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July 2003

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Jazz & Blues from the Crescent City

Vic Shepherd New Orleans Harmonica

New Orleans Harmonica

Chromatic harmonica performer Vic Shepherd and his bandmates work through a set of jazz and blues standards, although the compositional credits are conspicuously missing from the liners. More importantly, Shepherd’s pronounced love for New Orleans is clearly conveyed throughout this upbeat production. It’s a good-natured affair, marked by the harpist’s melodically tinged lines and the ensemble’s bluesy sense of swing. Shephard offers a welcome twist to jazz standards such as “Harlem Nocturne” and “Struttin With Some Barbecue.”

Temporal Analogues of Paradise

Jonas Hellborg – Shawn Lane – Apt. Q258 (Jeff Sipe)

Bardo Records.com

This is a newly remastered version of the original 1996 fusion classic, originally issued on Hellborg’s “Day Eight” record label. Recorded in front of live audiences in Germany and Sweden, bassist Jonas Hellborg and guitarist Shawn Lane soar to ungodly heights, along with Jeff Sipe’s magnificent polyrhythmic drumming. And while the music may seem challenging or perhaps slightly intimidating to the common soul, this recording stands as one of the finest fusion efforts of the '90s. (Essential listening.)

These Are The Vistas

The Bad Plus

Columbia Records

These days, when a major record label signs a jazz group, most people will take notice. Primarily due to the small market share and lack of potential to reap any noticeable financial gains. What we have here is a young modern jazz piano trio that perhaps mirrors the glibness and hip demeanor of bands such as Medeski, Martin & Wood. The good news is that this outfit has quite a bit to say. The musicians’ raucous free-spirited interplay comes to fruition in deterministic fashion. At times you might detect a trace of a ballad wedged in between David King’s heavy-handed power drumming and pianist Ethan Iverson’s freeform antics. Simply stated, the trio is equally at home in a variety of jazz-based frameworks, to coincide with its nicely developed group sound. There’s an abundance of peaks, valleys, twists and turns here, but somehow it all makes good sense.

Zapping!

Enrico Fazio Septet

Leo Records

Bassist Enrico Fazio leads this Italian octet featuring trumpeter Alberto Mandarini, saxophonist Carlo Actis Dato, and others through a blaring set teeming with little big band type horn charts. There’s a multitude of surprises throughout, as the group’s disciplined approach is often counterbalanced by a surfeit of vicious soloing escapades. On the final piece titled “In VinoVeritas,” the ensemble will literally zap the living daylights out of your ears – in a controlled fashion, that is. A noteworthy effort indeed!

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