Fire and Ice

AAJ Staff By

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With spring now along its way and days getting longer in a hurry (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), change is afoot. And for those in higher latitudes, it's none too soon. There's some intangible feature of sunlight that dramatically affects our mood for the better. Not the least of it is the fact that when sun burns through clouds, we feel warmer both inside and out.

Chicago transplant Matthew Wuethrich , nestled away in cold Jyv'skyl', Finland, understands this all too well. For a long time he's been sharing nuggets about Scandanavian music and culture, but this month we finally convinced him to organize these reports into a formal column entitled Nordic Sounds . It may be an eye opener for many to hear that Scandinavian jazz extends beyond the ECM catalog, from neo-fusioneer Bugge Wesseltoft 'and that's pronounced "Boogie"!'to the anarchistic deviants known somewhat ironically as Supersilent.

Two regular columnists have also gone hot and cold on us this month. Gregory J. Robb went into the ring to find parallels between the energy of boxing and the spirit of jazz, touching on knockouts from Mike Tyson to Diana Krall in his latest Vancouver Vibe installment. The results bring us to our knees. On the other hand, Dr. Judith Schlesinger spent some time looking for ways for burdened spirits to chill out in her most recent Shrinktunes column, eventually coming up with a list of ten CDs with the power to calm.

—> In recent days we have published interviews with Fran'ois and Louis Moutin , Wynton Marsalis , Mike Stern , David Chesky , Jim Ridl , and others. In our bulletin board we offer readers the chance to chat directly with pianist Matthew Shipp , guitarist Ken Hatfield , drummer Ted Sirota , and saxophonist Fred Hess . (Or just sit back and observe the conversation; either way.)

Observant readers may also have noticed from a peek at the Article Center that we've been feverishly modernizing our archives. The old look is out. Today's friendly layout also allows for searches by title, column, style, instrument, or author. So check out the almost 500 book reviews and concert reviews that we've been unearthing from 1997-2002 to see where we've been, in addition to where we're going. Plenty more such modernization will come in future weeks.

Perhaps it's just the squirrels and ducks frolicking outside, or maybe the music has just been particularly inspiring lately, but March is the second consecutive month in which we've published over 170 CD reviews . Over thirty writers contributed this month, which is a sign of the breadth of the field. Regular CD reviews now appear with a drop-down menu of internet locations where you can listen & buy new music. We've also seen more activity in our Extended Analysis and Multiple CD Reviews areas as well, including veteran big band man Jack Bowers ' glowing report on Tantara Records' six-disc Stan Kenton set .

Occasionally we step over the border into areas outside jazz proper (since, after all, nobody can really define what exactly jazz is). Habib Koit''s band from the ever-warm country of Mali takes the stage this month in a hard-jamming double live set of roots-oriented Afro-pop.

With all that variety on the menu, we'll just step back and allow you to choose your plate. Whether you like the temperature up or down, put your thinking cap or dancing shoes on, speak up or sit back, you'll find plenty of options.

Enjoy .

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