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Don Cherry: Live In Stockholm

It would be a few more years before Don Cherry would start playing his version of world music wholeheartedly, but elements of the trumpeter’s all-encompassing vision can be heard on these live recordings, most of them from 1968. This album marks their first official release, after he shelved them in favor of the more eclectic … Read More “Don Cherry: Live In Stockholm”

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Archie Shepp Attica Blues Orchestra: I Hear the Sound

Upon its original release in 1972, Archie Shepp’s Attica Blues made bold statements politically and musically. It was inspired by the riot at Attica Prison the prior year, where 39 prisoners and hostages were killed. Shepp, who had recorded with groups ranging from trios to octets, put together a large ensemble featuring additional horns, strings … Read More “Archie Shepp Attica Blues Orchestra: I Hear the Sound”

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Ran Blake: Ran Blake Plays Solo Piano

Although many of the titles in the ESP-Disk’ catalog have been reissued multiple times since their original releases, Ran Blake Plays Solo Piano has been an unfortunate exception. Aside from a rare Italian reissue, the album hasn’t really been seen or heard since it first appeared in 1965. Blake might not have been as radical … Read More “Ran Blake: Ran Blake Plays Solo Piano”

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Keefe Jackson’s Likely So: A Round Goal

Chicago tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson has worked in groups large and small, among them the all-saxophone 774th Street Quartet. With his unit Likely So, he pushes that concept further. The group consists of a clarinetist and six saxophonists (three doubling on various clarinets) who utilize that entire family of horns, from sopranino to contrabass. Aside … Read More “Keefe Jackson’s Likely So: A Round Goal”

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Amir ElSaffar: Alchemy

Trumpeter Amir ElSaffar has made three albums that bring Iraqi maqam music into a jazz setting, including an excellent collaboration with saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh, 2009’s Radif Suite. Here ElSaffar starts with a standard quintet lineup of trumpet, tenor saxophone and rhythm section, and brings modes and alternate scales to bear on the ensemble. It’s not … Read More “Amir ElSaffar: Alchemy”

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Cacaw: Stellar Power

With distorted keyboard bass and a heavy backbeat, “Double Dagger” begins Stellar Power somewhere between industrial synth-pop and fusion. However, Landon Knoblock, the visionary keyboardist of the trio CACAW, avoids any potential cheesy pitfalls. He also breaks the mood and tempo with Fender Rhodes runs and employs saxophonist Oscar Noriega (Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, Endangered Blood) … Read More “Cacaw: Stellar Power”

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Thelonious Monk: Newport ’59

Legend has it that a good piano inspired Thelonious Monk’s 1957 performance at Carnegie Hall with John Coltrane, a date that was famously unearthed and released on Blue Note in 2005. The 88s provided for the Newport Jazz Festival two years later surely weren’t bad either. This set, from that evening, begins with a take … Read More “Thelonious Monk: Newport ’59”

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Sifter: Sifter

Anyone expecting a set of free improvisations from the triumvirate of guitarist Mary Halvorson, cornet player Kirk Knuffke and drummer Matt Wilson might be surprised by Sifter-pleasantly surprised. All three musicians bring compositions to the table. Knuffke’s six tunes give him the most representation, though Wilson contributes five. Halvorson only brings in two pieces, but … Read More “Sifter: Sifter”

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The Byron Allen Trio: The Byron Allen Trio

When his debut album was released in 1965, ESP called Byron Allen “the spiritual descendant of Charlie Parker,” but at first blush the alto saxophonist sounds more like the man who introduced him to the label, Ornette Coleman. Allen plays with a rough tone that doesn’t always keep up with his musical ideas (he sometimes … Read More “The Byron Allen Trio: The Byron Allen Trio”

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Misfit Toys: Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

Rearrangements of pop hits from the 1970s usually come with a heavy dose of irony, but it’s hard to tell if vibraphonist Dan Moore had that in mind when assembling this album and the Misfit Toys. The ad-hoc group, which includes Matt Wilson (drums), Paul Elwood (banjo, vocals) and the late Robert Paredes (clarinet), lends … Read More “Misfit Toys: Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”

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Mark Dresser Quintet: Nourishments

Mark Dresser provides detailed liner notes for the seven compositions on Nourishments. They explain the origins of the pieces as well as the details of the structures, and make an interesting companion to this expansive music. But even with a close examination, it’s possible to mistake a 17/16 ostinato (!) for a free section; in … Read More “Mark Dresser Quintet: Nourishments”

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SOS: Looking for the Next One

SOS (named for each player’s initials) was more than a “saxophone trio.” Tenor and soprano saxophonist Alan Skidmore often sat down behind the trap kit. John Surman, in addition to his artillery of reeds, employed an EMS synthesizer and electric piano. Only the late Mike Osbourne limited himself to his alto. SOS only existed for … Read More “SOS: Looking for the Next One”

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Frank Rosaly: Cicada Music

Despite a vast number of projects that feature his insightful drumming, Frank Rosaly’s name has rarely appeared on the spines of albums. On those few occasions, it has been a solo percussion session or free-improv duets rather than a set of his compositions. Cicada Music corrects those shortcomings, featuring brief sketches written for a soundtrack … Read More “Frank Rosaly: Cicada Music”

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Hush Point: Hush Point

Trumpeter John McNeil and alto saxophonist Jeremy Udden might seem like unlikely collaborators. McNeil’s career began with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and continues through a series of straightforward but bold releases under his own name. Although Udden has played with Either/Orchestra and Bob Brookmeyer, his band Plainville performs work that often sounds like instrumental … Read More “Hush Point: Hush Point”

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Ig Bo Duet: Joseph Bowie & Adam Rudolph: Good Medicine

Put two musicians in a studio full of instruments (the majority being of the percussive persuasion) and two possible results can emerge: groovy, spatial soundscapes; or the overwhelming, kid-in-a-candy-shop urge to play everything for a few minutes. Good Medicine, a set of duets by trombonist Joseph Bowie and percussionist Adam Rudolph, goes both ways, but … Read More “Ig Bo Duet: Joseph Bowie & Adam Rudolph: Good Medicine”

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Jemeel Moondoc/Connie Crothers: Two

Jemeel Moondoc (alto saxophone) and Connie Crothers (piano) have recorded prolifically enough to earn greater recognition, yet their work often falls below the radar. Moondoc began playing in Loft-era New York, disappearing in the 9-to-5 world until reappearing in the late ’90s with a host of albums on the Eremite label. His tone and ideas … Read More “Jemeel Moondoc/Connie Crothers: Two”

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Soft Machine Legacy: Burden of Proof

In a way Soft Machine has two legacies. The original Canterbury trio, with angelic vocalist/drummer Robert Wyatt, came up in the same scene as Pink Floyd, tweaking the era’s psychedelia with jazz attitudes. Then in the 1970s, the original members gradually departed and the name became something of a clearinghouse for British progressive jazz-cum-fusion. Three-quarters … Read More “Soft Machine Legacy: Burden of Proof”

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Little Women: Lung

Little Women seem to enjoy puzzling listeners. For starters, this is an all-male quartet. Their sophomore release consists of one track, but they don’t simply blow freely for 42 minutes. “Lung” sounds loosely structured, yet it has discernible sections and recurring cues. In fact, the group claims it’s based on a Shakespearian form, with the … Read More “Little Women: Lung”

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Uri Gurvich: Babel

Like The Storyteller, Uri Gurvich’s justly praised debut on Tzadik three years ago, BabEl mates sinuous Middle Eastern and sprightly Afro-Cuban folk forms via original compositions that are equally influenced by his native Israel and the Berklee College of Music. The core quartet is the same, with the alto saxophonist-leader again joined by Cuban drummer … Read More “Uri Gurvich: Babel”

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Eleni Karaindrou: Concert in Athens

The 18 pieces on Concert in Athens originated in different soundtracks and theater productions that the Greek composer Eleni Karaindrou has written since 1975. Yet the album flows together like one larger piece. Some tracks have clear breaks while others segue. Soloists often set a scene that the string orchestra reshapes in time for another … Read More “Eleni Karaindrou: Concert in Athens”

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Michael Gallant Trio: Completely

After logging time as an editor for Keyboard magazine and a contributing writer for DownBeat, Michael Gallant has returned to his primary focus of the piano and makes his recording debut with this trio set. His experience playing traditional jazz, including a brief stint in the Preservation Hall band, comes across in the funky second-line … Read More “Michael Gallant Trio: Completely”

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Oliver Lake Big band : Wheels

Oliver Lake’s skill as a big-band leader might not be as well known as his tenure with the World Saxophone Quartet or his small-group projects, despite an interest in the format that dates back to the late ’60s with the Black Artists Group in St. Louis. Influenced by Oliver Nelson and Duke Ellington, Lake takes … Read More “Oliver Lake Big band : Wheels”

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Joey Calderazzo Trio: Joey Calderazzo Trio Live

This new document of live-action jazz did not originate at the Village Vanguard, or anywhere near New York City for that matter. Joey Calderazzo’s trio is heard stretching out at Daly Jazz in the relatively remote locale of Missoula, Mont. If this set offers any indication, the venue is just as inspiring a room as … Read More “Joey Calderazzo Trio: Joey Calderazzo Trio Live”

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Pat Metheny: The Orchestrion Project

Pat Metheny’s setup for his Orchestrion tour looked like a cross between a ransacked orchestra pit and an elaborate stage show from the excessive ’70s. For those late to the game, the Orchestrion is based on the elaborate, century-old contraptions of the same name that functioned like player pianos, reading music on a roll of … Read More “Pat Metheny: The Orchestrion Project”

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Rob Mazurek Octet: Skull Sessions

Sometimes Rob Mazurek’s compositions begin quietly and move slowly. Recent works by the Chicago Underground Duo and the Exploding Star Orchestra have been as much about the journey as the destination. The trio Starlicker and the Pulsar Quartet are marked by more propulsive movement. The cornetist’s new Octet combines a bit of both worlds, with … Read More “Rob Mazurek Octet: Skull Sessions”

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Craig Taborn Trio: Chants

If jazz can really be described as the sound of surprise, it also involves trust on the part of the listeners. We need to approach the music trusting that the players are really trying to create something expressive rather than simply noodling away. The best music can force us to reconsider our reference points and … Read More “Craig Taborn Trio: Chants”

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Alex Cline: For People In Sorrow

Too often tribute albums are based on reverence that leaves the heart and soul of the honoree behind. Other times, the subject’s material gets re-contextualized to the point of absurdity. Alex Cline approached Roscoe Mitchell’s “People in Sorrow” hoping to reimagine the Art Ensemble of Chicago epic while maintaining the elements that made it so … Read More “Alex Cline: For People In Sorrow”

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