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Bill Frisell: Harmony

Read "Harmony" reviewed by Franz A. Matzner

Renowned guitarist Bill Frisell's Blue Note Records debut Harmony is a pleasant album. This does not imply lack of innovation, the saccharine sound or the absence of bite and sorrow. These hues of bite and sorrow actually dominate the fourteen selections, which in patented Frisell manner run the gamut from traditional Americana to Elvis Costello to classic jazz. The album's appeal comes from its utter listenability and sumptuous delivery. It also proffers an innovative, drum-less configuration of strings, lead, and ...

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Bill Frisell: Harmony

Read "Harmony" reviewed by Mark Sullivan

Iconic guitarist-composer Bill Frisell has chosen to primarily emphasize the Americana side of his music for his debut as a leader for Blue Note Records. When Frisell organized his new band with vocalist Petra Haden, cellist Hank Roberts and guitarist-bassist Luke Bergman he was struck by the fact that all of the band members but him sang, so their vocal blend became the group's signature sound as well as the inspiration for the name Harmony. Upon first hearing, the album ...

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Donald Byrd: Ethiopian Knights

Read "Ethiopian Knights" reviewed by Chris May

Donald Byrd (1932-2013) was a solid and dependable and prolifically recorded hard-bop trumpeter during the style's mid 1950s to mid 1960s heyday, though he was never an innovator, far less an auteur. He later went on to make a string of tedious disco-cum-jazz-funk albums which sold by the truckload. On the cusp of this shift in trajectory, Byrd made a handful of unassailable groove-jazz classics. Ethiopian Knights is the best of them. Such is the enduring demand for ...

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Bobbi Humphrey: Blacks And Blues

Read "Blacks And Blues" reviewed by Chris May

The title of the album and that of its opening track ("Chicago, Damn"), the original release date (1973) and the 'fro might suggest flautist Bobbi Humphrey's Blacks And Blues came with a clenched-fist salute and a political manifesto. But hey, Humphrey's third Blue Note release was composed and produced in La La Land by brothers Fonce and Larry Mizell, masters of chilled-out jazz-funk. Humphrey's cover-shot smile is the real clue to the vibe of the album--which in 2019 has been ...

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Joe Henderson: The State Of The Tenor • Live At The Village Vanguard • Volume 2

Read "The State Of The Tenor • Live At The Village Vanguard • Volume 2" reviewed by Greg Simmons

If any jazz performance from the 1980s could be thought of as a landmark statement, Joe Henderson's live State of the Tenor sessions would surely float to the top of the list. Recorded at the Village Vanguard over three nights in November 1985 and originally released on Blue Note Records two years later, State of the Tenor -Live at the Village Vanguard -Volume 2 has now received a high-quality vinyl reissue treatment courtesy of the label's Tone Poet series, curated ...

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Gil Evans: Old Bottle New Wine

Read "Old Bottle New Wine" reviewed by Patrick Burnette

Arranger / pianist Gil Evans did not record extensively as a leader, and he only released a few albums in the “classic" mode established by his collaborations with Miles Davis. New Bottle Old Wine (originally released on Pacific Jazz in 1958) is perhaps the best regarded—due to the vibrant presence of Julian “Cannonball" Adderley as the featured soloist, and the killer line-up of tunes from jazz's past, which Evans transformed into modern, third-stream-leaning music with all the wit of his ...

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Wayne Shorter: Etcetera

Read "Etcetera" reviewed by Patrick Burnette

The mid-sixties was an incredibly busy time for Wayne Shorter, who in 1965 had transitioned out of being Art Blakey's musical director into serving more or less the same roll for Miles Davis. By that point, he already had three Vee-Jay and two Blue Note leader dates under his belt and, in '65, he went on to record three more headliners on Blue Note--The Soothsayer, Etcetera and The All-Seeing Eye. Only the somewhat avant-garde Eye was released at ...

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Wayne Shorter: Emanon

Read "Emanon" reviewed by Mike Jurkovic

With his most trusted cohorts standing shoulder-to-shoulder with him--pianist Danilo Perez, ever-ready bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade--Wayne Shorter knows, beyond instinct, that any music he envisions will come to life. And inspire. And amaze. And so we have Emanon, a three-CD set whose first disc--four sweeping orchestral works recorded with the quartet and the 34-piece, player-conducted, innovative and expansive Orpheus Chamber Quartet--serves, in a rather loose way, as the cinematic soundtrack to the Shorter/Monica Sly-penned, Randy ...

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Wayne Shorter: Emanon

Read "Emanon" reviewed by Mark Sullivan

Saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter is a living jazz legend--his career includes stints with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, with trumpeter Miles Davis (including his last great quintet, as well as foundational fusion albums), and with fusion icon Weather Report--any one of which would be enough to give him a significant place in the history of the music. Throughout his career he has also produced influential work as a leader, going back to hard bop standards for Blue Note Records. So it is ...

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Wayne Shorter: Emanon

Read "Emanon" reviewed by Ian Patterson

Just the fifth release from Wayne Shorter's celebrated acoustic quartet in its near two-decade career, the triple-CD plus graphic novel that is Emanon marks something of a creative high point in its journey. The first CD, a four-part suite for quartet and the thirty-four-piece Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, is Shorter's first studio recording since Alegria (Verve, 2003), while the second and third discs capture the quartet live in London. The accompanying forty-eight page comic-book, co-written by Shorter and Monica Sly, with ...

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José James: Lean On Me

Read "Lean On Me" reviewed by Franz A. Matzner

Already known for his crisp production values, astute musicianship and eclectic presentations, Jose James delivers again with his tribute to Bill Withers, Lean on Me. The album reaffirms James' signature attention to stylistic pastiche while further refining his thematic focus on the subtleties of human relationships. Here James' narcotic blend is simultaneously steeped in tradition and floats at the horizon of modernity. The beats penetrate with unabashed eroticism. James' voice coos with soul and cuts with the dirty ...

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Charles Lloyd &The Marvels + Lucinda Williams: Vanished Gardens

Read "Vanished Gardens" reviewed by Mark Sullivan

At age 80 legendary saxophonist/composer Charles Lloyd shows no signs of slowing down. In addition to his New Quartet--most recently documented on Passin' Thru (Blue Note Records, 2017)--he has collaborated with the Greek singer Maria Farantouri on Athens Concert (ECM, 2011); played duets with Quartet pianist Jason Moran on Hagar's Song (ECM, 2013); and produced a long-form suite commissioned by the Jazztopad Festival in Wroclaw, Poland, documented on Wild Man Dance (Blue Note Records, 2015). Vanished Gardens marks ...


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