Monday, May 30, 2005

Interesting Articles

The New York Times offers uncharacteristically giddy praise to the White Stripes for their forthcoming album:

On June 7, the White Stripes return with a thrilling new album, "Get Behind Me Satan" (Third Man/V2/BMG), that goes a long way toward dismantling the band's goofy mythology. It's an album so strong and so unexpected that it may change the way people hear all its predecessors. And that's just a start. Listen long enough, and this album might change the way you hear lots of other bands, too.

The venerable Times also has another installment in their "Listening to CD's With" section, this time with Joshua Redman:

"Art, in the world of honest emotional experience, is never about absolutes, or favorites, or hierarchies, or number ones," he wrote in the liner notes to "Freedom in the Groove." "These days, I listen to, love, and am inspired by all forms of music ... I feel in much of 90's hip-hop a bounce, a vitality, and a rhythmic infectiousness which I have always felt in the bebop of the 40's and 50's. I hear in some of today's alternative music a rawness, an edge, and a haunting insistence which echoes the intense modalism and stinging iconoclasm of the 60's avant-garde."

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Interesting Articles

The New York Times offers uncharacteristically giddy praise to the White Stripes for their forthcoming album:

On June 7, the White Stripes return with a thrilling new album, "Get Behind Me Satan" (Third Man/V2/BMG), that goes a long way toward dismantling the band's goofy mythology. It's an album so strong and so unexpected that it may change the way people hear all its predecessors. And that's just a start. Listen long enough, and this album might change the way you hear lots of other bands, too.

The venerable Times also has another installment in their "Listening to CD's With" section, this time with Joshua Redman:

"Art, in the world of honest emotional experience, is never about absolutes, or favorites, or hierarchies, or number ones," he wrote in the liner notes to "Freedom in the Groove." "These days, I listen to, love, and am inspired by all forms of music ... I feel in much of 90's hip-hop a bounce, a vitality, and a rhythmic infectiousness which I have always felt in the bebop of the 40's and 50's. I hear in some of today's alternative music a rawness, an edge, and a haunting insistence which echoes the intense modalism and stinging iconoclasm of the 60's avant-garde."

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Bittorrent stuff

Now that we have a long weekend, I can catch up with some torrents I downloaded before going on vacation.

James "Blood" Ulmer - New York City 5/25/04 Blood's music over the past couple of years has mixed the electric blues he's been recording for Joel Dorn's hyena label with the harmelodic jazz that he came up playing with Ornette Coleman. This set is from last years Vision Festival and has Jamaaldeen Tacuma on bass and Grant Calvin Weston on drums. This group has played together for a long time and they work well together. Tacuma mixes it up with the sound man trying to get a little more bass in his monitor, I can't really tell if he's kidding or razzing the guy for real, but when he starts rapping about needing bass in the monitor... it slows this show down a little bit. On the upside, Blood plays some stinging guitar as always and sings a few blues standards in his distinctive voice. He has a new solo blues album just out which I am anxious to hear as well.

Fred Anderson Trio - Gyor, Hungary 4/26/03 Here's the ageless tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson far from his usual Chicago stomping grounds at a festival gig in Hungary with bassist Darius Savage and his main man, drummer Hamid Drake. The audience certainly got their money's worth with this concert - Anderson and company roar out of the gate with a 41 minute collective improvisation. Anderson has been around long enough to play a multitude of styles from bop to free and Drake's rhythmic abilities make him the perfect accompanist. Both the opening and 26 minute second improvisation are intense, but never stray into grandstanding - this is the real stuff. Anderson wraps things up himself with a 3 minute bluesy solo performance, a perfect sendoff to a wonderful concert.

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Friday, May 27, 2005

Back home

Phew... I made it back home from vacation in one piece... I don't fly well, but I did OK until we reached about Philadelphia when the plane started going up and down like an amusement park ride. What kept me sane was my "carrot and stick" promise to myself to go to the Princeton Record Exchange if I survived the flight. I found some good stuff in the used bins, too!

Dizzy Gillespie - Dizzy's Diamonds
Sleater-Kinney - The Woods
The Saints - Live from the Twilight Zone (Brisbane 1974)
Various Artists - Africa Straight Ahead
Billy Bang - Vietnam: Reflections
Hank Mobley - Straight No Filter
The Blasters Collection

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Cool Jazz Station

There's a wonderful jazz radio station out here in the desert, that is definitely making vacation more enjoyable. KUNV plays an eclectic mix of classics and new mainstream during the week and then has specialty shows on weekends which focus on blues, Latin, reggae and believe it or not free jazz. Unfortunately they do not broadcast on the Internet as of yet, but hopefully that will be coming shortly.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

Interesting Articles

The New Yorker has an interview with the ever controversial Stanley Crouch concerning the great saxophonist Sonny Rollins.

This week in the magazine, Stanley Crouch writes about the jazz tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, who, at seventy-four, is in the sixth decade of his remarkable career. Here, Crouch discusses Rollins, jazz, and improvisation with Ben Greenman.

Rolling Stone has a good overview of how people are turning away from traditional FM radio to satellite radio:

XM and Sirius, are giving programmers and DJs a degree of freedom unheard of since the earliest days of free-form FM. "It's a scenario just like 1969, when AM radio was stuck in this Leave It to Beaver world," says XM chief programming officer Lee Abrams. "Much as FM liberated radio back in the late Sixties, satellite is liberating radio now."

One Final Note - there's a great mainstream jazz station out here in Las Vegas (I'm visiting some family out here for a week) it's KUNV, and they play a nice mix of classic and new mainstream jazz.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Blog Break

I'm on vacation this week, so blogging may be a little spotty. Right now I'm starting the new Dizzy Gillespie biography, and listening to Andrew Hill's Mosaic Select.

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Monday, May 16, 2005

The Thing - Garage (Smalltown Superjazz, 2004)

The Thing is a European avant-garde supertrio made up of saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Ingebright Haker-Flaten and drummer Paul Nilseen-Love. They play hard core blasting free jazz, except the ringer on this disc as you can tell by the title is that they slip in a few covers of garage rock songs past and present amidst their spontaneous improvisations. It's interesting that this hasn't really been done before. Jazz has a long history of covering pop material, but the avant-garde has often spurned this. The intensity of the garage rock material covered here provided ample fodder for their improvisations though and works quite well.

Opening with a cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Art Star"it's interesting to hear a European free jazz group play funk as the melody of this tune has a bumping, funky feel before kicking into a rock out section which the band finds suitable for honking and screaming. The second cover is of The White Stripes' "Aluminium" which is taken at a boiling pace as the leather lunged Gustafsson leads the way with a harrowing solo. Thier original material takes one something os a Spirits Rejoice era Albert Ayler feel, allowing the band more space to breathe, with a more fragile, haunted tone to the music. This seperates their music from that of the covers and provides a variation of tempos, juxtoposing their jazzier material from the honking, bluesy garage rock like their final cover, that of The Sonics classic stomper "Have Love Will Travel."

I'm sure some free jazz fans cringed when they heard about this project, but it actually works quite well. They play the covers not as parody, but as music worthy of exploration, and they use their own music to provide different textures and feeling to the project. With the experimental rock (Sonic Youth, et. al.) discovering the avant-garde jazz scene, it will be interesting to see what the reaction to this disc is both from that camp and the avant jazz fans.

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Bittorrent Boogie

Dime a Dozen has gotten into full swing as the premier outlet for wide ranging live music downloads on the Internet. Among the recent goodies that I have downloaded include:

Ben Allison – Italy 10/25/02

This was a great flashback for me to my album of the year for 2002, Ben Allison's Peace Pipe, by pulling together the band that made that great album and placing them in a live setting. Allison on bass is joined by Michael Blake on saxophones, Frank Kimbrough on piano, Michael Sarin on drums and Mamadou Diabate on kora. The kora adds a wonderfully delicate and exotic flavor to the chamberish jazz that the group plays. Quirky originals by the band members and a truly memorable cover of Rahsaan Roland Kirk's “Rip Rig and Panic” make this one a joy to listen to.

Masada – Hamburg 11/12/94

This download was an MPEG video of Masada (John Zorn, alto saxophone, Joey Barron, drums, Greg Cohen on bass and Dave Douglas on trumpet) just ripping through a live concert recorded in Germany. For those not familiar with this band's music, it's something like Ornette Coleman's classic music recorded in the late 50's and early 60's for Atlantic, but with the addition of Middle Eastern and Jewish melodies. Despite Zorn's somewhat fearsome reputation, the music is quite accessible. What's amazing is that they are able to improvise at such a fast pace, communicating through hand signals and apparently, ESP. There's an officially released DVD on Tzadik, so if you're not interested in bittorrent, that is well worth checking out.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Interesting Articles:

There's a nice article from the Santa Cruz Style (where else?) looking at Jason Moran's recent melding of blues and jazz:

But it’s not out of the question in Moran’s world that Ives — the iconoclastic 20th-century New England composer who transformed parlor music, gospel hymns and patriotic tunes into symphonic pandemonium — would belly up to the bar with King, a blues staple and icon of a different sort.

Joe Lovano is profiled in the Toronto Globe and Mail in preperation for the release of his new duet album with Hank Jones:

It has been said before: You can tell a lot about a jazz musician by the company he or she keeps. The esteemed American tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, for example, has recently returned from engagements in Europe with a quartet that included the pianist Hank Jones, who at 86 is among the most revered elders in jazz.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Big Joe Williams – Revisited (Varese, 2004)

Wiley ‘ol bluesman Big Joe Williams never turned down a recording opportunity when there was cash money up front. This disc has a mix of sessions Williams cut during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s both solo and with a diverse cast of characters. At one point, he hooks up with come old confederates, Brownie McGhee and Lightnin’ Hopkins and for a lighthearted joshing session filled with songs about “wimmin’ and drinkin.’”

He also breaks out some classic blues standards, starting the whole thing off with his own epochal “Baby Please Go.” He plays a mighty solo and sings a stark version of a song that was in his repertoire throughout most of is career, “Highway 49” along with a blasting version of “Shake ‘em On Down.” One of the best tunes on the disc is a remake of an old folk tune “Stack of Dollars” where Big Joe picks out dark chords on his homemade nine string guitar and sings ominously about the evil that money can do. This is a solid pickup if you see it cheap or in the used bin, but there’s million Big Joe CD’s, though, so choose wisely.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Pharoah Sanders - Heart is a Melody (Theresa, 1983)

After leaving the Impulse! label in the mid 1970's, tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders became a bit of a journeyman. Sanders toned down hiss trident tone a little bit to fit into the jazz club scene but hecould still dip back into into the free jazz bag when the situation required. On this live date, he's joined by William Henderson onpiano, Jim Heard on bass and Idris Muhammad on drums.

This record is somewhat uneven, but on the first side, where the action is, Sanders pins his ears back and just howls through a sidelong version of John Coltrane's "Ole'." Sanders plays with the ferocity that made him such and admired or reviled figure during the previous two decades, using overblowing, growling and other techniques to create a very powerful performance. The second side of the record is altogether differnet. Made up of ballads, proto-smooth jazz and even some vocals, the music does show how varied Sanders could be, but lacks the intensity that made the first performance so exciting.

"On a Misty Night" and "Heart is a Melody" show a kinder, gentler Pharoah Sanders, who gets a huge tone on the ballads and allows room for the side men to solo. Finally "Gion' to Africa (Highlife) brings in a chanting groove to take the record to its conclusion. As with most of Sanders records during this period, this is a hit or miss affair, although the high spot (Ole') is pretty high indeed.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

Marc Ribot – Spiritual Unity (Pi, 2005)

Marc Ribot may not exactly kick ass with this new record, but as Terry Pratchett would say, he certainly does “prod buttock.” This is a tribute to Albert Ayler featuring Ayler’s former bassist Henry Grimes, Roy Campbell on trumpet and Chad Taylor on drums. Ribot has played Ayler’s music before, notably on the title track to his eerie solo guitar album Spirits, so this isn’t much of a stretch for him and all of the members of the band dive into Ayler’s folkish themes.

Before they do, there is a Ribot original, “Invocation” which sets the stage for what is to follow, by using a simple melody as a springboard to more complex improvisation. “Spirits” is the first Ayler composition featured on the album and as you might imagine, it has a gospelish theme. It’s interesting how the band handles the solo duties, especially Campbell who at times is asked to be a stand in for both Albert Ayler and his trumpet playing brother Donald who performed on many of the original recordings. “The Truth is Marching In” is one of Ayler’s most memorable tunes, and while nothing can top the scalding intensity of the version recorded by his band in The Village Concerts, this group is able to approach this from a different angle, using the mournful opening and marching band type melody to explore the textures of improvisation where the original group explored volume and intensity.

Things cool off a little bit with “Saints” which is an atmospheric performance where the band meditates on one of Ayler’s gentler themes. The disc ends in an exciting fashion with a 15 minute live version of “Bells” recorded at the Tonic in New York. "Bells" was originally a 20 minute improvisation that was released as a single sided record for Ayler in the mid 60’s, and the band keeps much of that intensity with a crowd pleasing group improvisation. This was a very interesting album which deserves to be played often. Hopefully this group will be able to explore some more of the Ayler songbook and add some more originals on future releases.

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Jason Moran & the Bandwagon / The Bad Plus – Princeton, NJ 5/7/05

This is one concert I had been looking forward to attending for a while and it didn't disappoint. Moran's group opened up first, playing music from their latest album Same Mother and he was accompanied by the same band that made that record – Tarus Mateen on (fretless electric) bass, Nasheet Waits on drums and Marvin Sewell on guitar. The tunes I liked the best were actually Sewell's, which gave him a chance to stretch out and play slide guitar, a sound which I absolutely adore. The rest of the band was good as well – I think some people would have preferred an upright bass but they chose to go with the electric. Waits played a very “bash and smash” drum solo on one of the uptempo tunes that really didn't fit in, but the rest of the time he played quite well.

As interesting as the Moran group was, The Bad Plus really stole the show and from the response, you could tell that's who the crowd had come to see. For a band known for their oddball covers, it was interesting to he them play a number of original tunes, several from Reid Anderson who seems to be developing into the groups main composer, and David King's wonderfully titled “The Empire Strikes Backwards.” King in fact was the hero of the night playing the drums with epic force, striking surfaces with sticks, brushes, children's toys and (it looked like) his head. Ethen Iverson kept things moving from the piano bench and made announcements in his own droll way. Oh yes, the covers... A truly bizarre prepared piano/scraped percussion into morphed into “We Are the Champions” and then they encored with the “Chariots of Fire” theme before being sent of into the night with a standing ovation.

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Friday, May 06, 2005

Interesting Articles

The Village Voice has an article on one of my favorite alto saxophonists, Arthur Blythe:

From the late '70s to the mid '80s, Arthur Blythe blurred the lines between avant-garde and mainstream, simultaneously pursuing loft-scene polyphony, swinging postbop, and harmolodic fusion—and maintaining an improbably lengthy association with Columbia Records. Since then, Blythe's stature has diminished, along with his huge and bracing alto saxophone sound. But a weeklong Blue Note engagement reaffirmed the wisdom of his inclusive vision.

The New York Times has a lengthy write up on the life and career of bassist Percy Heath, who passed away at age 81:

Mr. Heath recorded with most of the leading musicians in modern jazz, including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. But from the early 1950's through the middle 1970's, most of his recording activity and all of his live performances were devoted to the group known to its fans around the world as the M. J .Q.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Muddy Waters – King of the Electric Blues (Legacy, 1997)

This a compilation of the work Muddy Waters did for Johnny Winter's Blue Sky label after he left Chess Records in the late 1970's. Muddy and Winter took a back to basics approach with the music, avoiding a lot of the gimmicks that Chess was imposing on Waters late in his career. So what we have are some revisions of earlier Waters classics and some new tunes, and also some blistering live tracks, that prove that the old man had plenty left in the tank up until the end.

The great things about the live tracks, notably “She's Nineteen Years Old” and “Howlin' Wolf” is the chance to hear Waters' slide guitar which really sounds like no other. Combine this with his vocals which had become a epic roar at this point and it makes for a very powerful musical experience. The studio tracks are interesting as well – he can still bring the braggadocio like he used to as evidenced with remakes of “Mannish Boy” and “I'm Ready” while “No Escape from the Blues” and the bizarre “Champagne and Reefer” are some of the newer songs represented.

While this isn't the place to begin your Muddy Waters collection, this may very well be where you end up. The three original albums Waters cut for Blue Sky are still in print along with a couple of other compilations so there are a lot of choices to choose from. But if you are looking for a sampler of material from the end of his career this has a lot of good music going for it.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

OFN Radio

The online jazz and improvised music webzine One Final Note has started it's own radio show. The streaming archives of the show can be found here.

OFN's Scott Hreha plays the latest in jazz and improvised music on One Final Note. Focusing on new releases by independent artists and record labels, One Final Note offers weekly proof that jazz continues to thrive throughout the world.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Eddie Henderson – Anthology Vol. 2 (Capricorn 1973, 2003)

Eddie Henderson grew up in a jazz friendly household that hosted luminaries such as Miles Davis when they passed through San Francisco in the 1950’s and 60’s. He grew up not only to be a medical doctor and a psychiatrist but an excellent trumpet player in his own right, joining the Herbie Hancock sextet in the early 1970’s Economics forced Hancock to break up the ensemble, but group also made a couple of records under Henderson’s leadership and those two are collected on this disc.

The music on this CD is made up of those two albums, Realization and Inside Out and is much akin to the funky fusion that was the hallmark of Hancock’s “Mwandishi” band. The group had been playing together long enough by this point to be very tight and the electronics give the music some very interesting textures and arrangements. Hancock plays every keyboard imaginable and Henderson’s trumpet floats above the heady mix percussion and keyboards. If you are a fan of fusion especially Hancock’s brand of funk, this is definitely worth checking out.

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Henry Grimes Trio – Live at the Kereva Jazz Festival (Ayler, 2005)

Henry Grimes story is likely to go down in jazz lore for years to come. To briefly summarize an oft-told story, Grimes was a well known bassist on the mainstream and avant-garde scene in the 1960's, touring and recording with the likes of Sonny Rollins and Albert Ayler. Grimes then dropped off the jazz scene, living in California and doing odd jobs for thirty years before being “re-discovered” by a social worker who happened to be a jazz fan. Revitalized, Grimes moved back to New York and with the help of a donated bass, began to play again. This was recorded live at a Finnish jazz festival in 2004 and Grimes is joined by David Murray on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet and Hamid Drake in drums and percussion.

Things really come off quite well. The group opens with two lengthy twenty minute plus improvisations, which allow all of the members of the group to branch out individually as well as improvising as a unit. Grimes sounds fine, very percussive, pushing the music along with Drake's polyryhtyms. David Murray is well... David Murray, you either love him (like me) or hate him. Regardless, Grimes and Drake spur Murray along to some of his most spirited music in some time, hearkening back to his days as an avant-garde firebrand in the 1970's. But where 70's Murray was apt to get a little too wild for his own good in his early years, his playing here shows respect for Grimes and also the wisdom that maturity can bring.

The crowd is behind the trio 100% and erupts after the second lengthy piece, calling the band out for a couple of shorter encores including Murray's classic “Flowers for Albert.” This was as successful a comeback as could have been expected for Henry Grimes and the group has an excellent sound. Hopefully he will continue to get the support of the musicians and the fans – who says Americans have no second acts?

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Kenny Garrett - Princeton, NJ 4/30/05

I went down to Princeton last night to see Kenny Garrett's band in a small performance space on the campus of the University. There was a very sparse crowd in attendance but that didn't stop the band from putting on an excellent performance. The most exciting part of the concert came right in the beginning when the band launched into a 20 minute high speed joy ride that had the crowd pinned in their seats. Garrett was rocking back and forth as he sent out reams of notes from his alto while the band egged him on every step of the way. The only thing I can think to compare it to would be John Coltrane's "Chasin' the Trane" from his Village Vanguard recordings, and as in those famous recordings, the most important person to Garrett was the drummer, in this case Nasyr Abdul Al-khabyyr who kept pace with him in Elvin Jones like fashion especially when Garrett waved off the bass and piano (Nat Reeves and Carlos McKinney respectively) to lean into an explosive duet. It was an amazing performance with Garrett exploring the outer fringes of jazz but never once losing control of what he set out to do.

After the opening epic, the rest of the concert came as something of an anti-climax, but was still an excellent mix of mostly up and mid tempo tunes with a dash of funk, allowing each of the bandmembers to solo at length. Overall, this was an excellent concert and I hope that this band gets into the studio again or is recorded live soon as they have a superb sound.

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