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By Mike Zwerin

PARIS, 15 DECEMBER 2005 —The following recommendations from around the planet have been chosen on the basis of quality alone; style has nothing to do with anything. As Duke Ellington famously said, "there are only two kinds of music, good and bad."

Robert Magris Europlane: Check-In (Soul Note)

Magris is a pianist who lives in Trieste, where this was recorded for an Italian record company. It features a front line of Tony Lakatos and Michael Erian, who are Hungarian and Austrian respectively, on hard-driving tenor saxophones. This is more evidence that, although it was once strictly American, jazz has become a universal language.


Me'Shell NdegeOcello: Dance of the Infidel (Universal)

Bass-guitarist, arranger and singer, Me'Shell has been influenced in more or less equal parts by Steve Coleman and Prince. She has been a star since she signed with Madonna's Maverick label in the 1990s. The multitalented Meshell works solo much of the time. Making this album, she was happy to be part of a band - which included Wallace Roney, Kenny Garrett, Matthew Garrison, Jack De Johnette, Don Byron and Mino Cinelu - for a change. They all move gracefully between jazz and rock, soft and loud, freedom and structure, and the music of Northern and Southern Hemispheres.


 Dexter Gordon: Mosaic Select (Mosaic Records/3 CDs)

It is always a treat to hear a franchise tenor saxophonist at the top of his game with a rhythm section worthy of him. Here he is with George Cables, Rufus Reid and Eddie Gladden live at the Keystone club in San Francisco in 1978 and 1979. Long-Tall Dexter was a big man with a big sound who staked out his territory with great individuality, beauty, joy and authority. The Mosaic label continues to keep such essential stuff in their catalogue, though depending on where you live, you may have to go online to find it: www.mosaicrecords.com.


Le Sacre du Tympan: Le Retour!" (Label Blue)

The name of this French band is a pun on Le Sacré du printemps, Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.  Each track is another percussive sound sketch - from Stravinsky's dissonance to Ellington's consonance, with touches of salsa, bebop, Weather Report, a Balkan brass band and kitschy James Bond and spaghetti-western soundtrack knockoffs. The leader, Fred Pallem, calls it "Popp music."


Mike Zwerin's new book, The Parisian Jazz Chronicles : An Improvisational Memoir, has just been published by Yale University Press. 

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