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Billy Bang/William Parker: Medicine Buddha

In 2009, two years before Billy Bang lost his battle with lung cancer, the violinist teamed up with bassist William Parker for a performance at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York. To hear Parker tell it in this album’s liner notes, the duo’s longstanding friendship involved not only shared musical sensibilities but humor … Read More “Billy Bang/William Parker: Medicine Buddha”

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Dave Burrell/Steve Swell: Turning Point

Effectively depicting the struggles of the Civil War presents a challenge for any group, especially a piano/trombone duo. But pianist Dave Burrell, composer-in-residence at Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum and Library, has used his position to research the war’s timeline and channel his findings into his skills as a writer and free-thinking improviser. With only Burrell and … Read More “Dave Burrell/Steve Swell: Turning Point”

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Michael Mantler: The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra Update

Michael Mantler organized the original The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra album in 1968, as a manifestation of his and then-wife Carla Bley’s activities in the new jazz scene in New York. The music, all penned by Mantler, featured dense, long-toned backdrops (inspired by European avant-garde classical works) layered with improvisations by Don Cherry, Larry Coryell, Roswell … Read More “Michael Mantler: The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra Update”

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Jochen Rueckert: We Make the Rules

Drummer Jochen Rueckert has published three volumes of short stories entitled Read the Rueckert, which chronicle the life of a touring jazz musician, dirty hotel rooms and all. It’s earned at least one comparison to the late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Rueckert’s wit transfers over to the titles of his compositions, which include “Manong … Read More “Jochen Rueckert: We Make the Rules”

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Matt Ulery: In the Ivory

In the Ivory wasn’t written as a soundtrack, but someone ought to take it and build a film around the music. Matt Ulery, a bassist and composer, writes melodies that beg for expansive cinematic shots of open plains and characters who speak more through facial expressions than words. At the core of the music is … Read More “Matt Ulery: In the Ivory”

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Nels Cline & Julian Lage: Room

This meeting of the guitar minds might sound like an improbable pairing: the 58-year-old Wilco guitarist known for his punkish avant-garde flights of fancy joining forces with the 26-year-old melodicist best known for his mastery of mainstream jazz guitar and his winning detours into bluegrass. Check your skepticism at the door. Nels Cline and Julian … Read More “Nels Cline & Julian Lage: Room”

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Tyshawn Sorey: Alloy

In addition to being a drummer able to handle the jagged musical terrain of Vijay Iyer, Steve Coleman and Steve Lehman, Tyshawn Sorey continues to mature as a composer who draws equally on experimental jazz and new music. While Sorey’s Oblique – I featured a multidirectional quintet of saxophone, guitar and rhythm section, Alloy strips … Read More “Tyshawn Sorey: Alloy”

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Dylan Ryan/Sand: Circa

Dylan Ryan’s drums and songwriting might lead Sand, but guitarist Timothy Young is the guy doing the heavy lifting. And “heavy” can be easily affixed to his fretwork. The low, drop-tuned riff in “Possession” evokes Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi on a more progressive day. “Visionary Fantasy” opens with a slab of power chords. The wah-wah … Read More “Dylan Ryan/Sand: Circa”

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Swallow/Talmor/Nussbaum: Singular Curves

Tenor saxophonist Ohad Talmor calls bass guitarist Steve Swallow’s arrangement of “Carolina Moon” “deceptively complicated” and “challenging.” But to listen to the version of the 1920s chestnut on this album, there doesn’t appear to be anything complex about it. That’s not a put-down, either. Talmor, Swallow and drummer Adam Nussbaum negotiate this song in a … Read More “Swallow/Talmor/Nussbaum: Singular Curves”

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Michael Carvin Experience: Flash Forward

Michael Carvin’s career as a drum instructor might overshadow his extensive work as a performer. His students have included Eric McPherson, Nasheet Waits and Allison Miller, to name just a few. At the same time, his CV includes stints with B.B. King, Pharoah Sanders, Dizzy Gillespie and a bold sax-and-drums album with Jackie McLean (1975’s … Read More “Michael Carvin Experience: Flash Forward”

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Hafez Modirzadeh: In Convergence Liberation

Hafez Modirzadeh offers an extensive explanation of “liberation convergence” in the liner notes to his latest album. To paraphrase, he calls this principle “consciousness gravitating toward a point of supreme balance, where all fear of extinction is removed.” The saxophonist-composer goes on to explain the various source materials he used to create these suites, including … Read More “Hafez Modirzadeh: In Convergence Liberation”

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Darius Jones & Matthew Shipp: The Darkseid Recital

In a solo setting, it can be a challenge to figure out whether Matthew Shipp is playing a composition or if the music is emerging from his fingers spontaneously. If the latter applies, he has an uncanny ability to chart a well-developed course with ease, never sticking on one path for too long before another … Read More “Darius Jones & Matthew Shipp: The Darkseid Recital”

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Darius Jones & Matthew Shipp: The Darkseid Recital

In a solo setting, it can be a challenge to figure out whether Matthew Shipp is playing a composition or if the music is emerging from his fingers spontaneously. If the latter applies, he has an uncanny ability to chart a well-developed course with ease, never sticking on one path for too long before another … Read More “Darius Jones & Matthew Shipp: The Darkseid Recital”

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The Microscopic Septet: Manhattan Moonrise

Joel Forrester, pianist and composer of the Microscopic Septet, says the band might come off like a revival group, but what they attempt to revive never really existed. “A revival of the future, then?” he asks. While such quips usually serve as nothing more than good copy, Forrester can be taken at his word. The … Read More “The Microscopic Septet: Manhattan Moonrise”

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Dave Douglas & Uri Caine: Present Joys

The art of shape-note singing combines spiritual messages with simple folk melodies. Created during the 19th century, it gave non-tutored voices the ability to express their devotion while singing in four-part harmony. The music found in century-old books like Ye Olde New England Psalm Tunes and The Sacred Harp intrigued trumpeter Dave Douglas, who interpreted … Read More “Dave Douglas & Uri Caine: Present Joys”

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Gene Ludwig/Pat Martino Trio: Young Guns

Some musical relationships last a lifetime while others simply serve as milestones along the way, conjuring up questions of what might have transpired had certain musicians continued to work in tandem. Pittsburgh’s Gene Ludwig had evolved beyond a Jimmy Smith apostle into a creative, individual B-3 organist when the 30-year-old joined forces with 23-year-old Pat … Read More “Gene Ludwig/Pat Martino Trio: Young Guns”

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Harold Mabern: Right On Time

Smoke, one of New York City’s most intimate hardcore jazz clubs, is the latest venue to branch out into the album industry. The organization hasn’t wasted time either, dropping Smoke Sessions’ first six discs before 2014 reaches its mid-point. All were recorded at the club, although one was made without a live audience present. The … Read More “Harold Mabern: Right On Time”

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Jamie Saft/Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte: The New Standard

On the surface, Strange Bedfellows seems like an appropriate name for this trio. Keyboardist Jamie Saft and drummer Bobby Previte, both fiercely eclectic yet technically gifted player-composers, have collaborated before, in settings as far out as the improvised-extreme-metal group Beta Popes. (Saft played guitar there.) Veteran bassist Steve Swallow might seem like an odd piece … Read More “Jamie Saft/Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte: The New Standard”

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Raoul Björkenheim: eCsTaSy

“El Pueblo Unido” has a simple, folky melody that could be inspired by guitarist Raoul Björkenheim’s home in Finland. Delivered by an electric guitar and tenor sax and a free-rolling rhythm section, however, it sounds like nothing less than a lost Ornette Coleman theme delivered by Sonny Sharrock’s Ask the Angels band. Yes, comparisons are … Read More “Raoul Björkenheim: eCsTaSy”

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Bobby Avey: Authority Melts From Me

Bobby Avey’s visit to Haiti proved to be a life-changing experience. The pianist traveled to the country in 2012 and learned about its struggles with colonialism, slavery and foreign intervention, and his discovery of vodou drumming ensembles became the catalyst for Authority Melts From Me, a three-part suite written for quintet. He analyzed and transcribed … Read More “Bobby Avey: Authority Melts From Me”

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Bud Powell: Birdland 1953

Bud Powell biographer Peter Pullman refers to 1953 as the busiest year of the pianist’s career. It didn’t begin in the best of ways: Powell ended 16 months of occupancy in mental institutions. Before the calendar turned again, he would participate in the “Greatest Jazz Concert Ever,” at Toronto’s Massey Hall with Charlie Parker, Dizzy … Read More “Bud Powell: Birdland 1953”

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Jimmy Giuffre 3 & 4: New York Concerts

Columbia Records dropped Jimmy Giuffre following 1962’s experimental Free Fall, and he didn’t record another album for nine years. The period in-between has been called his “lost decade,” but the clarinetist-saxophonist kept busy. His forward vision fit right in at the New York Festival of the Avant Garde in 1965, even though he wasn’t completely … Read More “Jimmy Giuffre 3 & 4: New York Concerts”

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Jason Roebke Octet: High/Red/Center

Discussing his octet’s blend of textures and soloists in this album’s liner notes, bassist Jason Roebke states, “It’s a struggle, but that’s sort of the point. It’s all about risk and the tension that working on something just beyond our reach creates.” This convergence of possibilities can be heard from the opening bars of High/Red/Center, … Read More “Jason Roebke Octet: High/Red/Center”

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Ideal Bread: Beating the Teens

The quartet Ideal Bread toys with listeners’ expectations even on paper, paying tribute to Steve Lacy without employing a soprano saxophone, his instrument of choice. Leader Josh Sinton goes in the opposite direction, using the baritone sax to revitalize Lacy’s compositions. Together with cornetist Kirk Knuffke on the frontline, drummer Tomas Fujiwara and new bassist … Read More “Ideal Bread: Beating the Teens”

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Matthew Shipp Trio: Root of Things

Less than a year after the strong solo disc Piano Sutras, Matthew Shipp returns with his faithful trio mates (bassist Michael Bisio, drummer Whit Dickey) for another solid release. While the pianist has maintained a steadily prolific output for nearly two decades, his compositions-or points of departure-assure that he isn’t merely churning out variations of … Read More “Matthew Shipp Trio: Root of Things”

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