JAZZ 2K: CD Picks of the Week

October 19th, 2012, 12:00 pm by Greg

Reviews by J Hunter

Five amazing discs that made my annual trek up the East Coast even better than it usually is:

Branford Marsalis Quartet: Four MFs Playin’ TunesBRANFORD MARSALIS QUARTET
Four MFs Playin’ Tunes
(Marsalis Music)
“Nothing to see here; everything’s under control.” That’s the underlying message of the title to the first Branford Marsalis Quartet disc without longtime drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts. That’s a big loss to the bottomless musical hive-mind that is the BMQ, but between their rip-snorting Proctors show in February and the cockeyed bop that drives MFs whirling opener “The Mighty Sword,” it sounds like 20-year old wunderkind Jason Faulkner has been assimilated just fine, thank you very much. He bubbles and bashes and bangs, while volcanic pianist Joey Calderazzo shows he’s light-years from the time when he was “that new guy” who replaced the late Kenny Kirkland. Faulkner certainly hasn’t put a hurt on Branford, whose soprano sax is just as achingly beautiful on bassist Eric Revis’ composition “Maestra” as it is on Calderazzo’s “As Summer Into Autumn Slips”; on the right-brain side of the scale, Marsalis’ fulsome tenor sax gives us all a very cool ride on dynamic send-ups of Thelonious Monk’s “Teo” and Chet Baker’s “My Ideal.” It’s ridiculous to compare Faulkner to Watts, anyway, because that’s like comparing Andrew Luck to Peyton Manning. Like Luck, Faulkner’s got a major-league skill-set, as we can see during the opening and close of Branford’s own muscular tune “Whiplash.” As with Luck, the proof will be in what lessons Faulkner learns in these next few years, and how he applies them to whatever Marsalis throws at him. Until then, everything’s definitely under control, and sounds pretty freaking awesome, to boot!

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Jazz-2K: America’s Classical Music in the 21st Century

June 14th, 2011, 12:00 pm by Sara

If many long-term, old school jazz fans are to be believed, the only thing we can – or should – do is celebrate what has come before from masters like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and (the pre-electric) Miles Davis. After all, that was when “the really great jazz” was made, and nothing new could ever measure up to those legendary recordings. If you’re of that opinion, then this ain’t your column! If you’d like to see what vibrant, exciting things are happening in the music that spawned the Freihofer Jazz Festival, then strap in and let’s light this candle!

Shane Endsley and the Music BandSHANE ENDSLEY AND THE MUSIC BAND: “Then the Other” (Low Electrical Records, 2011)
Endsley is one-fifth of the miraculous neo-fusion band Kneebody, which is one of the reasons I have hope for this genre’s future. But Endsley’s also made great acoustic music with Ben Allison and Jenny Scheinmann, and “Then the Other” is Endsley’s chance to step out on the acoustic side as a leader. Fronting a tight quartet featuring keyboardist Craig Taborn, drummer Ted Poor and bassist Matt Brewer, Endsley’s music runs parallel to Kneebody’s catalog, in that it’s chock-full of intriguing twists and turns, and takes its cues from nobody else. Endsley’s trumpet is wide open, but he never tries to blow the house down, preferring to stick and move rather than throw haymakers. Taborn’s electric fans may be unhappy he left his Fender Rhodes in the garage, but his electrifying solos on “House” and “King’s County Ramble” should please anyone. That future I mentioned? “Then the Other” makes it even brighter.

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