Sonic Reducer

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Pulled together to celebrate the last 50 and the next 50 years of jazz at the Monterey Jazz Festival, the MJF All-Stars— James Moody (sax, flute), Terence Blanchard (trumpet), Nnenna Freelon (vocals), Benny Green (piano, musical director), Derrick Hodge (bass), and Kendrick Scott (drums)—bring their A games, covering mainstream ground from bebop to post-bop. High points include the charming Moody/Freelon duet on Ellington’s “Just Squeeze Me,” Moody’s swing on Milt Jackson’s “Monterey Mist” and Blanchard’s blistering solo on Lionel Loueke’s “Benny’s Tune” (the most modern composition). The set is relaxed, playful and occasionally intense, with everyone letting down their hair. (MM)

Magnetic Fields Distortion (Nonesuch)

Lines like "take me to the airport, I need to be extremely far away" and "I’ve gotta get too drunk to dream, because I only dream of you" lyrically demonstrate that excellence is still intact 10 albums later for lovelorn, lo-fi Magnetic Fields. As always, Mr. Merritt and his band of musicati harness various styles with cheeky grace and self-deprecating sophistication. Meanwhile, on a private astral plane, they trifle with psychedelia and use reverb with abandon. And, yes, there is distortion on Distortion , and it’s amazing. (JCC)

The Helio Sequence Keep Your Eyes Ahead (Sub Pop)

A crescendo of ambient organ tones and a tri-chord guitar progression welcome The Helio Sequence‘s new album, Keep Your Eyes Ahead, into the world. Fans of the nearly decade-old duo will notice a lack of electronica within the dynamic, multidimensional compositions as compared to past records. Keep Your Eyes Ahead is more folky both in tone and execution: Singer Brandon Summers is channeling Bob Dylan (it’s reported that he recovered from a bout of major vocal strain by singing along to Dylan). Keep Your Eyes Ahead is a nice soundtrack to waiting out the final days of winter—soft, piercing and cheery. (AD)

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