Jazz

Friday, March 17, 2017

Prankish Dutch drummer Han Bennink veers toward the lyrical on his new trio album

Posted By on 03.17.17 at 01:00 PM


Dutch drummer Han Bennink, who turns 75 next month, has been an unrelenting creative force in jazz and improvised music since the early 60s. In 1964 he played on Eric Dolphy's legendary final record, Last Date, and in '67 he formed the Instant Composers Pool with pianist Misha Mengelberg (who died two weeks ago) and reedist Willem Breuker. He has an instantly recognizable sound—loud, chaotic, furiously swinging—and he's applied it to hundreds of records. He's all about improvisation, so leading a regular band has never been high on his list of concerns—he's more interested in interaction and disruption. Finally, eight years ago, he decided to form a trio.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Ernest Dawkins and Vijay Iyer blend seamlessly through the common language of jazz

Posted By on 03.10.17 at 02:00 PM

Ernest Dawkins - COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
  • courtesy of the artist
  • Ernest Dawkins

One of the best things about jazz is its openness—its language and its improvisational ethos make possible the kind of spontaneous collaborations that help propel the tradition forward. Free improvisation often happens in unrehearsed encounters whose supposedly nonidiomatic output long ago congealed into the idiom of "free improvisation," but it can also take place in more conventional settings. Chicago saxophonist Ernest Dawkins, a longtime face of the AACM, has built a career balancing postbop fundamentals and free-jazz prerogatives; he emerged from a vaunted tradition and holds tightly to its roots while circumventing its orthodoxy.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Multireedist Ned Rothenberg kicks off a new season of the Option series; pianist Misha Mengelberg dead at 81

Posted By on 03.03.17 at 02:00 PM

Ned Rothenberg - DAVID AGASI
  • David Agasi
  • Ned Rothenberg
The superb Option series at Experimental Sound Studio returns next week following a hiatus since last October. Curators Ken Vandermark, Tim Daisy, and Andrew Clinkman have announced eight new events, including a kickoff Monday with the virtuosic reeds improviser Ned Rothenberg, giving his first local solo concert since 2013. The intimacy of ESS's studio provides an optimal setting for Rothenberg's playing, which builds on the extended techniques of Evan Parker—with whom he's regularly collaborated—but brings a more serene, hypnotic flair that's less driven by marathon flights of circular breathing. His technical mastery can certainly blow one's mind, but he tends to situate such displays in concise chunks that explore a single idea or two.

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Taylor Ho Bynum salutes his mentors on a rich, sprawling new big-band album

Posted By on 02.24.17 at 02:00 PM


Cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum is tightly connected to the legacy and sound of visionary composer and reedist Anthony Braxton—he studied under Braxton, has played under his leadership for decades, and serves as executive director of the Tri-Centric Arts Foundation, which administers Braxton's prolific output. In his own music, though, Bynum has usually mapped his own path. He's had a fruitful partnership with drummer Tomas Fujiwara, and he's led an evolving number of medium-to-large ensembles, privileging strings in some and brass in others—such as the band on his most recent album, Enter the Plustet (Firehouse 12).

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Friday, February 17, 2017

New York quartet Hush Point deftly modernize west-coast jazz fundamentals

Posted By on 02.17.17 at 02:00 PM

Hush Point - ZACHARIAH KOBRINSKY
  • Zachariah Kobrinsky
  • Hush Point

My favorite overlooked trumpeter is New York veteran John McNeil, a wry, witty player who adds forward-looking accents to the language of west-coast jazz. Lately he's found simpatico partners half his age—saxophonist Jeremy Udden, bassist Aryeh Kobrinsky, and drummer Anthony Pinciotti—in the quartet Hush Point. Last month they dropped their third album, Hush Point III (Sunnyside), on which they sound more confident and intimate than ever—they seem to be able to anticipate one another's moves via some sort of musical telepathy. Hush Point's version of jazz, while providing a perfect showcase for solos, is rooted in an old-school ensemble mentality—and few experiences in music give me more pleasure than hearing two (or more) skilled improvisers tease out sophisticated melodies together, exploiting their knowledge of harmony to glide across a tightrope without getting tangled up.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Saxophonist Anna Webber turns to the Internet to inspire music for her Simple Trio

Posted By on 02.10.17 at 02:00 PM

Matt Mitchell, Anna Webber, and John Hollenbeck - LIZ KOSACK
  • Liz Kosack
  • Matt Mitchell, Anna Webber, and John Hollenbeck
Few younger musicians at work in New York's jazz and improvised music scene have impressed me as consistently as reedist Anna Webber, a native of British Columbia who has demonstrated admirable artistic restlessness since moving to the city in 2008. In recent years she's delivered consistently bracing, rigorous work with an ever-expanding number of working ensembles deftly illuminated by shifting lineups, timbres, concepts, or structural conceits. Last fall she dropped Binary (Skirl), the second album by her Simple Trio—which is anything but simple—with percussionist John Hollenbeck and pianist Matt Mitchell.

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Friday, February 3, 2017

New York drummer Vinnie Sperrazza nudges postbop tradition on his new album

Posted By on 02.03.17 at 02:00 PM

Vinnie Sperrazza - ANNA YATSKEVICH
  • Anna Yatskevich
  • Vinnie Sperrazza

Drummer Vinnie Sperrazza has been part of the New York jazz scene for more than decade, most often working under someone else's leadership. He's nonetheless been exerting his own musical personality, which straddles postbop fundamentals and relatively outward-bound tendencies, in collective efforts with the likes of pianist Jacob Sacks and saxophonist Matt Blostein. Three years ago he dropped his first record as a leader, Apocryphal (Loyal Label), on which he employed bassist Eivind Opsvik to anchor the extroverted machinations of guitarist Brandon Seabrook. Today Sperrazza displays a more "inside" sensibility with the release of Juxtaposition (Posi-Tone), a reserved quartet album that occasionally generates the appealing creative tension suggested by its title.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

The Jazz Record Art Collective celebrates the music of Ornette Coleman onstage

Posted By on 01.27.17 at 02:00 PM

Ornette Coleman - JIMMY KATZ
  • Jimmy Katz
  • Ornette Coleman

Since September 2013, Chris Anderson, a former floor manager at the Green Mill, has been organizing a monthly series that invites local jazz musicians to assemble new groups in order to play a classic and/or overlooked album in its entirety. During its run, his Jazz Record Art Collective project has expanded its range: though the bulk of the albums celebrated have been hard bop at their core, other installments have explored free jazz or more fusion-oriented work. The next concert is on Wednesday, February 1, when a newly convened quartet called Garden of Souls performs two albums by Ornette Coleman at the Fulton Street Collective.

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Winter Jazzfest electrifies a chilly New York weekend

Posted By on 01.13.17 at 02:15 PM

Marc Ribot - JATI LINDSAY
  • Jati Lindsay
  • Marc Ribot

Last weekend I stumbled around Manhattan trying to take in the bonanza of the annual Winter Jazzfest. The event has expanded from two days to six, but its heart remains a two-night marathon spanning Friday and Saturday. This year more than 150 first-rate groups performed downtown at more than a dozen venues. Winter Jazzfest takes place during the annual conference of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, where curators and programmers talk shop and check out artists who want the organization's members to book or hire them. This can make the Winter Jazzfest function something like a bazaar, where browsing is encouraged—sets are sometimes disrupted by crowds entering or exiting during the music. On the plus side, though, there are few other opportunities anywhere in the world to hear so many groups in such a short time.

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Friday, January 6, 2017

An all-star jazz trio tackles the music of John Zorn

Posted By on 01.06.17 at 02:00 PM


My year-end list published in the Reader a couple weeks ago bore the headline "The ten best jazz records of 2016," because I forgot to remind my editor that I'd prefer to say "My ten favorite" instead. The concreteness of "best" doesn't acknowledge the reality that I didn't hear all the jazz albums released last year—not even close. As usual, in the days and weeks since I compiled the list, I've heard music that could've competed for a spot, including Flaga (The Book of Angels, Vol. 27) (Tzadik), the latest in a long series of disparate recordings produced by John Zorn using the book of compositions he wrote for his old group Masada. Because of the connection to Zorn and the "Book of Angels" rubric, the performers tend to get less attention than they might otherwise—which makes it easy for individual titles, such as Flaga, to get overlooked.

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Music
Boxhead Ensemble Constellation
March 24
Performing Arts
Love's Labor's Lost Chicago Shakespeare Theater
February 07

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