Monday, July 31, 2006

The blog Destination Out has mp3's of a couple of recent performances from Ornette Coleman:

ORNETTE COLEMAN WEEK. Part Two: Live at Carnegie Hall 2006: "We are incredibly pleased to present the first recordings of Ornette Coleman'’s extraordinary new band - which features three bassists. In many ways, this group represents the culmination of Ornette'’s musical journey, seamlessly blending elements of his acoustic music and his experiments in classical forms and textures with his abiding sense of funk. It'’s simply jaw-dropping stuff."

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Downtown Music Gallery's Bruce Gallanter has published his VISION FESTIVAL 2006 Review:

"For six nights and one entire day, we were able to witness 30-plus sets of music, as well as a one-night film fest. Like the previous year, the vast Angel Orensanz Center was utilized and completely filled with an array of artwork in very nook and cranny, wherever you looked. Lots of rare photos of many of our avant-jazz heroes, paintings, drawings, sculpture and metal-work, hanging from walls, stairways on each level and above. "

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Visions of Torrents, Part 1: Some kind soul has been posting audience recordings of sets from the 2006 Vision Festival in New York City, and I have been downloading this very interesting music. The resurgence of trombonist Grachan Moncur III continues on his Vision Festival set after his fine 2004 comeback album Exploration. The band is a well rehearsed sextet of Moncur; Khan Jamal on vibes; Noriko Kamo on piano; Bruce Edwards on guitar; Bob Arkin on bass; and Richard Pearson on drums. What's interesting about this set is that although Moncur is an excellent composer in his own right, they elect to perform three lengthy interpretations of jazz standards: Blue Rondo by Jackie McLean, Footprints by Wayne Shorter and So What by Miles Davis. The band sounds great both as an ensemble and in solos, particularly Jamal, whose shimmering vibes recall Bobby Hutcherson's role on all of the classic Blue Note sessions that he and Moncur were a part of. This was a really good set of modern sounding jazz, and I hope this band will be properly recorded for an official release soon.

Violinist and composer Billy Bang is another musician who has been seeing a renaissance lately, as he has been courageously confronting his painful memories of the Vietnam War through a series of excellent albums on the Canadian Justin Time label which mix far eastern music with western jazz. For this performance he revisits some of those compositions with colleagues
James Zollar on trumpet; Andrew Bemkey on piano; Todd Nicholson on bass; and Newman Taylor Baker on drums. Bang plucks and bows through a short set of eastern influenced music that ranges from quiet to loud with impressive dynamism. The band, particularly Zollar, solo very well and work well as an integrated unit. The collective trio of Miya Masaoka on koto and electronics; Sylvie Courvoisier on piano and Peggy Lee on cello played a sublime set of electro-acoustic chamber jazz on the final day of the festival. While most people may think of the Vision Festival as a place where free musicians blast off on explorations of the cosmos, there is quite a bit of exploration of the quieter "inner-space" like this where the plucked and strummed koto adds an unusual feel to the probing piano and underpinning cello. While the music may have strayed away from jazz per se, it never grew stale or boring throughout the length of the 42 minute continuous performance. You really have to pay attention to the dialog amongst the trio but the dividend paid is enchanting music.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Joe Louis Walker - Playin' Dirty (JSP, 2006)

Guitarist and singer Joe Louis Walker is one of the most consistently excellent blues musicians on the scene today. A veteran of both blues and gospel groups, Walker's music explores a wide range of blues styles from soul to gutbucket and everything in between. Walker's most recent CD on the English JSP label is a small group affair... Unfortunately, since I bought the album on iTunes I didn't get any liner notes and I can't find a list of the sidemen anywhere. Suffice it to say that Walker is back by bass and drums and occasionally adds some piano and harmonica to the mix. " Nobody Wants To Know Ya" takes a familiar blues refrain and jacks it up with Walkers scalding guitar and he sings with deep conviction. "Barefoot " invites everybody to get down and dance with a jumpin' happy tune and he keeps the tempo up with "I Got Loaded." While I don't agree with the sentiment of the song, I must admit that the band is cookin'. "Who's Been Here" changes pace to put things in a more traditional vein adding some blues harp to Walker's always impressive slide guitar.

The pace slows as the band goes way down in the alley with "A Woman Needs To Be Loved" which is a great feature for the man's deep gospel drenched vocals. "Pickin' The Blues" adds some rolling and rippling piano to the mix for a killer instrumental which is one of the highpoints of the album. The bump 'n' grind of "Ain't Nice" follows before the chest thumping testifyin' of "Juicy Fruit" where the band hits a smokin' roadhouse groove led by some great guitar. Things wind down with the band taking a crack at some greasy rockabilly-blues on "I'm Ready" and finish up with the acoustic "From the Projects to Paris," an acoustic tune that checks "When the Saints Go Marching In" before finding its own singular groove. Walker hits yet another home run here with one of the most completely satisfying CDs of the year so far. Blues fans can't miss with this one, there just isn't a bad song on it.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

There's a new entry in composer and saxophonist Ken Vandermark's Field Notes: "For a variety of reasons it’s been possible to work overseas with a half dozen different ensembles each year. Rather than burn out the audiences, this has helped build them, and listeners are hearing the differences in the music on a regular basis and associating my ideas with more than one ensemble."

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sabir Mateen - Prophecies Come to Pass (577 Records, 2006)

Philadelphia native and Sam Rivers disciple Sabir Mateen is very active on the downtown jazz scene playing tenor saxophone, flute and clarinet in a number of bands. Here he is joined by Matt Lavelle on trumpets; Steve Swell on trombone; Matthew Heyner on bass and Michael Thompson on drums. Although the music is dedicated to the late trumpet master Raphe Malik, it is the spirit of Albert Ayler and the raggedly beautiful music made by the bands he led that permeates this live recording. "Sekasso Blues" leads things off with bowed bass and drums before the horns kick in with a funky fanfare. Mateen then takes the lead with an inquisitive and probing solo. The trumpet chimes in urging a faster pace using bursts of energy before moving on to an extended solo backed by raw drumming. There is an open, well paced drum solo before the group lurches back into a feisty reprise of the original theme, and then a raucous free improv tag ending.

"The Beauty Within" has a yearning theme featuring bowed bass and drums. Mateen's flute enters bashfully with a lilting solo before moving into "Everyone's Got Something To Say"which picks up the pace with some intense collective free improvisation. Lavene breaks free to solo on trumpet and then Sabir re-emerges on clarinet to lead the group into the title track "Prophecies Come to Pass" the third and final part of this epic medley which opens with some spaceous interplay. A fast walking bass solo leads the group and everybody raises the cacophony to a Ayler-like spiritual ecstasy before trumpet and drums depart into a forceful private conversation. "Sentimentally" slows things down considerably as the title might indicate. Sabir plays some lonesome and bluesy tenor with an occasional screech into the upper regions. Then "Children Of The Creator" ends the disc on a very high note. Beginning with a ragged theme reminiscent of the Ayler bands from their wonderfully exciting Greenwich Village recordings, the theme gives way to an intense speaking-in-tongues improvisation which provides the most direct link to the Ayler legacy. This is a very good example of the type of raw creative jazz that is being played in downtown New York on a nightly basis. While it doesn't get the same amount of attention as the mainstream of jazz, it is a vital and vibrant part of the larger music scene.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, July 20, 2006

It's Downbeat Readers Poll time again, make sure to cast you ballot... here's mine:

Hall of Fame - Jimmy Smith
Musician of the Year - Andrew Hill
Album of the Year - Andrew Hill - Time Lines
Historical Album of the Year - Miles Davis: The Cellar Door Sesions, 1970
Record Label - Blue Note
Jazz Combo - The Bad Plus
Jazz Big Band - Sam Rivers Riv-Bea Orchestra
Blues Musician - Joe Louis Walker
Blues Album - Otis Rush - All Your Love I Miss Loving
Composer - Dave Douglas
Trumpet - Ron Horton
Trombone - Robin Eubanks
Soprano Saxophone - Wayne Shorter
Alto Saxophone - Arthur Blythe
Tenor Saxophone - Chris Potter
Baritone Saaxophone - Alex Harding
Flute - Sam Rivers
Clarinet - Chris Speed
Electronic Keyboard - Uri Caine
Acoustic Piano - Chick Corea
Organ - Alice Coltrane
Guirtar - Ben Monder
Bass - Mario Pavone
Drums - Hamid Drake
Percussion - Susie Ibarra
Vibes - Steve Nelson
Misc. Instrument - David Murray, Bass Clarinet
Male Singer - Mose Allison
Female Singer - Luciana Souza

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bittorrents Ahoy! Watermelon Slim & The Workers; Bellinzona, Switzerland 6/22/06: Mush-mouthed singer, harmonica player and guitarist Watermelon Slim leads his tight band on this gig, turning a festival in Italy into a temporary Oklahoma roadhouse, which is no mean feat. Slim used to be a truck driver, and if you believe one song, a get-away car driver as well! Slim's former occupation inspires many of his songs, starting out with the fast shuffle "Truck Driving Woman." "The Devil's Cadillac" finds Slim riding shotgun with the ol' trickster out into the fields and down to the crossroads. Slim shows what a great ambassador he is by speaking French to the Swiss crowd and telling some great stories to boot. Watermelon Slim and the Workers (great band name - too bad he didn't choose The Wobblies!) have been gaining popularity due to heavy touring and a nice debut album on Nothern Blues. This band plays the real blues... no bells, no whistles, and it's a very good thing.

The Dirtbombs; Magic Stick, Detroit MI 4/10/06: Mick Collins, the king of Motor City rock 'n' Roll, leads the most popular of his many bands on this homecoming gig before an excited audience. The Dirtbombs are one of the best bands of the garage rock resurgence, and they come blasting out of the gate with some of their great rave-ups, "Start the Party" and "Get it While You Can" before spitting out the lyrics to "Ode to a Black Man:"

There are people in the town/That try to put me down/They say I don't give a damn, damn/But the people in the town that try to put me down/Are the people in the town that could never understand a black man

As one of the few black men active in rock 'n' roll, Collins must feel those lyrics most keenly. But they never succeed in getting him down as the band blasts back with "Stuck Under My Shoe" which could be the best put-down song since Dylan's "positively 4th Street" and a little relationship therapy on "Sharpest Claws." The Dirtbombs are a truly butt-kicking live act and this concert was a most welcome download.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, July 17, 2006

Newark Star-Ledger: "A federal judge yesterday ordered a former New Jersey man who posed as a property investor to serve 35 months in prison for bilking more than $300,000 from jazz musician Wynton Marsalis and one of his business managers."
Ashley Kahn - The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records (W. W. Norton, 2006)

Ashley Kahn laid the foundation for this book length retrospective with his last book which told the story of the recording of John Coltrane's monumental album A Love Supreme. This book aims to tell the whole story of Impulse Records, for which Coltrane recorded as did other avant-garde luminaries like Pharoah Sanders and Albert Ayler. On the positive side, Kahn writes well and there are some wonderful photos of the musicians that have passed through the Impulse ranks over the years. The problem I found with the narrative however, was that much of the book too often on the producers and record men (i.e. the "head white men in charge") rather than the musicians involved and the music they produced. It's a novel angle, but as important as men like Bob Thiele were, at the end of the day, it's the music and the men and women who made it that will be remembered, with the producers and administrators a mere footnote.

Since these were turbulent times in America and many of the musicians involved in Impulse were active in the civil rights movement and in spiritual concerns (especially Albert Ayler - what really happened to him?), I would have liked to read a little more about that as well, there must be some great tales to tell. This is something of a missed opportunity for readers, but not for Verve Records (current owners of the Impulse catalog) who have raided the vaults yet again to promote compilations of dubious value in conjunction with the book. One wonders if that crass marketing plan is the reason for the somewhat sanitized account of the label. This book would have made a solid feature article in a magazine, but as a monograph there is too much left out to recommend it.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Gil Evans Orchestra - Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix (RCA, 1974)

Much like his colleague Miles Davis, arranger Gil Evans was fascinated by the range of music that Jimi Hendrix was able to coax from his electric guitar. In this landmark fusion release, Evans re-arranged Hendrix's music for his big band with surprisingly effective results. One of the most exciting tracks on the album is the version of "Crosstown Traffic" which features the stinging guitar of John Abercrombie (what a daunting task it must have been to play guitar on a Hendrix tribute album) and the bluesy vocals of Marvin Peterson. This is a really nice melding of jazz and rock and roll - Abercrombie's solo is pure rock while the large horn section piles on the riffs a-la the Basie big band.

Evans is most well known for his atmospheric work with Davis on albums like Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain, and he takes that pastel-like atmospheric approach on some of the spacier tracks here, like the dreamy versions of "Little Wing" and "1983 A Merman I Should Be." Tracks like these counterbalance the blasting funk of "Voodoo Chile" creating a well balanced investigation of the Henrix songbook. This fine album would make an excellent starting point for rock fans who are curious about jazz but unsure where to start listening. The compositions are familiar from years of rock radio overplay, but the arrangements and interpretations are fresh and interesting.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, July 14, 2006

While it goes without saying that you should download my podcast, there are some others that I recommend as well:

Illasounds - Jazz from bebop, swing, hard bop and cool to avant garde, free jazz and jazz rock plus soul, funk, latin, salsa, Brazilian music, rare groove and old school hip-hop. The newest podcast is 20 Guitar Greats "Masters of the six string past and present. Featuring Pat Metheny, Wes Montgomery, Django Reinhardt, George Benson, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell (above), Joe Pass, Larry Coryell, Jim Hall, Jimmy Raney, Barney Kessel, Emily Remler, Pat Martino, Herb Ellis, Ron Affif, Peter Leitch and Michael Mussilami."

Taran's Free Jazz Hour - Podcasting free jazz, avant-garde jazz, creative and improvised music. The show brings you the opportunity to hear the sounds created by the jazz greats of yore as well as contemporary artists keeping the flame. He has some recent podcasts available and is preparing a mammoth 12 hour jazz radio show.

Melodiradion - Features Live & rare recordings of Jazz and improvised music such as (in the most recent episode) John Surman/Mike Osborne/Alan Skidmore, Polar Bear, Arve Henriksen, Jan Garbarek - Bobo Stenson Quartet, John Surman/Jack Bruce/ Jon Hiseman, Kevin Norton's Metaphor Quartet and Joe McPhee.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mario Pavone - Song For Septet (New World, 1994)

Mario Pavone has been in the trenches of creative jazz for nearly forty years now as a bassist and composer, and has built an impressive track record both as a leader and as a sideman (most notably with the great Thomas Chapin Trio.) On this recording, he assembles a heavy hitting little big band with Marty Ehrlich on alto saxophone and bass clarinet; Thomas Chapin on alto saxophone and flute; Peter McEachern on trombone; Bill Ware on vibraphone; Peter Madsen on piano and Steve Johns on drums. The band mixes classical touches with excellent ensemble playing an soloing for a very nice effort that was rewarded as one of the best CDs of the year by the New York Times (1/5/95 p. C15)

"George in Avenue A" begins the CD appropriately enough with some solo bass before the band enters with a yearning melody. A deeply percussive piano solo and vibraphone work propel the music forward. " 3 M Blues" has a jumpy melody with muted trombone getting a bit of an old-timey feel and then an exciting alto saxophone solo before some interesting trombone and piano interaction. "Dance Off" has a slow, brooding piano introduction before a clarinet begins to probe the depths of the composition while some gentle flute glides along on top. "Chapulines" finds the saxophones bobbing and weaving in a complete pattern with some overblowing creating a joyous feel before the band kicks in giving the music a little-big-band feel. "Song for M" gets a swanky feel with a piano and vibes interaction before the reeds take over and there a long unaccompanied section for clarinet and alto saxophone that takes on a nearly classical feel.

"Chiro" gets a distinctive trombone opening, slurring out long tones before an elastic bass solo takes command. Some of Thomas Chapin's beautiful flute playing is also featured. "The Door" has some very romantic saxophone and rippling piano before jumping into a swinging feature for alto backed by vibes. "8 Count" wraps things up with all horns on deck for a fast group improvisation. Trombone breaks away from the pack and makes good on some extensive solo space before clarinets build up to a bootin' sax solo to climax the proceedings. A fine sendoff to a very good CD.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped (Geffen, 2006); Mission of Burma - The Obliterati (Matador, 2006)

Sonic Youth may be the original "alternative" rock and roll band, plumbing the depths of New York City's downtown scene for nearly twenty-five years. Their most recent LP is one of their most melodic and accessible while still retaining the edgy excitement of their best work from the past. Experimental musician Jim O' Rourke has left the band, which puts the focus back on the original husband and wife pair of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon. Gordon's songs make excellent use of her breathy chantruse-like voice, which purrs on the come-hither slongs like "What a Waste" and "Turquoise Boy" while the opening "Reena" and "Jams Run Free" have some more driving elements woven in. Moore also seems in a mellow mood, contributing the haunted "Do You Believe in Rapture?" before finally upping the ante with "Sleepin' Around." Since the band no longer has anything to prove they are free from having to conform to any genre and deliver a very good record that proves that there's a lot of life in the old band yet.

Mission of Burma are contemporaries of Sonic Youth, making their original splash in the Boston postpunk scene with a series of singles in the early eighties and then breaking up soon after. They had a triumphant return last year with a reunion tour and very well received album OnOffOn, and this new album consolidates their return. Older an wiser, the band incorporates humor and satire into their previously oh-so-serious music as the riotous "Nancy Regan's Head" shows. Blast furnace punk is still the order of the day and the opener "2wice" by this group of late forty somethings puts pouting young punks to shame. The interplay between guitarist Roger Miller, bassist Clint Conley and drummer Pete Prescott is near telepathic and the music maintains a high level throughout. No second acts in American music? Hard to believe...

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, July 10, 2006

DVD's Bob Dylan - No Direction Home (PBS, 2005) and Jazz Casual: John Coltrane (Rhino, 2003)

Netflix has been getting some very interesting music material and really beefing up their offerings. The Dylan film was directed and produced by Martin Scorsese and became quite the media event when it was released last year. Extensive interviews with Dylan (appearing clear-minded and lucid) are intercut with concert footage and and interviews with contemporaries for a compelling portrait. Much like the D.A. Pennebreaker film Don't Look Back, many of the scenes display the sheer insanity that surrounded Dylan as he broke through from the folk scene into the pop consciousness. Dylan pulls no punches in the interviews and seemingly has no regrets and it's fascinating to see how he reinvented himself as a musician and a persona. Anyone with an interest in modern music should make some time for this film.

The Coltrane film is hosted by the pipe-puffing, cardigan wearing jazz critic Ralph J. Gleason and is very valuable as there is not very much film footage of the great Coltrane quartet with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones available. The footage in in clear black and white and the band is in excellent form, beginning with Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue" before performing a very moving version of "Alabama" and finishing up with a burning take on "Impressions." Though very short, this is mandatory viewing for fans of modern jazz.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, July 09, 2006

July Podcast Songs that have caught my ear over the past month in a conviently downloadable medley format. One file, 1 hour and 9 minutes in length, 49 mb in size.


Freddie King - Hide Away
Sam Rivers - Nature Calls
Oakley Hall - Blaze
Elmore James - Rollin' and Tumblin'
Alex Harding & Blutopia - Sketch
The Forty Fives - Daddy Rolling Stone
Charlie Musslewhite - The Invisible Ones
Brad Mehldau - House on the Hill
Frank Black - If the Poison Gets You
Albert King - Let's Have a Natural Ball
Joe Morris - King Cobra
The Hentchmen - Mike in the Middle
Tony Allen and Friends - Morose
Ignacio Berroa - Matrix,
Model Rockets - The Dress Up Girls

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, July 07, 2006

Alex Harding and Blutopia - The Calling (Jazzaway, 2006)

Baritone saxophonist Harding and his band Blutopia (pianist Lucian Ban, bassist Brad Jones and drummer Nasheet Waits) play a gutsy blend of modern jazz with a fine mix of original uptempo cookers, midtempo pieces and ballads. The opening track, "The Calling" establishes a deep pocket and adds a little bit of overblown saxophone to keep the excitement level high. "Cultural Warrior" features Hardings deep baritone and Waits' percussion backed by spare piano, getting a spacey and haunted feel. This song has the noirish, cinematic sensibility of a dark crime film set on the rain-drenched streets of a city long after dark. "Quirky" earns its title with a herky-jerky theme played on baritone and a full bodied piano interlude. Harding takes a deep, exploratory solo which approaches free territory, but never steps completely away from the melody. A quick paced but low key drum solo from the always inventive Waits leads the band back into the melody. "Spirit" is a gospel tinged ballad with deep spiritual saxophone backed by soft piano and drums.

"Estonia" has a low key opening with some nifty percussion work, while "Sketch" picks up the pace with a Monk like theme. Punchy drums and piano are at the forefront with Harding improvising briskly over them. This is a very percussive based song with the leader urging the band on with vocal exhortations a la Mingus. "Southern Dawn" takes thing back down to a simmer with a gently swinging mid tempo composition which has some hints of gospel music. "Blast" comes out full force as you would expect from the title with Harding digging deep and pushed hard by percussive piano accompaniment and excellent drumming. "Shades of Ellegua" ends the album with some bubbling baritone and hand percussion. This is a very well played and passionate album which should please fans of classic musicians like Charles Mingus and Art Blakey, while staying thoroughly modern and forward looking at the same time.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Freddie King - The Very Best of, Vol. 1 (Collectables, 2004)

Freddie King was one of the most influential guitarists of the modern era, especially on the young white rock and rollers that came of age in the 1960's. Some of his finest work is collected here, the first in a three disc comprehensive re-issue of his recordings from the Federal Label. Like so many bluesmen, King had moved to Chicago in search of economic opportunity, in his case, working in a steel mill in addition to breaking into the night club scene. His fortunes began to rise when he signed to Federal, where he had considerable chart success with the soon to be famous instrumental bluesy shuffle single "Hide Away."

Federal, like a lot of blues labels who had a hit, kept going back to the well releasing a number of instrumentals like the blistering "Side Tracked" and "San-Ho-Zay." Because of the popularity of his instrumentals, King has over the years picked up the reputation of being a weak vocalist, which is not entirely earned. His singing on "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" and "Love Her With a Feeling" is powerful and competent and would influence Eric Clapton's Derek and the Dominoes project. But the focus was definitely on the guitar, even to the extreme of cutting a couple of Christmas themed jingles. King's early output is very important in the development of modern blues and rock and roll, and this is an excellent way to collect it.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Bill Shoemaker's excellent (Jazz Journalist Association Award nominee) web zine Point of Departure has a new issue up. Good stuff, highly recommended:

"Sure, it was a surprise when Point of Departure was nominated for a 2006 Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Award for Best Website Concentrating on Jazz. It gave me a sincerely good laugh because there was no way PoD would win, since the other nominees included award winner, the USA Today of jazz sites, as well as, the Grand Central Station of jazz sites, and, the JazzTimes of jazz sites."

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A couple of more interesting torrents have come down the pike recently, including a concert of trumpeter Roy Campbell at the hallowed rock 'n' roll venue CBGB's in New York on May 4, 2003. Along for the ride are Joe Morris on bass, Sabir Mateen on saxophones, flute and clarinet and Luther Grey on drums. Roy is very relaxed, engaging in banter with the crowd for quite some time before launching into the set. The first song is rocket fueled with Sabir sticking to tenor and everybody wailing in a free groove. After the first song completes, this audience tape picks up one of the patrons commenting that the band was smoking tonight, true enough as Sabir Mateen breaks out his whole arsenal of reeds and moves Sam Rivers like through saxophones and breathy flute before setting a cauldron of bubbling clarinet underneath Campbell's sputtering trumpet on the second piece. Sabir Mateen is truly the renaissance man of downtown jazz. The band goes back into a lengthy burner to take the concert to a close, powerful stuff indeed.

I've seen saxophonist Eric Person live twice and he never failed to disappoint. So it's something of a mystery why he's never gotten a major label shot. On this concert from DeKalb, IL on Nov. 16, 2005 he's supported by his band Meta Four made up of John Esposito on piano, Adam Armstrong on bass, Peter O'Brien on drums, and Fareed Haque questing on guitar on the final track. They practice a strong brand of Coltrane inspired acoustic jazz. Pianist Esposito is a dead ringer for McCoy Tyner with his heavy approach to comping and fast, fluid soloing. Person switches deftly between tenor and soprano saxophones with aplomb. The band is tight and well rehearsed as only a long time touring group can be. Fans of mid-period Coltrane ('62-'64) would find a lot to enjoy in this band, as they are a good group that deserves more attention.

Send comments to: Tim

Five Favorite John Coltrane Albums: I have been reading Ashley Kahn's "biography" of the Impulse record label and since Coltrane was certainly the loadstar of that label I've been thinking about my favorite Coltrane records, not necessarily from Impulse but over his whole career.

5. Blue Train: Coltrane's sole effort for Blue Note Records (image for a minute an alternate universe where he recorded for BN instead of Impulse 'til '67... what would the music have sounded like?) He fits in perfectly to Blue Note's hard-bop esthetic and "Moment's Notice" and the title track would become famous, but there's not a bad cut on the record. Great cover photo with a blue (naturally) tinted photo of a somber but yearning young Coltrane.

4. Meditations: This album captures the Coltrane band in mid-transition from the great quartet to a larger, freer band. Pharoah Sanders howls like a channeling mystic acting as a counterweight to Coltrane who's tenor is deep and true and always in control. This is another suite of spiritual music, but unlike A Love Supreme which achieves a near state of grace, this album is infused with tension. It's tense and uncomfortable, yet the energy and sense of relentless exploration is palpable.

3. Interstellar Space: A lot of people have trouble sticking with Coltrane's recordings after A Love Supreme with the material becoming caustic and ecstatic as the quartet broke up and fellow seekers like Pharoah Sanders emerged. But Coltrane always had a tremendous rapport with drummers whether it was Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones or in this case Rashied Ali. This is a suite of music written for the planets where Coltrane and Ali lock into a deep open groove that is free, yet very accessible. This is serious and spiritual music but it's never somber. This is John Coltrane's most overlooked LP.

2. A Love Supreme: The technical genius is still here of course, but this album is all about the passion of Coltrane's religious convictions. The apex of the so-called "classic quartet" was reached with this suite, where the band stopped functioning as individuals and became cohesive and organic whole. Coltrane's searing re-entry into "Resolution" may be the most transcendent, goosebump raising moment in jazz.

1. Giant Steps: Speed kills... this album floored me when I first discovered jazz and has been at the top of my list ever since. The speed and passion of "Giant Steps" and "Mr. P.C." are stunning and the band makes it seem so fluid and easy. The beautiful melodic interplay of "Naima," "Syeeda's Song Flute" and "Cousin Mary" are a joy to behold. This is the perfect melding of technical mastery and artistic majesty.

Send your favorite Coltrane list to: Tim