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Deep Rumba: A Calm In the Fire of Dances

Ever since the Buena Vista Social Club won that Grammy, all kindsa folk have been fiendin’ for any CD that says “Recorded in Havana” on the back. Hah! Like the 100% real shit can’t exist nowhere but Cuba proper. Silly wabbits-Kip Hanrahan has been producing Afro-Cuban-stanked albums on American Clave since the mid-’80s. Matter of … Read More “Deep Rumba: A Calm In the Fire of Dances”

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Nasheet Waits: Burning Hot Son

Whilst double-stepping the six blocks between West 4th Street and the Village Vanguard-drummer Nasheet Waits is hitting there with pianist Jason Moran’s New Directions-my mind began to trip on the latest batch of jazz legend progeny-Anthony Wilson, Ravi Coltrane, Graham Haynes. Will they be able to transcend legions of skeptical critics and curmudgeonly fans and … Read More “Nasheet Waits: Burning Hot Son”

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Joey DeFrancesco: Joey DeFrancesco’s Goodfellas

“Dad, are you in the Mafia?” “There’s no such thing as the Mafia.” -dialogue from HBO series The Sopranos. The other day whilst scarfing slices ‘n’ root beer, headphone-nodding to track one (“Speak Softly Love”) of Hammond B-3 ace Joey DeFrancesco’s new Goodfellas (Frank Vignola, guitar; Joe Ascione, drums) CD, I went into deep reverie, … Read More “Joey DeFrancesco: Joey DeFrancesco’s Goodfellas”

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Ray Barretto and New World Spirit plus 4: Portraits in Jazz and Clave

Back in the day when Mario Bauz, Chico O’Farrill and Dizzy were striving to link up Afro Cuban son ‘n’ clave with Afro American swing and bop, they built their bridges on the backs of ex-Havana conguero masters like Chano Pozo and Mongo Santamaria. As the ’50s waned, the Latin jazz vanguard was led by … Read More “Ray Barretto and New World Spirit plus 4: Portraits in Jazz and Clave”

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Don Braden: The Fire Within

Since he blew up back in ’84 with the Harper Brothers Quintet, great things have been expected of tenor saxophonist Don Braden. Further stints with Wynton and Betty (Look What I Got) made him a perennial TDWR. In ’97, Braden fulfilled all prophecies with the heady Shorter-Mobley-Coltrane-Grover Washington, Jr. frisson of The Voice of the … Read More “Don Braden: The Fire Within”

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Kenny Garrett: Simply Said

In the David Sanborn-Art Porter era, contemporary jazz was on; in 1999, the stuff is stale. The difference? Those cats had played all the music (swing, bop, straightahead) before they smooved-out; today’s crew are one-trick ponies. Perhaps that’s why ex-Miles alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett’s new joint Simply Said is the freshest contempo jazz record you’re … Read More “Kenny Garrett: Simply Said”

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Charles Lloyd: Just Before Sunrise

Jazz people have always slept on Charles Lloyd’s tenor saxophone/composing skills. Back in the late ’60s, the Charles Lloyd Quartet (Keith Jarrett, piano; Cecil McBee/Ron McClure, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums) was the crossover jazz act; shipping Atlantic Records gold, playing rock concerts. Ironically, that very success was maligned by the jazz hipocracy as “sell-out.” 32 … Read More “Charles Lloyd: Just Before Sunrise”

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Gonzalo Rubalcaba Cuban Quartet: Antiguo

The problem with hype is that it raises your expectations too damn high. Take Cuban pianist/composer Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Big-upped by Charlie Haden, world tours, five-star reviews. After the hype, albums and gigs, I still wasn’t feeling him. Gonzalo’s new CD, Antiguo, has flipped my script. An epically sprawling spirit-cosmic convergence of Afro-Cuban dance rhythms, Santeria … Read More “Gonzalo Rubalcaba Cuban Quartet: Antiguo”

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Medeski, Martin and Wood: Combustication

For some eight years, organ power trio Medeski, Martin & Wood have made jazz-based music virtually undetected by the jazz police’s radar. It’s not hard to understand-their sound draws freely from ’70s rhythm renegades like Sly Stone, Larry Young, The Meters, ELP and King Tubby-MMW defies orthodox categorization. More of a improvisational jam band a … Read More “Medeski, Martin and Wood: Combustication”

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Leon Thomas: Anthology

Waaay back in the late ’60s-early ’70s, vocalist Leon Thomas was The Man, forging new inroads for jazz singers. A bluesy baritone straight outta Joe Williams, Thomas’ style radically changed during his stint with Pharoah Sanders. Trance-deep within the multi-layered Afro-Indo-improvisational raptures of Sander’s cipher, the vocalist began to sing with shamanistic tongues-pygmy-like yodel ululations, … Read More “Leon Thomas: Anthology”

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The Headhunters: Return of The Headhunters

When Herbie Hancock’s cyberspatial voyaging Sextant fell to an ungrateful earth in early ’73, he immediately put together the five-piece Headhunters band. A radical departure from the previous band, their eponymous debut was an audaciously fresh blend of Miles electric spaces, Sly Stone R&B vamps, Motherland percussives and Hancock’s rococco swing. A crossover platinum success, … Read More “The Headhunters: Return of The Headhunters”

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Ravi Coltrane: Son & Reign

When Billie sang “God bless the child that’s got his own” to the woman in the mirror, she had no idea that an aspiring saxophonist named Ravi Coltrane would hear her advice and take it to heart. As the son of John and Alice Coltrane-two of the deepest musicians of the 20th century-all you amateur … Read More “Ravi Coltrane: Son & Reign”

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Marc Ribot: Shrek

Downtown guitarist Marc Ribot is a veritable shape-shifting sculptor of wild electrified sonics. Madly skilled in the Hendrixian arts of feedback, wack tunings, exotic scales and crisply shredded notes, Ribot’s recordings and performances are often as sensory exhaustive as they are musically satisfying (not a bad thing). Recorded in 1994, Shrek is firmly in the … Read More “Marc Ribot: Shrek”

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Dianne Reeves: That Day

In today’s crowded field of jazz singers, Dianne Reeves is an anomaly. More of a throwback to the glory days of Dakota Staton and Terri Thornton, Reeves’ pliable, throaty contralto has memorably essayed songs of family, love, fear and hope with a singular sound equal parts R&B colorations and jazzy swing. Creating her own niche, … Read More “Dianne Reeves: That Day”

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Ray Charles: Genius & Soul: The 50th Anniversary Collection

It’s hard to believe, but Ray Charles has been around for some 50 years. So ubiquitous that he’s positively ethereal, he’s been the stealth gene in this country’s cultural DNA, subtly infecting our collective conscious/subconscious with his revolutionary musical visions. No doubt, in a non-Ray Charles parallel universe, there would be no Stevie Wonder, Joe … Read More “Ray Charles: Genius & Soul: The 50th Anniversary Collection”

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Delfeayo Marsalis: Musashi

Slide trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis is that rare thing-a record producer who is also a first-class player and composer. Since the mid-’80s, Berklee grad Marsalis has over the course of some 60 recordings (including brothers Wynton and Branford as well as Courtney Pine) distinguished himself as one of the more gifted producers of jazz today. Although … Read More “Delfeayo Marsalis: Musashi”

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Greg Osby: Further Ado

From his early ’80s work/study tenure in the Howard University Jazz Orchestra (bandmates: Geri Allen, Wallace Roney, Steve Coleman) to his mid-’80s progressions with Brooklyn’s M-Base Collective to his underrated ’90s funk ‘n’ hop period, alto saxophonist Greg Osby has always moved his style, worked his own “sound.” What a sound it is-rhythmically hard yet … Read More “Greg Osby: Further Ado”

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Frank Lowe Trio: Vision Blue

Way back in the late ’60s to mid-’70s, the jazz world was divided into roughly three groups: neo-traditionalist/mainstreamers, jazz-funk/rock/soul fusioners and “free” jazz acolytes. Of course, the mainstreamers are still with us and the fusion crew has been vindicated by today’s acid posse, but the free crew is still to this day discounted (except in … Read More “Frank Lowe Trio: Vision Blue”

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Billy Higgins: Billy Higgins Quintet

No question, drummer Billy Higgins is a legend. A telepathically mercurial time shifter/keeper with the ability to sweetly swing, Higgins has for over three decades graced the music of legendary masters Monk, Coltrane, Ornette and Dexter with his smiling spirit. Players and fans alike are well aware of Higgins’ unique drum-ness, they know that his … Read More “Billy Higgins: Billy Higgins Quintet”

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William Hooker: Mindfulness

Drummer William Hooker is a lifelong iconoclast. From the late-’70s N.Y.C. loft scene jams to his ’90s collaborations with Billy Bang, Zeena Parkins and Sonic Youthers Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo, Hooker has ceaselessly expanded not only the vocabulary of his instrument, he’s defied rigid categories by breaking down genres into universal music expression-in short, … Read More “William Hooker: Mindfulness”

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Miles Davis: Black Beauty: Miles Davis At Fillmore West

No question, Miles Davis is one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. For over decades, from his birthing of “cool” jazz through his groundbreaking works with Gil Evans, to his ’60s quintet, to his ’80s-’90s pop/go-go/hip hop final phase, Miles was a colossus; always vital and more than a little ahead of his … Read More “Miles Davis: Black Beauty: Miles Davis At Fillmore West”

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Tony Bennett: Tony Bennett On Holiday

Forget the media blitz, the MTV/ET hoopla, the slavishly belated critical affirmation and remember what my Pops always told me: Tony Bennett is one of the world’s best singers simply because he just is. Before ’90s breakthrough Astoria: Portrait of the Artist, Bennett’s greatness was too often overlooked. Thanks to a series of inspired tribute … Read More “Tony Bennett: Tony Bennett On Holiday”

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Kenny Wheeler: Angel Song

British trumpeter/composer Kenny Wheeler is that musical anomaly-a working musician with over seven albums for a major label (ECM) who is virtually unknown to the jazz culture at-large. This relative obscurity has not prevented him from developing a style that veers from Booker Little-like melancholy to Don Cherryesque blaps of glad notes. On his latest … Read More “Kenny Wheeler: Angel Song”

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Roy Haynes: True Or False

If jazz be poetry, then a jazz band led by a drummer can be a slammin’ haiku. On his latest CD True Or False, rhythm master Roy Haynes is poetry in flight. Recorded live at Paris’ Magnetic Terrace in 1986, True Or False is everything you expect from Haynes: hard swing, swirling rhythms, deep melodies … Read More “Roy Haynes: True Or False”

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Jimmy Scott: Heaven

The blessed resurrection of vocalist supremo Jimmy Scott continues with his newest recording, Heaven. One look at Scott’s mystical, King Ramses II/Elijah Muhammad-like visage on the CD cover clues you in that this is one seriously different record (it is). With the help of producer Craig Street and arranger/pianist Jacky Terrasson, Scott has produced a … Read More “Jimmy Scott: Heaven”

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Ginger Baker: Falling off the Roof

There are a whole lotta musicians who would kill for a resumé like that of peripatetic drummer Ginger Baker: member of Cream and Blind Faith, bandmate of Fela Kuti, survivor of a drum showdown with Elvin Jones, olive farmer, polo player, born-again jazzer (his ’95 trio recording, Going Back Home, certified his abilities). Baker’s latest … Read More “Ginger Baker: Falling off the Roof”

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Bob Belden Presents: Strawberry Fields

As far as tribute recordings go, the Beatles are a no-brainer. Arguably the most covered band in pop music history, the Beatles have been extolled and mutilated by the best and worst of ’em. Musician/producer Bob Belden felt he could succeed where others have failed-hence Strawberry Fields. Belden’s approach is fresh: select a mix of … Read More “Bob Belden Presents: Strawberry Fields”

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John Jenkins and Kenny Burrell: John Jenkins with Kenny Burrell

Thank God for the CD boom. Not only are CDs the ideal sonic medium for jazz, but the by-product has been the re-emergence of long-out-of-print classic LPs (personal faves: LeGrand Jazz, Emergency!). There are many lost nuggets, but few are worthier than this reissue of John Jenkins With Kenny Burrell. Jenkins, an alto saxophonist who … Read More “John Jenkins and Kenny Burrell: John Jenkins with Kenny Burrell”

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