Fred Kaplan
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Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan Apr 16, 2014 2 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...
Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan Apr 11, 2014 3 comments
OK, this isn't jazz, but it's such a crazy bargain, I couldn't resist shouting it from my rooftop: Decca Sound, The Analogue Years 54 albums (and bits of several more) from the Decca label's heyday of classical recording (the mid-'50s to late-'70s), pressed in a boxed set of 50 CDs, selling for $129.

In case you're too stunned to do the math, that's $2.58 per disc!

Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan Apr 04, 2014 4 comments
Three years ago, Ambrose Akinmusire, 28, burst upon the scene as the most promising young jazz trumpeter since Dave Douglas. His debut album, When the Heart Emerges Glistening (on the Blue Note label), was hailed (and not just by me) as one of the best of 2011. His new CD, The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier to Paint (also out on Blue Note), is better.
Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan Mar 18, 2014 1 comments
When people talk about "the Blue Note sound," they're talking about the sound of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers—or, more to the point, the sound of that band as captured by Rudy Van Gelder for Blue Note Records: the two- (later three-) horn harmonies arrayed across the stage, the drum kit's airy sizzling cymbals, the up-close intensity of the mix (Van Gelder pushed the levels beyond the point where most engineers feared to roam).

Two new releases by Music Matters Jazz—the audiophile company that specializes in reissuing Blue Note LPs, each title mastered at 45rpm, spread out on two slabs of 180-gram vinyl, and packaged in separate slots of a beautifully reproduced gatefold cover and priced at $49.95—tell you what you need to know.

Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan Feb 11, 2014 3 comments
I've never been a mono-phile. Yes, mono is better than electronically reprocessed stereo. And yes, for some of the early stereo recordings, where the engineer smacked one of the horns in the left speaker and the other in the right, it's better to hear everyone in the center. And, finally, there are cases, most notably on many of The Beatles' albums, where the musicians supervised the mono mix and ignored the stereo, making the mono, in a sense, the authoritative version. But in general, those albums that were recorded in stereo, I prefer to hear in stereo.

But the latest excavation from the Miles Davis archive, The Original Mono Recordings, nine CDs of the nine albums made for Columbia from 1955–63, is an exception, a set worthy of attention—though not so much because the discs are in mono.

Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan 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."
Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan 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.
Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan Dec 20, 2013 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.
Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan 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.

Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan 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.
Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan 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.
Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan Aug 24, 2013 1 comments
Alto saxophonist Steve Coleman's new CD, Functional Arrhythmias (Pi Recordings), is his best in many years.
Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan 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.

Fred Kaplan
Fred Kaplan 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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