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The Scene: Washington, D.C.’s Jazz Sanctuary

At the corner of 4th and I Streets in southwest Washington, D.C. is the welcoming, leafy-green walkway to the Westminster Presbyterian Church. This is Friday, Jazz Night at Westminster, and as usual the scene promises world-class jazz from 6 to 9 p.m. for the princely sum of $5. Downstairs the pots are also on—fried whiting, … Read More “The Scene: Washington, D.C.’s Jazz Sanctuary”

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Jakob Bro: Something Spacious in the State of Denmark

Jakob Bro is a bearded, bespectacled 40-year-old Danish guitarist with an easy laugh. His latest recording is Returnings, released last March on ECM and featuring his fellow Dane Palle Mikkelborg on trumpet, Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, and California-born bassist Thomas Morgan. Bro’s previous ECM recording was with the Paul Motian Band (Garden of Eden), and … Read More “Jakob Bro: Something Spacious in the State of Denmark”

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Karrin Allyson: Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane

Here’s a singer who has mostly slipped past my radar. It won’t happen again. Allyson’s new CD is a very personal remembrance of the balladry of John Coltrane, sweetly reviving the memory of how in the midst of his most explorative period, J.C. paused to lay down his memorable Ballads date for Impulse!. Apparently among … Read More “Karrin Allyson: Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane”

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Richard Boukas/Jovino Santos Neto: Balaio

Were it not for small, independent labels like the Brazilian music-oriented Malandro (based in Cincinnati, of all places) deserving artists like guitarist Richard Boukas and pianist Jovino Santos Neto might not have much opportunity to craft records like this. Neto is a Brazilian based in Seattle, an acolyte of the wondrous Hermeto Pascoal, with whom … Read More “Richard Boukas/Jovino Santos Neto: Balaio”

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Kenny Jr. Drew Trio: Remembrance

Saddened by the same-week passing of Milt “Bags” Jackson, Art Farmer and pianist Manfredo Fest, Kenny Drew Jr. developed this tribute. Yes, yet another homage, but Remembrance is delivered sans mimicry or pretension, and Drew’s no nonsense delivery of the CD’s 11 mostly well-known pieces make it a shoo-in for repeat listens. While Jackson and … Read More “Kenny Jr. Drew Trio: Remembrance”

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Branford Marsalis Quartet: Contemporary Jazz

On Contemporary Jazz, Branford Marsalis shows clear evidence that he’s far from satisfied in his quest for excellence on his horns and with his composer’s pen. Writing with an exceptional sense of rhythm in particular, Marsalis churns out an eight-chapter gem with this outing. Though he’s become a real contender on the soprano saxophone, Contemporary … Read More “Branford Marsalis Quartet: Contemporary Jazz”

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New Jazz Composers Octet: First Steps Into Reality

David Weiss, nominal leader of this date, is reminiscent of Don Sickler. A skilled arranger, transcriber and all-round coordinator, Weiss also brings righteous trumpet chops to this potent mix. Were it not for the liner notes, Weiss’ leadership would not be particularly evident, as this session (recorded over several months in ’97 and ’98) comes … Read More “New Jazz Composers Octet: First Steps Into Reality”

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Ralph Peterson: Back to Stay

Drummer dates can be hazardous to anyone for whom bombast and over-drumming are anathema. The raw power and spirit of Ralph Peterson remain admirable qualities. That impetuousness has also been a drawback at times as past times suggested a tendency to steamroll bands he played in. Such has not been the case when he’s at … Read More “Ralph Peterson: Back to Stay”

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Adonis Rose: The Unity

With Adonis Rose, Miles Davis’ mid-’60s quintet is the touchstone. The title stems what is essentially a Nicholas Payton quintet date with flipping the leadership script to the drummer. Payton’s sumptuous skills are served up in heaping portions. He is joined on the frontline by underrated tenorman Tim Warfield, with pianist Anthony Wonsey and bassist … Read More “Adonis Rose: The Unity”

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Sylvia Cuenca: The Crossing

Sylvia Cuenca’s resume runs from the Vienna Art Orchestra to Clark Terry’s drummer of choice. Her impressive drive coupled with finesse has brightened numerous bandstands, though due in part to jazz’s stilted sexual politics her skills aren’t as widely recognized as they deserve. To document her work as a bandleader she seized the moment herself … Read More “Sylvia Cuenca: The Crossing”

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Ray Anderson: Pocket Brass Band

Ray Anderson tailgates down to New Orleans with this edition of his Pocket Brass Band, a brass band in miniature. He’s pared down the traditional brass band instrumentation to himself, Matt Perrine on sousaphone, trumpeter Lew Soloff and the adroit, versatile drummer Bobby Previte. Despite spare instrumentation the breadth of sound Anderson and company achieve … Read More “Ray Anderson: Pocket Brass Band”

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Mark Turner: Ballad Session

It takes fortitude to buck convention, which suggests that an entire program of ballads just won’t make it in these swift, dot-com times. Fortitude, a bucket of self-assurance and a kind of quiet confidence in one’s instrumental abilities and session mates are a pre-requisite when traveling down such a relatively risky path. Such are the … Read More “Mark Turner: Ballad Session”

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Terence Blanchard: Wandering Moon

Anyone expecting Terence Blanchard to rest on his laurels, comfortably ensconced in the lucrative world of motion picture scoring, better think again. Though his abiding interest in film scoring is evidenced by his continuing ascension to the A list of the genre, and his beautifully crafted journey through a program of film classics on last … Read More “Terence Blanchard: Wandering Moon”

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Orrin Evans Trio: Grown Folks Bizness

Evans’ confidence and facility are evident in the range of material and challenges he sets for himself on Grown Folks Bizness, and in his impressive use of open space. His solo “Rocking Chair” injects some gentle stride and slightly dissonant chords in an unhurried manner. He takes a daring look at Cedar Walton’s “Firm Roots,” … Read More “Orrin Evans Trio: Grown Folks Bizness”

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Sonny Fortune: In the Spirit of John Coltrane

A native of Philadelphia, where John Coltrane grew immeasurably as a musician, Sonny Fortune is one of those relentless, tireless saxophone improvisers who fell under the spell of Trane early and has manifested that spirit throughout his career. Inspired by his participation in a superb District Curators concert tribute to Coltrane in ’98 at Washington, … Read More “Sonny Fortune: In the Spirit of John Coltrane”

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Nicholas Payton: Nick @ Night

Payton delivers a program of largely originals, spiced by two additions from the band (Tim Warfield, saxes; Anthony Wonsey, piano; Reuben Rogers, bass; Adonis Rose, drums) and the surprise inclusion of Maurice White’s pop-jazz classic “Sun Goddess.” This disc represents a decidedly more radio-friendly Payton approach, as exemplified by “Sun Goddess” and Warfield’s consistent utilization … Read More “Nicholas Payton: Nick @ Night”

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Irvin Mayfield Sextet: Live at the Blue Note

Irvin’s band is enriched by the always complimentary Eric Reed on piano, and his frontline sound is capacious with the addition of Wes Anderson’s alto sax and Delfeayo Marsalis’ trombone. One thing that plagues Mayfield’s date is its somewhat pedestrian repertoire. Other than Ben Webster’s under-utilized “Did You Call Her Today” the repertoire is a … Read More “Irvin Mayfield Sextet: Live at the Blue Note”

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Vanessa Rubin: Language of Love

Still waitin’. Still waitin’ for that Vanessa Rubin breakthrough album, the one that lifts her vocal artistry and clear-cut swingability to the next level. Lord knows she has toiled in the trenches for more than a minute, sittin’ in as one of the cats, touring with ever-swinging trios, lending her honeyed tones to a varied … Read More “Vanessa Rubin: Language of Love”

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Chucho Valdes/Irakere: Babalu Aye

Originally recorded for the Cuban state label Egrem, this disc and the subsequent, and richly compelling Yemaya released by Blue Note last year, marked Chucho Valdes’ Irakere swan song. The ensemble that brought Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo Sandoval, and perhaps most potently, the maestro Chucho Valdes, is now in the capable hands of Valdes’ eldest son, … Read More “Chucho Valdes/Irakere: Babalu Aye”

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Mongo Santamaria: Skin on Skin: The Mongo Santamaria Anthology (1958-1995)

Did you ever gaze-or in the case of some prices, glaze might be the better term-at the growing number of boxed sets and anthologies in your local record emporium and spot one that made you think “It’s about time”? This two-disc set should elicit just such a response. With the growing visibility and popularity of … Read More “Mongo Santamaria: Skin on Skin: The Mongo Santamaria Anthology (1958-1995)”

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Chico Freeman Quartet: Von Freeman’s 75th Birthday Celebration

Known affectionately around Chicago jazz circles as “Vonski,” tenor man Von Freeman has long been the quintessential stay-at-home jazz master. This country is filled with superior jazz musicians who take comfort in home turf and don’t long for the gritty jazzman’s life of New York City. Consequently they are often shut out of many golden … Read More “Chico Freeman Quartet: Von Freeman’s 75th Birthday Celebration”

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