My Northern Spy Records label profile article is up at eMusic

August 16, 2013


Northern Spy Records label imageA little label profile I helped put together for eMusic just got published.  Its subject is the unclassifiable outfit that goes by the name of Northern Spy Records, which focuses on anything experimental, no matter what genre it might belong to.  And, really, most of its music doesn’t belong to any genre.  Pretty much every album they release would fall under my Something Different review series.

Anyways, here’s A Link to the article.

And if you’re an eMusic member, here’s A Link to a free 16-track sampler on the eMusic site, courtesy of the artists, the label, and with the help of the nice people over in eMusic’s label relations department. (EDIT:  At the moment, the free sampler may still be showing a price… eMusic’s been notified and, I assume, will set the sampler to Free.  By the time you read this and follow the link, it may have been fixed. Cheers-  DSS/BitW)

Tons of music to stream on Northern Spy’s Soundcloud page.

And This Link should take you to a couple BitW Tiny Reviews of Northern Spy Records label albums, by the Chicago Underground Duo and Charles Gayle.

Special personal thanks to Northern Spy’s Adam Downey, who put some serious collaborative sweat-work into this article, and to my eMusic editor-in-chief, J. Edward Keyes, for his various sources of help in pulling this together.

Tiny Reviews: Jerome Sabbagh, Miles Okazaki, Chicago Underground Duo & The Kentucky Derby

July 27, 2012

Tiny Reviews, featuring:  Jerome Sabbagh Plugged In, Miles Okazaki Figurations, Chicago Underground Duo Age of Energy, Various Artists The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.



Jerome Sabbagh – Plugged In

Tenor saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh gets around.  Capable of thriving in all types of jazz environments, he’s worked with a disparate group of artists (Ben Monder to Guillermo Klein, to name one such range), not to mention albums under his own name.  On this current release, Sabbagh leads a quartet that rounds out with Fender Rhodes/keyboards, electric bass, and drums.  Inclusion of electric keys and electric bass might give the impression that this album is heavy on groove.  In fact, it’s a practical dissertation on how an artist can create hazy melodies while still resting the entire foundation of the composition upon its back.  Beautiful.

Your album personnel:  Jerome Sabbagh (tenor sax), Jozef Dumoulin (Fender Rhodes, keyboards), Patrice Blanchard (electric bass), and Rudy Royston (drums).

Released on the Bee Jazz label.  Jazz from NYC.

Available at eMusic.


Miles Okazaki – Figurations

Guitarist Miles Okazaki albums feel like a definitive road map for distractible drivers.  What begins as a set course often includes several tangential paths taken on the way to the destination.  The result is  thrilling ride full of diversity and change.  Figurations is the third in his planned trilogy of albums, and performed live.

Your album personnel: Miles Okazaki (guitar), Miguel Zenon (alto sax), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums).

Released on the Sunnyside Records label.  Jazz from the Brooklyn, NY scene.

Available at eMusic.


Chicago Underground Duo – Age of Energy

Sixth release as the Chicago Underground Duo from Chad Taylor and Rob Mazurek.  A mix of free jazz, world jazz instruments, and a Sonic Boom dose of electronic effects.  Cornet, drums, mbira, drum machine, and electronics are the arsenal of choice.  Much of the album was recorded live with no overdubbing.  Switches seamlessly between music of fire, air, and water.  Really a wonderful album that throws enough curveballs to keep the album perpetually interesting and uncategorizable.  The sort of avant-garde music that could appeal to a wide cross-section of genre fans.

Released on the Northern Spy Records label.  Jazz from the Chicago scene.

Available at eMusic.


Various Artists – The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved

A mixed set of spoken word and music.  Based on the Hunter S. Thompson piece on the Kentucky Derby, various actors (and artist Ralph Steadman) read sections of the story with the accompaniment of Bill Frisell and frequent collaborators Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), Ron Miles (trumpet), Eyvind Kang (viola), Doug Wieselman (woodwinds), Jenny Scheinman (violin), Hank Roberts (cello) and Kenny Wollesen (drums, percussion).  Hal Willner is involved in this project, which should give many of you an idea of how strange and alluring this project is.

Released on 429 Records label.  Visit their site for streaming samples and free tracks.

Available at eMusic.



Portions of these reviews were originally used in my Jazz Picks weekly article for eMusic, so here’s some language protecting their rights as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…

New Arrivals Jazz Picks“ and “New Arrivals Jazz Picks“ and “New Arrivals Jazz Picks“, reprints courtesy of, Inc.
© 2012, Inc.

As always, my sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig.  Cheers.

Tiny Reviews: Anders Hagberg, Carmen Lundy, Charles Gayle, and October Trio

March 22, 2012

Tiny Reviews, featuring:  Anders Hagberg Quartet Stories of Now, Carmen Lundy Changes, Charles Gayle Streets, and October Trio New Dream.

Let’s begin…


Anders Hagberg Quartet – Stories of Now

Really intriguing release by Anders Haberg, who in addition to soprano saxophone, also plays a variety of flutes (C flute, bass and contrabass flutes, matusi and harmonic flutes).  The quartet is rounded out with piano, bass, and drums.  It’s an alluring set of jazz compositions that sound influenced by the folk music of his native Sweden.  Quite pretty, introspective without getting sleepy, though some of the world jazz sounding tracks definitely have some punch to them.  ECM fans should probably check this album out.

Your album personnel:  Anders Hagberg (vocals, flute, bass flute, contrabass flute, soprano saxophone, reed organ, Jew’s harp); Johannes Lundberg (vocals, double bass); Joona Toivanen (grand piano), and Goran Kroon (glockenspiel, drums, percussion).

Released on the Footprint Records label.  Jazz from the Gothenburg, Sweden scene.

Available at eMusic.


Carmen Lundy – Changes

Can’t let this week of Jazz Picks go and not mention that jazz diamond Carmen Lundy has a new release out.  A set of originals (and one cover).  Backing Lundy’s vocals include mainstays Anthony Wonsey (piano), Kenny Davis (bass), and Jamison Ross (drums).  If you like jazz vocals, just hit the download button and don’t look back. If jazz vocals aren’t typically your thing, you owe it to yourself to give Lundy a listen; Lundy has plenty of talent and jazz cred and shouldn’t be dismissed.  Addition of guests on trombone, flugel, and trumpet are a nice touch.

Guest appearances by:  Oscar Castro-Neves (guitar), Nolan Shaheed (trumpet & flugelhorn), and George Bohanon (trombone).

Released on the Afrasia Productions label.  Jazz from the L.A. scene.

Available at eMusic.


Charles Gayle – Streets

Charles Gayle is back, and he hasn’t lost any bit of ferocity with age.  On tenor sax, and joined by Larry Roland (double bass) and Michael TA Thompson (drums), it’s a great set of free jazz, sounding both new and New Thing.  If you like your jazz free and fiery, just hit the download button.  Gayle is a vet of the scene, having played with the seminal artists of the avant-garde scene, and it’s great to see him out with a new recording.  Released on the Northern Spy label, staffed by former members of the ESP label, and musician run; a promising release from these guys.  Recommended.

Jazz from NYC.

Available at eMusic.


October Trio – New Dream

Interesting album.  A cyclical twist and crunch and twist again… washing machine jazz; hypnotic in repetition and broken by unexpected jolts of motion.  Opening track “1983” is the kind of tune that draws a listener right in.  On New Dream, October Trio clearly has an album vision, and the variation of sound throughout is as if they attempt to describe that vision in a different language with each tune.  Some moments of a conventional modern jazz sound, some moments that border on free, some that grab hold of a world jazz fusion, etc etc.  It’s one of those albums that might not be love at first sight, but which repeat listenings could bring a strong connection.  Some music is like that.  That’s how this album played out for me.  The more time passes, the more often I get this album in the stereo.

Your album personnel:  Evan Arntzen (tenor & soprano sax, clarinet), Dan Gaucher (drums), and Josh Cole (bass).

Released on the Songlines Recordings label.  Jazz from the Vancouver scene.

Stream the entire album on October Trio’s bandcamp page.

Download a free track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist and label.

Available at eMusic.


That’s it for today’s article, and the third of four parts of the Tiny Reviews from this batch of new arrivals.

Here’s some language to protect emusic’s rights as the one to hire me originally to scour through the jazz new arrivals and write about the ones I like:

New Arrivals Jazz Picks“, courtesy of, Inc.
© 2012, Inc.

My thanks to emusic for the freelance writing gig, the opportunity to use it in this blog, and the editorial freedom to help spread the word about cool new jazz being recorded today.