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Michael Kocour: East Of The Sun

Read "East Of The Sun" reviewed by Jack Bowers

Here's another well-planned and immaculately recorded solo album by pianist Michael Kocour, his second such enterprise for OA2 Records (the first, Wherever You Go, There You Are, was released in 2015). As its title suggests, East of the Sun consists almost entirely of gems from the Great American Songbook with one zircon (guitarist Don Gibson's “I Can't Stop Loving You," a signature song for the late Ray Charles) thrown in at the end for a diverting change of pace.

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Michael Kocour: East Of The Sun

Read "East Of The Sun" reviewed by Mark Sullivan

Pianist Michael Kocour--a longtime member of the Chicago jazz community, now on the faculty of Arizona State University--presents his third solo piano album. His previous solo album Wherever You Go, There You Are (OA2 Records, 2015) was a mix of originals, jazz and popular standards, even including a few electric piano tracks. This one (which Kocour describes as “the most traditional" of his solo piano albums) is entirely devoted to standards, mostly from the 1920s and 1930s. The ...

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Michael Kocour: East Of The Sun

Read "East Of The Sun" reviewed by David A. Orthmann

Michael Kocour's solo piano recital is comprised of great American songs, most of which were popular in the early-to-mid twentieth century. There's nothing dated or anachronistic about the ways in which he handles the material. Throughout the record's ten tracks, Kocour establishes a state of equilibrium between a fealty to traditional song forms and jazz practices; a resourceful, imaginative streak; and a great deal of facility on the instrument. While he often incorporates elements of early jazz piano styles, such ...

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Michael Kocour: East Of The Sun

Read "East Of The Sun" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

The ease of expression with which pianist Michael Kocour unspools standards tends to belie the greatness of his playing. With extreme comfort and control he lays out one beautiful performance after another, all the while presenting a fine balance between technical accomplishment and creative bent. East Of The Sun--the sixth leader (or co-leader) date from Kocour, and the third to offer a detailed look at his solo piano work--largely focuses on songs from the '20s and '30s. ...

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Michael Kocour: Spiffy

Read "Spiffy" reviewed by Jack Bowers

Spiffy is the third album as leader this year (2015) for pianist Michael Kocour who has chosen the occasion to set aside the piano in favor of a Hammond B3 organ. It proves to be an auspicious choice, as does his decision to work as part of a quartet. Kocour's sidemen (saxophonist Eric Schneider, guitarist Bruce Forman, drummer Dom Moio) are splendid, as is the leader's stout and nimble Hammond. The four had played together as a unit only once ...

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Michael Kocour: Spiffy

Read "Spiffy" reviewed by David A. Orthmann

Though a soulful swing-to-bop ethos reminiscent of the popular organ combos of the mid-to-late twentieth century is evident throughout, at its core Spiffy speaks to the malleability and open-endedness of the standard elements of jazz performance. Michael Kocour is the leader of the date, but the record's triumph is collective in nature. It's difficult to imagine substituting any member of the quartet--or, for that matter, isolating the solos from the tightly knit ensemble work. The band rejuvenates the classic Hammond ...

TAKE FIVE WITH...

Take Five with Michael Kocour

Read "Take Five with Michael Kocour" reviewed by Michael Kocour

Meet Michael Kocour: Michael Kocour is a jazz pianist, organist and composer. He also serves as Director of Jazz Studies in the School of Music at Arizona State University. Hailed by the Chicago Tribune as “one of the most sophisticated pianists in jazz," Kocour has performed at venues around the world and has been a guest on Marian McPartland's internationally syndicated NPR program Piano Jazz. Among the many artists and ensembles with whom he has appeared with are ...

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Michael Kocour: Spiffy

Read "Spiffy" reviewed by Mark Sullivan

Keyboardist Michael Kocour revisits his Hammond B3 organ roots in this collection of hard-swinging tunes presented in the tradition of jazz organ legends such as Jack McDuff, Jimmy Smith, and Don Patterson. McDuff in particular is a stylistic mentor: Kocour met him during his college years while attending the renowned jazz program at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. The band really comes out swinging on the opener, Kocour's “Dropped Third Strike." Chicagoan Eric Schneider blows tenor with old-school bar-walking ...

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Michael Kocour: Wherever You Go, There You Are

Read "Wherever You Go, There You Are" reviewed by Jack Bowers

Wherever You Go, There You Are is akin to visiting pianist Michael Kocour's living room or den for an hour or so and lingering while he entertains you with his singular takes on a number of favorite songs, most of which you've probably heard before but seldom played as well as this. Kocour's lyrical style has a way of drawing one's ear into its orbit, causing time to hurry by as he strolls easily through a series of eight established ...

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Michael Kocour: Wherever You Go, There You Are

Read "Wherever You Go, There You Are" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

Solo piano recitals have a refreshing quality about them. The instrument's and by proxy, the performer's, thoughts are undiluted and benefit from the lack of competition with other voices. Pianist, composer, and educator Michael Kocour offers a collection of standards and originals that provide a case-in-point. In an even ten selections, Kocour carves a collection of finely crafted pieces, each with an individual musical personality and expression. Starting with Dizzy Gillespie's tender “Con Alma," Kocour shapes an ...

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Michael Kocour: Wherever You Go, There You Are

Read "Wherever You Go, There You Are" reviewed by David A. Orthmann

Wherever You Go, There You Are, Michael Kocour's energetic, deeply focused, imaginatively performed solo recital, is a patchwork of eight, twentieth-century jazz and popular songs, as well as two of the pianist's original compositions. On the one hand, Kocour is clearly cognizant of the original intent and the performance history of material ranging from “Con Alma," to “How About You?," to “An Affair To Remember," to “Evidence." On the other, Kocour's arrangements and improvisations are brimming with fresh ideas and ...

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Michael Kocour: Speaking in Tongues

Read "Speaking in Tongues" reviewed by Hrayr Attarian

Recording a tribute album is a brave and often thankless undertaking since listeners and reviewers are bound to compare the musician doing the recording to the one to whom homage is being paid. This becomes a more courageous act when the subject of the album is not one but two giants of modern music: pianists Bud Powell and Thelonious. Monk. Michael Kocour is up to the task on the tasteful and interesting CD, Speaking In Tongues. Kocour ...


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