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Recent albums, Mehldau and Royston

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More new releases recently including today’s fare: electric new Brad Mehldau and drummer Rudy Royston’s long-time-coming debut as leader. In the near future, look out for reviews of a new John Zorn album with the guitar driven band Abraxas and a more straight ahead, sax heavy release from Seamus Blake and Chris Cheek. It’s hard to imagine a set of more dissimilar albums; in instrumentation, in feel and in background they are all very different. Yet I think taken together they are a good indication of the state of the music, each showcasing high quality musicianship in its own unique way.

I first heard about master pianist Brad Mehldau’s new project months ago. A duo with drummer-percussionist Mark Guiliana wherein Brad largely eschews piano in favor of Rhodes and a variety of synthesizer set ups. The more traditionalist among you may already have been put off the album from this description, but to me this sounded absolutely fascinating. Brad is such a strong technician and usually approaches new projects with a such a complete vision for the final product that no matter how different, the results always seem to work. I went in to my first listen of his album Highway Rider, which at first I viewed as one of those jazz with strings gimmicks, expecting to hate it. Despite my best efforts, by the end of the album it had become one of my all time favorites, on the strength of beautiful long form compositions, well crafted orchestrations and fabulous playing from everyone involved. While I certainly hope he doesn’t abandon the tried and true trio, I see a new format like the one he has with Guiliana as a great opportunity.

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It Begins…

Hello. I’m Max, and I’ve decided to start up a blog dedicated mostly to music, in particular anything that might fall under the wide category of ‘jazz’. As an introduction to this project, perhaps this initial post is a bit pointless, since I’m pretty sure no one will actually read it, what with this being an infant blog, but I figure with the help of copy and paste it can work double duty as an ‘about’ section on the blog’s profile.

 

Music represents nearly all my passions in life. Listening to music, seeing music live, playing music, talking about music, researching music and music history: very little time goes by when I’m not occupied with music in some way. In particular, all the many and varied types of music that have been called ‘jazz’, which I started listening to after deciding on a whim to pick up saxophone in middle school, has become a central point in my life. As with all enthusiasts, I enjoy sharing my passions with other people, but unfortunately, like many enthusiasts of jazz, I often find my friends and relations less than enthusiastic about the things I try and share with them. Rather than continuing my harassment of my friends and family, I’ve decided to start up this blog, named after a Joe Henderson song, as an outlet for my thoughts. Hopefully, at least one person will be interested in discussing music with me. My modus-operandi will be to review every show I see and every new cd I get (with, perhaps some reviews of older albums that are recent acquisitions for me if I think they would be worthwhile). Along the way, I want to talk about the bigger issues: why music works the way it does, what makes some music speak to me (or any other individual) more than others and what the state of the scene is. Most of what I deal with can be called jazz, but there will likely be the occasional entry from some other genre label, or even a book review.

 

I am an equal opportunity listener, as at home with the most bizarre John Zorn avant-extravaganza as I am with the most classic piece of Blakey hard bop. On top of that, I’m no stranger to the classical, rock, funk, and, on occasion, rap worlds. Different types of music have different sorts of things to offer and I think there is much to be gained from trying to understand them all. Hopefully at least some of what I have to share will appeal to at least some people.

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