July 2005

Glenn Astarita BY

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Joelle Leandre & India Cooke

Red Toucan


Bassist Joelle Leandre and violinist India Cooke surface as crowd pleasers during this live outing that highlights the duo's virtuosity, and resourcefulness. The musicians trade various rhythmic sequences amid avant-garde and jazz improv-based dialogues via winding movements, pulsating staccato lines and more. Leandre's fervent bowing, emotive chants and vapid plucking of her double bass strings aid in the overall dynamic. But Cooke's searing solos, and cyclonic like countercurrents reinforce her innumerable technical faculties. Yet it's the twosome's intuitive tradeoffs and anticipated moves that turn this chess match into a communion of like-minded artistes. Simply stated, they were up for the occasion throughout this rather stimulating musical exposition.

Terence Blanchard


Blue Note


Regardless of pitch, pulse or momentum, trumpeter Terence Blanchard often composes with catchy melodies. This notion is reaffirmed by the three-part title track which is interspersed within the overall mix. Producer and pianist Herbie Hancock wields his magic hands on several pieces during this cunningly articulated program. Blanchard seamlessly integrates world beat vibes with dabs of ethereal synths and '60s Blue Note Records-like progressive jazz elements into the grand schema. More importantly, Blanchard's flair for conveying a visual aesthetic shines radiantly here.

The Ken Walker Sextet

Terra Firma

Synergy Music


Denver area bassist Ken Walker and his sextet renders emphatic soloing ventures with an upbeat, and buoyant bop/swing style jaunt during this likeable session. With punchy horn charts, gritty soloing and memorable hooks, Walker's limber walking bass lines provide a fluid bottom-end here. And while the artists don't necessarily reinvent the wheel, they coyly fuse samba pulses and gospel tinged themes into various movements. The musicians instill charisma and verve with hot n' gritty soloing spots throughout the preponderence of this dual-horns, guitar, piano, bass, and drums led session. Walker should gain some well-deserved recognotion thanks to this shrewdly enacted album that warrants repeated listens.

Tony Levin

Prime Cuts

Magna Carta


These are choice sides culled from bassist and Chapman Stick master Tony Levin's work with the hyper-mode prog-rock band Liquid Tension Experiment, among other artists. It's not as though Levin has amassed a huge discography with this progressive rock label. But if you're lacking a few of the full length recordings represented here, then it should serve as a concise compilation. Levin is a master, and when performing on electric bass, you rarely notice his fingers touching the strings. However, his beefy sound and fluid lines provide the essential bottom for assorted works generally comprised of knotty time signatures and pounding rhythms. Levin's involvement with King Crimson, and first call session status in rock, jazz and pop stands as a testament to his adaptability and technique. Ultimately, these tracks convey a glimpse of his hard-edged, balls-to-the-wall proclivities.

Radio Massacre International




This British electronics-based trio's recently issued two-CD set should garner quite a bit of attention here on these American shores. Disc one was recorded in the studio, while the second CD features a live performance at WXPN in Philadelphia. And hopefully, this newly spawned relationship with the prog-rock/prog-jazz Cuneiform Records label will flourish. Think of Tangerine Dream's oscillating rhythmic endeavors coupled with the ambient-electronic treatments of "Cluster, then add searing electric guitar riffs to the mix. And that's partly what it's all about. Amazingly though, these artists manage to convey a distinct identity via memorable sequences and gravitating choruses. They combine older electronics technology with digital samplers, guitars, and a theremin. A top pick for 2005, regardless of musical categorizations.

Cinzia Spata


Azzurra Music


Italian jazz vocalist Cinzia Spata garners assistance from American jazz musicians—pianist Marc Copland, bassist Ron McClure, and saxophonist Donny McCaslin—on this studio date. And drummer Marcello Pellitteri supplies a limber backbone to this rather affable session. When singing in English, Spata's Italian/English intonations provide elements of charm and sensuality. And on certain tracks she scats and harmonizes with the soloists. Thoughts of famed Brazilian vocalist Flora Purim surfaced on a few occasions during these lithe jazz workouts, abetted by airy passages and delicate phrasings. It's an endearing venture for sure.

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