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Download Reviews

December 27, 2008

The Monterey Jazz Festival 2008 Music Sampler

By TOD SMITH

Frequently, even free music downloads can be overpriced. Of course, there are always exceptions to any rule and the Monterey Jazz Festival 2008 Music Sampler from iTunes is one fine example of how free can be worth so much more than nothing.Upon entering the Monterey Fairgrounds on a festival day, there's an assortment of people selling programs, providing security and generally just wandering around. Add to it the sounds of music emanating from the various stages and the smells coming from the food booths surrounding the grounds' perimeter and you have a perfect recipe for sensory overload. Hidden ...

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January 17, 2008

Oscar Peterson Tribute: Simply The Best

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By MARK SABBATINI

Hearing Oscar Peterson late in life, his left hand rendered useless by a stroke and arthritis, could be a terribly sad thing, sometimes no more than a whisper of the giant that had me scouring CD bins after first listening to him.But his magnetism was never just about music, as his fellow Canadians and several jazz legends made clear during a tribute in Toronto shortly after his death.The two-hour “Oscar Peterson Tribute - Simply The Best" concert January 12, 2008, at Roy Thomson Hall drew a capacity crowd of 2,600, some of whom lined up at ...

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December 3, 2006

Christmas Craziness: 60 Free Great, Cheesy and/or Freakish Holiday Albums on the Internet

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By MARK SABBATINI

Those spending $600 and dodging gunfire to get a glitch-filled PlayStation 3 probably need all the free holiday cheer they can get.

The repeating loop of music on the store's overhead speakers is more likely to make them postal than passive. But the Web offers enough free albums that are exceptional, unique and utterly bizarre (like a rare “Star Wars" holiday album supposedly selling for $130 on eBay) to occupy the ears for many Decembers to come.

One site alone, Bongobells, offers about 50 mostly out-of-circulation albums, including the “Star Wars" disc and nearly all those ...

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June 15, 2006

John Ellis Quartet: Live At Yoshi's - July 18, 2005

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By MARK SABBATINI

Saxophonist John Ellis' new album By A Thread is “an early runner for one of the best albums of 2006,"according to one AAJ review. Thanks to his free, two-set live performance available free at his Web site, he's got his hat in the download category as well.

This 2.5 hour session is first-rate in personnel, performance and audio quality, easily deserving of album status if Ellis choose to go that route. The unprotected MP3s are easily obtained--no registrations, no fancy download schemes--by anyone with 175MB worth of bandwidth and hard drive space.

Just looking at the ...

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May 14, 2006

Bill Frisell: Further East/Further West

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By TOM GREENLAND

Bill Frisell Further East/Further West Nonesuch Records 2005

Bill Frisell is an exceptional musician because he has the ability to mine the usual guitaristic textures without getting caught up in clichés, to unearth original ore in the same old vein. Further East/Further West (available only in download form) is a companion album to 2005's East/West, culling material from the same two gigs: four-night stands at the Village Vanguard (December, 2003) and Oakland's Yoshi's (May, 2004), respectively. As on the earlier release, the eastern and western dates exhibit slightly different personalities. Further ...

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May 10, 2006

Free "Professor of Sax" Collection Merits a Gold Star

By MARK SABBATINI

As trash-talking goes, getting schooled by the “Professor Of Saxophone" is of questionable caliber. But Miles Osland is in no danger of losing face if words fail him--he wields a horn capable of bludgeoning even the most forward-thinking rebel punk in the classroom.

Some professors put students to sleep lecturing from the book, while others bring classes to their living rooms for political discussions accompanied by authentic homemade food from the region in question. Osland, in a collection of more than 30 free songs downloadable at his Web site, is a top-tier member of the latter group with ...

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November 11, 2005

Guitarist Tim Conley's funky standards and improvisations make for stand-out shows

By MARK SABBATINI

Funky classics. Innovative improvisations. Gritty guitars. No cover charge.

This is why I keep wading through so much muck on the Internet.

Guitarist Tim Conley joins the tiny percentage of jazz artists with a significant amount of quality work available free of charge online with several live performances between July and October of 2005 posted at the Internet Archive.A July 29 performance features eight songs (and three tuning tracks that can be ignored) in MP3 format totaling about 80 minutes. Five standards serve as bookends for three improvised tunes in the middle of the ...

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September 11, 2005

A Finnish Feast: Hundreds of Free Songs from Earth's Least Corrupt Country

By MARK SABBATINI

Considering its 80th birthday is next year, Finnish jazz is awfully young at heart.

Finnish-American musicians aboard the M/S Andania brought jazz to the country in 1926, according to urban myth, but a strong presence and identity didn't emerge until the 1960s. Since then versatile musicians, strong government support and high-quality education has produced a breed of original and intelligent music in traditional and modern forms.

“Internationally renowned individualists aside, Finland has also produced a wide array of team players throughout the years," notes the Finnish Music Information Centre, in a description of the country's jazz ...

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July 25, 2005

Dutch Jazz and Performers at the 2005 North Sea Jazz Festival

By MARK SABBATINI

“There is a long jazz tradition in the Netherlands, from post-bop styles to a thriving avant-garde scene that developed in the 1960s. American jazz musicians have sometimes criticized Dutch jazz, arguing that it doesn't swing, or that it isn't sufficiently rooted in the blues. But with its philosophical roots in absurdism and slapstick, it's one of the few places where one can find humor in an otherwise serious art form." - WNYC's “Soundcheck," from Nov. 18, 2003

Every year the North Sea Jazz Festival puts out a compilation CD of featured artists and it's always a ...

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July 19, 2005

Free Jazz, eh? Scores of MP3s from North of the Border

By MARK SABBATINI

A pretty free exchange of ideas and culture seems to exist between the U.S. and Canada. As a college student in Washington right next to the border, I saw the young flock north for its lower legal drinking age and older folks camp at our malls in RVs every weekend so they could bargain shop.

But a few quirks set us apart. Hockey dominates sports headlines up north despite a yearlong strike, pushing U.S. obsessions like the NBA championship to secondary status. They eat french fries with gravy and curds (admittedly more appealing fast food than Australia, where ...

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June 30, 2005

Performers at the Medicine Hat Jazz Festival

By MARK SABBATINI

(Note: This is part of the occasional “Back Roads Beat" series about jazz at lesser-known festivals and locations around the world.)

Theresa Sokyrka might be hard to get tickets for, but getting saturated by her live performances is easy. The runner-up of “Canadian Idol 2" was the headline act at the 2005 Medicine Hat Jazz Festival, selling out weeks in advance and even my so-called “all inclusive" pass wasn't good for that one event. So my initiation to her was two hours of songs free for downloading at her Web site, with a huge amount of additional material ...

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June 21, 2005

A Long List of Free Recordings for the Long Days of Summer

By MARK SABBATINI

These may be the longest days of the year, but for some reason it doesn't seem like there's any extra time to catch up on the music scene.

The legal and free downloads keep sneaking onto my hard drive faster than I can listen to them, much less write proper reviews. So it's time for another “capsule" roundup of recent acquisitions of note for one reason or another. Mostly it's merit--and therefore there's more praise here than a random sampling.

Music purists and those who tape shows frequently upload material in various uncompressed audio formats, shuddering ...

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May 23, 2005

Nils Petter Molvaer: Live at Rockefeller Center in Oslo

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By MARK SABBATINI

A new Ferrari with a bunch of dents is still a pretty nice gift.

Norwegian trumpet modernist Nils Petter Molvaer is offering its acoustical equivalent in an hour-long concert video recently posted free at his web site. It's a large file (291MB) that may frustrate novices trying to save it on their computers, and the video and sound quality are mediocre by professional standards, but the performance makes one overlook a lot of imperfections.

Downloadable music videos apparently are now “in" since Apple's iTunes Music Store is offering them - even if they've been awfully quiet about doing ...

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May 13, 2005

A Ton of Music (and Frustration) at www.mp3unsigned.com

By MARK SABBATINI

It's this close to being a near-perfect source of free music downloads. But one problem is so critical it's like saying Halle Berry is the perfect date - if she weren't missing her head.

The site www.mp3unsigned.com offers, as its name indicates, songs from musicians lacking big label contracts. Selection is vast and varied, many of the artists are first-rate, and there's a huge amount of information and feedback for most of them. But obtaining files is so difficult and inconsistent many surfers aren't likely to sample more than a couple of acts before abandoning the process for less frustrating ...

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