Monday, December 26, 2022

Thelonious Monk Quartet - Live Five Spot 1958 Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2022)

Things were looking up for the great composer and pianist Thelonious Monk by 1957. His cabaret card had been returned, allowing him to play in New York City clubs again, and he began to get longer residencies at a small Bohemian club called The Five Spot. By the following year he was a staple at that location, recording two live albums for Riverside Records, Misterioso and Thelonious in Action with Johnny Griffin on tenor saxophone, Ahmed Abdul-Malik on bass and Roy Haynes on drums. The original LP's took tracks from a few different recording dates, but this disc focuses entirely on the August 7, 1958 recordings, giving the listener two sets of prime Monk. "Light Blue" opens the show in a slow and mellow fashion, where Monk chooses to stick close to the melody at a  comfortable medium tempo with little elaboration. Johnny Griffin stretches out on "Coming on the Hudson" and builds a solo faster with quicksilver twists and turns around Monk's falling blocks of chords. He lays out, as Monk plays mini cascades of notes over solid bass and drums. "Rhythm-a-Ning" has a fast rippling piano melody, launching Griffin on a very rapid and propulsive saxophone feature with Monk offering the spare chord for guidance, but the barn door is open and Griffin is just gone. At some point Monk has stopped comping entirely and you can just imagine him doing the little shuffling dance he did when one of his sidemen was red hot. Griffin finally runs out of gas and Monk takes up with bass and drums to add some unique pianistic styling that place a final emphatic mark on this special track. The wonderfully simple theme of "Blue Monk" leaves so much room for players to create, and Griffin starts his solo in a witty and engaging manner, as Monk allows him plenty of room to maneuver, backed by only bass and drums. Griffin's solo is one of complex tumbling notes that are played immaculately even at hyperspeed. Monk takes a lighter touch to his own feature, refracting the piece's light in a number of interesting directions, leading to a bass solo with Monk gently framing and a nice percussion interlude to conclude. "Evidence" has a knotty, complex theme which tests the players skills and offers much freedom, as shown by Grifffin taking the bull by the horns and leaning into another light and nimble feature, then stepping on the gas as the drummer provides heavier beats. The speed of Griffin's bebop flavored runs are fascinating, juxtaposed against Monk and the rhythm section who play the straight man. The sound of the pianist with bass and drums is another matter, not one of speed, but of a wellspring of ideas, adding just the right touch at just the right time to create beauty. "Nutty" has an angular choppy piano theme along side brushed percussion, as solid bass walks the line. Monk plays in a precise form, buoyed by his interaction with the bass and drums, opening up an interesting brief solo from Haynes who makes use of his entire drum kit. With a simple splash of color, Monk opens "Blues Five Spot" which Griffin picks up upon and amplifies, then breaks out into clusters of quick fluttery notes. He kneads the notes that come out of his horn, developing a thoughtful and unusual solo that evolves the music and plays against his type as "the fastest horn in the west" as he plays unaccompanied and throws in wry quotes. Monk adds subtle phrases amid bass and drums, allowing his sidemen (particularly Haynes) room to shine as well. The music is excellent throughout this album. Monk worked with many saxophonists including Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane in the 1950's but none quite had that "ride or die" attitude that Griffin did. Ezz-thetics worked hard on sound restoration and remastering, clearing up what have always been slightly muddy recordings, and including an essay from Art Lange for historical context. Live Five Spot 1958 Revisited - Squidco

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Sunday, December 25, 2022

2022 Reset - Top ten / three + honorable mentions

Jazz Top Ten (new releases)
1. Mary Halvorson - Amaryllis (Nonesuch) 
2. The Attic - Love Ghosts (NoBusiness) 
3. David Murray Brand New World Trio - Seriana Promethea (Intakt) 
4. Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity - Elastic Wave (ECM) 
5. Zoh Amba - Bhakti (Mahakala Music) 
6. John Zorn & Bill Laswell - The Cleansing (Tzadik) 
7. Secret People - self titled (Out of Your Head) 
8. Ballister - Chrysopoeia (Aerophonic/Not Two) 
9. Matthew Shipp Trio - World Construct (ESP-Disk) 
10. The Comet Is Coming - Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam (Impulse!)

Jazz New Releases (honorable mention)

Akira Sakata / Takeo Moriyama - Mitochondria (Trost Records)
Francisco Mela and Zoh Amba - Causa y Efecto Vol. 1 (577 Records)
Tim Berne / Matt Mitchell - One More, Please (Intakt Records)
Avram Fefer Quartet - Juba Lee (Clean Feed Records)
Julieta Eugenio - Jump (Greenleaf Music)
Jon Irabagon - Rising Sun (Irabbagast Records)

Jazz Top Three (reissue / historical)

1. Don Ayler - In Florence 1981 (Railroad Town Music) 
2. Albert Ayler - La Cave Live Cleveland 1966 Revisited (ezz-thetics records)
3. John Coltrane, Favorites Revisited 1963-65 (ezz-thetics records)

Jazz Reissue / Historical (honorable mention)

Albert Ayler – Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings (INA / Elemental Music)
Charles Mingus - The Lost Album From Ronnie Scott's (Resonance Records)
Miles Davis Quintet - Live Europe 1960 Revisited (ezz-thetics records)
Andrew Hill - Point Of Departure To Compulsion!!!!! (ezz-thetics records)
Sam Rivers Trio - Caldera (NoBusiness Records)
Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk (Atlantic Records)
Ornette Coleman - Genesis Of Genius: The Contemporary Albums (Craft Recordings)

Non Jazz (new releases and reissues)

Chris Forsyth - Evolution Here We Come (No Quarter Records)
S.G. Goodman - Teeth Marks (Verve Forecast Records)
The Black Keys - Dropout Boogie (Nonesuch/Warner Records)
Neil Young - Citizen Kane Jr. Blues [Bottom Line 1974] (Shakey Pictures Records) 
The Paranoid Style - For Executive Meeting (Bar/None Records)
The Rolling Stones - El Mocambo 1977 (Rolling Stones Records)
Rich Ruth - I Survived, It's Over (Third Man Records)
Neil Young - Noise and Flowers (Reprise Records)
Dungen -  En Är För Mycket och Tusen Aldrig Nog (Mexican Summer)
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Super Deluxe (Nonesuch)
Brim - California Gold (Royal Oakie Records)
Pink Floyd - Animals 2018 Remix (Pink Floyd Records)

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Friday, December 23, 2022

Andrew Hill - Point Of Departure To Compulsion!!!!! (ezz-thetics records, 2022)

Pianist and composer Andrew Hill was at one of the peaks of his relentless creativity in 1964 and 1965 when these sessions were recorded resulting the the lauded Point of Departure album and the lesser known but equally fascinating Compulsion!!!! Jazz at this point had reached an uneasy peace with the more explicitly avant-garde players paving the way for groundbreaking musicians like Hill who had mastered the past forms of the music while looking for his own vision of the future. Recorded in March of 1964, the lineup on Point of Departure is staggering in retrospect. In addition to Hill on piano, we have Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone, flute and bass clarinet, Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Richard Davis on bass and Tony Williams on drums. A virtual murderers row of titans with the ability to play any compositions Hill gave them. And he gave them some wonderful tracks, beginning with the epic "Refuge" with the horns stating the urgent theme, eventually leading to a simmering area for the piano, bass and drums. Gem like solos unfurl for Dolphy on alto saxophone, Dorham, Davis, Henderson in turn before Williams who leads the group back into the theme and out. "New Monastery" has a complicated and rich theme and melody for the band to contemplate. They unfurl that knot, leading to a Dorham trumpet feature, turning into a startling Eric Dolphy mini solo. The rhythm section carries the tune for a while leading to a dignified Joe Henderson solo putting paid to this performance. Eric Dolphy's bass clarinet provides the foundation for the theme of "Spectrum" another brilliant multi-layered Hill melody. The pianist takes the lead moving through the complicated tune with bass and drum support. The horns enter in a stratified manner then allowing Dolphy's brilliant playing to shine through, before moving onto the other instruments. Davis has a rich solo segment before Dolphy soars above minimal accompaniment. He turns to flute to add texture, and the music has a sense of open ended splendor. The brief "Flight 19" features a propulsive theme built from the ground up as bass and bass clarinet provide a firm foundation for Dorham's trumpet and Hill's lush piano. The sounds weave in and around the pianist, but he is unperturbable, as is Davis, whose thick sound fills out the remainder of the track. Finally "Dedication" opens in a very emotional fashion with all of the instruments adding vibrant colors to the performance, the making room for a stellar solo by Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet. Hill's piano is lush and filling expanding to engulf the available space, the melody returns to this sad and elegiac closer. The Compulsion!!!! LP was recorded in late 1965, but wasn't released until early 1967 with Hill on piano, in the company of a very interesting band: Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and flugelhorn, John Gilmore on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Cecil McBee and Richard Davis on bass, Joe Chambers on drums and Renaud Simmons and Nadi Qamar on percussion. The music is tough and poignant on the opening track "Compulsion" with the hand percussion combining with the drums and Hill choosing to use a much stronger attack in terms of his piano playing. It's a heady mix, with long lines of stout trumpet joining as Hill leans into his instrument in a free like manner. Gilmore joins late on saxophone, but has a lot to say, developing the ideas and pushing them further afield. The shortest track is "Legacy" which is built from percussion, piano and thick bass the music simmers with heat but never boils over. The horns lay out for the length of the track allowing Hill to develop the music among the thicket of percussion and bass. "Premonition" has a stoic opening for trumpet, and prominent bass, leading to a fine bowed bass and brass feature. Hill returns, plunging deep into his instrument, dropping depth charges of low end piano notes and chords. Gilmore enters on bass clarinet, laying out for some more excellent bowed bass before joining the band for a return to the stern theme. The final track "Limbo" is much more colorful with both horns engaged, amid cascading percussion leading to a fine punching, growling trumpet solo full of fire. Hill leads the rhythm team into more abstract territory, before ceding time to McBee who plays yet more excellent bass. Gilmore shows up near the end on tenor saxophone, pushing the band over the top and into the final lap. This pairing of Andrew Hill albums from the mid 1960s works very well, joining one of his greatest achievements, Point of Departure, which jazz fans may be acquainted with with an unheralded but more than worthy companion in Compulsion!!!! Ezz-thetics has re-mastered the music to a high level, and includes a well written essay from jazz historian Bill Shoemaker, putting the whole package into historical context. Point Of Departure To Compulsion!!!!! - Squidco

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Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Trevor Dunn’s Trio - Convulsant avec Folie a Quatre - S​e​ances (Pyroclastic Records, 2022)

This is a thoroughly interesting and compelling album led by the bassist and composer Trevor Dunn, in the company of Mary Halvorson on guitar, Ches Smith on drums, 
Carla Kihlstedt on violin, Oscar Noriega on bass clarinet, Mariel Roberts on cello and Anna Webber on alto flute, making a veritable who's who of modern jazz and new music talent. This makes for rich and multi layered music project, ranging from dervish like complexity to spare rumination. Drawing on the story of a spiritualist cult in early eighteenth century France, Dunn develops a suite of compositions that suits the particular talents of the musicians he gathered, melding the writing of the music with his research of of the history of this organization. The opening track "Secours Meurtriers" is a vibrant fantasia of sounds that represent the seances and mystic experiences of this group, moving through different time signatures as the piece develops. The tomb of "Saint-Medard" was ground zero for the unexplained phenomenon, and this performance portrays that, with the theme carried by guitar and violin, leading to an extraordinary solo for Mary Halvorson using the tools at her disposal to create suitably otherworldly feature. "Restore All Things"  is an interlude that focuses on the strings, while "Eschatology" was written to resemble a chamber ensemble performance. Dunn ends the album with "Thaumaturge" beginning with a beautiful solo bass performance, with the band falling in ever so gradually to create a subtle and mysterious track that seems to sum up and encapsulate the nature of this entire fascinating and successful project. Melding history and music, composition and improvisation, Trevor Dunn and his colleagues have created an unusual and original set of music that deserves to be heard by a wide audience of music fans. Seances -

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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Richard Koloda - Holy Ghost: The Life And Death Of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler (Jawbone Press, 2022)

Who was Albert Ayler? That is a question that fans and musicians have struggled with for years, through generations of CDs falling in and out of print, limited edition boxes and ephemeral downloads and streams. The author does his best to provide factual and verifiable information about Ayler's life and music, beginning with his upbringing in a very religious and fraught family unit which Koloda believes left an indelible imprint upon him. Ayler was a talented if sheltered saxophone player who got important real world experience playing for two summers in the band of the blues great Little Walter. Ostensibly to skip out on an unplanned fatherhood and marriage, he joined the army, gathering further experience and opportunities to network with future collaborators. The author follows Ayler who after discharge makes his way through Scandinavia, playing wherever he gets the chance, notably with Cecil Taylor, and also making his first record, containing a version of "Summertime" which was quite controversial. Making the move to New York City, Ayler signs with the fledgling ESP-Disk against the advice of several fellow musicians, and here he would arguably reach his peak recording the classic trio alum Spiritual Unity along with Bells, Prophecy, Spirits Rejoice and the fully improvised film soundtrack New York Eye and Ear Control. Koloda splits the difference, providing evidence of the power and positive influence that Ayler was having on the jazz scene while also quoting from jazz journals that found Ayler's music wanting. Live recordings would dominate the mid-1960's, concerts that would only become fully realized deep into the CD era. His tour of Europe is a triumph in retrospect, but cracks were beginning to form, and the glorious music that was recorded in late 1966 / early 1967 was the end of his musical relationship with his brother Don and Dutch violinist Michael Samson. Ayler was now on Coltrane's label Impulse, but Corlrane was dead, and the author implies that pressure from the label led Ayler to make drastic changes. A snapshot of the live recordings, Albert Ayler In Greenwich Village, was glorious but didn't sell. Donald's last record with his brother is the underrated Love Cry, and while the tracks are much shorter and the harpsichord sounds out of place, Albert's saxophone is as ferocious as ever. But the knives would really come out for his final Impulse LPs. New Grass and Music is the Healing Force of the Universe pushed Ayler into a more rhythm and blues direction, which was at odds with his still vibrant saxophone playing. The lyrics and singing of his new girlfriend Mary Maria Parks was particularly controversial with quotes from Ayler's contemporaries disparaging her, and critics savaging her performances. Mental illness ran in the Ayler family, and Koloda quotes Ayler's slide into deep depression continued as the calendar turned into 1970. The one lifeline came from the French Foundation Maeght which hired Alyer for two well received concerts during the summer. But back in the States, in Cleveland or New York City, performance opportunities were drying up. Ayler's depression deepened and he spoke of apocalyptic religious ideas and a tour of Japan that may have been a delusion. Ayler's body was pulled from New York's East River in November of 1970. Although the author quotes some musicians that suspect foul play or an accident, most accept the coroners finding of suicide. It could be that Albert Ayler is fated to always be a mystery to us, and perhaps that is for the best. While Koloda develops an excellent annotated timeline of Ayler's life and his book is a fine collection of the responses of critics and fellow musicians to Ayler's music in real time as it developed, the essence will always be in the music itself, in the grooves, digits and streams. He transcends format to ensure that the Truth is Marching In. Holy Ghost: The Life And Death Of Free Jazz Pioneer Albert Ayler -

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Monday, December 05, 2022

Whit Dickey Quartet - Root Perspectives (TAO Forms, 2022)

Pianist Matthew Shipp and drummer Whit Dickey have been recording and performing together in a wide variety of contexts since the early nineties. Both musicians have developed unique instrumental and improvisational styles, which mesh very well with tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and bassist Brandon Lopez here to create a potent and successful modern jazz album. Dickey developed the goal for this recording through heavy listening to John Coltrane's Crescent and A Love Supreme, and he brings the passion of those classic recordings forward in time to this project. The opening track is "Supernova" featuring Malaby's raw and instantly recognizable tenor saxophone tone placed against cymbals and questing piano chords. The music grows in intensity as the group surges forth together, Malaby developing a coursicating sound amid fierce piano comping and waves of drumming. "Doomsday Equation" builds gradually into a very interesting interaction for dark tone heavy piano shapes and tenor saxophone blown into the upper register, with clashing cymbals providing the exclamation point. This is a dynamic piece that develops areas of relative calm which only serve to highlight the dramatic tension the musicians are capable of building. There is a quieter and more melodic opening to "Swamp Petals," building to a grittier textured improvisation, with sandpaper ground tenor saxophone, spare piano and drums setting out on an open ended path, a torrid improvisation from this configuration keeps the music fresh and moving forward. This is a long narrative track that develops over time with Malabay playing great swathes of raw sound, and opening space for a well articulated bowed bass solo. The final track is "Starship Lotus" where they have an intricate connection that lays the groundwork for a complex collectively improvised section. Picking up the pace, Malaby's coarse tenor tone fits well with the bounding piano and bass. This opens a light and mobile section for piano, bass and drums, leading to thick bass section, and a torrid improvisation from the full configuration to conclude. This album worked very well, as a quartet, the full band develops a unique and memorable sound. The musicians have to be very tight and trusting of each other to make spontaneous improvisation like this work as well as it does. Root Perspectives -

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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Comet Is Coming - Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam (Impulse! Records, 2022)

The excellent British reed player and musical conceptualist Shabaka Hutchings plays as King Shabaka alongside keyboardist Danalogue (Dan Leavers), and drummer Betamax (Max Hallett) in The Comet Is Coming. Their electronic jazz is Sun Ra meets J Dilla to the Nth degree and keeps improving with every album. Like a science fiction film opening, "Code" is epic and cinematic, pulsating, leading to a massive electronic beat. Stuttering saxophone, waves of synth and electronics frame the fresh sounding saxophone and beats. The dance floor and the jazz club meet head on with impressive results, building huge swells that break and then reform. "Technicolor" uses slower synth and clattering percussion, with saxophone and synth weaving and move around each other, as the intensity increases, leading to blocks of sound. Using live drums and light saxophone flitting electronics, "Lucid Dreamer" is all about the feel, leading to "Tokyo Nights" which has cyberpunk thick blobby synths meeting lightning fast improvising saxophone for a short, sweet blast off. "Pyramids" opens with mysterious beeping searching, kicking into a dance music groove, saxophone adding urgent notes to the proceedings, scooting in and around the electronics and programmed beats, everything comes together to create a very infectious and exciting track. Probing electronic sounds, opening of "Frequency of Feeling Expansion" light sounding saxophone and live drums push the tempo faster, long well constructed lines of saxophone and the excellent drumming make this a very organic and appealing track. "Angel of Darkness" develops scouring waves of electronic sound, with the saxophone muscling in from the outside, creating a dark ominous overall sound, heavy deep stuff with live drums pushing even harder but the electronics overwhelm, making a grinding prog metal feeling. The saxophone digs in and gets down and dirty with a powerful solo cutting through the electronic curtain and pulverizing drumming, walking a high wire act, great stuff. "Aftermath" develops a dated 1980's type synth patch with multiple waves of electronics facing flute and drums segueing into "Atomic Wave Dance" which uses video game like sounds, with saxophone pushing fast, sending out staccato notes of amid excellent live drumming. Adding further accents to the horn allow the saxophone to continually build the tension. "The Hammer" builds slow grinding saxophone, surrounded by a fuller and more lush electronic treatment, that it pushes back against, creating an oppressive sound of the electronics, finally leading to "Mystik" featuring fast cymbal playing and electronic frittering, raw stark saxophone and fast manic drumming. Bringing it all together towering saxophone playing reaching high, electronics and drums finally flashing into the ether. The Comet Is Coming creates music that is a vivid punch to the gut that leaves moldy fig Downbeat critics giving one star and harumphing fraud! (true). If their eyes could only see, the future belongs to the bold. Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam -

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Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Miles Davis Quintet - 2nd Session 1956 Revisited (ezz-thetics, 2022)

By 1956, trumpeter Miles Davis was in ascendence, having just signed a lucrative contract with Columbia Records. He led one of the finest bands in the business with John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums. But Davis was still obligated to Prestige records at this time and owed them a sizable chunk of music to be clear of that contract. Marathon sessions were scheduled, and this disc focuses on the ones recorded in May and October of 1956 in order to complete the requirements of Davis's recording contract. Davis keeps the nature of the sessions informal, concentrating on the material they played nightly in the clubs, on this occasion beginning with Garland's bright spare piano notes to open the album with "If I Were A Bell" then giving way to Davis's gentle and thoughtful reading of the melody. This has a mild middle tempo performance (it was even released as a jukebox 45!) as opposed to the up-tempo version of "Oleo", composed by Sonny Rollins which has plenty of room for Coltrane to stretch out, as does the other Rollins composition "Airegin" which is played in the same manner allowing Coltrane to demonstrate his early "sheets of sound" manner of soloing. There is also a concertation on ballads, of which Davis was a master and his focused and unhurried rendition "You're My Everything" are highlight of this disc. Their treatment of Thelonious Monk compositions are quite memorable as well, Davis is typically brilliant on the moody and atmospheric "'Round Midnight" while they stretch out the knotty "Well, You Needn't" with some fine soloing and ensemble passages. Davis gets Garland to stay on side, instructing him in the "less is more" style of Ahmad Jamal, and avoiding the near confrontation Miles had with the year before with Monk himself about piano accompaniment. Regardless, this disc is a slice of history, and performances from the these sessions began the Davis legend that would vault him into the stratosphere in the space of a few years. Ezz-thetics remastering is typically excellent and the music jumps from the speakers, framed by an essay from noted jazz historian Brian Morton, putting it all in context. 2nd Session 1956 Revisited - Squidco

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Sunday, November 20, 2022

OXBOW and Peter Brotzmann - An Eternal Reminder of Not Today / Live at Moers (Trost Records, 2022)

An inspired meeting of the minds, OXBOW is a band that plays plays a blend of noise rock, improvised music and blues while tenor saxophonist Peter Brotzmann is one of the architects of European free jazz. "Angel" opens the set with pleading, desperate vocals, deep bass, and peals of longing tenor saxophone. Space is opened both for vocals and saxophone, and the group is able to integrate Brotzmann well, using shards of guitar, ripping saxophone, excellent singing to excellent effect. Raw guitar feedback, opens "Cat And Mouse" with the band plus guest going into full out heavy rock / free jazz mode with the vocalist straining to be heard, then opening up to spacious area for bass, drums and singer. Brotzmann is deep and full sounding, not the least bit tentative, and the music shifts again to choppy rhythm singer belting it out, grinding guitar, scalding saxophone, pummeling drums. Ominous rolling saxophone and drums focus haunted vocals and guitar taking out this lengthy performance. "Skin" sets up the saxophone with a scratchy sounding band, as singer reaches, pushing his words out in a declarative manner. Instruments roar in singer stretches and vocalizes to meet them with provocative lyrics. Brotzmann is hardly fazed and blows with gusto, while the guitar glides in to engage with billowing gales of saxophone, slowly fading into feedback. Vocals sound threatening on "A Gentleman's Gentleman" as the band kicks in fast and hard, framing the stuttering vocals. Brotzmann finds a slot and fits right in, creating an exciting fast pace, where steep bass and drums ride with guitar and saxophone roaring alongside them. The sound scales back to give the vocalist room to speak then fades out. "Over" builds a slower and more spacious opening with dark toned tenor saxophone. The intensity is turned up gradually, as the vocalist and guitar enter. The vocalist is overwhelmed for some epic full band interplay, he's just moaning vocalizing amid towering saxophone and electric guitar. Soundscapes open for the vocalist to actually sing, which he does with stark emotion. Guitar and ripe saxophone frame strong singing on "Over," with high marks for the bass and drums which can change on a dime. Band works as one tight unit through changing rhythms and moods at will. Subtle guitar and bass set up "Host" with vocals and coy saxophone allows the vocals to blossom, plaintive sounding backed by lower volume saxophone and guitar. The band starts to ramp up in volume, building a choppier rhythm of coiled intensity and then takes off with righteous tenor saxophone and electric guitar leading the charge. "The Valley (Encore)" starts slowly, with patterns building and the singer quietly developing his words. Brotzmann rises up and begins to pontificate framing the singer and clearing the ground before him. Brotzmann plays some of his rawest saxophone, then stops dramatically on the the lyrics "quiet, quiet..." The full band sounding heavy and sludgy from the bottom to the roiling top of electric guitar and tenor saxophone, finishes this excellent set in grand fashion. An Eternal Reminder of Not Today / Live at Moers -

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Thursday, November 10, 2022

Jakob Bro / Joe Lovano – Once Around The Room: A Tribute To Paul Motian (ECM Records, 2022)

Joe Lovano and Jakob Bro lead a dynamic nod to the master drummer and bandleader Paul Motian, which features compositions by the leaders and an exciting take on Motian’s own “Drum Music.” The full band consists of Lovano on tenor saxophone and tarogato, Bro on guitar, Larry Grenadier and Thomas Morgan on bass, Anders Christensen on bass guitar, Joey Baron and Jorge Rossy on drums. "As It Should Be" develops shadowy bass and percussion with shades of saxophone and guitar. The band meshes nicely, with an increased sense of urgency. Shards of guitar spark, as Lovano blows gales of deep and dark tenor saxophone, perfect for this setting, building to a tightly coiled full band improvisation, adding a drum feature to close. Soft guitar and airy saxophone opens "Sound Creation," with spare bass notes enter from soft soprano saxophone and light and agile percussion leading the way. Moving to tenor saxophone and sticks played drums, the music becomes fuller and more muscular, leading to a spare and haunting outro. On "For The Love Of Paul," drums set the stage, leading to a Monk like theme ascending and descending from the saxophone, developing a free, open area for deep bass and percussion astride stark sounding tenor saxophone. Lovano's solo is deep and complex, played with power and grace. The guitar moves in with a strident affected sound, sharp lines of sound shot across the soundstage. Lovano returns to engage, and the the sound breaks leading to a well articulated bass feature before the band returns to the tidy melody with drum embellishments. A gentle ballad, "Song To An Old Friend" has a pleasant guitar and saxophone tone with luxuriant bass playing the music that is deeply melodic and lush, played with patience and a sense of gratitude. The music flows clearly like a stream, and the group is playing together without ego. Heavy handed percussion opens "Drums Music," with strong deep saxophone and electric guitar harmonizing, creating a heavy nearly oppressing sound. There is a stark grinding industrial prog guitar solo, followed by Lovano surprisingly sounding out and free, casting out raw peals of saxophone sound, overblowing and really pushing the limits. There is a short deeply rhythmic drum solo that underpins the all-in push to the end. The closing track, "Pause," calms things down, blossoming as a ballad of soft guitar sound mixed with tasteful bass playing, gentle and quiet, evening music on the porch at sunset, adding the lightest of feathery brushed percussion, while Lovano's soprano saxophone enters late weaving among the other instruments like a late arriving guest. This album was very successful, Paul Motian has a huge influence upon modern jazz and this album reflects that with the thoughtful compositions, and spontaneous improvisations by fully committed musicians. Once Around The Room: A Tribute To Paul Motian -

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Monday, November 07, 2022

Thelonious Monk - Celebrating 75 Years Of His First Recordings, Revisited (ezz-thetics records, 2022)

Brought to the attention of the jazz public in the postwar years by Blue Note Records when the label was looking to update its sound from New Orleans and swing music to modern jazz, the iconoclastic composer and pianist Thelonious Monk recorded for the label from 1947-1952. No stranger to the jazz scene, Monk was center stage at the bebop evolution at Minton's (read Robin D.G. Kelly’s excellent biography for all the details) and also played with the likes of Coleman Hawkins during the war years. This disc collects the master takes and highlights from six sessions Monk led in New York City, with the pianist leading groups ranging from trio to sextet. Though Monk was misunderstood by many at the time as someone who was trying to attack the stilted beliefs and institutions of jazz, he (and his wife Nellie) never lost sight of his single minded pursuit of excellence, one that would lead him from being an outsider to the cover of Time Magazine in fifteen years. Some of Monk’s best trio work would come in a late 1947 session that included recordings of original classics like “Well You Needn’t” “Ruby My Dear” and “Introspection." Thelonious Monk had a simpatico relationship with the vibraphonist Milt Jackson, the two clicked like two sides of a coin, playing a joyous romp of music on a 1948 session including “Evidence,” “Mysterioso,” and “Epistrophy.” Jackson returned with the drummer Art Blakey in tow for a July 1951 date that showed the three developing close knit percussive tapestries on the likes of “Four in One,” “Criss Cross” and “Straight, No Chaser.” Monk wrapped up his Blue Note recording tenure with a sextet session during spring of 1952 with a band that included two saxophones and trumpet. They developed a full and brash sound on the likes of his own “Skippy,” “Hornin’ In” and “Let’s Cool One.” This is a fine representation of some of the most influential jazz music of the immediate post war era. The remastering is well done, bringing out details of this intricate music and well written liner notes by Art Lange put everything into historical context. Celebrating 75 Years Of His First Recordings, Revisited - Squidco

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Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Tim Berne and Matt Mitchell - One More, Please (Intakt Records, 2022)

This is a dynamic and successful duet recording with Tim Berne on alto saxophone and Matt Mitchell on piano, continuing a collaboration of several years which has seen Mitchell perform in Berne's groups and record in duet and solo settings. "Purdy" opens the album with melodic saxophone and piano, developing a gentle, pleasant conversation with fairly mild tones. The saxophone becomes more strident as the piano dives into the deeper range to compensate, but this dynamism between stark full passages and lighter, floating areas serves to the duo well throughout the performance. Spare piano notes and chords in open space carry "Number 2" until the  1:40 mark when the saxophone enters, patiently testing the air, then offering high pitched calls of pure sound that are met by crystalline piano notes, creating a very unique atmosphere. The instrumentalists are tightly connected almost like in quantum entanglement, when one makes a move, the other instantly responds. "Rose-Colored Missive" develops probing solo saxophone, wide open in space, allowing the piano to glide in, moving together with a great sense of emotion. A lush piano solo filling in the silent spaces, creating a beautifully played interlude, with the saxophone returning to engage, with  strong piano chords comping and providing fuel for a deeply wrought saxophone statement. The fast and complex interweaving of instruments right from the start marks "Oddly Enough / Squidz," their collective improvisation is very impressive and it seems that any speed is available to them, regardless of the knottiness of the ideas being exchanged. "Middle Seat Blues / Chicken Salad Blues" uses quiet unsettled piano where the heavy sounds resonate, levelling out with the introduction of the saxophone. Saxophone soars amid stark jagged piano interjections, with Berne moving from avant to lyrical and back again, weaving through the uncompromising piano work. The piece shifts to a lighter section, complete with strong saxophone cells and lighter, brighter droplets of piano notes. "Motian Sickness" finds the duo probing together, moving up and down, hinting at the great drummer's character and personality, as well as his unique approach to music. Both musicians explore the breadth of their respective instruments, using strong percussive piano chords and snake like saxophone movements to create a potent improvisation. The finale "Rolled Oats / Curls" has a light and almost tender opening, leading to some soaring saxophone playing, building a quieter duet setting than most of the album has led up to. Light high up piano notes and softer saxophone playing gather dynamism, in a loud / soft configuration that allows for continuous forward movement, and a towering fast and loud improvised duet that emphatically sates the success of this partnership. Having worked together for over a decade, Berne and Mitchell have developed an inspired musical relationship with their free thinking saxophone and muscular piano making for an inspired match. Their commitment to music and the art of improvisation is inspiring and fans of progressive jazz should seek this album out. One More, Please -

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Friday, October 28, 2022

Thumbscrew - Multicolored Midnight (Cuneiform Records, 2022)

Celebrating their tenth year as one of the leading progressive jazz ensembles on the contemporary scene, Thumbscrew consists of Michael Formanek on bass and electronics, Tomas Fujiwara on drums and vibraphone and Mary Halvorson on guitar. The album's title alludes the shades and hues that have been recently added to their musical toolbox, brought about by the inclusion of extra electronics and vibraphone. “Song For Mr. Humphries,” a nod to Pittsburgh master drummer Roger Humphries, has a nimble guitar opening with drums and bass kicking in, the drums in particular are rock solid, much like the playing of the dedicatee, while Halvorson's guitar adds exploration and embellishments. Formanek's bass solo is deftly played, framed with subtle cymbals and guitar, while the music gradually fills and becomes more exciting as they stretch out on an open improvisation with excellent interplay between the instruments. “Shit Changes” uses open space well creating with cool vibraphone and deep, resonant acoustic bass. Colorful vertical lines of guitar arc over the other two instruments, giving the music a rich organic feel. The music vibrates and shimmers in an unusual fashion for the band, their abstractions are usually complex rhythmic ones rather than space/time experimentations. Opening in space, the floating and spare “Future Reruns and Nostalgia” uses bowed bass to further an almost underwater feeling to the music. Spare notes of vibraphone and guitar are adrift in this surreal and haunting atmosphere, all texture, patience and ambience. Bowed bass provides some grounding for the suspended vibes and guitar, as the music begins to coalesce slightly with a web of electric guitar, catching the vibraphone notes as they approach. "Should be Cool" demonstrates the deep and intuitive interplay the band has developed over the course of its time playing together. No matter how complex their improvisations are, rhythmically or thematically, each member of the group is dialed in to provide the right technique at the right time. Halvorson's complex spidery guitar is met by strong cascades of drumming and deep bass giving the music a memorable and unusual focal point. This album worked quite well, allowing the group to branch out into new territory, making the most of workshopping at a Pittsburgh artists retreat to create original music that continuously looks forward. Multicolored Midnight -

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Friday, October 21, 2022

Sun Ra & His Blue Universe Arkestra - Universe in Blue (Enterplanetary Koncepts, 2022)

This is an interesting archival find from the seemingly never ending Sun Ra universe, a group of recordings made in small clubs, undated, but recorded at Slugs in New York City presumably during 1971–72. Sun Ra plays organ for most of these performances, leading a medium size Arkestra, but as always he has phalanx of excellent band members that he can rely on to help carry the load. "Universe in View (Complete Version)" is the opening track, with Sun Ra building an atmospheric late night organ groove. It is a patient and thoughtful performance, where he is willing to let the atmosphere grow organically before opening up the floor to brass and reed features. A wonderful feature for the band's powerful vocalist June Tyson, "When the Black Man Ruled This Land (Complete Version)" allows her to state the Afrocentric lyrics with aggressive energy over Ra's spacey organ and hand percussion accompaniment from the band. "In a Blue Mood" keeps the atmospheric nature of the music flowing with Sun Ra's organ playing with spectral grace over light brushed percussion. The music becomes much more dynamic on “"Another Shade of Blue” with up-tempo grooves of tenor saxophone and organ. The excellent saxophone builds in power and focus, developing a very interesting organ groove meets avant-garde sensibility. The digital edition adds two bonus tracks from Slugs, both from a cassette recording with dates and exact personnel are unknown. On “Discipline 27-II” Sun Ra’s group sounds larger, perhaps adding extra personnel, and they take off in a flight colorful horns. The band really rips it up, swinging hard and bringing forth great swathes of sound. The final track is “Intergalactic Research” where Ra’s organ strikes a clean tone, amid the strongly riffing band. Presumably John Gilmore’s strong tenor saxophone is featured, sounding dark and steely, and he gets pretty out with stark squalls building a titanic solo that is extremely impressive. This was a fine re-issue, with the music restored to its full length and the digital remastering bringing out a clear and present sounding mix. This is a fine recording well worth seeking out for Sun Ra partisans. Universe in Blue -

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Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Zoh Amba - Bhakti (Mahakala Music, 2022)

Tenor saxophonist Zoh Amba is a young newcomer to the free jazz scene in New York City, a protégé of David Murray, and like Murray she made a big splash right away with several recordings, and media coverage in the New York Times. This album is a fine example of her approach, in the company of Tyshawn Sorey on drums, Matt Hollenberg on guitar and Micah Thomas on piano. The opening track "Altar Flower" is fast free jazz, very exciting, with torrid gales of tenor saxophone and excellent free rhythm playing, leading to a piano feature with cascading keyboard runs. The collective improvisation that this group builds is very energetic, with the music is coming forth in waves, high register playing from the saxophonist shows great stamina, then laying out for a more spacious piano, bass and drums section. Low tones of saxophone return to the quiet area, playing emotionally in open space, with an Albert Ayler like tone. She gradually ramps back up in speed and fervor, with the rest of the group along side, returning to the fast and nimble playing that marked the opening section, complete with another fine piano feature. "The Drop and the Sea" has a much more reflective opening, Amba playing solo saxophone in space, getting more strident as the piece evolves and the rest of the group becomes more noticeable. They build a taut improvisation, with interesting additions from the piano and drums, including a unique piano, guitar and drums section that courses to its own rhythm, before the saxophone returns at full speed, making this into an all in gallop for the whole group. The finale, "Awaiting Thee" uses towering peals of saxophone and electric guitar to create a fascinating atmosphere, charged particles of air and electricity clashing in an all out dash for freedom. Hollenberg really stakes his claim to this track, playing all out as if his life depended upon it. The leader is right there with him, improvising great gales of saxophone, with the drums and piano making their voices heard as well. Excellent all encompassing wails of tenor saxophone way up into the high register near the end of the track rally the group for the full on sprint to the finish. This was a thrilling blowout across all of the instruments, and it leaves a lasting impression of a powerhouse band led by a rising star that has the world in front of her. Bhakti -

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Friday, October 14, 2022

The Bad Plus - The Bad Plus (Edition Records, 2022)

Co-founders drummer Dave King and bassist Reid Anderson Reid Anderson started The Bad Plus two decades ago as a piano trio, first with Ethan Iverson and then with Orrin Evans in the keyboard chair. But the band had always been an idea and an approach rather than any particular instrumental configuration, so when the group reformed with longtime confederates Chris Speed on tenor saxophone and Ben Monder on electric guitar, they barely missed a step. Their music has always had an expansive viewpoint, and the new lineup offers even more possibilities, like the track "Sun Wall" which has a fast and intricate theme that tumbles forward excitedly with fervor, demonstrating that the interplay between the musicians is very tight and impressive. Monder breaks out for a spiky guitar solo, aided by King's muscular drumming that powers the music forward. This makes for very compelling listening, with the fluid neon toned guitar flashing through, then returning to the theme. The band gathers strength through collective playing pushing forward as the saxophone climbs up to briefly shine, and then the group concludes gracefully. "Not Even Close to Far Off" has a heavy, resonating beat from the bass and drums that lends force to dirtier toned guitar and saxophone playing, grinding and sweating as if in some dank club. Saxophone bleats and emotional appeals make for an effective solo statement, playing expressively at length, then returning to the theme. Showers of affected guitar rain down on a quiet beat, providing another vantage point, harmonizing with the saxophone leading to a haunted unresolved ending. Powering out of the starting gate, "Sick Fire" reaches out with crashing drums and ripe saxophone, soon joined by bass and guitar. Monder makes his presence felt with bursts of florescent notes that turn into a full of towering duo segment with the ever powerful King. Saxophone and bass muscle in making this one of the most potent tracks on the album, a squalling collective improvisation with no guardrails. It's a short track you wish could go longer, as the band playing Coltrane/Pharoah energy music is an alluring prospect. This album worked well, offering a wide range of music that demonstrated what this new version of the band is capable of. It will be interesting to see where things go from here, after the crucible of intensive live performing and future recording. The Bad Plus -

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Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Dave Douglas - Songs of Ascent Book 1: Degrees (Greenleaf Music, 2022)

Inspired by the content of last year's album Secular Psalms trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas reconvened one of his best bands, including Jon Irabagon on saxophones and alto clarinet, Matt Mitchell on piano, Linda May Han Oh on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. This album and Songs of Ascent Book 2: Steps, which is only available to subscribers to his Greenleaf Music service are inspired by Psalms 120-134. "Never Let Me Go" opens the album with fast tumbling cascading theme for the whole group, Douglas's trumpet solos at length in a sunny and bright manner against spare backdrop of comped piano and broken up drumming. The saxophone enters, probing the setting, making the most of the space for an expressive feature, then exploratory piano leads the rhythm section feature held together by grounded bass and expressive drumming. A bouncy theme, swirling and exciting to hear is a hallmark of "Deceitful Tongues," turning more introspective with a searching trumpet feature, Douglas takes his time improvising a thoughtful passage, and then handing it off to Irabagon for a typically unique saxophone solo, he really has the whole history of the instrument at his fingertips. Mitchell is another iconoclast, who approaches the piano is a wholly creative manner as he does here. The group returns to the bounding theme, anchored by Linda May Han Oh and Rudy Royston, who play with wonderful taste and texture. "A Fowler's Snare" has a rampaging fast theme charging out of the gate, the group as a collective force barreling ahead, then Douglas and Irabagon take to the skies playing with and around each other with joy as the rhythm section urges them along. Linda May Han Oh gets a well deserved although short bass feature and then the the group returns to the fast theme and it is all over in a flash. The finale "Mouths Full of Joy" has a swaggering opening, with the leader taking over with a spitfire brass solo over rolling rhythm accompaniment. The saxophonist's retort has a fast and boppish hue to it, with rapid flurries of notes coming in clusters. Beautiful lush piano with deep bass and drums pulling it downward follows, and the improvisation by the three musicians here is a highlight. A fitting end to an album that is filled with well written themes that provide fuel for both excellent soloing and ensemble playing, this is a keeper for sure. 
Songs of Ascent Book 1: Degrees -

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Friday, September 30, 2022

William Parker - Universal Tonality (Centering Records / AUM Fidelity, 2022)

This release was twenty years in the making, but well worth the wait. Recorded in December of 2002 in New York City, this modern big band recording featured some of the best talent on the progressive jazz scene. Parker's unique poems and lyrics anchor these six lengthy pieces, sung and spoken with great aplomb by vocalist Leena Conquest. "Tails Of A Peacock" has a rhythm section opening with extra percussion and blustery trumpet, gutsy playing, as clarinet bubbles underneath. The music fills out with instruments, sounding riotously strong and passionate, leading to excellent full band interplay. Conquest adds vocals, both soulful and precise. Spoken word poetry begins "Cloud Texture (death has died today)" backed by piano and bass, turns to graceful singing as louder instruments gradually enter. Abstract bows, and more poetry, dramatic storytelling, recounting jazz history. Piano and horns slowly fold in and the pace slowly begins to increase. Extra percussion adds another layer to the dense large ensemble playing, singing and speaking alternately backed by was violin and drums. Gentle acoustic instruments in a calm period demonstrate the dynamism of this piece. Conquest returns, with light yearning singing and spoken word, evoking the jazz musicians of the past. "Leaves Gathering (headed back to tree)" Develops spoken word themes of spirituality and the nature of sound, as horns frame and then take over, creating swirling, kaleidoscopic sounds, building to complex multi-layered improvisation, adding some electronics into the mix as well as excellent brass and reeds, drums and percussion. Really fine interplay between the musicians, trumpet and saxophone, rhythm section all playing as one. Wordless vocalizing over unusual string accompaniment leads to the close. Unique sounding horn and cymbal give an exotic tinge to "Silver Sunshine" as Conquest enters clearly singing amid the  brisk instrumental playing, the music swaying and swinging, a  full band section flowing naturally as the improvisation develops, leading to "All Entrances (it is for you the sun rises)" where cymbals and guitar develop a complex improvisation, adding swooping strings, nimble guitar, many data points, instrumentally and vocally. The final track is the lengthy "Open System One" leading off with bass and vocals, light saxophone floating by the urgent speak singing, bowed instruments and thick bass lead the ecstatic music playing, and joyous singing. Brisk deep brass and bass support reed solos, and great swaths of collective improvisation are very exciting to hear, with cells of piano and guitar placed among the towering brass and reeds. Wordless vocals float across a stream of light musical accompaniment, then spoken word, finally leading to the end of this momentous performance.  Parker hardly solos, but he is the rock upon which this performance was built. This is an excellent and commendable album from the always reliable William Parker and it is highly recommended. Universal Tonality -

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Thursday, September 29, 2022

Club d'Elf - You Never Know (Face Pelt Records, 2022)

Club d'Elf has come a long way since I first heard them on 2006's Now I Understand album, evolving to an ever changing collective that plays a jazzy world groove music that is quite alluring. The influence of Live/Dead era Grateful Dead and early fusion Miles Davis is palpable, adding strong doses of Middle Eastern and South Asian music as well. This unpredictable band is capable of anything, including the wonderful middle eastern track "Zeed Al Maal" shot through with impassioned vocals, then giving way to a brilliant cover of Miles Davis's "In A Silent Way" that moves from spacey ambience to scorching guitar soloing. Some hot Miles like trumpet and wah tinged guitar takes the influence of his great 70's work and launches it into the present on "Dark Fish," which also features a fast paced synth keyboard interlude keeping the music boiling. Exotic Indian sounds are present on "Dervish Dance" with vocals perhaps sampled, along with deft string playing. "Lalla Aisha in Jhaptal" gets pretty funky, like a seventies action film or TV  soundtrack with fast scatted vocals and scratched vinyl, then a taut pedal drenched guitar solo snakes its way through, while "Allah Ya Moulana" has jaunty singing with non English vocals, light and mobile music, and a nice surf guitar like solo, sounding like Hawaiian or slide guitar with electric piano framing. Hand claps and electric bass on the finale "King Kong" usher in a long and complex track that evolves over time through scratches, keyboards and vocals. It results in a bubbling and simmering funky jam, with a hand percussion solo that keeps the rhythm fresh, and a B3 organ and electric bass interlude that injects old school funky jazz, before everyone comes together for a great jam to take the album out. You Never Know -

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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Lionel Hampton Orchestra 1958 - The Mess Is Here, Revisited (ezz-thetics records, 2022)

Ezz-Thetics Records makes an interesting shift on this album from their usual free jazz offerings to vibraphonist, pianist and drummer Lionel Hampton's big band on tour in jazz hungry Europe, performing in Stuttgart, during January 1958. The band doesn't have any of Hampton's more famous past members, but the performers here are very solid indeed, backed up by some German musicians sitting in with the band. Hampton is not resting on his swing era laurels and the set list reflects this, still showcasing his big hit "Flying Home" which is given an extended reading, but without a saxophonist the likes of Illinois Jacquet in the band, Hampton takes matters into his own hands with a driving vibraphone solo that swings hard and pushes the rest of the band into driving accompaniment. Hampton was up to date with the current musical trends, taking the band through some fast bebop flag wavers, Charlie Parker's "Conformation" and Denzil Best's "Move," which are played with some sparkling solos from alto saxophone and piano as well as strong riffing from the remainder of the band. There is an appropriately moody rendition of Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight" with a lengthy feature for pianist Oscar Dennard, who plays with a deft touch. But the Hampton band at heart was an entertaining unit and this is shown in the big finale, starting with Jimmy Witherspoon's "New Orleans Woman" with some excellent blues singing from vocalist Cornelius "Pinocchio" James leading the group into their closer, "Hamp's Boogie Woogie" where both Dennard and Hampton solo in piano along with strong support from the large ensemble carrying them to a swinging finish. This album worked well, the sound remastering is well done, and there are interesting liner notes putting the music into historical context. The Mess Is Here, Revisited - Squidco

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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Miles Davis - The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: That’s What Happened 1982-1985 (Legacy Recordings, 2022)

The return to duty by the great trumpeter Miles Davis was met with joy by most, consternation by some and anguish by a few. Where the crisply suited young lions were making their mark by returning mainstream jazz to the music that Davis had pioneered in the mid 1960's, his view remained resolutely forward thinking, continuing the fusion he developed before retirement, but with a new generation of sidemen and new technology to experiment with. This is the first time the Bootleg series he moved into the post retirement material (Davis was off the scene from late 1975 - early 1981) and the set consists of two discs of previously unreleased studio recordings from the the studio albums Star People, Decoy and You’re Under Arrest sessions, and a third disc Live in Montreal on July 7, 1983. Most of disc one comes from Star People, where Miles co-produces with Teo Macero who assisted him on many classic albums in the past. You get a sense of what Davis was looking for on the opening "Santana" with shiny synths framing bubbling electric bass and percussion, and some electric guitar creating a funky and infectious performance. "Minor Ninths Parts 1/2" go in the opposite direction, with spare electronics floating around some beautifully tasteful ballad trumpet. There is a gentle groove on "Celestial Blues 1-3" with choppy guitar and percussion setting the stage for Davis to wander freely and expound at will. "Remake of OBX Ballad and Ballad Sessions" demonstrates that Miles still has that tone that sounds like nothing else, framed by synth and spare percussion, while the sessions show them experimenting with further synth parts and interludes. Coming from the Decoy album sessions "Freaky Deaky 1/2" creates a deep earthy groove that leaves a lot of room for electric bass and guitar interplay. John Scofield is on guitar and he makes some really nice moves on this track. Davis's treatment of pop songs was a hallmark of his final period, perhaps none more so than the Cindi Lauper ballad "Time After Time," here presented as an alternate take and full session. The trumpeter plays with exquisite beauty and taste, making as much with modern pop as he did with standards and show tunes in his early career. Another pop song, Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” is also included, with Davis adding tasteful trumpet asides to the theme, and carrying the song with a light touch, backed by electric piano and bass. The live album is an impressive one, Davis sounds vibrant, playing over a rich funky stew on the opening track, "Speak (That’s What Happened)." Darryl Jones on bass, Al Foster on drums and percussionist Mino Cinélu keep the pot boiling and Davis also has Scofield on guitar and Bill Evans on saxophones for this performance. Scofield solos at length and with some ferocity on "Star People" getting a potent feature. "What It Is" is a quick and flashy interlude for saxophone and electronics, Davis is always generous with his sidemen, but usually has the last word. Achingly emotional trumpet anchors "It Gets Better," while "Hopscotch" is a blistering up-tempo performance for the whole band. Moving dynamically from dark to light keeps the music in motion and the crowd excited. Davis leads the theme on "Jeanne Pierre" and takes the group into a lengthy performance where everyone shines. "Creepin' In" is the finale, a spacey and interesting track that spools out on synth and keyboard, breaking through with bursts of trumpet, guitar and flute. Overall this is a well done and presented set, one that shines a light on one of Davis's more unappreciated periods and shows the inner working of how the early comeback albums were made, and a live date that demonstrates their summation. The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: That’s What Happened 1982-1985 -

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Monday, September 19, 2022

Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, Brian Blade - LongGone (Nonesuch Records, 2022)

The original Joshua Redman Quartet dates back to the early 1990's, the young lions period where jazz seemed awash in mainstream talent, and the mainstream labels were snatching them up left and right. This album marks their most recent reunion, with Redman in tenor and soprano saxophone, Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride on bass and Brian Blade on drums. The album begins with the title track "Long Gone," a mellow and genteel mid-tempo lope, gradually gathering pace, leading to a piano, bass and drums feature. Redman's saxophone returns with a clean tone engaging in a confident solo then lowering the pace for the outro. "Disco Ears" has a lighter tone, with the leader moving to soprano saxophone, presenting a quick theme and then a solo that is quite nimble and fluid, flowing between the other instruments, creating an impressive lengthy feature. The group creates a ballad beginning with piano and soft tenor saxophone on "Statuesque," with bowed bass framing and joining with the other instruments and soft percussion completing the scene. The music is very melodic but it gradually evolves into a slow moving improvised setting. "Kite Song" has a light saxophone tone in space, unaccompanied, then the band falling in beside him for a medium tempo theme. A rhythm section feature leads back to stronger more emphatic saxophone playing and drumming, driving the music forward with some force. Mehldau works to establish a medium tempo groove on "Ship to Shore," with the rhythm team as a whole working hard to bring some life to the music, especially McBride's stout bass solo, with crisp and clear piano and drums adding ideas. Redman comes in the end, showing some spark in the full band improvisation. The concluding piece, "Rejoice" is a lengthy live performance, one that really delivers the goods. Redman's tenor saxophone tone sounds much more direct and clear, and the band responds in kind. Bowed bass flows around the other sounds, while Blade builds complex rhythms, and the full band improvisation is substantial. This track is so good that it nearly does a disservice to the studio recordings, by overshadowing them. Perhaps they ran short of material. Nevertheless it demonstrates what is special about this group of musicians, and why they keep returning to each other as the calendar pages turn. LongGone -

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Friday, September 09, 2022

Hank Mobley - A Slice of the Top (rec. 1966, LP 1979, CD 1995)

Tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley was incarcerated for narcotics offenses hen he composed five of the six pieces on this album, passing them through his lawyer to Duke Pearson who wrote the arrangements for a nonet comprised of Kiane Zawadi on euphonium, Howard Johnson on tuba, James Spaulding on alto saxophone and flute, Lee Morgan on trumpet, McCoy Tyner on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. "Hank's Other Bag" is a swinging opener, one that works well, with the expanded front line making room for some expanded soloing and ensemble work that develops a nice up-tempo pace. Strong riffing from the supporting horns add heft to the solos and the heavy hitting rhythm section really pushes the track along. There is a stark sense of ennui pervading the next track, "There's A Lull In My Life," deeply sad for a Mobley ballad, which are usually in the 'tough love' category. Duke Pearson's arrangement really brings out the late night heartbroken loneliness in the composition and the musicians create a tone that matches his direction. "Cute 'n' Pretty" sees additional texture being added to the arrangement in the form of Spaulding's flute and the tuba of Howard Johnson. There is a stout trumpet solo with slashing rhythm accompaniment, which are first rate, trying to push Mobley back up to speed. Spaulding and Tyner solo in nimble ways, before the whole band returns to the theme to round things out. Brass pushes "A Touch of Blue" out onto the stage, strutting forth confidently, making room for a fine swinging tenor saxophone solo aided by some excellent drumming, and framing from the ensemble. A punchy trumpet feature really kicks in engaging with the other horns in an extended conversation, then turning attention to Sapulding's alto saxophone, where he develops a fleet an interesting solo of his own. It's a shame he wasn't signed to Blue Note in this period, but which changing tastes and then impending sale of the label to Liberty, he fell through the cracks. The mid tempo track "A Slice Off The Top" ends the album, with some lush arranging from Pearson, weaving through an interesting theme, letting the leader take the first solo, weaving through the horn arrangement and swirling rhythm section with aplomb. Strong sounding trumpet cuts across the thundering drums and additional help, laying out a very impressive offering, with Spaulding then lighting up a beautifully tart and sweet sounding alto spot that is his most impressive solo on the record. The rhythm team gets a turn to shine with Tyner sounding comfortable and rippling waves of piano across deep bass and complex cymbal work. Apparently Mobley wasn't too happy about the record label sitting on this album for a decade, as he was still playing well as the end of the decade approached. This album proved him right, it's unique in his discography with the little big band format, filled with top notch talent creating fine solos and ensemble play amid concise compositions and arrangements. A Slice of The Top -

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Saturday, September 03, 2022

Steve Lehman's Sélébéyone - Xaybu: The Unseen (Pi Recordings, 2022)

Alto saxophonist and composer Steve Lehman has always been daring in his approach to music, using this second album from this group to merge hip-hop, modern jazz and live electronic music, to develop an unique musical soundscape. Joining Lehman on this project are Gaston Bandimic and HPrizm, rapping in Wolof and English respectively. Also present are Maciek Lasserre on soprano saxophone and Damion Reid on drums. The disparate elements of sound are very well integrated and the album flows organically like a continuous piece of music, cascading downhill with words and music tumbling together in an exciting manner. Highlights include "Djibril" where Wolof is spoken spare backdrop, before piercing alto saxophone enters with insistent drumming, and hip hop vocals and a powerful beat pushes the music forward, moving back to English commentary, with Lehman's saxophone moving adroitly around the vocals and other instruments. This is followed directly by "Lamina" where interesting textures are created through electronic sounds and saxophone, with the ensuing complex narrative in the rapped lyrics sounding very interesting, framed by saxophone and electronics. Complex scatting and percussion takes the music in a different direction, returning to saxophone improvising over electronics and beats. "Liminal" offers spare electronics to open, soon filled with fast declarative speaking, as the music grows from the vocalist's strength, Lehman entering on alto and providing typically unique approach. Spoken English, with positive vibe, concludes the track with saxophone and percussion supporting. Spoken conversation, electronics, moves into mid tempo loping hip hip vocals on "Gagaku" enlivened with drums and saxophone. The vocals lay out for complex jazz adjacent improvisation, before the wordsmiths return, mixing fast and slow, conversational and scatted vocals. "Zeraora" has a heavy city urban feeling strong beats, and well articulated rhymes. There is frantic French rapping in response, with broken beats and flurries of saxophone stretching out over complex fast drumming. This was quite an undertaking and it is clear that all of the musicians were engaged in the collective spirit of adventure, working together regardless of language or distance. I wish there was more saxophone, because I love Lehman's sound, but that is a small quibble in an otherwise fascinating album. Xaybu: The Unseen -

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Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Chris Forsyth - Evolution Here We Come (No Quarter Records, 2022)

Guitarist Chris Forsyth has forged an exciting if too often overlooked career playing at the nexus of progressive rock, jazz fusion and psychedelic music. On this album he is joined by Tom Malach on guitar, Douglas McCombs on bass guitar and Ryan Jewell on drums, percussion and vibes. They create an album that is mostly instrumental with a few vocal tracks, and the music covers a wide range of ideas in a productive and successful manner. “Experimental and Professional” opens the album with swirls of guitars weaving in and out, with exciting upt-empo electric guitar coming alive and driving the music forward with slash and burn guitar techniques that are very exciting. More open hearted and poppy sounding, “Heaven For A Few” uses big optimistic sounding chords, suitable for a TV movie about the scruffy underdog overcoming long odds. This track sounds very produced, but not annoyingly so. “Bad Moon Risen” erupts with crisp percussion and grinding guitar, sounding much more raw than the previous track, setting a serrated edge to the guitar playing, setting up a bit of Crazy Horse looseness and grind, building riffs from the bottom up to a wild improvised ending with everyone playing all out. The Richard Thompson song “You’re Going To Need Somebody“ is given a hearty performance with vocals, and it sounds like the band is having a blast playing good ol rock 'n' roll, sending a nod from one killer guitar player to another, as the vocals and backup provide swelling choruses, along side a strong steady beat. “Hey Evolution” has some more introspective vocals, cast in a neon light of evening, buoyed by sparks of epic guitar, creating room for some soaring guitar playing taking over. The music quiets a bit on the beginning on “Long Beach Idyll” quietly building mid-tempo, patient guitars which then begin sparking off one another then reaching for the sky. Big strong slabs of music are moved, and then dynamically downshifted toward more melodic cells, adding phased shifting at the end. The final track is the lengthy and exciting jam “Robot Energy Machine” where the two guitars and bass form upbeat bright sounding themes, which kicks in into higher gears nicely with some excellent tandem guitar playing, gradually adding variations to the theme. The track develops into a multi layered performance that is complex, yet creative and alluring. Evolution Here We Come -

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