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Live Review: Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival Opening Night

This year it made perfect sense for the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival to honor pianist, composer, and educator Geri Allen, who performed at the festival numerous times and passed unexpectedly nearly two years ago at the age of 60. Even more appropriate was that the evening’s homage, MC’d by Dee Dee Bridgewater, was produced … Read More “Live Review: Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival Opening Night”

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Before & After: Steve Wilson

Multi-instrumentalist Steve Wilson, best known as an alto and soprano saxophonist, is busier than ever these days. One look at his tour schedule can confirm that fact: a recent U.S. trek with the Maria Schneider Orchestra; a date with Christian McBride’s big band and another alongside the bassist in a one-off Weather Report tribute; duo … Read More “Before & After: Steve Wilson”

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Before & After with Jimmy Heath

You can learn a lot about jazz hanging with 84-year-old Jimmy Heath. The saxophonist, arranger and bandleader has worked with nearly every important jazz musician of the postwar period, and his many compositions, including the jazz standards “Gingerbread Boy” and “C.T.A.,” are performed and recorded around the world. The Philly-born NEA Jazz Master spent many … Read More “Before & After with Jimmy Heath”

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Before & After with Bobby Watson

Saxophonist Bobby Watson may be best known for his four years with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, but his distinguished career also includes work with Max Roach, Wynton Marsalis, Betty Carter, Carlos Santana, Horizon and the 29th Street Saxophone Quartet. He is currently Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory … Read More “Before & After with Bobby Watson”

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Before & After with Earl Klugh

Earl Klugh’s music matches his disposition: warm, relaxed, gentle and thoughtful. The Atlanta-based nylon-string guitarist took a break from his sold-out weekend engagement at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C., to drink coffee and listen to music. Afterward, he reflected on changes in the music business since the time he began recording some 33 years ago. … Read More “Before & After with Earl Klugh”

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Portland Jazz Festival: A Celebration of ECM

In only four years the Portland Jazz Festival has grown into an international event that successfully reconciles creative programming with the financial bottom line. This year, in addition to more than 140 performances and educational programs over two weeks, they celebrated the ECM record label during the first weekend with a “festival within a festival,” … Read More “Portland Jazz Festival: A Celebration of ECM”

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Danilo Perez: Motherland

For the better part of his career, Dizzy Gillespie talked about his desire to help unify the music of Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas. One of his proteges, Panamanian pianist and composer Danilo Perez, worked in Dizzy’s United Nations Orchestra; in his solo career he has helped to carry on Dizzy’s dream. This latest … Read More “Danilo Perez: Motherland”

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Billy Harper: Soul of an Angel

It’s puzzling that Billy Harper rarely records for American labels. Despite nearly 30 years of impressive recordings with his own bands and those of Gil Evans, Max Roach, Art Blakey and others, this is only his third domestic label release in three decades. Fortunately, the 57-year-old Texas tenor makes the most of every opportunity to … Read More “Billy Harper: Soul of an Angel”

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Chick Corea: Solo Piano: Standards

Chick Corea chose to record a two-volume solo piano project last year during a tour of Scandinavia and Japan. Each concert consisted of standards in the first half and originals in the second. The standards reveal aspects of Corea’s improvisational strengths; his Tatumesque runs on “Ask Me Now,” the dense, dark clusters on “How Deep … Read More “Chick Corea: Solo Piano: Standards”

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Chick Corea: Solo Piano: Originals

Chick Corea chose to record a two-volume solo piano project last year during a tour of Scandinavia and Japan. Each concert consisted of standards in the first half and originals in the second. The disc of originals includes the inevitable workouts on “Spain,” and “Armando’s Rhumba,” alongside a series of charming improvisations based on themes … Read More “Chick Corea: Solo Piano: Originals”

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Kenny Drew, Jr.: This One’s for Bill

Unlike most tribute records, Kenny Drew Jr.’s homage to Bill Evans manages to breathe life into this collection of standards associated with Evans, and songs written by or for him. Drew demonstrates an appropriately sensitive touch on his original waltz that serves as the title track. He goes on to play a modern stride on … Read More “Kenny Drew, Jr.: This One’s for Bill”

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Joanne Brackeen: Popsicle Illusion

Joanne Brackeen is capable of engaging the listener in various ways. Her stride-driven arrangement of “If I Were a Bell” might be in 7/4 time, but it still swings like crazy. She turns The Beatles’ ballad “Michelle” into a meditation, and transforms Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss” into an impressionistic rhapsody. Her booting, boogie-woogie “Knickerbocker … Read More “Joanne Brackeen: Popsicle Illusion”

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Jon Jang: Self Portrait

Jon Jang plays what used to be dismissively called arranger piano. He’s a leading composer and bandleader in the S.F. Bay area who has often explored Chinese and Asian-American musical themes. While his previous recordings raised tough questions about issues of social justice, this particular solo outing is more contemplative and spiritual. Jang is not … Read More “Jon Jang: Self Portrait”

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