Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ornette Coleman - Beauty Is a Rare Thing (The Complete Atlantic Recordings)

Disc 1       
01 Focus on Sanity
02 Chronology
03 Peace
04 Congeniality
05 Lonely Woman
06 Monk and the Nun
07 Just for You
08 Eventually
09 Una Muy Bonita
10 Bird Food
11 Change of the Century
12 Music Always

Disc 2
01 The Face of the Bass
02 Forerunner
03 Free
04 The Circle With a Hole in the Middle
05 Ramblin'
06 Little Symphony
07 The Tribes of New York
08 Kaleidoscope
09 Rise and Shine
10 Mr. and Mrs. People
11 Blues Connotation
12 I Heard It Over the Radio

Disc 3       
01 P.S. Unless One Has (Blues Connotation No. 2)
02 Revolving Doors
03 Brings Goodness
04 Joy of a Toy
05 To Us
06 Humpty Dumpty
07 The Fifth of Beethoven
08 Motive for Its Use
09 Moon Inhabitants
10 The Legend of Bebop
11 Some Other
12 Embraceable You
13 All

Disc 4
01 Folk Tale
02 Poise
03 Beauty Is a Rare Thing
04 First Take
05 Free Jazz

Disc 5
01 Proof Readers
02 W.R.U.
03 Check Up
04 T. & T.
05 C. & D.
06 R.P.D.D.
07 The Alchemy of Scott Lafaro

Disc 6
01 Eos
02 Enfant
03 Ecars
04 Cross Breeding
05 Harlem's Manhattan
06 Mapa Coleman 9:05
07 Abstraction
08 Variants on a Theme of Thelonious Monk (Criss-Cross) I,II,III,IV

Rhino R2-71410
CD Box rip+covers & booklet

While it's true this set has been given the highest rating AMG awards, it comes with a qualifier: the rating is for the music and the package, not necessarily the presentation. Presentation is a compiler's nightmare in the case of artists like John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, who recorded often and at different times and had most of their recordings issued from the wealth of material available at the time a record was needed rather than culling an album from a particular session. Why is this a problem? It's twofold: First is that listeners got acquainted with recordings such as The Shape of Jazz to Come, This Is Our Music, Change of  the Century, Twins, or any of the other four records Ornette Coleman released on Atlantic during that period. The other is one of economics; for those collectors who believe in the integrity of the original albums, they need to own both those recordings and this set, since the box features one album that was only issued in Japan as well as six unreleased tunes and the three Coleman compositions that appeared on Gunther Schuller's Jazz Abstractions record.
Politically what's interesting about this box is that though the folks at Rhino and Atlantic essentially created a completely different document here, putting Coleman's music in a very different context than the way in which it was originally presented, his royalty rate was unchanged -- he refused to do any publicity for this set when it was issued as a result. As for the plus side of such a collection, there is a certain satisfaction at hearing complete sessions in context. That cannot be argued -- what is at stake is at what price to the original recorded presentations. Enough complaining. As for the music, as mentioned, the original eight albums Coleman recorded for Atlantic are here, in one form or another, in their entirety: Shape of Jazz to Come, Change of the Century, The Art of the Improvisers, Twins, This Is Our Music, Free Jazz, Ornette, and Ornette 'n' Tenor, plus To Whom Keeps a Record, comprised of recordings dating from 1959 to 1960. In fact all of the material here was recorded between 1959 and 1961. Given that there is a total of six completely unreleased compositions as well as alternate takes and masters, this is a formidable mountain of material recorded with not only the classic quartet of Coleman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Billy Higgins, but also the large double quartet who produced the two-sided improvisation that is Free Jazz with personalities as diverse as Eric Dolphy, Freddie Hubbard, and Scott LaFaro, as well as Coleman, Cherry, Haden, and Ed Blackwell, who had replaced Higgins on the music for To Whom Keeps a Record and This Is Our Music -- though Higgins does play on Free Jazz.
The progression of the recording sessions musically is one of dynamics, color, and, with the addition of Blackwell, firepower. As the listener moves from the first session that would become most of The Shape of Jazz to Come, listeners can hear how the interplay between Cherry and Coleman works lyrically not so much as a system, but as system of the creation of melody from dead fragments of harmony, thereby creating a harmonic sensibility that cares not for changes and chord progressions, but for the progression of music itself in the context of a quartet. From the sharp edges on "Focus on Sanity," through "Peace" and "Congeniality,"
through "Lonely Woman," Coleman's approach to harmony was one of disparate yet wholly compatible elements. This is the story as the sessions unfold, one kind of lyricism evolving into itself more fully and completely with time. On Change of the Century, Twins, and This Is Our Music, Coleman shifts his emphasis slightly, adding depth and dimension and the creation of melody that comes out of the blues as direct and simply stated as possible. By the time LaFaro enters the picture on Free Jazz and Art of the Improvisers, melody has multiplied and divided itself into essence, and essence becomes an exponential force in the creation of a new musical syntax. The recordings from 1960 and 1961, along with the unreleased masters andalternates, all show Coleman fully in possession of his muse. The trek of musicians through the band -- like Jimmy Garrison and Eric Dolphy, as well as people like Jim Hall and Bill Evans where Coleman appeared in Gunther Schuller's experiments -- all reveal that from The Shape of Jazz to Come through On Tenor, Coleman was trying to put across the fully developed picture of his musical theory of the time. And unlike most, he completely succeeded. Even on the unreleased compositions, such as the flyaway storm of "Revolving Doors" or "PROOF Readers" or the slippery blues of "The Tribes of New York," Coleman took the open-door approach and let everything in -- he didn't necessarily let it all out. The package itself is, as are all Rhino boxes, handsome and original; there are three double-CD sleeves that all slip into a half box, which slips, reversed, into the whole box. There is a 68-page booklet with a ton of photographs, complete session notes, and liners by Coleman (disappointingly brief, but he was pissed off at the label), a fantastic essay by the late Robert Palmer, recollections by all the musicians, and quotes from Coleman from interviews given through the decades. The sound is wonderful and the mastering job superb. In all -- aside from the breach of pop culture's own historical context, which is at least an alternate reality -- this is, along with John Coltrane's Atlantic set and the Miles and Coltrane box, one of the most essential jazz CD purchases.
 Review by Thom Jurek

Arthur Blythe - Illusions

01 - Bush Baby
02 - Miss Nancy
03 - Illusions
04 - My Son Ra
05 - Carespin' With Mamie
06 - As of Yet

Columbia JC 36583

It is surprising how artistically productive altoist Arthur Blythe was during his period on Columbia. Despite the hype and Columbia's reputation for pressuring artists to play mass-appeal music, Blythe's recordings for that label are inventive and creative. For this, his third Columbia release, Blythe uses two different groups: an "in the tradition" quartet with pianist John Hicks , bassist Fred Hopkins, and drummer Steve McCall, and a  more eccentric unit  with guitarist James Blood Ulmer, cellist Abdul Wadud, tuba player Bob  Stewart, and drummer Bobby Battle. No matter the setting, the distinctive alto of Blythe is heard in top form on six of his unusual originals. It's recommended.
Review by Scott Yanow

Arthur Blythe - In the Tradition

01 - The Jitterbug Waltz
02 - In a Sentimental Mood
03 - Break Tune
04 - Caravan
05 - Hip Dripper
06 - Naima

Columbia JC 36300

Sometimes the easiest way to get "in" to someone's music is to see how they handle standards. Altoist Arthur Blythe, who -- although he has been associated somewhat with the avant-garde -- does not fit easily into any category, is heard on this 1978 studio session exploring four veteran songs plus two of his originals. The instrumentation of his quartet is conventional but the musicianship is exceptionally high (pianist Stanley Cowell,  bassist Fred Hopkins , and drummer Steve McCall), and it is quite interesting to hear how they stretch such songs as "In a Sentimental Mood," "Jitterbug Waltz," and "Caravan," making them sound fresh and original.
Review by Scott Yanow

Arthur Blythe - Blythe Spirit 1981

01 Contemplation
02 Faceless Woman
03 Reverence
04 Strike up the Band
05 Misty
06 Spirits in the Field
07 Just a Closer Walk With Thee

Columbia FC 37427

This is one of the most well-rounded Arthur Blythe records from his Columbia period. The distinctive altoist performs three passionate originals and an unlikely version of "Strike Up The Band" with a quintet also including cellist Abdul Wadud, guitarist Kelvyn Bell, Bob Stewart on tuba and drummer Bobby Battle. In addition he is featured on "Misty" with a more conventional trio (pianist  John Hicks, bassist Fred Hopkins  and drummer Steve McCall), plays his "Spirits In The Field" with Wadud and Stewart, and is quite effective on a reverent but swinging rendition of "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" with Stewart and organist Amina Claudine Myers. One of many Columbia LP's long overdue to be reissued on CD, this is a fairly definitive Arthur Blythe recording, showing off his links to hard bop, r&b and the avant-garde.
Review by Scott Yanow

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Josep Maria Farras & Ignasi Terraza Trio - 2006-08 Plaça Vella

Perhaps you remember other two records by the blind pianist Ignasi Terraza that I posted in 2009. This one is a colaboration with the trumpeter Josep Mª Farras that I guess is difficult to find outside Spain. Sax player Jesse Davis appears as a guest in two songs

Two musicians, two generations, two instruments, two visions – but the same passion. The first time Ignasi Terraza found himself in the company of Tete Montoliu he just couldn’t resist asking the impossible question: “Maestro, what is jazz?” The answer lay, literally, in his hands, but if the pianist from Barcelona’s Carrer Muntaner had wanted to find an easy way of dealing with Ignasi’s question, all he had to do was to mention one name: trumpet player Josep Maria Farràs. “One of our country’s greatest jazz musicians,” in Tete’s words.
The Farràs-Terraza duo creates the perfect synthesis of past, present and future that gives shape to the small part our country has played in contributing to a genre of music that changed a century. There are so many names from whom they might have drawn their inspiration: Louis Armstrong, Art Tatum, Clifford Brown, Oscar Peterson, Lee Morgan, Ahmad Jamal… But if Farràs’ virtue lies in making them live on through his lips and Terraza’s in bringing them back to life with his fingers, what really sets them apart is their ability to keep the tradition sounding fresh and alive, like dressing up a vintage model in new clothes and lending a timelessness to a sound that remains as exciting today as on its first day.
Put it to the test – listen to this album and, without realising it, you will find yourself following the example of everyone else who has gone along with the answer to another of history’s great enigmas: “What is swing? It’s when Count Basie taps his feet.”
Pere Pons, Revista JAÇ

01 Once I Loved (Jobin) 5:52
02 Plaça Vella (Terraza) 6:50
03 I Remember Clifford (Golson) 5:51
04 Temps de Canvis (Terraza) 5:42
05 It Could Happen To You (VanHeusen, Burke) 3:09
06 Autumn Leaves (Kosma, Prevert, Mercer) 10:09
07 Look For The Silver Lining (Kern, DeSylva) 4:32
08 Nits de Farres (Terraza) 5:51
09 I'm Always (Carroll, MaCarthy) 6:11
10 Solitude (Ellington, DeLange, Mills) 6:04
11 If I Could Be With You 'one Hour Tonight (Johnson, Creamer) 4:19

Josep Maria Farras (Trumpet)
Ignasi Terraza (Piano)
Dimitri Skidanov (Bass)
Jean Pierre Derouard (Drums)
Jesse Davis (Alto Sax) tracks 2, 8

Recorded at Nomada 57 Studio, Barcelona, on July 31, 2006, except tracks 2, 3 & 8 recorded on August 19, 2008

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kenny Wheeler - A Long Time Ago


There are very few major artists who, like Kenny Wheeler , have the ironic misfortune of being simultaneously revered and ignored. Talk to any astute jazz musician and Wheeler's name is likely to be held in high esteem, yet the record- buying public still has scarcely a clue as to how valuable this 69-year-old trumpeter has been to music over the past several decades. His projects for ECM are regarded as highlights of the entire catalog, not to mention being some of the better small group jazz recordings of recent vintage.

Kenny Wheeler - A Long Time Ago

As a distinguished follow-up to his previous release, Angel Song, this new Wheeler recording seems like a logical extension in that a chamber-like atmosphere once again provides the mode of expression. Wheeler's chosen grouping this time out is an eight-piece brass ensemble, with pianist John Taylor and guitarist John Parricelli thrown in the mix for good measure. There's almost a contemporary classical feel to much of the music, most notably on "Going for Baroque," a piece whose witty title further suggests Wheeler's sardonic sense of humor and love of a good pun.

The centerpiece here is a half-hour excursion simply titled "The Long Time Ago Suite." As skilled a writer as he is a player, Wheeler crafts an enchanting performance that has largely been through-composed. Taking some simple motifs, Wheeler develops the piece via manifold permutations and tempos. Utilizing his flugelhorn throughout the proceedings, his dulcet tones are heard to great advantage, as are the solo voices of Taylor and Parricelli. The other lengthy piece revisits an earlier masterpiece. "Gnu Suite " comes from the album that really put Kenny on the map in 1975, Gnu High. This realization is less grandiose, but no less rewarding.

High marks all around for Wheeler's proficient use of the brass and his lush scoring. With much regret, there's truly too little of Wheeler's large ensemble writing available, making this a precious addition to his catalog. On the other hand, those looking for more of a jazz-laden gathering may find the lack of a rhythm section cause for a bit of a paradigm shift. Review by C. Andrew Hovan, published November 1, 1999 .


  • John Barclay Trumpet
  • Pete Beachill Trombone
  • Reicard Edwards Trombone
  • Richard Edwards Trombone
  • Manfred Eicher Executive Producer
  • Tony Faulkner Conductor
  • Ian Hamer Trumpet
  • Henry Lowther Trumpet
  • Mark Nightingale Trombone
  • John Parricelli Guitar
  • Dave Stewart Trombone, Trombone (Bass)
  • John Taylor Piano
  • Derek Watkins Trumpet
  • Kenny Wheeler Flugelhorn
  • Sarah Williams Trombone, Trombone (Bass)


  1. The Long Time Ago Suite
  2. One Plus Three [Version 1]
  3. Ballad for a Dead Child
  4. Eight Plus Three/Alice My Dear
  5. Going for Baroque
  6. Gnu Suite
  7. One Plus Three [Version 2]

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Albert Ayler - Holy Ghost: Rare & Unissued Recordings (1962 - 1970)

After listening to Revenant's massive Albert Ayler box set, Holy Ghost: Rare & Unissued Recordings (1962-70), a pair of questions assert themselves in the uneasily settling silence that follows: who was Albert Ayler, and how did he come to be? At the time of this box set's release 26 years after the Cleveland native's mysterious death -- his lifeless body was found floating in New York's East River, without a suicide note -- those questions loom larger than ever. Revenant's amazing package certainly adds weight and heft to the argument for Ayler's true place in the jazz pantheon, not only as a practitioner of free jazz but as one of the music's true innovators. Ayler may have been deeply affected by the music of Ornette Coleman, but in turn he also profoundly influenced John Coltrane's late period.

The item itself is a deeply detailed 10" by 10" black faux-onyx "spirit box," cast from a hand-carved original. Inside are ten CDs in beautifully designed, individually colored rice paper sleeves. Seven are full-length music CDs, two contain interviews, and one is packaged as a replica of a recording tape box, containing two tracks from an Army band session Ayler participated in. Loose items include a Slug's Saloon handbill, an abridged facsimile of Amiri Baraka's journal Cricket from the mid-'60s containing a piece by Ayler, a replica of the booklet Paul Haines wrote for Ayler's Spiritual Unity album, a note Ayler scrawled on hotel stationery in Europe, a rumpled photograph of the saxophonist as a boy, and a dogwood flower. Finally, there is a hardbound 209-page book. It contains a truncated version of Val Wilmer's historic chapter on Ayler from As Serious As Your Life, a new essay by Baraka, and biographical and musicological essays by Ben Young, Marc Chaloin, and Daniel Caux. In addition, there are testimonies by many collaborators, full biographical essays of all sidemen, detailed track information on the contents, and dozens of photographs.

Almost all this material has been, until now, commercially unavailable. Qualitatively, the music here varies, both artistically and mechanically. Some was taken from broadcast and tape sources that have deteriorated or were dubious to begin with, but their massive historical significance far outweighs minor fidelity problems. Chronologically organized, the adventure begins with Ayler's earliest performances in Europe fronting a thoroughly confounded rhythm section that was tied to conventional time signatures and chord changes. Ayler, seemingly oblivious, was trying out his new thing in earnest -- to the consternation of audiences and bandmates alike. How did a guy who played like this even get a gig in such a conservative jazz environment? Fumbling as this music is, it proves beyond any doubt Ayler's knowledge and mastery of the saxophone tradition from Lester Young to Sonny Rollins. Ayler's huge tone and his amazing, masterfully controlled use of both vibrato and the tenor's high register are already in evidence here. Following these, there is finally recorded evidence to support Ayler playing with Cecil Taylor in Copenhagen in 1962. This is where he met drummer Sunny Murray who, along with bassist Gary Peacock, formed the original Ayler trio. Their 1964 performances at New York's Cellar Café are documented here to stunning effect. Following these are phenomenal broadcast performances from later that year that include Don Cherry on trumpet in France.

Other discs here document Ayler's sideman duties: with pianist Burton Greene's quintet in 1966 (with Rashied Ali), a Pharoah Sanders band with Sirone and Dave Burrell, a Town Hall concert with his brother Donald's sextet that also included Sam Rivers, and a quartet with Donald, drummer Milford Graves, and bassist Richard Davis playing at John Coltrane's funeral. These live sessions have much value historically as well as musically, but are, after all, blowing sessions -- though they still display Ayler as a willing and fiery collaborator who upped the ante with his presence. Though he arrived fully formed as a soloist, his manner of trying to adapt to other players and bring them into his sphere is fascinating, frustrating, and revealing.

Ayler's own music is showcased best when leading his own quartets and quintets, and there are almost four discs' worth of performances here. Much of this music is with the classical violinist Michel Sampson and trumpeter Donald Ayler with alternating rhythm sections. Indeed, the quintet gigs here with Sampson and Donald in the front line that used marching rhythms and traditional hymns as their root may not be as compelling sonically as the Village Vanguard stuff issued by Impulse!, but they are as satisfying musically. The various rhythm sections included drummers Ronald Shannon Jackson, Allen Blairman, Muhammad Ali, Beaver Harris, and Bernard Purdie, and bassists Bill Folwell, Steve Tintweiss, Clyde Shy (Mutawef Shaheed), pianist Call Cobbs, and tenor saxophonist Frank Wright. What is clearly evident is that the only drummer with whom Ayler truly connected with, the only one who could match his manner of playing out of time and stretching it immeasurably, was Murray, who literally played around the beat while moving the music through its dislocated center.

The late music remains controversial. Recorded live in 1968 and 1970 in New York and France, it illuminates the troublesome period on Ayler's Impulse! recordings, New Grass and Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe. In performance, struggling and ill-conceived rhythm sections try to comprehend and articulate the complex patchwork of colors, motivations, and adventurous attempts at musical integration with the blues, rock, poetry, and soul Ayler was engaging instrumentally and -- with companion Mary Parks -- vocally. Ayler's own playing remains unshakable and revelatory, stunning for its ability to bring to the surface hidden melodies, timbres, and overtones and, to a degree, make them accessible. His solos, full of passion, pathos, and the otherworldly, pull everything from his musical sound world into his being and send it out again, transformed, through the horn.

Ayler is credited with the set's title, in that he once said in an interview: "Trane was the father. Pharoah was the son. I was the Holy Ghost." While it can be dismissed as hyperbole, it should also be evaluated to underscore the aforementioned questions. Unlike Coltrane and Sanders whose musical developments followed a recorded trajectory, Ayler, who apparently had very conventional beginnings as a musician, somehow arrived on the New York and European scenes already on the outside, pushing ever harder at boundaries that other people hadn't yet even perceived let alone transgressed. Who he was in relation to all those who came after him is only answered partially, and how he came to find his margin and live there remains a complete cipher. What Revenant has accomplished is to shine light into the darkened corners of myth and apocrypha; the label has added flesh-and-bone documented history to the ghost of a giant. Ayler struggled musically and personally to find and hold onto the elusive musical/spiritual balance that grace kissed him with only a few times during his lifetime -- on tape anyway. But the quest for that prize, presented here, adds immeasurably to both the legend and the achievement. ~Thom Jurek

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Anthony Ortega - 1956-57 Earth Dance

My first contact with this sax player was at the end of 2009, when SELIM asked for his recordings since 2000. Next year, moha and Daniel (Kndnsk) shared a couple of albums. This one corresponds to the beginning of his career.

The album includes several sessions with Ortega playing with three different orchestras. The first two songs (both standards) are recorded with a strings orchestra conducted by Dick Jacobs. The string arrangements are a little bit corny, although don't disturb the sound of Ortega's sax. The other 10 songs were originally published in the Bethlehem label as "Jazz For Young Moderns". The side A (track 3-7) is very swinging, with an orchestra conducted by Nat Pierce and including musicians such as Jimmy Cleveland, Bobby Timmons or Ed Thigpen. It's perhaps the best of the three. Side B (tracks 8-12) is more experimental, with an orchestra directed by Bob Zieff, which included a lot of woodwinds and only a bass as rhythm section.

01 Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (Kern, Harbach) 2:20
02 Where Or When (Rodgers, Hart) 3:00
03 Just One of Those Things (Porter) 2:47
04 Bat Man's Blues (Ortega) 4:23
05 These Foolish Thing (Link, Strachey, Marvell) 4:04
06 Tune for Mona (Ortega) 3:40
07 No Fi (Ortega) 3:29
08 Four to Four (Zieff) 3:12
09 I Can't Get Started (Duke, Gershwin) 2:53
10 Cinderella's Curfew (Zieff) 5:55
11 I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You (Crosby, Washington, Young) 3:30
12 Patting (Zieff) 5:38

Tracks 1-2
Anthony Ortega alto sax,
String Orchestra arranged and conducted by Dick Jacobs

Recorded in New York, on June 20, 1957

Tracks 3-7
Anthony Ortega alto & tenor sax, clarinet, flute
Ray Starling trumpet, mellophonium
Jimmy Cleveland trombone
John Hafer tenor sax
Jay Cameron baritone sax
Bobby Timmons piano
Earl May bass
Ed Thigpen drums
Orchestra arranged and conducted by Nat Pierce

Recorded in New York, on November 1956

Tracks 8-12
Anthony Ortega alto sax, clarinet, flute
Dick Wetmore violin
Art Farmer trumpet
Jim Buffington french horn
Dick Hafer bass clarinet
Bob Tricarico bassoon
Abdul A. Malik bass
Orchestra arranged and conducted by Bob Zieff

Recorded in New York, on November 1956

Monday, January 17, 2011

Albert Ayler - The Copenhagen Tapes

About a month ago, I went to a screening of an excellent film entitled "My Name Is Albert Ayler" - which will hopefully see release this year or so - and had a chance to speak at length with the films author. It filled in a lot of the gaps in my understanding of Ayler; it also confirmed my lack of interest in Don's "abilities". Fortunately, there is a different Don on this session. And according to the notes, Dolphy was to have been at this recording, but he made the unfortunate career choice of dying some weeks before. This, hopefully, will spark my lazy ass into finishing the scans for the Holy Ghost box- which will hopefully see upload this year or so.

Albert Ayler’s recorded legacy remains woefully scant, especially for a figure of his musical stature and reach. Coupled to this comparative paucity is the fact that the bulk of his recordings from live concert settings where the acoustics and engineering were often suspect. Prime culprits arose out of his iconoclastic reputation and the general stigma levied toward free jazz in the Sixties. 21st century listeners are the worse off for it. Fortunately further documents of his artistry do exist and it’s only fitting that the label bearing his surname should serve as the conduit for their circulation to the masses.

Historically compelling recordings that register weakly on the listenability scale occur all too often in jazz. It’s an art form where fans are willing to overlook musical and audio shortcomings simply because of the rarity of what’s at hand. These tapes from 1964 are welcome exceptions. Before transfer to CD, careful attention was paid to cleaning them up. Peacock is particularly well preserved in the sonic strata, his strings sounding full and rotund through the spidery lattices of notes loosed by his flurried fingers. His adroit solo statement during the closing minutes of the first “Vibrations” is remarkably well captured, a nuanced study in precisely plucked strings and throbbing tone clusters. Ayler’s zigzagging phrases slice across the porous harmonic blanket supplied by bass and drums, while Cherry’s punchy brass soars tartly above. Murray carves out oblique pulse-driven beats that resolutely resist strict meter and refuse to be nailed down. The drummer’s moans accompany the scurrilous horns on the ecstatically charged “Saints” and craft a ghostly vocal counterpoint. On “Mothers” Ayler pulls out his vibrato stops from the start, drenching the audience in a warm current of matriarchal pathos. Dropouts and slight hiss do arise, but they’re relatively minor throughout the concert date.

The final three tracks offer a studio quality snapshot of the quartet, prefaced by illuminating spoken introductions from Ayler himself and a Danish radio announcer (translation available at the Ayler website). The trio of pieces is less raw than their live brethren, but the improvisatory energy on hand remains at a premium. All in all they’re a perfect capstone to a package destined to be deemed one of the finest releases of the year. Hell, make that the decade. ~ Derek Taylor

When you give birth to a free jazz record label by the name of Ayler Records, you must be dreaming of putting out an album of long-forgotten sessions by the great saxophonist Albert Ayler. It took a while (then again, not that long), but producer Jan Ström managed to get hold of two important sessions recorded in Copenhagen. The suitably titled Copenhagen Tapes contain 45 minutes of a performance at Club Montmartre, September 3, 1964, and another 20 minutes recorded in the studio of the Danish radio a week later. Both sessions were prepared for broadcast (i.e. the tapes were already edited and include occasional presentations in Danish) and feature the little-documented quartet formed by Don Cherry, Gary Peacock, and Sunny Murray. The live set is emotionally ferocious, sax and trumpet crying with clamped fists in a way that has rarely been heard. "Spirits" book-end the session, with "Vibrations," "Saints," "Mothers," and "Children," appearing in-between. Audience chatter and worn tape can become annoying at times, but listening to Peacock's solo in "Vibrations" makes up for most hi-fidelity complaints. The studio set is a different story, sounding warm and clean. The saxophonist presents himself to Danish listeners, in English, explaining what he came looking for in Scandinavia, and the group follows with takes of "Vibrations," "Saints," and "Spirits." These versions move further into free territory, as if the absence of an audience made it easier for the group to let loose. This is one of the strongest recordings of "Saints" available to this day. The Copenhagen Tapes are not the Holy Grail of the Ayler fan and surely not a good place for newcomers to start (because of the repetitions between the two sets). But it makes a highly welcomed addition to the discography of free jazz. ~ François Couture

Albert Ayler (tenor sax)
Don Cherry (trumpet)
Gary Peacock (bass)
Sunny Murray (drums)

1. Spirits
2. Vibrations
3. Saints
4. Mothers
5. Children
6. Spirits
7. Introduction
8. Vibrations
9. Saints
10. Spirits

Bud Freeman - The Alternative Takes 1935-1945

The Alternative Takes series is of immense value to consumers of the "French Classics" CD series. These are alternate takes in chronological order of historic jazz (and some blues) with a strong representation of the swing era. The Alternative Takes: 1935-1945 contains 25 Bud Freeman tracks on a single disc including multiple takes of "You Took Advantage of Me," "What's the Use?," and "Memories of You." While the disc is definitely directed toward collectors, anyone with an interest in this period of jazz will also enjoy it. ~ Al Campbell

Bud Freeman (tenor sax)
Eddie Condon (guitar)
Carl Kress (guitar)
Pee Wee Russell (clarinet)
Max Kaminsky (trumpet)
Bunny Berigan (trumpet)
Bobby Hackett (cornet)
Jack Teagarden (trombone)
Claude Thornhill (piano)
Jess Stacy (piano)
Cozy Cole (drums)
Dave Tough (drums)
George Wettling (drums)

1. The Buzzard
2. Tillie's Downtown Now
3. You Took Advantage Of Me [Take 2]
4. I Got Rhythm
5. Keep Smiling At Trouble [Take 2]
6. At Sundown [Take 2]
7. My Honey's Lovin' Arms [Take 2]
8. I Don't Believe It [Take 2]
9. Tappin' The Commodore Till [Take 2]
10. Memories Of You [Take 2]
11. Memories Of You [Take 3]
12. Memories Of You [Take 4]
13. Life Spares A Jitterbug
14. What's The Use? [Take 2]
15. What's The Use? [Take 3]
16. I've Found A New Baby
17. China Boy
18. As Long As I Live
19. Jack Hits The Road (Breakdown)
20. Muskrat Ramble (Breakdown)
21. Muskrat Ramble
22. That Da Da Strain (Breakdown)
23. Shim-Me-Sha- Wabble
24. After Awhile
25. Town Hall Blues

Bud Freeman - 1939-1940 (Chronological 811)

The second Bud Freeman Classics CD has all of the studio sessions (the master takes, but not the alternates) by Freeman's short-lived all-star Summa Cum Laude Orchestra. The Dixieland octet sounds very much like a well-organized Eddie Condon band, and the rhythm guitarist is among the personnel. Teaming up with Freeman (one of the first early tenormen to form a distinctive sound of his own) are such notable players as trumpeter Max Kaminsky, valve trombonist Brad Gowans, clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, pianist Dave Bowman and a rhythm section; the final set has the great trombonist Jack Teagarden (who takes a notable vocal on "Jack Hits the Road") in Gowans' place. The music, which includes eight titles originally recorded by Bix Beiderbecke's Wolverines, has more than its share of high points, and this CD is highly recommended to Dixieland fans. All of the musicians (many of whom would be performing a similar repertoire for the next few decades) sound fresh, enthusiastic, young and at the peak of their powers. ~ Scott Yanow

Bud Freeman (tenor sax)
Eddie Condon (guitar)
Max Kaminsky (trumpet)
Pee Wee Russell (clarinet)
Jack Teagarden (trombone)
Dave Tough (drums)

1. I've Found A New Baby
2. Easy To Get
3. China Boy
4. The Eel
5. As Long As I Live
6. The Sail Fish
7. Sunday
8. Satanic Blues
9. Oh! Baby
10. I Need Some Pettin'
11. Susie
12. Big Boy
13. Sensation
14. Fidgety Feet
15. Tia Juana
16. Copenhagen
17. Jack Hits The Road
18. Forty-Seven And State
19. Muskrat Ramble
20. That Da Da Strain
21. Shim- Me-Sha-Wabble
22. At the Jazz Band Ball
23. After Awhile
24. Prince Of Wails

Bill Carrothers & Marc Copland - No Choice

Marc Copland / Bill Carrothers
No Choice
Minium Music (2006)

My favourite pianist in yet another setting. Excellent. www.allaboutjazz says,

Both are exceptional players whose impressionistic approaches brought new meaning to standards with 2005 Pirouet releases: I Love Paris (Carrothers) and Some Love Songs (Copland). They are disposed to an oblique approach that still lets the core of songs like "Bemsha Swing shine through, but the four hands employed here also make for some of the most unsettled versions of standards either player has done.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Till Brönner - 2008 Rio

Till Brönner seems to be a man of many parts. He is not only a trumpeter, singer, arranger and record producer - he is also a composer, having written quite a lot of film music. On this album he visits Brazilian music, which essentially means the bossa nova, with compositions by the likes of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Joao Donato. Till Brönner sings on some tracks but he also uses a varied line-up of guest singers, starting with pop star Annie Lennox, who duets with Milton Nascimento on Mystérios. Nascimento's own composition Evening (Tarde) has Milton duetting with Luciana Souza. Sergio Mendes sings with alluring delicacy on Ela é Carioca. Other guest singers include Kurt Elling, Aimee Mann and Melody Gardot.
Till Brönner's breathy, fuzzy trumpet suits the bossa nova style with its understatement and he sings well enough, although a whole album of mainly slowish bossas (as I think I may have said before) can become samey, even soporific. There are two or three animated sambas on this album (especially Aquelas Coisas Todas), but otherwise every number is in gentle bossa nova vein. Another thing which I've probably questioned before is the wisdom of singing songs in Portuguese on an album aimed at an international audience, of which perhaps one per-cent understands the language. English lyrics would make the CD more accessible for listeners.
Nevertheless, it's a pleasant outing - and it reminds us of some of the bewitching melodies created in Brazil. My personal favourites are Só Danço Samba (in which Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes repeatedly suggest dancing the samba) and A Ra (The Frog, with its simple melody composed of one hypnotic phrase moving through various keys).
Tony Augarde

01. Misterios (Mysteries) (feat. Annie Lennox & Milton Nascimento) 4:46
02. O Que Sera? (feat. Vanessa da Mata) 5:25
03. So Danço Samba 3:34
04. Once I Loved (Amor em paz) (feat. Aimee Mann) 4:44
05. Evening (Tarde) (feat. Milton Nascimento & Luciana Souza) 5:48
06. Ela E Carioca (feat. Sergio Mendes) 4:04
07. High Night (Alta noite) (feat. Melody Gardot) 4:46
08. Cafe Com Pao 4:00
09. Ligia 4:59
10. Sim Ou Nao (feat. Kurt Elling) 5:11
11. A Ra 6:02
12. Bonita 5:43
13. Aquelas Coisas Todas (feat. Luciana Souza) 6:03

Till Brönner - Trumpet, vocals
Fabio Torres - Piano
Marcelo Mariano - Bass
Edu Ribeiro - Drums
Annie Lennox - Vocals (track 1)
Milton Nascimento - Vocals (tracks 1, 5)
Marco Pereira - Guitar (tracks 1-4, 6-12)
Larry Goldings - Organ (tracks 1-3, 5)
Marcos Suzano - Percussion (tracks 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 13)
Vanessa Da Mata - Vocals (track 2)
Marco Lobo - Percussion (tracks 2, 4, 7, 10-12)
Paulinho da Costa - Percussion (tracks 2, 8, 10, 11)
Aimee Mann - Vocals (track 4)
Luciana Souza - Vocals (tracks 5, 11, 13)
Sergio Mendes - Vocals (track 6)
Melody Gardot - Vocals (track 7)
Kurt Elling - Vocals (track 10)
Larry Klein - Vocals (track 11)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bob Mover - On the Move

Bob Mover's first session as a leader matches his alto and soprano with trumpeter Tom Harrell, pianist Mike Nock, guitarist Peter Sprague, bassist George Mraz, drummer Jeff Pappez and singer Jay Clayton on four lengthy performances: three Mover originals and "Darn That Dream." The use of Clayton's voice as a part of the ensembles gives the band an unusual sound. Mover sounded pretty strong, if a bit derivative at this point (he was 24), but Harrell generally takes solo honors. - Scott Yanow

Bob Mover (alto, soprano sax)
Tom Harrell (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Jay Clayton (voice)
Mike Nock (piano)
George Mraz (bass)
Jeff Papez (drums)
Peter Sprague (guitar)

1. Muggawump
2. Darn That Dream
3. Saudade Do Brooklyn
4. Falsidade

Recorded February, 1977

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Joe Lovano - Flights of Fancy: Trio Fascination, Edition Two

The first edition of Joe Lovano's Trio Fascination featured Dave Holland on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Following the album's release in 1998, however, Lovano's live shows featured the less famous but equally muscular bass/drum team of Cameron Brown and Idris Muhammad. On Trio Fascination, Vol. 2, the Lovano/Brown/Muhammad unit is only one of four trio configurations that the saxophonist employs. Taking the trio concept beyond the traditional confines of horn, bass, and drums, Lovano takes a left turn and colors this album with continually changing instrumentation. Trio one is Lovano, Brown, and Muhammad. Trio two features the leader with Billy Drewes on soprano saxophone and alto flute and Joey Baron on drums; trio three with Toots Thielemans on harmonica and Kenny Werner on piano; and trio four with Dave Douglas on trumpet and Mark Dresser on bass. (The trios change unpredictably from track to track, sort of like a CD player in shuffle mode.) Varying the instrumentation even further, Lovano, like on volume one, switches from among his arsenal of horns: tenor, straight alto, soprano, and C-melody saxes, as well alto and bass clarinets. On "206," he modifies trio four by playing drums behind Douglas and Dresser, and on "Blue Mist" he begins with gongs to supplement Muhammad's percussion textures. In two instances, the trios change during the very course of the tune. "Bougainvillea" (by Lovano's wife, vocalist Judi Silvano) starts with trio one and in the last two or so minutes segues to an impressionistic ending featuring trio three. "On Giant Steps," based on the groundbreaking Coltrane chord changes, proceeds in the opposite direction: Trio three solos freely and simultaneously, then passes the baton to trio one, which launches into a swing tempo -- far slower than is usual for the tune, but no less burning.

One of Lovano's first high-profile projects was an unorthodox trio with guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Paul Motian. The saxophonist's association with Drewes and Baron dates back to the early '70s. So Lovano's "trio fascination" has deep roots, and the music on this record is a cumulative and probably near-exhaustive survey of his abilities within the form. One only need contrast "Hot Shot" or "Flights of Fancy" or the obscure McCoy Tyner ballad "Aisha" (all trio one) with modernist, offbeat abstractions like "Amber" and "Amsterdam" by trio four, or "Off and Runnin'" by trio two, to get an idea of Lovano's artistic range. Fans looking for more of the hard-driving, free-spirited swing of the first Trio Fascination record will find it here in smaller doses. And those who got their first taste of Lovano with 2000's neo-bop nonet record 52nd Street Themes ought to be prepared for something very different. - David R. Adler

Joe Lovano (Tenor, Alto, Soprano, C-Melody Sax, Alto Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Drums, Gongs)
Billy Drewes (Soprano Sax, Alto Flute, Percussion)
Dave Douglas (Trumpet)
Toots Thielemans (Harmonica)
Kenny Werner (Piano)
Cameron Brown, Mark Dresser (Bass)
Idris Muhammad, Joey Baron (Drums)

1. Flights of Fancy
2. On April (I'll Remember April)
3. Amsterdam
4. Blue Mist
5. Off and Runnin'
6. Infant Eyes
7. 206
8. Bougainvilles
9. Windom Street
10. Hot Shot
11. Aisha
12, Amber
13. On Giant Steps
14. Flights of Fancy (Reprise)

Recorded June 14, 15, 2000

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bill Carrothers - I Love Paris

Here's Bill Carrothers in a more reflective, meditative mood than on the Epstein album. Try the title tune, wonderful!
From a review at

Carrothers is a harmony-rich player with an uncanny ability to see the greater potential of both hands in concert. While some pianists are fairly linear with their right hand and eke out accompaniment with their left—and there are times when Carrothers is more linear—he has a vivid sense of larger voicings, like British pianist John Taylor, sometimes creating eight- and nine-part harmonies that move smoothly, and in ways that makes every subsequent note feel perfectly logical, yet somehow unpredictable.

Bassist Nicolas Thy and drummer Dré Pallemaerts are intuitive players, supporting Carrothers as much as pushing him into areas of further possibility. While an underlying sense of swing pervades the entire set, the trio also takes more liberties; the title track and "Moon Love serve as examples of how familiar tunes can be re-imagined—recognizable yes, but undeniably new as well.

With a gradually growing and significant body of work, Carrothers is clearly an artist to keep an eye on, and I Love Paris is another fine addition that skirts the mainstream while providing plenty of surprises for the more adventurous at heart.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Billy Taylor - 1957 Taylor Made Jazz

In memoriam Dr. T.

Duke Ellington had an uncanny knack for assembling smaller groups of bandmates (say, seven or eight) and scoring music for them that retained all the oomph of his full orchestra. And though this isn't one of those small Ellingtonian unit sessions, it's just about the next best thing. Having assembled several members of Duke's band and written eight definitely Duke-influenced tunes, pianist/composer Billy Taylor's Taylor Made Jazz would probably have been marketed as a "tribute album" if it had been released recently. But given the recording's vintage (1957), there are two types of people who would be most interested in it: historical completists who want their collections to include a majority of the recording catalog pertinent to a certain musician (i.e., Taylor or Ellington), or Johnny Hodges fans. "Biddy's Beat" swings; "Daddy-O"'s got a little spunk; "Cu-Bu" is (what else?) a cool blues. Clark Taylor is as mellow as ever and there's even some solo room for Harry Carney. On one hand, Taylor Made Jazz is a great example of the standard mid-'50s studio sessions highlighted by clean solos, tight ensembles, and tasteful accompaniment work from a bunch of veteran players. On the other hand, this session really seems like an opportunity Taylor had to try out some of his pretty ballad material with Hodges, Ellington's alto sax balladeer extraordinaire. Half of Taylor Made Jazz consists of slow n' syrupy solo tunes for Hodges, and despite the rest of the record's strong swinging, this gushier material becomes the center of attention. Check out the versatility of his rigid vibrato on "Day Dreaming" (different from the Billy Strayhorn-penned "Daydream," even though it sounds a lot like the work of Duke's alter ego) to hear how nearly classically perfect Hodges could be. Heck, he puts Marcel Mule to shame.
John Uhl

01. Biddy's Beat (Taylor)
02. Theodora (Taylor)
03. Mood for Mendes (Taylor)
04. Daddy-O (Taylor)
05. Cu-Blu (Taylor)
06. Day Dreaming (Taylor)
07. Can You Tell by Looking at Me (Taylor)
08. Tune for Tex (Taylor)

Recorded in Chicago, on November 17, 1957

Billy Taylor (p)
Clark Terry (tp)
Willie Cook (tp)
Britt Woodman (tb)
Johnny Hodges (as)
Paul Gonsalves (ts)
Harry Carney (bs)
Earl May (b)
Ed Thigpen (d)

Jay Epstein - Easy Company

Easy Company
Jay Epstein | GoneJazz (2009)

Jay Epstein: drums
Bill Carrothers: piano
Anthony Cox: bass

I bought his one for my fav pianist, Bill Carrothers, but since the leader is Epstein, there is some quite frenetic drumming most of the time. Nevertheless, the interpretation of 'Never Let Me Go' is worth the entire price, a piece that has been close since Bill Evans first played it. A review from All About Jazz:

One or two jazz standards, a handful of intriguing left-field choices, some interesting originals and one truly exceptional re-working of a classic love song — Easy Company is an album of pleasing surprises, performed by three extremely talented musicians. Drummer Jay Epstein leads the trio and contributes all five original compositions, but this is a genuine group performance on which all three players shine.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bye, Dr. Taylor...

He was a true great, somebody you could hardly pigeonhole. He passed away last tuesday. Go jam with the angels, maestro...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Paul Motian Trio - Lost In A Dream

Though he's led larger ensembles, drummer Paul Motian seems to be most comfortable—or, at the very least, most interested—in working within the particular confines and freedoms of the trio. Whether it's his quarter century old group with guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano, or the early saxophone/bass/drums trio of Dance (ECM, 1978) and Le Voyage (ECM, 1979), Motian has spent much of his career as a leader exploring a format less intimate than the duo, perhaps, but still small enough a conversational context to allow its participants to speak with a single voice. Lost In A Dream, recorded live at New York's Village Vanguard in the winter of 2009, features a new trio with saxophonist Chris Potter, with whom Motian has worked since 1994, and pianist Jason Moran, whose relationship with the iconic drummer is just beginning.

Being an all-acoustic ensemble, the trio lacks the inherent ethereality of Motian's group with the electrically expansive Frisell, most notably on 2005's I Have the Room Above Her (ECM), but that doesn't mean it can't approach similar rarified atmospheres. Potter may be a firebrand when working with bassist Dave Holland, heard recently on the incendiary The Monterey Quartet: Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival (Monterey Jazz Festival, 2009), but here he proves himself as much a master of restraint as Motian, who contributes all but one track to this collection. Potter plays, in fact, with unusual economy and a softer-than-usual timbre, holding off until over 20 minutes into this hour-long set, and the aptly titled "Blue Midnight," before turning up the heat and leaning more towards his typically robust tone and expressionist approach.

The entire set works on an upward trajectory, progressing into increasingly liberated and powerful landscapes. The trio draws on material dating as far back as Voyage, including the free-wheeling "Drum Music" and equally open-ended "Abacus," a solo feature for Motian, whose textural breadth and dynamism continue to evolve, even as he approaches octogenarian status. Motian's newer material leans largely towards the subdued and lyrical, including the closing "Cathedral," where Moran plays with a gentility slightly skewed by his characteristically idiosyncratic tendencies.

Moran's career continues to be a curious one. Since emerging in the late-1990s, his best work has been under the leadership of others, most notably saxophonist Charles Lloyd's Rabo de Nube (ECM, 2008) and reedman Don Byron's Ivey-Divey (Blue Note, 2005). Lost In a Dream demonstrates his specific aptitude as a band member rather than band leader once again, as the pianist provides a shifting harmonic context for this bass-less trio, working beautifully with Motian's in-the-moment layering of percussive colors.

"Casino," the disc's longest track, demonstrates the trio's ability to mine the nuances of Motian's sketch-like writing, while the knotty, rubato "Ten" provides both Moran and Potter the chance to explore greater strength and tensility. Lost In A Dream may be the first salvo from this empathic new trio, but hopefully it won't be the last. *John Kelman*

01 - Mode VI
02 - Casino
03 - Lost In A Dream
04 - Blue Midnight
05 - Be Careful It's My Heart
06 - Bird Song
07 - Ten
08 - Drum Music
09 - Abacus
10 - Cathedral Song

February 2009, Village Vanguard, NYC. Chris Potter: tenor saxophone: Jason Moran: piano; Paul Motian: drums