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Tag: jazz

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The King of All: Sir Duke

In the last century, I'd be hard pressed to choose a better composer than Duke Ellington. In his musical career which spanned just over a half-century, he wrote early rhythmic jazz tunes, bouncy big band numbers, elegant ballads, musical scores, jazz/classical pieces and everything in between. He was the best of the best, covering all bases.

A great collection to start with is Sophisticated Lady, although that superb CD just scratches the surface of his tremendous oeuvre and legacy.

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Little Jazz Bird: Saying 'Bye to Blossom

Since discovering her music fifteen years ago, I've been playing Blossom Dearie's music regularly. She's become a staple in our house, so much so that our kids sing along and know her songs, know her by name. So, we're bumming around here since hearing the news of her death. I had a feeling it was coming, bracing myself. She'd been playing at a place called Ronnie Scott's in NY. I was planning a trip out east to see her play live, until I learned online the appearances stopped a couple years back, and I knew I'd probably missed my chance, which I regret. I've written about Blossom's music previously, and am listening as I type to a swell interview on NPR I learned of from her Facebook fan page. Give it and her music a listen again or for the first time, and she comes alive.

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E.S.T.

Easily my favorite band the last year is E.S.T., the Esbjörn Svensson Trio. A pop band that plays jazz or vice versa, these three Swedes are redefining the jazz piano trio for the new millenium. They do it all, whether mellowing to a ballad with classical overtones, covering Thelonius Monk, punching out a pop hook that would get Linus and Snoopy jumping, or breaking all the rules with esoteric experimental improvisations.

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My wife, Mary and I had the pleasure of seeing them play live last summer on the night of our eighteenth wedding anniversary. They knocked me out, absolutely, playing tightly and in total sync, all the while free and loose in the intimate setting of the Dakota Jazz Club, located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. The group nailed more traditional jazz numbers, then flipped it over to use their instruments in crazy and inventive ways to produce weird, otherworldy sounds. My favorite track is Spunky Sprawl, a tune which would make Vince Guaraldi of Peanuts fame proud. The album where that song can be found, Strange Place For Snow is a great place to start. Or try their latest studio effort, Tuesday Wonderland. Check out their music at the official E.S.T. site, their MySpace page, or watch the video of the last five minutes of a recent concert. Give them a listen; you won't be sorry.