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INTERVIEWS

Jason Moran: Joyful Proclamations

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Jason Moran requires no introduction, either as an artistic alchemist or a spokesperson and educator. Moran has left an indelible mark on modern jazz and is now seated at one of the nation's most preeminent performing spaces--the Kennedy Center--as its artistic director for jazz. Already, his capacity for insight, humor, and innovation have launched a new era for the Center's jazz programming, defined in equal measures by careful regard for the music's history, a broad artistic view, and pointed political statements aimed at the center of American cultural assumptions. At the same time, Moran continues to transcend musical boundaries--and in ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Bill O'Connell: Imagine

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Bill O'Connell's version of the standard “Willow Weep For Me" is one of those rare items: playing totally against type as a Latin burner with that classic, mesmerizing two-chord piano vamp, the only thing missing would be someone actually trying to sing this lament amidst the happy sprawl of players and arrangement O'Connell's dished up. Unlike other gestures into Latin-land that sprout from tune to tune with other jazz musicians, what makes Imagine notable is the combination of writing with strong solos, song and solo, one after the other. And then there's the group vibe. One might recall ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Jazztopad 2014, Three World Premieres

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Jazztopad jny:Wroclaw, Poland November 13-15, 2014 Jazztopad enters its second decade with confident stride. The festival has come a long way in the first ten years, evolving, experimenting and growing as any good festival should. In 2014, Jazztopad stands as an internationally renowned festival with a clearly defined ethos, one that combines a strong respect for the traditions and roots of the music with a progressive vision that provides a platform for the contemporary and innovative. The name Jazztopad translates as 'Jazz in November." It's maybe not the most inspired name but for the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jennifer Leitham: Future Christmas

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The spirit of Christmas past, present and future overspreads this charming holiday album by virtuosic bassist Jennifer Leitham's working trio (Andy Langham, piano; Randy Drake, drums) on which she offsets a program comprised mainly of established seasonal favorites with some tantalizing curves (for example, her own “Future Christmas," a.k.a “The Global Warming Winter Holiday Blues," or Bob Dorough's clever “Blue Christmas" --not to be confused with Elvis Presley's version from the '50s). Such uncommon departures seem only proper, as there are at least two salient features that set Leitham apart from most other bass players you're likely to encounter. First, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gabriel Espinosa/Hendrik Meurkens: Samba Little Samba

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Mexican-born bassist Gabriel Espinosa and German-born harmonica specialist Hendrik Meurkens--though coming from vastly different backgrounds--have always had a common passion for the bossa nova and the samba. Continuing their successful collaboration of the past, the two co-leaders join forces once again for another Brazilian musical dance on Samba Little Samba and follow up to their highly-acclaimed Celebrando (ZOHO, 2012), their very first outing. The duo present an offering of nine originals (four each) plus one from pianist Misha Tsiganov who was also a part of the first recording, and round off the repertoire with the standard “Besame Mucho" from Mexican-born ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Dylan Howe: Subterranean (New Designs on Bowie's Berlin)

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Jazz musicians love the tribute album, perhaps more than the listeners who receive them. That opportunity to suggest affiliation, tapping into an already established audience can be tempting and a useful much needed marketing tool as industry-wide sales collapse. But really there is no reason why a tribute can't work -do it with love, for the right creative reasons, and it can still sparkle it just rarely does. Partly this is lack of imagination-counting the money before the tunes are in the bag, but mainly it is a complete lack of awareness or even disregard of who might ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

MoFrancesco Quintetto: Piedra Solar

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The instantly engaging “Ala'Ad-Din" opens this 70 minute set, the second album by this talented Lisbon-based group. A bass and piano riff confidently introduces “Abraxas" with unison horns taking up the main theme, leader Francesco Valente's electric bass to the fore and Brazilian guest percussionist Marcos Suzano playing pandeiro to great effect. Aline Frazão's sublime vocals on “Tres Morillas" or Guto Lucena's flute on the pastoral “Persian Story" demonstrate that this band has an innate ability to hold the listener's attention without use of volume. The ensemble attack of “Olisipo" (the old name for Lisbon, where ...



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