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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Dee Alexander: Songs My Mother Loves

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The maternal influence on a musician should never be underestimated. There's a degree of love, guidance, nurturing and support that only a mother can provide, and plenty of jazz artists have taken the time to express their appreciation for this fact: violinist Regina Carter did so with the touching I'll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey (Verve, 2006), trumpeter Dave Douglas explored the hymns and folk songs that his mother had asked to be played at her funeral on Be Still (Greenleaf, 2012), and plenty of others haven't been shy about expressing their feelings about dear old mom in song ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Alexander Hawkins Ensemble: Alexander Hawkins: Step Wide, Step Deep

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You don't need to spend long in the company of pianist Alexander Hawkins to realize that his encyclopedic knowledge of jazz encompasses everything from Duke Ellington to the avant-garde. That's as true of recordings as it is in person, and amply demonstrated on Step Wide, Step Deep, where the moods range from lazy Sunday afternoon to bristling polyphony. Even though the line up has changed since the excellent All There Ever Out (Babel Label, 2012), the combination of fierce musical intelligence and unfettered creativity remains the same. Hawkins has assembled a unit that's comfortable across multiple genres. Guitarist ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Francois Carrier / Michel Lambert / Alexey Lapin: The Russian Concerts Volume 1

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Back in 2011, this trio released an excellent trilogy of albums which documented a December 2010 tour of Russia by Canadian alto saxophonist Francois Carrier and his long-time drummer Michel Lambert during which they played with Russian pianist Alexey Lapin in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Now, The Russian Concerts Volume 1 again documents the three together in Moscow, but this is not a fourth record of the 2010 tour, instead being the first (of several, judging by its title) from April 2013. The music come from two consecutive days--three pieces recorded on April 27th at DOM Cultural Center and one ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

François Tusques / Alexandra Grimal / Sylvain Guérineau: La Jungle du Douanier Rousseau

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This ad-hoc French trio brings tenor saxophone players and free improvisers--Sylvain Guérineau, who is also a gifted painter, and Alexandra Grimal to the musical universe of veteran pianist Francois Tusques, who began to play jazz in post-war France and was a close associate of expatriate Americans like Don Cherry and The Art Ensemble of Chicago during the late 1960's. La Jungle du Douanier Rousseau--its title refers to the naïve paintings of post-impressionist Henri Rousseau--was recorded live and carries the exploratory spirit of the free jazz of the sixties. The ten pieces unfold like a long suite ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jamie Alexander Smith: Kinesis

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Kinesis, from the young Edinburgh based pianist Jamie Alexander Smith, is sub-titled Four Improvisations On Piano. The sub-title pretty much explains things--on a basic level and except for the fact that a fifth track, “WKG," puts in an appearance. Of course, while the basic level of explanation hints at Smith's compositional approach and makes his instrument of choice clear, it doesn't give any real indication of the music on offer. So what can be expected from the improvising pianist? Maybe some free-form passages, some aggressive pounding on the keyboard, dissonance? Smith is never in thrall to these improvisational ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Eric Alexander: Chicago Fire

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When weighing the merits of tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, two words spring readily to mind: prolific and consistent. Alexander, an implacable workhorse even in his mid-40s, has since 1992 recorded no less than thirty-seven albums as leader of his own groups and appeared on many others as a sideman. As for consistency, Alexander has been widely praised, and rightly so, for his awesome technique and seemingly endless reservoir of eye-opening ad libs. In other words, he approaches every theme with the utmost precision and within his sphere has never been known to deliver a solo that is less than earnest ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Alex LoRe Trio: Dream House

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Greg Osby's Inner Circle Music label has played host to quite a few emerging saxophonists: baritone saxophonist Lauren Sevian's debut, alto saxophonist Logan Richardson's second date, and the first two records from Melissa Aldana, the winner of the 2013 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, all came out on this imprint. Now, the label is introducing alto saxophonist Alex LoRe to a wider audience. LoRe is a Floridian who traveled north to further his education at two venerable institutions--Boston's New England Conservatory, where he earned he earned his bachelor's degree, and New York's Manhattan School of Music, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Alex Weiss: Fighter Planes & Praying Mantis

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Saxophonist Alex Ward's musical journey so far reflects his restful musical personality. He studied music in Boston, then relocated to San Francisco where he studied with Roberto DeHaven, the minister and musician of Saint John's Orthodox Church, better known as the John Coltrane Church. In the Bay Area he collaborated with innovative improvisers as saxophonist Glenn Spearman, Wadada Leo Smith, and Bertram Turetzky. Then he continued to Denmark where he performed with John Tchicai and later moved to Madrid, Spain. He stayed there four years before moving back to the Bay area and in 2007 he landed in New York, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jamie Alexander Smith: Kinesis

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"Kinesis," when defined as simply as possible, means “movement." When the definition is expanded, or given a biological reading, it references the idea of movement that takes place in response to external stimuli. Without knowing the circumstances surrounding the recording of this oh-so-brief solo piano EP, it's hard to know which one Scottish pianist Jamie Smith is citing in the title, but it's irrelevant. Smith's music, whether influenced by external or internal forces, is ever-mobile. This five track EP, with a running time of approximately twenty-one minutes, seems to end before it even begins, but Smith deserves ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Alexander Hawkins: Step Wide, Step Deep

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The effortless and precocious ability shown by British pianist Alexander Hawkins to step between the jazz tradition and music more associated with free improv makes for a heady brew on this thrilling collection. While it is arguable that the genres are far from mutually exclusive the ability to make accessible music from that which is often viewed as 'difficult' is rare and deserves to be better known outside of his homeland. This album retains only guitarist Otto Fischer from the previous Ensemble release, 2012's All There, Ever Out, the changes apparently forced by the geographical relocation of drummer ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Alex LoRe Trio: Dream House

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Dream House is the excellent debut release by the Alex LoRe Trio, nearly an hour of beautiful music from LoRe on alto sax, Desmond White on bass, and Colin Stranahan on drums. LoRe hails from Florida, and in addition to formal studies at New England Conservatory of Music and Manhattan School of Music, he's worked with a number of luminous saxophone mentors, including Lee Konitz, James Moody, Steve Wilson, and the venerable Bunky Green. LoRe has been paying his dues in New York City venues big and small, including a seat with Lucas Pino's “No Net" Nonet, which is currently ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Alexander Hawkins Ensemble: Step Wide, Step Deep

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British composer, pianist Alexander Hawkins possesses the goods to be a world-beater in avant-jazz circles. He's collaborated with legendary drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo (Brotherhood of Breath) and co-leads the Convergence Quartet amid his concurrent 2014 solo piano release Song Singular and other notable endeavors for this UK-based record label. Hawkins' compositional prowess takes center-stage on this high-flying sojourn, showcasing a superfine band that communicates extraordinary synergy, coupled with towering solo spots and a penchant for zooming in for the kill, while imparting a cavalcade of paradigm shifts. The opening extended piece “Step Wide, Step Deep," sets the stage for ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Alexander Hawkins Ensemble: Step Wide, Step Deep

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As he did on his fine solo piano release Song Singular (Babel, 2014), Alexander Hawkins takes his newly formed ensemble on a path that blurs the perceptions of composition and free improvisation. Step Wide, Step Deep floats free of implications and becomes its own entity. The ensemble establishes a rich and unique setting, sometimes disquieting, sometimes melodic but in all cases providing a dialog that resonates in content and in how that content is conveyed. Despite the success of his previous ensemble, Hawkins felt that a new approach was in order and so, retaining only guitarist Otto ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Alexander Hawkins: Song Singular

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The concurrent releases of pianist/composer Alexander Hawkins solo and ensemble recordings demonstrate the up-and-coming artist's exceptional range of compositional skills across dissimilar formats. The young Oxford, UK native has been a much sought after sideman, working with free jazz sax legend Evan Parker, saxophonist Joe McPhee and renowned South African drummer, Louis Moholo-Moholo. Hawkins is also a co-leader of the Convergence Quartet featuring cornet virtuoso Taylor Ho Bynum, drummer Harris Eisenstadt, and double bassist Dominic Lash.Hawkins' solo effort, Song Singular, leaves any attempt to weed out influences a futile exercise. Layered notes and complex textures aggressively course through ...



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