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


Dobrek Bistro

REVIEW: Dobrek Bistro, 'Featuring David Krakauer,' DobRecords (Austria) >>

The multi-culti world action on Dobrek Bistro's 'With David Krakauer' (DobRecords, Austria) is a cure for the 2016 rock blahs. The entertainment value, action-packed jamming and Middle Eastern flavor alone will have you speechless after but mere minutes. The first listen alone is worth the price of admission. All repeated listenings are free!

Branford Marsalis

REVIEW: Branford Marsalis Quartet with Kurt Elling, 'Upward Spiral,' Marsalis Music/Okeh Records >>

The more passionate fans of saxophonist Branford Marsalis might be disappointed with 'Upward Spiral' (Marsalis Music/Okeh Records) because this could be construed as a Kurt Elling vocalese CD with the quartet merely backing him up. Elling achieves a strong Chet Baker nodding-out-on-heroin style, true, and Branford is still one of today's greats, but the news of a new Branford was more exciting than actually listening to the new Branford.

'It Is What It Is' by Jimmy

REVIEW: Jimmy 'Duck' Holmes, 'It Is What It Is.' Blue Porch Records >>

Jimmy "Duck" Holmes just may be the last of a dying breed. Straight out of the Mississippi Delta, his seventh album, 'It Is What It Is,' is the premiere release on the new Blue Front Records out of Bentonia, MS. It's filled with the real low-down blues, no rock'n'roll here, this one's for purists.

Moreland & Arbuckle

REVIEW: Moreland & Arbuckle, 'Promised Land Or Bust,' Alligator Records >>

Indie-rock garage punk blues may cram too many sub-genres into one lead sentence but when it comes to Moreland & Arbuckle's Alligator Records 'Promised Land Or Bust' debut (the home of "Genuine Houserockin' Music" as it correctly bills itself), it's an apt description.

David Liebman and Richie Beirach

REVIEW: Dave Liebman & Richie Beirach, 'Balladscapes,' Intuition Records (Germany) >>

Just like sibling harmonies, the magic created by Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach has been nurtured, in this case, for almost half a century. They need no rhythm section. Their chemistry is second nature. 'Balladscapes' (Intuition Records, Germany) is so pure and so free that it has, forevermore, cemented these two in time.

Gus Spenos

REVIEW: Gus Spenos, 'If You Were Gold Baby,' Self-Released >>

Time for fun. If you want to jump, jive and wail, you could, of course, turn to Louie Prima. But he's dead. Gus Spenos is alive...wonderfully, wildly alive. This Indiana neurologist has self-released 'If You Were Gold Baby' and he's garnered big-time trombonist Wycliffe Gordon to blow and arrange as the feather in this hat of swing, blues and boogie.

Alchemy Sound Project

REVIEW: Alchemy Sound Project, 'Further Explorations,' Artists Recording Collective >>

To properly distill classical music and jazz music, one must be on intimate terms with both or the experiment will most likely wind up being either one or the other...but not both. Enter Alchemy Sound Project. Its 'Further Explorations' debut (Artists Recording Collective) combines West African folk motifs with European classical and stateside jazz. Does it succeed? In spades!

Matt Wilson

REVIEW: Matt Wilson's Big Happy Family, 'Beginning of a Memory,' Palmetto Records >>

Combining all three of his longstanding bands, drummer Matt Wilson has returned to the studio in full force with a Love Army of family and friends to pay tribute to violinist Felicia Wilson who performed on Matt's 2003 'Humidity,' became his wife and succumbed to leukemia in 2014. The result is a swinging session with moments of tender, bittersweet asides and studio banter. The star here is trumpeter Terell Stafford but the focus is cumulative...a joyous swingfest of epidemic proportions.

Marcos Varela

REVIEW: Marcos Varela, 'San Ygnacio,' Origin Records >>

Marcos Varela, on 'San Ygnacio' (Origin), bridges the generation gap by having such revered musicians as George Cables, Billy Hart and Clifton Anderson playing beside Varela's contempories. Add Arnold Lee on alto (Spike Lee's brother) and you've got one deeeeeep 11-track trip with plenty of meandering routes and explosive solos.

Carol Saboya

REVIEW: Carol Saboya, 'Carolina,' AAM Music >>

When Brazilian vocalist Carol Saboya turned stateside heads with her lovely 2012 'Belezas,' no one thought it would be four years until her next CD. 'Carolina' (AAM Music) has been nurtured by her mentor Antonio Adolfo who plays piano, produces and arranges. The result is a stunningly gorgeous bossa-nova supreme where samba meets up with its progenitors in new and surprising ways plus meets some strangers along the way (Lennon/McCartney and Sting) to provide some syncopated surprise.


REVIEW: Jim Self and the Tricky Lix Latin Jazz Band, 'Yo!,' Bassett Hound Records >>

I do love a tuba. I also love hot spicy Latin music of any variety. But, heretofore, my tuba-lust, and my yearning for Latin, have been diametrically opposed vernaculars. Until now. Enter 'Yo!' (Bassett Hound Music) by Jim Self and the Tricky Lix Latin Jazz Band.

Antonio Adolfo

REVIEW: Antonio Adolfo, 'Tropical Infinito,' AAM Music >>

Last year, Antonio Adolfo's 'Tema' was an alternative to actually traveling to Rio de Janeiro and soaking up Brazilian samba. This year, his 'Tropical Infinito' (AAM Music), with his new octet, pinpoints an early 1960s samba groove revitalized and reimagined but keeping the essential DNA that makes this music so earthy, swaying, satisfying and sensual.

Dan Pratt

REVIEW: Dan Pratt, 'Hymn For The Happy Man,' Same Island Music >>

'Hymn for the Happy Man' (Same Island) by sax man Dan Pratt is buoyed by the presence of bassist Christian McBride who seems to be everywhere at once these days. McBride plays here with an ever-charging enthusiasm and groove-laden bump that accentuates the proceedings and moves the music in directions unforeseen. He sounds hungry, as does the rest of the band.

Spike Wilner

REVIEW: Spike Wilner, 'Koan,' Posi-Tone Records >>

Man, those guys at Posi-Tone are on a roll! Spike Wilner's 'Koan' is as engaging a piano trio CD as you'll hope to hear. I thought I was done with basic piano trios but Wilner is so inventive, his originals so, uh, original, his covers so well-picked and performed, that if you have to hear yet another piano trio, let it be he.

Ivas John

REVIEW: Ivas John, 'Good Days a Comin',' Right Side Up Records >>

If you didn't know any better, you might think, after hearing 'Good Days a Comin' (Right Side Up), that you're digging some itinerant flat- and finger-picking folk singer who rides the rails 1940s hobo-style like Woody Guthrie. Then you'd realize it's a Southern Illinois University graduate named Ivas John whose mastery of both Appalachian mountain music and Mississippi Delta blues coalesces within the soul of this one mighty fine singer-songwriter.

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