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Available Jelly

You can still hear the scrappy street band in the Amsterdam jazz sextet Available Jelly, an offshoot of a Utah performance troupe that went to Europe in the 70s to play open-air festivals and stuck around. Working out a new composition or arrangement, each member typically devises his own lead or supporting part in the […]

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Fra Fra Sound

The Dutch jazz scene, known for its disruptive improvisers and able young beboppers, is also a melting pot for third-world rhythms. In immigrant communities like Amsterdam’s Bijlmer, musicians from Curacao, Suriname, and West and South Africa, among other spots, come together to jam. Most of the seven members of Fra Fra Sound–including the band’s founder, […]

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Abdullah Ibrahim

In 1962 pianist Abdullah Ibrahim left South Africa for Switzerland, where he was discovered the next year by Duke Ellington, who produced his northern-hemisphere recording debut. His jabbing bass notes, well-placed chords, and authoritative attack declare his kinship with Ellington, and also with Thelonious Monk, whose tunes Ibrahim covers from time to time. But those […]

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Familiar Themes

Anthony Braxton Four Compositions (GTM) 2000 (Delmark) Roscoe Mitchell Snurdy McGurdy and Her Dancing Shoes (Nessa) Ken Burns’s (or anyone else’s) great-man theory aside, some of jazz’s most profound developments result when a nexus of players assembles to exchange information in performance, collectively shaping new dialects. At the birth of bebop, in New York in […]

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Daniele D’Agaro

Italian saxophonist and clarinetist Daniele D’Agaro is so well-rounded it’s ridiculous. His working units in recent years have included the three-tenor Trio San Francisco with Tobias Delius and Sean Bergin, a quintet performing previously unheard Don Byas tunes (with Han Bennink on drums and Benny Bailey on trumpet), a duo with a church organist reviving […]

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Evan Parker & Joe McPhee

Saxophonists Evan Parker and Joe McPhee occupy parallel universes. Each is a hero to free-jazz diehards who value players who can stay the course for decades without fatigue. But England’s Parker was a kingpin of Euro-improvising from the moment the 60s revolution touched down across the Atlantic, while McPhee was perpetually out of the loop, […]

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Jorrit Dijkstra

In the 1990s alto saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra apprenticed in some of Amsterdam’s better genre-bending groups–pianist Guus Janssen’s game-playing septet, violist Maurice Horsthuis’s tuneful chamber orchestra, Joost Buis’s Sun Ra cover band the Astronotes. Soloing beside heavyweights like tenorist Tobias Delius, Dijkstra could sound a bit green, as he struggled to digest the dual influences of […]

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Chicago Jazz Orchestra

Duke Ellington’s aide-de-camp Billy Strayhorn, who wrote some mighty beautiful tunes and whose elegance and refinement surpassed even the master’s, has been the subject of a revisionist campaign in recent years. Because Ellington sometimes succumbed to the odious yet common jazz bandleader’s practice of taking sole composer’s credit for works his colleague coauthored or wrote […]

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Bireli Lagrene

France’s Bireli Lagrene started playing guitar and listening to Django Reinhardt records when he was four, in 1970. By the time he cut his first record, at 13, he was immersed in Django’s 30s Gypsy jazz dialect: the machine-gun single-note lines, the stinging line-ending vibrato, the fat chords charging up the fretboard. Now Lagrene found […]

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Sheila Jordan

Many jazz musicians have had some Native American blood (Jim Pepper, Oscar Pettiford, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, Duke Ellington), but Indian strains in jazz are usually too submerged for listeners to recognize, or they’re reduced to caricature–a boom-bum-bum-bum tom-tom introducing “Cherokee,” for instance. Singer Sheila Jordan, part Cherokee herself, digs deeper, evoking Native American chants […]

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Design Flaw

Ten or so years ago, clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre’s cool jazz was generally considered way uncool: too soft, too unassertive, too short on grit. Nowadays folks think more kindly of him, his case made both by numerous reissues of once forgotten classics and by admiring clarinetists such as Michael Moore and Francois Houle. (Giuffre’s still with […]

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Roy Campbell’s Pyramid Trio

Trumpeter Roy Campbell has been a linchpin of New York’s downtown jazz scene for around 20 years, earning the admiration of younger brass stars like Dave Douglas, but he’s only recently begun to transcend the status of hometown hero. This wider recognition is overdue. Though he projects some of the bugler-gone-bad raggedness of Lester Bowie […]

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Jason Roebke’s Rapid Croche

Until a couple years ago, Jason Roebke had a fadeaway problem. He’d be thwacking along in the thick of the action, then abruptly drift off into private, whispered consultation with his bass. But his improvised showdowns with various partners at last summer’s Vancouver Jazz Festival appear to have been a watershed, and Tigersmilk (Family Vineyard), […]