Sunday, January 31, 2010

Eri Yamamoto - In Each Day Something Good (AUM Fidelity, 2010)

Pianist and composer Eri Yamamoto may not have the high profile of fellow Japanese pianist Hiromi, but she has slowly but surely carved an individual niche in the jazz world with a string of fine albums for the AUM Fidelity label, and a regular trio gig at Arthur's Tavern in New York City. On this new album of all original compositions (half of which were composed as a soundtrack to the black and white silent movie) she is accompanied by David Ambrosio on bass and Ikuo Takeuchi on drums. the music the three make is very thoughtful and patient, and you can tell by listening that they spent a lot of time honing their material. "Attraction of the Moon" and "Secret Link" have a good natured swing There is a touch of melancholy to the music at times, on tracks like "A Little Escape" emotionally reminding me of some of the music Keith Jarret recorded with his "American Quartet" of the 1970's. In Each Day Something Good -

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Various Artists - Freedom, Ryhthm and Sound (Soul Jazz, 2009)

During the 1960's, spurred on by the civil rights movement, African-American jazz musicians began to take control of the means of jazz production. Forming artists collectives like the AACM and BAG, and releasing their music on small artist run record labels, musicians began to take complete control of the music they were making. This compilation tracks jazz inspired by the struggle for rights and equality and the struggle for artists to remain fiercely independent. Some of the music here draws on soul and R&B like Archie Shepp's protest anthem "Attica Blues" incorporates strings and strong declamatory vocals. The Art Ensemble of Chicago looks back even further to gospel and hymns for their "Old Time Religion." There is some burning post-bop jazz here as well, especially Joe Henderson's "Foregone Conclusion" with it's strong and muscular tenor saxophone soloing. Amina Claudine Myers's "3/4's of 4/4" brings the soul jazz organ full circle, and her performance has echoes of Larry Young's best work. Sun Ra's seminal, profanity-laden "Nuclear War" is a protest anthem that will stick in your head long after hearing it. The lengthy liner essay puts the music into the context of the civil rights movement, noting the major events and how they affected the music of the period. This was an interesting collection that shines a much needed light on post-Coltrane jazz and the responses of musicians to challenges both musical and societal. Freedom Rhythm & Sound -

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Steve Reid - Odyssey of the Oblong Square (Soul Jazz, 2009)

Originally released as a self produced album in small quantities from a 1977 radio studio performance, master drummer Steve Reid's loft jazz masterpiece is back in print after a long absence. On this album he is joined by David Wertman on bass, Mohammad Abdullah on percussion, Ahmed Abdullah on trumpet and Arthur Blythe and Charles Tyler on alto saxophone. Rhythm and groove are the primary elements of the music, with the bass, drums and percussion locking together to produce a massive groove that propels the horns ever onward. "Odyssey Theme" fades in to the band already in full flight, with a punchy theme for horns and hand percussion. The lengthy "Deacon's Son" has a probing start for alto and trumpet, with a solid bass and percussion groove. Nice extended saxophone solo spools out over hypnotic percussion. Abdulla takes things to a higher level with a lively trumpet solo, picking the pace up to a high level fast and exciting but still well controlled. "Odyssey Sweet" has a fast Ornette-ish full band improvisation, free-bopping over a slinky groove. "Ginsamseng" begins with a fast, full band improvisation, and M. Abdullah's hand percussion anchoring the searching horns. The horns scale back and Wertman's bass comes to the forefront, deep and strong, acting as a pivot point for the music. Bass, drums and percussion lock into an epic groove that slowly builds in intensity, scaled by hot sounding trumpet. This was taught and exciting music powered by a wall of percussion, and is an excellent example of the kind of "loft jazz" that was being made in the late 1970's. Odyssey of the Oblong Square -

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Van Morrison - Astral Weeks (Warner Brothers, 1968)

Back before he was the Belfast Cowboy, Van Morrison was an up and coming singer-songwriter, coming off some marginal success with the rough Irish R&B outfit Them and some solo singles like the immortal “Brown Eyed Girl.” What he produced for his first full length LP for Warner Brothers was an epochal masterpiece, something that sounds like it belongs to no era or genre. Cut with jazz and session musicians (including the amazing Richard Davis on bass,) it makes no concessions to pop sensibility, and unfolds more like a collection of beautifully written short stories than a rock 'n' roll album. “Astral Weeks” sets the tone, with shimmering acoustic guitar and strings framing Morrison’s incredible bass as he sings of searching for a “home on high.” Morrison has written some edgy and heartrending songs before and after this album, but the level of emotion expressed in the unrequited love of “Cypress Avenue” and the level of compassion for the transvestite in “Madame George” are extraordinary. For sheer musical muscle, there is the free-jazz meets rock and roll of the barreling “The Way That Young Lovers Do” incorporating strings, vibes and trumpet but succeeding on the strength of Davis’s elastic bass and Morrison’s impressive vocals. What makes a perfect album? Is it something that is recognized right away or a feeling that evolves as the time and distance for the initial recording recede? This album, without a weak cut or a trace of filler surely meets the criteria, and it goes more resonant as time goes by. Astral Weeks -

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jazz Icons: Cannonball Adderley - Live in '63 (Naxos, 2008)

The great soulful alto saxophonist Julian "Cannonball" Adderley was at the peak of his considerable powers when these two European television broadcasts were taped in the summer of 1963. Presented in black and white, with nicely remastered sound, this DVD captures Adderley leading a short lived sextet with his brother Nat on cornet, Yusef Lateef on tenor saxophone, flute and oboe, Joe Zawinul on piano, Sam Jones on bass and Louis Hayes on drums. The music presented here is consistently excellent, bluesy and soulful. Classics like Nat Adderley's soon to be standard "Work Song" and “Bohemia After Dark”get brisk uptempo performances, sounding like the very template for hard bop jazz, while ballad material like the beautiful "Angel Eyes" which gives the spotlight to Lateef's breathy flute. Fans of classic hard bop jazz should find a lot to enjoy here, and the package contains a very nice booklet with lengthy liner notes and many photographs. Jazz Icons: Cannonball Adderley - Live in '63 -

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Dave Rempis and Frank Roasly - Cyrillic (482 Music, 2010)

I really enjoyed this nice freely improvised duet performance with Dave Rempis on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones and Frank Rosaly on drums. There is a lot of free space for the two musicians to explore and they make the most of it. The first two tracks are very exciting, "Antiphony" and "Tainos" are fast paced with a lightning quick improvisational dialogue. "How to Cross When Bridges Are Out" is the highlight and centerpiece of the album, building to a ferocious conclusion after a lengthy and tempestuous build up. When the release finally comes, it is in a supernova like release of energy that is breathtaking to listen to. They also explore a couple of abstract pieces as well, "Thief of Sleep" and "Still Will" explore deep sonic textures in a very patient and reserved manner. 482 Music is rapidly becoming one of me favorite labels, as they keep putting out very exciting and innovative music. Cyrillic -

Sumi Tonooka and Erica Lindsay - Initiation (Artists Recording Collective, 2010)

Classy modern mainstream jazz with echoes of the hard bop legacy of jazz are apparent in this album co-led by pianist Sumi Tonooka and tenor saxophonist Erica Lindsay. Joined by bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Bob Braye, they make a nicely paced album of original compositions. The ballad “Somewhere Near Heaven” is spare and thoughtful with a great economy of notes and energy. The title song “Initiation” is fast paced with urgent piano comping, and strong muscular tenor. “Mingus Mood” eschews the great bassist’s fiery side and instead turns out to be a moody and introspective ballad.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mostly Other People Do the Killing - Forty Fort (Hot Cup, 2010)

MOPDTK is one of my favorite groups, they are filled with enthusiasm for the music of the past and the future, as can be seen by the good natured re-staging of the album photograph for the classic Roy Haynes LP Out of the Afternoon. The band consists of Jon Irabagon on alto saxophone, Peter Evans on trumpet, Moppa Elliot on bass and Kevin Shea on drums. "Pen Argyl" opens the album with strong thick bass and wild drums. Raucous horns join in the fun before making way for a quieter bass and trumpet section with light percussion. The two horns come together for a lightly overblown coda. "Rough and Ready" has a fast melody with strong improvised saxophone over madly pounding drums. After a fast bass and drums section, sax and trumpet spar with great agility. Fast and nervous trumpet and saxophone interplay is also the hallmark of "Blue Ball," giving way to an unaccompanied free jazz saxophone solo. "Nanticoke Coke" has a fast full band improvisation, fun and exciting. Saxophone and trumpet swirl like a helix over rock solid bass and drums. An awesome bass and drum groove (that practically grabs you by the throat and demands that you dance) anchors "Little Hope" with strong bluesy saxophone getting wild and woolly. "Forty Fort" has a swinging hard bop feel. Building from a slower, spacier section to wild swinging improvisation. It is such an emotional and visceral thrill to listen to the music that this group makes, the music is infectious and never fails to make me smile.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gene Harris - Another Night in London (Resonance, 2009)

Blues, bop and ballads are the order of the day on this swinging archival release with pianist Gene Harris joined by his "British Group," consisting of Jim Mullen on guitar, Adam Cleyndert on bass and Martin Drew on drums. Mullen in particular is a wonder, comping behind the piano and stepping out for stinging and soulful solos of his own. Recorded live at the Pizza Express, the music has a warm and engaging energy to it. Opening with "Sweet Georgia Brown," the music has a genial playfulness that slowly develops into a swinging blues drenched full band improvisation. Things are also kept at a brisk tempo on the Gershwin standard "Lady Be Good" and "Georgia on My Mind" are propelled by swift and agile support from the bass and drums team. This was a solid and consistently engaging live performance. Fans of Harris's work with The Three Sounds will find much to enjoy here, with well played and accessible mainstream jazz. He builds using the basic blocks of modern jazz, filtered through the influence of full bodied pianists of thepast like Errol Garner and Art Tatum. Another Night in London -

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Samuel Blaser Quartet - Pieces of Old Sky (Clean Feed, 2009)

It's interesting when an album so reflects in music the cover, belying the old adage that you can't judge something by its cover and that album art is dead in the age of digital media. The stark and beautiful photography on trombonist Samuel Blaser's album features a yellowing sky that signals either an approaching storm or a retreating one. The music on this album is analogous to these images, very open and spacious with smears of trombone and scattered percussion drifting into abstraction and then when you least expect it returning to melody. Blaser is joined on this album by guitarist Todd Neufeld, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. Moody and atmospheric sonic colors and textures play a critical role on the epic title track, which moves through sections of slow and patient improvisation. Sorey is the perfect accompanist for this album, as he has shown in his own work as a leader, he is comfortable letting the music breathe at slow tempos. It would be interesting to hear this band compose for cinema or as part of an art exhibit, the colors that they conceive with their music would blend well with art or film. Pieces of Old Sky -

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tony Malaby - Voladores (Clean Feed, 2009)

With many albums and side-man appearances over the past few years, saxophonist and composer Tony Malaby has become one of the busiest and most interesting musicians on the contemporary jazz scene. He’s also developed a relationship with the adventurous Portuguese label Clean Feed, which is the perfect home of a musician who’s horizons are ever expanding. On this album, he is joined by Drew Gress on bass, Tom Rainey on drums and John Hollenbeck on percussion. Highlights of the album include the very exciting “Old Smokey” which develops into a frenetic and engrossing improvisation. Texture is very important to this group and they explore a wide range of musical colors and feelings. On “Dreamy Drunk” they move a weaving and lurching melodic statement to a coherent and at times belligerent improvisation. “Sour Diesel” also develops a momentum that is unstoppable. This was an exciting album that has wide ranging vision and explores a lot of interesting musical territory. Voladores -

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Tribute To Albert Ayler -- Live At The Dynamo (Futura Marge, 2009)

Albert Ayler was a musician who was very influential in the free jazz movement of the 1960’s. Drawing on folk themes and open minded improvisational styles, he created a music this reverberates to this day. This group, consisting of Joe McPhee on trumpet and saxophone, Roy Campbell on trumpet, William Parker on bass and Warren Smith on drums is from the generation following Ayler, on this album they use some of his themes and styles to compose a wide ranging improvised tribute to his life and music. Smith opens “Music Is the Healing Force” with a spoken word recitation, setting the tone for music that is as much a spiritual quest as a musical one. Strong bass, drums and trumpet respond and build energy, followed by a potent high energy blast of free saxophone and trumpet. “Muntu” has a subtle bass and drum opening, Parker’s elastic bass providing a firm grounding for McPhee’s bluesy tenor. McPhee builds his solo to a peak that includes some intense over blowing, making for an exciting solo, before the full band returns to take the music out. “Obama Victory Shoutout” has a strong bass and drum opening with some spoken word, extolling the President’s victory in the recent election. Horns join in on an Ayler-ish melody building to some jubilant improvisation featuring trumpet soloing over rumbling bass. Ayler’s “DC” finds the full band jumping right in let by spitfire trumpet, just scalding stuff. After a bass and drums interlude, there are sections of bowed bass, probing trumpet and strong deep tenor saxophone. “Prophet John” has fast and dexterous trumpet joined by the full band. McPhee switches to saxophone, fueled by the group, he unleashes squalls of music, leading the group in an exciting full band free improvisation. Ayler’s “Universal Indians” ends the concert on a very high note with strong full band improvisation building to a joyous cacophony, and ascending waves of pure musical energy. This live recording was very exciting, and we are fortunate that the group was recorded on their brief European tour. Ayler's influence still resonates through the creations of these fearless musical explorers.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Charles Evans and Neil Shah - Live at Saint Stephens (Hot Cup, 2009)

Baritone saxophonist Charles Evans and pianist Neil Shah make for a stark duo on this live album of improvisations on compositions by Evans. Recorded before friends and former teachers at an acoustically perfect church in Wilkes-Barre, PA, the music is spare and wide open throughout, with both men showing an extraordinary amount of patience. “Junie: Part I The Father, Part II the Friend” opens the performance with a slow paced baritone and piano duo, spacey and wide open, giving the music a sense of deep longing. Spare saxophone and deep yearning piano open “On Tone Yet – Parts I, II, and III” Shah’s piano is well paced, providing a firm foundation for Evans to improvise off of, moving through different colors and shadings of music. He has a thick and strong tone that is compelling to listen to. Percussive piano chording and fog-horn baritone musings take the song out. Spare and abstract music echoes through “Mono Monk” with glimpses of Thelonious’s influence in the angular piano. “An Die Fleigenden Fische” has open and bluesy sounding saxophone and full bodied Jarrett-like piano. “Mother and Others” builds to a medium tempo duet section with the energy slowly ramping up throughout. “What Worked, What Didn’t, What Wouldn’t, What Would’ve” ends the performance with spare and thoughtful duet improve, each musician offering ideas and commentary at a slow and graceful pace. This is an album for late night dreaming, or perhaps a score to a rain drenched film noir of the imagination. There is palpable emotion in the restrained calm of the music on this album. Live at St. Stephens -

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Eberhard Weber - Little Movements (ECM, 2009)

Disc Two of the Colors Boxed Set has bassist and composer Weber joined by Charlie Mariano on soprano saxophone and flutes, Rainer BrĂ¼ninghaus on piano and synthesizer and John Marshall on drums. "The Last Stage Of A Long Journey" has a slow building and atmospheric opening, with spacey and airy saxophone and gentle piano at 4:50, building to something of a more palatable new age feel towards the end of the performance. "Bali" opens with shimmering synth and light saxophone. Drums and bass kick in, giving the music a shinier, almost poppy feel. Parts of this performance move episodically like a medley, especially a nice section for electronics and flute at the 6:30 mark. "A Dark Spell" features piano and bass building an open and spacious feel. Elastic bass, spare percussion and rippling piano give the music a pastoral feel. Mariano enters with swirling saxophone leading the group into a full band improvisation that takes things out. Sad sounding piano opens"Little Movements," overdubbed with added found sounds to make for a collage feel. Saxophone (possibly overdubbed) and full, think pulsing bass search over rolling and thrashing drums. "'No Trees?' He Said" ends the album on a light and melodic note, with Weber's swinging elastic bass showing the way. Colours -

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Jon Balke - Siwan (ECM, 2009)

This album was conceived by pianist and composer Jon Balke as a collaboration of musicians from across the world, featuring Moroccan singer Amina Alaoui, trumpeter Jon Hassell, violinist Kheir Eddine M'Kachiche, zarb player Pedram Khavar Zamini, percussionist Helge Norbakken and the Baroque Soloists ensemble. The music is haunting and ethereal, at times quite melancholy when the singer's haunting voice takes flight. Balke's arrangements are beautiful and his aim for the album apparently was to re-imagine a time of multi-ethnic cooperation where mystics, scholars and musicians came together as one to collaborate. There's not much "jazz" per se until the very end when the musicians spin out a couple of lengthy ten minute plus improvisations that are the highlight of the album. Those two tracks, "Thulathyath" and "Toda Sciencia Trancendiendo" were the highlights of the album for me, the musicians spinning out elaborate combination of instruments and vocals that ended the music on a ecstatic and hypnotic note. Siwan -

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Gebhard Ullman - Don't Touch My Music Vol. 2 Don't Touch My Music Vol. 2 (Not Two, 2009)

This second album of two recorded to mark Ullman's fiftieth birthday, recorded live in concert at Alchemia, Krakow on October 22, 2007, features Gebhard Ullmann on bass clarinet and tenor saxophone, Julian Arguelles on soprano and baritone saxophones, Steve Swell on trombone John Hebert on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. "Don't Touch Our Music" has a wide open feel at a medium tempo, with Ullman's tenor saxophone setting a deep seated and bluesy feel. A fat sounding trombone interlude struts through as well. "Das Blaue Viertel" has rumbling bass and a nice up-tempo full band improvisation. Horns riff excitingly, giving way to flashy drumming. "Kleine Figuren No. 1" features slow and spacious bass and light, open drumming in a duet format, twisting time elastically. Horns enter the fray around the five minute mark, building to fast paced and exciting free improvisation. "No New Ness" has a choppy feel with bass clarinet and saxophone building a loud - soft dynamic into the music. There is a section of quiet improvisation, led by Cleaver's deft brushwork. Swell then breaks free with a sputtering trombone solo, gaining speed to the finish line. "Kreuzberg Park East" wraps up the album with gentle improvisation building freely in open space with the horns bubbling through the bass and drums. This was a very good live album, the musicians played an open ended jazz based in the free-bop of the 1960's but completely modern sounding and relevant to today. I would love to visit the Alchemia Club one day, the music that has been recorded there is just a who's who of modern jazz. Don't Touch My Music Vol. 2 -

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Eberhard Weber - Yellow Fields (ECM 1976, 2010)

Bassist Eberhard Weber formed his Colors group in the wake of his debut album with ECM, The Colors of Chole. Looking the leave the American blues 'n' bop approach to jazz for a more European approach, Weber recorded this album, Yellow Fields (the first album of a trilogy collected in this boxed set) with Charlie Mariano on soprano saxophone, shenai and nagaswaram, Rainer Bruninghaus on keyboards and Jon Christensen on drums. The music recorded on this album has a very ethereal sort of drifting and dreamy feel to it. Mellow, much like the early Pat Metheny albums on ECM, which may have taken this disc as inspiration. Weber's bubbling bass is the point by which the music rotates and Mariano's swirling saxophone and the electric keyboard touches of Bruninghaus create a unique and light sound world. Keyboards, light and nimble percussion pinched sound of the vaguely middle eastern sounding shenai makes "Sand-Glass" a unique highlight with musical texture that was unique. This group succeeded in creating a sound that wasn't beholden to anything else, but took the electronics from fusion groups like Weather Report, and a European approach to jazz pioneered by the likes of Jan Garbarek and made them into their own sound. Colours -

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dennis Gonzalez Yells at Eels - The Great Bydgoszcz Concert (Ayler, 2009)

Recorded live during a tour of Poland, this group consists of Dennis Gonzalez on trumpet, accompanied by his sons Aaron Gonzalez on bass and Stefan Gonzalez on drums. Rodrigo Amado joins them on tenor saxophone. This group makes very exciting and consistently interesting modern jazz, rooted in the freedoms that Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy carved out for jazz musicians last century. “Crow Soul” opens the concert with Amado’s strong and stark tenor saxophone improvising over rolling and shifting drum work. Ornette Coleman’s “Happy House” is a free bopping performance the echoes the music of the first great Ornette Coleman quintet of the late 50’s and early 60’s. Horns play the choppy melody over a bed of hollow sounding bass and ever shifting drums. “Joining Pleasure With Useful” features slow building bass and trumpet playing patient and thoughtful. Amado joins the fray, playing in a restrained manner like a coiled snake waiting to strike. “Document for William Parker” has a fast collective start, with Amado’s tenor breaking out in an uptempo fashioned with trumpet riffing along. He builds to a great solo over hyper-nimble drumming and deep bass. There is a drum interlude with a purposeful and dynamic solo before the full band returns to conclude the song. The leader gets some much deserved solo space on “Dialeto da Desordem” and responds with a spitfire solo. The music on this album is boundless and open ended, aided immensely by the elastic bass and drum playing that stretches time and allows the musicians great freedom within the context of the song. It is a very exciting and worthwhile recording.

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Book review

Sleepless Sleepless by Charlie Huston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
An epidemic of sleeplessness is sweeping the world. Governments are crumbling, chaos is rising and social order is breaking down. The only thing that can help the afflicted is a drug code named Dr33m3r, or dreamer. Los Angeles police officer Parker Haas has a wife among the afflicted and an infant daughter who may or may not be. He has also been offered a chance to really make a difference. Haas must go undercover, posing as a drug dealer to seek out the illegal trade of the special drug. What he find straddles the real world with the imaginary world of Chasm Tide, an online role playing game that has become popular among the afflicted. He also gains the unwanted attention of an obsessive mercenary who will stop at nothing to complete his compulsions. Charlie Huston is one of my favorite storytellers, and this is another feather in his cap. Splitting the narrative between two characters was a masterstroke and the story involving drug smuggling, computer game barter economies spilling over into the real world was engrossing. Set in a Snow Crash like fragmenting society, Haas is the last honest man, looking to save his family and a sense of justice in a world gone mad. Don't miss it!

View all my reviews >>

Sleepless: A Novel -

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Nate Chinen

There were a couple of interesting articles in today's New York Times by one of their regular jazz correspondents, Nate Chinen. First, he uses a look an upcoming winter jazz festival to gauge the wider health of the music:

"What then does the festival’s roster say about jazz at the start of this new decade? Mostly that the aesthetic center of the music has broadened and loosened, yielding to many different strategies of rhythm, harmony and texture. A dozen years ago it might have made sense to call this a cross-genre approach, but that very notion now feels quaint."

He also has a review of saxophonist Chris Potter's Underground band, caught live during a week long run at the Village Vanguard.

"The group features Adam Rogers on electric guitar, Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes piano and Nate Smith on drums. Their style is rugged but adaptable, with equal emphasis on power and precision. The music in Tuesday’s first set ranged from a rustling stir to an engine-revving din, with each band member clearly attuned to the output of the whole."

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Rodrigo Amado - The Abstract Truth (European Echoes, 2009)

Rodrigo Amado draws on the saxophone trio tradition running from Sonny Rollins and Lee Konitz through to modern masters like Ken Vandermark. In fact, he is joined here by a couple of Vandermark's regular cohorts, Kent Kessler on bass and Paul Nilssen-Love on drums. They make a really tight trio that plays thrilling music on this disc. Amado plays with a deep, brawny tone on baritone saxophone and fleet and nimble sensibility on tenor saxophone. The bass and drums team is particularly impressive on "Clouds and Shadows" where they are building layers of music and rhythm for Amado to improvise over. Most of the tracks build to a strong and fast go-for-broke sensibility, that I found thrilling to listen to. "Universe Unmasked" has rugged and powerful baritone propelled by muscular bass and drums, making it a highlight of the disc. A couple of tracks explore more abstract territory, with smears of saxophone over rumbling percussion. "The Kiss" opens with abstract bowed bass and probing tenor that builds in intensity to expansive trio improvisation before dropping back down to an open and spacey section. I am really enthusiastic about this disc, I found it exciting and consistently engaging and look forward to checking out more of Amado's work in the future. The Abstract Truth -

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord - Accomplish Jazz (Hot Cup, 2009)

A transplanted Chicogan now based in New York City guitarist and composer Jon Lundbom is joined on this album by Jon Irabagon on alto saxophone, Byran Murray on tenor saxophone, Moppa Elliott on bass and Danny Fischer on drums. They play big brawny modern jazz, and much like the music of Charles Mingus, the music sounds bigger than the quintet format would indicate. "Truncheon" opens the disc with a very fast paced and exciting melody moving into a dark toned saxophone solo. "Phonetics" moves at a slower pace with an almost bluesy feel with high pitched saxophone backed by rumbling bass and a spare, dusky guitar solo. "The Christian Life" has a mid-tempo country or gospel feel to it. Loping bass and slightly overblown saxophone builds to a supple and dexterous solo. "Tick-Dog" has probing solo guitar, with fractal bass and drums joining in an fragmented saxophones join in making for interesting collective improvisation, before Murray's tenor breaks free for a nicely paced solo. "Baluba, Baluba" wraps things up with funky drumming and stinging guitar over riffing horns. This was creative and arousing music that was played in an exciting manner. Hot Cup is turning into one of the most consistently interesting labels in today's jazz with albums from Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Charles Evans and now this exciting disc.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - Live in '58 (TDK, 2006)

Art Blakey led many great bands as boss of the Jazz Messengers for more than thirty years, but perhaps none so potent as the this group. Together for only a short period of time, yet miraculously captured in high quality black and white during this concert in Belgium in 1958. Along with Blakey on drums are Benny Golson on tenor saxophone, Lee Morgan on trumpet, Bobby Timmons on piano and Jamie Merrit on bass. Melding groove and bebop into the very epitome of hard bop, the group plays vigorous versions of songs that would become classics of the era. Morgan plays with incredible strength and restraint on Golson's "I Remember Clifford" written to commemorate the great trumpet player Clifford Brown who was tragically lost in a car accident not long before this recording. It is fascinating to see everyone in the band pick up some some hand percussion to become a percussion ensemble during portions of "A Night In Tunisia," led by Blakey's protean drumming. Bobby Timmon's classic "Moanin'" is taken at length with the composer as well as Golson and Morgan (barely 20 years old and playing like an absolute monster) spooling out lengthy solos. The music here is excellent and is capped off by Blakey's witty song introductions. This is a must see for all fans of traditional hard-bop oriented jazz. Live in '58 -

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Recent Reads

Steve Berry - The Paris Vendetta Berry's latest pot-boiler finds former special agent Cotton Malone having his bookshop destroyed (again) as gunmen attack. He is then drawn into a mystery that involves economic manipulation by a greedy cabal of rich investors looking to get richer. His friend Henrik is pulled into a life or death struggle with the nemesis whom he believes responsible for the death of his son. So, there is a lot going one here. Luckily Berry writes well enough to keep the standard thriller plot moving along and there is enough gunplay and explosions to keep things interesting. Where he really excels is in his historical research, which he folds in nicely to gave the treasure hunt subplot added excitement. This is a solid thriller for the beach or vacation, but nothing more. Fans of conspiracy thrillers of a historical bent like the Da Vinci Code will feel right at home.

Kinky Friedman - Greenwich Killing Time Take a Texas born and bred country music singer and transplant him to Greenwich Village and what do you get? Why, an amateur detective, of course! Friedman puts himself and fictionalized versions of his friends (and cat) into this enjoyable romp. When Friedman's reporter friend McGovern discovers that his neighbor has been murdered, the police charge him for the crime. McGovern takes to his heels and it is up to Kinky to find the killer as the noose tightens and the bodies start to pile up. This...more Take a Texas born and bred country music singer and transplant him to Greenwich Village and what do you get? Why, an amateur detective, of course! Friedman puts himself and fictionalized versions of his friends (and cat) into this enjoyable romp. When Friedman's reporter friend McGovern discovers that his neighbor has been murdered, the police charge him for the crime. McGovern takes to his heels and it is up to Kinky to find the killer as the noose tightens and the bodies start to pile up. This book is also very funny, Friedman keeps the quips coming and nothing is sacred as he travels Greenwich Village in search of the killer.

Jim Thompson - The Killer Inside Me Do you know what it is like to hide part of your soul from the world? To walk through life pretending to be a human being while all the time feeling like an outsider, unsure how to talk and act around people? I feel this way all the time so I really connected with the main character of this book. Lou Ford is a small town policeman who hides his schizophrenia behind the self made mask of country bumpkin homilies that lull the people in the town into thinking he is just a harmless bore. But deep within Ford lies what he calls "the sickness" a hated and fear of women that stems from an incident of sexual abuse as a child. "The sickness" makes Ford a killer, murdering a prostitute and the son of a prominent town leader and then his fiance. What is so haunting about this novel is the way Thompson writes it, in the cold and calculating first person, presenting a man who has everybody fooled at first before things go horribly wrong. I will never harm anyone, and the idea of violence in real life is abhorrent to me. But I understand all to well how it is to be the outsider, the one who has to put on a mask to function in society as a whole, and that was why this novel resonated with me so deeply.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Walter Smith III - Live in Paris (Space Time Records, 2009)

Saxophonist and composer Walter Smith III is a busy man, playing with the likes of Terence Blanchard, Eric Harland, Ambrose Akinmusire's bands as well his own quintet. On this album, the quintet consists of: Smith on tenor saxophone, Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet, Aaron Goldberg on piano, Matt Brewer on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. Opening up with "Blues" Smith improvises solo before the band kicks in featuring some nice, strong trumpet. After a rippling piano feature, Smith returns for a strong and dexterous uptempo solo. After a dexterous bass feature for Brewer the piano and drums return then framing an impressively restrained solo from Akinmusire. Smith then takes the reins and spools out an impressive lengthy solo of his own on "Aroca" and "Himorme." The group's version of Benny Golson's classic composition "Stablemates" recalls the turne's origins in The Jazztet, with Smith's strong saxophone building to a flurry of notes constructed on a bed of fine drumming. Goldberg gets the lions share of the solo space on "Shed" and uses it well, getting clearly articulated crystalline showers of notes from his instrument. This is a nice set of modern hard bop from a band of hungry young musicians looking to make their mark. Strong solos and supportive band play make this a successful album. Live In Paris -

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Gianluca Petrella - Coming Tomorrow, Part 1 (Spacebone, 2009)

Trombonist Gianluca Petrella comes out of the fertile Italian jazz scene and on this album he lets his hair down with what he calls his “Cosmic Band” on his own label (which has a cosmic reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey.) This album is ostensibly a tribute to cosmic bandleader and composer Sun Ra, and it works pretty well, reminiscent at times of Ra's grooving late 70's work. Nothing is revelatory on this album, but it is fun. He comes close to making this highly individual music his own, which is no mean feat. “Space is the Place” and “We Travel the Spaceways” get nice treatments from the band abetted by stinging electric guitar and saxophone. Fine saxophone soloing also abounds on “Three Undisciplined Satellites.” Petrella is a very generous bandleader, letting band members hold the spotlight, while he shines in a supporting role. It’s good to hear some of these Sun Ra compositions played by a young band, hopefully that will raise their profile and allow them to take their rightful place in the jazz canon. Coming Tomorrow - Part One -

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Donald Harrison - The Ballads (Nagel Hayer, 2009)

Saxophonist Donald Harrison has released two albums simultaneously, one of uptempo performances called The Burners and this mix of medium and slow tempo pieces called The Ballads. Harrison is accompanied by Christian Scott on trumpet, Eric Reed and Mulgrew Miller on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Billy Cobham on drums. “My Funny Valentine” is well done and patient, it is a saxophone and bass duet, reminiscent of the albums Houston Person and Ron Carter cut for Muse in the 1980’s. “Candlelight” is a probing trio performance, with subtle bass and drums. It seems like the starker the accompaniment, the better the performance, with Harrison reveling in the extra space available to improvise. “Summertime” expands to quintet with the addition of trumpet. “Cool Breeze” is a medium tempo quintet piece with Harrison getting the majority of the action and soloing well. “They Can't Take That Away From Me” is a spritely swinger that benefits from bright sounding piano accompaniment. This music has a mild and contemporary sound and could have stood a little more grit. The music stays fairly safe and rather timid, rather enjoyable but never more than that, and a touch bland at times. The Ballads -

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