JAZZ 2K: CD Releases of the Month

June 25th, 2013, 3:00 pm by Greg

Reviews by J Hunter

EDITOR’S NOTE: J Hunter’ Jazz2K columns are leaping off your computer screen and onto the airwaves with his new “Jazz2K” radio show, heard weekly on Skidmore College’s WSPN-FM at 6pm on Tuesdays… including tonight.

Now that you get to hear this stuff as well as read about it, here are five discs that I’ve played before or will be playing soon:

Terence Blanchard: MagneticTERENCE BLANCHARD
(Blue Note)
He’s baaaaaaaaak! Skidmore’s favorite visiting scholar (and all-around monster musician) releases his first disc in four years, and from the sound of it, the trumpeter hasn’t been hanging about. The first notes of the title track bubble and squeak with the dark energy Blanchard’s been pumping out since he made writing soundtracks a secondary occupation. Tenorman Brice Winston makes a triumphant return to Blanchard’s front line, and his work on the bouncing closer “Time to Spare” and the aptly titled “Hallucinations” is like hearing an old friend walk through the door. Winston’s not doing all the saxy work, though, as Blanchard fulfills his wish to play with Ravi Coltrane on “Don’t Run” and Fabian Almazan’s classical gas “Pet Sitter’s Theme Song.” Almazan has not only grown into the piano chair once populated by Aaron Parks, but he may soon be another graduate of the Terence Blanchard School for Genius Musicians, taking his place next to cutting-edge alums like Parks, Lionel Loueke and Eric Harland. (Loueke’s ghostly guitar returns to spice up – and space out – “Pet Sitter” and Kendrick Scott’s drum opus “No Borders, Just Horizons.”) Almazan’s brilliant “Jacob’s Ladder” not only gives Blanchard a platform to shine as in days of old, but it gives guest bassist Ron Carter the best outlet he’s had to get phat in some time. With Blanchard, it’s always the whole and the sum of its parts, and Magnetic is another brilliant calculation that leaps off the blackboard and moves jazz forward once again. NOTE: The Terence Blanchard Group makes a tour stop at Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall in Lenox at 8pm on Friday (June 28), making the concert the perfect warm-up for this weekend’s Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival at SPAC.

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LIVE: Joe Lovano/Dave Douglas Quintet Sound Prints @ Skidmore College’s Zankel Music Center, 7/3/12

July 20th, 2012, 2:00 pm by Greg
Dave Douglas and Joe Lovano

Dave Douglas and Joe Lovano

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

It’s a Marvel Comics kind of question: What if Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas teamed up? I mean, Lovano and Douglas are this jazz era’s equivalent of the Incredible Hulk and Thor, God of Thunder: They can (and will) do whatever the hell they want, and they’ll do it absolutely splendidly – witness the sterling music Lovano’s created with the atypical configuration that is Us Five; or Douglas’ almost-all-horn band Brass Ecstasy, one of the biggest highlights of last year’s rain-soaked Solid Sound Festival. That’s just two examples from a long, long list of choices! Sure, Lovano and Douglas shared space on the SFJAZZ Collective front line a few years ago, but they were working on someone else’s ideas. But what if they came up with their own concept… like a set of original compositions inspired by jazz icon Wayne Shorter, for instance?

Yes, the argument can be made that this is just an outgrowth of SFJAZZ’s mandate, which not only calls for tribute to the music of a new legend every year, but also commissions the Collective’s rolling cast to create new music inspired by that legend. But as much as I am the biggest SFJAZZ fan in Greater Nippertown, I always get the sense that most of each year’s work involves finding something significant for everyone in the band to do. (“Collective,” right?) Contrariwise, the quintet Lovano & Douglas brought out to a packed-tight Zankel Music Center had a very specific hierarchy, with the jovial reed wizard and the intense trumpeter firmly in the lead and their supporting players knowing their occasionally-expansive supporting roles. That consistency wasn’t just traditional; it was also necessary, because the music they were about to pimp-slap us with was intricate enough without the musicians having to ask themselves, “Who am I now? Who am I on the next tune?”

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This Week’s Hit Parade

May 9th, 2011, 3:00 pm by Greg

PICKS OF THE WEEK: Jazz Appreciation Division, Part I

April 30th marked the end of Jazz Appreciation Month, a ten-year-old campaign by the Smithsonian to get more recognition for what the late Dr. Billy Taylor called “America’s classical music.” And that’s all well and good… except where I live, EVERY month is Jazz Appreciation Month, so why wait ‘til next year? With that in mind, here are a few things to look for the next time you think your iPod’s not stuffed enough:

Ryan Cohan: Another LookRYAN COHAN – “Another Look” (Motema, 2011)
This Skidmore Jazz Institute alum’s compositional skills have been well-documented; the title suite of his 2007 disc “One Sky” is a soaring soundtrack for the way life should be. “Another Look” delivers another set of great tunes, but most importantly, Cohan trims back his arrangements and shows the world what anyone familiar with him already knows: He’s also one kickass piano player! The funny-but-serious “Monkin’ Around” is a perfect tone-setter, the deconstruction/Latinization of Ellington’s “Caravan” is suitably epic, and Cohan’s two-part “Song for my Grandfather” is the kind of tribute everyone would want. GO, SKIDMORE!

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DAVE DOUGLAS’ “Spirit Moves”

June 19th, 2009, 1:58 pm by Greg

daveDouglas(Greenleaf, 2009):
Recommended listening.

Dave Douglas is back with yet another new record. After releasing killer albums with his “Keystone” and “Quintet” groups in the past two years, the trumpeter has just released “Spirit Moves” with his five-piece brass ensemble – Brass Ecstasy.

While the material is what one would expect from the prolific composer – eight original compositions plus an eclectic selection of covers including Rufus Wainwright’s “This Love Affair,” Otis Redding and Steve Cropper’s “Mister Pitiful” and Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” – the instrumentation is a departure from his previous ensembles. Douglas’ trumpet is joined by french horn, trombone, tuba and drums, played by Vincent Chancey, Luis Bonilla, Marcus Rojas and Nasheet Waits, respectively.

Check it out!

Spirit Moves

(Review by Brian Patneaude)

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