To jazz lovers the name of saxophonist and flutist Jeff Coffin should not be new. In addition to his 14 years spent as a member of Bela Fleck’s band, Coffin has worked with others like Dave Matthews and spent a lot of time working in studios for artists like Delbert McClinton, Brooks & Dunn and Marc Broussard. For this three-time Grammy winner, Coffin’s newest recording is a two-disc set gathered from live concerts in Illinois and Texas with his musicians while on tour in 2010 and 2011.
This Seattle-based progressive-rock outfit offers a refreshing perspective on a multifaceted genre, where cherished stylizations from the past are merged with a futuristic outlook. Following up the celebrated 2009 Moonjune Records debut manifest deNsity, Moraine's energetic attack and deterministic focus parlays into a vibrant live setting recorded at North East Art Rock Festival (NEARfest) 2010, in Bethlehem, PA.
Psychedelic pranksters M'lumbo return with the amusingly titled Celestial Ghetto. The title of the album is quite fitting as M'lumbo draw from many sources, and can alternate seamlessly between the gritty and the ethereal. With M'lumbo, there is no distinction between high and low art where refined soloing is juxtaposed against a sense of nutty humor. This might be irritating to some (why obscure a perfectly good solo with seemingly random samples?) but this recording is refreshingly free from intellectual pretenses.
The Realm of the Guitar Gods continues to be inhabited long after its time had supposedly ended. However, a new wing has to be added to accommodate the electric violin of Susan Aquila. As virtuosos go, she’s right at the top, but sounding sometimes like Jean Luc Ponty but just as often like Alvin Lee or Joe Satriani. With feet in both the rock and classical worlds, she seems at first an unlikely candidate to end up on a fusion album, but here she is, and the results are quite spectacular.
During the numerous theoretical waves of music and its major influences, the annals of music's scrolls have recorded many activists of the art of sound which have risen to become the statesperson of their chosen pulpit. Rock and roll had the Beatles, Nirvana, and Elvis taking front stage; the classics waltzed in Brahms, Beethoven, and Chopin; however jazz has eclipsed some of the most divinely unique and innovative conductors to have ever dueled with a music sheet. That said Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, is affording serious listeners an encouraging collection of push-n-plays for the holiday season. This year they are announcing a diverse mixture of celebrated artists from a vast array of genres under the marketing umbrella called... The Complete Columbia Albums Collections! One such artist with an ability to shift the tectonic plates of any level of listenership with his horn's, is the purist of smooth spins forever known as saxophonist Grover Washington Jr.; the man whose diverse appeal to this day still embraces generations.
A restless musical spirit who has worked in pretty much every sub-genre of jazz and improvised music you can think of, Wadada Leo Smith's "Heart's Reflections" is a sprawling 2-CD set that covers a bewilderingly vast swath of stylistic ground. What makes "Heart's Reflections" such a fascinating listen is the variety of approaches that Wadada and his band take - there are funkified 'electric Miles'-inspired jams, gossamer intertwinings of trumpet, violin, and laptop, and abstract improvisations that hearken back to Smith's AACM days.
Planet Z poses an interesting contrast. For one, first-call session violinist and active concert performer Susan Aquila uses a Viper 6-string violin to diametrically oppose her classical roots, and performs material composed by symphonic conductor, guitarist, Dr. Robert Tomaro. Hence, the program is centered within the jazz-fusion realm and framed on attractive material that effectively bridges the high-impact schema with numerous off-kilter metrics.
This widely acclaimed band's sixth album furthers its plight of providing the listener with a gamut of compelling contrasts amid a unique stylization that offers additional credence to the pioneering efforts instituted by Cryptogramophone Records. Here, violinist Jeff Gauthier leads a prominent cast through jazz-fusion, bop, free improvisation and resonating harmonic output with an in-your-face type composure to offset an array of tender subtleties and classical inferences.
The album artwork offers insight into the sound and scope of trumpeter extraordinaire Tim Hagans' 2011 jazz-fusion release. The program is brushed with dark hues and spacey architectures, translating into an impressionistic journey towards the nearest galaxy. But there's plenty of oxygen and life here.