Album Reviews

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Rez Abbasi: A Throw Of Dice

Read "A Throw Of Dice" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

Rez Abbasi has written a score for a 1929 movie—not an everyday jazz endeavor, but that is what the guitarist/composer does with his thirteenth recording. This after-the-fact soundtrack composing, though rare, is not unprecedented. In 2015 guitarist Aram Bajakian wrote and self produced a recording--an unofficial soundtrack--to the 1969 Soviet film The Color Of Pomegranates, an exploration of the life of the Armenian poet, Sayat-Nova. Abbasi, for his inspiration, writes a score for the vintage black and white ...

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Enrico Rava - Joe Lovano: Roma

Read "Roma" reviewed by Mike Jurkovic

Pristinely recorded in November 2018, at Rome's Auditorium Parco della Musica, Roma rises from fertile, anticipatory mists like a great host of ECM recordings past, present, and future do and will. Quietly coalescing around the polyphonic, noir-impressionism of master Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava's vaporous “Interiors" are Rava's masterful saxophone counterpart Joe Lovano, accompanied by the avant derring-do of long-time Rava collaborator pianist Giovanni Guidi, double bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Gerald Cleaver. Though it is the first time ...

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Mariangela Cagnetta: e-motion

Read "e-motion" reviewed by Nicholas F. Mondello

A glance at the track listing on this album might prompt the title of another tune--"So What's New?" However, after a thorough listening, a more appropriate musical response could be “I Never Knew." e-motion is an innovative, fascinating and marvelously performed modern perspective on eleven jazz standards delivered by superior musicians. The ensemble is minimal--a vocalist, an electric bassist and a drummer. That's it. The musicians' creative output is anything but. Vocalist Mariangela Cagnetta is an incredibly ...

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Pureum Jin: The Real Blue

Read "The Real Blue" reviewed by Jack Bowers

Although alto saxophonist Pureum Jin would no doubt shrug her shoulders and ask “what's the big deal," the fact remains that she is a South Korean woman playing American jazz and doing so in a way that affirms conclusively that the country's inbred art form is not only universal but gender-neutral. On her debut album, the rather recent graduate of the Manhattan School of Music sounds as assured and comfortable in the idiom as almost any native-born player--male or female—you'd ...

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Dan McCarthy: City Abstract

Read "City Abstract" reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

The concept of homecoming is inextricably linked to the music that Dan McCarthy presents on City Abstract. Recorded in May of 2019, shortly after he had returned to his native Toronto after fifteen years in New York, this date finds the vibraphonist bowing to two of his biggest influences: pianist Carla Bley and vibraphonist Gary Burton. Those lodestars provide solid inspiration and clear direction for McCarthy, who works his way through originals and a few choice covers with a balanced ...

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Hiromi: Spectrum

Read "Spectrum" reviewed by Mike Jurkovic

A beacon for jazz to come, since her adrenaline-pumped debut Another Mind (Telarc, 2003), pianist-composer Hiromi Uehara launches herself into her fourth decade with Spectrum, her second album alone at her Yamaha. The music, she hopes, celebrates the closing of one decade and the opening of the next and, without pause, it does, brimming with all the capricious three-dimensional imagination and invention that indelibly mark many fine recordings--her first solo Place To Be (Telarc, 2010), Voice (Telarc, 2011), ...

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Keith Jarrett: Munich 2016

Read "Munich 2016" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

The second coming of Keith Jarrett—post-Chronic Fatigue Syndrome—was well behind him by the time he performed in Munich, Germany in 2016. The piano prodigy is captured in ECM's home town at a Philharmonic Hall solo concert at the end of his European tour. His improvisational skills in top form, he displays his genius across twelve extemporaneous compositions and three encores, on the two-disc set Munich 2016. For this recording, Jarrett broke with his frequent practice of live improvisations ...

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Per Mathisen: Sounds of 3 Edition 2

Read "Sounds of 3 Edition 2" reviewed by Geno Thackara

The power of three indeed proved to be a magic charm for Per Mathisen on the first Sounds of 3 (Losen, 2016), so it's probably only natural that he'd revisit the format sooner or later. What's more of a surprise, perhaps, is how things change. Where that recording was a loud and brash slice of jazz-rock, its colorful sequel slides more toward the jazzy side of that equation. This recording actually tones down the wattage just a little from the ...

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lisa liu: Introducing...Lisa Liu

Read "Introducing...Lisa Liu" reviewed by Daniel Lehner

Lisa Liu's Introducing...“ is a great example of one of the subtly exciting things about “vintage" styles: that, no matter how observant, studious and sometimes even intentionally conservative the endeavor can be, human nature ends up evolving them anyway. Liu's general genre is called many things--trad jazz, gypsy jazz, et. al.—but the album is not merely a meticulous recreation of a period, but a capably produced amalgam of different pre-bop styles that she handles both dutifully and skillfully.

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Gregg Allman: Laid Back Deluxe Edition

Read "Laid Back Deluxe Edition" reviewed by Doug Collette

Gregg Allman's first solo album, Laid Back (Capricorn, 1973), is the ideal candidate for a Deluxe Edition reissue and remaster. Not only is the record an exquisite, one-of-a-kind piece of work in its original form, but the backstory is eminently worth telling as it sheds light not only on the creation of the album itself, but the fundamental relationship, at the time of the recording, between the Allman Brothers Band and its surviving namesake. Kudos to the curators, ...

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Kit Downes: Dreamlife of Debris

Read "Dreamlife of Debris" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

Kit Downes' ECM debut marked a substantial departure from his earlier recordings with saxophonist Tomas Challenger. Wedding Music (Loop Records, 2013) and Vyamanikal (Slip Imprint, 2016) were rhythmically complex with abstruse melodies that tended toward repetitive patterns and drones. With his ECM title Obsidian (2018), Downes, still on organ, worked in a more solidly constructed environment, imparting Celtic and hymnal qualities. Challenger appeared on only one track of the otherwise solo recording. Downes returns to ECM with Dreamlife of Debris, ...

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Jimmy "Duck" Holmes: Cypress Grove

Read "Cypress Grove" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

Cypress Grove is the tale of two very different artists following well-tested and successful professional trajectories. While none of the Ur-bluesmen (Charlie Patton, Son House, Tommy Johnson, Skip James, Ishmon Bracey) are living, there remain a few musicians who knew them while they were still alive. One such musician is Jimmy Duck Holmes of Bentonia, Mississippi. One listen to the opening “Hard Times" will reveal the Ur-bluesman Holmes knew as one Nehemiah Curtis “Skip" James (1902 -1969). The flavor of ...


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