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Jason Stein Quartet: Lucille! (Delmark)

Bass clarinetist Jason Stein is in a major comfort zone on Lucille! Named after his now 3-year-old daughter, the album features a pair of his Chicago cronies, Keefe Jackson (on tenor saxophone and contrabass clarinet) and Joshua Abrams (on bass). Three of the songs come from the timeless triumvirate of Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz and … Read More “Jason Stein Quartet: Lucille! (Delmark)”

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Tim Berne’s Snakeoil: Incidentals (ECM)

“I’ve always liked the idea of steering people away from the material we start with,” Tim Berne says in the press notes for Incidentals, the latest album by the alto saxophonist’s daring, ever-developing group Snakeoil. It doesn’t take long for the music here to reflect that open strategy. Slowly emerging from pure silence, the opening … Read More “Tim Berne’s Snakeoil: Incidentals (ECM)”

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Nick Mazzarella and Tomeka Reid: Signaling (Nessa)

The first thing that strikes you about Signaling, an exceptional duo effort by alto saxophonist Nick Mazzarella and cellist Tomeka Reid, is its remarkable tonality—not just the sonic depth and richness of the notes but the gravitational pull of the spaces between them as well. Its free expression cuts you loose in space, like the … Read More “Nick Mazzarella and Tomeka Reid: Signaling (Nessa)”

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Steve Coleman’s Natal Eclipse: Morphogenesis (Pi)

Steve Coleman’s music has long been animated by a bobbing and weaving, thrusting and parrying dynamism. On Morphogenesis, the first recording by his drummerless Natal Eclipse octet, the brilliant, game-changing conceptualist makes the connection to boxing explicit in his liner notes and song titles like “Dancing and Jabbing” and “Shoulder Roll.” What allows this album … Read More “Steve Coleman’s Natal Eclipse: Morphogenesis (Pi)”

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Roscoe Mitchell: Bells for the South Side (ECM)

Recorded in 2015 at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, as part of a celebration of the AACM’s 50th anniversary, this double album basks in powerful memories. Where would modern music be had not Mitchell and his partners in the Art Ensemble of Chicago—now also a half-century old—introduced “little instruments” like the bells on Bells for … Read More “Roscoe Mitchell: Bells for the South Side (ECM)”

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Bill Evans: Another Time: The Hilversum Concert (Resonance)

With so many previously unissued trio recordings by Bill Evans crowding shelves and “the cloud,” it’s fair to ask whether another archival discovery adds anything of real significance to the piano icon’s legacy—particularly since the latest, Another Time: The Hilversum Concert, comes on the heels of two other Resonance sets from 1968, Live at Art … Read More “Bill Evans: Another Time: The Hilversum Concert (Resonance)”

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Louis Hayes: Serenade for Horace (Blue Note)

Had Louis Hayes merely taken a leisurely stroll down memory lane in paying tribute to his former boss, Horace Silver, that would have been perfectly fine. The 80-year-old drummer, who joined Silver’s legendary quintet when he was 19, has durable Silver classics such as “Señor Blues” (from his first album with the pianist, 6 Pieces … Read More “Louis Hayes: Serenade for Horace (Blue Note)”

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Dominic Miller: Silent Light (ECM)

ECM’s sound chamber could hardly suit Dominic Miller better. On his first album for the label, the nylon-string, classical-style guitarist milks every note, thriving on the pauses between them and the whispery effects of fingers sliding across strings. The title of the opening tune, “What You Didn’t Say,” speaks volumes. Captured in shimmering solitude, in … Read More “Dominic Miller: Silent Light (ECM)”

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Aki Takase/David Murray: Cherry-Sakura (Intakt)

Twenty-five years before recording their new duo album, almost to the day, Aki Takase and David Murray recorded Blue Monk, on which they explore some of the hidden dimensions of Thelonious Monk via four of his tunes. On Cherry-Sakura, they get back on that bicycle built for two with an exuberant take on Monk’s “Let’s … Read More “Aki Takase/David Murray: Cherry-Sakura (Intakt)”

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Noah Preminger: Meditations on Freedom (Dry Bridge)

Having immersed himself in Delta blues on his acclaimed 2016 album, Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground, young tenor star Noah Preminger makes a sideways move into American protest music on his latest conceptual effort, Meditations on Freedom. Nearly 60 years after Sonny Rollins recorded his celebrated Freedom Suite with Oscar Pettiford and … Read More “Noah Preminger: Meditations on Freedom (Dry Bridge)”

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Miles Okazaki: Trickster (Pi)

Miles Okazaki doesn’t have an instantly recognizable guitar sound, such as Mary Halvorson’s, and though he has strong ties to Steve Coleman, having played in his band, he isn’t an emissary from any movement, like Henry Threadgill-ian Liberty Ellman. But as the Washington-state native demonstrates on Trickster, his terrific, unfailingly enjoyable new album, he is … Read More “Miles Okazaki: Trickster (Pi)”

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Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau: Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau (Nonesuch)

Coming from most artists, an album like Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau would be considered a side project. But Thile, the virtuosic mandolin player/leader of super string band Punch Brothers, and pianist Mehldau, whose solo and trio efforts rank high in the jazz firmament, have departed their home bases so often—frequently in pursuit of heady … Read More “Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau: Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau (Nonesuch)”

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Tom Rainey: Obbligato

Obbligato opens with a joke: Drummer Tom Rainey and company are in such a hurry to be “Just in Time” (on the Jule Styne classic) that they begin at full speed, seemingly in mid-tune, awash in open-ended improvising. When they finally do get (back) to the melody, they offer a mere snippet of it and … Read More “Tom Rainey: Obbligato”

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Ulysses Owens Jr.: Onward and Upward

There’s such a sense of ease to Ulysses Owens’ third album as a leader, you know the 31-year-old drummer has strongly benefited from his work as a sideman with such high-profile artists as Christian McBride, Kurt Elling and Mulgrew Miller. A collection of relaxed-in-the-groove numbers including three pop-soul covers, Onward and Upward invests heavily in … Read More “Ulysses Owens Jr.: Onward and Upward”

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Matt Bauder and Day In Pictures: Nightshades

It’s hard to imagine a more personal, or personable, modern take on soul-jazz tradition than “Octavia Minor,” the opening track on the sophomore album by tenor saxophonist Matt Bauder’s terrific quintet, Day in Pictures. On one hand, the tune boasts a relaxed hard-bop riff and hand-in-glove exchanges between Bauder and stellar trumpeter Nate Wooley. But … Read More “Matt Bauder and Day In Pictures: Nightshades”

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Dan Weiss: Fourteen

A stirrer of jazz and ethnic styles as an accompanist for such wide-ranging artists as Miguel Zenón, Rez Abbasi and Joel Harrison, drummer Dan Weiss steps out here as a leader with his most ambitious effort: a seven-part, through-composed work for 14 pieces. A feast of jazz and new-music sounds, Fourteen, his fourth album as … Read More “Dan Weiss: Fourteen”

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Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet & 7-Tette: Navigation

An intriguing study in variations, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum’s Navigation features four different takes of the extended title tune by his excellent, closely knit working sextet-two recorded live and two in the studio with Chad Taylor as second percussionist. The music, which breaks down into distinct sections that can be played in any order (or … Read More “Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet & 7-Tette: Navigation”

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Jane ira Bloom: Sixteen Sunsets

Jane Ira Bloom has always been a lyrical player, but on her first ballads collection, stripped of technical enhancements, this elite soprano saxophonist reveals new depths. Leading a quartet including Dominic Fallacaro, a young pianist with a nice light touch, she commands a double album’s worth of the slow stuff, rarely raising her voice or … Read More “Jane ira Bloom: Sixteen Sunsets”

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Erik Friedlander: Claws and Wings

“Frail as a Breeze,” the two-part song that opens cellist Erik Friedlander’s lovely tribute to his departed wife, might describe his own physical and psychological state as he struggled with losing her to breast cancer (not being able to play his instrument after injuring his thumb badly in a bike accident didn’t help). But a … Read More “Erik Friedlander: Claws and Wings”

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Marty Ehrlich Large Ensemble: A Trumpet in the Morning

Whether or not Marty Ehrlich was affected by the harsh reviews of The Long View, the boldly experimental 2003 recording by his Large Ensemble, this belated follow-up is much more cohesive in a listener-friendly way. That isn’t to say A Trumpet in the Morning, which consists of Ehrlich compositions dating back to 1992, is without … Read More “Marty Ehrlich Large Ensemble: A Trumpet in the Morning”

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Ellery Eskelin/Susan Alcorn/Michael Formanek: Mirage

The great country pedal-steel player Buddy Emmons had a serious brush with jazz (as witness his easy-swinging 1963 Verve album, Steel Guitar Jazz), but otherwise the instrument has not played much of a role in the genre. Mirage, on which pedal-steel innovator Susan Alcorn is teamed with tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin and bassist Michael Formanek, … Read More “Ellery Eskelin/Susan Alcorn/Michael Formanek: Mirage”

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Stephan Crump’s Rosetta Trio: Thwirl

On Thwirl, Stephan Crump’s Rosetta Trio plays things a bit closer to the vest than they did on their sparkling previous outing, Reclamation. But they still deliver plenty of irresistible moments with their unusual combination of electric and acoustic guitars (played by Jamie Fox and Liberty Ellman, respectively) and acoustic bass (played by the leader). … Read More “Stephan Crump’s Rosetta Trio: Thwirl”

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Ben Allison: The Stars Look Very Different Today

Bassist-composer Ben Allison puts together such great bands you can’t help but regret his tendency to record each of them only once. But with standout guitarist Steve Cardenas remaining a constant through the changes, and each new group capturing you with its own distinctive effects, you’re too caught up in the moment to dwell on … Read More “Ben Allison: The Stars Look Very Different Today”

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Harold O’Neal: Man on the Street

Harold O’Neal is a tough artist to pin down. Is he the stylish hard-bop reviver responsible for the well-received 2010 effort Whirling Mantis? Or the pianist who, on a period instrument, channeled the impressionists on his quirky 2012 solo album, Marvelous Fantasy? On Man on the Street, he’s mostly a bopper, leading a strong quartet … Read More “Harold O’Neal: Man on the Street”

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Rempis Percussion Quartet: Phalanx

With these excellent albums, saxophonist Dave Rempis, an important musician-presenter in Chicago, launched his own Aerophonic label in June. The two-disc Phalanx captures wide-open live sets by the long-running Rempis Percussion Quartet featuring bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and dual drummers Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly. Boss of the Plains marks the recording debut of Wheelhouse, … Read More “Rempis Percussion Quartet: Phalanx”

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The Claudia Quintet: September

John Hollenbeck has fashioned his share of attention-grabbing tunes, but few as compelling as “September 29th, 1936: Me Warn You,” a highlight of the Claudia Quintet’s shiveringly good new album. A mash-up of reflective music and sonically sliced and diced excerpts from a Franklin D. Roosevelt speech, it basks in the president’s sarcasm in blowing … Read More “The Claudia Quintet: September”

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