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John McLaughlin: The Heart of Things

New live recording by the great guitarist John McLaughlin packs an artful wallop in a post-fusion direction on The Heart of Things album. Listening to recent reissues of McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra albums, such as Birds of Fire, there was a fiery angularity born of youthful intensity, now mellowed-at least somewhat-into a maturity in his writing, … Read More “John McLaughlin: The Heart of Things”

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John McLaughlin Shakti: The Believer

New live recording by the great guitarist John McLaughlin pursue his long-standing Indo-jazz intrigue with his revised incarnation of Shakti on The Believer. McLaughlin finds separate but equal inspiration in the very different context of his new Shakti, with right-hand tabla player Zakir Hussain, V. Selvaganesh on South Indian percussion and the remarkable mandolinist U. … Read More “John McLaughlin Shakti: The Believer”

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Mark Dresser/Fred Frith/Ikue Mori: Later

Guitarist Fred Frith is not anybody’s father’s guitar hero, but a player and thinker with his own particular range of interests and ideas. He’s not a jazz player, per se, but improvisation is central to his being, with a style that resonates within the classical-improv camp, and entails delicate abstraction, Asiana and rock-tinged noise making. … Read More “Mark Dresser/Fred Frith/Ikue Mori: Later”

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George Lewis: Endless Shout

There are enough hyphens in any proper description of George Lewis, the trombonist-composer-software designer-improvisation diehard-pedagogue-intermediaman, etc., that a definitive Lewis album begs for pluralism. That’s exactly what we find on Endless Shout, a must-own Lewis recording that neatly sums up much of what he’s been up to lately, in the tidy, telling space of four … Read More “George Lewis: Endless Shout”

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Bill Frisell: Ghost Town

Bill Frisell’s illustrious, elastic recording career began with his too little praised In Line (ECM), a mostly solo (sometimes using multi-tracked layers), mostly acoustic and unfailingly lyrical project, in its own idiosyncratic way. Eighteen odd years and many idiomatic swerves in the road later, Frisell has made his second solo album, Ghost Town, and the … Read More “Bill Frisell: Ghost Town”

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Hendrik Meurkens and New York Samba Jazz All-Stars: In a Sentimental Mood

It’s no secret, at this stage of jazz evolution, that the line separating swing and Latin rhythms is a thin, malleable one. With a little rearranging of a tune’s molecular make-up and presence of creative mind, virtually any piece of music from the jazz canon can be adapted to a samba or other Latin-American feel, … Read More “Hendrik Meurkens and New York Samba Jazz All-Stars: In a Sentimental Mood”

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Kenny Barron: Spirit Song

Long the sideman of choice, pianist Kenny Barron has quietly built up a respectable discography as a leader in recent years. He could have settled into a predictable pattern, for instance, of trio projects-a format he excels in. But so far into his impressive ’90s run on Verve, he has favored roads less traveled and … Read More “Kenny Barron: Spirit Song”

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Eliane Elias: Everything I Love

The Brazilian-American pianist has been considering her roots on recent albums, drawing through lines from Brazil to jazz and back. The concept album basis takes a holiday, though, on her latest, Everything I Love. The title is not, in fact, a summation of the aesthetic program, as a sweeping statement of her musical affinities, but … Read More “Eliane Elias: Everything I Love”

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Wynton Marsalis: Reeltime

Part of the modest flood of Wynton Marsalis product under the rubric of the “Swinging into the 21st Century” series, Reeltime is an intriguing curio pulled up from the vaults. The prolific Marsalis’ workload as a film composer has been slim so far, but he did score John Singleton’s affecting historical tract on racism, Rosewood. … Read More “Wynton Marsalis: Reeltime”

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John Abercrombie: Open Land

John Abercrombie is, by this juncture, ECM’s house guitarist, whose association with the label goes back a quarter century. And it’s a quietly remarkable discography that he has amassed with the label that Manfred Eicher built. Points of consistency throughout-including the use of ethereal organ (remember the spacious Jan Hammer matchup of the late ’70s, … Read More “John Abercrombie: Open Land”

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Anthony Wilson: Adult Themes

Young Anthony Wilson has been growing up in public for the last few years, first as a guitarist in his father Gerald Wilson’s orchestra and then as a guitarist-leader-arranger-composer in his own right. With Adult Themes, his finest and most varied album yet, adulthood, i.e. maturity, seems at hand. He is often cited as part … Read More “Anthony Wilson: Adult Themes”

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Javon Jackson: Pleasant Valley

If tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson has played his part in the neo-mainstream jazz wave, as an alumnus of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, he’s also had ideas of his own to the left and right. Both directions are accounted for on Pleasant Valley, an unassuming quartet session with contemporary-minded organist Larry Goldings, guitarist-deserving-great-recognition Dave Stryker and … Read More “Javon Jackson: Pleasant Valley”

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Andy Summers: Green Chimneys: The Music of Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk, with his playfulness and profundity, clenched voicings and wily spirit, would seem a likely source of inspiration and tribute for the ranks of guitar players, that rangy, spidery species of instrumentalists, for whom fourths and fifths come naturally, digitally. Yet surprisingly few guitarists have taken on Monk as an interpretive challenge, making Andy … Read More “Andy Summers: Green Chimneys: The Music of Thelonious Monk”

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Andy Summers/Victor Biglione: Strings of Desire

Andy Summers goes unplugged for a fine, fluid duet recording with a gifted Brazilian friend, Victor Biglione on Strings of Desire. Together, they create a flexible-yet-taut two-guitar weave; as soloists, Summers is the laconic one, Biglione the more antic one, given to rapid spurts. They engage in fiery exchanges, but also softly-strung tenderness, as with … Read More “Andy Summers/Victor Biglione: Strings of Desire”

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Scott Henderson & Tribal Tech: Notes from the Underground

Roughly 15 years ago, just as the jazz ethos was changing the guard and deeming electric instruments marginal or verboten, the decidedly plugged-in guitarist Scott Henderson got together with virtuosic bassist Gary Willis, fresh in town from Texas. The mission: create a new kind of fusion unit, bowing to the deeply embedded influence of Weather … Read More “Scott Henderson & Tribal Tech: Notes from the Underground”

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Dewey Redman/Cecil Taylor/Elvin Jones: Momentum Space

Reports of the death of freedom in jazz have been greatly exaggerated. Free jazz isn’t dead. It’s only living under assumed new names, existing in another time-space continuum from the one that the usual jazz channels support and disseminate. The argument could be made that improvisational music has more of an imperative role than ever, … Read More “Dewey Redman/Cecil Taylor/Elvin Jones: Momentum Space”

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Chick Corea and Origin: A Week at the Bluenote

One of the most heartening sounds heard around the jazz piano world in the last few years was that of Chick Corea unplugging. Not to say anything of his electric (or, in his own vernacular, “electric”) forays, but he seemed to have reclaimed some artistic rapport with the grand piano, with a little help from … Read More “Chick Corea and Origin: A Week at the Bluenote”

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Pat Martino: Firedance

After finishing All Sides Now for Blue Note in 1997, the concept album of pairings with musicians of various compatability, Pat Martino headed off to San Francisco to record this intriguing east-meeting-west project. In a sense, it has a collaborative spirit that extends the earlier project, but here, the musicians cross freely over cultural boundaries, … Read More “Pat Martino: Firedance”

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Jim Hall: By Arrangement

Guitarist Jim Hall, who has quietly revolutionized jazz guitar playing since the ’50s, continues with his remarkable run of ’90s projects on Telarc. Last year, his striking album Textures proved the viability of the grafting of classical and jazz notions-a post-Third Stream effect that actually works-while also putting forth his own intriguing imprint as a … Read More “Jim Hall: By Arrangement”

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Pat Martino and Joyous Lake: Stone Blue

One could viably look at the recordings of renascent guitar hero Pat Martino’s recordings of the last few years and pose the musical question: will the real Martino stand up? His Muse releases showed an artist in recovery from his life- and music-threatening brain aneurysm operation of 1980, and his 1996 album The Miracle may … Read More “Pat Martino and Joyous Lake: Stone Blue”

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Mulligan View: The Baritone Saxophone Band

Let us now praise those souls who have long languished in relative neglect, sitting stage left in the sax section, providing honk factor in soul-oriented groups, and otherwise serving functions off to the side of the spotlight. Too often, baritone saxists are accustomed to lurking in the shadows, providing an important low end for their … Read More “Mulligan View: The Baritone Saxophone Band”

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Horace Silver: Feeling Healing

The weatherman is putting out a wake-up call to Southern California this winter. Forecast: geothermal voodoo courtesy of the freak-ish condition known as El Niño, which toasts the ocean and can trigger torrential rains, which, in turn, breeds fear into the hearts of a hillside beach town like Malibu. Rain begets mud begets landslides begets … Read More “Horace Silver: Feeling Healing”

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Andy Summers: Calling Out the Jazz Police

They may be just across the 101 freeway from each other, within spitting distance, but there’s a world of difference between the Universal Amphitheater and the beloved hole-in-the-wall called the Baked Potato. One is a sprawling hall, the other a tiny North Hollywood jazz club which has survived for 30 years. This is the spot … Read More “Andy Summers: Calling Out the Jazz Police”

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Pat Metheny and Group: Imaginary Day

The distinctive cover of the latest project from the Pat Metheny Group finds a mosaic-like assortment of tiny images, which computer users instantly register as clip art or icons, spelling out the text in secret code. The design concept offers a telling indication of what’s inside, sonically, while also enshrouding the contents. That’s apt, too: … Read More “Pat Metheny and Group: Imaginary Day”

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Eastwood After Hours: Live At Carnegie Hall

As Hollywood figures go, Clint Eastwood deserves credit for musical integrity in the face of the kind of generic musical values which have made American film music so moribund in the last decade and more. But what’s this-an elaborate big band tribute at Carnegie Hall with an all-star cast, released with fanfare on Warner Brothers, … Read More “Eastwood After Hours: Live At Carnegie Hall”

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Badal Roy, Trilok Gurtu, Zakir Hussain: Out of India

On the face of it, the world of jazz and classical Indian music might be viewed as fairly strange bedfellows. One is a 20th century bastard child of American culture, turned genius, and tolerant of rebellion. The other, a centuries-old tradition with strict codes of conduct and respect for its own venerable heritage. And yet, … Read More “Badal Roy, Trilok Gurtu, Zakir Hussain: Out of India”

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