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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Alex Belhaj's Crescent City Quartet: Sugar Blues

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Trad jazz isn't trending on Twitter or climbing the charts, but that doesn't mean it's completely irrelevant in today's musical landscape. There's still a segment of people, both on the delivering and listening ends, who enjoy the way multiple horns can snake around one another in a polyphonic dance of joy, supported and driven by guitar and bass below. Many of these people find themselves drawn to New Orleans, where the music first took firm shape, and that's where the story of this project begins. Michigan-based guitarist Alex Belhaj visited New Orleans in the spring of 2010, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Alex Mendham And his Orchestra: Whistling In The Dark

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Can a recreation of an original replicate it? The short, quick answer is NO!, especially for popular and improvised music. However, the longer, more thoughtful, answer is YES!, especially this music from the twenties and thirties as performed by leader Alex Mendham and his Orchestra. Whistling In The Dark is that rare creation where everyone involved has taken extraordinary measures, from recording techniques used, to the use of original arrangements to bring to the listener something approaching the feeling of being in a dance hall in 1929 (or so). Yes, there are issues: the performers and the music ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Alex Pinto & All India Permit: All India Permit

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The recipient of a Fulbright / Nehru Scholarship, guitarist and composer Alex Pinto chose to study and teach for a year at the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (SAM) in Tamil Nadu, India. The Seattle native quickly made his way into the burgeoning Indian jazz scene, gathering New Delhi-based drummer Tarun Balani and bassist Abhinav Khokhar to form a potent and limber trio. Their new EP, titled All India Permit fuses jazz-based rhythmic aesthetics with compositional concepts derived from Carnatic music. Their refreshing attitude is summed up by the quote from the top of Pinto's website: “Say No To Bollywood." Indeed, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Alexander Hawkins: Song Singular

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Pianist Alexander Hawkins shines brightly in the firmament of the UK jazz scene. Already his resume is impressive. As well as leading his own ensemble, he features as part of outstanding collectives like the transatlantic Convergence Quartet with cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and drummer Harris Eisenstadt, and Decoy with fellow countrymen bassist John Edwards and drummer Steve Noble. In addition he's shared the bandstand with the likes of saxophonists Evan Parker, Joe McPhee and Marshall Allen. Richly gifted Hawkins is both an intriguing composer and a spellbinding improviser. It is that last quality which he explores most fully on Song ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Alexander McCabe / Paul Odeh: This Is Not A Pipe

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The title is, presumably, a nod to “Ceci, C'est Ne Pas Une Pipe," the phrase which Rene Magritte wrote on his famous painting La Trahison Des Images. The painting wasn't, of course, a pipe, just a painting of a pipe. This Is Not A Pipe isn't a pipe either--it isn't even a painting of a pipe. So what is it? Alto saxophonist Alexander McCabe and pianist Paul Odeh have the answer--it's a recording of eight tunes, three standards and five originals.Okay, that's a rather prosaic if factually correct description. More importantly, it's a recording of an alto/piano duo ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Natsuki Tamura, Alexander Frangenheim: Nax

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Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura has long straddled the divide between free improvisation and lyrical jazz. The latter has been adequately and beautifully represented in his work with Gato Libre. That quartet features his wife and occasional duo partner--the pianist and accordionist Satoko Fujii--and combines elements of folk, chamber and modern jazz. In contrast, much of his solo work such as A Song for Jyaki (Leo Records, 1998) is full of distorted multi-phonic explorations. Nax, a duo outing with German bassist Alexander Frangenheim, goes much further outside the parameters of jazz or music in general. An artist in multiple disciplines, Frangenheim bridges ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Alexander McCabe / Paul Odeh: This Is Not A Pipe

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Are we having fun yet? Saxophonist Alexander McCabe and pianist Paul Odeh are, on a rollicking duo outing, This Is Not A Pipe. The frequent collaborators delve into a loose-jointed, roll and tumble examination of some jazz standards and McCabe originals. The word “seamless" is an often used--some would say over-used--as a description of a recorded offering. This Is Not A Pipe is not that. It is about as Un-seamless as can be. It sounds as if two good friends who can say anything to each other have gotten themselves involved in a relaxed and kicked-back free-for-all conversation, ...



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