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Articles by Chris M. Slawecki

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Amaro Freitas: Rasif

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In the small coastal city of Recife, in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, Amaro Freitas began playing piano in his local church at age 12. A few years later, the jazz gods intervened in the form of a Chick Corea concert DVD. “He completely blew my mind," Freitas once recalled. “I'd never seen anything like it but I knew that's what I wanted to do with a piano." The refocused Freitas became resident pianist at Brazil's legendary jazz bar Mingus ...

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Aguanko: Pattern Recognition

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Aguanko's composer, conguero and bandleader Dr. Alberto Nacif first stepped into the worlds of Latin and Afro-Cuban percussion alongside Cuban conga/bongo master Armando Peraza, the pillar of percussion fire who blazed throughout the Santana band's first decade. On Pattern Recognition, Nacif teams with another legendary Cuban percussionist: José “Pepe" Espinosa, who jumps in on timbales, guiro and bongos, and doubles as producer of Aguanko's third release. Aguanko's albums consistently run with the humming, precision consistency of an exquisitely ...

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Various Artists: MPS: 50 Years

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In 2018, MPS--Musik Produktion Schwarzwald--Records, Germany's first jazz label, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Pianist Oscar Peterson recorded the first release for MPS after his contract with Verve expired. Its catalog expanded to feature George Duke, Red Garland, Wolfgang Dauner, Horst Jankowski, George Shearing, Monty Alexander and many other pianists. Violin became the label's second most featured instrument through releases by established masters such as Don “Sugarcane" Harris and Stéphane Grappelli, and emerging ones such as Didier Lockwood and Jean-Luc Ponty. ...

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Rob Dixon: Coast to Crossroads

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"The album is called Coast to Crossroads because I'm based in Indiana, the Crossroads state, but I also work a lot on the West Coast and East Coast," explains saxophonist Rob Dixon, who leads this trio session with drummer Mike Clark and seven-string funk guitar maven Charlie Hunter (who also served as producer), plus occasional guest trombonist Ernest Stuart. Personal connections between the three principals enable their musical connections to flow richly and deep: Indianapolis Jazz Hall of ...

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Warren Wiebe: Original Demos

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From the accounts of nearly everyone who heard him, Warren Wiebe was “a singer's singer." After kicking around in several bands between his native San Diego and Los Angeles, songwriters Burt Bacharach and David Foster ran across Wiebe's pure tone and apparently effortless range, and Wiebe became the go-to demo singer for many of southern California's most successful songwriters. “We were kind of like Edger Bergin and Charlie McCarthy, only I was the dummy and Warren made me come alive ...

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Tony Adamo: Was Out Jazz Zone Mad

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Some African cultures preserved their history not by the written but by the spoken word, kept by oral cultural historians known as griots. On Was Out Jazz Zone Mad, vocalist Tony Adamo aspires to serve in this same role, as a verbal historian of both official and unofficial African-American jazz and blues culture. This type of jazz jive might wear quickly thin but Adamo writes about jazz and jazz musicians with such detailed intimacy and vision that his words snap, ...

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One Day in Brazil, 50 Years in Germany

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Tony Adamo Was Out Jazz Zone Mad Ropeadope 2018 Some African cultures preserved their history not by the written but by the spoken word, kept by oral cultural historians known as griots. On Was Out Jazz Zone Mad, vocalist Tony Adamo aspires to serve in this same role, as a verbal historian of both official and unofficial African-American jazz and blues culture. This type of jazz jive might wear quickly thin but ...

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Tony Joe White: Bad Mouthin'

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You might not recognize Tony Joe White by name but chances are you recognize his songs. A musical lone wolf born and raised on a Louisiana cotton farm about twenty miles from the nearest town (Oak Grove), White's unique blend of country funk and blues proved fertile for soulful singers from Elvis Presley ("Poke Salad Annie") to Brook Benton ("A Rainy Night in Georgia") to Dusty Springfield ("Willie and Laura Mae Jones") to Eric Clapton ("Did Somebody Make ...

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Alan Hall: Heroes, Saints and Clowns

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Ratatet, the sextet led by drummer Alan Hall, doesn't seem to quite fit into a musical box of any style or shape. One of the San Francisco Bay area's most respected musical performers and educators, Hall assembled this uniquely constructed ensemble from fragments of previous engagements: He previously played in a trio called Electreo with Paul Hanson (here on tenor sax and bassoon, acoustic and with electronic treatments) and Jeff Denson (on fretless electric and double acoustic bass). Hall and ...

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Spanglish Fly: Ay Que Boogaloo!

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Jonathan Goldman sure seems like one interesting dude. An Associate Professor at New York Institute of Technology, Goldman edited the seminal study Joyce and the Law (University of Florida Press, 2017) and leads one of the most famous reading groups for one of Joyce's most infamous works, Ulysses. And as lead trumpet and bandleader for New York's own Spanglish Fly, he's one of the world's leading proponents of the irresistibly liberating rhythms, sounds and beats of Latin soul and boogaloo. ...

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Nicola Conte: Let Your Light Shine On

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One of the best parts of Let Your Light Shine On is how it plucks out musical threads from throughout the galaxy (more on that later) and knits them together into truly groovy, soulful cloth. But music is only one of many real good things this set has going on. Light is the first album by internationally-renown Italian DJ, composer, guitarist, bandleader and producer Nicola Conte for Germany's esteemed jazz label MPS Records. “For me, when it comes ...

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Emilio Santiago: Emilio Santiago

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In 1975, vocalist Emilio Santiago was riding high as “The Nat King Cole of Brazil" and recording this eponymous full-length debut with some of that verdant musical nation's leading jazz composers and instrumentalists, including João Donato (keyboards), Danilo Caymmi (flute), Wilson das Neves (drums) and Victor Assis Brasil (saxophone). The four decades which have since passed have not tarnished this debut's warm and mellow glow. In the opening “Bananeira" (jointly composed by Donato and Gilberto Gil), the sheer ...