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Mike LeDonne: Awwlright!

Fans of vintage soul-jazz organ combos are not only likely to concur with the title of keyboardist Mike LeDonne’s latest release, they may even find the album worthy of an additional exclamation point or two. It’s soulful, Hammond B-3 stuff, all right, from top to bottom and chorus to chorus, with plenty of thoroughly evocative … Read More “Mike LeDonne: Awwlright!”

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Michael Gibbs & the NDR Bigband: Play a Bill Frisell Set List

Throughout Bill Frisell’s prolific recording career, what goes around tends to come around, as youthful encounters and long-held fascinations inspire new studio projects and concert collaborations. Serendipity played a significant role in the guitarist’s introduction to Rhodesia-born composer-arranger Michael Gibbs’ music back in 1968. Frisell was hoping to see Wes Montgomery perform at Red Rocks … Read More “Michael Gibbs & the NDR Bigband: Play a Bill Frisell Set List”

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Andy Brown: Soloist

When programming the selection of tunes on his latest CD, Soloist, Chicago-based guitarist Andy Brown couldn’t have chosen a more enticing opener than his fingerstyle take on “Dancing in the Dark.” Or a more telling one, for it certainly suggests pleasures to come. Introducing the standard with an articulate and elegant touch, Brown crafts a … Read More “Andy Brown: Soloist”

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Marty Grosz/Fat Babies: Diga Diga Doo: Hot Music from Chicago

Fledgling jazz musicians take note. In his annotations to this lighthearted collection of vintage tunes, Marty Grosz, the 85-year-old guitarist, banjoist, crooner and raconteur, offers some sage advice: “I suggest that you take up an instrument, study and practice until you become accomplished, and then attach yourself to someone who can support you.” Of course, … Read More “Marty Grosz/Fat Babies: Diga Diga Doo: Hot Music from Chicago”

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Cyrus Chestnut: A Million Colors in Your Mind

There’s nothing quite like the sound of pianist Cyrus Chestnut hammering his way through a five chord in a climactic turnaround, as if to underscore his abiding affection for blues and gospel traditions. It evokes images of a smiling slugger rounding third and heading home, having just deposited a ball somewhere in the upper deck. … Read More “Cyrus Chestnut: A Million Colors in Your Mind”

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Jerry Bergonzi: Rigamaroll

For someone who’s always been reluctant to tout his skills as a composer, Boston-based saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi certainly knows how to write to his strengths.Hard-charging, riff-based tunes prove that time and again here, providing bracing impetus for a veteran reedman known for his harmonic acumen, commanding improvisations and aggressive attack. In fact, after listening to … Read More “Jerry Bergonzi: Rigamaroll”

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Peter and Will Anderson: Deja Vu

On this thoroughly entertaining quintet session, twins Will and Peter Anderson team up with one of the most renowned and beloved siblings in jazz history, drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath, who turns 80 on May 31. No surprise, then, that the young reedmen sound as if they’re fully enjoying the cross-familial connection here, buoyed by Heath’s … Read More “Peter and Will Anderson: Deja Vu”

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John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet: Live Beauty

Anyone who has enjoyed previous collaborations by guitarist John Stowell and saxophonist Michael Zilber will be delighted to discover that nothing gets lost in the transition from studio to stage on this 2012 concert recording. It’s an intimate quartet affair, marked by the kind of soulful, instinctual interplay that fans have come to expect. In … Read More “John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet: Live Beauty”

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Kevin Eubanks/Stanley Jordan: Duets

Melodic finesse? Rhythmic funk? An album likely to appeal to a cross-section of smooth and mainstream jazz tastes? You shouldn’t expect anything less from a recording that pairs guitar vets Stanley Jordan and Kevin Eubanks. Yet for all the signature traits and sharply delineated interplay, the performances on Duets are too intricately devised, too colorfully … Read More “Kevin Eubanks/Stanley Jordan: Duets”

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Bill Frisell: Guitar in the Space Age!

Guitar in the Space Age! marks giant steps backward and forward in time for guitarist Bill Frisell. On one hand, it’s a celebration of the improbable rise of the electric guitar-particularly the models made by Fender-during the ’50s and ’60s. But more important, it represents a terrific leap of imagination, offering fresh takes on signature … Read More “Bill Frisell: Guitar in the Space Age!”

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Houston Person: The Melody Lingers On

Here’s veteran reedman Houston Person rolling in the deep again, his tone resonant as ever, his primary focus the Great American Songbook and its enduring lyricism. Unmistakably in his element, relaxed and yet fully engaged, the tenor saxophonist is clearly inspired not only by the stream of mostly classic melodies that comprise this collection, but … Read More “Houston Person: The Melody Lingers On”

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The Bucky Pizzarelli Trio: Three for All

Whose line is it anyway? No matter. Whether it’s jazz patriarch Bucky Pizzarelli or his son, fellow seven-string guitar master John, fashioning melodic embellishments and spinning single-note improvisations on Three for All, the level of musicianship is consistently high. What’s more, the same can be said for guitarist Ed Laub’s knowing support, scarcely a surprise … Read More “The Bucky Pizzarelli Trio: Three for All”

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Teddy WIlson: Live at the King of France Tavern

As this recording from a long-defunct Maryland venue illustrates, over the course of two brief sets laced with classic pop and jazz tunes, legendary pianist Teddy Wilson was in fine form in 1978. The first set is mostly notable for its Ellington-Strayhorn slant. Compact medleys of “Sophisticated Lady/Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “In a Sentimental … Read More “Teddy WIlson: Live at the King of France Tavern”

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Robben Ford: A Day In Nashville

As studio recordings go, A Day in Nashville qualifies as a drive-by: one session, nine songs, no over-thinking, no needless tinkering. Judging from the results, guitarist Robben Ford and his band should make haste more often. Apparently, after the veteran guitarist ditched plans for a European tour album, he decided to record his band at … Read More “Robben Ford: A Day In Nashville”

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Bruce Barth: Daybreak

Pianist Bruce Barth starts throwing curves right out of the gate on Daybreak, transforming Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Triste,” rhythmically and harmonically, into a buoyantly percussive, odd-meter delight. It’s one of several performances that immediately invite repeat listens, the better to appreciate the pianist’s wit and invention or to enjoy the inspired company he’s keeping this … Read More “Bruce Barth: Daybreak”

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Howard Alden/Andy Brown Quartet: Heavy Artillery

Its title notwithstanding, Heavy Artillery has far more to do with finesse than firepower, something that’s evident from the opening track, a slyly unfolding, effortlessly swinging rendition of “Louisiana.” Lest anyone need further proof that guitarists Howard Alden and Andy Brown-mentor and protégé, respectively-are inspired by their rhythm tandem (bassist Joe Policastro and drummer Bob … Read More “Howard Alden/Andy Brown Quartet: Heavy Artillery”

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Corey Christiansen: Lone Prairie

Much like the soundscapes jazz guitarists Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny have recorded, Lone Prairie has its pastoral charms. But in revealing the breadth of his musical education, or at least a significant measure of it, Corey Christiansen draws from a variety of influences-folk, country, rock, blues, funk, jazz-with as much ingenuity as finesse. That’s … Read More “Corey Christiansen: Lone Prairie”

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Nils Landgren Funk Unit: Teamwork

The prolific Swedish trombonist Nils Landgren and his band express little interest in reinventing the wheel on Teamwork. Why bother when that wheel is a timeless mix of proto-funk and soul-jazz balladry-and when the likes of Joe Sample, Wilton Felder and Till Brönner are willing to come along for the ride, albeit briefly? Sample’s Rhodes … Read More “Nils Landgren Funk Unit: Teamwork”

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Oliver Jones: Just For My Lady

Pianist and Canadian national treasure Oliver Jones turns 80 next year-yet another reason to celebrate his artistry and appeal. Just for My Lady offers an early invitation to the party via a collection of mostly swinging performances that radiate a sunny vitality. In a Count Basie state of mind, Jones opens with the self-penned, Southwest … Read More “Oliver Jones: Just For My Lady”

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Peter Leitch: California Concert

If veteran guitarist Peter Leitch chose to make this 1999 live recording available for purely sentimental reasons, who could blame him? After all, he doubtless views this performance as a treasured reminder of his friendship with two late jazz masters: pianist John Hicks and drummer Billy Higgins. Surely bassist David Williams, who adds his deft … Read More “Peter Leitch: California Concert”

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Peter & Will Anderson: Correspondence

What’s a quick way for young jazz musicians to appear out of their league? Book some studio time with pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Ben Wolfe and drummer Kenny Washington. But saxophonists (and identical twins) Peter and Will Anderson consistently rise to the challenge on Correspondence, displaying a firm grounding in bop/postbop tradition and demonstrating impressive … Read More “Peter & Will Anderson: Correspondence”

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Kenny Burrell: Special Requests (And Other Favorites): Live at Catalina’s

Naturally, guitar great Kenny Burrell serves up “Chitlins Con Carne” on this 2012 concert date. (Would the crowd let him walk off stage without playing that tune?) And naturally among the promised “special requests and other favorites” is some Ellingtonia, which has always ranked high on the list of Burrell’s favorite things. Among the three … Read More “Kenny Burrell: Special Requests (And Other Favorites): Live at Catalina’s”

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Earl Klugh: Handpicked

No one should be surprised if HandPicked becomes one of guitarist Earl Klugh’s most successful recordings, and not merely because it’s mostly a standards collection, which somehow still remains a career tactic capable of boosting album sales. Unlike some of Klugh’s chart successes over the years, HandPicked aims to please without seeming overtly calculated. Sure, … Read More “Earl Klugh: Handpicked”

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Blue Cranes: Swim

If you sense an emotional backstory while listening to Swim, you’re mistaken; turns out there are several. The album’s press notes put the music in context, noting that it was influenced by “indelibly profound life events-the passing away of two dear friends, a serious injury, two weddings and the birth of a child, events at … Read More “Blue Cranes: Swim”

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Amos Garrett Jazz Trio: Jazzblues

Describing this collection of concert recordings as a congenial affair doesn’t quite do it justice. Guitarists Amos Garrett and Kevin Smith couldn’t sound more relaxed and compatible if they were sitting out on a back porch somewhere shooting the breeze. Bassist Greg Carroll only adds to the casual air. Look elsewhere for games of dueling … Read More “Amos Garrett Jazz Trio: Jazzblues”

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Bill Cunliffe Trio: River Edge, New Jersey

This album marks the recording debut of pianist Bill Cunliffe’s new trio, but nothing about it suggests the tentative approach that often mars maiden studio voyages. The reason for that is plain enough. Cunliffe has recruited two musicians whom he admires and with whom he seems to have a natural rapport: bassist Martin Wind and … Read More “Bill Cunliffe Trio: River Edge, New Jersey”

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Bob James & David Sanborn: Quartette Humaine

No one can accuse pianist Bob James and saxophonist David Sanborn of cashing in on the platinum success achieved by their 1986 release, Double Vision, with a hastily issued encore. The two Grammy-winners finally got together again in the studio late last year to record Quartette Humaine, an acoustic session inspired by the special chemistry … Read More “Bob James & David Sanborn: Quartette Humaine”

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Ben Wolfe: From Here I See

If you were to initially mistake From Here I See for a leaderless small-combo session with strings, chances are Ben Wolfe would be pleased. The bassist-composer isn’t merely in self-effacing form on this outing-he puts into play a group of top-flight musicians who adroitly and discreetly follow suit. As Branford Marsalis comments in his accompanying … Read More “Ben Wolfe: From Here I See”

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Monty Alexander: Uplift2 Higher

By the time Monty Alexander brings “When the Saints Go Marching In” to a chord-crashing close, it’s clear he won’t have to audition twice to be “in that number.” Other keyboard candidates may want to rethink things. Like Uplift, its chart-topping predecessor, Uplift2 is predominantly devoted to mood-elevating arrangements, inspired, in this instance, by several … Read More “Monty Alexander: Uplift2 Higher”

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Mark Egan/Karl Latham/John Hart: Unit 1

Not that fans who’ve been following bassist Mark Egan’s long and remarkable career need reminding, but this leaderless ensemble’s recording debut is yet another illustration of just how well versed he is in the art of the electric trio. While flashes of similarities to Egan’s work in like settings are inevitable, the performances captured on … Read More “Mark Egan/Karl Latham/John Hart: Unit 1”

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