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Articles by Mark Sullivan

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Yelena Eckemoff: Better Than Gold and Silver

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Russian-born pianist/composer Yelena Eckemoff began setting verses from the Bible's Book of Psalms shortly after her conversion to Catholicism, even before her emigration to the United States. But she waited until she had considerable experience working with jazz musicians before attempting these jazz arrangements. The first disc in this double disc set presents settings with two vocalists, tenor Tomás Cruz and mezzo-soprano Kim Mayo, accompanied by a remarkable band: trumpeter Ralph Alessi, guitarist Ben Monder, violinist Christian Howes, bassist Drew ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Marko Churnchetz: RUTHENIA - Retrospective of Russian Composers of the 20th Century

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Slovenian-born pianist/composer Marko Churnchetz presents an ambitious suite for fifteen musicians: essentially his jazz quartet accompanied by a small orchestra of winds and strings. He pays tribute to the great Russian composers of the 20th Century: Shostakovich, Scriabin, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff (the title “Ruthenia" is a Latin name for the Russian border provinces and their inhabitants, a metaphor for connecting with the great Russian musical tradition). Even if a listener did not know about the focus, the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rachel Caswell: We're All in the Dance

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If you want proof of singer Rachel Caswell's jazz chops, you could skip right to the last two tracks. She scats the head of bebop saxophonist Charlie Parker's evergreen “Dexterity" along with guitarist (and producer) Dave Stryker, then blends in with the rest of the band for a round of solos. Sticking with the bebop theme, pianist Thelonious Monk's “Reflections" is a beautiful ballad, this time with lyrics from singer Jon Hendricks. It is a feature for the voice and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Bruno Raberg Trio: Tailwind

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Tailwind is the tenth album as a leader for Swedish-born, longtime Boston-resident bassist/composer Bruno Råberg. His most recent groups have been piano-less: Hot Box (Orbis Music, 2015) was a quartet with trumpet, saxophone and drums; For The Unknown (Orbis Music, 2016) brought back the same group sans drums, and was entirely based on freely improvised music. Both albums also featured Råberg's electronic post-processing. By comparison this is a much more mainstream affair: an acoustic trio with pianist Bruce Barth and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Phil Schurger: The Waters Above

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Guitarist/composer Phil Schurger is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana. He leads his Chicago-based quartet--previously heard on Echoes of the Ancestors (ears&eyes, 2017)--through six expansive originals. The tracks run an average of ten minutes or more apiece, and they attain that length through compositional complexity rather than extended solos (although the band is blessed with very strong soloists). Not only that, but the entire set hangs together like a suite, with each tune leading naturally to the next.

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Wolfgang Muthspiel: Where The River Goes

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Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel returns with the same lyrical magic that characterized his previous quintet recording Rising Grace (ECM, 2016). That quintet--with trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, pianist Brad Mehldau and bassist Larry Grenadier--is altered only by the substitution of drummer Eric Harland for Brian Blade. Muthspiel begins the title tune unaccompanied on electric guitar, with Mehldau joining in on piano for a brief duet. Akinmusire's playing of the theme cues the rest of the band to join in. As ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Aguankó: Pattern Recognition

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If the music of Aguankó is any indication, Latin jazz is in good shape in Southeastern Michigan. Conguero/composer Alberto Nacif leads a crack band, most of them from the metro Detroit area. Their previous album, Latin Jazz Christmas in Havana (Self Produced, 2015), presented creative arrangements of a variety of holiday standards, a delightful standout in the usual parade of holiday releases. Here all but one of the compositions is by Nacif, plus one from group reed player Russ Miller. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Cuong Vu 4Tet: Change In The Air

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Seattle-based trumpeter Cuong Vu continues his collaboration with guitarist Bill Frisell that began with It's Mostly Residual (AUAND, 2006). His previous 4Tet release, Ballet: The Music Of Michael Gibbs (RareNoise Records, 2017), was also made by the same personnel. But this time, instead of interpretations of an outside composer, every group member contributes compositionally, including Vu, Frisell, bassist Luke Bergman and drummer Ted Poor. Vu emphasizes that this is very much a collective project; his role as “leader" was basically ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jakob Bro: Bay of Rainbows

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Danish guitarist Jakob Bro returns with another album made by his working trio with double bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Joey Baron, previously heard on Streams (ECM, 2016). Recorded live at Jazz Standard in New York in July, 2017, it is also Bro's first live recording for the label. The repertoire mainly documents Bro originals that the trio has been playing for years, most of them predating his ECM albums as leader. Opener “Mild" was first recorded on ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Barre Phillips: End To End

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Legendary double bassist and improviser Barre Phillips writes what is billed as the final chapter in his storied history of solo bass recordings on the aptly titled End To End. He recorded what is generally regarded as the first solo double bass album in 1968 with Journal Violone (Opus One)--an unplanned event, as he intended the music to be source material for composer Max Schubel. He followed that with the first improvised double bass duet album with Dave Holland, Music ...