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São Paulo Underground: Três Cabeças Lourcuras

Rob Mazurek can always be counted on to lead a number of groups, from the large-scale drone and swirl of the Exploding Star Orchestra to the hard-driving trio Starlicker, one of 2011’s most impressive acts. No matter what he plays, Mazurek executes on cornet with a delicate beauty, even as he channels his mentor Bill … Read More “São Paulo Underground: Três Cabeças Lourcuras”

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Matthew Shipp Trio: Elastic Aspects

Matthew Shipp cranks albums out with such regularity that to call him prolific would be something of an understatement. Yet the more recent batch of releases attributed to the pianist (in addition to extracurricular sessions) chronicles a progression in his playing rather than merely presenting variations on what has come before. Bassist Michael Bisio and … Read More “Matthew Shipp Trio: Elastic Aspects”

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Trio M: The Guest House

The cooperative trio of pianist Myra Melford, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson has become an extremely empathetic union, in which all three musicians mold their approaches to fit each of the tunes. While some of the tracks feel a little too subdued, with the performances overshadowing the structure of the composition, The Guest … Read More “Trio M: The Guest House”

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Jason Adasiewicz’s 
Sun Rooms : Spacer

Sun Rooms offers a different listening experience than Jason Adasiewicz’s other projects, like his quintet Rolldown, which sonically evokes Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch! As on its 2010 debut, the group has no horn-playing cohorts along for the ride here. The leader’s vibraphone stands alone on the frontline with the rhythm section of bassist Nate … Read More “Jason Adasiewicz’s 
Sun Rooms : Spacer”

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Ralph Carney’s Serious Jass Project: Seriously

Ralph Carney has always been a sort of wild man with chops. First in the proto-new wave band Tin Huey and later as an ongoing support player with artists like Tom Waits, his saxophone approach fits perfectly in screwball situations. Behind the jokes, though, it’s always clear that he can blow straight and fierce if … Read More “Ralph Carney’s Serious Jass Project: Seriously”

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Harris Eisenstadt: September Trio

For an album of works composed and directed by the drummer, September Trio doesn’t focus on Harris Eisenstadt. Tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin stands out with his broad tone and flair for microtonal pitch bends, which lends drama to his voice. Pianist Angelica Sanchez adds glistening lines that open up the music, whether it sounds like … Read More “Harris Eisenstadt: September Trio”

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Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Eto

Satoko Fujii’s writing for her Orchestra New York frequently feels like the work of Carl Stalling, who directed the music of Warner Brothers cartoons during its golden age. Much like the Looney Tunes maestro, the pianist peppers Eto‘s “The North Wind and the Sun” with a rapid five-note motif that the 15-piece ensemble blasts in … Read More “Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Eto”

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Kaze: Rafale

Kaze brings together the husband and wife team of pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura with French musicians Peter Orins (drums) and Christian Pruvost (trumpet) for a 2010 performance in Poland. “Noise Chopin” honors the bicentennial of the Polish composer’s birth with a work that progresses from raw trumpet noise to a rollicking composition … Read More “Kaze: Rafale”

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Satoko Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble: Watershed

Pianist Satoko Fujii’s Min-Yoh Ensemble takes its name from the Japanese term for folk music, but Watershed doesn’t sound like any kind of typical folk song, Japanese or otherwise. The pianist, husband/trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and trombonist Curtis Hasselbring regroup with accordion wiz Andrea Parkins for music that begins with intense free improvisation and then builds … Read More “Satoko Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble: Watershed”

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Jeremy Udden’s Plainville: If the Past Seems So Bright

Jeremy Udden named his group Plainville after his hometown in Massachusetts. His writing for the quintet incorporates pastoral rock and folk and puts more emphasis on ensemble sound; the compositions aren’t merely launching pads for soloists. Udden’s alto and tenor saxophones often sound like a substitute for a vocalist, never getting complex but saying a … Read More “Jeremy Udden’s Plainville: If the Past Seems So Bright”

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Kirk Knuffke & Jesse Stacken: Orange Was the Color

When assembling a tribute to Charles Mingus with just cornet and piano, Kirk Knuffke and Jesse Stacken, respectively, considered their limitations. This session contains no prayer meetings, hits in the soul, fight songs or any Mingus piece that depends on the thrust of the ensemble. Instead the duo considered pieces that showed off Mingus’ writing … Read More “Kirk Knuffke & Jesse Stacken: Orange Was the Color”

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Knives From Heaven : Knives From Heaven

It might be best to consider Knives From Heaven’s self-titled release as a sound collage. Thirsty Ear touts it as a follow-up to Matthew Shipp vs. Antipop Consortium, the 2003 meeting of the inventive pianist and the equally inventive hip-hop group. But with Shipp and bassist William Parker joining forces with emcees Beans and HPrizm … Read More “Knives From Heaven : Knives From Heaven”

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Farmers by Nature: Out of This World’s Distortions

Farmers By Nature is an improvisational trio consisting of Craig Taborn (piano), William Parker (bass) and Gerald Cleaver (drums). All three have astounding track records in both this open style and more composed works. The title Out of this World’s Distortions does not refer to a fuzzed-out take on the Arlen and Mercer standard “Out … Read More “Farmers by Nature: Out of This World’s Distortions”

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David S. Ware/Cooper-More/William Parker/Muhmmad Ali: Planetary Unknown

These four musicians have all known each other for years, but never performed as a unit until they ventured into the studio last November. Saxophonist David S. Ware has played with bassist William Parker in the former’s quartet for nearly two decades, while multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore, here on piano, played in one of Parker’s bands and … Read More “David S. Ware/Cooper-More/William Parker/Muhmmad Ali: Planetary Unknown”

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Marc Copland: Crosstalk

“Talkin’ Blues” opens pianist Marc Copland’s latest album with a bit of deception. It’s not a blues, at least not one with a discernable familiar structure. What’s more intriguing, drummer Victor Lewis doesn’t play time throughout the seven-minute piece; instead, his well-placed rolls and cymbal crashes add color and motivate Copland and saxophonist Greg Osby … Read More “Marc Copland: Crosstalk”

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Stanley Cowell: Prayer for Peace

Pianist Stanley Cowell hasn’t made an album in over a decade, but his teaching activities at Rutgers University have kept his skills as a soloist and bandleader sharp. When he takes off on Benny Carter’s chestnut “When Lights Are Low,” his phrasing, chordal voicings and use of space are impeccable. Bassist Mike Richmond (also a … Read More “Stanley Cowell: Prayer for Peace”

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Mads Vinding Trio: Open Minds

Bassist Mads Vinding begins his latest album with two songs closely associated with Miles Davis, and approaches them with more abstraction than the trumpeter did in the 1960s. On “Someday My Prince Will Come,” pianist Jean-Michel Pilc tiptoes around the melody, delaying phrases and cleverly catching up with them before the next change. “My Funny … Read More “Mads Vinding Trio: Open Minds”

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Fred Ho and the Green Monster Big Band: Year of the Tiger

Baritone saxophonist Fred Ho continues to develop a unique repertoire, reshaping cartoon theme songs, classic rock and pop and writing original compositions for large ensemble. Of those three areas of repertory, his own music sounds the strongest. The Office of the Arts at Harvard commissioned “Take the Zen Train.” This six-movement piece tips its hat … Read More “Fred Ho and the Green Monster Big Band: Year of the Tiger”

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Darius Jones/Matthew Shipp: Cosmic Lieder

At age 50, Matthew Shipp boasts one of the most prolific, consistent and challenging catalogs of any musician in his or her field. The pianist’s brain seems to fire on all cylinders all the time, and two new releases present three different contexts in which to examine his playing in its current state. Alto saxophonist … Read More “Darius Jones/Matthew Shipp: Cosmic Lieder”

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