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"Paranoid Android", "Granada", and "Convalescent": A Look at Brad Mehldau

Ben Gray
Staff Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

Brad Mehldau is certainly one of the most influential pianists, and probably one of the most influential musicians on any instrument, of his generation. His solo piano and piano trio work is some of the most consistently mind-blowing stuff out there from any generation, and he’s also put together many interesting collaborations with other pianists, vocalists, guitarists, horns, strings, and electronics. In this column, I’ll look at some side-by-side comparisons of a few tunes by, or featuring, Brad Mehldau’s piano playing.

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Once, Twice, Eight Times a (Golden) Lady - Eight Versions of Stevie Wonder's "Golden Lady"

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

Among pop music writers, Stevie Wonder's tunes are definitely some of the most often-covered by jazz musicians, and it's not for nothing - they're great tunes. I've looked at a number of versions of "Isn't She Lovely" in a previous column, The SFJAZZ Collective has made an album of Stevie Wonder tunes, as did Madlib under his Yesterday's New Quintet guise and The Deep Blue Organ Trio. In this column, I'll look at a few different versions of Stevie Wonder's "Golden Lady", off of his 1973 album Innervisions.

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Eric Harland's Voyager - 'Vipassana'

Ben Gray
Staff Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

Eric Harland has gotten the Voyager band back together to record their follow-up to 2010's Voyager: Live By Night (and an excellent live set at 92Y Tribeca in 2011 that was recorded by NPR), and that follow-up makes up much of the new release, Vipassana. The rest of the new album is rounded out by some other things that we'll get to in due time.

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Sean Jones - 'im.pro.vise - never before seen'

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

Sean Jones' recently released im.pro.vise - never before seen, on Mack Avenue Records, is a crisp suit of an album, cufflinks in the sleeves. The quartet of Jones on trumpet, Orrin Evans on piano, Luques Curtis on bass, and Obed Calvaire on drums create a sound that is built on a foundation that includes quite a few bricks from Miles' late-1960's period (as Jones' "ESP"-quoting solo on "Dark Times" can attest), it also builds on the sound of the Wynton Marsalis' 1980's output and the other Young Lions of the time (appropriate, given Jones' tenure with Marsalis in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra). For a music that lives and dies by the drum, the presence of Obed Calvaire is always a good sign (see also: the SFJAZZ Collective and The Clayton Brothers, among others). Likewise, the presence of Christian McBride as one of the album's producers is a good sign, and portends the no-nonsense, good-feeling, straight-ahead jazz on im.pro.vise.

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Woody 'N You: A Critical Analysis of Covers

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

"Woody 'n You" was written in 1943 by Dizzy Gillespie as an homage to Woody Herman (credit where it's due), a clarinet and sax player and band leader. "Woody 'n You" was one of three tunes that Gillespie wrote for Herman, and Herman apparently played the tune live, but its first appearance on record was in 1944, on Coleman Hawkins' recording date. That recording was later added to Hawkins' Rainbow Mist album.