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


Jochen Rueckert

REVIEW: Jochen Rueckert, 'Charm Offensive,' Pirouet Records >>

Jochen Rueckert is on a 'Charm Offensive' for his second Pirouet release. Having immigrated to 1990s New York City from his native Germany, he's got some top-notch New Yorkers behind him to fuse classical music from India with jazz to create a whole new sub-genre. Blending ragas with jazz opens up whole new avenues of exploration and this quartet does Ruekert's eight complex originals proud.

Peter Brendler

REVIEW: Peter Brendler, 'Message In Motion," Posi-Tone Records >>

Another winner from the left coast's Posi-Tone: consider it a 'Message In Motion' by Peter Brendler where six of the tracks feature no chords whatsoever as it's Brendler's bass augmented by Rich Perry's tenor sax, the trumpet of Peter Evans and Vinnie Sperazza with the type of kinetic drumming that continually moves the music forward.

The Vaudevillian

REVIEW: The Vaudevillian, 'Bringing Satan Down,' Busted Flat Records >>

The Vaudevillian is 'Bringing Satan Down' (Busted Flat). Jitterbug James (guitar, whistling), Piedmont Johnson (bass, bull fiddle) and Norah Spades (kazoo, washboard) all sing and sell pics of carnival freaks and geeks from back in the day of off-road dime museums and medicine shows at their merch counter. This is where 1920s ragtime meets 1950s rock'n'roll.

The Girshevich Trio

REVIEW: The Girshevich Trio, 'Algorithmic Society,' Tapestry Records >>

Jazz is no place for children. Before I get excoriated, let me elucidate: sure, jazz education is paramount. But I have no patience for the next 12-year old prodigy or 13-year old country singer or 14-year old rock'n'roller. I want wisdom in my grooves, hard-won lessons learned by life itself. In the words of WC Fields, "go away kid, you bother me." That said, 'Algorithmic Society' (Tapestry), by The Girshevich Trio, is a pleasant surprise.

David Gibson

REVIEW: David Gibson, 'Inner Agent,' Posi-Tone Records >>

Tromonist/Composer David Gibson is making a case for himself to be included in the conversation of big-time 'bone men. A disciple of Curtis Fuller, 81, Gibson follows up last year's 'Boom' with this year's 'Inner Agent' (Posi-Tone). It's a free-swinging affair filled with adventure, high-wire daring and sweet melodic and harmonic constructions. It even closes with a Beatle song.

Steve Turre

REVIEW: Steve Turre, 'Colors for the Masters,' Smoke Sessions Records >>

Trombonist/Composer Steve Turre is not only creating 'Colors for the Masters' (Smoke Sessions Records)...but colors WITH the masters. Yeah, this session must have smoked alright! One of the greatest living trombone men, Steve Turre, has, as his core band, none other than bassist Ron Carter, pianist Kenny Barron and drummer Jimmy Cobb, masters all, on five originals and five standards.

John Beasley

REVIEW: John Beasley, 'Presents Monk'estra Volume #1,' Mack Avenue Records >>

Who better than Monk Institute Music Director John Beasley to finally create something that might have been thought of years ago: the concept of a "Monk'estra," which is, of course, a full-fledged 15-man orchestra doing nothin' but the hard, complex, circuitous compositions by The High Priest Of Bebop, baby, Thelonious Monk [1917-1982].

Eddie Turner

REVIEW: Eddie Turner & Trouble Twins, 'Naked...In Your Face,' 7-14 Productions >>

Born in Cuba, raised in Chicago, Eddie Turner played in San Francisco with Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth in the 1970s, Colorado's hard-rock Zephyr in the 1980s and The Otis Taylor Band in the 1990s. In the new millennium, his 2005 'Rise,' 2006 'Turner Diaries' and 2010 'Miracles & Demons' made him his generation's equivalent of Hound Dog Taylor or Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. Now, he's 'Naked...In Your Face' (7-14 Records) on his first ever concert CD.

Fred Hersch

REVIEW: The Fred Hersch Trio, 'Sunday Night at the Vanguard,' Palmetto Records >>

What? You say you've never heard of pianist/composer/bandleader Fred Hersch? Just walk into the storied bowels of New York City's Village Vanguard and there on the wall, next to framed signed pictures of John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, is a picture under glass of Fred Hersch. 'Sunday Night at the Vanguard' (Palmetto) is the place to be.

Ashleigh Smith

REVIEW: Ashleigh Smith, 'Sunkissed,' Concord Records >>

The Concord Records debut of Dallas singer-songwriter Ashleigh Smith, 27, has been highly anticipated ever since she won the 2014 Sarah Vaughan International Vocals Competition. 'Sunkissed' tops all expectations. It's that good.

Will Calhoun 'Celebrating Elvin Jones'

REVIEW: Will Calhoun, 'Celebrating Elvin Jones,' Motema Music >>

Let me reserve a spot on my 2016 Top 10 right now! Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun was always more than metal. 'Celebrating Elvin Jones' (Motema Music) has the drummer with keyboardist Jan Hammer, superstar bassist Christian McBride, saxophonist Antoine Roney and pianist Carlos McKinney, all of whom have played with Mr. Jones.

Al Basile

REVIEW: Al Basile, 'Mid Century Modern,' Sweetspot Records >>

Al Basile is that rare 'Mid-Century Modern' (Sweetspot Records) blues singer/songwriter who plays cornet. You'd have to go back to Louis Armstrong for another such rarity. With Duke Robillard producing and playing some guitar (on two tracks), these 13 originals reek of tradition yet strive for modernity. As a result, satisfaction ensues.

Lew Jetton

REVIEW: Lew Jetton & 61 South, 'Rain,' Coffee Street Records >>

Lew Jetton & 61 South's third effort, 'Rain' (Coffee Street), fulfills the promise of 'State Line Blues' and 'Tales From A 2 Lane,' for it is here where Jetton really puts it all together on eight originals and two covers-John Hiatt's "Feels Like Rain" and Allen Toussaint's "It's Raining." The band is sterling, aided and abetted by seasoned pros but held together by Jetton himself, an engaging singer/songwriter who takes from the blues tradition yet adds immeasurably his own thing.

Tony Lustig

REVIEW: The Tony Lustig Quintet, 'Taking Flight,' Bimperl Entertainment & Media >>

There's a point between where jazz fans exist yet the casual music fan might get lost. Baritone saxophonist/bass clarinetist/composer/bandleader Tony Lustig wants to bridge that gap. To that end, his quintet is 'Taking Flight' (Bimperl) on eight wildly disparate originals "that represent what jazz music means while still making it enjoyable for someone who has never listened to jazz before," according to the artist.

Bobby Avey

REVIEW: Bobby Avey, 'Inhuman Wilderness,' Innervoice Jazz >>

For his fifth CD, pianist/composer Bobby Avey has turned his attention to societal ills and injustices, in other words, 'Inhuman Wilderness,' as he calls it. It's only the second release for the new Innervoice Jazz label, run by pianist Marc Copland out of New York City, and it's a brave avant-accessible work.

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