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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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 »
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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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 »
Trios Live is a shameless vehicle for Redman to flaunt his saxophone chops. Culled from a pair of club engagements spaced four years apart, the album is sequenced for maximum impact: Bookended by covers of “Mack the Knife” and Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean,” it aims for, and delivers, instant gratification.
At 45, decades removed from being an overhyped wunderkind, Redman plays with a near-perfect blend of swagger and authority. His phrases still tend to arrive in heaving waves that are indebted to the masters (Rollins, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon), but he… more »
2014 | Label: Posi-Tone Records / The Orchard
The inaugural Captain Black Big Band record was one of the best jazz releases of 2011, a burst of rollicking horn charts and incendiary energy. Mother’s Touch, the follow-up, is equally strong, lending sophistication to the band’s vigor and introducing soulful big-band sounds and gorgeous piano work.
Part of this emphasis shift is incidental: The debut was collection of live dates, while Mother’s Touch is a purposefully tailored studio project. Another factor is the more dominant influence of leader-pianist Orrin Evans (aka Captain Black), who composed the first four and final… more »
2014 | Label: Mack Avenue Records / The Orchard
As both the current lead guitarist for Wilco and a member of the contemporary jazz elite, Nels Cline occupies the curious dual role of avant-garde instrumentalist and rock star. It could be an awkward fit, but Cline seems more than comfortable with the role — he’s willing to meet you anywhere you’ll meet him. If wild-boar-squeal feedback improv is your thing, you should go straight to The Veil, his 2011 trio album with drummer Jim Black and saxophonist Tim Berne. If you prefer a little more conventional indie-rock presentation in… more »