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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Willie McBlind: Bad Thing

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Many elements comprise the spirit of the authentic blues, from the weary, lonesome and forlorn lyrics and voices to the bent, plaintive notes coaxed from weather-beaten, jury-rigged instruments. It's that off-kilter, almost microtonal aspect of true blues tonality that is too often overlooked by cover artists and wanna-bes who reduce the music to three chords and the truth. Guitarist Jon Catler and the other members of Willie McBlind work near-miracles in bringing that raw aspect of the blues sound to the forefront. In this case, Catler's instrument isn't a well-worn pawn-shop acoustic guitar, but rather a highly ...

BOOK REVIEWS

Jazz Lives: Till We Shall Meet and Never Part

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Jazz Lives: Till We Shall Meet and Never Part Jaap van de Klomp and Scott Yanow Hardcover; 223 pages ISBN: 9789022993538 VIP Books 2008

Now and then a book comes along that defies all expectations. Jazz Lives, a collaboration between Dutch photographer Jaap van de Klomp and American jazz writer Scott Yanow, is just such a volume. Given its structure--short biographies of deceased jazz artists, combined with photos of their gravesites--you might be expecting some morbid joke. This is hardly the case. Jazz Lives is a truly beautiful, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Jefry Stevens Quartet: For the Children

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This release in the Cadence Jazz Historical Series (recorded in February 1995) is full of surprises, none greater than the successful intertwining of a former Jazz Messenger with one of the premier free-jazz rhythm teams. Saxophonist David Schnitter isn't the best-known of the Messengers tenormen, having joined the outfit during the comparative down-time of the 1970s. But since then he has built a reputation as a solid, reliable improviser. Dominic Duval and Jay Rosen often function as the “house rhythm section" of sorts for CIMP Records, Cadence Jazz' sister label. Michael Jefry Stevens, the leader, pianist and composer, is well-respected ...

INTERVIEWS

Michael Wolff: The Art of Communication

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The idea of music as communication is as old as music itself, and has become just about as clichéd as some of its referents. Igor Stravinsky once opined that music was powerless to communicate anything. And, truth be told, the number of active instrumentalists who can successfully communicate thoughts, feelings, concepts and dogmas without words is significantly smaller than the number of those who believe they can. Even many vocalists and lyricists aren't as adept at getting things across as they would like to imagine. Enter Michael Wolff, who has spent half a lifetime challenging the notion that music is ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Michael Wolff: Impure Thoughts On Hold

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Pianist Michael Wolff has some of the most expansive vision of anyone working in jazz today. Born in the California High Desert, raised in New Orleans and now making his home in Manhattan, the well-traveled, big-eared Wolff is never short on surprises for his listeners. With his dazzling Impure Thoughts ensemble on hiatus, Wolff's two current albums up the ante beyond that band's extraordinary work.

Michael Wolff Jazz, Jazz, Jazz Wrong Records 2007

Recorded in some spare studio time after Impure Thoughts' session for Intoxicate (Indianola Music, 2001), Jazz, Jazz, Jazz is ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gary Urwin Jazz Orchestra: Kindred Spirits

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The liner notes tout this band as “a veritable who's who among the Los Angeles area's most accomplished studio and big-band artists." That's quite true, which is precisely why Kindred Spirits falls a bit flat. It shares much of its personnel with most every other white big band project in Southern California, which makes it essentially sound like every other white big band project in Southern California.

LA is afflicted with this studio-band syndrome, wherein just about anyone who styles himself a bandleader, composer or arranger can wheedle the services of people like Kim Richmond, Rusty Higgins, Wayne Bergeron, Charlie ...

ARTIST PROFILES

Charlie Peacock: Exhibits Curiosity, Returns to Jazz Roots

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Nashville pianist, composer and author Charlie Peacock has raised a lot of eyebrows with 2005's Love Press Ex-Curio, the scintillating first release from his label, Runway Network. It marks his first full-on jazz effort in nearly three decades, a bold step away from the lucrative world of contemporary Christian music. The album is the latest in a long series of reinventions for the category-resistant musician.

The album's title is shorthand for “Loves Pressure, Exhibits Curiosity." Says Peacock, “I can't remember the exact origin of the title, whether I was just playing with words or what. But it really ...

BOOK REVIEWS

Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era

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Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era Elizabeth Pepin and Lewis Watts 200 B/W photographs ISBN 0811845486 Chronicle Books 2006

Harlem of the West is a charming, violet-hued paperback that digs deeply into one of America's most endangered jazz legacies. Long before it gained a new reputation in the hippie era, the Fillmore neighborhood west of San Francisco's City Hall was the site of the “other West Coast jazz boom. The title is apt; there were indeed a number of parallels between the Fillmore and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Harvie S: Funky Cha

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Harvie S's inimitable, fearless and fun-filled approach to Latin jazz reaches a new pinnacle on Funky Cha. The bassist's musical sensibilities couldn't be summed up better than on the opening track, a re-visioning of Monk's “Rhythm-A-Ning. His bass and Daniel Kelly's piano pulse out Thelonian arhythmic fragments over Beaver Bausch's tappy drum groove, building in quirky intensity until we're jumping to find out where they're going with it. Jay Collins, the final piece of the puzzle, leaps in with the melody on tenor and reveals how nicely everything fits together.

This kind of hand-in-glove development has characterized Harvie's brand of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Synergy: Later

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San Antonio's Mike Brannon has one of the most uplifting guitar tones and approaches to improvisation in contemporary jazz, besides a flair for composition. His playing and writing are informed by fellow travelers like Metheny and Scofield, but not derivative of either. And he knows how to draw out the best from his associates, be they the regular Synergy members (Andy Langham, Gerry Gibbs and Brandon Rivas) or special guests like Bill Evans, Paul Wertico and Harvie S.

Later begins with a series of three guest-laden dedications. “Vision/FYI is a bittersweet bow to the late tenor man Bob Berg, who ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Anita O'Day: Indestructible!

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Anita O'Day Indestructible! Kayo Stereophonic 2006

In 2003 View Video put out a DVD of one of cabaret singer Mabel Mercer's last performances. She was in the twilight of her life, and every minute of her advanced age was reflected in her loving, yet passionless and cursory delivery of songs she must have sung thousands of times each. The audience was wrapped around her little finger in bittersweet attention, witnessing the denouement of a legend who once defined her art and was now grasping for one more moment of glory. It was all too ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Doug Ellington & New Urban Groove: Life

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Trumpeter Doug Ellington's new release conveys some interesting ideas with generally solid musicianship. As they are described in the liner notes, some of Ellington's notions are overly clever and border on pretentious, but all in all this is a very enjoyable effort.

The opening “Xenophobia begins with a vibrant bass vamp that soon supports a bustling theme. Ellington and alto saxophonist Chazz Alley blow two separate layers, a most effective structure. At times Alley sounds remarkably like late-period Bud Shank during his solo turns, rough-edged and blurring the borders of rhythm and tempo. Ellington takes his trumpet solo at a ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Kayl Brecher: Spy Music

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Kaylé Brecher Spy Music Penchant Four Records 2005

The remarkable Kaylé Brecher ranks among Philadelphia's finest jazz singers; nay, among the best the East has to offer. Over the past decade she has distinguished herself as a fearless interpreter of song, a subtle stylist with an instrumentalist's creativity. On this, her fourth album, she presents the best evidence yet that she is ready to burst onto the main stage of American jazz.

Spy Music is rife with the sort of creative wisdom that has characterized Brecher's work to date: the use of reduced instrumentation ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

David Dzubinski: Recyclical

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This marvelous debut recording reveals David Dzubinski as one of the most uniquely creative, introspective pianists on the contemporary Pennsylvania scene. Like many of the best post-boppers, he displays an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz styles without sounding too derivative. One of his more prominent influences is Dave Burrell, who co-produced this disc with Dzubinski's wife, vocalist Kayl' Brecher. This is a fascinating album that reveals new layers and textures with each successive spin.

At times, especially on the opening Monk medley, Dzubinski's unhurried pace is reminiscent of Misha Mengelberg. On the deft blending of “Straight No Chaser" (initially ...



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