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Bob Lark-Phil Woods Quintet: Thick As Thieves

Read "Thick As Thieves" reviewed by Jack Bowers

Remember the good old days when jazz groups came out swinging and took no prisoners until the battle had been won? Well, why settle for memories when you can lay your cares aside for an hour or so and groove to Thick as Thieves, the third and last album by the unrivaled and always-aggressive Bob Lark / Phil Woods Quintet, recorded, as were the first two, in concert at Joe Segal's venerable Jazz Showcase in Chicago. This is as close ...

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Steve Heckman: Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute

Read "Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

Saxophonist Steve Heckman has spent a good deal of his career walking in the footsteps of saxophone giant John Coltrane, on CD offerings such as Search For Peace (Jazzed Media, 2014) and With John In Mind (World City Music, 2003). With that in mind, nobody has ever--and almost certainly never will--match 'Trane in his ability to infuse his spiritual side into his music; or to play with half the Coltrane-ian freedom or fervor. To his credit, Heckman doesn't try. He, ...

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Steve Heckman: Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute

Read "Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute" reviewed by Jack Bowers

Whenever words such as A Coltrane Tribute adorn the front cover of an album, one question that inevitably springs to mind is, which John Coltrane? Trane, after all, was never one to stand still, or, as the saying goes, to rest on his laurels (truth be told, he hardly ever rested at all, choosing instead to use almost every waking hour to pursue his spiritual muse). Saxophonist Steve Heckman, a long-time admirer of Coltrane, makes no apologies for loving “his ...

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The Great American Music Ensemble: It's All in the Game

Read "It's All in the Game" reviewed by Jack Bowers

While those of a certain age may reasonably presume that It's All in the Game refers to a hit song from 1958 by Tommy Edwards ("Many a tear has to fall, but it's all in the game . . ."), the “game" in this case is actually an acronym for conductor / arranger Doug Richards' Great American Music Ensemble, or GAME, formed in the mid-80s when Richards was director of Jazz Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. All in ...

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Lorraine Feather: Flirting with Disaster

Read "Flirting with Disaster" reviewed by Nicholas F. Mondello

The release of a new Lorraine Feather recording consistently brings a sense of excitement and delicious anticipation. What does this gifted singer-lyricist who, like a figure-ground illustration simultaneously brilliant at both, have in store for us? More than likely, if she's true to her own Muse, I'd suppose it's going to be a sublime rendering of relationship-themed, thoughtfully poetic, yet sparkling verbiage that's delivered paired with highly stylized and impeccably-performed music. In the case of Flirting with Disaster the supposition ...

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Michael Dees: The Dream I Dreamed

Read "The Dream I Dreamed" reviewed by Nicholas F. Mondello

In describing his perspective of the state of certain vocal efforts existing today, a wag, respected for his pungent commentary, once said: “There's no substitute for crass." Yet, there are singers who dwell in more refined melodic places--environs of elegance and refinement--"musical champagne," if you will, who preach using melody, lyric and rhythmic subtleties. They are called “artists" and Michael Dees is one of them. A very fine one. I Dreamed a Dream sends up 14 Dees ...

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Randy Brecker with the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble: Dearborn Station

Read "Dearborn Station" reviewed by Edward Blanco

The renowned DePaul University Jazz Ensemble continues a tradition begun more than twenty years ago by performing and recording at the oldest historic jazz club in Chicago, the Jazz Showcase located in the historic 'Printer's Row' district of the Dearborn Station area. The Dearborn Station live recording also maintains another on-going tradition and that is documenting sensational sessions of big band music with an icon of jazz this time, with the phenomenal trumpeter Randy Brecker. Musical Director and renowned trumpeter ...

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Randy Brecker with the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble: Dearborn Station

Read "Dearborn Station" reviewed by Jack Bowers

Dearborn Station, the tenth album recorded by the superb DePaul University Jazz Ensemble at Joe Segal's legendary Jazz Showcase (in Chicago's historic Dearborn Station, hence the title), is another bright and rhythmic tour de force for director / trumpeter Bob Lark's intrepid undergrads and their special guest, trumpeter Randy Brecker, whose perceptive solos enhance the first half-dozen of the album's nine tracks. On the last of the six, Lark and Brecker join forces to fan the flames on Tom Matta's ...

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Steve Heckman Quintet: Search for Peace

Read "Search for Peace" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

Saxophonist Steve Heckman's Search For Peace serves as something of a companion piece to his previous album--Born To Be Blue (Jazzed Media, 2013). Both albums feature the same band, present (mostly) familiar material, and walk pleasingly straightforward paths. So what's different? Well, for starters, Matt Clark played piano on Heckman's last date, but he's taken to the Hammond B-3 here. Then there's Heckman's choice of horns. The man-in-charge played clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone and tenor saxophone on Born To ...

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Steve Heckman Quintet: Search for Peace

Read "Search for Peace" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

Steve Heckman is a meat 'n potatoes saxophonist whose previous recording, Born to be Blue (Jazzed Media, 2013) was a trip through the heart of the jazz mainstream, circa 1960 (with better sonics). Heckman follows Born to be Blue with a right turn into hard bop atop of an organ-guitar quartet. For the present recording, Heckman employs his same band as Born to be Blue with Matt Clark switching to the Hammond B-3. The result is a ...

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Bob Lark and His Alumni Big Band: Sweet Return

Read "Sweet Return" reviewed by Jack Bowers

As was the case two years ago (2012) with its first album, Reunion, trumpeter Bob Lark's Alumni Big Band on Sweet Return is comprised of musicians he has supervised in various groups during a long and eminent career that embodies more than twenty years as director of Jazz Studies at DePaul University in Chicago. Even so, this isn't quite the same band as before; while more than a dozen sidemen from Reunion have returned to lend a hand, there's a ...

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Bob Lark and his Alumni Big Band: Sweet Return

Read "Sweet Return" reviewed by Edward Blanco

Trumpeter/educator and big band leader Bob Lark, reunites his Alumni Big Band after their critically acclaimed debut Reunion (Jazzed Media 2012), produced some of the best Jazz orchestrations in the business. Sweet Return is the group's encore performance, their return engagement, their audacious follow up and another masterful stroke by leader Lark. This Alumni band is comprised of eighteen players that the trumpeter has directed throughout his nearly thirty years as a band leader and draws on their talents for ...


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