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Howard Mandel is one of the best historians writing about jazz, and in his new book, "Future Jazz," he addresses what else but the future of jazz. Now there's a CD package to go with the text, or without, since the book isn't required to listen to the music.
"Future Jazz" (Knitting Factory Records) consists of Mandel's choices of 14 assorted tracks from some of the most innovative musicians who are attempting to take jazz to another level. Among those on the collection are Eric Dolphy, Don Pullen, Thomas Chapin, James Newton, John Scofield, and Joe Lovano. It's an interesting album, not too far out to cause alarm.
Other new releases from the Knitting Factory are a bit unusual and could prove vexing for even jazz aficionados.
Steve Dalachinsky is a poet who performs with jazz groups. The results found on his album, "Incomplete Directions," may please some, offend or bore others. As Dalachinsky puts it, "My poems are always full of themselves." He says he wants to write poetry, not poems. My response: Huh?
Rashied Ali and Louie Belogenis combine for "Rings of Saturn," an excursion into future jazz. Ali is a wonderful drummer who worked with the late John Coltrane. Belogenis plays tenor saxophone with impressive skill. But the album may prove vexing to those who expect jazz to have some acquaintance with melody.
The Thomas Chapin Trio offers its leader on alto and soprano saxes, flute, alto flute and alarm clock (!), doing a challenging collection of eight compositions that never will reach the Top Ten, but should be of interest for listeners who are willing to discard their old ideas of what music should be. The music on the new album, "Nightbird Song," is often odd, but sincere and speckled with ideas. Chapin can only be called brilliant.
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Joe Morris has been called as distinctive as any avant-garde guitarist working today. His new album, "Many Rings," serves as a good introduction to a style of jazz that is innovative, cerebral and occasionally puzzling. He receives support from Karen Borca on bassoon, Rob Brown on saxophone and flute, and Andrea Parker on accordion and sampler.
Concluding my lecture on future jazz is a terrific album from the trio called Vibes. "With Drawn" shows that the jazz of the next millennium doesn't have to be minus melody and can progress logically without doing damage to the notion of moving ahead. Vibes consists of the rhythm section of the acclaimed Jazz Passengers, with Bill Ware on vibes, Brad Jones on bass and E.J. Rodriguez on drums and percussion. You'll hear some recognizable tunes, including "Monk's Mood," "Miles Away," and the old Bill Withers classic, "Lovely Day." You'll like this album no matter your attitude toward the notion of future jazz.
Sympatico's self-titled debut (Atwood Media Records) is the kind of music that would fit in perfectly for background sounds at a polite party. There's nothing in this CD that would cause hearts to beat faster or that would capture ears followed by the exclamation, "Who IS that? Nope, the music offered by this perfectly staid quartet will do very well as a background accompaniment to chit chat from guests waiting for the next round of canapés to be passed about.
The CD contains all originals, played in a straightforward but never demanding manner by guitarist Steve Thomas, keyboards player Bob Ponte, bassist Maggie Rizzi, and drummer Stanley Swan.
New Yorkers Delicious
The wonderful trio of Stevens, Siegel & Ferguson has been playing around New York City for a decade. On their third album, "Panorama," (Imaginary Jazz Records), they're joined by the brilliant Valery Ponomarev, who performs in dazzling form on the trumpet, pocket trumpet, and flugelhorn.
The album gives attention to each member of the group: Michael Jefry Sevens on piano, Jeff "Siege" Siegel on drums, and Tim Ferguson on bass. The 11 tracks include several originals by various members of the group, along with terrific versions of Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma," Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," and Duke Ellington's "Angelica." Ponomarev's work is stunning throughout.
Remember This Name
William Menefield slam dunks his first basket with a great album in "Big Will Leaps In" (J Curve Records). What's remarkable is that this young man shows stunning maturity at the piano. And he's only 18. (He was 17 when this album was recorded.)
It's nice that the Cincinnati-based J Curve company released this marvelous debut, for Menefield is a 1998 graduate of Cincinnati's School for Creative and Performing Arts. Menefield started out playing violin, then switched to cello. But he's essentially a self-taught pianist. And what a pianist he is!
The youngster wrote four of the ten tracks on "Big Will Leaps In." Also receiving excellent performances are such jazz standards as "Equinox," "Misty," "Straight No Chaser," and "A Night in Tunisia." Backing musicians include bassist Tyrone Wheeler, drummer Art Gore, along with Mike Wade on trumpet and Kevin Engel on tenor sax.
This appears to be the start of something big.
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