Hot New Albums in Jazz

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					Hot New Albums in Jazz Cutting Edge Reviews Research taken from, the itunes Music Store, and Vocal Jazz
Sophie Milman Sophie Milman (March 21, 2006) Sophie Milman is a 21 year old soon to be Diva extraordinaire of the Jazz world. Raised in Russia and immigrating to Canada three years ago, Sophie has awoken the world of Jazz with her sultry, soulful voice. She is a tiny creature on stage who suddenly becomes the focus of the room with her musical and visual presence. ( Editorial Review)

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Kim Nalley She Put a Spell on Me (April 18, 2006)
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A Tuesday night on Columbus Avenue, and a man in a western suit swings a woman half his age, with a nice slink to her dress, around a tiny dance floor. Some funky piano, the punctuating blasts of a trumpet, the steady rolls of an upright bass, and the sultry voice of Kim Nalley fill the club. Even on a cold weeknight, Jazz at Pearl's is packed, a mix of shaved heads and graying longhairs, poker-faced aficionados studying the musicians' moves, couples at the red banquettes edging the dance floor tapping their fingers on the tabletops. The dancers, the jazz buffs, the couples, the single guys nursing a drink at the bar—everyone is rapt, listening to the beats of 1952 in a club whose interior conjures 1935 and has been one of the nation's hottest jazz locales since 2003. Nalley nods to the players, then she steps from the foot-high stage onto the floor and heads straight into "Stormy Weather" without a microphone for the last number of the set. With her smooth skin and gleaming black bob, in her tight, full-length black evening dress and string of plump pearls, Nalley is dazzling. You could hear an olive drop into a martini. No one except Nalley is moving as she glides across the floor, giving a friendly glance to one regular, a nod of the head to someone else. Part songstress, part hostess, the thirtysomething Nalley, with her stylish, brassy elegance, owns this crowd. "Can't go on / Everything I had is gone / Stormy weather / Since my man and I ain't together / Keeps rainin' all the time." Her voice is sinewy, deep, a touch guttural as she wraps it up, and then the whole place springs back into action, applauding loudly, nodding, smiling. Nalley makes her way through the club's little shaded-lamp-lit tables and up a few steps to the bar, where a glass of cognac awaits her. The bartender knows her drink. It's on the house—it's her house. Nalley and her husband, Steve Sheraton, have been running Jazz at Pearl's for almost two years now, and in the process they've rejuvenated the San Francisco jazz scene.

They seem like figures from another age: Nalley, glamorous, garrulous, dramatic, like a diva of the 1950s; Sheraton, a professional magician and former one-man vaudeville act, who with his slightly oversized suits, his wry humor and dry, crackling voice, emanates showbiz of an even earlier era. Both have a thing for a by gone time when swing came easier, the light seemed softer, the men were as cool as Sinatra, the women as classy and brash as Lena Horne. "And everyone," says Sher a ton, "was dying to have a good time." Sheraton, a Swiss national, is the im presario; Nalley, a fixture in the Bay Area jazz scene, knows the talent and the clubs from the inside because she's played in dozens of them, including the original Pearl's, where she was a regular before the couple took it over. "Kim understands musicians because she is one," says pianist Dave Mathews, not the rocker Matthews but a regular Pearl's backup man, a pianist with a trademark blend of honky-tonk and jazz honed over 20 years on the road with Etta James. "She gives you a drink, trusts what you play, makes you feel at home." "Musicians are the front line," Nalley explains. "You have to treat musicians like gold. If they're having a good time, they'll make sure everyone is having a good time." Music, like magic, takes you places you don't expect. Six nights a week, Jazz at Pearl's features top musicians drawn from the deep pool of jazz talent in the Bay Area and well beyond. An average Tuesday night with Nalley onstage might feature Mathews along with veteran trumpeter Allen Smith, who's played with everyone from Benny Goodman to the Jackson Five, and world-renowned drummer Akira Tana. On other nights, you could happen onto Roy Obiedo's steaming Latin jazz, Huston Person's vintage sounds, or passing-through national acts like pianist Rachel Z, on a break from touring with Peter Gabriel. With such a diverse mix of performers, Jazz at Pearl's draws a broad clientele, from longtime hipsters to a younger crowd with a taste for funk or sophisticated rock, who can hear their favored sounds in the free-range riffs of many of the regular musicians. The low cover charge makes the club a good place to take a chance on something new. You can have a good meal before or after the show, too. Condé Nast Traveler noticed Jazz at Pearl's before its first anniversary, dubbing it one of the world's top 30 new bars. After 15 years of playing other people's clubs, Nalley knows how to create a vibe for both musicians and music lovers. Treat the musicians well—pay them on time, serve them good food and drink, offer an opportunity for other musicians to drop in and jam—and the best will come. Bring the best, and the audiences will follow.

The Bay Area boasts the second-highest rate of jazz CD sales in the country. It's also host to no fewer than five traditional jazz societies, some clubs, and several jazz festivals. But the San Francisco heyday that Jazz at Pearl's evokes is long gone. In the forties and fifties, the Fillmore district was filled with dozens of clubs featuring legendary, mostly African American performers, from Duke Ellington to Dexter Gordon. In the fifties, North Beach began filling with jazz clubs like the Cellar, the Jazz Workshop, and Keystone Korner. But the redevelopment wrecking ball destroyed the Fillmore scene (though it's slowly on the rebound), and striptease clubs, not to mention changing times and tastes, bumped jazz out of North Beach. Since then, San Francisco has been less generous with jazz venues. Disappointment has followed every resurgence, with a host of clubs closing down in the midnineties. The cognoscenti nail Jazz at Pearl's as the place that's reclaiming the mantle. From the thousands of hours she's spent listening to and learning from the best, Nalley has great reverence for her predecessors in jazz. In her singing, she's worked to celebrate and expand upon what they laid down. (On one recent Saturday night, the lines wound up Columbus and down Broadway for Nalley's soldout tribute to Nina Simone.) As the club's mistress, she's intent on opening a space for other musicians, the only surefire way, she feels, to nurture talent into genius. "Think about the days of Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday," she says. "They were not big stars in their time, not Britney Spears or Madonna. But they were famous in the underground; everyone inside the know knew. Nowadays people could have Billie Holiday right in front of them, and they wouldn't know. We're here to give those musicians a place to play."

It almost didn't happen. On April 21, 2003, a raucous wake marked the closing of the venerable but not particularly popular club, whose septuagenarian owner, Pearl Wong, and booker, Sonny Buxton, after 14 years of running the place, were ready to pack it in. Victims of a rent hike, they were tired of struggling to walk the line between art and commerce. Throughout the night, the place blew open as San Francisco's finest jazz musicians dropped in to say good-bye. "Jazz is dead," denizens groused (not for the first time) as they grabbed a smoke and some air outside the packed club, just below Broadway across from City Lights and Vesuvio. Unknown to almost everyone inside the club was that Sheraton and Nalley were negotiating to take over the lease. In the nineties—not long after she hit the Bay Area following the Grateful Dead—Nalley had not only sung at Pearl's but hung out there after the shows she did somewhere else. "I'd come by, grab a drink, talk to Sonny and Pearl," she says. "They were my home away from home." As the revelers were paying their respects, Nalley and Sheraton were clinching the deal. By September, a kind of reverse wake marked the occasion as dozens of pals dropped in to play and to celebrate. The newly rehabbed club, the name embellished into the full-blown Jazz at Pearl's, was back in business.

We're sitting outside Café Claude, one of Nalley's favorite hangouts. In two hours she's going to be onstage. On Monday nights, she frequently sings with the outstanding 17-piece Contemporary Jazz Orchestra; Tuesday nights, she performs with one small local combo or another. Right now she's defying a drizzle in favor of a smoke, a plate of escargots, a champagne cocktail. "When people say, ‗Jazz is dead, and this is a revival of jazz,' I always say, ‗Hey, these musicians didn't go anywhere; they've been in San Francisco.' It's not like I performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on half the bass players," she says with a mischievous laugh. When she's not onstage, Nalley is down-to-earth, easy to laugh, saucy, savoring a career that was a childhood fantasy. It's certainly a long way from her roots in New Haven, Connecticut, where she grew up in a housing project "on the wrong side of the tracks" and attended Catholic school on a scholarship. "I was a very motivated student," she says. "But they always told me I was not very good at relating to my peer group. Well, my peer group was everybody getting pregnant at 14, getting shot at, syringes and used shells littering the place where we lived." Instead, she watched "a lot of those Ginger Rogers movies" and "dreamed of traveling, performing, drinking champagne, eating escargots." Nalley's father was a part-time Black Panther and wasn't around much. Her mother is part Italian and part Native American, and Nalley has grandparents on both sides who were raised on reservations. "One of my pet peeves is I don't like the term African American. Hey, my family was here when you got off that boat!" she exclaims. "We were very New England; my mother and grandmother were very proper. But I'm not talking WASP New England. Think Lena Horne." Music was definitely in the air. Nalley's great-uncle, Reggie Jackson, who was one of the Tuskegee Airmen, the black pilots who broke through the color line during World War II, later played drums with sax master Dexter Gordon and became a renowned jazz photographer. "There wasn't much money," Nalley recalls. "The only time we'd go out to dinner was to McDonald's. But everybody'd go out on the weekend to music clubs in New Haven. The ladies"—her mother and grandmother—"would get dressed up to go to these divey bars, and I'd sing scat with my grandmother, like this..." She's suddenly riffing bebop. When Nalley talks about music, it's hard to keep her from singing—not that one would want to—phrases from her favorites: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington. Though the family was poor, Nalley studied music as a teenager, immersing herself in classical piano and opera. But after a brief stint at College of Holy Cross in neighboring Massachusetts, she skipped town. "I realized I was going to be into music, and I was spending too much money going to school when I could be learning a lot more on the road, singing, learning my music." That's when her path took an unexpected turn—into the free-for-all improvisations of the Grateful Dead. In the Dead's music, she heard the spirit of complexity and surprise and the appetite for good rollicking

grooves that she'd found lacking in her classical education. For two years she followed the band around the country, one of those "hippie chicks, selling crystals, spirit bags, anything to hold your mojo." It was a fine, dislocated time, being a Deadhead, singing on the side and visiting "every major city in America." In 1990, trailing the Dead's comet, Nalley landed in the Bay Area. Attracted by the beauty, the musical history, and the University of California at Berkeley, she stayed. Even now, having traveled into the higher echelons of jazz, she shows great affection for the band that unwittingly lured her west. "You listen to the Dead, those long solos, improvisations. Their music is never the same. That's jazz!" Nalley enrolled at UC Berkeley to study history and contemplate a career in law, but many of the classes she ended up attending were not on campus. In 1990, Nalley met the man she credits with giving her a true musical education: B.J. Papa, a seasoned sax and piano player at the center of the North Beach jazz scene. He invited her into the jam sessions that often unfolded into the predawn hours. "B.J. basically schooled me for free. I'm jam-school educated. B.J. taught me all the important things in life." As she describes some basic lessons from his singers' survival school, she shifts into the man's gruff music veteran's growl: "  ‗If you're good, you get two turns at the mic. You do some scattin', and the second tune you're gonna do a ballad. You're gonna do "My Funny Valentine." I don't care if you don't like "My Funny Valentine"; the people, they like "My Funny Valentine," and the band, they know "My Funny Valentine," and you're gonna play it.' "B.J. set me on the true jazz path," she continues. "Like before, you're doing a couple of Sade tunes and you're thinking that's jazz. Then you learn other tunes. B.J. remembered when the standards first came out. He taught me what a jazz singer is and her function inside the band. The voice is the first instrument. And the jazz singer is the conduit between the audience and the musicians." Performing at clubs to help put herself through school, Nalley began singing jazz with a trio on Tuesday nights at the old Alta Plaza club in the Fillmore. It was a mildly illicit operation: the club didn't have a cabaret license, so none of the performers could use microphones. Nalley just belted it out, and her riveting voice and captivating stage presence rapidly developed a following. Even when she's singing the classiest jazz standards, you can still hear the rough blues in her voice. Eventually, Randall Kline, founder and director of the San Francisco Jazz Festival, was paying attention. "Jazz singers," notes Kline, "are often considered second-class citizens by musicians. They can be tough on singers; there's the sense they haven't worked as hard to get their chops. But over time, Kim started getting their respect." Nalley started reaching a wider audience in the late nineties when she began singing with the local Johnny Nocturne Band, whose nine members play a mix of jazz and blues. Says sax player John Firmin, aka Johnny Nocturne, "She's kind of old school, stylistically, like Helen Humes or Ivy Anderson. She's Harlem in the 1930s, Cotton Club kind of stuff, early Dinah Washington." Jazz critic Phil Elwood caught Nalley performing with the band and is widely credited with giving her the coverage (in the then San Francisco Examiner) that propelled her career. "Kim bounced off every form of jazz and blues and pop singing, and she has the voice to do it," says Elwood. "She really won me over." Later, when Seattle's Teatro Zin Zanni set up its antique wooden, mirror-lined tent on the Embarcadero, Nalley was its first chanteuse, the singer who opens the show. For several weeks last winter, just for fun, she became Madame ZinZanni, the presiding diva of this dinner-and-circus spectacular. "To play that role, you have to be the alpha woman," says artistic director Norman Langill. "You've got to own that tent. Kim Nalley knows how to sell a song big; she can really belt it out. We want Madame Z to have that feeling: ‗Come on in and leave your troubles behind.' In real life, Kim has that feeling."

The Grateful Dead's comet may lead to San Francisco, but the lengthy contrails of American jazz lead inevitably to Europe. The list of American musicians who polished their chops and made their mark across the Atlantic is long and distinguished, from Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday to Dexter Gordon to Miles Davis. In 2001, soon after the release of Nalley's CD with the Johnny Nocturne Band, Million Dollar Secret, she hit the road, playing clubs and festivals in Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, and elsewhere, on the trail, she says, "of all those great disaffiliated black jazz musicians." It was while touring that Nalley met Sheraton, who had caught one of her gigs in his hometown of Basel, Switzerland, where he was running an art house cinema and bar, the Lumière Noire. Sheraton, then in his early thirties, had worked as a magician for more than a decade on the international circuit, including several monthlong stints in Las Vegas. In the rarefied world of magicians, his tricks have a certain renown. As it happened, a magician who was opening for Nalley at the time was using one of Sheraton's tricks (he'd bought it on When the magician and the singer landed in Basel, the magician wanted to meet Sheraton, and Sheraton wanted to meet Nalley. After the show, "there were some very long hours of espresso and grappa," remembers Nalley. "Right there, it was a marriage of minds and creativity. Not only a physical thing, though that helped." Sheraton has a similarly fond recollection, somewhat different in the details. "I saw this incredible woman, this great singer, in a skirt and open-toed heels, no tights, the full California thing, in the height of winter— there was snow on the ground! And I thought, ‗Wow, this chick is cool. I want to marry that woman.'  " Nalley moved to Switzerland and Sheraton added a small jazz club to the Lumière Noire. Sheraton ran the club; Nalley was mostly on the road, singing and recruiting talent. While she was in Vienna for a gig in early 2003, the phone call came from Pearl Wong, who was giving up Pearl's. Did Nalley want it? "I called Steve in Basel," Nalley says. "He jumped on the next plane, and we both came out here and tried to figure it out." Now, in her own club, Nalley does everything from the legal paperwork to dealing with health inspectors to finding and paying the musicians. Sheraton oversees the day-to-day operations, from the lights to the sound to the menus featuring dishes such as paella and a superb chicken with peppers and chorizo, along with some of the tastiest tapas in the city. He designed the interior to conjure his favorite habitat, a smoky nightclub, going so far as angling the lights to play off the tobacco smoke he imagined swirling through the room, just like in Europe. Alas, the cigarette smoke was forced onto the sidewalk, and Sheraton had to make some last-minute adjustments to San Francisco's nicotine-free club scene. You'll usually find him leaning on the bar in a fine '40s zoot suit, sipping a scotch, soaking up the music with a big grin on his face, or checking his BlackBerry, which gives him a pint-sized picture of the club's seating chart as patrons come and go. And he likes to spend time in the basement, below the stage. This also happens to be the kitchen, just now filled with the fine aromas of the food to be delivered to the houseful of patrons upstairs. His favorite spot is just off a dark little hallway that, according to local legend, used to be "a secret cache for booze during Prohibition," he notes gleefully. He still has a bit of the carny in him. He's still got that magician's bug, too, seated at a small table covered with a red velvet cloth that you can imagine once covered an egg or displayed one of his card tricks. Tonight, though, on display are a clutch of receipts, a cup of black coffee, a half-full bottle of grappa. The music of the Contemporary Jazz Orchestra blasts through from upstairs. Sheraton smiles a loopy grin, tilts his head up, and tugs that little red cloth as if it's instrumental in delivering the sound streaming down through the ceiling. "That's jazz up there," he says happily. "It's chaos, but controlled. Magic is the same. But magic hits you here." Sheraton points to his head. "And music hits you here." He points to his gut. "Jazz," wrote New Yorker music critic Whitney Balliett, "is the sound of surprise." And like the music itself, Nalley and Sheraton's trajectory to Jazz at Pearl's has been full of unexpected digressions and improvisations.

Upstairs, seated in the prime corner table at her club, Nalley greets well-wishers stopping by to say hello: a critic from the Chronicle, a couple of English tourists who heard about the place back home, an NPR producer who's already recorded some live sessions at the club. So much has happened since that phone call from Pearl Wong. Besides Live at Jazz at Pearl's, the new CD due out in September, what's next for Kim Nalley? Any more worlds to conquer? Nalley pauses before answering, reflective. "To me, I am already a success. I got out of a situation where everybody was getting pregnant at 14 or someone's getting beat up to where I am now. I do what I love; I enjoy a wonderful singing career. Having a jazz club and a great marriage is just icing on the cake. If I did nothing more with my life, I would feel very, very successful."  Mark Schapiro is editorial director of the San Francisco-based Center for Investigative Reporting and, needless to say, a major jazz fan. (

Piano Trio
Hiromi Spiral (January 17, 2006) With the release of Spiral, the award-winning pianist/composer Hiromi Uehara stands at the threshold of limitless possibility. Her QuickTime™ and a third trio recording in as many years finds her in the familiar TIFF (Uncompressed) decompressor company of drummer Martin Valihora and bass player Tony Grey, are needed to see this picture. but the CD itself goes beyond expectations. It features all original compositions, including the 28-minute"Music for a Three-Piece Orchestra," a suite of four tracks -- "Open Door/Tuning/Prologue," "Déjà Vu," "Reverse," and "Edge" -- that spotlight Hiromi's formidable technique and impressive compositional skills. The suite was inspired by Hiromi's desire to expand the sound of her trio into orchestral spaces and to give her listeners an intense listening experience. By contrast, the highly energetic "Return of Kung-Fu World Champion" captures the essence of the trio in a smaller, jazz-rock fusion format that kicks with the same excitement as a martial arts tournament. The title track "Spiral" alternates between improvisation and carefully crafted jazz elements, while the delicate comping chords heard on "Love and Laughter" are a sure indication of jazz giant Ahmad Jamal's positive influence as a mentor. Both songs beautifully captivate and induce your imagination to spiral toward the trio's interplay, flurry of notes, and aural qualities. Overall, Spiral exceeds the standards set by Hiromi's previous releases, Another Mind and Brain, and should garner her a wider audience. (All Music Guide)

Enrico Pieranunzi Live in Paris (January 10, 2006) By Chris May ( Gorgeously lyrical but unpredictable and open to free jazz, Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi always delights. His recordings, which are now frequent going on prolific, move the scenery around so that he rarely plays in the same context twice running. Highlights from the last year or so have ranged from the spare and spacey explorations of Doorways (with Paul Motian and Chris Potter) through the rhapsodic accessibility of Play Morricone (with Marc Johnson and Joey Baron).

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Live In Paris, a double-CD set recorded at Le Duc Des Lombards club over three nights in October 2001, sits somewhere between those two albums: it's more conventionally melodic than Doorways, but further off-the-book and impressionistic than Play Morricone. The album reunites Pieranunzi with bassist/producer Hein Van De Geyn and drummer Andre Ceccarelli, incisive accompanists and quirkily inventive soloists, with whom he recorded Seaward in 1994. Most of the tunes are standards, but whereas Pieranunzi stayed close to the original scores on Play Morricone, typically embellishing the themes rather than improvising on their changes, here he takes a more elliptical approach, alluding only briefly to the melodies before taking off into the unknown. Coleman Hawkins famously never directly stated the theme on his signature 1939 reading of ―Body And Soul.‖ And Pieranunzi, while he references fragments of the top line (probably less familiar to jazz fans today than it was in Hawkins' time), himself only gives it the briefest of nods. The trio approaches ―Someday My Prince Will Come,‖ ―What Is This Thing Called Love,‖ ―I Fall In Love Too Easily,‖ ―Autumn Leaves‖ and ―But Not For Me‖ from similarly oblique angles: they're flight paths to adventure, rather than gentle cruises around the Great American Songbook. ―But Not For Me‖ in particular is outstanding. The group storm out at a furious pace, and Pieranunzi radically reshapes the theme with dissonant upper keyboard note clusters, which ring out like cracked bells over Ceccarelli's explosive drums. It's exhilarating, and at just over five minutes, a small masterpiece. The most exquisite magic, however, comes on a thirty-minute/three-track sequence towards the end of the second disc, starting with a balletically graceful reinvention of Fats Waller's ‖Jitterbug Waltz,‖ which moves between 3/4 and 4/4, dancing nimbly and prettily en pointe all the time. That's followed by Pieranunzi's Satie-esque ―One Lone Star,‖ all filigreed single-note piano lines suspended over treble-end arco bass and dreamy brushwork, and another fine original, ―Una Piccola Chiave Dorata,‖ slightly more expansive but still essentially miniaturised and intimate. A muscular ―Autumn Leaves‖ closes things out. Lovely, fresh and thoughtful music, occasionally erupting into passionate ferocity, and full of unexpected twists and turns throughout its journey.

Soloist Led Jazz Combo
Paul Motion Band Garden of Eden (January 24, 2006)
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By Troy Collins ( Despite the passage of time, drummer Paul Motian, now 75, continues to develop his singular take on jazz tradition while simultaneously exploring its storied history. Altering his

much-lauded Electric Bebop Band by adding a third guitarist to the mix, Motian makes a break with recent convention. Forsaking another album primarily dependent on rearranged bop standards, Motian presents a program of predominantly original material. Bookended by classic standards, Motian still makes room to pay homage to the masters, but this time the focus is on his own writing. Haunting versions of Charles Mingus' ―Goodbye Pork Pie Hat‖ and ―Pithecanthropus Erectus‖ open the album, while sprightly takes of Thelonious Monk's ―Evidence‖ and Charlie Parker's ―Cheryl‖ close it. In between, the band travels through a hazy, impressionistic landscape. Invoking his classic trio with Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell more than his own Electric Bebop Band, Motian's new group embraces his own rich history to conjure a sound world that's both ethereal and bracing. The shadow of another master also looms large over this set: Ornette Coleman, whose harmolodic concepts are often implied in the idiosyncratic melodies, polyphonic harmonies and loose rhythms. Tenor saxophonists Tony Malaby and Chris Cheek spin languid, interweaving melodies while the trio of guitarists (Jakob Bro, Steve Cardenas and Ben Monder) carefully avoid overstepping each other's bounds with pointillistic accuracy. With so many electric guitars, one would likely expect a muddied, indistinct sound, but ECM's pristine production is beyond reproach. Relying on the kaleidoscopic harmonies of the saxophones and guitars to maintain melodic structure and rhythmic flow, Motian and bassist Jerome Harris are often free to roam unfettered through this nebulous sound world. Motian allows each player room to stretch out and display his prowess both away from and within the collective, but always at the service of the ensemble. Restrained, yet radiating an undercurrent of unsettled energy, the group traffics in mellifluous abstraction tempered by a hint of potential anarchy. This sense of palpable tension enriches the record's gauzy, dream-like veneer by adding subtle layers of tempestuous energy. Despite conceptual ties to the Electric Bebop Band and its oeuvre, Garden of Eden is more than a novel reinterpretation of the past. Motian continues to blaze fresh paths for future generations to explore, setting his own new standard in the process. Futuristically impressionistic, this is music of austere grandeur--timeless, but out of time as well. (

Erik Friedlander Prowl (February 21, 2006) Erik Friedlander is the foremost jazz cellist in the world today, a consummate artist that Billboard Magazine has lauded as "One of today's most ingenious and forwardthinking musical practitioners." Prowl is Friedlander's fourth CD with his group Topaz, which includes saxophonist Andy Laster and the amazing Takeishi brothers on electric bass and percussion. Prowl features eight original compositions based on vibrant African rhythms, and a haunting version of the traditional "A Closer Walk With Thee. (Billboard Magazine)
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Yosvany Terry Cabrera Metamorphosis March 23, 2006 By Nils Jacobson (Courtesy of Intersections between Afro-Cuban music and jazz tend to be characteristically raw and visceral, drum-heavy and tilted toward bodily motion. This particular flavor of Latin jazz very rarely approaches the level of cosmopolitan integration, intellectual consistency and postmodern literacy that marks Metamorphosis. 34 year-old saxophone player Yosvany Terry Cabrera, who grew up in Camaguey, Cuba, wrote seven of the eight pieces on the record, for which he provides helpful background in the extended bilingual liner notes. His compositions effectively mirror his leadership, which consistently aims for a group sound. Inattentive listeners will most likely gloss over the sophistication of Metamorphosis because of the easy, flowing quality of the rhythms and the contemporary-sounding instrumental mix. Nothing on the record is raucous, wild or particularly outspoken. Most pieces, especially the soft, sentimental ―The Crying‖--the only piece not written by the leader--wash ashore in gentle waves, devoid of stormy intensity. But once you pay attention to the subtleties that underpin the material, including the remarkable way Cabrera achieves a seemingly effortless, almost orchestral sound from shifting groups of five to seven musicians, it becomes clear that this is a concept record of supreme confidence, embedded with a potent sense of personal identity. The first and third pieces have the strongest Afro-Cuban flavor: ―Okónkolo Concertante‖ is intensely polyrhythmic in a West African way, but overlaid with frisky funk; ―Journey of Awareness‖ has soft orchestral overtones but digs deep into a Steve Coleman-like groove and triggers a Yoruba prayer to Obatalá by percussionist Pedro Martinez. Other pieces are more sharply ironic or self-consciously lyrical in turn, and ―Subversive‖ serves up a couple of simmering solos. Cabrera has assembled a group of ten versatile, maverick musicians for this recording, including trumpeter Avishai Cohen, whose melodic voice often lies at the center of the material; electric guitarist Mike Moreno, who's more repsonsible for the overall contemporary sound than any other player; and a trio of drummers-Pedro Martinez, Dafnis Prieto, and Jeff ―Tain‖ Watts--who trade off and combine to shape the rhythmic underpinnings. This exceptional, multilayered record manages to be simultaneously accessible and profound, signaling the arrival of a young composer and bandleader with a distinctive personal vision.

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George Kahn Compared To What… November 9, 2004 Pianist George Kahn's enjoyable release alternates between straightahead features for Justo Almario (who is in great form on tenor during "On Green Dolphin Street") and trumpeter John Fumo, Latin romps and showcases for the leader's QuickTime™ and a trio. The changes in TIFF (Uncompressed) decompressor moods and grooves keep the proceedings consistently interesting are needed to see this picture.

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and colorful. Eric Marienthal has two guest appearances, helping out on "Compared to What" (a particularly funky version that features Courtney Lemmon's vocal) and his own "Too Much Sax." Bassist Brian Bromberg has a few very fluent solos along the way, Alejandro "Alex" Acuña's versatility uplifts the material, and Kahn's piano stars on "Alice in Wonderland" and his own "The Hero's Journey." Overall, this is an excellent outing well-worth exploring. (All Music Guide) Andrew Hill Time Lines February 23, 2006 By Jim Santella ( Pianist Andrew Hill gives his audience something different. He‘s not concerned so much with a comfortable rhythmic groove or spot-on ensemble tone quality as he is with the spontaneity and free will of jazz. He and the members of his quintet stretch out for creative soloing and combine cohesively for an interesting affair on Time Lines. But the album‘s rhythms aren‘t meant to mesmerize, the album‘s tonal resonance isn‘t always pure, and the smooth, linear flow of the music isn‘t designed to relax the listener. It‘s an intellectual pursuit. Hill gives his audience a memorable experience that's filled with dissonant and dense harmonies, stuttering rhythmic strides, and indefinite pitches that bend and strain throughout the performance. Hill, who‘s been battling cancer since mid-2004, may feel that he‘s come full circle with Blue Note and his bands. Trumpeter Charles Tolliver, after all, was with him at the beginning. So was Blue Note. Times have changed, and Hill‘s music sounds refreshingly different, but the concept of the album remains true to his original course. The pianist provides a strong undercurrent. His bassist and drummer add textural colors that remain heavy underneath, while both Tolliver and saxophonist Greg Tardy float melodic statements on top. With each of his woodwind instruments, Tardy displays a rich, luscious tone. Tolliver, on the other hand, prefers a rough-cut open horn tone that allows the pitch to stray continuously. His unique persona sets the mood for the album. Yin and yang compete to give the session a powerful presence. Hill surrounds this battle with his musical format and a consistent forward drive. His portrayal of emotional turmoil skyrockets at times, sending up a fiery blaze of smoke and ash. Time Lines stirs the adrenalin with daydreams and nightmares of musical energy. As Hill closes the album with a solo piano interpretation of ―Malachi,‖ you can feel the emotional release that he‘s swept up in this collage of spontaneous ideas. Tim Hagans Animation – Imagination (January 26, 1999)

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In the spirit of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew (and his late work in hip-hop rhythms like Tutu), Tim Hagans created this stew of trumpet lines over a bass and drum backbone. Some listeners may get turned off by Hagans' super-hot blowing, but the album offers some nice grooves. The title track is a flashy fusion trip, and "Love's Lullaby" is a pleasant break from the frenetic pace of the rest of the disc. (All Music Guide)

Mike Allemana Inner Rhythm

Fusion Jazz
Terje Rypdal Vossabrygg February 14, 2006 By John Kelman You don‘t need to know that Vossabyrgg means literally ―Vossa QuickTime™ and a TIFF (Uncompressed) decompressor Brew‖ to recognize this homage to the late trumpeter Miles Davis. are needed to see this picture. From the first notes of ―Ghostdancing‖--which quotes directly from ―Pharoah‘s Dance‖ on Miles‘ 1970 classic, Bitches Brew-it‘s clear that Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal is mining turf similar to early records like What Comes After (ECM, 1974). He even emulates producer Teo Macero‘s editing innovations by returning to the theme two-thirds of the way through the track. Rypdal does it so accurately that it feels like an edit, though this clearly is a live performance, in contrast to Miles‘ pastiche-like approach. Rypdal‘s early albums made clear the significant influence of Miles‘ late-'60s/early-'70s electric work. Still, ensuing years have seen the references obscured by Rypdal‘s classical compositional aspirations and a stronger pop/rock approach that exceeds even Miles‘ desire to work in a more rock-inflected context--two worlds Rypdal amalgamated with great success on If Mountains Could Sing (ECM, 1995). With two keyboardists and two percussionists, the lineup on Vossabrygg even pays tribute to Miles‘ dense ensemble sound. The blend of Stale Storløkken‘s Hammond organ and Bugge Wesseltoft‘s electric piano creates an ethereal texture at times that's similar to Miles‘ equally seminal 1969 recording In a Silent Way. Rypdal‘s John McLaughlin-like fuzz tone on ―Ghostdancing‖ and trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg‘s mute work on the gentle ballad ―Waltz for Broken Hearts/Makes You Wonder‖ create further inference. The clear antecedents of Vossabrygg in the music of Miles don‘t obscure the fact that this is unequivocally a Rypdal record, transcending mere imitation and applying a distinctive filter. The spacious Nordic cool that has defined Rypdal‘s work since the beginning--a strange paradox to his often blistering guitar lines--is also in full view on the groove-based ―You‘re Making It Personal.‖ As is Rypdal‘s more structured compositional approach. ―A Quiet Word‖ may allude to some of Miles‘ atmospheric pieces from the Bitches Brew era, but there‘s a stronger focus right from the start, as opposed to the kind of form created in Miles‘ work during post-production, through Macero‘s creative editing. Nor is Rypdal only looking back. On ―Incognito Traveller‖ Marius Rypdal‘s drum programming, electronic processing and sampling bring things into the 21st Century--perhaps suggesting where Miles might be were he alive today. Equally, the brief electronic territory of ―Key Witness‖ leads into ―That‘s More Like It,‖ where bassist Bjørn Kjellemyr‘s hypnotic repetition anchors Wesseltoft‘s gossamer piano work.

While there are delineated solos throughout Vossabrygg, it‘s more about creating an aural landscape where the various instruments seem to almost randomly come and go. With distinctive players like Rypdal and Mikkelborg--who wrote ―Aura‖ for Miles in 1984--it‘s in some ways surprising that, while their voices are never less than clear, the album is more about atmosphere and less about instrumental prowess. It‘s been too long since Rypdal delivered a real ―group‖ effort, but with Vossabrygg he‘s created some of the finest music of his career. ( Happy Apple, The Peace Between Our Companies Contemporary jazz trio Happy Apple has been called "jazz punk" by a few critics, and while that is a snappy and memorable little label (and occasionally even somewhat accurate), it hardly comes close to capturing the sonic feel of QuickTime™ and a this adventurous Minneapolis combo, who practice a kind of TIFF (Uncompressed) decompressor melodic bop fusion that can turn from ear assault to stunningly are needed to see this picture. beautiful in the wink of an eye. Comprised of sax man Michael Lewis, whose tenor lines show a full appreciation of the instrument's storied lineage, drummer David King, who is as likely to bang on an assortment of found objects as he is to man a trap kit, and electric bassist Erik Fratzke, whose warm, dark tone makes the trio sound at times like King Crimson backing up John Coltrane, Happy Apple attacks everything with a slightly skewed sense of humor and a wonderfully offhand compositional approach that continually delights and surprises, all with an unerring devotion to melody, which means that no matter how far afield they may seem to get, everything is firmly grounded. Peace Between Our Companies is the group's sixth album (the second for France's Universal Music label), and it follows the template of all the others, which is hardly a bad thing, combining high octane jazz romps with intricate micro-journeys that seem to slip between the molecules into another world altogether, all with passages of unstoppable beauty, especially when Lewis takes his tenor into meditative territory like he does on "Let's Not Perfect." The tracks here are impeccably arranged, allowing Happy Apple to turn on a dime, giving everything a little bit of a prog rock feel, complete with hard rock dynamics when King and Fratzke really kick in, but this is first and foremost a jazz ensemble, and even when cuts like the opener, "Starchild Cranium," a thundering slice of funk, seem to propel the trio toward power rock, the composition shifts down into ballad territory in the middle before amping back up to full thunder and ending in giggles and laughter. "Dojo Fantastique" is a delightfully fractured but melodic bebop suite, while the epic "See Sun Spot Run" places the apocalypse front and center (thanks, in part, to Lewis' spooky alto sax -- he plays tenor elsewhere on the album) before easing into a kind of exhausted, redemptive calm. Fiercely independent, fiery, fun, endlessly creative and effortlessly melodic, Happy Apple are the perfect jazz ensemble for the 21st century, keeping one foot pointed forward toward the stars and the other knowingly planted in the rich jazz tradition of improvisation around structure. These guys are the real thing. Long may the Apple roll. (All Music Guide)

Bobby Previte The Coalition of The Willing (May 2006) It is often said that in youth one is more idealistic and liberal, and with age comes pragmatism and social conservatism. Well, someone ought to tell Bobby Previte, because it seems he missed the memo. A downtown scene luminary, composer and percussionist extraordinaire, Previte pushes ever further a field with The Coalition of the Willing. When most musicians his age would consider thinking about recording a standards

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program or a ballad session, Previte, ever the contrarian, does just the opposite. Charting the developmental course of Previte and guitarist Charlie Hunter, his dedicated duo partner since the beginning of the new decade, proves enlightening. In their formative years, both enjoyed the turbulent blues and rock music of their youth before building ―respectable‖ jazz careers. Gradually, each musician began reincorporating those youthful elements into their work, but never as prominently as they have recently. On this album they delve even further into the sounds of their past for inspiration for the future. And the future sounds great. With its focus on soaring, major-key melody tempered by the occasional hint of weary melancholy, Previte's writing is perfectly suited to rousing, revolutionary anthems. He revisits and reinterprets a number of his classic themes here to excellent effect. Adding dense electronic textures and raw improvisation to Previte's driving rhythms, which veer from boisterous, futuristic blues jams and grooving funk vamps to ethereal, dub inspired psychedelic soundscapes, the Coalition roams unfettered. The band is an all-star ensemble, including saxophonist Skerik, Sex Mob trumpeter and arranger Steven Bernstein, bluesy harmonica and slide guitar player Stew Cutler, and occasional drummer Stanton Moore. The core group consists of Previte's two most dedicated collaborators. Charlie Hunter's twangy distorted lead dominates, and producer and vintage keyboardist Jamie Saft smears his signature analog sound all over the record. The basic template derives from the core trio's driving, experimental, roadhouse blues band aesthetic. This new lineup combines classic elements of Previte's previous flagship bands. The electric Empty Suits band debuted a number of the thematic motifs expressed here, and his guitar-heavy, avant-bar band Latin For Travellers also featured Saft and Cutler. The new ensemble shares many similarities with that group, but it rocks harder, harder even than his recent Groundtruther project. Drawing on key elements from George Orwell's 1984 as fodder for song titles and liner notes, Previte insinuates revolutionary politics with this instrumental album. While the success of such endeavors is generally more respected than realized, Previte has succeeded in providing a raucous soundtrack for an unlikely, but much needed revolution.

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