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Dave Wayne

Dave Wayne

Musical iconoclasts Wadada Leo Smith and Henry Kaiser were way ahead of the popular consciousness when it came to paying tribute to Miles Davis' pioneering electric bands of the early-to-mid 1970s. Kaiser's involvement in this project is no surprise. He's an avowed long-term fan of Davis' mid-1970s recordings and cites Pete Cosey's work on these recordings as a seminal influence on his own playing. At first, I found Wadada Leo Smith's involvement a complete surprise, if not a little perplexing. Affiliated with the AACM since the early 70s, Smith has worked extensively with avant-garde musicians such as Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams and Anthony Davis to name just a few. His work as a leader, while incredibly diverse, showed few, if any, tendencies towards electric jazz-rock fusion. Yet, from the first note he plays, Wadada's profound understanding of Davis' groundbreaking 70s oeuvre is palpable. As a trumpeter, he is able to evoke the spirit of Miles without ever imitating him. As a composer, he has the artistic integrity and musical guts to honor the past while extending some of Miles' most important concepts into a 21st Century musical setting.

In the music press, much (perhaps too much) has been made of the need for American jazz musicians to preserve traditional jazz sounds. Never mind that the truest tradition of jazz is one of constant change and rebirth, many use this historical preservation imperative as an excuse to simply regurgitate the past over and over until the listening public is inundated with CDs titled 'So-And-So Plays The Standards.' In fact, what jazz really needs to remain relevant in the 21st Century is original compositions, and a deeper, cross-cutting understanding of the myriad ways that contemporary musical styles relate to jazz and blues. Bay-Area saxophonist and composer Howard Wiley accomplishes this and then some on "12 Gates To The City," where he explores musical traditions – both past and present - with a suite of extended, poly-stylistic compositions that draw inspiration from myriad facets of the vast African American artistic legacy.

Frank Carlberg's "Tivoli Trio" is one of those rare piano trio beasts that makes an immediate impression. It helps that Carlberg himself is a fascinating composer who has an immediately recognizable touch on the keys. He's also one of those players who's impossible to pigeonhole. His precise, lively piano playing seems informed by classical music, but he's a jazz dude through and through. There's no gimmick here – no pop covers and no bad boy posturing. Even within the jazz realm, Carlberg's style is idiosyncratic – he's clearly not a Chick / Herbie / McCoy / Bill Evans acolyte. Nor is he a Cecil Taylor-esque freebird. Rather, Carlberg seems to come out of a quirky modern jazz / proto-free jazz lineage that would include players such as Richie Beirach, Ran Blake, Steve Kuhn, and Paul Bley.
"Sketches" is Azerbaijan-born pianist Amina Figarova 11th recording as a leader: she's been creating high-quality modern mainstream jazz since the mid-1990s.

Agogic is, in some ways, a musical homecoming celebration for Seattle natives Vu and D'Angelo (whose work with Matt Wilson, Human Feel and Kurt Rosenwinkel is nothing short of remarkable) following extended stays in Boston and New York City. Agogic's other two members – bassist Luke Bergman and drummer Evan Woodle – are products of Seattle's very fertile jazz and experimental music scene. With this young and extremely capable rhythm section in tow, Vu and D'Angelo are free to explore all sorts of stylistic variations and intersections, unfettered by big city music politics and the ensuing creative burnout.

Though the Danish multi-instrumentalist Robin Taylor has made a name for himself as a prolific and innovative composer in the progressive rock and jazz-rock fusion realms, many may not be aware of his considerable abilities as a free improvising musician. His free-jazz alter-ego manifests itself most frequently in a musical aggregation he’s called Taylor’s Free Universe, a band comprised of musicians who tend also to be involved in his various prog and fusion efforts.As one might expect, Taylor’
Prior to the 21st Century, Merle Haggard's name did not come up all too often when discussing modern jazz - or jazz of any kind, for that matter. Along with everything else, this seems to have changed. Pretend It's The End Of The World is the product of saxophonist Bryan Murray's quest to bring the name 'Merle Haggard' to the lips of Brooks-Brothers-wearing be-boppers, finger-snapping hipsters, and poetry-reciting beatniks the world over. The tongue-in-cheekiness of the whole concept is fleshed
The word 'fusion' is a pretty good descriptor of a style of music only when you know what sorts of music are being fused. I suppose that one could describe Mercury Falls' impressive debut CD, Quadrangle, as 'fusion' – but that would only be 1/10th of the story (if that!). In today's increasingly chopped-up and micro-pigeonholed landscape of music sub-sub-sub genres, it is well-nigh impossible to describe the Bay Area-based quartet's music without resorting to terms that most jazz fans will not k
Faced with the prospect of listening to an entire CD of improvised voice-and-percussion duos, I was initially a bit put-off and placed Scarnoduo into the 'back-burner' stack. But the CD's lovely packaging, of all things, made me curious. Once I got it into my CD player, the sheer inventiveness, broad humor, and technical excellence of Blastula quickly won me over. Scarnoduo is certainly one of the year’s very best avant-garde releases, and another feather in the cap for the consistently great Am
ElectroAcoustic Silence, also known as EASilence, is a collaborative effort involving an Italian jazz quartet and Japanese electronic musician Taketo Gohara. Though Gohara is credited with ‘sound design’ on the CD’s packaging, his contributions to Flatime hearken back to the synthesized swoops, sweeps, boops, and beeps I first heard from artists such as Pat Gleeson on Herbie Hancock’s early 70s LPs, or perhaps to the electronic palette of musique concrete as formulated by Pierre Schaffer and Pie