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Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 23, 2011 2 comments
Something rare and wonderful is going on at New York's Jazz Standard this weekend: John Hollenbeck's Large Ensemble is playing the music of Kenny Wheeler, and Wheeler himself is sitting in with the band.

Three things about this are rare: Wheeler, a Canadian and longtime UK resident, almost never plays in the States; his big-band music is almost never played, period (and was recorded all too infrequently); and Hollenbeck's 18-piece Large Ensemble, remarkably inventive and often wittily dissonant, almost never plays other people's music, least of all lush, cushion-of-air arrangements like Wheeler's (though, it should be added, Wheeler's melodies ripple with elusive romance and mystery).

Friday night's 9pm set, though, was wonderful. The ensemble, tight as ever, took to that creamy, wall-to-wall big-band sound as if they'd been covering Basie standards for years, without giving up any of its sharp-edged verve. Wheeler, now 80, was a bit short on breath, but his sinuous lines and those high-note grasps were as captivating as ever.

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Feb 17, 2008 2 comments
Adam Kolker’s Flag Day (on the Sunnyside label) is a knotty pleasure. It may leave your head in a coil (take two tracks of hard bop to unwind), but ride with the twists while they’re winding; it’s a soft-toned heady trip. Adam Kolker, who plays tenor sax, soprano sax, and clarinet, is known mainly as a sideman, and he doesn’t try to get out in front of his bandmates on this session—John Abercrombie on guitar, John Hebert on drums, and the irrepressible Paul Motian on drums. I promised when I started writing this blog that I wouldn’t dwell excessively on any individual musician, but Motian is such a giant, I could write about him every day and not be rightly charged with excess.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jun 18, 2016 0 comments
Checkpoint, the new CD from David Krakauer's latest band, Krakauer's Ancestral Groove, a jazz quartet occasionally expanded into a septet, digs deep in the rock-jazz-klezmer-hip-hop sediment.
Fred Kaplan Posted: May 14, 2012 9 comments
Around the turn of the century, a review of the latest hair-raisingly expensive turntable would often begin with a soothing chant that, yes, the RotorGazmoTron XT-35000 is a tad pricey, but it will be the last piece of analog gear you ever buy—so go ahead, take the plunge. A dozen years later, pressing plants are stamping out LPs 'round the clock, and new high-end turntables are rolling off production lines at a respectable clip. So who knows whether today's Cassandras might be equally premature in bewailing the death of the Compact Disc? Which is to say that I can't in good conscience urge you to pay $12,000 for a CD player on the grounds that the medium's about to die, so splurge now while there's still something to splurge on. But if you have the scratch, and the itch for such a product, step right up and let me tell you about the Krell Cipher.
Fred Kaplan Posted: Sep 19, 2008 0 comments
Spending $10,000 for a machine that spins CDs and SACDs may seem extravagant in an age when the latter format is pretty much dried up and the former seems headed there. But hold on—there are reasons for the Krell Evolution 505's five-figure price, and a payoff, too.
Fred Kaplan Posted: Jul 22, 2007 1 comments
There's something a bit oddball about the notion of a $16,500 integrated amplifier—until you stop to consider that the market is fairly drenched with preamps and power amps that, together, cost that much and more. And putting both pre- and power amp in a single chassis cuts down on storage (one less shelf), accessories (one less pair of cable), and electrical outlets (one socket freed up).
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Fred Kaplan Posted: May 05, 2011 4 comments
Photo by Zoran Orlic

The Kronos Quartet has won this year's Avery Fisher Prize for chamber music, and the significance is stunning. With one fell (though belated) swoop, the boundaries of the conventional canon are broadened, if not obliterated. The Fisher Prize, set up in 1975 and awarded every three years since, is a conservative enterprise. Somewhat like the American Academy in the field of literature, it was designed to enshrine those who have ascended to the peaks through the established, long-trod paths. Past winners have included . . .

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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: 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: May 03, 2016 1 comments
Some jazz musicians whose albums I've recently praised in this space are playing in New York jazz clubs these next couple of weeks . . .

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