Sonny Rollins: "Rollins in Holland"

January 2021

Resonance 2048
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
****

Instrumental virtuosity can be a mixed blessing, even if some of us would put it in the category of “nice problem to have.”

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The Nels Cline Singers' "Share the Wealth" and Dave Douglas's "Marching Music"

December 2020

The Nels Cline Singers: Share the Wealth

Blue Note 0737079
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Dave Douglas: Marching Music

Greenleaf Music 1078
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Jimi Hendrix’s epochal “Machine Gun” in the time of Richard Nixon, the Clash’s unforgiving “Clampdown” in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, Bruce Springsteen’s elegiac “Long Walk Home” in response to George W. Bush: musicians frequently have created some of their best work in response to autocratic leadership and social oppression. Those artists who employ vocals can easily make their opposition known; for composers who work in instrumental settings, it’s a higher bar.

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Cindy Blackman Santana: "Give the Drummer Some"

November 2020

Copperline 105
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
***

At 60, drummer Cindy Blackman Santana has had an exceptionally varied career that has seen her perform at both massive arenas and tiny clubs. The former came courtesy of her long tenure with singer-guitarist Lenny Kravitz, whom she first played with in 1993, the latter from her long apprenticeship as a jazz musician. In an interview, she once told me that the primary difference was what happened before and after the shows.

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Ron Miles: “Rainbow Sign”

October 2020

Blue Note B003239502
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

Jazz is both blessed and cursed with a creation myth, which is so oft-repeated that you might be able to recite it with me: born in New Orleans, it spread north to Chicago on the first waves of the Great Migration, and then east to New York City. Except, as jazz historian Mark Miller eloquently proved in his 1997 book, Such Melodious Racket, it’s not true.

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Matt Wilson Quartet: "Hug!"

September 2020

Palmetto 2196
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

I heard about drummer Matt Wilson before I heard his music, and what I heard about him made me anticipate that first interaction as I had for few other musicians. What I heard about Wilson was that he brought intense joy to everything he played, along with a sense of curiosity, and technique that made him sound like no other drummer on the scene.

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Ran Blake & Andrew Rathbun: "Northern Noir"

July 2020

SteepleChase 31899
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

If you’re a regular here, or on any of the other SoundStage! Network sites, it’s safe to assume you love music and listen to a lot of it. It’s also likely that you appreciate the subtleties in the characteristics of various musicians -- whether you like jazz, rock, classical, or country. Your ear, to say nothing about your equipment, is sensitive enough to tell the difference between Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, or Carla Bley and Paul Bley, even if they’re playing the same composition.

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John Scofield: "Swallow Tales"

June 2020

ECM 2679
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays. Jazz has produced some highly productive and long-lasting collaborative relationships, but none has lasted as long as the one between bassist/composer Steve Swallow and guitarist John Scofield. They’ve worked together, off and on, since Scofield’s 1980 recording, Bar Talk, so it seems appropriate that the guitarist turn to Swallow for both inspiration and collaboration on his debut for ECM Records.

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Kandace Springs: "The Women Who Raised Me"

April 2020

Blue Note B0031597
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Blue Note Records built its stellar reputation on many factors. Francis Wolff’s in-studio photography, Reid Miles’s iconic cover design, and Rudy Van Gelder’s impeccable soundstage all went into the mix.

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Gordon Grdina’s Nomad Trio: "Gordon Grdina’s Nomad Trio"

February 2020

Skirl 44
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

In this era of social media dominance, it’s still possible for artists to mature and develop a distinctive voice and musical approach in relative isolation. At least, that’s true in a country as large and regionally self-sufficient as Canada. The proof is in my discovery of Gordon Grdina, a Vancouver-based string player.

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Jimi Hendrix: "Songs for Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts"

January 2020

Legacy/Sony Music 598277
Format: 5 CDs

Musical Performance
***

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Fifty years ago, Jimi Hendrix found himself in a quandary. As he entered the final year of his short life and approached his 27th birthday, he was at a crossroads. For a musician who had been on the road almost constantly since leaving the army in 1962, he was uncharacteristically idle. He didn’t have a single concert between a Harlem benefit show on September 5, 1969, and the first of a two-night/four-set stand at New York’s Fillmore East on New Year’s Eve. For someone whose time in the international spotlight lasted only 1430 days, that 122-day span of concert inactivity represented a massive chunk of time.

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