Thomas Conrad

Thomas Conrad  |  Nov 19, 2020  |  0 comments
Warren Wolf: Christmas Vibes
Warren Wolf, vibraphone, piano, Fender Rhodes, wind chimes, tambourine, Logic Pro X digital audio workstation; Jeff Reed, acoustic and electric bass; Carroll "CV" Dashiell III, drums; Christie Dashiell, Allison Bordlemay, Micah Smith, vocals.
Mack Avenue MAC1183 (CD, also available as download). 2020. Warren Wolf, prod.; Jeff Gruber, eng.
Performance ****
Sonics ****

Only 12 albums a year get to be Recordings of the Month in Stereophile, and only a few are jazz.

Typically, they are "big" records by major jazz artists.

Christmas Vibes has the major-artist part covered. Warren Wolf is one of the two most important vibraphonists to enter jazz in the new millennium. (The other is Joel Ross.) Wolf's album is not a masterwork, but it is a lovely, heartfelt offering that deserves its place in this magazine's December issue. In this year of years, in this holiday season observed in a pandemic, it arrives like a life-affirming antidote to darkness.

Thomas Conrad, Fred Kaplan  |  Oct 30, 2020  |  1 comments
Maria Schneider Orchestra: Data Lords, Keleketla, Joel Ross: Who Are You? and John Zorn and Jesse Harris: Songs for Petra.
Thomas Conrad  |  Sep 04, 2020  |  2 comments
An outburst of saxophone flurries sits you straight up in your chair. The tone is rich but with a cutting edge.

It has to be Rudresh Mahanthappa. The riveting cry of his alto saxophone is one of the most recognizable sounds in jazz.

But those darting runs coalesce into Charlie Parker's "Red Cross." So it can't be Mahanthappa, can it? He has made 15 straight albums of original music. He doesn't do covers, right?

Thomas Conrad  |  Apr 07, 2020  |  7 comments
I remember the only time i ever saw Chet Baker. It was at Parnell's, a jazz club in Pioneer Square in Seattle, long since defunct. It was a few years before Baker died under mysterious circumstances, in Amsterdam in 1988, after a life of creativity, notorious dissipation, and addiction.

Emaciated, with a caved-in face, he already looked near death. He played like an angel. I remember something that happened to me toward the end of the night. Sometimes last sets in jazz clubs, when the crowd has thinned, seem to exist outside of time.

Thomas Conrad  |  Dec 27, 2019  |  4 comments
Keith Jarrett: Munich 2016
ECM 2667/2668 (2 CDs). 2019. Keith Jarrett, prod.; Manfred Eicher, exec. prod.; Martin Pearson, eng.; Christoph Stickel, mastering eng.
Performance *****
Sonics ****

I just measured the Keith Jarrett shelf in my CD library and it's 25" long: 51 CDs and CD sets. But when I played the new Munich 2016, I felt like I was rediscovering him after an unexplained absence.

Jarrett has been off my radar lately. Apparently I am not alone. The single best indicator of a jazz musician's critical standing is the DownBeat International Critics Poll. In 2017, Jarrett did not make the top 10 in the piano category. In 2018, he did not make the top 20.

Thomas Conrad  |  Aug 01, 2019  |  3 comments
Early in 2019, three jazz CDs appeared on a new record label. They were Jason Palmer's Rhyme and Reason, Johnathan Blake's Trion (both double CDs), and Eric Alexander's Leap of Faith. The label was Giant Step Arts.

Given that hundreds of jazz records—many of them good— are released every month, and that new jazz labels pop up all the time, is the release of three new albums really news?

Thomas Conrad  |  Apr 18, 2019  |  2 comments
Francesco Diodati Yellow Squeeds: Never the Same
Francesco Diodati, electric & acoustic guitar, gongs; Francesco Lento, trumpet; Glauco Benedetti, tuba, valve trombone, flute; Enrico Zanisi, piano, Fender Rhodes, synths; Enrico Morello, drums, gongs
Auand AU9080 (CD). 2019. Francesco Diodati, Marco Valente, prods.; Stefano Del Vecchio, Roberto Lioli, engs. DDD. TT: 44:24
Performance ****½
Sonics ****

Guitarist Francesco Diodati is one of the freshest voices to enter jazz in the new millennium. If this news comes as a surprise, you probably live in the US. A disproportionate amount of the innovation and energy within America's only indigenous art form now comes out of Europe. Most of the American jazz community has not gotten the memo.

Thomas Conrad  |  Nov 19, 2018  |  8 comments
Wolfgang Muthspiel: Where the River Goes
Wolfgang Muthspiel, electric & acoustic guitars; Ambrose Akinmusire, trumpet; Brad Mehldau, piano; Larry Grenadier, bass; Eric Harland, drums
ECM 2610 (CD). 2018. Manfred Eicher, prod.; Gérard de Haro, Nicolas Baillard, engs. DDD. TT: 48:15
Performance ****½
Sonics ****½

Wolfgang Muthspiel of Austria has been active and respected on the European scene for 30 years. But like so many of the best European jazz musicians, he began to get famous only when he began recording for ECM: His Travel Guide (2013) and Driftwood (2014) were endorsed by critics and embraced by guitar junkies.

Thomas Conrad  |  Mar 22, 2016  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2016  |  5 comments
Avishai Cohen: Into the Silence
Avishai Cohen, trumpet; Bill McHenry, tenor saxophone; Yonathan Avishai, piano; Eric Revis, bass; Nasheet Waits, drums
ECM 2482 (CD). 2016. Manfred Eicher, prod.; Gérard de Haro, Nicolas Baillard, engs. DDD. TT: 53:08
Performance ****½
Sonics ****½

In the new millennium, no country other than Cuba has exported more important jazz musicians to the United States than has Israel. But even though the Israeli jazz phenomenon has been much discussed in the jazz press, critics have been late to recognize that Avishai Cohen is one of the best trumpet players alive. Cohen has two siblings who also play jazz, and his charismatic older sister, Anat, who has been winning major jazz polls on clarinet for several years, gets most of the attention in the family. And then there is Avishai's name problem: One of the best-known Israeli jazz musicians, a bassist of the same name, got to New York first.

Thomas Conrad  |  Aug 25, 2015  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2015  |  19 comments
Maria Schneider Orchestra: The Thompson Fields
Maria Schneider, composer, arranger, conductor; 18-piece orchestra
ArtistShare AS0137 (CD). 2015. Maria Schneider, Ryan Truesdell, prods.; Brian Montgomery, eng. DDD. TT: 77:25
Performance *****
Sonics ****

The world's leading figure in orchestral jazz has not released a jazz recording in eight years. In her liner notes, Maria Schneider says, "This album was funded by my ArtistShare fan base. Making a recording like this is becoming increasingly difficult and would now be impossible without the generous support of my many participants."

Today, big jazz bands rarely tour. Some are stable entities, but on a part-time basis. Most, like Schneider's, come together for projects, then go their separate ways. Yet against all odds, large-ensemble jazz survives because no other format offers its range of expression and its power.

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