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Weiji

In the middle of A Blessing, John Hollenbeck and his crew (a complete contingent of woodwinds, brass, and “secret weapon” vocalist Theo Bleckmann) let loose and for four minutes enter into a mad sort of Dionysian rebellion. Like a two-year-old’s worst temper tantrum, the players scream, kick, and scratch before they seem to tire themselves […]

Jazz Suite for Brass Quintet

The Jazz Suite for Brass Quintet by Alec Wilder, while a really enjoyable listen, poses a bit of a problem for a musical purist, and not because it mixes jazz into classical music. The suite was actually compiled in 1996 by Robert Levy, sixteen years after Wilder’s death, from various movements in Wilder’s eight (count […]

Purification of Wounds

In this office, the prettier the CD the sooner it’s listened to. Just human nature, I guess. Of course you can never judge a CD by its beautifully designed cover. Case in point, January 14 & 15, 2005, which documents a two-night stint at Tonic by Billy Martin’s improvising outfit Socket, with its calculated and […]

Worldwide Funk

In “Worldwide Funk,” Foday Musa Suso and Jack De Johnette take timbres that might hastily be dropped in the “world music” category and stretch them far beyond the Pier 1 Imports®-esque lifestyle music that characterizes much of the genre. Framed as “music from the hearts of the masters,” this is a jazz fan’s global fieldtrip—a […]

At the Abyss

“Act,” the final movement of Alex Shapiro’s three-part suite At the Abyss has a freneticism and spontaneity to it that is usually associated with jazz improv, but as far as I can see—Alex features a healthy portion of the score on her website—everything in this trio for piano and two percussionists is completely written out. […]

Three Etudes for Solo Trumpet

The composers have spoken. In a near unanimous decision, trumpet extended techniques have been deemed merely the tools of improvisers, too unruly for the printed page. When is the last time you’ve seen multiphonics, half-valve effects, and alternative fingerings for microtones notated in a score? Sure, all these sorts of things were rampant in the […]

Appalachian Waltz

As a girl with an overdeveloped sense of nostalgia and a connection to the Appalachian foothills, traditional music, played with the unavoidable force of an impersonal 80-member orchestra, doesn’t work for me. This is one musical area where I’m a sucker for, well, tradition. That said, many others would disagree: Mark O’Connor and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg […]

What the Living Do

Susan Narucki’s recital disc of contemporary American art songs composed at the MacDowell Colony comes with an odd twist. In addition to songs by revered masters of the contemporary art song like Ned Rorem, Aaron Copland, Amy Beach, and David Del Tredici, there are recitations by Nathan Randall of poems by such luminaries as Elizabeth […]

Pocket Symphony

Coyly titled fred, eighth blackbird’s newest disc is completely devoted to the beloved musical radical Frederic Rzewski. The premiere recording of Pocket Symphony, a piece written for the ensemble, opens the CD and gives each of the players plenty of room to show what they’re made of (though rumor has it that the theatrical aspects […]

Both Veils Must Go

One of the most moving conversations about music I’ve ever had was with Charles Lloyd. Perhaps the time and place added to the effect (a poetically rainy September 14, 2001, in a cozy Greenwich Village apartment), but really it was Lloyd’s guru-like carriage and soft-spoken insight that I found both inspiring and challenging. His music […]