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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Dissecting Sublime Frequencies with the folks behind a recent book on the label

Posted By on 02.09.17 at 04:25 PM

The 2016 Sublime Frequencies compilation Burkina Faso: Vol. 2
  • The 2016 Sublime Frequencies compilation Burkina Faso: Vol. 2

On Saturday afternoon at 2 PM, Corbett vs. Dempsey hosts a series of readings from and a panel discussion about the recent book Punk Ethnography: Artists & Scholars Listen to Sublime Frequencies (Wesleyan). Sublime Frequencies is an influential record label founded by Alan and Rick Bishop (both of Sun City Girls fame) and their friend Hisham Mayet, and since its launch in 2003 it's released a fascinating array of previously hard-to-find music from around the globe. Mayet and the Bishops collected many of the recordings released early in the label's history while on their frequent international travels—they would tape stuff from local radio stations, make field recordings of performances, and stockpile regional music found in makeshift kiosks. They often cast light on sounds from the Arab world and Asia that rarely surfaced in the West, and many collections focused on regional pop styles usually passed over by the ethnographic labels Sublime Frequencies cited as inspiration, such as Folkways and Ocora.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

British fiddler and recorder player Laura Cannell braids together traditions that span centuries

Posted By on 02.07.17 at 12:00 PM

Laura Cannell - COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
  • courtesy of the artist
  • Laura Cannell

This month I'd planned to compile my annual list of my 40 favorite albums of the previous year. After I fell behind, I figured I could just do it a bit later than usual, but ever since the inauguration it's been hard to think about ranking records. I do know, though, that the latest album by Laura Cannell, Simultaneous Flight Movement (Brawl), would've landed high on that list. The Brit plays fiddle and recorders, and her exquisite solo recordings connect British folk, contemporary music, drone, and medieval music in ways that I struggle to understand. She seems to erase time, folding centuries-old traditions into something modern and bracing.

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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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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Remembering Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit and his implacable grooves

Posted By on 01.24.17 at 12:00 PM

Jaki Liebezeit in December 2011 - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • Jaki Liebezeit in December 2011

On Sunday singular German drummer Jaki Liebezeit died in his sleep at age 78 while suffering a sudden case of pneumonia. He leaves behind a profound musical legacy, the cornerstone of which is his membership in influential art-rock band Can—nearly five decades later, the records he made with that group sound fresher and more original than anything the vast majority of their contemporaries produced. Can were key figures in the Krautrock scene (along with the likes of Kraftwerk, Neu!, Faust, Ash Ra Tempel, and Amon Düül), and their trademark sound relied largely on Liebezeit's loose, massive grooves—a rhythmic armature that gave his bandmates the freedom to shape abstract textures, needling solo lines, and hypnotic chants in constantly shifting combinations.

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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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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Mica Levi of Micachu & the Shapes collides with cellist Oliver Coates

Posted By on 01.10.17 at 12:00 PM

Remain Calm by Mica Levi & Oliver Coates
  • Remain Calm by Mica Levi & Oliver Coates
I haven't yet listened to the score Mica Levi created for the new Jackie Onassis biopic, but the music she made for the 2013 sci-fi flick Under the Skin is some of the most gripping minimalist work I've heard in years. Levi, who also leads the band Micachu & the Shapes, worked with British cellist Oliver Coates for Under the Skin, and they recently engaged in a very different collaboration: the album Remain Calm (Slip), which dropped last fall. Both players have backgrounds in classical music and have spent significant energy exploring the periphery of pop, and they've both experimented with rigorous combinations of the two genres. For Remain Calm their sessions were loose and improvisational, and Levi reworked the results to create a series of short instrumentals that land somewhere between chill ambience and turbulent groove.

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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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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Check out some deep 60s funk from the Crescent City

Posted By on 01.03.17 at 12:00 PM

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I first heard today's 12 O'Clock Track four or five years ago at the Hideout, when bassist Joshua Abrams was spinning records between sets during one of the club's old weekly jazz nights. It riveted me immediately thanks to the funky, propulsive drumming of James Black, one of many great timekeepers from New Orleans, and within a few bars I was totally sold. I learned that the song, "I've Got What You Need," appeared on Psychedelphia (Funky Delicacies), a compilation of tracks by singer Mary Jane Hooper, and I quickly tracked it down—but I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I didn't listen to the album again till this past weekend.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Heat yourself up with vintage grooves from Ghanaian singer Pat Thomas

Posted By on 12.13.16 at 12:00 PM

Pat Thomas - COURTESY OF STRUT RECORDS
  • courtesy of Strut Records
  • Pat Thomas

One of my biggest disappointments from this year's World Music Festival was the fact that the scheduled concert by veteran Ghanaian singer Pat Thomas didn't happen. Slow visa processing forced his band to cancel their entire U.S. tour—a sadly familiar story for foreign musicians trying to play in this country. Thomas has enjoyed revived fame in recent years, a result of falling in with the same Germany-based crew that's helped terrific Ghanaian guitarist Ebo Taylor (an early collaborator of Thomas) achieve international acclaim.

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