CD Reviews

Big Bands Of Our Time

Perhaps the best answer to the age-old question is that big bands never truly went away. Since their first appearance in the 1920s, big bands have been a constant presence on the jazz scene. In this month’s instrumental CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe examines discs of established jazz orchestras led by Christine Jensen, Pete McGuinness and David White.

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Art of the Duet

Ever since King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton combined forces on a recording of “King Porter Stomp”, jazz musicians have played some of their most intimate performances in the duet format. The past few months have brought several new CDs in this venerable format. Thomas Cunniffe offers capsule reviews of the best new duet releases, including discs by Christian McBride, Ran Blake, Jane Bunnett, Eddie Daniels and Bill Kirchner.

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Cyrille Aimée and Friends: “Live at Smalls” (Smalls Live 18)

We first introduced you to vocalist Cyrille Aimée last month on her guest appearance on Doug Munro’s “A Very Gypsy Christmas”. Her solo album, Live at Smalls finds her in a straight-ahead jazz setting, and Thomas Cunniffe reports that her scat singing is on the same high level as her stellar accompanists.

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Antonio Adolfo: “Chora Baião” (AAM 703)

Antonio Adolfo is not very well-known outside of Brazil—yet! His new CD, Chora Baião is a tribute to two well-known Brazilian composers, Guinga and Chico Buarque, and our Latin jazz expert Janine Santana feels that this album may be the one to bring Adolfo greater recognition.

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Catching Up 1

Here at the JHO offices, we have an abundance of CDs waiting for review. For the next two months, we are trying to get as many discs reviewed as possible–not only to relieve the overflowing pile of discs, but to qualify them for next month’s 2016 Summation. Thomas Cunniffe offers reviews of (fairly) recent discs by Richie Cole, Brandi Disterheft, Monika Herzig and Catherine Russell.

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The Delicate Balance

Jazz musicians pride themselves about being ahead of most audiences, but they must offer some sort of gateway to their music if they expect listeners to follow them on their musical journeys. In this month’s vocal CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe explores new recordings by Kendra Shank and Sara Serpa that successfully strike the delicate balance between accessibility and progressiveness.

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Better With A Band

Jazz began as an ensemble music, and even after soloists took the spotlight, ensembles have played a major role in the music’s development. This month, Thomas Cunniffe explores how modern ensembles like the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, The Cookers and Coalition work together as bands in their latest recordings.

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The Art of the Composer/Pianist

Jazz composition is a unique art. Rather than creating a piece of music completely from start to finish, jazz composers must leave room for others to improvise and realize the score. This month, Thomas Cunniffe reviews CDs by three composer-pianists who have found their voices within the small-group format.

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Dependable Excellence

Jazz fans expect (and receive) great music from certain veteran musicians. That is certainly the case with Jimmy Cobb, Fred Hersch and Sonny Rollins. Thomas Cunniffe reviews three superb new releases from these jazz giants in this month’s instrumental CD reviews.

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Celebrating the Living

Every year, we lose more of the great jazz masters, and predictably, the tribute albums turn up within the next year. While many of these tribute albums are well-made, they are ultimately too late. This month, Thomas Cunniffe examines three albums which celebrate living musicians, and notes that on two of the CDs, the honorees perform alongside their admiring colleagues.

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All four of the recordings covered in this month’s vocal CD reviews feature established singers at an artistic crossroads. Cyrille Aimée’s live album catches her group just before they disbanded, while Amy Cervini, Keri Johnsrud and Allegra Levy all explore music new to their discographies. Thomas Cunniffe reviews these superb albums.

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Dynamics of the Duo

The duo (or duet) remains one of the most venerable formats for jazz performance. The form defies any strict rules, so that the only necessary ingredients are two musicians who want to work together and can share the same jazz language. Thomas Cunniffe reviews two diverse albums from Anat Cohen & Fred Hersch, and Nadje Noordhuis & James Shipp.

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Anat Cohen Abraça o Brasil (Anat Cohen Embraces Brazil)

In addition to being one of the best jazz clarinetists today, Anat Cohen is a particularly fine interpreter of Brazilian music. She has made several trips to Brazil over the past two decades, and one of her collaborators says that she plays Brazilian music with a perfect accent. Thomas Cunniffe reviews two new CDs of Brazilian music, which represents her greatest concentration to this unique musical heritage.

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Bebop and Beyond

If we place the origin of jazz sometime around 1905 and then place the emergence of bebop around 1945, we find that the music is about 113 years old, and bebop has been part of its language for 73 years—considerably over half of the music’s history. The three albums featured in this month’s instrumental CD reviews all owe much of their inspiration to the bebop masters. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the albums by Richie Cole, Christopher Hollyday and Bruce Barth.

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