May 2004

Doug Collette By

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Stefon Harris
Blue Note

Evolution is a stunning CD, immaculately produced, full of shifting textures with snappy exchanges between band members clearly enthused about their participation. Harris continues to distinguishes himself as one of today's elite vibraphonist's, at the same time making discernible progress as an effective bandleader. This latest effort, is another notable contribution to his Blue Note body of work.

Which Way Is East?
Charles Lloyd & Billy Higgins

Lloyd and Higgins document their musical empathy fully and completely on this set of improvised pieces. The pair’s ability to complete each other's thoughts and expand upon them is eerie, so much so that the mood is too often broken by the vocal interludes that, by the second CD, demand being skipped over for the sake of an indiscernible momentum that grows otherwise throughout the set.

The Steep Anthology
Branford Marsalis

This collection ultimately posits Marsalis as one of the unsung heroes of contemporary jazz, working in a variety of settings at an extremely high level and bringing what he’s learned from one context to the other. A more well-rounded jazz player you are unlikely to find and the fundamental beauty of The Steep Anthology is such it will entice you to search out the man’s individual albums.

Seis de Mayo
Trey Anastasio

You have to praise Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio for his ambition and willingness to venture far afield in his non-band projects. This largely orchestral work, however, suggests he may be spreading himself too thin, if only for the fact Anastasio himself doesn’t appear on much of the album. Nevertheless, it’d take only one or two more additional acoustic guitar pieces, such as the ones that open the album, to make for a sharply conceived and thus much more satisfying and finished product.

Thin Places
Randall Bramblett
New West

There’s a palpable Southern ambience to most of this journeyman musician’s new album, all the more surprising since there’s so little of him playing his main axe, the sax. Instead, Bramblett conveys a laidback but confident air through his languorous yet confident vocals combined with some well-wrought original material, only some of which suffers from a mechanical feel toward the end of the disc.


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