Saturday, October 31, 2009

Woody Herman and His Orchestra, 1956

This is not a compilation, but two nights at The Lagoon in Salt Lake City with the Third Herd. 147 minutes of music with no repeated tunes other than the opening & closing theme (Blue Flame). Check out the track listing in comments.

"During the summer of 1956, when rock and roll was beginning to take hold of the War Baby Generation, Woody Herman and his 17 sidemen embarked on one of their extensive road trips. After recording sessions in Chicago, they headed for New Jersey and the Steel Pier in Atlantic City to undertake a few weeks' residency, later in July it was on to Salt Lake City in Utah for an engagement at The Lagoon. It is from The Lagoon concerts of July 28 and 29 that the 41 tracks comprising these two volumes of exciting, engaging and at times inspired music are drawn. They suggest that the impressive and formidable nature of this rather underrated band was never properly captured in the orchestra's studio sessions. But this was true of other bands who needed an audience to ignite." - Mark Gardner

Woody Herman's Third Herd was in its later years when it appeared at the Lagoon in Salt Lake City in July 1956. This two-CD set of previously unreleased material features the Herd performing live during a two-day period. At the time, the key soloists included trombonist Bill Harris (a veteran of the First and Second Herds); trumpeter Dick Collins; Richie Kamuca, Arno Marsha, and Bob Hardaway on tenors; pianist Vince Guaraldi; and vibraphonist Victor Feldman. Playing arrangements by Nat Pierce, Manny Albam, Ralph Burns, and Neal Hefti, this was a swinging (if greatly underrated and largely overlooked) edition of Herman's Orchestra. The 41 jazz-oriented selections included on this two-fer give one a generous sampling of the band's book and should be of great interest to Woody Herman collectors. - Scott Yanow

Woody Herman (clarinet, alto sax, vocals)
John Coppola, Dick Collins, Burt Collins, Dud Harvey, Bill Castagnino (trumpet)
Wayne Andre, Bill Harris, Bob Lamb (trombone)
Richie Kamuca, Bob Hardaway, Arno Marsh (tenor sax)
Jay Cameron (baritone sax)
Vince Guaraldi (piano)
Victor Feldman (vibes, conga)
Ray Biondi (guitar)
Monty Budwig (bass)
Gus Gustafson (drums)
John Coppola, Nat Pierce, Manny Albam, Ralph Burns, Neal Hefti (arranger)

Do not Forget to Remember: Henry Threadgill

Henry Threadgill - Up Popped The Two Lips & Everybody's Mouth's A Book

This Chicago, IL born modernist worked his way through the ranks of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), while eventually forming the highly regarded trio Air, back in the early 70's. Nevertheless, saxophonist/composer Henry Threadgill's prominence sharply increased with the advent of his acoustic/electric Very Very Circus and Make A Move bands. Consequently, the artist burst onto the scene with a highly distinctive compositional style, where he seemingly derived inspiration from Sousa style marches, cabaret, rock, and jazz. Several years ago, this writer read an article which cited Threadgill's fascination with architecture: a notion that seemingly serves as a motivating factor for some of his musical applications. So, with his first recordings in five years, Threadgill's latest concurrent releases are divided into two separate performing factions: the acoustic based sextet ZOOID and the 2/5ths electric outfit Make A Move.

Up Popped The Two Lips represents Threadgill's ZOOID aggregation as the saxophonist's hybrid - strings, woodwinds, tuba ensemble, and oud (performed by Tarik Benbrahim) - features some of the paradigms witnessed on several of his 80's and early 90's recordings. Here, tubaist Jose Davila firms down the bottom end via pumping lower register tones and resonant choruses. On the opener, "Tickled Pink," Threadgill's somewhat whimsical and at times probing flute lines ride atop a loping, odd-metered pulse. Acoustic guitarist Liberty Ellman provides a bit of discordant contrast with nimbly plucked notes as the band injects a quasi parade type motif amid linear developments. Otherwise, Threadgill's raspy toned and often vertically inclined alto sax work is prominently exhibited on this effort, while his compositions move about in geometrically opposed sequences. Moreover, the quintet pursues dirge like progressions and densely complex patterns on the piece titled "Did You See That." Besides, it is a joy to delve into the band's multidirectional evolutionary processes.

Threadgill adheres to similar strategies with his Make A Move unit, again featuring drummer Dafnis Prieto along with the leader's long time musical associates, guitarist Brandon Ross, and bassist Stomu Takeishi. Meanwhile, vibist Bryan Carrott consummates the divergent tonal palate with his rapid flurries and multi-layered voicings. The group explores variegated motifs, led by Threadgill's intensive flute and alto sax performances, whereas Takeishi's animated bass lines and Prieto's intricately developed polyrhythms only enhance the outfit's climactic structures. However, the musicians also roam into free jazz territory during "Where Coconuts Fall." With this piece, Prieto and Takeishi sculpt swarming rhythmic patterns against electric guitarist Brandon Ross' blistering attack. Hence a distinct sense of drama prevails as Threadgill remerges with extended single notes, serving as a buttress for Ross' energetic excursions while the band's feverish pace continues on the tumultuous burner "Shake It Off."

Henry Threadgill's importance to modern jazz cannot be denied, as there are few composers who possess such a distinguishable methodology to music in general. The artist along with a select few is inadvertently signaling in a new golden age of jazz-based fundamentals and thought processes, as this unfolding saga continually ascends to loftier heights. --Glenn Astarita, AAJ

Henry Threadgill - Everybodys Mouth's A Book

Make a Move is Henry Threadgill's electric band in one sense of the word. Though guitarist Brandon Ross and bassist Stomu Takeishi play acoustic instruments as well, their primary focus in Make a Move is to make their stringed instruments scream unto the heavens. Filling out the group is Threadgill on alto and flute, Bryan Carrott on vibes and marimba, and the only holdover from Zoo-Id, Dafnis Prieto, on drums. This set is issued simultaneously with Zoo-Id's Up Popped Two Lips, also on Pi. This set opens abstractly enough with "Platinum Inside Straight," a meditation on extended mode and interval, with Brandon Ross playing a gorgeous acoustic line on top of Carrott's marimba and then delicately chorded vibes. Takeishi's bass holds the thing to the ground by playing a small series of tone frames over and over, and Threadgill grabs one short flute solo. Things heat up and get funky on "Don't Turn Around," which is driven by the funk in the rhythm section's approach. There's a knotty arpeggio here and there by Ross and Carrott before Threadgill turns "Harlem Nocturne" inside out with his alto. This is film noir soundtrack music George Clinton-style. There is also the trace of the Ornette Coleman-styled Texas blues slithering in and out of Threadgill's playing. The vibes' solo is so off-kilter, it barely holds the time signature and would move off into inner space if it weren't for the chunky, groove-laden bassline of Takeishi. The hippest track on the set, though, is "Shake It Off," with the staggered bass and guitar solos that constitute the track's opening melodic statement. The drive Prieto puts in to keep the pair in track is considerable, and Takeishi just takes off against the snares, followed closely by the arpeggios and razored riffs of Ross. But before it moves off into fusion land, Threadgill and Carrott bring it back, with flute and marimbas whirling around each other and staggering the atonality of the strings with wondrously loopy and flighty playing grounded in minor-seventh modalities and open-toned sonorities, which keep the bassist a part of the rhythm section and Ross in painterly position. This is deft footwork on the part of Threadgill as a leader, who lets his musicians shine and keeps them focused on the task at hand. Everybody's Mouth's a Book is as solid top to bottom as its companion release on Pi. --Thom Jurek, AMG

1 Platinum Inside Straight Threadgill 7:10
2 Don't Turn Around Threadgill 7:32
3 Biggest Crumb Threadgill 4:42
4 Burnt Til Recognition Threadgill 7:35
5 Where Coconuts Fall Threadgill 6:32
6 Pink Water Pink Airplane Threadgill 3:42
7 Shake It Off Threadgill 5:07
8 What to Do, What to Do Threadgill 8:08

Recorded February 25-27, 2001
2001 Pi 1

Henry Threadgill's Zooid - Up Popped the Two Lips

Henry Threadgill has made a career out of creating separate identities for the ensembles he creates to perform his music. From his early band, Air, to the legendary sextet, to Very Very Circus, Make a Move (who issued an album simultaneously on this same label), and Zoo-Id. Zoo-Id is, in a sense, a mirror image of Very Very Circus; the tunes are written for extended purposes: elongated harmonics, striking color shifts, and strident multi-dimensional textures. Threadgill plays alto and flute, Liberty Ellman plays acoustic guitar, Tarik Benbrahim plays oud, and there's Jose Davila on tuba, Dana Leong on cello, and Dafnis Prieto on drums. This is a kind of chamber jazz that has its roots in the seam of Eastern and Western music. Middle-Eastern folk songs, jazz, and even Western classical music all intertwine here and are fleeced with European folk music from both sides of the continent. The opener, "Tickled Pink," makes listeners keenly aware of what Threadgill's MO is, with its crisscrossing violin and tuba lines over the angular guitar chords and Threadgill's own loping flute lines. On "Dark Block," the alto and the oud are at seemingly cross-purposes, or at least rhythm. The modal blues "Around My Goose" has elements of flamenco and Uzbekistani folk music woven through Threadgill's distinctive punchy phrasing. Finally, "Do the Needful" rings with an old-style New Orleans flair, even as it reinvents the Western harmonic line, clogging it first with a host of shifting sonorities and then with three simultaneous melody lines in differing harmonic veins. This is a fun, deft, and smart record. Threadgill is more on his game as a composer and as a bandleader than at any point in his career. --Thom Jurek, AMG

1 Tickled Pink Threadgill 6:54
2 Dark Black Threadgill 5:26
3 Look Threadgill 4:54
4 Around My Goose Threadgill 8:00
5 Calm Down Threadgill 5:35
6 Did You See That Threadgill 7:43
7 Do the Needful Threadgill 6:53

Recorded April 28-30, 2001
© 2001 Pi 2

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tommy Flanagan - Giant Steps

My introduction to Tommy Flanagan came with what was essentially my introduction to jazz: Flanagan and Coltrane as backup on Wilbur Harden's excellent, excellent Savoy dates, which have appeared here numerous times. I played them so often that Mr. Flanagan is someone I can pick out blindfolded on many occasions. Really, a very fine performer.

Pianist Tommy Flanagan's playing seems to be more direct, edited and stronger as he gets older; certainly his reemergence in the mid-'70s as a solo artist produced his strongest work. Giant Steps, was a Feb. '82 tribute to John Coltrane with super backing from bassist George Mraz and drummer Al Foster...This set was particularly inventive; it was Coltrane's music, but it drinks of its own spirit. You won't listen for the familiar Trane solos, but you will listen! ~ Bob Rusch

Tommy Flanagan (piano)
George Mraz (bass)
Al Foster (drums)

1. Mr. P.C.
2. Central Park West
3. Syeeda's Song Flute
4. Cousin Mary
5. Naima
6. Giant Steps

New York: Feb. 17-18, 1982

Benny Goodman - King of Swing, Aurex Jazz Festival (1980)

There is practically no information whatsoever to be found on this release, part of the series of Aurex Jazz Festival releases in only in Japan. I had previously posted a couple of these: Dizzy Gillespie (Battle of the Horns), Benny Carter (Gentlemen of Swing). Now I bring you the rare Goodman concert… I believe this was also released on video and may be available at second-hand outlets and eBay/Amazon online stores.

There is no need for me to discuss this music: it speaks for itself… just Goodman’s typical sets for the period, full of swing, nostalgia, and solid musicianship. Scoredaddy

Benny Goodman (clarinet)
Teddy Wilson (piano)
Eddie Duran (guitar)
Tony Terran (trumpet)
Dick Nash (trombone)
Al Obidenski (bass)
John Markham (drums)
Rare Silk (vocal chorus)

1. Avalon
2. Body and Soul
3. Oh, Lady Be God
4. The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise
5. That’s A Plenty
6. Broadway
7. Goody Goody
8. Don’t Be That Way/Stompin’ At The Savoy
9. Air Mail Special
10. Memories Of You
11. Sing, Sing, Sing
12. Sweet Georgia Brown
13. Goodbye

Recorded at Budoken, Tokyo Japan on September 3, 1980 except #9 & 12 at Expo Park, Osaka Japan on September 6, 1980 and #11 & 13 at Yokohama Stadium, Tokyo Japan on September 7, 1980

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Al Cohn and Zoot Sims - Body And Soul

All you have to know is that these two are playing together for you to give this some time; throw in a rhythm section of Jaki Byard, George Duvivier and Mel Lewis and you know you have something fine. It remains a constant source of ... something ... to think that this stuff remains out of print and hard to find while the fifteenth version of, say, a Lee Morgan date is being shoved up our collective ass by Blue Note or whomever. Can it be just dollars and cents? Because I see this stuff being released by the Japanese and it goes for bookoo de moolah; the currently available disc lists at about $40. And I know from being on this blog scene that these two have a very broad fan base - everyone from lovers of the archaic forms of jazz to the champions of avant at its avantist love these two. And so they should.

Al Cohn (tenor sax)
Zoot Sims (tenor sax)
Jackie Byard (piano)
George Duvivier (bass)
Mel Lewis (drums)

1. Doodle Oodle
2. Emily
3. Brazilian Medley: Recado Bossa Nova/The Girl from Ipanema
4. Mama Flossie
5. Body And Soul
6. Jean
7. Blue Hodge

Jackie Wilson - Mr. Excitement

This set is often a sticker for those trying to put together the Rolling Stone 500; of which this is #235. I don't profess that this list means anything; after all, the Harry Smith collection sits between Janet Jackson and David Bowie. He (Jackie Wilson, not Harry Smith) is also #68 on their 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. If only lists meant anything .....

Benny Carter arranges a couple of tunes for Jackie and some Basie-ites, by the way.

"Jackie Wilson's vocal virtuosity, casual asides, explosive stage moves and projection of raw sexuality had a major impact on the young Elvis Presley. Years later, Michael Jackson named him as a major influence. With a career spanning the R&B, rock & roll and soul years, Wilson left his mark as a consummate stage performer; as a live-wire barn burner, Wilson arguably had only one peer, James Brown. But while Brown was a musical innovator, Wilson was an entertainer first, last and always. Nobody who saw him perform is likely to forget it, but his recordings were an uneven lot; if you hadn't seen him live, you might wonder what all the excitement was about.

This long-overdue three-CD, seventy-two-song retrospective aims to restore Wilson to his rightful place as one of pop music's most spectacularly gifted artists. How well it succeeds depends to some degree on the listener's tolerance for white-bread vocal choruses and string arrangements and wildly inconsistent material. Although we are spared the singer's forays into light-classical and operatic material and most of the standards he recorded with a nod to the supper-club set, what is left is still a mixed bag. Nevertheless, there are more than enough spectacular performances to bear witness to Wilson's extraordinary talent. His best records, from "Lonely Teardrops" (1958) and the bluesy "Doggin' Around" (1960) to his 1967 triumph "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher," require no caveats. They are classics, but they continue to pack more of a charge than most music of similar vintage due to Wilson's larger-than-life presence and goose-bump-raising vocal turns.

With his gospel roots, showbiz polish, street smarts and virtuosity, Wilson seemed to have it all. But if his early years as a Detroit tough and aspiring boxer brought a certain pugilistic sensibility to his vocal acrobatics, all the hard knocks in the world couldn't prepare him for the sharks swimming in his sector of the music business. Despite his brilliant peaks and his ability to come up with strong records year after year, he never seemed to have been worth much more than his latest hit – or nonhit. He died in a nursing home in 1984 while various parties disputed what there was of his estate, a cautionary end for a singer who injected so much excitement into so many lives." ~ Robert Palmer

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Professor Longhair - 1949

Shuffling Hungarians, y'all.

This exacting chronological survey of Professor Longhair's first recordings is a welcome alternative to the usual reissue practice of mingling some of these tracks with later material from the early '50s. As is often the case with the Classics Chronological series, a succession of historical sessions bolstered with all of the available discographical information tells a story that is vital to the development of a clear comprehension of the musician's life and creative accomplishments. In this case that means the saga of how Henry Roeland Byrd, born in Bogalusa, LA, in December of 1918, radically transformed the popular music of North America during the 1950s and '60s by making a handful of scruffy records in 1949 down in New Orleans. When Byrd's band replaced Dave Bartholomew's at the Caldonia Inn, the management decided to bill the group as Professor Longhair & the Four Hairs Combo, simply because of the fact that they wore their hair considerably longer than was the fashion at that time. Note that Lester Young, who also hailed from southern Louisiana, wore his hair uncommonly long. Byrd's band at this time consisted of alto saxophonist Robert "Barefootin'" Parker, Walter "Papoose" Nelson on the guitar, and a drummer known as Big Slick, later to be replaced by Al Miller, who could also play trumpet. Longhair's first recordings were made at the Hi Hat Club, where a rudimentary recording studio was set up. Four sides were issued on the tiny Star Talent label as by Professor Longhair & His Shuffling Hungarians. "She Ain't Got No Hair," later simply known as "Bald Head," would eventually become one of his most popular tunes. All the ingredients of Longhair's distinctive style are present on these wonderful recordings, in particular the bluesy rhumba rhythm that seemed to infiltrate nearly everything he played, most notably the boogie-woogie. On August 19, 1949, a second recording session occurred, this time at a Mercury studio on Canal Street. Longhair's funky Crescent City piano was punctuated with his delightfully deep and wild-edged voice, backed by Lee Allen and Leroy "Batman" Rankins on tenor saxophones. One more session for Mercury took place in September and then Professor Longhair's tenure as an Atlantic recording artist began in earnest with "Hey Now Baby" and a second and third version of his ultra-famous whistling rhumba, "Mardi Gras in New Orleans." The band was billed either as Professor Longhair's Blues Jumpers or Professor Longhair's Blues Scholars. The records sold tolerably well. Longhair would record for Federal in 1951, returning to the Atlantic studios in 1953. For valuable first-hand eye- and ear-witness perspectives on just who Professor Longhair really was, see also Dr. John's outstanding autobiography, Under a Hoodoo Moon, published in 1994 by St. Martin's Press. ~ arwulf arwulf

Professor Longhair (vocals, piano)
Walter "Papoose" Nelson (guitar)
Jack Scott (guitar)
Robert Parker (alto sax)
Lee Allen (tenor sax)
Charles Burbank (tenor sax)
George Miller (bass)
John Boudreaux (drums)

1. She Ain't Got No Hair
2. Bye Bye Baby
3. Professor Longhair's Boogie
4. Mardi Gras In New Orleans
5. Byrd's Blues
6. Her Mind Is Gone
7. Bald Head
8. Hey Now Baby
9. Oh Well
10. Hadacol Bounce
11. Longhair Stomp
12. Been Foolin' Around
13. Between The Night And Day (In The Wee Wee Hours)
14. Hey Now Baby
15. Mardi Gras In New Orleans
16. She Walks Right In
17. Hey Little Girl
18. Willie Mae
19. Walk Your Blues Away
20. Professor Longhair Blues
21. Boogie Woogie
22. Longhair's Blues-Rhumba
23. Mardi Gras In New Orleans
24. She Walks Right In

Jim Pepper - The Path

Jim Pepper will always be best remembered for his popular recording of "Witchi-Tai-To," a peyote chant put to music. Pepper, who is definitively profiled in the hour-long documentary Pepper's Pow Wow (available on video), infused advanced jazz with the influence of his Native American heritage. The son of a father who also played saxophone, Pepper early in life loved to tap dance. He largely taught himself both tenor and clarinet, developing a soulful sound and keeping his style open to both free expression and the influence of world music. Pepper grew up in Oklahoma and moved to New York in the mid-'60s. He was a major part of one of the first fusion groups, Free Spirits, which made a record for ABC/Paramount in 1967. Pepper, who played in the "Everything Is Everything" band in the late '60s, was encouraged by Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry to put more of his heritage into his music. Jim Pepper worked with Cherry, Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra, and his own bands. He recorded with Paul Motian and Bob Moses, and led a session apiece for Europa (1984) and Enja (1987). Pepper passed away at the age of 50 from lymphoma. ~ Scott Yanow

Jim Pepper (vocals, soprano and tenor sax)
Stanton Davis (trumpet)
Kirk Lightsey (piano)
Santi DeBriano (bass)
John Betsch (drums)
Arto Tuncboyaci (percussion)
Caren Knight (vocals)

1. Bamasso
2. Habi Ba
3. Marchant Le Chemin
4. Lullaby
5. Hello Young Lovers
6. Reflections
7. Our Quiet Place
8. Witchi Tia To
9. Caddo Revival

Ruby Braff & Ellis Larkins - 1955 The Complete Duets

Along 1955 trumpeter Ruby Braff and pianist Ellis Larkins were in studio recording two sessions. The results were 25 songs (all of which are included in this double CD) that originally appeared as 3 LP: "Two Part Inventions In Jazz Vol. 1", "Two Part Inventions In Jazz Vol. 2", and "Braff & Larkins Play Rogers & Hart".
As a bonus, are also included the 8 songs that Braff recorded on October 17, 1955 with Vick Dickenson, Sam Margolis and Nat Pierce and that were published as "Ruby Braff Special".

Disc 1
01 Love for Sale (Porter) 5:41
02 I've Got a Pocketful of Dreams (Burke, Monaco) 3:45
03 Blues for Ruby (Larkins, Braff) 4:35
04 I've Got the World on a String (Arlen, Koehler) 3:46
05 Please (Rainger, Robin) 5:36
06 Old Folks (Hill, Robison) 5:31
07 Blues for Ellis (Braff, Larkins) 3:29
08 What Is There to Say? (Duke, Harburg) 4:31
09 When a Woman Loves a Man (Hanighen, Jenkins, Mercer) 5:07
10 You Are Too Beautiful (Hart, Rodgers) 5:38
11 Skylark (Carmichael, Mercer) 5:16
12 Sailboat in the Moonlight (Loeb, Lombardo) 4:46
13 A City Called Heaven (Smith) 2:52
14 My Funny Valentine (Hart, Rodgers) 5:34
15 Where or When (Hart, Rodgers) 4:56
16 I Could Write a Book (Hart, Rodgers) 3:29
17 Little Girl Blue (Hart, Rodgers) 4:56

Disc 2
01 Thou Swell (Hart, Rodgers) 3:53
02 My Romance (Hart, Rodgers) 3:25
03 The Girl Friend (Hart, Rodgers) 4:49
04 Mountain Greenery (Hart, Rodgers) 3:14
05 Blue Moon (Hart, Rodgers) 4:12
06 You Took Advantage of Me (Hart, Rodgers) 3:33
07 I Married an Angel (Hart, Rodgers) 4:01
08 I Didn't Know What Time It Was (Hart, Rodgers) 4:19
09 Romance in the Dark (Green)* 6:55
10 When You Wish Upon a Start (Harline, Washington) * 5:58
11 (I Don't Stand A) Ghost of a Chance (Crosby, Washington, Young)* 7:24
12 Where's Freddie? (Braff)* 4:44
13 Wishing (Will Make It So) (DeSylva) * 3:16
14 I'm in the Market for You (Hanley, McCarthy)* 5:49
15 Sweet Sue, Just You (Harris, Young) * 9:17
16 Linger a While (Owens, Rose) * 4:59

*Bonus Tracks

Ellis Larkins (Piano)
Ruby Braff (Trumpet, Cornet)

CD2: 9-16
Ruby Braff (Trumpet, Cornet)
Jo Jones (Drums)
Nat Pierce (Piano)
Walter Page (Bass)
Vic Dickenson (Trombone)
Sam Margolis (Clarinet, Tenor Sax)

Recorded in New York on February 17 (CD1:1-13), October 14 (CD1: 14-17 and CD2: 1-8) and October 17 (CD2: 9-16), 1955

Duo, Duo, Quartet: Marc Copland

Marc Copland & Tim Hagans – Duo: Between the Lines

Piano/trumpet duets are somewhat rare in jazz history, particularly in more modern areas of jazz. The pianist has to function as the complete rhythm section while the trumpeter has to have enough variety in sound, ideas, and moods to hold one's attention. Pianist Marc Copland and trumpeter Tim Hagans succeed in all of these areas during their stimulating set. The music they perform is often lyrical and searching, although their versions of Thad Jones' "Three in One" and Ornette Coleman's "When Will the Blues Leave" are also swinging. There is nowhere to hide during duets, but Copland (who often plays dense chords) and Hagans make every note count. This project rewards repeated listenings. –Scott Yanow, All Music Guide

More albums like this are needed-not just for its consummate musicianship, but also to demonstrate the bare-bones approach to chamber jazz and the unbridled freedom it affords like-minded swingers. Pianist Copland and trumpeter/flugelhornist Hagans might just as well be Emanuel Ax and Maurice Andre playing a recital, except the latter pair wouldn't understand or accept this kind of freedom: Their scores already come with dynamics and tempo markings, and must be played as composed. Very little was written for Between the Lines; what we are privy to is a highly literate duologue of melody and harmony. Rhythm is implied, or Copland will insert brief pedal points; at no time does he resort to a walking bass line or a Garnerlike jazz march. And at no time is the element of swing neglected. Of necessity, the most obvious rhythmic devices are used on the Latin number "Estate" and on Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island." So personal and minimalistic is the conversation that the occasional arranged heads-Thad Jones' "Three in One" and Ornette Coleman's "When Will the Blues Leave"-sound virtually orchestral in sonority. The most clinical aspect comes in the extended harmonies employed, particularly in Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti" and Hagans' own "Passing Giants"-it's a lovely recording, filled with surprises and discoveries. And when Copland "squeezes' his love for "Porgy" through a Harmon mute, it's like rediscovering Miles Davis. – Harvey Siders, JazzTimes

Marc Copland piano Tim Hagans trumpet
Recorded April 2000
2001 SteepleChase Records SCCD31488

Marc Copland & Dave Liebman – Duo: Bookends

The title of this CD might imply that saxophonist Dave Liebman and pianist Marc Copland signify two jazz musicians who share similar visions and musical aspirations. The adage that like minds think along parallel paths serves as an underlying condition for the artists' third collaboration for the Switzerland-based hatOLOGY record label. This time, the instrumentalists work as a duo, performing a few originals amid modern jazz standards. They wittily reconfigure Herbie Hancock's classic "Maiden Voyage," where the duo unassumingly sneaks the primary theme into the grand scheme of things. With this two-CD set, the musicians glide through a sequence of meticulously enacted improvisations amid a delightful and generally probing rendition of Miles Davis' "Blue in Green," among other familiar works. Nonetheless, the artists' synergy seemingly sparks creativity here. Some of these pieces are marked by freely organized tradeoffs, to coincide with wistful melodies and bluesy dreamscapes. Sure, they turn up the heat on occasion, yet it is all about intuitive responses, delicately enacted frameworks, and memorable melodies, as they tend to collapse the history of modern jazz into a uniformly arranged production that most assuredly emanates from the heart. Strongly recommended. –Glenn Astarite, All About Jazz

Saxophonist David Liebman and pianist Marc Copland co-led a quartet with bassist Mike McGuirk and drummer Tony Martucci on last year's Lunar. Now they return to hatOLOGY as a duo, developing their impressive rapport over the course of two discs - the first in-studio, the second live, both recorded on the same date. Liebman has done some of his most remarkable work in a piano-horn duo setting, most notably with Richie Beirach, his partner in the bands Lookout Farm and Quest. Copland, undaunted by this historical baggage, ably fashions a unique space for himself alongside Liebman's preternaturally powerful tenor and soprano saxes. As on Lunar, the sets consist of standards as well as originals by both players. Copland's entries, "Bookends" and "Blackboard," are lyrical and tempo-based; the former appears in two takes, placed at the beginning and end of the studio program. Liebman's tunes, in contrast, tend toward the spacious and abstract. First we hear the dark rubato cadences of "The Searcher," and later the dissonant counterpoint and soprano squeals of "Nadir." The only standard on disc one to feature the duo is "In Your Own Sweet Way." Elsewhere, Liebman takes an unaccompanied tenor turn on "Lester Leaps In," and Copland reciprocates with "When You're Smiling." Is it a coincidence that the two tracks begin with nearly the same melodic figure, in the same key? Jimmy Giuffre's "Cry, Want," which the full quartet also tackled on Lunar, leads off the second duo disc. This evocative dirge in E minor first appeared on Giuffre's Fusion, a 1961 Verve release that has since been reissued by ECM as part of the two-disc compilation 1961. Originally featuring Giuffre on clarinet, Paul Bley on piano, and Steve Swallow on acoustic bass, "Cry, Want" takes on a very different quality when voiced by Liebman's gruff tenor. For much of the remainder of the live set, the duo parses three modern masterpieces. First there's a staggering, 12-minute reading of Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage," then an equally exhaustive "Impressions," with Copland favoring major-key tonalities on the latter. Liebman cries to the heavens on tenor on his 9/11 remembrance "WTC" and returns to soprano for the closing "Blue In Green," which Copland peels away to the very harmonic essence. –David Adler, All About Jazz

Marc Copland piano Dave Liebman soprano and tenor saxophone
Recorded March 2002
2002 hatOLOGY Records

Marc Copland & Dave Liebman Quartet - Lunar

“All of this music is deep, and poetic. It cries commitment as well as want, and sings with the affinity of true art.” --Bob Bluementhal, Liner Notes

The co-leaders of this date first met back in the 70's, when pianist Marc Copland's instrument of choice was the saxophone. Whereas the teaming of the pianist's trio with sax great David Liebman reflects a natural extension of their fairly recent collaboration at the Santa Fe, New Mexico Jazz Festival. With this release, Copeland brings his elegant touch to the forefront, which is a characteristic that intrinsically complements, his partner's lofty excursions on both tenor and soprano saxes. They utilize space on Lunar, while also managing to kick up a mild storm atop the rhythm sections' all-encompassing sense of swing. The pianist augments many of these mid tempo pieces with lilting harmonics, a deft right hand, and well-placed chord clusters. Copeland and Liebman (performing on tenor sax) stamp heartfelt balladry all over their duet rendition of the standard "You And The Night And The Music." While drummer Tony Martucci provides the subtle heartbeat via his regimented ride cymbal patterns on Copland's "All That's Left." At this juncture in the program, the soloists' trigger a soothing chain of events amid a progressively climactic instillation of forward motion. You can almost feel the air streaming through Liebman's tenor sax mouthpiece during his performance with Copeland on their duet rendition of John Coltrane's "Naima." As an addendum to Bob Blumenthal's liner notes, Copland states: "We hope that in opening our hearts, we have touched yours." Thus, Copland's declaration rings loud and clear. Recommended. –Glenn Astarita, All About Jazz

Marc Copland piano Dave Liebman soprano and tenor saxophone Mike McGuirk bass Tony Martucci drums
Recorded October 12, 2001
2002 hatOLOGY Records

Maria Schneider Orchestra - Sky Blue (2007)

Maria Schneider says she takes great pleasure in making people sound their best. In an orchestral setting, nobody does it better. She proved that on Concert in the Garden (ArtistShare, 2004); and she raises the bar with Sky Blue. Schneider, like Duke Ellington before her, writes for her players, and on this disc she has incited seven adventurous and heart-stoppingly gorgeous solos from various long-term band members, wrapping each of their eloquent statements in the grandeur, the majestic ebb and flow of her twenty-piece ensemble.

It seemed impossible for Schneider top her Grammy-winning Concert in the Garden, but she's done just that with Sky Blue. She has elevated her music to a seemingly impossible height. A sharp artistic focus has sharpened further, with four of the five compositions showcasing single soloists in front of the enveloping majesty of her unmatched orchestral choruses. In this, a parallel can be drawn not only to Ellington, but also to Gil Evans and his landmark Columbia albums with Miles Davis: Miles Ahead (1958) Porgy and Bess (1959) and Sketches of Spain (1960).

Always the story-teller, Schneider opens the set with "The 'Pretty' Road," a sonic painting from a childhood memory of a path she and her family took from an out-of-town restaurant back to her home town of Windom, Minnesota. The sound leads, with the help of Ingrid Jensen's flugelhorn, to the crest of a gentle rise and a vista of sparkling lights, sparkling stars that burst to life with Jensen and her glowing electronic effects.

"Aires de Lando" features Scott Robinson's clarinet solo over the rhythmically-layered Peruvian lando. The sound—with cajons (Peruvian percussion "box" adopted by Spanish flamenco) and palmas (hand claps)—has an incredible warmth flowing beneath Robinson's clarinet. He begins in a rather sedate mode, before things evolve in the direction of searing, untamed beauty.

Schneider composed "Rich's Piece" with saxophonist Rich Perry, a Maria Schneider orchestra stalwart, in mind. The atmosphere is pensive, Perry going inward with a robust and measured tone in front of a waxing/waning orchestral backdrop.

The title tune was written for a close friend who passed as Schneider was writing the piece. It is a sound of unalloyed poignancy, featuring Steve Wilson's impossibly, achingly gorgeous turn on soprano sax, a sad yet hopeful work of art.

"Cerulean Skies" is the masterpiece within a masterpiece, a twenty-two minute tune inspired by Schneider's love of birds. It's a composition that takes an idea similar to Ellington's "Sunset and the Mockingbird" from The Queen's Suite (Pablo, 1959) and runs with it, giving flight to three different soloists—tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, accordionist Gary Versace (who creates a lilting sweetness in front of Frank Kimbrough's piano—that sounds like collected raindrops falling from a high canopy and bursting on a forest floor) and alto saxophonist Charles Pillow. The tune includes bird sounds created by various band members, and a snippet of a recording of a cerulean warbler, a bird that Schneider, in her birding rambles, has encountered in New York's Central Park.

Magnificent. A magical work of art, from beginning to end. Dan McClenaghan

STEVE WILSON - alto/soprano/clarinet/flute/alto flute
CHARLES PILLOW - alto/clarinet/piccolo/flute/alto flute/bass flute
RICH PERRY - tenor/flute
DONNY MCCASLIN - tenor/clarinet
SCOTT ROBINSON - baritone/clarinet/bass clarinet
TONY KADLECK - trumpet/flügelhorn
JASON CARDER - trumpet/flügelhorn
LAURIE FRINK - trumpet/flügelhorn
INGRID JENSEN - trumpet/flügelhorn
KEITH O'QUINN - trombone
RYAN KEBERLE - trombone
GEORGE FLYNN - bass trombone/contrabass trombone
BEN MONDER - guitar
GARY VERSACE - accordion on The Pretty Road, Aires de Lando and Cerulean Skies
LUCIANA SOUZA - voice on The Pretty Road and Cerulean Skies
GONZALO GRAU - cajon/palmas/percussion on Aires de Lando (right) and percussion on Cerulean Skies
JON WIKAN - cajon/palmas on Aires de Lando (left) and percussion on Rich's Piece and Cerulean Skies

1. The 'Pretty' Road -- Ingrid Jensen (fluegelhorn & trpt with electronics) 13:23
2. Aires de Lando - Scott Robinson (clarinet) 9:56
3. Rich's Piece -- Rich Perry (tenor sax) 9:29
4. Cerulean Skies-Donny McCaslin (tnr sax) Gary Versace (acc) Charles Pillow (alt sax) 21:55
5. Sky Blue -- Steve Wilson (soprano sax) 8:06

Recorded at Legacy Recording Studios, NYC on January 6-9, 2007

Richard 'Groove' Holmes - Comin' On Home (TOCJ)

Revered in soul-jazz circles, Richard "Groove" Holmes was an unapologetically swinging Jimmy Smith admirer who could effortlessly move from the grittiest of blues to the most sentimental of ballads. Holmes, a very accessible, straightforward and warm player who was especially popular in the black community, had been well respected on the Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey circuit by the time he signed with Pacific Jazz in the early '60s and started receiving national attention by recording with such greats as Ben Webster and Gene Ammons. Holmes, best known for his hit 1965 version of "Misty," engaged in some inspired organ battles with Jimmy McGriff in the early '70s before turning to electric keyboards and fusion-ish material a few years later. The organ was Holmes' priority in the mid- to late '80s, when he recorded for Muse (he also had stints throughout his career with Prestige Records and Groove Merchant) . Holmes was still delivering high-quality soul-jazz for Muse (often featuring tenor titan Houston Person) when a heart attack claimed his life at the age of 60 in 1991 after a long struggle with prostrate cancer. He was a musician to the end, playing his last shows in a wheelchair. ~ Alex Henderson and Steve Leggett

Richard "Groove" Holmes (organ)
Weldon Irvine (electric piano)
Ray Armando (conga)
Gerald Hubbard (guitar)
Jerry Jemmott (bass)
Darryl Washington (drums)

1. Groovin' For Mr. G
2. Theme From "Love Story"
3. Mr. Clean
4. Down Home Funk
5. Don't Mess With Me
6. Wave
7. This Here

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Art Blakey - 'S Make It

This edition of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers is an unusual one. The personnel includes Blakey veterans Lee Morgan (returning to the band after some success as a leader), Curtis Fuller, and Victor Sproles, along with John Hicks (who appeared on three other Blakey records) and the tenor saxophonist John Gilmore (of Sun Ra fame) in his only appearance with the band. As typical for Blakey-led groups, the emphasis is on original material by its members; the one Broadway show tune included, "Faith," is from a long since forgotten I Had a Ball. Morgan's driving blues "'S Make It" is easily the highlight of the session, though Hicks' richly voiced "Waltz for Ruth" and Fuller's Latin-flavored "Little Hughie" also deserve to be better known than they are. It's a shame that this was the only recording by this particular lineup of the Jazz Messengers, as Gilmore's strong blowing complements Morgan very well. Originally issued by Limelight, it was reissued in Japan by Universal, meticulously reproducing the original foldout cardboard sleeve for the CD package. ~ Ken Dryden

Drummer and bandleader Art Blakey was a leading practitioner of hard bop, a sub-genre of bebop that emphasized the blues and hard-swinging, usually mid-tempo, grooves. This 1964 session presents classic performances by one of Blakey's most accomplished Jazz Messengers line-ups. (The personnel changed often over the years.) Inspired solos are heard here by legends in their own right, including trumpeter Lee Morgan, trombonist Curtis Fuller, and pianist John Hicks.

'S Make It changes its character towards the end, only because Blakey (or the label) chose to place the two mellower tunes, "Olympia" and "Lament for Stacy," as the album's closing numbers. However, Blakey's double-time percussion during the trumpet solo on the latter keeps the record from getting suddenly sleepy. Moreover, there are few better examples of hard bop than this release. All seven tracks on this disc are phenomenal, and each musician here speaks the language of jazz with elegance and grace.

Art Blakey (drums)
Lee Morgan (trumpet)
John Gilmore (tenor sax)
Curtis Fuller (trombone)
John Hicks (piano)
Victor Sproles (bass)

1. Faith
2. 'S Make It
3. Waltz For Ruth
4. One For Gamal
5. Little Hughie
6. Olympia
7. Lament For Stacy

Stan Kenton - 23 Degrees North, 82 Degrees West (1952-53)

These live broadcasts are from the collection of Don Spiker and were recorded from venues around the country including the Chicago Blue Note, Birdland and the Hollywood Palladium. This was my favorite Kenton band and along with some great soloists (see below), the charts were arranged by the likes of Bill Holman, Johnny Richard, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Russo and Pete Rugulo. The September 1952 set at Fort Sheridan, Illinois was Lee Konitz's first night with the band.

This CD features Stan Kenton's Orchestra on five separate radio broadcasts from 1952-53. Unfortunately the first seven songs (all taken from April 2, 1953) have a distracting hum but otherwise the music is consistently enjoyable. Kenton's band of 1953 was one of his most swinging, featuring a strong rhythm section propelled by drummer Stan Levey and such soloists as tenorman Richie Kamuca, trumpeter Conte Candoli, trombonist Frank Rosolino and altoist Lee Konitz in addition to singer Chris Connor. Konitz in particular is well-featured on this CD which puts the emphasis on standards and hard-swinging. - Scott Yanow

Buddy Childers, Maynard Ferguson, Conte Candoli, Ernie Royal, others (trumpet)
Bob Burgess, Frank Rosolino, Bill Russo, George Roberts, others (trombone)
Lee Konitz, Vinnie Dean (alto sax)
Richie Kamuca, Bill Holman (tenor sax)
Bob Gioga, Hank Levy (baritone sax)
Stan Kenton (piano)
Sal Salvador (guitar)
Don Bagley (bass)
Stan Levey (drums)
Chris Connor (vocals)
  1. Theme (Artistry in Rhythm) & Opening Announcements
  2. Works (aka Bill Holman's Work)
  3. Yesterdays
  4. Swinghouse
  5. Stan Kenton Speaks
  6. Gone With the Wind
  7. There Will Never Be Another You
  8. Theme & Opening Announcements
  9. Love for Sale
  10. Over the Rainbow
  11. Hava Havana
  12. Frank Speaking
  13. I'll Remember April
  14. Young Blood
  15. Street of Dreams
  16. Blue Moon
  17. Bill's Blues
  18. Lover Man
  19. Collaboration
  20. 23 Degrees North, 82 Degrees West
  21. My Lady
  22. Bill's Blues/Sign-Off

Henry Threadgill Zooid - This Brings Us To, Volume 1

Threadgill may well be my favorite currently active musician. I'm picking up my copy of this later today, and I urge you Threadgill fans to go buy this when and where you can. A link to the Pi Recordings website is in Comments

Pi Recordings was founded in 2001 to release a pair of albums by legendary AACM composer/multi-instrumentalist Henry Threadgill, the electric Everybody's Mouth's a Book (with Make a Move) and acoustic Up Popped the Two Lips (with Zooid). This Brings Us To, Volume 1 is his first commercially released recording in eight years—a homecoming of sorts for both Pi and Threadgill.

Threadgill's longstanding quintet features Liberty Ellman (acoustic guitar), Jose Davila (trombone and tuba), Stomu Takeishi (acoustic bass guitar) and Elliot Humberto Kavee (drums). Zooid has been Threadgill's primary working ensemble since the beginning of the Millennium, replacing the electrified Very Very Circus and Make a Move bands of the nineties. Revealing a studied rapport, each member of the quintet has longstanding ties to the leader; all are veteran members of Zooid except for Takeishi, who was in Make a Move.

A zooid is "a cell capable of independent motion within a living organism." Transposing the concept to his expansive writing, Threadgill assigns separate interval blocks to each musician, allowing them to operate independently of the group while collectively maintaining an overall sense of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic structure.

Complementing these contrapuntal themes is a bevy of intricate, multi-layered rhythms. Though the downbeats are far from obvious, the polyrhythmic undercurrent is relentless, stirring even in the sparest setting. Informed by years of experience, Davila, Takeishi and Kavee negotiate the unusual meters and thorny contours of these labyrinthine structures with aplomb.

Equally inspired by the work of the Western neo-classicists as Afro-Cuban rhythms and traditional Javanese Gamelan, Threadgill brings a rhythmically charged, theatrical air to his bluesy, R&B inflected compositions. Arranging the album's six songs into a dramatic arc, the set progressively intensifies, mirroring Threadgill's switch from flute to alto. Opening and closing the album at extreme ends of the spectrum, "White Wednesday Off the Wall" embodies the pastoral qualities of pointillist chamber music while "Mirror Mirror the Verb" is a terse exercise in fractious abstraction. In-between, the brisk flute driven numbers "To Undertake My Corners Open" and "Chairmaster" careen with quicksilver precision, while the vociferous "After Some Time" and "Sap" exude a raw, primal quality.

Ellman and Threadgill share the spotlight as the quintet's primary soloists, alternating circuitous statements with ebullient glee. Unleashing blistering salvos that encompass a multitude of Eastern and Western traditions, Ellman's splintery acoustic fretwork offers a rich contrast to the leader's sonorous phrasing. Threadgill unfurls fluid variations from his vocally expressive flute on the first half of the album, tortuous bluesy cadences from his acerbic alto on the second.

Despite its relatively brief duration (39 minutes), This Brings Us To, Volume 1 is a spectacular return from an important jazz composer, and is hopefully an indicator of more to come from Threadgill and Zooid. ~ Troy Collins

Henry Threadgill (flute, alto sax)
Liberty Ellman (guitar)
Jose Davila (trombone, tuba)
Stomu Takeishi (bass)
Elliot Humberto Kavee (drums)

1. White Wednesday Off The Wall
2. To Undertake My Corners Open
3. Chairmaster
4. After Some Time
5. Sap
6. Mirror Mirror The Verb

Monday, October 26, 2009

Charles Mingus - Debut Rarities Vol. 3

Brother Danny was asking about other works by Gene Shaw after his Breakthrough was discussed here recently. We also used a Shaw number on a recent TOTD. I mentioned in discussions about Shaw's appearances on East Coasting and Tijuana Moods, but I also want to recommend this if you can find it - Shaw (and a bunch of other pretty talented guys) features on it nicely.

A limited-edition released in 1993 by Original Jazz Classics, Debut Rarities, Vol. 3 contains 13 of the 21 tracks resulting from a session or sessions that took place in New York City during September of 1957. This includes quite a number of alternate takes as there are only six titles: "We Got Blue (Untitled Original Blues)," "Stella by Starlight," "Untitled Original Composition," "Autumn in New York," "Long Ago and Far Away" and "Joldi." Discographical indexes list the band under the name of the Shafi Hadi Sextet. Hadi (born Curtis Porter in Philadelphia in 1929) was an alto and tenor saxophonist who worked with Mingus between the years 1956-1959. He is heard in the company of trumpeter Clarence Shaw, baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, pianists Wade Legge or Wynton Kelly, bassists Charles Mingus or Henry Grimes, and drummer Dannie Richmond. What you get here is a progress report from innovative improvisers who were laying the groundwork for the stunning advancements in modern jazz that would take place over the next decade. This is an intriguing chapter from Ming's adventuresome Jazz Workshop years. In the Mingus chronology, it lands right after his Tijuana Moods and East Coasting albums and just before A Modern Jazz Symposium of Music and Poetry. ~ arwulf arwulf

Charles Mingus (bass)
Clarence Gene Shaw (trumpet)
Wynton Kelly (piano)
Pepper Adams (baritone sax)
Wade Legge (piano)
Shafi Hadi (tenor sax)
Henry Grimes (bass)
Dannie Richmond (drums)

1. [Untitled Original Blues] [Take 1]
2. Stella by Starlight [Take 4]
3. Stella by Starlight [Take 5]
4. [Untitled Original Composition] [Take 3]
5. [Untitled Original Composition] [Take 5]
6. Autumn in New York [Take 5]
7. Autumn in New York [Take 2]
8. Long Ago (And Far Away) [Take 2]
9. Long Ago (And Far Away) [Take 4]
10. Long Ago (And Far Away) [Take 5]
11. [Untitled Original Blues] [Take 2]
12. Joldi [Take 4]
13. Joldi [Take 5]

Tommy Flanagan - Thelonica

"Throughout the '70s and early '80s, Flanagan explored aspects of harmony most closely associated with the late John Coltrane, often stretching his solos very far from the tonal centre but without lapsing into the tuneless abstractions that were such a depressing aspect of Coltrane's legacy. ... Throughout these dates, Flanagan's a wonderfully lyrical performer, with the widest imaginable range of diction and association. There is not a dull or fudged set in the bunch." ~ Penguin Guide

Recorded just ten months after Thelonious Monk's death, pianist Tommy Flanagan's tribute features eight of Monk's compositions plus Flanagan's own "Thelonica." Assisted by bassist George Mraz and drummer Art Taylor, Flanagan does not sound at all like Monk but he recaptures his spirit and hints strongly now and then at his style on this fine (and often introspective) outing. ~ Scott Yanow

Tommy Flanagan (piano)
George Mraz (bass)
Art Taylor (drums)

1. North Of The Sunset
2. Light Blue
3. Off Minor
4. Pannonica
5. Ask Me Now
6. Thelonious
7. Reflections
8. Ugly Beauty
9. Thelonica

Tone Jansa Quarter with Woody Shaw - Dr. Chi

Tone Jansa, from Yougoslavia, is a wonderful reed player who is virtually unknown in the U.S. despite his 2 recordings with Woody Shaw. Part of the problem is that both CDs are issued by the Japanese Adsord company, which includes almost no discographical information in English with the discs. The "Dr. Chi" CD doesn't even list the players. The cover, back, and tray liner are in English indicating that Adsord is thinking about a market outside of Japan. But the inside of the cover is left blank. The music is certainly strong enough to overcome Adsord's thoughtless packaging: "Unfortunately, there are no liner notes, or information about the players or the circumstances under which the recording was made, or even the date of the recording. A shame, too, because this is a near-classic session." (Steven Loewy, AMG) "Dr. Chi burns with invention and passion. Woody Shaw has never sounded better and here is a chance to hear the terrific Tone Jansa blow his brains out.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

BN LP 5026 | Various Artists - Memorable Sessions

Edmond Hall (cl) Meade "Lux" Lewis (cel) Charlie Christian (ac-g) Israel Crosby (b)
Reeves Sound Studios, NYC, February 5, 1941

R3459A Jamming In Four
R3460 Edmond Hall Blues
R3461-2 Profoundly Blue, No. 2
R3462A-2 Celestial Express

Edmond Hall (cl) Red Norvo (vib) Teddy Wilson (p) Carl Kress (g) Johnny Williams (b)
WOR Studios, NYC, January 25, 1944

BN909 Blue Interval
BN911 Seein' Red

For specific tracklistings, have a look at the excellent Jazz Discography Project

Count Basie - Volume 1: 1929-1930 (Masters Of Jazz)

This is really early Basie; the Chronos only begin in 1936, this is from when he started as the pyaner player for Bennie Moten's phenomenal outfit. In fact, the contents of this CD are entirely Moten dates; a quick glance at volume 2 reveals the same. This one's a real toetapper.

Basie made his professional debut as an accompanist for vaudeville acts. While on a tour of the Keith vaudeville circuit he was stranded in Kansas City. Here, in 1928, after a short stint as house organist in a silent movie theater, he joined Walter Page's Blue Devils, and when that band broke up in 1929, he was hired by Bennie Moten's Band and played piano with them, with one interruption, for the next five years.

"Matters take an immediate upward turn with the joint arrival of Basie and Durham in 1929. 'Jones Law Blues', 'Band Box Shuffle', and 'Small Black' all show the band with fresh ideas under Basie's inspirational leadership (and soloing - here with his Earl Hines influence still intact). 'Sweetheart Of Yesterday' even softens the two-beat rhythm. ~ Penguin Guide

Booker Washington, Jack Washington, and Willie McWashington on the same date. Ain't life grand?

Count Basie (piano)
Hot Lips Page (trumpet)
Harlan Leonard (clarinet, soprano and alto sax)
Eddie Durham (guitar, valve trombone)
Booker Washington (trumpet)
Willie McWashington (drums)

1. Rumba Negro
2. Jones Law Blues
3. Jones Law Blues
4. Band Box Shuffle
5. Small Black
6. Small Black
7. Everyday Blues
8. Boot It
9. Mary Lee
10. Rit-Dit-Ray
11. Rit-Dit-Ray
12. New Vine Street Blues
13. Sweetheart of Yesterday
14. Won't You Be My Baby?
15. I Wish I Could Be Blue
16. Oh! Eddie
17. That Too, Do
18. That Too, Do
19. Mack's Rhythm
20. You Made Me Happy
21. Here Comes Marjorie
22. Count

Mary Lou Williams - Zodiac Suite

Sitting on my nighttable - the small one made from panels taken from the Elgin marbles and lined with chinchilla fur - is a copy of Ms. Williams autobiography, which - I blush to admit - is yet unread by yours truly. I was waiting for my bookbinder to let me know when the TransDanubian Albino Elk fur for its binding becomes available (it is so hard to get the top quality Elk pelts nowadays, let alone the albino ones, don't you find?), but, really, I know that is not a good excuse for neglecting what promises to be a very fine book. If I come across her observations on this work, I will make same known in the discussion group. Perhaps she can tell us where the strings are. I am disappointed to notice that my sign - Scampi the Shrimp - is not represented.

On New Year's Eve 1945/6, Williams gave a remarkable performance of her Zodiac Suite with the New York Philharmonic at Town Hall. It's a sequence of dedications to fellow musicians (identified by their astrological characteristics) and combines straight orchestral writing of a slightly bland, film-soundtrack sort with jazz interpolations and occasional sections ('Taurus' and 'Gemini', significantly) where the two seem to coincide. Williams had been profoundly dissatisfied with a partial reading of the music, recorded in 1957 for Norman Granz's Verve label, and the rediscovery of the 'lost' tapes from the Town Hall concert is a significant addition to the discography. The sound isn't always very reliable, with occasional crackles and some loss of resolution in the string parts, but Williams is caught in close-up and the piece remains a key moment in the recognition of jazz as an important twentieth-century music, not 'classical', but with its own history and logic. ~ Penguin Guide

Smithsonian Folkways proudly celebrated the 50th anniversary of the original Asch Records release of Mary Lou Williams' work, Zodiac Suite. Performing solo and accompanied by bassist Al Lucas and drummer Jack Parker, Williams crafted these pieces as a series of dedications to fellow musicians born under each astrological sign. This 12-part interpretation of the zodiac was crafted so each movement comprises a set of jazz tone poems. Six alternate takes, mastered from the original acetates, are featured on this reissue. "Irresistible themes...blending sophistication and intimacy." ~ DownBeat

With just a casual interest in astrology, Mary Lou Williams created her 1945 Zodiac Suite as a series of character sketches, musical portraits of friends from each sign that she would debut on a weekly radio show. "Aries" is for Ben Webster and Billie Holiday, "Taurus" for Duke Ellington, and "Libra" for Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, and Thelonious Monk. The pieces include piano solos, duets with bassist Al Lucas, and trios with the addition of drummer Jack "The Bear" Parker. The suite is both a remarkable exercise in extended composition and an index of Williams's varied palette. Her mix of blues and boogie roots and strikingly modernist harmonies is sometimes similar to Monk's, while her lighter, impressionist playing can evoke Claude Debussy (and the way Debussy colored the piano music of Bix Beiderbecke). The cumulative work, though, has a warmly sustained lyricism that can only suggest comparisons with Ellington. The Zodiac Suite would assume more ambitious forms, with a chamber orchestra setting for the entire suite later in 1945 and a large orchestra adaptation of three movements a year later. Dizzy Gillespie recorded three movements with his big band in 1957. But the intimacy of these original recordings is very special, with Williams effectively blurring the line between composition and improvisation. ~ Stuart Broomer

Mary Lou Williams (piano)
Al Lucas (bass)
Jack "The Bear" Parker (drums)

1. Aries
2. Taurus
3. Gemini
4. Cancer
5. Leo
6. Virgo
7. Libra
8. Scorpio
9. Sagittarius
10. Capricorn
11. Aquarius
12. Pisces
13. Aries
14. Cancer
15. Virgo
16. Scorpio
17. Aquarius

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Garland Wilson - 1931-1938 (Chronological 808)

Because Wilson's career was spent away from the US, he's rarely been accorded much attention. His playing is buoyant and effective, with a strong sense of melody and little in the way of harmonic sophistication. ... Better, if you're interested in him at all, to opt for the Classics set, which covers the key years from his departure from America to the year before he returned at the start of the war. This has pretty much everything Wilson recorded as a leader ... most of them are solos, but there are a couple of vocals with McKinney andtwo duos with violinist Warlop, who appears right at the end on 'Limehouse Blues' (very Grapelli-like) and 'You Showed Me The Way'. Garland's two-handed approach is very effective, if a little lacking in sublety, but he has an ability to squeeze nuances out of tunes - 'Bei Mir Bist Du Schon', 'Your Heart And Mine' - that no one else hears and his originals - 'Blues En Si Bemol', 'The Blues Got Me', 'The Way I Feel', 'You Rascal You' - are endlessly entertaining. A minor figure, to be sure, but not to be overlooked. ~ Penguin Guide

With the exception of five songs cut in 1951, this CD has every recording from the sessions led by Garland Wilson. The excellent swing pianist (who was influenced a bit by Earl Hines) is at his best on slower to medium material, for on the faster performances his ideas run a bit thin. On two numbers Wilson accompanies actress Nina Mae McKinney and two others are spirited duets with violinist Michel Warlop; the remaining 20 selections are all piano solos. This formerly rare music should be enjoyed by fans of swing piano. ~ Scott Yanow

Garland Wilson (piano, celeste)
Michel Warlop (violin)
Nina Mae McKinney (vocals)

1. Dear Old Southland/Limehouse Blues
2. St. James Infirmary/When Your Lover Has Gone
3. Memories Of You
4. Rockin' Chair
5. Blues En Si Bemol
6. Get Up, Bessie
7. Minnie The Moocher's Weddin' Day
8. Rhapsody In Love
9. Mood Indigo
10. China Boy
11. The Way I Feel
12. You Rascal You
13. Shim Sham Drag
14. Just A Mood
15. Just One Of Those Things
16. Your Heart And Mine
17. The Blues Got Me
18. You Showed Me The Way
19. The Blues I Love To Play
20. Sweet Lorraine
21. Bei Mir Bist Du Schon
22. Blue Morning
23. You Showed Me The Way
24. Limehouse Blues

Bruce Fowler - Entropy (1993)

Son of famous jazz educator Dr. William L. Fowler, Bruce is an extraordinary trombonist whose jazz credits are based in L.A. studios. Played well with Frank Zappa, and as a member of the raucous Fowler Brothers Band. ~ Michael G. Nastros

Trombonist Bruce Flower teams up with some notable relatives (altoist Steve Fowler, trumpeter Walt Fowler, and bassist Tom Fowler), plus a variety of talented players from the Los Angeles area (including pianists Billy Childs and Kei Akagi and tenor saxophonist Albert Wing) on a set of quirky originals and "Seven Steps to Heaven." The post-bop music has some of the infamous Fowler humor (most notably on the spoken narrative of "Man's Epitaph" and "The Rat") along with some solid playing. An intriguing if now somewhat obscure release. ~ Scott Yanow

Bruce Fowler (trombone, the spoken word)
Steve Fowler (alto sax, flute)
Tom Fowler (acoustic bass, violin)
Walt Fowler (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Chester Thompson (drums)
Billy Childs (piano)
Kei Akagi (piano)
Kurt McGettrick (baritione sax, Eb contrabass clarinet)
Phil Teele (bass trombone)
Suzette Moriarty (french horn)
Albert Wing (tenor sax)

1. Canon de Chelly
2. Flames
3. Love Dreams
4. The Rat
5. Entropy
6. Seven Steps to Heaven
7. Man's Epitaph
8. Floatin'
9. A Bash Fit for a King
         A. LAPD Headquarters--Winchell Center
         B. Call to Arms
         C. The Best Little Force in the World
10. Bullin'

Louis Armstrong - And The Singers 1924/30 Vol. 1

Early works, with Pops still playing cornet throughout; he switched to trumpet in 1928. Here, also, is the earliest recording of 'See See Rider', heard in two versions. " ... a number that, as Arnold Shaw observed in Black Popular Music in America, emerged as "one of the most famous and recorded of all blues songs. [Rainey's] was the first recording of that song, giving her a hold on the copyright, and one of the best of the more than 100 versions.". Rainey had spent the years prior with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels (see Nick Tosches excellent "Where Dead Voices Gather" for an illuminating and fascinating look into this aspect of American popular music: highly recommended), and with her husband was billed as the "Assassinators of the Blues".

Maggie Jones made her debut on one of the last issued Black Swan records in July of 1923 (these are from December of that year). She also appeared on Pathé and Paramount, but the lion's share of her 38 issued titles came out on Columbia in its 14000-D "race" series. Yanow tells us that Clara Smith " ... was billed as the "Queen of the Moaners" although Smith actually had a lighter and sweeter voice than her contemporaries and main competitors. She performed throughout the country (even appearing on the West Coast during 1924-25) and in Harlem revues during her prime years. Clara Smith was active until shortly before her death in 1935 from heart failure at the age of 40." Regarding Trixie Smith there is a link in comments with a fuller background, but it is worth noting that she too was essentially finished with recording by 1926; she did some sessions ten years later and had passed by 1943 at the age of 48.

Louis Armstrong (cornet)
Buster Bailey (clarinet)
Fletcher Henderson (piano)

Ma Rainey And Her Georgia Jazz Band
1. See See Rider Blues
2. See See Rider Blues
3. Jelly Bean Blues
4. Countin' The Blues
5. Countin' The Blues

Maggie Jones
6. Poor House Blues
7. Anybody Here Want to Try My Cabbage?
8. Thunderstorm Blues
9. If I Lose, Let Me Lose (Mamma Don't Mind)
10. Screamin' The Blues
11. Good Time Flat Blues

Clara Smith
12. Nobody Knows The Way I Feel This Morning
13. Broken Busted Blues

Bessie Smith
14. St. Louis Blues
15. Reckless Blues
16. Sobbin' Hearted Blues
17. Cold in Hand Blues
18. You've Been A Good Old Wagon

Trixie Smith And Her Down Home Syncopators
19. You've Got To Beat Me To Keep Me
20. Mining Camp Blues
21. Mining Camp Blues

Slide Hampton

Slide Hampton - Drum Suite

"After two high-profile years (1957-59) with Maynard Ferguson as trombonist and key arranger/composer. Slide Hampton struck off on his own as the leader of his own ingeniously conceived octet. While the octet never got off the ground commercially, it was a major creative force in New York for three years, recording for Atlantic among other labels.

In April 1962, Slide was given the opportunity to record one album for Columbia's Epic label. The result was Drum Suite, on which Slide brought in guest artists Freddie Hubbard, Yusef Lateef, Tommy Flanagan and Max Roach. Lost in the shuffle of major label business, this album offered some of Slide's best writing, much of which was specifically written for Lateef and Roach.

We have resurrected this crown jewel in Hampton's woefully neglected octet discography and remixed it adding two additional tunes. Slide's arranging reverberates through the discogrophies of Ferguson, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon and so many more, but it was when he was writing for himself that he reached his peak."

Freddie Hubbard (trumpet)
Slide Hampton (trombone)
George Coleman (tenor sax)
Jam Cameron, (baritone sax)
Yusef Lateef (flute, tenor sax)
Tommy Flanagan (piano)
Eddie Kahn (bass)
Vinnie Ruggiero (drums)
Max Roach (drums)

1 - Fump
2 - Lover
3 - Like Someone In Love
4 - Gallery Groove
5 - Our Waltz
6 - It's All Right With Me
7 - Stella By Starlight
8 - Drum Suite (Parts I-V)
9 - Well You Needn't
10 - Sleigh Ride

Slide Hampton - Sister Salvation

"Supervised" and with liner notes by none other than Artie Shaw.

Slide often thought in quite large-scale musical terms, and he had a more distinctive personality as a member of ensembles than he does as a soloist. This is a crisply funky and often very intelligent octet session, packed with musical ideas, and nicely balanced between original material like his own title-tune, 'Asseveration' (sic) and 'A Little Night Music', and imaginative rearrangements of pieces like Weston's 'Hi-Fli' and Ellington's rarely covered 'Just Squeeze Me (But Don't Tease Me)', which was written for and with Will Gaines. ~ Penguin Guide

Slide Hampton (trombone)
Freddie Hubbard (trumpet)
George Coleman (tenor sax)
Jay Cameron (baritone sax)
Ernie Royal (trumpet)
Bernard McKinney (euphonium)
Bill Barber (tuba)
Nabil Totah (bass)
Pete LaRoca (drums)

1. Sister Salvation
2. Just Squeeze Me (But Don't Tease Me)
3. Hi-Fli
4. Assevervation
5. Conversation Piece
6. A Little Night Music

Ray Charles - 1949-1950

Once he had saved around $600 from performances, Charles traveled to the West Coast, settling for a time in Seattle. Out west, Charles met Quincy Jones and Bumps Blackwell, producer of the original Little Richard hits. Charles also successfully assembled a trio of guitar, bass, and piano, dropping his last name Robinson so as not to be confused with then popular boxer, Sugar Ray Robinson. Charles's trio came to the attention of Jack Lauderdale of Downbeat and later Swingtime records. By 1950, Charles had moved to Los Angeles and was cutting records for Swingtime.

1949-1950 highlights the earliest Ray Charles sessions for the Swingtime and Downbeat labels, featuring 15 tracks from 1949 and six from 1950. Anyone with the slightest interest in Charles should investigate this material. It's amazing to hear Charles' metamorphosis from silky-voiced pop crooning (imitating his idols Charles Brown and Nat King Cole) into his passionate gospel-powered voice shortly after he signed with Atlantic Records in 1952. ~ Al Campbell

Ray Charles (piano, vocal)
Ralph Hamilton (bass)
Gossie McKee (guitar)
Mitchell "Tiny" Webb (guitar)
Milton Garred (bass)

1. I Love You, I Love You (I Will Never Let You Go)
2. Confession Blues
3. Alone In This City
4. Can Anyone Ask For More?
5. Rockin' Chair Blues
6. Here I Am
7. If I Give You My Love
8. Can't You See Darling?
9. This Love Of Mine
10. Blues Before Sunrise
11. How Long Blues
12. Sentimental Blues
13. You'll Always Miss The Water
14. Ain't That Fine
15. Don't Put All Your Dreams In One Basket
16. Sitting On Top Of The World
17. I've Had My Fun (Going Down Slow)
18. C.C. Rider
19. What Have I Done?
20. Honey, Honey
21. She's On The Ball

Recorded in Seattle, Washington in 1949 and Los Angeles, California in 1949-1950.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bunny Wailer - Sings The Wailers

Bunny Wailer was both the quietest and most spiritually creative of the Wailers. However, he also had a dancehall/Rockers edge that was best exemplified by the album "Bunny Wailer Sings the Wailers" in which he re-interprets some of the Wailers material as a solo Roots singer backed by a solid Sly & Robbie based Roots reggae grouping. The album was produced Bunny Wailer, recorded at Harry J studies. Some of these tracks are re-worked classic Wailers tracks (e.g. Dreamland - first recorded in 1970 with Lee 'Scratch" Perry and released as a 7" in 1971 with a U-Roy version on the B -Side). Another classic is Dancing Shoes, first recorded in the early 1960s as a driving Ska/Soul classic with Bunny Wailer as lead vocal.

As the title suggests, Bunny Wailer tackles ten of his former band's songs. You might be tempted to play them back to back with the originals. Don't. Enjoy this for what it was meant to be: a renewal of old Wailers favorites for the modern age. Of course this seems a surreal idea today, but, in 1980, Bunny had no idea that the Wailers' back catalog would soon become an industry in itself. For, at the time, although the group was dead, its members were still very much alive. Although the Wailers swiftly became a proper band, at heart they were a vocal trio, and a vocal trio stands and falls on three voices, regardless of the lead -- something this album inadvertently drives home. Without the harmonies, much of the songs' charm is lost, something Bunny obviously recognized, and attempted to alleviate by harmonizing with himself. In this he was only partially successful, however, many of the songs do gain musically via the arrangements. The masterful backing band featuring the usual top notch session men -- Sly & Robbie, Earl "Chinna" Smith," et al. -- lay down an evocative roots accompaniment, with hints of dubby overtones, but not such deep roots as to overwhelm the more delicate numbers. This works particularly well on the rocksteady songs, with "Hippocrite" and "Rule This Land" in particular gaining new life. Unfortunately, the singer on occasion overreaches himself, and his vocal strength just isn't up to the likes of "I Stand Predominate" and "I'm the Toughest" (proving once again that, indeed, Peter Tosh was). Oddly enough, the weakest track is Bunny's own "Dreamland," probably because his original was nigh on perfect and remains unbeatable. However, a bubbly "Dancing Shoes" is a winner, as is a particularly perky "Keep on Moving." With Wailers' recordings flooding the market, the entire premise for this album became pointless. It has its moments, though, even if none of the tracks really improve upon the originals. ~ Jo-Ann Greene

Bunny Wailer (vocals)
Earl "Chinna" Smith (guitar)
Robbie Shakespeare (bass)
Sly Dunbar (drums)

1. Dancing Shoes
2. Mellow Mood
3. Dreamland
4. Keep On Moving
5. Hipocrite
6. Rule This Land
7. Burial
8. I Stand Predominate
9. Walk The Proud Land
10. I'm The Toughest

Teddy Wilson - 1934-1935 (Chronological 508)

I was especially pleased to come across this particular Chrono; it completes my run of Teddy Wilson on that label, and it is an absolutely delightful CD in its own right.

There have been several overlapping reissue programs covering the material in the Classics series, especially the many Teddy Wilson recordings in which the pianist accompanied Billie Holiday. This particular CD has Wilson's first five sessions as a leader. He is heard on four fairly rare piano solos from 1934 (a year before he became a member of the Benny Goodman Trio), six other solos from October 7 and November 22, 1935, and on two band dates that resulted in nine numbers (including seven Billie Holiday vocals); the sidemen include trumpeter Roy Eldridge, tenorman Ben Webster, and (on three songs) clarinetist Benny Goodman. Lady Day's "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" and "I Wished on the Moon" are famous classics. ~ Scott Yanow

Other than some accompaniment work with Louis Armstrong in 1933, these are Teddy Wilson's earliest recordings and they find him in his purest form. The solos on this album reflect what he would be known for all through his career: impeccable rhythm, a light touch with the right hand, and a swinging style that any song could be adapted to. They are just gems to be treasured and are as lively today as they were when cut. In contrast to Scott Yanow, I have to say that the solos are noticeably freer and looser than would show up even five years later in the notable work recorded in 1940. His work with Billie Holiday on this album, so early in both their careers, reflects why Teddy became probably the best vocal accompanist that the jazz world has yet discovered. If you find this one, buy it!!! ~ Lee Grayson

Teddy Wilson (piano)
Chu Berry (tenor sax)
Ben Webster (tenor sax)
Roy Eldridge (trumpet)
Benny Goodman (clarinet)
Benny Morton (trombone)
John Kirby (bass)
Cozy Cole (drums)
Billie Holiday (vocals)

1. Somebody Loves Me
2. Sweet And Simple
3. Liza (All the Clouds'll Roll Away)
4. Rosetta
5. I Wished On The Moon
6. What A Little Moonlight Can Do
7. Miss Brown To You
8. Sunbonnet Blue (And A Little Straw Hat)
9. What A Night, What A Moon, What A Girl
10. I'm Painting The Town Red
11. It's Too Hot For Words
12. Sweet Lorraine
13. Liza (All the Clouds'll Roll Away)
14. Every Now And Then
15. It Never Dawned On Me
16. Liza (All the Clouds'll Roll Away)
17. Rosetta
18. Twenty-Four Hours a Day
19. Yankee Doodle Never Went To Town
20. Eeny Meeny Meiny Mo
21. If You Were Mine
22. I Found A Dream
23. On Treasure Island

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bill Watrous - A Time for Love: The Music of Johnny Mandel (1993)

Bill Watrous has long had one of the prettiest tones of any trombonist, especially in his impressive upper register. It is Watrous' beautiful sound that is emphasized during the nine Johnny Mandel compositions that comprise this CD. Watrous is accompanied by a big band and on some selections a string section but; other than pianist Shelly Berg (who along with Sammy Nestico contributed all of the arrangements), the backup crew is never allowed to rise above its anonymous supportive role. Watrous tries to vary the program a little with the inclusion of some earlier (and hotter) Mandel pieces such as the swinging "Low Life" and "Not Really the Blues" but otherwise this is a ballad showcase, highlighted by "Emily" and "The Shadow of Your Smile." - Scott Yanow

Bill Watrous (trombone)
Shelly Berg (piano)
Loue Fischer, Dave Carpenter (bass)
Randy Drake (drums)
Dennis Farias, Wayne Bergeron, Ron Stout (trumpet)
Doug Inman, Bob McChesney, Rich Bullock (trombone)
Sal Lozano, Phil Feather, Bill Liston, Bruce Eskovitz, Bob Carr (saxophone)
Sammy Nestico, Shelly Berg (arranger)
  1. Low Life
  2. The Shadow of Your Smile
  3. A Time for Love
  4. Close Enough for Love
  5. Emily
  6. Where Do You Start
  7. The Shining Sea
  8. Zoot
  9. Not Really the Blues

Pablo Ziegler - Buenos Aires Report

To hear the delightful sounds of Argentinean tango/jazz pianist, Pablo Ziegler and his trio on Buenos Aires Report is to allow oneself the indulgence of being transported to strolling the streets of Buenos Aires or to be swept into a scene of casual open-air dining at a late night café in Paris. The music is a sensuous combination of tango-inspired melodies with elements of classical music, jazz improvisational techniques and a sprinkling of gypsy bravado.

This is definitely music that can set a mood, allowing the listener to depart from everyday environs for a short sojourn into a more romantic world. Fans looking for virtuosity will not be disappointed by the artistry displayed by these accomplished musicians. But while their individual techniques can certainly be appreciated it is their commitment to the overall sound and dedication to the setting of the musical landscape that makes this a pleasing outing.

The music is inspired by the work of the late bandoneon virtuoso Astor Piazzolla, with whom Ziegler once played. The instrument’s sumptuous other-world quality played by the accomplished Walter Castro is a key element to the overall sound and mood that is evoked. One senses that Ziegler’s piano work is almost secondary to his compositional skills, which are formidable. His melodies are at times reminiscent of Michel Legrand or Claude Bolling, all the while retaining his Tango Nuevo roots.

Ziegler’s subtle interplay with the talented guitarist Quique Sinesi is spontaneous yet beautifully interwoven, a product of their long association together. The robust but sensitive playing of the bandoneon by Castro is the perfect compliment that completes the musical soul of this trio. A previous recording Bajo Cero(Khaeon World Music), with the same personnel, won the Latin Grammy for best tango album in 2005.

At times it is easy to visualize a movie being played against the backdrop of this marvelously evocative music. The live recording was performed in front of an obviously receptive audience in Amsterdam in 2006, and features eight compositions by Ziegler and one by Sinesi, along with the ever-popular Astor Piazzolla tune, “Libertango.” While perhaps not for everyone’s taste, this record stands on its own merits as a look into the stirring qualities that Tango Nuevo music can evoke, and the interesting way disparate cultures can fuse multiple musical traditions—tango, classical and jazz—into a distinctive musical language all its own. Ralph A. Miriello

Pablo Ziegler (piano)
Quique Sinesi (guitars)
Walter Castro (bandoneon)

1. Buenos Aires Report
2. Pajaro Angel
3. Places
4. Milonga Para Hermeto
5. Blues Porteno
6. Elegante Canyenguito
7. Muchacha de Boedo
8. Buenos Aires Dark
9. Libertango

Recorded live at Bimhuis, Amsterdam in April, 2006

Dexter Gordon - 1969 XXL. Live at the Left Bank

Ready for a 24-minute rendition of Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-a-ning"? You don't think so? Well, give it a shot -- you might be pleasantly surprised. Material from Dexter Gordon's May 1969 concert at the Famous Ballroom in Baltimore has already appeared on another live album (L.T.D., also on Prestige), but the three long tracks presented here are not cold leftovers. Opening with that 24-minute version of "Rhythm-a-ning," Gordon shows himself to be in peak form, improvising for a solid seven minutes without doing anything boring. Pianist Bobby Timmons is playing well too (though he's a bit hard to hear in the slightly unbalanced mix; bassist Victor Gaskin is, unfortunately, practically inaudible). And on this track, Percy Brice delivers one of what may be only two or three truly interesting drum solos in the history of jazz. The second tune is a version of "Misty" that comes across as surprisingly robust and rhythmically driven, despite its slow tempo and balladic melody; here, again, Gordon shines on an unusually long performance. The program culminates with a 22-minute rendition of "Love for Sale," which is given a gently propulsive and faintly Latin-tinged arrangement. Whether this can be considered an essential Dexter Gordon document is open to debate, but for those with a particular interest in the artist, it can be recommended without reservation.
Rick Anderson

Straight and strong work from Dex -- recorded in the extended blowing mode of some of his late 60s work from Europe, but recorded back in the US, in Baltimore, with a quartet that includes Bobby Timmons on piano, Victor Gaskin on bass, and Percy Brice on drums. The set's one of the last to feature Timmons work on piano, and while it's not as hard and funky as some of his own albums from the time, his presence in the group next to Gordon does give the set a particular edge that's different from the European sides. The album features 3 long tracks -- "Misty", "Love For Sale", and "Rhythm-a-ning" -- and all selections are released here for the first time!
Dusty Groove

01. Rhythm-A-Ning (Thelonious Monk) 24:12
02. Misty (Errol Garner) 10:14
03. Love For Sale (Cole Porter) 21:58

Dexter Gordon (tenor saxophone)
Bobby Timmons (piano)
Victor Gaskin (bass)
Percy Brice (drums)

Recorded live at The Famous Ballroom, Baltimore (Maryland) on May 4, 1969

Dexter Gordon - 1969 L.T.D. Live at the Left Bank

In the 1960's Baltimore was a haven for jazz fans with many clubs, concerts and hip record stores feeding the passion. One of the most important jazz organizations to come out of Baltimore in this era was The Left Bank Jazz Society, formed in 1964 and still operating today, it's the oldest continually operating jazz society in America. The weekly concerts (many fondly remembered by Ellery Eskelin, and make of that what you will...) they've sponsored since August 8, 1964 read like an encyclopedia of jazz immortals and luckily for us many of these classic performances were recorded and are starting to become available on CD.
This performance was recorded on one of Dexter Gordon's infrequent trips to the U.S. after moving to Europe in the early 60's. The rhythm section was a pickup unit from New York and had never played with Gordon previously.
The date consists of four extended workouts, the shortest clocking in at just less than nine minutes that give "L.[ong] T.[all] D.[exter]" plenty of opportunity to speak his piece.
"Broadway" opens the concert at a bright mid-tempo that sets the tone immediately. Dexter had recorded this song on the Our Man In Paris album in a definitive performance; it's interesting to compare the two versions especially since Dex doesn't have time constraints to deal with here. Dexter's playing seems to have been at a constant peak during these years and that's in vivid evidence here. He spins out chorus after inspired chorus (over 40!) where he endlessly toys with the melody and turns the tune inside out and backwards. Dex even digs into the R&B tenor bag with some uncharacteristic honking in spots that brought a smile to this reviewer's face. Timmons follows with a percussive workout and endlessly repeats (gets stuck?) on one little figure before breaking out with his trademark lightning right hand. While his chops are definitely on display he sounds a little unfocused during his solo, reaching for a myriad of ideas, some of which work, others that fall flat. Gaskin is next up to the microphone but unfortunately because of the mix it's nowhere near as punchy as it should be. When Timmons comes in to accompany him it's evident how out of tune the piano is. Dex returns for some trade off with Brice before restating the head, over 17 minutes since it began.
"Boston Bernie" is taken at a slightly less hectic clip, which suits Dex perfectly for another extended solo. The rhythm section sounds more comfortable at this tempo as well, although the repetitiveness of Brice's drumming starts to grate after awhile. Timmons puts in a much better performance on this tune and sounds like he's enjoying the changes.
Ellington's classic "In A Sentimental Mood" follows with a beautiful, heart wrenching performance by Gordon. Dexter was always a master of ballads; he's a true storyteller who makes every ballad sound as if it was written just for him. I have to hand it to Dexter for keeping the mood going on this piece because Timmons was certainly no help here, he sticks out like a sore thumb. His overly percussive comping underneath Dexter's solo detracts instead of enhances and his showboat solo is really out of place (and the out of tune piano only amplifies this). But nothing could throw off Dexter's cool, and re-enters magisterially to end the piece.
The old Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt warhorse "Blues Up And Down" ends the disc on a high note and is easily the most successful tune of the set. Dexter really pours it on during his choruses and finally the rhythm section responds with some true heat of their own, they would have been scared not to! The crowd is also audibly excited and it's easy to visualize some dancing going on underneath the fake painted clouds on the ceiling at the Famous Ballroom. Timmons' stomping ground is the blues and he sounds more inspired and comfortable on this piece than any other in the set, putting in a rollicking blues solo that matches Gordon's intensity if not quite matching his finesse. Gaskin & Brice lock into the groove nicely (if still a bit stiff); the arco bass solo is nicely played (with hints of Slam Stewart) although in this case it does kind of screech everything to a halt. Gordon comes charging back in for some more dialogue with Brice before taking it out.
The sound quality of the disc isn't state of the art but is listenable enough, although as with too many of today's remastering efforts it's regrettably bright, especially the cymbals, which had me reaching for the treble control after a few minutes.
This is a nice if not essential addition to the Gordon catalog. If the rhythm section had been more inspired, this could have been a monster. But another opportunity to hear Gordon the live artist—whether he's filling his lungs and stretching his legs in a nightclub, at a festival, or on the concert stage—is always sure to hold a few surprises.
Shawn Dudley

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

James Carter - Present Tense (2008)

Present Tense was born out of two very specific desires. First, saxophonist James Carter wanted a precise recorded portrait of where he was at as a musician, aesthetically and technically. Second was producer Michael Cuscuna's dead-on assertion that Carter, for all his instrumental and aesthetic virtuosity, had never been represented well on tape. Carter's inability to resist overdoing it on virtually everything he records (ten-minute solos in standards, etc.) makes that point inarguable. Cuscuna proves to be the perfect producer -- as both ally and foil -- and reins Carter in to benefit the recording as a whole. The band on Present Tense is solid: the young trumpeter and fellow Detroiter Dwight Adams, pianist D.D. Jackson, bassist James Genus, and drummer Victor Lewis round out the quintet, with percussionist Eli Fountain and guitarist Rodney Jones playing on three cuts each. The program is wide-ranging and eclectic, but it locks. It offers a portrait of Carter as an exciting traditionalist who can stretch arrangements and previous interpretations to the breaking point, without simply making them egotistical statements about him as a soloist.

Dave Burns "Rapid Shave" opens the set on a stomping, storming, Blue Note-style hard bop workout with Carter's tenor and Adams' trumpet playing the 24-bar jump blues with joyous abandon. Adams' comps push the fat harmonic center straight to the front. Genus and Lewis offer sprightly tempos and interesting rhythmic accents. Adams proves he can hang with the big fellows nicely in his own solo. Carter's "Bro. Dolphy" is one of the most compelling and emotionally satisfying tunes on the set, with Carter on bass clarinet. It opens as an angular, slightly dissonant harmonic sprint but gives way to some of the most lyric balladry Carter has ever composed; one can hear his love of Billie Holiday in the melody even as he evokes Dolphy's own love of the blues and simpler melodies. But this isn't enough by a long shot, and before long the ballad gives way to a stomping, Mingus-style workout, the very kind that showcased Dolphy's artistry as both a soloist and arranger.

Django Reinhardt's ballad, "Pour Que Ma Vie Demeure," with Carter on soprano, is lovely. It lowers the intensity and features a fine solo by Genus. Other standouts include Dodo Marmarosa's "Dodo's Bounce," with Carter on flute and Adams playing a muted trumpet. Its elegant, cool swing is balanced by Jones' semi-percussive strum that adds a weight to the rhythm section. Jones also appears on the Carter original "Bossa J.C." Fountain's congas shimmer in this samba, which contains a post-bop force inspired by Ray Barretto's tough Latin jazz sensibility and the lyricism of Tom Jobim. Carter's solo seeks the places where the tune's melody breaks out, and succeeds in finding it. Jones follows the roll of rhythms in his single-string and chord voicings as he alternates between George Benson-esque funk and Baden Powell's elegant textural statements. It works without a hitch. Whether it's in the sprinting bop pyrotechnics of Gigi Gryce's "Hymn of the Orient," or the off minor tropical blues of Jimmy Jones' "Shadowy Sands," or the balladry of the standard "Tenderly," Present Tense showcases Carter at his most disciplined and ambitious. Even his originals -- check "Sussa Nita" -- use the tradition in ways he hasn't employed before. This may be Carter's finest album because of its insistence on the balance between restraint and adventure. Carter placed himself in Cuscuna's expert hands and it has paid off handsomely. ~ Thom Jurek

James Carter (flute, bass clarinet, soprano sax, tenor sax, baritone sax)
Dwight Adams (trumpet, flugelhorn)
D.D. Jackson (piano)
Rodney Jones (guitar on 4, 6 & 9)
James Genus (bass)
Victor Lewis (drums)
Eli Fountain (congas, percussion on 4, 7 & 9)

1. Rapid Shave
2. Bro. Dolphy
3. Pour Que Ma Vie Demeure
4. Sussa Nita
5. Song of Delilah
6. Dodo's Bounce
7. Shadowy Sands
8. Hymn of the Orient
9. Bossa J.C.
10. Tenderly

Clarke-Boland Big Band - All Smiles

These are terrific albums from what had become a settled personnel. The section work is electrifying ... All Smiles has a very fetching cover showing a young woman in extreme decolletage, though classicly draped, which makes it art. The music's pretty classic, too, with some crackling Boland arrangements and great playing right through the ensemble. The cuts are short and punchy but "When Your Lover Has Gone" takes on an epic status just by dint of the voicings; a great performance. ~ Penguin Guide

Co-chaired by legendary bop drummer Kenny Clarke and Belgian-born pianist/composer Francy Boland, the Clarke-Boland Big Band ranked among the top European orchestras of the '60s and early '70s. The group formed in 1960 following Clarke's relocation to Paris; originally, he and Boland -- fresh off a stint as an arranger for Kurt Edelhagen's German-based orchestra -- teamed in a sextet setting, quickly followed by an octet; the roster continued to grow, however, and soon a big band comprised of other American expatriates and top European players was in place. After earning a reputation as a major live force, the Clarke-Boland Big Band finally made their recorded debut with the 1962 LP Jazz Is Universal; over a dozen more albums followed prior to the group's 1973 dissolution. ~ Jason Ankeny

Kenny Clarke (drums)
Francy Boland (piano)
Sahib Shihab (baritone sax, flute)
Johnny Griffin (tenor sax)
Tony Coe (tenor sax)
Ronnie Scott (tenor sax)
Jimmy Deuchar (trumpet)
Idrees Sulieman (trumpet)

1. Let's Face The Music And Dance
2. I'm All Smiles
3. You Stepped Out Of A Dream
4. I'm Glad There Is You
5. Get Out of Town
6. By Strauss
7. When Your Lover Has Gone
8. Gloria's Theme
9. Sweet And Lovely
10. High School Cadets

The Best Pianists You Never Heard Part 11: Amanda Tosoff & Francesca Tanksley

The first of 2 parts featuring terrific young women who can hold their own at the keyboard against anyone. Amanda Tosoff comes from Canada (but we won't hold that against her, eh?). She is a staple at jazz festivals up there in the north, but not so well known down here in the States. She deserves wider recognition, for sure. Here's what AAJ has to say: "In just under 4 years, The Amanda Tosoff Quartet has emerged as one of the foremost young jazz groups in Canada. Featuring the highly developed interplay of four award winning musicians, all under age of 25, the band focuses on Tosoff's original compositions and, which are featured on their debut release “Still Life”. In live performance, the band burns with the intensity of seasoned veterans at the top of their game, tackling the gambit of jazz styles. Tosoff's intricate, swinging and expressive playing has been likened to that of jazz legends Wynton Kelly and Bill Evans. The Quartet has been featured on CBC Radio 1 “Hot Air” and “Jazz Beat” programs, and recently opened for jazz legend Bobby Hutcherson's Quartet at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival." "Still Life" is Tosoff's first recording as a leader and is now OOP.

Many of you may recognize Francesca Tanksley as the house pianist for Billy Harper. "Journey" represents her one and only recording as a leader and, sadly, it too is OOP. AMG says, "A surprising debut indeed, as Ms. Tanksley's strong sense of swing is tempered by her penchant for altering the various rhythmic interludes with lush harmonics and wistful melodies. The trio's synergy comes to fruition from the onset. The pianist often delves deep into these various frameworks to complement a series of lightly crashing cadenzas. Tanksley's fluent right-hand, single-note lines are nicely augmented by her rhythmically oriented block chords. The pianist's compositions are marked by climactic episodes, where she tinkers with the primary melodies as a means for extended improvisational forays. Moreover, guest vocalist Judy Brady lends her wares for the emotively constructed work titled "Prayer." Overall, this CD should accelerate Tanksley's stature within modern jazz circles. " (Glenn Astarita, AMG) We should have heard some more from Tanksely in the 6 years that have passed since "Journey" was released.

Next time, we'll take a look at Amina Figarova and Rachel Z. The future of jazz is in good hands.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Peter Erskine - Peter Erskine

Erskine is (justifiably) among the most admired drummers of the contemporary American circuit: besides his formidable technique, he's gregarious enough to handle virtually any musical situation and is a thoughtful composer to boot. His first record as a leader found him in charge of a relatively straightforward post-bop session; but with such a heavyweight gathering of studio craftsmen all on their toes, the results are impressive if a little too brawny here and there. ~ Penguin Guide

Drummer Peter Erskine's debut as a leader (originally made for Contemporary and reissued on CD in the OJC series) finds him using top players (most of whom had played with Steps Ahead) in various combinations. Erskine performs a few of his own originals (including an 11-minute "All's Well That Ends" and a short drum solo) plus "My Ship," Wayne Shorter's "E.S.P.," and Bob Mintzer's "Change of Mind." With such musicians as trumpeter Randy Brecker, tenors Michael Brecker and Mintzer, pianist Kenny Kirkland, and vibraphonist Mike Mainieri getting some solo space, this post-bop music (from an often-overlooked set) is of consistent high quality. ~ Scott Yanow

Peter Erskine (drums)
Michael Brecker (tenor sax)
Randy Brecker (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Mike Mainieri (vibes)
Kenny Kirkland (piano)
Don Grolnick (electric piano)
Bob Mintzer (tenor sax, bass clarinet)
Eddie Gomez (bass)
Don Alias (conga)

1. Leroy Street
2. In Statu Nascendi
3. E.S.P.
4. Change Of Mind
5. All's Well That Ends
6. My Ship
7. Coyote Blues

Lee Morgan - Candy

This is the first CD release of this work, with the digital transfer by Ron McMaster: it is - to my ears - better than the subsequent Van Gelder "improvements", (read: re-sales). I'm not sure about the arrogance frostings and such, but Leemo is nicely quirky with these standards; and as usual, Sonny Clark alone is worth the price of admission.

Lee Morgan's classic Candy, his only quartet album and historically one of his finest recordings, was issued in stereo only briefly in the late sixties on the Sunset label in the U.S.. Here for the first time on Blue Note and in CD format, this masterpiece is presented in stereo from the original tapes and with the inclusion of "All At Once I (sic) Love Her". Although this tune was previously issued on Japanese Blue Note anthology, the session is released in stereo and in its complete form for the first time in the compact disc format. ~ Michael Cuscuna

Recorded around the time the 20-year-old graduated from section duties with Dizzy Gillespie's group to featured soloist with the Jazz Messengers (with whom he was to record two classics. Moanin' and A Night In Tunisia), these quartet sessions have an attractive frosting of arrogance that doesn't quite disguise a callow romanticism on things like Buddy Johnson's 'Since I Fell For You' and 'Who Do You Love'. ~ Penguin Guide

Lee Morgan (trumpet)
Sonny Clark (piano)
Doug Watkins (bass)
Art Taylor (drums)

1. Candy
2. Since I Fell For You
3. C.T.A.
4. All The Way
5. Who Do You Love, I Hope
6. Personality
7. All At Once You Love Her

Monday, October 19, 2009

Oscar Peterson - The Complete Young Oscar Peterson (1945-1949)

These initial early studio tracks by pianist Oscar Peterson were recorded in Montréal from 1945 to 1949. Peterson is featured mainly with a trio (occasionally replacing drums with guitar) and a quartet on four tracks. The two discs feature chronological sessions, finding Peterson forming his own identity, although still under the influence of Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum. All 32 tracks were originally recorded for Victor, with an emphasis on standards, boogie-woogie, and blues played with a rotating rhythm section of Canadian musicians. ~ Al Campbell

" ... From 1945-1949, he recorded 32 selections for Victor in Montreal. Those trio performances find Peterson displaying a love for boogie-woogie, which he would soon discard, and the swing style of Teddy Wilson and Nat King Cole. His technique was quite brilliant even at that early stage, and although he had not yet been touched by the influence of bop, he was already a very impressive player." ~ Scott Yanow

" ... Several collections of the pianist's complete RCA sides also feature [Ben] Johnson, during an era when the flamboyant style of this pianist was still in its growing stages. Many of these tracks ring in at three minutes or less, meaning the playing is to the point and, in the case of the guitarist, extremely subtle when noticeable". ~ Eugene Chadbourne

Oscar Peterson (piano)
Ben Johnson (guitar)
Armand Samson (guitar)
Clarence Jones (bass)
Mark Wilkinson (drums)

CD 1
1. I Got Rhythm
2. Louise
3. My Blue Heaven
4. Sheik Of Araby
5. Flying Home
6. C Jam Blues
7. If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight)
8. Humoresque
9. Blue Moon
10. In A Little Spanish Town
11. Time On My Hands
12. China Boy
13. Runnin' Wild
14. Sweet Lorraine
15. Honeydripper
16. East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon)

CD 2
1. (Back Home Again In) Indiana
2. Margie
3. I Surrender, Dear
4. I Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You
5. Oscar's Boogie
6. Smiles
7. Stairway To The Stars
8. Poor Butterfly
9. Oop Bop Sh-Bam
10. Sweet Georgia Brown
11. Sleepy Time Gal
12. Rockin' In Rhythm
13. Fine And Dandy
14. My Heart Stood Still
15. Somebody Loves Me
16. At Sundown

M'Boom - Live at S.O.B.'s - New York (1992)

Max Roach's final recording with his all-percussion group M'Boom is a live set recorded at the long defunct S.O.B.'s in New York City. Utilizing a vast array of instruments, including vibes, marimba, xylophone, conga, and timpani, among others, Roach and his band offer engaging interpretations of originals written by bandmembers, and standards along with jazz compositions by others and at least one surprise, while the personnel often varies greatly from one track to the next, ranging from solo to octet. Janet Jackson's "Come Back to Me" hardly seems like a plausible jazz vehicle, but with Roach sitting out and Joe Chambers' marimba solo, it takes on a Latin flavor and manages to swing. "Body and Soul" is unusual as a humorous duet for Chambers' vibes and Roy Brooks on musical saw. The in-your-face take of Thelonious Monk's "Epistrophy" and campy "Blue Monk" (with Warren Smith playing the melody on timpani) are obvious highlights, but the compositions by the bandmembers also merit high praise. It is unfortunate that this fascinating band was not documented more extensively, but this recording is full of surprises for anyone willing to explore it. - Ken Dryden

Percussion Ensemble
Max Roach, Joe Chambers, Roy Brooks, Omar Clay, Eli Fountain, Craig McIver, Ray Mantilla, Warren Smith, Fred King, Francisco Mora, Steve Berrios
  1. Gazelle
  2. Epistrophy
  3. Circles
  4. Maimoun
  5. Rumble in the Jungle
  6. Come Back to Me
  7. Blue Monk
  8. Go Between
  9. Caravanserai
  10. Body and Soul
  11. Kuji
  12. Jamaican Sun
  13. Perfect Little Things
  14. That's It
Recorded at S.O.B.'s, NYC, January 9th, 1992

Sunday, October 18, 2009

BN LP 5025 | Wynton Kelly - New Faces/New Sounds

From Richard Cook's excellent book on Blue Note;
"In the end, Kelly made only two sessions for Blue Note, and Lion squeezed three 78's and a single ten-inch LP out of them."

"Kelly's ten-inch album was BLP 5025, New Faces - New Styles: Piano Interpretations By Wynton Kelly [actually New Faces - New Sounds], and was one of a string of titles which went under that general heading, 'Blue Note's Modern Jazz' series. The cover art for Kelly's album featured a small photograph of the pianist, just slightly upper-left-of-centre, framed in a protoplasmic two-colour dreamscape with a melting staircase and a bare-branched tree. It was a design by Gil Melle..."

For specific tracklistings, have a look at the excellent Jazz Discography Project

Pete Johnson - 1944-1946 (Chronological 933)

You gotta love a guy whose big hit was named "Death Ray Boogie". Albert Nicholas is pretty fine here.

"The 1944-6 collection starts with eight superb solos made for Brunswick: 'Answer To The Boogie' and the breathtaking 'Dive Bomber' are Johnson at his most powerful. Then follow three band dates made for National, with various swing veterans helping out in the front line (and with two vocals by the young Etta Jones). The later two both feature variations in line-up, with the players entering one at a time on the first and Webster, Page and Higgenbotham taking turns out front on the second. It all ends on the rent-party stomping of 'Pete's Housewarming'. Another fine Johnson CD." ~ Penguin Guide

The third "complete" Pete Johnson CD put out by the European Classics label features the great boogie-woogie pianist in three different settings. There are eight formerly rare piano solos from 1944 that cover a variety of moods, five selections with a hot Kansas City octet which includes trumpeter Hot Lips Page, tenorman Budd Johnson and two vocals from the young Etta Jones, and eight intriguing numbers in which Johnson is gradually joined by an additional musician on each track. "Page Mr. Trumpet" is an exciting outing for Hot Lips, and the other top players include clarinetist Albert Nicholas, trombonist J.C. Higginbotham and tenorman Ben Webster. A particularly exciting release. ~ Scott Yanow

Pete Johnson (piano)
Hot Lips Page (trumpet)
Ben Webster (tenor sax)
J.C. Higginbotham (trombone)
Albert Nicholas (clarinet)
J.C. Heard (drums)

1. Kaycee Feeling
2. Lights Out Mood
3. Dive Bomber
4. Answer To The Boogie
5. Mr. Freddie Blues
6. Zero Hours
7. Bottomland Boogie
8. Rock It Boogie
9. I May Be Wonderful (But I Think You're Wrong)
10. Man Wanted
11. 1280 Stomp
12. Atomic Boogie
13. Back Room Blues
14. Pete's Lonesome Blues
15. Mr. Drum Meets Mr. Piano
16. Mutiny In The Doghouse
17. Mr. Clarinet Knocks Twice
18. Ben Rides Out
19. Page Mr. Trumpet
20. J.C. From K.C.
21. Pete's Housewarming Blues

VIDEO: James Carter Quintet at New Morning

The eurosatellite channel MEZZO keeps on giving when other channels just go to boredom! Recently I saw the James Carter Quintet playing in 2004 at the famed Paris night spot NEW MORNING which continually presents "La musique qui "entraîne dans une étreinte furieuse nos sens et les sons" selon l'écrivain surréaliste égyptien Georges Henein. Moments intenses de plaisir, d'exaltation et de joies. Moments uniques qui ne se répéteront pas, car, ici, tout est "dans l'éclat éblouissant de l'instant", comme l'a écrit un autre amateur de jazz, Jean-Paul Sartre." The quintet consisted of Dwight Adams on trumpet, Johnny O'Neal on piano, Leonard King on drums, and Ralph Armstrong on bass. Keep an eye on Mezzo's schedule for a re-broadcast, as well as other great jazz videos.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Max Roach - M'Boom

This could easily be seen as a gimmicky session which could have over-proved it's point after a few tracks, but it is musicianship of a high order; and repeated listenings are always rewarded. Roach had already earned a solid reputation as an innovator 20 and 30 years before this date, yet I think this is one of the most interesting and original things he ever put out. And he was working with the likes of Braxton and Cecil Taylor and Brother Ahh ( Brother Ahh was an acolyte of the truly tripped-out Sun Ra (not tripped-out on any substances mind you, he was just gloriously nuts)"), Dollar Brand and Connie Crothers at this period. The man never stopped growing. The only thing wrong with this CD, in fact, is the dopy Peter Max-oid cover.

"In 1979 Max Roach founded M'Boom, a group consisting of eight percussionists. Their debut recording (which has been reissued on this Columbia CD) is far from being a monotonous drum battle. In fact, through the utilization of a wide range of instruments that include chimes, timbales, marimba, vibes, xylophone, tympani, various bells and steel drums, there are quite a lot of melodies to be heard during these nine performances (which are all group originals other than Thelonious Monk's "Epistrophy"). This is a particularly colorful set that is easily recommended not only to jazz and percussion fans but to followers of World music." ~ Scott Yanow

The musicians play a multiplicity of instruments, including temple blocks, vibraphones, tympani, bells, marimbas, gongs, saws, - you name it.

Roy Brooks
Joe Chambers
Omar Clay
Fred King
Max Roach
Warren Smith
Freddie Waits
Ray Mantilla

1. Onomatopoeia
2. Twinkle Toes
3. Caravanserai
4. January V
5. The Glorious Monster
6. Rumble In The Jungle
7. Morning/Midday
8. Epistrophy
9. Kujichaglia

New York: July 25-27, 1979

Johnny Dodds - 1927 (Chronological 603)

For those who wish to develop a strong relationship with early jazz, there are certain records that may help the listener to cultivate an inner understanding, the kind of vital personal connection that reams of critical description can only hint at. Once you become accustomed to the sound of Johnny Dodds' clarinet, for example, the old-fashioned funkiness of South Side Chicago jazz from the 1920s might well become an essential element in your personal musical universe. Put everything post-modern aside for a few minutes and surrender to these remarkable historic recordings. It is January 1927, and the band, fortified with Freddie Keppard and Tiny Parham, is calling itself Jasper Taylor & His State Street Boys. The exacting chronology works well here as we are given detailed access to the records made by Dodds and a closely knit circle of musicians during the month of April 1927. Three duets with pianist Parham lie at the heart of Dodds' recorded legacy. Four trio sides feature Lil Armstrong at the piano and some very expressive guitar playing by Bud Scott. "The New St. Louis Blues" is particularly impressive, in fact downright hypnotizing. Scott sounds a lot like Bobby Leecan as he strums and strikes the strings with great deliberation. Speaking of Louis Armstrong, get a load of how he cooks and swings through four incredible stomps with Jimmy Bertrand's Washboard Wizards. Bertrand himself was a lively character, Jimmy Blythe was one of the best pianists in town at the time, and by 1927, Louis was well on his way to becoming the most influential -- and painstakingly imitated -- jazz musician of his generation. The sheer vitality of these records is incredible. Each performance is a delight, and Fats Waller fans will enjoy the Wizards' spunky interpretation of Waller's "I'm Goin' Huntin'." The very next day, Johnny Dodds' Black Bottom Stompers made four records in a Crescent City groove. "Weary Blues" positively percolates, and a perusal of the personnel is illuminating. Cornetist Louis Armstrong, trombonist Roy Palmer and clarinetist Johnny Dodds are joined by Barney Bigard, who boots away on a tenor saxophone. 1927 was the year that Bigard joined Duke Ellington & His Orchestra, there to distinguish himself by playing the clarinet like nobody else before or since. How interesting to hear him laying down basslines and occasionally soloing with a big sweaty sax. The presence of Bud Scott, Earl Hines at the piano and Warren "Baby" Dodds behind the drums rounds out one of the most intriguing ensembles in the entire Johnny Dodds discography. The remaining eight sides, variously attributed to the State Street Ramblers, the Dixie-Land Thumpers and to Jimmy Blythe & His Owls, are scruffy stomps with washboard percussion by Baby Dodds, elegant piano from Jimmy Blythe, and the chattering cornet of Natty Dominique. These are among the best records that Johnny Dodds ever made, and the producers of the Classics Chronological Series are to be commended for having released them in this outstanding package. ~ arwulf arwulf

Johnny Dodds (clarinet)
Louis Armstrong (cornet)
Freddie Keppard (cornet)
Tiny Parham (piano)
Lil Hardin Armstrong (piano)
Earl Hines (piano)
Baby Dodds (drums)

1. Stomp Time Blues
2. It Must Be The Blues
3. Oh, Daddy Blues (You Won't Have No Mama)
4. Loveless Love
5. 19th Street Blues
6. San
7. Oh! Lizzie (A Lover's Lament)
8. Clarinet Wobble
9. New St. Louis Blues
10. Easy Come, Easy Go Blues
11. Blues Stampede
12. I'm Goin' Huntin'
13. If You Want To Be My Sugar Papa
14. Weary Blues
15. New Orleans Stomp
16. Wild Man Blues
17. Melancholy
18. There'll Come A Day
19. Weary Way Blues
20. Cootie Stomp
21. There'll Come A Day
22. Weary Way Blues
23. Weary Way Blues
24. Poutin' Papa
25. Hot Stuff

The Anthology Of American Folk Music

This is a touchstone in the history of recorded music; I've never met a music fan - jazz, classical, punk, rock, you name it - who didn't acknowledge this as a master work. Yet for all the scholarly and academic acceptance of this collection, it remains, as the reviewer below says, just plain fun. This is a wonderfully seductive collection.

This impressive - and frankly, fun - musical document is still sending out shock waves almost 50 years after its original 1952 vinyl release. The Smithsonian's six-CD reissue is painstakingly researched, annotated, and packaged (even boasting an enhanced disc for the techno-capable). Unlike field recorders, eccentric filmmaker/collector/musicologist Harry Smith assembled the Anthology from commercially released (though obscure) 78 rpm discs issued between 1927 and 1935. Its broad scope--from country blues to Cajun social music to Appalachian murder ballads--was monumentally influential, setting musicians like Bob Dylan down the path to folk fandom. The White House started its own national music library with the Anthology; anyone with more than a passing interest in American roots music should do the same. ~ Michael Ruby

This deluxe 6-CD collector's boxed set contains a 96-page book featuring Harry Smith's original songbook framed by essays by Greil Marcus and other noted writers, musicians, and scholars. Play the enhanced sixth disc on your CD-ROM drive and access historic video footage, rare photos, artist interviews, and additional background information. Edited by Harry Smith. Reissue compiled by the staff of Smithsonian Folkways. Reissue liner notes by Greil Marcus, Neil Rosenberg, Jeff Place, Jon Pankake, Luis Kemnitzer and others. "...the missing link in rock's official history." ~ Newsweek

"I half heard a story about the Anthology on Natl Public Radio a few months ago while I was getting ready for work. The story kept coming back to me, until I had to buy the Anthology to get some peace. Instead of peace, I find that I am now disturbed, intrigued, and haunted.

Music is ill-suited to being described in words, so I'll use an entirely different experience to try and convey what listening to this Anthology is like.

I once knew a fellow who had grown up on Bechtel construction project sites around the world. As a kid playing in the dirt at these sites, he'd collected a box full of those stone tools that humans made and used for something like three million years. I found that once I had turned one of these slips of chipped obsidian or shale over for a moment, it settled naturally into my hand. There was a spot for my thumb, another spot for my forefinger, and my hand was making a scraping or digging motion with the thing. The tool and my hand still remembered their ancient partnership, without any volition from me. This sensation was simultaneously disturbing and satisfying and made the hair stand up on my neck.

This sensation is very close to what I feel listening to this anthology. You will not hear the familiar, highly produced music we're now so comfortable with. You will hear the voice and sound of music as it has been for millions of years -- and you will recognize what you are hearing as being utterly, essentially human.

These recordings were, of course, made only 75 years ago in the 1920's, surely part of the modern era. Yet this was the last moment in time between the old world and the new world. We still sing and play music for the same reasons we always have, but the way we used our voices and instruments for millions of years has been changed by technology. So if these not very old recordings feel strangely like a link to something ancient and mysterious, that's because they actually are.

There is a great beauty in the voices on these recordings, many of which are almost shrill, almost off-key -- unfamiliar to our pampered contemporary ears -- but also perfectly right. There is a mystery in the odd and sometimes fragmentary lyrics, whose once important meaning is now lost.

We can still share the depth of feeling through the music itself, sometimes so strongly that your heart leaps as though you'd been kicked from inside. But, as it says in the booklet of notes, while we can share in the emotions that impelled someone to sing about The Coo Coo Bird in the first place, we'll never know why it was important to live on a mountainside in order to see Willie go by.

Perhaps the true power of this Anthology is that every recording is genuine in a way that is no longer possible. I recommend it." ~ Karen Newcombe

Solo, Duo, Trio, Quartet, Quintet: Marc Copland

Marc Copland – Solo: Time Within Time

Solo recordings have their risks and rewards. Risks, because the artist is laid completely bare, with nothing to fall back on but his or her own abilities; rewards because there is the greatest opportunity for pure and unencumbered expression. While Time Within Time is not pianist Marc Copland's first solo release—which was the '01 Sketch release Poetic Motion—it does give one the opportunity to assess the continued evolution of a pianist who, quietly and without any fuss, is emerging as one of the most significant pianists of the last twenty years.

Part of the reason for this emergence has to do with the number of releases Copland has been putting out since '00. With Time Within Time and his new trio disc with guitarist John Abercrombie and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, Brand New, representing his 12th and 13th releases as a leader or co-leader in the past five years, and new trio and quartet discs in the offing for later this year, Copland's exposure has never been greater. And yet, while he is as meaningful an artist as Brad Mehldau, for example, he remains in lower profile, without the same level of recognition.

Time Within Time utilizes a conceit familiar to fans of Copland's earlier Hatology discs, using multiple interpretations of the same tune to subdivide the album into chapters of sorts. On Haunted Heart and Other Ballads it was "My Favourite Things; on And... it was Paul Simon's "Old Friends"; and now, to tie into the "time" theme, Copland uses the Leonard Bernstein composition "Some Other Time." Copland's four readings demonstrate an increasing penchant for abstract impressionism, a characteristic that defines much of the recording. While the almost iconically familiar theme is never far from the surface, Copland surrounds it with more oblique harmonies and spacious textures, giving each interpretation its own complexion.

In fact, while Copland's reputation for lyricism and romanticism remains intact, in particular on his renditions of the John Lewis classic "Django" and Don Sebesky's sentimental "You Can't Go Home Again," elsewhere he demonstrates a more abstruse side. The original composition "River's Run" may be a blues, but it's so harmonically altered as to be nearly unrecognizable as one. And when Copland looks at two widely recorded classics, also blues—Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" and Miles Davis' "All Blues"—while he is clearly true to their essence, he liberally reharmonizes them, taking them both to darker places.

In contrast to solo works by Keith Jarrett and Mehldau, whose recent Live in Tokyo included a twenty-minute stream-of-consciousness "Paranoid Android," Copland works more in miniature, never running the risk of overstaying his welcome. And, as much as improvisation is an unequivocal component, Copland always works within a structure. Still, he exploits, to great effect, the ability to be freer with time than is possible in larger group contexts; possibly the meaning behind the title. Time Within Time is a rich and hauntingly beautiful recording from an artist whose eye is always on the core of song, and whose formidable abilities are always the means, never the end. –John Kelman, All About Jazz

Marc Copland piano
Recorded July 28 & 29, 2004

Marc Copland - Duo: with Bill Carrothers - No Choice

Dual-piano recordings pose a distinct challenge. Given the instrument’s range, how do two players work together and avoid clashing? Marc Copland and Bill Carrothers provide one answer on No Choice, an album of primarily jazz standards, plus one free improv piece and a remarkable look at a classic Neil Young tune.

With Carrothers on the left channel and Copland on the right, it’s easy enough to distinguish their voices. Both pianists possess the kind of listening skills that allow them to intuit when to play and when to lay out, and where they should focus in terms of range and harmony. But, in a choice that came about completely organically, Carrothers works on the lower half of the piano for the most part, while Copland often occupies the upper register.

That’s not to say that Carrothers is restricted to being an accompanist--the position usually associated with the piano’s lower register. Equal opportunity is provided for each pianist to lead the way, though more often than not they move forward as integrated whole. This makes their abstract harmonic choices on classics like “You and the Night and the Music” and “Take the A Train” all the more arresting, and their ability to morph Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” into a myriad of other shapes and forms simply uncanny.

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.

Two versions of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” bookend the disc. If she was lonely before, she’s positively bleak now. The first take dispenses with Coleman’s haunting melody up front, allowing both players to head in other directions, while the second takes its time to find the melody. The two approaches demonstrate just how openminded Copland and Carrothers are.

Their take on Neil Young’s classic “The Needle and the Damage Done” is a surprising highlight. Carrothers’ intro alludes to the wartime melodies he has explored on albums like Armistice 1918 (Sketch, 2004). When the melody emerges, shared by both pianists, the harmonies that support it are altered, but in a way that remains faithful to Young’s inherent folksiness.

The disc has been issued with two covers, one placing Copland’s name first, the other Carrothers’, which is one way of saying that No Choice is an album without a single leader. Instead, it finds two artists on equal ground, deeply committed to the interpretive, interactive and conversational fundamentals of improvisation. --John Kelman, All About Jazz

Marc Copland: piano, right channel
Bill Carrothers: piano, left channel.

Marc Copland – Duo: with Gary Peacock – What It Says

With a brooding approach that is nonetheless elegant in its delicacy, pianist Marc Copland teams up for yet another series of outstanding duets, this time with double-bassist Gary Peacock. What It Says represents some of Copland's most impressionistically abstract work and, for Peacock, his most successful duet outing this side of his work with Ralph Towner.

The pairing of Peacock and Copland is not exactly new; Peacock played on Copland's 1998 Savoy date, Softly , albeit in more traditional trio, quartet and quintet settings. By paring things down to the barest essentials, they have created a recording of quiet beauty; dark and mysterious, this is chamber jazz at its best.

Most telling are the two separate versions of Peacock's piece "Vignette." The first, a more rhythmically-propelled interpretation of a characteristically-spare motif, finds first Copland and then Peacock soloing with the kind of sheer lyricism that is almost painful in its simplicity. The album closes with the second reading, this time a solo rendition from Copland, where the harmonies are less direct, more abstruse.

Another Peacock piece, "Requiem," bears comparison to the version on the Marilyn Crispell trio recording from 2001, Amaryllis , as it so succinctly defines the difference between the two pianists. Crispell comes at the piece from a slightly more jagged, avant edge; Copland from a more romantic impressionistic point of view. Both are beautiful versions, but Copland is clearly the more graceful of the two.

Peacock, now nearing his sixth decade of performing, always manages to create an environment that is unpredictable and full of surprise. He has the remarkable capability, especially when in matched company, of managing to imply things that aren't there; it is part of the magic between these two players that on a piece like Copland's "Around in the Air" there is a palpable pulse even though one is not strictly being played.

Gracing the five Peacock and four Copland compositions are three improvisations that truly demonstrate Peacock's concept of spontaneous composition. "Call & Answer," in particular, is remarkable as each player first responds to and then develops and extrapolates on the other's presented motifs. For those who think that free improvisation implies no sense of structure or composition, these three pieces are as good a place as any to change that mindset.

That Peacock should be capable of music with this much dignity should be no surprise; neither should it be especially surprising from Copland who, while a late starter on his chosen instrument, continues to develop a personal approach that combines the best of American and European traditions. What It Says is another fine recording from France's Sketch Records, a label that is joining a select group of independents with an uncompromising sense of artistry, and a distinctive personality; Copland and Peacock have managed to capture the essence of the material in a programme that is rich in ambience and deep in emotion. –John Kelman, All About Jazz

Marc Copland piano & Gary Peacock bass
Recorded September 16 & 17, 2002

Marc Copland: Trio with Gary Peacock & Bill Stewart - Modinha

“A modinha is a kind of sentimental love song. The modinha is of uncertain origin, but it may have evolved in either Brazil or Portugal. Around the end of 18th Century[citation needed], Domingos Caldas Barbosa wrote a series of modinhas that were extremely popular, especially in salons, and so can be termed salon music. The modinha of the late 19th century was sung in the streets or as an outdoor serenade, usually accompanied by flute, guitar, and cavaquinho and peaches.”

The piano trio may be a longstanding jazz tradition, but that doesn't necessarily make it anachronistic. Pianist Marc Copland has been forging an increasingly distinctive identity that straddles the line between modern mainstream and greater abstraction for the past couple of decades. For this sublime recording, Copland recruited bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Bill Stewart—who last worked together with the pianist on Softly... (Savoy Jazz, 1998). The first of three trio dates in the series, each with a different lineup, finds the usually pensive Copland more outgoing than normal, although he has by no means left his introspective tendencies behind.

Three of the eight tracks are free improvisations, but you'd never know it. Peacock has long been connected with the concept of spontaneous composition, rather than free improvisation per se—which may seem like splitting hairs, but there is a difference. His association with Copland goes back nearly twenty years, and they are clearly of like mind when it comes to pulling form from the ether. It may be an abstruse motif, as on the challenging "Slap Happy," or rhythmically focused, as on "Aglasia," where Peacock's dark pedal tone evolves into a two-chord vamp that Stewart latches onto and develops into greater forward motion. But in either case—as well as in the clear swing of "Flat Out"—the three players share a sense of purpose that transcends mere extemporization.

The rest of the written material includes three standards, one contribution from Peacock, and two from Copland. Peacock's "Half a Finger Snap" opens up the disc, based around a brief but compelling idea that Copland uses to shape his entire solo. Peacock's tone is robust but possesses a sharp edge that distinguishes him from fellow bass icons Dave Holland and Charlie Haden. The song may be only four minutes long, but despite the enforced brevity of the solos, everyone's identity is instantly recognizable. Stewart remains one of the most melodic drummers on the scene today; he builds his solo around Peacock's theme, just as clearly as the others.

The trio revisits "Rain," from Copland's At Night (Sunnyside, 1990), a moody and dramatically understated piece where one can hear the evolution of Copland's more oblique harmonic conception. Its ten-minute length shows just how much a spare but by no means simplistic form can inspire extended extrapolation. The shorter "Peach Tree," the hardest-swinging track on the disc, is more assertive, spotlighting Stewart's compositional approach to soloing.

On the three standards Copland, Peacock and Stewart demonstrate an ability to elegantly think outside the box without neglecting what defines each tune. Copland's recorded work has been remarkably consistent despite its prolificacy—and, on the strength of this first volume, one can only hope that the other two won't be far behind.

Marc Copland piano Gary Peacock bass Bill Stewart drums

Recorded March 11-12, 2006

Marc Copland: Trio with Dieter Ilg & Ralph Penland – Tracks

In great music there is always continuity of thought. The process that artists go through to achieve this continuity is different and varied. This difference, this variety, is what we refer to as style.

Style can be observed in the more obvious features of the music, such as the transition of style from two-beat bass to the “walking bass”. A more subtle type of style applies to the individual characteristics that are developed by a particular artist. In effect style defines an artist.

Marc Copland defines this style in the second, more subtle way. Not content to follow the larger stylistic influences that seem to change every few years, Marc continues to refine that continuity of thought which defines him as an artist, and which wholly his own.

A close examination of the music on this disc will reveal many things about style, and about continuity of thought. First there is the lack of “function”, or role playing. In the hands of Dieter Ilg the bass is free to become any part of the trio-melody, harmony or rhythm. Dieter’s flexibility creates many moods within the trio, allowing Marc’s piano and Ralph Penland’s drums certain kinds of freedom; the freedom to reharmonize, to abstract, to find “home”, to celebrate, to relax, to cry.

Marc, Dieter and Ralph communicate in a world of abstract options; the options of implication, of nuance, of sustaining the momentum of discovery. Within the subtle context of the trio, phrases become new compositions. (That they all compose is another reason this trio gels. They hear with the attitude of composers.)

The listener should not be influenced by what is written. But what is written should encourage the listener to respect artistic process and the continuity of thought. But first, listen!

Marc Copland has been my pianist of choice since 1985. He has no peer when it comes to harmonic freshness. He is totally free of cliché. Yet he has a warm and human sound. When I think of the progress and growth of Marc as a soloist and recording artist I can smile and say that I was part of that process. – Bob Belden, from liner notes

Marc Copland piano Dieter Ilg bass Ralph Penland drums
Recorded November 21, 1991

Marc Copland: Trio, Quartet & Quintet - Softly

One of the intriguing things about pianist Marc Copland is that he started out playing the saxophone and was enjoying a successful career on that instrument, including a stint with the Chico Hamilton Quintet and an album with guitarist John Abercrombie, when he decided to switch gears and take up the piano. And after several years of full-time study (and a name change), he was able to establish himself as one of the more exciting, innovative, and technically adept pianists on the New York scene.

On his new album on Savoy Jazz, Copland's excellent trio (with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Bill Stewart) is joined by two superstar saxophonists, Michael Brecker and Joe Lovano, as well as up-and-coming trumpeter Tim Hagans. Copland and friends pair up in a variety of trio, quartet, and quintet settings on an interesting selection of mostly standards plus three fine Copland originals.

Copland's exceptionally fluid playing is marked by subtlety, economy, and an unusually sensitive touch. He shines on trio versions of "My Foolish Heart" and two Cole Porter tunes, "I Love You" and "So in Love." The album opens with an oddly metered, faster than usual take on Oscar Hammerstein's "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," featuring impressive work from tenor giant Lovano on a song associated (at least in this writer’s mind) with John Coltrane.

Refreshingly, Copland also looks to the contemporary (well, at least the 1970s) pop world for material, although with mixed results. Joni Mitchell's "Blue" is presented in a moody, somewhat meandering version that never quite takes off. The slow funk take on Marvin Gaye's soul classic "What's Going On" is more successful, with a solid groove put down by the rhythm section and some nice turns from Brecker. --Joel Roberts, All About Jazz

Marc Copland on piano Tim Hagans on trumpet Gary Peacock on bass Bill Stewart on drums
Joe Lovano on tenor sax on tracks 1 & 7 Michael Brecker on tenor sax on tracks 2,3 & 6

Recorded September 1997
1998 Savoy Records

Ornette Coleman - The Empty Foxhole

Denardo Coleman, son of the free jazz master, is now forty years old and has been playing drums for thirty-four years. The Empty Foxhole, however, dates from 1966, when the drummer was ten years old.
Proud papa explains in the liner notes that he gave an enthusiastic Denardo a drum set for Christmas when he was six. That would mean that at the time the album was recorded Denardo probably had more experience playing drums than Ornette had on trumpet and violin, his two new instruments which are lovingly featured on this album. Of the six cuts, only "Good Old Days," "Faithful," and "Zig Zag" contain Ornette's inimitable alto saxophone. The title track and "Freeway Express" present the master on trumpet, and "Sound Gravitation" is the first and only piece Ornette has ever recorded exclusively on violin. Father and son are joined by Charlie Haden on bass, who thus becomes, on three of these tracks, the only player who has extensive experience with the instrument he's playing. As such he is the stabilizing force of the trio.
Freddie Hubbard famously commented in a Blindfold Test that Denardo the drummer sounded "like a little kid fooling around." Miles Davis, in a Blindfold Test of his own, mistook Don Cherry for Ornette on trumpet, which may be insulting to Don Cherry, Ornette, or neither one. In any case, the trumpeter, the violinist, and the drummer in this group are anything but conventional, and that's just what the leader wanted.
When Ornette picks up his alto here, he plays more simply than usual. "Good Old Days" is as straightforward a blues as Ornette plays; "Faithful" is another in the series of mournful ballads Ornette was playing at the time (the wrenching "Sadness" never made it to the studio, but is worth checking out on live discs); "Zig Zag" is playful. Ornette's adventurousness here is confined to the intense trumpet piece "Freeway Express," where he pulls Miles' chain a little with a harmon mute, and the intense violin workout "Sound Gravitation." I had a chance to pick up a violin the other day. I've never played it in my life, but in a few seconds I was approximating "Sound Gravitation."
Does that mean it's worthless as music? No. Ornette Coleman is not a conventional musician, but he has too much musical talent to make a bad album. Haden's bowed bass interacts skillfully with his furious violin. For that matter, Haden is masterful all the way through. Listening to him listen to Ornette (and Denardo) and react is a musical experience of value. Nor is the little kid just fooling around. The music here is unlike most everything else that ever came out of Blue Note, or anywhere, but those who won't notice or care that these guys are not the smoothest of instrumentalists might enjoy this album. I do. ~ Robert Spencer

Ornette Coleman's brief tenure at Blue Note was neither as seminal as his Atlantic output nor as brazenly ambitious as his early-'70s work for Columbia and later with Prime Time. Still, the period did produce some quality music, and The Empty Foxhole is one of his most intriguing efforts. Coleman hadn't entered a recording studio in over four years when he returned -- with his ten-year-old son Denardo on drums. Coleman says in the liner notes that Denardo was ready to make a record the previous year, and he's not overestimating; Denardo's percussive coloring and shading never sounds lost or confused, and his stream-of-consciousness flow of ideas keeps up surprisingly well with his father and bassist Charlie Haden. The communal energy keeps flowing throughout the session, and the trio members play off of each other with an easygoing enthusiasm, even on the less memorable themes. Most evocative are the funereal military march of the title track, where Ornette's mournful trumpet plays off of Denardo's deliberate cadence, and "Sound Gravitation," a feature for Coleman's scratchy, percussive violin. Of the alto-driven pieces, "Good Old Days" has the fieriest flow of ideas, but he seems energized by his son's presence, and his playing is fairly exciting throughout. On balance, the music may not be among Coleman's most exceptional efforts, but there's something inspiring about the fact that The Empty Foxhole is as good as it is. ~ Steve Huey

Friday, October 16, 2009

Geri Allen - The Printmakers (1984)

Geri Allen's first album as a leader and still one her best. Now OOP it is almost impossible to find at a price less than your mortgage payment. Here's a nice review by Ken Dryden: "Geri Allen's 1984 debut as a leader is a far cry from her better-known releases. The pianist leads a trio with drummer Andrew Cyrille and bassist Anthony Cox through a set consisting of advanced original compositions. Her opener, "A Celebration of Life," initially focuses exclusively on Cyrille's mouth percussion (followed by a drum solo) before she and Cox make a belated entrance to turn it into a delightful African dance, cast in a post-bop setting. Her haunting tribute "Eric" (dedicated to the late Eric Dolphy) is a dissonant melody reminiscent of the compositions of Dolphy's associates Jaki Byard and Charles Mingus. "M's Heart" is another moving bittersweet ballad, building from a repeated motif into a tension-filled solo. "Printmakers" is yet another furious vehicle for the trio and a stimulating one. "Andrew" is an eerie, twisting theme featuring Cox's moody arco bass and Cyrille on tympani, accompanying Allen's mysterious ballad. Released by the European based label Minor Music, this brilliant CD unfortunately seems to have lapsed from print. This session will prove to be an ear-opening experience for those familiar with Geri Allen's more mainstream work." (Ken Dryden, AMG)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Max Roach - Speak, Brother, Speak

I was listening to Roach's M'Boom - an excellent album - and as I was putting it away I noticed this. I don't think it has appeared here before, and it features some nice Mal Waldron work, so I figured it was a candidate for discussion.

A crusader for civil rights, Max Roach was both lauded and highly criticized for his outspokenness. Certainly, this album reflects the personality of the master drummer in the political overtones of its title. However, Roach plays a set of music here that belies the notion that his '60s output had merely become another outlet for his political agenda. As he and his band "speak," they do so gently, with great control, elegance, and wit.

Of the two compositions heard here, the title track is an evolving 25-minute hard bop chart that winds its way into Roach's classic "The Drum Also Waltzes," a solo drum set piece. The second song, "A Variation," begins rubato but gradually morphs into a straight up swing tune. Filled with many creative solos by Roach, Clifford Jordan (tenor sax), and Mal Waldron (piano), Speak, Brother, Speak is superb jazz.

"This reissue CD of a live set originally put out on Debut has two very lengthy tracks (the 25-minute "Speak, Brother, Speak" and the 22-and-a-half-minute "A Variation") featuring solos by tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan, pianist Mal Waldron, bassist Eddie Khan, and drummer Max Roach (who wrote both of the pieces). The music is somewhere between hard bop and the avant-garde, and the musicians really push each other, although the results are not quite essential. Clifford Jordan fans in particular will find this to be an interesting set." ~ Scott Yanow

Max Roach (drums)
Mal Waldron (piano)
Clifford Jordan (tenor sax)
Eddie Khan (bass)

1. Speak, Brother, Speak
2. A Variation

Recorded at The Jazz Workshop, San Francisco: October 29, 1962

Myra Melford - Mark Dresser Matt Wilson - Big Picture

Pianist Myra Melford, bassist Mark Dresser, and drummer Matt Wilson perform seven intriguing originals on this CD. To simplify the improvising a bit, it hints strongly in spots ofCecil Taylor, the percussiveness of Don Pullen, and of Keith Jarrett's '70s inside/outside music without sounding like a copy of any of those predecessors. The interplay between the three musicians is consistently exciting and, while Melford is the main soloist, Dresser has some spots on bowed bass while Wilson's supportive contributions should not be overlooked. The performances are consistently unpredictable, drawing upon much of jazz history of the past 40 years while creating new and fresh music. This set grows in interest with each listen and contains some of Melford's finest playing to date. --Scott Yanow, All Music Guide [October 2007]

Corraling these three was an inspired notion -- toppermost musicians with obvious chemistry, relaxed and trying to prove nothing. Seems they made an adventuresome, extremely likable record without hardly trying. Yea tho they be avantists, they shrank not from having a bit o’ sport with the blues -- strolling, strutting and dazed/confused on “Modern Pine”; tumbling into a regular bar scuffle complete with busted stools and an escalating “oh yeah well so’s your mama” riff on “Naïve Art.” There’s a tip of the hat to Ornette (“For Bradford”), a dark and stealthy paranoia riff (“FreeKonomics”), and let’s see what happens when we seat post-bop next to Iberian tango and serve up the bubbly (“BrainFire and BugLight”). Melford applies her hard-rubber piano touch to rush and splash; Wilson drums with prodding, conversational humanity; Dresser is bigger and more bottomy than you probably expected, turning in an emotional hate-to-even-call-it-a-performance on Melford’s “Secrets to Tell You” -- the way his bass melody laments and his coarse overtones plead, it veritably feels as if he’s bowing your heartstrings. And let me tell you my own story of the long cinematic title track. Melford’s lost in the back roads of New Jersey, see, late for a gig, when she pulls over to scan a map and falls asleep. She wakes in another world -- beautiful, but she senses danger. As her head clears (did somebody slip knockout drops into her coffee?), bright light shoots painfully through her consciousness and she remembers a dire prophecy. A low rumble begins, then builds. The ground is shaking! She prays, unsure, never having prayed before. And the earthquake relents. It was only a 4.8. Or was that just the setup for the main temblor? Dunno. Wait for the sequel. --Greg Burk, MetalJazz [October 2007]

The dynamic that occurs when a specific group of players comes together just can’t be predicted, even if they’ve worked together in other contexts. That’s the story with Trio M—pianist Myra Melford, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson—three musicians who have intersected on more than one occasion and talked about getting together as a trio. After a handful of 2006 gigs proved correct their inkling that this trio project had more than just potential, they hit the studio with a collection of material, some of which will be familiar to fans of Dresser’s Aquifer (Cryptogramophone, 2002) and Melford’s Where the Two Worlds Touch (Arabesque, 2004). Big Picture proves the malleability of strong material in the hands of a different set of players.

Melford’s “brainFire and bugLight,” a series of motifs linked together by unfettered free play, isn’t quite as chaotic here as it was on Two Worlds, but pared down to a trio there’s an even stronger sense of connection between the musicians. First Dresser, then Melford, get unaccompanied solos; but it’s how the other trio-mates gradually insinuate themselves into the picture that makes things especially interesting. The eastern-tinged 5/4 ostinato passed around like a tag-team early on, allowing everyone the chance to take the lead, is powerful stuff; how they gradually converge into a two-chord, 6/8 pulse from Melford’s solo, no sooner getting there than shifting gears again into another repeated pattern that gives Wilson another solo opportunity before returning to the 5/4 pattern to close, is more impressive still.

Melford and Dresser both have strong reputations in free jazz/improv, and the exuberant Wilson has no shortage of experience either. But the drummer is perhaps better-known in a space that’s a little closer to center—albeit still left-of—and more closely aligned with contexts that groove. On Melford’s title track which, at over thirteen minutes is both the album’s longest and its centerpiece, Wilson effortlessly works through the pianist’s various complex cues without a hitch, creating an underlying ebb-and-flow turbulence that’s as close to reckless abandon as he’s ever been.

That’s not to say, amidst Melford’s near-anarchistic improvisations and Dresser’s fluctuating pulses, that Trio M doesn’t, at times, groove or play it gentle. The bluesy vibe of Dresser’s “Modern Pine” is undeniable, despite breaking midway through Melford’s solo into a double-time swing, then accelerating further into a quarter-note triplet feel that drives Melford to even greater extremes before settling back to its more visceral opening tempo. Melford’s “Secrets to Tell You,” featuring Dresser’s ever-remarkable arco, is an ethereal tone poem that approaches deeper beauty without ever resorting to tired cliché, while the 7/4 pattern at the heart of Wilson’s “Freekonomics” provides a core over which Wilson and Dresser play liberally with time; shifting and elastic, yet ever-present. If this is a snapshot of where Trio M was after only a few gigs, one can only hope there’ll be a follow-up to Big Picture—an album where nobody dominates and everyone shines. -- John Kelman, All About Jazz [November 2007]

Who are today's heroes of jazz? Icons pushing the art form forward, while both challenging and amazing the listener, emerge from a generation that cut their teeth in the Downtown scene of the '80s and '90s (not AACM sages of the '60 and '70s, but not fresh-faced out of music school, either) and have matured into masters of their craft who can set the example clear into this next century.

Bringing some such stalwarts into laser-sharp focus is the group called Trio M, combining three of the tightest and most innovative players for reasons presumably other than their first initials.

Frequent Dave Douglas collaborator Myra Melford -- the top female avant-garde pianist I can think of, other than Marilyn Crispell -- has an innate ability to swing inside and express the blues succinctly (see the track "Naive Art") but also to venture way out, Cecil Taylor style.

Then we have Mark Dresser, member of Anthony Braxton's group in the late '80s, whose current resume stretches from college professor to classical symphony player, along with working from everyone from John Zorn to Andrew Cyrille. And finally, drummer Matt Wilson, who began in the Boston with the famed Either/Orchestra and has pounded his way towards recent recognition in Downbeat magazine.

So Trio M is a supergroup in every sense, but what do they accomplish on this debut? Right out of the gate, "brainFire and bugLight" demonstrates their knack for both a head-bobbing 5/4 motif and for gentle, sculptural soundscapes. "Modern Pine" heads in the other direction, aiming for accessible, finger-snapping lounge-pizzazz, almost making you think there are two different groups on the same disc, until Melford unconventionally unravels her piano lines. If it doesn't get serious consideration for public radio airplay, something's wrong with the program director.

On "Secrets to Tell You," Dresser spins beautiful, somewhat mournful arco melodies, while "FreeKonomics" illustrates the most rhythmic aspects of the trio, as Wilson propels the proceedings with percussion that stops and starts on a dime. The centerpiece is truly the title track in the middle, containing an impressive overview of this trio's skill in wicked interplay and instrumental inventiveness, from introspective mellows to frenetic bombast. There's nothing so off-the-wall that any mainstream jazzer couldn't easily get the "Big Picture" on what the forefront of the avant-garde represents today. The "New Thing" is still as relevant and entertaining as ever. -- Manny Theiner, Pittsburgh Post Gazette [December 6th, 2007]

Big Picture returns Myra Melford to the interlocking trio format with which the diminutive pianist made her reputation in the early 1990s. Except that Trio M is more than the earlier Melford Trio writ large; it's completed by two other forceful improvisers and composers. Like the pianist, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson are bandleaders on their own. However, the seven-track CD, which divdes the playing and writing chores, irrefutably proves that the sum is greater than its parts.

Dresser, who teaches at UC San Diego, is a multi-faceted bassist who at different points on a composition like Wilson's "Naive Art" woodenly vibrates a plucked funky blues line in tandem with the drummer's backbeat crunches with the same assurance he uses to create spiccato squeezes to match Melford's slurry triple cadences.

Colouring the proceedings with steady bumps and clatter, plus unselfconscious rim shots, bell peals and tempo modulations, Wilson is as impressive a percussionist as he is a composer. Antiphonally, the three frequently interlock tones and tempos, as distinctive keyboard vamps, drum bounces or bass strokes often adumbrating connective themes.

Soldering together triple techniques most effectively is the more-than-thirteen-and-a-half minute title track. Polytonally modulating from cerebral strummed piano lines to romantic low-frequency runs to near-frenzied cascading overtones with characteristic portamento sluices, Melford's output is complemented both by Dresser's squeaky sul ponticello and double stopped shuffle bowing plus Wilson's rhythmic shifts from irregular ruffs and flams to hammered echoing cymbal resonation. Highly rated across the board, this is a Big Picture for everyone. -by Ken Waxman, CODA [November 2007]

The Creative process pursued by pianist Myra Melford, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson requires great concentration, openness and surrender on the part of the listeners. Melford's "brainFire and bugLight"starts as an assertive anthem built on variations of a simple three-note figure. What makes this trio so different is not that they depart this strong structure (Melford kicked free into long tumbling runs, Dresser whirling and fidgeting, Wilson spattering details in space), but that everything they spontaneously come upon creates new forms, and the relationships among the forms is never obvious. The deepest enigma is Melford's title track, a huge 13-minute expressionistic canvas. The component elements are knowable (blues moods, neo-classical architectures, free-jazz psychodramas, pairings in spiraling counterpoint, individual interludes like Dresser's arco mournings) and yet, again, the logic that connects them is not.

While staying alert enough to follow Trio M around is intellectually challenging, there is fun along with the work. Dresser's "Modern Pine," like everything from Trio M, is arcane and constantly transforming. It is also downright catchy. --Jeff Simon, Jazz Times [February 2008]

Taking a cue from their first names, they call themselves Trio M, but are established enough to keep their names on the spine. I figure the complex, cerebral stuff is pianist Melford's, and credit the bouncy bits to drummer Matt Wilson. There's no doubt that the weird arco bass is Dresser's. He has a huge reputation, but rarely makes albums you can kick back and enjoy. This is the exception. -by Tom Hull, The Village Voice [9/23/08]

1. Brainfire and Buglight Melford 7:36
2. For Bradford Dresser 5:16
3. Naive Art Wilson 5:43
4. Big Picture Melford 13:23
5. Modern Pine Dresser 6:58
6. Secrets to Tell You Melford 6:02
7. Freekonomics Wilson 5:23

Myra Melford piano Mark Dresser bass Matt Wilson drums

Recorded December 18, 2006
© 2007 Cryptogramophon Records 600134

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Billie Holiday - Volume 6: 1938 (Masters Of Jazz)

"Once young, vivacious, gay, provocative, she had not always worn the faded satin of those twilight years, not always borne that halo of weariness. But who really remembers those happier days? We call her Lady day without conviction, thinking of her in the encroaching darkness of slow decline as she bade a melancholy farewell to this lowly existence.

For one dazzling moment, however, betwen the banks of a childhood without childhood and an adulthood of dreary monotony, there had been a brief explosion of playful, wild, intoxicating joy. ..."

The notes to these Masters Of Jazz sets are great: "...unusually for a musician, Ben (Webster) was himself a jazz fan and record collector. Which no doubt explains the the tribute to Johnny Hodges on the first take of "Havin' Myself A Time", and the friendly nod in the direction of Benny Carter on the second."

So, by my count we have already discussed Volumes 2, 4-5, 8-12 of this series. This is 6, and I have Volume 1 (unless others have wandered). Any further illumination is welcome.

Billie Holiday (vocals)
Ben Webster (tenor sax)
Lester Young (clarinet, tenor sax)
Benny Carter (alto sax)
Harry James (trumpet)
Artie Shaw (clarinet)
Claude Thornhill (piano)
John Kirby (bass)
Jo Jones (drums)

Billie Holiday And Her Orchestra
1. Havin' Myself A Time
2. Havin' Myself A Time
3. Says My Heart
4. Says My Heart
5. I Wish I Had You
6. I Wish I Had You
7. I'm Gonna Lock My Heart (And Throw Away the Key)
8. I'm Gonna Lock My Heart (And Throw Away the Key)

Artie Shaw And His Orchestra
9. Any Old Time

Billie Holiday And Her Orchestra
10. The Very Thought of You
11. I Can't Get Started
12. I Can't Get Started
13. I've Got A Date With A Dream
14. I've Got A Date With A Dream
15. You Can't Be Mine (And Someone Else's Too)

Teddy Wilson And His Orchestra
16. Everybody's Laughing
17. Here It Is Tomorrow Again
18. Say It With A Kiss
19. April In My Heart
20. April In My Heart
21. I'll Never Fail You
22. They Say
23. They Say

Wynton Kelly Trio - 1967 Live At Left Bank Jazz Society, Baltimore

Pianist Wynton Kelly, one of the most respected musicians of his time (1950's - 60's), was better known as a complementary player than band leader. He fit in with countless musical situations (singers, big bands, Coltrane, you name it), and almost anything he played on is worth hearing if only for him. He never meant to upstage anyone, but his ensemble playing was so interesting and full of swing the listener is inevitably drawn to him. His soloing was equally as riveting with ideas pouring out continually. An open-door session like the LBJS with tunes 11 to 16 minutes long (this is a two-CD set.) was ideal for Kelly—the longer he played the better he sounded.

His four years with Miles Davis, from 1959 to 1963, really put him into a special jazz category and for which he is probably best known. On leaving Davis he again formed his own trio, this time using his former rhythm section colleagues from the Miles Davis quintet, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb.
He has an unobtrusive piano style, unpretentious and light, with an almost casual approach that is both swinging and happy sounding at one and at the same time, a free style free of clichés and cheap quotes, but not easy to put into words.
All these qualities are in abundant evidence in this 1967 recording, (which reunites three former members of the 1961 Miles Davis quintet), for Kelly was not only a solid group pianist but a stimulating soloist whose playing really caught fire on occasions, as it does here. Here he is leading a fine quartet in which he solos prominently, sometimes starting and ending some numbers himself, as he does on "On Green Dolphin Street", "If You Could See Me Now" and "Speak Low" (perhaps it was his way of letting the listener know who's boss?).
Mike Baillie (liner notes)

CD 1
01. On A Clear Day (Lerner-Lane) 15:16
02. Hackensack (Monk) 15:06
03. On Green Dolphin Street (Kaper-Washington) 15:09

CD 2
01. Milestones (Davis) 15:40
02. If You Could See Me Now (Dameron-Sigman) 11:41
03. Speak Low (Weil-Nash) 16:07

Wynton Kelly - piano
Hank Mobley - tenor sax
Ron McClure - bass
Jimmy Cobb - drums

Recorded live at the Left Jazz Society, Baltimore on November 12, 1967

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ethel Waters - 1923-1925 (Chronological 775)

I remember seeing Ethel Waters on TV sometimes when I was a kid, and she was always singing something about Jeebus; it came as a surprise when I found out how racy she was when younger.

"You don't become a jazz legend by growing old, playing grandmothers, and palling around with Billy Graham and Richard Nixon" ~ Susannah McCorkle

Good point. Waters is rarely mentioned at the various jazz blogs that recycle everything else over and over. She certainly has a past lurid enough to appeal to those that consider it de rigueur for a blues singer:

"She was conceived when her mother, 12 years old at the time, was raped at knifepoint. Born in Chester, Pennsylvania and growing up in and around nearby Philadelphia, she was raised by a grandmother and two alcoholic aunts, who abused her physically. She had neither a bed nor a bathtub and had vivid memories of opening closet doors only to come face to face with a rat on numerous occasions. By the time she was seven, Waters was serving as lookout for prostitutes and pimps in what she called Philadelphia's "Bloody Eighth Ward." "I played with the thieves' children and the sporting women's trick babies," Waters recalled in her autobiography, His Eye Is On the Sparrow. "It was they who taught me how to steal.""

For that matter, I was thinking earlier today that Pearl Bailey doesn't seem to be given much serious thought among the jazz fans I'm aware of. I'd be interested to hear from our vocal mavens about this.

The European Classics label's Ethel Waters program completely wipes out all of the other Waters reissues for it reissues all of her recordings from her prime years in chronological order. Since the singer was very consistent, there are very few duds and many gems in these sets. This particular CD traces Ethel Waters during a two-year period; both the recording quality and her accompaniment greatly improve during this time; cornetist Joe Smith is a standout and pianist Fats Waller is present on "Pleasure Mad" and "Back-Bitin' Mamma." Highlights includes "You Can't Do What My Last Man Did," "Sweet Georgia Brown," "Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night" and "Sympathetic Dan." ~ Scott Yanow

Ethel Waters (vocal)
Fletcher Henderson (piano)
Fats Waller (piano)
Don Redman (clarinet, soprano sax)
Lovie Austin (piano)

1. Long Lost Mama
2. Lost Out Blues
3. Ain't Goin' Marry (Ain't Goin' Settle Down)
4. If You Don't Think I'll Do Sweet Pops (Just Try Me)
5. Who'll Get It When I'm Gone?
6. All The Time
7. You Can't Do What My Last Man Did
8. Ethel Sings 'Em
9. Sweet Man Blues
10. Tell 'Em 'Bout Me (When You Reach Tennessee)
11. You'll Need Me When I'm Long Gone
12. Craving Blues
13. Black Spatch Blues
14. I Want Somebody All My Own
15. Pleasure Mad
16. Back-Bitin' Mamma
17. No One Can Love Me (Like the Way You Do)
18. Brother, You've Got Me Wrong
19. Sweet Georgia Brown
20. Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night
21. Sympathetic Dan
22. Down Home Blues

American Jazz Philharmonic (1993)

The American Jazz Philharmonic was born in 1979 under the leadership of Jack Elliott and a non-profit organization was established whose purpose was to commission symphonic jazz works to be performed in concert and on record. Before this recording, their first, the orchestra had performed nearly 80 concerts and premiered 85 new works from a wide range of composers, including Michel Colombier, Dave Grusin, Bill Holman, Roger Kellaway, John Lewis, Henry Mancini, Bob Mintzer, Gerry Mulligan, Joe Sample, Lalo Schifrin and Patrick Williams. Artists such as Stan Getz, Freddie Hubbard, The Manhattan Transfer, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Dianne Schuur, Tom Scott, Sarah Vaughan, Ernie Watts and Joe Williams have appeared in its performances.

More symphonic than jazz, this CD features four works, two of them commissioned by the American Jazz Philharmonic and three were premiered by the orchestra. "Open Me First", composed by John Clayton, "Nostalgico" was written by Manny Albam to feature Phil Woods, "Afterthought" is a three part Ray Brown composition, and "Symphonic Dances" was written by Claus Ogerman.

Jack Elliott (musical director)
Guest Soloists:
Phil Woods (alto sax)
Ray Brown (bass)
  1. Open Me First
  2. Nostalgico
  3. Afterthoughts (parts 1-3)
  4. Symphonic Dances (3 movements)

Joe Wilder - Softly With Feeling

Here is a release which is ripe for discussion in a few ways. It's a classic Van Gelder engineered and Ozzie Cadena produced date from a classic period. If this were a Blue Note issue, it would have been re-issued 37 times already, and would have been bought unheard by BN fetishists. And yet it is a relatively obscure CD.

I've been listening to this all morning and it is fine in a subdued, inventive, and entirely professional way. Almost lush, but without being soporific. And I believe that Mr. Wilder is still with us - if he were a BN alumnus we'd be far more aware of him, I think. Discuss among y'selves.

Before it was more common for jazz players like Wynton Marsalis to play both jazz and the "straight" music from stage, screen, and concert hall, trumpeter Joe Wilder broke the mold as a regular in Broadway pit bands and as a staff musician at ABC-TV from 1957-1973. After fleshing out his formal studies via stints with Lionel Hampton, Jimmie Lunceford, Lucky Millander, and Count Basie, Wilder augmented his "day job" at ABC with several dates as a leader. This 1956 Savoy session finds him in the sympathetic company of pianist Hank Jones, bassist Wendell Marshall, and drummer Kenny Clarke. The quartet effortlessly works through six cuts, focusing on fine ballad renditions of Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss," Noel Coward's "Mad About the Boy," and Jimmy Van Heusen's "Darn That Dream." Balancing out the after-hours mood, Wilder and company also stretch out on "Six Bit Blues" and a steady-rolling version of "Caravan." While Wilder takes quality solos throughout, especially on the slower cuts, Jones matches him track for track with his own elegantly swinging and thoughtful statements. One of the best of the trumpeter's early dates. ~ Stephen Cook

Joe Wilder (trumpet)
Hank Jones (piano)
Wendell Marshall (bass)
Kenny Clarke (drums)

1. Cherokee
2. Prelude To A Kiss
3. My Heart Stood Still
4. Six Bit Blues
5. Mad About The Boy
6. Darn That Dream
7. Darn That Dream (alt)
8. My Heart Stood Still (alt)

Van Gelder Hackensack Studio: January 19, 1956

Randy Newman - Harps and Angels

Randy Newman has earned a nice living in recent years as a film composer, but connoisseurs covet his Seventies work, when he emerged as one of the most cutting and empathic of American singer-songwriters. So his return to political-minded material on Harps and Angels is reason to wrap yourself in the flag and cheer.

Newman works with piano, an orchestra and a Dixieland-style combo, using American musical tradition to amplify irony and yank heartstrings. The best moments echo classics like "Sail Away" and "Louisiana 1927," songs that mixed pathos and bruised patriotism with brutal wit. The set's keystone is "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country," released on iTunes last year. A state-of-the-union ballad that cops musical DNA from "America the Beautiful," its lyrics raised eyebrows last year when they ran as an op-ed piece in The New York Times — albeit minus the final verse about "tight-ass" Italian Supreme Court justices. Its press-secretary punch lines about how the Bush administration ain't so bad compared with Stalin are Colbert Report-hilarious. But its eulogy for American empire and a people "adrift in the land of the brave and the home of the free" is profoundly sad.

Elsewhere, the jaunty "Laugh and Be Happy" winks at two-faced immigration policy, while "Korean Parents" is a gleefully stereotyping indictment of U.S. child-rearing set to chop-suey orchestration. The funniest number, "A Piece of the Pie," affectionately skewers pop polemicists John Mellencamp and Jackson Browne. But Newman's "Feels Like Home," once covered by Chantal Kreviazuk on the Dawson's Creek soundtrack, is an irony-free love song — perhaps for a dear nation that, after all, we'd be willing to go into therapy with. Will Hermes

It's nine years since Randy Newman's last album of new songs but, it seems, it's something like a miracle he's produced this one at all. He begins with a bluesy account of a near-death experience, a knee-trembling, heart-pounding episode that leaves him, for the purposes of the song at least, face down on the pavement unexpectedly facing his maker. The sound of harps and angels comes from God's backing singers as the judgment is delivered: 'You ain't been a good man, you ain't been a bad man...' Newman's tone is blacker than ever, both in pitch and comedy; the voice here aspires to the condition of Ray Charles with his evangelical piano.

Having survived this opening, Newman is easily into his conversational stride. His albums have always been brilliant missives from an overly examined emotional life and this one is no exception; few songwriters can grasp the contradictions of experience with quite his ungainly panache. He slips easily here from the loneliest of love songs 'Losing You' (which, like the wonderful 'I Miss You' from his last album Bad Love, seems to be addressed to his first wife) into a rambling country and western State of the Union address that first appeared as a download last year. 'I'd like to say a few words in defence of our country' - a cerebral honky tonk which tends to damn America with faint praise: 'The leaders we've had - well, they are the worst we've had but hardly the worst this poor world's ever seen...', along the way taking unexpected aim at the politicising of the Supreme Court and the imperial policies of King Leopold of Belgium.

Newman is coming up to 65 now but he is not about to retire his lapel-grabbing melodies. Just when he begins to sound like a protest singer (even of the most elusive kind) he throws in a show tune such as 'Laugh and Be Happy' or a conventional piece of Dixie jazz, in 'Only a Girl'. In fact, as ever, along the way he produces effortless outtakes from the whole American Songbook, a discordantly authentic Fourth of July marching band song in 'A Piece of the Pie' ('Living in the richest country in the world, wouldn't you think you'd have a better life?') and a sharp-chorded Cole Porter piece of laid-back cleverness in 'Easy Street'. These two songs represent the twin poles of Newman's unique satirical impulse - he is able both to rail against the nonsenses that attend the end of the American empire, and go with the sweeter possibilities of the American dream. Though you never doubt his occasional existential despair, he never really stays down for much more than five minutes.

And of course you never know quite which version of himself is going to come at you next. Who else could end all of this semi-pastiching with an authentic piece of late-night soul-searching? It remains extraordinary this ability to jump from Tom Lehrer to early Tom Waits. He signs off with a new version of his classic 'Feels Like Home', an intensely private coda which goes to prove that it's truly a blessing that Newman got through his touch and go opening; one from the heart indeed. Tim Adams

Randy Newman (vocals, piano)
Greg Cohen (bass)
Steve Donnelly (guitar)
Pete Thomas (drums)
Greg Leisz (pedal steel & acoustic slide)
Mitchell Froom (keyboards)
Orchestra arranged & conducted by Randy Newman

1 Harps and Angels 5:07
2 Losing You 2:42
3 Laugh and Be Happy 2:19
4 A Few Words in Defense of Our Country 4:13
5 A Piece of the Pie 2:42
6 Easy Street 3:14
7 Korean Parents 3:27
8 Only a Girl 2:44
9 Potholes 3:42
10 Feels Like Home 4:51

Recorded at Sunset Sound, Los Angeles and Alfred Newman Scoring Stage, 20th Century Fox, Los Angeles

Ken Vandermark's Joe Harriott Project - Straight Lines

Harriott was a contemporary of Ornette Coleman's in the 60s, and his free jazz experiements were no less exciting, but he never gained the same fame. Saxophonist Ken Vandermark attempts to set the record straight with this exciting celebration of Harriott's compositions. The tunes are filled with odd time signiatures, quirky stops and meaty lines that make for excellent improvisation on the part of Vandermark, Jeb Bishop on trombone, Kent Kessler on bass and Tim Mulvenna on drums. A strong tribute. Tim Sheridan

Ken Vandermark (clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor sax)
Jeb Bishop (trombone)
Kent Kessler (bass)
Tim Mulvenna (drums)

1 Tonal
2 Shadows
3 Straight Lines
4 Abstract
5 Idioms
6 Pictures
7 Formation

Airwave Studios, Chicago: September 3, 1998

Stephane Grappelly - 1941-1943 (Chronos 779)

I have to admit, with the exception of Grappelly and George Shearing (whose work I respect a ton), I am not really familiar with the artists accompanying Grappelly on this CD. However, I found this to be a very enjoyable listen. While it pains me to do so, I do have to agreee with the Scottster that the instrumentals on this are much stronger than the numbers with vocals. Special mention for Stardust, one of my favorite songs, that he makes swing quite nicely.

This Classics CD reissues some very rare recordings made by violinist Stephane Grappelli: all of his performances as a leader during a difficult three-year period. The violinist had decided to stay in England during World War II (when Django Reinhardt returned to France) and soon had a new group featuring the young pianist George Shearing. This CD has seven sessions with quartets and quintets along with one featuring a larger group that includes other strings and a harp. Although there are vocals on eight of the numbers (by Beryl Davis and Dave Fullerton), the swinging performances and the rarity of the recordings easily compensate.

Stephane Grappelly - violin, piano
George Shearing - piano
Dennis Moonan - alto saxophone
Harry Chapman - harp
Jack Llewelyn - guitar
1. I Never Knew
2. Sweet Sue - Just You
3. Tiger Rag
4. Stephane's Blues
5. Noel Brings the Swing
6. Dinah
7. Body and Soul
8. Jive Bomber
9. Margie
10. You're the Creamin My Coffee
11. Liza
12. The Folks Who Live on the Hill
13. Stardust
14. J-attendrai (Au revoir)
15. Weep No More, My Lady
16. When I Look at You
17. Three O' Clock in the Morning
18. That Old Black Magic
19. Star Eyes
20. Heavenly Music
21. I Never Mention Your Name
22. My Heart Tells Me

Monday, October 12, 2009

Clifford Brown - The Complete Paris Sessions

This is a welcome release of work previously - and incompletely - available on three discrete volumes, which get ridiculous prices on Amazon and other sites. These contain master, alternate and incomplete takes of the sessions recorded quasi-surreptitiously exactly 56 years ago.

Nick Catalano's excellent biography of Brownie goes into wonderful detail about these sessions, and is highly recommended. One example: "Gigi Gryce ... had studied composition with Daniel Pinkham and Alan Hovaness at the New England Conservatory of Music in 1948 and then made his initial trip to Paris on a Fulbright scholarship to study with Nadia Boulanger and Arthur Honegger."

While in Paris with Lionel Hampton's Orchestra, trumpeter Clifford Brown teamed up with altoist Gigi Gryce and a top-notch rhythm section (which includes pianist Henri Renaud, guitarist Jimmy Gourley, bassist Pierre Michelot and drummer Jean-Louis Viale) for two fine sessions .... Although Gryce was not a major soloist, he held his own with the trumpeter and was a talented composer. Most of the songs on this date are his including "Minority" (Gryce's most famous original). But it is for Brownie's brilliant playing on such tunes as "All the Things You Are," "I Cover the Waterfront" and "Minority" that this CD is most significant. ~ Scott Yanow

The history of trumpeter Clifford Brown is one of the most enduring legends in jazz. When he died at age 25 he was considered one of the greatest trumpeters ever. His round, expansive tone and command of bop rhythmic invention was evident from the start. In 1953, before he had begun to record as a leader, Brown was on tour in Europe with the Lionel Hampton band. There he was recorded in a variety of contexts--backed by a pedestrian rhythm section in a quartet setting, locking horns with alto saxophonist Gigi Gryce in a sextet and fronting a big band with six different trumpeters including Art Farmer and Quincy Jones. Vogue Disques has included some of this material on an anthology in the past and is now collecting the Paris sessions on their own. ~ John Swenson

Clifford Brown (trumpet)
Art Farmer (trumpet)
Quincy Jones (trumpet)
Jimmy Cleveland (trombone)
Gigi Gryce (alto sax)
Anthony Ortega (alto sax)
Jimmy Gourley (guitar)
Pierre Michelot (bass)
Jean-Louis Viale (drums)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

BN LP 5024 | Howard McGhee, Volume 2

Howard McGhee (tp) Gigi Gryce (as, fl -1/5) Horace Silver (p) Tal Farlow (g) Percy Heath (b) Walter Bolden (d)

WOR Studios, NYC, May 20, 1953

1. BN486-1 tk.10 Jarm
2. BN488-2 tk.15 Goodbye
3. BN485-1 tk.8 Futurity
4. BN483-2 tk.3 Shabozz
5. BN484-2 tk.6 Tranquillity
6. BN487-1 tk.12 Ittapanna

For specific tracklistings, have a look at the excellent Jazz Discography Project

The Joe Harriott Quintet - Abstract

"Parker? There's them over here can play a few aces too" - on Harriott's gravestone

This 1961 date recorded in England shows altoist and composer Joe Harriott in full command. Harriott was, like his contemporary Eric Dolphy, a consummate stylist whose tonal and harmonic inquiries led him off the left-hand path of mainstream jazzers. Harriott was interested in how mode and interval, when stretched to their limits by extended harmonics, could create "impressions" of lyricism and melody, without actually engaging them. The reason for this was simple, and a listen to any of the seven originals here -- the cover of "Oleo" is a throwaway -- will attest to it. But "Pictures," "Idioms," and "Tonal" -- constructed by harmony and rhythm, mode, and interval -- could be used to invert standard notions in that space and leave room for musicians or listeners to create their own impressions of what that sound world might be. Rhythmically, the quintet was also interesting, in that they allowed the standard notions of jazz time to fade into freer constructs that undid rhythm altogether -- check out the percussion on "Shadows" and try to find a time signature anywhere, though the ensemble has no trouble playing or keeping together during Harriott's raw, bluesed-out solo. Drummers Bobby Orr and Paul Seamen (who alternated) were both amazing. Pianist Pat Smythe was the driving force in the rhythm section, creating very large chords and pulsing them along modal lines to keep everyone focused. Trumpeter Shake Keane was the perfect lyrical foil for Harriott, in that his smooth, high-register approach contrasted brightly with Harriott's gospel and guttersnipe honk, and bassist Coleridge Goode was the technician of atmosphere for this band. Abstract is wonderful; it shows that the Brits were taking the new jazz of the early '60s and placing a spin on it because they had a few players like Joe Harriott. Here is a musician deserving of a wide reappraisal. Let's hope he gets it. Thom Jurek

Joe Harriott (alto saxophone)
Shake Keane (trumpet)
Coleridge Goode (bass)
Pat Smythe (piano)
Bobby Orr, Phil Seamen (drums)

1. Subject
2. Shadows
3. Oleo
4. Modal
5. Tonal
6. Pictures
7. Idioms
8. Compound

Joe Harriott Quintet - Free Form

The few recordings of Jamaican born saxophonist Joe Harriott have been hard to come by since they were initially released in the early '60s. Free Form is one of the most famous, recorded in London and released in 1960. Comparable to Ornette Coleman's recordings of the period, these eight pieces incorporate Harriott's hard bop influence, cutting through adventurous compositions including "Abstract," "Straight Lines," and "Impression." When listening to Free Form (or early Coleman for that matter) with a 21st century perspective, it's hard to imagine that this music was often considered intolerable upon release. (Although) It received the highest rating of five stars in the influential Downbeat jazz magazine and the quintet became a popular

Harriott's free form music is often compared to Ornette Coleman's roughly contemporary breakthrough in the USA, but even cursory listening reveals deep divisions between their conceptions of 'free jazz'. Indeed, there were several distinctive models of early free jazz, from Cecil Taylor to Sun Ra. Harriott's was another of these. His method demanded more complete group improvisation than displayed in Coleman's music, and often featured no particular soloist. Instead of the steady pulse of Ornette's drummer and bass player, Harriott's model demanded constant dialogue between musicians which created an ever shifting soundscape. Tempo, key and meter always free to alter in this music, and often did so. The presence of Bill Evans-inspired pianist Pat Smythe also gave the band a completely different texture to Coleman's, which by then had dispensed with the need for a pianist. Harriott's own playing style underwent some changes during this period, dispensing with orthodox bebop lines in favour of more angular, cut up phrasing. What remained however, was his lyricism, searing tone and sense of attack.

I like the fact that he was a sideman - alongside Jimmy Page - on a Sonny Boy Williamson album. On his gravestone, his own oft-quoted words provide his epitaph. "Parker? There's them over here can play a few aces too".

Joe Harriott (alto sax)
Shake Keane (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Pat Smythe (piano)
Coleridge Goode (bass)
Phil Seamen (drums)

1. Formation
2. Coda
3. Abstract
4. Impression
5. Parallel
6. Straight Lines
7. Calypso
8. Tempo

Ed Palermo Big Band Plays the Music of Frank Zappa

This hard-to-find CD is just delightful. Frank Zappa was an extraordinary musician, capable of composing anything from doo-wop R 'n R to classical music. Ed Palermo's arrangements deliver the spirit of the irrepressable Zappa via a smokin' big band studded with guest stars. "Rocker Frank Zappa briefly experimented with big bands in the early 1970s and again during his last tour in 1988; this big band tribute by saxophonist Ed Palermo concentrates primarily on pieces recorded for Zappa's early Mothers of Invention records. So many rock and modern pop tunes don't translate into jazz very well. Zappa's enthusiasm for unusual time signatures and wild chord progressions are relatively new ground for jazz musicians; Palermo dreamed for years of "fleshing out" Zappa's music for big band. This CD should have high appeal to jazz fans familiar with Frank Zappa's recordings, but others should also give it a hearing with open ears. " (Ken Dryden, AMG)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Louis Armstrong - From The Big Band To The All Stars (1946-1956)

Between the Chronological, Masters Of Jazz and this label, it seems undeniable that French labels do greater justice to earlier jazz than any American outfit. When you read the various reviews that cover some of these performances, you routinely come across terms like "astounding", "memorable", "adventurous". Hey, it's Pops; it's your loss if you dismiss him. Check out the (partial) list of sidemen here.

With the exception of the alternate take of "Hobo, You Can't Ride This Train" from 1932 and a couple of numbers with a big band in 1956, this two-CD set (a straight reissue of the RCA Jazz Tribune two-LP release of the same name) concentrates on the 1946-47 period. Most of the music has been reissued several times by RCA (including in their Bluebird series), but it is still quite valuable and enjoyable. The great trumpeter/vocalist Louis Armstrong is heard on a couple of numbers with the Esquire All-Americans, on his final dozen recordings with his swing big band, with trombonist Kid Ory for a few songs (highlighted by the earliest version of "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans"), with "The Leader's Band" (a group taken from the film A Song Is Born) and with trombonist Jack Teagarden in a couple of all-star bands; their version of "Jack-Armstrong Blues" is a real classic while "Please Stop Playing Those Blues" and "A Song Was Born" are close behind. Very enjoyable music, highly recommended in one form or another. ~ Scott Yanow

Louis Armstrong (trumpet)
Don Byas (tenor sax)
Lucky Thompson (tenor sax)
Duke Ellington (piano)
Billy Strayhorn (piano)
Johnny Hodges (alto sax)
Neal Hefti (trumpet)
Charlie Shavers (trumpet)
Kid Ory (trombone)
Jack Teagarden (trombone)
Johnny Guarnieri (piano, celeste)
Tommy Dorsey (trombone)
Benny Goodman (clarinet)
Manny Klein (trumpet)
Gerald Wiggins (piano)
Chubby Jackson (bass)
Sonny Greer (drums)
Chick Webb (drums)
Cozy Cole (drums)

CD 1
1. Long, Long Journey
2. Snafu
3. Linger In My Arms A Little Longer, Baby
4. Whatta Ya Gonna Do?
5. No Variety Blues
6. Joseph 'N' His Brudders
7. Back O' Town Blues
8. Endie
9. Blues Are Brewin'
10. Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?
11. Where the Blues Were Born In New Orleans
12. Mahogany Hall Stomp
13. I Wonder, I Wonder, I Wonder
14. I Believe
15. Why Doubt My Love?

CD 2
1. It Takes Time
2. You Don't Learn That In School
3. Jack Armstrong Blues
4. Rockin' Chair
5. Someday You'll Be Sorry
6. Fifty-Fifty Blues
7. Song Was Born
8. Song Was Born
9. Song Was Born
10. Please Stop Playing Those Blues, Boy
11. Before Long
12. Lovely Weather We're Having
13. Rain, Rain
14. I Never Saw A Better Day
15. Hobo, You Can't Ride This Train

Eric Watson - Ed Thigpen - Mark Dresser - Bennie Wallace - Full Metal Quartet

When Eric Watson moved to Paris in 1978, he was already a strikingly original pianist, as his adopted country soon discovered. His touch, with its infinite variety of nuances, established him as a distinguished international performer destined to share his musical innovation with audiences all over the world. Born in the U.S. in 1955, Mr. Watson is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory, where he studied classical piano, composition, and jazz improvisation. As a composer-performer he has constantly stretched the cumbersome boundaries between written and improvised music. He lends spontaneity to composition, and discipline to improvisation – while perpetually developing a new and fiercely independent musical language.

Known for his predilection for small groups of 2 to 4 musicians, Mr. Watson has collaborated with some of the most distinguished artists of his era: Paul Motian, Steve Lacy, Ray Anderson, John Lindberg, Joëlle Léandre, Albert Mangelsdorff, Daniel Humair and Linda Sharrock, among many others. He is also considered by many to be the ideal interpreter of Charles Ives’ solo piano music, a reputation acquired through an impressive array of recordings as well as numerous solo recitals throughout Europe.

His compositions have been abundantly recorded by various record labels, and numerous commissions include “Martial Arts” (1986) written for Martial Solal and the French National Jazz Orchestra and “The Twisted Suite” (1992), written for the Reader’s Digest - Meet the Composer Commissioning Program. A passionate lover of modern dance, Mr. Watson’s most successful efforts in this idiom are generally considered to be “No Beards in Albania,” presented at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and “Games of the Doll” for the Reflex Dance Group of Groningen, Holland.

In 1998 he formed a trio featuring two artists who need no introduction: bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Ed Thigpen. The group released its first recording entitled “Silent Hearts” in October 1999. The stunning critical acclaim culminated with the record’s nomination as one of the ten best albums of the year by the prestigious French daily newspaper Le Monde. In June of 2001, the trio gave two sold-out performances at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City, which were received with standing ovations.

Having received a commission for a new chamber music work from Radio France, Mr. Watson completed “Bénévoles,” written for the Australian violinist Jane Peters, in 1998.

Yet another commission followed in 1999, this time from the State Theater in Poitiers, France. “Full Metal Quartet” is an hour-long chamber jazz composition in which the trio is joined by tenor saxophone great Bennie Wallace as guest soloist. The resulting recording was acquired by the major record company Universal and released worldwide in October 2000.

While fundamentally a jazz musician, Eric Watson has consistently demonstrated his ability to contribute in contexts well beyond the realm of jazz. His dance score “The Peking Ballet” was commissioned by Radio City Music Hall and seen by 200,000 people during the summer of 1984, while multi-concert series of his music have been presented by the Lyon Opera and the State Theater in Poitiers.

He composed a 30-minute work for solo piano entitled “Constellations,” commissioned by the GMEM Contemporary Music Festival and which premiered in Marseilles, France.

In November of 2001, Mr. Watson transcended another boundary when he was appointed artistic director of La Villette Jazz Festival, the largest and most prestigious jazz event in Paris. At the same time, he assumed responsibility for jazz events at the Cité de la Musique, generally considered to be the crown jewel of French concert venues.

In February of 2002, a solo piano recording entitled “Sketches of Solitude,” consisting of original ballads and pieces by such masters as Bill Evans, Jimmy Rowles, Mal Waldron and Thelonious Monk, was released by Night Bird Music, becoming one of the best-selling jazz albums in France.

February 2003 brought yet another honor: Eric Watson was inducted as a “Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres,” or a knight in arts and letters, by the French minister of culture, Jean-Jacques Aillagon.

A French tour in April 2003 saw the premiere performance of a new quartet suite composed for the German tenor saxophonist Christof Lauer. The compositions were recorded by the prestigious German label ACT and released in the Fall of 2004 under the title Road Movies (ACT 9429-2) The album was named Record of the Year by the prominent French jazz monthly, Jazzman, among many other distinctions from the European musical press.

Eric Watson has been signed to an exclusive long-term recording contract with ACT Records. In the Spring of 2005 the French Institute and the Goethe Institute invited his quartet to Asia for performances in Hanoi, Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Kuala Lumpur and Sydney to commemorate the historic Elysée Treaty of Franco-German cooperation. He is presently composing new music for the next ACT album while performing throughout Europe. Jaded Angels (ACT 9452-2) a trio album with Peter Herbert and Christophe Marguet will be released end of October 2006.


On his own projects, pianist Eric Watson has always favored the solo and trio formats, seldom partnering with horn players — his collaboration with Steve Lacy being the one significant exception. For this session, tenor sax Bennie Wallace replaced trombonist Ray Anderson at the last minute. He acquits himself in style and his vibrant presence helps remove any of the dryness that sometimes mars Watson's music. The leader's own brand of romanticism tinged with mystery immediately transpires with the opening track, "Tryst." It is followed by the spirited "Wear and Tear" a complex angular composition firing in all directions and relying on incredible melodic invention. Some beautiful ballads such as the languorous "Dragonfly" prove to be the perfect backdrop for Wallace's legato playing. The music also incorporates some folk forms and never forgets to swing as on the title track, a piece that slowly evolves into a red-hot boogie. The session could not be a complete success without the contributions of bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Ed Thigpen. Dresser's unique style gives some additional character to the project, and Thigpen reminds us constantly that his nickname is "Mr. Taste." His understated accents are only surpassed by his listening skills. Full Metal Quartet is both one of the pianist's highest achievements, and the ideal starting point to sample his multifaceted talent. Alan Drouot, AMG

1 Tryst 4:46
2 Wear and Tear 9:08
3 Dragonfly 7:30
4 Stitches 7:53
5 Secrets 6:10
6 Full Metal Quartet 8:25
7 The Big Dipper 6:40
8 Confessions 3:18
9 Tryst Revisited 7:58

Eric Watson piano
Bennie Wallace tenor saxophone
Mark Dresser bass
Ed Thigpen drums

All Compositions by Eric Watson

Recorded December 4-6, 1999 & January 10-11, 2000
2000 Free Flight Inc.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Art Farmer - The Summer Knows (1976)

With all of the Art Farmer albums that Rab has posted, it's hard to believe that this one hasn't already been here, but it didn't show up in the archives. So...

The edition I have is the original East Wind Japanese pressing. Unfortunately, the liner notes are only in Japanese. If anyone has them in English they're bound to be much more enlightening than Yanow's short review.

This relaxed session features fluegelhornist Art Farmer in a quartet with pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Billy Higgins. The material (which includes such tunes as "Alfie," "When I Fall in Love" and "I Should Care") is given lyrical treatment by these masterful players on this ballad-dominated date. - Scott Yanow

Art Farmer (flugelhorn)
Cedar Walton (piano)
Sam Jones (bass)
Billy Higgins (drums)
  1. The Summer Knows
  2. Manha Do Carnaval
  3. Alfie
  4. When I Fall in Love
  5. Ditty
  6. I Should Care
Recorded in NYC, May 12-13, 1976

Willie Lewis And His Entertainers - 1932-1936 (Chronological 822)

Willie Lewis invaded Europe in 1925 as a member of Sam Wooding's explosive jazz orchestra, making hot records and stunning audiences throughout Berlin, Barcelona, and Paris. When Wooding's organization disintegrated, Lewis returned to New York in 1931 and assembled a group of musicians for the purpose of a brief European tour the following year. Willie Lewis & His Entertainers played the Merry Grill in Brussels, and made one wild phonograph recording. A 13-piece orchestra composed almost entirely of European musicians and augmented with a vaudevillian vocal quartet (including Lewis himself) presents "Who Taught You That?" This is funny stuff, something like the frantic singing heard on certain records by Sam Wooding, Fats Waller & His Buddies, or Bix Beiderbecke with Paul Whiteman. The rest of the material on this disc was recorded in Paris following Lewis' return to Europe in 1934, and constitutes a grab bag of Afro-American musical styles blended with popular music of the day. "Nagasaki" features another version of Lewis' vocal quartet and a hot solo by clarinetist Jerry Blake. Joe Hayman leads the band in singing "I Can't Dance (I Got Ants In My Pants)," his high voice anticipating the style of Louis Jordan. As if to purposefully present a wide range of Afro-American culture, two spirituals are sung a cappella. "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel" is particularly satisfying. Six records cut in January of 1936 find Lewis leading a smooth dance band very much in the manner of Jimmie Lunceford. With arrangements and trumpet/saxophone work by Benny Carter, a smooth vocal by bassist June Cole on "Stay Out of Love," and tasteful embellishments by Herman Chittison on piano and celeste, this is mid-'30s big band dance music at its finest. Four selections feature vocalist and professional stripper Joan Warner singing bouncy French pop melodies. At the heart of this CD lie two magnificent recordings waxed on April 28, 1936: Herman Chittison's arrangement of "Stompin' at the Savoy" with fine trumpeting from Bill Coleman, and Fletcher Henderson's arrangement of "Christopher Columbus" -- a masterpiece of swing. Next come two romantic numbers with pokey vocals by Willie Lewis and Alice Mann, and a pair of theatrically charged presentations by Adelaide Hall, a lovely woman who had made great records with Duke Ellington and Art Tatum, would soon record with Fats Waller in London, and was eventually to settle for the rest of her life in Scandinavia. For those who crave sophisticated sounds while practicing calisthenics, this remarkably varied disc ends with a two-part exercise record narrated in French, with musical accompaniment by the very classy Willie Lewis & His Entertainers. ~ arwulf arwulf

Willie Lewis
Benny Carter (trumpet, alto sax)
Bill Coleman (trumpet)
Herman Chittison (piano, celeste)
Frank "Big Boy" Goudie (clarinet, tenor sax)
Adelaide hall (vocal)

1. Who Taught You That?
2. Nagasaki
3. I Can't Dance (I Got Ants In My Pants)
4. Who'll Be A Witness
5. Ezekiel
6. I've Got A Feeling You're Fooling
7. Stay Out Of Love
8. Rhythm Is Our Business
9. Just A Mood
10. All Of Me
11. Stardust
12. Etre Parisienne
13. Le Coo-Coo-Coo
14. Magie De La Danse
15. Mon Proces
16. Stompin' At The Savoy
17. Christopher Columbus
18. I'm Shooting High
19. Lost
20. Alone
21. Say You're Mine
22. Au Rythme du Jazz: Culture Physique 1ere Partie
23. Au Rythme du Jazz: Culture Physique 2eme Partie

2 Tribute CDs: Good Rockin' Tonight & Avalon Blues

Good Rockin' Tonight salutes Sun Records, the legendary label with the famous rooster that founded rock-a-billy (if not rock 'n roll itself). Sun was home to Elvis Preseley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and a host of other stars. The CD features songs by these artists as performed by musicians not usually associated with rock-a-billy music, including Paul McCartney, Elton John, Tom Petty, and Eric Clapton. Every track offers something rockin' or something sobbin'. But best of all is "Sittin' on Top of the World" a duet between Van Morrison and Carl Perkins so marvellous that you can listen to it a hundred times. Totally surprising are Matchbox Twenty ("Lonely Weekend"), LIVE ("I Walk the Line') and the Howing Diablos with Kid Rock ("Drinkin' that Wine Spo-dee-o-dee"). The salute to Sun was presented originally as part of the American Masters series on Public Television.
Avalon Blues was produced by Peter Case. It brings together many disparate artists to perform Mississipi John's music. Some pick in his famous and complex style. Others do the songs in their own special ways. There is a charming rendition of "Chicken" sung by Geoff Muldaur and his daughters. Taj Mahal, Steve and Justin Earle, and Bruce Cockburn are terrific, as you would expect. Unexpected, however, is Beck, who picks a mean blues guitar on "Stagolee." But for my money, the most amazing track is by Victoria Williams, whose purposefully off-key, down-homey voice is accented by a banjo player who must have listened to Thelonious Monk. There is one unworthy track, the one by Peter Case, the prodcuer, and Dave Alvin, neither of whom are in the league of the other performers.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cecil Taylor and Tony Oxley - Leaf Palm Hand

The duet between pianist Cecil Taylor and drummer Tony Oxley during Taylor's one-month stay in Berlin in 1988 is a study in contrasts. Musically, there is a similarity of approach between the two: Both are physical players with an ear for dark dramatics. Percussively, each attacks his instrument in the same way, palms down, forcing off the fingertips and into the instrument, whether drums or piano. Improvisationally, they differ greatly in that Taylor -- so used to being a soloist -- is proactive while Oxley is reactive; here, they attempt to bring both those roles into sync. Oxley moves his own attack up a notch, employing more elementals than just his kit, trying to "sing" the drums. For the entire hour, Taylor looks deeply toward a romantic sensibility he seldom shows, creating harmonic fixtures from accents and triples, while simultaneously constructing lyric melodies for Oxley to play from. And he does, weaving absolutely thrilling cymbal and bell lines through Taylor's arpeggios, turning his rhythms inside out to create the appearance of a harmonic register that engages all of the different figures Taylor is firing off like lit matches. There's no letup for the entire set; it's one dazzling display after another until the piece just implodes from exhaustion -- physical, that is, as the ideas still come fast and furious -- and leaves the listener dazed and awed by such a soulful yet pyrotechnic display. This is one of Cecil Taylor's most "melodic" improvisations ever.

Cecil Taylor (piano)
Tony Oxley (drums)

1. Stylobate 1
2. Leaf Palm Hand
3. Chimes
4. Stylobate 2
5. Old Canal

Recorded at Improvised Music II, July 17, 1988 at Kongresshalle, Trollheim

Don Thompson Quartet - A Beautiful Friendship

This Canadian bassist (and pianist) leads the potent quartet of Dave Holland, John Abercrombie and Michael Smith. Thompson wrote three, Abercrombie and Paul Chambers each one, and there are also three standards. This is a nice album. Michael G. Nastos

Pianist, bassist, vibraphonist, composer, arranger, and recordingengineer, Don Thompson was born in Powell River, British Columbia, Canada. He played bass and piano with the legendary John Handy Quintet, 1964 - 1967 before moving to Toronto, Ontario in 1969. Since then he has worked with many of the jazz greats including, Jim Hall,Paul Desmond, Sonny Greenwich, Frank Rosolino, George Shearing, Milt Jackson, and James Moody to mention a few. Don also played bass and piano with the Jim Hall Trio from 1975 -1982, touring the U.S. , Europe and Japan and recording 5 albums with them.

He joined George Shearing in 1982 on bass and spent 5 years with him during which they played virtually every major club and festival in the United States. As leader of his own group (on piano or vibes) Thompson has performed on radio and television and in clubs and festivals across Canada.

In 1977, he represented Canada at the Larens International Jazz Festival in Holland. Don Thompson has recorded 11 albums as a leader and received Juno Awards (Canada's equivalent of the Grammys) for two of them: ED BICKERT/DON THOMPSON (Sackville 4005) and BEATIFUL FRIENDSHIP(Concord Jazz).

Don Thompson (piano, bass)
John Abercrombie (guitar)
Dave Holland (bass)
Michael Smith (drums)

1 Even Steven
2 My One and Only Love
3 Blues for Jim-San
4 I've Never Been in Love Before
5 A Beautiful Friendship
6 For Scott la Faro
7 Ease It Chambers
8 Dreams

Recorded at Classic Sound Productions, New York City in January, 1984

Toshiko Akiyoshi - 1965 Toshiko Mariano And Her Big Band

Toshiko Mariano and her Big Band is a jazz album recorded in Tokyo by Toshiko Akiyoshi (then Toshiko Mariano) in July of 1965 and released in the US on the Vee-Jay Records label. It was also released on the Nippon Columbia label in Japan under the title, Toshiko and Modern Jazz. In addition to the 4 big band arrangements featuring a full 16 piece jazz orchestra, there are also three smaller combo tracks on this album.

Although pianist/arranger Toshiko Akiyoshi did not come to prominence in the United States until the mid-'70s, she was playing and recording excellent bop-based music from 1953 on, often in Japan. In the early '60s, she was married to altoist Charles Mariano so she was known as Toshiko Mariano during the era. This Vee Jay CD reissues her first big-band album and her only one before 1974. Toshiko and Mariano provided the four big-band arrangements, which include two of the altoist's originals, "Kisarazu Jink" and Johnny Carisi's "Israel." The Japanese big-band includes two notables (trumpeter Terumasa Hino and tenor saxophonist Sleepy Matsumoto) and a pair of ringers (bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb). The band swings quite well. In addition, Toshiko Mariano is showcased on a trio version of "Lament," in a quintet (with tenors Matsumoto and Akira Miyazawa) on "Walkin'," and a sextet (which adds trombonist Hiroshi Suzuki) for Leonard Feather's "Land of Peace." A historic and rather interesting (if brief) early release from the future Toshiko Akiyoshi.
Scott Yanow

01. Kisarazu Jink (traditional. Arrangement: Akiyoshi) - 5:10
02. Lament (Johnson) - 4:42
03. The Shout (Mariano) - 5:45
04. Israel (Carisi) - 4:03
05. Land of Peace (Feather) - 4:18
06. Walkin' (Carpenter) - 4:53
07. Santa Barbara (Mariano) - 5:19

Toshiko Akiyoshi – piano
Paul Chambers – bass
Jimmy Cobb – drums
Akira Miyazawa – tenor saxophone (all tracks except 2, "Lament")
Hidehiko ('Sleepy') Matsumoto – tenor saxophone (all tracks except 2, "Lament")
Hiroshi Okazaki – alto saxophone (tracks 1, 3, 4, 7)
Shigeo Suzuki – alto saxophone (tracks 1, 3, 4, 7)
Tadayuki Harada – baritone saxophone (tracks 1, 3, 4, 7)
Hisao Mori – trumpet (tracks 1, 3, 4, 7)
Shigeru Takemura – trumpet (tracks 1, 3, 4, 7)
Tetsuo Fushimini – trumpet (tracks 1, 3, 4, 7)
Terumasa Hino – trumpet (tracks 1, 3, 4, 7)
Hiroshi Suzuki – trombone (tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 7)
Mitsuhiko Matsumoto – trombone (tracks 1, 3, 4, 7)
Teruhiko Kataoka – trombone (tracks 1, 3, 4, 7)
Takeshi Aoki – trombone (tracks 1, 3, 4, 7)

Recorded in Tokyo, Summer 1965

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Terry Riley - In C

Terry Riley would certainly bristle at the idea of there being a "definitive" version of In C since it was created with the intention of having an infinite number of interpretive possibilities, but this version, a reissue of the original Columbia recording, led by the composer, has a certain authority since it was the means by which the piece was introduced to a broad public and it paved the way for the biggest revolution in classical composition in the second half of the twentieth century. It has the hallmarks that came to define musical minimalism: triadic harmony, a slow rate of harmonic change, a steady pulse, and the use of repetitive patterns. In this performance, it has a shiny, almost metallic brightness and a visceral energy that immediately set it apart from the intellectually rigorous and austere trends in the new music establishment of the 1960s. The performance, by members of the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts of SUNY Buffalo, is disciplined, staying within the parameters Riley prescribes, but is also freely inventive, taking advantage of the opportunities Riley gives the performers for creative self-expression. The result sounds spontaneous but assured, never chaotic or capricious. The ensemble understood and had rehearsed the piece thoroughly, performing it at Carnegie Hall not long before this recording was made in 1968, when the piece was already four years old. For listeners with a sympathy for minimalism, the energy of this performance can be a wild and exhilarating ride, and it will be a nostalgic trip for anyone who knew it in its earlier incarnations on LP or cassette tape. The original tape has been remastered by Bob Ludwig and has all the vitality and clarity of a spanking new recording. ~ Stephen Eddins

George Harrison - Acetates And Alternates Volume II

Demos and studio reels for the All Things Must Pass album. I am sure there are those among us who can tell us everything about these tracks, including what color socks Georgie was wearing when he recorded them, but it's a mixed bag with some nice moments and some filler. Not all these tracks made it to the ATMP album, and there's interesting things like George singing "It Don't Come Easy" (with 'Hare Krishna' in the background), and other odds and ends.

"While there's nothing really new on this CD, it's still a good initation for those who don't want to get "Making of all things must pass", "Beware of ABCKO", etc. all together. "

1. I'd Have You Anytime
2. My Sweet Lord
3. What Is Life
4. Let It Down
5. Run Of The Mill
6. Beware Of Darkness
7. Mama You Been On My Mind
8. Apple Scruffs
9. Awaiting On You All
10. All Things Must Pass
11. The Art Of Dying
12. Hear Me Lord
13. You
14. It Don't Come Easy
15. Tell Me What Has Happened To You
16. Nowhere To Go

McCoy Tyner - 44th Street Suite

Although tenor-saxophonist David Murray and altoist Arthur Blythe are listed in the personnel along with pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Aaron Scott, the two horns only meet up on three of the six selections; otherwise Blythe is featured as the lone saxophone with the quartet. On what is in reality a bit of a jam session, the musicians romp through John Coltrane's "Bessie's Blues," Duke Ellington's obscure "Blue Piano," Tyner's "Not For Beginners" and the standard "Falling In Love With Love" while Blythe leads the quartet through the two-part "44th Street Suite" which starts out quite free before becoming a blues. Little all that memorable occurs considering the players involved (a little more planning would have worked wonders) but the music does have its exciting moments. ~ Scott Yanow

McCoy Tyner (piano)
David Murray (tenor sax)
Arthur Blythe (alto sax)
Ron Carter (bass)
Aaron Scott (drums)

1. Bessie's Blues
2. Blue Piano
3. Not For Beginners
4. Falling In Love With Love
5. 44th Street Suite, Pt. 1
6. 44th Street Suite, Pt. 2

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Don Wilkerson - The Complete Blue Note Sessions

One of the paragons of the "Texas tenor" style, Don Wilkerson gained his greatest notoriety as a soloist with Ray Charles throughout much of the 50s and 60s. Less known is Wilkerson’s limited work as a leader, the majority of which is collected on this two-disc package from Blue Note. Wilkerson made three albums for the label during the fruitful years of 1962 and 1963: Preach Brother!, Elder Don, and Shoutin’! All three records feature guitarist Grant Green, who certainly knows how to cook in such a setting. The first also boasts a classic Blue Note rhythm section: Sonny Clark on piano, Butch Warren on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums, with Jual Curtis sitting in on tambourine on "Dem Tambourines" and "Camp Meetin’." On the second album, Johnny Acea takes over on piano, with Lloyd Trotman on bass and Willie Bobo on drums. The last of the three sessions is particularly down and dirty, with Green, John Patton on organ and Ben Dixon on drums.

The prevailing ethos of Preach Brother! is simply summarized: blues, blues, and more blues. And not the fancied-up bebop variety, but straight-up shuffle and boogie and soul. Every track is a blues except for the closer, "Pigeon Peas," a funky thing in AABA form. The two later albums are a bit more compositionally varied. Wilkerson begins Elder Don with exquisitely singing tenor work on "Senorita Eula" and then salutes his fellow Texan Bob Wills with "San Antonio Rose." (Grant Green’s solo on the latter has to be heard to be believed.) From this point on there’s still plenty of blues, but Wilkerson breaks it up with originals like "Scrappy" and "Drawin’ a Tip." He also showcases a totally different aspect of his talent on the ballads "Poor Butterfly" and "Easy Living." ~ David Adler

Don Wilkerson may not attract much attention -- either now or when he was recording in the early '60s -- but he was an interesting character. Like many tenor saxophonists of his era, the Texan followed in the hard-swinging soul-jazz that grew out of hard bop, but he didn't settle into an easy groove -- he drove his music hard, injecting it with a healthy dose of the blues and an undercurrent of nascent black power. An intriguing mix, to be sure, and on three albums for Blue Note between 1962 and 1963 -- Elder Don, Preach, Brother!, Shoutin' -- he was at his peak, and they're all included here on this double-disc The Complete Blue Note Sessions. Of course, he was at his peak here partially because this was the only extended period of time he recorded as a leader; prior to this, he had a session for Riverside, but he never recorded before that or after this. Even if he had recorded more, this music would still be quite distinctive since his combos -- always featuring guitarist Grant Green, but also pianist Sonny Clark, drummer Billy Higgins, pianist Johnny Acea, and drummers Willie Bobo and Ben Dixon, depending on the date -- were simultaneously gritty and supple. Though they weren't as laid-back as, say, Green and Clark's duo sessions, they transferred that spirit to these sessions, meaning that this edgy soul-jazz and considerable musicality that resonates upon repeated plays. It might not be major work, but it's fine music, especially for connoisseurs of hard bop and soul-jazz, and it's nice to see that Wilkerson is finally getting some attention with this set, which marks the first time his Blue Note work has been in print in the U.S., not just since his death in 1986, but since their original release. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Don Wilkerson (tenor sax)
Grant Green (guitar)
Sonny Clark (piano)
Johnny Acea (piano)
John Patton (organ)
Butch Warren (bass)
Billy Higgins (drums)
Willie Bobo (drums)
Ben Dixon (drums)

CD 1
1. Jeanie-Weenie
2. Homesick Blues
3. Dem Tambourines
4. Camp Meetin'
5. Eldorado Shuffle
6. Pigeon Peas
7. Señorita Eula
8. San Antonio Rose
9. Scrappy

CD 2
1. Lone Star Shuffle
2. Drawin' a Tip
3. Poor Butterfly
4. Movin' Out
5. Cookin' With Clarence
6. Easy Living
7. Happy Johnny
8. Blues for J
9. Sweet Cake

Charles Gayle - Consecration

On Consecration, a studio album, the Charles Gayle Quartet show that they can play just as wild and unrestrained as they do on the More Live album. But the tension of Gayle's great live albums (Repent, More Live) is missing from Consecration. Despite an audience-free environment, Gayle manages to produce some of his best "songs." "Rise Up" starts with fury and immediacy. "Redemption" shows the stamina Gayle has, blowing the horn when it seems that another sound from him cannot be possible. The combination of bassist Vattel Cherry and bassist/cellist William Parker give the songs added power. Once again, these performances are not easy to listen to, given their time-free chaos, but the emotional impact of the playing achieved here, like Gayle's other work, is unrivaled. ~ Brian Flota

" ... 'Justified' another tour de force." ~ Penguin Guide

Charles Gayle (bass clarinet, tenor sax)
William Parker (violin, cello)
Vattel Cherry (bass)
Michael Wimberly (drums)

1. O Father
2. Rise Up
3. Justified
4. Glorious Saints
5. Thy Peace
6. Redemption

Count Basie - Straight Ahead (1968)

After 1963's excellent Basie Land for Verve, Count Basie spent the next five years mostly backing up singers and covering a slew of pop tunes from Bond to The Beatles. In 1968 it was back to the basics on this release for Dot Records in which the title says it all. The band is tight, swings like mad and has a fine flock of soloists headed up by the tenors of Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Eric Dixon. Along with Basie's piano, lead alto Marshall Royal, trumpeter Al Aarons and trombonist Grover Mitchell are featured and drummer Harold Jones gives a clinic in how to kick a big band.

From 1968 to 1983 Sammy Nestico arranged ten albums for Basie. This date, his first for the band, demonstrates Nestico’s talent for bringing a welcomed freshness to the familiar Basie idiom. As lead trombonist Grover Mitchell proudly declared at the time, “Best damn album we’ve made in five years!”

Gene Goe, Sonny Cohn, Oscar Brashear, Al Aarons (trumpet)
Grover Mitchell, Richard Boone, Steve Galloway, Bill Hughes (trombone)
Marshall Royal, Bobby Plater, Eric Dixon, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Charlie Fowlkes (reeds)
Count Basie (piano, organ)
Freddie Green (guitar)
Norman Keenan (bass)
Harold Jones (drums)
1. Basie-Straight Ahead
2. It's Oh, So Nice
3. Lonely Street
4. Fun Time
5. Magic Flea
6. Switch in Time
7. Hay Burner
8. That Warm Feeling
9. The Queen Bee
Recorded October, 1968

Brötzmann Clarinet Project - Berlin Djungle

Maybe they invited Zorn so that he would pay for lunch.

At JazzFest Berlin in 1984, Peter Brötzmann convened a once-in-a-lifetime ensemble, aiming to put a spotlight on the clarinet. The six (!) hand-picked clarinetists -- not all of them always thought of as clarinetists -- constitute one of the great 'strange bedfellows' groupings of all time. Simply to hear Brötzmann and John Zorn on the same stage requires quite an imagination (and this is the only such recording), but add to that the stupendous British jazzman Tony Coe (well known as the tenor saxophonist on Mancini's 'Pink Panther'), East German Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, French sophisticate Louis Sclavis and Lower Eastsider J.D. Parran, and you've got quite a volatile cocktail. Sit them atop Cecil Taylor's rhythm section, Tony Oxley on drums and William Parker on bass, and add Toshinori Kondo (of Die Like a Dog fame) on trumpet, Johannes Bauer and Alan Tomlinson on trombones, and the lineup is unstoppable. The Brötzmann Clarinet Project performs a single, lengthy score by Brötzmann, and the results are as sensitive and poetic as they are incendiary, as befits the black wooden horn. Remastered from the original tapes, with Brötzmann's original cover design, Berlin Djungle is proudly presented as part of the FMP Archive Edition.

This 1984 reissue is notable for its ridiculous lineup – Peter Brötzmann’s 11-piece band includes Toshinori Kondo on trumpet; J.D. Parran, Louis Sclavis and John Zorn (yes, that’s right) and others on clarinet; and a rhythm section of William Parker and Tony Oxley. It’s often hard to tell who is who, especially since there are six clarinetists here (most of whom are better known as performers on other instruments) and much of the album is as aggressive and full-sounding as we’ve come to expect from Brötzmann.

The most important turning points on Berlin Djungle always seem to happen when the excellent Oxley starts or stops playing. Oxley plays with such density and propulsion here that he seems to lead other players into the chaos like a father teaching his son how to swim by tossing him into the water. Once everyone’s splashing around, the results are as wild as almost anything in free improv at the time, even with clarinets rather than saxophones.

When Oxley stops, the texture thins considerably, and the musicians take solos or play in small groups for a while before the next storm begins. Formally, then, Berlin Djungle is somewhat similar to John Coltrane’s Ascension. These quieter sections on Berlin Djungle aren’t very unified from one to the next, though, because they’re each made of very different materials. For example, clarinetists begin the disc, playing highly ornamented melodic lines that sound like they might be influenced by traditional instruments such as the Chinese sona or the Indian shenai. The rest of the musicians soon enter and free improv squealing commences, but soon they back away and there’s another clarinet solo, now in a more traditional free-jazz style.

I don’t intend to criticize this album for such unevenness, really; it sounds like the musicians hoisted a few before recording and just played their guts out without worrying much about formal perfection, and there’s certainly a time and place for that. But your enjoyment of Berlin Djungle is likely to correlate to the degree to which you crave the sort of uninhibited blowing that occupies about half the record.

Beyond that, the album doesn’t stand up terribly well next to many other releases of European free improv on the Unheard Music Series. It lacks the white-hot focus of Brötzmann’s 1969 album Nipples with Evan Parker, Derek Bailey and Han Bennink; it doesn’t have the massive forces of the Globe Unity Orchestra’s Globe Unity ‘67 & ‘70; and it doesn’t feature the razor-sharp interplay and timbral idiosyncrasies of Alex Von Schlippenbach’s brilliant Hunting the Snake. That’s not to say there’s no reason to recommend Berlin Djungle, just that those other albums are all ridiculously good and the Unheard Music Series has set unreasonably high standards for itself. Berlin Djungle is fine, and it gets bonus points in the curiosity-value department for featuring Brötzmann and Zorn together, but it’s not a great starting point for the uninitiated. ~ Charlie Wilmoth

Peter Brötzmann (clarinet, tenor sax, tarogato)
Tony Coe (clarinet)
Louis Sclavis (clarinet, bass clarinet)
Toshinori Kondo (trumpet)
John Zorn (clarinet)
William Parker (bass)
Tony Oxley (drums)

1. What A Day 1st Part
2. What A Day 2nd Part

Monday, October 5, 2009

Don Pullen - Random Thoughts

This was part of the Mosaic Select set and was chosen because it was "long unavailable": apparently the Mosaic set itself will now be long unavailable. Long live Don Pullen.

As bent upon pianistic mayhem as Don Pullen often seemed, this was one of his more user-friendly discs, despite having only a bass and drums between himself and tender-eared listeners. Quite often, Pullen starts a piece as if it were a conventional piano trio number, but before long, he's piling up his trademark keyboard-shuffling glissandos, playing the instrument as if it was a big, glittering, percussive crashing board. Yet everything always swings, thanks to Pullen's own early gospel leanings, Lewis Nash's loosey-goosey traps work and James Genus' flexible bass. Among the more ingratiating pieces is "Indio Gitano," a mesmerizing series of Spanish Phrygian couplets that groove irresistibly in 5/4 time, and "626 Fairfax" is notable for the way Pullen's glissandos fit seamlessly into the piece's swinging and harmonic contexts. Don't his identification with the avant-garde scare you away from this engaging CD, for Pullen manages to make even fearsome things seem approachable. ~ Richard S. Ginell

Don Pullen (piano)
James Genus (bass)
Lewis Nash (drums)

1. Andre's Ups and Downs
2. Random Thoughts
3. Indio Gitano
4. Dancer
5. Endangered Species: African American Youth
6. 626 Fairfax
7. Ode to Life

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Charles Brown - 1944-1945 (Chronological 894)

Direct from Central Avenue. Oscar Moore was with the Nat King Cole trio previous to this, and Frankie Laine was a friend of Cole also: I saw a broadcast of his TV show not very long ago with Laine as his guest, and they seemed to have been friends for some time. Laine was always a joke to me because I first heard of him when Lenny Bruce was ragging on him, but apparently some people took him seriously. Jezebeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel.

This Classics CD features pianist/vocalist Charles Brown on his first 22 recordings, when he was a sideman with guitarist Johnny Moore's Three Blazers. Brown already sounded quite distinctive, and as it turned out, the 21st song ("Drifting Blues") was his biggest hit. The music, due to the instrumentation (a trio/quartet with bassist Eddie Williams and sometimes Oscar Moore on second guitar), is a bit reminiscent at times of the Nat King Cole Trio, but it had a special soul and feeling of its own. Frankie Laine makes a couple of early appearances, but Brown takes care of the bulk of the vocals, and there are also eight excellent instrumentals. Recommended. ~ Scott Yanow

Charles Brown (piano, vocal)
Oscar Moore (guitar)
Johnny Moore (guitar)
Johnny Otis (drums)

1. Fugue In C Major
2. Melancholy Madeline
3. Tell Me You'll Wait For Me
4. Nightfall
5. Maureen
6. Lost In The Night
7. You Taught Me To Love
8. End O' War Blues
9. Johnny's Boogie
10. C.O.D.
11. Be Sharp, You'll See
12. No Greater Love
13. Hard Tack
14. Pasadena
15. I Want You - I Need You
16. My Silent Love
17. Googie's Boogie
18. Tonight I'm Alone
19. Blazer's Boogie
20. Baby Don't You Cry
21. Drifting Blues
22. Groovy

Joe Newman - The Complete Joe Newman RCA-Victor Recordings (1955-1956): "The Basie Days"

Trumpeter Joe Newman, best-known for his playing with Count Basie's Orchestra, led four albums for RCA during 1955-1956. This generous two-CD set reissues all the music from these dates, and has plenty of swinging performances. The first disc puts the focus on Newman and tenor saxophonist Al Cohn in a pair of octets with arrangements by Ernie Wilkins, Manny Albam, and Cohn. The second disc starts out with a tribute to Louis Armstrong, a dozen of Satch's songs modernized for a big band; Newman takes a few rare vocals. The final session matches Newman with flutist Frank Wess in a two-guitar septet arranged by Wilkins. While most of the other two-fers in this French RCA Jazz Tribune series are reissues of earlier two-LP sets, this one was newly compiled and has 48 splendid examples of Basie-ish swing. Highly recommended.

Since 1952, Joe Newman had been firmly ensconced in the Count Basie orchestra, and would remain so until 1961. It was during his tenure there that he made 4 LPs for Victor in 1955-56; those 4 albums are included in this 2-CD set. One was a big band affair (Salute To Satch), while the other three were septet/octet outings. All of them offer consistently great jazz music. My favorite is the last of the 4, The Midgets, with Frank Wess on flute. Both principals really work well together ... ."The Midgets" is Newman's best-known (and best) original composition, and Wess and Joe play a handsome rendition of it. The big band sides brought together many of the best NY studio guys (Victor at this time had great luck in being able to do this often), and Phil Woods, Jimmy Cleveland, Al Cohn and others of similar renown add mightily to the proceedings. These 2 CDs pack an awful lot of great mainstream-modern music on them and are highly recommended.

Personnel and Recording Dates: In Comments

CD 1
1. Corner Pocket
2. Dream A Little Dream Of Me
3. Topsy
4. Leonice
5. Jack's Wax
6. Limehouse Blues
7. Captain Spaulding
8. Soon
9. If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight)
10. I Could Have Told You
11. Lullaby of Birdland
12. Pretty Skinny Bunny
13. It's A Thing Of The Past
14. You Can Depend On Me
15. Top Hat, White Tie and Tails
16. Sometimes I'm Happy
17. Shameful Roger
18. Lament For A Lost Love
19. Sweethearts On Parade
20. Slats
21. Perfidia
22. It's Bad For Me
23. Exactly Like You
24. We'll Be Together Again
25. Daughter Of Miss Thing

CD 2
1. Basin Street Blues
2. You Can Depend On Me
3. Sweethearts On Parade
4. Back O' Town Blues
5. Pennies From Heaven
6. When It's Sleepy Time Down South
7. Struttin' With Some Barbecue
8. West End Blues
9. Chinatown, My Chinatown
10. When The Saints Go Marching In
11. Dippermouth Blues
12. Jeepers Creepers
13. No Moon At All
14. Valerie
15. My Dog Friday
16. Scooter
17. Late, Late Show
18. Indeed The Blues
19. Midgets
20. One Lamper
21. Living Dangerously
22. Really? Healy!
23. She Has Red Hair

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Giants Of Jazz - In Berlin '71

Many of you will be familiar with the excellent Thelonious Monk Black Lion sessions. The three CDs are the last studio sessions ever made by Monk. Bates managed to get Monk into the studio while he was on this - his final - tour. This was recorded in Berlin just ten days before and has his final group performances - and what a group! George Wein called putting this group together one of the greatest accomplishments of his career. Here is Monk's last recording of 'Round Midnight', for example. The CD is a Nippon Phonogram production from the hands of the excellent Kiyoshi Koyama. This is a must have.

"I chose this cut to review from this all-star gathering because it features Kai Winding's trombone exclusively. It isn't very often one gets to write about a trombone fronting a performance. This is especially true when the band is made up of the jazz legends this touring band was.

In the liner notes, producer George Wein talks openly of the difficulties of getting this band of giants together and its uneven performances over the course of two years. In my opinion, this band does suffer from what I call "too many all-star cooks." Wein alludes to this in his comments about Thelonious Mink not taking any solos. When you have so many great players around, you tend to pass the ball rather than take the shot. All that said, even these guys' passes are beautiful to behold.

Trombonist Winding plays the ballad "Lover Man" with the skill and taste of someone who intimately knows music and the emotions connected with it. Sparse accompaniment is offered, but Winding doesn't need any more help to get his point across. The trombone in the hands of such past and present players as Winding, J.J. Johnson and Hal Crook can be as expressive an instrument as any other. To hear it beautifully played is just further proof positive." ~ Walter Kolosky

Thelonious Monk (piano)
Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet)
Sonny Stitt (alto and tenor sax)
Kai Winding (trombone)
Al McKibbon (bass)
Art Blakey (drums)

1. Introduction Of The Band
2. Blue 'N' Boogie
3. 'Round Midnight
4. Tour De Force
5. Lover Man
6. Tin Tin Deo
7. Everything Happens To Me
8. A Night In Tunisia

Trollheim: November 5, 1971

BN LP 5023 | Kenny Drew New Faces/New Sounds

Another instalment in the New Faces, New Sounds Series- a generally excellent outing for Kenny Drew and continues Alfred Lion's love of piano players and cultivating young players.

Kenny Drew (p) Curly Russell (b) Art Blakey (d)
Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, April 16, 1953

Side 1
Yesterdays (BN471-0 tk.8)
Stella By Starlight (BN476-1 tk.19)
Gloria (BN475-0 tk.17 )
Be My Love (BN473-2 tk.14)
Side 2
Lover Come Back To Me (BN469-3 tk.4)
Everything Happens To Me (BN470-2 tk.7)
Spring Will Be A Little Late (not sure if jazzdisco have mislisted 'It Might as Well Be Spring') (BN472-1 tk.11)
Drew's Blues (BN474-1 tk.16)

For specific tracklistings, have a look at the excellent Jazz Discography Project

Anthony Braxton - 20 Standards (Quartet) 2003

Released a year after 23 Standards (Quartet) 2003, this second four-disc set doubles the amount of material released from Braxton's tours of Europe in early and late 2003, with the same lineup (Braxton on saxes, Kevin O'Neil on guitar, bassist Andy Eulau, and drummer Kevin Norton), same focus on jazz standards, and even the same dates in some cases. Together, the two four-CD sets released by Leo Records present recordings from ten different European dates (two in February 2003 and eight in November of that year). This second set continues with the editorial approach used in the first one: each disc consists of tracks from different concerts, brought together to make a balanced record. So this second five-hour helping adds pieces performed at shows already represented in the first box set, and covers a couple of shows that were left untouched. Leftovers? Hardly. In fact, it is easy to be convinced that all eight discs were conceived simultaneously. Again, one is struck by the multifaceted balance of the album as a whole. Jazz crowd favorites like Desmond's "Take Five," Brubeck's "Blue Rondo à la Turk," Coltrane's "Lonnie's Lament," and Parker's "Blues for Alice" are presented side by side with less covered tunes, like Mulligan's "Lines for Lyons" and Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance." And, as usual in such a jazz setting, Braxton pays a loving tribute to each tune, respecting the melody, pushing it beyond the composer's wildest dreams, taking it apart and reassembling it in the most natural-sounding way. The quartet takes flight right off the starting block with a 20-minute rendition of "All the Things You Are." Other highlights include Norton's solo in "Lines for Lyons," Braxton's uncanny out-sensitivity in "Waltz for Debbie," and the slippery playfulness -- and impossible telepathy -- of the quartet in "Take Five." Since the first box set sold out pretty quickly, this one is like a second chance, with all new material. These are masterfully creative revisitations of chunks of jazz history, big and small. Limited to a thousand copies, this album, like the previous one, is bound to become a collector's favorite. ~ François Couture

When faced with Anthony Braxton’s latest four-disc set of jazz standards, the first question one might ask is: does the world need yet another version of the overworked “All the Things You Are”? It’s a fair question, especially as the set comes on the heels of Braxton’s four-disc set from last year, 23 Standards (Quartet). After listening to Braxton, guitarist Kevin O’Neil, bassist Andy Eulau and percussionist Kevin Norton blaze their way through over four hours worth of fresh, vigorous interpretations of some of the jazz canon’s most revered material, the answer is unequivocally yes.

Releasing such a set requires courage, but courage has never been lacking in Braxton’s career. From his mammoth books of compositions, to writing a gigantic opera, to trying his hand at virtually every sort of instrumental composition and mastering the entire family of reed instruments, Braxton has never backed down from a creative challenge.

In 1920s and ’30s, the creative challenge for such improvisers as Louis Armstrong and Art Tatum was elevating the banal fare foisted upon them by record companies and music publishers. But when Coleman Hawkins reworked “Body and Soul” in 1938, the rest of the jazz world recognized the improvising gold to be mined from Tin Pan Alley fare. For Braxton and his quartet, the challenge is to see what valuable metals they can dig out of the same pieces that have been strip-mined for over half a century.

No Tin Pan Alley tune has received as much attention as a jazz standard than Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are.” Its bold key changes create numerous jumping off points for soloists, but in the hands of Braxton’s quartet it is something else entirely, a twisting, turning labyrinth of tempo changes, dynamic fluctuations and heated dialogue – every moment of the piece is interrogated and called into question. All of this without ever losing the urgent rush forward, the hurtling momentum key to jazz ensemble playing.

“All the Things You Are" is the first piece on the first disc, and it contains the blueprint for how the quartet interacts with their material. Braxton, limiting himself to the alto, soprano and sopranino saxophones, gives a heartfelt reading of the melody, followed by a heated high-wire solo, then the rest of the quartet takes over, led by O’Neil’s stunning, endlessly resourceful playing and supported by the turbulent flow of Eulau and Norton, all of it cliché free. The quartet works similar magic on such warhorses as Bronislau Kaper’s “On Green Dolphin Street,” “The Song is You” (another Kern favorite), the ballad “Alone Together” and a second entry from Kaper, “Invitation.”

The composers from the so-called cool school have long been championed by Braxton and for this collection he chooses compositions from four of them. Gerry Mulligan’s “Line for Lyons” and Bill Evans’ “Waltz for Debbie” get their intricacies worked through, while elsewhere the happy jaunt of Dave Brubeck’s “The Duke” receives rougher treatment. But just when you think O’Neil’s spiky picking has dispatched the piece for good, Eulau rushes in with a shining, respectful solo that ushers in Braxton’s sweet, fireside recapitulation of the theme.

Out of the whole set, the quartet most radically reworks Paul Desmond’s “Take Five.” The original version, probably one of the most identifiable hooks in jazz history, has always felt like a jazz fugue. The stubborn 5/4 bass ostinato, even in the vamping solo section, seems impossible to shake, an irreducible part of the composition. Braxton and company, after a quick run through the theme, simply let go of it. Like deciding to do away with gravity, O’Neil, Norton and Eulau float free for five minutes of abstract counterpoint. When the familiar form of the piece returns halfway through on the back of O’Neil’s slippery chording and Eulau’s chopped up bass figure, Braxton sounds renewed, as he attacks the time-worn melody with frenzy, whorling it into impassioned howls and bluesy honks.

When the group states the theme one final time, it’s the listener who feels liberated and renewed. It is the same liberation and renewal one feels over the entire set. Jazz needs more fearless playing like this. ~ Matthew Wuethrich

Anthony Braxton (saxophones)
Kevin O'Neil (guitar)
Andy Eulau (bass)
Kevin Norton (percussion)

CD 1
1. All The Things You Are
2. Lines For Lyons
3. April In Paris
4. Green Dolphin Street
5. Blues For Alice

CD 2
1. Alone Together
2. Waltz For Debbie
3. For Heaven's Sake
4. Freedom Jazz Dance
5. The Song Is For You

CD 3
1. The Duke
2. I Love You
3. Lonnie's Lament
4. Blue Rondo A La Turkurk
5. Invitation

CD 4
1. Tune Up
2. Remember
3. Moonlight In Vermont
4. Take Five
5. Serenity

Henry Threadgill - Rag, Bush And All

At the very top of the list of my favorite performers.

This CD from altoist Henry Threadgill is a perfect mixture of improvisation and composition, hanging onto devices of the past while creating new music. Some of the ensembles (which match Threadgill with trumpeter Ted Daniels, bass trombonist Bill Lowe, cellist Diedre Murray, bassist Fred Hopkins, and both Newman Baker and Reggie Nicholson on drums) recall Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz with the cello-bass interplay inspired by the one-time team of Scott LaFaro and Charlie Haden. The organized horn parts and the riffs behind the lead voices are quite original and sometimes more interesting than the solos themselves. Of the four songs, "Off the Rag" at first dispenses with the melody quickly but the theme constantly pops up in surprising places. "The Devil" is highlighted by Murray's double-time cello runs behind Threadgill's alto while "Gift" contrasts colorful percussion with solemn long tones from the ensemble. "Sweet Holy Rag" has several sections including a pretty classical-like melody, a danceable rumba, a drum feature, and a fairly violent trumpet solo. However, the more one describes this music, the more seems to be left out. Highly recommended to open-eared listeners. ~ Scott Yanow

Henry Threadgill (alto sax, bass flute)
Ted Daniel (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Bill Lowe (bass trombone)
Diedre Murray (cello)
Fred Hopkins (bass)
Newman Baker (drums, percussion)
Reggie Nicholson (drums, percussion)

1. Off the Rag
2. The Devil Is On The Loose And Dancin' Witha Monkey
3. Gift
4. Sweet Holy Rag

Will Vinson - Promises

It's been five years since British expat Will Vinson released his debut as a leader, It's For You (Sirocco, 2004), but the alto and soprano saxophonist has been anything but dormant. Working hard in the New York area with everyone from Mike Stern and Chris Potter to Geoffrey Keezer and Seamus Blake, Vinson's follow-up, Promises, may have been a long time in coming, but it demonstrates Vinson's palpable growth as a player but also, and perhaps more importantly, as a writer.

Vinson's playing continues to combine the more cerebral nature of Greg Osby with Potter's in-the-gut visceral approach, but five years down the road his own voice is emerging more confidently on this quintet session that features other up-and-comers including Aaron Parks, whose own Invisible Cinema (Blue Note, 2008) and work with trumpeter Terence Blanchard has catapulted the twenty-something pianist into high visibility. Ever inventive, Parks solos with the kind of confident sense of construction that supports his increasing acclaim, while acting as an empathic rhythm section partner with bassist Orlando le Fleming and drummer Rodney Green (Ari Hoenig replaces Green on the staggered funk of "Philos O' Fur.")

Vinson also enlists guitarist Lage Lund who—along with Jonathan Kreisberg, Matt Stevens and Nate Reeves—represents the next wave of guitarists behind Kurt Rosenwinkel, Adam Rogers and David Gilmore. Promises is a mainstream set of a decidedly modern bent, featuring eight Vinson compositions that lean largely to the acoustic and the complex—informed by the writing of Rosenwinkel, Potter, David Binney and Wayne Shorter. Still, Lund isn't afraid to pull out the occasional electronic trick, including some looping and reverse attack throughout the ever-shifting "Adventures of Bagpuss," which begins with simmering intensity and a high velocity theme doubled by Vinson and Lund before leading to a vibrant swing, only to cut to half-time for a strong solo from Vinson that ultimately begins an increasingly accelerating return to swing and the composition's knotty theme.

Even when Vinson moves into slower territory, it's hardly balladic, although it is lyrical in its own way. On "Rose Tint" he works again in tandem with Lund before a solo from Lund that, despite its wide intervallic leaps, distances him further from Rosenwinkel, who has become an almost too pervasive influence on younger guitarists. Vinson's warm tone on alto, his main axe, smoothes out the occasional jagged edges of his improvised lines while le Fleming and Green, ever empathic, maintain a smooth as silk cushion that's augmented by Parks' atmospheric voicings.

If It's For You was a pledge of intent, Promises is the delivery. With increased confidence as a player and writer, hopefully Vinson won't have to wait another five years to follow up to this fine album of modernistic mainstream jazz. - By John Kelman, All About Jazz

Philos O' Fur
Rose Tint
Adventures of Bagpuss

Will Vinson: alto and soprano saxophones
Lage Lund: guitar
Aaron Parks: piano
Orlando le Fleming: bass
Rodney Green: drums (1, 2, 4-8)
Ari Hoenig (3)

(2009) Nineteen Eight Records

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra - Black Manhattan

Or more precisely; Black Manhattan: Theater And Dance Music Of James Reese Europe, Will Marion Cook, And Members Of The Legendary Clef Club.

Sitting on my nighttable for weeks already is Reid Badger's "A Life In Ragtime: A Biography of James Reese Europe." I haven't gotten to it yet because I didn't have anything from the artist or period to listen to. And then along came this little gem. It is not actual period recordings, but modern performance of the works; much as the Beau Hunks have made a well deserved reputation from. This is essential stuff to fill in the aural part of jazz history which is often just written about. It is the music before it was widely known as jazz - the ragtime influence is pronounced, as is the mainstream dance music of the period.

Years ago I decided to get immersed in the literary works of the Harlem Renaissance and found it unappealing, because most of the literary models used - not the content, and not all the writers I read - the sentimental, artificial, and class ridden models of the period. It was more like Weezy talking to Mrs. Whittendale than Florence talking to the kitchen staff, if you know what I mean. There is something of that to be found in this music, although everything here is of high quality.

The 40 page booklet that comes with this CD is worth the price alone. Don't pass this one by if it comes your way.

The Clef Club of New York City, Inc. was a fraternal and professional organization for the advancement of African-American musicians and entertainers; all of the composers on this recording were members or closely affiliated with the Club. The "Clef Club" was founded toward the end of 1909 in New York by James Reese Europe and his associates. Their mission to highlight the value, dignity, and professionalism of African-American performers was a great success and did much to change racial attitudes at all levels of white society. It quickly became a "who’s who" of early twentieth-century black music and show business. With its reputation for reliability, gentility, and quality performances, the Clef Club soon gained the favor of the loftiest of New York’s white society; it became the very height of fashion to announce that one had secured a genuine "Clef Club Orchestra" for an upcoming social event. The composers featured on this revelatory recording represent the cream of Black Bohemia’s musical life—the movers and shakers who paved the way for the music of the better remembered "Harlem Renaissance" of the 1920s. And while their names are obscure today, all once enjoyed national reputations in white America as well, feeding its burgeoning interest in black music, theater, and dance. Taken altogether, the talent, persistence, cooperation, and courage of these pioneers is an amazing American story that deserves to be better known. The recording features nineteen works by ten composers and is accompanied by a 40-page booklet. In addition to those by Europe and Cook, highlights include works by Will Vodery, an acknowledged influence on Ellington, and the first instrumental rag ever published, Sambo: A Characteristic Two Step March (1896), by Will Tyers.

The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra conducted by Rick Benjamin

1. Castle Perfect Trot
2. Carolina Fox Trot
3. Overture To "In Dahomey"
4. Deep River: Old Negro Melody
5. Sambo: A Characteristic Two Step March
6. When The Band Plays Ragtime
7. Castle House Rag
8. Smyrna: A Turkish Serenade
9. Ballin' the Jack/What It Takes to Make Me Love You - You've Got It
10. Meno D'Amour
11. Hey There! (Hi There!)
12. Tar Heel Blues Rag
13. Congratulations ("the Castles' Lame Duck Waltz")
14. Strut Miss Lizzie
15. Panama: A Characteristic Novelty
16. The Clef Club March
17. Under The Bamboo Tree
18. Cocoanut Grove Jazz
19. Swing Along!

Call It Anything

Here is a photo, taken from Horace Tapscott's autobiography, that features him as a young trombone player. Seated next to him is someone that we here at CIA briefly noted, Earl Anderza.

This is presented by way of demonstrating how our new format here at CIA has been working out quite well in it's initial stages. One of the limitations of Blogger is that once something passes by, anyone who wished to make a comment or continue a discussion had to hope - pointlessly - for someone else to refer back to the older post.

With our new mailing list discussion group, a topic like Earl Anderza (mentioned in the Onzy Matthew post and in the Earl Anderza "outa Sight" post) can have an ongoing thread - as, for example, when I came across this picture a month after the initial post. The site is preparing for it's re-opening as a discussion group, which will be maintained by an active and interactive mailing list format.

We are finishing up the removal of all Rapidshare links (with 4000+ posts, you can imagine how much time that has taken) because of Bruno Leicht and Chris Rich's (gleeful) reporting of us to the FBI and Interpol.

The details and formal announcement will be along presently: we hope that the many folk who shared their opinions, likes/dislikes, experiences and anecdotes will join us in our new format. Lurkers and trolls can now wander the web looking for innocent librarians to demean and terrorize.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Jay McShann - Paris All-Star Blues

A gem of a session: Sahib Shihab and Carmell Jones? Benny Carter and Hal Singer? I even, much to my own surprise, like the singer. This is just as good as you think it is. Let the hootin' and hollerin' begin.

The Jay McShann orchestra of the early 1940s, best known for having among its sidemen Charlie Parker, only lasted a few years, but made its impact on jazz history. In 1989, pianist McShann had a rare opportunity to record with a big band, a truly all-star outfit. Included among the illustrious players on this CD are trumpeters Clark Terry, Terence Blanchard and Carmell Jones, trombonist Al Grey, the tenors of Hal Singer, Jimmy Heath and James Moody, altoists Benny Carter and Phil Woods, bassist Jimmy Woode, drummer Mel Lewis, and vocalist Ernie Andrews, among others. With arrangements by Ernie Wilkins and Nat Pierce, virtually all of the players have opportunities to solo, and one comes away particularly impressed by the versatility of Andrews, who fills the roles of a lot of different singers. Highly recommended. ~ Scott Yanow

Jay McShann (piano)
Benny Carter (alto sax)
Sahib Shihab (baritone sax)
Terence Blanchard (trumpet)
Carmell Jones (trumpet)
James Moody (tenor sax)
Clark Terry (trumpet)
Phil Woods (alto sax)
Jimmy Heath (tenor sax)
Hal Singer (tenor sax)
Jimmy Woode (bass)
Mel Lewis (drums)

1. Jumpin' Blues
2. Moten Swing
3. I'm Just a Lucky So and So
4. Lonely Boy Blues
5. Parker's Mood
6. Say Forward, I'll March
7. Tender Touch
8. Swingin' the Blues
9. Confessin' the Blues
10. Have You Ever Had the Blues
11. Sebastian
12. Vine Street Boogie
13. Hootie Blues

Paris: June 13, 1989

Roy Hargrove-Christian McBride-Stephen Scott Trio - Parker's Mood (1995)

On this unusual album, Roy Hargrove (trumpet, flugelhorn), Christian McBride (bass) and Stephen Scott (piano) pay homage to the father of bebop with a generous set of (mostly) Charlie Parker compositions performed in trio, duet and solo arrangements. These three musicians, all of whom are part of the back-to-bop youth movement and all of whom have made names for themselves as session players and fledgling bandleaders, approach the tunes with a combination of reverence and iconoclastic innovation -- how often do you think you'll hear "Red Cross" as a bass solo or "Chasin' the Bird" as a trumpet/bass duet? This approach has its limitations, of course; as revealing as Hargrove's solo take on "Dewey Square" is, sometimes the weight of rhythmic responsibility weighs too heavily on McBride's shoulders during the trio numbers, and the groove suffers. Unless you're listening on headphones or in a quiet room with very good speakers, the rhythmic thread of the bassline can easily get lost in the mix, leaving Scott's syncopated comping sounding disjointed. But it doesn't happen very often, and the overall effect of this album is one of new light being shed on an aging but beautiful art collection. Those who know these tunes already will enjoy the album most. Those who don't will find they have much to learn, and should be excited at the prospect. - Rick Anderson

Roy Hargrove (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Stephen Scott (piano)
Christian McBride (bass)
  1. Klactoveesedstene
  2. Parker's Mood
  3. Marmaduke
  4. Steeplechase
  5. Laura
  6. Dexterity
  7. Yardbird Suite
  8. Red Cross
  9. Repetition
  10. Laird Baird
  11. Dewey Square
  12. Card Board
  13. April in Paris
  14. Chasin' the Bird
  15. Bongo Beep
  16. Star Eyes
Recorded April 12-14, 1995

Bernard Peiffer - La Vie En Rose

Peiffer is amazing. I can’t recall any jazz pianist except Art Tatum blessed with such complete technical mastery of the instrument. ~ Leonard Feather

A prodigy from childhood, he was soon recognized to have a technical mastery of his instrument, which to some was rivaled only by Art Tatum. However, his legacy and accomplishments have largely gone unnoticed and forgotten. The disruption caused by the Nazi Occupation of France, combined with his constant desire for musical independence and a fierce creativity that continued until his death, all contributed to his inability to achieve much recognition or even recording time during his lifetime. But as in the case of any great musician and teacher, his legacy was imparted to his many students, among them Uri Caine, Sumi Tonooka, Tom Lawton, and Don Glanden.

Born on October 23, 1922 in Epinal, France, Peiffer was raised in a musical family, with his father and uncle playing the violin and the organ, respectively. Starting piano at age nine, he studied under Pierre Maire, a student of Nadia Boulanger, and quickly demonstrated his brilliance by being able to play back long sections of classical music by ear. After winning the esteemed 1st Prize in Piano at the Paris Conservatory, Peiffer began his professional career at the age of twenty, playing with Andre Ekyan and Django Reinhardt.

In the early 1950s he began a successful career, playing with Django, leading his own quintet, composing film soundtracks, and essentially achieving celebrity status among the clubs of Paris, Monte Carlo and Nice, and eventually becoming nationally renowned. He released recordings on the EmArcy, Decca and Laurie Records labels.

Bernard Peiffer (piano)
Pierre Michelot (bass)
Joe Benjamin (bass)
Bill Clark (drums)
Jean-Louis Viale (drums)

1. La Vie En Rose
2. Ballad In Paris
3. Jeepers Creepers
4. Hit That Jive Jack
5. Oh Lady, Be Good
6. Jalousie
7. Don't Blame Me
8. Sometimes I'm Happy
9. Jingles Bells
10. Tired Blues
11. Almost Like Being In Love
12. Steeplechase
13. Liza (All the Clouds'll Roll Away)
14. Yesterdays
15. Midday On The Champs Elysées
16. Slow Burn
17. Caravan
18. Caravan (alt)
19. Jalousie (alt)
20. Toccata
21. Prélude