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Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones: From Untruth (Northern Spy)

Amirtha Kidambi’s name received a bit of a boost last year when she put a voice to Mary Halvorson’s lyrics on Code Girl. It was just one aspect of an already productive career that includes studies of classical and Carnatic music, and performances with saxophonist Darius Jones. Elder Ones’ debut, Holy Science (2016), featured Kidambi … Read More “Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones: From Untruth (Northern Spy)”

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Ernie Watts Quartet: Home Light (Flying Dolphin)

When the story of this era’s jazz masters is told, West Coast tenor man and bandleader Ernie Watts ought to be prominently featured. Watts, perhaps once underappreciated because of the overtly commercial bent of many of his ’70s and ’80s recordings, has evolved into a saxophonist whose sound is simultaneously brawny and beautiful, an instrumentalist … Read More “Ernie Watts Quartet: Home Light (Flying Dolphin)”

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Jessica Jones Quartet: Continuum (Reva)

Tenor saxophonist Jessica Jones has always maintained a holistic approach to her art, neither adhering to a single school of thought nor limiting the role that music can and should play in daily life. This broad belief system has already been channeled into a nonprofit—Rare Earth Vibration Association (REVA, for short), which fosters the spread … Read More “Jessica Jones Quartet: Continuum (Reva)”

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Rhythm Future Quartet: Rhythm Future Quartet And Friends (Magic Fiddle)

When you’ve been reviewing jazz records for almost 30 years, it’s surprisingly rare when a performance hits you on a deep emotional level, when you forget the job and the music whisks you away. But that’s what happened to me while listening to the version of Duke Ellington’s “Solitude” on Rhythm Future Quartet and Friends. … Read More “Rhythm Future Quartet: Rhythm Future Quartet And Friends (Magic Fiddle)”

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Allison Au Quartet: Wander Wonder (Independent)

There was a time when “fusion” meant wailing synths and distorted electric guitar, a loud, showy sound that traded the bounce of swing for the on-the-one insistence of funk or rock. These days, though, jazz musicians who draw influences from outside of the postbop continuum don’t trade one set of clichés for another, but simply … Read More “Allison Au Quartet: Wander Wonder (Independent)”

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Atlantis Quartet: Hello Human (Shifting Paradigm)

It’s not a stretch to declare Atlantis Quartet the best small jazz ensemble based in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. The four members have been together since 2006 while individually amassing the requisite set of merit badges, including grants, work in a bevy of other bands and side projects, and first-call status when a jazz luminary needs … Read More “Atlantis Quartet: Hello Human (Shifting Paradigm)”

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Florian Weber: Lucent Waters (ECM)

Lucent Waters is a spray of vivid contrasts: contemplative pin-drop quietude giving way to explosive outbursts; dramatic displays of camaraderie offset by moments of solitary exploration; unfettered splashes of color met by stretches of wistful, deliberate restraint. The participants—German pianist Weber (whose prior ECM release was a series of duets with trumpeter Markus Stockhausen), bassist Linda … Read More “Florian Weber: Lucent Waters (ECM)”

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Ken Vandermark/Nate Wooley/Sylvie Courvoisier/Tom Rainey: Noise of Our Time (Intakt)

The Intakt label of Switzerland has become an important repository for a genre that might be called “refined free jazz.” It is a productive niche within the jazz art form: edgy enough for thrills, structured enough for coherence. The opening track on Noise of Our Time, Sylvie Courvoisier’s “Checkpoint,” has the plunging, spattering tenor saxophone of … Read More “Ken Vandermark/Nate Wooley/Sylvie Courvoisier/Tom Rainey: Noise of Our Time (Intakt)”

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MND FLO: From Time (self-released)

Exploring analog synths and a modern production approach, Mnd Flo create one of the greatest amalgams of jazz ability, winning compositions, and stylistic coherence heard in ages. A globally based quartet, they consistently produce compelling, tuneful, forward-thinking jazz. Not often do jazz musicians collaborate in a manner that constitutes a literal group—a term that’s more … Read More “MND FLO: From Time (self-released)”

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Walking Distance Featuring Jason Moran: Freebird (Sunnyside)

No, we’re not talking Lynyrd Skynyrd requests here. Walking Distance—the charmingly cheeky and technically adept combination of alto saxophonist Caleb Curtis, tenor saxophonist Kenny Pexton, bassist Adam Coté, and drummer Shawn Baltazor—is freeing Charlie Parker’s music from the shackles of its comfort zone. Bird is most certainly the watchword throughout, but a deftly jumbled one. … Read More “Walking Distance Featuring Jason Moran: Freebird (Sunnyside)”

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