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Album Reviews

ALBUM REVIEWS

Sarah Tandy: Infection In The Sentence

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Sarah Tandy made a mark on the alternative London jazz scene three years ago as the pianist on alto saxophonist Camilla George's luminous debut, Isang (Ubuntu). More recently, she has played piano and keyboards on two other headline albums: George's The People Could Fly (Ubuntu, 2018), and alto saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi's SEED Ensemble's debut, Driftglass (Jazz re:freshed, 2019). Tandy's own-name album debut was just a matter of time... and here it is, a 360-degree, access-all-areas blinder. ...

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Nick Malcolm: Real Isn't Real

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There's always a temptation to describe things we like as “the real jazz/soul/music..." out of a passion for a new musical discovery, but what does it actually mean? At the level of pure pedantry no piece of music can be more “real" than any other, yet what this unfortunate formulation is meant to signify is that the mother-lode of the inescapable quintessence of a particular type of music, the right stuff, has been found--the cat's pyjama's, the dog's (ahem) 'cojones' ...

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Duncan Eagles: Citizen

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Citizen is London-based saxophonist Duncan Eagle's first album under his own name and follows his signing to the burgeoning U.S. label Ropeadope. His other major vehicle is the band Partikel whose eponymously titled debut album was released in 2010 followed by three more critically acclaimed recordings for the Whirlwind label, Cohesion (2013), String Theory (2015) and Counteraction (2017). Eagles is highly respected on the U.K. jazz scene and has worked with the likes of Shabaka Hutchings, Gary Husband and Jason ...

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Wadada Leo Smith: Rosa Parks: Pure Love. An Oratorio of Seven Songs

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Acclaimed trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and educator Wadada Leo Smith has released an oratorio of seven songs inspired by the iconic civil rights leader Rosa Parks. In his own words, Rosa Parks: Pure Love. An Oratorio of Seven Songs is “concerned with ideas of freedom, liberty and justice, a meditation centered around the civil rights movement." Looking at Smith's more than 50 years of creative and artistic vision, this release is yet another inspired organic musical direction that has established him ...

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Tommaso Starace Harmony Less Quartet: Narrow Escape

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This highly engaging set was recorded at Only Music Studio in Turin, Italy on 23 and 24 January 2018 but was mixed and mastered in Bexley, Kent the following July. Saxophonist Tommaso Starace has a solid connection with the UK having studied at Birmingham Conservatoire where he graduated with a BMus first class honours degree. Starace, who was born in Milan in 1975, completed his postgraduate jazz studies at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama between 1999 and 2000. ...

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Larry Grenadier: The Gleaners

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Bassist Larry Grenadier has a most impressive resume: multiple recordings with Herbie Mann, Paul Motian, Charles Lloyd, trumpeter/brother Phil Grenadier, vocalist/wife Rebecca Martin, Chris Potter, Joshua Redman, Jamie Saft, and many others. His brand has long been enhanced by his stellar work with Pat Metheny and a twenty-plus-year association with Brad Mehldau. It's not surprising that Grenadier hasn't released a solo album, given the relative rarity of stand-alone bass recordings, but The Gleaners proves to be worth the wait.

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Ustad Saami: God Is Not A Terrorist

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God Is Not A Terrorist is by no stretch of the imagination a jazz album, but it contains deep and authentic music and will appeal to some AAJers. Ustad Saami is a master of the Pakistani vocal style known as surti, which is characterized by its use of microtones. Microtones are widely used in music throughout Pakistan and India, but surti is a distinct tradition, dating back to pre-Islamic times. Saami's voice is the focus of the music, accompanied by ...

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Layale Chaker and Sarafand: Inner Rhyme

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Arabic poetry is the primary source of inspiration for Lebanese violinist and composer Layale Chaker's innovative and vibrant debut Inner Rhyme. Recorded in New York with her band Sarafand (named after a Palestinian village that was abandoned in 1948) this original music is full of subtle wit and sublime emotion. In crafting this exquisite album, Chaker transposes traditional Arabic poetic meters to rhythmic ones. She also draws upon her western classical training as well as her Levantine heritage ...

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Yagull: Yuna

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The duo's third album is an unquestionable treat for the aural senses. Think of fragile lullabies, drifting melody lines, temperate undercurrents and a few tuneful up-tempo numbers, as these piano-guitar duets are organic and wistful, yet not overly sedate or monolithic akin to commercial New Age mall music. Pieces like “Dawn" spark imagery of a faraway land via a simple melody, tinted with drifting qualities. Here, pianist Kana Kamitsubo renders elegant block chords, placing emphasis on the primary ...

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Mark Vickness: Places

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Inspired by rock gods such as Jimi Hendrix and studying with the likes of Mel Powell, guitarist/composer Mark Vickness uses powerful technique and sophisticated harmony to explore texture and mood on “Prince William Sound." Comparisons with a body of water aren't cliche: a pensive six-note motif flows in gradually, surfaces over a subtle ground pulse, then ripples and surges into cool harmonics, country twangs, fat single-note phrases, thick orchestral chords, and even a miniature “bass" solo, before fading away into ...

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Eli Wallace: Barriers

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Eli Wallace is best known as the keyboard half of the piano/drum improvising duo Dialectical Imagination with Rob Pumpelly. Listeners familiar with Wallace's work in that setting and with the trio Cataclysmic Commentary, with tenor saxophonist Ben Cohen and Dave Miller on drums, know that Wallace is not averse to swimming against the current. The California native, now residing in Brooklyn, works across genres of improvisation, modern jazz, rock and classical music. He holds Bachelor's and Master's of Music, from ...

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Stephan Thelen: Fractal Guitar

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For his Moonjune Records debut, Stephan Thelen, USA-born/Swiss guitarist and primary composer for the post-minimalist/post-progressive band Sonar, challenges some of the foundational premises of a group that has, over almost the last decade, garnered increasing critical and popular acclaim. As informed by Robert Fripp and the guitarist's work with (and beyond) King Crimson as it is the Zen Funk of Nik Bärtsch's Ronin and the similarly minimalist-informed Don Li, it's unlikely that Sonar's polyrhythmic, groove--heavy, tritone-based music will ever put ...