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Ragged But Right by Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff

In their previous book, Out of Sight, Abbott and Seroff presented an overview of African-American musical development from 1889 to 1895 that was based on decades of research, primarily in the black newspapers and journals of the day. Their new book applies the same rigorous scholarship to the era that immediately preceded the rise of … Read More “Ragged But Right by Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff”

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Gene Bertoncini: Quiet Now

When this magazine polled its writers for a feature on underrated guitarists a couple of years ago, many of us forgot about Gene Bertoncini, probably because we were focused on great ensemble players, not soloists (this writer pleads guilty). Bertoncini has worked in other contexts, and very well, but when it comes to arranging for … Read More “Gene Bertoncini: Quiet Now”

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Charles Mingus: The Great Concert of Charles Mingus

In April of 1964 multi-instrumentalist supreme Eric Dolphy rejoined Charles Mingus for a European tour, his plan being to stay on and look for a new base of operations. Since it proved impossible for Dolphy to find supporting musicians of the caliber he had known in New York, one could argue that the recordings from … Read More “Charles Mingus: The Great Concert of Charles Mingus”

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Thelonious Monk: Monk ‘Round the World

This is the second CD-and-DVD set to be released is this nicely priced series, and it’s just as exciting as its predecessor. The CD consists of seven performances from five different concerts recorded between 1961 and 1964. Saxophonist Charlie Rouse was the constant during this period. Frankie Dunlap and Ben Riley are heard on drums, … Read More “Thelonious Monk: Monk ‘Round the World”

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Ted Sirota Rebel Souls: Breeding Resistance

As one might suppose from the band name and record title, Sirota and his cohorts believe that artists should keep their audience’s attention on the outrageous nature of contemporary politics, and that such a stance can make a difference. It is easy to remember other jazz artists who were once visible musical activists and who … Read More “Ted Sirota Rebel Souls: Breeding Resistance”

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Modern Jazz Quartet: The Complete Modern Jazz Quartet Prestige and Pablo Recordings

This attractive, four-CD box set brings together recordings from the beginning of the MJQ’s career with others made immediately after their seven-year breather that began in 1974. Between the early Prestige dates and the break, of course, was the long association with Atlantic that produced most of the group’s best-known work. Still, if the long … Read More “Modern Jazz Quartet: The Complete Modern Jazz Quartet Prestige and Pablo Recordings”

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Thelonious Monk: Monk in Paris: Live at the Olympia

It’s getting more and more common to package CDs and DVDs together, not that anyone is likely to complain, since it remains hard to find outstanding performances in the latter format. In the present case, the DVD in this package features Thelonious Monk’s quartet with Charlie Rouse, Larry Gales and Ben Riley in concert-not in … Read More “Thelonious Monk: Monk in Paris: Live at the Olympia”

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Joe Venuti/Eddie Lang: The Classic Columbia and Okeh Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang

Violinist Giuseppe “Joe” Venuti may not have been born on the boat that brought his family from Italy, as he liked to claim in later life, but here’s one thing that is true: he and his boyhood friend, guitarist Salvatore Massaro aka Eddie Lang, were among the first virtuosos of the Jazz Age. Venuti and … Read More “Joe Venuti/Eddie Lang: The Classic Columbia and Okeh Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang”

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Ran Blake: Horace Is Blue: A Silver Noir

Even though Horace Silver has always shown a predilection for somewhat unusual structures, his pieces are generally designed as blowing vehicles and it would be hard to find an aspiring jazzer who hasn’t worked out on “Song For My Father,” “The Preacher,” Senor Blues” or some other piece of Silver. It takes a real individualist … Read More “Ran Blake: Horace Is Blue: A Silver Noir”

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Joshua Breakstone: The Music of Bud Powell

As Breakstone points out in his notes, Bud Powell is severely underrated as a composer. What credit he does get (and it is nowhere near enough) is as a soloist. A guitar-trio record wouldn’t seem the ideal showcase for Bud’s richly harmonized compositions, but the lines stand well on their own, and the setting of … Read More “Joshua Breakstone: The Music of Bud Powell”

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Ian Bargh: Only Trust Your Heart

Ian Bargh, a Scotsman transplanted to Toronto, has made a name for himself as pianist of choice for many visiting musicians. It’s easy to see why: Bargh commands an impressive technical arsenal that he deploys with judgment and taste. Most pianists use one of two approaches to improvisation. They either focus on creating melodic lines … Read More “Ian Bargh: Only Trust Your Heart”

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Joe Utterback: Night Train

A mainstream stylist that not everyone will know is Joe Utterback, whose Night Train is actually his fifth release for Connoisseur Society. The program here is weighted towards such well-worn material as “Satin Doll,” “Embraceable You,” “Lullaby of Birdland” and the title track, and while Utterback has no problems spanning the stylistic range implied by … Read More “Joe Utterback: Night Train”

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Armen Donelian: Wave

One CD that probably won’t get many more plays at my place is Armen Donelian’s Wave, even though it contains some really outstanding moments, like the lovely and surprising ending on “All of Me.” There are two problems here, both of which involve the program more than the pianist, who actually has an attractive touch … Read More “Armen Donelian: Wave”

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Misha Mengelberg: Solo

Misha Mengelberg is an important enough figure that even his lesser efforts reward serious listeners. Of course, his approach often makes the question of what’s lesser or greater difficult, as at times the whole idea seems to be to make us rethink the listening process. The first track features a highly personal version of the … Read More “Misha Mengelberg: Solo”

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UMO Jazz Orchestra: Plays the Music of Muhal Richard Abrams

It would appear that Abrams enjoyed the opportunity to work with this tight Finnish ensemble, and it’s fun to hear him tip his hat to past masters like Ellington and Dameron (the more adventurous hard-swinging writing also evokes some of Braxton’s jazz band work, but I wouldn’t know who influenced whom in this case). UMO … Read More “UMO Jazz Orchestra: Plays the Music of Muhal Richard Abrams”

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George Coleman featuring Ned Otter: Danger High Voltage

The nonet on saxophonist George Coleman’s Danger High Voltage features such names as Harold Mabern and Ray Drummond, and the group has obviously had lots of working and rehearsal time; the complicated arrangements are handled with aplomb and the group sound is excellent. Unfortunately, after repeated listens I just haven’t been able to connect with … Read More “George Coleman featuring Ned Otter: Danger High Voltage”

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Malachi Thompson: Timeline

Malachi Thompson comes across so smart and direct in Timeline’s liner notes that one would hesitate to say anything negative. Actually, Thompson saves those so inclined the trouble: he is quite unsparing in his own self-assessment, offering the earlier tracks here in the spirit of documentation of a work by a young man who hadn’t … Read More “Malachi Thompson: Timeline”

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Muhal Richard Abrams: Things to Come From Those Now Gone

I have often found the work of Muhal Richard Abrams uneven. The best of it floors me and some of it goes right by, but it is almost always engaging and the musical intelligence and integrity involved are impeccable. Things to Come From Those Now Gone has a lot of variety, from the opening duo … Read More “Muhal Richard Abrams: Things to Come From Those Now Gone”

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Kalaparush Maurice McIntyre : Humility In the Light of the Creator

To speak of singers not wearing well, most listeners will have heard enough of the chanting style of George Hines after one track on Humility in the Light of the Creator and, unfortunately, there are three in total, none of which get easier to listen to with the passage of time. This was an LP … Read More “Kalaparush Maurice McIntyre : Humility In the Light of the Creator”

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UMO Jazz Orchestra/Kenny Wheeler/Norma Winstone: One More Time

The UMO record with Kenny Wheeler & Norma Winstone is elaborately arranged and flawlessly played, but it leaves me underwhelmed. Certainly listeners who pick up this disc anticipating the kind of exploratory bent that characterized the trumpeter’s early work will be disappointed. For their part, UMO do a fine job, rendering difficult passages with enthusiasm … Read More “UMO Jazz Orchestra/Kenny Wheeler/Norma Winstone: One More Time”

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Thelonious Monk: The Complete Prestige Recordings

Most of the attention given to Monk’s records goes to the volumes of great work done for Riverside and Columbia, or to the trail-blazing Blue Note sides. Some of us also have a soft spot for the beautiful coda Alfred Lion provided with the Black Lion 1971 recordings, and the solo date recorded in Paris … Read More “Thelonious Monk: The Complete Prestige Recordings”

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Sonny Rollins: The Freelance Years: The Complete Riverside and Contemporary Recordings

When Sonny Rollins’ contract with Prestige expired in late 1956, he went through a period of recording for several labels before beginning a three-year sabbatical in 1959. Besides Riverside and Contemporary, he also worked with Blue Note, Verve and Period during this freelance phase. During the entire period from ’54 to ’59, Rollins is like … Read More “Sonny Rollins: The Freelance Years: The Complete Riverside and Contemporary Recordings”

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