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Bram Weijters & Chad McCullough - 'Feather'

Alex Marianyi
Staff Writer
alex.marianyi[at]gmail.com / @alexmarianyi

Through all that’s changed in jazz in the last hundred or so years, quality interaction has always made great jazz great. A saxophonist’s line responding to a vocalist’s lyric, a drummer and bassist pushing and pulling the groove into the right feel. Solo albums sometimes fall flat for want of it, and large ensembles can give so much of it so freely that it almost becomes worthless noise. A duo album, such as Bram Weijters & Chad McCullough’s Feather, can suffer from both by not having enough people for new and varied interaction or by being so free together that it becomes over-reactive with interaction. Fortunately, Weijters and McCullough balance their interaction with groove and musicality as they string each song into a multifaceted gem of an album.

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Dan Meinhardt's Outset - 'Outset'

Alex Marianyi
Staff Writer
alex.marianyi[at]gmail.com / @alexmarianyi

Dan Meinhardt’s Outset finds themselves in some unexpected territory on their eponymous release, as they reinvigorate the musical principles that made jazz great a hundred years ago without sounding dated or necrophilic. Swinging lusciously, grooving intently, and spinning melodies throughout, this quartet of young Chicago musicians creates a shockingly raw and vulnerable display of everything that makes this group what it is and none of what it isn’t.

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Twin Talk - 'Twin Talk'

Alex Marianyi
Staff Writer
alex.marianyi[at]gmail.com / @alexmarianyi

Twin Talk’s eponymous release will be their second full-length album, the first released late in 2013. In those roughly two and a half years, they’ve changed their name from Laurenzi/Ernst/Green ("We didn’t want to be a jazz law-firm anymore"), played the Chicago Jazz Festival, and collaborated on a performance with a dance company. Their sound has also changed, evolved without getting away from their identity as a single flexible unit.

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Esperanza Spalding - 'Emily's D+Evolution'

Alex Marianyi
Staff Writer
alex.marianyi[at]gmail.com / @alexmarianyi

On Emily’s D+Evolution (pronounced "D-plus-evolution"), Esperanza Spalding is a badass black punk rock frontwoman making her jazz musicianship work for her in a way that it didn’t on her last album, Radio Music Society. With that 2012 release, she won the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s), but to quote my fellow Nextbop writer J.D. Swerzenski, she was "working hard to include chunks of genre into each track, rather than effectively blending them together."

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What I Listen For

Alex Marianyi
Staff Writer
alex.marianyi[at]gmail.com / @alexmarianyi

I've spent the last couple of years writing for Nextbop.com; though, not as consistently as I would like to. As I compiled my favorite albums of 2015 list at the end of last year, I realized that I hadn't listened to a ton of new music to that point. As a result, I spent most of November and part of December listening to a whole mess of music released in 2015, and it was as inspiring as it was eye-opening. It showed me I hadn't been listening to enough new music.

So, here I am in 2016 on an unofficial New Year's resolution listening to new album after new album, over two dozen so far. That may not be much to other people, but I've never listened to this much new-to-me music in such a short period of time. I've always listened to a ton of music I already know, and when I do, I often already know why I like it. But when I listen to new music, I have to make the choice, "Why do or don't I like this?"