Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Charles Mingus - Black Saint And The Sinner Lady/Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (Impulse 2-on-1) (Impulse, 2012)

The great bassist and composer Charles Mingus only recorded a few albums for the Impulse! label, but two of the finest LPs of his career are included in this re-issued 2-fer. The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady presents some of Mingus most intricate composing and arranging. Overdubbing and re-arranging parts on the fly, this brings in everything from classical music to flamenco, creating intricate, beautiful music that references Ellington, Stravinsky and everything in between. The music flows in a suite, quite unlike anything Mingus had ever done before culminating in the awesome final movement, a medley “Medley: Mode D-Trio and Group Dancers/Mode E- Single solos and Group Dance/ModeF-Group and Solo Dance” that develops over eighteen minutes of brilliant unprecedented music to a furious finale. Recorded not long after, the Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus album takes a ten piece little big band and reprises several of Mingus' most well known compositions and was recorded in January and September of 1963. Highlights are many, including the tribute “Theme for Lester Young” (aka “Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat”) and the storming uptempo swingers “II B.S.” and “Better Get Hit In Your Soul.” A beautiful ballad version of Duke Ellington’s lovely “Mood Indigo” is performed, but it really is a shame that one of Mingus’ great protest/civil rights pieces “Freedom” was cut from this re-issue due to time constraints, it was one of Mingus most potent topical statements. The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady / Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (Impulse 2-on-1) - amazon.com

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Books: John Connolly; Tom Piccirilli

Dark Hollow by John Connolly It has been nearly a year since Charlie Parker's wife and daughter were murdered, a killing he avenged at the end of the first novel in this series, Every Dead Thing. Moving to his ancestral home in Maine, Parker gets a private investigator's license almost as an afterthought, spending most of his time fixing up his grandfather's old house and trying to heal his wounds. When he offers to speak to a husband overdue on child support on behalf of the struggling wife, he unwittingly comes into the crosshairs of the Boston mafia, who has recently been stung to the tune of two million dollars. Add to this the awakening of a long dormant serial killer and the fact that the daughter of his former best friend has gone missing nearby adds to Charlie Parker's troubles. The second book in the Parker series is a big one with Connolly juggling several plot-lines at once and doing a good job of it. Parker is trying to stay off the radar of the mafia, while looking for a deadbeat Dad the mafia is also chasing - and who also may be the illegitimate son of the newly awakened serial killer! The fact that this book reads well and is not nearly as contrived as I have described it is a testament to Connolly's skill as a writer and storyteller. Charlie Parker and his friends Angel and Louis continue to evolve as multi-dimensional characters, and the small amount of supernatural su
spense woven into the story is done well and deftly adds an extra sense of atmospheric texture to a fine story.

The Last Deep Breath by Tom Piccirilli When Grey's parents were killed in an automobile accident on an icy road, he is placed in an abusive foster home where he becomes close to his new "siblings," Pax and Ellie. When the tables are finally turned and Pax nearly beats the abusive foster father to death, the three agree to stay close as they enter the adult world. Pax and Grey stay in contact: Pax is a career soldier, while Grey gets booted from the military and drifts from job to job. One night, after years of silence, Grey finds his foster sister curled in an alleyway with a knife in her ribs. Keeping her fron death's door, Grey learns that she is a junkie on the run who quickly disappears again and launches Grey's cross-country quest to try and save her. Grey's capacity for violence is foreshadowed by the women he meets in his journey west, where each one offers money and sex in return for Grey killing their husband. When he meets up with an actress on the west coast he finally has the entre he needs, discovering that Ellie had been making low-grade pornographic films to feed her habit, starring with her beau who was billed as "Harvey Wallbanger and His Twelve-Inch Wonder of the World." With leads from pornographic film agents to gentlemen's clubs turning up empty, Grey races back to New York to finally confront what has happened to his foster sister and to learn her final secrets. Tom Piccirilli is a master of the noir style of writing, keeping the prose lean and focused while at the same time communicating a great deal of information about the characters and their circumstances. Grey, like all of Picirilli's great characters is a lost and lonely soul looking for one final chance at redemption before the world swallows him whole in its great chaotic maw.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Alice Coltrane - Huntington Ashram Monastery / World Galaxy (Impulse 2-on-1) (Impulse, 2012)

There has been a new batch of 2-on-1 albums released delving deep into the back catalog of Impulse! Records and releasing some music that hasn't seen the light of day in a while or possibly never during the CD/Download era. This disc/download collects two albums by Alice Coltrane, where she deftly switches between piano, organ and harp accompanied by some excellent musicians and occasional string arrangements. Huntington Ashram Monestary was Alice Coltrane's second album for the Impulse and featured Ron Carter on bass and Rashied Ali on drums in addition to the leader's harp, piano and compositions. Many of the titles and compositions have spiritual themes reflecting the arena of Indian spirituality that she was moving to and would eventually lead her away from public performance for over 20 years in the 1980's and 90's. The title track leads off the record with some sparkling harp over full bodied bass and light percussion. The harp over percussion has the gentle feeling of water falling softly over a waterfall. "Turiya" also features harp, a rare instrument in jazz, over bass and drums with a soft, peaceful, almost new-age feel. "Paramahansa Lake" gives the harp a little darker sound and ends the first side of the record. "Via Sivanandagar" puts Ali back on sticks and as does "IHS" which is a very dark piano piece (the title stands for I Have Suffered) with bowed bass adding to the tension. Alice Coltrane plays the piano in a cascading fashion almost like the harp. "Jaga Jaga Rama" ends the album on another strong note with the full trio of piano, bass and drums. It's too bad there's no organ on this record as well, because I think it's the instrument where she has the most unique style, but nonetheless there is interesting music well worth checking out. On World Galaxy, she is supported by Frank Lowe on saxophone, Reggie Workman on bass and Ben Riley on drums. There is a large string section on some tracks and a couple of guest appearances. The has a gutsy interpretation of a song indelibly linked to her late husband, “My Favorite Things.” But this edition of the old standard takes moves in a fascinating new direction. Alice plays some beautifully pointed organ and piano, with the stings not acting as a sappy background, but as a swirling, whirling foil to her playing. The strings and harp take center stage on “Galaxy Around Olodumare” and “Galaxy Around Turiya” as the music builds to a meditative drone. “Galaxy in Satchidananda” features some of the organ work for which she is famous, unlike any of the famous jazz organists to come before her, she has a very unique sound, influenced by eastern and spiritual music. Alice’s guru makes a special spoken word appearance to promote peace and love, and then the band glides into a portion of “A Love Supreme” in which Alice’s now funky organ plays off against guest LeRoi Jenkins violin to an interesting effect. All in all, it’s a very interesting collection. Perhaps some aspects are a little dated, particularly the guru’s narration and the string orchestra draped over some parts of the music like a heavy velvet curtain, but most of it holds up quite well. Alice Coltrane’s music is overdue for critical reinterpretation since she made music that is well worth exploring. Huntington Ashram Monastery / World Galaxy (Impulse 2-on-1) - amazon.com

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Books: Tom Piccirilli

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jenks and Hale are two regular working guys that live side by side, they're not great friends, but not enemies either. But when the recession comes, they suffer the same fate. Losing their jobs, having their houses foreclosed upon and having their wives leave them foce them to leave the outer boroughs and sleep in cars, homeless shelters and parks in Manhattan. When Jenks learns that Hale has killed himself at an asylum after being found near-dead next to the body of a young girl, Jenks makes it his mission to find out what happened. Moving from the asylum to Central Park shantytowns and homeless shelters where the cries of the lost rattle his very bones, Jenks puts the pieces together one by one and comes to a conclusion. One that must be paid for in blood... This novella really strikes to the bone of what has been happening during the recession as banks and lawyers run roughshod over working class people who are just trying to get by. Piccirilli writes with tough sympathy about the two characters, coming on like a modern day Steinbeck as the characters navigate the dark side of the American dream. Short Ride to Nowhere - amazon.com

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Daunik Lazro, Jean-Francois Pauvros, Roger Turner - Curare (NoBusiness, 2011)

This collective trio, consisting of Daunik Lazro on baritone and alto saxophones, Jean-Francois Pauvros on guitar and Roger Turner on drums & percussion creates a wide variety of interesting soundscapes that test the boundaries of improvised music on this album, which brings together selections from two live concerts. "Morsure" opens the album with atmospheric low moans, scrapes and clanks. Escalating guitar and drums develop a chaotic maelstrom. There is a dynamic downturn to open percussion and an ominous feeling. Saxophone screeches are overblown with fear and angst. Brief probing honks percolate with slow and spare texture buzzing and scraping in "White Dirt." Sounds bubble up and fade out like in a dream, where saxophone groans against a rusting industrial backdrop as if fighting to stave off entropy and decay. The music builds to paranoid screams, insular and foreboding. "En Nage" develops boinging and twanging guitar and scraping percussion which become a very cool sounding reverberating against themselves, playing sound off against silence. Raw saxophone enters, punctuating with guttural shrieks, like a branding iron stamping it's mark on the music. Nasal alto saxophone swirls and cries like a lonely infant, engaging the percussion storm of crashing cymbals. Shifting to a low buzz, Lazro moves back to baritone and Pauvros tries to peel back layers of the music with ringing guitar. Background radiation builds like a coming solar storm, and saxophone shrieks around shy bass bullying, braying before finally moving the enveloping cacophony to exhausted finish. "The Eye" concludes the album with approptiately ominous guitar textures panning the scenery like the Eye of Sauron. Controlled baritone saxophone moves through the backdrop before switching to pinched sounding alto grappling for footing. Faster the music moves into a whirlwind of sound, drums thrashing and saxophone wailing. Soon, the battle is over and quiet saxophone forms poping sounds and swirls of air, scraping & rattling amongst the quiet. Curare - NoBusiness Records

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Chick Corea with Eddie Gomez and Paul Motian - Further Explorations (Concord, 2012)

Pianist Chick Corea recorded this homage to the late pianist Bill Evans with former Evans collaborators Eddie Gomez on bass and drummer Paul Motian recorded live in 2010 at the Blue Note in New York City. These recordings are particularly poignant as they are among the last recorded documents of the great drummer Motian who anchored Bill Evans’ sublime trio with Scott LaFaro before embarking on a stellar career as a bandleader. The album contains a number of Evans compositions and as well as songs that are associated with him like the original “Peri’s Scope” and the LaFaro composition “Gloria’s Step.” The group develops the material collectively, whether totally improvised like the exciting “Off the Cuff,” or an excellent extended version of Thelonious Monk’s “Little Rootie Tootie.” Corea’s love of Spanish musical development lays the foundation for “Another Tango,” while bebop is represented with a fast paced version of Tadd Dameron’s “Hot House.” Evans’ own beautiful ballad “Turn Out the Stars” is given a heartfelt reading as well. The diversity of the material and the high level of interaction amongst the musicians drives this album beyond what one might expect from a standard “tribute” album. Gomez acts as a rock-solid pivot point for Corea and Motian to dance around like a may-pole, and the drummer is particularly inspired, adding the hushed mystery of his non-linear percussion. Finally this works well for Corea too, as much of a Evans fan as he may be, his playing style is quite different than the honoree and he brings a different sensibility to the music that is laser focused on spontaneous creativity and works very well. Further Explorations - amazon.com

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Books: Love Goes to Buildings on Fire by Will Hermes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many books and articles have been written about the music scene of the 1960's and then the punk scene of the late 1970's, but in music history, the mid-1970's have been something of a lost era, snubbed by critics as a time of vapid pop and pretentious progressive rock and jazz fusion. Will Hermes looks to set the record straight by focusing on the vibrant music scene in New York City during the years 1973-1977. Taking a wide angle view from rock to jazz, salsa and disco, Hermes shows that in New York City at least, the prevailing notion of an unproductive stretch of musical history is far from the truth. He follows the development of the jazz loft scene, a DIY culture where pioneers like Sam Rivers and Rashied Ali took control of their own destinies by opening their own music spaces in lofts and began to attract the finest improvisers from around the country. In fact, Hermes ends the formal narrative recounting a David Murray/Lester Bowie gig. The beginnings of the DJ and underground rap culture are examined in detail, developing into the club scene that would become disco. Using these genres along with the growing popularity of Latin salsa, Hermes uses them as a lens to view the socio-economic culture of New York City. Rock and roll and especially the birth pangs of what would become the punk scene are examined in detail. Following the likes of Patti Smith, The Ramones, The Talking Heads and burgeoning mega-star Bruce Springsteen, he is able to look at the different dynamics of how bands and musical personalities form and either prosper or flounder. Hermes writes knowingly about the avant-classical scene as well, following the likes of Phillip Glass and Steve Reich as they develop ever more progressive and large scale works. This was a very well written and extensively researched book (with a full bibliography for those looking to read more on a particular topic.) Hermes is able to spin stories so well that even aspects of the musical culture that I wasn't interested in like disco were interesting, if not for the music, than the way they wove themselves into the musical tapestry of the city. This is a very highly recommended book that is must reading for music fans or NYC scenesters. Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever - amazon.com

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mockuno NuClear - Drop It (No Business, 2011)

Liudas Mockunas is a young Lithuanian saxophonist playing alto, tenor and soprano who deserves attention. Joined on this adventurous album by members of his group Mockuno NuClear are Dmitrij Golovanov on piano and electric keyboards, Marijus Aleksa on drums plus Vytis Nivinskas on bass and Darius Rudis playing drums on a few tracks. The group makes music that cuts an exciting progressive path through modern improvised music. The opening and closing tracks, "Prelude" and "Take It" develop slowly and gradually like intro and outro pieces. Saxophone and piano probe on the former, with the pace gradually picking up as bass and shimmering drums join, returning to melodic sax and piano duet. The latter has quiet cyclic phrased saxophone with cymbal splashes, gradually building a long sax tone that is held until the end. "The Cursed (Prelude Variation 2)" has light toned sax solo sax swirling, gaining steam and brawn, while putting out small pithy phrases like musical morse code, shaded with overblowing, and textures woven well in this performance that was recorded live. "The Dark Side / The Bright Side (The Bright Side is Dedicated to Andrew Hill)" is a lengthy suite where percussion, raw saxophone electric piano combine like an electric period earthy electric Miles Davis stew, full of dark funk, raw and nasty, with guttural saxophone on the first part, and a low forlorn textural solo. The second half has the electric piano, bass and drum trio developing into strong collective post-bop improv, before Mockunas returns, providing long tones of saxophone over a slower tempo. "How to Earn Money" roars out of the gate with fast paced full band improvisation pulsating, and after a fast paced rippling piano, bass and drums interlude, saxophone and drums grapple like wrestlers in a very exciting duet section. "Elephant Tango" advances a cool sinuous melody growing forward with piercing saxophone taking things outside the traditional tango, then returning back to melodic improvisation with saxophone and drums setting the pace. Deep honks of sax with electric piano moving funky saxophone bleating and cool drum patterns low toned rhodes underpins "Drop It" with exciting drums and saxophone development. All in all a well played thought out set, making clear by degrees the group's attention to detail. Drop It - No Business Records

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Marty Ehrlich's Rites Quartet - Frog Leg Logic (Clean Feed, 2011)

In their description of this album, Clean Feed draws the comparison between this group anchored by saxophonist Marty Ehrlich and cellist Hank Roberts to the great loft jazz music made between saxophonist Julius Hemphill and cellist Abdul Wadud during the 1970’s and 1980’s. The distinction is apt, and joining Ehrlich and Roberts on this date are James Zollar on trumpet and Michael Sarin on drums. While they aren’t quite as gritty as the likes of Hemphill’s recently re-released classic Dogon A.D., the group achieves a fine progressive jazz sound with Ehrlich and Zollar swirling and probing each other’s phrases, recalling records by Eric Dolphy and Booker Little or Chris Potter and Dave Douglas. “You Can Beat The Slanted Cards” and “Frog Leg Logic” make their case quite nicely with angular momentum moving with geometrical precision as the musicians improvise on the unusual themes. “Ballade” and “Solace” slow down the pace to an atmospheric and patient flow, Roberts and Sarin are particularly important in these performances as they are able to use subtle and gradual shifts in time and space to lay evolving textural shapes for the hornmen to react to, developing collective improvisations where everyone is interacting in real time. This is very solid and enjoyable modern jazz, steeped in the music that preceded them, but at same time making music that has a thoroughly modern sensibility. Frog Leg Logic - amazon.com

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Steve Lacy Quintet - Follies (FMP, 1978)

The blog Destination: Out has struck a nice digital distribution deal with the German FMP Label, which has been documenting the European progressive jazz scene for many years. One of their most requested releases is this rare album from soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, in the company of regular cohorts Steve Potts on alto saxophone, Irène Aebi on cello, Kent Carter on bass and Oliver Johnson on drums. The music is quite fascinating and very accessible, making it an ideal entry point for listeners who are curious about Lacy’s work. Four lengthy improvisations were recorded live in Berlin during a free music festival are presented, with “The Crust” and “The Throes” really demonstrating the bands aesthetic purpose, with a wide open musical sensibility that allows the two saxophones to swirl and intertwine and then break into solo passages at will. The combination of viola and bass is excellent as well combining with Johnson’s agile drumming to develop a transforming platform that both supports and challenges the reed players. “Esteem” slows the music to a long probing improvisation with smears and shades of color and texture developing and morphing over the course of the performance. Echoes of Lacy’s mentor and former employer Thelonious Monk can be inferred on the finale “The Follies” where the band’s impish humor comes thorough in full force, where notes come flowing through in luxuriant quantities, with a feeling of limitless possibility and joy. This was one of the most requested albums in the FMP catalog for D:O (excellent primer here) and it is easy to see why. A strong and that was familiar with each other and the material, stretching and melding the music to make it continually fresh and appealing. Follies - Destination:Out.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Bill Frisell Playlist

To exhausted to compose a "real" post today, so if you do Spotify, checkout a playlist of some of my favorite Bill Frisell songs and let me know what you think. Thanks, Tim Bill Frisell

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Marilyn Crispell - Pianosolo: A Concert in Berlin (FMP, 1983)

Conservatory trained pianist and composer Marilyn Crispell moved to jazz through the influence of John Coltrane and Cecil Taylor, and the latter’s cascading, exhilarating style imbues this rare concert recording with a sense of breathless excitement, as she uses the entire breadth and width of the instrument to her advantage in this excellent recording. The music on this album flows outward in one continuous suite with one section of music tumbling into another with grace and excitement. The music has a crystalline feel where every note is articulated like swirling snowflakes, culminating in the extraordinary “Pulsations, Spirals” with the intense meditation of freedom played off against the elegant mixing spare and pointillist ballad of “Early Light.” The music only drops its veneer of serious exploration during an enjoyable and semi-playful rendition of Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence.” I don’t want to make it sound like this is an overly sombre or academic exercise, because that is far from the case. The music is lean and very well thought out, and it is well worth investigating for fans of progressive piano playing. She continues to have an excellent career to this day with several well regarded albums as a leader or soloist, and a highly lauded stint with the Anthony Braxton quartet. Kudos to destination-out for bringing this previously rare album to wider recognition. Pianosolo: A Concert in Berlin - destination:out.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jazz and Blues: Sam Rivers, Eric Dolphy and Booker Little, Howlin' Wolf

Sam Rivers - Hues (Impulse, 1973; Stardust, 2011) Re-issued for downloading and streaming shortly before he passed on last year, this is another excellent example of Rivers spontaneous creativity in a trio setting. Recorded live in different spots around the globe with a couple of different rhythm sections, each of the compositions and improvisations on this album, all named after colors, have a short, pointed blast of energy to them. The performances are all brief and sharp with Rivers switching between saxophones, flue and piano with great agility. Hues - amazon.com

Eric Dolphy and Booker Little Quintet - At the Five Spot Complete Edition (Essential Jazz Classics) Collecting all of the music recorded on July 16, 1961 by the extraordinary quintet consisting of Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone, bass clarinet and flute, Booker Little on trumpet, Mal Waldron on piano, Richard Davis on bass and Ed Blackwell on drums; this shows all of these formidable musicians, (two of them fated to pass away much too young) at the peak of their powers. All of these recordings except for Dolphy’s extraordinary solo bass clarinet excursion on the standard “God Bless the Child” are over ten minutes in length. Primarily consisting of original music that is still startling in its beauty and potency over fifty years later, this is a well presented collection of vitally important music that contains the liner notes to the original LP’s that the music was presented upon, and interestingly a collection of critical responses that places the music in the context of the jazz continuum as well as the progressive music of the era. At the Five Spot Complete Edition - amazon.com

Howlin’ Wolf - The Real Folk Blues (Chess Records, 1966) The great bluesman Howlin’ Wolf recorded primarily single 45 rpm records for Chess Records in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, and some of his better known singles were released on this influential LP during the height of the “blues revival” in the mid 1960’s. It’s easy to see how he was such an influential figure, with his imposing figure and commanding voice. Wolf makes no bones about his stature with the swaggering songs like “Built for Comfort” and the jaunty “300 Pounds of Heavenly Joy.” He could develop serious material, with his gravelly voice growling through “The Natchez Burning” and “Poor Boy.” There are a great many compilations of Howlin’s Wolf’s material for Chess Records, but this is a fine albeit brief introduction to his music. Real Folk Blues / More Real Folk Blues - amazon.com

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rhapsody's 2011 Jazz Critics' Poll

The results from Francis Davis' year end 2011 poll that I was honored to participate in are here, with quite a bit of information, including full results, an essay from Davis, notable new musicians of 2011 and a tribute to those who passed on. Tom Hull has the complete breakdown of voting here.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Books: Every Dead Thing by John Connolly

Every Dead Thing (Charlie Parker, #1)Every Dead Thing by John Connolly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When NYPD detective Charlie Parker comes home from a night of binge drinking to find his wife and child murdered and skinned by a sadistic serial killer, his life is turned upside down. Leaving the police force and bottle behind, he takes on some under the table private eye work, but his real mission is to track down the killer. When a lead in the case takes Parker to the swamps of Louisiana, he is accompanied by his lethal friends Angel and Louis and the brilliant criminal psychologist Rachel. While in the bayous, the sadistic murders continue and Parker is also trapped in a gang war between two rival factions who may unwittingly have information about the identity of the killer. Like all books in this excellent series, there is a light touch of the supernatural in this story, with Parker sensing the spirits of his wife and daughter, and being contacted in a dream by one of the murder victims. But don't let that scare away fans of straight ahead crime fiction, as most of the book centers on a frantic chase between Parker and friends, the local police and the FBI to find the killer. This is the opening book in the continuously excellent Charlie Parker series. Elements of extremely graphic violence make this a melding of crime and horror fiction with a hard-boiled veneer of the great private eye stories. Every Dead Thing - amazon.com

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dexter Gordon - The Complete Columbia Recordings (Sony/Popmarket, 2011)

Like so many of his other colleagues, the famous saxophonist Dexter Gordon moved to Europe in the 1960’s and 1970’s for greater performing and recording opportunities and less racial strife than he found in the United States. But he longed to return to his native country, and did so in great style, signing to Columbia Records and recording a number of albums in the late 70’s and early ‘80’s. The albums included on this limited edition boxed set include: Homecoming: Live At The Village Vanguard, Sophisticated Giant, Manhattan Symphonie, Live At Carnegie Hall, Gotham City and a compilation disc of bonus material. Gordon was playing as well as he ever had with quicksilver grace on the cooker and a lush romanticism on the ballads. At his best playing live, Gordon had a killer band on the double album Homecoming featuring Woody Shaw on trumpet, Ronnie Matthews on piano, Stafford James on bass and Louis Haynes on drums. The concert from the venerable Carnegie Hall also features special guest saxophonist Johnny Griffin for a couple of exciting mock-tenor battles. Hot on the heels of the Homecoming gigs, Gordon went into the studio with pianist George Cables, bassist Rufus Reid, and drummer Eddie Gladden to record Manhattan Symphonie. The interesting material on this album includes John Coltrane’s “Moment’s Notice,” Donald Byrd’s “Tanya” and an excellent version of the standard “Body and Soul.” The bonus disc tracks together some odds and ends that were included in holiday themed albums and compilations. Each album comes in a cardboard slipcase replica of the original album cover and there are some extra liner essays and a discography. This is a nicely done collection, definitely geared toward the collector market, but if you are a fan of Gordon’s music is is certainly an investment worth considering. Complete Columbia Recordings - Popmarket.

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Monday, January 09, 2012


Marc Ribot discusses the trials and tribulations about organizing for the Winter JazzFest
In the long run, the way to substantially impact the lives of indie musicians is for the union to move beyond "protection from" and into "power and leverage against" those who profit directly or indirectly from our labor.
Jazz Times cranks out their annotated The Top 50 Releases of 2011.
We compiled our top 40 new releases and top 10 historical/reissue recordings of 2011 using year end lists by our writers. (They were asked to submit ranked lists of 10 new releases and five historical/reissues.) Only CDs and box sets released between Nov. 1, 2010 and Nov. 1, 2011 were eligible.
Their critics list is here.

Destination-Out memorializes Sam Rivers in epic and classy fashion with a fine essay and mp3's.
We were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of the great Sam Rivers. That last name is as right as rain — his talents were so varied, multifarious, they were like streams that fed into the greater ocean of jazz. Best known as a great saxophonist equally adept at the tenor and soprano, he was also a remarkable flutist and pianist, who quietly put his stamp on both instruments.
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Saturday, January 07, 2012

Tom Waits - Bad As Me (Anti/Epitaph, 2011)

Tom Waits is one of the most idiosyncratic of all rock ‘n’ roll musicians, and indeed that genre pigeonhole doesn’t do justice to the depth and and breadth of the music he has created over the years. Like he subtitles one of his previous collections, this album consists of “brawlers,” fast paced and hard hitting songs full of clanging percussion and “I just gargled with battery acid” growling vocals. The best one of these may be the astonishing “Hell Broke Luce,” a harrowing anti-war indictment set to a military cadence with lyrics about soldiers who are just trying to get by while desk bound generals plot their lives and deaths. Other fast paced songs are feature rapid fire cadence of vocals in “Chicago” and the clanking, clattering and shouting “Raised Right Men.” Making a break for a new start in life is a repeating theme in Waits’ lyrics and is hitting the road in search of a better tomorrow is the subject of “Get Lost” which also sports some killing guitar work. Strutting with Keith Richards while name checking Mick Jagger is no mean feat either on “Satisfied.” Any song with the title “Bad as Me” can be as imagined: emotional and desperate lyrics, over snarling guitar and insistent percussion. No one is similar to Waits when it comes to wringing the emotion out of a ballad, and that is particularly true of “Last Leaf” which used a final leaf on an autumn tree as an allegory for all of us who are just hanging on. “Face to the Highway” also deals with his travelling jones, but with a forlorn and haunting lyrical sadness. This is a really fine album, filled with lyrics that tackle love and pathos as well as humor and the eccentric. A born original, there is no one quite like Tom Waits, willing to make his own way, speak truth to power and follow his muse to the end. We are all the better for it. Bad As Me - amazon.com

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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Interesting articles

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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Best of Herbie Hancock (Blue Note, 1990)

Pianist and composer Herbie Hancock came to Blue Note Records under the tutelage of Donald Byrd, but was quickly snatched up by fellow trumpeter Miles Davis to anchor his second great quintet. But Hancock stayed with Blue Note from 1962-1970 as a solo artist cutting some classic albums as he moved from strictly acoustic jazz toward the jazz-funk he became popular for. This disc is a nice introduction to his Blue Note period (all of the individual albums are still in print, and there are used copies of the complete Blue Note recordings floating around.) Some of Hancock’s most well known compositions are well represented, from “Watermelon Man” the popular song that anchored his first album, Takin’ Off, and my favorite performance “Cantaloupe Island” from the Empyrean Isles LP with an extraordinary piano vamp and rock solid playing from Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Conventional wisdom states that Maiden Voyage is Hancock’s best LP (although I prefer Empyrean Isles, IMHO) but the title track is included here from that equally classic album is included here and is an excellent example of the inherent mystery that pervades that album. “Riot” was a staple of the Miles Davis band of the period and the atmospheric “Speak Like a Child” is also a well-known original composition. Herbie Hancock went on to have a very successful and wildy varied career that continues today. This is a solid sampler of his early years as a bandleader, and makes for a most pleasant and enjoyable listen. Best of Herbie hancock - amazon.com

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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Various Artists - Miles Espanol (Entertainment One Music, 2011)

Much like the Miles From India album released a few years ago, this tribute album to the great trumpeter and bandleader Miles Davis attempts to place his music in a cultural context. This time using the Davis - Gil Evans collaboration Sketches of Spain as the starting point for the music, a couple of Davis compositions and several originals are placed in the context of cross-cultural exchange. Producer Bob Belden brought together some real heavies, some Davis alumni, too. Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, Ron Carter, Sammy Figueroa, Sonny Fortune, Alex Acuña, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Rabih Abu-Khalil and many more are configured in anything from a duet to a large ensemble to bring the music two light. Sprawling across two compact discs, the music explores the Davis influence on modern jazz through an Iberian lens. Chick Corea is a natural for this project with his Spanish heritage, and his pianistic skills are featured on "Trampolin" and "Tirititran." Middle Eastern elements are woven into the music quite nicely on the opening "Concierto De Aranjuez" featuring Rabih Abou Khalil's dexterous oud playing. The original classical composition was a centerpiece of the Sketeches of Spain LP, so it's a natural starting point for this album, albeit in a radically revised form. "Saeta/Pan Piper" even has a bagpipe echoing the muezzin's call to prayer. Disc two delves into the classic Davis LP Kind of Blue for a meditation on "Flamenco Sketches" and several different drummers and percussionists keep the rhythms shifting and undulating. Overall this album worked quite well, though the two discs could have been edited to one killer album instead of spreading over such terrain. But that is a small quibble, this isn't your normal tribute album, rather something more akin to the refraction of an image through the context of modern day jazz and world music. Miles Espanol - amazon.com

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Monday, January 02, 2012

Books: Beautiful, Naked and Dead by Josh Stallings

Beautiful, Naked & DeadBeautiful, Naked & Dead by Josh Stallings

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Moses Mcguire is at the end of his rope. An ex-marine scarred by a peacekeeping tour of Lebanon and a convict scarred by a prison sentence, he wakes up each day with a gun in his hand, wondering if he can muster up the courage to end the pain once and for all. Moses works as a bouncer at a seedy Los Angeles strip club, mind-numbing work where he is only kept sane by talking to Kelly, the shy waitress who is too bashful to take off her clothes and dance for the lonely, haunted men who patronize the club. One morning Moses receives a strange phone call from Kelly cryptically mumbling about her sister and that things are not all as they seem. When Moses arrives at her apartment, he finds that she has been tortured and murdered. After a brief time as a suspect in the killing, Moses is cleared and sets out to find the elusive sister and answer the question of why this seemingly harmless girl was murdered. Moses has to navigate a witches brew of mafia, cops and feds, before he can rescue the sister and make the final showdown with the killers. This was a well done story, Moses McGuire is a very compelling character, and the action and suspense is rocket fueled throughout. There are a few implausible scenes, but hey, it's pulp fiction, right? Stallings wears his influences on his sleeve: Andrew Vachss, Charlie Huston, Joe R. Lansdale, but since these are some of my favorite storytellers it made the tale all the more enjoyable for me. Definitely recommended for fans of hard-boiled noir fiction that unflinchingly examines the seedier side of the American dream. Beautiful, Naked & Dead - amazon.com

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Sunday, January 01, 2012

David Murray Octets - The Complete Remastered Recordings on Black Saint and Soul Note (Black Saint/Soul Note, 2011)

During the lengthy career of saxophone and bass clarinet player David Murray, he has performed in a number of contexts from solo to big band. Perhaps none of his groups had the power and audacity of his octet recordings. This boxed set collects the octet recordings he made for the Italian Black Saint and Soul Note record labels. These records were made from 1980 - 1988 and include the albums Ming, Home, Murray’s Steps, Hope Scope and New Life. Apart from Murray, the albums are filled with a veritable who’s who of progressive jazz talent of the time including Henry Threadgill on alto saxophone and flute, Bobby Bradford and Butch Morris on trumpet and cornet and Steve McCall on drums. Every one of the enclosed albums has commendable music upon it, like the blasting up-tempo little big band jazz of New Life which finds the octet playing with renewed spirit after a few years of sabbatical. Hope Scope has a more elegiac and backward looking tinge to it, with moods and textures out front and Murray showing his often overlooked lyrical side, especially on ballad performances. Murray’s Steps showcases one of his most well known compositions, “Flowers for Albert” written for free -jazz icon Albert Ayler, but also demonstrating how Murray had moved beyond strict free-jazz, combining it with swing, bop, and even touches of rhythm and blues to make a unique statement. “Sweet Lovely” and “Sing Song” also offer superb flute solos from Henry Threadgill. further adding to the depth and texture of the music. Dedicated to his wife, Ming is considered to be one of Murray’s finest LPs and one of the best jazz albums of the 1980’s. This also contains some well known Murray compositions, making the case for him as a composer of note as well as a powerhouse soloist. “Fast Life” and “The Hill” would return later on in his discography as title tracks to albums, and the beauty of the deeply emotional and interwoven “Ming” and plangent soloing on “Dewey’s Circle” are equally memorable. The music on this collection is highly recommended, and represents some of David Murray’s finest recorded output to date. Collected in a box, each album has a cardboard reproduction of the original album cover reduced to CD size, which means that the liner notes are in a microscopic font. New essays, photos and liner notes would have been great, but you hardly notice they are missing once this amazing music begins playing. The Complete Remastered Recordings - amazon.com

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