Fred Kaplan

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jun 26, 2015 0 comments
We seem to be going through a big-band renaissance. In recent months, I've hailed the latest albums by Maria Schneider's Orchestra, Steve Coleman's Council of Balance, Ryan Truesdell's Gil Evans Project, and now—in some ways, the most adventurous—John Hollenbeck's Songs We Like a Lot (on the Sunnyside label).
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jun 19, 2015 1 comments
Ran Blake may be the most unjustly obscure jazz pianist out there, so it's worth noting—shouting, even—that he has three new albums that rank in the top tier of his career: Cocktails at Dusk (Impulse!), The Road Keeps Winding (Red Piano), and Kitano Noir (Sunnyside).
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jun 12, 2015 2 comments
Ornette Coleman, the great alto saxophonist and composer, died yesterday at the age of 85. His great jazz quartet of the late 1950s and early '60s—with Don Cherry on pocket trumpet, Charlie Haden on bass, and Billy Higgins (sometimes alternating with Ed Blackwell) on drums—revolutionized jazz, shifting it away from chord changes to structures built more around melody, rhythm, and harmonic suggestions not confined by set chord changes. And while some of his followers may have descended into noisy chaos, Ornette himself rarely went that route and, in fact, in the '90s, stepped up to a new level of lyricism, culminating with his 2006 album Sound Grammar, which won that year's Pulitzer Prize for music.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jun 10, 2015 4 comments
Herbie Hancock's 1965 quintet album Maiden Voyage holds a firm place as one of the great jazz records of that transformative decade, and a new vinyl edition on Music Matters Jazz—the LA-based house renowned for its audiophile LP reissues of Blue Note titles, and only Blue Note titles—sounds finer than it has on any pressing in 50 years.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jun 04, 2015 13 comments
As readers of this space know, I'm a huge admirer of Maria Schneider's music, but her latest, The Thompson Fields (on the ArtistShare label), breaks through to a new level. It's her most ambitious recording, and her most accomplished; it places her in the pantheon of big-band composer-leaders, just below Ellington, Strayhorn, and Gil Evans at his very best; it's a masterpiece...The Maria Schneider Orchestra is playing at Birdland, in Midtown Manhattan, through June 6.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: May 29, 2015 0 comments
Sometimes a good album passes me by, unnoticed (so much music, so little time), but few turn out, upon discovery, to be as very, very good as the Jaki Byard Project's Inch By Inch, Yard Byard (on the GM Recordings label)...
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Fred Kaplan Posted: May 15, 2015 0 comments
Trumpeter Dave Douglas has two very different new albums out: Sound Prints: Live at Monterey Jazz Festival (Blue Note), featuring a Wayne Shorter tribute-band co-led by tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano; and High Risk, a collaborative excursion into electronica.

Sound Prints is also the name of the tribute band (a riff on Shorter's classic Footprints album), and, judging from the two times I've seen them play at the Village Vanguard, they're among the most vibrant, dizzying jazz bands around...

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Fred Kaplan Posted: May 03, 2015 1 comments
Two years ago, I hailed Steve Coleman’s Functional Arrhythmias as a career breakthrough. His new CD, Synovial Joints (on the Pi Recordings label), is his masterpiece—a thrilling kaleidoscope, densely polyrhythmic, but also brisk and airy: music for serious listening as well as dancing in your head and on your feet.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Mar 31, 2015 18 comments
I'm usually not a fan of male baritone jazz singers, not even Johnny Hartman (except, of course, on his album with Coltrane): they tend too much toward the operatic, and they're usually too smooth, too eyebrow-arched suave, for my taste anyway. But Jose James is something else, and his new album, Yesterday I Had the Blues (Blue Note), goes down like a rare vintage port on a chilly night.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Mar 27, 2015 0 comments
A few years ago, Ryan Truesdell, a jazz composer and arranger, gained access to a treasure trove of Gil Evans' handwritten scores from the 1940s to '80s—some of them recorded, many not—and set out to form a big band to play them. Lines of Color (Blue Note/Artists Share) is the second album to come out of what he calls the Gil Evans Project (the first, Centennial, was released in 2012), and it's something to savor.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Feb 12, 2015 2 comments
With Break Stuff, his third trio album and his first on the ECM label, Vijay Iyer comes into his own as a master pianist, composer, and conceptualizer—one of the truly great jazz musicians of our time.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 26, 2015 5 comments
I've probably raved enough about Analogue Productions' 200-gram vinyl reissue of Masterpieces by Ellington, one of the greatest (yet, strangely, least-known) albums in Duke Ellington's vast catalog—and, despite its vintage (1950, mono) his best-sounding. The good news here: for those of you who aren't into vinyl, AP has now issued it again as a hybrid SACD.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 05, 2015 1 comments
It's cold in New York City, but don't expect that to keep jazz fans from dashing through the streets of Greenwich Village this weekend, darting in out of various clubs and theaters, to see a dozen or more topflight musicians playing in the 2015 Winter Jazzfest.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Dec 19, 2014 1 comments
With so few "major record labels" left standing, the music-loving audiophile stands alert for new venture—indies by the measure of indies—that offer very good music, excellent sound, and (is it too much to ask?) the occasional slab of vinyl. As first reported by Robert Baird in Stereophile's August 2014 issue, there is another worthy prospect worth celebrating: Smoke Sessions Records, the creation of Paul Stache, proprietor of Smoke Jazz Club on upper Broadway in NYC, where most of his discs are recorded live, with Stache himself at the controls.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Dec 13, 2014 2 comments
Here, once again, are my picks for the year's best jazz albums...it's been a terrible year for much of the world, but a very good year for the salve of jazz.

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