Friday, April 28, 2006
Among the big horns feting the owner of the Jazz Showcase: Von Freeman, Jimmy Heath, Yusef Lateef, James Moody and Ira Sullivan. Word is Lou Donaldson may be there as well.
I mentioned some Sullivan dates with Red Rodney earlier this week. Today, I've been listening to stuff from Heath, Lateef and Freeman.
I highly recommend Heath's "On the Trail," Riverside. High energy hard bop, save for a ballad interlude or two, with Wynton Kelly, Kenny Burrell, Paul Chambers and the drumming Heath brother Albert "Tootie," it's a classic jazz CD. If you can find it, get "Freddie Hubbard & Jimmy Heath Live at the Left Bank," from defunct Label M, another project of Joel Dorn that I sorely miss. Two masters trading improvisations that mostly clock in near 10 minutes or more. It's almost like being there, and this disk makes me wish I had been.
Lateef's "Eastern Sounds," OJC, shows his versatility and makes interesting use of some Asian musical forms.
Freeman's recent "The Great Divide," Koch, will make you think of Gene Ammons. I really like "You Talkin' to Me?!" from Delmark, with Freeman and young Frank Catalano matching tenors in a more free-leaning set.
Here, he's mostly bringing it like Lee Smith used to for the Cubs. (Sorry, it's baseball season). If you don't remember Lee Smith, just spin the first two tunes on the disk, "Slave Song" and "Celebration Dance," and you'll see what I'm talking about. Pianist Sonelius Smith (no relation to Lee, as far as I know) is an attraction on this quartet date as well. He's complimentary throughout and pay attention to his unusual intro to, and his solo later in, the title track, which Murray uses to update Coleman Hawkins in ways that just make me marvel at the cleverness of his approach. Still waiting for the first David Murray CD that doesn't intrigue me.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
"Daddy No Mana" makes me think of Mingus' "The Clown," a piece that skirts the edge of the avant-garde envelope, moved somewhat beyond that edge. "Drunk or Happy" captures the dichotomy in the title musically and makes interesting use of the didgeridoo courtesy of Art Baron, whose main axe is the trombone. "Oxbow Incident" begins in kind of an eerie whisper, fitting if you know the short story or movie, and evolves into a quiet, haunting cross between a sad ballad and a Native American chant. I think bad free jazz frequently results from ham-handed handling of discordance. This group, which reminds me of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, shows how it should be done. A fine CD I'm likely to find something new in each listen.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
You can sometimes find 32 Jazz disks on sale used, and even never opened if you're lucky, and if you see "Hey, Chood" grab it. It's a fabulous compilation of prime cuts from Red Rodney's Muse dates (real name Robert Chudnick, Chood to Charlie Parker) with more from multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan and such sidemen as Barry Harris, Sir Roland Hanna, Billy Higgins and Sam Jones.
Monday, April 24, 2006
Hewitt, who died in 2002 essentially homeless, never released a recording when he was alive and that's too bad. On "We Loved You," he's something like a cross between Monk and Hank Jones, with the lyrical beauty and classical flourishes of the latter and the propensity for risk taking and familiarity with stride of the former.
Hewitt, in a bass and drums trio, does mostly standards on the disk but I'm never bored listening to it because of the way he reconstructs the songs in his own highly individualistic style. A melancholy "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and a swinging "I'll Remember You" are among the highlights. The whole program's good, however.
Friday, April 21, 2006
If Pink Martini went bad, I think it would end up as "Watermelon Slim & the Workers," the title of a great blues CD from Northern Blues, and the kind of blues often at the root of memorable jazz. From the looks of them, you probably wouldn't want to meet these guys in a dark alley, unless Slim, a member of Mensa with a journalism degree for gods' sake, was playing his "harp" and National Steel and singing songs like "Devil's Cadillac" in his voice that sounds about as bad as Tom Waits and gets the point across just as effectively. Then you'd stick around, after a side trip to the corner gin mill for a bottle, probably Red Rocket, and listen raptly. I just betchya there ain't many homages to Muddy, the Wolf, John Lee and B.B. sung in French.
Didn't find this one on NPR, but via The Roadhouse podcast from Tony Steidler-Dennison, one of my must-listen musical pleasures every week.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
In my view, some of the best stuff the great tenor saxophonist has done (and I should know because I have bought about all of it) was with guitarist Jim Hall, which I also think says a lot about Jim Hall, because it's no mean feat to hang musically with Sonny Rollins, especially Sonny Rollins in the '60s hot off one of his celebrated sabbaticals to rejuvenate and scout out new musical paths to tread.
This inclined me to buy Hall's "Dialogues," Telarc, when I saw it last weekend for the great price of $10.99, not to mention the lineup Hall is dialoguing with, Bill Frisell and Mike Stern, two of my favorite modern jazz electric guitarists, ace saxophonist Joe Lovano, trumpeter Tom Harrell and Gill Goldenstein, normally a pianist who in this case plays the accordion, which he'd started noodling with again in a nod to his youth. Hall went so far as to compose all but one of the songs specially for his guests and the result is wonderful. (Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark" is the exception, and that's OK, because he and Harrell destandardize it.) The two Stern pieces (Hall does two with everybody) are highlights, especially "Uncle Ed," and the accordion duets are fun. "Calypso Joe" gives Lovano a chance to play Mr. Rollins ala "St. Thomas."
I'd consume Rollins' "The Bridge," Hall's "Concierto" and his "Alone Together" duets with bass legend Ron Carter first, but "Dialogues" is a nice Camembert for a cheese course, and all my friends know I've got a soft spot for a nice Camembert.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
But maybe it takes someone like Fareed Haque, whose group I caught at the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis Saturday night, to really get full use out of such instruments and Pakistani-Indian musical forms in a jazz context. A Northern Illinois University music professor and son of a Pakistani father and Chilean mother, he understands both the axes and the music in a traditional sense and he's as deft and innovative a jazz electric guitarist as Bill Frisell and Mike Stern, two of my favorites, the latter of whom played with Miles.
This is evident on "Cosmic Hug," Magnatude, a 2005 Haque CD I bought in the wake of the Indy show. The disk opens with "Gulab Jammin," a fine mixing of South Asian, jazz, rock and funk elements. Make no mistake, Haque is known as a fusion guitarist and there are plenty of stretches where he gives the Johns McLaughlin and Scofield, or any other guitarist Miles employed, a run for their money, even on an overtly subcontinent-influenced piece like "Lahara." I'm betting Davis would be impressed, with Haque and with his band mates, Dan Nimmer on Fender Rhodes and J. Cappo on keyboards and electronics not the least. It's a tight group and exciting stuff.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Parts of "Soul Eyes" recall "Freedom Suite," however, and there's some Mr. Rollins in "James." I don't mean to imply Vassilakis is at all imitative. It's a matter of borrowing techniques and tricks to bend to his own purposes. He's got excellent range and peppers what he does with Mediterranean themes, a little rap-like poetry and other surprises. He's also quite a creative composer and arranger. Nearly everything on "Parallel Lines" is original.
I'm pleased I went to see him in London and even more happy I bought this CD. The guy's a find and he's in New York this week and Chicago the next with drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, a Marsalis family favorite, so go see for yourself.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
If you don't own "The Amazing Bud Powell, Volume One," Blue Note, get
the new Rudy Van Gelder Edition. Like Bud wasn't enough, you go 11
tracks deep with Sonny Rollins and Fats Navarro as sidemen. Then you
have to "suffer" through nine trio pieces with Max Roach on drums. I
wouldn't want to live in a world where I couldn't listen to Bud Powell
play "You Go to My Head." And what he does with "Over the Rainbow" is not to be missed. Mr. Rollins, just a pup at this point, kills on the alternate take of "Wail." Massively classic.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Friday, April 14, 2006
Still, I wouldn't suggest "Cellar Door" or "Montreux" (they're both from Columbia) for everybody given the cost. I will suggest "Miles Davis Munich Concert," from Imc Music, which I spied for $15.99 at the local Best Buy this month, a bargain price for a three-CD set, mostly from 1988, that gives you a good idea what the later Montreux stuff sounds like.
That is, like rock, pop and jazz fused in a way that made for a jazz music, if not with the popularity swing once commanded, at least more popular than jazz had been since the swing era. Kenny Garrett in particular rocks, man, as much as Clarence "The Big Man" Clemons ever did with The Boss, and Garrett's a much more technically proficient saxophone player.
As a bonus to fill the third CD, you get 35-minutes of "Call It Anything" from a 1970 Isle of Wright Festival recording. The band included most of the "Cellar Door" crew, plus Chick Corea and Dave Holland.
At five bucks and change for each disk, I'll be suggesting it henceforth to anyone who wants a nice, representative slice of Miles electric.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Violinist Jenny Scheinman says her own "12 Songs," Cryptogramophone, is in part a nod to Newman's disk and it's an aural feast in its own right. "The Frog Threw His Head Back and Laughed" could be the background music for the scene in "Stripes" where Bill Murray loses his girlfriend, his car gets repossessed and he drops the pizza he's bringing home for dinner on the ground ... face down. You gotta laugh so you don't cry it says. There's a noticeable Bill Frisell influence (see "Unspeakable") on parts of the CD, which Frisell appears on with regular collaborator Scheinman. OK by me because I'm a Frisell fan.
The music is diverse. In one stretch you get the Latin-inflected "Little Calypso," while "Satelite" has overtones of classical chamber music, "Atenna" starts like an avant-garde electronic experiment before becoming a fairly conventional ballad and "Albert" could be a piece from "Cold Mountain." "Moe Hawk" sounds to me like a march composed by Mingus instead of Sousa. The instrumental mix, including an accordion and a claviola, and especially drummer Dan Rieser, also is a big part of what makes this a keeper.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Bunk may not have been Louis Armstrong, but "Saints Go Marching In" is a really nice package of traditional New Orleans jazz with tasty versions of the title track, "Careless Love," "St. Louis Blues" and "C.C. Rider," among others. He does two boffo renditions of his own "Midnight Blues." Not a bad minute out of all 77:20 of it. Plus, I paid less than six bucks and that almost makes me giddy.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
But last time, I finally decided that what really attracted me to the painting was Vermeer's subtle yet affective use of color, the yellow in the lacemaker's dress, the shades of blue and gold in the material she's working with, a swatch of red.
I thought of this the other day as I listened again to my favorite Modern Jazz Quartet CD set, the two-disk "Dedicated to Connie," Atlantic, which captures a concert at Ljubljana, Slovenia, in 1960. Like Vermeer, it seems to me, the genius of the MJQ was the subtle use of musical color to render a book mostly made up of standards differently without going to extremes like, say, Paul Smoker and his mates on "Standard Deviation," which I happen to like as well, and without any horns to augment their palette.
Take the medley that opens the first CD, which includes pieces of "The Little Comedy" and "Fontessa," among other well-known tunes, colored with "Pop Goes the Weasel" and "My Old Kentucky Home" quotes, the blues, classical undertones, stride, avant-garde snatches and an unusual cymbal solo by Connie Kay. Also note the stop-and-go version of "'Round Midnight" and the way they come at "I Should Care" from different angles using similar tempo shifts and stutters. They essentially turn "I Remember Clifford" inside out, reversing fast and slow interludes and places where it swings and where it is melancholy. In none of these examples are the individual effects blatant or jarring, but the total effect can be captivating ... like a Vermeer painting.
Monday, April 03, 2006
"Destination Out," Blue Note. If Charlie Parker had lived into the '60s I hope he would have sounded like this, a logical extension of bop into the avant-garde era. Bobby Hutcherson on vibes and Grachan Moncur III on trombone are copacetic partners in the effort. I sometimes wonder if Roy Haynes ever recorded a session where he didn't sound like the perfect drummer for that particular date.
"Jackie McLean and Company," Prestige. Tuba player Ray Draper, on three cuts, gives it a different flavor. McLean's playing is soulful. Mal Waldron on piano and the fact that the songs are all originals by the players suggest it as well. Doug Watkins is impressive on bass.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
I've been listening to the great alto saxophonist, a stellar jazz educator in his own right, since I learned about his death yesterday and picked out what I think are my three favorite Jackie McLean disks.
"Nature Boy," Blue Note. This is McLean curbing (to some extent) his avant-garde leanings and playing a lovely, ballady set with Cedar Walton on piano, David Williams on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. I think McLean's playing, usually more Charlie Parker meets John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders by way of Thelonious Monk, is lyrically beautiful and a perfect introduction to his inherent greatness as a saxophonist. Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and Art Blakey didn't use the guy when he was a pup for nothing.
"The Jackie Mac Attack Live," Verve. I believe my buddy Carl Abernathy, taste spot on as usual, gave me this. Think Jackie McLean plays his alto live like Sonny Rollins plays his tenor live and you're not far wrong. Accessible hard bop with strong avant-garde leanings and impressive improvisation. A nice companion to "Nature Boy."
"Dynasty," Triloka. Essential jazz music, not just essential Jackie McLean music. He recorded this after 10 years off to work on his educational career. I think he had a lot waiting to get out, and it does. Playing with son René, a fine reedist himself, likewise seems to have been inspirational. Pianist Hotep Idris Galeta, also on "Jackie Mac Attack," is a guy you want to hear, too.