Saturday, March 31, 2012

Blues: Delmark Records - Eddie C. Campbell; Studebaker John

Eddie C. Campbell - Spider Eating Preacher (Delmark, 2012) Campbell is a veteran guitarist and songwriter with a vivid imagination that brings a unique outlook to the blues that he performs. He adds aspects of soul and gospel to his deep core of Chicago blues to create a unique synthesis. The title track. "Spider Eating Preacher" is a very memorable song, with lyrics evoking gospel music as the holy man of the title literally is eating spiders to keep The Devil from spinning his evil web. The traditional man - woman dynamic of the blues is also well represented, but to Campbell's credit, he never falls into rote blues cliches. Control and release and management of emotion is the key here as Campbell builds the music to dynamic crescendos with taut authority.

Studebaker John - Old School Rockin' (Delmark, 2012) "Studebaker" John Grimaldi is a Chicago bluesman, born and bred. His original band The Hawks, began as a tribute to the great slide guitarist J.B. Hutto. Here he fronts a bar-band style group that melds the electric blues he was weaned on with early rock 'n' roll reminiscent of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. Riffs are the keys to these songs, and John and his band have enough to keep a club crowd rocking late into the night. He hits you with the plan straight up with "Rockin' That Boogie" throwing a jolt of electric energy into a primal boogie beat. "Old School Rockin'" and "Disease Called Love" keep the fire burning, while "Fire Down Below" and "Deal With the Devil" add religious imagery to the mix. Studebaker John is something of an "everyman's" musician and people looking for no frills meat and potatoes blues rock will feel right at home here.

Send comments to Tim.

Wallace Roney - Home (High Note, 2012)

Wallace Roney is a contemporary trumpeter and bandleader who plays music that is open and inviting in an accessible way that does not push the listener away. Their musical vision is validated Uptempo songs have a brisk assertiveness with brash trumpet and strong rhythm accompaniment. Their musical vision is validated by the strength and vision they bring to their art. The band is tight and cohesive with their ballad playing taking on a wounded, bruised quality that shows the groups vulnerability as manifested by their patience and willingness to allow patience to punctuate their musical statements. Slower tempted songs have washes of electric piano, noirish late night trumpet waves and subtle bass and brush-work. The faster songs are brash and strong, stating their intent in a no-nonsense manner. They use well developed themes as stepping off points for improvisatory flights and solo statements. Roney has a deep wel of strength on the trumpet that allows him a wide range of feelings that stay focused on the target of the performance. This album is well designed and pointed, bringing resolution to all of the performances and efforts. The musicians are well attuned to each other, able to anticipate and observe the other members of the band, making for tight and cohesive music. Blending a number of strains of creative jazz, the music is fresh and thoughtful, and has just the right amount of dynamic balance to keeping things moving in a forward thinking manner. People need to re-check their assumptions about Roney and his group, they have a unique sound and a lot to say. Home -

Send comments to Tim.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rock 'n' Roll: Lou Reed - Transformer, Rock 'n' Roll Animal

The specialty store Pop Market recently offered a special package of seven of rock 'n' roll icon Lou Reed's albums at a low price. I'm slowly working my way through them and have reports on the first two.

Transformer (Simply Vinyl, 1972) demonstrates Reed as the poet of the streets, composing portraits of people and places as individual situations akin to poems or short stories. All of the characters are in states of Transformation (hence the title). Anchored by the surprise hit "Walk on the Wild Side" and produced by David Bowie, the album had enough cachet to be popular with both critics and fans. The music runs the gamut from strong, hard-hitting rock and roll on "Vicious" and "Hangin' Around" to more gentle fare like the dreamy "Perfect Day" and "Satellite of Love." Its an interesting, if schizophrenic, mix of music, sounding like Reed was trying to find himself, trapped in-between the glorious chaos of The Velvet Underground nipping at his heels, and the glam-rock scenes of London and New York City evolving around him. Transformer -

Rock 'n' Roll Animal (RCA, 1974) runs counter to the previous album, bringing a storming live band to the fore, with twin guitars, bass and drums revolving around Reed's vocals as the pivot point. Revisiting and reinventing classic Velvet Underground compositions, albeit in a far different personae that is analogous of a person living on a knife's edge. Developing after a startling guitar introduction,"Sweet Jane" completely reframes the song from its gleeful and innocent beginnings to a darker, seedier, glam-tinged performance. The re-examination of his former band's material continues with a blazing "White Light/White Heat" and peaks with an extraordinary thirteen minute version of the infamous song "Heroin." This song had always been about dynamics and the attempt to create the rush and nod effect of the drug in musical form. But on this version, Reed pulls out all the stops, moving from sharp lyricism to sheer terror and back again. A couple of newer songs are included on the CD reissue, "Caroline Says I" and "Lady Day" adding a couple of more characters to Reeds oeuvre before the band finishes the show with a long version of the Velvet Underground anthem "Rock and Roll." Rock & Roll Animal -

In a sense, these two albums and the controversial record Berlin that fell in-between them would set the pattern for Reed's solo career that continues to this day. Experimental art projects and guns blazing rock 'n' roll locked in an eternal battle for the shol of one of America's most legendary performers.

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Matt Wilson's Arts and Crafts - An Attitude for Gratitude (Palmetto, 2012)

When it comes to making jazz fun and accessible without pandering, few people do it better than drummer and composer Matt Wilson. Accompanied by his Arts & Crafts group, consisting of: Terell Stafford trumpet, Gary Versace on piano, organ and accordion and Martin Wind on bass. Together they make for a swinging band that has its roots in the progressive hard-bop of the mid 1960's but plays with a thoroughly modern sensibility. "Poster Boy" leads off the album with mid-tempo horn and nice propulsive drumming playing a nimble melody. There is a supple and classy piano, bass and drums section, before the quartet pulls together under gales of brassy horn. "Happy Days are Here Again" is played as a subtle ballad with brushes and muted horn. Versace's subtle piano probes along with patient bass and drums. "Little Boy with the Sad Eyes" begins with slow building organ and trumpet like a sunrise, or the beginning of a religious service. The music kicks into swinging jazz with trumpet heralding the change in speed along with bubbling organ. There's a thick bass solo, then trumpet blazes in in trading phrases. The music has become strong quartet jazz at this point reminiscent of a Blue Note organ jam. Everybody really inspired and cookin' hard. It's a long collective improvisation that stays fresh for over nine minutes featuring really nice swirling organ and drum work that keep things moving along briskly. Wind's bass is featured quite a bit with some excellent bowed work near the end. "You Bet" has brisk drums leading off the rhythmic track with ripe piano and trumpet support building a melody suitable for dancing. Really interesting supple drum work supports, kept up throughout, nothing flashy, just continually thoughtful. There's an elastic bass solo to go along with the ever shifting percussive rhythm, full band takes out swinging hard. Strong drum rolls and a fast beginning morphs into hard swinging with "Bubbles" which adds smears of trumpet and accordion. Wilson is all over his drum kit as the music shifts dynamically. Fading into a fast driving swing with strong drums and trumpet, the swirling accordion and strong drums add a different texture to the music - manic, yet fun. Wind takes another fine bass solo unaccompanied before a spoken word recitation begins. "Cruise Blues" is a slow patient ballad where gentle waves of trumpet are lapping at the cymbals and piano chords like the ocean on the beach at sunset. Things pick back up with "No Outerwear" moving back into solid mid tempo terrain, with a nice spot for Versace who is the utility player on this album, covering all the bases. This was a really fun and entertaining album. Wilson is the perfect ambassador for jazz, bringing his infectious music around the country and the world. That he's been through challenges and still remains grateful makes him all the more admirable. An Attitude for Gratitude -

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jazz Toilet

How can you possibly resist a blog called Jazz Toilet?

Send comments to Tim.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Vijay Iyer - Accelerando (ACT, 2012)

Pianist and composer Vijay Iyer has been getting some much well deserved attention for this new trio album, where he explores a wide range of compositions by various musicians and a few originals as well. Iyer is fast becoming one of the leading composers and song interpreters on the contemporary jazz scene. He has been re-examining music of other composers, from pop to jazz and in the course of that research been developing deep and abiding rhythmic sensibility. He is joined on this album by Stephen Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. With everyone contributing structural information, the group acts more as an organic unit than soloist with accompaniment. The music that they combine to make is deeply rhythmic and often complex while remaining enjoyable and accessible. Piano, bass and percussion bubble and fade sometimes leading, sometimes following, but always interacting in new and interesting ways. This is an excellent album with wonderful interplay amongst the full trio, where everybody plays with a very percussive nature that keeps the music moving swiftly, and gives it a wonderfully dynamic feel. They take a wide ranging view of modern music by playing potent Iyer originals along with compositions by great jazz composers and interpretations of popular songs. Absorbing and infectious, this is jazz about not only the mind but the body. Iyer's fascinating version of Henry Threadgill's "Little Pocket-Sized Demons" is one of the key tracks to the album, rearranging Threadgill's tricky music for trio and revealing in the fun and danceability of the original. The late period Ellington performance "The Village of the Virgins" comes from a play that was written y the great composer and has a stirring soulful narrative quality. An epic version of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" allows the trio to use all of the colors available to them in showing that modern pop is just as viable source material for modern jazz as Tin Pan Alley songs and show tunes were to previous generations of musicians. Iyer's own "Accelerando" and "Mmmhmmm" by the electronic artist Flying Lotus demonstrate the power of rhythm in the group's music. Using a repeated patterns of movement and sound, the systematic arrangement of musical data creates a powerful forward motion. The continuous current of music is ever flowing, and this trio has made a wonderful contribution to the modern music scene with this album. Anyone interested in hearing clues to the future development of jazz would do well to listen to the fine music on this album. Accelerando -

Send comments to Tim.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Interesting Links

  • All the Notes, a 77 minute full length film about Cecil Taylor is streaming on You Tube. (Via NPR and Burning Ambulance).

  • Vibraphonist Susan Pascal has some swinging quartet tracks available for streaming or downloading on her web site. (Via Jazz After Hours)

  • Destination-Out makes some previously out of print Peter Brotzmann recordings available again.
Send comments to Tim.

Friday, March 23, 2012


You can count on The Onion for a rather prescient laugh. This article describes exactly how I put my blog posts together... The guy in the article is even named Tim!

Send comments to Tim.

Eric Alexander and Vincent Herring - Friendly Fire (High Note, 2012)

Both tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander and alto saxophonist Vincent Herring have had longstanding and successful careers as leaders and sidemen on the modern mainstream jazz scene. On this album they pool their talents in a non-competitive jam session recorded live at the Smoke Jazz Club in the company of Mike LeDonne on piano, John Webber on bass and Carl Allen on drums. "Pat 'n' Chat" has an uptempo unison opening. Swirling and snaking intertwined saxophones play together and then break out for individual solos at fast pace, tenor then alto. Herring takes a really nice and intricate alto solo followed by a fast piano, bass and drums interlude. The band returns together for a unison take out. "Sukiyaki" is a slower ballad with gentle tenor lead then a zestful medium tempo trade off of saxophone ideas. Tart alto plays over a supportive piano trio, with the group taking their time, not forcing the music. Alexander gives a gutsy Dexter Gordon like tenor solo, spooling out at length, before piano trio break. The track "Inception" has the saxophones swinging together in a complex melody before tenor breaks out to solo. Alexander takes a dexterous (no pun intended) uptempo tenor solo, with a Coltrane quote to boot. A percolating alto saxophone solo follows, building a head of steam, egged on by the piano trio animated by LeDonne's splashy chords, who then gets of his own displaying great speed and facility. The saxophonists traded phrases with the drummer at the end. The classic Hank Mobley composition "Dig Dis" is ushered in with swaggering melody and killer backbeat. There is a strong bluesy gospelish feel in the saxophone and piano soloing. They develop a cool Jazz Messengers like feel, using the scaffolding of the tune as a springboard for some great soloing, along with a swinging and peppy piano, bass and drums section. "You've Changed" is a slow ballad with nice subtle brushwork from Carl Allen. Tenor leads, telling a late night in the rainy cityscape story, noirish, but hearty. "Mona Lisa" has a piano vamp with alto taking the first mid-tempo solo, building to a nice majestic performance. Alexander takes his turn, developing his solo in an architectural manner followed by a lengthy rippling piano led interlude. ”Timothy” is a short spacious ballad for saxophone and piano. A longer version of ”Timothy” follows and is is still a ballad, but with the full band playing a subtly spoken tune led by Herring's alto that glides and swirls gently. Alexander's tenor comes back in and raises things to a simmer with cymbals and bass keeping time. The heat is gradually turned up as the solo gets more intense before giving way to the piano trio. everyone comes together ending with a return to the ballad tempo. This was a a fun and enjoyable album. Fans of the saxophone "duel" albums from the likes of Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt or Johnny Griffin and Eddie ”Lockjaw” Davis will feel right at home. Friendly Fire -

Send comments to Tim.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gary Bartz - Coltrane Rules: The Tao of a Musical Warrior (OYO Records, 2012)

The great alto and soprano saxophonist Gary Bartz is supported by Andy Bey, Barney Mcall, James King, Greg Bandy and Rene McLean on an album dedicated to the legendary saxophonist John Colttrane. The album is bookended by two short solo performances of "After the Rain" a multi horn incantation for peace, with affective saxophones and bass clarinet evoking the hope arising after the storm. There are a couple of tracks that feature vocals, like Andy Bey singing "Dear Lord" as a heartfelt gospel hymn. There's a nice solo break for patiently developing saxophone in the middle before Bey returns scatting alongside the saxophone to end. "The Song of Loving/Kindness" takes a Buddhist approach to peace through music with some chanting around a dark oak like saxophone solo. The instrumental "I Concentrate on You" is the centerpiece of the album, building from a solid quartet medium-up tempo jazz improvisation with a very nice pinched saxophone sound, well developed and personal. Cultivating Coltrane like swirls of intense sound improvisation. Bartz's powerful well built extended solo is a highlight of the album, bringing Coltrane's legacies into the 21st century. After a restively genteel interlude for piano, bass and drums. Second solo equally powerful as the first on this lengthy blowout. A titanic statement overall, taking John Coltrane's musical DNA and splicing it into a new strain of music. "To Your Lady" has strong bass deep with drums supporting a fine saxophone lead. Swirls of saxophone cavorting freely over the bass and drums with piano chords framing the developing music with a jaunty piano led interlude included. "Nita" has a swinging full band lead into majestic saxophone solo, while the medley of "Dahomey Dance/Tunji" begins with a piano vamp, saxophone entering and swirling through and around. Strong saxophone playing, growing deeper and more intense as the piece moves on. Definitely in the John Coltrane "classic quartet" mold here with powerful saxophone and drums, deep elastic bass and loud piano chords. Intense, bracing music that scours the soul, before making way for a rippling and probing piano, bass and drums section. "Villa/Ole" begins at a slower, more contemplative tempo. Dark hued saxophone tones build strength slowly and with great potency. Explosive saxophone playing recalls the power of Coltrane's later period recordings. Piano with bass and drums bridges the two compositions. Bartz's saxophone returns sounding vaguely exotic, ratcheting downward to a fairly gentle conclusion. "Pristine" is uptempo hard-bop with an etched in granite sound, featuring a scalding fast saxophone solo and pointillist swinging piano trio section The music owes a great debt to the master as Bartz explains in this fascinating promotional video. But the truth is, despite John Coltrane's overwhelming presence, the band is approaching the music in their own way, finding connections and elaborating on ideas that Coltrane presented to the jazz world during his brief life. It is fascinating how Bartz has been able to combine songs into medleys that work as a seamless integrated whole. This was an excellent album, and deserves wide attention. Coltrane Rules: Tao of a Music Warrior -

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Forgas Band Phenomena - Acute V (Cuneiform, 2012)

Led by veteran drummer and composer Patrick Forgas, the Forgas Band Phenomena plays jazz fusion with a capital "F". Drawing inspirations from classic fusion units like the Mahavishnu Orchestra and progressive rock outfits like Magma, the group creates an exciting and cohesive sound that is potent and complex, but avoids the bombastic label that is often applied to fusion music. (Digression: I've been reading a couple of interesting books on jazz fusion, the newer Birds of Fire and Jazz Rock: a History from several years ago.) The current lineup of the FBP consists of: Patrick Forgas on drums, Sebastien Trognon on saxophones and flute, Dimitri Alexaline on trumpet and flugelhorn, Benjamin Violet on guitar, Karolina Mlodecka on violin, Igor Brover on piano and keyboards and Kengo Mochizuki on bass. The music is deeply textured and woven like a fine cloth, notably on the tracks "Corps Et Ames" and "Feu Sacre" where electric keyboards add brush strokes of tone to the bubbling electric bass and drums, making an ample launching pad for the really interesting front line of violin, trumpet and saxophone. The nature of the instrumental palette offers the musicians a wide range of ways to manipulate their music and they make the most of it. Fans of adventurous jazz or progressive rock will enjoy this album quite a bit. Apparently there is a full-length DVD included in the physical package which looks really cool. I didn't get a chance to view it because I got the album on mp3. Acte V (CD/DVD) -

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Louis Moholo-Moholo, Dudu Pukwana, Johnny Dyani with Frank Wright - Spiritual Knowledge and Grace (Ogun Records, recorded 1979, released 2011)

The Blue Notes were a great integrated jazz band who fled to Europe to escape the ravages of apartheid. In the summer of 1979, the band was scheduled to tour Holland with the first stop in Eindhoven. Consisting of Louis Moholo-Moholo on drums and vocals, Dudu Pukwana on saxophone, piano and vocals and and Johnny Dyani on bass, piano and vocals, their final member, pianist Chris McGregor wasn't able to make the gig due to transportation delays. So the group improvised and started the party without him, picking up American free jazz icon Frank Wright and having a good old fashioned blowout, presented here as two thirty plus minute spontaneous improvisations, each blasting off for the cosmos. Different musicians take a turn at the piano while rotating between instruments giving the results a loose, jam-session type of appeal. There is some impulsive playing, saxophones free in the moment allowing their solos to develop mindfully with the environment and companionship around them, building music spontaneously like a musical Big Bang, from a point of beginning to a universe of sound-matter and energy. The banging out of piano chords to add to the good natured bonhomie and mayhem of the performance, which develops a collaborative groove akin to the music made by the Art Ensemble of Chicago. The music builds under thick bass with laughter and whistles before some more piano ushers in a new section. Some chanting and singing develops a Sun Ra like feel toward the end of the second performance as the music fades out. The lasting legacy of this performance is the ability of jazz musicians to make the best out of any situation. Instead of packing up and canceling the gig the remaining members of the band recruited a new friend and had a riotously good time playing the music they love. Spiritual Knowledge and Grace - jazz

Send comments to Tim.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

John Zorn with Masada @ Cine Joia

Damn, this is hot stuff! Hat tip: Free Form Jazz.

Send comment to Tim.

Jim Holman - Explosion! (Delmark, 2012)

Jim Holman is an excellent up an coming piano player with a fine touch on the instrument and an impeccable knack of picking great songs to cover. The core trio consists of Holman on piano, with some added horns in the persons of Richie Cole and Frank Catalano. The title track leads things in the right direction from the start, "Explosion!" its straight up modern hard-bop played fast and tight with a minimum of fuss. While there are a couple of ballads on the program including the potentially maudlin "Somewhere over the Rainbow," but the main task Holman sets before the group is to look at the great hard-bop blowing tunes of the past and shed some 21st century light on them. A couple of early John Coltrane compositions are represented, "Lazy Bird" and "Moment's Notice," giving the horn players room to stretch out on some great themes, as is the case on Joe Henderson's classic composition "Recorda Me." You can't have a record of this nature and not include a composition by Thelonious Monk, and the band's version of the Monk anthem "Straight, No Chaser" is filled with impish glee that would have had the composer dancing on the stage as was his predilection when things were going really well. Holman gains special points by wrapping up the album with my favorite Herbie Hancock composition "Cantaloupe Island" (where can I get a ringtone of that classic piano vamp?) taking the record out in grand style. There really isn't a weak spot on the album, and if the modernization of classic hard-bop is your thing, you will really enjoy this record. Explosion! -

Send comments to Tim.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

John Coltrane - Afro Blue Impressions (Pablo 1977, 1994, Japanese remaster 2004)

Originally recorded during the "classic quartet's" 1963 tour of Europe, the release remained unissued until 1977, and then was subsequently re-issued on domestic compact disc in 1994, before being remastered in Japan ten years later. With John Coltrane on tenor and soprano saxophone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums, this was one of the most famous bands in jazz history. This Japanese re-mastering clears up the slightly muddy sound of the previous issue, leaving a clear record of a great band in full flight. The album starts with a couple of ballads, "Lonnie's Lament" which would go on to anchor the Crescent LP and Coltrane's well known ballad "Naima." "Lonnie's Lament" must have been a relatively new addition to the band's repertoire at this point, as they take a careful probing approach, then shifting into a short, concise and majestic version of "Naima." "Chasin' the Trane" follows, a much briefer version then the lauded blowout of torrid angst from the 1961 Village Vanguard Recording. Disc one ends with an epic version of "My Favorite Things" which features some great piano playing from McCoy Tyner. Bubbling soprano saxophone launches merrily into improvisation after developing the enduring melody of the song, developing into a long but compelling improvisation. Disc two begins with another staple of the band's playbook, "Afro Blue." Coltrane stays on soprano saxophone, developing an exciting nasal swirling sound. "Cousin Mary" begins with a well played feature for piano, bass and drums. Coltrane makes a late entrance, heightening the drama of his explosive solo, developing into a powerful highlight, egged on by Jones' ever-potent drumming. The wistful ballad "I Want to Talk About You" is taken on tenor saxophone and receives a wonderful unaccompanied tag ending. "Spiritual" opens strong and sombre with Coltrane on deeply hued tenor saxophone. After making way for the trio, he returns on soprano saxophone for a probing and searching solo. The album is closed with the wonderfully exciting "Impressions," moving the music into an uptempo overdrive with piano, bass and drums setting the table before Coltrane enters grandly with an authoritative solo. This was an excellent snapshot of a great band live on tour. Developing new material, and re-evaluating older themes, the music is continually exciting and moving. Afro Blue Impressions -

Send comments to Tim.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Don Byas - A Night in Tunisia (Black Lion, 1967)

Tenor saxophonist Don Byas was a very important if somewhat neglected figure in jazz - his music as a sideman and as a leader bridged the swing era and bebop and was applicable to either sub-genre of jazz. Moving to Europe after the Second World War, Byas found not only less racism but plentiful opportunities to perform and record. This album is a live recording from The Montmartre Jazzhus in Copenhagen, Denmark on January 13 & 14, 1963, and captures him at the hight of his powers backed by Bent Axen on piano, Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson (still a teenager at this time!) on bass, and William Schiopffe on drums. Byas is strong and supple on saxophone throughout the entire album, playing with great speed and passion on the uptempo bebop standards "a Anthropology" and "A Night in Tunisia." He plays with great facility and and demonstrates a deep understanding of the dynamics of bebop, working hand in hand with his sidemen, leading but never dominating. His ballads are equally beautiful, displaying a bruised brawn that is palpably emotional and romantic. "Lover Man" and "Yesterdays" show him playing with great patience, coaxing the melodic beauty out of these standards. Don Byas truly had his own sound on the tenor saxophone and this album is a prime example of his art. From tough to tender, Byas had to tools to do it all. Night in Tunisia -

Send comments to Tim.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Charlie Haden - Etudes (Soul Note 1993, 2011)

Veteran bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motion joined up with then precocious newcomer pianist Geri Allen for a rousing set of performances that were near the state of the art for the piano trio playing modern jazz. Broken up by the short "Etudes" and the meditative performance "Silence," comes a rambunctious and frequently thrilling album with a leadoff performance of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" which Haden was intimately familiar with, having played on the original recording. Hearing it scored for a piano trio rather than a piano-less quartet with horns takes the familiar composition in a different and interesting direction. No wonder Allen would go on to be one of the few pianists that Coleman would collaborate with. The angular "Dolphy's Dance" is a fine tribute to the great saxophonist, bass clarinetist and flutist Eric Dolphy. Dolphy had a unique (and controversial at the time) approach to the music that extended the language of Charlie Parker into the next generation. The trio is able to capture that forward thinking spirit on this exciting performance. Also engaging are "Blues in Motian" and the dynamic "Shuffle Montgomery" where Motian's ever-shifting and textural drumming and Haden's rock solid bass engage Allen and bring about a true synthesis of musical performance. The Complete Remastered Recordings -

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Thelonious Monk (Blue Note, 1994)

Brought to Blue Note Records by saxophonist and A&R man Ike Quebec when the label was looking to branch out from traditional to modern jazz, the iconoclastic composer and pianist Thelonious Monk recorded for the Blue Note from 1947-1952. No stranger to the jazz scene, Monk was center stage at the bebop evolution (read Robin D.G. Kelly’s excellent biography for all the details) and also played with the likes of Coleman Hawkins during the war years. The first three discs of this collection draw together all of the master and alternate takes available from Monk’s work as a leader on the label. The fourth disc is something of an outlier, an audience recording of Monk leading a group live at the Five Spot in New York City featuring the saxophonist John Coltrane. Though Monk was misunderstood by many at the time as someone who was trying to attack settled beliefs and the institution of jazz, he never lost sight of his single minded pursuit of excellence, one that would lead him from being an outsider to the cover of Time Magazine in fifteen years. Some of Monk’s best trio work would come in a late 1947 session that included recordings of original classics like “Well You Needn’t” “Ruby My Dear” and “Introspection” along with excellent performances of the standards “April in Paris” and “Nice Work if You Can Get It.” Thelonious Monk had a simpatico relationship with the vibraphonist Milt Jackson, the two palpably clicked, playing a joyous romp of music on a 1948 session including “Evidence,” “Mysterioso,” and “Epistrophy.” Jackson returned with the drummer Art Blakey in tow for a July 1951 session that showed the three developing close knit percussive tapestries on the likes of “Four in One,” “Criss Cross” and “Straight, No Chaser.” He wraped up his Blue Note recording tenure with a sextet session including two saxophones and trumpet. They developed a full and brash sound on the likes of “Skippy,” “Hornin’ In” and “Let’s Cool One.” The final disc of the set poses something of a jarring juxtaposition, moving from relatively brief but fairly well recorded discs (for the period) to lengthy live explorations of Monk compositions heard on a low-fidelity recording. Despite the sound quality, the music is quite exciting, Monk is in fine form and Coltrane sounds particularly inspired. His life was changing drastically, and Monk was midwifing his musical re-birth that would lead to super-stardom. It is said that during Thelonious Monk’s live performances, he would occasionally leave the piano and engage in a shuffling dance around the bandstand. This is a completely appropriate response to his music which is playful and filled with joy. Complete Blue Note Recordings -

Send comments to Tim.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Strong stuff

Critic James Hale levies some harsh criticism in his recent piece, and definitely makes me want to re-think blogging.

"Time was that a dull-eared reviewer with leaden prose was a voice in the wilderness. Those who were cheerleaders for one artist or another sometimes were quoted in press materials, but otherwise their work seldom was seen beyond their immediate region. Now, they show up in Twitter feeds and through Facebook links. Publicists spread them around like a virus."

"Under the guise of “citizen journalism”—a term that covers a multitude of sins—anyone with an MP3 player and an opinion can now get equal footing with professional music journalists."

Send comments to Tim.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Interesting links

Send comments to Tim.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Books: Record Store Days

Record Store DaysRecord Store Days by Gary Calamar

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book details the trials and tribulations of the great American institution, the record store. I collected vinyl records for a long time before finally selling a few years back because the apartment was getting too crowded with boxes of LPs. Recently I began dipping a toe in the water again, picking up an inexpensive USB turntable and browsing the used bins at the remaining stores in New Jersey: The Princeton Record Exchange, Vintage Vinyl and Jack's Music Shoppe. I caught the bug early on: The Schenectady County Public Library had a diverse record collection available in the 1980's and I then graduated to my first great store, The Last Vestige in Albany. It was in the middle of a crappy neighborhood, but the store was a world of wonders and the LPs and CDs that came in and out of that store were hard to believe. Moving to New jersey, I found the long lamented Izzy's Records, where my friend John worked and turned me on to some great music. The other three stores I mentioned continue with greater or lesser success. Internet downloading and the popularity of movies and DVDs replacing shelf-space formerly held by music is taking its toll. But enough about me, I should probably talk about the book. The authors really do begin at the beginning following the development of musical reproduction from the Victrola and 78 rpm recordings through the heydays of the 1950's - 1970's and then the eventual fall from grace with the introduction of the compact disc in the 1980's. The book has a cautiously optimistic conclusion however, siting the revised interest in vinyl records especially by younger fans who aren't satisfied by the vaporous nature of the digital music file. This book was light fun reading, the the main narrative often interrupted by sidebars with anecdotes from musicians, collectors and store owners. The do celebrate the DIY spirit of independent record stores over corporate chains (most of whom are gone now anyway.) Anyone who is nostalgic for liner notes and album art and the idea of watching the record spin 'round and 'round are encouraged to check out this book. Record Store Days: From Vinyl to Digital and Back Again -

View all my book reviews

Send comments to Tim.

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Kinks in Mono (Sanctuary, 2011)

Coming hard on the heels of boxed sets releasing the mono (recorded using only one channel of transmission) recordings of Bob Dylan and The Beatles, comes a well designed and re-issued box of the early recordings (1964-1969) by the British Invasion stalwarts, The Kinks. The box collects all of the LPs released during this period, and mops up all of the miscellaneous singles and EPs as well. Tracking the band's development from an early R&B unit that enjoyed some fresh hits with the riffed based rockers "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night." It's very interesting to follow the band's musical evolution into album length suites on records like Something Else and The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society. These albums ran counter to the trend of swinging sixties progressiveness, instead invoking a wistful nostalgia for an England of the past. They were far from conservative, though, using their pop sensibility superbly on the Face to Face album and culminating with the album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) which has scathing lyrics decrying the glorification of war and the pettiness of the British caste system, melding it to a graceful and melodic lyricism. This boxed set is quite expensive, but for fans of the band, they will find a logically laid out and well remastered set of extraordinary music. Kinks in Mono -

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Wes Montgomery - Echoes of Indiana Avenue (Resonance, 2012)

Before guitarist Wes Montgomery vaulted to stardom with jazz recordings for Riverside and Verve and pop recordings for A&M, he was a scuffling guitarist working in a radio factory and playing in a group with his brothers and at local jam sessions. This is a disc of early recordings, apparently demos, recorded prior to his signing with Riverside Records. The album is made up of mostly jazz and pop standards save the opening "Diablo's Dance," which is a fast and exciting uptempo improvisation. The closer, "After Hours Blues" is a spontaneous improvisation recorded at a jam session. What is interesting about this track is that Montgomery plays with a much sharper, biting tone than usual, digging deep into the blues. He covers a couple of Thelonious Monk compositions, including a moody version of "Round Midnight," and a medium tempo version of "Straight, No Chaser." Billy Strayhorn's classic composition "Take the A Train" gives Montgomery a chance to stretch out on a faster paced familiar standard. I do not believe that these recordings were ever intended for commercial release, but work pretty well as an album. This disc will probably be best enjoyed by Montgomery completists because it catches an early glimpse of an emerging giant.Echoes of Indiana Avenue -

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - Self Titled, East-West

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band was one of the first mixed race blues bands, and arguably one of the finest. Their first two albums showcase Butterfield's singing and harmonica palying along with Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop on electric guitar, Mark Naftalin on organ, Jerome Arnold on bass and Sam Lay on drums and singing the lead vocal on the Muddy Waters classic "Got My Mojo Working." The album is filled with established classic blues compositions and the band tears through them as if their lives were dependent upon it. Starting with "Born in Chicago," the band lays down their bona fides for the city where electric blues was king. The group covers two Little Walter compositions, the classy "Blues With a Feeling" which is the aural equivalent to cruising the Windy City in a vintage Cadillac; and the haunting "Last Night" where they play the sad song dripping with emotion. Butterfield had great chutzpa to cover two song by such a fantastic harmonica player, but he shines on both with singing and blues harp playing in fine form. A couple of favorites from one of my blues heroes, Elmore James, jack the energy back up to eleven. "Shake Your Moneymaker" is a club staple and "Look on Yonder's Wall" give the guitarists a great chance to show off their slide guitar prowess. Certainly one of the most auspicious debut albums of the era. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band -

The follow-up album, East-West, is even more adventurous, adding jazz and raga to the mix for a potent genre bending LP. The lineup was the same, except for Billy Davenport replacing Sam Lay on drums. The highlights are the extraordinary instrumental workout on Nat Adderley's jazz classic "Work Song" where Butterfield outdoes himself echoing trumpet and saxophone parts in his own unique way. Things are even more impressive on the title composition "East-West" where elements of Indian music are added to blues and jazz to karmically link the music of Elmore James, John Coltrane and Ravi Shankar. Guitars and harmonica come in wave after wave of experimental music, laying waste to the idea that the blues was a stale, staid musical form. Of course they still played the blues too, opening with Robert Johnson's classic "Walkin' Blues" and adding Muddy Waters equally memorable "Two Trains Running." As fine as those are though, they can't reach the epochal heights of the two purely instrumental performances. Butterfield would never reach that high again either but he set quite a benchmark for other musicians to follow. East-West -

Send comments to Tim.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Jeff Parker - Bright Light in Winter (Delmark, 2012)

Jeff Parker is a resourceful guitarist and composer and a well regarded member of the Chicago jazz and improvised rock scene. This album is a tight and focused trio session that is well organized and thoughtfully performed. There are no pyrotechnics on this album, no guitar histrionics, but playing by and for the group that is continually delving back upon itself for inspiration coiling potential energy. The music is neatly played and well articulated, culminating in "Freakadelic" which builds in elements of funk and R&B developing something of an electric Miles Davis groove of an open ended nature. They concentrate on building the performance to an expansive and expressive peak. An interesting diversion in the album is a short interlude of music led by flute. This changes the dynamic of the album by introducing different texture and the effect is slightly jarring, moving away from the straight up guitar trio. The music is performed by a talented group that has a great deal of flexibility in their approach allowing them to be conversant in many different aspects of improvised music. They have a very perceptive view of music, drawing diverse threads together without judgement. This music is accomplished and accessible for many music fans to enjoy; particularly those of jazz and progressive rock. The musicians are generous with each other and the listener, proceeding in a wise and savvy manner that is always in the service of moving the music forward in a compassionate and selfless manner.

Send comments to Tim.