CD Reviews

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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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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Storytellers

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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