Tuesday, April 8, 2014


2014 RareNoiseRecords

Co-led by keyboardist Jamie Saft and guitarist Joe Morris, the quintet Plymouth takes a spontaneous approach to three collaborative pieces, each with distinct coloring over an unfolding sonic arc. The unbelievably diverse drummer Gerald Cleaver, who provides the necessary glue during peak moments of distorted posturing, bassist Chris Lightcap and guitarist Mary Halvorson round out this psychedelic, avant-rock, whatever-you-want-to-call-it band that succeeds at stretching out sparse, guitar-driven themes into a musical multi-tasking frenzy. Saft's penchant for Jon Lord-style organ riffs, seemingly unrelated to the intuitive interplay of Morris and Halvorson give the impression of standing on a busy downtown street, listening to a sold-out show from outside the theater. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Omar Hakim Experience - We Are One

2014 OZmosis Records

Omar Hakim has one of the most recognizable back-beats in popular music. His crisp and lively drumming has been the driving force behind some of the most recognizable hits of the last thirty years, from big-name artists such as Sting, David Bowie and Daft Punk. On We Are One, his first solo recording in 14 years, Hakim showcases not only his unique sense of groove, but also technical virtuosity and a seasoned approach to composing and arranging. 
Stand-out tracks include "Transmigration" and "Walk the Walk" for unrelenting energy and jazz-rock anthemic qualities. Both feature guitarist Chieli Minucci who leaves his mark with edgy solos. Pieces such as "Carpe Diem" and "So There" represent a more commercially accessible side to the recording while maintaining a hip vibe. Bassist Jerry Brooks ably assists Hakim throughout, turning We Are One into an engaging listening experience.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

IN Trio - Defining Moment

2014 Self-Published

It's not always easy to form a cohesive jazz unit with top-tier players. Scheduling conflicts and freelancing duties will often keep the most creative and sincere conceptions sidelined. Fortunately, saxophonist Tim Armacost, bassist Harvie S and drummer Christian Finger have found the time to form a tight bond with IN Trio, exploring choice standards and original material in a manner that is progressive and swinging. The spaciousness of a piano-less trio allows Harvie S the opportunity to move beyond a merely supportive role. The acclaimed bassist displays uncanny prowess on "Quasimodo" and vocal-like qualities on "My Ship," yet grooves hard on tunes such as "The Only One" and "Contemplation." Armacost and Finger are energized throughout, especially on a blistering rendition of "My Shining Hour." The disc ends with "Endlessness," a haunting free-form piece that hints at the unlimited possibilities available to this diverse ensemble.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Kikoski, Carpenter, Novak & Sheppard - From the Hip

2013 BFM Jazz

Recorded in Beverly Hills in the Spring of 2006 in front of a small but appreciative audience,  From the Hip documents pianist David Kikoski, saxophonist Bob Sheppard, drummer Gary Novak and the late bassist Dave Carpenter in fine form, burning through a familiar set of standards and jazz classics. The energy level stays firmly intact from the opener "Star Eyes" to the uptempo closer "Mr. P.C." Highlights from the disc include Cedar Walton's "Bolivia," featuring a stellar solo by Carpenter and a piano trio version of Tadd Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Matt Kane Trio - Suit-Up

2013 Bounce-Step

With an infectious brand of swing drummer Matt Kane lays into some hard and heavy grooves on Suit-Up!, the Kansas City native's organ trio release featuring guitarist Dave Stryker and organist Kyle Koehler. The tunes are a mix of Kane and Stryker originals mixed in with a few covers. The playing throughout is straight-forward, no-nonsense and burning. Highlights include a driving rendition of "Who Can I Turn To?," Stryker's uptempo "Minor Mutiny" and a soulful turn on the Earth, Wind & Fire classic "That's the Way of the World."

Jamie Breiwick - Spirits

2013 Blujazz

Trumpeter Jamie Breiwick leads his powerhouse quartet through a set of original progressive jazz on Spirits, recorded live at The Jazz Estate in Milwaukee, Wisconson. The Milwaukee-based Breiwick and tenor saxophonist Tony Barba both demonstrate a thorough understanding of the lineage, improvising with controlled intensity, taking advantage of the heavy grooves laid out by drummer Andrew Green and bassist Tim Ipsen. The absence of a chordal instrument in the group seems to add to the soloists adventurous spirit. Many of the tracks, such as "Packed Like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box" and "Safe and Sound" feature Breiwick and Barba stretching ideas into extended lines, showcasing both technique and purposeful phrasing.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Gary Peacock/Marilyn Crispell - Azure

2013 ECM

The camaraderie between bassist Gary Peacock and pianist Marilyn Crispell is evident from the first few moments of their duo release Azure. The opening track, Crispell's jagged "Patterns," finds the longtime collaborators conversing with fast moving, bubbly lines, in a convincing free form manner. Along with some adventurous unstructured moments, there are also compositional gems such as Crispell's "Waltz after David M" and Peacock's "Lullaby," with lush harmonic foundations that bring out emotive lyricism in both performers. The co-composed "Blue" settles into a kind of groovy eeriness that makes for one of the disc's more compelling tracks. Here, Crispell demonstrates a swinging intensity. Another high mark comes from Peacock's unaccompanied arco work on "Puppets."