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New & Noteworthy

November 2004


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Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Guillermo E. Brown

The Trio Plays Ware

Splasc(H) Records

Saxophonist David S. Ware's relevance as a composer is highlighted on this outing performed by his longstanding supporting trio. Pianist Matthew Shipp's climactic chord clusters sometimes mimic Ware's strenuous phrasings and complex means of building a melody. Anyone familiar with Ware's recordings should be aware of the freer aspects enveloping his musical totality. But generally somewhere amid the often hyper-mode group interplay are tuneful themes embedded amid his methodology. To that end, this release presents a very effective, yet contrasting twist to the saxophone's artistry.

DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid

Celestial Mechanix: The Blue Series Master Mix

Thirsty Ear Records

DJ Spooky has undeniably emerged as one of the more imaginative artists of the new millennium. He crosses genres such as hip-hop, ambient electronica, jazz, funk and more. However, the DJ's muse is also founded upon wit and social commentary, witnessed here on this most compelling two-CD extravaganza. The artist produced, mixed, and arranged this outing, featuring remixes of pieces performed by fellow Blue Series artists Matthew Shipp and violinist Mat Maneri. Spooky's latest projects a tone and vibe that might suggest a history of contemporary music that has become dissimulated and reengineered from scratch.

The Richard Leo Johnson Trio

Poetry Of Appliance

Cuneiform Records

Guitarist Richard Leo Johnson is primarily self-taught. However, there wouldn't be a hint of that here on this superlative effort. Along with keyboardist Andrew Ripley and electric/acoustic violinist Ricardo Ochoa, the guitarist fuses a starkly organic foundation with ringing electronic overtones. Johnson's unique tuning practices on his various acoustic guitars offer a point of interest, besides his starkly recognizable technical faculties. With this release, Johnson and his trio intermingles lush melodies with sprightly choruses. Yet there's a prevailing sense of movement and excitement that envelops this gorgeously recorded production. The band soars into the red zone on occasion. And it's partly rooted within an underlying sense of structure, augmented by the artists' bustling dialogues. Dynamics abound, even within pieces that are built upon quaint melodies. Count this among the top ten productions for 2004, regardless of any rigidly defined musical classifications.

Adrian Legg


Favored Nations

British finger-style guitar master Adrian Legg's latest effort includes strings accompaniment and solo spots. Legg's curvy, intersecting lines and gorgeously constructed melodies shine forth like narratives, or perhaps picturesque little tone poems. Other than a few tear-jerker themes, Legg's craft includes English folk and slices of Americana. Listening to this recording is akin to being absorbed by a stirring, cinematic documentary.

Kent Carter String Trio

The Willisau Suites

Emanem Records

Highly regarded bassist Kent Carter's resume includes stints with some of the finest modern jazz improvisers known to mankind, including the late Steve Lacy. These 1984 studio tracks were originally issued in 1988 for the ITM record label. This reissue includes two previously unreleased tracks culled from a 1997 session. The trio includes violinist Carlos Zingaro, violist Emmanuelle Roch and others, performing on various pieces. Essentially, the music boasts variable flows and asymmetrical instances of chamber-style interplay shaded with improvisational movements. It's difficult to categorize, though. You'll hear harrowing musical vistas, fragmented waltz grooves, stately themes, and festive galas. Marked by classical overtones and semi-structured elements, Carter and associates present an all-embracing musical portraiture here.

Neal Morse

Testimony Live (Double Live DVD)

Radiant Records

Here's your chance to see multi-instrumentalist Neal Morse's superb Testimony two-CD set performed live along with his octet. Conceptualized upon his personal relationship with a higher being, Morse interleaves exultant choruses with hard-driving progressive-rock stylizations. Featuring "Dream Theater" drumming hero Mike Portnoy and a cast of multitasking artists, the band exudes a vivacious demeanor during the sum of these thoughtfully designed parts. Morse's religious convictions are parlayed through these crafty compositions. He plays to the crowd in an endearing manner. Yet his intense musical aura equates to thrills a minute, enhanced by fiery percussion interludes, scorching guitar and electric cello lines, among other niceties. In addition, the band's impetus is captured rather effectively by the camera crew, who maintain various angles and overhead-based footage.

Bob Acri

The Cavalcade of Music Foundation Presents

Blu Jazz

Eighty-five years young and with only his second solo outing to date, pianist Bob Acri swings and grooves the old fashioned way, along with an estimable supporting cast. He's been in the jazz trenches for years, amid stints with Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, and others of note. And with assistance from trumpeter Lew Soloff, bassist George Mraz and others, Acri glides through a series of time-honored standards. His overall attack comprises an animated manner of spinning a melody. Acri pursues jazz music with a traditional sense of swing, to coincide with a novel sound that uplifts the tried and true into a contemporary slant.


Gabriele Mirabassi & Guinga

Graffiande Vento

EGEA Records

A magnificent series of duets by Mirabassi (clarinet) and Guinga (guitar) for the Italian record label's muse, consisting of Mediterranean motifs spiced with American jazz music. It's kind of like the advent of spring, where the flowers bloom and the grass turns green. Beautiful music heard here...

Frank Gratkowski Quartet


Leo Records

No doubt, this is one of the more interesting groups within the always expansive modern jazz/improvisational realm. Multi-reedman Frank Gratkowski and his quartet combines unorthodox metrics, such as disfigured march grooves with soaring motifs, and more. Get ready for a whirlwind tour that stacks up to be a probing and largely intense musical panorama.

Enrico Rava - Jazzpar 2002 Sextet

Happiness is...


A former Danish Jazzpar Prize recipient, trumpeter Enrico Rava, and his band, including guitar hero John Abercrombie, liven up the audience via this straightforward program recorded at various locales in Denmark. Rava is one jazz's finest improvisers, partly due to his surging, thematic statements and ability to morph a given melody line into disparate shapes and colors.

Bill O'Connell

Latin Jazz Fantasy

Random Chance Records

Composer/pianist Bill O'Connell segments these Latin jazz originals into various group settings, including a large scale orchestra. Regardless, the overall tone of this outing contains, crisp horn charts, tuneful choruses and perky Afro-Cuban rhythms. The majority of these works don't lose any steam after repeated spins. A scrupulously entertaining production it is.

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