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Nate Birkey: Just a Closer Walk

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Nate Birkey is a fine New York-based trumpeter who traveled a biographical route from childhood in Colorado to Boston's Berklee School of Music, then to various parts of the West Coast, living and working in the Los Angeles area for a while, and finally settling into the big-time jazz scene in NYC a few years ago. His travels are important, for they formed the foundation for an understanding of the American spirit that infuses his playing. He has made nine albums thus far as a leader, and they each seem to reflect a theme of American life in different times ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Doors: Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine

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Given his fascination with media, the late Jim Morrison would no doubt be deeply bemused at the irony of the release of a Doors compilation on cd (a dying configuration) due its popularity as a Record Store Day 2014 issue on vinyl lp (the configuration that won't die). It's no accident that Bruce Harris' original liner notes for Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine have been retained (nor pure expedience either, though there's no indication these tracks have been remastered). The author puts the lead vocalist of the Doors and the rest of the band in the unique ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

U2: Songs of Innocence

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To accurately assess and analyze the music of U2's Songs of Innocence, it's necessary to exert a herculean effort to shunt aside issues that would otherwise camouflage a clarity of mind. It's been at least eighteen months or more that the new U2 album was supposedly imminent, so the rise and fall of expectation and anticipation leads away from, rather than closer to, a discerning eye and ear. And the recent controversy arising from the auto-appearance of the album as a digital file in iTunes (and in some cases on wireless devices themselves, also without notice) can only diminish the ...

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 ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Vinnie Sperrazza: Apocryphal

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An understated but highly-skilled and insanely versatile drummer in the vein of Kenny Wolleson, Jeff Hirshfield, and Paul Motian, Vinnie Sperrazza has been turning up on all sorts of interesting recordings over the past half-decade or so. Co-leader of 40Twenty with Jacob Sacks, Jacob Garchik, and Dave Ambrosio, Sperrazza is also in a trio with Sacks and bassist Masa Kamaguchi, and is one fourth of Hush Point; a brainy collaboration with veteran trumpeter John McNeil and alto saxophonist Jeremy Udden. He's also collaborated with Jon Irabagon, Ellery Eskelin, Ralph Alessi, and a host of other forward-thinking New York musicians. Apocryphal ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Charles Lloyd: Manhattan Stories

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Manhattan Stories is a trip back in time, a journey to a long gone and long-missed era. It's a window into the great Charles Lloyd's art at a period of transition. The shows presented on this beautifully packaged two-disc set--one recorded at the infamous Slugs' Saloon in the summer of 1965, the other recorded at Judson Hall in September of the same year--took place shortly after Lloyd left the employ of Cannonball Adderley and before he became a cross-over sensation and hero to hippies, moving a million units of Forest Flower: Charles Lloyd At Monterey (Atlantic, 1966). ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Marcin Wasilewski Trio w/ Joakim Milder: Spark of Life

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What do you do when you've released three albums as a trio (more, if you include albums released in Poland, prior to coming to the label) for a producer who traditionally seems to like shaking things up after that magic number? For Polish pianist Marcin Wasilewski and his longstanding trio--first coming together in their teens, they've been together more than two decades, and first recorded for ECM with trumpeter Tomasz Stanko for a triptych of evolutionary albums that began with 2002's Soul of Things and concluded with the far maturer Lontano (2006)--there have been two moves in 2014: first, show ...



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