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Cyrus Chestnut: The Cyrus Chestnut Quartet

A certain naturalism and hard-earned grace run through the compositions and playing of Cyrus Chestnut, the Baltimore-bred modern-mainstream player best known for his work as a resourceful solo pianist and dynamic leader of trios. But those qualities shine through again on The Cyrus Chestnut Quartet , his first recording as a leader in that format. … Read More “Cyrus Chestnut: The Cyrus Chestnut Quartet”

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Garage a Trois: Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil

Garage a Trois may have started 12 years ago as a groove-intensive jam outfit centered on the eight-string guitar ministrations of Charlie Hunter. But the group, with Skerik on tenor sax and effects, Mike Dillon on vibraphone and percussion, Stanton Moore (of Galactic) on “drum pummelling” and keyboardist Marco Benevento having replaced Hunter, has undergone … Read More “Garage a Trois: Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil”

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Ben Williams: State of Art

Yes, State of Art is an audacious title for any musician’s debut album. But the CD, the first under D.C. native Ben Williams’ name as a leader, largely lives up to the hype. Williams, a mainstay in Stefon Harris’ band and winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition for double bass in 2009, has … Read More “Ben Williams: State of Art”

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High Time: Morning Walk

The groove is the thing for High Time, a quartet of accomplished journeymen who have never quite reached household-name status. And the groove on much of the group’s debut CD leans on the laidback side of fusion: closer texturally to Yellowjackets/Fourplay territory than to the aggressive shred-head approach of many contemporary fusioneers. Take, for instance, … Read More “High Time: Morning Walk”

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Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: 40 Acres and a Burro

Since ending its affiliation with Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2002, Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra has grown more adventurous, its leader travelling well beyond his Afro-Cuban roots. The musical exploration continues on 40 Acres and a Burro, which has the big-band digging deeper into the textures and rhythms of South America and the … Read More “Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: 40 Acres and a Burro”

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Gerald Veasley: Gerald Veasley’s Electric Mingus Project

Given six-string electric bassist Gerald Veasley’s rep as a smooth-jazz exponent and, through his radio show, advocate for the genre, it’s easy to forget his multiyear stint with the late Joe Zawinul and his work backing such artists as McCoy Tyner. And while Veasley is a certified ripper, it’s somewhat surprising to see his name … Read More “Gerald Veasley: Gerald Veasley’s Electric Mingus Project”

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Rebirth Brass Band: Rebirth of New Orleans

When hearing the tumbling, staggered horns and propulsive, jagged drumming of a New Orleans brass band, anyone with affection for the Crescent City’s music is liable to book the next available flight. By that measure, Rebirth of New Orleans does what it ought to do. Rebirth, Tuesday-night regulars at the venerable Maple Leaf Bar in … Read More “Rebirth Brass Band: Rebirth of New Orleans”

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Jimmy Haslip featuring Joe Vannelli: Nightfall

On Nightfall, Haslip’s first solo album since 2000’s Red Heat, he’s joined by keyboardist and producer Joe Vannelli for a set of heavily textured tracks characterized by multilayered keys and synths and programmed drums and percussion. Haslip’s awe-inspiring bass chops are amply on display, but the disc suffers from a certain sonic sameness. Several of … Read More “Jimmy Haslip featuring Joe Vannelli: Nightfall”

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Jane Ira Bloom: Wingwalker

For her 14th album as a leader, Jane Ira Bloom offers pieces-all are original compositions except for one-that might best be thought of as sound sculptures. That description applies even to the sole standard, a closing version of the Lerner and Loewe ballad “I Could Have Danced All Night” that finds Bloom’s graceful and resonant … Read More “Jane Ira Bloom: Wingwalker”

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Omar Sosa: Calma: solo piano & …

Omar Sosa, the Cuban-born pianist and composer whose music is steeped in jazz, the Caribbean rhythms and textures of his homeland and African music, often and most intriguingly works with large canvases: Take, for instance, last year’s sprawling, ambitious Ceremony, a collaboration with the NDR Big Band. Calma is by comparison a miniaturist work, a … Read More “Omar Sosa: Calma: solo piano & …”

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Kermit Ruffins: Happy Talk

Kermit Ruffins, the good-time trumpet player who portrayed himself last year on HBO’s Treme, is the same brash cat audiences first warmed to in the early ’80s, when he was a teenager co-leading the Rebirth Brass Band. And Happy Talk, produced by Tracey Freeman (of Harry Connick Jr. fame) and several cuts above Ruffins’ most … Read More “Kermit Ruffins: Happy Talk”

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Marcus Miller: A Night in Monte-Carlo

Miles Davis and Jaco Pastorius references, Middle Eastern influences, deep funk and lush orchestral flourishes are among the elements Marcus Miller employs on his new album, recorded live in Monaco with the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra in 2008. The superstar bassist, producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist is joined by the likes of Herbie Hancock, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, … Read More “Marcus Miller: A Night in Monte-Carlo”

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Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet: Natural Selection

Best known for his probing electric guitar work in various fusion and postbop settings, in addition to occasional forays into South Asian styles, Rez Abbasi switches to acoustic guitar for his debut recording with a quartet first heard at the 2010 Winter Jazzfest in New York. The group’s sound, a distinctive mix of Abbasi’s acoustic … Read More “Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet: Natural Selection”

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Jeff Berlin: High Standards

Jeff Berlin has justifiably gained acclaim as a fusion bass wizard, racking up credits with the likes of Allan Holdsworth, Bill Bruford and Kazumi Watanabe and even subbing with old-school prog rockers Yes. But given the evidence of the music he favors at his own concerts and the concepts he imparts as head of his … Read More “Jeff Berlin: High Standards”

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Vincent Herring & Earth Jazz: Morning Star

Shades of the Headhunters, Weather Report, the Crusaders and, not surprisingly, Cannonball Adderley’s electric-jazz releases color the sound of Vincent Herring’s Earth Jazz Agents (here, minus the “Agents”), the gifted alto saxophonist’s working funk and fusion quartet. Yes, it all feels like a bit of a time warp, but the sonic setting hardly keeps the … Read More “Vincent Herring & Earth Jazz: Morning Star”

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Quick Hits

In a new edition of his Between The Grooves column, jazz musician and writer Philip Booth reviews recent CDs from Dave Holland, Stanton Moore, Paul Motian, Mark O’Connor and Jeff Healey

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