Fred Kaplan

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 31, 2014 0 comments
Drummer-composer Matt Wilson's new album, Gathering Call (on the Palmetto label), is a lot of fun, as several reviews have noted, but don't hold that against him. This is, as the late Lester Bowie called one of his own later albums, "serious fun."
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 22, 2014 6 comments
I first heard Mary Halvorson about four years ago, when she played with Jason Moran and Ron Miles at the Jazz Standard in New York City. I didn’t fully understand what she was doing (I still don’t), but she seemed to be painting some new colors in jazz, or at least in jazz guitar—the ice-crystal intonation, the off-kilter harmonies, the quasi-chords that seemed to dart nowhere till the neon lit up the path in the night.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 25, 2013 0 comments
Maria Schneider, photographed by Jimmy & Dena Katz

Thanksgiving week is upon us, which means that two of the best bands in jazz are showcased at two of New York’s—and possibly the world’s—best clubs. From Tuesday through Sunday, Maria Schneider’s Jazz Orchestra plays at the Jazz Standard (though not on Thanksgiving Day), while Jason Moran’s Bandwagon Trio plays at the Village Vanguard. These gigs have become annual traditions. They sell out fast. Get your tickets now.

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 01, 2013 1 comments
I would never have placed Marc Cary and Matthew Shipp in the same category of jazz pianists, but their superb new solo discs—Cary’s For the Love of Abbey (Motema) and Shipp’s Piano Sutras (Thirsty Ear)—find them converging toward close points from different angles.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 23, 2013 3 comments
It ranks among the most astounding turnarounds in American music. John Zorn—erstwhile bad-boy impresario of the downtown New York jazz scene—spent last month touted as a modern master, and Manhattan's pride, by the city's most venerable institutions of high culture: the Metropolitan Museum, the Guggenheim, Lincoln Center, Columbia University, and NYU.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Aug 24, 2013 1 comments
Alto saxophonist Steve Coleman's new CD, Functional Arrhythmias (Pi Recordings), is his best in many years.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Aug 07, 2013 2 comments
That's It! (Sony Legacy) is a hell of a fun album: the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the treasure of New Orleans music, wailing with cylinders wide open.

Purists might protest. All the songs on this record are new (a first for the PHJB), and the solos tend more toward R&B riffs than trad-jazz polyphony. In short, the vibe seems to pulse more from the rowdy late-night clubs up on Frenchman Street than the band's usual stately sanctuary in the heart of the French Quarter.

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jul 31, 2013 2 comments
Bill Frisell’s new CD, Big Sur (Sony Masterworks/OKeh Records), is at once a reprise and a departure. It features the string musicians from his 858 Quartet, last heard two years ago on Sign of Life—Frisell on guitar, Jenny Scheinman on violin, Eyvind Kang on viola, Hank Roberts, cello—this time augmented by the versatile young drummer Rudy Royston. The album also features 19 new Frisell compositions, lithe and lyrical, yet laced with more complex harmonies—subtler, darker, and more sinuous—than anything I’ve heard from him before. . .
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jul 23, 2013 0 comments
ArtistShare, the musicians' self-owned label, has two live albums just out by the guitarist Jim Hall—a 3-disc set of trio sessions from 1975, revealing Hall at his peak as a leader, and a quartet date from 2010, showing him still in fine form at age 80.
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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: May 02, 2013 0 comments
The Jazz Journalists Association, of which I'm a member, announced its awards yesterday. Here are the winners in the major categories (a full list of the nominees and the winners can be found here and here), followed by my own choices (which, as you will see, differ from the consensus more than usual).

(It's worth noting up top that Sonny Rollins was declared "Emeritus Jazz Artist / Beyond Voting," which, though a bit of a cop-out, is sort of fitting.)

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Apr 22, 2013 1 comments
Trumpeter-composer Dave Douglas turned 50 last month and remains one of the most exciting and versatile musicians in jazz. Time Travel (on his own Greenleaf Music label) is his 40th album in 20 years as a leader. And, as has often been the case, it's a brash departure from his previous record, even though the bandmates are (with one exception) the same.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Mar 05, 2013 13 comments
A little over two years ago, I raved in this space over Rhino's 180-gram vinyl pressing of Ornette Coleman's 1959 album The Shape of Jazz to Come, one of the greatest and most important in all of jazz. Now I'm here to rave louder still (with one frustrating caveat) about another reissue, mastered by Bernie Grundman at 45rpm for the audiophile label ORG.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Feb 22, 2013 8 comments
Ben Goldberg's Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues (on his self-owned BAG Production label), is an album as seriously playful as its title. There's a deceptive looseness in the music's rhythm, veering toward New Orleans bar stomp, but braced by modern harmonies (Steve Lacy, Monk, and Andrew Hill are heavy influences), and swung from an early Ornette-ish sense of blues (one of Goldberg's 9 originals on the album, "Study of the Blues," is a Cubist riff on the opening bars of "Lonely Woman"), though rooted more in Coleman's deep melody than his Free velocity.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Dec 13, 2012 0 comments
My column on the best jazz albums of 2012 is up on Slate this morning. Here’s the list (readers will note that I’ve written about all the albums in this space over the past 12 months):

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