CD Reviews

Reminiscing in Tempo

Memory links the three instrumental albums reviewed this month. Geri Allen, Fred Hersch (with Julian Lage) and Joe Lovano (with Gil Goldstein and the Brussels Jazz Orchestra) all perform compositions written or inspired by their idols, mentors and collaborators. Thomas Cunniffe reviews these three fine CDs.

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Leading from the Rhythm Section

In earlier eras, jazz bassists and drummers had few opportunities to lead their own groups. Thankfully, those days are long gone, and in this month’s instrumental CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe listens to three new albums by Mark Dresser, Tom Kennedy and Jack Mouse which offer a wide range of musical approaches and styles.

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Ted Rosenthal and Kenny Werner: Pianists with Standards

In addition to their prowess as jazz pianists, Ted Rosenthal and Kenny Werner are both skilled vocal accompanists. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the latest instrumental albums by both men, each of which offers unique approaches to standard repertoire.

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Ryan Truesdell: “Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans” (ArtistShare 114)

Released to coincide with Gil Evans’ 100th birthday, Ryan Truesdell’s new album Centennial features ten previously unrecorded works by the iconic composer/arranger. Chris Coulter reviews both the album and a recent concert performance at the Jazz Standard in New York.

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Sammy Figueroa: “Urban Nature” (Senator 1001)

After years of being a respected first-call sideman, percussionist Sammy Figueroa has become a leader. His new CD, Urban Nature features compositions by pianist Silvano Monasterios and bassist Gabriel Vivas. Janine Santana reviews the disc.

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Saxophone Unity and Diversity

Saxophonists can be a combative lot, but it’s not always necessary for them to battle to the death. This month’s instrumental CD reviews spotlight two new albums which each feature three saxophonists. However, as Thomas Cunniffe notes, the leaders David Berkman and Jerry Granelli take very different approaches in contrasting and uniting their fine saxophonists.

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Saxophonists with Style

Through the generations of jazz history, the tenor saxophone has been the instrument most associated with the music. Thomas Cunniffe reviews new releases by three generations of tenor men: Benn Clatworthy, Ravi Coltrane and Brandon Wright.

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Silvano Monasterios: “Unconditional” (Savant 2111)

Venezuelan pianist Silvano Monasterios first album for Savant features musical portraits of those most important to him, ranging from his father to his dog! Janine Santana offers her reactions to the disc.

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Sittin’ In

The latest CDs by pianists Jeremy Siskind and Harold Mabern feature a plethora of guest vocalists. Such loaded rosters may cause some observers to claim that the artists and record companies are trying to boost the commercial appeal of the albums. However, our reviewer Thomas Cunniffe feels that the vocalists help fulfill the artistic goals of the leaders and that the casual nature of the albums belie any accusations of commercialism.

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Sonny Rollins: “Road Shows” (Vol. 2) (Doxy/EmArcy 15949)

Sonny Rollins has released another spectacular collection of live performances, this time covering a month-long period in September and October of 2010. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the CD, noting that in the mere ordering of tracks, Rollins the producer has enhanced the performance of Rollins the saxophonist.

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For some jazz singers, telling a story through a song’s lyrics is a primary goal. The three vocalists covered in this month’s vocal reviews, newcomer Cécile McLorin Salvant , and veterans Carline Ray and Marlene VerPlanck, all share this ideal. Their latest discs are evaluated by Thomas Cunniffe.

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Straight Ahead!

Swing is a less important factor in the jazz of today, but that doesn’t mean that swing is dead. In this month’s instrumental CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe examines a quartet of new discs by musicians of several generations that shows the validity of straight-ahead jazz.

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Solo Flights

Performing solo can be both liberating and challenging for a jazz musician. Yet solo performances tend to expose new dimensions of a player’s identity. This month, Ben Markley focuses his attention on new solo releases by guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and pianists John Medeski and Frederick Moyer.

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Worth Waiting For

Years ago, jazz musicians would typically release two or three albums a year, but with the current state of the recording industry, new CDs appear much less regularly. The three instrumental albums reviewed this month by Thomas Cunniffe are by artists who have not released albums as leaders or with their usual groups in several years. However, these recordings by Pat Bianchi, Maria Schneider and Terell Stafford were worth the wait.

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