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Jon Cowherd: Mercy

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It's always difficult for an artist who has become so intimately associated with a group--especially if he or she has been a significant compositional contributor--to build a separate identity outside of that group. It might be one of the reasons that Pat Metheny Group keyboardist Lyle Mays--who not only contributed compositions of his own, but also co-wrote some of the group's most well-known and well-loved material--has released so few recordings under his own name. Pianist/keyboardist Jon Cowherd is nowhere near as joined at the hip to Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band, heard most recently on the characteristically ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Bob Mamet: London House Blues

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Chicago's now defunct London House was one of the great jazz clubs from a bygone era. Stellar talents like pianist Oscar Peterson and vocalist Sarah Vaughan recorded live albums there, and most of jazz's legendary figures, from Dave Brubeck to Bill Evans to Cannonball Adderley, passed through at one time or another. On his first release for the Blujazz imprint, Chicago-based pianist Bob Mamet tips his cap to this venue and the other clubs (i.e. Mr. Kelly's, Rick's Cafe Americain, etc.) that kept Chicago's jazz scene jumping in the mid-to-late(r) twentieth century. London House Blues finds Mamet ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jon Crowley: The Rehumanization EP

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The “EP" tag sitting on the title of trumpeter Jon Crowley's The Rehumanization EP is an obvious abbreviation for “Extended Play." Given an extended listening, it might be more apt to be interpreted as “exceptionally pleasing" or “exceptional performance." Both descriptions precisely fit this, Crowley's third release as leader. And, it is just as terrific as its two predecessors. With The Rehumanization EP Crowley, originally from the fecund musical womb of jny: Philadelphia--and now a Brooklyn resident--continues to offer intriguingly explored tonalities and textures. The four selections on this somewhat shorter in duration recording are all superb ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Marcus Miller and Mustapha Baqbou at Essaouira Festival 2014

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Marcus Miller and Mustapha Baqbou Place Moulay El Hassan Essaouira Festival Essaouira, Morocco June 14, 2014 On Saturday a rebirth was being prepared at Essaouira Festival. The most awaited artist of the festival, bassist/composer Marcus Miller was going to play with accomplished gnaoua vocalist and guembri player, Mustapha Baqbou. At the conference room, and on his birthday, Miller confessed that he felt not the least uncomfortable about this fusion. To this end, he explained that the slap sound that he once thought very peculiar to the bass and his own ingenious style, he actually ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jimmy Cobb: The Original Mob

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As the Smoke Sessions list of titles continues to grow, so too do we get to check out some of the country's greatest drummer. The much in-demand Joe Farnsworth has been featured on the label's releases by Harold Mabern and David Hazeltine. Furthermore, one of the most recent titles is a headlining date for the legendary Louis Hayes. Now, comes along a new set that puts the spotlight on renowned drummer Jimmy Cobb, a gentleman that for most of his career worked almost exclusively as a sideman. However, since the late '90s, Cobb has had more than several occasions to ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 at SFJazz, San Francisco

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Seun Kuti and Egypt 80SFJazz San Francisco, California June 19, 2014 A popular aphorism maintains that “the apple never falls fall from the tree." That certainly holds true for Seun Kuti, the son of the legendary saxophonist, songwriter, social activist and political rebel Fela Kuti. The roots run deep. While apples are not indigenous to Nigeria, neither is the Afro Beat music which Fela Kuti developed and popularized, a legacy which his son continues. It isn't often that one can see a band where the lead singer has been crooning since age eight, but that ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Louis Hayes: Return of the Jazz Communicators

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Much like what has happened with Smalls Records, the cottage industry that Smoke jazz club started when they debuted their own record label last fall has continued to grow into a viable commodity. So too, there is common ground to the look and feel of each release, even as the color scheme and the music itself changes. For the label's 5th full release, they have documented a November 2013 set led by the mighty Detroit drummer Louis Hayes and his quintet. As the story goes, the original Jazz Communicators were formed back in 1967 when Hayes put together ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Bitch 'n' Monk: FulafalonGa

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Bitch 'n' Monk is clearly willing and able to take a few risks. It's a strategy that succeeds: the duo's debut recording and self-described “short album," the beautifully-packaged FulafalonGa, lasts barely 25 minutes but packs more ideas into that brief span than most bands manage in the full 60-minutes plus of a standard CD. What's more, the ideas are exciting, surprising and strange by turns. The titular Bitch and Monk are vocalist/guitarist Heidi Heidelberg and flautist Mauricio Velasierra. The pair also claim joint writing credits, the creative process apparently starting with free improvisations (and a few arguments) which ...

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Sonzeira: Brasil Bam Bam Bam

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While roots linked to a sense of place are important, for music lovers the tunes that we first fell in love with, that formed our early tastes, can be just as potent. The late Laura Nyro called this “primal teenage heartbeat songs" and this superlative collection is Gilles Peterson's way of paying tribute to the Brazilian influence on his lifelong love affair with music. You can join the dots to the young Mr.Peterson, immersed in the music of say Donald Duke or DJs like Robbie Vincent, in the light bossa nova take on Freeez's 1981 Brit funk classic ...

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Max Johnson: Big Eyed Rabbit

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Bassist Max Johnson is one of the most prolific and versatile musician/composers in music today and likely on the verge of a major breakthrough. Barely past the year's mid-point Johnson has offered three fine releases with different groups and distinctly different styles. Recording with Kirk Knuffke on cornet on Johnson's namesake trio release The Invisible Trio (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2014) the approach was a broad mix of multi-layered structure and unfettered originality. Shortly afterward, Johnson released The Prisoner (NoBusiness Records, 2014) with a quartet that included saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and violist Mat Maneri. Here the avant-garde music was inspired ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Dave Kain: Raising Kain

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Raising Kain is a first for guitarist Dave Kain in two ways: it's the first trio record in his discography and it marks the first time he's worked with a producer instead of going it alone. After releasing a few albums with different incarnations of the Dave Kain Group, he decided to trim things down. Kain started writing specifically for trio, focusing in on this format as the gigging commenced. Once he felt like all the pieces fell into place, Kain took to the studio and, with some help from long time bandstand pal-cum-producer Matt Garrison and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Rodrigo Amado: Wire Quartet

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The debut album of Portuguese saxophonist Rodrigo Amado's Wire Quartet--featuring the rhythm section of the acclaimed RED Trio, double bassist Hernâni Faustino and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini (who also plays in Amado's long-standing working Motion Trio) and experimental guitarist Manuel Mota--demonstrate Amado strongest and most intense performances to date, defying any attempt to associate it with post-bop or free jazz. This powerful quartet also establishes Amado's wise choice when it comes to radical and original sounding guitarists, after collaborating with Luis Lopez in the Portuguese-American Humanization Quartet. The titles of the three extended pieces frame the spirit ...

LIVE REVIEWS

35th Annual Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland

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Playhouse Square Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland Cleveland, Ohio June 26-28, 2014 For the first time in 35 years, Cuyahoga Community College's annual jazz festival received a major makeover via the shift from a two week event in April to a three day happening in June. Also key to this paradigm shift was a move of all concerts downtown to the newly rededicated Playhouse Square. With the second most significant theater district in the country next to New York City, Cleveland boasts four beautifully appointed theaters right in the heart of downtown and the twelve ticketed ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Hendrik Meurkens/Misha Tsiganov: Junity

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Junity? No, that's not a misprint. Take “junto," the Brazilian word for together, and marry it with “unity"; that's how you get “junity," a hybridized term that accurately describes the relationship between harmonica master Hendrik Meurkens and pianist Misha Tsiganov. These two men have been playing together for nearly a decade, appearing together on stages across the world and pleasing Meurkens albums like Samba To Go! (Zoho Music, 2009) and Celebrando (Zoho Music, 2012). Junity, a program containing seven harmonica-piano duo tracks and six quartet performances, highlights their simpatico relationship. This record is the first to focus ...



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