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Articles by Jack Bowers

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Jay Thomas with the Oliver Groenewald NewNet: I Always Knew

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There aren't many jazz musicians who play both brass and woodwinds, fewer still who play them as well as the veteran Seattle-based virtuoso Jay Thomas (the word “virtuoso" is used with due care). On I Always Knew, recorded in January 2018 with German-born trumpeter / arranger Oliver Groenewald's NewNet, Thomas traverses the ballad form on a dozen mostly undervalued and too-seldom heard numbers, all but one arranged by Groenewald who also wrote “I Always Knew" and “Mrs. Goodnight." Thomas has ...

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Ekdahl / Bagge Big Band: New Thing

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It's always exciting and pleasurable to welcome a new member into the jazz world's ever-shrinking big-band fraternity--especially one as sharp and energetic as this. The tasteful and impressive Ekdahl / Bagge Big Band--from Stockholm, Sweden, no less--takes its name from those of its co-leaders, drummer Per Ekdahl and pianist Carl Bagge who composed and / or arranged seven of the nine numbers on the band's dazzling debut album, New Thing. Putting its best foot forward from the ...

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John Fedchock Quartet: Reminiscence

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After recording his quartet's splendid album Fluidity (Summit Records 2015), trombonist John Fedchock realized he had enough unused material in hand from that delightful concert date to consider releasing a second album. The more he listened to the music that hadn't made the cut on Fluidity, the more Fedchock was convinced that a second album not only could but should be produced comprising half a dozen songs that for various reasons weren't included on the earlier recording. “In some instances," ...

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Chris Jentsch Group No Net: Topics in American History

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Brooklyn-based guitarist / composer Chris Jentsch writes with clear images in mind and invites the listener to see and hear them as he does. On his sixth and latest CD, Jentsch draws on a longstanding interest in historical events and trends to describe in musical terms Topics in American History ranging from 1491 (the year before Europeans led by Christopher Columbus landed in the New World and changed the North American continent forever) to the harrowing decades of the Cold ...

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Frank Morgan & George Cables: Montreal Memories

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Alto saxophonist Frank Morgan and pianist George Cables, two seasoned pros at the top of their game, joined forces to map this superb concert performance at the 1989 Montreal Jazz Festival. Morgan--unchained at last from his debilitating heroin addiction and four years removed from prison--is a wellspring of creativity and passion, while Cables, eleven years Morgan's junior, matches him stride for stride and note for note, much to the delight of a hip and enthusiastic audience at the Theatre Port-Royal. ...

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Mariel Austin: Runner in the Rain

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Young trombonist / vocalist Mariel Austin, who quadruples as composer / arranger on her debut album, Runner in the Rain, writes music that is hard to pigeonhole, at least as it relates to jazz. Some of her compositions are thematic, some experimental, some have classical overtones, some even swing on occasion, and most are technically demanding. As for improvisation, it plays a subordinate role more often than not, with some digressions to be noted later. Austin, whose ...

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Floyd Domino's All-Stars: Boogie Minor

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On the debut album as leader of his Texas-based sextet (enlarged to seven-strong on seven numbers by the reliable vocalist Emily Gimble), veteran pianist Floyd Domino plays his trademark Western swing leavened with large doses of blues, boogie, stride and barrelhouse. There's a touch of jazz secreted therein too, but no matter what one calls it, Domino's music is always fun to listen to and enjoy. In Domino's capable hands, even the standards “Between the Devil and ...

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The 14 Jazz Orchestra: The Future Ain't What It Used to Be

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The Future Ain't What It Used to Be, the second album by South Florida's impressive The 14 Jazz Orchestra, is by and large like its precursor: swinging, straight-down-the-fairway big-band jazz underlined by leader Dan Bonsanti's admirable charts. As before, each of the songs was written by a blue-chip composer, from Chick Corea and Antonio Carlos Jobim to Wayne Shorter and Eliane Elias, and as before, every member of the ensemble is an alumnus of the University of Miami's well-respected Frost ...

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Annie Chen Octet: Secret Treetop

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Over the years, jazz has widened its horizons to encompass a broad range of music that many of those who practiced and/or appreciated the more traditional forms might not recognize, let alone endorse. Among the more recent genres is “world music," which embodies various rhythmic and harmonic elements of jazz without assimilating its core values. On her second album, Secret Treetop, composer/vocalist Annie Chen's octet performs world music and does it well--but it is only narrowly akin to jazz in ...

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The Gil Evans Orchestra: Hidden Treasures - Monday Night Sessions, vol 1

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Even though the name Gil Evans has a hallowed ring these days, the late composer / arranger's music remains for many aficionados an acquired taste. On the other hand, while that is the Gil Evans Orchestra performing on Hidden Treasures, Volume 1, the lion's share of the music brought to light isn't his--Evans wrote only two of the album's seven selections ("Moonstruck," “Eleven") and arranged only three. And although the recording was completed some thirty years after Evans' death, its ...

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Kristen Strom: Moving Day: The Music of John Shifflett

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The esteemed bassist John Shifflett was for roughly thirty years a mainstay in countless San Francisco Bay Area sessions and recordings until his untimely passing in April 2017. Gone, that's true, but far from forgotten. Shifflett, as it turns out, had another largely hidden talent as a composer of bright and accessible jazz tunes, seven of which are performed by a number of his friends and colleagues on Moving Day, a warm-hearted tribute whose nominal leader is saxophone / woodwind ...

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Dale Head and the MindWinder Orchestra: Swing On The Rocks

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No matter how ambitious the concept or scrupulous the plan, a musical enterprise can be no better than its material. For Swing on the Rocks, vocalist / trumpeter Dale Head's idea was to embed and amplify fourteen classic rock songs within the powerful framework of an eighteen-piece orchestra--an idea that no doubt looked awesome on paper. Where it runs aground in actuality is in the choice of ingredients (in other words, the songs), which, in one arbiter's modest opinion, simply ...