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Rob Derke & the NYJAZZ Quartet: Blue Divide

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The name “NYJAZZ Quartet" does beg the question, “What is New York Jazz?" Even narrowing the definition to “home grown" music doesn't help, since that range runs from the mainstream sounds of Birdland and the Blue Note to the next-level avant-garde associated with Smalls and the late lamented Knitting Factory. With Blue Divide, saxman Rob Derke and his three extraordinary partners --pianist Aruan Ortiz, bassist Carlo De Rosa, and drummer Eric McPherson--have managed to mash those two contrary sub-genres into a galvanizing set that bends the outside of the box without breaking it. In more ways than ...


J Hunter's 2013 Top 10 Countdown

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"Tis the season to do countdowns Fa la la la lahhh, la lahh lahh lahhhhhhh..." Okay, okay, not one of the most original openings ever written. But don't worry: There's plenty of originality to be had on the ten bundles of fabulousness listed below: 10... Etienne Charles Creole Soul (Culture Shock Music) Still in his 20's, Charles has been racking up Mozart-like career accomplishments since he left Juilliard, and his latest release kicks open a whole new door. Armed with the Afro-Caribbean beats of his native Trinidad, Charles serves up a tantalizing mix of ...


Prism: Prism

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Although über-bassist Dave Holland made his bones with one of Miles Davis' early electric bands, the lion's share of the British native's own music has come from the acoustic side of the scale. As such, longtime Holland fans will receive a major shock with their first listen to Prism. Those fans will need open ears and patience; everyone else just needs a volume control that goes to 11. The opening Fender Rhodes vamp on Kevin Eubanks' “The Watcher" comes straight out of jam-band fave Chris Potter's Underground--not surprising, given that it's CPU keyboardist Craig Taborn making the noise. ...


Christian McBride & Inside Straight: People Music

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Musicians create bands for many things: To gather like-minded artists together, or to achieve some grand artistic vision; Christian McBride created Inside Straight to get a gig. It seems Village Vanguard owner Lorraine Gordon loved McBride but wouldn't book him with his regular, fusion-heavy outfit--or, as Gordon put it, “that rock 'n' roll band." Necessity is the mother, as they say, so McBride built Inside Straight. The thing is, he might have overreacted a tad, because the group's first release Kind of Brown was pure vanilla from end to end. Thankfully, McBride found the right mix of spices in time ...


It's an Upstate Thing: John Medeski and Lee Shaw; Joe Barna and Sketches Of Influence

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It's time once again to prove that all the great jazz in New York State isn't all made in New York City. The state capital of Albany has been doing its part for quite some time, and it doesn't stop with its two favorite musical sons: mallets wizard Stefon Harris and baritone saxman Nick Brignola. Here are the latest offerings from the Capital Region, both of them recorded live--one from an inspiring octogenarian pianist and the pupil who made it big, and another from a young lion who is more than ready to show the world what he's got.


J Hunter's Best Releases of 2010

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Counting down the best releases of 2010: Allison Miller Boom Tic Boom Foxhaven 2010 Anyone with job references as diverse as organ icon Dr. Lonnie Smith and indie singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco must have something interesting to say, and drummer Allison Miller proves that out. Boom Tic Boom is a square-peggish gumbo that flirts with the chaotic but never loses its way. Avant-garde pianist Myra Melford adds thrilling depth and boundless thought, and Jenny Scheinman's quicksilver violin makes a delightful cameo on one of the best small-label ...


Michael Dease, Mike Fahie: Attack of the Killer Trombones!

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The trombone: long locked into a stereotypical role formed by Dixieland, and only occasionally broken since. Fortunately, the last few years have seen more and more trombonists following J.J. Johnson's lead and bringing the instrument out front. Four discs with trombones at their center have stood out so far in 2010; two are reviewed here, two more will follow in a sequel. Michael DeaseGraceJazz Legacy Productions2010 Michael Dease was pretty prominent on multi-instrumentalist Sharel Cassity's disc Relentless (Jazz Legacy Productions, 2009). JLP impresario John Lee has been a fan ...


New Voices: Sarah Manning, John Escreet, Kneebody

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Jazz is like the human body. It needs fresh air, constant activity and a steady stream of nutrients to stay hale and hearty. Conversely, if all the genre does is sit in a comfy chair and try to live on what came before, it becomes sedentary, incurious and--ultimately--self destructive. Fortunately, the young keep jazz active and alive. Here are a few examples of the new kids on the block. Sarah ManningDandelion ClockPosi-Tone2010 Getting past a first impression can be tough, but sometimes that's what has to happen in order ...


Robillard & Crownover / Samuel Torres / Andy Cotton: Let's Party!

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Memorial Day, 2010 has come and gone, which means summer is right on its heels. And with summer comes further--and louder--reasons to fire up the grill, cool down the beer (or whatever), and get friends and/or family together to celebrate...well, whatever occasion is handy, up to and including surviving the work week. A party without music is like a party without a snacks table, but who says that music has to be boring or predictable? Here are three suggestions for some convivial atmosphere that won't insult anyone's intelligence.

Duke Robillard & Sunny Crownover Tales from ...


David Binney: Aliso

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For Aliso, reedman David Binney wanted to get back to “doing things that have been part of my life since I was a kid." It's clear that any time is a good time for a happy childhood, because both Binney and his band dive into Aliso like 10 year-olds on vacation at Disney World.

The opening title track has a gritty New York feel reminiscent of the mid-century era Criss Cross likes to revisit. The groove is complex and rich, and the street-tough foundation work of pianist John Escreet and bassist Eivind Opsvik lets drummer Dan Weiss put just enough ...


Rufus Reid: Out Front and with Old Friends

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Great bassists are worth their weight in Maine lobster. Aside from maintaining the foundation so the drummer can stick and move, a great bassist can offer a substantial counterweight to a soloist, plus an additional voice that expands a band's capacity for dialogue. By those measures, Rufus Reid is a great, great bassist, with a strength and dexterity that comes through whether he is a leader or a sideman. Here are examples of Reid excelling in both roles.

Rufus Reid Out Front Motema Music 2010

While Reid had worked ...


Ralph Bowen, Dan Pratt, Brandon Wright: Posi-Tone strikes gold again

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Traditional jazz does not have to be boring. It does not have to be staid, or re-fried or adhere to a formula concocted in a New Orleans barroom over nine decades ago. A lot of the large labels don't get that. Fortunately, the creative triumvirate at Posi-Tone Records not only understands this concept, but they practice it in a big way. The label closed out 2009 with solid efforts by saxman Wayne Escoffery with Uptown and drummer David Ashkenazy with Out With It, and they've hit the ground running in 2010 with three more great releases.

Ralph ...


Daniel Kelly, Gary Peacock & Marc Copland, Allison Miller: Solo, Duo, Trio

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It can be argued that a quartet offers jazz listeners maximum effect with minimal personnel. It allows for two solo voices without compromising the rhythm section, and gives a composer access to a wider range of colors than could be provided by a smaller group. Then again, there are players doing much more with much less. Here are three examples.

Daniel Kelly Portal Self Released 2009

Keyboardist Daniel Kelly made significant marks on the jazz scene in 2009, both as a leader, on Emerge (Brooklyn Jazz Underground, 2009), and ...


Great Vibes: Nova NOLA and The Wee Trio

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Despite the current iteration of the “Jazz is Dead" riff, it is impossible to throw a rock without hitting one of the music's latest wave of horn players, reed players, keyboardists, bassists or drummers. The one area that lacks ground-breaking new personnel in 2010 is “mallets" (vibraphone and marimba), although every recent generation has had its champion--be it Gary Burton, Mike Mainieri or Stefon Harris.

The newest demographic, however, may have found its advocate in James Westfall. The Thelonious Monk Institute alum wields the “keytar" in the prog-jazz group Bionica, but he plays vibes on two 2010 discs that repay ...

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