Fred Kaplan

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Feb 03, 2010 2 comments
Many composers, jazz and otherwise, have tried to write pieces inspired by famous artworks, but Ted Nash is one of the few who pulls it off.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 30, 2012 1 comments
Ted Nash and Frank Kimbrough—co-founders of the Jazz Composers Collective, which I recently wrote about in this space—have new albums, and they're both among the year's best.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 21, 2012 3 comments
Photo: http://jasonmoran.com/look.html

Those of you in the New York area for the holidays (or for all times) should know that two of the best jazz groups around are playing at the two best jazz clubs: Maria Schneider and her Jazz Orchestra make their traditional Thanksgiving-week appearance at the Jazz Standard, and Jason Moran and his Bandwagon trio are at the Village Vanguard.

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 24, 2008 2 comments
Maria Schneider and her 18-piece orchestra play their annual Thanksgiving week gig at the Jazz Standard starting Nov. 25 and continuing till the 30th (except for Thursday, when the club is closed), and if you’re in the tri-State area, you should reserve seats now, as her shows usually sell out. Regular readers of this blog may recall my previous ravings about Schneider. A former student of Gil Evans and Bob Bookmeyer, she is the most sumptuous jazz arranger on the jazz scene today, having absorbed her teachers’ penchant for lush stacked harmonies and added a flair for Latin rhythms, a propulsive sway, and a dry wit. Her pieces are lyrical, even rhapsodic, but also taut, even muscular. Much of the band has been playing with her for over a decade, to the point where they’re nearly Basie-tight. Her most recent CD, Sky Blue, topped my 2007 list of best jazz albums (except for Charles Mingus’ previously unreleased Cornell 1964 concert-recording). I’m told she’ll be playing many songs from it and from her 1996 album, Coming About, which she’s just re-mastered and re-released. All of her albums are on the ArtistShare label, the artist-owned music collective, and are available only through her website, mariaschneider.com.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Apr 16, 2014 5 comments
The Jazz Journalists’ Association announced its 2014 awards this week. I don’t think I’ve disagreed with so many of its picks. In most cases, I’d simply rank others higher than the JJA balloteers; in some cases, though, I part from their judgment pretty vigorously. Here are some of the JJA winners, followed by my choices...
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 31, 2010 7 comments
Never Stop (on the E1 label) is the album from The Bad Plus that many of us have been waiting for—the first of their albums to consist entirely of original material.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Feb 09, 2009 15 comments
I’ve sometimes wondered how long The Bad Plus can keep up their high-concept mix of pop and punk covers, avant-classical harmonies, jazz cadences, kick-ass polyrhythms, and sly but un-ironic wit. Don’t get me wrong: I like their music a lot; each of the players (Ethan Iverson, piano; Reid Anderson, bass; David King, drums) crackles with brio and virtuosity; their interplay is a delight. Still, in the six years since they improbably crashed onto the scene, there have been times when their conceit has seemed to reach its limit.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 12, 2008 13 comments
The year’s not quite over, but it’s a safe bet that Sonny Rollins’ Road Shows Vol. 1 (on his own Doxy label) will be the best jazz album of 2008 and rank among the best of the decade.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Dec 17, 2008 10 comments
Here’s my list of the 10 best jazz albums of 2008. An elaboration, with 30-second sound clips illustrating my points, will appear tomorrow in my column in Slate. (Some of you may notice that I’ve mentioned most of these CDs in this blog through this year.)
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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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Fred Kaplan Posted: Dec 20, 2013 Published: Dec 31, 1969 0 comments
As usual around this time of year, I have a column in Slate (where I usually write about foreign and military policy), listing my picks for the 10 best jazz albums of the year and, in this case, the two best jazz reissues. Here’s the list, and regular readers might recall that I’ve reviewed almost all of them in this blog-space (or in Stereophile magazine) over the past twelve months.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Dec 18, 2007 8 comments
Today in Slate (which, as some of you know, is where I do most of my writing, mainly on national-security politics), I lay out—as I have in each of the last five Decembers—my picks for the 10 best jazz albums of the year. Here are the best of 2007:
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 15, 2007 3 comments
Speaking of Carla Bley, her ex-husband, Paul Bley, has a new CD, Solo in Mondsee (ECM), and it’s quietly stunning. I’m a bit late with this—the album came out last summer—but then again, it was recorded in 2001, so who’s counting? Paul Bley has been one of the piano giants in jazz for over a half-century. He may be more famous for those he’s introduced to the jazz scene. He led, I think, the first jazz trio that featured Charles Mingus on bass. While house pianist at the Hillcrest Club in Los Angeles in 1958, he hired Ornette Coleman to play with him (when nobody else would); in fact, what became, a few months later, the first Ornette Coleman Quartet started out as the Paul Bley Quintet, minus Bley. Over the years, he’s frequently played with Ornette’s bassist, Charlie Haden, most recently in a night of riveting duets at the Blue Note in New York. (A couple decades ago, the Montreal Jazz Festival held a weeklong celebration in which Haden led a variety of ensembles; all the sessions were eventually released on CD by Verve; the best of the bunch was a trio session with Bley and Paul Motian.)
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Dec 09, 2007 6 comments
As further evidence that the American empire is on the decline, I submit the 8:00 set Friday night at the Blue Note on West 3rd Street in New York City, where three front-and-center tables of Europeans—twenty young to middle-aged, professional-looking men and women, who all seemed to be part of the same tour group—made more noise at a jazz club than I think I’ve ever witnessed. Shushing and shaming, from me and others in the audience, had but short-term impact; they’d quiet down for a few minutes and listen to the trio on the bandstand (more about them, in a moment), but then got back to the main business of yakking, chuckling, and generally treating the whole proceedings as the soundtrack to their merry Manhattan vacation and us poor jazz fans as mere props in the spectacle.

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