Friday, December 30, 2005

There's a very interesting article in the New York Times about the effect of independently produced music one the music industry: Exploiting online message boards, music blogs and social networks, independent music companies are making big advances at the expense of the four global music conglomerates, whose established business model of blockbuster hits promoted through radio airplay now looks increasingly outdated.

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

The New York City music blog Night After Night has a lengthy, well written obituary for avant garde guitarist Derek Bailey: Practically to the very end of his life, Bailey continued to seek out new encounters: with jazz icon Tony Williams, with free-jazz percussionist Susie Ibarra, with pipa virtuoso Min Xiao-Fen, with Japanese prog-punk duo Ruins and with a steady stream of young drum-and-bass DJs. A substantial portion of Bailey's activity, and that of his peers, was documented by Incus, the hardly little cottage label he founded with Parker and Oxley (of which he later became sole proprietor); many of those aforementioned later encounters, equally important, were captured on John Zorn's labels Avant and Tzadik.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Ken Vandermark's web site has been refurbished and is back online. The front page is a sort-of blog with announcements and links to the rest of the web site: Here you will find all manner of KV information for your viewing and listening pleasure: tour dates, an "in rotation" playlist, press articles, live photos, mp3 album previews (very soon), interviews with extraordinary musicians, past show posters, and KV's discography, all of which will be updated constantly! You can also sign up for the "AudioOne" newsletter, which details Ken's activities over the past few months and gives unheralded insight to our "reed-man about the planet".

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Ben Ratliff has a couple of interesting articles in the New York Times. The first is a review of the Miles Davis Cellar Door Sessions (damn thing finally came out, and the bastards raised the price! Ha, and they wonder why people download pirated music...) "In spots, the passageways become tiny and dark; waves of musicians, hired for an hour or a month or a year, fade in and out, all subsumed by rhythm. The sound balloons, growing dense and disjunctive and bluntly repetitive, and then winnows down to an ominous rustle."

The second is the obligatory top ten list. He goes with the Monk and Coltrane, which is a respectful choice, but I was kind of hoping he's surprise us and go with a young, vibrant musician. I don't know, maybe somebody whose still... alive? "Every musician on this newly found recording, of a 1957 fund-raising concert, is dead. But before its chance discovery this year, the only people who had ever heard it were those in attendance, so we'll count it as new."

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Monday, December 26, 2005

Bittorrent Boogie

A few days off for the holidays gave me a chance to catch up with some of the concerts I've been downloading:

Roy Campbell - Vision Festival 2005: This is trumpeter Campbell's Pyramid Trio with bassist William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake playing a short set of cracking free-bop at this year's Vision Festival in New York City. The three musicians play with each other quite a bit, both in this band and others so the music is quite tight. Drake is really amazing as his different rhythms make a trio sound like a much larger band by shifting the tempos and focus of the music.

Van Morrison - Toronto, Ontario 10/21/74: A highly charged set from Van Morrison and the Caledonia Soul Orchestra from the tour that would yield the wonderful It's Too Late to Stop Now live album finds the man in fine voice playing favorites and soul obscurities in front of a very enthusiastic audience. Highlights include the rare song "(It's Not The) Twilight Zone" with Van singing in a super-high falsetto voice and "Moondance" which included the Peggy Lee popularized classic "Fever."

Hound Dog Taylor - Ann Arbor Jazz and Blues Festival, 1973: Taylor had one of the most exciting sounds in all of electric blues... sloppy, loud and super-raw, his slide guitar, mixed with rhythm guitar and drums was a powerhouse on the Chicago scene. He's in rare form here on a wonderful set that has the crowd going nuts throughout. His breathless and incomprehensible between song banter is a riot as well.

Now playing: Bill Frisell - Masada Guitars - Kisofim

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Best of 2005

11. Ben Monder - Oceana: This is some very deeply layered and atmospheric music, with a moody mix of guitar, bass and drums with wordless vocals. Deeply textured and cinematic music.

10. White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan: The most mature album of their career, Jack and Meg branch out into bluegrass and country without losing their garage rock edge.

9. Fast 'n' Bulbous - Blue Pork Chop Around the Rind: Guitarist (and Beefheart alum) Gary Lucas' little big band to plays instrumental versions of Captain Beefheart's music with joy and verve.

8. Marc Ribot - Spiritual Unity: Ribot hooks up with Albert Ayler alum Henry Grimes and some other heavyweights to explore the Ayler songbook of folk and gospel themes.

7. Jason Moran - Same Mother: A deeply felt exploration of the blues in jazz. The ringer on this session is the addition of guitarist Marvin Sewell who adds his urgent, earthy tone to several of the tracks.

6. Sam Rivers - Purple Violets: Interesting small band with vibes reminds me for the classic mid-60's records Rivers cut for Blue Note.

5. Yo Miles - Upriver: The third double disc in the series of albums where Henry Kiaser and Wadada Leo Smith explore the electric music of Miles Davis to great effect.

4. John Coltrane - One Up, One Down: Sure, bootleg version of these gigs from the Half Note have been around forever, but they never sounded this good. Epic slabs of music from one of the most legendary bands in jazz history.

3. Thelonious Monk w/ John Coltrane - Live at Carnegie Hall: This previously unavailable concert with Monk and Coltrane set the jazz world on its ear this year and for good reason. Kudos to the Library of Congress for making this music available.

2. The Bad Plus - Suspicious Activity: This quirky ensemble is really coming into its own, with wonderful compositions and impeccable execution.

1. Wayne Shorter - Beyond the Sound Barrier: This band has come together as a deeply powerful unit, and the interplay between Shorter and Perez is truly amazing, so much so that I almost long to hear the two make a duo album.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Best Re-Issues of 2005

11. The Stooges (self-titled): This slab of guitar driven sludge from the bowels of Detroit was massively influential, and Rhino expands their debut to two cds with outtakes and lengthy liner notes.

10. Traffic - Gold: There have been more compilations of Traffic then they released actual albums, but this is one of the better ones. An intelligent mix of hits and album tracks keeps things from bogging down in classic rock nadir.

9. Soft Machine - Out-Bloody-Rageous: Charting their voyage from psychedelic popsters to jazz fusion pioneers through a unending number of personnel changes, this well done compilation presents a very listenable introduction to a fascinating group.

8. Pharoah Sanders - You've Got to Have Freedom: The first career length summation of Sanders' lengthy career presents a detailed summary of his music.

7. Charlie Musslewhite - Deluxe Edition: This harmonica master only put out three albums for the Alligator label, but they were all good, and this one disc distillation is even better.

6. Sun Ra - On Jupiter: Psychedelic disco groove Ra complete with trips to the outer stars on flying saucers, what more could you want? Throw in some nice photos and liner notes and that makes up for the fact that it's vinyl-only and costs over $20 for 30 minutes of music.

5. The Greenhornes - Sewed Souls: A compendium of tough garage rock from their first three albums is an ideal introduction to this underappreciated band. Hopefully their opening slot on The White Stripes recent tour and signing to V2 Records will give them some more exposure in the years to come.

4. Various Artists - Blues With a Message: Compiling topical blues with excellent liner notes makes for a great historical re-issue and really stands out amongst the myriad of blues compilations released this year.

3. Ornette Coleman and Pat Metheny - Song X: Extra material that was left on the cutting room floor the first time around is added, nearly doubling the length of the original album. Metheny sticks with the great man and earns some serious street cred in the process.

2. The 101'ers - Elgin Avenue Breakdown: Joe Strummer's first band was a powerhouse in its own right, combining proto-punk with R&B. Ah, but then Bernie came to call and the rest is history.

1. Iggy Pop - A Million in Prizes: Hard to believe it, but the scrawny little devil has really been around the music scene for 40 years! Tracking his music from The Stooges through the ups and down of an epic solo career, it's a fascinating and wild ride.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Charles Mingus - Blues and Roots (Atlantic, 1959) Ah... the Joy of Mingus. I enjoy all of the great man's work, but have special attachment to the bluesy gospel music he did throughout his career. This is one of the most soulful records of his career, kicking off with the incredibly powerful "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting" in which the horns are driven into a frenzy by Mingus' protean bass playing and vocal shouts of encouragement, which recall a holy-roller gospel church. "Cryin' Blues" and "Moanin'" pile on the earth down-home feel with Jackie McLean and Booker Ervin each getting a chance for ripe saxophone statements. Charles Mingus knew the blues on the most intimate level and this album distills this hard won knowledge into a masterpiece of American Music.

Various Artists - Blues With a Message (Arhoolie, 2005) The blues has always been more than stories of cheatin' women and lyin' men. From Congo Square on to the present day, the idiom of the blues has been used to pass down oral history and comment ton the news of the day. This collection brings together 18 of such songs from bluesman known and obscure. Of particular interest is hearing both Lightnin' Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb sing different versions of the infamous "Tom Moore's Farm" and also hear a great version of the song of that steel driving man "John Henry." Willie Eason's "Why I Like Roosevelt" and "Prisoner's Talking Blues" and one-man-band Dr. Ross' "Little Soldier Boy" recount the horrors of war. This fascinating collection was named best blues album of 2005 by the British magazine Mojo and certainly deserves consideration by anyone who enjoys deep, hard-hitting blues.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

With a rare mid-week day off, I caught up on some of my reading while letting Winamp's shuffle setting provide the music. Here were the selections:

Jelly Roll Morton - King Porter Stomp
Bud Powell - John's Abbey
Miles Davis and John Coltrane - Tadd's Delight (Alternate Take)
Afrodisiac - Body And Soul - William Onyeabor
McCoy Tyner - Love Samba
String Trio Of New York - Ode
Sonny Rollins - Oleo
Libertines - What Katie Did (Babyshambles Sessions)
Grateful Dead - Operator
Tabla Beat Science - NafekeƱ
Woody Shaw - The Legend Of Cheops
Trio 3 - Willow Song
Muddy Waters - Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
Sun Ra - Big John's Special
Howlin' Wolf - Built For Comfort
Jelly Roll Morton - Cannon Ball Blues
Eric Dolphy - Woody'N You
Henry Threadgill's Zooid - Unknown Live Track

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Jazz Gem Made in '57 Is a Favorite of 2005 - New York Times: "My favorite jazz record released this year, and one of my favorites of any year, was made in 1957. I first heard 'Thelonious Monk Quartet With John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall' (Blue Note) at the Library of Congress in April, after the news of its discovery had been made public. It sounded pretty good then, but you can never really tell when hearing something over a high-quality sound system in front of interested parties. I have listened to it repeatedly since, and it seems to be much better than I first thought - solid, juicy, truly great." - Ben Ratliff

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This sounds like it was quite a concert with Dr. John and Marcia Ball in a small, intimite theater Oh, such a night

Dr. John and Marcia Ball - who long have celebrated the lusty culture of the Gulf Coast - still sit behind 88 keys and let the music rip. That they did this weekend in Chicago, though in an unconventional setting: Steppenwolf Theatre, where the ongoing Traffic series offers audiences an intimate look at artists who typically appear in larger, rowdier auditoriums.
Greenleaf Music has posted a transcript of the Live Chat trumpeter Dave Douglas hosted last week:

I will be recording a new studio album with the Quintet. That should come out in the Spring, and we'll be out on the road. We'll also do some new Paperbacks, one from KneeBody coming out really soon. I am torn between putting out a Paperback of the Keystone band from this recent tour, there are some great live tapes. OR: I also have some great tapes from the 90s. Sanctuary from 1997. Tiny Bell Trio from 1994, our first tour. Many other things. We'll see. But there will definitely be one of those in the spring a swell.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Babyshambles - Down in Albion (Rough Trade, 2005) After bottoming out with drugs and legal troubles and being kicked out of The Libertines, I was worried that Pete Doherty's brand of melodic and poetic punk rock would be lost forever. But despite his troubles, he's put together a new band called Babyshambles, and continues to make music against the odds, culminating in this Mick Jones produced first album. The album actually shows a quite pronounced Ray Davies influence, which didn't appear in his Libertines era music. The track "Albion" echoes late 1960's music by the Kinks in the gentle melodies and the lyrics that discuss some of the problems that are affecting England in a very provincial manner. The first single from the album however, takes an old Libertines trick of controversial attention grabbing with the title "F*** Forever," Who could ignore that? It's a scalding piece of old-school punk with a level of devil may care narcissism that Johnny Rotten would admire. The album isn't perfect, it lurches and staggers to the finish line, but despite the trials of its creation, the music spreads a rough-hewn glow which can hopefully be capitalized on by Doherty and crew, because goodness knows he has the talent.

Sun Ra - On Jupiter (Art Yard, 2005) The British re-issue label Art Yard continues their wonderful series of mid 1970's obscure Sun Ra re-releases with the funky and downright strange (even for Ra!) 1979 LP On Jupiter. What makes this album so unique is that Ra and the band embrace disco (!) with light funky soul beats, synth and chanted vocals on "U.F.O." Of course, the lyrics are about as far from disco as possible with the band chanting about wanting to be taken away "beyond the farthest star" on an alien spacecraft, which is probably why this didn't catch on in the discotheques. "On Jupiter" is more traditional Ra with a sidelong improvisation featuring Fender Rhodes electric piano, percussion and a funky horn session. This was probably as close to easy-listening as the Sun Ra Arkestra ever got, and as such it makes for a great introduction to the band's interesting mid-70's period. The Art Yard release is only on record for now, but it's done right with heavy grade vinyl and some interesting liner notes and photographs.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

The Thelonious Monk Institute will celebrate ten rears of improved Vietnamese - American relations by sending Herbie Hancock and an all-star band to tour the country:

World renowned jazz pianist and composer Herbie Hancock will lead a group of jazz artists, which include legendary saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter, internationally acclaimed vocalist Nnenna Freelon, and the eight gifted young jazz musicians who attend the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at the University of Southern California.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Various Artists - The Devil Is a Busy Man (Empire, 2005)

This collection subtitled 20 Scorching Blues Tracks From the Early Electric Era brings together a nice group of songs from the late 40's and early 50's, some genuine blues classics and some more obscure songs. The classic title track leads things off, Sunnyland Slim's classic piano rolling number and tale of the fellow with the horns collecting the souls of all those cheatin' women and lyin' men. Another classic included on this collection that has gone on to become a blues standard is J.B. Lenior's "Mama Talk to Your Daughter," which features Lenior's distinctive high-pitched voice and ripe guitar playing. Some early cuts by other well known blues men like Albert King, Lightnin' Hopkins and Snooky Prior are available here as well.

It's interesting to hear an early single called by Jody Williams (recording under the nom de plume Little Papa Joe) who is in the midst of an excellent comebacks right now after many years off the scene. Guitar is not the only focus here, although it takes center stage most of the time as piano-pounder Henry Gray plays the well know "Watch Yourself." Overall, this is an interesting blues collection, well recommended to both fans and neophytes who are long for a good dose of the real blues.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Go on... Tease Me Again! is sporting a press release with the hopeful title Jazz News: Miles Davis - "The Cellar Door Sessions 1970" Release Date Set For December 27. But seriously, the box has been delayed three times through greed and legal wrangling. If the music weren't so good, I would seriously consider boycotting the sleaze that's been coming out of both Sony and the Miles Davis estate...

Here is the Miles Davis collection that fans have most eagerly awaited (ha! no kidding). Previously available as a fraction of the music herein and only initially issued domestically in edited form on the two-LP set, "Live Evil," "The Cellar Door Sessions 1970" was recorded December 16-19, 1970 at a club in Washington, D.C., where the great trumpeter-bandleader Davis was at the helm of one his most stimulating groups.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Bittorrent Boogie

M'Boom and The World Saxophone Quartet - The Grand Collaboration Max Roach was one of the great organizers in jazz. Not only was he a label owner and entrepreneur, but in the 1970's he formed the percussion ensemble M'Boom, which he saw as a chamber group promoting the role of percussion in jazz. Roach also managed to organize one large concert each year and in 1981 he decided to have a big concert with both M'Boom and the WSQ performing separately and together in New York in a meeting appropriately titled "The Grand Collaboration." The WSQ was very potent at this stage of their career, with then young lions David Murray and Julius Hemphill leading the charge out of the loft scene as free jazz met the tradition of bebop and swing.

The concert opens with the WSQ collaborating with Max Roach playing a wide ranging suite of music, culminating in David Murray's composition "Fast Life." The music evolves from lush swing to pretty far out stuff with neither Roach or the Quartet missing a step as they essentially flow through the entire history of jazz. Up next comes M'Boom on their own playing a fascinating set beginning with spooks nearly science fiction sounds evolving into a deeply rhythmic groove. After that comes the main event with the two groups improvising in collaboration with each other. Much later in their career, the WSQ would collaborate with a group of African drummers, and you wonder if this meeting is where the genesis of that idea came from. There is a wonderful synthesis between the groups and the open mindedness and rehearsal time really paid off with an exciting concert.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

LeRoy Jenkins - Space Minds/New Worlds/Survival of America (Tomato, 1978)

Violinist LeRoy Jenkins was a founding member of The Revolutionary Ensemble and when that group went of sabbatical in the mid-1970's, Jenkins turned his attention to teaching and producing solo albums like this unique piece of music. On this record he's joined by Andrew Cryille on drums, Anthony Davis on piano, George Lewis on trombone and electronics and Richard Teitlebaum on moog synth.

The title track is a side-long four part suite depicting a voyage to outer space in six movements. The crew of the spaceship (the musicians) guides their spaceship of music through the void. Jenkins violin is the prominent voice, but the addition of the electronics from both Teitelbaum and Adams in concert with the violin give the music some thing of an eerie and spacey feel, like a Sun Ra long-form composition. Side two of the record returns the group to the traditional song form with the electronics sitting out. Most impressive are "The Clowns" and "Kick Back Stomp" which feature the group improvising together at an uptempo pace.

This was a very interesting and unusual record, making use of different compositional techniques and instrumentation and using the electronic as an arrangement tool and extra voice in the music. The difference in the music on both sides is interesting as well, showing two sides of the band with and without electronics.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

The White Stripes Walkin With a Ghost EP (V2, 2005)

Tegan and Sara's quirky and catchy 'Walkin' With A Ghost' has been a staple on Little Steven's Underground Garage on Sirius radio, and it looks like it's caught the ear of The White Stripes as well, as they're using it as the title track of their new EP and tacking on some live songs from their recent tour to round it out. 'Walkin' With A Ghost' does get the Stripes treatment of heavier guitars and a straight ahead drum beat, but other than that, it retains the kooky and spooky feel of the original. The live tracks includes some interesting music as well, with the hard garage rock of 'The Denial Twist' juxtaposed against the milder feel of 'As Ugly As I Seem.' This is an interesting snapshot of the band after a long summer and fall of touring.

The Greenhornes Sewed Soles (V2, 2005)

Another band with a connection to The White Stripes is The Greenhornes, from Cincinnati, whose rough and ready R&B and garage rock hybrid has earned the opening slot on the Stripes recent tour and a major label contract with V2. This is a compilation album from their first few records and EP's. Sounding all the world like an updated version of Van Morrison's Them, the band adds some great Farfisa organ to the classic lineup of guitar, bass and drums. Pile driving blues rockers are often the order of the day, like the organ fueled 'I Can't Stand It' and 'Shame and Misery' which backs its lovelorn tale of woe with slashing guitars and raw drumming. The band is far from a one trick pony however, their collaboration with British chanteuse Holly Golightly that was featured prominently in the Jim Jarmush film Broken Flowers is included here, with the band cutting a mod groove, and the ballad 'Stay Away Girl' is like something from a long lost Nuggets collection of the future. Fans of rocking R&B will really enjoy this.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Interesting Odds and Ends

My boy Pete Doherty may still be residing in yonder clink but he's still generating news and some of it is even good:

Mr. Doherty split with the Libertines to concentrate on his other band, Babyshambles. He spoke in interviews about his struggles with crack cocaine and heroin, and chaotic Babyshambles concerts were routinely overshadowed by reports of even more chaotic behavior offstage. His sporadic relationship with the supermodel Kate Moss only made him more notorious, especially when video surfaced that showed her in a music studio, seemingly snorting cocaine. But he continues to outdo her: a week ago yesterday, Mr. Doherty was arrested yet again in London, on suspicion of possessing Class A drugs. (That's the category that in Britain includes cocaine and heroin.)

Guitarist Eyal Maoz (pictured), who has put put a very interesting jazz fusion album on the Tzadik label featuring John Medeski is profiled on NPR:

Israeli guitarist Eyal Maoz may live and perform in New York, but his sound encompases the realms of avant-garde jazz and Israeli Jewish music... Considered his breakthrough release for John Zorn's ecclectic Tzadik label, Edom was recorded at Bill Laswell's Orange Music Studios in 2005. The album features Maoz in the company of world-renowned, downtown New York musicians John Medeski of Medeski Martin & Wood, Shanir Blumenkranz and drummer Ben Perowsky (Elysian Fields & Dave Douglas).

Finally, Brian P. has started his own blog - look forward to insightful commentary from an up and coming musician:

Stumbled upon a list of the this year's GRAMMY nominations in the various fileds of jazz ... figured this would be an interesting posting to attempt to keep things rolling ...Kudos to Mr. Douglas and Mr. Holland for the nods on their independantly released recordings and kudos as well to Mr. Hollenbeck for what I believe is is first Grammy nomination.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Various Artists - More than Mambo The Introduction to Afro-Cuban Jazz (Verve, 1995)

Latin music has always been a rich vein in the history of jazz, dating all the way back to Jelly Roll Morton in New Orleans and his famous 'Spanish Tinge.' The influence of Cuban music really kicked into high gear with the Bebop musicians, especially Dizzy Gillespie, who adored the music and invited many of the leading Cuban musicians to perform with his band. This is a compilation of Latin and Afro-Cuban jazz recorded for Norman Granz's Verve label during the 1950's and 60's and reflects the interplay of these two dynamic genres of music.

Some of the most well known performers in the genre are represented on this two-disc set, including the vibraphonist Cal Tjader whose cool, percussive sound is heard on a number of cuts, most notably the haunting version of 'Somewhere in the Night.' A couple of hot compositions of Dizzy Gilliespie's master percussionist make the bill also. But these are just some of the highlights on a very broad collection of music. Anyone interested in the Latin or Afro-Cuban links to jazz are well advised to look for this interesting collection.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, December 05, 2005

Interesting Articles has an interesting article about the re-constituted Liberation Music Orchestra, and Charlie Haden's goals for the ensemble:

"I think it's really important to play this music now," Haden says from his house in Malibu. "We want the whole world to know, however, that the devastation that this is wreaking is not in our name. The title comes from a slogan I saw on banners unfurled over apartment buildings in Italy and Spain when I was on tour with Pat Metheny just before the start of the Iraq war."
The New York Times has an article about a new collaberative venture involving avant-garde trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith:
"Tabligh," a suite Mr. Smith has composed with Alan Kushan, a figure in avant-garde world music, harnesses a few of those ideas for a modern take on Persian classical music and Sufi devotional practice. The piece, which had its premiere on Thursday night at Merkin Concert Hall, had the feel of something loosely dictated rather than meticulously prescribed.

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Friday, December 02, 2005

Odds and Ends

Thanks to Brian for drawing my attention to the article Swinging Back Onto the Scene - New York Times: "Around 1997, the young jazz bassist Omer Avital seemed ready to be taken very seriously. Given a chance to play regularly at Smalls in the West Village, he had organized an ironclad band, a sextet with four saxophones and no piano. Its music was rugged swing and harmony and texture and sweeping, singable tunes, acoustic jazz full of a reason for being. Mr. Avital is a physical, knockabout player, and the same feeling spread out through his band; the vamps and long solos were worth waiting for, but even the written lines had integrity. He knew how to pare down a melody to the notes that stick. Anyone could understand it."

Also in the news, the Village Voice reviews the new Davis Murray CD, Waltz Again "Waltz Again, featuring Murray's own compositions and arrangements, with Roman Filiu O'Reilly (a saxophonist with Murray's big band) conducting a 10-piece Cuban orchestra, is more conventional than those impromptu sound sculptures with Morris, but almost as electrifying. Murray favors concerto grosso: On the seven-part "Pushkin Suite," the strings have as many discrete passages as Murray's quartet. These juxtapositions are tense and lovely, but it's when Murray, his rhythm section, and the strings rub against one another on the uptempo portions of the suite and the surging "Dark Secrets" that sparks fly."

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Pharoah Sanders Anthology You've Got to Have Freedom (Soul Brother, 2005)

Pharoah Sanders career now stretches over forty years, from his ground-breaking work with John Coltrane to the spiritual jazz he has dedicated his life to for the remainder of his career, he is one of the music's preeminent seekers. This two-disc collection is the first to measure the scope of his career as a band leader, incorporating not only his well-known early work on the Impulse label, but later music recorded for Theresa and Verve. Although there has been a gradual mellowing in the ferocity of his music over the years, his sound still maintains the aura of a profound spiritual quest.

'Upper and Lower Egypt' begins the compilation with a very melodic groove that eventually turns more caustic as Sanders tenor saxophone, still very raw at this stage, enters the mix. 'The Creator Has a Master Plan' has become his theme song over the years and something of an underground hit. This masterpiece of spiritual jazz features Leon Thomas on the memorable yodeling vocal over a large group with percussion. One thing that could irritate Sanders fans about this compilation is the fact that some tracks such as this one have been edited so that a variety of compositions could fit on the discs. The edits are done with taste, so each performance retains its core elements. The remainder of the first disc and the beginning of the second tracks Sanders tenure with the Impulse label culminating in the epic un-cut version of 'Love Is Everywhere' which is the title track to his final Impulse album.

The rest of the compilation cherry-picks from recordings that have come since. Pharoah Sanders has drifted to a number of different record labels in the intervening years, perhaps the most successful being the three albums he cut for the Theresa label in the 1980s which are represented here by the exuberant 'You've Got to Have Freedom' with its chanted vocals and wailing saxophone. While some of Sanders later period music involved an ill-fated flirtation with disco, he returned to his spiritual path with his Bill Laswell produced albums for the 1990s of which 'Nozipho' represents here with some excellent saxophone work. The hardcore Sanders collector will not find anything they do not already own here, but for anyone curious about Sanders music, this makes for an excellent place to begin the exploration.

Send comments to: Tim