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Articles by Scott Lichtman

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The Bad Plus: Flim

Read "The Bad Plus: Flim" reviewed by Scott Lichtman

The 2001 first album from The Bad Plus was a shot across the bow for redefining the piano trio genre. Covering bands from ABBA to Nirvana and offering original compositions that swung, whispered and pounded, pianist Ethan Iverson, upright bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King drew new audiences to jazz. The second album, These are the Vistas (Columbia Records, 2003), featured a cover of Aphex Twin's “Flim." Compared to the Bad Plus's more avant-garde/muscular pieces, this cover comes across ...

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Daniel Bennett Group: The Hills of Beijing

Read "Daniel Bennett Group: The Hills of Beijing" reviewed by Scott Lichtman

Daniel Bennett has carved out a unique jazz sound, recognized via numerous reviews and awards for the Daniel Bennett Group. Compositions change keys and meter quickly, sometimes from bar-to-bar-to-bar, yet the melody and improvisations follow a smooth, logical path. The arrangements are compact, with instrumentations that can hint at folk or soundtrack music. Bennett's tone across woodwinds is consistently sweet. Although the supporting musicians have changed over the years, the band is always perfectly locked in. A great point from ...

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Başak Yavuz: Promised Lands

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Vocalist and composer Başak Yavuz is intense. The lyrics of “Promised Lands" state that “someone told me to release the animal," which is exactly she and her band do. Drums and electric bass propel a free jazz-like feel with tinges of James Brown, while the guitar and voice open by harmonizing a tight, descending harmony that sounds like “Chopsticks" gone awry. Yavuz's voice is elastic; her lyrics, evocative. When all this is combined, her music is attention-grabbing and catchy. Based ...

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World Saxophone Quartet: Take The 'A' Train

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The World Saxophone Quartet has always created a buzz... literally. Pioneers in jazz woodwinds, WSO combined instrumental prowess with sophisticated orchestrations and a wide repertoire encompassing jazz standards, free jazz, blues, world rhythms, and politicized songs. The original group from the '70s and '80s featured Julius Hemphill and Oliver Lake on alto and soprano saxophones, David Murray on tenor and Hamiet Bluiett on baritone. Their iconic sound is evident whenever they play intense, four-part harmonies, achieving their famed “buzz" tone. ...

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Säje: I Can't Help It

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It is rare to encounter, an all-female, professional jazz vocal ensemble. The quartet säje (pronounced like “beige") not only has established itself in this genre with a Grammy nomination, but they raise the bar for all vocal groups. The singers--Sara Gazarek, Amanda Taylor, Erin Bentlage and Johnaye Kendrick--are practically telepathic in synchronizing their phrasing. Any big band would be ecstatic to inject fluid horn hits the way these ladies do. In addition, they transform a potential limitation of female quartets--modest ...

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Steps Ahead: Trains

Read "Steps Ahead: Trains" reviewed by Scott Lichtman

"Trains" by Steps Ahead, represents an apex of a certain era of jazz-rock fusion. The band was a supergroup, featuring Michael Brecker on saxophone, Mike Mainieri on vibraphone and rotating top names filling out guitar, drums, bass and keys. By the mid-'80s, the band had evolved from an acoustic sound to one based more on synthesized timbres, power electric guitar and sharp snare/bass drum rhythms. With the release of Magnetic in 1986, they hit gold with “Trains," a head-bobber of ...

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Junius Paul: Asé

Read "Junius Paul: Asé" reviewed by Scott Lichtman

Bass lovers unite! For those who adore the dexterity, the groove, the sheer “plunk" of a crisply-recorded upright bass, check out “Asé" by Junius Paul. The piece opens with an anthemic motif that quickly transforms into a beehive of motion. Paul continues this jaw-dropping flurry of sound until he shifts into a modal groove that welcomes drums and brass accompaniment. “Asé" is off Ism, Paul's first full recording as bandleader. The acclaimed album demonstrates that free jazz can be catchy, ...

Live Review

Cyrille Aimée And Mathis Picard At The Emelin Theatre

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Cyrille Aimée The Emelin Theatre Mamaroneck, NYApril 18, 2024 Renowned vocalist Cyrille Aimée and pianist extraordinaire Mathis Picard performed a magnetic set at the intimate Emelin Theatre. The duo's musical sensitivity, song selection and chemistry engaged the audience from the opening notes. Pianist Mathis may be lesser known but plays with just as much individuality. In fact, his fluent technique in a blend of styles could have commanded the stage alone for the ...

Extended Analysis

Wonderful now

Read "Wonderful now" reviewed by Scott Lichtman

What do you get when you combine the high-velocity beats of electronica with the virtuosic proficiency of fusion, the pristine sound quality of an ECM label record and the “goes down easy" catchiness of smooth jazz? When composed and performed at the highest level, it sounds like Anatole Muster's album, Wonderful now. This album gets better with repeated listening. Muster, who is 22 years old, creates nearly every sound on his orchestrations (except for several cameos), composes, writes ...


Cyrille Aimée: Music Flows From Within

Read "Cyrille Aimée: Music Flows From Within" reviewed by Scott Lichtman

Renowned vocalist Cyrille Aimée possesses a wholly unique sound. Certainly, it is based on her voice timbre but also reflects her approach to music. She is equally adept at jazz standards and pop-jazz. She can swing and scat on cue, then shift to high tech sound loops. Songs in English, French and Spanish are delivered with equal expressiveness, the same for Stephen Sondheim and Michael Jackson hits. Most importantly, her songs are joyful, buoyant; even the ballads are uplifting. Aimee's ...

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