Fred Kaplan

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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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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 31, 2013 3 comments
Readers of this space know of my near-boundless admiration for Maria Schneider, the most accomplished and imaginative big-band composer of our time and high up in the pantheon for all time. Her swaying lyricism, muscular rhythms, and kaleidoscopic harmonic voicings—accented with both a Latin tinge and an airiness as spacious as her native Minnesota—rival and, in some ways, exceed the heights of erstwhile mentors, Bob Brookmeyer and Gil Evans.

Now, with Winter Morning Walks, Schneider leaps to still loftier terrain, fusing her jazz sensibility with classical idioms, while staying true to both. . .

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Aug 21, 2007 1 comments
Sky Blue, Maria Schneider’s sixth album in 13 years, is at once her most ambitious and most fulfilled, a sweeping, gorgeous work about memory, dreams, love, life, death, the joys of birding…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 09, 2007 0 comments
Martial Solal starts a week of solo piano at the Village Vanguard tonight, and that’s a double eye-opener. It’s only the second time in its 72-year history that the club has featured a pianist playing solo. (The first, Fred Hersch, was in 2006.) More striking, it marks just the third time since 1963 that Martial Solal has played in New York City under any circumstances. The last time was four years ago at the Iridium, with his trio and saxophonist Lee Konitz, and it was a marvel, the fleetest and most lyrical I’d seen Konitz play in years. The time before that, just with his trio, was at the Vanguard—but the shows were in mid-September 2001, a couple weeks after the attacks of 9/11; few ventured into lower Manhattan for anything, much less to see an obscure French jazz pianist. Luckily, the sessions were recorded; Blue Note put out a CD of highlights called NY-1; finally, we could all hear the music behind the legend.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 11, 2007 1 comments
Martial Solal’s early set at the Village Vanguard tonight was as exuberant as expected. The ghost of Tatum was riding high, as the French pianist, celebrating his 80th birthday with only his third appearance in New York City in the past 44 years, mad-dashed through a dozen or so standards—including “Caravan,” “I Can’t Get Started,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” even “Body & Soul”—in ways that no one has ever heard them, carving up the scores like a Cubist (more Braque than Picasso, with shards of Duchamp tossed in for wit), stretching and squeezing bars, yet somehow sustaining the tempo and the melody with tenuous but seamless aplomb. His music might be a mere virtuosic lark, were it not for his harmonies—brooding, bristling, caramel-rich chords, clusters of them, alternately embellishing, paring down, or playing against the conventional changes.

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