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Find full CD and individual track reviews of your favorite jazz artists right here, and hopefully you also discover some new artists to add to your collection as well.

Anyone with a yen for well-played, hard-swinging, original hard-bop is going to love Alexander McCabe's "Quiz." McCabe, a young alto saxophonist who's spent time backing Ray Charles and Chico O'Farrill, is accompanied by an all-star band that includes the fantastically creative Philly native Uri Caine on piano, the rock-solid bass of Ugonna Okegwo, and either of two dynamic drummers – Rudy Royston (known for his sterling work with Ron Miles, he's Jon Irabagon's drummer of choice these days), and ex-Joshua Redman and Joanne Brackeen skinsman Greg Hutchinson.
18.09.2011

Sara Serpa "Mobile"

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Jazz vocalists are, by and large, not an adventurous lot. Most prefer to stick to standards and re-interpretations of contemporary pop songs. While this is a totally valid form of musical expression, I rarely seek out recordings made by vocalists when I want to hear risky, modern, cutting-edge music. With her second recording, "Mobile," the Portugese vocalist Sara Serpa boldly grabs this stereotype by the scruff of the neck and shows it out the door. "Mobile" is a startlingly individualistic collection of beautifully developed and arranged original compositions for voice and a four-piece ensemble. Serpa's clearly not afraid of words…
Musical iconoclasts Wadada Leo Smith and Henry Kaiser were way ahead of the popular consciousness when it came to paying tribute to Miles Davis' pioneering electric bands of the early-to-mid 1970s. Kaiser's involvement in this project is no surprise. He's an avowed long-term fan of Davis' mid-1970s recordings and cites Pete Cosey's work on these recordings as a seminal influence on his own playing. At first, I found Wadada Leo Smith's involvement a complete surprise, if not a little perplexing. Affiliated with the AACM since the early 70s, Smith has worked extensively with avant-garde musicians such as Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard…
An Italian quartet featuring Giorgia Santoro on various flutes, the program poses an abundance of intriguing paradoxes via multicultural persuasions, including movements with Indo-fusion components. Whereas, Adolfo La Volpe's, often scorching jazz-rock type electric guitar performances, delineate yet another distinct aspect within the grand schema.
Composer and reedman Andrew Sterman devises a cunning intersection between modern mainstream jazz and improvisation. No doubt, he possesses a broad music vernacular, witnessed by his recordings or performances with the likes of contemporary minimalist composer Philip Glass, amid stints with jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Sinatra. Sterman is an artist who vividly conveys a sense of authority. With a soulful, yet commanding tone on sax, he shades the outside spectrum with modern day jazz-based notables, bassist Kermit Driscoll, pianist Mick Rossi and drummer Tim Horner.
Guitarist Terrence McManus' plight is to create a "personalized sonic language." He aligned with revered drummer, composer and bandleader Gerry Hemingway for a wide-open sonicscape on the well-received outing, Below the surface of (Auricle, 2010). Amid investigative frameworks with like-minded jazz and improvisation artists, McManus builds and uses his guitar arsenal and is making a name for himself as a stylist who flouts convention.
08.09.2011

Spirits Aloft

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Spirits Aloft is a tribute to Rashied Ali who passed away in October 2009. Prior to his passing he worked with Henry Grimes on numerous projects. The two reconnected after many years on different paths and as time has a tendency to do, allowed them the opportunity to play and record together as if time had stood its ground.
We all remember how Wynton Marsalis excelled with classical and jazz recordings during his 20s, approximately 30 years ago before finally committing full-life to Duke and them. Well, there is another young phenomenon, 24-year-old, Kyrgyzstan-born pianist Eldar Djangirov, who also has prolific chops in both worlds as displayed on Three Stories (Sony Masterworks Jazz).
Last call for Happy Hour is followed by Matt Renzi's mood-evoking set, conjuring notions of a dimly lit barroom amid some joyous late-night impressionism and cogent theme-building exercises. Renzi's largely memorable compositions capture an atmosphere of a party that marches to the beat of a different drummer. With varying levels of intensity, the trio crafts an appealing sound design via interlocking movements and daintily constructed intricacies.    
Canadian drummer Owen Howard is a veteran session musician, performing with the crème de la crème of modern jazz heroes. He's also an impressive solo artist, witnessed on his fifth release, Drum Lore.
Kayo Hiraki's pianistic ability interprets jazz standards into boppish gems adding a distinctive vocal on some.This is the fifth CD for this artist from Japan. She has appeared at all the major jazz clubs in New York and performed with many of the top stars.
Italian bassist Lorenzo Feliciati and his laudable band-mates take your listening space under siege with this hefty bag of jazz-fusion, electronica and avant-rock. They purport by a cataclysmic sequence of storylines, topped off by trumpeter Cuong Vu's scorching notes. Feliciati's booming, yet pliant lines help consummate a massive rhythmic element along with drummer Pat Mastelotto, of King Crimson and first-call session notoriety. Keyboardist Roy Powell rounds out the band makeup, where electronics, distortion and feisty improvisational segments ride atop pulsating backbeats, shadowy textures and expansive impressionism.  
Profundity, variety and a multidimensional stance are a few striking attributes of the European Movement Jazz Orchestra's portfolio. With young Slovenian musicians lending their wares, the large ensemble casts a symphonic overture amid small ensemble breakouts and Kenton-like brashness. They explore the free-zone at times during various interludes, yet the musicians' collective imaginary powers intimate more than a few persuasive proposals.  
Eugene Marlow is a remarkably busy fellow. A pianist, composer, educator, and author, among his many activities is leading the Heritage Ensemble, which performs jazz arrangements of Hebraic melodies. Most of the tracks here are new arrangements of tunes previously released on an earlier album, "Making the Music Our Own" (2006). New musicians and new ideas have led Marlow to undertake a fascinating project.  
The leader of the Jazz on the Latin Side All Stars and radio personality Jose Rizo pays tribute here to one of his heroes, conguero Mongo Santamaria. Combining Santamaria classics with some newer compositions, Rizo has assembled a ten-piece group to produced a fine album of Afro-Cuban jazz with a retro sound that still feels fresh and fun.  
From the cartoonish cover of the CD and the name of the band, one might expect some sort of rock/jazz imitation of the Bad Plus, but that would be an error. There are elements of rock, but also of classical and folk music. This quartet's debut album consists of lush, cinematic, contemporary jazz that is difficult to categorize, but easy enough to swallow. No horns, no saxes, no burners, and no rough edges, but definitely not smooth, some might consider this chamber jazz except for the synthesizer, movie music except there's no film, or even New Age music except for…
Duke Pearson was a major figure in the 1960s jazz scene as a composer, arranger, pianist, bandleader and A & R man for Blue Note Records. He wrote tunes that have become standards ("Jeannine," "Cristo Redentor") and he helped to create the Blue Note signature sound of the period, the mix of hard bop and soul jazz remembered so fondly by fans of the time. It should be no surprise to see a tribute album, and Swingadelic has stepped up to do just that.  
If you want to enjoy some good jazz stained with a little hint of Italian touch, and played by young musicians who are about to walk a long way, then this CD is just for you. Even 3 are jazz musicians from Sicily, playing together for five years and now awarded in the final of the renowned "Chicco Bettinardi" Competition in 2010: pianist Aki Spadaro, double-bassist Gabrio Bevilacqua and drummer Emanuele Primavera all provide an accomplished and thoughtful sound, a triangular space that takes its form from the dynamic communion of intentions.
23.08.2011

Rafale by KAZE

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A live recording culled from the quartet's appearance at a museum in Krakow, Poland., the album is an alignment of visionary musicians from France and Japan. Perhaps the more notable artist is pianist Satoko Fujii, revered for her compositions and laudable technical faculties within small, medium-size and large ensembles. Fuji and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura reengage on this expansive set, where the avant-garde is fused into an organization of captivating and in some instances, mind-bending pieces, sans any limiting factors.  
Stevie Wonder brought the sound of the chromatic harmonica into mainstream consciousness with his numerous recorded solos on the instrument, such as the melody on his 1970s hit "Isn't She Lovely". Chromology will of course appeal to jazz harmonica fans who are looking to go beyond the familiarity of the legendary Toots Thielemans, but for those of you who think "jazz harmonica" is an oxymoron, give a listen and let Chet Williamson show you it makes perfect sense.