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Ben Winkelman: Balance

Read "Balance" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

Jazz, much like life, is an art of balance, a forever dance on the scales which keep our sanity and existence in check. Form must always reckon with freedom, scripts and spontaneity are bound by mutual understanding, and intellect blossoms truest as it holds the heart in high regard. Only in a state of relative equilibrium can the music find its real footing, its foundation, a place to grow. On his fifth album to date, pianist Ben ...

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Michael Kocour: East Of The Sun

Read "East Of The Sun" reviewed by Jack Bowers

Here's another well-planned and immaculately recorded solo album by pianist Michael Kocour, his second such enterprise for OA2 Records (the first, Wherever You Go, There You Are, was released in 2015). As its title suggests, East of the Sun consists almost entirely of gems from the Great American Songbook with one zircon (guitarist Don Gibson's “I Can't Stop Loving You," a signature song for the late Ray Charles) thrown in at the end for a diverting change of pace.

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Richard Pellegrin: Down

Read "Down" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

In an All About Jazz review of pianist/bandleader Rich Pellegrin's Episodes IV-V (OA2 Records, 2015), the author states that Pellegrin's style lies “somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between jazz and 21st century classical music." That also holds true with Down, the third quintet offering from the Assistant Professor at Florida State University. And if the music leans in the direction of jazz, it's of the accessible avant-garde variety. Down features seven tracks from Pellegrin's ...

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Michael Kocour: East Of The Sun

Read "East Of The Sun" reviewed by Mark Sullivan

Pianist Michael Kocour--a longtime member of the Chicago jazz community, now on the faculty of Arizona State University--presents his third solo piano album. His previous solo album Wherever You Go, There You Are (OA2 Records, 2015) was a mix of originals, jazz and popular standards, even including a few electric piano tracks. This one (which Kocour describes as “the most traditional" of his solo piano albums) is entirely devoted to standards, mostly from the 1920s and 1930s. The ...

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Michael Kocour: East Of The Sun

Read "East Of The Sun" reviewed by David A. Orthmann

Michael Kocour's solo piano recital is comprised of great American songs, most of which were popular in the early-to-mid twentieth century. There's nothing dated or anachronistic about the ways in which he handles the material. Throughout the record's ten tracks, Kocour establishes a state of equilibrium between a fealty to traditional song forms and jazz practices; a resourceful, imaginative streak; and a great deal of facility on the instrument. While he often incorporates elements of early jazz piano styles, such ...

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Mason Razavi: Quartet Plus, Volume 2

Read "Quartet Plus, Volume 2" reviewed by Tyran Grillo

If “Riverbed," which opens Mason Razavi's burnished sequel to Quartet Plus (First Orbit Sounds, 2014) were a doorway, it would welcome listeners like guests of honor to an intimate yet lively gathering of close friends and family. Such is the feeling of hospitality and warmth that pervades this thoroughly nourishing album. Over this and the next four tunes, all Razavi originals, the guitarist's bandmates regale us with one slick tale after another. The groovier “Blues in New Hues" highlights pianist ...

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Michael Kocour: East Of The Sun

Read "East Of The Sun" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

The ease of expression with which pianist Michael Kocour unspools standards tends to belie the greatness of his playing. With extreme comfort and control he lays out one beautiful performance after another, all the while presenting a fine balance between technical accomplishment and creative bent. East Of The Sun--the sixth leader (or co-leader) date from Kocour, and the third to offer a detailed look at his solo piano work--largely focuses on songs from the '20s and '30s. ...

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Kristen Strom: Moving Day: The Music of John Shifflett

Read "Moving Day: The Music of John Shifflett" reviewed by Jack Bowers

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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Shawn Maxwell's New Tomorrow: Music in My Mind

Read "Music in My Mind" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

After a series of well-received mainstream recordings, Chicago-based alto saxophonist Shawn Maxwell moved into a “taking more chances" mode with Shawn Maxwell's New Tomorrow (OA2 Records, 2016). Much of the sound there fell into the exploratory, even avant-garde area. He delves further into that territory with Music In My Mind. With albums titled Originals (Self Produced, 2006) and Originals II (Self Produced, 2008) opening up his recorded resume, it's no stretch to say that Maxwell's focus is zeroed ...

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Ben Markley Quartet: Basic Economy

Read "Basic Economy" reviewed by Paul Rauch

Pianist/composer Ben Markley has enough jazz pedigree to draw interest from jazz fans on an international level. After all, he has performed with such notables as Brian Lynch, Terell Stafford, and Eddie Henderson. His work on the jazz scene in Denver is well regarded, as is his work as Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, not what one would call a hotbed of jazz music. It was Markley's most recent recording Clockwise: The ...

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Tucker Antell: Grime Scene

Read "Grime Scene" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

Tucker Antell knows how to make an entrance. The two-minute solo stand that opens Grime Scene finds his stentorian saxophone blowing brusque and fluid across a wide swath. It plays like a strong man's lament-cum-catharsis, but what follows on the same track is something else: a bluesy shuffle with foot tap-inducing properties. This marks the first of many welcome surprises on this pleasing debut. While the pairing of tenor saxophone and organ trio coupled with an affinity ...

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Danny Green Trio Plus Strings: One Day It Will

Read "One Day It Will" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

Charlie Parker, alto saxophonist/bebop pioneer, got the ball rolling on the adding of strings to jazz. This went down in the late 1947 through 1950, on a pair of releases on Mercury Records introducing the sound of the Yardbird backed by a symphony orchestra. These sets were later compiled by Verve Records and issued in 1995 as Charlie Parker with Strings. That offering is a masterpiece of the genre it spawned: Chet Baker with Strings, (Columbia Records, 1954); Clifford Brown ...