Sunday, June 29, 2014

Eric Revis - In Memory of Things Yet Unseen (Clean Feed, 2014)

Bassist Eric Revis is one of the leading lights of modern jazz, able to walk between the mainstream and the avant-garde at will. This lineup proves it, with Revis on bass, Chad Taylor on drums and vibraphone, Bill McHenry on tenor saxophone and Darius Jones on alto saxophone. The music is quite remarkable, an example of which is the extraordinary free-blues of "Son Seals" presumably dedicated to the great Chicago bluesman. McHenry and Jones make for an excellent front line: McHenry has a lighter tone, while Jones has a rough and ready and occasionally caustic manner on his instrument. The open ended nature of the music gives them a lot of opportunity to express themselves, such as on "Somethings Cooking" and "Unknown" where the saxophones swirl and intertwine like a helix, moving from solos to harmonizing at will. Revis and Taylor are as impressive as the saxophone players, with the bassist grounded able to solo and support at a whim. Taylor is the same way, adding shifting rhythms and patterns that allow the music to move in any possible dimensions. The excitement of the music builds to a high level of energy full band power and solo excitement. I think this may well be one of the finest albums of the year to date. In Memory of Things Yet Seen -

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Brandon Seabrook - Sylphid Vitalizers (New Atlantis, 2014)

Brandon Seabrook is a fascinating musician, one who holds to no genre or container, but can work in any form. But he seems most at home when blending the aspects of many different types of music: fusion in its literal sense, shorn of all the baggage that word has developed in the last forty plus years.This album sees him switching from guitar to banjo, and then taking it into the stratosphere. It's like the music from Deliverance being played by a modern city-dweller who's got a devious mindset and apocalyptic technique. He is ripping through the music throughout, multi-tracking himself into a fantasia of musical bliss along with some pummeling percussion.The album opens with "Ballad of Newfangled Vicissitudes" where he takes loops and multi-tracks himself over and over and then on "Cabeza Spams and Aural Championships" where the music spasms and builds into a thing that is composed of a mixture of different forms or styles. "Mucoidal Woolgathering" is a musical composition with a free form structure but then an often an improvisatory style. I'm stumbling for words to use to explain this music, because it is really different and hard to compare to anything that I've listened to before. This album was really mindblowing, with a overwhelmingly impressive manner and a sense of hallucinatpry wonder It may push beyond your comfort zone, but the trip is definitely worth it. Sylphid Vitalizers -

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bobby Hutcherson - Enjoy the View (Blue Note, 2014)

Back on Blue Note Records after a long absence, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson leads an interesting band: Joey DeFrancesco on organ, David Sanborn on saxophone and Billy Hart on drums. While this album may not have the edginess of his early Blue Note albums like Dialogue and Components, it swings nicely and has a fine flow. "Don Is" is presumably dedicated to Don Was, the new label chief at Blue Note and the producer of this album. (There is an excellent conversation between Was and Hutcherson on this podcast.) It's a bright and uptempo swinging performance, Hutcherson is the key adding texture and shading the music, and taking a lovely solo, but I must admit to being knocked out by David Sandborn. Apparently, I had unfairly dismissed him as a smooth jazz lightweight, but his playing on this album, and a killer rawboned solo on this track are very impressive. Hutcherson co-led a group with the saxophonist Harold Land for several years and "For Harold" takes the music into faster terrain as Heart keeps everyone on their toes and trumpet overdubs from DeFrancesco (who else doubles on trumpet and organ? George Colligan, perhaps) adds front line depth. Sandborn is featured with thunderous drum support and he again makes the most of it. "Teddy" comes storming out of the gate with bubbling organ, vibes and drums performing forming an intricate dance. Sandborn's saxophone is sharp and pointed, clearing the way for some of Hutcherson's most impressive soloing on this record. DeFrancesco makes a great partner with the organ's bass pedals and support. This was a fine record, and will certainly shine a light on an excellent veteran musician who hasn't lost a step in the intervening years. First rate in the pocket mainstream jazz. Enjoy the View -

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Elias Haslanger - Live at the Gallery (CD Baby, 2014)

This is a very interesting and accessible live album under the leadership of tenor saxophonist Elias Haslanger along with Dr. James Polk on Hammond B3 organ, Jake Langley on guitar, Scott Laningham on drums and Daniel Durham bass. The music is filled with familiar standards played with a crowd pleasing brio. Opening with Cannonball Adderley’s bluesy and swinging “One for Daddy-O” the band sets the stage for what is to follow with an easygoing organ trio groove with tenor saxophone holding down the front line. That nice groove keeps going on the following track “Watermelon Man” originally composed by Herbie Hancock.  This is a nice stretched out performance where everybody gets a chance to solo. They mix in a few popular songbook standards along with the jazz standards, most notably “Misty” taken at a hushed ballad pace along with “I Thought About You” and “In A Sentimental Mood.” But most impressive are the compositions written by famous jazz musicians like “Adam’s Apple” by Wayne Shorter, an interesting song that is not often covered by contemporary jazz musicians. Haslanger  makes the most of it, using Shorter’s distinctly original composing technique to carve out a strong solo. “Song for My Father” by Horace Silver returns to the funk/soul feel of the earlier performances, delighting the crowd with it’s familiar opening and meat and potatoes groove. This was a fine performance of modern jazz where the instrumentation and the repertoire give the music a timeless quality. The group may not be re-inventing the wheel, but their enthusiasm and subtle swing will certainly appeal to a wide audience. Live at the Gallery -

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Peter Brotzmann and Peeter Uuskyla - Dead and Useless (Omlott, 2014)

This album features Peter Brotzmann on tenor saxophone and Peeter Uuskyla on drums, they are longtime collaborators and this album was recorded back in 2006 in Uuskyla’s home base of Sweden. Parts of the music on this album was previously released as part of the Born Broke 2CD set, and is remixed here for LP and MP3 and some of Brotzmann’s provocative artwork graces the cover. The title track is a continuous 36 minute improvisation broke in two sections for the vinyl. They open in a gnarly fashion with fast and heavy playing setting a powerful foundation before throttling back to a quieter section focusing in open and spare drumming before Brotzmann comes back ratchets up the intensity. Part two returns to the quieter drumming before Brotzmann returns in the most interesting fashion. He plays in a dark and mournful fashion, not quite the blues but you could certainly see it from there. The dynamism of the loud/soft and fast/slow nature of the music works well, as they trade sections of guttural saxophone and nimble drumming. This is a powerhouse recording, but they never get out of control, and the music is more of a conversation by two like minded souls than a competition between rivals. Dead And Useless -

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hank Mobley - The Classic Blue Note Collection 1955-1961 (Enlightenment, 2014)

Tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley never quite got the recognition he deserved in his lifetime. He had sideman stints with Art Blakey and Miles Davis, but his biggest impact was as a bandleader recording scores of records for Blue Note in the 1950’s and 1960’s, 26 records in all according to Wikipedia. Beginning with the album Hank Mobley Quintet and then culminating with two of his finest albums Workout and Soul Station, this collection works well for what it is. This is a collection of recordings that really give a prime example of the hard bop aesthetic of Blue Note records. Since this is an “out of copyright” collection, where other countries are able to release music that they do not need to license the music officially from Blue Note because of copyright laws expire sooner than in the USA, the music is pumped out without anything in the way of liner notes or sessionography. Presumably the music was lifted directly from previous Blue Note and Mosaic re-issues of Mobley’s catalog, but you get what you pay for with the music only and nothing in the way of Blue Note’s famous photography and liner essays. So, if you are interested in getting most of Mobley’s early recordings in one big slab, this may be the way to go, but you’ll need to do your own investigations in Mobley’s discography to receive further information. But perhaps you should also keep your eyes out for the Blue Note CD’s themselves. Because as these out of copyright packages at their bargain basement prices flood the market, it can discourage the record companies who hold the original copyright from investing the more well produced packages which will have complete information and re-mastered recordings from the original session tapes. Classic Blue Note Collection: 1955-1961 -

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

John Coltrane - Original Album Series (Rhino, 2013)

This was $7.99 at Barnes and Noble (they are scrapping all of their CDs) so I couldn’t pass it up even though I already own these individual discs. I should have left this set for someone else to discover the beauty of the music, but the spirit of oniomania bit me hard. This is a great reminder of John Coltrane’s wonderful Atlantic Records recordings nonetheless. Interestingly, the albums: Giant Steps, Coltrane’s Sound, Coltrane Jazz, My Favorite Things and Coltrane Plays the Blues are presented in their original LP configuration, shorn of any bonus tracks. It hardly matters, the music is simply extraordinary throughout. John Coltrane only recorded for Atlantic for a scant two years but his development as a saxophonist and a bandleader in this period was amazing. Giant Steps and My Favorite Things are his most well known albums from this period, on the former, he plays with blinding speed on the title track and the Paul Chambers dedication “Mr. P.C.” and also contributes the beautiful song “Naima” which would go on to become a jazz standard. “My Favorite Things” would go on to become a hit and a groundbreaking performance as Coltrane took his soprano saxophone and turned a Disney song into a jazz masterpiece. The other albums in the set are noteworthy as well: Coltrane’s Sound has the swinging “Central Park West” which became another standard and a beautiful version of the tenor saxophone bellwether “Body and Soul.” Coltrane Jazz has the Sonny Rollins tribute “Like Sonny” and Plays the Blues has the beautiful triptychs “Blues For Elvin”, “Blues to Bechet” and Blues to You” + “Mr Day”, “Mr. Syms” and “Mr. Knight.” All in all this is an excellent collection. There can be a few quibbles: no alternate takes and while the original liner notes are reproduced you would need an electron microscope to read them. Still, for it’s a great place for those new to jazz to be introduced to a master. Original Album Series -

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

News and Notes

Alon Nechushtan Quintet CD release gig at Cornelia tonight 6/18 at 9 pm
The new Point of Departure in online.
New Perfect Sound Forever online.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bobby Avey - Authority Melts From Me (Whirlwind Records, 2014)

Pianist Bobby Avery looked to the fertile musical ground of Haiti for inspiration for his latest LP. That impoverished country hosts a vibrant musical history and was a wellspring of inspiration for Avey and his band which consists of Miguel Zenon on alto saxophone, Ben Monder on guitar, Thomson Kneeland on bass, Jordan Perlson on drums. Avey took music from Haitian drum ensembles and then transcribed it to use as the raw material for the album’s compositions, which consist of three long dynamic pieces: “Kalfou”, “Louverture” and “Cost” all of which latch on to the rhythms designated and make for wonderfully dynamic and colorful performances. There are also subtle interludes for solo piano and percussion, but the music is focused on the longer pieces, where the basic rhythms that Avey transcribed serve as foundations for a wonderful series of improvisations, and where all of the musicians are allowed ample solo space, allowing the music swerves from moody and slow to frenetic without anyone missing a beat. This album was a labor of love for Bobby Avey, who put a tremendous amount of work into the project. That work pays off handsomely with a challenging and rewarding album. Authority Melts From Me -

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Led Bib - The People in Your Neighborhood (Cuneiform, 2014)

A jazz group that is hard hitting enough to get nominated for Britain's rock and pop Mercury Prize in 2010, Led Bib consists of Mark Holub on drums, Liran Donin on bass, Toby McLaren on keyboards and Chris Williams and Pete Grogan on saxophones. “New Teles” opens this album with a fast and sure performance, the group solos and plays collectively in a nimble fashion. "Giant Bean” dispenses with all pretenses and just stomps like a feral beast with dynamic cries of saxophone leading the call to battle along with punishing drum work. Riffing horns lead the band into “This Roofus” and then into a section of great saxophone playing aided and abetted by subtle electronics and locked in electric bass and drumming. “Plastic Monster” has the majestic feel on an epic cinematic screening. Flowing from elements of funk into swirling electronics led vortexes of sound, the band is impressive and exciting throughout. This is their most cohesive album to date: the music is strong and dynamic and the playing is consistently excellent. This would make a perfect gateway for curious rock fans into the realm of jazz. The People In Your Neighbourhood -

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Walt Weiskopf - Overdrive (Posi-Tone, 2014)

Tenor saxophone player Walt Weiskopf leads a sextet on this album, including Behn Gillece on vibes, Yotam Silberstein on guitar, Peter Zak on piano, David Wong on bass and Donald Edwards on drums. All of these musicians acquit themselves admirably, but is is Weiskopf’s show and his muscular tenor saxophone is the center of attention throughout. Steely modern mainstream jazz is the order of the day and the leader particularly excels on fast paced material like the opening song “The Path Is Narrow” and the composition “Like Mike” which is presumably titled in honor of the late saxophonist Michael Brecker. “Night Vision” and the closer “The Biz” swing mightily, and allow for a round-robin series of solos, highlighting each band member’s talent. Overdrive -

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sonny Simmons - Leaving Knowledge, Wisdom And Brilliance (Improvising Beings, 2014)

This is the first part of an ambitious 8 CD box set by the legendary alto saxophonist and English horn (cor anglais) player Sonny Simmons. Simmons has had many ups and downs during his long career, but finally has true support from a record label, and it shows in this adventurous set. Leaving Knowledge, Wisdom And Brilliance makes up the first four discs and his Simmons in the company of Bruno Gregiore on percussion, Michel Kristof on esraj, sitar, guembri and percussion and Julien Palomo on keyboards and percussion. The music has the air of a mystical ceremony or ancient rite, with ominous clanking percussion and strong and exotic sitar making for an epic backdrop for Simmons' expressive horns, blowing long and billowing lines flowing in and around the music on performances like the multi-part suite “You Are Not Higher Than Angels” and sections where mumbled chanted speech lend a chilling feeling to what becomes a solemn spiritual ceremony. The music takes you on a journey throughout space and time, leaving the notion of “jazz” far behind. Leaving Knowledge, Wisdom and Brilliance - Improvising Beings.

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Saturday, June 07, 2014

Joel Harrison - Mother Stump (Cuneiform, 2014)

This is a trio album under the leadership of guitarist Joel Harrison along with Michael Bates on bass, Jeremy Clemons on drums and Glenn Patscha on keyboards. The music they make envelops a wide range of textures and hues, from expansive Americana to blues, rock and ballads. The ballad “Dance With My Father Again” is especially poignant for me as I lost my father nearly a year ago, and the poetic lines of the performance bring the loss home with renewed sadness as father’s day approaches. On a lighter note, the group plays the blues beautifully on “Do You Remember Big Mama Thornton?” Thornton was the original singer of “Hound Dog” and was a huge presence in the mid-century blues scene and an influence on the nascent rock ‘n’ roll scene of the 1950’s. The gospel standard “John the Revelator” is given a rocking treatment, as the White Stripes had also done and Son House as well. While House’s version is the definitive version, Harrison combines the garage rock of the stripes to the holy fervor of House to fine effect. This album worked well a as a whole and fans of Bill Frisell’s big sky type of music will feel right at home as a Harrison leads an accessible and enjoyable session. Mother Stump -

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