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Russell Malone: Time for the Dancers (HighNote)

Surrounded by five budding ballerinas, guitarist Russell Malone is pictured on the cover of his latest recording at a performing arts academy in New Jersey. If, for some strange reason, the photo doesn’t produce a smile, chances are the album will, with its artful blend of blues, swing, soul and funk. For a few prime … Read More “Russell Malone: Time for the Dancers (HighNote)”

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Cyrus Chestnut: There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit (HighNote)

When it comes time to record, Cyrus Chestnut has never been inclined to stay in his lane. The widely acclaimed jazz pianist, who once devoted an entire album to Elvis Presley’s legacy, has always had a healthy disregard for genre borders and biases. So it’s not surprising to find him charting his own curious course … Read More “Cyrus Chestnut: There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit (HighNote)”

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Sean Jones: Live From Jazz at the Bistro (Mack Avenue)

Given his exemplary technique and imposing stylistic reach, traits previously displayed on an impressive series of studio sessions, it’s not surprising that trumpeter Sean Jones consistently puts the wind in his band’s sails on this St. Louis concert recording—especially during a spiritual finale inspired in part by “Amazing Grace.” And yet, thanks to a cohesive … Read More “Sean Jones: Live From Jazz at the Bistro (Mack Avenue)”

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Jimmy Greene: Flowers: Beautiful Life—Volume 2 (Mack Avenue)

Like Beautiful Life, its Grammy-nominated companion album of 2014, Flowers was born of deep, unimaginable grief, following the death of saxophonist Jimmy Greene’s 6-year-old daughter, Ana, who was murdered at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. But whereas the previous recording was soulfully elegiac, “Flowers” is often joyfully kinetic—a rhythmically vibrant, sometimes harmonically audacious … Read More “Jimmy Greene: Flowers: Beautiful Life—Volume 2 (Mack Avenue)”

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Nate Najar: This Is Nate Najar (Candid)

Guitarist Nate Najar never met the late jazz legend Charlie Byrd, but there’s no mistaking their strong spiritual connection. It’s almost palpable on Blues for Night People, Najar’s 2012 trio tribute to Byrd, and it remains evident throughout this more colorfully expansive session featuring trumpeter James Suggs, bassist John Lamb and drummer Matt Home. Even … Read More “Nate Najar: This Is Nate Najar (Candid)”

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Jeff Lorber Fusion: Prototype (Shanachie)

Even if Prototype, the title of Jeff Lorber Fusion’s latest release, is meant to be emblematic of contemporary jazz to come, don’t expect a series of jarring breaks with the past. Quite often the album’s appeal is derived from the vintage blues, bop, soul-jazz and R&B sounds that continue to inform keyboardist Lorber’s fusion perspective, … Read More “Jeff Lorber Fusion: Prototype (Shanachie)”

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Omar Sosa & Seckou Keith: Transparent Water (Otá)

A little motif can do and become anything in the hands of Cuban keyboardist Omar Sosa, especially when he’s abetted by Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita and an international cast of kindred spirits. While there’s ample recorded evidence of Sosa’s gifts for composing and collaborating with distinction, the music on Transparent Water projects special charms—sublime, … Read More “Omar Sosa & Seckou Keith: Transparent Water (Otá)”

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Jeremy Pelt: Make Noise! (HighNote)

For all its trumpet flourishes and roiling percussion, its mounting tensions and spirited interplay, Make Noise! isn’t always a brashly exuberant affair. In fact, quite the opposite is true when trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, a 20-year recording veteran well versed in blues tropes and romantic lyricism, opts for dramatic changes in tone and dynamics. Conceived as … Read More “Jeremy Pelt: Make Noise! (HighNote)”

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Corey Christiansen: Factory Girl (Origin)

No need to search long and hard here for a telling stylistic connection. When guitarist Corey Christiansen punctuates Factory Girl with a thoroughly modern and haunting arrangement of the folk song “Shenandoah,” fans of Bill Frisell’s intriguing brand of Americana will likely find themselves reaching for the “repeat” button. Frisell has long favored “Shenandoah” in … Read More “Corey Christiansen: Factory Girl (Origin)”

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Mark Whitfield: Grace (Marksman)

To find three Berklee alumni recording together isn’t unusual, but not when the gathering constitutes a cross-generational family affair. Such is the case here, as veteran guitarist Mark Whitfield brilliantly collaborates with his sons Davis, on piano and keyboards, and Mark Jr., on drums. Augmenting the Whitfield Family Band is bassist Yasushi Nakamura and, on … Read More “Mark Whitfield: Grace (Marksman)”

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George Cables: The George Cables Songbook

Even pianist George Cables’ most devoted followers are apt to be surprised by this collection of original compositions-not so much by the quality of the writing, as Cables’ credentials are unassailable, but by the freshness, appeal and promise heard in this new collaboration with singer and lyricist Sarah Elizabeth Charles. In Charles, Cables has found … Read More “George Cables: The George Cables Songbook”

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John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet: Basement Blues

Following this West Coast ensemble’s two widely acclaimed recordings, Shot Through With Beauty and Live Beauty, Basement Blues may seem a departure, in tone and tack. But as “Stowell in Heart” and other highlights here warmly illustrate, Basement Blues is similarly riddled with charms, to say nothing of its soulful allure and conversational postbop gambits. … Read More “John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet: Basement Blues”

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Various Artists: The Musical Mojo of Dr. John: Celebrating Mac and His Music

New Orleans’ historic Saenger Theatre, May 3, 2014, Jazz Fest season: Unquestionably the right place, right time for a Crescent City all-star bash honoring Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack. After all, the lineup included New Orleans composer and legend Allen Toussaint, who died, suddenly, less than 18 months later. In retrospect, the stars seem perfectly and … Read More “Various Artists: The Musical Mojo of Dr. John: Celebrating Mac and His Music”

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Omar Sosa & Paolo Fresu: Eros

Nearly a quarter century has passed since Cuban pianist Omar Sosa emigrated to the States, launching a brilliant, internationally acclaimed recording career that shows not the faintest sign of waning. In fact, Eros, which reteams the keyboardist with Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu, may well rank among his most rewarding collaborations, partly because it’s so warmly … Read More “Omar Sosa & Paolo Fresu: Eros”

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John Beasley: Presents MONK’estra, Vol. 1

Thelonious Monk’s music reimagined and contemporized in an orchestral setting? If such a thing fills you with more dread than anticipation, rest assured: John Beasley, no stranger to Monk’s legacy, and an artist who has amassed a mile-long list of professional credits, knows precisely what he’s doing. His vision for this project is bold, and … Read More “John Beasley: Presents MONK’estra, Vol. 1”

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Dominick Farinacci: Short Stories

If Short Stories isn’t ultimately regarded as 33-year-old trumpeter Dominick Farinacci’s breakthrough release, it won’t be for lack of imagination or effort. Produced by Grammy-winner Tommy LiPuma with an ear toward achieving broad exposure, the album finds the Juilliard alum sharing studio time with an imposing lineup that includes bassist Christian McBride, keyboardist Larry Goldings, … Read More “Dominick Farinacci: Short Stories”

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Andy Brown Quartet: Direct Call

Thoroughly worthy of its Johnny Hodges/Duke Ellington pedigree, in buoyantly swinging ways, “The Jeep Is Jumpin’” kicks off guitarist Andy Brown’s third recording for Delmark. There are several uptempo delights to come, enlivened by Brown’s fluid yet unfussy virtuosity. Swift propulsion and crisp breaks, courtesy of pianist Jeremy Kahn, bassist Joe Policastro and drummer Phil … Read More “Andy Brown Quartet: Direct Call”

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JD Allen: Americana: Musings on Jazz and Blues

As its subtitle suggests, saxophonist-composer JD Allen’s Americana has a distinctly personal slant. Nevertheless, this collection of trio performances, mostly inspired by Allen’s writing, is multifaceted and richly hued. The pieces reflect a wide variety of blues and jazz traditions as well as pivotal connections, beginning with the reedman’s evocative “Tell the Truth, Shame the … Read More “JD Allen: Americana: Musings on Jazz and Blues”

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Cyrus Chestnut: Natural Essence

Chordal jabs, light-fingered trills, cascading runs, robust turnarounds-no question: Pianist Cyrus Chestnut is in delightfully animated form when this trio session opens with the Joe Henderson boogaloo “Mamacita.” And Chestnut is not alone in reviving the slippery funk groove with a mixture of spirit, wit and soul, alongside two veteran collaborators, bassist Buster Williams and … Read More “Cyrus Chestnut: Natural Essence”

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Brian Bromberg: Full Circle

How’s this for a back story: After suffering a career-halting spine injury, bassist Brian Bromberg has released Full Circle, his first CD in four years and the only one to feature him collaborating, via some cleverly reconfigured and refurbished acetates, with his late father, drummer Howard Bromberg. Indeed, the album’s opening and closing tracks are … Read More “Brian Bromberg: Full Circle”

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Stanley Clarke/Bireli Lagrene/Jean-Luc Ponty: D-Stringz

Not for nothing is the opener on this all-star acoustic summit titled “Stretch.” Composed by guitarist Biréli Lagrène, it’s an exceedingly limber foray into swing and blues, a performance that establishes this session’s high standards with audacious verve. But the tune’s title could also be used to describe the album’s expansive reach, as the focus … Read More “Stanley Clarke/Bireli Lagrene/Jean-Luc Ponty: D-Stringz”

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Antonio Hart: Blessings

After hearing Blessings, soul-jazz fans of a certain age will likely find themselves counting their own. Then again, even the uninitiated may be similarly inclined. Beginning with a wonderfully evocative take on Jack McDuff’s “Rock Candy,” saxophonist Antonio Hart underscores his ties to vintage organ-jazz combos with the help of three kindred spirits: keyboardist Bobby … Read More “Antonio Hart: Blessings”

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Adam Rudolph Go: Organic Guitar Orchestra: Turning Towards the Light

Guitar orchestras are not all that uncommon around the world, but Adam Rudolph’s ensemble is decidedly unlike any other. For one thing, the 11 musicians who perform on Turning Towards the Light are notable recording artists and bandleaders in their own right, who not only share an inquisitive spirit but clearly communicate on an intuitive … Read More “Adam Rudolph Go: Organic Guitar Orchestra: Turning Towards the Light”

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Raoul Björkenheim ECsTaSy: Out of the Blue

Critics have heaped lavish praise on guitarist Raoul Björkenheim’s curious brand of improvised jazz, and understandably so, even if commonly drawn parallels (Ayler, Coleman, Coltrane, Mahavishnu, Hendrix, Fela, et al.) only serve to underscore the audacious yet ultimately elusive nature of his music. Out of the Blue, the second recording by his stellar Finnish quartet … Read More “Raoul Björkenheim ECsTaSy: Out of the Blue”

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Eric Alexander: The Real Thing

Soulful, songful and so clearly a recording made by musicians with common roots and an uncommon level of rapport, The Real Thing won’t disappoint fans of straight-ahead jazz that projects a timeless allure. The opening cut, the album’s title track, could be recommended on the strength of Eric Alexander’s full-throated tenor sax alone. Yet what … Read More “Eric Alexander: The Real Thing”

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Orrin Evans: The Evolution of Oneself

Some jazz pairings seem all but inevitable until they prove stubbornly elusive. So it’s great to see two of Philly’s best, pianist Orrin Evans and bassist Christian McBride, finally collaborate on a CD-and an audacious one at that, featuring drummer Karriem Riggins in an equally prominent role. The Evolution of Oneself isn’t a concept album, … Read More “Orrin Evans: The Evolution of Oneself”

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Frank Vignola & Vinny Raniolo: Swing Zing!

Where precisely does swing give way to zing on this collection of mostly guitar duets? Look no further than those performances that demand virtuosic technique from veteran guitarist Frank Vignola and his well-matched compatriots. Vignola and fellow guitarist Vinny Raniolo, his longtime duo mate in a stage show that matches fretboard fireworks with cabaret charm, … Read More “Frank Vignola & Vinny Raniolo: Swing Zing!”

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