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Keiko Matsui: Journey to the Heart (Shanachie)

Keiko Matsui’s 27th recording as a leader, Journey to the Heart, marks the 30th anniversary of the pianist-composer’s recording debut. Such career milestones often drive artists to reinvent their stylistic approach or overarching vision. Matsui instead opts for consolidation, the album’s 10 original compositions marked by the unwavering commitment to melody and the open-eyed emotional … Read More “Keiko Matsui: Journey to the Heart (Shanachie)”

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Hot Club of San Francisco: John Paul George & Django (Hot Club)

Fifteen Beatles classics interpreted by a long-running Gypsy-swing outfit: It’s a simple idea that yields rich results on John Paul George & Django, the 14th album from the Hot Club of San Francisco. HCSF lead guitarist Paul Mehling first took up his instrument at the age of 6, after seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, … Read More “Hot Club of San Francisco: John Paul George & Django (Hot Club)”

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Ken Schaphorst Big Band: How to Say Goodbye (JCA)

The 10 original tunes on composer Ken Schaphorst’s sixth big-band release, How to Say Goodbye, largely follow a consistent framework: Spacious opening passages segue through solo features into busier, densely packed climactic statements. In lesser hands, such uniform structure could become monotonous after just a few tracks, but Schaphorst’s melodic variety keeps it fresh, as … Read More “Ken Schaphorst Big Band: How to Say Goodbye (JCA)”

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Jorge Rossy: Stay There

Jorge Rossy’s work as a drummer has been so celebrated that casual listeners may be unaware of his chops as a multi-instrumentalist. His repertoire of skills includes trumpet and piano, and Stay There further extends his range to vibraphone and marimba. He’s joined for this 10-track excursion by a sterling band that has previously toured … Read More “Jorge Rossy: Stay There”

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Mike LeDonne & the Groover Quartet: That Feelin’

Organist Mike LeDonne’s Groover Quartet makes a soulful noise on That Feelin’. LeDonne, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Joe Farnsworth have been doing their thing together since 2004, and this album displays their seasoned chemistry, with a brash, full-bodied sound that wouldn’t be out of place on a late-’50s Blue Note … Read More “Mike LeDonne & the Groover Quartet: That Feelin’”

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John Escreet: The Unknown

In February of 2016, pianist John Escreet, along with regular triomates John Hébert, on bass, and Tyshawn Sorey, drums and vibraphone, embarked on a brief four-date European tour. Escreet’s trio joined avant-garde saxophone stalwart Evan Parker to treat their audiences to a series of extended collective improvisations. The Unknown, Escreet’s first live recording as leader, … Read More “John Escreet: The Unknown”

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Dave Douglas and Frank Woeste: Dada People

Produced with the support of the French American Jazz Exchange, Dada People is trumpeter Dave Douglas and pianist Frank Woeste’s paean to surrealist photographer Man Ray (he’s the gent glaring from the cover photo, alongside fellow Surrealist Salvador Dalí). While these 10 tracks never reach, or even really attempt, the heights of abstracted hysteria found … Read More “Dave Douglas and Frank Woeste: Dada People”

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Wadada Leo Smith: America’s National Parks

Trumpeter-composer Wadada Leo Smith’s latest long-form suite, America’s National Parks, unites political engagement with a soul-deep connection to nature. Marshaling his newly expanded Golden Quintet (pianist Anthony Davis, cellist Ashley Walters, bassist John Lindberg and drummer Pheeroan akLaff), Smith’s 98-minute work, rich with ineffable majesty, fully engages with tensions at the heart of the American … Read More “Wadada Leo Smith: America’s National Parks”

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Jakob Bro: Streams

Guitarist-composer Jakob Bro’s 2015 ECM release, Gefion, was one of the year’s most effective sonic explorations. While not as commanding as that recording in its mood-altering impact, Bro’s ECM follow-up, Streams, nevertheless finds him continuing to expand the textural possibilities of his instrument, with empathetic collaboration from drummer Joey Baron and Gefion bassist Thomas Morgan. … Read More “Jakob Bro: Streams”

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Wayne Bergeron: Full Circle

Trumpeter Wayne Bergeron’s Full Circle is, above all else, a soloist’s field day. Joined by no fewer than five different big-band ensembles (recorded from 2012 to 2015), including strings and an array of featured guest musicians, Bergeron uses these 11 tracks to cut loose and blow with all his might, setting the tone for a … Read More “Wayne Bergeron: Full Circle”

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Strut Records to Release “Sun Ra Singles: The Definitive Collection”

Starting Nov. 25, Strut Records kicks off a CD and vinyl release of what they are calling the definitive collection of rare 45-RPM singles from pianist-composer-bandleader Sun Ra. The singles included in this collection span four decades of Ra’s recording career, from 1952 to 1991. The majority of the music included here was originally released … Read More “Strut Records to Release “Sun Ra Singles: The Definitive Collection””

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Derrick Hodge: The Second

The music of bassist Derrick Hodge has been described as cinematic, and for The Second, his obviously titled sophomore release as a leader, he assumes the role of all-encompassing auteur. Hodge plays every instrument on eight of this album’s dozen tracks, and all but one finds him credited as sole composer. The result, influenced by … Read More “Derrick Hodge: The Second”

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The Fred Hersch Trio: Sunday Night at the Vanguard

Sunday Night at the Vanguard is pianist Fred Hersch’s second live recording at the Greenwich Village club with his current trio featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson. It’s an ideal venue for this band, as their empathetic interplay makes them natural heirs to the Evans/LaFaro/Motian unit that revolutionized the jazz-piano trio on the … Read More “The Fred Hersch Trio: Sunday Night at the Vanguard”

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Bob Mintzer: All L.A. Band

Bob Mintzer’s All L.A. Band is classic-style big-band music with cutting-edge origins. The album’s 10 tracks, original Mintzer compositions from throughout the tenor saxophonist’s decades-spanning career, were initially recorded for a play-along app that allows users to accompany, record and mix their own parts for virtually every one of the band’s 17 instruments. Drummer Peter … Read More “Bob Mintzer: All L.A. Band”

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John Daversa: Kaleidoscope Eyes: Music of the Beatles

When interpreting the Beatles, some jazz artists go minimalist, as if shielding themselves from the music’s sheer cultural weight. Not John Daversa. On Kaleidoscope Eyes, the trumpeter-arranger swings for the fences, his mammoth “Progressive Big Band”-60 musicians, including strings, a choir and guests-giving grand voice to eight sprawling, ambitious renderings of Fab Four classics. Daversa … Read More “John Daversa: Kaleidoscope Eyes: Music of the Beatles”

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William Parker Ft. Lisa Sokolov and Cooper-Moore: Stan’s Hat Flapping in the Wind

Since 1994, bassist-composer William Parker has been writing Stan’s Hat Flapping in the Wind, an original musical about a New Mexico couple chosen to save creation by learning to play music “made from the tears of God.” Parker has thus far written more than 60 songs for the production, and on this collection 19 of … Read More “William Parker Ft. Lisa Sokolov and Cooper-Moore: Stan’s Hat Flapping in the Wind”

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Masabumi Kikuchi: Black Orpheus

A recording of the final live solo performance of pianist-composer Masabumi Kikuchi (1939-2015), Black Orpheus vividly illustrates just how broad ranging the idea of “jazz” has become. This music was captured at Tokyo’s Bunka Kaikan Recital Hall in 2012, and Kikuchi’s visceral playing and cerebral ideas conjure sounds just as much at home alongside Glenn … Read More “Masabumi Kikuchi: Black Orpheus”

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Kenny Garrett: Do Your Dance!

Dedicated to trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, who died last year, Kenny Garrett’s Do Your Dance! is an alluring celebration of the many ways music can make you move. These nine tracks, all Garrett originals, are deeply grounded in groove, and the different styles the album engages with allow the alto saxophonist to unfurl his full compositional … Read More “Kenny Garrett: Do Your Dance!”

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Ernie Watts Quartet: Wheel of Time

Saxophonist Ernie Watts possesses one of jazz’s most distinctive tenor tones, a sound of both mammoth size and full-hearted romanticism. This sound largely sustains Wheel of Time, a no-frills, pleasantly listenable outing from Watts’ European quartet (pianist Christof Saenger, bassist Rudi Engel and drummer Heinrich Koebberling), with whom he has played and recorded regularly for … Read More “Ernie Watts Quartet: Wheel of Time”

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