Thursday, August 30, 2007

Miles Davis - Live at the 1963 Monterey Jazz Festival (MJFP/Concord, 2007)

Recorded on September 22, 1963 this concert found trumpeter Miles Davis on the cusp of another evolution in his ever changing career, one that would bring about music that had a lasting impact on the jazz landscape. Four-fifths of what came to be called Miles "second great quintet" are on hand and the odd man out, tenor saxophonist George Coleman was no slouch himself. Davis sounds re-invigorated by the young-bloods recently added to his band: pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and especially drummer Tony Williams whose energy and unstoppable drive would be a hallmark of Davis' music for the next five years. After a solid mid-tempo warm-up on the standard "Autumn Leaves", the band really hits its stride with the Davis composition "So What", taken at a howling tempo driven on by Williams' drumming. Both he and Davis sound great and in full command. Coleman keeps up the pace with a cruising tenor solo, but it's the unmerciful drumming that pulls your ear again and again. A lengthy "Stella By Starlight" calms things back down, Davis was the master of the ballad and his smearing notes of stark, mournful sound with each note piercing like a dagger is something to behold. He moves directly into a bruising fast "Walkin'" playing some electrifying trumpet before making way for an extraordinary Williams solo. He (Williams) inspires the whole band to some superb soloing (great bowed bass from Ron Carter!) and seems ready to levitate off his stool from the excitement. Although the entire band sounds very good, it's Tony Williams that really stands out and makes this disc worthwhile. It seems impossible that he was less still two months shy of his eighteenth birthday when this concert took place. Certainly an auspicious beginning for a group that would come to redefine small group jazz. The sound quality is solid for live music of this vintage and there is a very good liner essay from Bob Belden. But the music, particularly the extraordinary interplay between Davis and Williams make this the pick of the first batch of Monterey recordings.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Floratone - Floratone (Blue Note, 2007)

Floratone began as a collaborative project between guitarist Bill Frisell and percussionist Matt Chemberlain, who got together to record a series of free duets in studio. After this, they called upon producers Lee Thownsend and Tucker Martine to radically revise the material somewhat along the lines of what Teo Macero would do with electric period Miles Davis. Finally, Viktor Krauss on bass, Ron Miles on cornet and Eyvind Kang on violin were called in to add the finishing touches. The final product is something Thowsend calls "futuristic roots music", a sound that takes on Frisell's signature Americana jazz and runs it through the fun-house mirrors of electronica, something like an earthier version of Charlie Hunter's Groundtruther project. Some of the lengthier tracks like "The Wanderer" and "The Passenger" do tend to drift a bit into a dreamy haze with a gentle, pastoral feeling. The problem here is that the groove becomes all encompassing and while pleasant. the tracks lose their sense of direction. The pithier tracks fare much better, like loose trilogy presumably referencing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina at the center of the album. "Swamped", "Monsoon", and "Louisiana Longboat" all have tight structures which are aided and abetted by subtle loops and electronic additions. Frisell has his finest moments on these songs, particularly "Longboat" where he mines a deep blues groove. "The Future" which adds some sci-fi electronics to a traditional groove also works well as does "Frontiers" which starts out sunny, but grows steadily darker and more ominous as the track goes on. Overall, this is an experiment that works pretty well. With so many fingers in the pie there were a lot of chances for things to go wrong, but most of the pitfalls were avoided. This disc didn't do much for me on first impression, but it grew on me over time, it takes a while to digest all that is going on. Those looking for any radical jazztronica fusion may be disappointed, but fans of Frisell's collaboration with Hal Wilner, 2004's Unspeakable, will enjoy the music.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Overlooked Musician: Mose Allison

Known as the "Sage of Tippo", few musicians have melded jazz and blues in such a personal manner as pianist, songwriter and singer Mose Allison. As one of the most unique lyricists in jazz, it is interesting that more of Allison's compositions have not been embraced by the jazz and blues community. Rock musicians have had no trouble however, as musicians from The Who to Van Morrison have recorded Allison's songs. It may be that like fellow iconoclast Tom Waits, it will just take time for Allison's unique vision to catch on. His songs often take a wry look at modern life, eschewing the usual love song dynamic for a deeply philosophical outlook. Who else would have been courageous enough to pen a song entitled "Hello There, Universe" with lyrics neither too deep or too coy, but truly expressing awe at what he saw around him:

You can always count on me
And even though

The good gets better

And the bad gets worse

Hello there, Universe

Of course there is the sly Allison humor: skewing love, work and everything in between, it brings a much needed dose of levity to jazz lyrics which are often banal and one dimensional. His lyrics to "Your Mind is on Vacation" bear this out:

You quotin' figures and droppin' names
tellin' stories about the days
You're overlaughin' when things ain't funny
tryin' to sound like big money
You know if talk was criminal

You'd lead a life of crime

Because your mind is on vacation and your mouth is
workin' overtime

Allison began his career recording for Prestige in the early 1950's but had his greatest success during a fifteen year run at Atlantic Records, where he recorded some of his finest songs ranging from the humorous the the existential. He has since moved on to record for Blue Note Records from the late '80s to the present. Apart from his lyrics, his deeply percussive piano playing is fascinating, coming across as something of a hybrid of piano pounding bluesmen like Champion Jack Dupree and Pete Johnson combined with the complexity of Bud Powell. For those interested on exploring his music, the two-disc Rhino compilation Allison Wonderland makes for a great starting point, by collecting a fine cross section of his music and including a solid liner booklet. Deeper information can be found in Patti Jones' Allison biography One Man's Blues, published by Quartet Books.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Len Price 3 - Rentacrowd (Wicked Cool, 2007)

The Len Price 3 (guitarist and vocalist Glenn Page, bassist Steve Higgins and drummer Neil Fromow... nope, no Len Price) has been lost in the shuffle a bit amongst the big hype of the British music scene being lavished on the likes of Franz Ferdinand and The Arctic Monkeys. This group's unapologetically retro sound recalls the glory days of Happy Jack era Who and Arthur era Kinks, and may not seem quite "edgy" enough for today's PR driven pop scene. It's a shame because they are really quite good, as their lead-off song, the title track "Rentacrowd" demonstrates. It is a cheeky broadside to fly by night pop bands that are based on flash over substance. "Doctor Gee" and "Australia" are as close as they come to making direct homages to British Invasion bands, the harmonies of the former are right out of The Who Sell Out and the latter could be a long lost Ray Davies rarity. These are not criticism mind you, the group knows it's history well and mines it accordingly. "Julia Jones" and "Mesmer" allow the group to meld pop and rock in their own way, keeping the guitars garage-rock crunchy, but allowing the sweet center of sugary pop to remain intact. It's no mean feat, but the band is able to display its influences proudly while carving out its own niche in a very competitive and shallow scene. Anyone who misses classic British Invasion rock 'n' roll will enjoy this disc.

Champion Jack Dupree - Junker's Blues (Catfish, 2000)

This compilation of the venerable boxer turned piano pounder and singer has some excellent performances of unknown vintage (probably early 1950's) where Jack considers the virtues of "Bad Whiskey and Bad Women" and other imponderables of live. Actually, Jack Dupree is one of my favorite bluesmen, his deeply rhythmic piano and strong tenor voice are irresistible, particularly when in service of some of his original songs like the drug anthems "Junker's Blues" and "Weed Head Woman" (why isn't this the theme song for the TV show Weeds?) Old Jack knew his way around a standard as well, strutting through "Mean Ol' Frisco" and "How Long Blues" like he owned them, with some excellent electric guitar support in tow. "Big Time Mama" where he extols the pleasure of a rotund woman and "Dupree Shake Dance" keep the party at full swing, but slower numbers like the poignant "Angola Blues" make sure things don't get out of hand. Champion Jack Dupree had a long and successful career, and thins quickie comp gives a taste of his powers - but to hear him really fly, check out the classic Blues From the Gutter, or his great album from Montreux, co-led with tenor saxophonist King Curtis.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

My friend Brian P. inquired as to my top ten for 2007. I was momentarily flummoxed, but came up with the following list (not in any particular order):


Dave Douglas - Live at the Jazz Standard (just reviewed)
Marc Ribot - Asmodeus: Book Of Angels: Vol.7
William Parker - Alphaville Suite
David Murray - Sacred Ground
The Claudia Quintet - For
Nels Cline Singers– Draw Breath
The Bad Plus - Prog
Sam Rivers - Aurora
William Parker's Little Huey Big Band - For Percy Heath
Charles Tolliver - With Love


Watermelon Slim - The Wheel Man
Richard Thompson - Sweet Warrior
James "Blood" Ulmer - Bad Blood In the City
The White Stripes - Icky Thump

There's been a lot of good music so far this year especially in jazz, and shows how diverse the musical spectrum is from the guitar driven fusion of Marc Ribot to the cheeky modern jazz of Dave Douglas and The Bad Plus. There have been a surprising number of great large band records by the likes of Sam Rivers, William Parker and Charles Tolliver. Still three months to go, so let's hope the great music keeps coming.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Dave Douglas - Live at the Jazz Standard (Greenleaf, 2007)

In late 2006 cornetist and composer Dave Douglas performed for a week at the Jazz Standard, a club in New York City. In an innovative move, Douglas recorded each of the sets and made them available for sale on his web site. This package is a two-disc distillation of those sets, with Douglas and his band: tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, keyboardist Uri Caine , bassist James Genus and drummer Clarence Penn performing at a very high level on a wide range of original material. At the time of this recording, Douglas had recently switched from the trumpet to the cornet, and the switch benefits him with a warmer, more expressive sound. He makes light of this with a short if intense performance of "The Cornet is a Fickle Friend." The band has a very tight and unique sound, typified by "Indian Point", a lengthy improvisation that shows tight ensemble playing and pithy soloing.Caine makes his presence felt here, and throughout the sets, almost like a painter he spreads the pastel tones of the fender rhodes piano, deftly supporting hisbandmates and bubbling up for solo turns. Donny McCaslin's profile has been on the rise of late with a number of recordings as a leader, and this is a key sideman appearance in his development. He is a sympathetic partner for Douglas (as was Chris Potter before him) playing the knotty melodies well and soloing with a lot of gusto. Genus and Penn have been with Douglas for a while now and they lock in to a groove the fully supports the music throughout. Several of the performances are quite lengthy, allowing the band to really stretch out and explore. In particular "Indian Point", "October Surprise" and the twisting and turning "Magic Triangle" have really excellent performances that stand out. This is a very good live recording of an excellent band. If you didn't have a chance to check out this music via download, or just prefer a CD, this is a very good collection of modern jazz to be savored.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007 has a very interesting interview with Archie Shepp:

"Rap is really just a continuation of the blues from a textual and verbal point of view. African-American music is as rich, verbally—coming from folktales and folklore—blues and that lyric idiom could be considered a kind of poetry. The rappers are really an extension of the blues man, which is of course the preacher."

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Now playing: Cannonball Adderley - Serves Me Right (Take 5)
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dizzy Gillespie - Live at the 1965 Monterey Jazz Festival (MJFP/Concord, 2007)

Trumpeter and bandleader Dizzy Gillespie loved playing at the Monetery Jazz Festival, so it's natural to have one of the inaugural discs in their commemorative series feature one of his finest working bands of James Moody on flute & tenor saxophone, Kenny Barron on piano, Christopher White on bass, Rudy Collins on drums and Big Black on congas.This Gillespie group had been together for three years and had been touring and recording regularly during that time. The musicians are comfortable with the music and each other but also willing to stretch and expand the basic materials available. The music on this disc amounts to a brief LP length of about 40 minutes with some additional announcements and a dose of Dizzy's good natured clowning around. There is a mention in the liner noes that the band played two other performances during the festival, it's a shame that they couldn't have been added here as well. The music that is here is played at a very high level, however. Their set opens with "Trinidad, Goodbye" which is a steaming percussion fueled burner with Big Black's congas leading the way. This sounds great with the band hitting on all cylinders. "Day After" is dedicated to Billie Holiday and Dizzy shows a very sensitive ballad side, playing with a great deal of sensitivity and expression. The tempo picks back up with "Poor Joe" which has an exciting island flavored beat with some nice flute from James Moody, and vocals and high register trumpet from the leader. Moody gets a wonderful boppish solo turn on tenor saxophone on the obligatory "A Night in Tunisia." Despite having doubtlessly played this tune every night for years, the band still finds a fresh angle and turns in a fiery performance. "Ungawa" features Big Black's dexterous percussion work, but at eleven minutes, his solo feature drags on a little too long before the band comes back for a brief run-through of "Chega de Saudade (No More Blues) to wrap things up. A brief liner essay and some black and white photos round out the package. Devotees of the trumpeter will no doubt enjoy this brief set, although newcomers to Gillespie are encouraged to first explore his groundbreaking Musicraft sides.

Now playing: Henry Threadgill's Zooid - [Up Popped the Two Lips #04] Around My Goose
via FoxyTunes

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Thelonious Monk - Live at the 1964 Monterey Jazz Festival (MJFR/Concord, 2007)

The Monterey Jazz Festival's executive board has struck a deal with Concord Records to release CD's of selected concerts and to hopefully commission new works for recording. Among the first of the discs to be released is a recording of the always fascinating pianist and composer Thelonious Monk, accompanied on this performance by Monk regulars Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone and Ben Riley on drums and with Steve Swallow sitting in on bass. The all Monk program consists of four performances by the quintet, culminating with a wonderfully angular "Rhythm-a-Ning" that has Thelonious chipping off some particularly angular piano much like a master sculptor chips off flakes of granite. Five more horns under the direction of Buddy Collette join the group for the final two selections, adding a nice mini big band feel to the proceedings. Monk lays out for lengthy sections, and you can just imagine him doing the herky-jerky dancing around the bandstand he was famous for as the horns pour out his famous riffs. Overall this is a fine hour of live Monk. There are are a great many live Monk CDs available now, so this entry is joining a crowded market, but if your Monk collection has room for one more Thelionious Monk concert recording, this isn't a bad choice at all.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Grateful Dead - Three From the Vault (Rhino, 2007)

This is a very well remastered two disc set of a concert during the Dead's legendary 1971 run in Port Chester, NY. It's nice to hear this music after speed and pitch correction, my old tape always ran a little bit fast and sharp. A year after the twin acoustic triumphs of Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, the band was at a live peak blunted only by the departure of percussionist Mickey Hart for a five year leave. The band comes out very strong with well played renditions of standbys "Truckin'" and "Loser" before turning the microphone to organist and R&B fanatic Ron "Pigpen" McKernan who oozes bluesy authority all over the standards like Elmore James "It Hurts Me Too" (which also features some great slide guitar from Jerry Garcia) and "Smokestack Lightnin'" where his gruff growl aptly fits a Howlin' Wolf classic. He also rolls through an unstoppable version of "Good Lovin." On disc two, the band has a blasting version of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B.Goode" and fine version of "Deal" before settling into the long improvisatory section of their performance, including "That's It for the Other One" and the nightly drum solo. It's in this section of the concert that Hart's absence is most deeply felt. Where previously the twin drummer lineup turned this section into a polyrhythmic whirlwind, now, Bill Kreutzmann struggles to bear the load on his own. The tight song forms of "Wharf Rat" and "Casey Jones" get the band back on track for a solid finale. This is a fine example of the Dead's live show of the period and justly one of their most well revered performances. Combining a good performance with excellent sound quality makes for a solid package which is a fine addition to the collection of any classic rock fan.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sad news as another giant of the music world passes on:

"Max Roach, a founder of modern jazz who rewrote the rules of drumming in the 1940’s and spent the rest of his career breaking musical barriers and defying listeners’ expectations, died early today in Manhattan. He was 83."

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bobby Hutcherson - Mosaic Select (Mosaic, 2007)

The Penguin Guide to Jazz states that if Bobby Hutcherson played any other instrument than vibraphone he would be considered one of the major instrumentalists of the post-war era. Regardless, he has had quite an impact, leading or appearing on a series of groundbreaking recordings in the 1960's for Blue Note and then sticking with that label until they went into hibernation on the late 1970's. This collection brings back into view a number ofHutcherson sessions for Blue Note cut between 1974-1977. Blue Note and acoustic jazz in general were in a period of slow decline, and these albums were poorly distributed and sank into obscurity with relatively little notice. It's good to have this music back in circulation, because it is of very high quality. With sidemen like trumpeters Woody Shaw and Freddie Hubbard, saxophonists Harold Land and Manny Boyd the music runs the gamut from high octane cookers like the two takes of "Searchin' the Trane" to a wonderful take of his original ballad "Little B's Poem." Hutcherson the composer is very well represented on this collection as well as the formidable instrumentalist. His vibraphone playing is shimmering and gorgeous while his marimba work is dry, percussive and very distinctive. Bobby Hutcherson spent a period in the wilderness of jazz without recording and his influence began to wane. With the reemergence of this long lost music along with his participation in the SF Jazz Collective and an excellent new collection of ballads, he seems poised to take his rightful place as a musician of great distinction and influence.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Vote in the Downbeat Reader's Poll online.

Howard Mandel has an excellent article about Maria Schneider on his blog: "Schneider glowed when she talked about what she heard in her mind, thinking of how all the atomized notes she'd laboriously written over the past three years had cohered as richly harmonized dynamic music, anticipating that what she'd planned for individuals and small groupings would lift off as they combined efforts, together yet still individuated. Each musician had a vital role, reflecting his or her personality and skills, but it was Schneider who'd generated and organized all together to loft the transformative sensory experience music provides."

There is an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about trombonist and composer Roswell Rudd: "Mr. Rudd is 71 years old, and during his career he has been at the forefront of many new movements in jazz. The Yale graduate's work was first noticed in the mid- and late 1950s, while he was playing with a small cadre of young Dixieland revivalists. He then fell under the sway of Monk, the legendary pianist and composer, and Herbie Nichols, a lesser-known but superb pianist. Mr. Rudd became a champion of their work, co-leading ensembles devoted to their repertoire. In the mid-1960s he was founding member of the New York Art Quartet, one of the pivotal groups in the rise of the East Coast school of avant-garde jazz."

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Marc Ribot - Asmodeus: Book Of Angels: Vol.7 (Tzadik, 2007)

Marc Ribot leads an amped up power trio through ten pithy improvisations from John Zorn's Masada songbook. Ribot is a guitarist of great flexibility and subtlety... but not here. This album is all about pinning his ears back and howling at the moon. But this isn't just some exercise in self gratification, the trio with bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer G. Calvin Weston is super tight and the musicians really listen to and support one another. If anything, the music is about collective improvisation, with bubbling bass, seething drums and slashing guitar coming together as a comprehensive whole rather than going for individual glory. Knowing that this type of one-dimensional music can only go so far, the group keeps the songs short, with improvisations on the order of two to six minutes, and the whole disc clocks in at about the length of a vinyl LP. Like the great early Ramones albums that hit hard and finished fast, this disc packs a well timed wallop. Guitar fiends and other lovers of high energy music are urged to make its acquaintance.

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Now playing: Dave Douglas - War Room
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Cosmosamatics - Reeds and Birds (Not Two, 2005)

The Cosmosamatics are a collaboration between the great journeyman Sonny Simmons on alto sax and english horn and Michael Marcus on tenor sax, saxello, bass clarinet. This version of the group has Clifford Barbaro and Jay Rosen share the drumming duties. The music is something like post-modern bebop, making use of the early 60's music of Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy as stepping stones for their own original take on the jazz tradition.
The group opens with a medley of "Autumn in New York/In a Sentimental Mood" starting with some exotic sounding reed playing and Simmons deadpan and tuneless singing of the lyrics, followed by a melodic solo rendition of "Sentimental." "Cheryl (Take 2)" has the two saxophonists improvising in tandem on a sharp melody and then taking individual solos separated by a drum break. "Bird Feathers" has an appropriately boppish theme and length. This is a good pithy update of traditional bebop, with the two saxes trading short bursts of ideas. "Drifting on a Reed" sounds like an update of Atlantic-era Ornette Coleman, while "Cheryl (Take 1)" has another discreet trading of extended solos with no drum break to separate them. "Intoxicating Galaxies" is a torrid ninety seconds of free improvisation. "49th Street Stomp" starts with a swinging melody before making room for a strong and deep solo from Simmons. Mercilessly strong drumming doesn't allow either of the reedmen a moment's rest and keeps the performance at a full boil. The two return to the melody from outer space to seal an excellent performance. Finally the twenty-four and a half minute (!) marathon live performance "Avant-Garde Destruct" sounds much more ominous than it is. The group deconstructs the avant garde in jazz from bebop to free jazz in a swirl of ideas and improvisation. A stunning piece of endurance, this performance builds a continuum from Charlie Parker through Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy and finally to Arthur Blythe and other modern musical searchers.
This was a very good album from a group that deserves far more attention than it has received so far. Their thoughtful and energetic update of bebop shows another way for jazz to go forward that is not shackled to the music's past or recklessly ignoring what has came before. This album shows that good musicians improvising on solid compositions can provide exciting music that renders hand wringing moot.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bryan Lee - Katrina Was Her Name (Justin Time, 2007)

Blind from the age of eight, Bryan Lee compensated by listening hard to blues radio dialed in from the deep south, being deeply influenced by Freddie King amongst many others. Now in his early 60's Lee plays a stinging guitar himself and sings soulfully in the tradition of his adopted hometown on New Orleans. His regular touring band is joined by Bruce Katz on keyboards and Gordon Beadle on saxophone. The band hits hardest with their uptempo blues boogies like Bobby Parker's joyfully infectious "Barefootin'" and a blasting version of Chick Willis' "Take it Like a Man." The other highlight of the album is the stark acoustic title track, "Katrina Was Her Name" which tells the story of the destruction of New Orleans when the levees broke over a mournful backdrop. Another slow blues, although much less morbid, is a fine soulful version of Jimmy Witherspoon's "Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do" where Lee sings very well over a tight and thoughtful arrangement of the standard. There are a couple of minor mis -steps, the generic "Blues Singer" is basically a shout-out to Lee's favorite musicians, and the ending "Don't Joke With The Stroke" is an overlong ode to funk. But these are minor quibbles on a disc that is overall quite successful. Lee and the band avoid self indulgence for the most part and produced a solid album of focused, funky blues.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

There is an excellent lengthy article on pianist and David Murray collaborator Lafayette Gilchrist in the Baltimore City Paper. (via be.jazz)

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Now playing: Kokomo Arnold - 1-22 Lonesome Southern Blues
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I'm finally starting to trawl through the goodies plucked from various vinyl record bargain bins over the past couple of weeks:

George Adams - Sound Suggestions (ECM, 1979) This is an album of diverse pleasures ranging from overblown free jazz on "Stay Informed" to a deep blues with Adams belting a gravelly vocal on "Got Somethin' Good For You," to the tempered ballad "A Spire." Much like his mentor, Charles Mingus, Adams had big earls for all of the facets of jazz. Two lengthy post-bop improvisations, "Baba" and "Imani's Dance" round out the LP. This album isn't quite up to the level of the great music Adams made as a co-leader with Don Pullen, but it's still a good record.

Kenny Wheeler - Deer Wan (ECM, 1977) This is a moody and atmospheric record, which definitely has the clear, airless "ECM sound." "Peace for Five" has some fine buttery trumpet from Wheeler and a deep and strong bass solo from Dave Holland. John Abercrombie plays very tastefully in support of the ensemble. Abercrombie gets some fine spots along with Ralph Towner as the two trade sections on the open sounding ballad "3/4 in the Afternoon." There is a lot of thoughtful improvisation and soloing on this record, and it reveals itself slowly through several listens.

Illinois Jacquet - Port of Rico (Clef, 1956) This LP is credited to Jacquet and his Orchestra but at best the scare up a septet, but then again Norman Granz never missed a chance for hyperbole. It's interesting to hear Count Basie and Hank Jones take to the organ on this record, and they play it more in the style of Fats Waller and Wild Bill Davis than the Jimmy Smith type soul-jazz B3. It's great to hear Jacquet's raw bluesy sound hammering up against waves of roller-rink style organ. "JATP Conga" is a trip with, I assume, the drummer Shadow Wilson playing a conga which sounds for all the world like someone clicking their tongue against the roof of their mouth. Jacquet is tough but lyrical on "Blues in the Night" and "Somewhere Along the Way" shows the band slowing down enough to grind out a tender ballad. This is a fun LP and shows that treasures that can be found in a little crate digging.

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Now playing: Art Ensemble Of Chicago - [Sirius Calling CD1 #12] Slow Tenor And Bass
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

There have been some interesting podcasts posted recently:

Illasounds has an excellent entry entitled Nice 'n' Greasy, focusing on the Hammond B-3 organ: Steaming grooves with driving Hammond organ and the accent on the blues featuring Jimmy Smith & Kenny Burrell (above), Grant Green, Stanley Turrentine, Richard 'Groove' Holmes, Roland Kirk, Lou Donaldson, Jack McDuff, Big John Patton, Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis, Sonny Criss and Houston Person with Shirley Scott, Yusef Lateef, Pat Mertino, Teddy Edwards, Jimmy Forrest, Sonny Phillips, Tommy Turrentine, Jerome Richardson, Billy Butler, Harold Vick, Fred Jackson, Percy France, Rene Thomas, Georges Arvanitas, Paul Chambers, Art Taylor, Billy Higgins and Ben Dixon.

Bending Corners has a new podcast called Modern Architecture: Rummaging through the archives, we pullout a modern jazz groove set spun live, in the field, and on the fly. This is the second half of a two part set in which BendingCorners provided the musical atmosphere for an architectural art show. Where as part one focused on classic architectural atmospheres, this set shines light on the more modern scene.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Bruce Hornsby w/ Christian McBride & Jack DeJohnette - Camp Meeting (Legacy, 2007)

My little familiarity with Hornsby's prior music was a passing knowledge of his maudlin radio hits "That's Just the Way It Is" and "Mandolin Rain" so my expectations for this disc were quite low. But it actually turns out to be a very pleasant surprise as he acquaints himself admirably with some very challenging material from the likes of Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk and Keith Jarrett. Jarrett's "Death and the Flower" is taken as a elegiac solo dirge, while Ornette's "Question and Answer" along with Monk's "Little Rootie Tootie" and Bud Powell's "Un Poco Loco" are rollicking trio performances. McBride's bass is deep and soulful and clearly indebted to his mentor Ray Brown, particularly in the very fine solo he takes during "Giant Steps" while DeJohnettte provides the perfect amount of support and accents that make him a legend in the field. I must admit, I did not see this one coming. It's a very good CD of improvising piano trio music and is quite recommended.

Send comments to: Tim

Now playing: Bobby Hutcherson - [Mosaic Select #01] Boodaa
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, August 05, 2007

I received an e-mail from the Princeton Record Exchange saying that they had a huge cache of new (used) vinyl records for sale, so like Pavlov's Dogs responding to their masters bell, I drove down on a hot Saturday afternoon. It was well worth the effort as they had a load of ECM jazz discs for the princely sum of $2.99 each amongst other things. For thirty dollars, I picked up the following:

Old and New Dreams - Playing
Kenny Wheeler - Gnu High & Deer Wan
James "Blood" Ulmer - Part Time
George Adams - Sound Suggestions
Jan Garbarek - Dis
Ray Charles - The Genius Sings the Blues
Shirley Scott - The Great Live Sessions (The Dedication Series Vol. 3)
Chuck Berry - The Chess Box (6 LP's and a huge booklet... for $12!)

On my way back to the parking garage, I noticed a jazz band setting up for a free concert in Palmer Square so I found a shady spot and stuck around for a set. The band was apparently called Seven Steps and they were pretty good, playing Mr. P.C., A Night in Tunisia, My Funny Valentine and Stolen Moments. The tenor player had a nice deep sound, but the keyboardist seemed to be going for a slinky mid-70's CTI vibe and and I finally struck out for greener pastures when he broke out the synthesized strings for an unknown ballad.

Now playing: Mississippi Fred McDowell - [You Gotta Move CD1/1 #13] When I Lay My Burden Down
via FoxyTunes

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Muddy Waters, James Cotton & Johnny Winter - Breakin' It Up, Breakin' It Down (Epic/Legacy, 2007)

In the wake of Muddy Waters excellent comeback album, Hard Again, these three gentlemen took part in a short live tour with the billing shared equally between them. The music on this disc demonstrates the democratic nature of the concerts, with each musician helping the others and everybody getting a piece of the limelight. The light shines strongly on the great man himself though. After years of having to do psychedelic blues experiments for Marshall Chess in an attempt to capture the youth market, Muddy was recording straight up blues again for Winter's Blue Sky imprint and sounding great doing it. His spotlight pieces here equal anything from the great Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live LP, and show a legend in full control of his powers. "Black Cat Bone/Dust My Broom" has the band blasting out of the gate with Muddy singing some Elmore James to boot! A stripped down "Can't Be Satisfied" superbly recalls the original 45 rpm version of the tune. After that, Muddy takes a bow and allows for Cotton and Pinetop Perkins to lay down a swinging "Caldonia" before Cotton and Winter promptly run the whole ship aground with a mugging and hot-dogging version of "Dealin' With the Devil." Admirably, they pull it together for solid versions of "Rocket 88" and "Done Got Over It." Winter steps up with credible renditions of "Mama Talk to Your Daughter" and "Done Got Over It" before Muddy stomps back out and shows his proteges how it's really done by belting out chest thumping versions of "Trouble No More" and "Got My Mojo Workin'" to round out the disc. This is a very fine example of three generation of bluesmen making good music and enjoying the heck out of each others company. Muddy Waters had a wonderful second act from 1977-81 and any snapshots of that are most welcome. Recommended to fans of electric blues.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

There were some very interesting blog posts this week from Dave Douglas and Ethan Iverson. First off, Douglas comments on a continuing thread of the jazz blogosphere, the best albums of the 1980's and '90's. He also writes of the wellsprings of musical creativity:

"But it seemed like there was a lack of awareness that all music ultimately has to arise out a completely untethered form of creative consciousness. It's only after that we funnel it into various ways of working. Context, language. Freedom of choice. It's important to know as many sides of music as we can. But it's also essential and unavoidable that we make choices. Those choices that each musician must make are what make the world of music so infinitely large. And what make a musician's output unique and personal. Urgent."

Ethan Iverson's posts have been less frequent of late, but more lengthy in scope. Exhibit A is an amazing overview of the recorded work of bassist Ron Carter:

"You can always hear Ron Carter. This is not true of every bassist. Indeed, I will go so far as to say that Ron is the ONLY acoustic bassist I can think of where I can hear enough of him on every record and in every live situation. I admit I also heard a duo performance at Knickerbocker's once where he was three times as loud as the pianist, and that was not good. But as Ron says in the interview, a lot of this music comes from the bass, more than is usually recognized. We need to hear the bass."

Finally, the Arts for Art, Patricia Nicholson Parker's group responsible for the Vision Festival and other arts programs in New York City has received a matching grant, to fund a performance space. They are looking for donations and volunteers interested in fund raising. E-mail them for more information:

"Two generous donors have offered a 2 to 1 matching grant if we are able to raise $17,000 over the next few months. This support is arriving just when we need it most, as we are now in the initial stages of the search for a space or building which will be dedicated to the presentation of New York's Creative Music. This venue will feature a broader representation than the Vision Festival is able to present. This is something that is desperately needed in a city where so many live music venues have been forced to close in the last few years."

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Mushroom w/ Eddie Gale - Joint Happening (Heyena, 2007)

Mushroom is a bay area psychedelic rock band with influences running the gamut from Krautrock bands like Can, along with post rock the likes of Tortoise and electric Miles Davis. The Davis connection gets even deeper with the appearance of trumpeter Eddie Gale for this album. Gale had a brief period in the spotlight recording with Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra and also making two funky LP's for Blue Note. His chops have not deteriorated one bit and he fits in very well with the ethereal soundscapes that Mushroom lays down for him. Sounding at times like In a Silent Way or Bitches Brew era Miles updated for the new millennium, the album drifts through organ drenched drones with vibraphone and guitar occasionally bubbling up in the mix to change the texture. Gale if left free reign to play at will, stuttering and smearing his trumpet over the mix. Like fellow trumpeter Graham Haynes, who is mining much the same terrain, Gale will often leave long patches empty of trumpet, only to drop in with an exclamation at just the right moment. This is a beautiful and thoughtful stretch of music that should be embraced by both the jazz and jam rock communities. Hopefully it will also welcome Eddie Gale back to regular recording and performance, because clearly he has a lot left to say.

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