Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Good oldies

Another after-1966 Sonny Rollins CD I enjoy is "Old Flames," recorded in 1993, which is pretty much a standards session with Tommy Flanagan on piano, Jack DeJohnette on drums and arrangements by Jimmy Heath.

Mr. Rollins plays with a brass choir (flugelhorns, French horn, tuba and trombone) on two cuts, "Darn That Dream" and "Prelude to a Kiss." Not a lot of real lengthy improvisations, but some good shorter and mid-sized runs. This is about as close as it gets to a "tranquil" Sonny Rollins disk.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Phineas here

"Here is Phineas: The Piano Artistry of Phineas Newborn Jr." is the CD to start appreciating Calvin's brother with, and the great bassist and drummer Oscar Pettiford and Kenny Clarke, too. Calvin Newborn also plays on some of the cuts. A super disk every semi serious jazz collector should own.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Born again

Calvin Newborn's "New Born" is pretty jazzy blues or pretty bluesy jazz, which is fitting for a guy whose late brother Phineas was one of the great jazz pianists, sadly unsung today, and who's own career, centered in Memphis, has been a mix of jazz and blues.

Nonetheless, Calvin Newborn is an excellent jazz guitarist who played with his brother, Earl Hines, Freddie Roach and Hank Crawford, among others. "New Born" includes a pianist, an organist and a sax player on various tracks, not to mention a trumpet, bass, drums and talking drums, and that may be my only complaint about it. All that accompaniment overwhelms Newborn's playing in spots. You get to hear him in ample fashion on songs like "Newborn Blues" and "Restorations," however, and the other players are well worth hearing as well, ultimately making this CD a winner.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Soweto's sweet

Soweto Kinch and friends rap on a few cuts on "Conversations With the Unseen" and I have to say I'm still looking for a good example of melding hip-hop and jazz. Some of what he does is interesting I think, including an interlude that kind of mixes rap and jazz singing. But I doubt it's very good rap and I know it's not great jazz.

What I also know is that Soweto Kinch is one heck of a fine young saxophone player, which is mostly what he does here. The guys with him (including Femi Temowo on guitar, Michael Olatuja on bass and Troy Miller on drums) are all excellent as well.

Buy "Conversations With the Unseen" for the instrumental jazz, which is among the most exciting I've heard on disk this year, and give Kinch credit for trying with the rapping. I'm betting that with his obvious musical talent he finds a way to make it work better in the future.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Sonny speaks

Here's a nice interview with Sonny Rollins ahead of his concert in Toronto. Personally, I think he's done a lot of good work since 1966, including "Here's to the People." Most recently "Global Warming," "Sonny Rollins +3" and "This is What I Do" were all outstanding.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Light not lite

Awhile back I suffered food poisoning from dinner at what used to be my favorite Mexican restaurant and as I reclined in my easy chair feeling awful the next morning I put on some quiet music to help get me through it, including Bill Evans on "Sunday Morning at the Village Vanguard" and Miles Davis with his "Sketches of Spain." It's a testament to the healing power of music that I felt much better, or at least to the power of music to give me something to concentrate on other than how bad I felt.

Next time I'm sick, I may put on "Translinear Light," Alice Coltrane's first recording in a quarter century. This is (with the exception of "This Train") mostly quiet, spiritual and peaceful music, which doesn't give up anything in intricacy for all of that. She's a very good pianist, organist and electronic keyboardist and her son Ravi, who accompanies on tenor and soprano saxophones, sounds a lot like his father here. (I intend that as a big compliment.)

With Charlie Haden along for the ride on bass and Jack DeJohnette and Jeff "Tain" Watts doing drum duty, it's an impressive CD and I understand why many reviewers raved about it when it came out last year. Like "A Love Supreme," it's not something I'll want to play every day, but I wouldn't want to be without it.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Hear Harold

"Did You See Harold Vick?" is another good track from the Sonny Rollins CD "This is What I Do" and it made me wonder who the heck Harold Vick was. Answer: "One of jazz's great unsung saxophonists," as allmusic puts it, a guy with a big, deep, rhythm and bluesy sound that reminds me some of "Fathead" Newman or "Lockjaw" Davis. Unfortunately, he started leading groups in the late '60s and early '70s and that's not what people wanted to hear then.

Flipping through disks at the Jazz Record Mart in Chicago not long ago I was thrilled to find CD reissues of two of his LPs, "Straight Up" with a quintet and sextet and "Watch What Happens" with a big band and quartet, both including Herbie Hancock on piano and Bob Cranshaw on bass. Makes me wish I had seen Harold Vick and glad I can still hear him.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Carter collectables

"Cosmopolite" and "Further Definitions" are a good Benny Carter twofer, the former with Oscar Peterson, the latter in a larger group setting with Coleman Hawkins and Charlie Rouse on Tenors, Phil Woods as a second alto, Jimmy Garrison playing base and Jo Jones on drums, among others. Stunning.

I also like "The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Vol. 1" with god, in the form of Art Tatum, in the house, B.C. playing alongside and Louis Bellson keeping time on drums and, wisely, staying out of the way.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Moon me

"This is What I Do," the last (2000), and last great, and I hope not the last great, Sonny Rollins CD contains a great version of "Moon of Manakoora." In fact, pretty much everything on this disk is, well, great.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Benny briefly

The CD reissue of 1960's "Sax a la Carter!" holds a collection of up-tempo numbers that drip swing like I drip sweat on one of these lovely East Central Illinois June days with a 90 degree temperature and 90 percent humidity, and ballads that make me long for every love I've lost, even the bad ones, and my dead doggy, too.

All this on tunes none of which tops four minutes. Folks, that's genius, which Benny Carter assuredly was. Doesn't hurt that the quartet for the session includes Jimmy Rowles, Billie Holiday's favorite pianist, Mr. Walking Bass himself Leroy Vinnegar and on drums Mel Lewis, he of stellar big band with Thad Jones. An interesting song selection as well, mostly stuff Carter never recorded elsewhere, according to the liner notes, like the movie tune "Moon of Manakoora" and "Friendly Islands," a song Hawaiian Airlines used as its theme. This one goes to the desert island with me, Hawaii or otherwise.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

San Francisco treat

I praised Jim Cifelli and his New York Nonet last week. Now let me toss some props to the Joshua Redman-led SFJazz Collective on the other coast. Its new CD is filled with well-executed free-leaning post bop (there are three Ornette Coleman songs and the originals are intended to celebrate Coleman's music).

Redman plays tenor and soprano saxes with a star-studded lineup including Bobby Hutcherson and Nicholas Payton, the should-be-better-known Renee Rosnes on piano and the young, super alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon, whose new CD "Jibaro" I touted highly last month. I'm very impressed with how well this group, which also includes Josh Roseman on trombone, Robert Hurst on bass and Brian Blade on drums, plays together.

Monday, June 06, 2005


British saxophonist Denys Baptiste drew on the musical rhythms he found underlying the Rev. Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech in crafting the four-part suite on "Let Freedom Ring!" The CD, which includes a little unobtrusive poetry, reminds me somewhat of the Wynton Marsalis Pulitzer Prize-winner "Blood on the Fields" or Archie Shepp's "Cry of My People," although it isn't as long as the former nor as sonically diverse as the later.

What it is mostly, is excellent large-ensemble playing (generally a dozen instruments) with music that ranges from jazzy orchestration to free jazz. Good stuff.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Strings attached

"Stuff Smith-Dizzy Gillespie-Oscar Peterson" is a good two-disk set with the great jazz violinist in great company. For Regina Carter CDs I like "Rhythms of the Heart" and "Paganini After a Dream," the later of which is really jazzy classical music, played partially on Paganini's famous violin "The Cannon" no less.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Another jazzed violin

When it comes to jazz violin, Regina Carter is the obvious descendent of Stuff Smith, maybe the swingingest violinist ever. Jenny Scheinman may not swing quite as hard and she's not possessed of that Motor City funk thing Detroit native Carter has.

But she's got Carter's ability to roll out classical chops where it works and she's better, I think, at the kind of intricate improvised runs I saw her engage in last month in Chicago as part of Bill Frisell's "Unspeakable" band. She's also adept at Jewish and Eastern European folk music forms.

You get all this on "Shalagaster," and Myra Melford on piano and harmonium as well, a new Scheinman-led CD I recommend.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

More from Morris

Earlier, I heartily suggested the Byron Morris and Unity CD "Y2K." Mr. Morris, a multi-saxophonist and flutist who should be more widely recognized, has actually been leading versions of his band in Washington, D.C., since the 1970s, while putting bread on the table by day as an engineer. "Vibrations In Time" is a collection of some of Unity's '70s material. Accordingly, you get snatches of Eastern music and some singing that today we might call new agey, but mostly it's strong, modal post-bop stuff with nice playing by Morris and his partner Vincent McEwan on trumpet and flugelhorn, as well as the rest of the ensemble. Pleased to tout it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Sorry Diana

I didn't intend to bad rap Diana Krall in the previous post. Although she's not really my cup of tea, I actually liked her last CD, "The Girl in the Other Room," quite a bit, in part I think because of the edge compositions by Krall and husband Elvis Costello give it.

But even an edgy Diana Krall mostly makes the piano tinkle. Dawn Clement sometimes makes it thunder, kind of like Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson.

Tickles my ivories

When a jazz pianist works Billy Strayhorn ("The Star-crossed Lovers") and Tom Waits ("Midnight Lullaby") tunes into a disk, not to mention five nifty compositions of her own, she's going to get my attention and Dawn Clement does on "Hush." All the better that she's quite a powerful piano player (kind of the anti-Diana Krall), although I might like to hear her working on the outside a little more overall, as she does on "Alone Together." Her playing on the Astor Piazzolla Tango "Coral" is stunning. Nice bass and drums work on this CD, Clement's first, by Geoff Cooke and Jose Martinez as well.