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Fred Kaplan Posted: Dec 16, 2010 4 comments
My column on the best jazz albums of 2010 is in today’s edition of Slate, replete with strategically selected 30-second sound clips, illustrating my points (to the extent—very limited—that 30-second clips can do that). Here’s the list, minus the mini-essays and the sound clips, but I’ve written about all of these albums over the past year in this blog.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Dec 01, 2010 4 comments
Music Matters Jazz—the L.A.-based audiophile label that reissues classic Blue Note titles, each on twin slabs of thick, quiet vinyl, mastered at 45 rpm and eased into gorgeous gatefold packages—keeps churning them out.

One of their latest, and greatest, is Andrew Hill’s Point of Departure, a jaw-dropper from 1964 that sounds as fresh as tomorrow.

Hill, 33 at the time (he died in 2007, active till the end), was a precisely adventurous pianist and one of the most inventive composers of that transition era, pushing metric rhythms and chord-based harmonies right up to the edge dividing structure from freedom (he received informal lessons from Hindemith in his youth). Every player in his band—Eric Dolphy on reeds, Joe Henderson on tenor sax, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Richard Davis on bass, Tony Williams on drums—was top-notch and hitting their peaks.

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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: Nov 15, 2010 4 comments
Henry Threadgill should be better known than he is. A topnotch musician on alto sax and flute, one of the more innovative composers in jazz, a veteran of the Chicago avant-garde and a revivalist of ragtime improvisational styles (the two are not so contradictory, as he was the first to demonstrate), Threadgill started out on small labels, briefly landed contracts at RCA Novus and Columbia during their brief flirtations with experimentalists (in the late ‘80s and mid ‘90s, respectively), then went back to the indies—all the while retaining, even advancing, his spirit of adventure and his restless but disciplined innovation.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 31, 2010 7 comments
Never Stop (on the E1 label) is the album from The Bad Plus that many of us have been waiting for—the first of their albums to consist entirely of original material.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 28, 2010 0 comments
I’ve never been crazy about Ahmad Jamal. His piano style has struck me as patio-cocktails jazz—nice harmonies and rhythm, but soft-spoken, too precious, de-sensualized.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 22, 2010 2 comments
The Israeli pianist Anat Fort’s second CD, And If (on the ECM label), is an album that I like a lot, though it’s hard to explain why or even to describe. Her music is rhapsodic but spare, tender but propulsive, flush with melodic hooks that loop in sinuous, unpredictable shapes.
Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 18, 2010 1 comments
It's been a while since I've had a classic amplifier in my system, and McIntosh Laboratory's MC275 is as classic as they come. Introduced in 1961 as the "powerhouse" of that era's newfangled stereo tube amps (two 75W amplifiers in one chassis!), the MC275 retained its position as the amplifier to own—challenged only, perhaps, by Marantz and a few others—until 1970, when it fell prey to the widespread wisdom that transistors were king and tubes were dead, and the model was discontinued. The MC275 briefly returned in 1993, in a limited "Commemorative" edition to honor the late Gordon Gow, longtime president and chief designer of McIntosh Labs. To everyone's surprise, that edition sold well, and McIntosh, gingerly at first, crept back into the tube business.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 14, 2010 Published: Oct 15, 2010 7 comments
For some time now, I’ve been urging (begging) the audiophile vinyl-reissue houses to focus on Duke Ellington’s great 1950s albums on the Columbia label, and finally Pure Pleasure Records has done it.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 01, 2010 4 comments
The latest 3-CD box in Mosaic Records’ Select series, John Carter & Bobby Bradford, is something of a revelation. I’ve heard several albums over the years by the two musicians separately, but never their collaborations of 1969 (as the New Art Jazz Ensemble) and ’71 (as John Carter & Bobby Bradford, though playing with much the same quartet), both recorded on the obscure Revelation label. Now here they are, reissued with unreleased takes and a whole unissued (unknown) duet session that was laid down in ’79.

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