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Charles Tolliver: Mosaic Select 20: Charles Tolliver

In the early 1970s, trumpeter Charles Tolliver trafficked compellingly in the overlap between hard-bop and the avant-garde, leading an unconventional big band and an exploratory quartet called Music Inc. He documented both groups on his own self-sustaining label, Strata-East. This limited edition three-disc set, only available from mosaicrecords.com, eschews the big band material for a … Read More “Charles Tolliver: Mosaic Select 20: Charles Tolliver”

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Nellie McKay: The Real McKay

Nellie McKay’s sophomore album, Pretty Little Head, won’t figure into most die-hard jazz heads’ shopping lists because she’s as likely to hit the stage singing Bob Dylan as she is Hoagy Carmichael. But there’s just something about Nellie-a 21-year-old fiercely opinionated firecracker who’s turning the cabaret scene on its ear. And she might just do the same to Broadway with her theater-stage debut. Nate Chinen talks to McKay-but you can tell that she really did most of the talking.

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Michael Attias: Renku

To call Michael Attias a cosmopolitan would hardly do him justice. The saxophonist was born in Israel to Moroccan parents, and divided his formative years between France and the Midwest. Although he cut his teeth in Paris with the Monkish group Four in One, he has lived in New York for over a decade now, … Read More “Michael Attias: Renku”

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Marty Ehrlich: News on the Rail

There are more than a few bright spots in Marty Ehrlich’s 20-year solo discography; the St. Louis-reared multireedist has turned out product of a consistent high quality. This release, his second for Palmetto, actually ups the ante in some regards. News on the Rail is a composer’s album, distinguished by a thoughtful pen. It’s also … Read More “Marty Ehrlich: News on the Rail”

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Ben Monder: Oceana

It may be named after bodies of water, but Ben Monder’s long-awaited new album has a predominantly airy feel. That’s partly a given–whether on electric or acoustic guitar, Monder heeds a floating sensibility–but he also encourages the idea. Among the album’s seven tracks are “Light,” “Rooms of Light” and “Double Sun”; the only aquatic cut … Read More “Ben Monder: Oceana”

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Meet Robert Glasper

Blue Note hasn’t signed a new jazz artist in years. But something about this young pianist from Houston made the suits’ ties twirl.

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Kneebody: Kneebody

The members of Kneebody have collectively logged hours with such a range of artists-from Ani DiFranco to David Murray to Jurassic 5-that it’s tempting to write them off as another multi-hyphenate in jazz’s crossover era. But eclecticism isn’t the point of their music, which sounds too convincingly effortless to be a self-conscious fusion. In fact, … Read More “Kneebody: Kneebody”

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William Parker Quartet: Sound Unity

For many years now, bassist William Parker has devoted his enormous energies to creative improvised music. His emphasis has been two-pronged, consisting of both the jazz-based avant-gardism birthed in the ’60s and a non-idiomatic strain with roots in folk cultures. This pair of albums documents Parker’s two hemispheres respectively, with vastly different but equally serious … Read More “William Parker Quartet: Sound Unity”

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Vijay Iyer: Othering

Only Jason Moran rivals him as the most exceptional, exciting pianist on the modern-day scene. Nate Chinen fills us in on the fuss.

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Terence Blanchard: Flow

Two years ago, Terence Blanchard documented his jump from Sony Classical to Blue Note with an album titled Bounce. This year’s sequel is just as aptly and succinctly named: Flow not only flows but also shows what’s possible when a band “has” flow. Blanchard has crafted a stirring and soulful contemporary outing and one of … Read More “Terence Blanchard: Flow”

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Avishai Cohen: At Home

Since his solo debut seven years ago, bassist Avishai Cohen has been honing a global strain of modern jazz that places primacy on rhythm. The second release on his Razdaz label is no exception, and furthers Cohen’s stature as a resourceful bandleader with a broad command of groove. At Home introduces a rhythm section that … Read More “Avishai Cohen: At Home”

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Wayne Shorter Quartet: Beyond the Sound Barrier

Beyond the Sound Barrier picks up where its predecessor left off: It’s another compilation of concert recordings from the band’s extensive travels. But where the epochal Footprints-Live! raided the classic Shorter catalog for material, this album sprinkles in several new tunes. They tend toward a mysterious rippling quality that justifies long and cosmic titles. The … Read More “Wayne Shorter Quartet: Beyond the Sound Barrier”

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Brad Mehldau: Anything Goes

He’s best known for the work he’s done with his outstanding trio. But Brad Mehldau just released a solo CD, is performing in a new quartet and is taking on multiple sideman gigs. What’s going on with the most acclaimed pianist of this generation? Nate Chinen finds out.

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Branford Marsalis: Committed

He’s one of the best interviews in music, runs a high-quality record label and leads one of jazz’s tightest bands. Nate Chinen shows why Branford Marsalis is so committed to excellence.

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The Gig: Firing the Canon

Barricade Books recently unleashed Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics. A pet project of Chicago Sun-Times critic and Harp magazine columnist Jim DeRogatis, the anthology consists of commissioned essays by Gen-X rock writers, each attacking an album in the critical canon. By turns bilious, mischievous and whiny, the book serves as … Read More “The Gig: Firing the Canon”

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Don Byron: Don Leaps In

For Ivey-Divey, his first album in three years, clarinetist Don Byron put together a trio that is based on the Lester Young Trio record from the ’40s with Nat “King” Cole and Buddy Rich. Byron nabbed Jason Moran and Jack DeJohnette for his disc, which is sure to be one of the highlights of 2004. Nate Chinen reports.

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Craig Taborn: Junk Magic

As a sideman, Craig Taborn has thrived in polar extremes. He swung hard with sax bruiser James Carter, wandered open space with Roscoe Mitchell and Mat Maneri, and dove into ice-cold ambience with Detroit technocrat Carl Craig. In the employ of saxophonist-composer Tim Berne, the keyboardist has lately been honing a musical syntax equally indebted … Read More “Craig Taborn: Junk Magic”

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Frank Kimbrough: Ghost Dance

As a member of the Jazz Composers Collective and the Herbie Nichols Project, pianist Frank Kimbrough has garnered rave reviews from the critics-even though he’s remained relatively unknown to the public. Perhaps Kimbrough’s new album on Palmetto will change that and people will come to know the man Andrew Hill calls “one of the few meaningful artists of our time.” Nate Chinen reports.

Gerry Mulligan: The Complete Verve Gerry Mulligan Concert Band Sessions

In addition to his stature as one of the great baritone saxophonists in history, Gerry Mulligan holds a reputation as a composer-arranger of significant influence. His signature sound-an unusual, irresistible blend of intricate counterpoint and open harmonic space-was a key development of the postwar era, finding its earliest outlet on Miles Davis’ Birth of the … Read More “Gerry Mulligan: The Complete Verve Gerry Mulligan Concert Band Sessions”

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Bil Cunliffe Sextet: How My Heart Sings

There’s no shortage of pleasant surprises on this album, which finds one underrated musician giving respect to another. Cunliffe is a Los Angeles-based pianist with a “musician’s musician” rep; Zindars is a percussionist and composer of high professional regard but virtually no public presence. On How My Heart Sings, the former scores the latter’s tunes … Read More “Bil Cunliffe Sextet: How My Heart Sings”

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James Carter: Big Hat’s Odyssey

He’s one of the most technically startling musicians to ever play the saxophone or clarinet-in any of their variations or keys. But some people have taken the Motor City’s bad boy to task for being more concerned with flash than emotion. Of course, those people don’t know anything, but maybe his gorgeous new and, yes, mature project, Gardenias for Lady Day, will open their ears. Nate Chinen explains the story behind the new CD and the ever-evolving music of James Carter.

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Roy Hargrove: Groovin’ Hard

It’s Grammy Night, late, and the party has hit a groove. The house is tight-packed but loose with movement: heads bobbing, hands in the air, bodies in fluid time. Onstage, Jaguar Wright and Musiq (Soulchild) lean into each other-now crooning, now crying, their vocal lines snakelike and intertwined. Sitting tall at the drums, the Roots’ … Read More “Roy Hargrove: Groovin’ Hard”

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Ravi Coltrane: Mad 6

The literary critic Harold Bloom once argued, in a galvanizing text called The Anxiety of Influence, that great poets achieve their greatness only after deliberately distorting their forbears’ contributions. So a true artist takes canonical works and disfigures them, through a process of “creative misprision.” In jazz, think of Charlie Parker digesting Lester Young-or John … Read More “Ravi Coltrane: Mad 6”

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Bad Plus: These Are the Vistas

To many in the jazz-aware public, the Bad Plus arrives as a bolt out of the blue-galvanic, improbable, discrete, unforeseen. These Are the Vistas doesn’t technically mark the trio’s recorded debut, but as a Columbia release, it surely opens the gates and raises the stakes. This is, after all, a group accustomed to life on … Read More “Bad Plus: These Are the Vistas”

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Fred Hersch: Songs of Himself

Late spring in lower Manhattan: twilight, taxicabs, the blab of the pave. Downstairs in the Village Vanguard, the Fred Hersch Trio tumbles into a sinuous piece dedicated, the pianist explains, to the late Joe Henderson, with whom he played in this room on many occasions. “Phantom of the Bopera” is a bright-swinging workout, and the … Read More “Fred Hersch: Songs of Himself”

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DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid: Optometry

More than any other turntablist in trip-hop or beyond, Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid) places himself within a distinct avant-garde lineage-that of Morton Feldman, Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage. Optometry, his first putative jazz recording, attempts to lasso another form of avant-gardism-the comprovisational realm of the post-’60s new thing. His collaborators in … Read More “DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid: Optometry”

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Branford Marsalis: Footsteps of Our Fathers

Among the more telltale signs of a shifting recording industry was the announcement, early this year, that Branford Marsalis’ longstanding relationship with Columbia had come to an close-and that the saxophonist would be founding his own label, the Boston-based Marsalis Music. Now come the first fruits of independence: ironically, an album devoted to the achievements … Read More “Branford Marsalis: Footsteps of Our Fathers”

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