Articles by Jack Bowers

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Carrera Quinta: Traslaciones

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As one would anticipate from the group's name--and the album's song selection--the seven-member Carrera Quinta (pared down from big-band size) plays music from South America, more specifically the Andes region of Colombia, interlaced with mainstream American jazz. The Latin Grammy-nominated ensemble's third album, Traslaciones, comprises seven songs showcasing traditional Colombian styles such as pasillo, bambuco and guabina as part of a research project developed at Universidad El Bosque School of Music in Bogota where all the members of the septet ...

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Espoo Big Band: Espoo Suite

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Almost forty years after its inception in 1980, Finland's world-class Espoo Big Band and composer / arranger Marzi Nyman have recorded an often brash and always impressive salute to their home base, the appropriately named Espoo Suite. “This is my attempt to describe [the city]," Nyman writes, “through free-associative composing." The word “free" aptly expresses Nyman's approach to the task, as the music he espouses, even as it nods to a traditional rhythmic and melodic core, is explicitly free-wheeling and ...

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Eyal Vilner Big Band: Swing Out!

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Eyal Vilner's fourth album as leader of his impressive New York-based big band is a throwback to the kind of concert dates audiences no doubt derived great pleasure from during the storied Big-Band Era well over half a century ago when groups not far removed from this one in spirit traveled cross-country by bus, car or train to ply their trade in nightclubs, concert halls, schools and any other accessible venue. Vilner spices the menu with blues, ballads, boogie and ...

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Rich Willey's Boptism Big Band: Down & Dirty

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What's in a name? While that maxim remains a matter for debate, don't let this particular name mislead you. In the parlance of trumpeter Rich Willey's Los Angeles-based Boptism Big Band, Down & Dirty translates into well-scrubbed & swinging. There's really no better way to describe the performance of eleven of Willey's wide-ranging compositions and one standard ("Old Folks") by an ensemble comprising many of southern California's foremost jazz musicians who not only master but amplify superlative charts by Gordon ...

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George Cables: I'm All Smiles

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George Cables, whose elegant piano has graced the jazz scene in New York City and elsewhere for more than five decades, has every reason to be All Smiles; at age seventy-four he is back at the keyboard, as sharp and inspired as ever, following surgery for ulcers that removed one leg above the knee. To mark the auspicious occasion, Cables guides a rhythm section of longtime friends and colleagues, bassist Essiet Essiet and drummer Victor Lewis, through its paces on ...

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Richie Beirach-Gregor Huebner Duo and the WDR Big Band: Crossing Borders

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The “borders" that are earmarked to be crossed in this new album by pianist Richie Bierach, violinist Gregor Huebner and Germany's superb WDR Big Band are both geographic and musical. The collaborative effort is intended, on the one hand, to bridge the gap between people of various ethnicities and backgrounds and help bring them together, and, on the other, to minimize the borders between classical music and jazz by allowing ample room for both genres to be heard, cross-referenced and ...

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David Kikoski: Phoenix Rising

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Pianist David Kikoski and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, among the brightest lights on New York City's jazz scene for more than two decades, have known each other for almost as many years but Phoenix Rising marks the first time they have recorded together. After listening, one observation springs immediately to mind: it's about time. A second premise is that the album swings and dazzles from start to finish--but one would expect no less from such masters of ...

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Chris Connor with Stan Kenton And His Orchestra: Connor Sings — Kenton Swings

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However listeners may receive this “new" album from Sounds of Yesteryear, there's no gainsaying its title, Connor Sings—Kenton Swings, as that secures its contents in a neat little box with no loose ends in sight. There's also no denying that these seventeen songs by vocalist Chris Connor and the dynamic Stan Kenton Orchestra were recorded more than sixty-five years ago. In terms of performance, the impact is negligible; in terms of sound, not as harmful as one might imagine.

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Nick DePinna: Nexus Music Vol. 1

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Los Angeles-based composer-trombonist Nick DePinna dips his toes warily into the big-band pond on Nexus Music Vol. 1, a concise yet largely impressive glimpse at contemporary motifs from a large-group perspective. The album encompasses only three songs whose total playing time is a brief twenty minutes, about one-quarter the maximum length of a Compact Disc. So much for duration, what about content? In that respect, the news is essentially quite good. DePinna is a splendid writer and arranger ...

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Gerry Gibbs Thrasher People: Our People

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Our People, the twelfth album as leader by multi-instrumentalist Gerry Gibbs, is difficult to describe and even harder to pigeonhole. Is it jazz? Not really. Is it world music? Sometimes. And sometimes even other-worldly. Stream of consciousness? Perhaps, but always with a specific plan in mind. Tone poems? Only in the sense that there are times when Gibbs' helical and esoteric charts may bring poetry to mind. One thing it definitely is not is a big-band album. Despite its capacious ...

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The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra: Along for the Ride

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On the third album as leader of his superlative New York-based Jazz Orchestra, trombonist Pete McGuinness proves again that he is one of the more astute and resourceful composer / arrangers on the scene today. From “Put on a Happy Face" through “One for the Maestro," McGuinness' impressive charts are decorous models of warmth and perception. As a bonus, McGuinness sings (and scats), Chet Baker-style, on Michel Legrand's “You Must Believe in Spring" and Marvin Fisher / Jack Segal's lovely ...

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Eric Alexander: Leap of Faith

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Renowned tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander's Leap of Faith stems in part from the decision (hesitantly made) to perform in a trio setting without piano—hardly an uncommon arrangement these days but one that Alexander, a shining light on the New York music scene for more than two decades, has rarely explored, either in live gigs or on more than forty-plus albums as leader of his own groups. Also, Leap of Faith was recorded live (no safety net) at New York City's ...


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