Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Beatles - Love (Capitol, 2006)

This is the first (official) remixing of The Beatles music, done as the soundtrack to a Las Vegas show in their honor, and it's causing a little controversey in Beatlemaina. The music itself is not tampered with an any meaningful way, just stitched together with snippets of bridging music that has been remixed or altered. There's no unreleased material here and most of the songs featured here are very well known to any pop music fan. So what it amounts to is a mix-tape like offering of some of the Beatles greatest hits. The music flows together seemlessly and the songs themselves of course are of unimpeachable quality, but the whole enterprise begs the question: why? This collection certainly doesn't shame anyone, but by the same token it doesn't shed any new light on the music. Since The Beatles catalog is a license to print money (hard to believe it's still not available digitally), this CD will certainly be popular and make a pile of cash (the cynic in me says this is the real reason for the release) but unless you're a big fan of the stage show and don't already own much of this music, this seems like a release you can safely pass by.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 scores again with a very interesting interview with legendary saxophonist Sonny Rollins. Victor L. Schermer writes,

"I found him to be one of the most accessible and kindly individuals I’ve ever come across. Not only that, he has an impish sense of humor, which sometimes appears in his music as well. In addition, he was quite open to talking about himself, his life, and his views in a candid and lucid way."

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, November 27, 2006

Steve Lacy - Esteem: Live in Paris, 1975 (Atavistic UMS, 2006)

During his lifetime, soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy was one of the most prolific of all jazz musicians, releasing many records and CDs on a variety of labels. Upon his passing a few years ago, his wife and collaborator Irene Aebi planned to release a series of archival recordings culled from Lacy's own collection of cassette recordings. This inaugural release was recorded during a live performance in Paris in 1975 with the group featuring Lacy on soprano saxophone, Aebi on cello and violin, Steve Potts on alto and soprano saxophones, Kent Carter on bass, and Kenneth Tyler on drums. The music comes from one of Lacy's most productive and creative periods, and it's interesting to hear the compositions, which are quite spacious in their studio versions, transformed into raucous freewheeling improvisations. Lacy and Potts make for a potent saxophone combo, battling for space and collaborating on themes. Aebi and Carter support the reed players admirably while making solid contributions of their own to the freer sections. Tyler keeps the music moving at a brisk pace throughout sounding particularly good on Lacy's Jimi Hendrix tribute "The Uh Uh Uh." The only caveat with this very good release is the sound quality. While not bad, it does lack the quality of a professional live recording. It is easy to look past this however, for music of this high quality. For fans of adventurous improvisation, this release is definitely worth hearing.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Rob Mariani posted this interesting article to about seeing Thelonious Monk perform in New York:

"Theolonius Sphere Monk - some legends say he’d added that middle name himself back in the '40's when he was first coming up in bebop, reportedly "to show that he wasn’t square" - as if anyone with ears could possibly mistake his music for anything but music from another very hip planet. Theolonius was back playing again at the Five Spot Cafe."

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Reptet - Do This (Monktail Records, 2006)

It's appropriate that the Seattle jazz outfit The Reptet would dedicate four of their compositions on this album to The Marx Brothers, because they add a good dose of madcap fun and humor to their music. This doesn't mean that they do not take their music seriously, quite the contrary, this band made up of Tobi Stone and Izaak Millson on reeds, Ben O'Shea on trombone, Samantha Boshnack on trumpet and flugelhorn, Ben Verdier on bass, John Ewing on drums was formed for the express purpose of performing original improvisational compositions in an increasingly homogenized jazz world. The bands music is bold and exuberant, exploring some of the freer and avant-garde realms but without with honk 'n' squeal that could scare some of the more timid jazz listeners away. "Bad Reed Blues" and the live "Ro" show the band at their feverish peak with good soloing, and on the slower, more introspective songs like "Mumia's Lament" and "Groucho" the band's ensemble playing creates tone colors worthy of a big band. This is an interesting band that deserves attention beyond the fertile Seattle scene. They remind me a bit of another regional favorite, the Boston based ensemble Dead Cat Bounce, another collective that encourages original composition and exploratory improvisation. It's good to see outfits like this evolve independently from the hothouse scene of New York and hopefully they will continue to produce interesting original music.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, November 23, 2006

More Bittorrent Bliss

Lots of good stuff popping up on Dime lately. For those of you out of the loop, an explanation: For many years, collectors have traded through the mail (on a strictly not for profit basis) music (concerts, outtakes, etc.) recorded in the audience, from the radio or more recently on the Internet. While collectors still do trade concerts in the mail, the computer file distribution tool Bittorrent has made this much easier by allowing collectors to share large computer music files via a peer-to-peer system which can then be decoded and burned onto compact disc. These are a couple of concerts I recently downloaded in the manner.

Evan Parker - London 11/17/06:
This was a fascinating gig by free-jazz saxophonist Parker's "Electro-Acoustic" ensemble, a large group split between jazz musicians freely improvising on acoustic instruments a bevy of electronic musicians (laptops, gadgetry) taking that acoustic music and rexmixing it and basically messing with it in real time. It sounds like it would be a recipe for disaster, but it worked very well and created some really interesting and spooky soundscapes over the course of two long improvisations. The first half of the concert was a solo performance by Parker on soprano saxophone with the electronics taking his swirling, sweeping sound and building upon it in layers until it became a hurricane of sound whipping around the auditorium. Adding piano, violin, bass and drums for the second half of the concert along with more engineers gave the music a more percussive effect as the layered and distorted music crashed and receded like waves on a beach. Purists will no doubt sniff that this is not "jazz" and perhaps not, but in combining traditional acoustic instrumentation with cutting edge computer techniques, Parker has hit upon a very interesting synthesis. Recorded from a BBC web broadcast, the sound is excellent as well.

Snooks Eaglin - Chicago 6/1/89: Soulful guitarist and vocalist Eaglin left his New Orleans stomping grounds for a little while, but brought some of that great city with him for this festival gig. This well recorded radio broadcast shows that the R&B legend had the crowd eating right out of his hand, singing along and requesting songs. Eaglin hasn't written many original songs, but as an interpreter of funky New Orleans blues he's second to none as he shows by kicking off the concert with a playful version of Professor Longhair's "Bald Head" along with a devastating "Red Beans." He slows things down to a simmering tempo with the standard "Since I Met You Baby" which has some wonderfully deep singing and expressive guitar playing, before wrapping things up with a couple of non New Orleans tunes, a version of "Mustang Sally" that has the crowd nearly rioting with joy and then shuffling out with Jimmy Reed's "Baby What Do You Want Me to Do." A masterful performance.

Send comments to: Tim

Robert Lockwood Jr. Passes Away: "Mr. Lockwood began his solo career in the 1970s, and his records combined fierce Delta-style picking with horn-backed swing blues. The Rounder label paired him with fellow Johnson disciple Johnny Shines on the albums 'Hangin' On' (1979) and 'Mr. Blues Is Back to Stay' (1980).His 1998 release 'I've Got to Find Me a Woman,' including a guitar duet with B.B. King, received a Grammy Award nomination for traditional blues album. 'Delta Crossroads' (2000), released on the Telarc label, received a second nomination."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Scrapper Blackwell - Mr. Scrapper's Blues (Original Blues Classics, 1962)

Blackwell led a very active early career in the twenties and thirties, particularly in a duet with guitarist Leroy Carr that was quite influential. This was his comeback album after he was "rediscovered" by folklorists and researchers in the late 50's. Sadly, he saw murdered just after completing this LP, cutting short what would have no doubt been a triumphant resumption of his musical career. The music itself is quite varied and shows Blackwell as a very talented guitarist and singer. His original compositions are quite memorable, like "Goin' Where the Monon Crosses the Yellow Dog" which tells a tale as old as the blues itself in an interesting way. His instrumental playing on "A Blues" and "E Blues" is sparkling and has jazzy complexity. But as good as these performances are, the highlights are a couple of cover performances, "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" was originally popularized by Bessie Smith, and then revived by Eric Clapton's Derek and the Dominoes in the early 70's. Blackwell performs it with the perfect edge of lived in world weariness of a man who knows life's ups and downs. The other memorable performance is "Blues Before Sunrise" by his old partner Leroy Carr. This is another emotionally potent performance. This album received a "crown" in the new edition of The Penguin Guide to the Blues, and certainly deserves consideration from fans of acoustic blues.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I have a new podcast available here. Right click, then "save target as," and choose the directory for downloading. The playlist:

Freddie Hubbard - Mirrors (45 rpm version)
Beau Jocque - Sack 'o Woe
Ron Miles - I Woke Up In Love This Morning
Scrapper Blackwell - Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out
Tartit - Chargouba
Dizzy Reece - A Variation on Monk
Roswell Rudd - You Blew It
Sonny Simmons - New Groove Mode
Archie Shepp - Back Back
Art Ensemble Of Chicago - Song For Charles
Randy Weston - Berkshire Blues

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, November 20, 2006

Miles Davis - New York Times: "Fifteen years after his death Miles Davis has been enjoying a comeback tour. A new marketing campaign, capitalizing on what would have been his 80th birthday earlier this year, has been touting Davis, the trumpeter, bandleader and jazz legend, as "the original icon of cool." His music is being repackaged and (of course) remixed. And, as befits a musical giant, his life story - one that has long eluded Hollywood - appears finally to be headed for the big screen."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bittorrent Roundup

There have been some very interesting torrented concerts coming down the line at Dime lately so here's a short roundup of the things I've been downloading and listening to:

Dave Duoglas - Karlsruhe, Germany 11/20/98: This radio broadcast of trumpeter Douglas leading an octet including Louis Sclavis on clarinet and saxophones, Rabih Abou-Khalil on oud, and Jim Black on drums playing some selections from Douglas's Witness LP and other music has both good sound quality and performing. Some of the music is political in nature like Abou-Khalil's satirical "The Lewinski March" and Douglas's "Woman at Point Zero" where the band mixes European and Middle Eastern influences with American jazz. Some very good solos are present, but the group interplay is the most interesting thing here making this an enjoyable concert.

The Black Keys - Atlanta, GA 11/10/06: Garage rcokers The Black Keys have been hitting the road hard recently in support of their new Nonesuch LP Magic Potion and this very nice sounding audience recording catches the duo on the southern swing of their tour. The group is very tight, mixing up material from the new record like the pulsing "Your Touch" in with songs from their earlier LP's like "10 a.m. Automatic" and their take on the Stagolee myth "Stack Shot Billy." There's nothing fancy here, just basic rock and roll with good songs and energetic performances. The band and the audience are deeply in sync and we are lucky to have this document of a great performance.

Otis Rush - Cambridge, MA 8/1/87: Veteran bluesman Otis Rush is always something of a crapshoot live. When he's on as was recently released as the Delmark CD All Your Love I Miss Loving, he can be mezmerizing, and when he's off, well, things don't quite work out. This so-so quality audience recording has Rush on an OK night, spinning out lengthy guitar solos and vocals to an upbeat, if well-lubricated audience. The most interesting aspect of this concert is to hear him tackle Muddy Waters' "Got My Mojo Working" which I had never heard him play before. Most of the rest of the concert is made up of his classic repertoire with the standards "Double Trouble," and "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)" prominently displayed.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, November 18, 2006

There's a very interesting essay on Bagatellen by Marc Medwin called Moran in Monkian Terms: "I've heard everything from Herbie Nichols to Bill Evans in the 31-year-old Moran's playing and trio deployment, not to mention the merging of even more disparate forces like James P. Johnson and Cecil Taylor, coloring each moment on Moran's seven Blue Note records with a different and boldly effective hew. Furthermore, he's made all that influence apparent without resorting to heavy-handed reference. His work is never encyclopedic for its own sake; it exudes pride in the broadest interpretations of music as witnessed by the early 21st century."
Ruth Brown, 78; R& B Singer Championed Musicians' Rights: "Ruth Brown, 78, a rhythm-and-blues singer whose hits in the 1950s made Atlantic Records 'the house that Ruth built' and who revived her career decades later as the Tony Award-winning star of the musical revue 'Black and Blue,' died Nov. 17 at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson, Nev., after a stroke and heart attack."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

NPR : Ornette Coleman: Decades of Jazz on the Edge: "It's not easy living on the avant-garde edge of any art, let alone the always-changing world of jazz. But for nearly 50 years, the sound of Ornette Coleman has proven to be one of the most unorthodox -- and most influential -- in modern jazz."

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Roswell Rudd - Blown Bone (Emanem, 2006)

Most of the music on this album saw the light of day as a Japan-only release in 1979, which is kind of surprising considering the heavy-duty crew on board. Besides trombonist and composer Rudd, the musicians include Steve Lacy on soprano saxophone, Enrico Rava on trumpet, Paul Motian on drums, Sheila Jordan on vocals on a couple of tracks and bluesman Louisiana Red on vocals and guitar on one. Rudd has played everything from traditional dixieland to way-out avant-garde, and the music here has a very wide range from gutbucket electric blues with Louisiana Red peeling off some nasty electric guitar and singing while the band riffs and honks behind him on Rudd's ode to New York City, "Cement Blues". Of Jordan's two vocal features, "You Blew It" is the most successful allowing her a chance to scat out the vocals in a sassy manner after the band takes an impressive and intense collective improvisation. The instrumental tracks are very nice, the lead-off track "It's Happening" and the concluding "Bethesda Fountain" are both over ten minutes in length and allow for plenty of solo space and room for collective interplay. The music is not necessarily free jazz per se, but open ended compositions allow for add-libbing by all concerned. It's a worthy record and good to see it get a little more attention.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

OkkaDisk: Article by Stu Vandermark: "Jazz is a living, breathing sonic art form - not merely "of the moment" but of a moment. A crucial moment in an ongoing life process of the improvising artist. Yes, Eric Dolphy was right, righter than most fans acknowledge. Even when someone captures some of the sounds of a gig or studio session, the essence of the art of that moment is not captured."

Monday, November 13, 2006

Archie Shepp - Kwanza (Impulse, 1974, 2006)

This is an overlooked gem of a recording that was just re-released by Verve/Impulse after years as a vinyl only rarity. This album has a curious history, being recorded during 1968 and 1969 and then only slipping out during the end of the original Impulse tenure in 1974. These recordings have a fairly large group of performers including among others Grachan Moncur III on trombone, James Spaulding on alto saxophone, Charles Davis on baritone saxophone, and Dave Burrell on organ. The music itself is a very interesting blend of funky R&B and spiritual "cosmic-groove" free-jazz that was Impulse's stock and trade during the late 1960's. The opening track "Back Back" is the best example of this with some righteous honking over a slippery organ groove. Moncour's "New Africa" allows the band the opportunity to stretch out on a freer angle, without ever sinking into just perfunctory blowing. The only mis-step in the Leon Thomas vocal feature "Spoo Pee Doo" which really never takes flight. Apart from that though, this is a fine album of modal to free jazz which should give open eared jazz listeners a lot to enjoy.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Charles Mingus - UCLA 1965 (Sunnyside, 2006)

This reissues one of the more rare items in the Mingus catalog, a concert originally intended for the Monterey Jazz Festival but which never came off for various reasons. So a few weeks later the band presented the music intended for Monterey at this college concert, recorded for Mingus' own record label. It was an unusual brass heavy Mingus band, notable for the presence of the fine trumpeter Hobart Dotson who made a great impression on the few recordings he made. The music was tipped away from the sanctified blues and soul that makes up the leaders most well known work. Some of the opening compositions have a very melancholy feel with Mingus' bowed bass giving the music a very mournful touch. Since this is a Mingus Workshop performance, you know there will be some drama, and the big man orders most of the band off the stage when he deems them not up to the task of performing his music correctly. This reduces "Bird & Diz" to a quartet performance, but ramps things up even further with some fine solos on this bebop tribute. Back together and with some more energetic material to inspire them, the band finally hits is stride on the ancient New Orleans standard "Muskrat Ramble" where the group gives a fiery if short performance. The finest moment however, comes on the anti-genocide song "Don't Let It Happen Here." Reading his powerful poem:

One day they came and they took the communists,
And I said nothing because I was not a communist.

Then one day they came and they took the people of the Jewish faith,
And I said nothing because I was had no faith left.

One day they came and they took the unionists,
And I said nothing because I was not a unionist.

One day they burned down the Catholic churches.
And I said nothing because I was born a Protestant.

Then one day they came and they took me. And I could say nothing because I was guilty as they were, For not speaking out and saying that all men have a right to freedom.

and then launching into a deep and powerful improvisation, Mingus and the group give a performance to rival Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" and Max Roach's "Freedom Now" as one of the finest jazz protest pieces and it still rings true today. While this album as a whole might not be one of Mingus' top-tier works, the power and dignity of "Don't Let It Happen Here" demands that this music be heard.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Julius Hemphill - New York Times: "Mr. Hemphill, a gifted saxophonist both dry-toned and expressive, grew up in Fort Worth and spent his early 30s as part of a multimedia arts collective in St. Louis, the Black Arts Group. This was where he first saw the possibility of composing through such varied formats. He composed and conceptualized like crazy, and he managed to develop his own harmonic language, too, really mastering it toward the end of his life with his saxophone sextet."

Friday, November 10, 2006

Neil, Young and Old: There are a couple of new Neil Young CD's out this year, one of all new compositions called Living With War, recorded quickly as a protest against the war in Iraq and the attack on American civil liberties. Featuring Young's amped up guitar and vocals and occasionally going over the top with trumpets and a 100-voice choir (!) The group really rocks out with songs like "Restless Consumer" and "Shock and Awe." "Let's Impeach the President" makes it very clear where Young's loyalties are, but even people who don't agree can respect and enjoy one of Young's most exciting and interesting albums in a while. Also out this year is the archival release Live at the Fillmore East from 1970, with the original Crazy Horse including the doomed Danny Whitten. Blasting through short versions of "Everybody Knows This Is Nowehere" and "Winterlong" and then very lengthy improvisational versions of "Cowgirl in the Sand" and "Down by the River" the band sound very inspired and in great form. The guitar solos are long and fluid, moving into an almost free-jazz territory, like Sonny Sharrock playing post-hippie rock and roll. These albums are both good and make for interesting signposts in a long and varied career.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Book Look: There have been some interesting books to come out recently on the blues and jazz front. A few reference books with an English bent are Richard Cook's Jazz Encyclopedia and The Penguin Guide to the Blues. Cook is one of the editors on the Penguin Guide to Jazz, and this book provides brief biographies of jazz musicians past and present and also recommends one compact disc per entry as a starting point. I think this book may be more helpful to newer jazz fans because it gives one stop shopping for a quick bio on a musician they had heard or read about. More knowledgeable readers might be disappointed by the lack of discographical information or reviews. There is no shortage of reviews on The Penguin Guide to the Blues, however, to the tune of about 1,000 pages worth. Their four stars plus system also makes room for special "crowned" recordings that are of extra merit. You can always quibble with another's ratings and there is plenty of fodder for arguments here (that's part of the fun of flipping through it) but by in large the ratings and reviews are thoughtfully done. Where the book really shines is in helping people separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of the tons of reissues that clog the CD bins now. This guide can help cut through the clutter and help you find what you're looking for whether that is the complete works or a one disc introduction to a particular artist. On the non-reference side, I mentioned Chicago Blues: Portraits and Stories by David G. Whiteis before and it is a really well written collection of short pieces on musicians and scenes (the piece on Maxwell Street is particularly poignant.) Finally, Is Jazz Dead?: (Or Has It Moved to a New Address) by Stuart Nicholson is bound to cause considerable discussion as he looks at the recent past and future of jazz, excoriating the conservatives in American jazz and praising the experimenters of the European scene. It's an interesting thesis, but at times he gets a little too dogmatic himself, and at times risks becoming what he dislikes. But it's a worthy read, especially for it's discussion of the growing Scandinavian jazz scene.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

There is a very worthwhile issue of Downbeat out for December. Featuring the stern looking mug of Sun Ra on the cover, this issue has a nice article about the exhibit of Ra memorabilia that John Corbett has been curating in Chicago. There's also a nice interview session catching up with some AACM greats like Muhal Richard Abrams. It's interesting to look at some of the albums that they have for review in the "hot box" especially the Evan Parker disc that gets a rapturous five star review from one reviewer and a brutal one star drubbing from another. But the majority of the issue is taken up with the results of the readers poll, so I thought I'd compare my choices to the winners.

Hall of Fame: Tim's Choice: Jimmy Smith; Reader's Choice: Jimmy Smith

Well, I'm a huge B-3 fan so you'll get no argument from me about Jimmy Smith. I just wish that for once the honor would go to a living musician. Perhaps they could honor one living musician and one dead musician each year. Smith and Jackie McLean were voted in by the readers and critics respectively just months after each passed away. Couldn't we let them enjoy the honor while still alive?

Jazz Group: Tim's Choice: The Bad Plus; Reader's Choice: Dave Holland Quintet

I've voted for the DHQ before, so again you'll get no argument from me. I just thought it was time to mix it up this year and give a different band a chance. I love The Bad Plus' CDs, and seeing them in person last year was a revelation.

Big Band: Tim's Choice: Sam Rivers Riv-Bea Orchestra; Reader's Choice: Dave Holland Big Band

I like the DHBB releases, but not as much as the quintet's stuff. Sam Rivers hasn't released a big band album with the RivBea Orchestra for a while, but they are still a potent force.

Bass (acoustic and electric): Tim's Choice: Mario Pavone; Reader's Choice: Dave Holland

Pavone has very few peers as an instrumentalist. He's not flashy, but his solos are always filled with ideas and his ensemble playing is rock solid and supportive.

Male Vocalists: Tim's Choice: Mose Allison; Reader's Choice: Kurt Elling

Jazz vocalists really aren't my thing with the exception of really bluesy singers like Kevin Mahogony or quirky singers like Allison. I also contend that he is the best purely jazz lyricist around.

Trombone: Tim's Choice: Robin Eubanks; Reader's Choice: Steve Turre

Eubanks' soloing and ensemble playing has been an integral part of the Dave Holland Quintet's success.

Jazz Artist: Tim's Choice: Andrew Hill; Reader's Choice: Sonny Rollins

Hill released a wonderful album this year, has battled cancer successfully and has been the recipient of some well put together re-issues.

Jazz Album: Tim's Choice: Andrew Hill - Time Lines; Reader's Choice: Sonny Rollins - Without a Song

Hill back on Blue Note as it was meant to be. Ornette's new one may take my honor at the end of the year, but this is a very good album.

Historical Album: Tim's Choice - Miles Davis @ the Cellar Door; Reader's Choice: Thelonious Monk w/ John Coltrane @ Carnegie Hall

The Monk & Trane was high on my list for last year and deserves the kudos, but for '06 I think it's the Miles, which despite all of my whining about the foolish sausage-factory manner in which it was released is a box of simply astounding music.

Record Label: Tim's Choice: Blue Note; Reader's Choice: Blue Note

Solid mainstream new releases and a peerless back catalog. In retrospect, Cryptogramophone would be an excellent choice.

Trumpet: Tim's Choice: Ron Horton; Reader's Choice: Dave Douglas

I love Horton's thoughtful unhurried approach to improvisation and rich, buttery tone.

Soprano Saxophone: Tim's Choice: Wayne Shorter; Reader's Choice: Wayne Shorter

I prefer to hear Shorter on the tenor, but with Steve Lacy's passing, he is probably the reigning master. Many musicians double on soprano, but few play it with such individuality.

Alto Saxophone: Tim's Choice: Arthur Blythe; Reader's Choice: Phil Woods

Blythe has been forgotten a little since he moved back to the west coast, but he still possesses a startlingly tart, biting tone and is a fleet improviser, recording with unusual groups including tuba or electric cello.

Tenor Saxophone: Tim's Choice: Chris Potter; Reader's Choice: Sonny Rollins

There's really no arguing with Sonny, but Potter has come into his own over the past few years as a tenor player on both his own recordings and heavy duty sideman gigs with the likes of Dave Holland and Paul Motian.

Baritone Saxophone: Tim's Choice: Alex Harding; Reader's Choice: James Carter

I discovered Harding this year on his very good recording Blutopia, and I think he deserves the nod because baritone is his primary horn. As good as Carter is, the bari is just one of many in his arsenal.

Flute: Tim's Choice: Sam Rivers; Reader's Choice: James Moody

From deeply lyrical to profoundly free, nobody does it better.

Clarinet: Tim's Choice: Chris Speed; Reader's Choice: Don Byron

Byron has actually de-emphasized clarinet on his last couple of albums for tenor saxophone, so Speed and his interesting hollow, woody tone get the nod.

Acoustic Piano: Tim's Choice: Chick Corea; Reader's Choice: Keith Jarrett

His touch is full-bodied but not overbearing, with deep melodic feel. Now, if he would just kick the L. Ron Hubbard fascination and reunite the wonderful Origin band...

Electric Keyboard: Tim's Choice: Uri Caine; Reader's Choice: Joe Zawinul

I really like Caine's light and funky touch on the Fender Rhodes on his Bedrock recordings.

Organ: Tim's Choice: Alice Coltrane; Reader's Choice: Joey DeFrancesco

Alice Coltrane's sound in the Whirlitzer electric organ is very unique and her use of drones and spiritual feel separate her from the many Jimmy Smith acolytes.

Guitar: Tim's Choice: Ben Monder; Reader's Choice: Bill Frisell

I'm a longtime Frisell fan, but this past year or so Monder has really impressed me with his dark flavored tones and improvisations.

Drums: Tim's Choice: Hamid Drake; Reader's Choice: Jack DeJohnette

Drake is a polyrythmic monster supporting a wide range of musicians and never breaking stride.

Percussion: Tim's Choice: Susie Ibarra; Reader's Choice: Poncho Sanchez

Susie Ibarra's work on a variety of percussion instruments is always impressive.

Vibes: Tim's Choice: Steve Nelson; Reader's Choice: Gary Burton

Nelson gives the Dave Holland Quintet another percussive sound and his ringing and shimmering sound adds a beautiful touch to this great band.

Female Vocalist: Tim's Choice: Luciana Souza; Reader's Choice: Cassandra Wilson

I don't listen to a lot of jazz singers, but Souza's impressive singing backed by just guitar makes for some beautiful music.

Misc. Instrument: Tim's Choice: David Murray, Bass Clarinet; Reader's Choice: Toots Thielemans

David Murray's burbling and bubbling bass clarinet has gone well beyond its roots in Eric Dolphy's sound to develop a unique, individual feel.

Composer: Dave Douglas; Reader's Choice: Maria Schneider

I really like his compositions as they mix the jazz tradition with whimsical originality. Now on his own label he has free reign to experiment and let his imagination fly.

Blues Artist/Group: Tim's Choice: Joe Louis Walker; Reader's Choice: B.B. King

After being dropped by Verve, Walker put his demons at bay and has released a string of great blues records for the British JSP label.

Blues Album: Tim's Choice: Otis Rush - All Your Love I Miss Loving; Reader's Choice: Buddy Guy - Bring 'em In

I feel a little uneasy about listing a historical album as the best, but the music on this disc is so amazing, equal to the epochal recordings of Rush's '50's heyday, that it has to be the choice.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, November 06, 2006

Cephas and Wiggins - Shoulder to Shoulder (Alligator, 2006)

Guitarist and singer John Cephas and harmonica player Phil Wiggins have been playing as an acoustic duo in the Piedmont tradition of musicians like Sleepy John Estes for many years now. Their gentle folk inspired music is a welcome break from the hyperactive electric guitar playing that seems to dominate modern blues. Performing standards and originals in a laid back storytelling manner, these gentlemen recall a time when the blues was a means of communication and storytelling. The blues can be a hard road to travel and the versions of "Broke and Hungry" and "Three Ball Blues" are filled with the imagery of drifters, pawnshops and heartbreak. It's not all sadness and woe however, as "Blues Three Different Ways," "Ain't Seen My Baby" and "Susie Q" show the bands link with the blues tradition. Fans of acoustic folk blues or traditional American music in general should find much to enjoy here.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Vandermark 5 - A Discontinuous Line (Atavistic, 2006)

Multi-reedist and composer Ken Vandermark's signature ensemble has been remarkably stable over their ten plus year existence, but recently there was a change with Fred Lonberg-Holm joining the band on cello and Jeb Bishop who played trombone and occasional guitar dropping out. This is their first disc with the new lineup but the band's core sound of both burning and abstract modal and free jazz remains unchanged. The remainder of this stalwart group is Dave Rempis on alto and tenor saxophones, Kent Kessler on bass and Tim Daisy on drums. The Vandermark 5 have been one of the most consistent recording and performing ensembles in recent jazz memory. Along with their more mainstream colleagues the Dave Holland Quintet, they show that the strong bonds of a working band can make for stronger, more coherent studio albums than collections of stars and sidemen alone. As has become his custom, many of Vandermark's compositions on this disc are dedicated to people who were or are involved in various artistic endeavors.

"La Dernier Cri (for Elliot Carter)" and "Morricone (for Sergio Leone)" show the band at their most abstract, leaving plenty of space for Lonberg-Holm's plucked and scraped cello to create soundscapes for Vandermark and Rempis to improvise quietly against. By contrast, the band engages in free jazz blowouts on two versions of the song "Convertible." The first, dedicated to designer and architect Charles Eames is the slightly tighter and tamer of the two, while to second version, dedicated to Eames wife Ray, must be considered as one of the group's finest performances. Lonberg-Holm, Kessler and Daisy lay down a rock solid foundation which allows the two saxophonists to just pin their ears back and howl. But they howl with reason and forethought, not just for the mere act of doing so. This is what makes the group so special, they remain grounded in the post bop and free jazz tradition but instead of being enslaved by that tradition they use it as the launching pad for their improvisational explorations. They act like a much needed enema for the body of jazz, cleansing the music of the warbeling crooners and posers that constipate it like so much half digested junk food. This adventurous music is recommended.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Junior Wells - Live at Theresa's 1975 (Delmark, 2006)

Harmonica player and singer Junior Wells held down a long time residency at Theresa's, a working class tavern in Chicago. One of the most interesting things I read in the fascinating book Chicago Blues: Portraits and Stories by David G. Whiteis was learning that many of the local blues clubs like Theresa's had a much larger role in the community as a meeting hall, trading post and overall information center for the people who lived in that area. Delmark opted to leave Junior's in between song banter on the disc and it was a very wise decision. This offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of working class African-American Chicagoans as Junior engages in a give and take with the audience, singing "Happy Birthday" to a visitor and joshing and jiving to the crowd while announcing community gatherings and going away parties.

As you can imagine, the music is top notch with Phil Guy (Buddy's under appreciated brother) sparking off hot runs on guitar, and Junior playing superb harp and singing in his deep soulful voice. Highlights are many, but of particular note is the lengthy version of "Snatch It Back And Hold It" with plenty of room for improvisation. Junior's warning to the men in the audience about fooling around behind their wives' back precedes a tight version of "Love Her With a Feeling" where he has the crowd in the palm of his hand. A long deeply emotional version of the blues standard "Goin' Down Slow" goes way down in the alley before Junior ends the show with a fine version of his signature song "Messin' With the Kid." This is a superb archival release equal in quality to the stellar Otis Rush disc Delmark released late last year, and hopefully there are more to come. For a glimpse into a hometown gig from one of Chicago's legends this can't be beat. Recommended without reservation for all fans of the blues.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

My November podcast is available for downloading here. These are songs that have caught my ear over the past several weeks. Here's the setlist:

Kenny Garrett - Beyond the Wall
Medeski, Martin, Scofield & Wood - Miles Behind
The Black Keys - Your Touch
Nils Petter Molvaer - Vilderness
Junior Wells - Snatch It Back and Hold It
Kahil El'Zabar - Crumb-Puck-U-Lent
Roy Haynes - Mr. P.C.
Joe Lovano - Fire Prophet (Part V)
Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra - Tapha Niang
IV Thieves - Die In Love
Vandermark 5 - Convertable Version 2
Galactic - Bongo Joe
Chepas and Wiggins - Ain't Seen My Baby

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

The online jazz magazine Point of Departure has a new issue out today: "Issue 8 features a comprehensive look at the music of Finnish pianist-composer Iro Haarla. Northbound features a review of Haarla's "ECM Quintet" at the UMO Festival in Helsinki, an interview with Haarla, and an extensive survey of Haarla's recordings with Edward Vesala, Sound & Fury, Rolling Thunder, and her projects as leader and co-leader. The Turnaround! features a 1996 article on pianist Myra Melford. The Circle with a Hole in the Middle revisits an out-of-print album by Voice, a quartet with Julie Tippetts, Maggie Nichols, Phil Minton and Brian Eley. Bassist and film maker John Lindberg takes the Travellin' Light questionnaire. Moment's Notice contains reviews of CDs Don Byron's Junior Walker tribute, Nels Cline's Andrew Hill tribute and a recently unearthed Steve Lacy Quintet session from the mid 1970s."

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Roy Haynes - Whereas (Dreyfus, 2006)

Veteran drummer Roy Haynes is fronting a group of up and coming young musicians appropriately called The Fountain of Youth Band on this exciting live recording of modern hard bop. Haynes is joined by Jaleel Shaw on saxophones, Robert Rodriguez on piano, and John Sullivan on bass. Their repertoire is a fine mix of standards old and new with an original thrown in as a drum feature. Whenever Elvin Jones was unable to make a gig with John Coltrane, Roy Haynes was called on to fill in and that may be one of the reasons that he zips the band through a blasting version of Coltrane's "Mr. P.C." like a formula one driver at the helm of a finely tuned vehicle. Shaw sounds very good here sparking off ideas and keeping up the breakneck pace. Haynes also worked with Thelonious Monk on occasion and the group here covers the Monk chestnut "Bemsha Swing" and then before segueing into Steve Swallow's "True or False." Other lodestars the band touch upon are compositions from former Haynes associates Chick Corea, Joe Henderson and Charlie Parker. There is also the Haynes drum expose "Hippiy Hop." His young charges play very well throughout, and look to have a bright future in the music. This is a good representation of mainstream jazz in modern times. Haynes has the history of postwar jazz at his fingertips, but is never slavish to the past, always pushing his young group to explore and acting as a mentor and example to all.

Send comments to: Tim