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Borderlands Trio – Stephan Crump/Kris Davis/Eric McPherson: Asteroidea (Intakt)

Free improvisation requires musicians to make numerous quick decisions, such as knowing when to bring the music to a collective halt rather than letting it continue down a new path. Borderlands Trio—pianist Kris Davis, bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Eric McPherson—explores this idea from several angles on its first recording. In “Carnaval Hill” the trio … Read More “Borderlands Trio – Stephan Crump/Kris Davis/Eric McPherson: Asteroidea (Intakt)”

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Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway: Just Friends (Resonance)

Eddie Daniels left his tenor sax in the case during the 1980s and devoted more time to his clarinet. The move paid off, and he pushed the instrument into new territories far beyond its typically honored tradition. There are moments on this recording, during his original “Reverie for a Rainy Day,” where Daniels creates such … Read More “Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway: Just Friends (Resonance)”

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Chicago/London Underground: A Night Walking Through Mirrors (Cuneiform)

Twenty years ago, cornetist Rob Mazurek and drummer Chad Taylor began playing under the moniker Chicago Underground Collective. Players came and went, and the name was amended to the Chicago Underground Duo when it became clear the pair generated the core concept. Their albums reveal a rapport that has developed over many years, with unique … Read More “Chicago/London Underground: A Night Walking Through Mirrors (Cuneiform)”

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Jason Kao Hwang: Sing House (Euonymus)

Jason Kao Hwang isn’t the only violinist using his instrument in a context that relies equally on free improvisation and composition. But Sing House amply demonstrates the singular blend of passion and control he brings to the intersection. He’s capable of attacking his instrument in a visceral manner akin to free-jazz horn players, but even … Read More “Jason Kao Hwang: Sing House (Euonymus)”

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Amir ElSaffar Rivers of Sound: Not Two (New Amsterdam)

Cecil Taylor’s occasionally raucous large ensembles might not evoke a confluence of diverse musics flowing into a bigger concept. But trumpeter Amir ElSaffar cites his time in Taylor’s big band as one inspiration for Rivers of Sound. This 17-piece orchestra combines the sonorities of Western instruments (trumpet, reeds, English horn, cello, violin, vibraphone) with oud, … Read More “Amir ElSaffar Rivers of Sound: Not Two (New Amsterdam)”

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Diego Barber: One Minute Later (Sunnyside)

When Diego Barber began studying guitar, he focused on classical music. Jazz has only showed up on his radar in the past decade, taking over when the native of the Canary Islands moved to New York City. He has retained the impeccable tone and strikingly precise technique of a classical player. When he rapidly plucks … Read More “Diego Barber: One Minute Later (Sunnyside)”

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Review: Two Albums From Oliver Lake

JOSEPH BOWIE & OLIVER LAKE Live at ‘A Space’ 1976 (Sackville/Delmark) OLIVER LAKE FEATURING FLUX QUARTET Right Up On (Passin’ Thru) In his years between co-founding the Black Artists Group in St. Louis and the World Saxophone Quartet, Oliver Lake had already developed a unique voice on the alto saxophone and an equally original approach … Read More “Review: Two Albums From Oliver Lake”

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Dan Tepfer Trio: Eleven Cages (Sunnyside)

Pianist Dan Tepfer led an earlier trio through Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” on 2009’s Oxygen, so a version of Beyoncé’s mega-hit “Single Ladies” shouldn’t come as much of a shock here. The surprise lies in the way the band adapts the song to the piano-trio format, without any trace of irony. Bassist Thomas Morgan and … Read More “Dan Tepfer Trio: Eleven Cages (Sunnyside)”

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Before & After: Jeff Parker

“I always describe myself as a frustrated bebop guitar player. That’s kind of where my heart is. One day I’ll make a bebop record, I think,” Jeff Parker says. This comment might come as a surprise to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the guitarist’s vast output, especially his work as a longtime member … Read More “Before & After: Jeff Parker”

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Alex Cline’s Flower Garden Orchestra: Oceans of Vows (Cryptogramophone)

One cannot fully comprehend the depths of Buddhist philosophy through a quick read on the subject. The collection of Mahayana Buddhist scriptures often referred to as the Flower Garland Discourse usually numbers over 1,000 pages when it’s translated into English. Casual reading it is not. In keeping with that idea, Oceans of Vows, percussionist Alex … Read More “Alex Cline’s Flower Garden Orchestra: Oceans of Vows (Cryptogramophone)”

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The Jazz Passengers: Still Life With Trouble (Thirsty Ear)

The Jazz Passengers have proven to be one of the most enduring bands to come out of the original Downtown New York scene. In their 30-year history they’ve also been a remarkably versatile outfit, blowing free one minute, revitalizing hard bop the next and finally transforming into the classiest of lounge acts with no less … Read More “The Jazz Passengers: Still Life With Trouble (Thirsty Ear)”

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Chris Potter: The Dreamer Is the Dream (ECM)

On each of his three ECM albums, saxophonist and composer Chris Potter has gone into the studio with different concepts. The Dreamer Is the Dream features the acoustic quartet format, with a new lineup of highly unique players. David Virelles takes over the piano chair previously held by Craig Taborn, with drummer Marcus Gilmore and … Read More “Chris Potter: The Dreamer Is the Dream (ECM)”

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Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Loafer’s Hollow (Hot Cup)

The cover of Loafer’s Hollow closely resembles that of Red Hot, Mostly Other People Do the Killing’s album from 2013. Bass trombonist Dave Taylor sits in front of the other six standing members of the band, who all look amused, shocked or puzzled. The pose isn’t self-parody but rather another of the band’s riffs on … Read More “Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Loafer’s Hollow (Hot Cup)”

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Richie Cole: A Bebopper in the ’Burgh

“And now we’re going to play something by a great jazz artist—Frankie Avalon.” The audience in the upstairs room of the James Street Gastropub, on Pittsburgh’s North Side, laughs easily at Richie Cole’s introduction. His Pittsburgh Alto Madness Orchestra—an octet with alto and tenor saxophones, trumpet, trombone and a four-piece rhythm section—launches into an intro … Read More “Richie Cole: A Bebopper in the ’Burgh”

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Jim Black: Malamute (Intakt)

Jim Black’s approach to his drums could be compared to a lit match being dropped on a pile of dry papers. The whole kit ignites, shooting sparks and flames in all directions. But instead of engulfing its surroundings, Black’s attack always supports and even elevates his fellow musicians. Following last year’s piano-trio outing The Constant, … Read More “Jim Black: Malamute (Intakt)”

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Mark Dresser Seven: Sedimental You (Clean Feed)

The title of bassist Mark Dresser’s latest album refers to the layers of musical qualities inherent in the compositions. In seven pieces, he strikes a balance between bitonal harmony, microtonality, timbre and harmonics, along with “traditional” building blocks like melody and rhythm. The instrumentation guarantees that the sound will tug at the ear, with an … Read More “Mark Dresser Seven: Sedimental You (Clean Feed)”

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Taylor Ho Bynum: Enter the PlusTet

It might come as no surprise that Taylor Ho Bynum’s original work draws inspiration from Anthony Braxton and the late Bill Dixon, two of his musical mentors. The real head-scratcher arrives in the way these adventurous influences commingle with, in separate cases, the swing of big band and the soulful grooves of Prince. Even more … Read More “Taylor Ho Bynum: Enter the PlusTet”

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Matthew Shipp: Three New Releases

David S. Ware & Matthew Shipp Duo Live in Sant’Anna Arresi, 2004 (AUM Fidelity) Bobby Kapp & Matthew Shipp Cactus (Northern Spy) Matthew Shipp Trio Piano Song (Thirsty Ear) “[D]uring the entire 17-year period we worked together, we felt like we were on a mission. Every performance we felt like we were changing the world and lighting up the … Read More “Matthew Shipp: Three New Releases”

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David Virelles: Antenna

ECM couldn’t have picked more radical and freewheeling music for the label’s return to releasing new projects on vinyl. Nothing makes linear sense on Antenna, a six-song EP by David Virelles, available exclusively as a record or digital download. The pianist, who plays six different electric and acoustic keyboards here, uses the idea of Afro-Cuban … Read More “David Virelles: Antenna”

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Rempis/Abrams/Ra + Baker: Perihelion

Dave Rempis made his mark as the second saxophonist in the Vandermark 5, and his former employer’s influence is abundant throughout Perihelion, a two-disc set released on Rempis’ label, Aerophonic. The music undulates like waves on the high seas, lulls giving way to stormy interludes, free improv giving way to beats and melodies. Freedom rules, … Read More “Rempis/Abrams/Ra + Baker: Perihelion”

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Prasanna: All Terrain Guitar

Prasanna’s “Springtime in New York” doesn’t follow in the footsteps of the more lyrical depictions of Big Apple seasons. It launches All Terrain Guitar with a gale of notes that express the speed in which the average New Yorker moves in order to stay afloat. Busy and technically challenging, the track also reveals the nuances … Read More “Prasanna: All Terrain Guitar”

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Stephan Crump’s Rhombal: Rhombal

Whether he’s anchoring the Vijay Iyer Trio, keeping things at once action-packed and understated in the two-guitar/bass Rosetta Trio or testing the limits in duets with adventurous friends like Steve Lehman, bassist Stephan Crump can always generate attention. A few notes or a double-stop will resonate deeply, setting a mood and creating anticipation for what … Read More “Stephan Crump’s Rhombal: Rhombal”

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Thumbscrew: Convalleria

To record their sophomore Thumbscrew album, guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara took part in a two-week residency in Pittsburgh, which allowed them to compose individually but work up the music as a unit. The extended stay proved to be fruitful. What began as a compatible, somewhat understated trio on their … Read More “Thumbscrew: Convalleria”

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Greg Ward & 10 Tongues: Touch My Beloved’s Thought

Upon completing an album, Charles Mingus often said the new work was the best thing he’d ever made. He might have been accurate when discussing The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. The six-part suite, recorded in 1963, made great strides in rendering the complex bassist’s mental state as music. Lush Ellingtonian passages gave way … Read More “Greg Ward & 10 Tongues: Touch My Beloved’s Thought”

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The Claudia Quintet: Super Petite

The title Super Petite refers to the compositions drummer John Hollenbeck penned for the Claudia Quintet’s eighth album. Bucking the trend toward longer and larger works of music and literature, nearly all of them are timed at six minutes or less. The Quintet’s instrumentation of accordion (Red Wierenga), vibraphone (Matt Moran), clarinet/tenor saxophone (Chris Speed), … Read More “The Claudia Quintet: Super Petite”

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Myra Melford & Ben Goldberg: Dialogue

Ben Goldberg and Myra Melford have each served in supporting roles on one another’s ambitious projects. Melford’s piano appeared in Goldberg’s Orphic Machine last year, a nonet session that combined original music with the writer Allen Grossman’s poetic observations of the world. Goldberg’s clarinet played a key role in Melford’s Be Bread ensemble, on the … Read More “Myra Melford & Ben Goldberg: Dialogue”

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Freddie Hendrix: Jersey Cat

The initial blast that launches Freddie Hendrix’s solo on “St. Peter’s Walk” serves as a shout that means business. The trumpeter first heard the song on a Louis Hayes album that featured Woody Shaw, and Hendrix’s rapid and concise solo puts him in league with his predecessor. It also sets the bar high for what … Read More “Freddie Hendrix: Jersey Cat”

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Nolatet: Dogs

Nolatet’s moniker implies their central location in the Big Easy. While that isn’t unusual, the distinction comes from members who span four generations (the oldest a septuagenarian), all bringing different facets of music to the fold. Drummer Johnny Vidacovich and bassist James Singleton have played together so long, and with legends like Professor Longhair, they’ve … Read More “Nolatet: Dogs”

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Joe Chambers: Landscapes

As a performer, Joe Chambers plays several roles on Landscapes. He stands front and center on the vibraphone, and he brings up the rear on trap kit. On “Havana” he ups the ante even further by adding bongos, marimba and congas to the mix. On the title track he sits at the piano for a … Read More “Joe Chambers: Landscapes”

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