Friday, September 30, 2005

Evan Parker’s Electro-Acoustic Ensemble – The Eleventh Hour (ECM, 2005)

Saxophonist Evan Parker has released reams of records documenting projects from solo concerts to large band ensembles. His Electro-Acoustic Ensemble provides a forum in which acoustic music made by musicians under his leadership is then electronically processed and fed back in real time. It makes for some very unusual music that is far away from the landscape of jazz that most people may be familiar with but provides an example of what Jackie McLean calls “The Big Room” free jazz having room for all types of music.

It is very difficult to describe the music with any degree of accuracy, but the musicians build intriguing soundscapes with multiple layers. Swirling saxophone and violin mixes with ambient electronics to create a spooky and genuinely haunting experience. There is a stand alone composition entitled “Shadow Play” which is accurately titled as the music ebbs and flows in a spectral fashion. The rest of the album is the title track broken into an epic five part suite. There really aren’t very many solos per se to single out, although Parker and some of the other instrumentalists are heard clearly. If you are open-mnided and looking for an unusual listening experience, this may be it.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane – At Carnegie Hall, 1957 (Blue Note, 2005)

Well, it is finally here, accompanied by much fanfare and as much free press coverage as Blue Note has ever received for an album not made by Norah Jones. Recorded in November of 1957 during a pivotal point in the careers of both of the principals (Monk had recently regained his cabaret card and Coltrane had put his substance abuse difficulties behind him) the group had been working night in and night out in the Five Spot CafĂ© and was super tight and performing on a very high level. The liner notes to the recording go into the details of the music’s rediscovery and they make for fascinating reading, but in the end it is the music that speaks volumes about the titans involved.

The compositions performed are all Monk chestnuts from the period. “Monk’s Mood” comes first with the band perfectly intertwined. It’s hard to believe as stated in some articles that Coltrane initially had a great deal of trouble in performing Monk’s music, as he glides through it with ease and confidence here. Two takes of “Epistrophy” (one incomplete) show the band hardly stood pat in their performances of particular tunes, but was searching for something different each time they too to their instruments. Ahmed Abdul-Malik is a rock on bass, and Shadow Wilson is particularly interesting on drums, locked in with Monk and using the cymbals to keep the rhythm and groove going. This is wonderful music that is a joy to hear.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Leave it to The Onion...

Delta Blues Poised For Biggest Revival Since 1915
September 28, 2005 Issue 41-39

NEW ORLEANS-Blues historians report that Delta blues, an early blues form that arose in the Mississippi Delta region, is poised for its biggest revival since 1915. 'Death, loss, heartbreak, isolation, hard luck - that's what the blues have been missing for decades,' said music critic Joel Kushner. 'But now, even the most sheltered, derivative Delta blues musician should have enough material to cut an album.' The revival is heralded by the recent singles 'FEMA Don't Come 'Round No More,' 'Category Five Woman Done Me Six Kinds Of Wrong,' and 'Talkin' Drownded Kin Blues.'"

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Jazz Blogs

While surfing the Internet and following some links, I came across some very interesting and well done jazz blogs:

Redhouse Jazz
Jazz Portraits

I'll add these to the links as well - if you know of a good one that I've missed, please send me an e-mail.

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Interesting Article

The Newark Star-Ledger has an interesting article today about the newly found Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane CD, due for release this week:

But the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane, deemed by many who heard it to be the equal of those two ensembles, both in terms of sheer musicality and historical importance, lasted less than five months, playing from mid-July to early-December 1957 at the Five Spot jazz club in New York. And until now, there were no commercial recordings documenting the group.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Grant Green - Sunday Mornin'

This was one of a slew of albums that guitarist Grant Green put out during his first tenure with Blue Note Records. Blue Note put Green in a variety of situations, and one of the most successful was setting up a gospel groove. Here he's joined by Kenny Drew on piano, Ben Tucker on bass and Ben Dixon on drums. The album begins with "Freedom March" influenced by the civil rights movement. This is a mellow, Green centered song with the bass and drums keeping a tight groove and making way for a swinging piano solo. The title track really kicks the gospel groove in with Green playing in a bright, uptempo manner, and Kenny Drew bringing the churchy funk an accompaniment.

"Exodus" takes the theme that Eddie Harris made very popular and gives it a mellow and haunting reading. Tucker takes an interesting bass solo at the mid-point. "God Bless the Child" is another familiar melody, this time taken at a ballad tempo. The group plays this with a great deal of sensitivity, and Drew plays a wonderful solo. Miles Davis' "So What" brings the tempo back up with some staccato comping from both Drew and Green and the leader also takes an excellent solo backed by walking bass.

"Tracin' Tracy" was left off of he original album due to time constraints but is included here as a bonus track. Another mid-tempo groover, Green and Dixon trade fours near the end of the song before coming back to the melody. This isn't the most exciting album Grant Green ever made, but the playing is impeccable as always and if you are looking for a disc to just relax with, you could do a lot worse. Recommended.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Interesting articles:

The Village Voice has another in their continuing series of Jazz Consumer Guides:

(Reviewing William Parker's Sound Unity) This is Parker's pianoless quartet, a format that demands two horn players who can dance—who play together even when they seem to be flying off at odd tangents. Trumpeter Lewis Barnes and alto saxist Rob Brown, little known outside of Parker's discography, make a lovely couple. But in this quartet bassist Parker and drummer Hamid Drake aren't content to keep time: They, too, dance. Perfect balance—the political analog is equality—is impossible to achieve, but if you listen to this record four times, each time focusing on a player, you'll hear four slightly distinct albums, each one coherent. They did it. A

The venerable New York Times has a review of the latest Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition, this time focusing on the guitar:

This year's Monk competition, which focused on the guitar, was especially revealing of jazz's complex and sometimes contradictory negotiation between art music and pop.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ken Vandermark

Back from vacation where I just so happed to pick up the new KV5 CD, there's a nice article in the Boston Globe:

''The thing I'm frustrated about is working in a way that's getting to more people. One, I think the music is for everybody. It's not just for purists or the jazz clubs. The music is for everybody. It speaks to me, and I think it could speak to everybody. . . . I've been outspoken about wanting more people to hear it. It's not just a hobby. I need to pay the rent. This is how I make my living. I believe it's possible to expand the audience without contracting the music. Me being vocal about that has led people to think it's just about me wanting to be famous."

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Friday, September 16, 2005

A Few Days Off...

I'm taking a few days off for vacation, if all goes well, I'll be back to blogging on Monday or Tuesday.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Speaking of Sonny...

OK, I'll admit that it may be possible that I am not the biggest nerd on the planet, but I think I have finally jumped up another rung on the ladder and become a (shudder) fanboy... Yup, my snazzy offiicial Sonny Rollins t-shirt came in the mail today, fresh from Sonny's own web site. Hey, he's 75 and the Master of the Universe, I think it's OK for him to cash in.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Sound of Sonny has a nice article on and interview with saxophone legend Sonny Rollins:

The forward impulse is something Sonny Rollins knows well. As our greatest living jazzman and a link to the music's most storied era, Sonny, much to the chagrin of fossil collectors, has never stopped moving. Since his recorded debut in 1949, his restlessly rhythmic and joyously witty playing has placed him side by side with greats like Miles, Monk (who never had a more sympathetic partner), Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, the Modern Jazz Quartet -- the list goes on. But while his support appearances have frequently been brilliant, it's the music he's made as a leader that earned him his greatest praise. Saxophone Colossus, Way out West, Freedom Suite, The Bridge -- we could go on for a while.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

Another Legend Lost

Blues and roots music legend Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown passed away recently after battling a long illness:

Clarence Gatemouth Brown, an eminent guitarist and singer who spent his career fighting purism by synthesizing old blues, country, jazz, Cajun and R & B styles, died on Saturday. He was 81.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Odds and Ends

I got a chance to hear the highly anticipated archival release of Thelonious Monk w/ John Coltrane:

Label chief Bruce Lundvall broadcasts the world premiere of a newly-discovered recording of jazz giants Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. The Carnegie Hall concert on November 29, 1957 featured the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane and was recorded by Voice of America for an overseas radio broadcast. Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall will be released by Blue Note Records in conjunction with Thelonious Records on September 27, 2005. T.S. Monk, son of the late Thelonious Monk, will be Bruce's special guest.

Also, I went to my friend John's record store and found some very interesting stuff:

Johnny Hodges & Fatha Hines - Stride Right
Professor Longhair - The Last Mardi Gras
Jimmy Smith - Fantastic
The Keith Tippett Group
Detroit Jr. - Chicago Urban Blues
Ennio Morricone - Film Music Vol. 2

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Eddie Gale - Black Rhythm Happening (Blue Note, 4 Men With Beards 1970, 2004)

Trumpeter and composer Eddie Gale was at the right place at the wrong time. Blue Note was open to different ideas and Gale's mix of spontaneous music and arranged voices was right up their alley. Unfortunately, Blue Note was bought around this time by United Artists, and after this album Gale's unique music was scrapped. Luckily, Gale's two Blue Note albums Ghetto Music and Black Rhythm Happening have been reissued on CD and LP by the wonderfully named 4 Men With Beards label.

As you can imagine by the title of the album, rhythm and groove play a big element in this music. While the band led by Gale's trumpet are playing modal and free jazz, the vocal choir is singing and chanting in a gospel and R&B mode. It's something akin to the music Sun Ra was making during this period, but make no mistake, even though he had spent some time in Ra's band, Gale was his own man. There are some heavy hitters on this record like Jimmy Lyons and Elvin Jones that keep the music fresh and exciting as well. This is an interesting and unusual record that shows what is possible with the intelligent fusing of genres.

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Friday, September 09, 2005

Interesting Articles

There was a great article in the Newark Star-Ledger a few days ago and it finally popped up on their web site:

Rolling Stones should repay their debt to the Delta. The only power most musicians had to help after the great Mississippi River flood of 1927 was to write memorials -- such as "High Water Everywhere" by Charley Patton, credited as the father of Delta blues. Nowadays, musical stars have far greater resources to do their part in aiding those left in misery on the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina.

On a lighter note, Impulse continues its John Coltrane vault-scraping projects... can you say "cash cow?":

Jazz legend John Coltrane's oft-bootlegged 1965 performances at New York's Half Note will be given their first authorized release next month.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Charlie Haden - Not In Our Name (Verve, 2005)

Charlie Haden has a long history of social activism throughout his career as a musician. As his Quartet West group is his outlet for his love of bebop and ballads, the Liberation Music Orchestra is his outlet for freer playing and for calling attention to the problems of the world. This album is a protest against the Iraq war and the title, Not in Our Name refers to the number or people who refuse to support military intervention. Haden’s original Liberation Music Orchestra album came out in 1970 and was arranged by Carla Bley, who makes a return engagement on this CD, straw-bossing a large cast of musicians and contributing arrangements of some very unusual standards that are not often found in the jazz canon.

“Not in Our Name” and the Pat Metheny composition “This is Not America” set the tone for the album, with a somber but not morose feel. Improvisations are anchored by solos by Michael Zenon and Tony Malaby on saxophones. The unusual standards kick in toward the mid-point of the album with versions of “America the Beautiful” and “Amazing Graze” giving the music an ethereal, spiritual vibe. This is a sobering but ultimately uplifting meditation on peace and the need to speak out in the search of it. Recommended.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Torrential Torrents (Part 2)
Radio Birdman – Eureka (Geelong, Australia 11/30/77) Radio Birdman was one of the original punk rock bands to come out of Australia along with The Saints. They played a blasting brand of unique music that evolved separately for the parallel scenes that were taking place in New York and London. During this stage, they were still developing their own original material, but on this torrent the focus on covers. The band was definitely influenced by the Detroit scene of the early 70’s especially The Stooges and the MC5 and that influence is borne out here with covers of “T.V. Eye,” “1970.” They are playing fast and loose, and it threatens to all come apart, but they just hold it together… as the best punk bands always do.

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Torrential Torrents (part one)

The have been a number of great downloads recently on which is a not for profit Internet music trading community:

R.L. Burnside – New Orleans 4/26/98 This concert is something of a double tribute by the uploader, both to Burnside who just passed away and to that great musical city so devastated by the recent hurricane. Burnside and his well-oiled band blast through their standard set of tunes including “Old Black Mattie” and the roaring “Goin' Down South.” The group also throws in a couple of well-chosen covers of Robert Johnson's “Walkin' Blues” and John Lee Hooker's “Boogie Chillun'.” Great stuff, R.L. was always a galvanizing live performer so hopefully Fat Possum will open up the vaults and let music like this get beyond the collector's circles.

Max Roach and Sam Rivers – Hamburg 1/19/84 Sam Rivers is one of my favorite musicians, and it's a treat to hear him in the company of a master drummer like Max Roach, who gives him a laudatory introduction at the beginning of the concert. As they settle into a free duet to start the concert, you notice how comfortable Roach is with Rivers' stream of consciousness improvisations. It's hard to imagine another musician who has performed with both Charlie Parker and Anthony Braxton equally well, but Roach has done it all at one time or another. The remainder of the concert is with a full band including Odean Pope on saxophones and Cecil Bridgewater on trumpet. The group takes in the whole history of jazz from Parker's “Now's the Time” to Coltrane's Giant Steps and Monk's “Straight No Chaser.” Nowadays, Rivers only plays his own compositions, so it's fascinating to hear him improvise on these familiar themes.

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Friday, September 02, 2005

R.L. Burnside Passes On

As if things weren't bad enough in the Mississippi Hill Country with the hurricane's aftermath, they lost one of their all-time finest yesterday, a true American legend, R.L. Burnside:

R.L. Burnside, one of the last great bluesmen of Mississippi to achieve commercial prominence, died Thursday in a Memphis hospital. He was 78. Matthew Johnson, whose Oxford, Miss., label Fat Possum Records issued seven albums by Burnside, said the musician died of heart failure. Burnside had suffered a heart attack and underwent bypass surgery last year and never fully recovered.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Interesting Articles

The New York Times has an article about the recent Charlie Parker Jazz Festival:

Few jazz events in the city are as community-minded as the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, which has run for 13 years and received City Parks Foundation support for the past three. Typically scheduled around its hero's birthday - Parker, or Bird, would have turned 85 today - it takes place in neighborhoods that figure into his life story. (Yesterday's event was at Tompkins Square Park, near Parker's East Village apartment.)

One of my favorite jazz writers, Francis Davis, has a lauditory review of the new Sonny Rollins album Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert:

Sonny Rollins's best album in nearly three decades is the healing force of the universe... no recording since his RCAs in the '60s has more faithfully captured Rollins's sound—on "Global Warming," the program's requisite calypso, his tenor saxophone is a steel drum and its spreading low notes shake your insides.

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