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Roy Hargrove: With Strings: Moment to Moment

Melody and Hargrove’s flugelhorn and trumpet reign on this consistently rewarding recital of ballads. Hargrove’s respect for the tunes dominates the album. His variations maintain the mood and intent of the originals, brilliantly so on “How Insensitive” and “I Fall in Love Too Easily.” Pianist Larry Willis provided five of the arrangements for strings, with … Read More “Roy Hargrove: With Strings: Moment to Moment”

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Ryan Kisor: Point of Arrival

When Columbia Records dropped Ryan Kisor, the label’s loss was Criss Cross’ gain. The little Dutch company does not have the Sony giant’s distribution, but listeners devoted to eternal values in jazz improvisation will want to seek out Kisor’s second Criss Cross CD. I have heard no jazz trumpeter under 30-make that under 40-with a … Read More “Ryan Kisor: Point of Arrival”

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Gerry Mulligan: And the Concert Jazz Band featuring Zoot Sims, Zurich 1960

November 17, 1960, was a good night for Mulligan’s 13-piece band and a triumphal one for his guest soloist, Zoot Sims. Two nights later in Paris, as captured on a Europe 1 CD (RTE 1505-2), Sims had a fine solo on “Apple Core,” Mulligan’s transformation of “Love Me or Leave Me.” On the same piece … Read More “Gerry Mulligan: And the Concert Jazz Band featuring Zoot Sims, Zurich 1960”

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Wes Montgomery: Live at Ronnie Scott’s

The guitarist left his rhythm section of Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb in New York to go to London. He accommodates himself to pianist Stan Tracey, bassist Rick Laird and drummer Ronnie Stephenson, who accompany him conscientiously. Stephenson provides more than capable drumming that seems to take inspiration from Cobb. Montgomery keeps his … Read More “Wes Montgomery: Live at Ronnie Scott’s”

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Mike Longo and New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble: Explosion

This stimulating big band recording by the pianist and arranger Mike Longo is a reminder that the best jazz in New York these days is not necessarily made by marketable youngsters promoted by major labels. Longo’s ensemble is salted with seasoned musicians who share his long and balanced view of the bop and post-bop tradition. … Read More “Mike Longo and New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble: Explosion”

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Lanny Morgan: A Suite for Yardbird

An alto saxophonist performing Charlie Parker’s “Ko Ko” faces two challenges: The first is reproducing the “melody line,” Bird’s solo on the chords of “Cherokee.” It is a chorus of improvisational mastery that has boggled minds for 54 years. Lanny Morgan’s technique allows him to blow past that concern with ease. The second-and greater-challenge for … Read More “Lanny Morgan: A Suite for Yardbird”

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Jeff Johnson Trio: Free

Bassist Johnson is admired for his work with modern mainstream musicians like pianists Jessica Williams, Hal Galper and Jack Brownlow. Here, in a different milieu, he has produced the quietest far-out album I’ve ever heard. Johnson frees himself for unfettered explorations with soprano and tenor saxophonist Hans Teuber and drummer Billy Mintz. The surfaces of … Read More “Jeff Johnson Trio: Free”

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Sean Smith: Quartet Live!

The Smith quartet’s months of preparation for this live recording aboard the S.S. Norway in the fall of 1998 are evident. This is not a typical jazz cruise jam session. It is music by a working band at ease with one another and with a set of compositions that are far above the quality of … Read More “Sean Smith: Quartet Live!”

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Eric Dolphy: The Illinois Concert

This unexpected set of 1963 performances is a reminder of the bracing astringency Dolphy brought to jazz in the 1950s and early ’60s. His unaccompanied four-bar bass clarinet introduction of “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” encapsulates the reasons that the young woodwind wizard made so strong an impact. It puts into a neat and … Read More “Eric Dolphy: The Illinois Concert”

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Lester Young: The Complete Studio Sessions on Verve

Lester Young never recaptured the imaginative genius and powerful tenor saxophone swing of his early years with Count Basie, 1936 to 1940, when he did nothing less than change the notion of what a jazz solo could be. To dismiss Young’s subsequent work, however, is to ignore moments when he produced music that falls short … Read More “Lester Young: The Complete Studio Sessions on Verve”

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John Lewis: Evolution

Lewis’ distillation of melody, harmony, time and touch reaches its most exquisite expression here in “Django,” a composition he wrote in memory of Django Reinhardt in 1953 and has played thousands of times. In this mesmerizing solo piano program, he presents “Django” in the next phase of its interpretive evolution. Lewis lets the three strains … Read More “John Lewis: Evolution”

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Miles Davis/John Coltrane: The Complete Columbia Recordings

With his quintet and sextets in the last half of the 1950s, Miles Davis charted the course of modern jazz. Davis, Bill Evans and John Coltrane-stunningly original minds-set agendas that jazz musicians have followed ever since. Modal and scalar improvisation had led a scattered existence in jazz. With “Milestones” and later the Kind of Blue … Read More “Miles Davis/John Coltrane: The Complete Columbia Recordings”

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Keith Jarrett: Mozart Piano Concertos K.271, 453, 466, Adagio and Fugue in C minor K.546

Jarrett brings to his Mozart repertoire steadiness of interpretation and relaxation that may surprise listeners who know him mainly for the adventurousness and quirks of his celebrated marathon solo recordings. A jazz pianist performing classical music might be expected to take rubato liberties. Jarrett does not. His reading of the magnificent pre-Romantic D-minor concerto No. … Read More “Keith Jarrett: Mozart Piano Concertos K.271, 453, 466, Adagio and Fugue in C minor K.546”

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Keith Jarrett: The Melody at Night, With You

As for those solo recordings with which Jarrett may or may not have spawned New Age music nearly 30 years ago, there is little trace of their expansive, unrestrained spirit in The Melody at Night, With You. If anything, his unaccompanied playing in this collection of standards resembles the reserve of his Mozart performances more … Read More “Keith Jarrett: The Melody at Night, With You”

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Brad Mehldau: Elegiac Cycle

Some of the most profound works in music and poetry have been elegies-expressions of sorrow, lamentation, loss. The piano literature is rich in elegiac music by Chopin, Schumann, Beethoven, Brahms. Bill Evans and Bud Powell made important elegiac statements. It could be argued that pieces like J.J. Johnson’s “Lament” and Benny Golson’s “I Remember Clifford” … Read More “Brad Mehldau: Elegiac Cycle”

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Bob Cooper, Bill Holman, Frank Rosolino: Kenton Presents: Bob Cooper, Bill Holman, Frank Rosolino

In the mid-1950s, Stan Kenton cajoled or pressured Capitol Records into recording some of the best of his sidemen as leaders. The few “Kenton Presents” albums released before Capitol killed the series included superb sessions by Bill Holman and Frank Rosolino and good ones by Bob Cooper. This Mosaic set brings them together with 12 … Read More “Bob Cooper, Bill Holman, Frank Rosolino: Kenton Presents: Bob Cooper, Bill Holman, Frank Rosolino”

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Clare Fischer and the Metropole Orchestra: The Latin Side

Fischer’s quintet is enhanced by the Metropole Orchestra in this solid collection demonstrating his strengths in rhythm, harmony, composition and orchestration. Except for “Memories of You,” the repertoire is made up of his compositions. Fischer does the Eubie Blake ballad as an unaccompanied piano solo with three key changes in the first five bars, heralding … Read More “Clare Fischer and the Metropole Orchestra: The Latin Side”

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Tom Talbert: This is Living

Annotator Ken Borgers points out that Talbert’s writing “is full of textures, subtlety and genuine beauty.” Talbert’s albums recorded in California (most recently Duke’s Domain, Sea Breeze) bear that out, and so does this one. If This is Living has a New York edge, perhaps that can be attributed to joy the leader felt at … Read More “Tom Talbert: This is Living”

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Lou Levy: Lunarcy

Lou Levy is not the only major jazz performer shunned by US record companies, but few musicians of his prominence and importance have less music on domestic labels. While developing players of half Levy’s age and artistry have contracts, Columbia, Capitol, RCA and Warner Bros., not to mention companies that specialize in jazz, ignore this … Read More “Lou Levy: Lunarcy”

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Chuck Israels/Metropole Orchestra/Claudio Roditi: Eindhoven Concert

Musicians who worked closely with Bill Evans tend to be profoundly influenced by his harmonic thinking. That was true of Miles Davis, Jim Hall, Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane, among others. In this imposing album, Evans’ chord voicings clearly influence the writing of Chuck Israels, who succeeded Scott LaFaro in Evans’ trio and was the … Read More “Chuck Israels/Metropole Orchestra/Claudio Roditi: Eindhoven Concert”

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Alan Broadbent: Personal Standards

Personal Standards presents the pianist in a program of eight of his compositions and one by Putter Smith, the bassist in Broadbent’s trio for more than a decade. Longtime Broadbent drummer Frank Gibson, Jr. is replaced by Joe LaBarbera. The music is full of the customary rich colors and textures of Broadbent’s harmonic palette, and … Read More “Alan Broadbent: Personal Standards”

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Thad Jones: The Complete Blue Note/UA/Roulette Recordings

With the greatest justification, Thad Jones is remembered as a giant among composers and arrangers of the second half of the century. As co-leader and director of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, he was an imposing and magnetic figure. But there was much more to Jones. Before he started devoting most of his time and … Read More “Thad Jones: The Complete Blue Note/UA/Roulette Recordings”

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Various Artists: Monterey Jazz Festival: 40 Legendary Years

It is difficult to think of a major figure of the past four decades who has not appeared at the Monterey festival. Some jazz masters, indeed, were fixtures at Monterey. Dizzy Gillespie, the Modern Jazz Quartet and Dave Brubeck were among them. They and dozens of others are represented in this three-CD retrospective. Nearly three-and-a-half … Read More “Various Artists: Monterey Jazz Festival: 40 Legendary Years”

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