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Steve Slagle: Alto Manhattan (Panorama)

Alto Manhattan, named for the New York City borough where alto saxophonist and flutist Steve Slagle resides, is a mixed bag of Latin music, ballads and hard-hitting straight-ahead jazz. Throughout the program, Slagle impresses as a master instrumentalist, a sometimes ferocious improviser and a fine composer. From his soulful unaccompanied alto performance of “Body and … Read More “Steve Slagle: Alto Manhattan (Panorama)”

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Dave Stryker: Eight Track II (Strikezone)

As an alumnus of stints with organist Jack McDuff and tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, guitarist Dave Stryker knows how to please hardcore jazz heads as well as more pop-oriented fans. His 2014 release, Eight Track, featuring pop tunes from the 1970s, is a case in point. That album’s follow-up, Eight Track II, mines some of … Read More “Dave Stryker: Eight Track II (Strikezone)”

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Joey DeFrancesco: Trip Mode

Joey the Aggressor has emerged with this album. With new guitarist Dan Wilson and new drummer Jason Brown, the organist’s trio harkens back to-as liner-note writer Mark Ruffin points out-the Larry Young-Grant Green-Elvin Jones triumvirate of the late ’60s. This trio isn’t just burning, it’s hammering, thumping, thundering and laying down a profound hardcore groove. … Read More “Joey DeFrancesco: Trip Mode”

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Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio: Live in Studio

This album was recorded with a studio audience present and without rehearsals and formal arrangements, and it is a testimony to the power of spontaneity in jazz when favorable conditions and inspired personnel are present. With a repertoire of tunes mainly from the ’50s and ’60s, drummer Gerry Gibbs’ trio, which includes veterans Kenny Barron … Read More “Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio: Live in Studio”

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Houston Person: Something Personal

Something Personal is a typical offering from veteran tenor saxophonist Houston Person: warm ballads, an R&B cooker, a couple of standards with a bossa-nova beat and a couple of soulful swingers. Person has a personal (pun intended, as noted in Willard Jenkins’ liner notes) way of delivering each melody, almost like a singer (again noted … Read More “Houston Person: Something Personal”

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Steve Slagle & Bill O’Connell: The Power of Two

You’ve heard the expression about there being “strength in numbers.” In the case of Steve Slagle and Bill O’Connell’s The Power of Two, two is quite enough, which is to say that alto saxophonist and flutist Slagle and pianist O’Connell are an ensemble-and a powerful, forthright one at that. Both play aggressively and with secure … Read More “Steve Slagle & Bill O’Connell: The Power of Two”

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Grant Stewart: Trio

Working with Paul Sikivie on bass and brother Phil Stewart on drums throughout TRIO, tenor saxophonist Grant Stewart exhibits a big, direct tone and, in his solos, a knack for motivic development along with strategic melodic reminders of the tune at hand. While the piano-less format may suggest freer, avant-garde-leaning proceedings, Stewart’s approach is as … Read More “Grant Stewart: Trio”

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Dave Stryker: Messin’ With Mr. T

The bluesy, soulful guitarist Dave Stryker played in tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine’s band from 1986 through 1995. On Messin’ With Mr. T, he invites 10 tenor players, organist Jared Gold, drummer McClenty Hunter and, on six tracks, percussionist Mayra Casales to join him in a tribute to the late “Mister T.” The tenormen, ranging in … Read More “Dave Stryker: Messin’ With Mr. T”

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Vanguard Jazz Orchestra: OverTime: Music of Bob Brookmeyer

Bob Brookmeyer was a charter member of the Jazz Band, otherwise known as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and eventually the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. From the beginning he not only played valve trombone but also wrote for the group. Brookmeyer moved to the West Coast in 1968, returned to New York a decade later and … Read More “Vanguard Jazz Orchestra: OverTime: Music of Bob Brookmeyer”

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Afro Bop Alliance: Angel Eyes

The most unusual feature of the septet Afro Bop Alliance is the presence of steel pans in the frontline alongside trumpet and alto and tenor saxophones. A recent addition to the band, pans player Victor Provost is a vigorous and dazzling soloist, and the resonating tonal color he provides in the ensemble is both an … Read More “Afro Bop Alliance: Angel Eyes”

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Mack Avenue Superband: Live From the Detroit Jazz Festival–2013

Supergroups don’t always live up to the billing, but this one does. A sequel to the SuperBand’s 2012 Detroit Jazz Festival recording, this album features returnees Sean Jones (trumpet and flugelhorn), Evan Perri (guitar), Aaron Diehl (piano), Rodney Whitaker (bass) and Carl Allen (drums), plus newcomers Kirk Whalum (tenor saxophone and flute) and Warren Wolf … Read More “Mack Avenue Superband: Live From the Detroit Jazz Festival–2013”

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Tom Harrell: Trip

Not to discount the work of Tom Harrell’s frontline partners from his previous albums, but the tonal match and improvisational rapport between the trumpeter-flugelhornist and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner on this record is striking. Of course, Harrell’s writing is a major factor because it establishes compelling moods and guiding rhythmic patterns and melodic motifs. There … Read More “Tom Harrell: Trip”

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Frank Kimbrough: Quartet

Frank Kimbrough’s piano playing is unpredictable. Not in terms of quality-he’s always “on”-but in terms of content, direction and execution. He’s a genuinely spontaneous player. He can sound barbed yet romantic, busy but introspective, funky but un-clichéd. Quartet, with alto and soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Lewis Nash, offers plenty of … Read More “Frank Kimbrough: Quartet”

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Saxophone Summit: Visitation

Here’s what this album suggests at various times: the soundtrack to a dark, slow-moving suspense film; an orchestra tuning up; six musicians practicing simultaneously in different rooms; a tedious sensitivity-training class; insistent conversation. According to a liner note, the focus is on “original compositions that suggest open rhythmic, harmonic and textural flows.” Whatever that means, … Read More “Saxophone Summit: Visitation”

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Saxophone Summit: Visitation

Here’s what this album suggests at various times: the soundtrack to a dark, slow-moving suspense film; an orchestra tuning up; six musicians practicing simultaneously in different rooms; a tedious sensitivity-training class; insistent conversation. According to a liner note, the focus is on “original compositions that suggest open rhythmic, harmonic and textural flows.” Whatever that means, … Read More “Saxophone Summit: Visitation”

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Mike LeDonne: I Love Music

Mike LeDonne’s Groover Quartet has a talent for finding the jazz groove in pop tunes as well as for striking up a righteous groove on jazz tunes. Together 14 years, the band resembles the classic, soulful Blue Note organ combos of yore with a more recent repertoire-especially hits from the ’70s. Organist-leader LeDonne, tenor saxophonist … Read More “Mike LeDonne: I Love Music”

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Stan Kenton Alumni Band: Road Scholars Live

With trumpeter Mike Vax at the helm, the Stan Kenton Alumni Band is in good hands. The group’s 2013 tour, memorialized here, would not disappoint the maestro, and should please new fans as well as the aging faithful. With Kenton you expect drama, majesty, extreme instrumental range and brassy grandeur. Band trombonist Scott Whitfield’s arrangement … Read More “Stan Kenton Alumni Band: Road Scholars Live”

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Ralph Bowen: Standard Deviation

With Standard Deviation, tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen, pianist Bill O’Connell, bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Donald Edwards deliver a program of standard tunes revised in novel ways. The revamped themes, harmonies and rhythms are not only different, they also propel Bowen the improviser to new heights. A John Coltrane Quartet-like vibe emanates from “Isn’t It … Read More “Ralph Bowen: Standard Deviation”

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Mike Longo and the New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble: Live From New York!

This album captures an electrifying evening at the John Birks Gillespie Auditorium in the NYC Baha’i Center. There is a feeling of elation in the performances. Pianist Mike Longo wrote all the big-band arrangements, and they range from his atmospheric originals “Afro Desia” and “Inner City Hues” to the jazz standards “Whisper Not” and “Wee.” … Read More “Mike Longo and the New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble: Live From New York!”

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Ray Mantilla: The Connection

Jazz and Afro-Caribbean rhythms are a natural connection, one attractively celebrated in the work of Latin percussionist Ray Mantilla, who was born in the South Bronx in 1934. Here, we have a variety of performances by members of his septet, ranging from a jam between Mantilla and drummer Bill Elder (“Pieces”) to a folkloric flute-and-soprano … Read More “Ray Mantilla: The Connection”

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Stan Getz Quartet: Live at Montreux 1972

Recorded in 1972 at the Montreux Jazz Festival, this sold-separately CD and DVD release captures Getz in aggressive form as he digs into newer repertoire items “Captain Marvel,” “Day Waves,” “Windows,” “La Fiesta” and “Times Lie,” all composed by Chick Corea. Even the ballad staples “Lush Life” and “I Remember Clifford” heat up when the … Read More “Stan Getz Quartet: Live at Montreux 1972”

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Houston Person: Nice ‘N’ Easy

Houston Person has called his style “good old bootin’ tenor sax playing.” With parts of this album, he might also refer to boudoir footwear, especially his playing on the ballads “All My Tomorrows,” “It’s All in the Game,” “If It’s the Last Thing I Do,” “Ill Wind” and “Sweet Life.” There is also the ensemble … Read More “Houston Person: Nice ‘N’ Easy”

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Joey DeFrancesco: One for Rudy

“Rudy” is, of course, legendary recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, for whom Joey DeFrancesco feels a certain affinity. The organist recorded his second album at Van Gelder’s famous Englewood Cliffs, N.J., studio in 1990 and another album there eight years later. Now comes this tribute, with DeFrancesco’s trio reprising several tunes originally recorded by Van … Read More “Joey DeFrancesco: One for Rudy”

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Eli Yamin/Evan Christopher: Louie’s Dream: For Our Jazz Heroes

The heroes pianist Eli Yamin and clarinetist Evan Christopher honor on this album include not only Louis Armstrong but also Barney Bigard, Duke Ellington, Sidney Bechet, Mary Lou Williams, Mahalia Jackson, Amiri Baraka, John Coltrane and Mercedes Ellington. There are also a couple of evocative but non-dedicated originals by Yamin, one bluesy, the other gospelish. … Read More “Eli Yamin/Evan Christopher: Louie’s Dream: For Our Jazz Heroes”

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Scott Hamilton: Remembering Billie

Here we have a typically swinging set by tenorman Scott Hamilton, the majority of which features songs recorded by singer Billie Holiday before World War II-her more carefree period, as mentioned in Bob Porter’s liner notes. Accompanied by pianist Tim Ray, bassist Dave Zinno and drummer Jim Gwin throughout-and joined by album producer Duke Robillard … Read More “Scott Hamilton: Remembering Billie”

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Frank Wess: Magic 101

Former Count Basie Band saxophonist Frank Wess, 89 at the time of this 2011 recording, is in classic form throughout. Accompanied by pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Winard Harper, he employs his tenor saxophone exclusively-no flute, no alto. He has a thick tone and articulates notes in a manner reminiscent of Ben … Read More “Frank Wess: Magic 101”

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The Bechet Legacy: Birch Hall Concerts Live

Soprano saxophonist and clarinetist Bob Wilber formed the Bechet Legacy in the late ’70s. He had studied with Sidney Bechet as a teenager in the ’40s, and it was a fitting time to formally honor his late mentor. On this two-CD set, recorded in England in 1981 and ’82, original Bechet Legacy members Glenn Zottola … Read More “The Bechet Legacy: Birch Hall Concerts Live”

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Eric Alexander: Touching

Eric Alexander, on the scene since the early 1990s, is from the masculine school of tenor saxophone rhapsody. Throughout Touching, an album of ballads, he projects melodic conviction, deep feeling and mature expression. There is a blues and gospel influence that descends from Stanley Turrentine and an occasional out-there burst of spirituality reminiscent of John … Read More “Eric Alexander: Touching”

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Bill Evans: Momentum

This two-CD set is a considerable emotional distance from the definitive and introspective Bill Evans Trio heard on the revered Sunday at the Village Vanguard from 1961. Recorded 11 years later at a concert in Groningen, the Netherlands, Momentum proceeds with, well, aggressive momentum, especially in the playing of bassist Eddie Gomez. This version of … Read More “Bill Evans: Momentum”

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