Category Archives: Live performance

A celebration of Charles Mingus through music and film. DIY Space for London 13 July 2017

Although his great Mingus Ah Um album is one of five albums that I have placed respectfully amongst five key sets to listen to, I have personally side-stepped much exposure to the recordings of Charles Mingus (with the exception of some cursory listening to The Clown and The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady). This evening at DIY Space For London provided an opportunity to start to address that.

Hogcallin’, a seven piece band offered up a selection of Mingus’s work including Cannon, Fables of Faubus (with lyrics updated to target Donald Trump rather than the racist Governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus), Eclipse, Bird Calls, Moves, Goodbye Pork Pie and Freedom

John Edwards (bass), Steve Noble (drums) and Adrian Northover (saxophone) also perform as the trio, Hard Evidence. In this other guise, Hogcallin’, they are joined by Sue Lynch (tenor saxophone &flute), Dave Jago (trombone), Helen McDonald (vocals) and Vladimir Miller (keyboard).

The set was played as a disciplined package while retaining a sense of musical freedom which was not sacrificed in favour of too slick a series of renditions. Although the strength of the performance was based on their playing as a unit in which every member excelled, it was a particular delight to hear Adrian Northover’s contributions on alto saxophone. Helen McDonald’s vocal range and delivery was also a special treat. Hogcallin’ deserve a wider audience and it was a privilege to see them perform in such an intimate and friendly venue.

The short musical performance was followed by Mingus: Charlie Mingus (1968), a fly on the wall piece made on the day in 1966 that Mingus was evicted from his New York apartment due to non-payment of his rent. The film offered a snapshot of Mingus’s worldview on what had to be a traumatic day for him. His disclosures were far-ranging from broader social and political concerns through to candid (and questionable) opinions on women and race. The overall product is an intimate document which is likely to lead viewers to want to know more about its subject.

Well done to Tome Records for presenting yet another evening of film and live performance. It is hoped that there will be many more to come.

If you like what you have read, please touch or click on the ‘like’ box. Comments are also very welcome. downwithit.info contains over 160 individual posts about Modern Jazz, which can be found by using the search box at the top of this page or by making a selection of your choice from the list at the bottom of this page, where you will also find links to other blogs and websites.

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Coming soon. Mingus film with live music from Hogcallin’

How time flies. It is a month since I spent the early part of UK Election Night in the company of Hard Evidence at DIY Space for London. The combination of a live performance inspired by Thelonious Monk coupled with a viewing of a film about the great artist worked particularly well.

On Thursday 13 July 2017, Tome Records, a record shop based at DIY Space are presenting another evening of live music and film, this time centred on the works of Charles Mingus. Music will be provided by Hogcallin’ a seven piece band who play Mingus in a self-declared ‘…brash and non-conformist style.’ Sign me up for some of that! The film ‘Mingus in Greenwich Village’ combines performance with interviews presenting ‘an impressionistic view’ of the musician.

Advance booking can be made via Tome Records (above) and details of the venue and times are on the flyer- although it is probably worth aiming to get there relatively early in the evening as last time the band performed before the film.

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Hard Evidence Trio live at DIY Space For London

I was following up on a tip from London Jazz Collector when I ventured into a previously unexplored domain of former light industrial units. The blighted environment signalled that I was closer to the Rustbelt than the Ritz. Just like in Detroit, however, sprouts and shoots of regeneration may slowly be emerging in the badlands between Deptford and Old Kent Road where a new volunteer-run resource DIY Space for London is at the forefront.

I was there for A Celebration of the life and Music Of Thelonious Monk, essentially a gig and a film organised by Tome Records, a record shop based on the premises.

My mini-adventure paid off. Music was provided by Hard Evidence Trio, in the form of a fiery free-leaning interpretation of a sequence of improvised tunes that had recognisable Monk themes as their springboard. It wasn’t the dry, dusty formulaic music of the supper club or jazz brunch and it was all the better for that. It was the uncompromising sound of a mid-sixties Impulse set. Indeed, I was sure that I heard the ghost of Alber Ayler banging on the door, clamouring to be let in.

John Edwards (bass), Steve Noble (drums) and Adrian Northover (Soprano and sopranino saxes) make up Hard Evidence. They played with passion and displayed excellent musicianship. If you are open-eared enough to listen to music that ventures into that fantastic free space beyond the conventional chord changes you should seek them out. There’s a link here.

The live performance was followed by a showing of Straight No Chaser, a Monk bio-pic released by Clint Eastwood’s production company. I’d never seen this before and the glimpse it gave of the great man was, in parts, exciting, informative and occasionally sad.

Thanks to Tome Records for putting the evening on and good luck to DIY Space for London who are trying to do things differently with an eye to making a better world.

If you like what you have read, please touch or click on the ‘like’ box. Comments are also very welcome. downwithit.info contains over 150 individual posts about Modern Jazz, which can be found by using the search box at the top of this page or by making a selection of your choice from the list at the bottom of this page, where you will also find links to other blogs and websites.

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Looking ahead: A Concert for Alice and John Coltrane

This year marks 50 years since the passing of the great John Coltrane (and 10 years since that of his wife Alice Coltrane). On 18 November, a special commemorative concert is to be held at The Barbican in London.

It features a rare London appearance by Pharoah Sanders (hopefully accompanied by pianist William Henderson) with Denys Baptiste and Alina Bzhezhinska also performing on the bill.

The concert publicity says it will be:-

A three-part journey through the cosmos, celebrating the profound musical and spiritual legacy of two of the most influential figures in Western musical history: Alice and John Coltrane.

As of 6 August only a handful of tickets remained available and by the time you read this it may well be sold out (The Barbican Box Office here.

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Chris Batchelor, Mark Lockheart, Liam Noble, Steve Watts & Clive Fenner: Live at East Side Jazz Club: 21 February 2017

It was astonishing! Did they really play that? You must be joking. If I hadn’t witnessed the performance given by Chris Batchelor, Mark Lockheart and their pickup rhythm section of Noble, Watts and Fenner, I wouldn’t believe the breadth of material that was covered. Although it could have been a dogs breakfast, this gig at Leytonstone’s East Side Jazz Club was a feast of many flavours, which resulted in a memorable meal with ingredients from Hollywood, New Orleans, South Africa and New York blended and served up with brilliance.

Batchelor (trumpet) and Lockheart (tenor saxophone) had played together in the 1980’s as members of the British big band Loose Tubes in a lineup that was a who’s who of emerging talents. Despite the passing of the years and involvement in multiple projects as diverse as Microgroove and Polar Bear, they demonstrate a deep understanding and connection with each other in their musical dialogue.

The band eased into the set with Angel Eyes and if they hadn’t been heard sound checking with what could have been a lively John Coltrane blues, there would be reason to fear that they would not be straying too far from well-worn standards from the 1940s and 1950s. This was followed by Fat’s Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz from 1942, the first jazz waltz to gain widespread acclaim and a ballad which could have been either Mal Waldron’s Soul Eyes or Jimmy Van Heusen’s Nancy With The Laughing Face (although it could have been something else entirely- let me know if you know what it was).

Each number was given new life by the energy transfused into it by the two front men, before the fourth selection introduced a real element of surprise with Batchelor venturing back to the era of trad jazz with a Louis Armstrong tune. It wasn’t simply a case of getting away with an interesting anomaly as these musicians brought freshness to a style that I associate with a ancient breed of men playing on Sunday afternoons in dingy pubs, sometimes with banjos! (I may be unfair here). Any remaining sense of a set overly dependent on tired icons was well and truly smashed into clast fragments with an audacious version of Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman. I’m not regular enough at East Side to state categorically that free jazz has never featured there but I’ll wager that Batchelor, Lockheart et al took us as close to the territory favoured at Dalston’s Cafe Oto as the Leytonstone Ex-Servicemen’s club may have ever been.

After the interval expectations were further confounded with two Thelonious Monk tunes, Bemsha Swing from Brilliant Corners and the later Ugly Beauty from 1968s Underground. The band tackled these with skill and aplomb before Batchelor introduced Ages Of Mali, a township jazz tune composed by the great Dudu Pukwana who he played with in Zila when he was 17. This brought back many memories of those stalwarts of the 1980’s London scene (from the audience response, I was not alone in my enjoyment) and a dedication to Zila’s singer, the late Pinise Saul who passed away in October 2016 followed.

A further shift in mood and tempo was crafted with Jobim’s smooth I You Ever Come To Me before Harry Beckett’s Harambee was chosen as the penultimate piece. Although I did not know Harry Beckett personally I gained the deepest respect for him as, despite his eminence as an artist, he worked with and shared his love of music with the rawest of raw beginners at the much-missed Lewisham Academy Of Music, a community project which worked with all-comers walking in from 1980 to 2000. Finally, the gig concluded with Come Ye Disconsolate, a traditional gospel anthem recorded by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, which you can listen to courtesy of Youtube:-

To play click on or touch the arrow

Once again, East Side Jazz Club presented the cream of British Jazz to spice up this quiet and unpretentious part of town and Clive Fenner and his crew are to be commended for their consistent hard work to ensure that the flag is kept flying. We’ll be back there again very soon.

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The Blackbyrds: Ronnie Scott’s 15 February 2017

Although 2017 is not a leap year, here at downwithit we’ve sprung like a feisty feline on the hunt. The great Donald Byrd has led us from The Catwalk to a sellout first night of a residency at Ronnie Scott’s, costing me more of a song than sixpence and featuring The Blackbyrds as the main course.

While working on my consideration of The Catwalk and explaining how I had first started to listen to Donald Byrd when his Best Of compilation was released in 1992, I noticed that his protégés, The Blackbyrds, were playing in London in mid-February. It took seconds to hit the club website and reserve a couple of tickets. A month passed quickly and a night on the town came along to add a bit of sparkle to a late winter’s evening.

There’s always a bit of a gamble involved in going to see bands that have reformed. The Blackbyrds did so in 2012 and feature three original members in the form of powerhouse vocalist and drummer, Keith Killgo, the mighty Joe Hall on six string electric bass and Orville Saunders playing a very funky guitar.

Any misgivings were left behind at the door and a satisfying starter was served up by saxophonist Christian Brewer and his band, Brewer’s Crew. Their lively jazz funk was well received by an appreciative audience out to enjoy themselves.

After a quick rearrangement of the small stage, the main course was delivered by an octet who paved the way with their anthem, Black Byrd, which you can listen to (in the form of the original featuring Donald Byrd) courtesy of Youtube:

To play click on or touch the arrow

After a great opener, one of my personal favourites, Dominoes, followed. It led onto a delicious smorgasbord of hits including Think Twice, Time is Movin’, the inevitable Walking in Rhythm, Do It Fluid and Happy Music, not forgetting the well-loved Rock Creek Park.

There isn’t a weak link in the current Blackbyrds line-up and it is very much in keeping with Donald Byrd’s legacy as a great and inspirational music educator, that they include young talent. Paul Spires on lead vocal has a unique voice that the smart money says we will hear more of, while the sax and flute duties were delivered without fault by Elijah Balbed, a recent graduate of Washington’s Howard University, where Donald Byrd formed the band in 1973.

As the set progressed, a trickle of members of the audience began to dance and that rapidly turned into a flood as The Blackbyrds infectious and tightly delivered songbook worked its magic. Although this is their first residency there, this will surely not be the last engagement at Ronnie Scott’s for The Blackbyrds.

The gig also offered the opportunity for me to say hello to Carl Hyde, the in-house photographer at Ronnie Scott’s. I have been aware of Carl’s work for some time and you can see a sample of it for yourself on his website.

All in all, another great night at Ronnie’s!

If you like what you have read, please touch or click on the ‘like’ box. Comments are also very welcome. downwithit.info contains over 150 individual posts about Modern Jazz, which can be found by using the search box at the top of this page or by making a selection of your choice from the list at the bottom of this page, where you will also find links to other blogs and websites.

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Johnny Griffin’s Studio Jazz Party

johnny-griffin-studio-jazz-party-1

In September 1960 Johnny Griffin led this session which sought to capture the spontaneity of a live recording in a studio environment where the sound quality could be controlled and shaped to a much greater degree than in most live venues. Johnny Griffin’s Studio Jazz Party is exactly what the title says it is. An audience was invited to the Plaza Sounds Studio in New York where they were treated to drinks and a buffet and encouraged to respond to the music as though they were in a club setting.

Writing posts for downwithit.info would be far more difficult if, like many fellow Jazz site authors, I was to confine myself to recordings that I owned in a vinyl format. Most of my posts are based on listening to FLAC sound files that I have ripped from CDs that I have purchased. I enjoy the freedom to roam that this offers and it is a freedom that I wouldn’t have if I was to only write about vinyl records. I can’t afford top quality early pressings and usually lack the time it takes to dig through crates of second hand vinyl in search of rare bargains. I’m not sure if this offends the purists but if it does then too bad.

So what has this look at Johnny Griffin’s Studio Jazz Party to do with this?

Well! It represents a rare consideration on this site of a vinyl LP. I have a regular cursory flick through the jazz section of my local music and DVD shop and once in a while I come across an affordable record that I am prepared to stump up the cash for.

Back in August 2014 I wrote about another Johnny Griffin recording:- his Big Soul Band set. By coincidence that was also a vinyl record from the same shop.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the fare that is served up here:-

After an extended introduction from Babs Gonzales, in which the invited audience are encouraged to settle in and avail themselves of the food and drinks, the session proper gets underway.

The opener is a lengthy rendition of Tad Dameron / Count Basie’s Good Bait. After a brief and moody swing-influenced head the band hit double time and Griffin is away with a lively solo before bringing in Dave Burns on trumpet. Griffin’s second solo is a little ragged as is his playing when he trades verses with Burns but overall there is little not to enjoy.

You can take a listen courtesy of ‘Umo’ at Youtube here:-

To play click or touch the arrow.

There Will Never Be Another You features Burns on the head and first solo. Simmons acquits himself well on piano. Griffin’s notes are voiced swiftly as bursts of sound, before, in conclusion Griffen and Burns again trade phrases with each other, before receiving deserved applause.

Toe-Tappin’ is a Burns composition that displays more than a nod towards Moanin’, although unlike that classic it is played at a brisk tempo. There’s space for a short bass solo from Vic Sproules which fits well.

You’ve Changed is introduced by Gonzalves in basic French as a version of the ballad associated with Billie Holiday. Burns plays beautifully on this.

Low Gravy is a strolling blues number written for the session by Gonzales, which closes the recording.

My copy is a Japanese pressing and this initially made me think twice about the purchase. Any doubts were set aside when I examined the back cover and discovered that the copy on sale had been previously owned by ‘Schmidt’ a well-known British jazz collector (London Jazz Collector owns several records from the same source). As you will see he had the habit of adding his name in his distinctive script. Although embellishments to the sleeve usually reduce its value, an exception can be made for him.

I pointed the signature out to the extremely knowledgeable shopkeeper who said that he remembered meeting Schmidt and thought that he had something to do with the audio or hifi business. I intend to have a chat with him to try to get some more information when I next see him and the shop is not busy.

Although I admire Johnny Griffin for being adventurous with the concept of this release, Studio Jazz Party is not the greatest album with a live feel to it but it is worth a listen and I am pleased to have added a first ‘Schmidt’ to my collection.

The band etc: Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophone); Norman Simmons (piano); Dave Burns (trumpet); Vic Sproules (bass); Ben Riley (drums). Recorded: September 27 1960. Plaza Sounds Studio, New York City. Produced: Orrin Keepnews. Sleeve Notes: Chris Albertson. Cover photos: Lawrence Shustak. Cover Design: Ken Deardoff. Original Stereo copy issued as Riverside 9338.

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Simon Spillett, Ted Beament, Simon Thorpe & Clive Fenner: Live at East Side Jazz Club: 12 July 2016

Simon Spillett 120716

Simon Spillett has been on my ‘to hear list’ of tenor saxophonists for a while now and the East Side Jazz Club offered an opportunity to catch up with him. Tubby Hayes has been a particular influence on his playing and last night’s set was largely made up of tunes that Hayes had covered. Opening with a lively Royal Ascot, the set moved through Like Someone in Love and Alone Together through to Miles Davis’ Vierd Blues, Polkadots and Moonbeams and The Theme.

Spillett’s playing combined fluent dexterity with fleeting references to a veritable history of jazz riffs and it was good to hear fine controlled mainstream soloing. Simon Thorpe, last seen a couple of weeks ago at the same venue with Vasilis Xenopoulis had gigged with Spillett in the previous week. The live sound from his double bass was a joy to listen to and his solos and runs added to the programme, rather than merely filling it out. I don’t think I’ve encountered Bob Beament’s piano before but he impressed on East Side’s trusty upright, combining delicate softly played single notes with great percussive chords and leading this non-pianist to ponder the mysteries of effective pedal work. The guests excelled, as did Clive Fenner on drums, who was given more space than usual with plenty of ‘fours’ and longer fills afforded by Spillett’s benign leadership. Spillett told us that Beament had last played at East Side 18 years ago and it never ceases to astound how four musicians can meet up without rehearsal and deliver such an engaging performance. That’s the essence of what good professional live jazz is about, I guess.

The second set featured There is No Greater Love, Misty, It Could Happen To You and Caravan, before Beament and Spillett produced Blue Monk, which was of particular interest as I am currently reading Robin D.G. Kelley’s excellent ‘Thelonious Monk: The life and times of an American Original’.

Throughout the performance Spillett interspersed the music with tales that displayed a wry, self-deprecating sense of humour and I look forward to reading his acclaimed recent book on Tubby Hayes when funds allow.

The East Side Jazz Club is closed until 20 September 2016 but downwithit will be back there in the autumn to catch a selection of the consistently high standard performances.

By using the search box at the top of this page you will be able to look at content from over 140 separate posts for views and reviews of work by numerous modern jazz artists.

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Pharoah Sanders live at Ronnie Scott’s: First set- 9 July 2016

Pharoah Journey To The One

You know what? Those of us who enjoy this music are very fortunate. It is possible to see musicians from the simply great to absolutely world-class standard perform in small venues. Saturday night offered a long awaited opportunity to see Pharoah Sanders perform live again, this time in the comfortable, indeed salubrious surroundings of Ronnie Scott’s.

Regular readers will be aware of my enjoyment of Pharoah’s music and may have noticed that I have posted links to reviews of a number of his recent American gigs. You may even have noted an underlying wistfulness as time passed without news of a UK gig. Eventually though this evening, almost on my doorstep in London, was announced.

Pharoah was accompanied by his regular pianist William Henderson and his European rhythmn section. Gene Calderazzo on drums is an alumni of Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where a roommate was none other than Branford Marsalis, while bass player Oli Hayhurst was a founder member of Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble.

Pharoah played Origin, which first appeared as a septet version featuring scat vocals on the 1981 Rejoice set and again six years later in an earthier stripped down quartet context on Africa. Set like a diamond in the precious metal setting of his superb accompanists it seemed unlikely that we would witness the extensive explorations reliant on circular breathing but the tone was there and Pharoah’s spirit will never waiver.

John Coltrane’s beautiful love song for his first wife, Naima, was delivered with great sensitivity before Pharoah, ramped up the passion with a powerful rendition of Highlife, another selection from Rejoice. His expressive chants were matched with an equally strong saxophone part.

The band were of the highest calibre, although I am puzzled by why William Henderson doesn’t seem to have recorded as a leader as his playing has merited this for years. A trio performance featuring himself, Calderazzo and Hayhurst, perhaps on a small label like Smoke Sessions could be brilliant.

My evening was made when Pharoah graciously signed a couple of CD booklets that I had brought with me on the off chance (which is why this article has a picture of my CD copy of Journey To The One at the head). Even if you were to offer me three John Coltrane’s, four Monk’s or ten Miles Davis signed items these are momentos that I will never part with.

Evenings like this are gems to be stored up in the memory, treasured and returned to when times get tough. Unfortunately, the set was a short club sized morsal and all too soon it was time for the attentive staff to turn us out to the bright lights and crowds of an early Soho night. Oh for the old days when you could watch the early set at Ronnie’s and stay on for the second performance! Still, I also have memories of longer free-blowing sets at Dingwalls and The Jazz Cafe from the distant past to recall. I understand that Pharoah may have played other songs from his repertoire including You’ve Got To Have Freedom in his second set (if you were there, please leave a comment and let us know).

By using the search box at the top of this page you will be able to look at content from over 140 separate posts for views and reviews of work by numerous modern jazz artists.

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East Side All Star R & B Band: Live at East Side Jazz Club: 5 July 2016

East Side All Stars

With the holiday season fast approaching and jazz summer schools in the South of France beckoning the East Side Jazz Club hosted its (almost) end of season spectacular. Once again, this featured an all star band made up of three members of Jools Holland’s R & B Orchestra: Derek Nash (saxophones), Winston Rollins (trombone) and Chris Storr (trumpet) supplemented by Dave Ital on guitar, Geoff Gascoyne (bass), Pete Whittaker (organ) and the ever-present Clive Fenner (drums).

The irrepressible Derek Nash, musical director and MC for the evening, explained that the set would be showcasing the talents of Pete Whitaker on Hammond Organ and we would be visiting the work of The Incredible Jimmy Smith (hopefully without the rather spicy language that Smith occasionally used). Without further ado we were Back At the Chicken Shack, followed by I’m Comin’ Home by Bob Dorough.

Every member of the band is a great soloist and each was given plenty of space to show what they could do. As I said when I reviewed the same line up in the summer of 2014, Pete Whittaker was excellent on the Hammond emulator, although I would love to hear him play the real thing coupled with the power and presence of Leslie speakers, which can take your breath away. Jimmy McGriff’s Mod classic All About My Girl was great nonetheless.

An original Derek Nash composition, The Chant, took us into latin territory, with the audience, Storr and Rollins ably supplying the vocals. It was then time for Dave Ital to cut loose on guitar on the JBs signature piece, Pass The Peas. His inventive and very funky solo showed why he has shared a stage with Nile Rogers.

The first set closed with Joe Liggins The Honeydripper, the title track of Brother Jack McDuff’s 1961 Prestige album, which feature Grant Green on guitar. After such a hot performance audience and band were all ready for a long cooling drink.

Following the break Derek Nash introduced Jimmy Smith’s The Sermon, which I took a look at here in February 2016. Although we didn’t have either Lee Morgan or Tina Brooks in the house, Chris Storr (fresh from trumpet duties at Gregory Porter’s Glastonbury performance) and Nash were more than capable substitutes, although Pete Whittaker did not need to play long alarm notes to stop Derek Nash in the way Jimmy Smith had to do to Brooks on the original recording. After this we went down yonder to New Orleans and the funk of The Meters Cissy Strut. In a show of peak performances, the cutting contest, to see who could play the most intense solo, that pitted Rollins trombone against Nash’s tenor saxophone brought smiles to every face, including that of an otherwise very serious Chris Storr, who, having added his own highlights, savoured what he was hearing from stage right. The band were joined by feisty vocalist Jo Harman who will be appearing at BluesFest later this year and who supplied an extra dimension to the proceedings.

The night concluded with two final Jimmy Smith tunes. Nash, Storr and Rollins accepted the challenge of replicating Lalo Schifrin’s twelve piece brass section on The Cat with Nash seeming to channel the powerful sound of King Curtis who must have been looking down on Leytonstone last night (or maybe that’s just a flight of fancy from me), while Eight Counts For Rita reminded me that my Jimmy Smith collection is not quite complete as I don’t have his late career Dot Com Blues set yet.

Thanks to these great musicians for being willing to turn out for this suburban gig and all credit to Clive Fenner and colleagues for the calls made. It’s live performances of this quality that keep the music alive. It was another great evening at The East Side Jazz Club, where there is one final pre summer break chance to hear more great music when Simon Spillett appears with Ted Beaumont and Alec Dankworth on Tuesday 12 July.

By using the search box at the top of this page you will be able to look at content from over 140 separate posts for views and reviews of work by numerous modern jazz artists.

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