Azul is an aural meditation by electric violinist David Strother that covers a wide swathe of emotions and delves fearlessly into the human condition. The word azul means blue" in Spanish, and indeed the songs explore many shades of this emotional color. The blues also refer to loss: during the editing and mixing phases of the EP, Strother learned about the death of bassist and composer Charlie Haden, a musician who influenced him deeply, so the EP also serves as an homage to Haden and his profound musical contributions.Azul consists of seven songs, all electric violin solos with ...read more
While a list of currently operating notables on nearly any given instrument could fill anywhere from a chapter to a book or two, a rundown of head-turning active jazz harpists might only fill out a very small portion of a leaflet. The most important among them--Latin jazz trailblazer Edmar Castaneda, refined role model Carol Robbins, and wide-ranging experimentalist Zeena Parkins, to name just a few--all manage to say something unique with the instrument, pushing it into places where it wasn't always welcome or expected before. Brandee Younger, who manages to do the same here with a post-Alice Coltrane/Dorothy Ashby brand ...read more
Jimi Hendrix Hear My Train A Comin' Sony-Legacy 2013 As an entry into the PBS American Masters series, it's little surprise Hear My Train A Comin' doesn't take a particularly novel approach to its subject. Still, the film progresses assuredly and vividly from one significant point to another as it covers the life and career of the one of the epochal figures of Sixties rock, Jimi Hendrix. Interviews with those who knew (and knew of) Jimi Hendrix at each stage of his artistic progression weave in and out of the footage, accompanied ...read more
It's tempting to say that Jenny Scheinman has a split musical personality, but that's not really the case. The playful-and-devious violinist with a glint in her eye and the poised alt-country singer aren't as far apart as some may think, as both are powered by the heartbeat of American life; it's just important to remember that American life isn't so simple to define. It's gritty and gorgeous all at once, and Scheinman understands that better than most. The Littlest Prisoner is one more piece of evidence supporting that case. This album comes two years after Mischief & ...read more
British electric bass guitarist Jon Mapp suggests two parallel ways to experience his debut solo album. The first, and most impressive one, feature his unorthodox technique and personal improvisational approach. Mapp plays the bass guitar as an instrument that its sonic spectrum is similar to the acoustic guitar, varying his gentle, melodic touch with percussive sounds. He uses pedals and a laptop to create different looping layers of music and trigger electric effects. The second way promises an imaginary narrative of an unarmed journeyman in a psychedelic-nightmarish adventure. According to Mapp, this unwritten surreal story is ...read more
The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound and the Sun Ra Centennial Arkestra The Painted Bride Art Center Still the New Thing" Philadelphia, PA April 19, 2014 This concert concluded a tripartite series curated by saxophonist, band leader, and composer/arranger Bobby Zankel entitled Still the New Thing" honoring three icons of avant- garde jazz: Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, and Sun Ra on the occasions of their birth dates and anniversaries of key events in their careers. Sun Ra's belief that he was from another planet, his frequent changes of personality and personnel, and ...read more
Macroscope is a first for guitarist Nels Cline's ironically named band, The Nels Cline Singers, in more ways than one. The group's four previous albums were released by the notoriously adventurous Cryptogramophone label, so it is somewhat surprising to see the amplified power trio's latest endeavor issued by the relatively mainstream Mack Avenue imprint. More importantly, it is the first recording to feature Trevor Dunn in place of original bassist Devin Hoff, and although it is a novel detail, The Singers do actually sing this time out--wordless vocalese on two compositions, but vocals nonetheless.Despite such changes, the date ...read more
Abraham Lincoln had one eye on the past and the other on the present and future when he gave his famous Gettysburg Address. In that speech, celebrating its sesquicentennial when this album was recorded in 2013, Lincoln spoke of honoring the fallen, furthering what they started, and looking forward to a new birth of freedom." As most everybody knows, Lincoln's speech had nothing to with creative music, yet the general theme(s), as viewed in modern times, have everything to do with it. For Us, The Living, the debut album from baritone saxophonist Andrew Hadro, takes its name ...read more
Eleventte is the ambitious debut album of Norwegian, 27-year- old bassist Dan Peter Sundland that attempts to merge compositions for chamber ensembles, improvised segments and texts from contemporary American poets. Sundland's group consists of four classically-trained musicians, plus seven musicians with backgrounds in modern jazz and free improvisation, most notably tenor saxophonist Hanna Paulsberg and drummer Hans Hulbækmo, both members of Paulsberg Concept, and trombonist Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø, one of the most promising, busiest Norwegian free improvisers and a member of the Lana Trio, As Deafness Increases and Skadedyr outfits. This project began as part of ...read more
With the release of this album by The Nels Cline Singers, Detroit's Mack Avenue Records takes a bold leap into the outer fringes of jazz. Their impressive slate of artists already included the likes of Kenny Garrett, Sean Jones and Christian McBride, who are open to pushing jazz boundaries, but the label had no one who goes as far afield as guitarist Cline. In fact, it's probably best to think of Cline, whether leading the Singers or any of his other projects, as approaching jazz rather than moving outward from it (Cline, himself, has said he is not a jazz ...read more
With I Can See Bliss From Here, singer-songwriter Lili Añel presents a set of personal songs that deeply touch the listener's ear, mind and soul, and bring to mind the confessional yet universal genius of such songwriters as Tracy Chapman, Phoebe Snow and Roberta Flack--they really are that well-written. These are the songs I want to put out to the world at this time," she says simply. It's what I wrote. They reflect where I am right now." I Can See Bliss From Here reflects all the hustle and bustle of Añel's own life: As her bio explains, ...read more
So... the awards season is over. From the Golden Globes to the Grammys, the Winter Olympics to the Oscars, it's been a long and winding road. Among people competing for the various honors and annual awards, one of the more popular topics of conversation was: OK, let's say I am the winner--what then? Good question. Of those who believed they deserve the recognition (which is all of them) only those who had previously received one of the honors knew that the little statue at the top of the mountain doesn't really hold more career opportunities, more ...read more
If there's a single accomplishment that can be attributed to ECM Records--though there are, of course, many in its 45-year history--it's that it welcomes unusual instrumentation with open arms, affording such collaborations the opportunity to grow, to evolve, and build a new language. From the pan-cultural CODONA Trilogy (2009), which collected the three genre-defying recordings made in the late '70s/early '80s by Collin Walcott, Don Cherry and Nana Vasconcelos, to Jon Balke's Siwan (2009), which collected, amongst others, Fourth World progenitor Jon Hassell, Moroccan singer Amina Alaoui and the 12-piece Baroque ensemble Barokksolistene for an epic recording that remains criminally ...read more
In October of 1996, guitarist Sangeeta Michael Berardi went into Nevessa Studio in Woodstock, New York, and laid down the tracks for what would become two monumental recordings, Earthship (Sunjump Records, 2008) and Calling Coltrane (Sunjump Records, 2011). This is stunning music from a man who played with Alice Coltrane, Roswell Rudd, Rashied Ali, Archie Shepp--a resume that correctly suggests a free approach to music. Call the seventeen tunes from that session the new Testament of John Coltrane, circa 1965 to 1967, the last chapter of the tenor titan's life, when the spiritual search flew free. The influence on Sangeeta ...read more
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