"Free Jazz" and Avant-Garde Jazz" are catch phrases often associated with musical pioneers such as Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor but more broadly refer to music that goes outside of the mainstream of melody, harmony, rhythm, and structure. When that happens, opinions and emotions abound. Reactions vary from disgust to excitement and enthusiasm, and it is rare to find a balanced view on the subject. The question arises, why does the same music so strongly attract and repel? To seek answers to this and related questions about music that presses the limits of the expectable, All About Jazz initiated a ...read more
Translating guitarist/producer Daniel Lanois' evocative guitar and ability to create stratified soundscapes into soundtrack music for actor Billy Bob Thornton's directorial debut Sling Blade may seem an unusual choice, but the outcome turns into an interesting and unique blend of his darker, moodier incidental guitar and a variety of other instrumental touches. Lanois' music has always been about mood and ambience and other people have benefited from his unusual gift of capturing or creating all kinds of ambiences. This multitalented musician, thinker and a driving force behind the creation of many great records is a creator of sonic witchcraft. His ...read more
Guitarist Ross Hammond is building upon his conspicuous artistic persona as a new wave jazz and improvisational guitarist, composer who aligns with fellow West Coast denizens, including seminal Southern California based woodwind ace Vinny Golia and others. With a dozen albums under his belt, the guitarist has exponentially pushed the envelope, largely with great success. He also possesses an idiosyncratic style, where unanticipated curveballs, off-center phrasings and variable use of distortion techniques have become a primary component of his rangy articulations. Humanity Suite--reviewed on LP format--is one continuous, extended work that translates Hammond's emotive sensibilities into a long-form musical statement, ...read more
Sean Jones, the former lead trumpeter of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, never hides behind anything or anyone when he plays. That being said, it's still worth noting that he's pulled back the curtain on this one, revealing more of himself than in the past. This album--his seventh album in ten years on the Mack Avenue imprint--has no overdubs, no percussive window dressing, no other horns sharing space in the front line, and no guests. It's Jones at his most pure and powerful, delivering, as he himself says, A reintroduction of who I am." Jones' range ...read more
Blending modern jazz with any aspect of funk or R&B is a risky proposition for a young jazz musician. No matter how personal one's concept may be, or how artfully executed, a segment of the jazz- listening population is going to yell sellout!" at the first electric bass slap. Though he doesn't do slap bass, Michael Feinberg is unapologetically drawn to the funky, danceable aspects of jazz. He does so without really making any obvious pop or R&B overtures. Live At 800 East is a jazz album through and through. But it's one that can get your hips moving. In ...read more
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 ...read more
Given the late Jim Morrison's fascination with media, plus the film school experience he shared with Ray Manzarek, it's more than a little fitting The Doors have unveiled their own computer app. Few rock bands have their own app, apart from those centered on a specific release, but then, few have the near half-century history to draw upon, as do The Doors. Subtitled An Immersive Journey," the app certainly is that. With a dense multi-layered menu of music, images and prose, all features are, as stated in the user guide, embedded within the app making ideal for your ...read more
Tyler Blanton is a young vibraphonist and composer whose second album, Gotham, is nothing short of remarkable. The great playing by Blanton and his extraordinarily talented young band aside, Blanton's compositions are really what sets Gotham apart from the vast majority of new recordings by equally wonderful young jazz musicians. One can only guess that New York City made quite an impression on the young California native when he arrived in Brooklyn in 2007. This shock of the new was sufficient and prolonged enough to provide the seed material for a suite of interrelated compositions that finally appeared seven years ...read more
Saxophonist, clarinetist, Chris Speed has been in the thick of things the past several decades. He's been a co-conspirator in trendsetting ensembles led by alto saxophonists, composers Tim Berne, John Zorn, and leading-edge outfits Claudia Quintet and Pachora amid a host of other noteworthy projects. Speed's prominence in the newer realm of jazz and jazz improvisation cannot be minimized. On Really OK he reenergizes his craft with a roots driven modern jazz trio presentation, featuring a mix of originals, a pop standard, and works by Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane. With asymmetrical infusions of tenacity, warmth and skirmishes ...read more
Steve Khan has always been a consummate, story-telling improviser. His extensive resume and distinguished solo career spans jazz fusion, modern mainstream, and with Subtext, he delves a bit deeper into the Latin element, when looking back at his days recording and performing with former Weather Report percussionist Manolo Badrena who was a member of Khan's early 80s bands. It's a sprightly session, featuring guest appearances by trumpeter Randy Brecker, keyboardist Rob Mounsey and others of note. But the core personnel with heavyweight drummer Dennis Chambers and percussionists, Bobby Allende and Marc Quinones give Khan that added oomph amid his clever ...read more
Everybody sings the praises of Kendrick Scott. The New York Times quickly named him as one of Five Drummers Whose Time Is Now." On the drums, he transforms into a masterful and exquisite sonic architect whose work is filled with imaginative capacity. Yet Scott is what they call a triple threat--filling roles not only as a drummer, but also as a striking composer and band leader. His latest album Conviction by his band Oracle features work that is not only spiritually and consciously driven, but is also aesthetically audacious. The distinctive line-up features pianist Taylor Eigsti, John Ellis ...read more
Change is a fact of life, and it's something that's better to be embraced than challenged; as inevitable as death and taxes, it's one of those things that you may as well accept, because there are few, if any, options to do otherwise. That said, while the then-aptly titled Parting Shot (Tone Center, 2011) suggested that guitarist Steve Khan's days recording as a leader were over, it is, indeed, great news to find, in 2014, that he's changed his mind with the release of Subtext--though the why is not necessarily so good. But more about that later. Subtext ...read more
Every so often, musicians feel an inner urge to return to their roots and test their acumen with newer techniques and perspectives. Here, guitarist Joel Harrison revitalizes his early persuasions in a trio format, with keyboardist Glenn Patscha appearing on several tracks. Recognized for his heterogeneous projects, including big band, world-jazz, progressive jazz and distinctive style as a guitarist not content to his rest on his laurels, Mother Stump interconnects another phase of his all-embracing faculties. With dreamy volume control shadings, brazen crunch chords, angular slide guitar riffs, discordant overtones, harrowing electronics treatments and howling blues licks, he mirrors convention ...read more
Having spent four years cutting and pasting fifty trusted musicians on his stunning debut solo recording, Twilight & Ghost Stories (Asthmatic Kitty Records, 2007) guitarist/composer Chris Schlarb may understandably have felt like scaling back. Instead, Schlarb invested similar time and resources to sculpt the beautifully meditative folk-jazz ambient suite Psychic Temple (Sounds Are Active/Asthmatic Kitty Records, 2011) and the outsized pool of backing musicians was on hand again for Psychic Temple II (Asthmatic Kitty Records, 2013) with its Frank Zappa and Joe Jackson covers nestling among more familiar Schlarb soundscapes. Finally, a decade later, Schlarb reins in his orchestral ambitions ...read more
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