Album Review: Daniel Bennett Group at All About Jazz

My review of the Daniel Bennett Group’s 2015 album The Mystery at Clown Castle is available at All About Jazz. It’s another outstanding example of the endless creative possibilities of modern jazz, and is highly recommended

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Best of 2014

Happy Holidays! Here’s a list of the top 5 blog posts from 2014. Here they are, in case you missed them!

5. Freight Train Fingerstyle Guitar Lesson

This is my intermediate fingerstyle guitar lesson for the Elizabeth Cotten classic “Freight Train,” including tabs/notation and video.

4. The Role of the Guru in Indian Classical Music

An excerpt from my MA thesis, this is about the teacher as a cultural institution in Indian classical music.

3. Review: Moanin’, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers

An in-depth review of the seminal hard-bop album Moanin’.

2. Review: Coursera Introduction to Improvisation: Final Thoughts

The conclusion of my series of weekly reviews of the Gary Burton class on jazz improvisation.

1. Bye Bye Blackbird Chord Melody

My own arrangement of the jazz standard “Bye Bye Blackbird” as a chord melody, featuring tabs and notation.

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Intro to Indian Music Class

I’m happy to announce my upcoming Intro to Indian Ragas class in Pittsburgh, offered by the Calliope School of Folk Music. It’s a four-week workshop, open to anyone interested in learning the fundamentals of Hindustani music.

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Music Lessons in Pittsburgh

I’m now offering private guitar, banjo and mandolin lessons in Pittsburgh, PA. All levels are welcome! Contact me if your interested in folk music or jazz, theory or fundamentals, or world music.

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What’s Happened to MikeOpMusic!?

Hey everyone,

I do need to apologize for going off the grid there for a while. I’ve been involved in a number of big projects and this site got put on the backburner for too long.

The good news is, I’m rededicating myself to providing music reviews and high quality instructional materials online. However, I foresee significant changes in order to best serve you, the readers.

First, about my new project

Live Jazz Shows

Live Jazz Shows is my new website, dedicated to providing reliable listings for upcoming jazz concerts, album reviews and information on the best current jazz musicians in North America. I’m hoping it will grow into an invaluable resource for jazz recommendations and for discovering new music. It includes forums for discussing any aspect of jazz, so I hope you’ll stop by and let me know what you think!

MikeOpMusic Redesign

The content on MikeOpMusic has gotten a bit out of control. I hope to pare it down to more specific content, probably spread across a few websites. I’m thinking one will be devoted to educational materials, one for my own music and perhaps another focusing on my research interests.

Thanks for visiting, and I’ll be here more often now that Live Jazz Shows’ launch is imminent!



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New Website

Sorry for the lack of activity here. I’ve been working on getting my new website, Live Jazz Shows, up and running. It’s a resource for finding upcoming jazz concerts, new album reviews, and today’s best jazz musicians!

Discover New Music! Jazz Listings and Reviews

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Record Label Profile – Pi Recordings

New York City’s jazz record label Pi Recordings, run by co-owners Seth Rosner and Yulun Wang, is a major player in the contemporary music scene. Releasing music by legendary artists like Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell, as well as younger artists like Vijay Iyer, Rudresh Mahantappa and Steve Coleman, Pi’s recordings are always unique challenges to the status quo. In fact, one could reasonably argue that Pi Recordings dictates the ever-evolving potential for jazz music. Here’s an interview with Rosner and Wang, along with ten album reviews: Pi Recordings: Dedicated to the Innovative

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Album Review: Chuck Anderson – Freefall

Freefall, by The Chuck Anderson Trio, 2010. Dreambox Media, DMJ-1121.

Freefall is guitarist/composer Chuck Anderson’s first release after an extended hiatus from performance due to ill health. However, it is a triumphant and welcome return to the contemporary straight-ahead jazz scene for Anderson and his newly assembled trio featuring bassist Eric Schreiber and drummer Ed Rick. Freefall consists of twelve original tracks, ten of which feature the trio and two solo guitar pieces.

The album effectively covers a wide breadth of the harmonic and emotive possibilities available in the tonal jazz idiom. From the exuberant, bright Lydian theme of “Flight,” to the swaggering Mixolydian feel of “In A Misty Glow,” and the dark, serpentine Locrian orientation of “Diablo’s Dream,” the trio genuinely captures and communicates the nature of each tune. The variety provides a fine overview of Anderson the composer.

Despite the breadth of the album, the depth to which Anderson and Schreiber explore each tune, driven by Rick’s percussive backdrop, is the highlight. Though the trio possesses virtuosity in abundance, they never lose sight of the aesthetic sensibility that sets them apart from many other guitar trios. The nuanced communication between the players is clearly evident on tunes such as the blues-inflected “Double-Dippin’,” and a similar sensitivity to the musical material can be heard on the evocative waltz “The Enchanted Garden.”

The production only helps to convey the message; the guitar tone is clear and crisp, the bass vibrant, the percussion packs a punch, and the balance between all three is ideal.

Freefall is a unique conception, given a sense of unity and cohesion by the trio’s attention to each tune’s inherent musicality, the communication between players, and the successful integration and incorporation of all three instruments as essential elements in the greater musical tapestry.

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Album Review: Kosi – One More Cup of Coffee

One More Cup of Coffee, by Kosi, 2013. Self Produced. 

Akosua Gyebi Sorensen, or Kosi, as she identifies herself on the 2013 album One More Cup of Coffee, is a New York-based singer, songwriter and composer forging her own sound.  The album consists solely of Kosi’s vocals accompanied by the guitar work of Aron Marchak (with the exception of the song “Marlene,” in which Kosi plays her own guitar accompaniment).

Despite the duo instrumentation, a diverse musical variety is successfully achieved. One More Cup of Coffee contains 11 tracks, ten of which are listed and credited. Of these ten, eight are originals, presented alongside Kosi’s interpretations of Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” and Vernon Duke’s standard “Autumn in New York.” As a songwriter, Kosi embodies funk, soul, jazz, and other influences into her music. Continue reading

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Pi Recordings Profile for All About Jazz

I’m well into an All About Jazz profile on the NY jazz label Pi Recordings. Already interviewed executive producers Seth Rosner and Yulun Wang, now I’m started on a series of capsule reviews of artists including Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman, Rudresh Mahantappa, and members of Chicago’s AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). There’s a ton of great stuff here and I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on it.

Here’s a quick preview of some Pi Recordings artists:

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