Nowadays, many jazz musicians either lead or play in several bands over the course of a single year, but it wasn't always so. Can you picture Coltrane in 1963 leading other groups on the side? His quartet kept him busy enough (and allowed for occasional guests or subs). The reason for this is partly economic. In the '60s, a nightclub stand could go on for weeks. Now, engagements are much shorter; if you want to… more »
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Trombonist Roswell Rudd wasn't always as ubiquitous as he is now. After making a big splash in the 1960s and '70s, he dropped out of jazz for a decade. Family obligations kept him close to home in the Catskills, where he worked in a show band at a resort in too-perfectly-named Kerhonkson. "Did the people who hired you at the resort you know who you were?" he was once asked. "I'd just about forgotten myself."… more »
It's strange, the ways the arc of jazz history can bend. Twenty years ago, for some conservatives, Anthony Braxton epitomized everything that was wrong with jazz. In 2013, he was named an NEA Jazz Master (and rightly so). Few jazz masters have seen their reputations yo-yo like Ahmad Jamal, now ascendant again, to judge by Saturday Morning, a French studio session recorded early in 2013 at age 82-and-a-half. There was a time when Jamal was considered… more »
New + Noteworthy
New Arrivals: Bethlehem Records
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Over the last decade, when he wasn’t busy becoming one of the world’s most talked-about jazz pianists, Vijay Iyer was also writing chamber music. Little of it has been widely heard, though that will change, now that Iyer has a home at ECM, a label that specializes in both fields. The big item on the Iyer’s imprint debut — framed by some piano miniatures — is the composer’s 10-movement string quartet-plus-piano suite, Mutations.
The piece covers a lot of ground. The opening movement, “Air,” opens with spectral string harmonies and gentle… more »
-0001 | Label: Intakt Records
When pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Gerry Hemingway recorded the live album Affinities in 2009, they already been playing together as a duo for nearly 15 years, mostly as the rhythm section (with the bassist Mark Dresser) for saxophonist Anthony Braxton. But playing alone together was something new to them, and the subtle communication they share is immediately apparent. Experienced in going long, the players here opt for seven midrange-length pieces, collaborations that range from dynamic explosions of color to more extensively developed investigations.
Crispell and Hemingway are protean players, able… more »
2014 | Label: Kind of Blue Records / The Orchard
Perhaps more than any other contemporary jazz musician, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson serves as the keeper of the ’60s flame: An innovator during his tenure at Blue Note Records, Hutcherson remains a significant a voice 50 years later. Hutcherson is keeping company with McCoy Tyner, Joe Chambers, James Spaulding, and one or two others in this category, but his playing is probably closest to what it was during his seminal period.
On Wise One he focuses entirely on material culled from the classic-period John Coltrane Quartet. Pianist Joe Gilman is thrust strongly… more »
2013 | Label: Sonic Camera Records / TuneCore
Composer-bassist Ben Allison loves to tweak conventions and play on the margins of genre, but he never sacrifices listener accessibility. On The Stars Look Very Different Today, that means churning up a spectral, sci-fi froth of rock, techno and twang via a quartet of two guitarists (longtime cohort Steve Cardenas alongside Brandon Seabrook), Allison on bass, and Allison Miller on drums.
As with much of Allison’s recent fare, kitsch and creativity are intertwined with nerdy cleverness. Word associations are rampant, beginning with the title borrowed from a David Bowie lyric. “Dr.… more »