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Destination South Africa (Part 1)

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Over the past three weeks we've focused on Africa's influence on jazz music. We played music by international jazz musicians who were inspired by Africa as well as music by jazz musicians from Mali to Tunisia and from Ethiopia to Zimbabwe. Now what about South African Jazz? Well, we left South Africa for last since it requires extensive attention as the country at the southernmost point of the continent is home to the most enduring and wide-ranging jazz ...

FROM FAR AND WIDE

Improvising Where No Man Has Gone Before: Encountering William Shatner, Star Trek, And “The Wrath Of Khan”

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I am a Trekkie. No apologies for that. There are millions of us floating around in the universe. So when I saw that Captain James Tiberius Kirk, aka William Shatner, was going to appear in person and give a talk after a showing of the classic film, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, I decided to go. I played a weird hunch that All About Jazz publisher Michael Ricci is also a Trekkie, and he confirmed my worst suspicion. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Henry Threadgill 14 or 15 Kestra: Agg: Dirt...And More Dirt

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One of only three jazz musicians to win a Pulitzer Prize in Music, for his 2015 Pi Recordings release In for a Penny, In for a Pound, Henry Threadgill is the avant-garde member of a triumvirate that includes the mainstream in Wynton Marsalis and free jazz with legend Ornette Coleman. A musical illusionist, Threadgill can create a scope of orchestration that is disproportionate to the size of its source. He can generate tremendous power and emotion without pyrotechnics or mawkishness, ...

IN PICTURES
CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Jean Toussaint Allstar 6tet: Brother Raymond

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Jean Toussaint, a graduate of Berklee College of Music and an alumnus of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers has assembled a veritable all-star cast for his follow-up to Tate Song (Lyte Records, 2014). Even more remarkable is the permutation of personnel, which, other than Toussaint himself, changes on most tracks, affording a different perspective to the selections. The boisterous opener “Amabo (I Shall Love)" is a keenly-swinging number which betrays some Caribbean / Latin-esque influences. There are some great ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Lee Konitz: Frescalalto

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For over seven decades, since his participation in Miles Davis's 1949-1950 Birth of the Cool sessions, Lee Konitz has carved out a tireless path as one of jazz's most illuminating improvisers. Recorded at the tail end of 2015, when he was already 87 years old, Frescalalto sees Konitz in a straight-ahead session effectively marshalled by the trio of Kenny Barron, Peter Washington and Kenny Washington, who provide bags of rhythmic momentum. Standards and Konitz originals make for familiar fare, with ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Hughes Smith Quintet: Motion

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The Hughes Smith Quintet is an amalgamation of saxophonist James Hughes and trumpeter Jimmy Smith, not only in namesake, but also in compositional approach. Their latest album Motion, the third in a catalog featuring original compositions, focuses on the straight-ahead sound of the seventies, popular in the Detroit scene, blended with hard-hitting energy, deep grooves, vibrant colors, and textures of this period in jazz, with their own modern sensibilities. The group is rounded out with Phil Kelly, a mainstay Detroit ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Diogo Vida: El Duende

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El Duende derives from the duende of Spanish mythology, an elf or magic creature. When the term is used in connection with music, especially flamenco, it means “having soul," something that gives you chills, makes you smile, or even cry, in response to an artistic performance. The Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca described it thus: “The duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of your feet." Portuguese pianist Diogo Vida says it describes the feeling he ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville 2018

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Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville Victoriaville, Quebec, Canada May 17-18, 2018 Keeping a middle-aged festival such as the Festival International de Musique Actualle de Victoriaville fresh and relevant is a challenge, but the program for this year's 34th edition of FIMAV assembled by artistic director Michel Levasseur had something more of an avant-garde and international flavor than we have seen in recent years. Prominent in the schedule are Asian musicians and Asian-influenced music as ...

LIVE REVIEWS

Vijay Iyer Sextet at The Village Vanguard

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Vijay Iyer Sextet Village Vanguard New York, NY May 17, 2018 I'll recreate this blistering first set the best I can. The sextet nudged their way through the Vanguard's current crowd and its deep history. The applause built. Vijay Iyer took his place at the piano, turned to the crowd, spilled water on some mic and electric cables and hoped it doesn't cause a problem. He introduced his band, obviously straining-at-the-bit: Graham Haynes trumpet, ...