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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Gary Urwin Jazz Orchestra: A Beautiful Friendship

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Sometimes, just when it seems things couldn't possibly get any better, they do. That is certainly the case with A Beautiful Friendship, the spectacular new recording by arranger Gary Urwin's superlative southern California-based Jazz Orchestra. Having released three earlier albums showcasing the exceptional artistry of tenor saxophonist Pete Christlieb and / or trombonist Bill Watrous, Urwin has upped the ante and pulled out all the stops on this one, not only re-enlisting Christlieb and Watrous for a consistently pleasing encore performance but enlivening the menu with yet another appetizing component, namely Carl Saunders, one of the most versatile and creative ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jim Cutler: Gimme Some Sugar. Baby!

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The music on Seattle-based saxophonist Jim Cutler's second big-band album is thematic; that is to say, it was written with people, places or experiences in mind. Half of the album's ten engaging essays were written by trumpeter Daniel Barry, four by Cutler and one ("Visions at the Monkey Bar") by baritone saxophonist James DeJoie who has his own tour de force, Barry's presumably Sauter-Finegan inspired “Spirit World." The shuffling opener, “Bella's Boogie," was penned by Cutler for his second daughter, Annabella, the funky “Gimme Some Sugar, Baby!" for his wife, Stephanie. The easy-flowing “Thumper," Cutler writes, was ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Urban Renewal Project: Local Legend

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If high spirits and good humor alone could carry the day, Local Legend, the second album by the California-based Urban Renewal Project, would earn five stars for candor and commitment. The group is comprised of talented musicians (twenty-seven in all) who believe in what they are doing and give every one of the album's nine numbers their best shot. On the other hand, the music ranges from pop and rap to funk, blues, R&B, soul and hip-hop, offering little in the realm of satisfaction for those who are partial to more customary forms of big-band jazz. The URP has its ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Chris Walden Big Band: Full-On!

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To say that Chris Walden's instrumental compositions and arrangements are the best part of his new big-band album, Full-On!, is not to dismiss the rest as less than adequate. Walden's charts for the ensemble, on the other hand, do provide much of the excitement in a session that is otherwise dominated by vocals (seven in all), several of which are more overwrought than enlightening. Take, for example, “I Can Cook Too" and “Sir Duke," both sung by Melanie Taylor (who must have drawn the short straw). As written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green for the musical ...

WHAT IS JAZZ?

How Teachers can Swing in the Classroom

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I am a jazz aficionado as well as a philosophy professor. Being in front of a classroom teaching is my favorite place on earth, second to a good jazz club with hip friends. In the midst of a philosophy class, I may wax enthusiastic about the transcendent qualities of a John Coltrane saxophone solo or the preternatural swing of Buddy Rich's timekeeping or the song-writing and band-leading genius of Duke Ellington. These comments are not merely idiosyncratic. They reflect something of a philosophical theory of pedagogy that is steeped in jazz sensibilities. After over thirty years of teaching philosophy in ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Outbeat Jazz Festival 2014

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Outbeat Jazz Festival Philadelphia, PA September 18-21, 2014 The Outbeat Jazz Festival, touted as “America's First Queer Jazz Festival," where the “Q-word" has become an “in" word, proved to be an innovative event that brought the public's attention to the important role of gay (LGBT) jazz musicians and composers. A series of concerts and discussions drove the point home. It was no accident that the festival was held at venues in and around Center City, jny: Philadelphia, the locus of one of the most thriving and activist gay communities in the world. Sponsored by the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Chris Walden Big Band: Full-On!

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It's been a while since the jazz world has seen a release from this group. The first three albums credited to the Chris Walden Big Band--the Grammy-nominated Home Of My Heart (Origin Records, 2005), No Bounds (Origin Records, 2006), and Kurt Marti Suite (Origin Records, 2007)--came in quick succession. And then there was silence from Walden. Well, that's not exactly true. Walden's actually been quite busy in the interim, even if his work didn't center on his own big band. He's been cranking out orchestrations and arrangements for mega-stars like Rod Stewart, Michael Bolton, Michael Bublé, and numerous others, so ...



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