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Jazz Music

Sphere "Click me to Order" Sphere

Taking their name from Thelonious Monk's middle name, Sphere's latest album projects the relaxed self-assurance one would expect from this group of jazz veterans. Led by altoist Gary Bartz and pianist Kenny Barron, propelled by the effortless swing of drummer Ben Riley and bassist Buster Williams, Sphere stretches out on six mid-tempo originals and a blistering version of "Surrey with the Fringe on Top." Bartz's fat, slightly rakish tone imbued with a hint of the blues gives the group its most distinctive voice (imagine an older Steve Coleman), but it is the sense of a group mind at work that gives this music its timeless feel. The lengthy tunes (averaging eight minutes) allow for unhurried, four-way explorations of the "classic jazz" vernacular. Exuding an air of unpretentious conversation among fellow travelers, its grace and balance more than offset its lack, at times, of urgency and passion. The sole ballad, "Twilight Song," with Bartz on soprano, is gorgeous. --Wally Shoup

Gary Burton: Like Minds "Click me to Order" Like Minds
Gary Burton

Vibist Gary Burton has been collaborating with pianist Chick Corea and guitarist Pat Metheny since the mid-'70s, and it shows. The three have a strong intuitive sense of each other's lines and sound and can enhance the music in myriad, subtle ways. Having a great rhythm section doesn't hurt either, and bassist Dave Holland and drummer Roy Haynes are two of the very best. On Like Minds they have created an excellent CD: a no-frills, straightahead jazz album, crisply recorded, full of energy and imagination. With the exception of the George Gershwin piece, "Soon," the disc features all original compositions, with considerable thought given to distinguishing each soloist despite the surface similarity of their nimble, bouncy styles. Like minds, perhaps, but each possesses a singular voice and the ability to merge it creatively with others. --Wally Shoup

Songs We Know,Fred Hersch, Bill Frisell "Click me to Order" Songs We Know Fred Hersch, Bill Frisell

I was worried when I found out that Bill was recording with a pianist. In many jazz recordings featuring piano, they are recorded too loud and the guitar gets buried among the keys. I was quite relieved when I popped in the disc and heard Hersch and Frisell meld so beautifully. At some points, you can't tell where the guitar begins and the piano stops. Frisell's playing is a little reserved, but it's vintage Bill. A must have.  ~T.Jones

Ron Carter "Click me to Order" Bass & I Ron Carter

After seeing Ron live in NYC, I couldn't resist buying this album. The addictive theme from "Blues for D.P." remained in my head for weeks, and the soothing tone of "Someday My Prince Will Come" continues to relax me anytime of day. Ron Carter is the greatest living bassist, and Stephen Scott's piano playing is the best I've heard since Monk. Not to mention the two percussionists, Lewis Nash and Steve Kroon, who also deliver amazing performances. To sum up... this CD is one of my top 5 favorite albums of all time, and nothing will change that..(except maybe another Ron Carter album!)

Combustication "Click me to Order" Combustication Medeski Martin And Wood

1998 Jazz Artist of the Year. The rather plainly named Medeski, Martin and Wood have almost single-handedly returned the spotlight to the more out-there fusion between bop jazz and on-the-one funky rock music. Wheezing and huffing behind a bank of old-school keyboards, Medeski, Martin and Wood plow into their songs with abandon. The drums of Billy Martin push the band out and away rather than gathering them neat and tidy, while bassist Chris Wood delivers the rhythms that somehow manage to keep every musical tidbit strapped to the deck. For his part, keyboardist John Medeski slaps and whacks his keys with inspired malice, all the while leaning heavy on the volume pedal. With the addition of DJ Logic further warping this band's sound, Medeski, Martin and Wood have reached escape velocity and are now orbiting the planet. They may never come back. --S. Duda

Crazyhorse Mongoose Galactic "Click me to Order" Crazyhorse Mongoose Galactic

Nary a sentence goes by in a piece about Galactic without the words New Orleans inserted. Names such as the Meters, Nevilles, and Toussaint get kicked around like a Hacky Sack. Although they did develop their sound on various N.O. stages, they lay down the "hometown New Orleans" rap thicker than file gumbo. Even if you look past the Crescent City-as-marketing-peg tactic, however, you'll find a band that has honed its funk-soul-jazz blend to a fine edge. Their Capricorn debut shows the band maturing and expanding as they move from playful stomps ("Hamps Hump") to smooth boogaloo (the title track) to smoldering soul-jazz ("Witch Doctor") to spacy wah-wah-driven forays ("Tighten Your Wig") to '70s-style R&B ("Start from Scratch") to filthy, back-alley slow jams ("Quiet Please"). Drummer Stanton Moore (actually a New Orleans native) superbly anchors this mix, steering the band from behind the skins. Theryl de Clouet's vocals don't add much other than a change of pace. While the sextet's instrumental technique won't amaze, it's certainly strong enough to keep the airtight grooves endlessly flowing. --Marc Greilsamer

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