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Medeski, Martin & Wood: Sound Sculpting

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Progressive keyboard trio Medeski, Martin & Wood has helped redefine the boarder where musical genres meet since the group's inception over 20 years ago. MMW has experimented with everything from song structure to acoustic-electric instrumental blends, all while appealing to both jazz-specific and mainstream audiences. Free Magic (Indirecto, 2012) is a fine example of MMW's exploratory spirit.Free Magic is five tracks of extended play taken from performances in 2007, when the band was on its first ever all-acoustic tour. The album starts with the earthy sounds of percussionist Billy Martin's balafon and ends with a laidback medley of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Zorn: Nosferatu

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The idea of saxophonist/composer John Zorn writing music to accompany a production about vampires has exciting implications. After all, it would seem logical that a man who has, over the past 40 years, helped expand the scope of sounds that can be considered music should be able to craft something truly mind-bending when dealing with such a spooky subject. Surprisingly, however, Zorn has produced a relatively tame score that translates into an accessible album when confronted with the task of writing music for a Polish stage production of Bram Stoker's Dracula.Zorn's Nosferatu is a generally haunting album, but ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Chris Madsen: Pop Art

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Freedom of musical form is one of the many beauties of jazz. Jazz musicians express themselves through improvisation over musical structures that they can alter at any moment, shifting through different meters, timbres and harmonic landscapes. However, musicians run the risk of becoming too self-invested when they engage in long-form improvisation. In those unfortunate instances when improvisers begin to neglect the audience or their fellow band mates, the freedom that makes jazz such a potent musical product becomes a nuisance, diminishing what otherwise might be a tremendous display of virtuosity.What is the right length for a solo? A ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Arturo Sandoval Live in Evanston with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra

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Arturo Sandoval with the Chicago Jazz OrchestraPick-Staiger Concert HallNorthwestern University Soundings Spring FestivalEvanston, ILApril 7, 2012Trumpeter Arturo Sandoval says he's happy some people still listen to music made by musicians playing instruments. In an age when people can download songs for 99 cents without knowing who arranged the songs or if human musicians put work into recording the tracks, jazz musicians are fortunate people still want to listen to them perform with saxophones, trumpets, trombones and pianos, Sandoval says.Sandoval expressed this appreciation of jazz fans and casually chided the concept of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Hugh Masekela: Jabulani

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At the age of 72, South African vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Hugh Masekela is still making music with as much energy and passion as he did in the days of “Grazin' in the Grass" at the height of his international fame in the 1960s and 1970s. Historically, Masekela has used his music as a form of social and political activism to combat issues like Apartheid. Jabulani strays from this trend of defiance and instead focuses on the joys and drawbacks of marriage, a highly ritualized and ceremonial institution in the South African village where Masekela was born.Masekela surrounds himself ...

REASSESSING

Roy Eldridge: In Paris

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Roy EldridgeIn ParisVogue1951Trumpeter Roy Eldridge left the United States for Paris in 1950 fearing that the emergence of bebop, which he had strongly influenced, would make his more traditional style of playing obsolete and lose him his formerly adoring audiences. Eldridge did not stay in Paris for as long as some of his colleagues, but he managed to produce some fine, swinging recordings during his time abroad. In Paris documents two vibrant, gem-filled, European recording sessions and still sounds hip over 60 years after it was made.The album, which also ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Badbadnotgood: BBNGLIVE 2

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BADBADNOTGOODBBNG Live 2Self Produced2012Hip-hop grooves and electronics are not new to the jazz world. In the 1970s, forward-thinking jazz giants such as trumpeter Miles Davis and keyboardists Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea popularized the sound of electrified keyboards and horns supported by rhythm sections of slapping bass players, superhuman fusion drummers and funky electric guitarists. Since at least 2003, piano trio The Bad Plus has been deconstructing popular rock and electronica songs and even more recently pianist Robert Glasper released an album full of collaborations with rap stars and neo-soul singers.

REASSESSING

Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie: Ella and Basie!

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Ella Fitzgerald and Count BasieElla and Basie!Verve1963 In July 1963, singer Ella Fitzgerald and pianist Count Basie's orchestra entered the studio for their first full-length recording session as a collective. They produced a gem for both veteran jazz fans and novices. The album features both artists in top swinging form and it is concise enough to serve as an introduction to those just beginning to explore the Basie or Fitzgerald catalogs. Ella and Basie! presents the band in the role of accompanist and the group performs its task with ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Bad Plus: Never Stop

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For the past decade, The Bad Plus has received both praise and criticism for its idiosyncratic approach to jazz-rock. Liberal jazz fans and those who are inclined towards the mainstream but want to dabble in jazz have enthusiastically received the band's modern piano trio reworking of rock standards such as Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Rush's “Tom Sawyer." Conversely, jazz purists tend to shy away from The Bad Plus and its backbeat-intensive and sometimes bombastic playing.Never Stop is the band's first studio album to offer exclusively original compositions. Although the album often lacks the raw energy of ...



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