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Dan Bilawsky's Best Releases of 2014

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How does an album end up on this list? It really comes down to two things: strength on impact and staying power. Some records hit hard from the start, ultimately losing power with play after play. Other records come on gently, growing on the ear and the mind over time. But it's the truly rare one that manages to draw you in immediately and retain its power over time. I had the absolute pleasure of reviewing nearly two hundred albums for All About Jazz in 2014. These were the two dozen among them that hooked me from the start and ...


Wally Schnalle: Idiot Fish

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For his ninth album as leader, and with over 40 years of experience at the kit, drummer-composer Wally Schnalle has pulled out all the stops. Working sound bytes into delicate infusions of soul, jazz, and electronica, Schnalle nourishes an integrated field of sound that at once evokes seventies nostalgia and progressive futurism. Toward achieving this effect, he employs the skills of a prodigious trio of West Coast musicians. Guitarist Hristo Vitchev, bassist Joe Constantini, and keyboardist Frank Martin make for a formidable combination of fire and cool. “Market Fresh" sets the stage for the album's tasteful ...


Mary Ellen Desmond Quartet: 11th Annual Comfort and Joy Concert

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Mary Ellen Desmond Church of St. Luke and the Epiphany 11th Annual Comfort and Joy Concert Philadelphia, PA December 14, 2014 Mary Ellen Desmond's Comfort and Joy Concert commenced a decade ago as a shot in the dark, and now, after eleven years running and a CD to its name (Comfort and Joy, Frontrow Records, 2013) the annual event has become a jny: Philadelphia institution. It's addictive. Many jazz fans, including this reviewer, have undergone withdrawal symptoms when they had to miss a year! There's nothing quite like it ...


Nenad Vasilic: The Art of the Balkan Bass

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Solo playing routinely interrogates virtually every assumption one can have about music and its function. It is also the most demanding discipline in improvised music. Here, none of the well known clichés apply: there are no “dialogues," no “sparring" or contention with a partner, no call and response. So far, there has been a plethora of pianists, keyboardists, guitarists, violinists, harpists who have the wherewithal to accompany themselves, either harmonically and/or rhythmically, and to play countermelodies or contrasting lines. Sometimes solo playing is mere display, sometimes it is a kind of cleansing exercise aimed to rid the music of dependency ...


We Jazz 2014

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We Jazz 2014 A Jazz Installation Helsinki, Finland December 8-13, 2014 Music festivals nowadays come in all forms of venue, from ocean cruise boats to desert retreats, and in between all the other varieties that we all know, from smoky bars (there must be some left somewhere) to concert halls. However Helsinki Finland has just witnessed a new form of program, trialed last year in many of the similarly alternative venues, and with a similar ethos. Promoter Matti Nives describes the event as more of an installation, even a utopia, offering audiences new musical ...


Fabio Delvò: Rastplatz

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I became aware of Fabio Delvo's music via his recordings with guitarist Jeff Platz. Platz has an ear for first-rate musicianship, and his recordings with lesser-known European musicians such as Delvo, Jan Klare, and Meinrad Kneer have been nothing short of revelatory. The title of Delvo's second album as a leader, Rastplatz, isn't a tribute to the Boston-based plectrist. Instead, it refers to the concept of a highway rest stop. Like a lot of musicians, Delvo travels a lot by car; all over Europe. The bulk of Rastplatz was conceived during these trips, often taken in the ...


Joao Hasselberg: Truth Has To Be Given In Riddles

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Truth Has To Be Given In Riddles, title of Portuguese bassist Joao Hasselberg's latest album, is reminiscent of a Zen koan, an illogical poem which aims to generate “great doubt" and propel a listener into satori, enlightenment. The album opens in this spirit with a short track titled “Opening" featuring an enigmatic wordless vocal by Joana Espadinha. On the next track, “Abraham's Doubt," it's all change, as trumpeter Diogo Duque lays down a very Spanish- sounding theme. Complicating matters still further, Espadinha returns with a folksy, story-song, the lyrics of which ...

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