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Gerald Cleaver & Violet Hour: Live at Firehouse 12 (Sunnyside)

If you were lucky enough to have caught drummer Gerald Cleaver’s Violet Hour ensemble at one of its gigs 15 or so years ago, you know the sextet was jake in the vehemence department. The Gerald Cleaver’s Detroit album, recorded at Brooklyn’s Barbès in 2006, illustrates the group’s collective hard-bop charisma. This new disc from … Read More “Gerald Cleaver & Violet Hour: Live at Firehouse 12 (Sunnyside)”

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Nick Dunston: Atlantic Extraction (Out of Your Head)

Nick Dunston didn’t have a particular ensemble sound in his head when he built his new quintet last year. He just hoped a handful of committed improvisers would naturally morph into a working band, sharing their savvy and collectively shaping a music that deep-sixed the constraints of idiom. Guess what? Dude’s dream came true. Atlantic Extraction’s … Read More “Nick Dunston: Atlantic Extraction (Out of Your Head)”

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Mario Pavone’s Dialect Trio: Philosophy (Clean Feed)

Mario Pavone places the airiest ballad next to the feistiest rocker on his new Dialect Trio album, and the shifting temperament between “Circles” and “The Beginning” is a telling synopsis of the group’s intentions, as well as a revealing snapshot of the disc’s rhythmic landscape. The band uses a jeweler’s eye to conflate abstraction and … Read More “Mario Pavone’s Dialect Trio: Philosophy (Clean Feed)”

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Anat Cohen Tentet: Triple Helix (Anzic)

Few musical ploys are as riveting as intricacy, especially when the ensemble at hand is sizable. But without a wealth of eloquence in play, elaboration can be its own worst enemy, a knot of tangles void of emotion. Anat Cohen knows this, and though her Tentet’s second album boasts some truly formidable crossweaves, there’s seldom … Read More “Anat Cohen Tentet: Triple Helix (Anzic)”

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Newport Jazz Festival 2019: 10 Artists Make Their Picks

Summer is all business for jazz musicians. Airports, hotels, club stints, camp gigs —the road delivers the perks of building new audiences and visiting far-flung locales, but it’s also a draining whirl that often bars rest, family, and friends. That’s why festivals are so special. Arguably, the Newport Jazz Festival is the most special of them … Read More “Newport Jazz Festival 2019: 10 Artists Make Their Picks”

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Jeff Williams: Bloom (Whirlwind)

Listening to Bloom reminds me of my first encounters with Ralph Peterson’s Triangular. Both records are drummer-led trio affairs, with an upcoming pianist busting moves that wax communal while stealing the show a bit. JazzTimes readers probably recall the pianist on Peterson’s 1989 jewel: Geri Allen. Carmen Staaf fans, a growth demographic, will be happy to learn that … Read More “Jeff Williams: Bloom (Whirlwind)”

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Larry Grenadier: The Gleaners (ECM)

Memories: While listening to Brad Mehldau’s early discs, I fully recall being knocked out by Larry Grenadier’s blend of poetry and pragmatism. The bassist’s solos would occasionally emerge from the trio’s exchanges, adding buoyancy while delivering an imposing yet inviting spirit. Fast-forward a quarter century and the first solo bass album by Grenadier pulls off … Read More “Larry Grenadier: The Gleaners (ECM)”

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Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom: Glitter Wolf (Royal Potato Family)

You could almost see it coming. Boom Tic Boom’s four previous records were like bread crumbs leading longtime listeners to this new jewel. On its 2010 debut the band documented itself as a trio (albeit with a one-track visit from fellow traveler Jenny Scheinman). Bassist Todd Sickafoose and pianist Myra Melford were all drummer Allison … Read More “Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom: Glitter Wolf (Royal Potato Family)”

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Russ Lossing: Changes (SteepleChase)

Russ Lossing’s career is centered on writing and playing his own music, but he’s intermittently addressed our ever-growing jazz canon with the kind of insight that can only be honed by decades of improvising. Check the pianist’s takes on Sonny Rollins’ “Pent Up House,” Andrew Hill’s “Awake,” or Paul Motian’s “Dance” for a clear view of … Read More “Russ Lossing: Changes (SteepleChase)”

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Ben Allison: Quiet Revolution (Sonic Camera)

Valuable chunks of the jazz canon go undistinguished—no doubt about that. But while the process of honoring the classics may be forever heroic, there’s no guarantee that listeners will be engaged by past glories. To make hay with yesteryear, artists must imbue the tunes with a personal vision. Sometimes that means upending the originals, sometimes … Read More “Ben Allison: Quiet Revolution (Sonic Camera)”

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Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty (Sunnyside)

All music has a presence, but there’s a certain level of respect saved for pieces that prove their value by surrounding, engulfing, and perhaps even altering listeners. The emotional wallop that’s central to Harriet Tubman’s latest program has a deeper impact than lots of improv-slanted discs I’ve heard of late. In a fierce blend of … Read More “Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty (Sunnyside)”

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Charlie Haden & Brad Mehldau: Long Ago and Far Away (Impulse!)

It starts with a few irreverent tickles. Just three minutes into Bird’s “Au Privave,” Brad Mehldau gives his muse the green light, messes around with a spray of notes, and we’re off into a chatty conversation where blithe trills are grounded by buoyant thumps—meaning informality has just as much bearing on this entertaining exchange as … Read More “Charlie Haden & Brad Mehldau: Long Ago and Far Away (Impulse!)”

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Chris Lightcap: Superette (Royal Potato Family)

Chipping away at musty genres and sculpting the scraps to suit a recombinant vision has been a jazz strategy for decades now, but occasionally, a record comes along that nails the art of the blend with enough inspiration to sound truly novel. Should’ve figured that Chris Lightcap would be one guy who could pull it … Read More “Chris Lightcap: Superette (Royal Potato Family)”

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Top 10 Moments of the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival

Wandering the grounds of Fort Adams during the Newport Jazz Festival is like cruising through a mixtape that a perceptive pal made for you. The selections are inspired, the change-ups come fast, and surprises await. This year’s three-day event, sponsored by Natixis Investment Managers (shout-out to any entity that dumps loot into the laps of … Read More “Top 10 Moments of the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival”

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