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Otis Brown III - 'The Thought of You'

J.D. Swerzenski
Staff Writer
j.d.swerzenski[at]trinity.edu

I had the chance to catch Maxwell with NextBop editor Anthony Dean-Harris a few weeks back. Good timing too, as after listening to a lot of Otis Redding the week before, I was on one of my periodical ‘they just don't make bands like they used to trips. It took Maxwell and his 7-piece backing crew about three songs to wipe those thoughts right out of my head. These dudes were fierce: navigating start-stop tempo shifts on a dime and subtly showing flashes of their individual sound without overshadowing the band.

Come roll call time at the end of the show, I was pleasantly surprised to recognize a couple names from Maxwell's backing band: bassist Derrick Hodge and organist Shedrick Mitchell, both of whom feature on Otis Brown III's excellent Blue Note debut The Thought of You.

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Nels Cline Singers - 'Macroscope'

J.D. Swerzenski
Contributing Writer
j.d.swerzenski[at]trinity.edu

Guitarist Nels Cline has cut in the range of a dozen records across his three-decade career, with those releases and his frequent collaborative work placing him at an unlikely crossroads of bop, experimental, americana and punk. That crossover work with the likes of Mike Watt and Thurston Moore has probably gained him the most attention. Oh, and there's the fact that he's been in Wilco for the past decade or so, doing a monster job of adding edge to the band’s often dad-rocking catalog. Perhaps that's why it strikes me as strange that the Wikipedia page for his primary band The Nels Cline Singers--now a ten years and five albums deep--spans all of three lines long. The closest it gets to a band description? "Despite the name, there are no singers in the group." Hard hitting stuff.

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Orrin Evans' Captain Black Big Band - 'Mother's Touch'

J.D. Swerzenski
Contributing Writer
j.d.swerzenski[at]trinity.edu

It was last October that I had the chance to catch Orrin Evans and his Captain Black Big Band. The venue was NYC’s famed Dizzy’s Coca Cola Club, and the occasion the birthday centennial of jazz’s greatest space case, Sun Ra. I’d known Evans from his flurry of small group releases over the past few years, particularly his wonderfully adaptive and melodic touch at the piano. Those records, which mostly kept to a straightforward bop sound, in no way prepared me for the Captain Black Big Band of this set. Donned in a dashiki while leading his men to the stage, procession-style, with a conch shell, Evans and his 16-piece band summoned the spirit of the Arkestra with eerie precision, from the spontaneous mid-song exclamations (“Jupiter! Venus! Mars!”) to the freewheeling, slightly off-the-rails execution of the arrangements. I knew from the CBBB’s eponymous debut that the orchestra was versatile, but the show left me with the distinct impression that these guys could do anything.

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Darcy James Argue's Secret Society to Embark on World Tour, Debut New Material

J.D. Swerzenski
Staff Writer
j.d.swerzenski[at]trinity.edu

Canadian-born and Brooklyn-based arranger/composer Darcy James Argue certainly took his dear sweet time to follow-up his fantastic 2009 debut Infernal Machines. When he at last released Brooklyn Babylon last year, that delay made a little more sense. A multi-media experience combining animation, live painting and a new 18-part suite performed by the Secret Society, it featured the scope of a project that seemed four years in the making. It also left some (well, mostly me) worried that after such a massive project, it’d be another half-decade before we heard anything new from the meticulous composer.

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Jazz from the Fringes: Week 3 at the Guatemala International Jazz Festival

J.D. Swerzenski
Staff Writer
j.d.swerzenski[at]trinity.edu

It's the thrilling conclusion of the Guatemalan International Jazz Fest, and I'm back in my balcony perch in the Teatro Dick Smith in downtown Guatemala City to catch the Native Jazz Quartet. The star attraction of the band, other than their American-ness (a big deal in this country), is the presence of drummer and vibraphonist Jason Marsalis (playing strictly the later for tonight.) Having a Marsalis, really any of them, on your bill is sort of the jazz equivalent of having a Renoir or Matisse in the collection; it just lends an air of legitimacy. Naturally, the place is packed.