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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Judy Wexler: What I See

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One of the deepest relationships in jazz blossomed on the West Coast in the 1950s, when singer June Christy and arranger Pete Rugolo combined their gifts on numerous albums. Christy supplied the voice and the heart, which Rugolo set off to perfection with exquisite, often surprising arrangements. The deep understanding between the two artists was particularly evident in their choice of songs; both had an eye for the unusual and the neglected, as well as lyrics that conveyed emotions of a more complex hue. This legendary synergy is mirrored in the modern-day relationship between West Coast singer Judy ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Tony Oxley: A Birthday Tribute--75 Years

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As its title indicates, this album was released to mark the occasion of drummer Tony Oxley's seventy-fifth birthday (which occurred on June 15 2013.) Fittingly, it is released on Incus, the ground-breaking label that Oxley established in 1970 with Derek Bailey and Evan Parker, frequently cited as “the first independent musician-run record label in Britain" (just about true because of the inclusion of “independent"--which rules out The Beatles' Apple label--and of “in Britain," which rules out Debut set up by Max Roach and Charles Mingus in the early fifties.) The music here all originates from unreleased live sessions. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Judy Wexler: What I See

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Vocalist Judy Wexler has already garnered much attention among the All About Jazz family of critics, having been covered by the likes of colleagues Dan Bilawsky and Nicholas F. Mondello. They both remark on the breadth of Wexler's repertoire, which is impressive. Rather than browbeating us with one more collection of songs inhabiting Scott Yanow's moratorium list from his 2008 compendium, The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide (Backbeat Books), Wexler seeks out less heard songs to nudge to the forefront for attention. Wexler's support is top drawer. Longtime collaborator, pianist Jeff Colella arranges the eleven pieces, giving ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Judy Wexler: What I See

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When they excavated the world-famous La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles, scientists discovered an other-worldly array of fossilized treasures. Who would have thought that, millennia ago, in the middle of Tinseltown, saber-toothed tigers and mammoths were sashaying down Rodeo Drive? In an analogous way, What I See from Judy Wexler yields surprisingly terrific finds, primarily from material that has been available right in front but overlooked. A very fine vocal talent also surfaces.With this, her fourth CD, Wexler grabs a handful of these pieces and performs them--with the help of some of L.A.'s finest First-Callers-- with esprit, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Judy Wexler: What I See

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Vocalist Judy Wexler is more than a mere singer of songs. She's an actress, mood painter, song archaeologist and vocalist par excellence, and those designations shouldn't be taken as independent virtues; they all merge in her marvelous musical pursuits. When I See is Wexler's fourth album, but it only took two--Easy On The Heart (Jazzopolis, 2005) and Dreams & Shadows (Jazzed Media, 2008)-- to establish her as one of the most highly respected vocal artists on the West Coast. She furthered her sterling reputation with the all-encompassing Under A Painted Sky (Jazzed Media, 2011), and she's likely ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier: Travels To The West

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Guitar duos may not be quite as rare as hen's teeth in the world of jazz, but they're far from common. Yes, there are classic pairings such as Bucky Pizzarelli and George Barnes, or John Abercrombie and Ralph Towner; but given the instrument's ubiquity it's perhaps surprising that there aren't more such partnerships around. On Travels To The West, a live album recorded during a short UK tour in late 2011, Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier demonstrate the qualities that make the guitar duo such a rewarding combination, while their use of numerous different guitars ensures a constant variation in ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

David Bixler: The Nearest Exit May Be Inside Your Head

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Saxophonist David Bixler's ties to pianist Arturo O'Farrill have had positive and negative consequences. The positives are a raised profile, a fairly steady gig for twelve years and counting, and the opportunity to paint atop brilliantly arranged Latin platforms of varying shapes, colors and sizes for audiences around the world. So, one might wonder, what could possibly be negative about this connection, and the answer comes with one simple word: pigeonholing. This saxophonist isn't bound to a single style, but O'Farrill fans may not know it or care. Bixler is a musician with a broad background that ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Judy Wexler: Under A Painted Sky

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Few singers would dare dive into music associated with Johnny Mathis, Carmen McRae, Abbey Lincoln and the 1962 film, The Music Man, on the same album; even fewer would be able to pull it off as vocalist Judy Wexler does on Under A Painted Sky. Wexler possesses a voice for the ages, and puts it to good use on a dozen delicious numbers that cover myriad moods and spotlight the stellar instrumentalists in her band. Wexler's prior releases--Easy On The Heart (Rhombus, 2005) and Dreams And Shadows (Jazzed Media, 2008)-- were elevated by classy arrangements and pianistic ...

TAKE FIVE WITH...

Take Five With David Bixler

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Meet David Bixler: Alto saxophonist, composer, and educator David Bixler has been steadily garnering attention for his unique playing and writing. Since moving to New York City from his native Wisconsin, David has performed and toured with the orchestras of Lionel Hampton, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Duke Ellington. In 2000 he joined the Chico O'Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra which was the beginning of several musical collaborations with GRAMMY award winning pianist Arturo O'Farrill. In 2008 he was invited to join the pianist's Risa Negra sextet. On the band's 2009 ZOHO release, Risa Negra, David is ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

David Bixler and Arturo O'Farrill: The Auction Project

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Cuba and Ireland are worlds apart in virtually every way, but the universal language of music--is often culture-blind. The Auction Project was born out of a marriage between two longtime musical partners--saxophonist David Bixler and pianist Arturo O'Farrill--and a marriage between, well...two married people. Bixler and O'Farrill, longtime band mates and label mates on Zoho Music, came together in 2006 to play a fundraiser at Bixler's daughter's school. Around the same time, Bixler's wife, Juilliard trained violinist Heather Martin Bixler, was exploring traditional Irish fiddle music. With Afro-Cuban sounds and Celtic creations being practiced under one roof--literally--Bixler gave birth to ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

David Bixler and Arturo O'Farrill: The Auction Project

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Altoist and composer David Bixler leads The Auction Project, with Grammy-winning pianist Arturo O'Farrill, who has described this album as being “very much about colliding cultures." This may slightly overstate things but the album does represent what is, for jazz, a rather unusual meeting of cultures. Half of The Auction Project is devoted to Bixler's compositions, while the other half features tunes from the folk canon of the British Isles--the island of Ireland in particular. The key musician on these tunes is violinist Heather Martin Bixler; her playing is technically skilful and, while she does not have ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

David Bixler and Arturo O'Farrill: The Auction Project

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Stylistically, The Auction Project is slightly out-of-focus. It is ostensibly the meeting of Arturo O'Farrill's Irish-Latin roots at the corner of David Bixler and Heather Martin Bixler. However, there is much to endorse the music made here, not the least of which is the presence of the two Chico O'Farrill big band alumni. Bixler's “Heptagonesque" is the successful culmination of this Hispano-Celtic experiment, with its curious Middle Eastern flavor. Is it the curry? No, it's the violin. Marked by a serpentine head introducing the piece, by the time O'Farrill begins soloing the tune has devolved into some ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Judy Wexler: Dreams and Shadows

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Vocalist Judy Wexler has a multifaceted background, including performing in a theater collective, appearing on the TV show Frasier, and studying psychology. Wexler has been involved with jazz throughout her life, including years of studying the piano, but after her mother's death in 1999 Wexler decided to take the plunge and start performing. And thank goodness she did: Wexler is a breath of fresh air, a clear, clean voice that imbues life into every song she enters. In 2005 Wexler received strong reviews for her first CD, Easy on the Heart, and now her follow-up is garnering ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Cecil Taylor / Tony Oxley: Leaf Palm Hand

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If music criticism is difficult and jazz criticism is most difficult of all (how can any writer capture the essence of a form so elastic and alive?), well, what then to do with Cecil Taylor, the tireless 78-year-old avant-garde piano eminence whose iconoclastic style remains so singular and uncompromising that it defies any attempts at definition, much less explanation? It's enough to make any self-respecting critic retire permanently from the business. Structurally, Taylor's music is essentially motivic improvisation--that is, it's based in the development of a motif, a repeated musical figure which quickly mutates into another motif, ...



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