Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ron Horton - Everything in a Dream (FSNT, 2006)

Despite his prodigious talent, Ron Horton seems to slip between the cracks amongst modern trumpeters. Horton's deep buttery tone on both trumpet and flugelhorn and fleet improvisational skill have anchored the great large and small ensembles of Andrew Hill during the late 1990’s, and have been featured on several projects associated with the Jazz Composers Collective. On this album, he leads a mid sized ensemble featuring downtown avant-bop saxophonist Tony Malaby. The music is quite diverse within the classic hard bop framework with original compositions by Horton along with covers of contemporary classical music and compositions by Andrew Hill, all of which give ample space for collective and solo improvisations be members of the band.

Horton is also influenced by the music of the music of Spain and Portugal, and he takes a wonderfully paced solo on "Lua Cheia Sobre Lisboa" which shows off his sweet and smooth tone. "Did it, Did it, Did it" takes things into a little more abstract territory with a fractured opening giving way to a fleet group improvisation and a nice bass solo by Masa Kamaguchi. Also a little more adventurous is the opening "Yellow Violet" by his former boss, Andrew Hill. "Grovellin'" is Horton's own ode to the scuffling jazz musician trying to make ends meet after moving to the big city. This is a very nice CD, and another winner for the Fresh Sound New Talent label which seems to be picking up where the major labels have dropped the ball in providing an outlet for the creativity of the most talented modern mainstream jazz musicians.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Marc Ribot: That's the Way I View It From New York: "Whether he's (Albert Ayler) jazz or not, I don't know, but he definitely seems to have come out of the free jazz movement. You know, this term fools a lot of people. They seem to think it means, "gosh, now we can do whatever we want." But in fact, every one of the major free jazz players invented a new formal system of improvising. They made formal changes. In other words, because free jazz players by and large threw out bebop - style chord changes as the event that propels the music forward - and in some cases threw out the idea that music needs to be propelled forward..."

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Monday, March 27, 2006

March Playlist

I've taken to putting together a mix CD each month with examples of things I've been listening to and passing them out to unfortunate friends and co-workers, who then claim not to know me... This month's selections are as follows:

Ray Davies - Things Are Gonna Change
Derek Trucks Band - Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni
Masada String Trio - Taharah
Nick Curran - Loose Lip Mama
Sun Ra - Inside the Blues
Michel Petrucciani - A Little Peace In C For U
Cowboy Bebop - Tank!
Naked City - The Sicillian Clan
Arctic Monkeys - A Certain Romance
Chicago Underground Duo - Cities Without Citadels
Elvis Costello - Clubland
Van Morrison - My Bucket's Got a Hole In It
Richard Thompson - Time to Ring Some Changes
Gianluca Petrella - Trinkle, Tinkle
Flamin' Groovies - Shake Some Action

An interesting and diverse selection of music if I do say so myself!

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Jazztet - Meet the Jazztet (Argo, 1959)

This was the debut album from the Art Farmer/Benny Golson Jazztet, featuring Farmer on trumpet and flugelhorn, Golson's tenor saxopnone and compositions and introducing a very young McCoy Tyner on piano. This wonderful album is one of the "Ur-texts" of the whole hard-bop movement, wedding some blues and gospel feeling to the virtuosity of bebop. "Serenta" is a tune with an upbeat and jaunty feel, giving way to a nice tenor saxophone solo with horn riffs filling in behind. "It Ain't Necessarily So" is a strutting trumpet feature over straight ahead drumming. Tyner contributes a cautious and careful piano solo as well. "Avalon" begins with a drum solo and then opens up with a stuttering trumpet solo and deep and fast tenor saxophone solo. The famous ballad "I Remember Clifford" is next and would fast become a standard along with a couple of other tunes from this album. Farmer takes a sad and forlorn trumpet solo paying tribute to his fallen comrade Clifford Brown.

"Blues March" is another Benny Golson composition that would become famous opening with marching drums and the fanfare of the instantly memorable theme. "That's All Right With Me" has a tandem opening and fast trumpet solo, while "Mox Nix" has a strutting opening and a very nice Benny Golson solo. He doesn't get too many solos on this record, but when he gets one, he makes the most of it. The final standard to be (three on one album!) is "Killer Joe" which features the amusing spoken word introduction before the band kicks in with the theme and the music segues into a nice Golson tenor solo. The term classic is bandied around all to much, but this album truly falls into that "gotta have it" category. Amazing playing from legendary musicians and classic compositions... what more could you want?

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Coleman Hawkins - Today and Now (Impulse, 1963)

The great tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins cut several small group albums for the Impulse label at the end of his career, and this album found him joined by Tommy Flanagan on piano, Major Holley on bass and Eddie Locke on drums. "Go 'lil Liza" starts things off at a jaunty mid tempo pace with Hawkins soloing easily, sounding strong and fine before giving way to a bowed bass solo. "Quintessence" has some delicate and light piano from Flanagan and a quiet, breathy tenor saxophone solo. "Don't Love Me" is a beautiful, breathy ballad with Hawkins moving around the melody in a slow, patient manner and Tommy Flanagan takes a gently probing solo before Hawkins enters with a pithy solo.

"Love Song From Apache" finds the bass and drums laying out and a dark piano interlude setting the stage before Hawkins comes in tenor solo so deep and dark that it takes on an almost foghorn like quality. "Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet" starts with a gentle piano trio before Hawkins digs in really deep with a long solo which is a highpoint of the disc. It's wonderful to hear a true legend allowed to unfurl a lengthy deeply swinging unhurried solo that builds to a potent climax. "Swingin' Scotch" is, as you can imagine, an upbeat groove, with an interesting scraping bowed bass solo. "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" wraps things up in fine fashion with an easygoing mid tempo Hawkins solo and a brief upbeat spotlight for piano. While this disc may not stand with Hawkins finest accomplishments, there is fine music here and it is certainly worth seeking out by fans of classic jazz or tenor saxophone enthusiasts.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

First Person Spin Narration

Having the attention span that would make a sugar addictive five year old blush, I don't often go for boxed sets, but after getting my tax refund from Uncle Sam (you'll buy no more rifles with my money, you pigs!) I succumbed to the temptation of the new Richard Thompson boxed set RT: The Life and Music of Richard Thompson. The music is split onto four discs, each with a different theme and then a special fifth disc of extreme rarities. I've listened to the first couple of discs so far and the music is uniformly excellent, complete with several ripe live tracks, b-sides and radio air checks. Other discs in heavy rotation at this time include the new CD from trombonist Gianluca Petrella, Indigo4, which deftly combines post bop jazz with some subtle electronics and samples (including one of Thelonious Monk) and the new Ron Horton CD, Everything in a Dream, where he improvises in his rich buttery tone on trumpet and flugelhorn over music from some of his Jazz Composers Collective colleagues.

On the bitorrent front, there have been several excellent shows that are forming a growing queue on my computer. I've had a chance to wade through a couple of these – an Ahmad Jamal Trio concert from Paris on June 27, 2004 where the group juggles jazz chestnuts and some Jamal originals in a completely unique way. The most fascinating thing about the music is the dynamics, going from fast and loud to soft and subtle without missing a beat. This trio has been together for years and works at a near telepathic level. Nearing the end of his very long life and performing in Milan, June 29, 1991, blues legend Champion Jack Dupree could still pound the piano while belting out his class tales of cheatin' women and lyin' men. 81 years old at the time, Champ relies on the band to take a lot of the load, particularly an uncredited guitarist who breaks off some wonderful solos. But in the end, it all comes back to the big man who reigns over the proceedings lie a king on his throne.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

The New Republic / Changing of the Garde: "What sets Eskelin apart from his peers--and they are numerous; there are a dozen young tenor players with fantastic ability on the scene today--is that he has steadfastly refused to hew to one tradition or line of thought. For all their technical skill, the best of today's players often don't have a personal sound or approach, and it can be hard to tell them apart. This is not to say they're not making good--sometimes compelling--music." (Thanks, Matthew)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

There is an epic interview with Ken Vandermark at Allaboutjazz Ken Vandermark: Raw and Refined: "Yeah, the idea of the group in the beginning was to just have a small, or smaller, ensemble that could have the largest possible orchestral and stylistic possibilities. Even with the personnel changes that have happened in the last, almost ten years, that initial idea has really been true to the conception of the band throughout its history."

Friday, March 17, 2006

There is a very interesting exchange of ideas concerning the electrical music of Miles Davis from 1971-1975 being carried out between The Bad Plus and Darcy James Argue.

While plenty of great musicians played with Davis in the seventies, Davis didn't care about them the way he used to. In all of his acoustic groups, the hippest music director in history made the most of his material: many of his sideman's BEST PLAYING is on a record with Miles Davis.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Short Reviews

Chicago Underground Duo - In Praise of Shadows: Trumpeter Rob Mazurek has been active on the Chicago creative music scene for quite a while now, making solo albums, collaborating with the improvisational rock band Tortoise and leading the Chicago Underground through different incarnations from duos like to orchestra. Here he collaborates with percussionist Chad Taylor, playing trumpet, cornet and also performing quite a bit on various synthesizers which a very edgy and spooky feel. Standout tracks from this CD include "Cities Without Citadels" which has Mazurek improvising on cornet over Taylor's cacophonous industrial percussion groove. "Pangea" takes the duo way out with a screeching wall of electronic sound and fury.

Paul Motian - Garden of Eden: The latest version of Motian's Electric Bebop Band features yet another killer group of young musicians, including Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby on saxophones and Ben Monder on guitar. The EBB has been a showcase for great jazz talent for years and this version is no different. The centerpieces of the disc are two covers of classic Charles Mingus compositions, the elegiac Lester Young tribute "Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat" and one of Mingus' earliest experimental compositions, "Pithecanthropus Erectus." Monder is the key to the festivities, adding beautiful texture and ambiance to the standards and originals.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Miles Davis - Jazz - Music - New York Times: "Davis couldn't stand being permanently linked with jazz if it meant his becoming second-class. He wanted the music industry to take him even more seriously than before; he came into contact with rock 'n' roll simply by being himself and resisting decline."

Monday, March 13, 2006

Jazz News: Raphe Malik: Free Jazz Trumpeter with Taylor, Lyons: "Trumpeter Raphe Malik, a fixture in the bands of Cecil Taylor and Jimmy Lyons during the 1970s and 80s, has died of a prolonged illness. He had undergone a liver transplant a year ago but continued to suffer ill health up until his death on March 8, 2006. He was 57 years old."

This is really sad, I saw Malik lead an ensemble that gave one of the most awe-inspiring concerts I've ever seen, at a Unitarian Church in Albany, NY near the University's downtown campus with Glenn Spearman in one of his final public appearances and Dennis Warren who performed a drum solo that sound like Old Testament wrath - what a jaw dropper. The other time I saw Malik was with about three other people in the whole audience in a decrepit loft space in Albany way down by the riverfront - he played a duet with a drummer named (I think) Lopez or Lopes, the memory grows a little foggy. This was a very intricate series of free vignettes as the two danced around each other. He will be sorely missed.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

There have been some interesting torrented concerts coming down the pike lately. The album of Elvis Costello's that I feel is most unjustly ingored is 1993's Brutal Youth where he reunited with The Attractions. This particular torrent comes from the next year September 22nd, 1994 in Tokyo, Japan and features many of the songs from that album like "London's Brilliant Parade" and "Kinder Murder" well as some very interesting songs like "You'll Never Be a Man" and "Temptation" which were very rarely performed in concert. Of courese the crowd pleasers like "Oliver's Army" and "Watching The Detectives," are there and what makes things evern better is the very clear sound quality - wonderful music.

Another fine concert recently torrented comes from Henry Threadgill's Make a Move ensemble with Tony Cedras on accordian, Brandon Ross on guitars, Stomu Takeishi on bass and J.T. Lewis on drums perfroming at a 1996 Italian jazz festival. The band sets a very intricite and complex groove and Threadgill takes some excellent solos on alto saxophone and flute. This is a valuable concert because Threadgill has not recorded an album in a number of years now and his music is always challenging and enjoyable.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, March 10, 2006

Listening to Music With Roy Haynes - Jazz - New York Times: "Roy Haynes - who will celebrate his 81st birthday by leading his young band at the Village Vanguard from Tuesday to Sunday - never took a lesson from (Joe) Jones. But Mr. Haynes has a whole area of technique around the high-hat, treating it as an instrument unto itself, building on Jones's principles. Really, he isolates every part of his drum kit in a similar way, letting it sing. He is naturally attention-getting, breaking up time, making his drum set react, hitting hard and then leaving space."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Van Morrison - Pay the Devil (Lost Highway, 2006)

Van Morrison is no stranger to country music (they don't call him "The Belfast Cowboy" for nothing) so it was not surprising that his latest album is an easy-going disc of old time country and western tunes. Morrison seems perfect for the task, as his always astonishing voice has deepened into a Johnny Cash like "lived-in" baritone of stentorian dimensions. Ah... all of the things that make traditional American music great are here - cheatin' women, lyin' men, drunken breakdowns, all set to a tasteful backdrop of pedal steel guitar and bar-room blues.

Covers of classic tunes are the focus here, although there are some Morrison originals. "You're Cheatin' Heart" seems tailor made for him as a weep-into-your-beer ballad, whereas "My Bucket's Got a Hole In It" perks things up with a gentle upbeat bluesy arrangement. "What Am I Living For" has a soulful, almost gospelish feel to it, and "Til I Gain Control Again" seems like a self-testimonial not to let things pass by. While there's nothing here that will stand with Astral Weeks as his finest work, this is the most infectious, non-pretentious album Morrison has cut in a long time and should please both his longtime fans and supporters of alt-country Americana.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, March 06, 2006

Lonnie Johnson - Steppin' on the Blues (Columbia, 1990)

Of all of the prolific pre-war bluesmen, very few could match the instrumental virtuosity of guitarist and singer Lonnie Johnson. Johnson jammed with Django Reinhardt, performed with Duke Ellington and also cut gutbucket blues for the "race records" market of the mid 1920's which is where this collection comes from. This is a diverse group of recordings, featuring Johnson in duets with jazz guitarist Eddie Lang, dazzling solo guitar rags, blues with vocals and even a duet with a female blues singer. This variety of talents would help him as tastes in music would change going into the swing era and even into the 1960's blues revival when he had a brief comeback.

Johnson was a pretty good songwriter too, not pulling any punches when going down in the alley on titles like "Got the Blues for Murder Only" and "She'll be Making Whoopee in Hell Tonight." but he could also cut light-hearted and risque tunes as well, like the two part duet "Toothache Blues." This is a good hour long introduction to Johnson's music, and all things considered, the sound quality isn't that bad, considering that these records were made at the dawn of recorded music. But the time is probably ripe for Columbia to give these a sonic overhaul - this is part of American musical history that shouldn't be missed, especially by fans of old-time music and blues history.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, March 05, 2006

There's a great story making the rounds of jazz blogs - I'm picking it up via The Bad Plus' Blog... DO THE MATH: Brilliant Dave Frishberg story: "Sheila Jordan greeted me with a big smile. 'You really missed something tonight,' she said. 'You should have heard Kiki's show. You should have heard 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen.' It was really out there! You know who that is on piano, don't you? You don't? That's Cecil Taylor,' she told me. 'Herbie sent him to sub. He's been here all night, played for everyone. You've never heard a show like this in your life.'"

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Matthew Shipp - One (Thirsty Ear, 2006)

Matthew Shipp's latest album for Thirsty Ear takes a break from his 'jazztronica' experiments of the past few years for a brief solo piano recital. The performances here are quite short and to the point, never exceeding five minutes in length, and the album itself is quite economical, clocking in at an LP length 40 minutes. What this album may lack in exploration, it more than makes up for in sharp, pointed performances that never meander or waver in conviction. Shipp makes ample use of the lower end of the piano, bringing great slabs of rumbling bass on "Electro Magnetism." There is also some very delicate playing - not ornamental, but elegant and probing, and many of the songs on the album have a haiku-like brevity.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Andrew Hill - Time Lines (Blue Note, 2006)

Andrew Hill is back on the famous Blue Note record label for his third tour of duty, and has put together a great band made up of a mixture of veteran musicians and younger up-and-coming talents for this disc of all original Hill compositions. Hill (on piano) is joined by trumpeter Charles Tolliver, clarinetist and saxophonist Greg Tardy, bassist John Herbert, and drummer Eric McPherson. "Malachi" (version one) is a somber tune, undoubtedly meant to memorialize Malachi Favors of the Art Ensemble of Chicago who passed away last year. "Time Lines" is a wearily upbeat tune with colorful percussive comping from Hill and great solos from Tardy, Tolliver and the drummer McPherson. "Ry Round" has a nice Dolphy-ish bass clarinet solo and some wonderful Monkish piano from Hill along with a firey Tolliver trumpet solo.

"For Emilo" has nice 'woody' sounding bass clarinet solo to open, and a lengthy hushed drum solo, in fact, all members of the band get significant solo space throughout the album, and they take full advantage of it, stepping up with great performances. "Smooth" is hardly a piece of radio-friendly fluff, but features a jagged and memorable trumpet solo. Some nice solo space for the leader as well, backed by bass and drums and then a zippy clarinet solo rounds things out. A quiet and haunting solo reprise of "Malachi" finishes the program on a haunting note. This is a very good record and should go a long way to cementing Hill's status as one of jazz's most relentless pioneers.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ray Davies - Other People's Lives (V2, 2006)

It's had to believe Kinks front-man and legendary songwriter Ray Davies had never released a solo album, unless you count some soundtrack work or a VH1 Storytellers CD that was mostly Kinks music. It's also fascinating that the more things change the more they stay the same. Ray Davies still writes songs about the winners and losers of life, the state of Bloddy Olde England, and he's still a genius. Surviving a gunshot wound, his brother's heartbreaking stroke and the score of can't miss boy bands that have clogged the music press - he puts them all in their place. Let the big dog eat, this disc is really special.

Blasting out of the speakers "Things are Gonna Change" is perhaps the prototype Davies song, a tale of a hard fought life, and someone who was resolute in not giving in. "Is There Life After Breakfast" and "After the Fall Is Over" follows this quest for redemption while "Next Door Neighbor" is a classic Davies song about the life of the "little guy" and their trials and tribulations throughout life. While many of the songs fall back into a mid-tempo groove, it is the deep richness of the lyrics that keep the music on edge and never falling back into sentimentality or narcissism.

"Other People's Lives" is Van Morrison style anti-paparazzi rant that takes the media to task for their love of smut and lack of ethics. For the impact that his sojourn in New Orleans had on Davies, it's interesting that there is only one song about that star-crossed city on this album, but it's a good one. "The Tourist" looks at the city through the eyes of a visitor, and is a slice-of-life snapshot that takes us on a trip through the city from behind Ray Davies eyes. While it may have taken many a year for his first solo album to be released, it was certainly worth the wait. This is a wonderful album and one of the finest examples of a great musician aging with grace and wisdom.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Omer Avital - Asking No Permission (Smalls, 2006)

Bassist Omer Avital was one of the leading composers and instrumentalists of the progressive mainstream jazz movement that gathered at the Harlem nightclub Smalls in the mid-1990's. He always seemed to be on the cusp of stardom especially after the Impulse! Label picked up a few of his compositions for a compilation documenting the Smalls scene. Alas, it wasn't meant to be and only now is some of the music made during the Smalls scene heyday being released. This is the first of four planned volumes documenting Avital's group with Ali Jackson (drums), Mark Turner (tenor sax), Gregory Tardy (tenor sax, flute), Myron Walden (alto sax) and Charles Owens (tenor sax).

"Know What I Mean" kicks off the performance with a confident tenor saxophone solo using some overblowing and the band riffing along while the bass and drums urge a fast tempo. The band improvises smoothly together in this high-intensity live format. "Lullaby of the Leaves" begins with a melody that recalls Charles Mingus before moving into a light and delicate ballad. "Devil's Head" features some heated solos from the horns while the bass and drums anchor the band. The final two compositions, "Kentucky Girl" and "The Field" really drive the Mingus comparisons home, not only because the leader is a bass playing composer, but because the layered atmosphere evoked by the music recalls the multiple layers of the great man's own music. This is a good start for the series, showing the band in a comfortable hothouse environment making truly in-the-moment music.

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