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SFJazz Collective: Live 2009

While there is no disputing the hegemony of New York City as jazz’s artistic epicenter, some of the music’s stronger enabling forces have bases far away from Gotham. Take, for instance, the examples put forth on two of the finer jazz albums this year, the Monterey Quartet’s Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival and … Read More “SFJazz Collective: Live 2009”

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Miguel Zenon: Esta Plena

Fresh off of garnering his mantelpiece-polishing Guggenheim and MacArthur awards, alto saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón gets back down to the business of making some serious music. No, what we hear on Zenón’s impressive new project isn’t steeped in the stuff of music of a capital “S”-serious nature, but music with integrity, energy, poise and … Read More “Miguel Zenon: Esta Plena”

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The Blue Note 7: Mosaic: A Celebration of Blue Note Records

Venerable old Blue Note Records, one of the last “major” jazz labels standing, has assembled in-house/road-show projects in the past, but this year’s “Blue Note 7” counts for something special. Here we have a versatile and hot aggregation of players, ably led by pianist Bill Charlap, fully up to the task at hand: celebrating the … Read More “The Blue Note 7: Mosaic: A Celebration of Blue Note Records”

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Randy Brecker : Randy in Brasil

Brazilian music has been in the public ear more than usual during this past year, given the 50th birthday of bossa nova and its multiple celebrations. Bossa, in fact, doesn’t figure much into Randy Brecker’s new Brazilian adventure, Randy in Brasil, but the genre’s spirit and its buoyancy can be felt even when the musical … Read More “Randy Brecker : Randy in Brasil”

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Solo: Westward Expansion: Monterey at 50

When it comes to jazz legacy, that oft-used and misused l-word, the Monterey Jazz Festival has an unusually bountiful supply. That fact rang clearly in the cool late-night air of the Monterey Fairgrounds arena on the closing Sunday night of its 50th annual festival in September. Sonny Rollins, one of many artists here who were … Read More “Solo: Westward Expansion: Monterey at 50”

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Various Artists: Viva Carlos!

Carlos Santana’s guitar style has been one of those instantly identifiable sounds on the musical horizon for close to four decades. Cross-generational listeners with access to a pop-radio dial are familiar with his thick tone and soaring sustain on Latin-cum-rock-cum-blues riffing, spiced with jazz and folded into songs whose vocalists are generally outshined and rendered … Read More “Various Artists: Viva Carlos!”

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Myra Melford, Hammer Museum, Westwood, Calif.

Pianist-composer Myra Melford has long managed to defy easy descriptors, working both inside and out and pushing her music into terrain with musical vocabulary both unique and, in its way, traditional. So it’s no surprise that her new electro-acoustic band Be Bread follows a similar course, creating an enticing fusion of free elements, tonalities and … Read More “Myra Melford, Hammer Museum, Westwood, Calif.”

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Pritchard Jade Dagger Amplifier

A single multifaceted guitar amp is, like a great sampled grand piano sound, one of those elusive ideals in the world of music equipment. While the Jade Dagger, the latest product out of Eric Pritchard’s magical custom-amp laboratory, won’t serve all musical needs, it packs so much energy, tonal flexibility and-perhaps most important-clarity into a … Read More “Pritchard Jade Dagger Amplifier”

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Eric Alexander: It’s All In the Game

The sharp-toned and sharpminded tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander stretches into a few different directions on his latest album but never loses his sure personal voice. Waxing Sonny Rollins-esque comes naturally to the 37-year old, who spins out charismatic solos while keeping control of tonal and structural balance. Recorded in one day with Rudy Van Gelder … Read More “Eric Alexander: It’s All In the Game”

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John Ellis: By a Thread

Saxophonist John Ellis first made his name as the sax foil in Charlie Hunter’s band, from which he has gained some fine ideas about how to balance body-shaking groove and brainy grit. His guitarist, Mike Moreno, spins out graceful, fleet and linear solos and thickens many a melody, while pianist Aaron Goldberg-noted for his gig … Read More “John Ellis: By a Thread”

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Duke Robillard: Guitar Groove-a-Rama

Smack dab in the middle of his latest album, Guitar Groove-a-Rama, the chameleonic blues-guitar hero Duke Robillard takes the opportunity to pay respects to an array of inspirations on a tune he calls “Blues-a-Rama.” Over the course of the track’s 16-minute duration he moves through different keys and convincingly mimics the guitar styles of blues … Read More “Duke Robillard: Guitar Groove-a-Rama”

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Various Artists: Ziriguiboom: The Now Sound of Brazil 2

Although “Simplesmente,” a svelte Bebel Gilberto remix, kicks off this electro-bubbly and hip new Brazilian compilation, the goods herein are anything but your father’s (or her father’s) Brazilian fare. While old-school Brazilian jazz and samba cling to our memories and public-radio playlists, the indigenous music scene is also ripe with genre-splicing experimentation and dance-minded mixology, … Read More “Various Artists: Ziriguiboom: The Now Sound of Brazil 2”

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Vincent Gardner Quintet: Elbow Room

The standard jazz-quintet paradigm, as cemented by Art Blakey’s various Jazz Messengers and the classic mid-’60s Miles Davis quintet, has long been an enduring staple of jazz ensemble thinking. By switching trumpet for trombone, Vincent Gardner–best known for his well-deserved chair in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra–lends a refreshing twist to a format we’ve become … Read More “Vincent Gardner Quintet: Elbow Room”

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Kip Hanrahan: Pinero

Kip Hanrahan’s evocative and hard-to-classify albums have always occupied some dimensional netherworld, just left of jazz or any easy idiomatic address, closer to the realm of dreams and cinema. Thus it makes poetic sense that Hanrahan would find his way into film scoring. His music for director Leon Ichaso’s 2001 film Pinero, about the volatile … Read More “Kip Hanrahan: Pinero”

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Wes Montgomery: The Softer Side of Genius

The 1950s and early 1960s recordings by Wes Montgomery are among the greatest in jazz-guitar history. But what of the mid-to-late ’60s albums that Montgomery cut for Verve and A&M that led to his greatest popular successes-and the loudest critiques from the jazz world? Josef Woodard gives us an indepth look at the commercial apex of

Montgomery’s career.

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