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CD/LP/Track Review

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jason Ajemian: Folklords

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Folklords is one of the most adventurous albums to be issued by Delmark Records since Levels and Degrees of Light, the auspicious recording debut of pianist and composer Muhal Richard Abrams in 1967. Bassist Jason Ajemian's second effort for the venerable label, following 2008's The Art of Dying, conceptually surpasses his prior work by leaps and bounds. It shares significant similarities with Abrams' premiere, including the use of spoken word and expansive dynamics that veer from impressionistic balladry to rhapsodic free jazz. The first in a series of planned homages to acknowledged masters, the arrival of Folklords coincides ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Howard McGhee: Howard McGhee West Coast 1945-1947

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Bebop trumpet pioneer Howard McGhee has undergone a lengthy process of rediscovery and reassessment since his death in 1987. A one-time Downbeat Poll Winner (1947), it's probably not much of an exaggeration to say he had been largely forgotten, even by trumpet players. Yet Gunther Schuller (1989) and Scott DeVeaux (1997) soon published searching and sophisticated analyses of his contribution and playing. More recently, trumpet player Brian Lynch offers a terrific appreciation of McGhee in his “Unsung Heros of Jazz Trumpet" project, suggesting how McGhee took Roy Eldridge in his own, distinctive direction. Of course, there's also a lot of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Afro Bop Alliance: Angel Eyes

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Latin Grammy Award-winning group Afro Bop Alliance lend their infectious hard-driving and percussive Latin-tinged sound to Angel Eyes, the group's fifth album staking one more claim for yet another future Latin Grammy nod. Known for their percolating percussion as well as dipping into straight ahead jazz, this Washington D.C. based octet lets the rumba rumble, the cha-cha churn and the samba simmer on another exciting energizing album of note. Led by drummer/percussionist and Afro Bop Alliance founder Joe McCarthy, the band also consist of a three-piece horn section a bassist, pianist, a vocalist and Victor Provost on the steel pans. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Blue-Eyed Hawk: Under The Moon

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London-based quartet Blue-Eyed Hawk's debut recording has benefited from three years of gigging and the slow stewing of ideas. Collectively, singer Lauren Kinsella, trumpeter Laura Jurd, guitarist Alex Roth and drummer Corrie Dick sounds like the finished article, which whets the appetite for future chapters. With writing duties spread evenly, the quartet soars over wide stylistic terrain, from susurrus, folksy balladry and sophisticated pop to psychadelic rock and punkish struts. It all blends wonderfully, like a heady cross between Bjork, Patti Smith and Moetar. For label seekers, art-rock might satisfactorily describe Blue-Eyed Hawk's aesthetic, but boxes aside, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Joan Chamorro and Andrea Motis: Feeling Good

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Feeling Good is well named: the feelgood vibe is strong and the love of music that reaches out from this album is pretty much guaranteed to leave listeners with a similarly good feeling. It's the second album from Joan Chamorro--bassist, saxophonist and director of Barcelona's Sant Andreu Jazz Band--and the band's star member, the teenage singer and instrumentalist Andrea Motis. Chamorro's name may come first, but it's Motis' personality that shines through most strongly on Feeling Good. Chamorro can take much of the credit for this--he's mentored Motis and other members of the Sant Andreu Jazz Band for ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Steve Olson: Conversations

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For his first recording as a leader, drummer/percussionist Steve Olson asked six of his friends to engage in completely unrehearsed and improvised duo “conversations." Olson states in the notes that in his opinion, “the best music has an element of dialogue in it, both between the musicians, and between the players and the listener who is hearing and reacting emotionally." The result of these encounters are fifteen tracks which strongly support his stance from both viewpoints, although much concentration is required of the listener. The aural textures created are, not surprisingly, sparse, but within a large ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Elizabeth Shepherd: Signal

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Montreal-based singer Elizabeth Shepherd gently stirs jazz with an underground pop aesthetic in Signal. Similar to the fresh styles of contemporaries such as Esperanza Spalding and Gretchen Parlato, Shepherd's appeal is heard in her multifaceted gifts as a songwriter, musician, and composer; attributes which garnered her a Juno Award nomination for Best Vocal Jazz Album for her 2012 release Rewind (Linus Entertainment). Signal takes a soulful groove-centric stance with tight rhythmic hooks and beats that would fit comfortably in a club-like setting as some tracks segue into one another like a DJ set mix. The music is ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Cellar and Point: The Cellar and Point: Ambit

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The unique atmosphere of The Cellar and Point's newest record Ambit (Cuneiform, 2014) is difficult to pin down in words, let alone to classify as a particular genre. Drummer Joe Branciforte and guitarist Chris Botta's brainchild, the result of years of absorbing influences as diverse as the Wu Tang Clan and Anton Webern, is an intriguing mix of contemporary straight-eighth, mixed-meter grooves and textural, atmospheric harmonies and accompaniment, with some electric guitar mixed in for good measure. Branciforte and Botta describe their one of a kind compositions and arrangements as “garage chamber music," which is about as perfect ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Emil Strandberg: More music for trumpet, guitar and bass

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Swedish trumpeter Emil Strandberg continues to explore the format of an intimate, acoustic trio. He began in 2012 with a self-titled trio of double bassist Pär-Ola Landin and drummer Sebastian Voegler (Self Produced, 2012) that covered standards, continued in 2013 with pianist Sten Sandell and double bassist Patric Thorman in It Is Night and I am Lost (found You Recordings, 2013), a set of free improvisations, and again in the same year with a Ola-Landin and guitarist David Stackenäs in Works (Found you Recordings, 2013), that featured his own compositions. Now he solidifies his interplay with the the same trio ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio: We're Back

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Drummer Gerry Gibbs must be in a “strike while the iron is hot" mode. Less than a year after his very successful Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio (Whaling City Sound, 2013), featuring Ron Carter on bass and Kenny Barron on piano, he has reconvened with those jazz legends for a second go around. This time, with We're Back, the trio moves away from the jazz standard format and goes after some of the classic R& B hits from the 60s and 70s. If that sounds like a good time, it is. Jazz can take itself too seriously, but ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Bobby Wellins and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: Culloden Moor Suite

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It's over 268 years since the Battle of Culloden and yet the event continues to resonate in contemporary Scotland (which votes on independence just a few days after this album is released). Tenor saxophonist Bobby Wellins wrote his Culloden Moor Suite in 1961, inspired by John Prebble's book, Culloden, released in the same year. The composition gets a new lease of life with this big band recording, from May 2013, which brings Wellins together with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. The SNJO has carved out a reputation as a top quality big band, with albums such as American Adventure (Spartacus ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Andy Milne & Dapp Theory: Forward In All Directions

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On Forward in All Directions, pianist and bandleader Andy Milne brings various musical elements to play, including electronics and spoken word alongside some masterful playing and chemistry from his bandmates. The album kicks off with “Hopscotch," an up-tempo number centered on Aaron Kruziki's saxophone with a smart backbeat from the rhythm section. “Photograph" introduces electronics in the background. The groove breaks for some spoken word from John Moon about looking at old pictures, and then the dynamic lowers for great piano and saxophone improvised moments. “Into The Mirror, Darkly" is an eerie-sounding tune that begins with a few ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Brian Groder Trio: Reflexology

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The cover of trumpeter Brian Groder new trio tells much about his aesthetics. He is well-versed with the compositional ideas of the great American jazz masters and their improvisation strategies--Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, including trumpeters as Woody Shaw and Freddie Hubbard. But in the same manner that these innovative and creative muscians marked their sonic footprint in the rich legacy of the genre, Groder not only reflects on past achievments but wants to take this genre a step forward. Groder enjoys the company of experienced and highly versatile improvisers--double bassist Michael Bisio, who lives ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Kelley Suttenfield: Among The Stars

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Voice and nylon-string guitar. That's it. Nothing else to hear on this one, but nothing else is really needed. Vocalist Kelley Suttenfield's first album--Where Is Love (Rhombus Records, 2009)--was a well-crafted, full band affair that reimagined the works of everybody from Wes Montgomery ("West Coast Blues") to Caetano Veloso ("Coraçao Vagabundo") to The Platters ("Twilight Time"). On her sophomore date, she strips away the band, leaving only guitarist Tony Romano in the picture to help her explore music of the night and songs of love. Among The Stars offers quiet and absorbing takes on ...



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