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Articles by Dan McClenaghan

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Josh Rager: Dreams And Other Stories

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Montreal's Juno Award-nominated pianist, Josh Rager, has assembled an all star quintet for his fourth album as a leader, Dreams And Other Stories. Sandwiching five of his own superb compositions between the disc's opener, the Rodgers and Hart jewel “Spring is Here," and the wrap-up, Olivier Messiaen's “O Sacrum Convivium," he creates a cohesive and vivacious jazz statement, in the mode of those Herbie Hancock albums from the mid to late 1960s. The Rodgers and Hart opener explores ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Tim Stevens Double Trio: with whom you can be who you are

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Most jazz pianists with classical training in their backgrounds seem to feel the pull of of the strings: whether it be Bill Evans with his Bill Evans Trio With Symphony Orchestra Verve, 1965); Phineas Newborn, Jr. on While My Lady Sleeps (Bluebird/RCA, 1957); or, to bring it into the new millennium: Brad Mehldau's Highway Rider (Nonesuch, 2010); and Danny Green's Danny Green Trio Plus Strings (OA2 Records, 2018). Australian pianist Tim Stevens--best known perhaps for his work with ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Cuong Vu 4Tet: Change In The Air

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Trumpeter Cuong Vu introduced this particular 4tet in 2017, with Ballet: The Music of Michael Gibbs (RareNoiseRecords). An all star affair that included guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Luke Bergman and drummer Ted Poor, it seemed to signal something of a gentler Cuong Vu, with a music that had a spaciousness, patience and ruminative quality that didn't show in outings like the in-your-face Agogic (Table and Chairs Music, 2011), the deep space electronics of Vu-tet ( ArtistShare, 2017,) or the eerie ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Al Muirhead's Canadian Quintet: Undertones

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Swing was the thing, until alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, and pianist Bud Powell helped give birth to bebop, and alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman set jazz free. Not that swing ever went away, it just got bumped into the back seat. So when “Confirmation" and “Dance of the Infidels" wailed on the dashboard radio, Johnny Hodges' alto sax sang sweet notes out of one of the back windows, Lester Young blowing them out the other. But ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Bob James Trio: Expresso

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Bob James wrote “Angela," the theme song to the popular late-1970s/early 1980s television show, Taxi, a feather in the cap that introduced his sound to millions of listeners who might not ever slip a jazz CD into the stereo. For those with an ear and a love of jazz, he is probably most familiar for his work with the group Fourplay and saxophonist David Sanborn, along with a three record, mid-1970s stint with Creed Taylor's CTI Recordings, and three Grammy ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Miguel Zenon: Yo Soy La Tradicion

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With You Soy La Tradicion, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon digs deep into his Puerto Rican roots with an exploration of his take on the “jazz with strings" genre. This is his eleventh CD release as a leader. He dabbled in the approach with Awake (Marsalis Music, 2008), adding a string quartet to his jazz quartet on a handful of the disc's tunes. Yo Soy La Tradition is a purer string/horn experience--just Zenon's golden-toned alto sax joining forces with the Spektral ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Barron: Moods

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Bassist John Barron, now home-ported in Detroit, Michigan, offers up Moods, a pared-down-to-the-essentials, mostly quartet affair, featuring a tight guitar/bass/keyboards rhythm sound. What strikes the ear from the get-go are the deep grooves, the likeable, engaging melodies and the sharp, uncluttered delivery of the statement. Opening this set of all-Barron-originals is “Thanks For Nothin,'" a crisp garage-rock rumination that seems meant to get the crowd up onto the dance floor. The band displays a quartet-of-equals vibe, with a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Chris Monson: Seldom In The Wells

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What jumps out of the speakers at the beginning of the spin of Seldom in the Well--the debut of Toronto-based guitarist Chris Monson--is the full, rich sound. Part of that is the deft rhythm-section pairing of guitar and piano; part of it is Monson's arrangements, and some of “the sound" can certainly be attributed to the production. The line-up is the standard two-horn front-line sextet. Beginning with “Where The Leaf Has Been," the compositional vibe evokes Blue Note ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mike Lorenz: speak between

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A first impression: Guitarist Mike Lorenz has created, on Speak Between, a sound that runs in a parallel to some of the albums released by drummer Paul Motian, in his teamings with guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano--It Should Have Happened A Long Time Ago (ECM Records, 1984) and Jack Of Clubs (Soul Note, 1984). These are sets that allowed the same freedom Frisell applied in his early albums under his own name, in the creation soundscapes and luminescent ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rich Halley 3: The Literature

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After spending a few formative musical years in Chicago--where the winds blow the blues around--saxophonist Rich Halley made his way back to Portland, Oregon. Halley's recording career made its leap to the top shelf when he joined forces with drummer/record label honcho Dave Storrs at Louie Records. Four excellent recordings under Halley's name saw release on Louie Records between 2001 and 2005, including an early new millennium highlight, Objects (2002). In terms of style, Halley intersperses wild-eyed, fire ...