Monday, March 31, 2014

Eric Dolphy - Out To Lunch (Blue Note, 1964, 2014)

To celebrate its 75 anniversary, Blue Note Records will be releasing their “Top 100” albums on remastered vinyl records. Their selections are not without controversy but the opening selections for March seem hard to criticize. (Label chief Don Was interviewed by pretentious audiophile Michael Fremer part one, part two) I was curious about the records, but despite what Was says they are still quite an outlay, vacillating between 18 - 25 dollars on Amazon. I couldn’t pass up one of my all time favorite albums however, Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch. Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s legendary studio on February 25, 1964 with Dolphy on alto saxophone, bass clarinet and flute, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Bobby Hutcherson on vibraphone, Richard Davis on bass and Tony Williams (barely 18 years old) on drums. The music is extraordinary moving from the angular Thelonious Monk tribute “ Hat and Beard” to the flute driven “Gazzelloni” and the unique “Straight Up and Down” the music is wonderfully modern and must have been startling at the time. It remains fresh to this day and deserves all of the accolades it has garnered. Out To Lunch -

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dexter Gordon - Bouncin' With Dex (Steeplechase Records, 1976)

Between his move to Europe in the mid 1960’s during his stellar run with Blue Note Records and his triumphant return to America in the late 1970’s, legendary tenor saxophonist made scores of records for a number of labels. This is a studio album recorded in 1975 with Gordon in the company of Tete Montoliu on piano, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. “Billie’s Bounce” has a swinging uptempo performance with Dexter soloing at length and nice spots for piano and bass. Two versions of the ballad “Easy Living” feature Dexter patiently caressing the melody in a tender fashion with subtle accompaniment. “Benji’s Bounce” has a hard and strong swing that digs deep in the bass and drums department. There is a fleet section for piano, bass and drums and then Gordon and Higgins trade phrases to finish the tune. The vaguely exotic “Catalonian Nights” has an interesting rhythmic feel and Dexter just plows right through it, demonstrating how adept he is at adapting his playing to the circumstances, weaving through the backdrop like a boss. There is also some nice soloing for bass and drums. They all have a blast on the Miles Davis composition “Four” swaggering through the bebop classic as Dexter takes an excellent driving solo before once again trading solos with Higgins to close. Dexter Gordon recorded a large amount of music for the Steeplechase Records label during the 1960’s and 70’s. This might stand as one of the best, as he and the band are fully engaged in the music that they are creating and do it with confidence and bravado. Bouncin' With Dex -

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

James "Blood" Ulmer - Revealing (In+Out, 1977, released 1990)

Guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer made his name playing with Ornette Coleman and remians indebted to the saxophonist's theory of harmolodics where harmony and melody are equal and each musician has the utmost freedom available. This was Ulmer's first session as a leader although it apparently was not released until 1990. Joining him on this recording is George Adams on tenor saxophone, Cecil McBee on bass and Doug Hammond on drums. There are four lengthy songs, two per side on the original LP and Ulmer is beginning to develop his trademark spiky and sharp tone that he would use to great effect on following LP's like Tales of Captain Black, Black Rock and many others. Adams' rough and burly tone works very well within the context of the music. He is grounded in the blues but is wide open to Ulmer's developing musical conception. "Raw Groove" in particular shows the dynamism of the whole group working together, where McBee and Hammond lock in together to form a fine rhythm team leaving the other two to develop improvisations. In conjunction with the harmolodic philosophy Ulmer doesn't quite provide accompaniment when another musician solos, but weaves in his own phrases in accordance with what the other musicians are playing. This was a very interesting album, Ulmer was building his sound and developing rapidly and he would even have a major label contract for a brief minute in the early 1980's. He would soon considerable reputation as a guitarist who can play in any context or situation you can imagine. Revealing -

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Kris Davis - Massive Threads (Thirsty Ear, 2014)

Pianist and composer Kris Davis has made a big impact on the jazz scene in a very short time. Completely at home playing either traditional or progressive jazz, she is at her best when combining the two. She is able to use her own personal conception of music that comes to the fore most clearly on “Ten Exorcists” where she keeps repeating a hypnotic percussive pattern like musical Morse code. There are several rhythms going on at once, so it is hard to discern whether she is using overdubs or is just a master at juggling different lines of musical thought. She uses fast stabbing notes that resolve into a fractured fantasia of piano, played both inside and outside the instrument. On the title track “Massive Threads” there is a light rainfall of piano notes to begin this piece sounding excellent and becoming fast enough to leave the listener disoriented (in a good way) before giving way to storming thunderclouds of bass chords. Davis works with dynamism quite well, from loud ringing slabs of bass end of the piano to soft and enigmatic. Short fragments and improvisations including a spare version of Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence” are woven between the longer sections building the music into a coherent whole. Massive Threads -

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Interesting Links

Sound American, edited by Nate Wooley, has an issue devoted to jazz asking musicians what is and is not jazz and providing space for musician-on-musician interviews.

The new Point of Departure is available with a wide range of features, interviews and reviews.

Ethan Iverson explores the relationship between Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis.

Sony Legacy is previewing the upcoming release Bootleg Series Vol. 3 over the next several days.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Jon Lundbom and Big Five Chord - Liverevil (Jon Lundbom/Hot Cup, 2013)

Guitarist Jon Lundbom leads a wonderful band on this in concert LP featuring Jon Irabagon on alto and soprano saxophone, Bryan Murray on tenor and baritone saxophone, Moppa Elliott on bass, Dan Monaghan on drums and Matt Kanelos on keyboards. Opening the album, “The Difference” is an uptempo performance that has a nice swinging feel. Lundbom’s guitar and the drums develop an intense and strong groove, before Irabagon’s saxophone enters in a quasi-free interlude. “Tick-Dog” perhaps a spiritual successor to Sonny Sharrock’s “Dick-Dog” features guitar and saxophone probing, before bass and drums muscle into the scene followed by wild saxophone and drums which take off for the stratosphere. Kanelos’ electric piano opens “Our Sun” playing off Monaghan’s drums to create a hypnotic groove-intense musical field. Long tones of saxophone lead the band into an exciting full throttle improvisation. “Now’s the Time/Maypole Dance” opens teasing the bebop standard with streams of stuttering saxophone. Moving into the second section, Irabagon digs even deeper, howling over great guitar, bass and drums accompaniment. Nice fluid guitar, bass and drums rocking out hard “First Harvest/Evening Shadows” along with sweet blasts of intense horn. “Bring Forth the Battalions” has Lundbom front and center playing spiky guitar only to be met by hammering saxophone with a ball-peen ferocity. They really do not let up for the full length of this double album and at the end patience is rewarded with the deliriously fun “Have You Ever Seen a Woman as Big as Martha?” with Irabagon developing a circular saxophone sound that builds in force until it overwhelms. This album was uniformly excellent and is a wonderful example of the type of forward thinking jazz that leaves the jazz-is-dead naysayers in the dust. Liverevil -

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

David Murray - NYC 1986 (DIW, 1986)

During the 1980’s tenor saxophonist and bass clarinet player David Murray made dozens of recordings for a variety of labels, but few match the strength and wealth of ideas displayed on this one. This is a thrilling and consistently well played album where Murray sticks to tenor saxophone in the company of James “Blood” Ulmer on guitar, Fred Hopkins on bass and Sunny Murray on drums. “Red Car” opens the album in a confident manner featuring Murray’s swaggering saxophone with hints of rhythm and blues leading a brawny and self assured manner. “Long Goodbye” by Butch Morris is a slow and haunting musical painting of loss with Murray accenting the sadness with wails of high pitched saxophone. “Kareem” is a tough grinding performance like a portrait of life on the city streets. Murray spools out a long muscular saxophone solo, moving way out over Ulmer’s prickly guitar. Presumably dedicated to the legendary saxophonist Ben Webster, “According to Webster” is very exciting performance where Murray swings hard as he builds the energy higher and higher, absolutely killing it, erupting wave after wave of thrilling sound over a powerful backdrop. “Patricia” opens with droning bass and Murray developing a spiritually tinged tone. Building a shrill tone reminiscent of Spiritual Unity period Albert Ayler, abetted by sharp and jagged guitar playing. Finally, the lengthy “Light Years” caps off the album with the band blasting out of the gate and allowing for a guitar spotlight and a section for bowed bass. But the real star is Murray who dishes out a mighty force of nature solo that is just outrageous in its excitement. Recently there have been a couple of great boxed sets of David Murray’s Black Saint/Soul Note recordings. Hopefully his DIW recordings can get the same treatment, and gems like this can get the attention they deserve. N.Y.C. 1986 -

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mixcloud # 1

1. Machine Mass w/ Dave Liebman - Centipede 
2. Brian Charette - If 
3. James Brandon Lewis - No Wooden Nickles 
4. Jared Gold - Cubano Chant 
5. Harold Mabern - My Favorite Things 
6. Franklin Kiermyer - Astrophysical 
7. Prince Lasha w/ Sonny Simmons - Ghost of the Past 
8. Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord - The Difference 
9. David Murray - Red Car 
10. Matt Wilson Quart w/ John Medeski - Some Assembly Required 
11. Ben Allison - D.A.V.E. 

Let me know if this works... Tim.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Sun Ra - The Soul Vibrations Of Man (Saturn, 2012)

This is one of the more of the more more rare Sun Ra LP's, apparently recorded at The Jazz Showcase in Chicago during the late fall of 1977. On side one the music begins with flutes swirling along with barely perceptible percussion amid a decidedly murky recording quality. Suddenly, the drums pick up the pace and volume before cutting out and introducing Sun Ra's spoken word litany, "The Universe Speaks." Ra develops a call and response chant with hand claps that build into a combination revival meeting and space chant. Sun Ra counts off all of the plantes in the solar system and invokes heaven before he takes to the organ to end Part One. Part two ushers in the larger Arkestra with Ra's droning organ playing off against punchy trumpet. This continues until the saxophones enter and two of the band's heaviest hitters, altoist Marshall Allen and tenorist John Gilmore alternate between peals of some of the most ear-splittingly raw free playing with Ra's begin by comparison organ. This is an odd recording but it can be engaging at times, be it Sun Ra's slightly pretentious monologue to the scalding instrumental sections, all tied together by Ra's bizarre liner notes which speak of astrology and the search for the missing 13th zodiac sign. The Soul Vibrations Of Man -

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Friday, March 07, 2014

Ferrian/Pissavini/Quattrini Trio featuring Sabir Mateen - The UneXPected (NotTwo, 2013)

This collective band consists of Sabir Mateen on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Stefano Ferrian on alto and tenor saxophones, Luca Pissavini on bass and Andrea Quattrini on drums. This is a disc length album of spontaneous music which was recorded live at the Novara Jazz Festival in 2010. The music ranges from the farthest out free jazz to subtle moments of swing. There are some excellent exchanges of saxophone and clarinet on The Unexpected” while the scalding improvisation of “No Questions For Tomorrow” leads into the surprisingly lyrical “Smoking the Past.” All of these separate threads are woven together on “The Dewey Song” an epic improvisation packed with strong soloing and complex interplay that leaves the listener exhausted but wanting more. I was originally drawn to this disc by Sabir Mateen, who is one of my favorite musicians. He plays as brilliantly as expected, but so does the rest of the group who play all out and do whatever it takes in service of the music. The Unexpected -

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Interesting articles

There has ben some great writing and interviews across the Internet lately, here is a short recap.

Peter Hum has a well written review of drummer Billy Hart's new album, and follows it up with a great post which highlights choice albums from Hart's career as a bandleader.

After a short hiatus, journalist and musician Hank Shteamer returns with another installment of his Heavy Metal Bebop series featuring an interview with Andrew Hock.

Underrated drummer and bandleader Franklin Kiermyer is interviewed in conjunction with his new album Further.

Matthew Shipp is profiled in The Guardian as the "The jazz pianist still messing with our minds."

Allabout jazz interviews the new head of Blue Note Records, Don Was.

Pat Metheny is interviewed regarding his new album Kin.

Anil Prasad presents a lengthy interview with legendary pop producer Joe Boyd.

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Harold Mabern - Right On Time (Smoke Sessions, 2014)

Coming on the heels of his excellent 2013 release Live at Smalls (one of my top ten albums from last year) pianist Harold Mabern seems ready to keep a good thing going by once again reuniting with John Webber on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums in a live setting. Mabern is a veteran musician and plays with absolute authority and the trio is well accustomed to each other. The program is a varied one, ranging from a deep and powerful version of "My Favorite Things" with Mabern's strong playing recalling McCoy Tyner's work on John Coltrane's famous version of the song. Be the trio is beholden to no one and makes a fine statement of their own on this performance. From this to the Laverne and Shirley theme song (!) "Making our Dreams Come True" is a wide leap, but you get the feeling that they could make do with almost any raw material. But it is the jazz standards that show them at their finest, like on a melodic version of "Seven Steps To Heaven" with Mabern pounding out a percussive version of the well known melody, before drifting into a fine improvised section. They wrap thing up with a blistering version of "Cherokee" and they run through the classic bebop standard with speed and mastery. This is a very fine album, and is highly recommended to fans of mainstream jazz. Right on Time -

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Monday, March 03, 2014

James Brandon Lewis - Divine Travels (Okeh, 2014)

Buffalo, NY native saxophonist James Brandon Lewis has a conception of music that is as modern as tomorrow, while his gospel roots have a connection to the spiritual jazz of Pharoah Sanders and John Coltrane. He says that being paired with veteran downtown improvisers William Parker on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums was “a humbling experience” but he holds his own in admirable fashion. “Divine” opens the album with a personal saxophone sound that has a touch of the coarseness of Albert Ayler, a lonely haunted sound, but one that is also at home playing in a melodic fashion, fitting in well with the thick bass and light percussion. “Desensitized” features ripe trio playing developing a complex rhythmic foundation. Lewis builds a fine swirling pattern of improvisation and there is ample support from the unbeatable team of Parker and Cleaver. There are a couple of episodes of music with spoken word accompaniment where the trio performs with the poet Thomas Sayers Ellis on tracks “The Preacher’s Baptist Beat” and “Organized Minorities.” But the focus of the disc is on the trio and their interaction throughout the album. An excellent example of this is “Wading Child in the Motherless Water” where the raw and sharply pointed saxophone Lewis conjures is spun out at length, building with both power and grace. He manipulates repetitive blocks of sound until he has constructed his own launching pad that can blast him into mighty flights of improvisation. Following hot on its heels is “A Gathering of Souls” which begins with the band playing in a pliant and flexible manner. Patience is once again the key to Lewis’ success as constructs a lengthy solo with a firm raw nature and a white-hot flame over blazing bass and drums. This was a very well played album by a talented newcomer on the jazz scene. It is a pleasant surprise that a major label will support a truly progressive musician and allow him to record challenging music with a team as talented as Parker and Cleaver. Let’s hope this is a trend that continues. Divine Travels -

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Sunday, March 02, 2014

Machine Mass feat Dave Liebman - INTI (Moonjune, 2014)

Machine Mass is a very interesting experimental fusion band formed around core members Michel Deville on guitar and electronics and Tony Bianco on drums and loops. Joining them on this particular album is the well known jazz musician Dave Liebman, here playing tenor and soprano saxophones as well as wood flute. This album was recorded in Pennsylvania in 2012 live in the studio with no overdubs which is impressive considering the complex electronic and acoustic elements at play. The most obvious reference point for this music may be the electric jazz fusion of Miles Davis, especially when Liebman held down the saxophone chair in the Davis groups of the early 1970’s. This new version of the Davis/Joe Zawinul standard “In A Silent Way” touches on this, but in a very oblique way. With Liebman on flute along with electronics and subtle percussion, the group is able to touch on the enigmatic nature of the original recording. But they are also capable of rocking out with impunity, especially Delville, who can hold his own with anyone on the progressive scene with towering riffs and majestic soloing best exemplified on the opening tracks “Inti” and “Centipede” and the slow building “Elisabeth.” Bianco, who has helped craft two extraordinary John Coltrane tribute albums with Paul Dunmall acquits himself quite well here, driving the music along and using the looping technology to develop wider percussion textures. This album worked very well, coming off as both exciting and enjoyable, using spontaneous improvisation to create excellent music, most of which were first takes. Inti -

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