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THELONIOUS MONK With John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall Album Cover With John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall
THELONIOUS MONK
4.90 | 11 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Monk's Music Album Cover Monk's Music
THELONIOUS MONK
4.85 | 19 ratings
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CAB CALLOWAY Hi De Hi De Ho Album Cover Hi De Hi De Ho
CAB CALLOWAY
5.00 | 4 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Misterioso Album Cover Misterioso
THELONIOUS MONK
4.89 | 7 ratings
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LOUIS ARMSTRONG Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy Album Cover Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy
LOUIS ARMSTRONG
4.86 | 7 ratings
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BUDDY RICH Rich in London (aka Very Alive at Ronnie Scott's aka At Ronnie Scotts) Album Cover Rich in London (aka Very Alive at Ronnie Scott's aka At Ronnie Scotts)
BUDDY RICH
5.00 | 3 ratings
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DUKE ELLINGTON Ellington At Newport Complete Album Cover Ellington At Newport Complete
DUKE ELLINGTON
4.98 | 3 ratings
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OLIVER NELSON The Blues and the Abstract Truth Album Cover The Blues and the Abstract Truth
OLIVER NELSON
4.84 | 6 ratings
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DOC CHEATHAM Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton Album Cover Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton
DOC CHEATHAM
4.96 | 3 ratings
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BEN WEBSTER The Consummate Artistry of Ben Webster (aka King Of The Tenors) Album Cover The Consummate Artistry of Ben Webster (aka King Of The Tenors)
BEN WEBSTER
4.95 | 3 ratings
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ROBERTA FLACK First Take Album Cover First Take
ROBERTA FLACK
4.93 | 3 ratings
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ARTURO SANDOVAL Swingin' Album Cover Swingin'
ARTURO SANDOVAL
4.92 | 3 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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early jazz Music Reviews

ESTER WIESNEROVA Blue Journal

Album · 2022 · Vocal Jazz
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js
One of the first things that will hit you about Ester Wiesnerova’s debut CD is what an elaborate package it comes in. You get this thick soft covered book full of lyrics, photos and even empty pages in case you want to add to the introspective nature of Ester’s thoughts, and of course a CD folded into the back cover. Such an elaborate production could seem pretentious if the music didn’t carry the same amount of care and careful presentation as the package itself, but Ester comes through with some remarkable songs that obviously carry the same ornate and thoughtful compositions as the package that it comes in. These are very personal and introspective songs played by a well rehearsed band that seems to be very much in tune with Ester’s every thought and emotion. No, this isn’t veteran jazz cats blowing through some chord charts, but more like a modern art pop band with members who have been working and growing together for a while.

One of the first things that will hit you about the music on “Blue Journal” is what a colorful and unique lineup. Along with Ester’s soaring vocals, you also get Charles Overton on harp (stringed harp, like the ones the angels play, not harmonica), Kan Yanabe on hand drums and percussion, Michal Selep on stand up bass and Sam Knight on saxophones and possibly un-credited clarinet. The tone colors they create are carefully constructed so that each tune has its own personal flavor. Sometimes only one or two musicians are playing at a time, which adds more to the variety. Also, occasionally Knight’s woodwinds are double tracked to create a chamber woodwind ensemble.

Wiesnerova’s melodies avoid clichés and present small surprises in a manner that may remind some of Joni Mitchell, or some of Esperanza Spaulding’s latest work. Ester sites Joni, along with Maria Schneider and Lusiana Souza as major influences. Song topics range from a man and woman who find their budding attraction to each other separated by Trump’s Mexican border wall, to the numbing effect of social media, plus plenty of musings by an artist who is not afraid to challenge herself even if it means failure at times. Ester is originally from Slovakia but has since traveled the world and lived in many places, leading her to ask herself, “Who are You Now”.

IKE QUEBEC With A Song In My Heart

Album · 1980 · Swing
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Steve Wyzard
BALLADS'N'BLUES

In this album's effusive sleeve notes by Bob Porter, Ike Quebec is called "one of the very best tenor players who ever lived." That might be stretching it just a bit, but it's nice to have With A Song In My Heart to hear what the fuss was all about. Both Jimmy Smith and Grant Green thought highly enough of Ike to have him sit in on two different albums each.

Part of Blue Note's infamous "LT" series, this album was recorded in two sessions less than a year before Ike's untimely death from cancer (age: 44) in 1963. Often compared to Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster, Ike's late night boudoir tone is on full display throughout these recordings. If the listener should notice a lack of cohesiveness, it's because these songs were not meant to be compiled to make an album, but to be released as 45s for the jukeboxes of bars and restaurants. Lightly backed by organ, guitar, bass, and drums, Ike wails his way through six standard ballads. The tempos pick up for "With a Heart in My Song", "All of Me", and "But Not For Me" before returning to the blues phrases he plays so well.

Due to "personal problems", Ike Quebec's recording career can be considered "spotty" at best. In the interest of full disclosure, all nine of the songs on With A Song In My Heart have been compiled with others into a 2-CD set with all of his "jukebox" work. Consider this album to be an effective sampler, despite the darkly lit theatre curtain that serves as its cover.

DAVID ANGEL Out on the Coast

Album · 2021 · Big Band
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This week’s installment on jazz musicians who deserve more recognition goes to composer and arranger David Angel. As orchestrator Brad Dechter put it, “David Angel is quite possibly the best composer you have never heard of “. You may not know David by name, but you have probably heard his music in countless TV shows and movies including a long running gig on “Bonanza” that started when David was only 21. Along with his work as soundtrack composer and educator, David has also been running a big band rehearsal group out of Los Angeles since 1969. A remarkable number of big name artists have passed through that band including George Bohannon, Bud Shank, Bob Brookmeyer, Art Pepper, Victor Feldman and many more. Given how long Angel has been running this project it comes as a surprise that prior to this year Angel had only one album out as a leader. Long time associate and horn player Jim Self decided it was time to get more of Angel’s music out to the public so he organized this extensive recording project that resulted in the three CD, “Out on the Coast”.

David’s music is very west coast, with a typical track rolling along in a relaxed swing feel, but there is variety too with Latin numbers, waltzes, ballads and blues too. David’s forte is contrapuntal arranging in which intertwining voices twist around each other in kaleidoscope textures. These arrangements will often continue even while the soloists stretch out providing interesting tone colors to counter the solos. David cites French impressionists such as Ravel and Debussy as major influences, as well as early ‘cool’ proponents such as Gerry Mulligan and Gil Evans, and of course the Duke.

Most of these tracks are David Angel originals with a few covers thrown in as well. Of the originals, some standouts include a Quincy Jones sounding bluesy jam session called “Ah Rite” and “Out on the Coast 3” on which the two flutes melody recalls kitsch TV soundtrack music from the 60s. There are also several lengthy suite like numbers on which David displays his ability to bring different moods to one piece of music. Of the covers, Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss” features alto saxophonist Gene Cipriano channeling Johnny Hodges to make this one really come alive with the spirit of the Duke’s long running band. Also from the Ellington repertoire we get French horn soloist Stephanie O’Keefe doing an excellent job on Billy Stray horn’s “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing”.

DAN BONSANTI The 14 Jazz Orchestra : Cartoon Bebop

Album · 2021 · Big Band
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js
Dan Bonsanti is a music educator and arranger working out of the Miami area for several decades now. Since 2015 he started a big band project called The 14 Jazz Orchestra, so named for the number of musicians in the band for performances. “Cartoon Bebop” is the band’s third album, and although the album title might imply some silliness, and the band does seem to have a lot of fun, but this album is mostly really solid contemporary big band arrangements and musicianship. Usually the band relies solely on local Miami players, but due to Covid, Dan had to reach out to musicians all around the country to complete this online endeavor. Although the parts were recorded separately using remote methods, you would not be able to tell unless someone told you. All of the performances are as lively and kinetic as you would get if all the players were assembled in one room.

The opening title track gets its name from the fact that the main theme borrows from the well known Bullwinkle and Rocky cartoon theme. Oddly enough, it ends up sounding like late 70s Weather Report, which is furthered by the fact that Peter Erskine from WR supplies the drum beat and Dan used to work with Jaco in big band settings. “Got a Match” is blazing fast bebop and features a furious sax solo from Ed Calle, who throws in a few Yardbird clichés, but often recalls Randy Brecker. Misturada and Dayride have Latin flavors that fit this band well and it would have been nice if Cisco Dimas’ trumpet solo could have gone on a little longer. “Driftin”, by Herbie Hancock, sports an arrangement that is a dead ringer for Quincy Jones, and “A Day Tripper’s Blues Buffet contorts the well known Beatles melody into a Texas blues shuffle with Lindsey Blair filling in for Stevie Ray Vaughn or Billy Gibbons.

Not everything on here is high energy, Bonsanti also includes a few ballads and waltzes to show off his use of tone colors that tend toward light, transparent textures, not heavy big band bombast. Of the mellower tracks, Chick Corea’s “Duende” carries dark noir sound colors and Wayme Shorter’s “Infant Eye’s” strikes an air of mystery with its exotic guitar melody. Its very impressive that Bonsanti and crew pulled off such a warm and energetic performance while recording by remote.

HORIZONS JAZZ ORCHESTRA The Brite Side

Album · 2019 · Big Band
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Horizons Jazz Orchestra is a South Florida all-star big band that grew out of the remains of Lee Harris and Dennis Noday’s Superband. The last Superband album was supposed to be a tribute to Harris, their lead arranger and composer, but Lee passed away before the album could be finished and many of the band’s performers moved on to other projects. Trombonist Michael Balogh decided to finish the project by inviting some of his favorite musicians to join the remaining members of Superband thereby creating a new ensemble, Horizons Jazz Orchestra, and “The Brite Side” is their debut album. As mentioned earlier, this album is a tribute to Lee Harris and every track but one is either a Harris original composition or arrangement.

Horizons plays bright upbeat big band music with a 60s-70s pop leaning that may remind some of Quincy Jones, Maynard Ferguson and Thad Jones. Many of the band members have ties to the Stan Kenton Orchestra, so there is that influence as well. Several tracks have that Four Brothers/Woody Herman smooth sax section ensemble work which comes as no surprise since section leader Billy Ross played in the Herman band as well as with many top names in pop and RnB. Lots of instantly recognizable jazz favorites are performed here along side Harris’ originals which are easy to pick up on at first listen. The ensemble work is flawless and the solos are short and to the point, this is big band music that can easily be enjoyed by non-jazz fans and big band aficionados alike.

Some top cuts include the high energy of “After You’ve Gone, Finally” and “Fourth Dimension” which feature that smooth Woody Herman sax ensemble sound. Title track “The Brite Side” sounds like a movie soundtrack performed with a lengthy multi-sectioned 70s progressive rock arrangement and “the Sound” features a noir ballad vehicle for the tenor saxophone soloing of Billy Ross. “A Train Bossa” shows how well “Take the A Train” takes to a bossa nova rhythm and “Red Apple Sweet” is a soul jazz workout for the Hammond B3 playing of Gary Mayone.

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JONI MITCHELL Shadows And Light

Movie · 1980 · Vocal Jazz
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Slartibartfast
Joni Mitchell meets The Pat Metheny Group.

What can I say? This was my real introduction into the music of Joni and what a place to start! She had really entered a new phase and the tracks offered span from Court And Spark up to Mingus (and of course, the song Shadows And Light, exclusive to the live album).

The concert was an outdoors affair at the Santa Barbara County Bowl. The liner notes say that "this concert catches Joni at the height of her artistic excellence." Having explored her albums after and before this era, I can wholeheartedly agree with that. Jaco Pastorius, who had a reputation at that point of being erratic in live situations, seems to be in a good mode. The camera work is good and the concert is now available on DVD with 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio all of which make for a show worthy of revisiting from time to time.

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JMA TOP 5 Jazz ALBUMS

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Albums with 30 ratings and more
A Love Supreme Post Bop
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Kind of Blue Cool Jazz
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The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady Progressive Big Band
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Blue Train Hard Bop
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My Favorite Things Hard Bop
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