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Change Comes to Pitt with Nicole Mitchell as New Jazz Chair

“We’re really going to be shaking things up,” Nicole Mitchell says. She is referring to the University of Pittsburgh’s Jazz Seminar and Concert, a 49-year tradition that was started by late saxophonist Nathan Davis, who founded Pitt’s jazz program. Each fall, musicians—who over the years have included Art Blakey, Donald Byrd, and Terri Lyne Carrington—have … Read More “Change Comes to Pitt with Nicole Mitchell as New Jazz Chair”

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Johnny Costa: Johnny Costa Plays Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Jazz (Omnivore)

Fred Rogers’ warm presence on television helped scores of viewers get hooked on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and learn valuable life lessons. But there were other things that made it easy to latch on to his messages. For one thing, Rogers was a pretty ingenious tunesmith. Even when his lyrics were simple and direct, the chord … Read More “Johnny Costa: Johnny Costa Plays Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Jazz (Omnivore)”

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Taylor Ho Bynum 9-Tette: The Ambiguity Manifesto (Firehouse 12)

Taylor Ho Bynum’s 2013 release Navigation consisted of four different versions of the album-length title composition. So it should come as no surprise that The Ambiguity Manifesto features three compositions that each receive two different examinations by the cornetist’s 9-tette, along with one additional piece. Of course, this is not a case of master and … Read More “Taylor Ho Bynum 9-Tette: The Ambiguity Manifesto (Firehouse 12)”

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Telepathic Band: Electric Telepathy, Vol. 1 (577)

It seems like a leap for a free improvisation group to call itself “psych-jazz,” especially when it involves Daniel Carter, a multi-instrumentalist known for wild blowing on reeds and brass. But the opening minutes of “Fresh Dialect” evoke a night when Syd Barrett might have wandered offstage, leaving the rest of Pink Floyd to roll … Read More “Telepathic Band: Electric Telepathy, Vol. 1 (577)”

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The Sesame Street Songbook Gets Jazz Makeover on Open Sesame

Joe Fiedler wasn’t sure if he’d make it on Sesame Street. Not that he’s a resident on the kids’ show, practicing his trombone in an apartment and keeping Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird up all night with his multiphonics. Since 2009, Fiedler has served as music director of orchestration and arrangements for Sesame Street, … Read More “The Sesame Street Songbook Gets Jazz Makeover on Open Sesame

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Roxy Coss: Quintet (Outside In)

A quick perusal of song titles on Roxy Coss’ latest release might give the impression that she has created a concept album, beginning with “Don’t Cross the Coss,” “Mr. President,” “Free to Be,” and closing with “Females Are Strong as Hell.” While the last title is clearly intended to put a message out there, the … Read More “Roxy Coss: Quintet (Outside In)”

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Brad Barrett/Joe Morris/Tyshawn Sorey: Cowboy Transfiguration (Fundacja Sluchaj)

Free improvisation reaches its apex when performers evoke the feeling of a composition. The music isn’t written in advance, but the players communicate in a way that creates an immediate structure. Joe Morris (guitar), Brad Barrett (bass, cello), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums) bring such a form into being on “Copperhead Valley,” the opening track on … Read More “Brad Barrett/Joe Morris/Tyshawn Sorey: Cowboy Transfiguration (Fundacja Sluchaj)”

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André Carvalho: The Garden of Earthly Delights (Outside In)

André Carvalho named The Garden of Earthly Delights after the Hieronymus Bosch painting of the same title, and the homage doesn’t end there. The intense detail of that medieval triptych inspired the bassist to create a suite that also covers a wide range of moods, from gentle to sinister, alternately flowing without tempo and rocking … Read More “André Carvalho: The Garden of Earthly Delights (Outside In)”

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Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman: Time Gone Out (Intakt)

Time Gone Out reveals how a 25-year musical friendship can inspire some involved musical conversations. Pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and violinist Mark Feldman first crossed paths in 1994, recording their first album a few years later. Together they reveal a wide set of influences. Feldman plays with the clarity of a classical virtuoso who can stop … Read More “Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman: Time Gone Out (Intakt)”

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Anne Mette Iversen: Invincible Nimbus (Brooklyn Jazz Underground)

Though she has a longstanding relationship with the Brooklyn Jazz Underground Ensemble and its imprint, Danish bassist Anne Mette Iversen has resided in Berlin since 2012. For Invincible Nimbus, the second album by her Ternion Quartet, Iversen incorporated concepts from fugues, Olivier Messiaen, and theorist Nicolas Slonimsky into an improvisational setting. The results are delivered … Read More “Anne Mette Iversen: Invincible Nimbus (Brooklyn Jazz Underground)”

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Steve Haines and the Third Floor Orchestra: Steve Haines and the Third Floor Orchestra (Justin Time)

Steve Haines’ goal with his latest release was to wrap an orchestra around vocalist Becca Stevens and soprano saxophonist Chad Eby “like a warm blanket.” Along with his own double bass and a conductor, he enlisted 38 musicians for the project. The Third Floor Orchestra pulls off this herculean task, creating textures that sound rich … Read More “Steve Haines and the Third Floor Orchestra: Steve Haines and the Third Floor Orchestra (Justin Time)”

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Bouncy and Free Coexist in Jon Lundbom’s Big Five Chord

When guitarist Jon Lundbom recalls what has fired his imagination, he frequently talks about music that “blew my mind.” Three specific examples have inspired the writing for his band Big Five Chord. The first is Focus, the 1962 Stan Getz album that put the tenor saxophonist’s improvisations in the midst of Eddie Sauter’s written works for … Read More “Bouncy and Free Coexist in Jon Lundbom’s Big Five Chord”

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Teodross Avery: After the Rain: A Night for Coltrane (Tompkins Square)

An album devoted to the music of John Coltrane, by nature, comes with high expectations. A simple homage to the tenor saxophonist doesn’t necessarily add anything to his legacy, even if a musician has mastered the complexities of Trane’s style. Recasting the music in a new setting can also be a slippery slope. For After … Read More “Teodross Avery: After the Rain: A Night for Coltrane (Tompkins Square)”

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Nick Grinder: Farallon (Outside In)

Trombonist Nick Grinder has only released one prior album, Ten Minutes (2014), but the Bay Area native has logged plenty of time in Broadway and Off-Broadway orchestras and with artists ranging from band leader Darcy James Argue to cerebral pop artist St. Vincent. This wide range of experiences has conditioned him to absorb all aspects … Read More “Nick Grinder: Farallon (Outside In)”

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Typical Sisters: Hungry Ghost (Outside In)

Six minutes into “The Comeback Kid,” the third track on Hungry Ghost, the music takes a surprising turn. Typical Sisters, a trio of non-related gents, has been working on a languid tune, taking their time as they borrow from the book of Bill Frisell. Gregory Ulhmann plays guitar with a bright, clear tone and warm … Read More “Typical Sisters: Hungry Ghost (Outside In)”

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Marilyn Mazur’s Shamania: Marilyn Mazur’s Shamania (RareNoise)

When she envisioned Shamania, Danish percussionist Marilyn Mazur thought of urkraft, a term from her native language that translates roughly as “primeval power” or “primitive force.” The group is made up of 10 women, all of whom are involved in the avant scene around Scandinavia. Mazur—who, among other achievements, was the only woman to play … Read More “Marilyn Mazur’s Shamania: Marilyn Mazur’s Shamania (RareNoise)”

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Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones: From Untruth (Northern Spy)

Amirtha Kidambi’s name received a bit of a boost last year when she put a voice to Mary Halvorson’s lyrics on Code Girl. It was just one aspect of an already productive career that includes studies of classical and Carnatic music, and performances with saxophonist Darius Jones. Elder Ones’ debut, Holy Science (2016), featured Kidambi … Read More “Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones: From Untruth (Northern Spy)”

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Maurice Louca: Elephantine (Northern Spy)

Cairo native Maurice Louca has seen his country clamp down on live music, but that hasn’t quelled the guitarist’s inquisitive nature. He discovered the music of Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, and the Doors through tapes that were traded on the sly at school. By the time of the Arab Spring protests in 2011, which helped … Read More “Maurice Louca: Elephantine (Northern Spy)”

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Ralph Alessi: Imaginary Friends (ECM)

The musical bond between trumpeter Ralph Alessi and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane is arguably developing into a rapport on par with the highest echelon of trumpet/tenor combinations. Not merely a strong frontline, they’re a unit that creates something greater than the sum of its parts. That power can be heard in “Iram Issela.” After Coltrane’s solo … Read More “Ralph Alessi: Imaginary Friends (ECM)”

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Jonathan Finlayson: 3 Times Round (Pi)

Steve Coleman’s concepts of interlocking melodies and odd time signatures can be enough of a challenge for a musician. Trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson has not only mastered these lessons in the saxophonist’s band, but he’s using his acquired skills to move several steps further and develop an original voice as a writer and improviser. The music … Read More “Jonathan Finlayson: 3 Times Round (Pi)”

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Charles Pillow Large Ensemble: Electric Miles (MAMA)

In retrospect it’s easy to hear the evolution from Miles Davis’ mid-’60s albums to In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, and On the Corner. Still, plenty of listeners weren’t happy when atmosphere took the place of composition. Groove was everything, though sometimes it could feel tentative. Studio editing, of course, also played a major role, … Read More “Charles Pillow Large Ensemble: Electric Miles (MAMA)”

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Erik Deutsch: Falling Flowers (LoHi)

The keyboard skills of Erik Deutsch have landed him in wide-ranging settings, including but not limited to adventurous jazz (Steven Bernstein, Nels Cline) and jam bands (Leftover Salmon). On his own albums, of which Falling Flowers is number six, he isn’t afraid to switch stylistic gears between songs. The mood from start to finish exudes good … Read More “Erik Deutsch: Falling Flowers (LoHi)”

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Matt Lavelle & Reggie Sylvester: Retrograde (ESP-Disk’)

John Coltrane often chose his song titles arbitrarily. It’s likely that the four original tracks on Interstellar Space aren’t meant to evoke Mars, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. Nevertheless, Matt Lavelle took inspiration from Coltrane and decided to pay tribute to the remaining planets—including poor, demoted Pluto—in a series of duets, much like Coltrane did with drummer … Read More “Matt Lavelle & Reggie Sylvester: Retrograde (ESP-Disk’)”

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Jon Irabagon Quartet with Tim Hagans: Dr. Quixotic’s Traveling Exotics (Irabbagast)

When Jon Irabagon last convened his quartet with Luis Perdomo (piano), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums), the music of the excellent Behind the Sky felt reflective, having been written while the saxophonist mourned the loss of family members and musical inspirations. This time around, the mood is noticeably lighter. The cover of Dr. Quixotic’s … Read More “Jon Irabagon Quartet with Tim Hagans: Dr. Quixotic’s Traveling Exotics (Irabbagast)”

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Adam O’Farrill’s Stranger Days: El Maquech (Biophilia)

When a band takes a break during a tour and heads into the recording studio, the results can document the best qualities of a well-oiled unit. Working night after night toward a common goal, and often living in close quarters off the bandstand, the players come to understand each other’s instincts and how they can … Read More “Adam O’Farrill’s Stranger Days: El Maquech (Biophilia)”

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Matthew Shipp: Zero (ESP-Disk’)/Matthew Shipp Quartet: Sonic Fiction (ESP-Disk’)

ESP-Disk’ epitomized the underground culture of the 1960s by introducing the world to the free jazz of Albert Ayler and Sonny Simmons, to name only two, and by providing a platform for experimental rockers the Fugs and a plethora of other artists who may or may not have been ready for primetime. The imprint continues … Read More “Matthew Shipp: Zero (ESP-Disk’)/Matthew Shipp Quartet: Sonic Fiction (ESP-Disk’)”

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Anthony Braxton: Sextet (Parker) 1993 (New Braxton House)

Few jazz musicians have inspired obsessive devotion like Charlie Parker. The masters, alternate takes and airchecks, not to mention Dean Benedetti’s raw but fascinating live recordings, all prove that Parker could constantly reinvent all manner of melody and harmony. That caliber of brain merits fanatical research. Anthony Braxton’s legion of devotees might not rival Parker’s, … Read More “Anthony Braxton: Sextet (Parker) 1993 (New Braxton House)”

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Shakers n’ Bakers: Heart Love (Little i)

Tenor saxophonist Jeff Lederer has made connections on previous albums between the music of Albert Ayler and other seemingly divergent genres. In 2015 his Brooklyn Blowhards project blurred the lines between Ayler’s spiritual free jazz and traditional sea shanties. Earlier Shakers n’ Bakers releases combined music of the Shakers religious sect and the bold saxophonist. … Read More “Shakers n’ Bakers: Heart Love (Little i)”

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