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Remembering Charlie Haden

By Kevin Whitehead, Contributor

Bassist Charlie Haden died at 76 on July 11, surrounded by his singer wife and singer children — a fitting end, considering his start in life. Haden sang and yodeled on an Iowa radio station from the age of 2, with his parents' Haden Family Band. Their hillbilly music might seem a far cry from the adult Haden's jazz, but both prize assertive, vocal string playing, and the Missouri-reared Haden coaxed a peerlessly warm, woody,… more »

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Albert Ayler’s ‘Spiritual Unity’ Turns 50

By Kevin Whitehead, Contributor

The first edition's silkscreen cover looked sharp, but by all other indications, the Albert Ayler Trio's Spiritual Unity seemed like an offhand effort. It's not quite half an hour long, has only three tunes (one of them played twice), and was made in a couple of hours at a cheap studio with an engineer so inattentive he recorded it in mono. The first edition had to be recalled, because a wrong tune was accidentally issued… more »

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Jose James’s Road Out of Jazz

By Dan Ouellette, Contributor

Around the time Jose James's sweetly soulful Blue Note Records debut, No Beginning No End, was released, the singer/songwriter said he didn't want to be a jazz singer anymore. He had recorded a couple of jazz-informed albums, the best-known of which was 2010's For All We Know, a standards duo project with Belgian pianist Jef Neve on Impulse. While it showcased James's distinctive baritone voice, it, disappointingly, was just another album of songs from years… more »

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Remembering Charlie Haden

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Darius Jones and Matthew Shipp, Cosmic Lieder: The Darkseid Recital

2014 | Label: AUM Fidelity / Virtual

Proving that the brawny, sprawling splendor of their first series of Cosmic Lieder duets three years ago was no fluke, alto saxophonist Darius Jones and pianist Matthew Shipp once again rumble and roar with playful aplomb on The Darkseid Recital.

As with the first collection, Jones is more often the provocateur, while Shipp, the elder statesman, counterpunches and refracts the music into dazzling shifts of tempo and intensity, accomplished with the bold, casual confidence of an acknowledged shared sensibility. Both Jones and Shipp are comfortable on the woolly fringes of… more »

Sean Jones Quartet, Im•pro•vise (Never Before Seen)

2014 | Label: Mack Avenue / The Orchard

On Im•pro•vise (Never Before Seen), Sean Jones shows a phenomenal mid-career growth spurt as a trumpeter, composer and artist. He credits Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, who challenged him to become more of a leader during their Tribute to Miles tour in 2011, a year after Jones left a long stint as the lead trumpeter for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Jones hasn’t reinvented himself or his style — he’s just become a much better version of the musician he used to be, fueled by a calm but self-animating confidence.… more »

Dave Douglas & Uri Caine, Present Joys

2014 | Label: Greenleaf Music / Entertainment One Distribution

Dave Douglas’s 2012 quintet album Be Still focused on Protestant hymns his mother asked him to play at her memorial service. Present Joys feels something of a distillation and reaffirmation of that experience. It consists largely of spiritual music, solid as Shaker furniture and often as sober as a Quaker meeting, performed by two attuned virtuosos who have worked together in various configurations for more than 20 years.

Five of Present Joy‘s 10 pieces belong to the canon of a cappella shape-note singing, a simplified style of notation from the early… more »

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Bop ’til you stop: Bebop, Hard Bop and Post Bop

By Britt Robson, Contributor

Bebop is the fundamental vehicle by which the carbohydrates of modern jazz—harmony, melody and rhythm (starch, sugar and fiber) — are churned and burned into the fuel of life. Since it first emerged nearly 70 years ago, bop has become pervasive, spouting various hybrids that include West Coast jazz, hard bop, and soul jazz. All of this is wrapped up in Bop 'til you stop, our celebration of bebop in all its permutations and splendor. We'll keep… more »

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