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CD Reviews: ‘As is … Live at the Blue Note’

‘As is … Live at the Blue Note’Avishai Cohen (RazDaz) Three and a half stars

Bassist Avishai Cohen makes the creation of good jazz look much easier than nearly anyone does. “As Is … Live at the Blue Note” shows that in a CD-and-DVD set made up of pieces from the same gig at the New York City club. The show provides a broad look at Cohen and his touring quintet. On the two discs, there are nine originals by the bassist, and each disc has a long version of the Duke Ellington classic “Caravan.” The tunes sometimes hint of classics in another fashion. “Elli,” for instance, features Cohen and keyboardist Sam Barsh playing statements that could come from a more formal setting. “Etude,” with a melody statement from trumpeter Diego Urcola and saxophonist Jimmy Greene, hints the same before it takes off into greater freedom. Whatever the direction. the music is splendid. from the somber “Remembering” to “Bass Suite #1,” which shows off Cohen’s talent, as though it were ever hidden. The DVD is equally good, with fine camera work and sound. The collection is great evidence to Cohen’s growing spot in jazz.

— Bob Karlovits


‘Symmetry’Thomas Heflin (Blue Canoe) Three stars

Thomas Heflin offers a strong dose of originality to his music, even on songs as frequently done as Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.” On his debut album, “Symmetry,” he offers five standards and six originals, one of which he presents in two ways. In all of the music, Heflin’s playing is as strong as his conception of music. His “Night and Day,” for instance, has a bright and slightly off-kilter tempo. “Bemsha Swing” is loyal to Thelonious Monk’s writing, while “Little B’s Poem” captures Bobby Hutcherson’s lyricism. Of Heflin’s own works, the two title-tune versions and “Sketch in Blue” display the warmth of his tone and his technical skills. He has a Wynton Marsalis-like approach to improvisation in which he creates strong melody lines and doesn’t simply run through showy arpeggios. Heflin teaches at the University of Texas, where he is working on his doctorate. Another strength of the album is that it is one of the last projects of the late James Williams, a fine pianist. The project also gets good work from vibes player Chris Conner. It is one of the first releases from Blue Canoe, an Atlanta label specializing in MP3 versions. The firm can be reached at www.BlueCanoeRecords.com .

— Bob Karlovits


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