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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.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Feb 08, 2016 3 comments
Paul Bley is featured on The Montreal Tapes, with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian.

I missed the chance to send off an R.I.P. to the jazz pianist Paul Bley, who died on January 3, at the age of 83, so I'm catching up with this advance notice of a free memorial concert to be held this Thursday night, February 11, featuring piano solos by seven of his acolytes—most notably Ethan Iverson and Frank Kimbrough, whom I've lauded on this page many times.

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 27, 2016 5 comments
I wrote about the new audiophile label Analog Spark a few months ago, on its vinyl reissue of Dave Brubeck's oft-overlooked 1954 Jazz Goes to College. Now its proprietor, Mark Piro, has come out with a few Broadway musical soundtracks, the best of which is West Side Story, with its score by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by a young Stephen Sondheim.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 18, 2016 6 comments
Mobile Fidelity's two-LP, 45rpm reissue of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue is one of the most eagerly awaited audiophile jazz reissues, which may seem strange given how many reissues already exist. Yet the 1959 album is that rare thing in any art form: an accessible, popular work (it's the best-selling jazz album of all time and continues to sell thousands of copies a year) and also an artistic breakthrough (marking a shift from harmonies based on chord changes at set intervals to those loosely patterned on scales). And Columbia's original six-eyes stereo pressing, miked by Fred Plaut, stands as one of the greatest-sounding studio jazz albums too.
Fred Kaplan Posted: Dec 30, 2015 2 comments
A quarter-century ago, when we were just getting into wine, my wife and I took a trip to Napa Valley. At one premium vineyard, we took a taste from the $20 bottle, then, for the hell of it, a taste from the $50 bottle. The first taste was nice; the second was alarming—an explosion of flavors, a gateway to sensory delights that we hadn't known could be had from a barrel of crushed grapes. We wobbled away, concerned that high-end wine might be a dangerous hobby.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Dec 17, 2015 3 comments
It's that time of the year again. Here are my picks for the 10 Best New Jazz Albums of 2015 and the 3 best reissued/historical albums, with links to reviews that I wrote in this space over the span of the year.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 30, 2015 0 comments
With Solo, his 49th album as a leader (or co-leader) and 10th as a soloist, Fred Hersch nails his standing as one of the premier jazz musicians of our time, a pianist of subtle touch and propulsive flow, something like Keith Jarrett but more focused, less rhapsodic—Ravel to KJ's Liszt or Rachmaninoff (not that there's anything wrong with either).
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 23, 2015 1 comments
It's Thanksgiving week, which, in New York City, means that two of the best bands in jazz are playing at two of the best jazz clubs in the world: the Maria Schneider Orchestra at Jazz Standard; Jason Moran and the Bandwagon Trio at the Village Vanguard. Every set is usually packed, so make reservations now and get there early.
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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: Nov 18, 2015 0 comments
Oscar Pettiford is one of the least-remembered great jazz musicians, a pioneer of bebop who played bass with the top bands of the 1940s, switched to cello after an arm injury at the end of the decade, then plowed on at the top of his game till he died in 1960. The cello never ascended to the mantle of standard jazz instruments (which may account for Pettiford's unjust obscurity), but Erik Friedlander stands as its greatest champion, so no wonder that, for his 18th album as a leader, at the age of 55, he's finally recorded a tribute to the master.

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