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HIGHLY OPINIONATED

Who Needs Monk?

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2017 is Thelonious Monk's hundredth anniversary year and as good a time as any to ask whether he has anything to teach young, ambitious, up-and-coming jazz musicians today. Monk's recordings still nurture and entertain countless jazz fans, and the clarity and directness of his conception makes him a wonderful “introductory" artist for newbies. Gigging jazz musicians draw from the well of his compositions to fill their sets, and it's hard to imagine a future where “'Round Midnight" or ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Jazztopad Festival 2017

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Witold Lutoslawski National Forum of Music Jazztopad Festival Wroclaw, Poland November 21-26, 2017Jazztopad is the yearly Jazz Festival of Poland's Witold Lutoslawski National Forum of Music in Wroclaw. Wroclaw is a vibrant, hip, internationally oriented city that never sleeps, a city with character, lots of peculiar neighbourhoods, populated by many young people from all over the world. Fall season is called listopad in Polish and so Jazztopad is fall's jazz, a festival ...

BEST OF / YEAR END

Mark Sullivan's Best Releases of 2017

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No genre breakdown this year. I've included every release that I rated at 4.5 stars or better, plus a number of 4 star reviews (that was the hard part, as there were lots of those). ECM had an exceptionally strong year, and I had trouble limiting my selection even this much. This is a chronological list, not a ranking. Club D'Elf Live at Club Helsinki Face Pelt Records Wingfield Reuter Stavi ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Chris Pasin: Baby It's Cold Outside

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Chris Pasin clearly buys into the idea that spreading holiday cheer with and for those who are near and dear is a beautiful manifestation of the Christmas spirit. For Baby It's Cold Outside the veteran trumpeter gathered seven of his musical chums and put together a program of tried-and-true yuletide nuggets, remaining loyal enough to the templates while also juicing the mix. Six different personnel configurations are in play across this album's eleven tracks--everything from a Patricia ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

MONOGLOT: Wrong Turns And Dead Ends

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MONOGLOT is still the Swiss/German/Icelandic jazz/rock quintet based in Basel, Switzerland that they were on their first, self-titled album MONOGLOT (Self Produced, 2014). But there have been some changes. The first is new bassist Florian Keller. More significantly, the composing is now split between guitarist Kristinn Kristinsson (who wrote everything on the first album) and saxophonists Sebastian von Keler and Fabian Willmann. I don't know if that is the reason, but the group has a more unified sound this time ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Die Enttäuschung: Lavaman

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It has been twenty years since Die Enttäuschung recorded the music of Thelonious Monk, but Monk continues to be an essential component of their music making. This is also the case with Steve Lacy and Roswell Rudd's music after their Monk cover band School Days (Emanem, 1975) disbanded. The concepts of Monk's music were integral in their sound thereafter. Lavaman is the ensemble's sixth release (seventh, if you count the impossible to locate eponymous 1996 LP debut on ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mary Halvorson: Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32

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Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32 offers up the final installment in prolific composer John Zorn's 32-album sojourn (titled Book of Angels). It is an exciting and fitting capstone. From the start, the music dances its way through contrasts of exciting, mysterious, probing, exotic, and shifting musical folk-jazz idioms, improvisations and compositions. The Mary Halvorson Quartet are Tomas Fujiwara on drums, Drew Gress on bass, Mary Halvorson on guitar, and Miles Okazaki on guitar. There is ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

The Possibilities of Percussion: Yarn/Wire & ensemble, et. al

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Percussion is often seen as the spice that is added to an ensemble carried by chordal instruments, but something interesting happens when the use of percussion is allowed to shape the aesthetics of a composition. Early on, minimalists like Steve Reich and Terry Riley have realized the potential of percussion and have used it to bring a breath of fresh air into the dusty study room of classical composition. In a sense, it is also a paradigm shift changing emphasis ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below

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Vivian Reed Feinstein's/54 Below Vivian Reed Sings Lena Horne New York, NY December 7, 2017 The moment Vivian Reed takes to the Feinstein's/54 Below stage, she welcomes the audience in a loving embrace--one of those rare artists who genuinely feels what she performs, and whose grace and rigor blend into an expressive whole with which one cannot help but fall in love. For her latest concert series, Reed commemorates the birthday centennial ...


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