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Fred Kaplan Posted: Apr 22, 2016 1 comments
Henry Threadgill won the Pulitzer Prize this year for his 2015 album, In for a Penny, In for a Pound, but his latest album, Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (just out this month on the Pi Recordings label), is better still. It's his true career milestone, one of the great jazz compositions of the past several years, a musical masterpiece beyond category.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Apr 16, 2016 2 comments
First things first. Yes, Dave Douglas named his new album, Dark Territory, after my new book of the same title. This may seem odd: my book is about the history of cyber war; Douglas' album is a deep-dive exploration of improvisation, composition, and technology in the risky corners of jazz and electronica. But in an email sent out by his self-owned label, Greenleaf Music, he explains that both works are about "similarly mysterious murky waters of underground activity" and that he found my title fitting because, like the characters in my book, he and his band are "playing through a similar territory without rules where the dangers and challenges of technology are much greater than normal."
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Apr 08, 2016 10 comments
If this doesn't wind up as the year's archival jazz find, I can't wait for the treasure that beats it. In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (on the Resonance Records label) is dazzling, riveting stuff—previously unissued sessions by Larry Young, made during a brief stay in Paris, from December 1964 to February 1965, just before his string of Blue Note albums established him as the modern innovator on the Hammond B-3 organ.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Mar 17, 2016 2 comments
Until Zenith, the first release on his own label, Inner Voice Jazz, pianist Marc Copland had never played with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, but they prove an ideal match. Joined by bassist Drew Gress (who has long played with both musicians) and drummer Joey Baron (who can play anything with anybody), this might turn out to be a "classic quartet."
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Mar 01, 2016 6 comments
Hey, why have a blog if you can't plug your own wares now and then? Today, March 1, is pub date for my new book, Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War (Simon & Schuster). John le Carré calls it "a book that grips, informs, and alarms, finely researched and lucidly related." The New York Times hails it as "an eye-opening history . . . a page-turner . . . consistently surprising." Kirkus Reviews describes it as "important, gripping, disturbing."
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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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