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The Record Roundup

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Abdullah Ibrahim

The Balance


South African jazz pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim will be 85 on October 9. He’s been recording since 1960. Apartheid led him to spend a lot of his life outside his native country, so he’s lived a lot of places and recorded with just about everybody. For The Balance, Ibrahim relies on a septet of longtime musical colleagues (Ekaya), loading up with three saxes, flutes, two double basses, harmonica, drums and trombone. The result is 10 tracks (in just over 40 minutes!) that simply do not waste your time. It’s fast, dance-y, heady, and much happier than you might expect.

– Bruce Collier

Sami Linna

Sami Linna Quartet


Finnish jazz guitarist and leader Sami Linna joins with Jussi Kannaste (sax), Mikko Heleva (organ) and Dana Hall (drums) for this quartet album. Linna is reportedly in the process of earning a doctorate in music, but obviously he’s been taking study breaks. Scandinavian jazz can be full of surprises and twists on traditional forms. This five-track album clocks in at under 38 minutes; still, nobody’s rushing things. Linna has been playing for a while, and he’s not afraid to time-travel. There’s strolling, bluesy stuff (“Dreamville”) some shimmering and soulful ’70s fare (“Black Mountain”) and plenty of opportunities for solo passages (“Umoya”).

– Bruce Collier

Julian Steckel



German classical cellist Julian Steckel pays tribute here to Hungarian violinist/composer/educator Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967). The all-Kodaly album offers seven tracks—a sonatina, sonata, and duo for cello, variously with violin or piano. Kodaly reportedly wrote some challenging stuff, and along the way developed a teaching method that bears his name. Steckel, himself an educator, is known for delving deep into the pieces he plays. His performances here have both strength and purity of tone, and an ease and sweetness that makes them all the more accessible to a casual listener like me. Maestro Kodaly is well served here.

– Bruce Collier

The Strangers

Brotherhood Built This

Elevated Underground

From collaboration births friendship, community and art. At their heart, The Strangers are about giving a voice to the continually growing batch of hip-hop visionaries with roots right here. That all might make Brotherhood Built This seem like it could be fractured—the product of many voices and ideas—but thanks to their extraordinary talents, this full-length album beautifully excels at being a fluid combination of talents. A well-rounded addition to Elevated Underground’s extensive catalog.

– Nikki Hedrick

A Sunday Fire

An Open Letter


This high-energy rock band from Mobile, Alabama, has an undeniable punk backbone. An Open Letter is the follow-up to their 2017 debut, and it’s obvious from the first few minutes that the band took their time to craft this full-length into something mighty special. One of the hardest tasks with this type of music is balancing a pristine, deliberate recording with one that captures the roaring energy of their punk influences. It requires a certain amount of patience and fearlessness to find that balance, and A Sunday Fire is triumphant in that goal. The band just wrapped up an impressive West Coast tour, and I look forward to seeing what they put their sights on next.

– Nikki Hedrick


Art Neville

The Specialty Recordings 1956-58


Twenty tracks of early Art, sure to appeal to anyone who digs, say, Fats Domino (pretty much everyone). “Cha Dooky-Doo” is probably the best known of these, but I also savor the two tributes to the music I love—“Let’s Rock” and “That Old Time Rock ‘N’ Roll.” (Yes, even in the mid-to-late ‘50s, folks were trotting out the nostalgia.) And who can resist another rendition of “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie-Woogie Flu”? Not me.

– Chris Manson



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