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BEST OF / YEAR END

Jeff Dayton-Johnson's Best Releases of 2013

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Every year the list gets longer and more heterogeneous. There are blockbusters and obscure little gems, loud jazz and quiet jazz, hip hop and kora music, some of it downright unclassifiable. Which is fine. “Junku," a 1984 track anthologized on Herbie Hancock's spectacular box set below, is in fact both hip hop and kora music! In an interview with the New York Times earlier this year, Hancock said, “The thing that keeps jazz alive, even if it's under the radar, is that it is so free and so open to not only lend its influence to other genres, but to ...

INTERVIEWS

John Hollenbeck's September Songs

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John Hollenbeck's productivity would be astonishing in its own right, but the uniformly high quality of this high output places the drummer among the top tier of jazz (and not only jazz) musicians. Hollenbeck's recordings, compositions and performances defy certain expectations. He can be as seriously intellectual as a stereotypically stuffy classical musician, but his music is interlaced with humor and fun. As befits a 21st century drummer, he is rhythmically complex but the music is underlain with a deep groove. He borrows ecumenically from a diversity of musical (including the rhythms of the spoken word) sources and manages to ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Wayne Wallace: Latin Jazz Jazz Latin

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Trombonist Wayne Wallace and his Latin Jazz Ensemble have a well-oiled record-making machine that seems incapable of turning out a subpar album.Therein lies the mystery. The ingredients that Wallace and his bandmates pour into the machine are eminently predictable--a studiously well-sampled array of Latin rhythms, didactically specified in the liner notes; a mixture of strong original compositions and Latin settings of jazz standards; tight ensemble playing by the quintet with plenty of space to breathe; a smattering of tasteful contributions by guest artists. The wonder is that this recipe, trotted out more or less annually, loses none of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gustavo Cortiñas: Snapshot

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With Snapshot, drummer Gustavo Cortiñas emerges from that challenging rite of passage: the début album. Following years of training (with saxophonist Victor Goines, among others, who is on the record) and sideman duty (on a record with saxophonist Roy McGrath, who also shows up for this date), a young artist seeks to craft a meaningful and representative musical statement and calling card.The musician has in the short span of the début record's length to establish him or herself as a soloist and instrumentalist, as a bandleader, as a composer, and as a kind of producer, capable of communicating ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Kanye West: Yeezus

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Ben Jonson said of his dead child, my sin was too much hope of thee, loved boy. We too easily take what the poets write as figures of speech, as pretty images, as strings of bons mots. Sometimes perhaps they speak the truth. --Margaret Drabble, The Millstone (1965).Every time I write these words they become a taboo Making sure my punctuation curve, every letter is true Living my life in the margin and that metaphor was proof I'm talking poetic justice, poetic justice If I told you that ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Chris Kelsey & What I Say: The Electric Miles Project

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Trumpeter Miles Davis' post-Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970), pre-hiatus (1975-1981) electric music--dense, loud, dark, funky, vast--has posed problems for musicians. The Yo Miles! collective, led by trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and guitarist Henry Kaiser, gamely approached it as a repertoire: these are songs, they seemed to say; let's just play them (and so they did, on albums like Upriver, Cuneiform, 2005). Bassist/impresario Bill Laswell, meanwhile, approached the releases of the period as post-performance collage, woven together from miles of Ampex tape; thus he remixed the original recordings rather than re-performing the tunes (on Panthalassa: The Music of Miles Davis, 1969-74, Columbia, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mike Wofford: It's Personal

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Pianist Mike Wofford can boast decades of high-caliber sideman gigs: notably with vocalists Ella Fitzgerald (for whom he served as music director), Mel Tormé and Sarah Vaughan, as well as drummer Shelly Manne, saxophonist Phil Woods, guitarist Joe Pass and others. His studio work is amply represented on records by a dizzying variety of artists. And his frequent collaborations with his wife, flutist Holly Hofmann, have been warmly received. Solo sets are not unknown in Wofford's lengthy discography but, on the evidence of the solo recital It's Personal, would be welcome with greater frequency.In particular, Wofford's style is ...



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