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The release of Genius Loves Company would've been a big deal no matter what. Any new release from Ray Charles--the Genius not only of Soul, but also jazz, rock, country and western, gospel and probably a few other genres that I can't think of right now, a man who touched virtually every style of American music and left his own mark on it--would be noteworthy. That Ray's guests include such music royalty as B.B. King & Sir Elton John, rising stars Norah Jones & Diana Krall and fellow grayb …
29.01.2011

2004 Rundown

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Umphrey’s McGee
Anchor Drops
Umphrey’s McGee

This Chicago area progressive rock unit with the Irish sounding moniker is marked by extremely tight workmanship amid a few lighthearted electro-acoustic numbers. The band even ventures into Country-blues territory when it isn’t exploring complex time signatures and blitzing rock grooves. But what makes this outing work is founded within the artists’ focused line of attack where no two songs sound alike. Yet uncan …

29.01.2011

Basking in Artistic Wonder

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This is the second time I have seen Laurie Anderson perform. But when I see her, I feel as though I have known her for years. The reason is that her performance ethic is rich with the material that the avant-garde has been made of since the late sixties. Her work displays the crux of all that art which was based deeply in conceptualism. How her work developed out of that began in the same manner, which was verbal, refined to as close to the non-object as possible, and concerned with life situati …
Wednesday, June 16th, 2004 - I’m nervously tapping my foot as I tell my boss I need to take the next two days off for personal reasons. I’d already decided to book a room, rent a car and buy a flight to the Twin Cities without any guarantee I’d see Prince. My boss gave the okay (but if he asked ‘where I’m going’ I’d tell him ‘Nowhere!’)

Maybe it was the thrill of the unknown, flying in from DC without a ticket to the aftershow, arriving in a city I’ve never been, or just knowing I’m visiting t …

29.01.2011

2004 Rundown

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Keith Jarrett Gary Peacock Jack DeJohnette The Out-of-Towners
ECM Records

It’s partly about class, élan and supreme technical acumen. Twenty plus years and moving forward, this trio continues to brandish a signature sound, still glittering after all these years.

Pianist Keith Jarrett composed the swinging title track, as the band renders standards with a modern jazz, drenched gait. The pianist’s animated mode of execution is akin to the nuance of a seasoned ja …

29.01.2011

A Good Year for Jazz Guitar

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Ah...late fall, when a music critic's thoughts turn to Best of the Year lists. I think it may be just a little premature to write a top ten article just yet, but what I do intend to discuss here is the bumper crop of fine jazz guitar albums that have crossed my desk in 2004. These include worthy offerings from grizzled veterans and recordings by talented newcomers alike. Where appropriate, links are included to reviews of individual titles and homepages for artists and labels discussed herein.

29.01.2011

2004 Rundown

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Lisa Sokolov - Presence
Rainart Productions

On this release, vocalist/keyboardist Lisa Sokolov and her supporting trio including frequent collaborator, drummer Gerry Hemingway communicate gobs of charisma and artistically powerful musical portraitures. Ms Sokolov’s endearing vocal constructions reside in a peerless class, partly due to her ingenious stylizations of pieces by the likes of Cole Porter, Laura Nyro, and original works. It’s sort of like a near flawl …

If you like jazz and you like to take a cruise, there is nothing better than taking the Jazz Party at Sea on Norwegian Cruise Line. My wife and I agreed, so we signed on the fourth annual party on the Norwegian Sun, which left Miami this October for a week's cruise of the Western Caribbean.

This fall's cruise honored the 100th birthday of tenor sax great Coleman Hawkins with a stellar lineup of saxophonists to pay tribute, including Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Lou Donaldson, David "Fathead …

29.01.2011

Rick Stone

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Rick Stone proves to be one of the most inventive jazz guitarists around. His virtuoso guitar technique has much to offer to the adventurous and serious jazz lover. Stone is a passionate, inspired and dedicated guitarist, leader, arranger, writer and composer. A great team of musicians; pianist Tardo Hammer, bassist Yosuke Inoue and drummer Matt Wilson backs him.

It was during the mid-seventies while attending college in Cleveland, Ohio, that guitarists Rick Stone just happen to attend a liv …

As jazz continued this year to solidify its stature as the proverbial little fish in the big sea of corporate conglomeration, more of the same seemed to be the order of the day. Now it’s possible that the older I get the more jaded I become. Still, of the hundreds of discs that came my way this year, the law of diminishing returns seemed to kick in with a vengeance as it had in 2003 and the number of albums of new music that were truly outstanding could definitely be counted on two hands.

Int …

I’ve been compiling "Best Of" lists for most of the 25-plus years that I’ve writing about jazz and blues. This year’s lists cover the wide spectrum of music that excites my ears, and I hope there is something here that might inspire some added listening for readers. You’ll note that Pyeng Threadgill, the most exciting new artist of the year, is listed in both the jazz and blues categories. The daughter of the great Henry Threadgill recorded a tribute to blues icon Robert Johnson, but really defi …
In no particular bleedin’ order:

1) Claire Ritter, Greener Than Blue (Zoning) Chamber jazz full of gentle warmth and quick wit.

2) Lukas Ligeti, Mystery System (Tzadik) Contemporary notated composition (sometimes referred to as "classical") integrating jazz, Martin Denny exotica, electronic and African music that’s both creative and eminently approachable.

3) Von Freeman, The Great Divide (Premonition) Hearty hard bop with some "out"/avant monkey-wrenches lovingl …

Looking retrospectively at all the CD's that came my way in 2004, a few patterns emerged. Last month I wrote about several notable jazz guitar albums from this year; today, on the eve of 2005, I'm looking at some of the outstanding live releases of the year now ending. 2004 was a great year for live music old and new, with new releases from the likes of Bob Dorough, Calvin Keys & Mike Wofford, among others, as well as some strong reissued dates from legends like Dexter Gordon and a whole host of …
29.01.2011

2004 Rundown

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Mika Pohjola Scandinavian Yuletide Voices
Yuletide Voices

Finnish jazz pianist Mika Pohjola generally abides by a credo of excellence! As this lovely affair has become a pre and post holiday favorite here at the home-front. Backed by a tentet, including male and female vocalists, this inspirational and wondrously recorded album boasts heady arrangements and sparkling contrasts. There are female choral incantations, bittersweet strings and more. In addition, a dist …

29.01.2011

Brewing Content

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In 1964, Susan Sontag wrote an essay that rocked the cultural world. It is called AGAINST INTERPRETATION. It is my opinion that this had more to say directly to the art, music and literary world than did the seemingly more noteworthy, NOTES ON CAMP, of a year earlier.

I am writing about her ‘64 essay because it laid the foundation of fundamentals for the way in which art, music, and literature would be perceived thereafter. And those fundamentals still hold true. They are a set of fundamental …

29.01.2011

2004 Rundown

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Tod Dockstader & David Lee Myers Pond
ReR Megacorp

A cleverly construed, and somewhat distorted electronics based view of nature, by two eminent synthesists. On this outing, the duo purveys abstracts that spark notions of perhaps listening to the sounds of the Amazon jungle at dawn or trickling water that is set upon call and response frameworks. Nonetheless, the artists’ pursue a deterministic state of mind, via these generally quiet but altogether thought-provok …

29.01.2011

Francis Albert Sinatra

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On January 26th, 1943, if you were in close proximity to the Paramount Theatre in New York City, you would have felt a slight tremor, 3.6 on the Richter scale. The tremor led to a cataclysmic eruption--a plethora of bobby-soxers were jumping up and down, screaming and hollering in front of the theatre not knowing their shoelaces were coming untied; it was mass pandemonium. One of the girls was pop singer of today, Eydie Gorme.

Eydie had this to say about the crooner, Frank Sinatra. "I was one …

The story of Porgy and Bess, or rather the story of the telling of the story of Porgy and Bess, is a long and involved tale of continual adaptation. Whether it be Leontyne Price singing the role of Bess at La Scala, Janis Joplin belting out "Summertime" with Big Brother and the Holding Company at the Fillmore, or even the memorable recitation of that tune's lyrics by the cast of Seinfeld Gershwin's dramatic creation, informed by his careful study of jazz and African American spirit …
A wealthy jazz fan and medical newsletter publisher has combined his love of swing with his professional audience of Physicians to form McMahon Jazz Medicine. Ray McMahon began his odyssey by buying a tenor sax, self training books, and every tenor master’s CD that he had heard and enjoyed in the ‘50's, proceeding to learn from Lester Young to Ben Webster to Stan Getz before being captivated by Harry Allen at the Vanguard then Scott Hamilton in Boston. "I wanna sound like Harry Allen - he’s …

It was Monday night, and I was looking foward to the "Jazz Jam" at our local coffee house. I decided to see if any of the guys from my favorite music store, Guitar Haven, felt like having dinner. Co-Owner, Ted Katz, agreed that some ribs at Meg O'Malleys sounded too good to pass up, and off we went.

Our conversation (over an ale) was surprisingly elevated as Larry Coryell came our way. Escorted by singer/songwriter Tracy Piergross and Paul Santa Maria, …