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Author: John Chacona

Roll Call – April 10, 2020

I get a lot of music for my consideration, more than 150 new releases so far in 2020. Almost all of them are notable for something, and I’d like to give them their due. I have a lot of time on my hands as my biggest gig, previewing events for a local newspaper, has evaporated. So every week, I’ll do quick hits on the releases of the preceding seven days. It’s fun and as a writing exercise, it’s a great way to learn to make a point quickly and decisively. Like all roll calls, this will proceed in alphabetical order, starting with . . .

John DiMartino - Passion Flower Just like the Tuscan dialect of Dante gradually became the accepted Italian language, the New York style of playing is the NPR accent of mainstream jazz. That doesn’t imply a lack of a recognizable character necessarily. In the right hands,  New York jazz is immediately identifiable for its refinement, urbanity and professionalism. And that’s what you get on pianist John DiMartino‘s Passion Flower (Sunnnyside Records). The 14 Billy Strayhorn compositions are mostly well known (except “Absinthe,” which was new to me at least) and DiMartino’s arrangements avoid needless interventionism. So do bassist Boris Kozlov and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, who are solid throughout. Drummer Lewis Nash, alert, creative and supremely musical, steals the show. It’s what New York drummers are supposed to do.

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CD review: Andy Milne and Unison: The reMission

Last December, a million years ago, my wife and I went to Cleveland’s Bop Stop to hear vocalist LaTanya Hall, who was touring to support her new CD (I reviewed concert and CD here and here respectively). As wonderful as her performance was, it was hard not to be mesmerized by the A-list trio assembled by pianist Andy Milne, Hall’s husband.

After the show, Milne told me that the trio, bassist John Hèbert and drummer Clarence Penn, had just finished a recording for Sunnyside for release in the spring. Well, it’s here and it’s something special.

“Resolution,” the second track on The reMission,” opens with an ominous bass note and measured taps on a drum. When you know that “The reMission” was inspired by Milne’s recovery from a 2017 cancer diagnosis, those drum taps seem to mark the rhythm of an IV drip. The slow, haunted melody that emerges as though from a mist, unavoidably evokes the blurry sensations of someone just regaining consciousness.

There’s no sense of triumph here; “The reMission” has all the seriousness, deep focus and banked-fire emotion of an ECM date, and I mean that as a compliment. Beautifully recorded (by Mike Marciano and Max Ross at Brooklyn’s Systems Two), it also has a fair amount of the German label’s characteristic reverb.

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CD review: Amina Figarova: Persistence








For 20 years, pianist Amina Figarova led a series of bracing and accomplished instrumental quintets and sextets. Those were largely acoustic groups that featured undersung horn players such as tenor saxophonist Marc Momaas and flutist Bart Platteau, who is Figarova’s husband. On her latest CD, Persistence (AmFi Records), the Azerbaijan-born New Yorker has both slimmed down and muscled up her band, Edition 113. Rhodes and Rez Abbasi‘s electric guitar often join Platteau on the front line and the thump and crackle of Rudy Royston‘s drums, prominent in the mix, adds an extra jolt of power.

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