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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 26, 2010 1 comments
Toward the end of 2009, I read a lot about Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, an 18-piece big band, and its debut CD, Infernal Machines, which was showing up on several best-of-the-year lists. But I never received a copy of the album and couldn’t figure out how to contact the label, New Amsterdam. Finally, I bought a copy from Downtown Music, a terrific alt-jazz record store in Manhattan, and, it turns out, the excitement is justified.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Sep 23, 2015 2 comments
Here comes another audiophile vinyl-reissue house, this one a bit of a head-scratcher. Analog Spark, the creation of Marc Piro (and a successor to his Razor & Tie label), debuted a few months back with The Sound of Music (missed it) and will soon come out with Glenn Gould's renditions of Bach's Goldberg Variations (the 1955 and 1981 versions), then a slew of Broadway cast albums (West Side Story, My Fair Lady, and A Chorus Line, among others). And, for now, it has a jazz album: Dave Brubeck's 1954 Jazz Goes to College.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Dec 05, 2012 33 comments
Dave Brubeck died today, just short of 92 years old. He was a plodding pianist and a less inventive composer than many obits are suggesting. (It was his alto saxophonist Paul Desmond who wrote the biggest hit "Take Five" in 5/4 time, and while Brubeck wrote many pieces in more exotic times still, they didn't swing or flow like Desmond's.) Still, Brubeck was a colossal figure of modern jazz in many ways.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 18, 2010 4 comments
Those who follow this space know of my enthusiasm for the music of trumpeter Dave Douglas: his plangent tone, his spine-tingling way with minor-chord intervals, his knack for evoking joy, melancholy, romance, and a host of other emotions—sometimes all at once—without dipping so much as a toe into sentimentalism.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jun 19, 2009 0 comments
Trumpeter Dave Douglas’ new album, Spirit Moves, featuring his Brass Ecstasy quintet, is a rouser: hot, cool, raucous, pensive, sometimes all at once, and always a lot of fun. The band’s name is a play on the late Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy, and they share a similar hard-blowing vibe—as well as two of the players (Luis Bonilla on trombone and Vincent Chancey on French horn)—but where Bowie used the band to riff on the pop tunes of the day (long before The Bad Plus), Douglas’ sources are mainly original tunes with a zesty swing and a dash of his trademark Mediterranean melancholy.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 08, 2012 1 comments
Dave Douglas' Be Still (on the trumpeter's own Greenleaf Music label) is his most sheer-gorgeous album since the 1998 Charms of the Night Sky and one of the best-sounding new recordings that I've heard by anybody in quite a while. And it's available on LP as well as CD (more about which, later).
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 13, 2015 1 comments
Trumpeter-composer Dave Douglas seems to release an album every few months (it helps that he has his own label, Greenleaf Music), and his latest, Brazen Heart, ranks among his best in several years.
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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: May 15, 2015 0 comments
Trumpeter Dave Douglas has two very different new albums out: Sound Prints: Live at Monterey Jazz Festival (Blue Note), featuring a Wayne Shorter tribute-band co-led by tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano; and High Risk, a collaborative excursion into electronica.

Sound Prints is also the name of the tribute band (a riff on Shorter's classic Footprints album), and, judging from the two times I've seen them play at the Village Vanguard, they're among the most vibrant, dizzying jazz bands around...

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Feb 29, 2016 3 comments
Blackstar has been called David Bowie's "death album" (several of its songs allude to death, he died of cancer two days after its release), but that makes it seem like a grisly novelty number when, in fact, it's a masterpiece—and, for purposes of this blog, a work of jazz-rock fusion that, unlike many stabs at the genre, truly fuses the two idioms, staying true to both, creating something new in the process, rather than watering them down in a muddy swamp.