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Stefano Bollani: Joy in Spite of Everything

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Anyone who's had the pleasure of watching pianist Stefano Bollani in concert--whether it's in duo with fellow Italian, trumpter Enrico Rava, at the 2009 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival; in the trumpeter's New York Days quintet at the ECM 40th Anniversary celebration, part of the 2010 Enjoy Jazz Festival; or in one of his own various contexts (solo, trio, large ensemble)--knows that, above all, joy is fundamental to the music he makes. Sometimes it's blatantly obvious, as on his 2013 duo release with bandolim master Hamilton De Holanda, O Que Sera (ECM), where these two virtuosos could barely contain themselves and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jenny Hval & Susanna: Meshes of Voice

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After winning the Spellemannpris (Norwegian Grammy) for her first release on the fledgling Susanna Sonata label, the career-defining collaboration with Ensemble neoN, The Forester (2013), singer Susanna resists the urge to repeat herself by moving on to even more experimental territory with Meshes of Voice, this time together with fellow Norwegian vocalist Jenny Hval--a collaboration that, in retrospect, seems absolutely inevitable. Prior to launching her Susanna Sonata label, Susanna was a (largely) Rune Grammofon recording artist, releasing albums like 2009's Flower of Evil under her own name, and others, like 3, from the same year, as one-half of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

InterStatic: Arise

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Its beginnings may have been a little closer to the jazz side of the jazz-rock equation with Anthem (PVY Records, 2011), but British expat keyboardist Roy Powell's and trio with Norwegian guitarist Jacob Young and drummer Jarle Vespestad has, since changing its moniker to InterStatic with the release of its first album on UK's RareNoiseRecords label, InterStatic (2012), ratcheted up the energy, the volume and the rock quotient. If InterStatic was the trio's first shot across the bow, then Arise is InterStatic's true statement of intent. The trio continues to explore the space first innovated by drummer Tony ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Bugge Wesseltoft: OK World

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There are artists who find their niche and then spend the rest of their careers carefully honing that one thing--often to great effect and, in some lucky cases, great success. Then there's Bugge Wesseltoft. Since emerging in the mid-'90s with his techno/house/electronica-driven New Conception of Jazz series--which didn't just establish him in his native Norway but, with guest appearances from artists like John Scofield and Dhafer Youssef, abroad as well--the keyboardist/producer/Jazzland Recordings label head has shaped a career defined by diversity. From electro-centric solo piano excursions like Playing (Jazzland, 2009) and beautiful slow-motion jazz standards on Songs (Jazzland, 2012) to ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Solveig Slettahjell: Various Artists: Norwegian Woods - Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic II

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One night, six Norwegian artists--three of them together in a group for a decade. Such ideas can look great on paper, but turn out less than inspiring in reality. Fortunately, beyond the individual talents involved, there's been enough interconnectivity between singer Solveig Slettahjell, keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft, guitarist Knut Reiersrud and the members of In the Country--keyboardist Morten Qvenild, bassist Roger Arntzen and drummer Pål Hausken--that Norwegian Woods-Jazz at the Berlin Philharmonic II doesn't just work...it soars. Slettahjell--bringing a very personal vision to both her own music and her many interpretations of songwriters ranging from Cole Porter to Tom ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Claudio Fasoli Four: London Tube

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One of the pleasures of traveling to events abroad is the opportunity to learn about musicians who may be established at home, but are deserving of more attention abroad. Such was the case when covering the Fondazione Siena Summer Jazz Workshop 2013 in Siena, Italy, and the chance to experience saxophonist Claudio Fasoli, both in action as an instructor at the academy and at a very special performance by his Claudio Fasoli Four. London Tube is the quartet's second recording following 2011's Avenir (Caligola) and, like its predecessor, capitalizes on the strengths of a quartet of exceptional players that deserve ...

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Stein Urheim: Stein Urheim

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Things are looking up for Bergen-based Stein Urheim, a musician who, on the basis of Stein Urheim--his second release on Hubro after the vinyl/download-only Kosmolodi (2012) and third as a leader following his 2009 debut, Three Sets of Music--seems interested in just about anything with strings...and a few without. Beyond his own career, which includes work with Gabriel Fliflet´s Åresong and a guest appearance on The Last Hurrah!'s 2011 Rune Grammofon debut, Spiritual Non- Believers, his Stein and Mari collaboration with Mari Kvien Brunvoll--an electro- acoustic singer who, since enthralling a group of international guests at a church showcase, continues ...

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Manfred Eicher: ECM - Selected Signs III - VIII

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When München's Haus der Kunst sponsored a nearly three-month exhibition about the ECM Records label, ECM: A Cultural Archeology, which ran from November, 2012 to February, 2013, there was far more to it than just bringing together collections of album covers, rarely seen video, archival tapes, imagery and concert performances. As much as ECM has carved a niche for itself as a label concerned about the whole package, including quality of sound, design and artwork, it is, after all, a record label, and one that has, in a history now spanning more than forty years, emerged as a singular, inimitable ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

sPacemoNkey: The Karman Line

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According to Wikipedia, the Kármán Line ..."lies at an altitude of 100 kilometres (62 mi) above the Earth's sea level, and commonly represents the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space." It's as good a name as any for the debut album from sPacemoNkey, a collaboration by two of Norway's most impressive and increasingly influential musicians, despite still being in their early-to-mid thirties: keyboardist Morten Qvenild and drummer Gard Nilssen. Largely the result of spontaneous composition, with just three of its nine tracks being preconceived by Qvenild, sPacemoNkey's music is both as grounded as the world and as ethereal as ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Karen Mantler: Business is Bad

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It's been nearly two decades since Karen Mantler last released an album under her own name on the XtraWATT label belonging to her similarly coifed mother, pianist/composer Carla Bley, but she's been anything but idle. Work on Bley albums like Appearing Nightly (Watt, 2008), recordings by father Michael Mantler like Folly Seeing All This (ECM, 1993), and sessions with fellow singer/songwriter Robert Wyatt have dovetailed with the singer/pianist/harmonicist's collaborations with the Golden Palominos and Hal Wilner, as well as her own Pet Projects (Virgin, 2000), the final instalment in a series of albums about her cat, that began with My ...

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Marius Neset / Trondheim Jazz Orchestra: Lion

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Despite having yet to make a breakthrough in North America, in the space of less than five years Marius Neset has gone from virtual unknown to one of Europe's hottest properties, gigging with his quartet all around the continent, including an incendiary showcase at the 2012 Jazzahead! trade show in Germany and an even more searing set at the 2014 Jazzkaar festival in Estonia. That this young Norwegian-born/Denmark- based saxophonist (still on the shy side of 30) has managed to achieve so much in so little time is not only evidenced by Lion, but by his carrying enough weight to ...

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Mike Pope: Cold Truth Warm Heart

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Cold Truth Warm Heart isn't Mike Pope's first album as a leader (it's his third), but in the 12 years since The Lay of the Land (Whaling City Sound, 2002), the bassist has, in addition to some serious life-changers, forged a relationship with two musicians of unequivocal significance. First appearing on Joe Locke's State of Soul (Sirocco, 2002), Pope has worked with the superb vibraphonist and equally fine pianist Geoffrey Keezer in the by turns incendiary and profoundly lyrical Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group since 2006, first documented on the charging out of the gate Live in Seattle (Origin, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Enfant Terrible

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While making noise with her debut, Shoot! (Rune Grammofon, 2011), it was with All Them Witches (Rune Grammofon, 2013)--and subsequent touring that took her from her home country of Norway, playing at festivals like the 2013 Molde International Jazz Festival, to a short North American tour this year--that guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen's career really took off. Alongside Pixel, Hedvig Mollestad Trio represents some of the most exciting music from a new generation of Norwegian musicians, though the two groups couldn't be more different. And with “Enfant Terrible" released just prior to its 2014 North American tour, Hedvig Mollestad Trio is ...

DVD/VIDEO/FILM REVIEWS

Peter Gabriel: Back to Front - Live in London (Deluxe Limited Blu-Ray)

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Peter Gabriel Back to Front: Live in London (Deluxe Limited Blu-Ray) Real World/Eagle Vision2014 Peter Gabriel has, for most of his career, been an artist who has never looked back. Still, the past few years have seen him reevaluating his large repertoire, between orchestral interpretations documented on New Blood: Live in London (Real World/Eagle Entertainment, 2012) and the Back to Front tour that has, since that time, celebrated the 25th anniversary of the release of So (Charisma, 1986)--the album that turned him from cult hero to (now) pop culture elder statesman. So turned out to ...



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