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Catching Up With

March 10, 2014

Roberto Fonseca: The worthy heir of Afro-Cuban Jazz

Roberto Fonseca: The worthy heir of Afro-Cuban Jazz

By GABRIEL MEDINA ARENAS

Success didn't knock on his door by random luck. Roberto Fonseca has worked hard to earn his reputation as one of the most renowned and skillful Cuban jazz pianists of his generation. The 38 year-old musician started playing drums when he was four years old and played at the International Jazz Festival of Havana when he was 15. Fonseca began his solo career when he was 24 and to date he has released seven studio albums and one live record. He has also played with some of the most illustrious Cuban musicians of all times. Fonseca ...

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November 4, 2013

Randy Brecker: A Fusion Legacy

Randy Brecker:  A Fusion Legacy

By R.J. DELUKE

On stage at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland last July, the ubiquitous trumpeter Randy Brecker lowered his horn after playing two joyous and funky numbers on the stage that is one of the festivals largest venues, serving as a hockey arena during the appropriate season. There were throngs of people, sitting and standing, gleefully taking in the music. After wiping his forehead, Brecker formally announced his group: the Brecker Brothers Reunion Band. “We play FUSION," he said, emphasizing the last word in a lower-register, foghorn like bellow. He repeated “FUUUUUSION." He meant it. The ...

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August 19, 2013

Poncho Sanchez: Mambo King

Poncho Sanchez: Mambo King

By STEVE BRYANT

For over 30 years, conguero/bandleader Poncho Sanchez has been the premier proponent of West Coast Latin Jazz. Growing up in Norwalk, California, Sanchez was exposed to and influenced by two very different styles of music: Afro-Cuban music and bebop, as well as R&B. Originally a guitarist, Sanchez taught himself the flute, drums, and timbales before finally deciding to pursue conga playing in high school. In 1975, Sanchez's idol, vibraphonist “Cal Tjader invited him to perform with his band. Sanchez played with Tjader for several years until Tjader's death in 1982.Thanks to Tjader, Sanchez signed with Concord Picante Records, ...

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August 12, 2013

Mike Dillon: Rhythm Method

Mike Dillon: Rhythm Method

By MIKE CHAMBERLAIN

Percussionist/vibraphonist/bandleader Mike Dillon's music defies easy categorization. It's been called “punk jazz," a term that describes working methods--do it yourself, find your own voice--more than actual sounds.Dillon sports a wide-ranging musical résumé. He has led or has been a member of outfits such as Critters Buggin, Les Claypool's Fancy Band, The Dead Kenny G's, Mike Dillon's Go-Go Jungle, and Garage a Trois. He led Billy Goat in Dallas, Malachy Papers in Kansas City, and Hairy Apes BMX in Austin at various points over the last two decades. Since moving to New Orleans in 2006, he has performed regularly ...

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August 8, 2013

Zach Brock: The New Meritocracy of Jazz

Zach Brock: The New Meritocracy of Jazz

By GEORGE COLLIGAN

[ Editor's Note: The following interview is reprinted from George Colligan's blog, Jazztruth]About a month or so ago, I had the pleasure of performing in a duo setting with violinist Zach Brock. I've known Brock for years; we met and played together a few times in New York City. However, this was our first time really playing in a creative, intimate setting. Brock is, in my humble opinion, one of the best--if not the best--jazz violinist out there today. Although as you'd expect, he has the classical training, but he is also very genuinely steeped in the authentic ...

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July 30, 2013

Leo Blanco: Haiku for Bells

Leo Blanco: Haiku for Bells

By BRUCE LINDSAY

Leo Blanco is a musician who's immersed in the music of his South American homeland of Venezuela. The pianist may live in the USA--he teaches piano at Berklee--but his Venezuelan upbringing remains central to his work. It's a little surprising, then, to discover that Blanco isn't solely a product of Latin American culture. In conversation backstage at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds, just before the final concert of his first UK solo tour, he recalled that some of his formative years were spent only 100 miles away.“From three to six and a half years old I lived ...

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May 6, 2013

Geri Allen: Apollo's Muse

Geri Allen:  Apollo's Muse

By BOB KENSELAAR

Pianist/composer Geri Allen is gearing up for her role as artistic director for an especially ambitious production of the 2013 Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival at the Apollo Theater. Presented as “Geri Allen & Friends Celebrate the Great Jazz Women of the Apollo," the program will offer two shows on May 11, 2013 that explore the legacy of such jazz greats as singers Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan, Betty Carter and Nancy Wilson, among others.One of the major jazz pianists of her generation and winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship for her work as a composer, Allen ...

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April 15, 2013

Kit Downes: Old Stars, New Blues

Kit Downes: Old Stars, New Blues

By BRUCE LINDSAY

Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Saturday 30th April 2011. The young British pianist and composer Kit Downes has travelled to this west of England town to première his latest composition, Animation Migration, at the Playhouse Theatre. It was an unusual event for a jazz festival. Downes' band played music inspired by the story of evolution and DNA alongside Lesley Barnes' similarly inspired and wonderfully colorful animations, followed by a question and answer session, where Downes and Barnes were joined by scientist and television presenter Adam Rutherford. The early evening event was a success and the audience demanded, and got, a reprise of ...

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January 1, 2013

Melissa Aldana: Living a Second Cycle

Melissa Aldana: Living a Second Cycle

By MARTA RAMON

Melissa Aldana may still be in her early twenties, but the tenor saxophonist already knows what it is like to play with big jazz names like saxophonists George Coleman, Benny Golson and George Garzone. In a short time, Aldana has found her own place in the difficult New York jazz scene because she has developed a new voice that has commanded the attention of both the public and her peers.An obvious talent, one which made Greg Osby stand up and take notice when he first heard her at Boston's Berklee College of Music, combined with a marked perseverance ...

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December 12, 2012

Jerry Bergonzi: Eternal Student

Jerry Bergonzi: Eternal Student

By MARTA RAMON

Jerry Bergonzi is regarded as one of the most important saxophonists in the world. Equally, he continues to make significant contributions in the world of jazz education. He is the author of Inside Improvisations Series (Jazzwise Publications), a manual developed in seven volumes--his eighth book is due to come out soon--that has become essential for jazz students around the world.The only element that speaks to time is his white hair, because his enthusiasm hasn't changed since recently deceased pianist Dave Brubeck hired him to tour with his quartet. Thirty years of success have passed since then: Bergonzi has ...

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October 17, 2012

Kurt Elling: Stories from New York

Kurt Elling: Stories from New York

By R.J. DELUKE

Singer Kurt Elling seems to be always on the go, working with his fine quartet and lending his artful vocals to a variety of other projects as time allows. Whatever the situation, he brings high aesthetic values and standards. He likes to investigate different musical possibilities under the jazz umbrella, which he embraces without reservation.“I don't deny it. I certainly identify that way," he says of being labeled a jazz singer. “I feel that's the approach that I have to the music that I take on." Not all singers identify that way, even if it is obvious from ...

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September 18, 2012

Medeski, Martin & Wood: Sound Sculpting

Medeski, Martin & Wood: Sound Sculpting

By THOMAS CARROLL

Progressive keyboard trio Medeski, Martin & Wood has helped redefine the boarder where musical genres meet since the group's inception over 20 years ago. MMW has experimented with everything from song structure to acoustic-electric instrumental blends, all while appealing to both jazz-specific and mainstream audiences. Free Magic (Indirecto, 2012) is a fine example of MMW's exploratory spirit.Free Magic is five tracks of extended play taken from performances in 2007, when the band was on its first ever all-acoustic tour. The album starts with the earthy sounds of percussionist Billy Martin's balafon and ends with a laidback medley of ...

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