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Paquito D’Rivera: Jazz Meets the Classics

Though well known as a marvelous soloist in Latin- and mainstream-jazz contexts, Paquito D’Rivera also has an extensive background in classical and traditional Cuban music. This new release celebrates his abilities in all these worlds. It features fine arrangements of classical and/or Afro-Cuban pieces that provide ideal opportunities to spotlight D’Rivera’s capabilities on clarinet and … Read More “Paquito D’Rivera: Jazz Meets the Classics”

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Larry Goldings/Peter Bernstein/Bill Stewart: Ramshackle Serenade

Organist Larry Goldings, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Bill Stewart have worked as a first-rate trio for over two decades. Their band is that rare unit in which each player, while being an excellent soloist, is equally influential in shaping a performance’s direction. Both the opening selection, “Roach,” and mellow number “Mr. Meagles” (two Goldings … Read More “Larry Goldings/Peter Bernstein/Bill Stewart: Ramshackle Serenade”

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Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Band: Mother’s Touch

Mother’s Touch is the studio follow-up to this Orrin Evans-led ensemble’s topflight live recording from 2011. It’s as well arranged as its predecessor, versatile in its stylistic presentation and nicely balanced between cohesive ensemble statements and rich, expressive solo moments. Pianist Evans displays his fondness for blues shadings and tones on the opener, “In My … Read More “Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Band: Mother’s Touch”

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Jeff Denson & Joshua White: I’ll Fly Away

Bassist-composer Jeff Denson has earned a stalwart reputation as a rhythm section standout during his tenure with Lee Konitz’s quartet as well as with the trio Minsarah and his own four-piece ensemble. He takes on the role of co-contributor on his latest two discs, a pair of vastly different but equally compelling duet sessions. The … Read More “Jeff Denson & Joshua White: I’ll Fly Away”

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Chris Taylor: Nocturnal

Guitarist Chris Taylor’s debut release as a leader won’t endear him to purists. Not only does it feature electronic instrumentation, but many pieces include synthesized snippets and sampled beats or vocalized chants. There’s also no working band. Instead, the disc has a revolving lineup with several names from the improvisational world’s experimental end. Taylor recruited … Read More “Chris Taylor: Nocturnal”

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Hal Galper Trio: Trip the Light Fantastic

Pianist Hal Galper’s latest release incorporates influences and approaches from multiple camps, a reflection of the versatility he displayed during lengthy stints with Chet Baker and Phil Woods. But it’s a sign of his growth as a player that he does it in a manner that’s neither tedious nor imitative. Galper sometimes opts for the … Read More “Hal Galper Trio: Trip the Light Fantastic”

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Roberta Piket: Sides, Colors

Thematic diversity is the most intriguing aspect of pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger Roberta Piket’s latest release, Sides, Colors. She alternates between trio and large-group settings, and blends cuts that accent her acoustic piano playing with those featuring her on electric or organ. She even splits production duties with either Bill Mobley or Billy Mintz. … Read More “Roberta Piket: Sides, Colors”

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Eric Reed: The Dancing Monk

Pianist Eric Reed has a striking, identifiable style that is expressive and swinging yet can also be lyrical or introspective. Whether part of Wynton Marsalis’ band or working with great singers (Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves) and jazz giants (Benny Carter, Clark Terry), Reed’s solos and accompaniment always seem to add a fresh, vital component. On … Read More “Eric Reed: The Dancing Monk”

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Jason Robinson and Anthony Davis: Cerulean Landscape

Before multi-instrumentalist Jason Robinson became one of the most respected soloists and bandleaders in jazz’s experimental wing, one of his professors was Anthony Davis, the composer and pianist who has established himself in jazz, classical and avant-garde circles. He and Robinson began working together in 1998, and Cerulean Landscape reunites them for the first time … Read More “Jason Robinson and Anthony Davis: Cerulean Landscape”

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Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: To Hear From There

As we’ve come to expect from trombonist/bandleader Wayne Wallace, the 11 selections on To Hear From There spotlight multiple rhythms, styles and eras within the framework of Latin jazz. Interestingly, Wallace’s compositions tend to be more exciting than his quintet’s explorations of classic pieces. Juan Tizol’s “Perdido,” despite a nice vocal turn by Washington, proves … Read More “Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: To Hear From There”

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Bill Easley: Love Stories

Though the word “virtuoso” is almost as overused as “genius” when applied to musicians, Bill Easley’s abilities on multiple saxophones and clarinets, in styles extending from swing and hard bop to R&B and pop, have proven that designation accurate. But on his sixth session as a leader, Easley opts for a more conventional, thematically conservative … Read More “Bill Easley: Love Stories”

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Louis Hayes Jazz Communicators: Lou’s Idea

The first version of the marvelous drummer Louis Hayes’ Jazz Communicators was only together a short time (1967-68), but that unit included two legendary players in tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. The latest edition’s pedigree doesn’t quite equal that of its predecessor, though the roster does include such accomplished musicians as tenor … Read More “Louis Hayes Jazz Communicators: Lou’s Idea”

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Jeremy Pelt: The Talented Mr. Pelt

There hasn’t been any orchestrated campaign boosting the profile of trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, but in little more than a decade after his arrival in New York he’s generated considerable excitement. His group’s latest recording comprehensively demonstrates why he’s so well regarded. Pelt is a technical marvel. He executes intricate solos with ease, plays gorgeous ballads … Read More “Jeremy Pelt: The Talented Mr. Pelt”

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Ray Vega & Thomas Marriott: East-West Trumpet Summit

This Ray Vega/Thomas Marriott dual trumpet release emphasizes collective interaction, cohesive ensemble presentation and the spirit of teamwork embodied in the title, though there are also plenty of times during the eight songs where differences in style and approach are evident despite the fact they’re playing identical trumpets. Both men are superb melodic interpreters, and … Read More “Ray Vega & Thomas Marriott: East-West Trumpet Summit”

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Organissimo: Alive and Kicking

Recorded live last year at WKAR-TV’s Studio A at Michigan State before a very supportive crowd, the trio Organissmo’s new disc pays homage to the tradition of bluesy, funky soul jazz without becoming a strict retro or tribute project. Organist Jim Alfredson is quite inventive in his use of the bass pedals, and that skill … Read More “Organissimo: Alive and Kicking”

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Tom Harrell: Roman Nights

Trumpeter Tom Harrell’s often beautiful, always rigorous solos and outstanding writing are the main strengths of his latest release on HighNote, Roman Nights. The album also displays the various influences that have been integrated into his work, from Latin rhythms to film soundtracks, bop, the classic playing of jazz immortals like Charlie Parker and John … Read More “Tom Harrell: Roman Nights”

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Joe Locke: For the Love of You

Vibraphonist Joe Locke has done many intriguing and robust mainstream jazz dates during his career, discs with plenty of swinging, decisive solos, intense pieces and inventive, intricate arrangements. But his latest release, For the Love of You, hearkens back to a mid-’90s date Locke released, Moment to Moment, where he paid tribute to the music … Read More “Joe Locke: For the Love of You”

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Jason Moran and the Bandwagon: Ten

Pianist and bandleader Jason Moran’s exceptional trio the Bandwagon marks its first decade on Ten, which is the pianist’s first CD in more than four years. It’s also a release that explores multiple contexts and situations rather than relying on or spotlighting a central theme. Moran is equally accomplished interpreting works, writing tunes or collaborating … Read More “Jason Moran and the Bandwagon: Ten”

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Ahmad Jamal: A Quiet Time

Throughout six decades on the jazz scene, pianist Ahmad Jamal has proven it’s possible to be a precise, restrained soloist without sacrificing soul or artistry. Perhaps the lone negative when it comes to his music is familiarity, since anyone remotely knowledgeable about jazz piano will immediately recognize the Jamal style, one that carefully combines elegance, … Read More “Ahmad Jamal: A Quiet Time”

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Mose Allison: The Way Of The World

Since the late ’50s, Mose Allison’s distinctive approach has combined the vocal passion of a blues musician with a bop pianist’s harmonic flair and a country performer’s storytelling acumen. But until equally idiosyncratic producer Joe Henry lured him back into a studio, Allison hadn’t recorded in 12 years, something that makes his new release, The … Read More “Mose Allison: The Way Of The World”

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Victor Wooten: Mr. Universe

Although he’s a spirited, skillful and imaginative soloist, Victor Wooten believes that “any good bassist’s first task is to help make your group sound better.” Since 1989, that’s exactly what the Nashville-based electric bass virtuoso has done for Béla Fleck and the Flecktones: made the band sound better. But before taking a New York City … Read More “Victor Wooten: Mr. Universe”

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Rob Whitlock: Sketchin’

Rob Whitlock’s consistently well-played if sometimes musically unimposing Sket-chin’ explores a wealth of styles, from party-funk fare and vintage tunes to Caribbean-flavored pieces and soul-jazz with a touch of gospel. Whitlock doesn’t try to dazzle or wow anyone technically on B3, acoustic piano or electronic keyboards, often preferring to let other members of the various … Read More “Rob Whitlock: Sketchin’”

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Will Calhoun: Native Lands

Will Calhoun displays his adaptability and instrumental mastery in numerous roles on the musically diverse, thematically appealing Native Lands. Calhoun works in solo, duo and combo situations, his duties rotating between sympathetic accompanist, flashy stylist and percussive scene-setter on such numbers as his originals “Emanation” and “East,” plus compositions cowritten with Kevin Eubanks and Wallace … Read More “Will Calhoun: Native Lands”

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Jazz in Search of Itself by Larry Kart

Chicago critic Larry Kart’s new book combines history, biography, analysis and musical examination while assessing figures from every period of jazz history. Kart frequently does his best work on overlooked or underrated artists, and his essays on Tina Brooks, Hank Mobley, Arthur Rollini, Herbie Nichols and Evan Parker are most welcome. But even when chronicling … Read More “Jazz in Search of Itself by Larry Kart”

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Terri Lyne Carrington/Adam Rogers/Jimmy Haslip/Greg Osby: Structure

Bassist Jimmy Haslip’s the link between these two supergroups, both of which, at their best, remind listeners of jazz-rock’s promising early years, when bands made some outstanding music with an improvisational foundation and confrontational, energetic performance style. Structure’s core sound is more on the jazz end, while Jing Chi’s reflects funk, rock and blues. Structure’s … Read More “Terri Lyne Carrington/Adam Rogers/Jimmy Haslip/Greg Osby: Structure”

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McCoy Tyner: Illuminations

Great albums like Illuminations used to be the benchmark of major labels, but now only the indies and/or foreign companies respect jazz enough to give giants like McCoy Tyner the necessary resources and authority for making fabulous recordings. While there’s nothing here as conceptually challenging as past Tyner gems like Sahara, in terms of playing … Read More “McCoy Tyner: Illuminations”

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Nancy Wilson: R.S.V.P.

There aren’t many great songs Nancy Wilson hasn’t recorded in her remarkable five-decade-plus career, but the 12 numbers on her newest project, R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal), are just that. This CD is the latest in a series from Pittsburgh’s Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild that features master stylists not only picking the compositions they perform but … Read More “Nancy Wilson: R.S.V.P.”

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Lafayette Gilchrist

Baltimore pianist Lafayette Gilchrist summarizes his musical approach this way: “I got this from David [Murray] and he got it from Ornette [Coleman]: ‘Jazz is the teacher and funk is the preacher,’ and that really drives me.” That’s evident by the teeming funk, slicing grooves and percussive energy underpinning the tunes on Gilchrist’s national debut … Read More “Lafayette Gilchrist”

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