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

Mike Greenblatt

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.

Chip Taylor

Blogarrhea: Songwriter Hall of Famer Chip Taylor Releases Two New Homespun Folksy CDs >>

On June 9, in New York City, the Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted Chip Taylor, 76, the outlaw country singer who, like Willie Nelson, rejected Nashville's strict 1970s conformity. Unlike Willie, though, who packed up and moved to Austin, Taylor packed up and quit the music business entirely in 1980 to become a professional gambler. The brother of actor Jon Voight and volcanologist Barry Voight certainly wasn't going to listen to anybody tell him how to make his music.

Eric Krasno

REVIEW: Eric Krasno, 'Blood From A Stone,' Feel Music Group >>

Eric Krasno's 'Blood From A Stone' (Feel Music Group) rocks righteously on its merry way through funky blues, R'n'B, Americana and what you might call Instant Classic Rock. It's a collaborative effort between he and his main man Dave Gutter who holed up in Gutter's Maine barn to write, record and listen to The Bobby Blue Bland Blues Band's 1974 'Dreamer' and the controversial-in-'68 'Electric Mud' by Muddy Waters.

Dave Douglas

REVIEW: Dave Douglas, 'Dark Territory,' Greenleaf Music >>

We have a winner! A wildly uncompromising synthesis of electronica, jazz and soundtrack (for a movie that doesn't exist), trumpeter/band leader/composer Dave Douglas has really entered some 'Dark Territory' here (Greenleaf Music). It's the follow-up to last year's aptly-named 'High Risk.' Now, though, he's not only balancing on a high wire of expectations, he's dancing in the dark.

Ben Adkins

REVIEW: Ben Adkins, 'Salmagundi,' Self-Released >>

In 1600s England, they called a large mixed-salad "salmagundi," meaning many ingredients. The same can be said for Florida drummer Ben Adkins and his quintet's debut self-release of the same name. From the New Orleans party of "That Jambalaya" with rampaging guest solos by sax man Michael Emmert and guitarist Chris Adkins, to Blue Mitchell's classic bebop "Fungii Mama," which Ben starts with a searing drum solo, Salmagundi, indeed, has more than just lettuce and tomatoes.

Peggy Stern

REVIEW: Peggy Stern, 'Z Octet,' Estrella Productions >>

Peggy Stern is a musician's musician. She's made her mark in Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York City, Europe, Seattle and now Austin. Her multi-hued musical worldview includes classical, salsa, Latin rock, jazz and R'n'B. 'Z Octet' (Estrella Prod.) veers classical as a suite in 10 movements. But, just like it's not exactly jazz, it's not exactly classical either.

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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