Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Stanton Moore - III (Telarc, 2007)

Drummer Stanton Moore takes a break from his New Orleans funk band Galactic to lead a grits 'n' gravy organ group that serves up groove based jazz with a few surprises. Joining him on this disc are Robert Walter on organ, Will Bernard on guitar, Skerik on saxophone, and Mark Mullins on trombone. Drum heavy, the music comes across as something akin to an electric version of The Bad Plus with the drums out in front leading the charge, and Walter creating swirling textures on the B-3. Skerik and Bernard step up for solo spots and Mullins adds a few well timed trombone slurs. The names of the original tunes foretell the good time nature of a lot of the music with "Bigg 'uns Get the Ball Rolling" and "(Don't Be Comin' With No) Weak Sauce" which keep things simmering nicely with funky backbeats and pithy solos, and the rockin' "Chilcock" gives Bernard space for a fine guitar feature. As good as the original tunes are, the interest really picks up at the end of the CD with a trio of covers. Abdulla Ibrahim's "Water From an Ancient Well" is not something you'd expect on a groovin' organ album, but it works very well, forcing the band to throttle back on the energy and play with graceful precision. Led Zepplin's "When the Levee Breaks" is a natural for Moore, whose huge chops add a primal rhythm to Bernard's slippery slide guitar. Rounding out the trilogy of covers which I'm sure were designed with the memory of Katrina's devastation in mind is a gentle and uplifting version of the gospel standard "I Shall Not Be Moved," long a favorite of New Orleans musicians of many generations. This is a consistently well performed album which will bring much enjoyment to fans of groove based jazz.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus conducts an extensive interview with critic Stanley Crouch:

"... Mingus was one of the guys who needed to constantly reinvent himself--or at least develop an approach that allowed him to play all of jazz as he had come to know it from the range of bandstands on which he worked, which included Armstrong, Hampton, Ellington, Parker, Powell, and Monk. I am still fascinated by all the different ways he and Dannie Richmond came up with to play time. I had never heard before--and have rarely heard since--a bassist and a drummer who could so dramatically affect the direction and intensity of the music."

Mwanji scores big with an interview of Ken Vandermark:

"... Take the really basic kinds of forms. Head tunes like an Ornette tune where you have the theme and then a series of improvisations and then go back to the theme, or a bebop tune with a harmonic cycle that repeats. With Ornette you leave the cycle but you keep some kind of tonality or pan-tonality. Or the modal music, even, of Miles or Coltrane, a circular kind of form."

The New York Times bids farewell to Leroy Jenkins:

"... The violinist and composer Leroy Jenkins, one of the pre-eminent musicians of 1970s free jazz, who worked on and around the lines between jazz and classical music, died on Friday in Manhattan. He was 74 and lived in Brooklyn."

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Monday, February 26, 2007

There's an interesting article from Yahoo's 360 blog entitled Why American Don't Like Jazz: "The current market share of Jazz in America is mere 3 percent. That includes all the great ones like John Coltrane and the terrible ones like Kenny G (OK, this is just my own opinion). There are many organizations and individuals like Winton Marsalis who are tirelessly trying to revive the genre, but it does not seem to be working. Why is this? Is there some sort of bad chemistry between the American culture and Jazz? As ironic as it may be, I happen to believe so."

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I presented a program to the Senior Citizens group at my Library on jazz in the 1950's highlighting different genres from bebop to west coast jazz. It seemed to go pretty well and I only talked myself into a corner once or twice, which is pretty good for me! Here is a podcast of the music I featured during the program:

Charlie Parker - Confirmation (3:01)
Bud Powell - Dance of the Infidels (3:06)
Dizzy Gillespie - The Champ (5:26)
Horace Silver - Song For My Father (7:18)
Miles Davis - Milestones (5:44)
Jimmy Smith - Midnight Special (9:55)
Gerry Mulligan Quartet - 'S Wonderful (3:35)
Miles Davis - So What (9:25)
Duke Ellington - Diminuendo In Blue And Crescendo In Blue (Live) (14:20)
Count Basie - Every Day I Have the Blues (5:28)
Ella Fitzgerald - I've Got You Under My Skin (2:44)

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Gerry Mulligan Meets Johnny Hodges (Verve, 1959)

This LP is one of a series of "Meets" recordings that baritone saxophonist and composer Gerry Mulligan recorded for Verve in the 1950's. His partner on the front line is alto saxophonist and Duke Ellington cohort Johnny Hodges who also contributed some compositions to this session. Claude Williamson on piano, Buddy Clark on bass and Mel Lewis on drums round out the band. The music is predictably mild and swinging, with the emphasis on cooperation rather than confrontation. Mulligan's dark, cool sound makes for an excellent contrast with Hodges light and fleet tone. The tunes are pretty simple blowing vehicles and there is plenty of room for the principals to solo at length and trade ideas. The trio backs them with professionalism and class. While it would have been nice to hear some sparks really fly, this is a nice meeting of two unique stylists and will be enjoyed by anyone interested in small group swing.

Tin Hat - The Sad Machinery of Spring (Hannibal, 2007)

Now simply Tin Hat after some change of members, the group formerly know as The Tin Hat Trio still mines the atmospheric. Sadness and melancholy are on display here, but not overwhelmingly so as violins ache and clarinets bubble through the intersection of jazz, classical and world music. "Blind Paper Dragon" breaks free for a very jaunty trumpet led romp, melding gypsy swing with downtown jazz, as harpist Zeena Parkins harp adds Alice Coltrane-like comments. The strange but alluring version of "Daisy Bell" brings back memories of the HAL 9000 computer's version in 2001: A Space Odyssey, as the vocals bring an ever increasing sense of strangeness and the band builds the drama behind the lyrics. The only downside to this otherwise interesting album is that a lot of the tunes start to sound similar and blend into one another after a while and pass by in something of a hazy blur. But if you are looking for atmospheric music with a bit of Eastern European tinge, this cinematic music will fit the bill quite nicely.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thelonious Monk rides again: "Here’s the question: If jazz is America’s classical music, could that mean Thelonious Sphere Monk is on the way to becoming the American Mozart?"

NYT writes about the upcoming film Black Snake Moan: "In the film a former blues musician turned rural farmer, played by Mr. Jackson, happens on a battered, half-naked young woman, Christina Ricci, and takes it upon himself to nurse her back to health. In an effort to cure the troubled girl of her “sickness,” he chains her to his radiator. Eventually both are reborn by their growing spiritual connection. As reflected in the mix of trancelike rural minimalism and throbbing juke-joint blues from Mr. Bomar, the film presents music as salve, as salvation, as exorcism."

Tom Hull goes prospecting: "Duds I would rather not deal with, but the editors do like the occasional taste of blood. I do wish Wynton Marsalis wasn't the obvious choice, since his limits are by now so well known that it's unremarkable when he falls into them, and the record is only somewhat substandard -- not outright awful. Then there's Madeleine Peyroux, who's likable enough except when you compare her to any of a dozen other singers, and we have plenty of them in the running this round. Or there's Warren Vaché and the Scottish Ensemble, the latest in a long string of suicide-by-strings albums."

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, February 19, 2007

Tia Fuller - Healing Space (Mack Avenue, 2007)

Tia fuller is a saxophonist, flautist and composer who combines jazz with rhythm and blues and gospel music on her latest compact disc. Performing with her are Miki Hayama on keyboards, Miriam Sullivan on bass; Kim Thompson on drums, Kahlil Kwame Bell on percussion, Sean Jones on trumpet, Ron Blake on tenor saxophone, Charenee Wade and Iyana Wakefield on vocals. The music begins in a very promising manner with the scalding hard bop burner "Breakthrough" which has some steaming tenor saxophone and trumpet backed by strong McCoy Tyner-ish piano and very forceful drumming. That track, along with "Blue Room in Mama's Womb" which also features robust tenor saxophone improvisation are the most memorable cuts on the disc. Although the playing is first rate all around, much of the music recorded for this disc is a little too mild in strength to really be something that could hold my interest. Fuller is certainly a talented soprano saxophonist, but her limpid tone isn't enough to carry songs like "Fertile Ground" and the well intentioned "Katrina's Lullaby" where the safe feel of the music robs it of any emotional investment. The gospel lyrics inserted into songs later in the album further dilute the effectiveness of the music by turning into radio friendly R&B. While I respect the musicians who made this CD as talented and sincere, it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band - Reincarnation of a Lovebird (JMT, 1994)

Drummer Paul Motian has led two stable bands over the past twenty plus years, a trio with saxophonist Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell and the ever-changing Electric Bebop Band, filled with a shifting lineup of up and coming young musicians. The version of the band that recorded this particular album included guitarists Wolfgang Muthspiel and Kurt Rosenwinkel , saxophonists Chris Potter and Chris Cheek, bassist Steve Swallow and percussionist Don Alias. It is very interesting to hear a band with this instrumentation take on the bebop repertoire. The musicians give the music a very light and nimble feel. Several performances on this album are very pithy, with the group stating the melody of a particular song, then taking a few brief solos before closing it out. This really works in favor of the music, and the concise readings of "Half Nelson", "Two Bass Hit" and "Bebop" have an exciting and propulsive feel. Performances of Charles Mingus's "Reincarnation of a Lovebird" and Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight" are taken at greater length and allow the soloists more freedom of movement. The sound obtained by this band with its mixture of electric and acoustic instrumentation is unique and their reexamination of the bebop canon provides a fresh and new way of appreciating classic bebop compositions.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Jazz of the Times... There have been a couple of interesting jazz profiles in the New York Times over the past few days:

Ted Nash - Brush Strokes of Sound, Art That Keeps Changing: "Mr. Nash, 47, came to the band with a wellspring of jazz experience. He grew up in Los Angeles, where his father, the trombonist Dick Nash, and his namesake uncle, a saxophonist, nurtured his prodigious talent. Starting at 16, he held down jobs with a succession of first-rate big bands, including, notably, after he moved to New York, the Mel Lewis Orchestra."

John McNeil - Has Trumpet, Will Surprise: "Mr. McNeil is a kind of trickster figure. How else to explain his newest group, My Band Foot Foot? Its mandate is to play arrangements of songs by the Shaggs, the trio of desperately untalented New Hampshire sisters who made a single album in 1969, “Philosophy of the World,” a milestone of pop folk-art. The band will play its first performance this Saturday at the Cornelia Street CafĂ© in Greenwich Village."

Also, one of my favorite labels, Palmetto Records has started a blog. (Hat tip to Avant Music News, where I read bout this.)

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mahavishnu Project - Return to the Emerald Beyond (Cuneiform Records, 2007)

The Mahavishnu Project is a repertory band performing the music of the 1970's jazz fusion outfit The Mahavishnu Orchestra, which was begun by guitarist John McLaughlin. The current group is led by the drummer Gregg Bendian and includes Rob Thomas on violin, Adam Holzman on keyboards, David Johnsen on bass and Premik Russell Tubbs on saxophones and flutes. Visions of the Emerald Beyond is not really considered to be one of the finest hours of the original band, but the current group does a solid job of breathing new life into the material. They perform improvised versions of that entire album and a couple of other songs associated with the original band. The group really does achieve an orchestral sound, mixing jazz, progressive rock and classical influences into an intense blend of sounds. This two disc live concert mixes the ethereal cosmic groove tracks like the violin and vocal led "Eternity's Breath" with some straight fusion groovers such as the amusing "Can't Stand Your Funk." The group works very well together, and solo honors are divided well between Glenn Alexander's guitar work, and the swirling violins of Thomas and Katherine Fong. Vocals are used sparingly throughout the concert, at times approaching an operatic grandeur. Fans of progressive rock and jazz fusion should find this album quite appealing with the many varied rhythms and virtuoso playing.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I'm not really too crazy about the whole Myspace phenomenon, but it does offer musicians an easy and low cost way to have a web presence and to make their music available to a wider audience. Two of my favorite musicians have recently opened Myspace sites:

Billy Bang: "The violin is hardly the first instrument that comes to mind when you think about jazz, but that's never daunted Billy Bang, one of the instrument's most adventurous exponents."

David Murray: "David Murray (tenor saxophone and bass clarinet) is a Jazz artist who has recorded over 130 albums, including 2 recorded in 2006 (Gwotet and Pushkin) and a forthcoming album to be released in Summer 2007."

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Dave Liebman - Back on the Corner (Tone Center, 2007)

Artists revisiting Miles Davis electrical recordings have become more common recently, and few are as well equipped to do so as saxophonist and composer Dave Liebman, who performed on several of the original Davis recordings in the 1970's. On this disc, he takes his inspiration from one of Davis's most challenging LP's, On the Corner on which featured dense electronic music and funky cover art. Liebman doesn't try to tread the same path as he did with Davis 30+ years ago, but uses that music as a reference point. He is accompanied by Vic Juris and Mike Stern on guitars, Anthony Jackson on contrabass guitar, Tony Marino on bass and Marko Marcinko on drums. Miles Davis and Teo Macero grafted together the original records from lengthy studio jams, and a band trying to recreate this spontaneity faces a daunting task. The Davis compositions "Ife" and "Black Satin" breathe in and out in a near organic manner, particularly on the latter where Liebman plays some swirling soprano saxophone over grinding guitar and insistent drumming. His original "Bela" has some very spacious playing, while "New Mambo" has very cool guitar and tenor saxophone solos. The bubbly funk that was the hallmark of the Davis music of this period is nearly absent until the final track, "J.B. Meets Sly/5th Street Reprise," where there is a beautiful electric guitar feature about four minutes in. A fleet soprano feature for the leader after the guitar spotlight makes this track the highlight of the album. This is definitely Liebman's own take on the music and not a by the numbers tribute. While the music lacks some of the organic bluesyness that made Davis's so groundbreaking, it is still a fairly successful album which should appeal to fans of electric jazz.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Bending Corners has a new podcast available, honoring the life and music of Alice Coltrane:

"BendingCorners tribute to the late great Alice Coltrane. On January 12th 2007 the jazz world lost another of its pioneers. Alice was a seminal player in the Kozmigroov spiritual scene and this is BC's take on her more mellow and moving material. Spark a J, relax, and float down stream."

Illasounds gets all romantic on us with their latest podcast, entitled My Funny Valentine:

"Classic love songs played and sung by the jazz greats featuring Sarah Vaughan, Chet Baker (above), John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman, Bill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, Nat 'King' Cole, Dexter Gordon, Wes Montgomery, Etta Jones, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Zoot Sims, Benny Carter, Scott Hamilton, Anita O'Day & Cal Tjader, Shirley Horn, Mark Murphy, Cedar Walton and Booker Little."

Taran's latest Free Jazz Hour podcast has interviews and music on tap:

"The great bass player and really funny funky free bebop lover jiver, john voigt will present his own music."

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, February 09, 2007

There have been several interesting concerts available for downloading on Dime. The first one I have been listening to is a duet performance with saxophonist Ken Vandermark and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. This is a series of well recorded duets with some solo passages spotlighting each musician. The uptempo improvisations have a gutsy, go for broke feel that is very appealing, while the slower tunes have an abstract spaciness. These two have played together in bands before, and that familiarity helps them to lock into a tight groove melding Vandermark's sandpaper rough tenor saxophone and Nilssen-Love's juking and jiving percussion. There's very little spaciness to be found on the other concert I've been listening to. Leather lunged tenor saxophonist (and occasional mime!) Charles Gayle sat in with the David S. Ware Quartet at the 1995 Saalfelden Jazz Festival for an explosive and extraordinarily intense performance. The group performs two Ware compositions, "Infi-Rhythms" and and "Obligations and Blessing" along with Sonny Rollins' "East Broadway Rundown." Ware and Gayle simply go hell for leather on these improvisations, creating some exhilarating if daunting music. Pianist Matthew Shipp is a little overwhelmed by the twin tenor onslaught, but gets some fine solo spots of his own.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Scrapomatic – Alligator Love Cry (Landslide, 2006)

Mike Mattison and Paul Olsen are the men behind Scrapomatic, a rootsy duo that takes inspiration from the blues, old-time swing and rough and ready singer-songwriters like Frank Morey and Tom Waits. Much like those two gentlemen, Scrapomatic draws character studies and working class tales of love, work and play in its songs. Their music has a rustic feel with acoustic instruments and little brass and other instrumentation on occasion. The up tempo tracks are the ones I believe work the best, because they put Mattison's gruff vocals to better use than the ballads like “The Other Side” which drains the scruffy energy out of the music. Stomping fast paced tracks like “Graveside Blues” and “Goddamn Job” make the best use of the duo's minimalistic setup making for a scrappy and endearing sound. This is a fairly good album and shows that the group has a lot of promise. If they can develop some more nuanced songwriting that avoids cliches and develop a sound unique from their influences, this group could make a real statement on the roots music scene.

Duke Ellington – Reevaluations: The Impulse Years (Impulse, 1973)

Duke Ellington's orchestra never officially recorded for the Impulse label, but the Duke and his men still left quite a mark on the label as this double LP indicates. The music here is made up of music from the Duke's collaborations with Impulse artists John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins and tracks led by Ellington sidemen like Johnny Hodges. Also featured are Ellington compositions performed by other Impulse artists. Alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges gets some wonderful solo opportunities in this collection, like the melodic and dreamy solo he plays on “Mood Indigo” from a session led by fellow Ellingtonian Lawrence Brown. Hodges' own Impulse session as a leader is featured throughout this collection, and he gets the chance to float over a septet on a fine version of “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing.” The Duke himself weighs in on “Take The Coltrane” sitting in with Coltrane's group without a hitch. His collaboration with fellow pioneer Coleman Hawkins leads to equally excellent results on “The Jeep is Jumpin'” and “Wanderlust.” This is an excellent collection of music and while it's not avaliable on CD it should be widely available in used record shops or on the Internet.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, February 05, 2007

Coffin Lids - Round Midnight (Bomp, 2005)

Coffin Lids are a fine straight-up rock and roll band from Boston who celebrate the standard American rock themes of music, women and cars with a campy faux horror angle akin to The Cramps. The band has an energetic and flamboyant but yet unpretentious sound. While their name may suggest a morbid goth fixation, their buoyant three minute garage rock nuggets belay any such fears. Standout tracks from this album include the boogie inducing "Mad Party" and "She's the Bomb." There isn't a lot of diversity in the music or the lyrics, the band finds a groove and just goes for it. Japanese garage rockers The 5,6,7,8's (featured in the film Kill Bill) get a tribute in "Tonight You're Going to Die in My Garage" and return the favor by guesting on "I'm Going to Have My Way." This is a consistent and well performed album of garage rock by a group that has found a distinctive sound and mined it for all it's worth.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, February 04, 2007

New Podcast Available

I have a new podcast available, with examples of some things I have been listening to over the past few weeks. Here is the playlist:

Artist - Title - Album

William Parker - Part 2 - For Percy Heath
Neko Case - Maybe Sparrow - Live in Austin, TX
Clifford Thornton - Ain Salah - Gardens of Harlem
Otis Rush - You Been An Angel - Troubles, Troubles
Peter Brotzmann's Die Like a Dog - Aoyama Crows Part 2 - Aoyama Crows
Sunnyland Slim - The Devil Is A Busy Man - Sunnyland & His Pals Disc 3
Shirley Scott - Senor Blues - Plays Horace Silver
Earl Hooker - It Hurts Me Too - Don't Have to Worry
Matt Wilson - The Scenic Route - The Scenic Route
Big Joe Turner - Shake, Rattle and Roll - Big, Bad & Blue Disc 2
Misja Fitzgerald Michel - Another World - Encounter
Bebel Gilberto - Momento - Momento
James Hunter - Riot In My Heart - People Gonna Talk

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, February 02, 2007

William Parker's Little Huey Big Band - For Percy Heath (Victo, 2006)

Are big bands making a comeback in progressive jazz? Along with Charles Tolliver's wonderful CD With Love, comes bassist William Parker's latest offering with his Little Huey Big Band, recorded live at the Victoriaville festival in Quebec. Parker's band is a who's who of the luminaries of the jazz avant garde, including Sabir Mateen on tenor saxophone, Roy Campbell on trumpet and Steve Swell on trombone. The four part suite bears little resemblance to the music that Percy Heath played during his lengthy career, but it's to Parker's credit that he takes Heath's advice to "Just keep playing your music" in creating a deeply respectful tribute. Although the ensemble plays together rather infrequently, the full band sections of the music are very tight and the entire band improvises with great skill and energy. Parker limits himself to one extended solo section, but nevertheless is the backbone of this performance with his very strong bass playing, he writes in the liner notes that Heath called him "iron fingers" and you can certainly hear why. This is an excellent and laudable album from the always dependable William Parker and it is highly recommended.

Send comments to: Tim