Monday, April 30, 2007

Metro Santa Cruz has a nice article on guitarist Nels Cline: Cline finds that most people miss that humor and playfulness in his work. "There are dark moods, because that's what I am drawn to," he says. "But some of the stuff that sounds heavy-duty has some of the most humorous references--nods to things like surf or metal are supposed to sound somewhat playful, but not disposable. I don't try to control how people to react to things, but it's interesting to me that very rarely people pick up on humor at all."

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Guy Davis - Chocolate to the Bone (Red House, 2003)

With over-amped guitar solos making up so much of the "blues" scene these days, the modern acoustic stilings of Guy Davis come as a welcome relief. As a guitarist, harmonica player and songwriter, he works at the intersection of the blues tradition and modern music, meaning that he's respectful to the past, but not slavish to it. This interesting album covers quite a bit of territory, from the riotous storytelling of "Railroad Song" where Davis huffs and puffs on the harmonica while breathlessly telling the tale of a group of escaped convicts, to the somber and confessional "Tell Me Where the Road Is." Davis does equally well on standard material like Howlin' Wolf's "Back Door Man." While he doesn't quite have the power or the presence of the big man (who does?) he delivers a rollicking performance that is the highlight of the album. The same goes for the classics "Driftin' Blues" and "Matchbox Blues" where Davis turns in fine interpretations of theses great songs and proves that it is possible to explore repertoire pieces in a fresh and new way. Davis makes fine music for thoughtful and patient blues fans everywhere.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Viktor Krauss - II (Back Porch/EMI, 2007)

Bassist and guitarist Viktor Krauss is widely known as a sideman and as a studio musician for some of the leading musicians of contemporary music including musical polymath Bill Frisell. Here, he steps out with his second solo album, joined by Dean Parks on guitars, Matt Chamberlain on percussion and several guest artists. The album is a polished mix of Americana, rock, pop and a little jazz. Krauss notes that the record is about parts, colors and sculpted sound. This comes through in the final product which seems a little over-produced and glossy. This is album is primarily instrumental with a few guest vocals. Shawn Colvin sings a breathy and earnest version of Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and Lyle Lovett sits in for a lackluster “(I Could Have Been Your) Best Friend.” Indian vocalist Shweta Jhaveri adds some interesting texture to the musical mixes on several of the tunes, adding an exotic air to the proceedings. The instrumental constructs fare a little better, especially the opening "Hop" which builds to a nice conclusion of twin guitars and bass, and "No Time Like the Past" takes on a dusty sepia-toned feel. The music here is immaculately played, but never seems to develop an edge or move into any territory beyond pleasant background music. Krauss and company are very talented, there's not doubt, but the music lacks any kind of iconoclastic edge that sets it apart from other adult contemporary music being produced today.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

David Torn – Pranzens (ECM, 2007)

Guitarist and composer David Torn divides his time between film soundtrack work and experimental jazz recording and performing. This current project definitely falls into the latter category where he is joined on a freewheeling recording project by alto saxophonist Tim Berne, keyboard player Craig Taborn, and drummer Tom Rainey. The group recorded the pieces in the studio, and then Torn went back to re-imagine the music by using sampling and overdubs much like Teo Macero’s working with the tapes of electric Miles Davis bands to craft albums. The set pieces of the album seem to work the best, my favorite being “miss place, the mist...” which mines a dusty Bill Frisell groove, using slide guitar to near cinematic effect. “Them Buried Standing” and “Ring For Endless Travel” have a tightly coiled feel to their improvisations that recall Berne’s own solo work with his band Big Satan. Where the music develops a looser feel, it tends to meander and lose its way at times. “Sink” and “AK” fall into this category, with some good moments being lost amidst the ever expanding musical universe. This is an admirable if uneven album of progressive jazz. The musicians all play very well and work well together, and it would be interesting to hear this group perform live away from much of the digital processing.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Barrelhouse Chuck - Got My Eyes on You (The Sirens, 2006)

Blues keyboardist Barrelhouse Chuck learned at the feet of two of the greatest blues pianists, Sunnyland Slim and Little Brother Montgomery, and he carries their torch well on this latest foray into no-nonsense blues. Chuck is joined on this recording by a hot backing band, drummer Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Calvin “Fuzz” Jones on bass; and guitarists Joel Foy and Eddie Taylor Jr. Kim Wilson adds harmonica on a few tracks as well. The setlist is made primarily of cover tunes, but they are rich in tradition and never sound tired. Chuck bangs out "Call My Job" with a nod and a wink, while the title song is put forth with just the right amount of strut and braggadocio. Eddie Taylor steps up on vocals and guitar on Memphis Slim's "Mother Earth", which is the highlight of the album. It's darkness and moodiness clashes with the playful nature of the remainder of the music but the band nails the vibe with a really powerful performance. A couple of instrumentals show off the band's versatility, "Red River Rumba" and "The Bright Sounds of Big Moose" (where Chuck slips in a little organ) are well played and enhance the variety of music available here. Fans of old-school Chicago blues will find much to enjoy here. The group definitely prefers substance over flash, digging deep into the tunes with respect to the blues tradition, but not at the expense of having a good time. Piano led blues are rare these days, so this well played disc is one to savor.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

The weblog of The Bad Plus has a very well written appreciation of Andrew Hill focusing on his compositional style: "Like Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols, Hill's concept stemmed from deep knowledge of standard musical craft plus a determination to never use that craft for an end that wasn't flavored by the surreal."

Illasounds has posted a brief Hill tribute podcast: "A tribute to pianist Andrew Hill. Andrew Hill is heard on excerpts from: Black Fire (from Black Fire, Blue Note 1963); Yokada, Yokada (from Judgment!, Blue Note 1964); Le Serpent Qui Danse (from Andrew!!!, Blue Note 1964); Tail Feather (from Eternal Spirit, Blue Note 1989); Refuge (from Point of Departure, Blue Note 1964)."

The New York Times has a lengthy obituary: "It took almost 40 years for Mr. Hill’s work to be absorbed into jazz’s mainstream. From the first significant album in his discography (“Black Fire,” 1963) to the last (“Time Lines,” 2006), his work is an eloquent example of how jazz can combine traditional and original elements, notation and pure improvisation, playing both outside and inside strict time and harmony."

Tom Hull has posted selected reviews of Hill's recordings: "One result of Hill's comeback is that his Blue Note catalog has largely been returned to print, including a treasure trove of previously unreleased material passed on to Mosaic. For what it's worth, I've pulled the following data on what I've heard. Like most of what's in the database, this list was assembled over time with evolving criteria. At some point it would be nice to go back and spend a few days reviewing the whole set. I wonder now whether the legendary Point of Departure and/or the solo Verona Rag -- the first two records I encountered below -- might not fare better."

The mp3 blog Destination out has reactivated their post with tracks Compulstion LP. "Andrew Hill is one of the great jazz pianists of the past forty years. Though not as celebrated as his Blue Note labelmates Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner — we could easily hang that sorrowful tag “musician’s musician” on Hill — his body of work is no less essential, and easily as influential. Current vanguard pianists such as Vijay Iyer and Jason Moran cite Hill as a singular influence, and both have performed with him; sometime Wilco guitarist Nels Cline is also a fan."

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Composer and pianist Andrew Hill's family announced to the press that he died at 4 a.m. today, April 20, 2007, several years after being diagnosed with lung cancer. He was 75 years old and lived in Jersey City, NJ.

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Bending Corners has a new podcast for April: "April has become the month for BendingCorner's annual feature of the standout "jazzatronic" tunes from the past year. Like previous years, this set showcases BC's favorite examples of the continual use and merging of electronics, jazz instrumentation, and modern production techniques."

Illasounds latest podcast features the music of Charles Mingus: "An 85th birthday celebration of the music of bassist and bandleader Charles Mingus. All tracks feature Charles Mingus- bass (except where noted) with Jackie McLean, Eric Dolphy, Roland Kirk, Bill Evans, Booker Ervin, Charlie Mariano, George Adams, Don Pullen, Ted Curson, John Handy, Jack Walrath, Pepper Adams, Shafi Hadi, Horace Parlan, Jimmy Knepper, Clarence Shaw, Curtis Porter, Willie Dennis and Dannie Richmond."

Taran has another episode of his free jazz podcast available featuring new releases from several labels.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bennie Wallace - Disorder at the Border (Enja/Justin Time, 2007)

In the liner notes to this CD it is written that tenor saxophonist Bennie Wallace was weary of falling into what he called the "Coltrane Trap" in the mid-1970's when he was an up and coming jazz musician. To avoid the all-encompassing pull of John Coltrane's influence, Wallace studied the music of the pre-bob masters, like Ben Webster, Don Byas and especially the focus of this album, Coleman Hawkins. Hawkins wrote the ur-text for tenor saxophone, changing it from a novelty instrument into the instrument most widely associated with jazz. Wallace celebrated Hawkins' centenary in 2004 with a series of live performances of his music, from which this disc is drawn. There's a crack mini big band here with the likes of Jesse Davis on alto, and Terrell Stafford on trumpet. The hard-swinging music is a mix of Hawkins originals and songs associated with him that were written by others. The disc begins with a charging version of the title-track "Disorder at the Border" with the horns and rhythm riffing hard behind Wallace's soloing. "Body and Soul" has been part of the tenor saxophone canon ever since Hawkins popular and influential 30's waxing, and Wallace responds well to the pressure, crafting a fine improvisation on the well known song. "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" is the very lengthy set ender, with the whole group getting into the spirit of things and Wallace channeling what sounds suspiciously like a famous tenor saxophonist at the midway point. I guess the trap catches up with us all... This is a well performed album, and proved that Hawkins spirit is still very much in evidence amongst today's musicians.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

David S. Ware Quartet - Renunciation (AUM Fidelity, 2007)

Renunciation is the act of declaring that something is surrendered or disowned. Sadly, that is the case with this group one of the most lauded avant-jazz ensembles of recent memory. Made up of Ware on tenor saxophone, Matthew Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass and a revolving cast of drummers culminating here with Gulliermo E. Brown. This is a live document of the group's final performance, recorded at the 2006 Vision Festival in New York City. After an elaborate introduction, the group takes the stage and launches into a fiery performance with "Ganesh Sound", a darkly billowing collective improvisation that recalls the spiritual free jazz of the 1960's new thing era. The three part "Renunciation Suite" follows. After all the great music that this group is made, it is sad to think that they may be "renouncing" each other and all of the negative connotations that the word implies. It's understandable though that these men, all leaders in their own right would eventually go their separate ways to work on their own individual projects. The first part of the suite is an epic 18 minute improvisation culminating with some sparkling piano playing in a very spacious and open vibe. The highlight of the entire disc comes next, as the band launches into part two of the suite with a fire-breathing fervor. The scalding six minute group improvisation is reminiscent of some of the very intense albums the group made in the mid 1990's like Cryptology and Dao on the Homestead label. The suite finally ends with an elastic bass feature for Parker. "Mikuro's Blues" and a reprise of "Ganesh Sound" end the concert proper with some more open ended improv, and the group is called back for a short encore of the stuttering "Saturnian." This is a fine bow for a sure to become legendary group. This group was a protean force in to world of jazz recording many albums and preforming around the worlds to great impact. They will be missed.

Addendum: Anne Dumas, who manages the David S. Ware Quartet in Europe e-mailed me to say that the group might not be finished yet: ""If the band is asked, it will be possible to see them together again. The problem is not that they have something else to do, it is just that the "market" or the "scene", does not welcome them very much or not enough and there is a great lack of enthusiasm and of support from the "jazzworld" specially in the USA. So that it is not a decision that they took, David never declared it was the end of his band. Just for you to know, the DSWQ lives, at least here in Europe...." Great news!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Wall of Sound has a great blog post about one of my favorite musicians, David Murray: "He has worked with an impressively wide range of collaborators from within and outside the Jazz tradition. Today he is as likely to play and record with African, or Caribbean musicians, as he is with those who from one of the many US or European Jazz traditions. His playing is often seen as a classic case of ‘out’ improvisation, yet he draws substantially on the full history of Jazz in his recordings of compositions and themes. He has worked with a wide range of cult North American, European and Japanese independent jazz record labels, and is featured on major festival and concert circuit in many parts of the world. At the same time he is little known even inside the Jazz world."

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Monday, April 16, 2007

It's about time! Ornette Coleman was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

"Coleman, who grew up poor in a largely segregated Fort Worth, Texas, didn't first believe his cousin when he told Coleman that he had won the Pulitzer. He spoke by phone to The Associated Press from his New York City home minutes after hearing the news, and reflected on his long, unlikely journey. "I'm grateful to know that America is really a fantastic country," said the jazz legend, recalling when he first asked his mother for a saxophone. "And here I am.""

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

New Podcast available! I have a new podcast available with examples of some of the music I have been enjoying over the past several weeks. Here is the playlist:

Artist - Title - Album

David S. Ware - Renunciation Suite II - Renunciation
George Braith - Cantelope Woman - Laughing Soul
Little Walter - Mean Old Frisco (Alternate) - Blues with a Feelin'
Brian Patneaude Quartet - Gil Barney (Wins The Race) - As We Know It
Paul Motian w/ B. Frisell & J. Lovano - Onetwo - Time and Time Again
Jimmy Reed - Take Out Some Insurance - Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall
Powerhouse Sound - 2-1-75 (For Miles Davis) - Oslo/Chicago: Breaks
Sidney Bechet - Viper Mad - Shake 'em Up
Lee Konitz - I Remember You - Motion
Southern Culture on the Skids - Muswell Hillbilly - Countrypolitan Favorites
Fats Waller - Honeysuckle Rose - If You Have to Ask, You Ain't Got It

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Avant Music News points to a couple of excellent articles about record labels and the distribution of music:

Cryptogramophone leader Jeff Gauthier is interviewed in "And so the Cryptogramophone sound is a multi-influenced and balanced. On the label website, Gauthier explains that the label serves 'the needs of a community of creative jazz artists committed to exploring the cutting edge of improvisation, composition, artistic vision, emotion, and innovation.' While this community is various, much of it did grow from a single scene and even a single band."

Composer Bob Ostertag writes in about making his albums available for free online: "One year later, I continue to be amazed at how few other musicians have chosen this route, though the reasons to do so are more compelling than ever. Why do musicians remain so invested in a system of legal rights which clearly does not benefit them?"

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Ron Weinstock sent me an e-mail with some interesting comments about the Robert Lockwood disc I reviewed yesterday:

"Here is a brief review I recently did of this repackaged cd reissue for Jazz &Blues Report:

Delmark has just repackaged the CD reissue of Robert Lockwood Jr.’s first album, Steady Rolling Man. Recorded the summer of 1970 after Lockwood’s surprise appearance with The Aces at the 2nd Ann Arbor Blues Festival, Lockwood was backed by that trio of Louis Myers on guitar, Dave Myers on bass guitar and drummer Fred Below. Nothing fancy on this enjoyable disc with some nods to hisstepfather, Robert Johnson, in the title track, and "Rambling on My Mind" as
well as revive his own "Take a Little Walk With Me" and "Mean Red Spider," along with new originals like "Western Horizon" and "Worst Old Feeling" as well as the sprite "Lockwood’s Boogie." Its nice that this is available although it is not his best.

A couple points that I should add. Myers takes some of the solos and this album is several years before Robert started playing with a 12-string. He doesnot play 12-string here. In fact Robert and the Aces toured Japan a couple years later with an album "Live in Japan" issued in the US on vinyl only that has much stronger performances and some wonderful playing from Robert. There was enough recorded here for two cds that were issued in Japan only."

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Robert Lockwood, Jr. - Steady Rollin' Man (Delmark 1970, 2006)

Guitarist and singer Robert Lockwood, Jr. had a very long and successful career that stretched from learning at the feet of his step-father Robert Johnson to being a session guitarist for Chess Records and then finally becoming an elder statesman for blues. This album is a relaxed session featuring Lockwood's guitar and vocals on a set of mostly standards, where he's backed by The Aces, drummer Fred Below, bassist Dave Myers and guitarist Louis Myers. Lockwood is able to get a lot of mileage out of the standard repertoire, especially a very expressive version of Johnson's "Kindhearted Woman Blues" where his vocals take center stage in a very good performance. A couple of other performances associated with Johnson, the title track "Steady Rollin' Man" and "Ramblin' On My Mind" also stand out. Lockwood was one of the few blues musicians to embrace the 12-string guitar and his intricate jazz-influenced playing is very distinctive. A couple of instrumentals round out the disc providing more examples of the bands prowess. While the heat might be turned down to a low boil, this is a relaxed and easygoing session that should impress fans of classic blues.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Brian Patneaude - As We Know It (WEPA, 2007)

Brian Patneaude is a saxophonist and composer based in upstate New York, this is his third independently produced album, and he is accompanied by George Muscatello on guitar, Mike DelPrete on bass, Danny Whelchel on drums and Dave Payette on electric piano. This group has been together a long time and it shows in the tight interplay the musicians achieve throughout the disc. Patneaude solos with strength and confidence throughout the CD on material ranging from ballads to electric-Miles influenced funk. The first few songs begin the disc with a strong mid-tempo groove with the opening “Matters Not” developing a very memorable melody and saxophone improvisation, and “Exit” featuring a cool and muted guitar solo. “Will You Be” has a nice pastel toned fender Rhodes interlude and a fine bass solo, while “Simple Truth” slows things down to a more peaceful tempo with a meditative tenor saxophone solo. “Majority” returns to a higher gear with a mischievous melody and round-robin soloing. “Life As We Know It” has a moodier and more atmospheric feel, while the final track “Gil Barney (Wins the Race) revs up into a bar walking funk workout complete with Pete Cosey-like wah-wah guitar. This band is a very adept working unit, performing memorable original compositions and comfortable at any tempo that they choose to perform, making this a consistently good album of modern jazz.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Tonic, a small New York City club that has hosted free jazz and other outsider music for the past eight years has announced that it will be closing at the end of this week, due to the high cost of rent and the pressure of gentrification in Manhattan. This is hardly surprising, considering the astronomical value of real estate in lower Manhattan, but is is a more than a little disheartening. You don't have to be a rabid fan of music outside of the mainstream to realize that performance venues for all types of music contribute to a healthy and vibrant musical ecology and that when they disappear we are left with a homogenized landscape that lacks the energy and passion that came before. With the Tonic following in the footsteps of CBGB's, another Manhattan club that was driven out to make way for high-rise condominiums the musical landscape of New York becomes all the more pale. Trumpeter and composer Steven Bernstein commented in a recent article in the New York Times (NYT 3/31/07 pg. B8) that groups that he leads performs in are very popular in Europe and yet the only club that would book him in the United States was The Tonic and now that is closing. This is a sad state of affairs and does not bode well for Americans trying to make a career in cutting edge music. Those associated with The Tonic will try to soldier on, the concerts that were originally scheduled for late April and May have been moved to an alternative venue and John Zorn's small venue The Stone continues to book adventuresome music. Hopefully the upcoming Vision Festival will raise the profile of the types of artists that previously performed at The Tonic and will pave the way for another performance space to take shape. Innovators always have a hard time, but for goodness sake, it shouldn't be this hard.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Sam Rivers - Aurora (Rivbea, 2007)

Composer, saxophonist and flautist Sam Rivers latest CD is with his Riv-Bea Orchestra, a propulsive progressive big band. This disc builds upon the successful big band albums that Rivers released during his brief tenure with the RCA label. Complex themes are stated by the whole ensemble who then make way for the soloists, and then return throughout each performance to color the proceedings. This muscular group is loud and not afraid to take risks. Rivers sounds energized by his compositions and the playing of the group and solos very well throughout primarily on tenor saxophone and flute. "Arcs" has group members trading short solos for dark sounding instruments and group passages that give the music an ominous feel. Rivers breaks through with fleet tenor like sunlight punching through building clouds. "Streamers" bursts forth with a complex fanfare leading into upbeat tenor sax solo. There is an interwoven collective passage then a bright trumpet solo. Very connected and impressive collective improvisation dominates the remainder for the track. "Peaks" slows the pace a little bit to a swinging simmer. "Spots" kicks things back into high gear with the band jumping into a fast groove with more fine complex group performing with a soloist occasionally bubbling up to the surface for a quick spot before being pulled back down into the gleeful scrum. Rivers finally breaks out his lyrical flute for brief passages on "Patches" and "Beads" which have some more interesting writing for lower register instruments as well. "Filaments" glows as brightly as its title with the group and soloists exploring the music at a very fast pace and using a head-spinning variety of colors. This all adds up to a very exciting disc of challenging large ensemble jazz. 2007 has been a great year for progressive big band with disc from Charles Tolliver and William Parker, and this fits right in. Who says big bands are dead?

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Paul Motian, Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano - Time and Time Again (ECM, 2007)

It's quite a cliche amongst longstanding groups, but these three gentlemen have been playing together for nearly 25 years and have developed a near telepathic level of communication. Drummer Motian, guitarist Frisell and tenor saxophonist Lovano are leaders of long standing who subvert their egos for the greater good. This album has a hushed and melancholy feel, with Frisell standing out , playing with a wonderfully sharp jazzy tone, much different then the more rounded and muted tone he has taken in his own solo projects. The band is not afraid to play quietly, Motian's subdued brushwork and stick playing is very nuanced, and Lovano uses long breathy notes and short exclamations to great effect on tracks like "Wednesday" with it's sad floating feel, propelled by deft brushwork and Frisell's sweet accompaniment, and "This Nearly Was Mine" which has a majestic tenor saxophone solo from Lovano who gets a beautifully patient ballad tone. They raise the tempos a little on the simmering "Onetwo" where Frisell spills out a sharp-edged solo over Motian's stick work while Lovano probes for an opening like someone wearily poking an animal with a stick. As good as these individual tracks are, the impact of the music really comes through the most when taking the album as a whole. These three musicians are master craftsmen, and in this case they take their time to create an unhurried, thoughtful disc of very good music.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble – Hot and Heavy: Live at the Ascension Loft DVD (Delmark, 2007)

Reminiscent of the great loft jazz performances held in New York in the 1970's, this video of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble was recorded at percussionist and band leader Kahil El'Zabar's own loft apartment. Joining him in the current version of the EHE are trumpeter Corey Wilkes, a very promising young musician who has also been playing and recording with the reconstituted Art Ensemble of Chicago. Ernest Dawkins plays tenor and alto saxophones, Fareed Haque rounds out the band on guitar. Bubbling percussion and brightly chorded guitar give the music interesting color on the opening “Major to Minor”. “MT” dedicated to Malachai Thompson has a meditative feel with thumb piano and percussion setting the groove, and round-robin solos for tenor saxophone, trumpet and guitar providing the heat. “Hot and Heavy” has Corey Wilkes channeling Rahsaan Roland Kirk by playing trumpet and flugelhorn simultaneously, with one in each hand! This is followed by a nice bluesy alto sax solo, digging deep and really sounding good. "There is a Place" has a slow and contemplative feel to it, with Wilkes taking a muted solo while El'Zabar chants for peace and love, before Haque takes an intricate acoustic guitar solo. "Black as Vera Cruz" has Dawkins soloing strongly over El'Zabar's hand percussion and chanting. Haque chips in a fine electric guitar solo, with the rest of the group picking up percussion instruments to add to the tumult. There's a good liner essay with comments from El'Zabar on the band, and a commentary track with El'Zabar talking about the music and adding some very interesting thoughts about the philosophy behind it. The only complaint I have with the film is with the superimposition of two camera angles, a technique used quite a bit – one on the band and another constantly moving across artwork or distorted images of the group, which gives the visual presence a vertigo inducing quality that distracted from the power of the music. There's some wonderfully loose AACM inspired playing to be found here, indeed the music is first rate, so if you can take some Dramamine and handle the visuals, this is a very worthwhile set.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The New York Times has a double review from Nate Chinen covering Andrew Hill's recent trio concert and Nels Cline's concert honoring Hill:

"The pianist Andrew Hill makes music of deep reflection and patient discovery. For most of his long career he has stayed faithful to a mode of abstraction steeped in his own preoccupations: enigmatic harmony, elasticized rhythm, a multi-layered arrangement of texture and pulse. When he plays his own compositions — and he rarely plays anything else — he can create the impression of elusive and flickering beauty."

As referenced in the Times, There is a video oh Hill's performance streaming at the Trinity Church web site.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Sidney Bechet - Live at the Brussels Fair, 1958 (Columbia, 1959)

Jazz pioneer and soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet was near the end of his long life when he took the stage at the 1958 Brussels Worlds Fair. If he was ill at the time, this wonderful concert recording shows no signs of it. He is joined by longtime cohorts Buck Clayton on trumpet, Vic Dickenson on trombone, soon to be festival magnate George Wein on piano, Arvell Shaw on bass and Kansas Fields on drums. The setlist is made up of old-time war horses, but the band attacks them as if their lives depend on it. "(Back Home Again) in Indiana" flies by with some strong collective improvisation, and the band plays some of the most low down blues possible on "Society Blues" with some great slurred trombone form Dickenson. This group knows each other well and interacts very well together mixing solo spots and ensemble playing with great dexterity. The crowd at the World's Fair is very responsive and loves every minute of the action. There is a nice liner note essay on the back of the record which I was lucky enough to pluck from the bargain bin at Jack's for the ourrageous sum of $1.99. Hopefully Sony/Columbia will release a Legacy version of this fine album soon, it's from a lion in winter, but he still knew how to roar.

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Otis Redding – In Person at the Whiskey a Go Go (Atlantic, 1968)

Soul singer Otis Redding already had a reputation as an incredible live performer before this dynamic album was recorded in Los Angeles in 1966. That reputation would be carved in granite when this incredible LP was released not long before his tragic death. Redding is backed by a super funky mini big band which riffs monstrously behind him on the high-speed opener “I Can't Turn You Loose” as well as blasting up-tempo covers of James Brown's “Papa's Got a Brand New Bag” and The Rolling Stones “Satisfaction.” The ballads are just as powerful, with “I've Been Loving You” building to an amazing vocal and musical crescendo and “Pain in My Heart” is a wrenching performance. Redding's vocals throughout the album are a joy to hear, always pushing the music forward but never straining. The band is first rate too, they are very tight and well rehearsed but they are also totally into the moment, not going through the motions. It's difficult to praise this album highly enough, and the only possible complaint is that at LP length, it's too brief. There is a second volume of recordings available and the music there is nearly as powerful as on this disc. A landmark recording.

Lee Konitz - Motion (Verve, 1961)

I was interested in this album because The Penguin Guide to Jazz gave it their “crown” as one of the finest jazz LPs, and I had also been curious about Konitz, whose music I had never explored before. This is a very open sounding trio disc with the leader playing alto saxophone, Sonny Dallas on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Konitz has a drier sound on alto than some of the saxophonists I am more familiar with like Ornette Coleman and Jackie McLean, and he makes the most of the open spaces here by playing very long and billowing passages of music. Elvin Jones sounds excellent, he holds himself back a little bit to keep from overwhelming the proceedings, but both he and the bassist Dallas make the most of both their roles as supporters and commentators. The short opening version of “Remember You” is an excellent example of the bands communication together, breaking down normal solo responsibilities and improvising together very well. According to the liner notes, there were no rehearsals for this album because Konitz wanted all three of them to come in fresh with no preconceived notions. It's a risky proposition, but his confidence is borne out with excellent performances, even at extended length, like on “You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To” where the familiar melody is dispensed with and the musicians make their own story from the modeling clay of the song form. This was a very interesting album and makes me want to check out some more of Konitz's vast discography. Suggestions are welcome.

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