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SFJAZZ Collective: Live: SFJAZZ Collective 2015 The Music of Michael Jackson and Original Compositions

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The SFJAZZ Collective’s m.o. is to each year focus on the music of a featured composer. Ornette Coleman, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Horace Silver, Joe Henderson and Stevie Wonder are among those tackled in years past. The Collective’s new album, recorded live last year, explores tunes associated with (but not always written by) pop icon Michael Jackson.

The Jackson album doesn’t always measure up to those that preceded it. There are spots that call to mind what a good marching band might do with the same material, the melodies remaining familiar but the altered format stripping them of Jackson’s hipness. But such patches pass quickly, obliterated by the all-star band members’ musicianship. Each of the eight players contributes a new piece, which are programmed around eight Jackson covers. Among the most memorable of the new stuff: saxophonist Miguel Zenón’s stately “Fall Prelude,” vibraphonist Warren Wolf’s “Gray Skies in Baltimore” (referencing the Freddie Gray trial and associated unrest), and “Franklin & Fell” by trumpeter Sean Jones, the newest Collective member.

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