Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sonny Rollins - Road Shows, Vol. 2 Streaming

Don't miss NPR's streaming of the new Sonny Rollins album, Road Shows Vol. 2.

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ernie Krivda - Live at the Dirty Dog (CIMP, 2010)

Saxophonist Ernie Krivda leads a swinging live performance from the Detroit jazz club The Dirty Dog on this well recorded album. Claude Black on piano, Dan Kolton on bass and Renell Gonsalves on drums join Krivda on quite lengthy explorations of four well-known standards and an extemporaneous blues jam that ends the program in a fun and joyful way. Apparently this album was recorded at the end of a long residency, and the empathy these musicians have built is quite palpable. The version of Thelonious Monk’s “‘Round Midnight” is particularly poignant, with the band caressing the melody in a thoughtful unhurried manner before breaking out into solos which are quite rich and memorable, Claude Black in particular is fascinating to focus on in this song. They swing mightily on three other standards, “I’ll Remember April,” “You Stepped Out Of a Dream” and “All the Things You Are.” The group lays into these songs with fresh vigor, not cruising at all, but using them as the excellent vehicles of improvisation they are for finely crafted solos and ensemble passages. The concluding performance and the only Krivda original “A Blues By Any Other Name” finishes the set in fine fashion with everybody getting a chance to stretch out and blow with verve and a sense of adventure. This was a very nice example of small club jazz that used to be prevalent across the country, but has waned in the wake of the economic slowdown. The group has a ball jamming on standards and blues and the enthusiasm is palpable to the crowd and the listener. This was a swinging small group session of meat and potatoes modern jazz. The group plays standards and blues with a confident bravado and the ballads with a heart-on-sleeve lushness. Live at the Dirty Dog - CIMP

Send comments to Tim.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Patti Smith - Outside Society (Sony Legacy, 2011)

Vocalist and poet Patti Smith’s role as the “Godmother of Punk Rock" really too confining, as is any one disc collection that tries to rein in the best work from this mercurial artist. But as an introduction to her work it does an excellent job of providing insight into the depth and breadth of her music. More of an art-rocker than a punk, Smith combined her poetry and love of the visual arts to a rock 'n' roll beat and cleared the way for women to fully enter the rock and roll arena. Her most well known songs are here in roughly chronological order beginning with her cover of Them’s “Gloria” with its long original introduction and the scalding “Free Money” from her seminal debut album Horses. As the Patti Smith Group developed and grew into its own identity, she became even more risk taking with the mind-blowing and controversial “Rock ‘n’ Roll Ni**er” live performance from the Radio Ethiopia album included in this collection, along with the in-your-face “Pissing in the River.” She never strayed too far from pop music forms, as displayed by the hit “Because the Night,” co-composed with fellow New Jerseyian Bruce Springsteen. Smith took several years off from the music scene to raise a family, but after the death of several close family and friends she returned to recording, sounding stronger than ever. Examples of her post sabbatical recordings on this collection include the gripping “Summer Cannibals” and the powerful pro-Tibet song “1959.” Also included are some interesting covers, a full out electric band cover of The Byrds “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” and a fascinating acoustic cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” As much as a one disc compilation can capture the essence of an artist as complicated as Patti Smith, this one does and succeeds quite well. A prime introduction to neophytes coming to her music and a potent reminder of her power to longtime fans, this album is highly recommended. Outside Society -

Send comments to Tim.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Books: The Killer is Dying by James Sallis (Walker & Company, 2011)

The Killer Is Dying: A NovelThe Killer Is Dying: A Novel by James Sallis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While James Sallis ostensibly writes crime novels, the crime itself becomes almost incidental to the haunted and melancholy lives of the characters he composes. Christian is a hit-man, someone who takes pride in a clean kill. He also slowly dying of an unnamed disease, taking his faculties bit by bit. When the man he is hired to kill is attacked by another pro, Christian makes it his final mission to find out who and why. Jimmie is a teenager, living by his wits in his house after being abandoned by his parents, and falling through the cracks of the school and government systems, he makes a living and pays bills by buying and reselling online merchandise. He also begins to have strange dreams which turn out to be incidents from Christian's past. Finally, Detective Sayles is trying to track down the attacker while grieving for his dying wife who has left him for hospice care. Reading about the intertwined lives of these three men would seem like a depressing endeavor, and there is indeed a palpable sense of melancholy that runs through the book, but it is Sallis' mastery of storytelling and the sheer beauty of his prose that keep things fresh, mysterious and compelling. We know little of the lives of these men before we meet them, and some background information is given, but the book is a meditation on loneliness and the desire to be part of a larger community, whether that is traditional family, online or through work relationships. The book is beautifully written in spare, clean prose and the story is deeply thoughtful and memorable. The Killer Is Dying -

View all my book reviews

Send comments to Tim.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Critics playing jazz

Roanna Forman at the Boston Jazz Blog kicked off a very interesting discussion by asking several prominent jazz critics the question "Do Jazz Critics Need to Know How to Play Jazz?" She got a lot of thoughtful responses from a wide range of well known jazz writers that ran the gamut in their answers. After this article appeared it opened up a wide range of discussion and commentary, particularly from Hank Shteamer who had some absolutely stellar comments like:
"I tend to avoid the word "critic" in favor of "thinker-about-music" or similar,"
"If someone were to ask me what qualifies me to write about jazz, I would simply have to answer, "I love it.""
Patrick Jarenwattananon at A Blog Supreme, had a very nice post, which enticed quite a bit of commentary.

This is something that I have wrestled with myself for a long time. I originally called this blog "Jazz and Blues Music Reviews," but changed it to "Music and More" a few years ago because I wasn't comfortable with being a "reviewer" or God-forbid a "critic." I have no technical knowledge of music whatsoever, so if you catch me using musical terms in the wrong context please forgive me. Music, for me, is a purely emotional response, and I use this blog as a musical diary, to write about the music I listen to and enthuse about the music I like.

I remember one time several years ago when I was dramatically enthusing about a particular saxophonist to a friend who happened to *be* a professional musician, saxophonist and teacher. He went on a deep explanation of why he didn't care for this particular musician using a lot of technical terms that I'm sure were correct, but might just as well have been a foreign language to me. After that, all I could sheepishly respond with was "But he's so exciting!" It's funny now in retrospect, but I felt like a bit of a dope at the time.

I do not feel qualified to post any negative thoughts about a particular album, because there is a very good chance that the album was successful and with my limited knowledge, I may have missed the point entirely. So I think I'm really with Hank Shteamer on this one, I have a deep abiding love for music, especially jazz, and while I do not play an instrument or know a lick (bad pun) of technical music, I think a blog is a perfect format for me to express my enthusiasm about the music that moves me. Most people take blogs, especially those not associated with a professional news organization, with a grain of salt, its understood that like the zine culture of old, the writer is in most cases more of an enthusiast than a professional critic.

So in the end, I'm sure that it is helpful for a paid critic to have an understanding of at least the rudiments of the music, but I think the most important thing to have is an open mind and a deep love for the music: past, present and future.

Send comments to Tim.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Jen Shyu and Mark Dresser - Synastry (Pi Recordings, 2011)

Vocalist Jen Shyu and bassist Mark Dresser are uniquely qualified to perform in a duet setting together. After Shyu began studying with saxophonist and musical theorist Steve Coleman, she was soon invited to join his band, adding a fascinating new dimension to his recent albums. Mark Dresser has had a very successful career in all aspects of jazz and improvisatory music, performing with a wide range of luminaries and recording many albums under his own name, but really seems to thrive in an environment where imagination and commitment to exploring the sound spectrum are key. That is certainly required on this demanding and thought provoking album. Shyu uses wordless vocalization, speech and other techniques as master saxophonist or reed player might use their instrument. In fact, she sounds less like a “singer,” but more like a musician whose instrument just happens to be the human voice. Dresser is much more than a typical bassist, using bowing and plucking techniques, he is able to to engage with the vocalizing in a true partnership. Both musicians bring compositions to the performance, but the real focus of the music is the blending of their particular voices, weaving and blending the hues and colors of sound and occasionally dancing around each other in a hypnotic and unique arrangement that is uniquely improvisatory but calling forth other music from around the world and across time. While this album can be quite a challenging listen, the two musicians represented here are truly trying to break new ground, and ask people to re-think the nature of jazz and improvised music in general. Synastry -

Send comments to Tim.

Christian Artmann - Uneasy Dreams (Self-Released, 2011))

Flute player and composer Christian Artmann studied classical music intensely before hearing the call of jazz. On this album he is accompanied by Jeff Hirshfield on drums, Johannes Weidenmueller on bass, Rubens Salles on piano, Elena McEntire on voice and Luiz Claudio on percussion. Mixing modern jazz with different musical influences from around the world, the band makes for an intriguing sound. The group specializes in unusual textures and contextualization, like on the tracks where wordless vocals and flute combine to create a beguiling and different sound. The appropriately named “Kafka” is a short blast of disjoined flute and vocals that leaves one with an uneasy and unresolved feeling. The music is woven together in a textile like manner on “Dark State Blue” where Artmann’s flute plays against soft brushes in an interesting manner, developing a mellow meditative sound. The group uses shorter pieces like “Nymph,” a duet of flute and percussion, to break up the flow of the sound and offer interesting commentary on the music. On “Bebe-Vale da Ribeira,” the music moves through several dynamic sections of a surreal mini-suite, anchored once in by locked-in flute and percussion. Putting the light, nimble drums together with the agility of Artmann’s flute makes for a deeply haunted feel on some of the songs including the concluding “Uneasy Dreams.” Altogether, the music on this album worked well. The band has a unique sound that stands out amongst contemporary jazz by incorporating flute and voice on the front line. The rhythm section provides a solid anchor to keep the light sounding music from floating off into the void, and Artmann developed has his own voice and sound on the flute, combining classical and ethnic influences into the jazz flute tradition. Uneasy Dreams -

Send comments to Tim.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bud Powell - Jazz Giant (Verve: 1950, 1988, 2001)

Of all of the great jazz musicians, it's hard to imagine one whose life was as star-crossed as the great pianist and composer Bud Powell. One of the leading architects of the bebop style of jazz, Powell battled misunderstanding, mental illness, and police brutality and still persevered to become a legendary figure in jazz. The tracks that make up this album come from two different sessions recorded in 1949 and 1950, with Powell backed by Ray Brown or Curly Russell on bass and Max Roach on drums. The music is a mix of Powell originals and standard material that is performed at a uniformly high level. Working at the top of his game in the trio setting, with the occasional solo, Powell absolutely shines on this record, playing with a speed and facility at the piano that is wonderful to behold. Regardless of the tempo, each note or chord is clearly articulated whether tearing through his own compositions like "Tempis Fugit" and "Celia," or a completely unique take on the bebop chestnut "Cherokee," playing with great intensity and extraordinary control. The standards included on the second half of the album feature Powell's more melodic sensibility and his deep understanding of song form and structure. Classic songs like "Body and Soul" and "Sweet Georgia Brown" are rendered beautifully, ably supported by the bassists and particularly drummer Max Roach who is excellent throughout, playing with a deep sense of rhythm that makes this great music truly swing. This was a really fine album, and its relatively short playing length makes it an ideal introduction to the beauty of Bud Powell's music. Jazz Giant -

Send comments to Tim.

Books: I Am Maru by mugumogu

I Am MaruI Am Maru by mugumogu

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's not impossible not to love the wonderful cat Maru, star of a wonderful series of YouTube videos and even his own blog! The book collects a lot of the blog posts and has interesting commentary form Maru's owner and even the cat himself! Learn all about Maru's favorite toys, hiding places and more. This book is pretty silly, but for a cat lover like me it is wonderful therapy to watch a cat having fun. It's a wonderful addition to the video series and sure to charm cat lovers everywhere. I Am Maru -

View all my book reviews

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reed Trio - Last Train to the First Station (Kilogram Records, 2011)

The Reed Trio is a group consisting of Ken Vandermark, Mikolaj Trzaska and Waclaw Zimpel on various saxophones and reed instruments. For some reason I thought this music was recorded for a film soundtrack, and if so it makes quite a bit of sense. The music moves through a wide variety of textures and nuances in a live setting before a polite but engrossed audience. The musicians blend their sound well on the variety of instruments, and will also step out to solo with their two compatriots riffing in the background. But solos are really not the aim of the music, this is truly about collective improvisation, three musicians creating spontaneously in real time. The overall effect is one of a collective painting or other visual art where the musicians are chipping away at the sounds to find the beauty within. The music that this trio makes is rather different that which Vandermark makes with his other of the same configuration, Sonore. While that band tends to be muscular and dynamic, the Reed Trio moves in the other direction looking for subtlety and the tactile features of the music. This music is about improvised texture and free thinking comprehension about how roughly similar sounding instruments can blend together to make coherent and exploratory music. They do seem a little rough around the edges at times (risk-takers often do) but there is a genuinely unique sound on this album that can be further developed with time. Last Train to the First Station -

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Books: Beast of Burden by Ray Banks

Beast of BurdenBeast of Burden by Ray Banks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cal Innes is a private investigator with a past. Ex-con, ex fight promoter and the victim of a drug induced stroke, this once dangerous man is reduced to walking the streets of Manchester with a cane and half of his face paralyzed. But Innes is a hard man, and tough to keep down. He is contacted by Morris Tiernan, head of the local crime family and someone with whom Innes has tangled with many times before. To his surprise, Innes is hired by Tiernan to find his son Mo who has gone missing. The narrative is split between that of Innes and Iain "Donkey" Donkin, a detective suspended from the Manchester police force for excessive use of violence. Donkin is convinced that Innes is responsible for Mo's disappearance and will stop at nothing to get a confession. This was a very well written noir, deep and dark and laced with bone-dry humor. Banks writes dialogue particularly well, using the argot of crooks and crooked cops and the slang of the area to excellent effect. Innes is a fascinating character, even now in his handicapped state, and Donkin takes the cliche of the out of control cop in a whole new direction. While this is an excellent book, it has a lot of back-story needed to fully understand what is going on, so newcomers to the series are advised to begin with the first book in the quartet, Saturday's Child. But those familiar with the series or fans of dark crime fiction are in for a treat. Beast of Burden -

View all my book reviews

Send comments to Tim.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Grateful Dead - What a Long Strange Trip It's Been (Warner Brothers 1977, 1990)

During my college years, the dormitories rocked and rolled with the sounds of Pink Floyd, Bob Marley and especially The Grateful Dead. Jerry Garcia was still alive during this period and I have vivid memories of people I knew bailing out of classes if there was a Dead show within 500 miles of campus. While they were a band known for improvisational flights of fancy, they were not free improvisors making music whole cloth from nothing, what the Grateful Dead needed to be at their best was a song with a strong hook and melody. That's where this compilation comes in, one of the first to anthologize their music, it takes some of their most well known studio recordings and some strongly focused live performances and places them in a very accessible package. Fine music for the die-hard DeadHead and the neophyte alike. On the studio side you hear the band's boogie and jug band roots with "New Minglewood Blues" and "Doin' That Rag." While the acoustic music that the band experimented with to great success in the late 60's and early 70's is represented with the stark "Black Peter" and the beautifully melodic "Ripple." The second half of the collection presents the band in their natural element, performing before a live audience. The concise nature of these performances makes then especially enjoyable, split between Bob Wier's cowboy song "Me and My Uncle" and "Playin' in the Band" to Jerry Garcia's slower, more stately and nuanced "Tennessee Jed" and "Ramble on Rose" this is a fine introduction to a much loved American musical institution. What A Long Strange Trip It's Been: The Best Of The Grateful Dead -

Send comments to Tim.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chris Potter and the DR Big Band - Transatlantic (Red Dot Music, 2011)

Saxophonist Chris Potter has become one of the leading lights of the mainstream jazz scene, playing with the likes of Dave Holland and Paul Motian, and recording several albums as a leader. But seldom have we had the opportunity to hear him as the featured soloist in a big band. On this project, he is the composer, arranger and principal soloist with the Danish Radio Big Band, and this gives us a chance to hear several different aspects of Potter as a complete musician rather than just a great saxophonist. Standout tracks include "The Steppes" which has a snarling electric guitar solo, like something out of Potter's Underground or Ultrahang bands, giving way to the horns that slowly build in and take over. Potter takes a strong tenor saxophone solo of mounting tension, before the horns return to frame him, before once again breaking him loose for a solo tag ending. "New Years Day" shows the horns riffing at a medium tempo opening. Chris Potter builds his solo like a master architect, piece by piece adding to the music and shaping it into a strong aerodynamic statement over bass and drum support. Punctuating horns from the ensemble add some fire, before dropping back to a low end arrangement that concludes with a sweet buttery trumpet (or flugelhorn) solo. Mellow tenor saxophone with just bass and drums in accompaniment open "Narrow Road" with the arrangement for light and patient horns building in a swirling, brassy manner. Patient tenor saxophone probes around the setting, weaving in and around before taking an unaccompanied break. The potent "Abyssinia" takes its strength from a strong, brassy opening, giving Potter the updraft to power his solo and allow him to soar like a bird in flight with a powerful, confident and very well paced solo. After an electric guitar interlude, powerful horns and Potter's graceful saxophone strike the final blow over strong and agile drumming. This was a well done album, Chris Potter's compositions, arrangements and especially his saxophone playing were uniformly excellent. Hopefully we'll continue to hear him in a variety of formats from small groups to big band, because he is clearly a man of many talents and interests. Transatlantic -

Send comments to Tim.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sam Rivers and the Rivbea Orchestra - Trilogy (Mosaic Select 38, 2011)

When composer and multi-instrumentalist Sam Rivers (bio in pdf) moved to Orlando, Florida in the early 1990’s, he had no intention of retiring. Soon the cream of the crop of the Florida improvised music scene began to gravitate around Rivers and a big band playing his intricately progressive, yet accessible charts began to emerge. After a brief moment in the sun, recording two star-studded orchestral albums for RCA, Rivers began to concentrate on the Florida ensemble, documenting them on the self-released album Aurora, and now releasing this comprehensive three disc collection of original compositions and arrangements through the specialty label Mosaic Records. Rivers’ large band writing is thoroughly modern and quite frequently explosive with intricate orchestral arrangements making way for powerful instrumental solos. Discs one and three (sub-titled Offering and Edge) were recorded live, and showcase a medium sized band as a powerhouse ensemble, playing with a muscular bravado and soloing with elan, the rhythm section plays with a funky depth, building power from the ground up and giving a firm foundations for the riffing horns and soloists to blast off from. Disc two (sub-titled Progeny) is a special very large version of the orchestra recording in the studio, playing with great depth and texture that that extra musicians supply. The arrangements are particularly lush, nearly Ellingtonian at times with Rivers sticking to tenor saxophone for the majority of his solos, as opposed to playing a lot of soprano saxophone on the live discs. There’s a great quote from the liner notes (typically excellent, up to Mosaic’s high standard) where Rivers says "I don’t know how to explain it, but at 87, I have greater musical powers than I did when I did when I was 21.” Listening to the power and sustained exuberance on this set you will certainly be inclined to agree. Sam Rivers and the Rivbea Orchestra - Trilogy: Mosaic Records.

Send comments to Tim.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Athenor – En Form For Bla (VHF Records, 2011)

A collective of musicians from the avant rock/free improvisation scene, Aethenor creates some unusual and continually fascinating soundscapes. Consisting of Stephen O’Malley, Daniel O’Sullivan, Kristoffer Rygg, and Steve Noble, the group strives to create a sound that is somewhere in the twilight nether-regions where progressive rock, ambient textures and In a Silent Way type jazz improvisation all combine and coalesce into a unique musical form. The music has a spacious beginning as the musicians grapple for purchase on the wide open sound vision, developing ominous cymbal washes that develop into a growing sound world. Electronics and smears of sound with excellent drum and percussion work move the music inexorably forward, melding in unusual squeaks and squeals of sound. As the album develops its own unique pace as the band moves through dynamic passages of moody electronics and percussion developing a great sense of mystery in the music that is never quite resolved, but hangs in the air like an unanswered question. This is a suite of music that truly defies categorization, but should be of interest to fans of avant rock and free improvisation. En Form for Bla -

Send comments to Tim.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Books: American Gods: Tenth Anniversary Edition by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

American Gods attained "all-time favorite" status when I first read it in 2001, and ten years later it has lost none of its charm or sense of awe. It is the story of Shadow, a man recently released from prison after reluctantly participating in a bank robbery gone wrong. While he was serving the end of his sentence, his wife was killed in a car accident. Now adrift and alone, Shadow is approached by the enigmatic man known only as Wednesday, who continualy offers Shadow work as flunky, gofer, driver and all around lackey. After finally taking the job, Shadow enters a world that he scarcely can believe exists, where the old gods from though out history are still alive, working menial jobs like con-men, undertakers and prostitutes, while the new gods, the ones modern Americans worship - dieties like television, the Internet and technology plan a war to kill off the old gods once and for all. Shadow and Wednesday criss-cross the country recruiting friends and enemies alike for the epic war to come, and the skeptic Shadow learns there is much more to the supernatural than meets the eye. The sheer unprecedented uniqueness that made this book such a thrill to read ten years ago is maintained and even added too with extra material that was left on the cutting room floor during the original editing process. Gaiman truly let his imagination run wild, with an Englishman's sense of wonder at America's vastness and strangeness, and the fertile prowess go his own storytelling ability, he crafter a true masterpiece that only gets better with age. American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition -

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Interesting Links

Here are some interesting links I found while trawling the musical blogosphere:

Destination Out has had a series of wonderful posts, with essays and mp3's from Jeanne Lee with Sam Rivers, Sun Ra and Larry Young. Also check out their Twitter feed.

George Colligan reminisces about some of the tough experiences as a young musician that prepared him for his career.

NPR has streamable and downloadable concerts from the recent Newport Jazz Festival.

Hank Stheamer has another Heavy Metal Bebop interview, chronicling where jazz and metal come together.

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Warren Wolf - (Self Titled) (Mack Avenue, 2011)

Vibraphonist Warren Wolf has a light and dexterous sound that makes this album an appealing mainstream jazz experience. He in joined on this recording by Christian McBride on bass, Peter Martin on piano, Greg Hutchinson on drums, Tim Green on alto and soprano saxophone, and Jeremy Pelt sits in on trumpet for a few tracks. Opening with “427 Mass. Ave.” the music is upbeat with a touch of funk and nice drumming. Pelt adds some punchy trumpet to the festivities, and there is a fine elastic bass solo in addition to vibes and drums interplay. The fast paced hard-bop continues on “Sweet Bread” with deeply swinging vibes and strong saxophone. Deeply rounded saxophone and drums with vibes accenting carries “Eva” with potent saxophone and percussive vibe solos highlighted. The dynamic “Katrina” begins appropriately with a haunted melancholy feel, before developing dynamically with fast and percussive vibraphone. Powerful saxophone and a deeply elastic bass feature drive the music through to its conclusion. Full blast bebop oriented jazz is the order of the day on “One for Lenny” opening with a rapid bass solo, and then moving into a lightning fast vibes and bass feature. After a fast and nimble saxophone solo, McBride gets a nice bowed bass feature backed by light mallet accents. This was a fine all around album, sure to appeal to mainstream jazz enthusiasts. The band was comfortable and impressive at any speed from bop to ballads and worked very well together. Warren Wolf -

Send comments to Tim.

Books: Southern Gods by John Honor Jacobs

Southern GodsSouthern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

WWII veteran Lewis "Bull" Ingram is a fixer and a hard man, when somebody owes a Memphis underworld figure money, they send the Bull to collect. He is offered an unusual job, tracking down a missing record promoter (the novel is set in the Payola days of the early 1950's) and to see if he can locate a pirate radio station that plays the music of bluesman Ramblin' John Hastur, a man whose very voice can drive normally sane men to commit adultery, murder... and raise the dead. The other thread of the story concerns Sarah, an abused wife who escapes he husband to return to her ancestral home in Arkansas, where she is drawn into a mysterious collection of occult literature that her father and uncle had gathered. Bull and Sarah become intertwined in ways they could scarcely imagine, as we learn that Ramblin' John Hastur is actually a lesser god that can inhabit the flesh of human beings to incite murder and mayhem. And he has his eyes on Sarah's daughter as a sacrificial victim to further his plan. It was really interesting to read a noir/horror story with a blues music thread running through it. The scenes with Bull are fascinating, particularly a (literally) explosive scene at a rural juke joint on the Arkansas River with Bull on the run from hoards of the undead. The sections with Sarah and her family machinations drag on a bit too long creating a lull in the action, but when she contacts a local Catholic Priest to help her translate the occult books, she realizes she must team up with Bull before the unthinkable happens, the story builds to a furious conclusion. As a debut novel, this is a very assured work. Jacobs melds the crime and horror genres as skillfully as Tom Piccrilli (on whose blog I read about this book) and I look forward to reading more from this talented author. Southern Gods -

View all my book reviews

Send comments to Tim.

Monday, August 15, 2011

William Parker - Solo Bass/Crumbling In the Shadows Is Fraulein Miller's Stale Cake (Centering/AUM Fidelity, 2011)

William Parker is one of the premier bassists of modern jazz, and this special boxed set features him in a lengthy series of unaccompanied improvisations. Upright, acoustic bass must be one of the most difficult instruments to play solo, demanding a level of physicality and dexterity to keep the music moving forward. Parker demonstrates total command of the instrument both plucked and bowed, creating buzzing and undulating soundscapes that are hypnotic in their improvisational acuity. There are two CDs of newly recorded compositions and improvisations and the musical portion of the collection is rounded out by a remastered version of Parker’s 1995 solo LP Testimony, which was recorded live at the Knitting Factory. As impressive as the music is, the booklet accompanying the discs is absolutely fascinating. Parker is a longtime writer and poet, and the 48 page booklet of his recent poems and stories is just wonderful. Parker dedicates himself to peace and understanding among all people through music and words, and the poems and short story excerpts here evoke the horror of slavery and warfare and the possibility of peace and reconciliation among all people. It’s a wonderful and thoughtful addition to this unique collection. Solo Bass/Crumbling in the Shadows -

Send comments to Tim.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Duke Ellington - Meets Coleman Hawkins / And John Coltrane Impulse, 1962-63, Verve Re-issue, 2011)

The great pianist and composer Duke Ellington and some of his regular sidemen made a few albums for the Impulse! label in the 1960's. There is an excellent two-LP set floating around for the crate diggers to discover covering this period, but for the rest of us there's this new re-issue of two well known Ellington encounters with master saxophonists, Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane. Coleman Hawkins is credited with bringing the saxophone into widespread use in jazz during the 1920's, but never rested on his laurels, bringing his massive sound to bear with modernists and traditionalists alike (much like the Duke himself.) This album has the feel of a polite jam session, beginning with a goofy but fun "Limbo Jazz" which gives everybody a chance to get warmed up with some funky danceable music that is echoed in "Ray Charles' Place." A couple of Johnny Hodges co-compositions, "Wanderlust" and "The Jeep is Jumpin'" put one of jazz's creates tenor saxophone and alto saxophone players together. Ellington's "Self Portrait (Of the Bean)" gives the great man a chance to shine and the album concludes with a beautiful version of the Ellington co-composition "Solitude." Saxophonist John Coltrane and his producer Bob Thiele were still stinging from a nasty beating in the jazz press labeling Coltrane as the "angry tenor" and to counteract this, they recorded a series of more accessible LP's, Ballads, John Coltrane and (ballad singer) Johnny Hartman and this meeting with Duke Ellington. It's a small band recording with Duke on piano (I wonder if McCoy Tyner was there) Coltrane on Tenor and Soprano saxophones, and Duke's and Coltrane's bassists and drummers trading tunes. This is a very enjoyable meeting of the minds, Ellington was apparently eager to break Coltrane's perfectionist tedencies and insisted on the first or second takes being used, rather then recording and re-recording the same song over and over. This makes for a wonderfully spontaneous record, with Duke feeding Coltrane spare and evocative chords on "In a Sentimental Mood" and setting a brisk pace for Billy Strayhorn's "Take the Coltrane." Coltrane takes to the soprano with Duke, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones in tow for "Big Nick," his tribute to R&B/Jazz saxophonist Big Nick Nicholas. They wrap up the session with an Ellington co-composed riff called "The Feeling of Jazz," that allows everyone to stretch out in a relaxed atmosphere. Meets Coleman Hawkins / And John Coltrane -

Send comments to Tim.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Note concerning promotional copies of music.

Hello - This is Tim. I hope all of you are well, and thank you for reading this blog. I occasionally receive promotional copies of new music, via compact disc or digital download. Sometimes I write about them on this blog, but often I do not. Sometimes it is because music that is outside my comfort zone: I have no tolerance for smooth jazz, vocalists singing standards or other such pablum. I'm sure the musicians concerned are quite talented and I bear them no malice. Hear me now: if you send me a promotional copy of music, via compact disc or digital download, there is a low probability I will blog about it. I bear no malice against you, I wish you only the best. Understand that I am am diagnosed with two forms of mental illness and have the organizational skills of a ninety-five year old hoarder. From this point forward, I will examine all promotional material for possible, though improbable inclusion in the blog, the rest will be donated to the Library or sold at the used CD store for credit. I have felt very guilty in the past for not writing about everything sent to me: I resolve to feel guilt no longer. I thank you for taking the time to read this poorly written screed, and the blog in general. I never intended for it to get this big, I just wanted a place to make a diary or what I he been listening to and what moves me. Please accept my apology if I have let you down. I wish you peace and harmony. Tim

Friday, August 12, 2011

Downbeat Readers Poll 2011

Downbeat Magazine is inviting fans to participate in its annual Reader's Poll. Here were my choices:

Hall of Fame: Sam Rivers
Jazz Artist: Matthew Shipp
Jazz Group: Vandermark 5
Big Band: Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band
Jazz Album: Mary Halvorson Quintet - Saturn Sings
Historical Album: John Carter & Bobby Bradford – Mosaic Select
Trumpet: Peter Evans
Trombone: Steve Swell
Soprano Saxophone: Chris Potter
Alto Saxophone: Rudresh Mahanthappa
Tenor Saxophone: David S. Ware
Baritone Saxophone: Hamiet Bluiett
Clarinet: Anat Cohen
Flute: Henry Threadgill
Piano: Matthew Shipp
Electric Keyboard: John Medeski
Organ: Chris Foreman
Guitar: Nels Cline
Bass: William Parker
Electric Bass: Jamaaladeen Tacuma
Violin: Jenny Scheinman
Drums: Hamid Drake
Vibes: Jason Adasiewicz
Percussion: Giovanni Hidalgo
Misc. Instrument: David Murray (bass clarinet)
Male Vocalist: Mose Allison
Female Vocalist: Leena Conquest
Composer: John Hollenbeck
Arranger: Darcy James Argue
Record Label: Hot Cup
Blues Artist: Joe Louis Walker
Blues Album: Junior Wells & The Aces – Live in Boston, 1966
Beyond Artist/Group – The Black Keys
Beyond Album: The Black Keys – Brothers

You do not need to be a subscriber to vote if you sign up for their free e-mail newsletter.

Send comments to Tim.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sonny Rollins - On Impulse/There Will Never Be Another You (Impulse!, 1965; Verve Re-issue, 2011)

The great tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins only recorded a few albums for the Impulse! label in the mid 1960's, and presented on this compilation is the On Impulse LP, plus a live album from the same year that was previously unreleased (in the U.S. at least.) The On Impulse album is almost a Sonny Rollins sampler platter, with the many of the aspects of his musical personality on fine display. It's a quartet album, with Rolllins being supported by Ray Bryant on piano, Walter Booker on bass and Mickey Roker on drums. "Hold 'em Joe," was the highlight of the album for me, a great calypso with powerful tenor saxophone and drums. "Blue Room" is a nice ballad featuring Rollins' immaculate articulation backed with fine brushwork from Roker. Fast paced bebop returns with "Three Little Words" which adds potent saxophone trading ideas with drums and a nice unaccompanied section for saxophone. We then shift to the live album (according to recorded at the Museum of Modern Art in 1965) with a lineup of Rollins on tenor saxophone, Tommy Flanagan on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass, plus Billy Higgins joining Mickey Roker on drums. "On Green Dolphin Street" has a strong medium-up feel to it and features a great piano solo, before sax and drummers trade strong jabs. "Three Little Words" has live-wire saxophone and drums (mixed high, adding to the bootleg quality of the sound) but strong playing all around especially the ripe saxophone. "Mademoiselle de Paris" is drum heavy and bouncing and has unusual slurs of sax, then bass, setting the stage for "To a Wild Rose" which is a patient ballad. Mid-tempo swing, with nice elastic bass and piano and a soft ballad ending. The title track, "There Will Never Be Another You is an epic, beginning at a medium tempo with overly loud drums. After a rippling piano solo, Rollins enters with a solo of his own, deep & strong, before moving on to trade sax and drums ideas with the percussionists building deeply rhythmic phrases. Sonny steps away from the microphone for an a Capella solo before band rejoins for a strong conclusion. On Impulse! / There Will Never Be Another You -

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Books: Steve Hamilton - Misery Bay (Minotaur Books, 2011)

Misery Bay (Alex McKnight Mystery #8)Misery Bay by Steve Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After enduring a sweltering summer here in the armpit of the nation, it was refreshing to read about snow and winter. Alex McKnight, a sometime private investigator in Upper Michigan is sought out one snowbound evening at his favorite bar by his erstwhile nemesis, the town's chief of police. The chief swallows his pride and asks for McKnight's help on a baffling case - the son of a friend and fellow officer has has committed suicide under mysterious circumstances. The chief wants McKnight to do some research to understand what happened. They slowly uncover a string of serial murders, of cops and their children, and are in a race against time to find the killer. A colleague of mine loves this series and has been bugging me to read it, and jumping in at book #8 in the series left me in the lurch regarding some of the back-story but the book reads well as a standalone. Much like James Lee Burke and James Sallis, Hamilton uses the weather, landscape and natural phenomenon to create a vivid setting, where the murders stand in stark contrast to the haunting scenery. Misery Bay: An Alex McKnight Novel -

View all my book reviews

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Deep Blue Organ Trio – Wonderful!

Carrying the torch of the great blues, bop and ballad organ trios of the past, the DBOT plays straight-ahead swinging jazz, that is accessible to fans of Hammond Heroes like Jimmy Smith and Richard “Groove" Holmes. The trio is a deeply integrated unit consisting of Chris Foreman on Hammond B3 Organ, Bobby Broom on guitar, and Greg Rockingham drums. The band has an appealing sound, with Broom’s guitar coming out of the Grant Green school (he’s played with the likes of Sonny Rollins, and has released a nice Monk tribute on his own.) Foreman’s organ and bass pedals keep the music moving on a brisk pace and Rockingham’s timekeeping is as solid as concrete. They keep the music swinging nicely between cookers and ballads, and even a nice touch of righteous rockin’ gospel, “Jesus Children of America” that works quite well. The open the album in a fashion that really hooks the listener with the fast paced and simmering tracks “Tell Me Something Good” and “If You Really Love Me.” The band cuts a fine groove and rides it well, establishing an accessible rapport with the listener. Ballads like the set ending “You Got It Bad Girl” delve deeply into the group’s blues and R&B roots, playing with patience and deeply felt emotion, with deft, light drumming and washes of organ occasionally accented by sparks of guitar. While this group is primarily associated with the fertile Chicago jazz scene, they seemed poised to break out to a wider audience. They have a modern enough sound to capture the attention of groove units like Organissimo and Medeski, Martin and Wood or Marco Benevento, while at the same time appealing to fans of traditional organ jazz. Wonderful! -

Send comments to Tim.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Pharoah Sanders – Village of the Pharaohs/Wisdom through Music (Originally released on Impulse, 1971-72, Re-issued Verve, 2011)

Although saxophonist Pharoah Sanders made his reputation as a firebrand of “The New Thing” there was always a deeply spiritual and meditative side to his playing and that aspect of his music comes to the forefront on this recently re-issued “2-fer.” “Village of the Pharaohs” is a three part suite, which is particularly interesting because Sanders is playing soprano saxophone rather than his usual tenor. The music is full of rumbling percussion and the introduction of the shakuhachi adds an exotic flair. Vocalizing and chanting are present throughout the music along with bells and shaken hand percussion. Sunrise like piano and percussion open “Mansion Worlds” with soprano and percussion developing a hypnotic groove. ”Went Like It Came” is a bit of a ringer, sounding like a party in the studio with bootin’ tenor saxophone over a powerful bass groove. Vocal chanting and singing is a main component of “High Life” and “Love is Everywhere” where percussion and strong beats keep the music from flying off into the cosmos. “Wisdom Through Music” develops a harp-like sound and wanders through sections of bubbling percussion and overdubbed saxophone. The lengthly “Selflessness” ends the record with more of the same chanting and incanting with percussion and then throws in a much needed twist: Sanders enters strong, blowing hard and breathing some much needed life into the music. The music does seem a little dated and time-locked at times, with bells and chanting recalling the 1970’s in all its hazy glory. Still it’s nice to have these relatively rare records back in print, showing that Sanders was a much more varied and multi-faceted musician than people have given him credit for. Village Of The Pharoahs / Wisdom Through Music -

Send comments to Tim.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie - Bird & Diz (Verve, 1950)

Alto saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie were inexorably linked in the bebop firmament of jazz, cutting a number of remarkable records together during a relatively short time span, releasing a musical revolution (or evolution) in the process. This album was recorded on June 6, 1950 with pianist Thelonious Monk, bassist Curly Russell and drummer Buddy Rich in attendance. What a gathering of talent, can you imagine? This CD reissue is the short version with the red filtered cover, a later CD reissue pads out the disc with false starts and breakdowns almost to the point of absurdity. This disc is short and sweet at LP length and all the better for it. The group in general and particularly the co-leaders are in spectacular form, whether taking bop at a “you’ve got to be kidding me” speed on “Leap Frog” where they cram so many ideas into so little time that you literally expect the music to burst at the seams with the energy being released, it's the musical equivalent of a supernova. Most tracks, including “Leap Frog” come in master and alternate formats, and is shows just how on the ball everybody was on that particular day that there is not drop in quality throughout. “My Melancholy Baby” and “Relaxin’ With Lee” slow the tempo just a hair and listening to the musicians articulate in this fashion is a joy to hear. It’s particularly fascinating to hear Thelonious Monk in this setting. Where his angular accompaniment could throw some musicians (particularly Miles Davis) a little off-kilter, he fits the bill perfectly here and his few short solos are masterpieces of self-editing and craft. This was a wonderful album to hear, and the music presented on it uniquely joyful. There must have been something special in the air that day to create music of such luminosity and beauty. Bird & Diz -

Send comments to Tim.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Ernie Krivda - Blues for Pekar (Capri, 2011)

Harvey Pekar was most well known as a graphic novelist, but he was also a huge jazz fan and occasional critic. He receives a fine tribute on this album, a strong disc rooted in the bebop and hard-bop firmament of jazz, and played with a passion and joy that is infectious. Ernie Krivda plays tenor saxophone, joined by Claude Black on piano, Marion Haydenon bass, Renell Gonsalves on drums and Sean Jones or Dominick Farinacci sitting in on trumpet. Krivda has a great brawny tenor sound (what is it about these Cleveland tenor players: from Albert Ayler to Joe Lovano, they project a huge well of sound) and it really works well on the selection of mostly well known compositions. They mix uptempo bop based numbers with equal aplomb, “Valse Hot” and “Fried Banana” show the dexterity with which the group can operate, playing complex melody lines and then supporting each other on solo statements. “Darn That Dream” is a nice piano feature for Black, who patiently probes the structure of the tune and then spools out a well constructed solo. Ending with a couple of strutting originals, “One for Willie” and “Blues for Pekar,” everybody makes the best of these blowing opportunities to show off their chops, not in a self-conscious manner, but as a demonstration of their abilities. This was a very fine mainstream jazz album that deserves wide attention. For fans of classic hard-bop tenor along the lines of Dexter Gordon or Sonny Rollins, this would be a worthwhile investment. Blues For Pekar -, Blues For Pekar: YouTube promo.

Send comments to Tim.