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Phillip Johnston: Normalology

Normalology contains unrecorded music sopranoist Phillip Johnston composed in the ’80s for the Microscopic Septet. You may recall that band’s combination of good musical taste, wit and professionalism, and thus won’t be surprised by the same creative enthusiasm and humor, or the deliberate camp occasionally on this CD. Several works here were composed for films … Read More “Phillip Johnston: Normalology”

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Rob Blakeslee Quartet: Last Minute Gifts

Trumpeter Rob Blakeslee leads his Oregon-based band through a series of labyrinthine excursions on Last Minute Gifts. Rooted in freer forms of early ’60s jazz, the pianoless quartet-trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, bassist Clyde Reed and drummer Dave Storrs-features abrupt tempo changes, shifting rhythms and corkscrew improvisations. By now we’re long accustomed to the unpredictable, and for … Read More “Rob Blakeslee Quartet: Last Minute Gifts”

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Glenn Spearman/Dominic Duval: Working With the Elements

Moderate pacing typifies the Glenn Spearman-Dominic Duvall duets and the trio with Duvall, Joe McPhee and Jay Rosen. Spearman tried gravitating from the Frank Wright power tenor on Working with the Elements, recorded in summer 1998, a few months before his demise. He’s concentrating more on patterns here; but not all his ruminations are convincing-several … Read More “Glenn Spearman/Dominic Duval: Working With the Elements”

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Joe McPhee/Dominic Duval/Jay Rosen: The Watermelon Suite

Duvall shows on The Watermelon Suite just how big his skills are, executing simultaneous upper and bottom register arco work on the “Suite” and, in general, pacing the music with warmth and intelligence. These are sound murals, finding McPhee more understated than usual. Yet, doing “My Funny Valentine” at such a slow pace creates a … Read More “Joe McPhee/Dominic Duval/Jay Rosen: The Watermelon Suite”

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Yuko Fujiyama String Ensemble: Tag

Tag debuts pianist Yuko Fujiyama, accompanied by cellist Tomas Ulrich and violinist Mark Feldman. Several pieces appear at least partly to have been scored and, even with improvising, their work seems on the lyrical side of Ives, Carter and Earle Brown. They range from “Pep Talk”‘s near thunder to the series of clusters of “Sweetwater” … Read More “Yuko Fujiyama String Ensemble: Tag”

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Burton Greene Trio: Throptics

On Throptics ESP Disk alumnus Greene stretches into the tongue-in-cheek: his craggy performance of “Mississippi Clarence” has two-fisted humor. “Tilo Akandita Brikama” is for Johnny Dyani; and “Lennie Lives,” for Tristano, is a thunderous success. Grassi gives outstanding performances, his percussive conversations shifting between Morris and Greene, and also delivering smart, well-articulated collectivisms (“trialogues”?). When … Read More “Burton Greene Trio: Throptics”

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Steve Swell Trio: Atmospheels

Lou Grassi performs the collectivist drummer’s dynamics and polyrhythms on Atmospheels, exploiting an energy school occasion with trombonist Swell’s trio that includes reedist Will Connell, who tends to get stuck in mode arpeggios on “Sound as One,” “Atmospheels,” and “BA-1.” Shifting his tonal centers more often would have made his performances more interesting. “Folk Tune,” … Read More “Steve Swell Trio: Atmospheels”

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Thomas Borgmann Trio/Peter Brotzmann: Stalker Songs

Bassist Little joins reedist Borgmann, drummer Denis Charles (one of his last recordings), and guest Peter Brotzmann for the two-part Stalker Songs, each part over 30 minutes long. Tenors predominate. Borgmann seems to carry on dialogues with himself in his middle register through phrasings barely perceptible to the casual ear; Brotzmann meanwhile is inclined to … Read More “Thomas Borgmann Trio/Peter Brotzmann: Stalker Songs”

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Dave Douglas/Tiny Bell Trio: Live in Europe

Tiny Bell Trio is an apt name for this collective of trumpeter Dave Douglas, guitarist Brad Schoeppach, and drummer-percussionist Jim Black. Their forte is less the dynamics the name suggests but in how they render Douglas’ music to exploit its fragmentary and bare-boned essentials. Performances from their tour of Europe in October 1996 fill this … Read More “Dave Douglas/Tiny Bell Trio: Live in Europe”

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Hank Crawford: Tight

For Tight, producer Bob Porter and Hank Crawford decided on the expanded background offered by two trumpets, tenor and baritone. The relaxed settings for Crawford’s unmistakable alto, by virtue of his arrangements, may recall the late Atlantic period and the Kudu formula. We might find ourselves deceived by the melodies and polished frameworks of these … Read More “Hank Crawford: Tight”

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