Monday, April 30, 2012

Cedar Walton Presents Piero Odorici (Savant, 2012)

In addition to being an excellent pianist and composer, Cedar Walton makes for a fine A and R man. He came to Savant Records' asking to make a record with a relatively unknown Italian tenor saxophone player from Bologna named Piero Odorici who had paid his dues in Italy by playing with the likes of George Cables, Curtis Fuller, Jimmy Cobb and others. For his American recording debut, Piero is backed by the Cedar Walton Trio with David Williams on bass and Willie Jones III on drums in a selection of  jazz standards and original compositions. You can hear the echoes of the last masters of the tenor saxophone like John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon and Stan Getz in Odorici’s playing. “Cesadilla” opens the album with strong uptempo tenor saxophone and vibrant, rich piano accompaniment. The music has a mid-period Coltrane feel which is interesting because Walton played on John Coltrane’s Giant Steps sessions. The lush ballad “For Someone So Beautiful” has a patient Dexter Gordon feel, romantic with subtle brushwork. The old standard “Over the Rainbow” is given a fresh reading, still remaining its lyricism, but ramping up the speed. The music is fast paced and spirited yet accessible and strong with great support from Walton and the rhythm section. The bebop flag-waver “Tin Tin Deo” has snappy drumming propelling a strong full band reading. Jones is really the key here, keeping the rhythm strong and powerful. Strong drumming also drives “Native Son” where Jones gets a really fine drum feature, with full band melodic improvising bookending the solo. “If I Should Lose You” concludes the album with a loosely played version of the standard, buoyed by a strong subtle piano solo from Odorici’s mentor, Cedar Walton. Cedar Walton Presents Piero Odorici -

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Books: The Black Angel by John Connolly

The Black Angel (Charlie Parker, #5)The Black Angel by John Connolly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Detective Charlie Parker is trying to help his friend Louis track down his missing cousin, an addict living rough on the streets of New York. When the investigation leads to a homemade house of horrors filled with human bones and statues made of remains, Parker tries to track down those responsible. He comes up against a group of cultists called The Believers, whom are convinced that angels fell to earth and took on human form, save one that was trapped in silver at a hidden location. The Believers come to suspect that Parker is a fallen angel himself, and that he must be captured. So the race is on - to find the killers, to discover a mysterious map that could lead to the location of the silver angel, and to keep Parker out of the hands of The Believers. This is a typically excellent entry in the Charlie Parker series by John Connolly, combining aspects of the supernatural to dark crime fiction. He makes the two fit seamlessly, making the story accessible for both horror and crime fiction fans. This is probably the longest novel in the series, as Connolly adds concurrent narratives and flashbacks as plot devices. The story keeps moving along rapidly and this book is highly recommended. The Black Angel - View all my book reviews

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FWIW: What I listened to this past week

My Top 5 #lastfm Artists: Jack White (25), John Coltrane (21), John Zorn, Rob Burger, Kevin Norton & Bill Laswell (16), Bill Frisell (12) & Sun Ra and His Intergalactic Solar Research Arkestra (12)

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Why do I read Crime Fiction?

Out of the blue I received some really interesting questions about books from a Goodreads member calling herself "Princess." These are the questions and my answers: 

Q: "1] In your opinion, what is mystery to you, and what is suspense to you? Is there a difference between the two?" 

Q "2] What do you as a reader, get from reading novels in this genre?" 

Hello - It is an interesting question. Working as a librarian I have found that mysteries mean different things to different people. Some are looking for what are called "cozies" which are light mystery novels that involve little or no violence. This sub-genre doesn't really appeal to me but the Donald Westlake series featuring the bumbling criminal Dortmunder is a favorite. Thrillers and suspense novels often have the protagonist racing against a deadline is order to save/find somebody/some item: books by Connolly and Lee Child fall into this category. There are also police procedurals which Connolly can also fall into, where a crime or conspiracy is committed and the reader follows the police investigation or PI to catch the perpetrator. I really enjoy James Ellroy, James Lee Burke and John Connolly in this category. 

I prefer what has been called "crime fiction" which instead of a "who done it" is more of a "why they done it." Often you'll know at the beginning of the book what the crime or conspiracy is and the narrative follows the crooks, cops, private eyes or all three and focuses on characterization as much as plot. My favorite authors in this genre are Tom Piccirilli, Ray Banks and Richard Stark (Donald Westlake's pseudonym for dark crime fiction.) 

As to why I read them, I think the visceral rush of a well written piece of crime fiction is almost intoxicating. I also think the vicarious thrill of reading about crime is also there, because in real life I'm a milquetoast Librarian who is practically afraid of his own shadow, but when I read books like these I am transported, however briefly, into a world of mystery and mayhem. Hope this helps, Be well, Tim.

Q: "3] How do you think of yourself – hero or villain? Is the worst identity to have not the villain, but the person who is powerless?" 

I think that the most interesting characters and certainly myself have aspects of both traits, making them fall into shades of grey rather than strictly hero or villain. The fallen hero or the repentant criminal make for very interesting story-lines as we are all flawed in some way and this makes the characters seem all the more real. I know I have done things that I deeply regret, but there are also small victories that make life seem worthwhile, at least for the moment. The worst identity may well be the character or person that falls into despair and gives away his or her sense of power to another, because in the act of giving away their free will, they have lost the power of their own choices and freedom of actions and have sunk into the dark pit of despondency. I suffer from severe depression and panic disorder, so I know how easy it is to isolate from humanity and give away the freedom that makes life both terrifying but nonetheless endlessly exciting.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Frank Wright Quartet - Blues for Albert Ayler (ESP, 2012)

Recorded at Rashied Ali's performance space Ali's Alley during the height of the "loft jazz" era, this is really an undiscovered gem rescued from the lists of time. Saxophonist and flutist Wright and guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer had recently returned from engagements in Europe, and took part in this "welcome home" gig along with Benny Wilson on bass and Ali himself on drums. It is a high spirited and frequently thrilling affair - Wright is in top form, boisterous and free, but never spiraling out of control, on this night he was a man in his moment and the music flowed forth in great washes. The music comes The music comes in the form of a six part suite dedicated to the memory of free-jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler, whom Wright knew while growing up in Cleveland, and you really get the sense that the band was channeling Ayler's unbridled creativity, and they way in which he would begin with a basic theme and spool out extraordinary improvisations. "Part One" and "Part Three" of this continuous suite are the most enthralling with Wright sending out gales of howling saxophone and James "Blood" Ulmer, well on the way to a breakthrough of his own, showing an unusual guitar technique he developed while playing with Ornette Coleman and embracing Coleman's "harmolodic" music system. Shards of crystalline electricity and even elements of funk propel the music to ever greater heights. Benny Wilson gets a lengthy bass solo on "Part Four" before Wright enters on flute to begin the epic twenty minute plus "Part Five" where they pull out all the stops, moving from a quiet beginning through different aspects of soloing and collective improvisation. They take things really out here, but there is always the sense of knowing their destiny and the path on which they trod. By the time "Part Six" comes around they have one more chance to shine before shutting down for the evening. This is a very exciting recording and must for fans of the loft era and free jazz in general. Blues for Albert Ayler -

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dr. John - Locked Down (Nonesuch, 2012)

Mac Rebennack aka Dr. John “The Night Tripper” has had a long and mercurial career in music from hot New Orleans session man to voodoo trickster and Duke Ellington interpreter, he’d pretty much done it all. So when Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys offered to produce his next album it offered the promise of something different. That promise turned out to be an excellent combination of the old and the new. The music references Dr. John’s early solo LP’s particularly the wonderfully swampy Gris-Gris. But vaulting this music firmly into the 21st century are the lyrics, which explore everything from gospel music and spirituality on “God’s Sure Good” and “My Angels My Children” and the temptations of The Devil on “You Lie.” The low-down Cajun blues is well represented with the title track “Locked Down”, “Ice Age” and “Revolution” which tackle head on the societal problems people face today. Add to this the swaggering chest-thumper “Big Shot” and you have what results in what is probably Dr. John’s best album in a long time. His growling vocals and keyboard work are first rate, and Auerbach’s guitar and production work are the icing on the cake. Locked Down

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Frank Lowe - The Loweski (ESP, 2012)

Frank Lowe was a tenor saxophonist who was influenced by the free jazz pioneers of the 1960’s like Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders. Moving to New York, he fell in with the nascent Loft Scene, and recorded a duet album with drummer Rashied Ali. Hooking up with the seminal avant-garde record label ESP, he recorded his first solo album Black Beings in 1973 as well as this previously unreleased set. On this five part suite, Lowe is accompanied by Joseph Jarman on soprano and alto saxophones, Raymond Lee Cheng on violin, William Parker on bass and Rashid Sinan on drums. Jarman opens the album with an unaccompanied solo performance where low honks play off against silence and swirls of saxophone and piercing squeals. The full band joins in on part two with howling saxophones at the center aided by circling, sawing violin. Coarse, jarring free jazz saxophones make for a harrowing improvisation, developing into a lengthy lung-shredding performance building into overblown gales sounding fierce to the point of desperation. Part three is a feature for Cheng, dubbed “The Wizard,” he deploys shards of electric violin like broken glass reflected in the sunlight and accompanied by fast bass and drums. The saxophones re-enter on Part Four spitting fire over the full band with cymbal crashes and prodding bass. The horns join and circle in midair leading into the finale where the twin saxes joust and parry, spiraling like aircraft over strong accompaniment. The music rolls to an uneasy end with droning bass and nervous and skittish percussion. This is a well done historical release, with interesting music presented well. The sound quality is pretty good and the liner notes offer excellent contextual information and photographs. The Loweski -

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ross Hammond - Adored (Big Weezus Music, 2012)

Guitarist Ross Hammond has been a prolific presence on the West Coast improvised music scene for more than a decade. On this album, he is collaborating with fellow west coast stalwarts Vinny Golia on saxophones, Alex Cline on drums and Steuart Liebig on bass. The resulting album, Adored, was recorded in Los Angeles at Newzone Studio in December, 2011. This album takes a different track from Hammond’s previous albums by focusing on short themes which allow the group to collectively improvise on the material in an organic fashion, using the melodies as a springboard for spontaneous improvisation. The opening track “Adored” and the composition “Joaquining” have a strong fast up-tempo feeling, somewhat reminiscent of the great Sonny Sharrock – Pharoah Sanders  album Ask The Ages. The material covered on the album has a nice dynamic range, featuring the songs “Sesquipedalian” and “Maribel's Code” which are slow burning improvisations that drive to excellent climactic finishes. This was a well done combination of composition and improvisation that is unique in the way that the music interprets and reflects the spontaneous music, while enhancing its meaning. Fans of forward leaning music should definitely check this out it, is a daring and successful undertaking. Adored -

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Peter McEachern Quintet featuring Thomas Chapin - Shockwave (CD Baby, 2012)

When I was getting deeply into jazz in the early 1990's the saxophonist and flutist Thomas Chapin was one of my heroes. His saxophone and flute playing came out of the likes of the likes of Sam Rivers and Eric Dolphy, but with a voice totally his own. His early death from leukemia was a devastating blow to the creative improvising scene. But he is far from forgotten, as he is featured in this album by trombonist Peter McEachern along with James Finegan on trumpet, Mario Pavone on bass and Steve Johns on drums. The album as a whole is excellent modern jazz circa the early 90's Knitting Factory era. That's not to say that the music is time worn, far from it, if anything else it shows how far ahead of his time Thomas Chapin was. The front line plays blustery and strong and Pavone's rock solid bass (he was the bassist In Chapin's trio) and Johns's supple drumming anchor the whole show to let the horn players fly free. I feel kind of bad talking so much about Chapin, when it is not his album, and McEarhern's composing and playing is so good. But such is the overwhelming uniqueness and intensity of Tommas Chapin's musical persona that he dominates this album and makes it a must have. Kudo's to Peter McEarchern for making sure that this valuable session finally saw the light of day. Shockwave -

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Michael Benedict and Bopitude - Five and One (CDBaby, 2012)

Drummer Michael Benedict has a great knowledge of the history of jazz, and isn't afraid to wave his hard-bop flag high. His band Bopitude is made up of Bruce Barth on piano, Chris Pasin on trumpet, Brian Patneaude on tenor saxophone and Mike Lawrence on bass with the addition of guest Gary Smulyan on baritone saxophone. The music covers a wide range of bebop and hard bop terrain, from well known uptempo songs like "Work Song" and "The Eternal Triangle" Gary McFarland's "Train Samba" and "Last Rites for the Promised Land," compositions that move the music into more subtle territory, making use of nice arrangements and solos from the horn players. "An Oscar for Oscar," "Compulsion," "Infra-Rae" fall squarely in the mid-fifties to mid-sixties jazz ambiance, with the players taking a modern and forward thinking approach to the use rather than seeing this as as merely an exercise in repertoire. This makes for high energy, unpretentious and continuously interesting music that is both accesible and enjoyable. Benedict makes no bones in the liner notes about his love of the hard bop style, and that passion and love fires a very well done album. Far from being a historical project, Five and One proves that this music is just as valid today as when it was conceived. Five and One - CDBaby.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Record Store Day 2012

Record Store Day 2012: Nothing really special came out and I was almost tempted to pass it by completely, wallowing in nostalgia for The Last Vestige and Izzy's Records. I would up going to Jack's Music Shoppe in Red Bank where the staff is friendly and they know me well enough to say hello. Picked up James "Blood" Ulmer's debut album Tales of Captain Black which was a nice score along with an old Dexter Gordon Prestige release, a typical blowing session, but with Dexter on tenor saxophone it music be good. I'd been reading about The No Neck Blues Band in the Downtown Music Gallery's updates and they have been a band I've wanted to check out for a while. So I was happy to find one of their albums in the marked-down bin, but mortified to see that the cover of the album was a man (band member?) in a state of full frontal nudity holding lobsters (NSFW link.) After joking about it with one of the regular staff, I brought my purchases up and the cashier didn't even bat an eyelash at ringing up the album. I mean it is Read Bank after all, the capital of hedonism on the shore (I had a Jersey Shore reject accost me in the parking lot, accusing me of tapping he precious car while opening my door. She called me an asshole and then went away - typical Red Bank experience) They did, however, give me a plain brown bag for my records which I thought was appropriately ironic. I also bought an LP frame so I could hang a record cover on the well - probably something trippy like Agharta or Pangaea but was terrified that the clerk thought I's be framing the "nude man" album. Such are the perils of being a music geek. I'm spinning the new Spiritualized album on Spotify now - Sweet Heart, Sweet Light. It has the grand sweeping gestures of their earlier LPs but shorter and poppier song structure, good stuff. That record and the new Dr. John LP are my non-jazz picks of the year so far. Really looking forward to the new Jack White LP which drops soon. (Spotify links) Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light. Dr. John – Locked Down

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Books: The pocket Pema Chodron

The Pocket Pema ChodronThe Pocket Pema Chodron by Pema Chödrön

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pema Chodron is a Buddhist nun who writes and gives seminars on self-improvement that are refreshingly free of any doctrine or agenda. Her real idea is for people to look within themselves with mindfulness and open themselves up to their own basic nature, because as she sees it, people can never truly care for others if they do not care for themselves. This short book has excerpts from her other works, offing something akin to a "greatest hits" album with short pithy passages of a page or two on a number of subjects ranging from anger to fear, mindfulness and anxiety. This book would be quite helpful to people who are experiencing depression as the short pages are Taylor made for those with attention span symptoms, and non-doctrinaire messages that can be used by anyone.

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Steve Lehman - Dialect Florescent (Pi Recordings, 2012)

It's fascinating in retrospect that some of alto saxophonist Steve Lehman's classmates sarcastically chided him by referring to him as "Mr. Bebop." Lehman is now at the forefront of modern jazz and is pushing the boundaries ever further with each release. He paced himself by learning from masters like Jackie McLean and Anthony Braxton, becoming very capable of weaving all of the elements of jazz into a unique and coherent voice. Accompanied by Matt Brewer on bass and Damion Reid on drums, the group makes for a taught and exciting group. They play with aggressive commitment to forward thinking improvisational music, bringing laser like focus and strong listening skills. Balancing jazz classics like John Coltrane's ”Moment's Notice" and Duke Pearson's ”Jeannine” with his own labyrinthine compositions such as ”Foster Brothers” and ”Alloy” the group expresses their feelings beautifully and makes great music in the process. Dialect Fluorescent -

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chicago Underground Duo - Age of Energy (Northern Spy, 2012)

The Chicago Underground Duo consists of Rob Mazurek on cornet, electronics and voice with Chad Taylor on drums, mbira, drum machine and electronics. Together they get a fascinating sound, influenced by 70's Miles Davis, electronic music experiments and their own jazz sensibility. The lengthy opener "Winds and Sweeping Pines" has a long progressive electronic opening passage, developing into a moody and beguiling soundscape. Taylor's drums enter a little ways into the nearly twenty minute long improvisation, playing his drums off against waves of electronics. Mazurek doesn't move to the cornet until nearly fifteen minutes in, but he does so with a finely honed tone that fits in well with the surrounding music. Taylor's drums build the pace and the music gradually increases before slowly fading out. Droning electronics and sampled voice usher in "It's Alright" laying down a subversive and unusual foundation, based as much in science fiction sounds and modulations as jazz. Mazurek's cornet slowly glides in sounding like a post-modern homage to Miles Davis's In a Silent Way album. The electronics evolve into a moody and distorted, overdriven section building anxiety and taking the song into much more ominous terrain. The acoustic track "Castle in Your Heart" has a gentle African vibe with the smoothly percussive mbira providing an unusual but interesting sound. Together with cornet, they make for music that has compassion and kindness. This sets things up for the extraordinary finale, "Age of Energy" which begins with drilling electronics and drums. Taken at a blistering uptempo pace, the shape-shifting electronics and rock-inspired drumming make for a very exciting track, especially when Mazurek adds cornet smears to the boiling cauldron. This was a fresh and thoughtful look at jazz and improvised music from a thoroughly modern perspective. Building from both electronic and acoustic instruments the group facilitates a truly unique sound. Age of Energy - Age of Energy

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Masabumi Kikuchi - Sunrise (ECM, 2012)

Japanese pianist Masabumi Kikuchi has had a lengthy career in jazz and improvised music, though much of it under the radar of Western audiences, until he began a simpatico relationship with the drummer Paul Motian in the 1990's. Motian is at the forefront here in his last recorded performance along with the bassist Thomas Morgan. There is a haunted, late-night vibe on the first two performances, "Ballad #1" and "New Day" which feature spare piano and bass. Paul Motian is the perfect drummer for music like this playing with the utmost subtlety and restraint. "Short Stuff" is a brief interlude for skittering percussion and bass with Kikuchi grunt-singing along like Keith Jarrett. A Motian percussion solo opens "So What Variations" before probing piano and bass enter, skating around and hinting at the theme. Piano takes the lead in a complex improvisational pattern with light brushes and open bass providing support. "Ballad #2" is wide open and spacious with the silence framing the occasional notes and chords. Opening with quiet bass and percussion "Sunrise" slowly forms cohesiveness with percussive piano engaging the other two musicians in quiet contemplation, before kittish percussion and piano ramp up the pace a little bit. Paul Motian is the key to "Sticks and Cymbals" as he is to much of this music. He plays with great tact and dignity weaving textures in and around the bass and drums. They pick up to a swinging feel toward the end with Motian driving the music forward. Rolling piano anchors "End of Day" where Kikuchi's short stabs of piano are contrasted by bass and drum fills and foundation. Raising the stakes a little bit, "Uptempo" shows Motian dancing on the cymbals while Kikuchi throws attract, Monk-ish paino his way with Morgan's bass as the anchor. "Last Ballad" is a coda, returning the haunted lonely theme of the beginning of the album, quiet but peaceful, not in despair. This was an interesting album, Kikuchi was a musician that I was completely unfamiliar with before reading an article on him in the New York Times. He has a unique and personal approach to his music and found perfect partners to help shape his vision in Motian and Morgan. The music is meditative and thoughtful throughout. Sunrise -

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ballister - Mechanisms (Clean Feed, 2012)

Ballister is a very exciting collective trio consisting of Dave Rempis on saxophones, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. With the ever present Nilssen-Love joining a couple of stalwarts of the vibrant Chicago jazz scene, the results are bound to be exciting and occasionally thrilling and the music certainly lives up to that expectation. There are three lengthy performances, and listening to Mechanisms is a very exciting proposition, with three amazing free jazz blowouts culminating in the half-hour long concluding performance "Roller Nuts." The preceding two passages, "Release Levers" and "Claplock" set the stage, with the former being a strong uptempo improvisation, while the latter begins in a much moodier nature before building to an explosive climax. These two tracks alone are thrilling music, but "Roller Nuts" by Ballister is a free jazz epic that is just blew my mind. Explosive trio work that doesn't let up for a second of its nearly half-hour time. I think that comparisons to John Coltrane's Ascension and Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz are appropriate, while the trio is much smaller than those large group improvisations, the group packs a tremendous amount of energy and sustains it with remarkable drive and passion. Mechanisms -

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Brad Mehldau - Ode (Nonesuch, 2012)

I often run hot and cold with pianist Brad Mehldau's music, but I was really impressed with this album that combines musical virtuosity with a deep narrative sense that imbues the songs with color and passion. Mehldau has open communication with Jeff Ballard on drums, and Larry Grenadier on bass and this appreciation and trust enhances the quality of the music. The performances move through a number of moods, with the group communicating well with its listeners on the faster paced tunes, where "M.B." and "Ode" show the interdependence of the group as an organic whole. The slower pieces work equally well, calling upon a deep reservoir of lyricism enhancing the personal quality on the intimate "Dream Sketch," and the centerpiece of the album, "Eulogy For George Harrison." Beginning as a haunting elegy, the music builds slowly over the course of nine minutes to a dynamic and elastic performance. Developing from a vulnerable beginning and building to a strong and complex improvisation, this performance is particularly powerful. The trio retains an open and spontaneous relationship throughout, allowing them to tell a set of musical short stories effectively, and constructively, looking to envelop a large spectrum of mainstream jazz. Ode -

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kenny Garrett - Seeds From the Underground (Mack Avenue, 2012)

Kenny Garrett is a powerful alto saxophonist who began his career as a sideman in the Duke Ellington Orchestra (ghost band) and then a five year mentorship with Miles Davis in the late 1980's. He has had a solo career as a bandleader stretching over two decades in addition to projects like the Five Peace Band supergroup. On this album he returns to his strength playing mostly storming post-bop with a supportive group that includes the leader on alto and soprano saxophones, Benito Gonzalez on piano, Nat Reeves on bass, Ronald Bruner on drums, Rudy Bird on percussion and Nedelka Prescod on vocals. The uptempo songs were my favorites, I love to hear Garrett improvise at speed. I saw him take a breathtaking twenty minute improvised solo at a concert in Princeton a few years back that practically raised the roof. He doesn't disappoint here, giving a nod to Jackie McLean on "J. Mac"where he brings forth the fresh freebop that McLean pioneered in the mid sixties and shows how tart, exploratory improvisation will always be at the heart of jazz. "Seeds from the Underground" seems to be a hat tip to the avant-garde, or at least the Loft Scene of the 1970's where Garrett's gales of saxophone and Gonzalez's piano recall the spirit of McCoy Tyner's explosive early 70's groups. There are some wordless vocals at times like on "Welcome Earth Song" with the scatting fitting in well with the group dynamic and Garrett's soloing. The pace is slowed further for the moody "Ballad Jarrett." It seems that Keith Jarrett was an influence on this music as well, and Gonzalez is particularly impressive. This is a wonderful return to for for Kenny Garrett, and the music recalls fond memories of his classic albums Triology and Pursuance. He's a powerful presence on the modern jazz scene that we need to hear more of. Seeds From the Underground -

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Books: Dark Passage by David Goodis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

David Goodis was one of the finest noir crime writers of the 1940's and 50's. His books appeared mostly as paperback originals, but this story was his one brush with success, becoming the basis for a Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall film of the same name. Perry is in San Quentin prison looking at life without parole for the murder of his wife. The only problem is that he didn't do it. Set up by circumstance and libelous testimony, he knows his only chance is to break out of prison. After successfully escaping, he is a man on the run, literally, until a mysterious woman with a dark past picks him up and conspires with him. After plastic surgery to alter his face, Perry is torn between unmasking the real killer and skipping the country. But when an extortion attempt from a two-bit criminal forces his hand, he knows that he has no choice but to confront the killer. This has all of the great aspects of a classic noir thriller: the innocent man on the run, the mysterious femme fatale, and the criminal that could unmask the whole scheme. Goodis was a master of dialogue and he uses it to his full advantage here, alternating spoken passages with narrative to build the pace faster and faster like a runaway train. Goodis's work is unrepentantly dark, and this story is no different. You can practically feel the anxiety building as Perry moves from one jam to another. Cinematic in scope but taught and filled with memorable characters, this is one of the best noir novels of the mid-twentieth century. David Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s and 50s -

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Henry P. Warner, Earl Freeman, Philip Spigner - Freestyle Band (NoBusiness, 2012)

An obscure album rescued from the recesses of time by the Lithuanian label NoBusiness and justly so, because it is a very powerful document of New York free jazz as the loft scene began to wane in the early 1980's. Featuring a band with one of the most original and thoughtful approaches to jazz music at that time. Something in the music reminds me of Henry Threadgill and Air, with the band's wide open approach to music and will to try anything. Clarinetist Henry P. Warner, bass player Earl Freeman, and percussionist Philip Spigner are the three men who made up the Freestyle Band. Much of the music was named for people who lived or worked in The Basement, an informal gathering place for avant-garde musicians to gather and jam. The bass and percussion is particularly impressive, with Freeman's bass getting an oddly distorted sound and Springer's percussion bubbling and simmering brilliantly throughout. The music is spontaneously improvised but shows a great level of musical knowledge and an almost extra-sensory ability to work together toward a common goal. The makeup of the band - clarinet, bass and hand percussion made for a unique sound. Warner was able to coax a wide variety of sounds from his instrument from a woody sound to something akin to an alto saxophone. Yet, the music remains highly accessible, based in blues in hard-bop, but straying and straining from any leash. Freeman doubles on piano as well, particularly on the Charlie Parker nod "Bird Knows!" The short and pithy "Dr. Nunez" leads off the album with a pointed and focused performance where the trio really makes a statement that they are a group to be reckoned with. This was a valuable document of an unjustly ignored band. Ed Hazell contributes an excellent liner essay tracing the band's short lifetime. Kudos to NoBusiness for rescuing another record from the shrouds of obscurity. Freestyle Band - NoBusiness Records

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Monday, April 09, 2012

Freddie Hubbard - The Artistry Of Freddie Hubbard / The Body And The Soul (Impulse 2-on-1) (Impulse, 2012)

While trumpeter Freddie Hubbard made most of his early recordings for Blue Note Records, he did take a time out to record a couple of records for Impulse in the mid 1960's featuring singularly epic saxophone players. The Artistry of Freddie Hubbard is a burning small group date, featuring tenor saxophonist John Gilmore on one of his rare forays away from the Sun Ra Arkestra. Rounding out the cast are Curtis Fuller on trombone, Tommy Flanagan on piano, Art Davis on bass and Louis Hayes on drums. Gilmore and Hubbard are a very potent front line, particularly effective on the jazz standards "Caravan" and "Summertime" and the lengthy up-tempo original "Bob's Place." The Body and the Soul puts Hubbard at the center of a large band, with an orchestra and string section, and with a septet featuring Curtis Fuller, Eric Dolphy, Wayne Shorter, Cedar Walton, Reggie Workman and Louis Hayes. Hubbard plays with great gravity and weight on some of the more ponderous string draped songs, playing with a strong and stoic tone on the ballads, but picking up nicely on the extraordinary Eric Dolphy feature "Clarence's Place." Dolphy is incandescent in his short solo, lighting a fire under Hubbard and forcing him to follow suit. The small band sides tend to work better than the orchestral ones, but overall this is a reissue well worth hearing. The Artistry Of Freddie Hubbard / The Body And The Soul (Impulse 2-on-1) -

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Sunday, April 08, 2012

Marion Brown - Geechee Recollections / Sweet Earth Flying (Impulse 2-on-1) (Impulse, 2012)

Marion Brown was an alto saxophonist who was nominally a member of the New Thing avant-garde of jazz in the 1960‘s and 70‘s (he performed on John Coltrane’s epochal Ascension album, and made records for the stalwart avant-garde label ESP.) But by the time he recorded these albums in the in 1973 and 1974, his approach had changed. He was no less an innovator than before, but instead of seeking outside, he turned inward, developing an introverted lyrical, low-key style as he attempted to reconcile his memories of his youth in Georgia through music. It is interesting how he took the ideas of free jazz and made them into a subtle, flowing narrative form. Geechee Recollections does have some nice blowing sections along with a lengthy poetic recitation on “Karintha.” Sweet Earth Flying has some beautiful keyboard playing from Muhal Richard Abrams and Paul Bley, and has a spacey and thoughtful vibe, sort of like Miles Davis’ album In a Silent Way. Both albums are connected by lengthy suites with Brown playing passionately along with Wadada Leo Smith on Geechee Recollections, and with depth and tact of Sweet Earth Flying. This is a nice edition to the Impulse vault-cleaning project, releasing two influential albums that deserve a wider audience on one disc. Geechee Recollections / Sweet Earth Flying -

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FYI: What I listened to this past week

My Top 5 #lastfm Artists: Dr. John (42), Ben Wendel (20), Peter McEachern (20), Steve Horowitz (17) & The Black Keys (16) Tweetly

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Saturday, April 07, 2012

Jazz: Steve Horowitz, Joel Harrison 7

Steve Horowitz - New Monsters (Posi-Tone, 2012) Bassist Steve Horowitz comes from the fertile Bay Area jazz scene and unleashes a interesting sound by combining well thought out cover tunes with interesting originals. He is joined on this album by Dan Plonsey on tenor saxophone, Steve Adams - alto and soprano saxophones and flute, Scott Looney on piano and Jim Bove and drums. What they develop is a nice swinging modern mainstream session with their own sound and the characterization of the music coming through quite well. My favorite Horowitz tracks were the beautiful coupling of John Coltrane's "India/Red Planet" which makes full use of the two reed front line and the openness of the compositions and the riotous original "Herald for Zombies" which shows the bands wit and vigor. New Monsters -

Joel Harrison 7 - Search (Sunnyside, 2012) Guitarist Joel Harrison brings together a diverse cast of musicians including: Donny McCaslin, Gary Versace, Chris Howes, Dana Leong, Stephan Crump and Clarence Penn. On this new album, Harrison stated that he wanted to bring influences from classical music into jazz writing in a more overt way. He is challenging himself to use different forms and techniques while striving to maintain a delicate balance between composition and improvisation. What results is a wide angle panoramic view of jazz with string instruments well integrated into the project. Everything is well rehearsed and works together, with the strings not schmaltzy or overly sentimental like some of the performances on Charlie Parker with Strings, but modern and vibrant, akin to Greg Osby’s Symbols of Light (A Solution). Harrison's highlights include a great cover of the Allman Brothers Band’s classic rock anthem "Whipping Post," the lengthy multi-part "A Magnificent Death" along with the chaotic fun of "All of the Pages are Gone." All of these performances make full use of the textures and hues available from the band. Search -

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

Jared Gold - Golden Child (Posi-Tone, 2012)

The trio of organ, guitar and drums is one of the standard formation of trios in jazz and organist Jared Gold is a rising star on that competitive scene. On this album, he is accompanied by guitarist Ed Cherry and drummer Quincy Davis. Each of the musicians supports the other well, to make an interesting and varied program of musical selections from a wide range of styles, from the funky and familiar to the soulful and original. They are accountable for not only their own solo features abut for the interplay of the band as a whole. Gold has shown measurable growth in each of his albums and continues here with a confident group of performances including an unusual instrumental arrangement of the late 60's pop-country hit "Wichita Lineman" which depends on the narrative of the song for its melodic content. In addition to the title track "Golden Child," there are also solid covers of "In a Sentimental Mood" and "When It's Sleepy Time Down South. Good group dynamics keeps the session in the pocket, and it is recommended for fans of organ trios. Golden Child -

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