Trombone Shorty: "Lifted"

May 2022

Blue Note Records B003456902
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
****

In the late 2000s, not long before Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews began landing gigs at the White House and on late-night network TV shows, I worked twice with the New Orleans musician at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, where I was the media resource. The first time Andrews appeared there, he was an unknown support act; the following year, he headlined. Both times, he put on astounding live shows that were equal parts Crescent City parade music and guitar-powered Southern rock.

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Various Artists: "Black Lives: From Generation to Generation"

April 2022

Jammin’ Colors 73374
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Miles Davis was a firm believer that music is colorless. Despite having been an outspoken champion and defender of Black artists and their creative output, the trumpeter recognized that music transcends the petty political stances and systemic racism dominating life in Western democracies.

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Culture and Flow: Three Saxophonists Who Transcend (Melissa Aldana, "12 Stars"; Roxy Coss, "Disparate Parts"; Julieta Eugenio, "Jump")

March 2022

Melissa Aldana: 12 Stars

Blue Note Records B0034596-02
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
****

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Ray Charles: "True Genius"

December 2021

Tangerine Records TRC-2107
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

Let’s begin with a quiz: There are 99 individual performances on this extensive six-disc overview of singer-pianist Ray Charles’s career. How many of the songs do you think he composed?

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The Cookers: "Look Out!"

October 2021

Gearbox Records 1571CD
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

If you followed popular music in the late ’60s and early ’70s, you likely remember the hype surrounding so-called supergroups. Bands like Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominos, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were touted as truly special things by the rock media.

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Lee Morgan: "The Complete Live at the Lighthouse"

August 2021

Blue Note B096C185JM
Format: 8 CDs

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

Like me, you probably have a few recordings you’ve played so many times you know every note, every nuance.

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Ben Goldberg: "Everything Happens to Be."

July 2021

BAG Production BAG018
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

I credit my father for indoctrinating me with a love for the clarinet. As a young man, long before my time, he immersed himself in the music of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw the way I would later cleave to Jimi Hendrix and Duane Allman. And before either of those guitarists were making records, my father was filling my ears every Sunday morning with the sounds of Goodman, Shaw, Jimmy Dorsey, Woody Herman, and others who had made the clarinet the equivalent of the Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul in his day.

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Vince Mendoza & the Czech National Symphony Orchestra: “Freedom over Everything”

June 2021

Modern Recordings
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

In a less-fragmented musical landscape, composer-arranger Vince Mendoza might be a household name on the scale of Burt Bacharach or Henry Mancini. After all, the 59-year-old has won six Grammy Awards (and been nominated for a total of 34) and worked with stars like Björk, Elvis Costello, Sting, and Joni Mitchell. As it is, Mendoza’s reputation is largely confined to the jazz community, where he’s made his name by furthering so-called “third stream” music with the Metropole Orchestra and soloists like trumpeter Randy Brecker.

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Jakob Bro, Arve Henriksen, Jorge Rossy: "Uma Elmo"

April 2021

ECM 2702
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
****

I’ve never completely bought into the idea of a distinctive “ECM Records sound,” by which is meant an austere, spacious, dry soundstage developed by label head Manfred Eicher for the artists he records. For one thing, the ECM catalog is far too broad, and the studios and engineers they employ far too diverse, for there to be any such uniformity. Another argument against the concept is that Eicher is too much a believer in capturing the true nature of artists to impose a soundstage on anyone. That’s not to say that he isn’t known for imposing his opinions on his artists, but they are more about artistry itself and not sonic aesthetics.

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Mark Feldman: "Sounding Point"

March 2021

Intakt 354
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
****

There’s a truism in music that well-trained classical musicians can’t improvise or swing enough to play jazz, and that jazz musicians who read well can perform the classics but can’t sound authentic playing folk music like country or blues. It’s not really a knock against musicians; you wouldn’t want a brain surgeon to replace your hip, either. The fact is, the deeper you go into a specialty, the more constrained you are.

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