Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Richard Thompson - Action Packed (Capitol, 2002)

Action Packed is a "best of" collection covering singer-songwriter-guitarist Richard Thompson's tenure on the Capitol label. Despite his talent, he remains something of an underground figure. He was able to get some exposure through this major label deal, but in the end he was dropped and moved to an indie label (and made a great record for them - so there!)

Both of the main aspects of Thompson's musical personality are on display here, the acoustic balladeer is well represented by tracks like "Beeswing" and fan-favorite "1952 Vincent Black Lightning." He is also know as one of the most talented songwriters and electric guitarists in comtemporary music. While none of his extended guitar improvisations are found here, some of the full band performances of note are the gloriously malicious "I Feel So Good" and the near-blues shuffle "Cooksferry Queen."

This disc makes for quite a serviceable sampler for Thompson's Capitol period. While fans are likely to quibble over the songs that were left out, if that encourages others to seek out the original albums, all the better.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Don Cherry - New York City 6/7/75

This was another of the concerts I've been downloading
from It's really what you
might call a "slice of life" recording, dropping in
right as the band is already in mid-performance. The
group is: Don Cherry tp, elp, voc; Sandy Bull g; Frank
Lowe ts, bs, ss, fl; Roger Blank dr; Ed Blackwell dr;
Hakim Jami b; William Parker b; Selene Fung ching. A
link for this show from a William Parker discography
provides the details.

The music from the concert is an interesting mix of
the "traditional" free-jazz and some of the world
music that Cherry had begun experimenting with. There
is the requisite chanting, and droning bass and drums,
but also some excellent straight-ahead trumpet playing
recalling the chops that Cherry showed as a member of
the legendary Ornette Coleman Quartet. Frank Lowe
tends to try to bring things into more of the outer
reaches of the jazz atmosphere with some very strong
and free playing particularly on tenor saxophone. It's
an interesting mix of music, catching Cherry at a
crossroads between the free jazz of his past and the
ethnic music that he would explore in depth. The sound
quality is OK, probably something like a well-traded
audience recording or fm radio broadcast.

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Monday, June 28, 2004

The music store where I did the majority of my haunting during graduate school is called The Last Vestige. It was within walking distance of the campus and I filled a lot of the hours between classes flipping through LPs and CDs.

So I found myself back in that area this past weekend and I couldn't resist stopping back there and seeing what was what. Now, if any music store was used as a model for the book and movie High Fidelity it was The Last Vestige, the same lifers have been working there as long as I have beeing visiting.

This visit really took the cake however. I flipped through the CDs and found a couple of keepers and then moved up into the small room with the jazz and blues vinyl only to find the owner and another employee sniffing the records, making faces and giggling. I've been to enough used record shops to know that your typical employee is a little eccentric, so I did my best to ignore it and concentrate on the task at hand.

But when shouts of "he didn't get this one too bad!" kept springing up, even my jaded attention was piqued. The upshot of the whole scene was that some distraught record collector had unloaded a collection of highly collectible records that his cat had urinated on. The owner and faithful employee were conducting a "smell-test" to see what price they could resonably sell the records for. You'll never see a scene like that at Borders or Tower!

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Thursday, June 24, 2004

Lightnin' Hopkins - Remember Me: The Complete Herald Singles (Ember, 2000)

This disc was praised to the heavens on the All Music Guide in it's
earlier format on the Collectibles label, and had gone out of print. So
Frodo-like, I have been on a quest of some duration trying to track down
Lightnin' Hopkins small band singles for the Herald label. I was finally
able to find this English import disc of Hopkins' herald output in the
bargain bin (!) of Jack's Music in Red Bank and it really was worth searching for.

This disc has Lightnin' leading a small combo and playing some truly
blistering electric guitar. I think it's a little hard for people to
wrap their minds around the idea of him playing blasting electric blues,
because of the huge number of solo acoustic discs he made especially in
the 1960s.

All of the music here is good, but some standout tracks include the
uptempo instrumental "Hopkins Sky Hop," "Lightnin's Boogie" and the
spiteful "Don't Think That Cause You're Pretty." But all the tracks are
worthwhile and provide an interesting view into a legendary musician.

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Here's an article entitled "Ornette Coleman Offers a Survey of His Career" from the New York Times. "He has been writing a lot of music recently, and these titles were all unrecorded." Maybe there will be a new CD soon!

Here's another look at the 2004 Vision Fest. this time through the eyes of the Village Voice.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Short takes: A couple of new records I've picked up

Charles Lloyd - Journey Within: This is one of a series of very popular records that Lloyd made in the mid to late 60's with his group which included Keith Jarrett on piano, Jack DeJohnette on drums and Cecil McBee or Ron McLure on bass. The group was very popular among west coast rock audiences and this record was recorded live at the Fillmore West. Lloyd's peaceful flute starts things off with a mellow vibe eventually giving way to a subtle group improvisation in the opening title track. Jarrett gets a solo piece next which is romantic and reflective, forshadowing his popular solo concerts of the 1970's. The biggest surprise is "Memphis Green" which finds this normally mellow group in a full fledged post-Coltrane free jazz blowout. You have to wonder if this didn't leave the hippies who came to the Fillmore that night scratching their heads a little bit.

Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis - In the Kitchen: Davis was a journeyman tenor saxophonist who made tons of records records, but never quite recieved the attention he was due. He made two big series of records for the Prestige label, a group of epic tenor "battles" with Johnny Griffin and a series of grooving soul-jazz dates with organist Shirley Scott. The time-locked liner notes refer to Scott as a "girl organist." The record offers a really solid mix of blues, bop and ballads, with Davis and Scott leading the charge.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Here are a couple of interesting articles from the Toronto Globe and Mail, first about Chris Potter, and then about the resurgence of turntables - guess I won't quit buying vinyl after all!

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Bruce Lee Gallanter from the Downtown Music Gallery has posted a review of the 2004 Vision Fest.

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Sunday, June 20, 2004

Thelonious Monk - Monk in Paris: Live at the Olympia (Heyena, 2003)

There's a lot of live Thelonious Monk out there lately, with Columbia Legacy reissuing their live Monk sets and then this entry from the Monk estate via Heyena records. You need to be a real Monk fan to follow along with all of the reissues, he tended to perform the same compositions in concert, and while Monk's band was always wonderful when performing live, it comes down to a question of how many different versions of Monk standards you're looking for.

The band had been together for a number of years by the time this set was recorded in the spring of 1965, and knew the ins and outs of Monk's complex original compositions. Monk standards like "Well You Needn't" and "Rhythym - a - Ning" with the full band compliment Monk's short solo readings of the standards "Body and Soul" and "April in Paris."

What makes this release stand out from the multitude of Thelonious Monk discs is the inclusion os a bonus thirty minute DVD recorded live in Olso the following year. Monk is such a treat to see live - his flat fingered, cross handed piano is dizzying to watch with his feet bouncing every step of the way. Charlie Rouse stands like a sentry at the microphone, navigating his way through the compositions and making sure the band keeps to the path.

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Saturday, June 19, 2004

William Parker's Raining on the Moon Band - Rome Italy 4/4/04

I really liked Parker's Raining on the Moon CD when it came out a couple of years ago, and this was a must download when I saw it on The band is made up of Rob Brown on alto sax, William Parker an bass, Lewis Barnes on trumpet, Hamid Drake on drums and Leena Conquest on vocals.

It's funny - I usually don't care for traditional jazz singers - if they come from a blues background like Jimmy Witherspoon or Joe Williams, great but except for Ella Fitzgerald and June Tyson female singers have never moved me that much. I think it's because of the dopey love songs which I have little patience for.

Leena Conquest is different - not only is she akin to Sun Ra's great singer (and dancer) June Tyson, but she sings Parker's originals - no inane prater here, Parker talks the talk about life and the search for peace. He's not afraid to approach the difficult subjects - slavery, loneliness and the human condition from a perspective that allows for reflection in a way few jazz vocal performances do - Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" and some of Abby Lincoln's performances with Max Roach come to mind.

The band is amazing as well. Drake and Parker are perhaps the preeminent bass and drums unit in jazz today, and Brown has a pinched yearning alto sound reminiscent of Jackie McLean's mid-60's Blue Note recordings. Barnes offers some excellent ensemble and solo support and Parker drives the band from the rear as if he's at the wheel of a fine automobile.

This concert is highly recommended - download it if you can, if not then do yourself a favor and look for the Raining on the Moon CD - it will make you dance... and think

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Friday, June 18, 2004

As a further example of my pitiful social life, I have found time to start Tim's Other Blog (snappy title, eh?) which will cover ramblings about film, books, sports and other interesting stuff.

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Check out an interesting new blues discussion borad - Blindman's Blues.

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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Jazz Journalists Association Eighth Annual Jazz Awards

Winners and nominees from the Jazz Journalists Awards 2004 can be found here.
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Coltrane rant

The Naked Maja has a thoroughly epic rant about a new Coltrane documentary.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Jody Williams

There's a nice article on blues musician Jody Williams here.

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New David Murray CD

I've been listening to the new David Murray album over the past couple of days. This disc, entitled Gwotet, continues his exploration of ethnic and island music that he started when he joined the Justin Time label several years ago. The music is very rhythmic with a lot of drums and percussion and some very funky bass at times. Murray takes some excellent solos, as does special guest Pharoah Sanders.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

This will not happen to me... honest!

Man rescued after shelves, record albums collapse at Coral Springs warehouse

CORAL SPRINGS - A 57-year-old electrician was rushed to a nearby hospital Friday morning after several thousand pounds of metal shelving stacked with old-fashioned vinyl record albums collapsed on him at a warehouse.

The worker, George Johnson, of Tamarac, was standing on a ladder while installing lights in a Dot Marketing warehouse on the 3600 block Northwest 124th Avenue at 10:14 a.m. when the accident occurred.

Several of the nearby 7-foot high shelves fell over for some reason, triggering a virtual landslide of metal shelving and the packaged vinyl record albums. Johnson was soon completely covered by thousands of pounds of debris.

People outside the warehouse heard the collapse and Johnson's anquished screams for help. They rushed in to help and called 911. It took rescuers and emergency workers 20 minutes to unbury Johnson.

Fire-Rescue spokesman Mike Moser said Johnson's life was probably saved because he fell first, then the ladder, then the boxes. The way the ladder landed, it created a cave-like void in which he lay protected from the crushing weight.

Johnson was conscious when he was placed aboard a helicopter for a fast flight to nearby North Broward Medical Center. A condition report was not immediately available, but his injuries were reported to be non-life threatening.

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Monday, June 14, 2004

Computer blues...

My computer's still at the shop, so here's a couple of quick links from the New York Times. There is a short obit. of John R.T. Davies who did some excellent remastering from the JSP label - notably the Louis Armstrong collection. There's also an interesting interview with composer and saxophonist Benny Golson about his appearance in an upcoming movie.

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Saturday, June 12, 2004

Computer trouble

My computer is on the blink and in the shop. I try to scrape together a music related post soon.

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Friday, June 11, 2004

Vandermark 5 – Elements of Style, Exercises in Surprise (Atavistic, 2004)

The latest album from the Vandermark 5 continues their usual style of original Vandermark compositions dedicated to musicians or artists that have influenced him. I wish I knew more about his compositional style – in what way these artists have affected him and what role they play in the individual compositions. The dedicatees are in parentheses.

"Outside Ticket" (John Gilmore) has a nice up-tempo opening with some very interesting collective and individual soloing. Considering the time Sun Ra spent in Chicago and the influence of Ra on many of Vandermark's ensembles, it's a wonder what took him so long to write a tribute to Sun Ra's primary soloist. "Yourself Out" (Jean-Michel Basquiat) has a funky opening from the horns which evolves into a free improve and drops back into the funky theme with some funky trombone and tenor saxophone interplay and finally a trombone solo.

Interagliamento (Zu) has a slow percussive opening and then the horns kick in in a fragmented way – there is a lot of space for the instrumentalists to use in their slowly building piece of music. It's interesting that he should dedicate this particular composition to the band Zu who joined Spaceways Inc. on their record Radiale earlier this year. Zu's music is much more upbeat then this slowly developing composition. "Telefon" (Glen Gould) cranks the action back up to a brisk tempo with a fast paced free-bop solo. There's a break at the 2:30 mark which slows things down to a snails pace, but then things pick back up with the horns re-entering in unison to finish the song. "Guyllen" slows things down with an attractive mid-tempoed theme. There's a pretty spare tenor solo over light timekeeping.

"Strata" has a fast paced fragmented theme with a free sounding solo from Vandermark. Jeb Bishop gets a nice solo on trombone with the saxophones giving chase and the bass and drums keep a fast paced beat. A slow drum break in the middle turns into a full-fledged drum solo, which morphs back into a louder free section for the band, Vandermark getting a deep-toned sound on his tenor saxophone. "Six of One" ends the disc in epic fashion – this 20 minute piece starts slowly with a bass intro joined by a space and slowly building percussion solo. Vandermark comes in at the 4:30 mark with the rest of the band. This isn't an off the wall free blowing piece, the band stays within boundaries. There's a break for an abstract solo saxophone improvisation at the 12 minute mark. The solo is a bit fractures so the music loses a little momentum. Other instruments rejoin and the pace begins to quicken, slowly speeding up to close with a frenetic pace.

There are a couple of reviews and some discussion of this CD in the Jazzcorner Speakeasy "Record Reviews" section. People seemed to be a little underwhelmed by this disc – there seems to be an undercurrent of ho hum, another V5 disc. But the band operates at a very high level, and I don't think the faint praise with which they are damned is warranted. This group is still a very formidable ensemble and as they show with this disc, they are still quite capable of making interesting and exciting music.

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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Ray Charles passes...

Is it me or are an alarming number of musicians dying?

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Greg Osby - Public (Blue Note, 2004)

Greg Osby's new record is a live album recorded live in New York City early this year. There's a mix of tunes that were recorded on Osby's last studio album Inner Circle as well as some standards. Osby is joined by Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Robert Hurst on bass, Megumi Yonezawa on piano, Rodney Green on drums and special guest Joan Osborne on vocals.

The band is tight and has an excellent sound together live. There is a bit of a difference between this and his last live recording - the somewhat lo-fi DAT recording Banned in New York. Osby and Patton make a particularly interesting front line on the old Parker and Gillespie standard "Shaw Nuff." Their reading of the melody is fun with the trumpet and alto saxophone intertwined during the statement of the urgent melody and one of the two leads (or both) playing a one note tag just after the melody statement. Then the group enters a blasting improvisation.

Finally, there is a version of the standard "Lover Man" with Joan Osborne singing. This works very well - Osborne's voice is appropriately sultry and she sings very well. The group backs her well, especially the leader who floats around her vocals with a beautiful light tone.

The band works very well in this context - Osby and Payton are a very interesting front line and the new piano player lives up to his billing (big shoes to fill replacing Jason Moran.) Fans of mainstream jazz should be very happy with the results.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Not easy being Thom

There's something of a debate going on at the Jazzcorner Speakeasy about the merits - or lack of - of the reviews of the critic Thom Jurek. He reviews a lot of jazz with some rhetorical flare. Also, everything seems to get 4.5 stars. He doesn't bother me, but he's burrowed under the skin of some - check out this essay.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Quine passes

Guitarist Robert Quine found dead

LOS ANGELES, California/NEW YORK (Billboard) -- Guitarist Robert Quine, one of punk rock's most daring soloists, was found dead Saturday in his New York apartment. He was 61.

According to close friend and guitar maker Rick Kelly, who discovered Quine's body, the musician died of a heroin overdose Memorial Day weekend. He had been despondent over the recent death of his wife.

Born in Akron, Ohio, Quine was heavily influenced by the Velvet Underground, whose music he recorded obsessively while living in San Francisco. He moved to New York in 1971 and became the lead guitarist for bassist Richard Hell's important group the Voidoids, with whom he recorded two albums. His skittering, unpredictable work with Hell defined the possibilities of punk guitar.

During the '80s, he recorded and toured frequently with Lou Reed and played on saxophonist/composer John Zorn's best-known albums. Quine made key guest appearances on Tom Waits' "Rain Dogs" (1985) and Marianne Faithfull's "Strange Weather" (1987). In 1989, he began a long association with Matthew Sweet; he also worked regularly with Lloyd Cole.

In 2001, Universal released a three-CD box of Quine's live 1969 recordings of the Velvet Underground, "The Bootleg Series Volume 1: The Quine Tapes."

"Robert Quine was a magnificent guitar player -- an original and innovative tyro of the vintage beast," Reed said in a statement released to "He was an extraordinary mixture of taste, intelligence and rock'n'roll abilities coupled with major technique and a scholar's memory for every decent guitar lick ever played under the musical son. He made tapes for me for which I am eternally grateful -- tapes of the juiciest parts of solos from players long gone.

"Quine was smarter than them all. And the proof is in the recordings, some of which happily are mine. If you can find more interesting sounds and musical clusters than Quine on 'Waves of Fear' (from Reed's 1982 album "The Blue Mask"), well, it's probably something else by Robert."

"He was a marvelous guitarist, a soulful music lover with high standards and had an eviscerating wit," Patti Smith Band drummer Jay Dee Daugherty told "He did not suffer fools gladly, but made up for it with a thinly disguised generosity of spirit."

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Osby interview

Thanks to Brian P. for passing along this interesting interview with Greg Osby from the Boston Phoenix.

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Sunday, June 06, 2004

Masada – Electric Masada (Tzadik, 2004)

This is another release from the massive Tzadik series of releases documenting John Zorn’s 50th birthday celebrations at the Tonic in New York City. Electric Masada is an ad-hoc group made up of Zorn, Trevor Dunn, Kenny Wollesen and Joey Barron while adding Marc Ribot on guitar and Ikue Mori on electronics and some extra percussion.

This expanded group keeps the regular Masada sound of Hebrew and Middle Eastern melodies, but also includes heavy doses of Miles Davis fusion, electric funk and punk rock. Ribot is an inspired choice for this assignment because he is comfortable in many different types of improvisational environments – Zorn too, he’s experimented with so many different ensembles over the years that he’s able to change chameleon like and fit his trademark sound into any type of group.

Speaking in the most broad terms, the music alternates between free jazz blowouts, and some quieter sections where the music bubbles and simmers. All in all, this is a successful experiment. There are a few dead spots, with high-wire improvisation that’s to be expected and if anything the disc is a tad too long, clocking in at nearly the full length of a compact disc.

The group only plays together every once in a while, so further performing at festivals and clubs would further tighten the sound and really turn them into a lean fighting machine. This is still an interesting disc and anyone with an interest in the wilder side of fusion is encouraged to check it out.

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Thursday, June 03, 2004

Short Takes

- A co-worker saw my post of May 31 about buying vinyl records and e-mailed this witty rejoinder:

> "so after I attend that, I'll stop buying vinyl... honest."
> My ASS you will....

Just remember buddy, when all of the big shots have gone home, I'm your supervisor by default. So if I decide that because of your "humor" you need to spend an evening cleaning toilets, you better start scrubbing!

- My friend Todd and his wife sent me an Iggy Pop and the Stooges DVD for my birthday (thanks!) I think I'm going to dump the librarian gig and become a drug counselor. After watching the Shane MacGowan and Iggy Pop DVD's, I think all I need to do is show them to "troubled teens" and say "well kids, is this in your future?" Scared straight indeed.

- Big thanks also to Brian P., who sent me a very cool mix CD that I've been listening to at the gym. Brian leads a band in Albany (see link at left) and has been recently playing some experimental "jazztronica" with a DJ.

- I've been getting into a lot of 60's psychedelic music lately, bands like Love and Soft Machine and the music from the Nuggets collections. If anyone has suggestions of bands of this ilk to check out, please pass them along - thanks!

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Chris Potter - Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard (Verve, 2004)

Chris Potter is in such demand as a sideman that his career as a bandleader has been a little overshadowed. His duties touring and recording with the Dave Holland Quintet (which is pretty much booked until hell freezes over) chew up the majority of his time, but he’s managed to squeeze in some time to appear under his own name both live and on record.

This live record fits the bill on both counts with Potter’s regular band recorded live at the hallowed Village Vanguard. His band members include Scott Colley on bass, Kevin Hays on acoustic and electric piano and Bill Stewart on drums. The first song is a Potter original, “7.5” with Hays coming in on electronics, giving the song a disjointed feel, something akin to Jason Moran’s “Ringing My Phone (Straight Outta Istanbul)” from his live record last year – that was the song with the sampled electronic voices which gave the music a fractured feel much like the electronics do here. This is something of a nod to Potter’s excellent Traveling Mercies album which experimented with electronics.

After that, Hays stays on acoustic piano for the most part and things settle down to a solid modern jazz groove. This band has been together on and off as much as they can given everybody’s busy schedule and they’re pretty tight. Some members of the group have spent time with the Mingus Big Band including the leader and that experience pays off in their rendition of Mingus’ “Boogie Stop Shuffle” which originally appeared on the Mingus Ah-Um album. It starts here with Potter taking an a cappella tenor saxophone solo, which is quite a high wire act, soloing without the band. This lasts for about four minutes and then the band comes in blasting with an extended improvisation – Mingus would be proud.

All in all, this is an excellent live snapshot of a band on the rise. The music is first rate and the disc is recommended.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Ben Allison - Buzz (Palmetto, 2004)

Ben Allison's new compact disc continues the trend that his other discs on Palmetto have begun, intricite compositions which are heavily testured, but still with enough space to allow the soloists to make their mark and not lose their individuality. Most of the regulars from the Jazz Composter's Collective make appearances here - Michael Blake and Ted Nash on saxophones, Frank Kimbrough on piano, Michael Sarin on drums and of course Allison on bass and all compositions except for a cover of the
Beatles "Across the Universe."

This disc brings the group back to a more mainstream jazz sensibility after the world music experimentation of his last record, Peace Pipe (my album of the year, 2002.) There's a rather melancholy feel to this record, different from the playful records Allison has put out in the past. "Respiration" blends the the horns in a slower paced mixture over the piano and bass/drums backdrop. "Mauritania" has some really pretty flute work from Ted Nash over a gentle horm backdrop and tasteful bass and drums. The title track spices things up with some prepared piano from Kimbrough and altered bass from the leader. The disc ends on a strange note with the Beatles cover taken a slow, almost narcotic pace. It's an odd ending for a disc by one of jazz's most
promising composers.

As with any disc by a member of the Jazz Composers Collective, this disc makes you think about the nature of composition and improvisation in jazz. The ensemble is very tight and benefit from their years of working together. While this may not be the finest example of thier talent, it's a worthwhile disc.

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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

All About Jazz has an brief annotated Monk discography.

The Newark Star-Ledger also has a brief annotated discography of Elvin Jones' recordings.

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