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Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies by Edited by Robert G. O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards and Farah Jasmine Griffin

Conversations about jazz usually resemble sports fanatics keeping tabs on athletes, statistics and historic moments. Rarely do conventional jazz heads discuss the music as a multifaceted culture that touches other disciplines and how it impacts contemporary life. But when those more engrossing dialogues do arise, the results can be enlightening, provocative and inspiring. Such is … Read More “Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies by Edited by Robert G. O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards and Farah Jasmine Griffin”

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David Murray and the Gwo-Ka Masters featuring Pharoah Sanders: Gwotet

On the tantalizing Gwotet, saxophonist David Murray reprises his investigation of the Creole music of Guadeloupe (first explored in 1998 on Creole and four years later with Yonn-De), reuniting with the Gwo-Ka Masters: vocalist-percussionists Klod Kiavue and Francois Ladrezeau and guitarist-vocalists Christian Laviso and Herve Sambe. The integration of the Caribbean island’s indigenous music and … Read More “David Murray and the Gwo-Ka Masters featuring Pharoah Sanders: Gwotet”

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Geri Allen: Mothership Connection

It’s been six years since Geri Allen’s last CD, but with a new album for Telarc featuring the likes of bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette, the pianist is back in a big artistic way. So what happened during those six years? John Murph discovers the truth.

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Stefon Harris: The Mallet Cat

As one of the few high-profile vibraphonists in jazz, Stefon Harris has always been a bit of an anomaly. Add in his deeply cerebral albums and harmonically thick compositions, and you might think Harris’ music is for the most avid jazz connoisseurs only. But with his new album and new band, both named Blackout, Harris has put some bump at the root of his brainy tunes. John Murph explains.

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Skerik Syncopated Taint Septet: Skerik’s Syncopated Taint Septet

Saxophonist and leader Skerik insists that this motley crew came together rather serendipitously, if haphazardly, but they sure project cohesiveness and character. Skerik-who’s ubiquitous around the jam-band scene, playing in Garage à Trois, Tuatara and Critters Buggin’-was in Seattle last summer, in-between gigs, and he called baritone saxophonist Craig Flory to rally up some friends … Read More “Skerik Syncopated Taint Septet: Skerik’s Syncopated Taint Septet”

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Joel Harrison: Free Country

On Free Country guitarist Joel Harrison mixes well-crafted originals with Americana songs, written by Johnny Cash, George Jones, Merle Haggard and Woody Guthrie. For this bucolic expedition, Harrison recruits a motley crew of adventurers consisting of violinist Rob Thomas, drummers Alison Miller and Dan Weiss, bassists Sean Conly and Stephan Crump, saxophonist David Binney, singers … Read More “Joel Harrison: Free Country”

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Leon Parker: Parker’s Mood

Leon Parker is over it. Born and raised in the U.S., where people are regularly reduced to a social-security number and a demographic check box, and where recycled cultural expression with the lowest common denominator receives more props than originality, Parker has had it with this country. The percussionist, composer and bandleader has now taken … Read More “Leon Parker: Parker’s Mood”

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Monty Alexander: Goin’ Yard

In Jamaican parlance, “goin’ yard” means going home, and in the case of veteran pianist Monty Alexander, it also serves as the title and central theme of this exhilarating CD, recorded live at Pittsburgh’s Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. By delivering a gripping program of originals, a couple Bob Marley tunes, an Augustus Pablo composition and the … Read More “Monty Alexander: Goin’ Yard”

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Michael Brecker: Nearness of You: The Ballad Book

Tenor titan Michael Brecker follows up his 1999 scorcher, Time Is of the Essence, with the smoldering Nearness of You, his first all-ballad project. Brecker’s burly tone and technical prowess have made him an exhilarating saxophonist on blistering postbop and funk tunes, but even when he pares down his dazzling improvisations Brecker still proves to … Read More “Michael Brecker: Nearness of You: The Ballad Book”

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Jean-Paul Bourelly with Archie Shepp and Henry Threadgill: Boom Bop

After more than a decade of providing some of the most riveting post-Hendrix guitar arsenals this side of Eddie Hazel, and a multifaceted career that includes working with the likes of Miles Davis, Cassandra Wilson, Muhal Richard Abrams and Lawrence “Butch” Morris, Jean-Paul Bourelly is still roundly ignored in jazz-critic polls. Nevertheless, not being in … Read More “Jean-Paul Bourelly with Archie Shepp and Henry Threadgill: Boom Bop”

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Nasar Abadey and Supernova: Mirage

Whether it’s jazz, go-go, punk or funk, Washington, D.C., is known for producing outstanding drummers. Chocolate City is also known for producing excellent jazz artists, who can seem to shake that often limited moniker: local artist. Nasar Abadey is both, a stellar drummer, who can drive almost any ensemble, and a musician, who has played … Read More “Nasar Abadey and Supernova: Mirage”

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Ernest Dawkins and New Horizons Ensemble: Jo’Burg Jump

Even though they’re firmly rooted in the AACM credo, saxophonist and composer Ernest Dawkins and his New Horizon Ensemble may be the most accessible ensemble to come out of erstwhile institution. Sure, they can orchestrate a symphony with whistles, African drums and miscellaneous percussion in the tradition of Art Ensemble of Chicago, as evidence by … Read More “Ernest Dawkins and New Horizons Ensemble: Jo’Burg Jump”

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Norman Hedman and Tropique: Taken by Surprise

Even though Jamaica is only spitting distance from Cuba, we generally don’t think of Jamaica as producing percussionists in the Afro-Cuban vein. Well, Norman Hedman, and his six-piece ensemble, nicely counters those misconceptions with his latest album, Taken By Surprise, a laid-back, sunny excursion. While the polyrhythms are all crisp, and the horn solos from … Read More “Norman Hedman and Tropique: Taken by Surprise”

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Regina Carter: Motor City Moments

It took some time before violin virtuoso Regina Carter released a solo record that is as sensational as her playing. Carter’s first two records sunk with the same schizophrenic sounds that defined the albums of her former band, Straight Ahead. Her third album, last year’s Rhythms of the Heart, found Carter tilling more fertile ground … Read More “Regina Carter: Motor City Moments”

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Joshua Redman: Beyond

With all the extracurricular glamour that surrounds Joshua Redman, sometimes it’s hard to focus on Redman the jazz musician, rather than Redman the ubiquitous, fashion-conscious celebrity. Redman’s latest album, Beyond, doesn’t depart sonically from his previous works, its compositional zeal suggests he’s indeed on his way to living up to all the hype. While Redman’s … Read More “Joshua Redman: Beyond”

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Christian McBride Band: Sci-Fi

Like many of his post-Motown bop contemporaries, bassist Christian McBride steadily reconciles pop, soul and jazz-fusion with today’s bebop paradigm. On his latest venture, McBride picks up where 1998’s A Family Affair left off-a big nod to ’70s music. But this time the results are more even, with a more unified sound. That’s mainly because … Read More “Christian McBride Band: Sci-Fi”

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Gold Sparkle Band: Nu Soul Zodiac

Gold Sparkle Band’s latest album, Nu Soul Zodiac, provides further evidence that the latest generation of jazz musicians is finding fertile influences in ’60s free jazz. In fact, much of the music evokes the creatively intense, yet ultimately relaxed, vibe of the ’70s New York loft jazz scene. Reedist Charles Waters and trumpeter Roger Ruzow … Read More “Gold Sparkle Band: Nu Soul Zodiac”

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James Williams Magical Trio: Awesome!

The music of pianist James Williams never ceases to amaze me not only for its sheer majestic and profound clarity, but also for how under-celebrated it is compared to many of his contemporaries. On Awesome! he joins forces with two legends-drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Ray Brown-and delivers a thoroughly engaging set of originals. And … Read More “James Williams Magical Trio: Awesome!”

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Matthew Shipp Quartet: Pastoral Composure

People who have the limited perspective of pianist Matthew Shipp’s musicality as being mostly in the “ecstatic jazz” vein, will be surprised at how naturally “in” some of Pastoral Composure is. On the mid-tempo burn of “Visions,” Shipp lays slightly behind the beat and burrows deep in a soul-jazz vibe, while trumpeter Roy Campbell spits … Read More “Matthew Shipp Quartet: Pastoral Composure”

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Cecil Brooks III: For Those Who Love To Groove

On this delightful, no-frills album drummer Cecil Brooks III introduces his remarkable group, CB3 Band, finally on disc, where they celebrate the infectious magnetism of groove. Although they don’t introduce any new ideas, the band plays with such emotional conviction that the tried and true music swings with unfettered elation. Organist Radam Schwartz keeps the … Read More “Cecil Brooks III: For Those Who Love To Groove”

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Gerry Hemingway Quintet: Waltzes, Two-Steps, and Other Matters of the Heart

Very similar to Max Roach, George Russell, Jack DeJohnette and Bobby Previte, Gerry Hemingway is a jazz drummer who displays an exemplary level of compositional acumen. On this latest album, he aptly balances improvisational guile with superb script, resulting in a haunting collection of freewheeling third-stream songs. Hemingway’s writing sometimes echoes that of cornetist and … Read More “Gerry Hemingway Quintet: Waltzes, Two-Steps, and Other Matters of the Heart”

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New Directions: New Directions

Blue Note Records continues to celebrate its rich legacy with the release of the self-titled debut by New Directions, an all-star concept group, focusing mainly on the label’s ’60s period. Under the leadership of alto saxophonist and composer Greg Osby, the repertory band toured selected cities in conjunction with Blue Note’s 60th anniversary. Now, after … Read More “New Directions: New Directions”

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Vibes: With Drawn

Bill Ware is a contemporary vibist of high caliber. With ensembles like The Jazz Passengers and Groove Collective, Ware’s soft-focused vibes exude a simmering cobalt hue that’s cool and foreboding. But playing in such large combos, Ware is too often relegated to colorist or auxiliary musician. With the trio Vibes, which is actually the rhythm … Read More “Vibes: With Drawn”

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World Saxophone Quartet: M’Bizo

Ever since the release of 1991’s Metamorphosis, the World Saxophone Quartet has found a kindred spirit in Senegalese drummers that has powered three subsequent collaborations. Although none of the later recordings manifest the refreshing spirit of the aforementioned album, the World Cup commissioned M’Bizo comes close. With its expansive instrumentation, M’Bizo unites WSQ’s continued pairings … Read More “World Saxophone Quartet: M’Bizo”

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Marshall Allen Quartet: Mark-N-Marshall: Tuesday

Mark-N-Marshall: Tuesday is a rather subdued outing for alto saxophonist and veteran Sun Ra affiliate Marshall Allen, but that doesn’t mean that it lacks adventure. In tenor saxophonist Mark Whitecage, Allen has found a kindred spirit, one who can dance around and intersect through Allen’s oblique passages without forging the melody as on the loose-limb … Read More “Marshall Allen Quartet: Mark-N-Marshall: Tuesday”

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Various Artists: Haunted Melodies Songs of Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Considering that Rahsaan was a one-man woodwind ensemble, one capable of creating striking tonal universes uniquely his own, it’s almost understandable that Rahsaan the composer would take second-stage. But as evident on this stirring tribute, Haunted Melodies, Rahsaan’s compositions simultaneously embraced Ellington’s elegance and Mingus’ brazenness that often resulted in jolting music that was at … Read More “Various Artists: Haunted Melodies Songs of Rahsaan Roland Kirk”

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Steve Davis Sextet: Crossfire

Trombonist Steve Davis continues to prove that unadulterated post-modern bop can still be an invigorating listening pleasure. On his third record, he features veteran pianist Harold Mabern with sparkling results, especially on the rhapsodic “Old Folks,” where Mabern gracefully prances in the background while accompanying heartfelt solos from Davis and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. Alto … Read More “Steve Davis Sextet: Crossfire”

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Michael “Patches” Stewart: Penetration

Michael “Patches” Stewart is a trumpeter who without a doubt loved Miles Davis’ late ’80s output. The dark textures, looping rhythms, and lurking harmonies all point in the direction of Miles’ Tutu and Amandla albums. Having for Miles’ associates bassist Marcus Miller, guitarist Hiram Bullock, altoist Kenny Garrett, tenor saxophonist Bill Evans, and keyboardist Jim … Read More “Michael “Patches” Stewart: Penetration”

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Greg Osby: Zero

Saxophonist/composer continues to reach new heights as he probes deeper into the traditional of avant-post bop. Harmonically denser, rhythmically more complex, and melodically more elliptical, Zero finds Osby investigating new tonal palettes as he pits Rhodes piano, Hammond B3 organ, and guitar against alto saxophone, drums, and bass. With each new recording since his landmark, … Read More “Greg Osby: Zero”

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