Thursday, March 31, 2011

Aram Shelton's Arrive - There Was... (Clean Feed, 2011)

Saxophonist Aram Shelton has become a fixture on the modern jazz scene in Chicago, Oakland and many other places around the globe. As a leader or participant in several different groups he has had the chance to explore many of the facets of improvised music. On this album with his group Arrive, with Jason Adasiewicz on vibraphone, Jason Roebke on bass and Tim Daisy on drums, they explore the open ended intersection between free jazz and composed music that was the hallmark of great musicians of the 1960’s like Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson and Eric Dolphy. “Cradle” brings that Blue Note axis to the forefront with the band rotating on a broad musial axis in their choppy melody and fluid improvisation. “Lost” is a special performance, a ballad that is yearning for release through a spacious interlude of mysterious sounding vibes. The pace gradually picks up to a strong climactic finish led by strong saxophone. The spare and open feel also pervades “Fifteen” which has stuttering saxophone and drums setting the stage for a spare, open and spacious performance. “Frosted” slows things even further to a hushed conversation between vibes and brushes before Shelton’s tight saxophone enters, giving the music a light and open feel. The album is concluded with “Golden” where bass and vibes set a subtle groove before the leader picks up the pace with strong saxophone driving the performance to a powerful conclusion. There Was -

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

John Coltrane and Archie Shepp – New Thing at Newport (Impulse, 1965)

Jazz was evolving at a fast pace when these two short sets were recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival during the summer of 1965. Saxophonist and composer John Coltrane’s “classic quartet” was on its last legs, soon to fracture over Coltrane’s embrace of free jazz, the so called “New Thing.” But for the time being, Coltrane was still accompanied by McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. It’s hard to believe that the band would soon split as they play two extraordinary improvisations, first the scalding tenor saxophone led “One Down, One Up” and then the perennial favorite, “My Favorite Things” featuring Coltrane’s beautifully swirling soprano saxophone. Both improvisations are explosive in their intensity, particularly the former with the music nearly boiling over at times. Despite the audacity of the music there are enough hints of melody and the musicians are so obviously sincere in their desire to explore that they are given great support by the audience. Saxophonist and composer Archie Shepp was one of the primary acolytes of Coltrane, although his tenor featured a rougher and grittier sound reminiscent of earlier swing tenors (and setting a precedent for David Murray to come.) He is accompanied by a highly percussive unit featuring Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Barre Phillips on bass and Joe Chambers on drums. They lay down an ever shifting rhythm for Shepp to improvise over on “Gingerbread, Gingerbread Boy” and “Call Me By My Rightful Name.” Shepp’s rough hewn saxophone matches them well, as does his strong speaking voice on the anti-heroin jazz/poetry piece “Scag.” While the music on this disc must have come as something of a shock to those who were unprepared for it, listening in historical context reveals it to be an excellent example of the rapidly evolving state of jazz in the mid 1960’s by two of its most well known practitioners. New Thing at Newport -

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Books: Butcher's Moon by Richard Stark

Butcher's Moon: A Parker NovelButcher's Moon: A Parker Novel by Richard Stark

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is this the greatest Parker novel ever? Now that I've picked my jaw up off of the floor, I'm certainly leaning in that direction. Richard Stark (aka mystery writer Donald Westlake) sends his greatest creation, the master thief and and ultimate anti-hero Parker, back to an amusement park where he stashed $73,000 during a previous adventure (the novel Slayground.) When Parker and his partner in crime Grofield arrive to find the money missing, Parker will stop at nothing to get the it back, no matter how many people are killed, no matter how much mayhem is unleashed. Parker quickly ascertains that the money had been found by crooked town officials and that a couple of factions are fighting for control of the town and off of the graft that comes with it. After Grofield is shot and kidnapped, Parker calls in all the markers he has, bringing a veritable army of crooked gangsters to get Grofield, they money and revenge. This is Parker at his most cold blooded and brutal to the point where his icy veneer slips and he spits a fire-breathing tirade wishing to burn the town down to its foundation. And they damn near do it: Parker plans a series of robberies where his men knock over all of the underground vice operations in the city, before laying siege to the home of the town kingpins where Grofield is being held. The final gun battle must be read to be believed. This was an absolutely extraordinary crime novel, the peak of the Stark/Westlake canon. The action is breakneck but always believable, and the twists and turns of the plot are logical and thrilling. If you are into crime fiction, this book should on no account be missed. Butcher's Moon: A Parker Novel -

View all my reviews

Send comments to Tim.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bill Dixon – Intents and Purposes (RCA 1969, International Phonographic, 2011)

Trumpeter, composer and educator Bill Dixon’s music has always been something of an enigma to me, but seeing how revered he was by his fellow musicians I tried my best to enjoy it. This album, amazingly released originally by a major label and out of print for many years has been given a beautiful re-issue and re-mastering, which brings the album considered to be Dixon’s masterpiece to life. I found this music surprisingly accessible, but no less original in its conception. Drawing equally from composition, improvisation and freedom the music adheres no code or credo save Dixon’s own. Two lengthy pieces bookend the album, “Metamorphosis 1962 – 1966” and “Voices” with a stellar group featuring Jimmy Garrison on bass, Byard Lancaster on bass clarinet, Catherine Norris on cello and Robert Frank Pozar on drums, among others. Plumbing the lower depths of music, the low sound of the bass and bass clarinet give a unique and unusual sound for Dixon to improvise over. His role is fascinating as he alternately leads with strong trumpet, and supports with slurs and accents to the benefit of the other musicians. The shorter pieces, “Nightfall Pieces 1 and 2” are short vignettes for trumpet and the flute of George Marge that develop like short stories of music against the novel like longer pieces. It is easy in retrospect to understand why this album has garnered such enthusiasm among fans and musicians. The music sounds like nothing else of the period (or today for that matter) and the palette of instruments and musicians is continually fascinating. Kudos to Jonathan Horwich for the herculean effort it took to bring this masterpiece back into print. Intents And Purposes -

Send comments to Tim.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Traffic - John Barleycorn Must Die Deluxe Edition (Universal, 2011)

When the rock ‘n’ roll band Traffic broke up for the first time in the late-1960’s in the wake of Dave Mason’s departure, keyboardist, guitarist and singer Steve Winwood began a solo project. When he needed help on the songs, he called upon his old mates, multi-instrumentalist Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi on drums and vocals for help. Soon a fully formed Traffic project had begun. With this configuration, the band was delve much deeper into jazz and folk forms that offered them more freedom than found in a traditional rock’n’ roll band. The opening track “Glad” bears this out building a jazzy riff and then morphing into the piano laden pop song “Freedom Rider.” The title track “John Barleycorn Must Die” is the centerpiece of the album and a fascinating update of an old British folktale, centered around a slow building riff and Winwood’s soulful vocals. The second disc of the deluxe edition contains some alternate takes and mixes of songs from the original album, but the real treat is several live tracks recorded at the Fillmore that allow the band to stretch out nicely in a live setting. After playing some of their earlier poppier material to hook the audience, the disc concludes with an excellent version of the “Glad/Freedom Rider” medley incorporating some nice sax riffing. This was a well done reissue, certain to appeal to fans of the band and those interested at music that exists at the intersection of rock, pop and jazz. All three instrumentalists were open minded and worked together well to craft and excellent, now expanded album. John Barleycorn Must Die (Deluxe Edition) -

Send comments to Tim.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Charles Mingus Complete 1960 Nat Hentoff Sessions (Solar Records, 2011)

When the great bassist and composer Charles Mingus recorded the albums included in this collection for the Candid label in 1960 he was arguably at the peak of his powers. Beginning with the epochal album Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus that takes up most of disc one, he instructs the band to play a mock live set, recorded in an empty studio with a pianoless quartet featuring Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone and bass clarinet, Ted Curson on bass and Dannie Richmond on drums. Dolphy's telepathic performance with Mingus on "What Love" must be heard to be believed, and the "Original Faubus Fables" is one of the most scathing social protests ever recorded in jazz. Much of disc two was originally released as the Mingus LP, and is centered around the amazing near twenty minute "MDM (Monk, Duke & Mingus)" where Mingus combines the music of the two other masters with his own conception of jazz, allowing his sidemen freedom to interpret the music as they see fit, yet remain within the structure of the suite. Disc three consists of the Newport Rebels album, a live set re-created in the studio that allows for the fascinating cross-generational meeting of Roy Eldridge on trumpet and Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone. Mingus and others designed the festival as a competitor to the more famous Newport Jazz Festival that he felt was becoming too commercial and exploitative of the musicians. Two takes of "Body and Soul" and the lengthy jam "R&R" anchor this final disc. Mingus was given complete freedom to choose his sidemen and material on the Candid recordings and they payoffs were extraordinary. The leaders bass playing and compositional structures are excellent and the impact of Eric Dolphy, in this challenging environment is simply awesome. Complete 1960 Nat Hentoff Sessions -

Send comments to Tim.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Grant Stewart - Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington And Billy Strayhorn (Sharp Nine, 2009)

Saxophonist Grant Stewart leads a subtle and swinging tribute to the music of pianists and composers Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn on this solid mainstream jazz recording. While he can only touch the tip of the iceberg of these composers voluminous output, the band hits a few high points along the way. Accompanied by Tardo Hammer on piano, Paul Gill on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums, the group works through a series of compositions from their canonical songbook, beginning with a deeply swinging version of "Raincheck" that moves at a medium-up tempo that suits the band well, with the bass and drums forming a deep pocket for the piano and saxophone to improvise over. The beautiful melody of "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart" is particularly poignant, with just the right amount of romanticism included without turning mawkish. "It Don't Mean A Thing" and "The Feeling of Jazz" return us to the bright faster paced realm where the band is able to use these indelible melodies to craft fine improvisations. There is solid meat and potatoes mainstream jazz here, the music of Ellington and Strayhorn has become the lingua franca of the modern mainstream jazz and Stewart and the band use it well to craft an eminently listenable album. Grant Stewart Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington And Billy Strayhorn -

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Books: Devil Red by Joe R. Lansdale

Devil RedDevil Red by Joe R. Lansdale

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The banter may be crude and the language a little lewd, but when it comes to telling a great story, few can top Joe R. Lansdale, especially when he is writing a book in the Hap and Leonard series. Hap Collins is a straight, white, former hippie and Leonard Pine is a gay, black, former soldier and the scrapes they get into in Landsdale's stomping grounds of East Texas make for one of the finest modern crime series going today. In this story, Hap and Leonard are helping a former cop friend of theirs who has recently started a detective agency. When a series of murders is committed that appears to be attributed to a vampire cult, Hap and Leonard investigate and stumble into much more than they bargain for. They pages really fly by in this book aided by Lansdale's trademark bawdy humor, but make no mistake, there is quite a bit of violence in the book as well, so those with a weak constitution may want to look for something a lit cozier. But if you're a fan of Elmore Leonard, Ken Bruen or Charlie Huston you'll feel right at home and enjoy this story tremendously. Very highly recommended, the whole series is great and this is one of the best of the bunch. Devil Red (Hap and Leonard) -

View all my reviews

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Terrence McManus - Transcendental Numbers (No Business, 2011)

Guitarist Terrence McManus writes in his notes to this album that he was:
“…interested in developing a personal sonic language on the guitar, in an attempt to be able to do things I have been hearing, which were not possible though standard ways of playing the guitar.”
Setting up a very nice open minded rhythm section with Mark Helias on bass and Gerry Hemingway on drums is certainly a good way to start and they support McManus regardless of how far out he tries to go. On tracks like “The Radio Astronomers” he sculpts pure noise, distortion and feedback before resolving into a more standard improvisation, like a SETI astronomer trying to hone in on an alien signal. “Written in the Cracking of the Ice” has the leader playing splintered notes and runs against an abstract and challenging backdrop of bass and drums. The whole album is a challenging listen, but it is well worth the effort. McManus, Helias and Hemingway give their all in an attempt to develop a new improvisational paradigm. Transcendental Numbers - No Business Records

Send comments to Tim.

Update: Spelling corrections

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cross-Post: Jazz and Food

One of my colleagues is an avid foodie, with an excellent blog called Oh! You Cook! She recently uncovered a cookbook called Jazz Cooks and asked me if I would like to cross-post with her about jazz and food. The recipes she picked from the cookbook belong to jazz legends Joe Henderson, Stanley Turrentine and Rashied Ali. Since I can’t seem to cook anything without the fire department becoming involved, I’ll leave the cooking to her, and concentrate on the music, namely my favorite recordings from the three selected musicians.

Joe Henderson – Tenor Saxophonist Joe Henderson recorded some excellent albums as a leader and a sideman during his early tenure with Blue Note Records during their heyday of the mid to late 1960’s. In addition to appearing as a accompanist on legendary records like Larry Young's Unity and Andrew Hill’s Point of Departure he led a series of excellent small group dates with like minded modernists such as McCoy Tyner and Kenny Dorham. Henderson made hard-hitting modern jazz that simultaneously looked backward to bop and forward to free. Switching to the Milestone label in the 1970’s, he would begin to experiment and look at the different ways jazz could evolve in the post-Coltrane era. There is a boxed set of his run for the label that can be found inexpensively, and it finds him searching for ways to update his sound without compromising his core musical values. The Kicker, Power to the People and the live Joe Henderson In Japan are the picks of this period, equal to his Blue Note records. After a journeyman period (that did include an excellent live album for the revived Blue Note) Henderson began a heroic second act as an elder statesman with a series of Grammy winning concept albums for the Verve label in the 1990’s. Tributes to Billy Strayhorn, Miles Davis and Antonio Carlos Jobim were widely praised as he performed and recorded with contemporary colleagues and rising stars. Update #2 Joe Henderson's Joe Fu Yung Recipe

Stanley Turrentine – Much like his colleague Joe Henderson, tenor saxophonist also got his start at Blue Note in the early sixties recording prodigiously for Blue Note as a leader and as a sideman and co-leader with his then wife, organist Shirley Scott. Turrentine eschewed the more progressive jazz of the era, developing a big bluesy sound that was steeped in R&B and swing, and proved very popular. He made a clutch of records for Blue Note that are available as a large Mosaic boxed set and as individual titles on CD and digital download. After leaving Blue Note in the late 1960’s Turrentine added more aspects of popular music to his portfolio, resulting in the popular Sugar album on the CTI label. He too took on a journeyman role, recording several albums of R&B laced jazz for a number of labels in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Update #1 Stanley Turrentine's Baked Chicken Recipe.

Rashied Ali – Drummer Rashied Ali came up in the competitive Philadelphia jazz scene before moving to New York to take part in the free-jazz avant garde revolution. Replacing Elvin Jones in John Coltrane’s legendary band was bound to make him a controversial figure, but Ali let his music do the talking, resulting in Interstellar Space, possibly the finest and certainly most accessible late period Coltrane LP. After the master’s death, Ali took matters into his own hands, recording for his own label and opening his own club, Ali’s Alley, that was one of the most important settings of the “loft jazz” movement of the 1970’s. Although being under the radar, Ali never stopped performing, collaborating with bassist William Parker on saxophonist Charles Gayle on the extraordinary Touchin' on Trane album from the early 90’s. Taking on the role as an elder statesman in the avant-garde scene, Ali mentored young musicians in his quintet which made several albums in the late 90’s in addition to duo recordings that Ali would make with contemporaries like Leroy Jenkins and Henry Grimes. Update #3 Rashied Ali's Chicken Anise

Send comments to Tim.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Vijay Iyer, Prasanna and Nitin Mitta - Tirtha (ACT Music, 2011)

The interaction between jazz and the music of the Indian sub-continent has been percolating for some time now, since John Coltrane's professed admiration for the music of Ravi Shankar and Miles Davis incorporation of Indian instruments into his 1970's electric fusion bands. This group brings together three of the most talented Indian-American musicians on the contemporary music scene, with Vijay Iyer on piano, Prasanna on guitar and Nitin Mitta on tablas. The music that they combine to make is deeply rhythmic and often complex while remaining enjoyable and accessible. Piano and percussion bubble and fade sometimes leading sometimes accompanying but always interacting in new and interesting ways. Prasanna's guitar slides in between the two percussive instruments, either in a subtle glide, or a Hendrix/Sharrock style crunch. This was a very interesting album that sounds like nothing else out right now. By taking an open ended approach to blending culture and improvisation, the musicians have yet another way to expand the horizons of jazz. Tirtha -

Send comments to Tim.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Oluyemi Thomas, Sirone and Michael Wimberly - Beneath Tones Floor (No Business, 2010)

Combining the beauty of art, poetry and music this beautiful package (available as compact disc or LP) makes for a fitting send off for the great bassist Sirone who passed away not long after this recording was completed. Along with Sirone’s deep and resonant bass, the musicians in this collective performance include Oluyemi Thomas on bass clarinet, flute, soprano, musette and percussion (he also composed the music) and Michael Wimberly on drums and percussion. Like the meditative poem that is included in the liner notes and the web site, the music unfolds gradually, with a sense of calm dignity that shows the musicians compassion for the performance and the Cosmos at large. There is spaciousness amongst the trio that allows their music to develop in an organic and unhurried manner. Despite the relative quiet of the music, they cover a lot of ground, especially rhythmically, performing tracks like “Silence on the Move” where the shifting musical center creates an alluring and hypnotic sense of suspended animation. “Reflections of Silence, Painting Silence, Images Of Silence” shows the band sculpting sound and the lack of sound in an manner reminiscent of Roscoe Mitchell’s classic early recordings. The trios ability to improvise together as a collective unit and to sculpt the sound world around them makes this an impressive recording that deserves careful consideration and close listening. Beneath Tones Floor - NoBusiness Records

Send comments to Tim.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Recent Jazz Books

Where the Dark and Light Folks Meet by Randall Sandke: To say this book has been controversial among the jazz scene would be quite an understatement. Commentary by Ethan Iverson and Chris Kelsey have thrust this book into the spotlight. It's a much needed conversation, too. Jazz has always been split with racial (and gender) fault lines throughout its history, and Sandke's thesis is that the music has really been integrated since the beginning, in opposition to the oft-cited view that jazz was an entirely African-American creation. This opposition to the prevailing orthodoxy is bound to raise some hackles. The evidence that he offers to back up his thesis amounts to a literature review in the early sections, looking at the jazz critics of earlier eras and the way that they covered the music and the amount of attention given to white and black performers. When he moves into the arena of modern jazz, one of the most controversial portions of the book revolves around his criticism of the Jazz at Lincoln Center program, where he raises the specter of "Crow Jim" or reverse-racism in the hiring practices for the program. Sandke also speaks candidly about recording and financial opportunities available to musicians of all races. While sometimes succumbing to a rather dry and academic tone, I think that this is an important book for jazz partisans to read and discuss. You don't have to agree with Sandke's thesis, and indeed I was uncomfortable with several aspects of it, to admire his courage in pushing this conversation to the fore and addressing issues that have been within the music since its conception. Where the Dark and the Light Folks Meet -

Why Jazz? by Kevin Whitehead: This book aims to offer a simple, accessible primer to the music of jazz, explaining the roles of the musicians and the different sub-genres of the music while putting everything in a historical and social context. It works pretty well, although hitting people over the head with some music theory right off the bat tends to throw them in at the deep end. Whitehead's knowledge of the music is both deep and broad and his use of the question and answer format for the book's format keeps the information down to bite sized digestible chunks that work well for the neophyte or the curious. He makes his case for the importance of the music in both an artistic and historic context but never hectors the prospective listener with a harangue or lecture. Longtime fans will find nothing new here, but the curious listener who has recently heard jazz through the media or in person and is looking for more information about the art form may find this book to be a good non-intimidating starting place. Why Jazz? -

Send comments to Tim.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dave Liebman - Lieb Plays the Blues a la Trane (Daybreak Records, 2011)

During an extensive tour playing the music of Kurt Weill and Alec Wilder, tenor and soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman thought the band needed a chance to take a break and play something different. Liebman, along with Marius Beets on bass and Eric Ineke on drums dove headlong into a set of blues compositions by or associated with John Coltrane. The results were excellent, recalling the dynamic nature of Liebman's recent successful tribute to Ornette Coleman. Opening with a re-imagined version of the Miles Davis classic "All Blues" from the Coltrane featured classic Kind of Blue, the band plays lengthy renditions of the music and are clearly inspired by the contents. Liebman avoided playing Coltrane for many years, worried that his all pervasive influence would affect his development as a saxophonist. But as those concerns faded, he was able to incorporate the Coltrane influence into his own unique style of playing. This is clearly shown on the scalding "Up Against the Wall," originally written by Coltrane as a civil rights statement, and the music has lost none of its power or symbolism as Liebman lead the band on tenor saxophone through a torrid and inspired improvisation. They shift gears to the equally fast paced "Mr P.C." which is an excellent showcase for Ineke's agile drumming and the relatively low key "Village Blues." Wrapping up with the swinging Duke Ellington composition "Take the Coltrane," the band goes out in grand style, demonstration not only the power and dynamism of the source material, but the deft musical agility of the band in performing it. Lieb Plays the Blues a La Trane -

Send comments to Tim.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Brian Landrus - Traverse (Blue Land Records, 2011)

I grew up listening to baritone saxophone hero Nick Brignola play all around the Capital District, so it’s nice to hear a younger musician pick up the big horn and continue the tradition of swinging mainstream jazz. On this album, Brian Landrus plays baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, along with Michael Cain on piano, Lonnie Plaxico on bass and Billy Hart on drums. Opening with the title composition “Traverse,” the music is a mellow quartet improvisation, swinging, with nicely controlled sax soloing over rhythm, making way for a piano, bass and drums trio interlude. “Gnosis” has a mellow and mild groove, with the band playing at a low, patient level, while building quiet power. Given the title, “Lydian 4” I assume that this composition was influenced by the composer and theorist George Russell. It has a faster pace, medium up tempo with probing piano accompaniment and a subtle bass solo. The next two tracks, “Soul and Body” and the standard “Body and Soul” seem to nod in Coleman Hawkins’ direction with the first being a slow low baritone solo unaccompanied, and the latter nicely transitioning into a mellow ballad, complete with late night feel with shimmering cymbals. Subtle bass solo with piano comping completes the picture.”Creeper” takes the band on a mid tempo, nice subtly swinging journey. Deep throaty baritone picks up to strong swing before launching a piano solo along with a thick spacious bass solo and subtle percussion interlude. This was a solid and swinging album, quite accessible for fans of mainstream jazz or famous baritones of the past like Brignola or Gerry Mulligan. Traverse -

Send comments to Tim.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Yo Miles! – Lightning (There Records, 2010)

Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and guitarist Henry Kaiser are keeping the spirit of Miles Davis great electrical music circa 1969-1975 very much alive by playing music that was influenced by the original source material, but brought up to date by their original compositions and improvisations. Smith and Kaiser are added and abetted by a number of different musicians on this album which begins with the lengthy opening jam “Thunder and Lightning.” Clocking in at over twenty minutes, the music develops into an improvised suite-like formation with long spacey periods punctuated by blasts of noise and feedback. “Cozy Pete,” presumably dedicated to the former Davis guitarist Pete Cosey is a strong and concise performance with punching, muscular trumpet (Davis was a great boxing fan) and agile, slippery guitar. “Tsapiky Frelimo," a riff on the Davis composition “Calypso Frelimo” from Get Up With It. Yo Miles is a great band to hear live and this track proves it, evoking some wonderfully energetic playing from all concerned, especially the percussionists and co-leaders. If you are a partisan of Miles Davis’s electrical music, especially the albums that were originally only released in Japan in the early and mid 70’s you will definitely find this one enjoyable. The energy level is sky high, and the sense of joy and freedom is palpable. Yo Miles! Lightning -

Send comments to Tim.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

John Primer - Call Me John Primer (Wolf, 2010)

Guitarist and songwriter John Primer is a solid meat and potatoes bluesman who moved north from Mississippi to Chicago and gradually moved from apprentice musician in the clubs to a leader in his own right. This album is a selection of songs from his Wolf label recordings, a nice mix of live and studio songs that reflect his strong respect and admiration for the blues tradition. It's a nicely varied mix of material from a the stripped down version of Jimmy Hendrix's "Red House" to the slow and relaxed Jimmy Reed shuffle "Goin' to New York." "Shake Your Moneymaker" shows Primer's admiration for slide guitar master Elmore James, whom he recorded a full tribute album, Blue Steel, for in the 1990's. There are also some fine collaborations with harmonica master Billy Branch, and the two make for a potent front line, with Primer's stinging guitar and strong vocals contrasted by Branch's swooping and swaying harmonica. The material presented here covers a wide range of material from a couple of Howlin' Wolf songs "Evil" and "I've Been Abused" to Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Look at Little Sister." These show Primer's eclectic taste and talent with the blues and the live tracks demonstrate his rapport with the audience. This is a well done introduction to one of the unsung heroes of contemporary Chicago blues, and a treat for anyone who likes their music raw and unadorned. Call Me John Primer -

Send comments to Tim.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Yaron Herman Trio - Follow the White Rabbit (ACT, 2011)

The amount of young jazz talent flowing for Israel to Europe and America in the past few years has been amazing, and you can add pianist and composer Yaron Herman's name to that growing list of superb cross-cultural composers and improvisers. On this album, he performs in a trio setting with Chris Tordini on bass and Tommy Crane on drums. The group works together very well as an organic unit, performing as a solid trio, nearing the EST aesthetic of enjoyable trio interaction on the uptempo numbers and mellow melodicism on ballads. Much like a couple of other famous jazz trios, The Bad Plus and the Brad Mehldau Trio, they take some time to explore modern pop material. This album features a moody and fascinating re-imagination of Nirvana's grunge anthem "Heart Shaped Box" and ends with the jazz community's favorite rock band Radiohead on a brief version of "No Surprises." As interesting as these covers are, the band shines particularly well on its original compositions, particularly "Saturn Returns" which develops into a full blooded improvisation with all three instruments taking on percussive qualities as the drive the music relentlessly forward. "Airlines" develops a complex melody with cymbal accents and quicksilver piano to good effect. They slow the pace to a heartfelt crawl with the ballads "Ein Gedi" and "Baby Mine" which feature tasteful and discreet piano and brushwork. This album was successful and enjoyable, the band draws on various resources and reshapes and molds them to their own purposes to achieve a unique and accessible sound. Follow the White Rabbit -

Send comments to Tim.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Destination Out on Ornette Coleman

Destination Out has a wonderful post collecting some long lost rarities from Ornette Coleman in mp3 format:
(excerpt from D:O) Since many readers will already be familiar with much of Ornette’s work, George Scala has shared some genuine rarities that you've probably missed. These tracks illuminate several fascinating corners of his vast discography – including pieces with electronics and symphony orchestra, a stirring graveside tribute to John Coltrane, plus rare appearances as a sideman for two very different vocalists.

Send comments to Tim.