Published since 1997
Longtime contributor to AAJ and Downbeat, Jazz Review, EjazzNews, Radio DirectX.
Formed in 1982 by British guitarist Phil Miller and featuring ex-Soft Machine saxophonist Elton Dean, this jazz-rock sextet minces tuneful themes with fierce soloing escapades. In any event, the group’s latest might convert a few jazz/fusion nay-sayers. One of the more interesting aspects of this outfit resides within the band’s chemistry. And with that in mind, the musicians varied pasts enables the band to draw upon elements of the ‘70s British prog-rock and jazz scene, where catchy riffs and melodies coalesce with tricky time signatures. To that end, several of the longer pieces contain extended improvisational spots for the soloists. This superb album ages extremely well upon repeated spins. Lots going on here, yet not overcrowded or ostentatious, as it all makes near-faultless sense.
File Thirteen Records
Martin Rev is a New York City based producer/musician who has exerted a bit of influence in the electronics/no wave movement. Simply stated, this album is a hoot! Rev’s barely detectable vocals offer an accent to the pulsating rhythms and dense synth swashes. Deceptively simple in scope, Rev uses studio processing/EFX treatments to his advantage, via a multi-layered and densely populated instrumentation approach. Then again, it’s hard to actually discern what or how many instruments he’s employing here. It’s largely about the groove as the artist projects a dark and relatively barren musical landscape that sort of parallels this hi-tech and often troubling world we inhabit.
Rhythms & Rhymes
Jazz ‘M Pulz
Fay Claassen is a young jazz vocalist who hails from the Netherlands. Here, she garners support from all-star musicians such as guitarist Mike Stern, pianist Kenny Werner, and others. Ms. Claassen’s crystalline vocals are at times enhanced by her penchant for conveying undertones, via her softly iterated lyricism. With this outing, she explores jazz standards amid a contemporary layout. Overall it’s a good effort, yet perhaps a harbinger of better things to come from a promising jazz diva.
The Midnight Call
Sugar Hill Records
Kentucky bluegrass crooner Don Rigsby gained notoriety as the vocalist for the Lonesome River Band. He possesses a rich tenor voice to complement his bluegrass centric palate, here featuring legendary fiddler Vassar Clements and other notables. Rigsby sings about the ills of life such as booze, iffy relationships, gambling, and so forth. He’s also an accomplished mandolin performer. The album benefits from a pristine production, amid sonorous strings, somber ballads, and a 2-step dance motif.
Globe Unity 2002
Globe Unity Orchestra
Pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach, saxophonists Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker and the crème de la crème of the European free jazz scene reunite for one seventy-three minute hard-blowing extravaganza. They were one of the seminal free jazz bands and after a bit of a hiatus are captured here, live at a German venue. The pace is non-stop and in-your-face, as this nonet improvises with the flash, fire, and intensity many of us would surmise. Hence, a musical shootout took place on Jan 18, 2002 at a nightclub in Germany. Not casual listening though, even by your typical free-jazz/improvisational measuring stick!
Guillermo Bazzola & Summer Quartet
Argentine jazz guitarist Guillermo Bazzola is a tasteful tunesmith. His compositions teem with rich lyricism and delicate melodies, all within a contemporary vein. On the contrary, the band periodically breaks away from convention and gets down to the groove on several tracks. Therefore, Bazzola and company project a happy medium on this set, as this guitar-sax-bass-drums unit dishes out a multihued slant of the jazz vernacular. Some exposure in the States could inject this band onto the proverbial radar scope.
Wadada Leo Smith & Anthony Braxton
Captured live at New York City’s Tonic venue, the two masters perform four lengthy compositions throughout the entire program. Anthony Braxton (saxophones) and Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet) generate a fair amount of excitement. They each contribute two compositions, yet at the end of the day, it’s all about improvisational shrewdness and sinuously designed musical explorations. They weave around each other’s soloing spots, amid counterbalancing statements and odd harmonic interludes. Sure enough, these two master improvisers get the job done in rather invigorating fashion.
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