Cold Truth Warm Heart isn't Mike Pope's first album as a leader (it's his third), but in the 12 years since The Lay of the Land (Whaling City Sound, 2002), the bassist has, in addition to some serious life-changers, forged a relationship with two musicians of unequivocal significance. First appearing on Joe Locke's State of Soul (Sirocco, 2002), Pope has worked with the superb vibraphonist and equally fine pianist Geoffrey Keezer in the by turns incendiary and profoundly lyrical Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group since 2006, first documented on the charging out of the gate Live in Seattle (Origin, ...read more
In jazz terms Puerto Rico has certainly punched above its weight, producing Juan Tizol--a mainstay of Duke Ellington's bands in the 1930s and 1940s, Eddie Gomez and Manolo Badrena--who came to prominence in the 1960s/1970s through their respective associations with pianist Bill Evans and Weather Report--and latterly David Sanchez. Lesser known--though perhaps that's soon to change--is guitarist Rafael Rosa, whose enticing debut reveals a composer and technician of some sophistication. Carlos Maldonado's barril--a lower pitched Afro-Puerto Rican cousin of the Cuban conga--introduces the lively Bomba Oscura." Maldonado's variations on the sicá rhythm percolate beneath the driving rhythms of ...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
Nothing warms the heart cockles of a late-Baby Boomer more than a discussion of music, specifically that of his or her childhood. Baby Boomers are a boisterous and opinionated bunch regarding their music, fully justified in believing that the period between mid-1950s and mid-1970s was, in the words of VH1 Executive Director Bill Flanagan, a Golden Age" in American Music. Restrict that conversation to the best live rock recordings and the dialog shifts to a high simmer, under pressure, threatening rebellion or all-out apocalypse at any moment as I was to learn with my graded publication of The Best Live ...read more
While jazz purists like to think that the artists they love have always been into jazz and nothing else, the truth is often more than a little different: not only have most jazz artists who grew up in the '60s and beyond been unalterably impacted by more than just the jazz music of their time, but they remain fans of music beyond the genre's broadest purview. Yes, there are purists, but most musicians--irrespective of the style of music upon which they focus as performers and writers--are not just jazz fans, they're music fans, plain and simple. So it's no particular ...read more
One of the really enjoyable things about listening to jazz is that, after a few years, one is able to discern some aspects of a particular musician's stylistic evolution. If her debut album, Feathery, is any indication, saxophonist Lena Bloch has staked a claim on some of the most distinct real estate in the jazz neighborhood; the 50s era cool school jazz of Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, and Lee Konitz. Far from being a mawkish tribute or an entry-level primer on what Tristano, Marsh, Konitz, et al. were up to, Bloch has gone well down the path of forming her ...read more
Originally released in 1990 on Brian Eno's forward-thinking Opal Records and reissued again, two years later, on All Saints Records, Jon Hassell's City: Works of Fiction was the trumpeter/keyboardist/conceptualist's fourth official" installment in the Fourth World series that began with Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics (EG, 1980), followed by Fourth World Vol. 2: Dream Theory in Malaysia (EG, 1981) and Aka / Darbari / Java--Magic Realism (EG, 1983), though this groundbreaking and ultimately vastly influential concept truly began to take shape with his first recording under his own name, Vernal Equinox (Lovely Music, 1977)--where, as he described in his ...read more
So many jazz piano trios, so little time! With Wide Eyed, the Danny Fox Trio proves very definitively that they are worthy of your attention. Fox' wickedly humorous, tightly-conceived, multi- stylistic compositions and his trio's remarkably sensitive interplay are completely attention-grabbing. One listen was enough to make me a believer. Like a lot of the more interesting piano trios working today, these guys are youngsters. Fox, a New York City native and Harvard grad, formed the trio in 2008. A prodigy of sorts who was selected as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts as a teen, Fox now appears to ...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
Recorded just five months after the three-CD/two-DVD Genesis Revisited: Live at Hammersmith (Inside Out, 2013), it's not an unreasonable question to ask: why another show from the same tour (given the tour has been extended even further, by popular demand, into 2014 under the moniker Genesis Extended, featuring the same lineup with the exception of Nick Beggs replacing Lee Pomeroy on bass, bass pedals, guitar and vocals)--especially when this is the music of Genesis, a group renowned for its desire to perform its music as faithfully to the studio recordings as possible? The answer is simple: this is, ...read more
It's always difficult for an artist who has become so intimately associated with a group--especially if he or she has been a significant compositional contributor--to build a separate identity outside of that group. It might be one of the reasons that Pat Metheny Group keyboardist Lyle Mays--who not only contributed compositions of his own, but also co-wrote some of the group's most well-known and well-loved material--has released so few recordings under his own name. Pianist/keyboardist Jon Cowherd is nowhere near as joined at the hip to Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band, heard most recently on the characteristically ...read more
While roots linked to a sense of place are important, for music lovers the tunes that we first fell in love with, that formed our early tastes, can be just as potent. The late Laura Nyro called this primal teenage heartbeat songs" and this superlative collection is Gilles Peterson's way of paying tribute to the Brazilian influence on his lifelong love affair with music. You can join the dots to the young Mr.Peterson, immersed in the music of say Donald Duke or DJs like Robbie Vincent, in the light bossa nova take on Freeez's 1981 Brit funk classic ...read more
Bassist Max Johnson is one of the most prolific and versatile musician/composers in music today and likely on the verge of a major breakthrough. Barely past the year's mid-point Johnson has offered three fine releases with different groups and distinctly different styles. Recording with Kirk Knuffke on cornet on Johnson's namesake trio release The Invisible Trio (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2014) the approach was a broad mix of multi-layered structure and unfettered originality. Shortly afterward, Johnson released The Prisoner (NoBusiness Records, 2014) with a quartet that included saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and violist Mat Maneri. Here the avant-garde music was inspired ...read more
"Playing music is like doing heart surgery," bassist William Parker told interviewer Radhika Philiip in Being Here: Conversations on Creating Music (Radio.org, 2013). Every time you hit a note, someone's life is on the line, and so you can't fool around." Serious intent and intense focus are the cornerstones of these playful dialogues between Parker, drummer Jeff Cosgrove and pianist Matthew Shipp. A similar approach is also recommended in approaching this music--background noise it ain't. Drummer Andrew Cyrille--to whom the title track is dedicated--is the link between the three musicians, having taught Cosgrove and collaborated with both Shipp ...read more
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