News, Commentary on Classical Music, Jazz, Theater, Dance & More


Tania Stavreva, 'Rhythmic Movement,' Self-Released >>

For her impressive self-released debut, 20something New York City pianist/composer Tania Stavreva has taken solo piano to rare heights on 'Rhythmic Movement,' 14 tracks of a wildly experimental jazz/classical/folk synthesis. Forward-leaning, yet firmly rooted in the folk music of her native Bulgaria, the accents fly by in dizzying whirlwind.

Scott Morgan

REVIEW: Scott Morgan, 'Songs of Life,' Miranda Music >>

Scott Morgan makes his belated debut to sing his 'Songs of Life' (Miranda Music). It's a heartfelt session that transcends genre with material by Paul McCartney, James Taylor and Sammy Cahn/Julie Styne among others. The 13 tracks draw upon his own emotional experiences with love (both consummated and unrequited) and death. Morgan doesn't so much sing these songs as inhabit the characters within.

Free Nelson MandoomJazz

REVIEW: Free Nelson MandoomJazz, 'The Organ Grinder,' RareNoise Records >>

Free Nelson MandoomJazz is a punk-jazz-metal alternative from Scotland who have been freaking people out since 2013's 'The Shape of DoomJazz To Come/Saxophone Giganticus' and their 2014 'Awakening of a Capital' follow-up. Rebecca Sneddon, Colin Stewart and Paul Archibald are musical anarchists. It's safe to assume you have never heard anything like 'The Organ Grinder' (RareNoise Records).

Doyle Bramhall II

REVIEW: Doyle Bramhall II, 'Rich Man,' Concord Records >>

Charles Mingus once said he didn't so much as play jazz but express the sounds of his life. Doyle Bramhall II has taken that as his credo. Thus, his first CD in 15 years, 'Rich Man' (Concord) is a perfect example. The multi-talented singer/songwriter/producer/arranger is back from extensive travels through Mali and Morocco and it's all within the grooves of this epic 13-track 70+ minutes.

Matthew Skoller

REVIEW: Matthew Skoller, 'Blues Immigrant,' Tongue'N Groove Records >>

Singer/songwriter/harmonica man/producer Matthew Skoller left his native New York in 1987 for the blues-drenched history of Chicago and he's been there ever since, soaking it all up, and spewing it back out in his own inimitable style. He considers himself a 'Blues Immigrant' (Tongue'N Groove Records) and on this, his fifth CD, in which he wrote 9 of 11, he states his case.

Shirley Horn

REVIEW: Shirley Horn, 'Live at the 4 Queens,' Resonance Records >>

Shirley Horn was in her prime at 54 when she played the 4 Queens in '88 Vegas. Reveling in the success of her 'I Thought About You' comeback album, she was back on top after a 19-year hiatus to raise her daughter. 'Live at the 4 Queens' (Resonance) is the entire 52-minute set with longtime trio of bassist Charles Ables and drummer Steve Williams. It has never, until now, been released.

Jimmy O'Connell

REVIEW: Jimmy O'Connell, 'Arrhythmia,' Outside In Music >>

New York City 'bone man Jimmy O'Connell likes to call his group a Sixtet. The transplanted Detroiter blows big on his impressive-as-hell 'Arrhythmia' debut (Outside In Music), where he achieves a stunning synthesis of swing, groove, post-bop, fusion, balladry and prog-jazz. The eight tracks keep surprising with their dexterity, chops and personality-plus.

Mehmet Sanlikol

REVIEW: Mehmet Ali Sanlikol & Whatsnext?, 'Resolution,' DUNYA >>

First thing folks usually think of when they think fusion is jazz/rock and rightly so but Mehmet Ali Sanlikol's Whatsnext? bigband fuses jazz with Turkish folk melodies and classical for a worldbeat treat. 'Resolution' (DUNYA) is not only delicious but it's good for you.

The Cookers

REVIEW: The Cookers, 'Call of the Wild and Peaceful Heart,' Smoke Sessions Records >>

The concept of a super-group in this day and age might be overplayed so let us just say that the fifth CD by The Cookers, 'The Call of the Wild and Peaceful Heart' (Smoke Sessions Records) is one of the top jazz CDs of 2016. How could it not be with this lineup?

Harold Lopez-Nussa

REVIEW: Harold Lopez-Nussa, 'El Viaje,' Mack Avenue Records >>

Pianist/Composer Harold Lopez-Nussa, 33, may be from Havana Cuba but his 'El Viaje' debut (Mack Avenue) spans the globe in a jazz travelogue accentuated by his longtime piano/bass/drums trio now with Mayquel Gonzalez on trumpet and flugelhorn plus three heavily percussive guests.

'Cosmic Adventure' by Scott Tixier

REVIEW, Scott Tixier, 'Cosmic Adventure,' Sunnyside Records >>

Scott Tixier, 30, from Montreuil, France, plays the violin. His talented quintet consists of harmonica, piano, bass and drums with guests on congas and sax. His Sunnyside Records release takes one on a 'Cosmic Adventure.' He's a rather mystical cat, reminds me, in fact, of a jazz version of Lenny Kravitz.


REVIEW: Jim Snidero, 'MD66,' Savant Records >>

It's one thing to be in tribute to an artist, a band or a classic album. It's another thing, and one rarely done if done at all, to be in tribute to a band's fluid changes and personal interplay or chemistry. This is what alto sax man Jim Snidero accomplishes beautifully on 'MD66' (Savant). His muse is the second great Miles Davis Quintet (Hancock, Shorter, Carrter, Wlliams). Yet 'MD66' is almost all-original.


REVIEW: Opaluna, 'Opaluna,' Ridgeway Records >>

A meeting of minds, cultures and genres has resulted in the self-titled debut of Opaluna (Ridgeway), a stirring duo combining samba, salsa, rock, folk, swing, modern jazz and world into a cohesive whole. Mexican-American guitarist Luis Salcedo and Columbian vocalist Susana Pineda's 10-track hour should blow your mind as the hippies of their home town of San Francisco liked to say.

Michael Gamble

REVIEW: Michael Gamble & the Rhythm Serenaders, Self-Titled, Organic Records >>

Nowadays, when it comes to swing music, such bands as Svetlana & The Delancey Five and Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks party like its 1939. The self-titled debut by Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders (Organic Records) contains 18 songs from jump-blues and ballads to wild Lindy Hop dance tracks. Turn back the clock!

Slavic Soul Party

REVIEW: Slavic Soul Party!, 'Plays Duke Ellington's Far East Suite,' Ropeadope Records >>

If you can imagine a Balkan brass band interpreting The Duke Ellington Orchestra's landmark 1963 'Far East Suite,' than you have an idea of what the New Yorkers in Slavic Soul Party! are doing on their latest outrage on Ropeadope Records as the band 'Plays Duke Ellington's Far East Suite.

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