Tuesday, September 11, 2012

For All We Know

As I delve into the world of freelance writing, I'll be taking an indefinite break from this blog. I owe a lot to Cold Jazz -- we've been through so much together. But as you've probably noticed, I haven't really written anything of substance here since, I'd say, last November, when I mused about Christmas songs and the Jews who wrote them.

I have another homepage now, where I'll be posting links to my writing -- which may or may not have to do with jazz (though a lot of it will, I imagine). If you'd like to get in touch, my email is matthewkassel88@gmail.com.

I'll leave you with Dinah Washington singing "For All We Know," a rendition I hadn't heard of until I read a lovely tribute to the late art critic Robert Hughes by Leon Wieseltier.

I hope we meet again.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Joe Alterman

My review of a new album by the pianist Joe Alterman was just published in The Forward.

Here's the first bit:

The pianist Joe Alterman is only 23 years old, but on his new album, “Give Me The Simple Life,” he’s managed to round up an impressive array of jazz veterans to play by his side. Houston Person, the soulful tenor saxophonist, joins in on four tracks while bassist James Cammack and drummer Herlin Riley — who both play in Ahmad Jamal’s stellar trio — accompany Alterman throughout.

It’s a lovely record, full of romantic ballads and medium swing numbers — the kinds of standards that are the sine qua non of a traditional piano trio outing like this one.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Oliver Jones

Last week, I went to Montreal to write about the magnificent pianist Oliver Jones for NPR. He performed at the jazz festival there, and I got the chance to speak with him a couple of days before his show. You can read the story I wrote here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bruce Barth

My review of Bruce Barth's new album, "Three Things of Beauty," was just published in The New York City Jazz Record.

Here's the first half:

The pianist Bruce Barth wrote six of the ten songs featured on his new album, including the title track, a dream-like waltz more noteworthy for its long, lyrical, cascading solos than its melody. Most of the tracks on this album are like that, shaped by the drama of a soloist’s decisions. In this case, Barth and the vibraphonist Steve Nelson make some really good ones.

They’re backed by bassist Ben Street and drummer Dana Hall, who put down sure, swinging rhythms. The music is relatively straightahead, but it doesn’t feel perfunctory nor do the musicians submit to the vice of jazz jam egalitarianism. This means that Nelson and Barth act as arbiters, in the forefront. (Street takes two short solos by this reviewer’s count while Hall is featured once toward the end of the second track, “Final Push”, a Barth original.)

Read the rest here (page 18).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dr. Lonnie Smith

I wrote a listing! It’s appearing in the July issue of Hot House Jazz magazine, alerting readers to the organist Dr. Lonnie Smith’s upcoming run at the Jazz Standard.

You can read half of it here, if you’d like:

The organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, a living testament to the durability of the soul jazz tradition, turns 70 this month. Dr. Smith comes from Buffalo, a jazz organ town, and he has never abandoned his roots. He is a commanding improviser and a master of dynamics on his hulking B-3, digging deep into simmering ballads with feline grace or coming at you with a gritty, gutbucket phrase on a scorching funk number.

Dr. Smith is performing at the Jazz Standard on July 3 and 5-8.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Béla Fleck and Marcus Roberts

Béla Fleck, on banjo, with Marcus Roberts
The New York City Jazz Record just published my review of a new album by the Marcus Roberts Trio, with Béla Fleck, called "Across the Imaginary Divide."

Here's the first two paragraphs.

As much as jazz is about self-indulgence - consider all the soloing - it’s also very much about wise restraint. The banjoist Béla Fleck embodies those two poles: he’s a virtuoso but he seems to know when to step back, to let some space into the music. This is an important attribute for a banjoist who immerses himself in jazz settings. In "Across the Imaginary Divide" Fleck joins the Marcus Roberts Trio and he adapts well, which is to say the patterns he picks out on his instrument do not make the music too busy.

The excellent pianist Roberts - who got his start playing with Wynton Marsalis in the mid ‘80s - is another sort of virtuoso: of awkwardly refined expression. (You can trace his style back to Ahmad Jamal and Thelonious Monk and the stride pianist James P. Johnson.) How Roberts and Fleck navigate their own differences is what makes this album interesting.

Read the whole thing here, on page 16.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood

John Scofield
A review I did of an album by Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood was just published in The New York City Jazz Record. It's a live recording, called "In Case The World Changes Its Mind."

Here's some of the review:

In 1998, guitarist John Scofield released the album "A Go Go," which he recorded with Medeski Martin & Wood (MMW). It grooved hard, skirting jazz and blues and rock and funk. It wasn’t until eight years later that the musicians put out another album, "Out Louder," under the name of Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood. It didn’t groove as hard as the first but when the band took the songs from both albums on the road in 2006, the differences between the two didn’t really matter.

MMW, which could be called a ‘jazz trio’, usually acts more like a jam band live and it shows on "In Case The World Changes Its Mind," a collection of recordings from that 2006 tour. The tracks go as long as about 13 minutes, there’s a lot of extended noodling, ideas take shape slowly. Neither bad nor good, you might do better with studio takes if you haven’t heard them yet.

Read the rest here (page 18).