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Bill Charlap Trio: Notes From New York

It’s worth remembering that no artist is constantly obligated to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes, just making a really great wheel can be an accomplishment in itself. And while no one would say Notes From New York, the new outing from the Bill Charlap Trio, represents a paradigm shift in the piano-trio canon, it’s an album … Read More “Bill Charlap Trio: Notes From New York”

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Anthony Wilson: Frogtown

Anthony Wilson’s Frogtown, dusted with rootsy Americana, is like strong coffee with cream and sugar-a bracing mixture of bitter and sweet. This collection of 13 tracks, almost all composed by Wilson, also explores fresh performance territory, as a half-dozen of these tunes showcase the guitarist singing his own lyrics. Wilson’s voice is gritty but tender, … Read More “Anthony Wilson: Frogtown”

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Seamus Blake: Superconductor

Superconductor, Seamus Blake’s eighth album as a leader, finds the saxophonist-composer serving diverse dictates from his considerable muse. The album intermingles three orchestral tunes, featuring rich eight-piece arrangements by Guillermo Klein and conductor Vickie Yang, with six tracks driven by electronic keyboards and the sonic possibilities of the EWI (electronic wind instrument). “Sofa Song,” the … Read More “Seamus Blake: Superconductor”

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Matt Wilson’s Big Happy Family: Beginning of a Memory

The jazz funeral is a time-honored tradition, but it’s seldom been more exultant or moving than on Matt Wilson’s Beginning of a Memory. The drummer’s first album as leader since the death of his wife, Felicia, in 2014, this recording unites Wilson’s Arts & Crafts and Christmas Tree-O ensembles, as well as his eponymous quartet. … Read More “Matt Wilson’s Big Happy Family: Beginning of a Memory”

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Jim Rotondi: Dark Blue

Trumpeter/flugelhornist Jim Rotondi’s Dark Blue boasts an urbane, broad-shouldered sound that is fast becoming the hallmark of the Smoke Sessions label. Throughout these 10 tracks, Rotondi and his bandmates (vibraphonist Joe Locke, pianist David Hazeltine, bassist David Wong and drummer Carl Allen) interact with an offhand elegance you’d be happy to find yourself taking in … Read More “Jim Rotondi: Dark Blue”

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Amina Figarova: Blue Whisper

On Blue Whisper, her 13th recording as a leader, pianist-composer Amina Figarova mingles rhythmic strength with ardent poignancy. These 10 tracks, all composed and arranged by Figarova, are coaxed into being by a subtly shifting cast of musicians, all of whom respond with zeal to the earnest emotional force governing their bandleader’s sensibility. Blue Whisper … Read More “Amina Figarova: Blue Whisper”

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Gil-Scott Heron: Black Wax

The films of Robert Mugge engage crucially not only with the sounds but also the philosophies of the artists whose work they explore, and it is difficult to imagine two more philosophically engaged artists than the incendiary songwriter/vocalist Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011) and the exploratory keyboardist, composer and bandleader Sun Ra (1914-1993). In two classic documentaries, … Read More “Gil-Scott Heron: Black Wax

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Pete McCann: Range

On Range, his fifth recording as a leader, longtime New York guitarist Pete McCann pushes his compositional gifts beyond their outer limits. The aesthetic gambits packed into these 10 originals don’t always make for casual listening, but the resultant album is nevertheless an intriguing, largely rewarding experience. “Dyad Changes” solidly exemplifies McCann’s exploratory spirit. Influenced … Read More “Pete McCann: Range”

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Najee: You. Me and Forever

Even during smooth-jazz’s ’80s and ’90s commerical peak, Najee’s skills as an improviser allowed him to rise above the pack. Those chops are on strong display on You, Me and Forever, his 16th original release as leader, and the saxophonist/flutist’s sheer prowess helps the program overcome its sometimes pedestrian composing. The album crests with the … Read More “Najee: You. Me and Forever”

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Rotem Sivan Trio: A New Dance

On A New Dance, guitarist-composer Rotem Sivan and his musicians, bassist Haggai Cohen-Milo and drummer Colin Stranahan, weave 10 tracks of such hushed, bittersweet warmth that their intricacies may sneak up on you. Sivan’s singular combination of impressive technical agility with a disarmingly delicate tone results in a sound mellow enough to make pleasant background … Read More “Rotem Sivan Trio: A New Dance”

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ACT: ACT II

The spirit of collaboration suffuses Act II, the sophomore release from New York-based trio Act. Five of this album’s eight tracks were written by bassist Harish Raghavan, the other three by tenor saxophonist Ben Wendel; drummer Nate Wood also recorded, mastered and mixed the album. This synergistic approach likewise graces the band’s music, which is … Read More “ACT: ACT II”

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Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth by Josef Woodard

Josef Woodard’s Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth is an unauthorized biography. But it’s hard to imagine any authorized volume providing richer perspectives on one of jazz’s living visionaries. A longtime contributor to a broad range of publications (including JazzTimes), Woodard grew up and lives in Santa Barbara, Calif. This brought him into the orbit … Read More “Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth by Josef Woodard”

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Andy Sheppard: Surrounded by Sea

Impressionistic yet suffused with piercing emotional clarity, veteran British saxophonist Andy Sheppard’s quartet recording Surrounded by Sea is one of the year’s most affecting albums. Guitarist Eivind Aarset, bassist Michel Benita and drummer Sebastian Rochford join Sheppard for a dozen tracks (half composed by the saxophonist) that, like the sea itself, marry titanic power with … Read More “Andy Sheppard: Surrounded by Sea”

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Microgroove: Forays Into Other Music by John Corbett

John Corbett’s Microgroove: Forays Into Other Music is a sprawling meander through the multi-tiered world of “alternative” musics, encompassing jazz, rock, blues, avant-classical and literary and visual art forms whose materials and methods comment on aspects of musicality. The far-ranging scope of the 53 essays and interviews collected in these nearly 500 pages, dating from … Read More “Microgroove: Forays Into Other Music by John Corbett”

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John Ellis & Double Wide: Charm

If you’re curious what marvels await you on John Ellis & Double-Wide’s Charm, consider the title, along with the fact that this is the quintet’s third album. Tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Ellis’ latest is a heady stew of unparalleled musicianship and melodic inspiration. The bulk of Charm‘s tracks were written by Ellis during a Make Jazz Fellowship … Read More “John Ellis & Double Wide: Charm”

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Ahmad Jamal: Live in Marciac: August 5, 2014

Recorded at Jazz in Marciac, one of the music’s signal European venues, pianist-composer Ahmad Jamal’s latest live offering, a CD/DVD package, is an effervescent feast. Jamal may be 85, but this set’s energy and creative range suggest that his ability to bend time to his will extends far beyond the piano. Joined by bassist Reginald … Read More “Ahmad Jamal: Live in Marciac: August 5, 2014”

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Brian Charette: Alphabet City

Organist Brian Charette mingles jazz, old-school soul and psychedelia on Alphabet City, his ninth recording as a leader. Joined by guitarist Will Bernard and drummer Rudy Royston, Charette presents a dozen original compositions that groove and soothe about as often as they challenge and provoke the ear. As writer and instrumentalist, Charette is at his … Read More “Brian Charette: Alphabet City”

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Brian Landrus Trio: The Deep Below

Multi-instrumentalist Brian Landrus continues to assert the low woodwinds’ vitality on his trio outing The Deep Below. Joined by bassist Lonnie Plaxico and drummer Billy Hart, who previously backed Landrus on the 2011 quartet recording Traverse, Landrus displays formidable chops as both a composer (he wrote or co-wrote 11 of this album’s 14 tracks) and … Read More “Brian Landrus Trio: The Deep Below”

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Terell Stafford: BrotherLee Love: Celebrating Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan’s status as one of hard bop’s masters of the trumpet is beyond question, but his gifts as a composer have perhaps never been given their due. Fellow brass man Terell Stafford’s tribute collection, BrotherLee Love</ i>, produced by bassist John Clayton, stands as a corrective to this slight, its foregrounding of Morgan originals … Read More “Terell Stafford: BrotherLee Love: Celebrating Lee Morgan”

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Wild Bill Davison: The Jazz Giants

A new CD reissue of the 1968 inaugural release from Canada-based Sackville Records, The Jazz Giants is a collection of standards socked home with style and consummate professionalism by a hard-driving team of veterans. The band, recorded only this once, was assembled for a stand at Toronto’s celebrated Colonial Tavern, but judging by the effortlessly … Read More “Wild Bill Davison: The Jazz Giants”

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Listen to This: Miles Davis and Bitches Brew by Victor Svorinch

It is surprising that Victor Svorinich’s Listen to This: Miles Davis and Bitches Brew is the first full-length book devoted to examining the 1970 double-album that set the trumpeter on a electrified path from which he never wavered until his death in 1991. Fortunately, Kean University music instructor Svorinich, whose previous work has examined electric … Read MoreListen to This: Miles Davis and Bitches Brew by Victor Svorinch”

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Charles McPherson: The Journey

A mainstay of the jazz scene since the early 1960s, when he embarked on a 12-year stint playing with Charles Mingus, alto saxophonist and composer Charles McPherson burns the bop torch brightly on The Journey, his 24th album as leader. This collection of original compositions and standards serves up classic small-group jazz-hard swinging, melodically inventive … Read More “Charles McPherson: The Journey”

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Hypercolor: Hypercolor

Although they have been performing together for eight years now, the New York avant-garde trio Hypercolor released their self-titled debut recording early this year. It was worth the wait, as the band-guitarist Eyal Maoz, bassist James Ilgenfritz and drummer Lukas Ligeti-lets fly with a rough-edged, wildly inventive amalgam of punkish melodic provocation and rhythmic adventurism … Read More “Hypercolor: Hypercolor”

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Marquis Hill: Modern Flows EP Vol. 1

Chicago-raised trumpeter Marquis Hill, winner of last year’s Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, displays his compositional prowess along with his chops on his fourth recording as a leader, Modern Flows EP Vol. 1. Its 10 original compositions burst with equal parts passion and sophistication, the entire outing suffused with a strong and appealing sense of … Read More “Marquis Hill: Modern Flows EP Vol. 1”

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