Fred Kaplan

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Aug 10, 2007 Published: Aug 11, 2007 10 comments
I am hereby boycotting Keith Jarrett. It’s a shame. He’s one of the great jazz pianists, but he’s just become too big a jerk—and, at a time when America has an ugly image in the world, a dreadful ambassador. Here’s footage of him cursing Italian jazz fans for taking his picture as he approached the stage, before he even started playing, at the Umbria Jazz Festival. These are people who paid over $100 for what he called the “privilege” of hearing him play. There are polite ways to ask people not to take pictures. You don’t have to treat them like scum.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Apr 26, 2008 8 comments
Friday night, I went to the 55 Bar—one of several small, inviting, low-to-no-cover jazz clubs in New York City’s West Village—to hear Kendra Shank sing in celebration of her (improbably) 50th birthday. Audiophiles will recall Shank’s mid’90s album, Afterglow (on the Mapleshade label), one of the best-sounding jazz-vocal records in recent times as well as a balladeer’s strong debut. In the years since, her voice has grown suppler, deeper, more versatile, dynamic, controlled, and adventurous. Her first mentor was the late Shirley Horn, and her biggest strength remains the ballad (she opened Friday’s set with a heartfelt and swinging “Like Someone in Love”). But she has also come under the sway of Abbey Lincoln (her most recent CD, A Spirit Free, is a Lincoln tribute, and a wonder), and so she staggers rhythms, syncopates lines unexpectedly, stretches a phrase, then snaps it back, with a fine feel for the building and release of tension—and she does it all with a purity of pitch and tone that eluded both her teachers (or that they both evaded in any case). Her rhythm section included the wondrous pianist Frank Kimbrough (whose new solo CD, Air, is, as I’ve written here already, one of the year’s best), Dean Johnson on bass, and Tony Mereno on drums. The band is mind-melding tight. Shank sings at the 55 Bar the last Friday of every month.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 08, 2014 1 comments
Pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Dave Holland have massive chops, and a lot to say, so their new duet album, The Art of Conversation (on the revived Impulse! label) is everything the title suggests.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Apr 30, 2016 2 comments
Kenny Barron's Book of Intuition (on the revived Impulse! label) is an infectiously joyous album, bursting with riffs and vamps and sparkling chords over head-swaying melodies, some infused with a Latin tinge, others crooning with lyrical balladry, all of them propelled by a forceful forward motion, whatever the tempo.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jul 20, 2014 2 comments
Music Matters Jazz is going 33. As all high-end vinylphiles know, MMJ is the LA-based company that's been reissuing classic Blue Note albums cut at 45 rpm, spread out over two slabs of 180 gram virgin vinyl, encased in a gatefold cover that meticulously reproduces the original's artwork on the outside and gorgeously reprints session photos of the musicians on the inside.

But now, after doing this with 112 titles, the company's proprietors, Ron Rambach and Joe Harley, are re-reissuing some of the greatest Blue Note titles on single-disc LPs cut at 331/3rpm . . .

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 23, 2011 2 comments
Something rare and wonderful is going on at New York's Jazz Standard this weekend: John Hollenbeck's Large Ensemble is playing the music of Kenny Wheeler, and Wheeler himself is sitting in with the band.

Three things about this are rare: Wheeler, a Canadian and longtime UK resident, almost never plays in the States; his big-band music is almost never played, period (and was recorded all too infrequently); and Hollenbeck's 18-piece Large Ensemble, remarkably inventive and often wittily dissonant, almost never plays other people's music, least of all lush, cushion-of-air arrangements like Wheeler's (though, it should be added, Wheeler's melodies ripple with elusive romance and mystery).

Friday night's 9pm set, though, was wonderful. The ensemble, tight as ever, took to that creamy, wall-to-wall big-band sound as if they'd been covering Basie standards for years, without giving up any of its sharp-edged verve. Wheeler, now 80, was a bit short on breath, but his sinuous lines and those high-note grasps were as captivating as ever.

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Feb 17, 2008 2 comments
Adam Kolker’s Flag Day (on the Sunnyside label) is a knotty pleasure. It may leave your head in a coil (take two tracks of hard bop to unwind), but ride with the twists while they’re winding; it’s a soft-toned heady trip. Adam Kolker, who plays tenor sax, soprano sax, and clarinet, is known mainly as a sideman, and he doesn’t try to get out in front of his bandmates on this session—John Abercrombie on guitar, John Hebert on drums, and the irrepressible Paul Motian on drums. I promised when I started writing this blog that I wouldn’t dwell excessively on any individual musician, but Motian is such a giant, I could write about him every day and not be rightly charged with excess.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jun 18, 2016 0 comments
Checkpoint, the new CD from David Krakauer's latest band, Krakauer's Ancestral Groove, a jazz quartet occasionally expanded into a septet, digs deep in the rock-jazz-klezmer-hip-hop sediment.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: May 05, 2011 4 comments
Photo by Zoran Orlic

The Kronos Quartet has won this year's Avery Fisher Prize for chamber music, and the significance is stunning. With one fell (though belated) swoop, the boundaries of the conventional canon are broadened, if not obliterated. The Fisher Prize, set up in 1975 and awarded every three years since, is a conservative enterprise. Somewhat like the American Academy in the field of literature, it was designed to enshrine those who have ascended to the peaks through the established, long-trod paths. Past winners have included . . .

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Apr 08, 2016 10 comments
If this doesn't wind up as the year's archival jazz find, I can't wait for the treasure that beats it. In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (on the Resonance Records label) is dazzling, riveting stuff—previously unissued sessions by Larry Young, made during a brief stay in Paris, from December 1964 to February 1965, just before his string of Blue Note albums established him as the modern innovator on the Hammond B-3 organ.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 20, 2015 0 comments
I'll need a few more listens to grasp the measure of Darcy James Argue's new big-band piece, Real Enemies, but my first impression—gleaned from its premiere at BAM's Next Wave Festival, in Brooklyn, Wednesday night—is that it's a remarkable work, maybe an oddball masterpiece: riveting, head-spinning, at once spooky and witty, abstrusely complex and foot-tappingly propulsive.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: May 03, 2016 1 comments
Some jazz musicians whose albums I've recently praised in this space are playing in New York jazz clubs these next couple of weeks . . .
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Mar 17, 2016 2 comments
Until Zenith, the first release on his own label, Inner Voice Jazz, pianist Marc Copland had never played with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, but they prove an ideal match. Joined by bassist Drew Gress (who has long played with both musicians) and drummer Joey Baron (who can play anything with anybody), this might turn out to be a "classic quartet."
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 24, 2007 Published: Nov 25, 2007 1 comments
I saw Maria Schneider’s Jazz Orchestra at the Jazz Standard last night, for at least the 12th time in as many years, and they—both she and the band—get more and more dazzling with each visit. As I noted a couple months back, with the release of her latest CD, Sky Blue (available only from ArtistShare.com or MariaSchneider.com), Schneider’s compositions have grown both denser and airier—rich harmonies stacked on brisk, flowing melodies, swaying to rhythms at once buoyant, complex, and danceable. Her ballads are sweet and lovely without oozing into sentimentality. Her upbeat numbers are snappy without drifting into banality. In recent years, she’s been exploring Latin rhythms and styles—in Saturday night’s early set, she played compositions inspired by Brazil, Spain, and Peru, and it seemed absolutely authentic. Her band—17 members, many of whom have played with her for over 15 years—is drum-tight, and, perhaps because of this, the soloists soar more lyrically to more adventurous heights.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 26, 2009 1 comments
Maria Schneider’s early set last night at the Jazz Standard—part of her 17-piece Jazz Orchestra’s traditional Thanksgiving-week run—reaffirmed and advanced her position as the preeminent big-band composer of our era.

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