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The Cellar and Point, Ambit

2014 | Label: Cuneiform Records / The Orchard

Guitarist Christopher Botta and drummer/producer Joseph Branciforte winningly refer to their oddly constructed, oddly named septet as a “garage chamber” group. That group, called the Cellar and Point, includes both acoustic and electric guitars, violin and cello (Christopher Otto and Kevin McFarland, respectively, from the renowned JACK Quartet), bass, vibes (Joe Bergen of Transit and Mantra Percussion) and drums. The band’s debut, Ambit, claims an impressive amount of sonic territory (as the album title implies): Chamber music, rock, jazz, post-rock and electronic all rub elbows, and… more »

Ryan Keberle and Catharsis, Into the Zone

2014 | Label: Greenleaf Music / Entertainment One Distribution

The “zone” of this album’s title refers to the zen-like state of being where one inhabits the creative moment, unimpeded by self-consciousness. It’s an ongoing goal of trombonist-composer Ryan Keberle, who proclaimed that the last record with his band Catharsis, Music is Emotion, was “music from the heart and soul and not from the brain.” As the son and grandson of professional musicians, and one trained and now teaching in musical academia, Keberle seems like an especially paradoxical acolyte for this viewpoint. Fortunately he keeps releasing compelling music that feels… more »

Ken Thomson and Slow/Fast, Settle

2014 | Label: Ncm East / CD Baby

Alto saxophonist, clarinetist and composer Ken Thomson has been a key part of New York’s contemporary music scene for years, and was a founder of the Asphalt Orchestra (otherwise known as the Lincoln Center street marching band that can play Björk, Mingus and Meshuggah). But in recent months, Thomson has become a force of nature. Around the same time he was inducted into the Bang On A Can All-Stars, Thomson’s album with the JACK Quartet, Thaw, drew a rave from Steve Reich.

All that was left for him to… more »