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Jo-Yu Chen: Savage Beauty

Read "Savage Beauty" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

The cover art of pianist Jo-Yu Chen's fourth album, Savage Beauty, is provocative and beautiful. So is the music. There is a sense of a “stepping up of the game," in terms of public persona and artistry. Chen has always taken the physical product—the hard copy of her CDs—seriously, beginning with her debut, Obsession (Sony Music Taiwan, 2009), through Incomplete Soul (Sony Music, 2012), then Stranger (Okeh, 2014). On Savage Beauty she embraces an over-the-top glamor mode in this regard, ...

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Till Brönner / Dieter Ilg: Nightfall

Read "Nightfall" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

Trumpeter Till Brönner is widely lauded in his native Germany and throughout Europe. He has had broad success not only as a jazz composer and musician but also in film music, pop and country genres. Brönner has recorded eighteen albums as a leader and worked with Monty Alexander, Dave Brubeck, Al Foster, Joachim Kühn, Nils Landgren, James Moody, Aki Takase, Ernie Watts and many other noteworthy artists. On Nightfall, he is paired with countryman and bassist Dieter Ilg whose sole ...

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Li Xiaochuan: Initial

Read "Initial" reviewed by Nicholas F. Mondello

In China, one of the world's most ancient--and at times sheltered--civilizations, jazz music, which was once called “pornographic," has experienced a very robust re-emergence. For example, a recent multi-city tour in 5-digit capacity venues by Maestro Arturo Sandoval played to overflow SROs each night. And, there's even now a Blue Note in Beijing, a jazz club near the Great Wall, and many other jazz venues. Trumpeter Li Xiaochuan, a leading Chinese jazz/classical trumpeter and educator (he teaches ...

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Stacey Kent: I Know I Dream

Read "I Know I Dream" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

Stacey Kent has practically done it all over the past twenty years, selling north of two million albums, putting her gorgeously delicate stamp on standards, introducing fresh tunes into the canon, racking up awards, and bringing her flawless voice to fans in more than fifty countries. But one thing she hadn't done prior to this point is record an album with an orchestra. Cross that one off the list now and bathe your ears in this spellbinding music.

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Miles Davis: Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974

Read "Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974" reviewed by Sacha O'Grady

For anyone unfamiliar with his work, Bill Laswell is something of a producer's producer, who has worked with a wide array of artists ranging from John Lydon to Whitney Houston (though not on the same record one would assume). At some point Laswell miraculously managed to convince the powers that be to hand over copies of all the extant master tapes from Miles Davis's 1968 to 1974 period, arguably one of the most controversial and challenging of the trumpeter's entire ...

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David Bowie: Blackstar

Read "David Bowie: Blackstar" reviewed by Nenad Georgievski

The 10-year long absence from the limelight clearly didn't dim singer David Bowie's sense of guile or invention. That was clearly evident with the sudden reappearance with the utterly brilliant The Next Day which pilot single “Where Are We Now?" appeared from nowhere on his birthday and delighting many people along the way. In a career that has lasted for 50 years, Bowie has always refused to be pigeonholed and with Blackstar that is set to continue. Many years into ...

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Joana Espadinha: Avesso

Read "Avesso" reviewed by Chris Mosey

Avesso is Portuguese for “inside out." It is also used unkindly to imply that someone is a mess. Singer/songwriter Joana Espadinha sees it differently. “For me avesso is vulnerability and truth. I see it as the moment after a storm or a war when everything is clear and you can find peace." She gazes earnestly from the cover of her debut album, blue eyes wide open, as if laying her very soul on the line. The title ...

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Ilaiyaraja: Soundtrack: Neethane En Ponvasantham

Read "Soundtrack: Neethane En Ponvasantham" reviewed by Chris M. Slawecki

In India, the 2012 film Neethane En Ponvasantham and its companion soundtrack proved to be quite the cultural event. Movie scenes were shot in three Indian languages (Tamil, Telugu and Hindi). The soundtrack was collaboratively written by the film's director, Gautham Menon, with lyricist Na. Muthakumar and Ilaiyaraaja, the composer globally known as “The Maestro" because he has written more than 4500 songs and scored more than 950 films in India. While the film was released in December ...

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Willie Nelson and Family: Let’s Face the Music and Dance

Read "Let’s Face the Music and Dance" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

While it is an apologia for Willie Nelson, at 80, he has more than earned the right to do as he damn well pleases when he records. When Ray Charles passed away in 2004, Nelson was the only American musician to possibly accept the Charles mantle of musician with the greatest depth and breadth, having had an immeasurable impact on American music. Having composed country standards like “Crazy," “Hello Walls" and “Funny How Time Slips Away"--recording the ...

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Mauricio Pessoa: Habitat

Read "Habitat" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

Bossa nova blossomed in the public eye a half century ago and, though it isn't a pop radio staple anymore, it still retains its firm standing in the world of jazz and in its native Brazil. Those who were there at the beginning, or worked with the originators of this style at a later date, have continued to maintain their audience by surfing the waves of the beautiful and bouncy bossa and samba styles, but they have some competition now. ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Sizhukong: Spin

Read "Sizhukong: Spin" reviewed by Ian Patterson

SizhukongSpinSony Music2012Taiwanese band Sizhukong has come a long way in five years since its debut recording, Sizhukong (Sizhukong Music, 2007). Blending jazz idioms with traditional Taiwanese/Chinese folk music, that record announced the arrival of a unique Asian ensemble, whose exciting, highly lyrical playing sounded not just newly minted, but newly conceived. Pianist/leader Yuwen Peng had recently graduated from Berklee and wove her flowing jazz lines throughout the exotic mix. And, in a ...

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Jo-Yu Chen Trio: Incomplete Soul

Read "Incomplete Soul" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

Taiwanese-born pianist Jo-Yu Chen is going somewhere. The cover photo of her Incomplete Soul shows the artist in the back seat of a car, gazing at an indeterminate distance, with a look of quiet, unyielding determination on her face. Her journey with this recording is one of a melding of her classical influences with the improvisational aspect of jazz, and to an extent an East/West blend of sound. She begins with her original, “The Wandering Songstress," opening with the eerily ...