; and wonderful playing by a collection of New York’s top musicians. The most … Read More “Randy Sandke and the New York All-Stars: The Re-Discovered Louis and Bix”

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Bobbe Norris: Out of Nowhere

Following a long absence, Bobbe Norris is back on record with her deep contralto, expressive phrasing, centered intonation and exquisite time sense. She marshals all of those attributes in “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” with only John Wiitala’s bass as accompaniment. The performance would be the piece de resistance of just about … Read More “Bobbe Norris: Out of Nowhere”

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Bobby Gordon/Dave McKenna: Clarinet Blue

Gordon is a clarinet stalwart of the traditional circuit. He was a student of the drastically underappreciated Joe Marsala and reflects his teacher’s fluid tone, the woody quality of Jimmy Noone, and Pee Wee Russell’s phrasing and eccentric vibrato. In his collection of older jazz and pop standards on Clarinet Blue, Gordon lays back in … Read More “Bobby Gordon/Dave McKenna: Clarinet Blue”

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Daryl Sherman/Dave McKenna: Jubilee

McKenna accompanied Sherman in her first album in 1983. Their return encounter mirrors a successful duo engagement last summer in the Oak Room of New York’s Algonquin Hotel. With her light soprano, musicianly phrasing and focused time, Sherman is a contemporary Mildred Bailey. McKenna supplies just the right pulse, chords and fills for her style, … Read More “Daryl Sherman/Dave McKenna: Jubilee”

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Dave McKenna: Dave “Fingers” McKenna

McKenna’s left hand, celebrated for walking and striding in a prodigious series of solo albums, provides subtle comping for Gordon and Sherman in quartet and quintet settings. The more subdued role becomes McKenna. It emphasizes a thoughtful facet sometimes obscured in albums full of his powerhouse unaccompanied piano. “Fingers,” which began life as an LP … Read More “Dave McKenna: Dave “Fingers” McKenna”

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Quincy Jones/Sammy Nestico Orchestra: Basie and Beyond

Jones arranged and conducted for Count Basie in the late 1950s and early 60s. Nestico was the prolific workhorse of the Basie arranging staff during the final decade and a half of Basie’s life. Their set of old and new arrangements is generally in the style of Basie’s New Testament band, with even more of … Read More “Quincy Jones/Sammy Nestico Orchestra: Basie and Beyond”

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Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Whisper Not (Live in Paris 1999)

The energy that Jarrett pours into two Bud Powell pieces, “Bouncin’ With Bud” and “Hallucinations,” indicates that he has won his long battle with an illness that left him chronically tired. From beginning to end of this two-hour concert in Paris by his Standards Trio, Jarrett sustains power and concentration. Energy does not mean density. … Read More “Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Whisper Not (Live in Paris 1999)”

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Louis Armstrong: The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings

The more you listen to young Louis Armstrong, the more you hear. The more you hear, the more you realize the extent to which jazz evolved from his intelligence, imagination, daring and sense of form. He shaped the music. To one who has listened extensively to the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens in all of … Read More “Louis Armstrong: The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings”

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