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935 reviews/ratings
STEELY DAN - Countdown to Ecstasy RnB
MILES DAVIS - Agharta Fusion
JAZZ Q PRAHA /JAZZ Q - Symbiosis Jazz Related Rock | review permalink
LYUBOMIR DENEV - Lyubomir Denev Jazz Trio And Petko Tomanov Fusion | review permalink
SOFT MACHINE - Third Jazz Related Rock | review permalink
SOFT MACHINE - The Peel Sessions Fusion | review permalink
KRZYSZTOF KOMEDA - Astigmatic Post Bop | review permalink
SOFT HEAP / SOFT HEAD - Rogue Element (as Soft Head) Fusion | review permalink
ROBERT WYATT - Rock Bottom Pop/Art Song/Folk | review permalink
KAZUTOKI UMEZU - Eclecticism Eclectic Fusion | review permalink
JAN GARBAREK - Afric Pepperbird Avant-Garde Jazz | review permalink
DAVID TORN - Polytown Nu Jazz | review permalink
MASADA - 50⁴ (Electric Masada) Eclectic Fusion | review permalink
ANTHONY BRAXTON - Dortmund (Quartet) 1976 Avant-Garde Jazz | review permalink
MATANA ROBERTS - Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Couleur Libres Avant-Garde Jazz | review permalink
FIRE! - Fire! Orchestra : Exit! Avant-Garde Jazz | review permalink
MAL WALDRON - Reminicent Suite (with Terumasa Hino) Post Bop | review permalink
JOE MCPHEE / SURVIVAL UNIT - Nation Time (Live at Vassar College) Fusion | review permalink
WILDFLOWERS - Wildflowers 1: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions Avant-Garde Jazz | review permalink
MAL WALDRON - What It Is Avant-Garde Jazz | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Avant-Garde Jazz 322 3.68
2 Fusion 97 3.54
3 Post Bop 96 3.54
4 Eclectic Fusion 61 3.69
5 21st Century Modern 39 3.79
6 Nu Jazz 37 3.62
7 Jazz Related Rock 35 3.30
8 Hard Bop 33 3.44
9 World Fusion 33 3.14
10 RnB 25 3.44
11 Jazz Related Improv/Composition 25 3.56
12 Post-Fusion Contemporary 19 3.21
13 Third Stream 18 3.42
14 Progressive Big Band 16 3.81
15 Pop/Art Song/Folk 16 2.97
16 Vocal Jazz 12 3.33
17 Funk 9 3.28
18 African Fusion 7 3.71
19 Jazz Related Electronica/Hip-Hop 6 3.33
20 Funk Jazz 5 3.40
21 Jazz Related Soundtracks 5 3.50
22 Soul Jazz 4 3.38
23 Cool Jazz 3 3.67
24 Acid Jazz 2 3.75
25 Exotica 2 3.00
26 Big Band 2 2.75
27 Blues 2 3.00
28 Latin Jazz 2 3.50
29 Afro-Cuban Jazz 1 3.50
30 Jump Blues 1 3.50

Latest Albums Reviews

MUHAL RICHARD ABRAMS Celestial Birds

Boxset / Compilation · 2020 · Avant-Garde Jazz
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It is almost an axiom that no-one likes compilations in jazz (and rock music as well). Still, there are hundreds and thousands of them, predominantly with the openly commercial reason of trying to sell old as new, usually collecting all the most successful pieces in one place.

"Celestial Birds" is oppositely different. It contains some more unusual Muhal Richard Abrams compositions, with a strong accent on early electronics sound.

Avant-garde jazz never had a commercial potential as musical genre, and it has even less in the 20's. The risk of releasing such albums is moderately high, but thanks to zeitkratzer series director Reinhold Friedl and German label Karlrecords the world got the rare possibility to refresh (and for many newcomers - to find out) this lesser know side of AACM founder.

Vinyl album's side A is dedicated to 22+ minutes long "The Bird Song", which originally filled whole side B of Abrams debut, "Levels and Degrees of Light", released in 1968. The composition opens with recitative Chicagoan poet David Moore's poem and continues with dominating analogue synthesizer's vibes scented with minimalist saxes(Anthony Braxton & Kalaparusha), bass(Leonard Jones), drums (Thurman Barker) and violin (Leroy Jenkins). Differently from later and more regular use of electronics in jazz, here the whole music sounds quite cold, technological and close to minimalist composers pieces. It's interesting, that for this compilation the original version of the song has been used, with reverberations removed from the CD reissues.

"Conversations With The Three Of Me" is taken from much later, 1989 album "The Hearinga Suite", released in Italy. Here we found Abrams playing solo, first on piano and then - on synth. Piano part sounds as neo-classic dry composition which ends as spacey synth improvs. "Think All, Focus One" is another Abrams solo composition, played solely on analogue synths (comes from 1995 album of the same name). Abrams sounds not much different from Frank Zappa playing Synclavier on his unorthodox album "Jazz From Hell". The closer, "Spihumonesty", is recorded with a larger combo, including Roscoe Mitchell on reeds among others. Dominating synths sound here is mixed with free jazz small orchestra.

Early recordings presented on this compilation are coming from the time when synthesizer meant actually an extremely expensive studio, which were rare and hardly accessible for the jazz musician. Abrams was among very first jazz musicians experimenting with synthesis of jazz and electronics, and his works sound interesting even now.

KIRK KNUFFKE Brightness : Live in Amsterdam

Live album · 2020 · Eclectic Fusion
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Kirk Knuffke, a cornetist based in New York since 2005, is one of this generation's leading artists on his instrument. He's played with William Parker, Roswell Rudd, John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Myra Melford and Jon Irabagon among many others, and has built a strong reputation as an inventive and skilled side-artist.

He started recording as a leader in 2008, he moved from freer avant-garde jazz to various forms of free-bop, finding there his own easily recognizable sound. It came almost as a surprise to realize that after twelve years and a series of his own albums, "Brightness.." is Knuffke's first ever released live album (European "Chew Your Food" live album from 2010 is more a collective Knuffke-Ellis-Wollesen trio work).

Following Knuffke music for some years, it always attracted me for being unpredictable. Having his own signature sound, Knuffke never plays the same things twice. All of his albums are recorded with different line-ups and/or different, sometimes quite unorthodox, concepts (a great example is his "Witness" from 2018 - cornet/clarinet/piano trio in support of operatic baritone Steven Herring singing standards, some arias and a few Knuffke originals).

For those new to Knuffke's music, the best parallel is Eric Dolphy's transitional period works, except Dolphy did a great step from bop to free, Knuffke five decades after moves in the opposite direction.

On "Brightness", bare-naked cornet-bass-drums trio plays in soft and warm atmosphere of Amsterdam's most legendary jazz club - Bimhuis. In fact, current Knuffke's trio with drummer Bill Goodwin and bassist Mark Helias is half of 2015's Knuffke sextet, responsible for the release of the notable "Arms And Hands" album.

Seven compositions, all tuneful (similar to a modern standards of sort) are played with a lot of inspiration and grace, still with a strong feel for early bop. Vibrato-less clear sound of cornet draws moody melodies with relaxed beauty, adding freer solos here and there and leaving enough space for deep physical bass soloing and swinging drums, and - probably for the first time ever - Kirk sings on "The Mob, The Crown, The Mass".

Returning back to the parallels with Dolphy's music, Knuffke in fact plays same free-bop as Dolphy did. Just if Dolphy started on ground moving to faster, freer more chaotic sound, Knuffke returns back bop-rooted avant-garde jazz back to its roots.

Simply and great - just can't stop listening to it again and again.

It's interesting, that just a few days ago Knuffke released his second album this same year, this time on the European SteepleChase label and in accordance with the label's reputation - a bit more conservative. Still, he again chooses a trio format - not really a traditional one, with Kenny Wollesen on drums and Bob Stewart on tuba. Kirk can't stop surprising his fans again.

LINDA MAY HAN OH Initial Here

Album · 2012 · Nu Jazz
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There have never been many female bass players in jazz. Malaysia-born (parents were Chinese immigrants) and Australia-raised, Linda Oh is with no doubt among the leading.

After studies in the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (her thesis was on the classical Indian music rhythms in Dave Holland's solos), she moved to New York in 2008 where she completed her master's degree at the Manhattan School of Music and released her first album as leader all that same year.

Linda very soon became a part of New York creative jazz scene, playing and recording with trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, sax player Jon Irabagon and pianist Vijay Iyer among many others. In 2011 she became a member of the Dave Douglas Quintet, and a year later, Linda released her second album as leader, "Initial Here", on Douglas' Greenleaf label.

Of the album's ten songs, all but two are Oh originals. Her compositional talent is really impressive - the opener "Ultimate Persona" recalls Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra's Spanish revolutionary hymns-influenced songs and stays in your head for a long. "No. 1 Hit" is a beautiful mix of baroque and very playful Latin, with exceptional elegance, all - very groovy and danceful.

"Thicker Than Water" is a Chinese folk influenced song with another rising star, vocalist Jen Shyu singing in Mandarin and English. Of two non-originals, one is a brave and really successful take on classics, combining Leonard Bernstein and Igor Stravinsky on one song ("Something's Coming/Les Cinq Doigts").

The other is Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday", a piece of rare beauty here. The closer "Deeper Than Sad" is a piano-led memorable ballad with impressive sax soloing.

The band is really impressive - from Linda's regular collaborator of the time, Cuban pianist Fabian Almazan, to capable drummer Rudy Royston and tenor Dayna Stephens (who sounds here somehow less traditional than on his solo albums).

Linda's bass is a separate story though - it sounds warm, physical, but not too heavy and dominating, more as dancing over the tunes. Perfectly recorded, the music with no doubt sounds as a bassist album, but there is plenty of space for each band member's soloing. Dense sound is surprisingly aerial, worm and soft and full of playfulness.

This album of perfect tunes, variable, well played music and positive atmosphere, once started you will return back to it most probably more often than once or twice.

BOSQUE Escape from Urumchi

Album · 2020 · Fusion
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It took five years and some significant line up changes for Serbian fusion band Bosque to release their second album,"Escape from Urumchi". Initially a sextet, here they come as guitar-less quartet with only two original members, bassist Miloš Bosnić (band's leader), and sax player Dušan Petrović. Two newcomers are keyboardist Stevan Milijanović and drummer Aleksa Milijanović.

The new album's opener is actually a short operatic intro of excellent soprano Jovana Čurović with minimalist accompaniment of flutist Jelena Vujnović. But right from the second song, "Welcome to Urumchi", the listener is involved in absolutely unique parallel world - well played and perfectly recorded electro-acoustic song recalling best early fusion examples coming from 70s. Bassist Miloš Bosnić sounds very much as NHØ Pedersen on archival recordings from that time playing with Archie Shepp - anchoring the sound with strong bopish groove.

Other album's songs are more muscular, less jazzy, but the combination of analog keyboards and groovy bass with very well executed songs build a very authentic atmosphere of creative spirit which gave us the best fusion masterpieces almost a half-a-century ago.

Influences varies from Corea's RTF excellent debut to the band's more rock-oriented recordings with Clarke on bass, but most important that Bosque here sounds very honest. During all these decades we evidenced myriads of RTF clones of different quality, Bosque fortunately doesn't sound as one of them. Much more, they sound as rare golden grail from vaults, recorded in 1972 and by chance found right now, or the band from parallel reality, where the year of 1972 isn't over yet.

Anyway, for fans of early 70s quality fusion this album is a real discovery. Surprisingly enough, it is not an example of nostalgia, but a piece of good music, maybe just got lost in time.

JASPER HØIBY Planet B

Album · 2020 · 21st Century Modern
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Charismatic Danish double bassist Jasper Høiby, known fto millions as the British trio Phronesis' frontman, comes with his second solo album. Recorded in 2019 as a bass-sax-drums trio, it has been announced as the first release in a four-piece series, an "environmental" one. Released in March 2020, it's subject sounds quite outdated in the light of corona virus pandemic collapse in the big part of the world though.

Tightly composed,"Planet B" opens in a manner of a classic neo-prog rock album from the early 80s - with speaking words. As label's site says: "Planet B is a conversation about who we are as a people today, how we exist in relation to this earth and to each other, and where we want to go from here. Let us be inspired together and explore what a re-imagining of this planet can be.”

Nothing is wrong with taking on serious social and existential themes as a basis for jazz music, and adding some text is great if it helps to reach the target. Amiri Baraka's collaborations with early free jazzers is well known till now, as well as some more modern projects (incl. let say Anthony Joseph,etc). Poetry works with jazz in some cases quite well. Just speaking texts are probably more risky business since it often gives an anchoring effect on originally free jazz music nature. "Planet B" is such an example - returning voice with some speaking messages sounds a bit pathetic and moralizing over the free and creative sound.

Coming back to the album's music, it is more chamber than Phronesis works or even Høiby's first solo album. Two young musicians on board - British saxophonist Josh Arcoleo and French drummer Marc Michel - fulfill expectations of such an acoustic trio in full. Sound is warm and deep and energetic, and there are plenty of tuneful moments.

The trio sounds best when all three go towards more free improvisation (still never crossing the conceptual frame), the return to speaking voice destroys the album's atmosphere and leaves a mixed feeling though.

With full respect to the album's idea, I still have a feeling a solely musical edition (without words) would have sounded more integral and impressive.

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