Monday, July 31, 2006
The music strikes me as hard bop with free elements and lots of clever touches that make it interesting over multiple listens. Take the nice coloring from Tardy playing flute, on which he doubles, on "Know What I Mean?!" The saxophones often sound like a choir during the ensemble interludes, not unlike the World Saxophone Quartet, but not quite as heavy or imposing either. It's more like Odean Pope's Saxophone Choir on "Locked & Loaded: Live at the Blue Note," Halfnote, a good disk my friend Carl Abernathy gave me recently, although Pope uses a piano.
"Lullaby of Leaves" is like something out of a "Pink Panther" score meets the deep blues, while "Devil Head" makes me think of classical chamber music in some places and Mingus in others. Avital, who gives himself some solo space, makes me think of Mingus as well, not in his sound necessarily but in his ability to make the bass seem not at all out of place when used as a front-line instrument. Plenty of fine solos from the saxes, too, including a series of them in "12 Tribes." Thanks Smalls, again.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
I thought about that this afternoon listening to Charlie Parker's "Au Privave" on the Jimmy Smith Blue Note CD "House Party." The B-3 master, Lee Morgan, Lou Donaldson, Tina Brooks, Kenny Burrell and Art Blakey turn in one of the most perfect pieces of jazz music I know. (Jimmy, how I miss him, lets lose with some brilliant solo improvisation on "Just Friends" as well.)
Friday, July 28, 2006
Cool call and response from Gillespie and Carter on "Sweet and Lovely" and Pass, Carter, Flanagan and Dizzy all take standout solos on "Constantinople." John Birks even raises the roof a bit with high notes during "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen," showing he could still do it even in his 60s. Roker ends the cut by singing the words to the song in a way that makes you feel the blues and the church at the same time. This is rated 2.5 stars (of 5) on allmusic, which I generally like, but that rating's stupid.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
As the title implies, they do a mix of bebop standards, including a wonderful medley of "I Can't Get Started" and "Round Midnight," and new (for 1963 when this was recorded) stuff. In the latter, I hear Dizzy, minus the mute, telling Miles Davis (and his second great quintet) that he ain't got nothin' over on old John Birks where sophisticated post-bop jazz is concerned. Barron cooks on "Cup Bearers." I might make "Early Mornin' Blues" my theme song for walking to work.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
A host of bop standards, such as "52nd Street Theme" and "Anthropology," get large-group treatment and you hear him go full-bore into incorporating Afro-Cuban forms into his music, after dabbling previously, by adding legendary congero Chano Pozo for "Manteca," "Cubana Be," "Cubana Bop" and other Latin-laced tunes. The recasting of "St. Louis Blues," which author Donald Maggin says honked off W.C. Handy, is priceless, the learned Professor Handy notwithstanding. Nifty Latinized version of "That Old Black Magic" with Johnny Hartman singing. Dizzy throws down in soling on "Jumpin' with Symphony Sid," which almost skirts the avant-garde in places.
Monday, July 24, 2006
The music, all Harrell's, is diverse, from classically tinged to hard boppy and semi bossa nova to borderline free. But what really strikes me is the diversity of musicians he employed, from Dewey Redman and David Sanchez to Regina Carter and Mike Stern, and how well they work together despite generally having what I would call very different musical personalities. Stern and Redman turn in some memorable solos.
There's a Latin feeling to many of the cuts and, besides the bigger names, an interesting collection of instrumentation under the music, including strings, bassoon, marimba, bass clarinet and a variety of percussion devices. Enjoyable from first to last.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Dizzy raises the roof solo on the latter as well, and does some powerful soloing that I dig in particular on ballads such as "Stella by Starlight" and "I Remember Clifford." He lets loose with fine muted blues playing on "Joogie Boogie." Check out "School Days," which rocks and rolls, in large part thanks to the rhythm and blues-style sax runs by Billy Mitchell.
"Groovin' High" on this set captures the essence of Gillespie's conception of a bebop big band. A tad too many alternate takes of "Left Hand Corner" (four) on the second disk for my taste, but overall it's still plenty of unique tunes for the money.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
As I said, I have a thing for Dizzy's mid-1950s big bands and one of the points I find interesting in the book is that he had a strong preference for leading and playing in big bands in general, albeit bop and Latin jazz arrangements not traditional swing. Unlike Charlie Parker, who preferred small groups, small-group play was more of an economic necessity for Dizzy than a vocation.
We can thank the U.S. Government, which wanted a jazz big band for a State Department good-will tour and was willing to subsidize it, and Norman Granz, who just wanted to hear great music, for the existence of Gillespie's '56-57 groups, which the man himself classed as his best ever.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
John Birks sure should have been famous for his small-group bebop recordings with Charlie Parker, but I think I like him best leading his mid-1950s big bands. Besides Golson and Mitchell (on my all-underrated sax team), this one includes Lee Morgan and Wynton Kelly, among others, along with a guest turn by Mary Lou Williams, who does wonderful Latin-inflected soloing on "Carioca." Standout version of "A Night in Tunisia" as well, with some cool Dizzy improvising. Classic.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Less than three months from death, Miles Davis still had it, even figuring that the power trumpet parts I hear are carried by Benny Bailey and Wallace Roney, who were there to help out. The big bands conducted by Jones and playing Evans' classic arrangements for Davis are outstanding. But the guy who really stands out is saxophonist Kenny Garrett, a regular in Davis' electric groups at the time, where he also excels based on the "Montreux" disks I've listened to previously.
Miles Davis always resented the excess of attention Chet Baker received. At least he could take comfort, if cold, that he was playing a heck of a lot better than Chet at the end.
I bought the box set for the breadth of coverage it offers of live performances of Davis' constantly changing electric music over more than 20 years, but I'm happy to have this nod to his past as part of the package. In fact, I haven't been less than happy with any of the disks in the set. Songs are repeated from disk to disk, as is natural in any "complete" box. Generally, I don't think that's as big a drawback in jazz, where versions tend to differ with some significance from one to another. But in the "Montreux" box, the repeats are more or less in title only. They're like whole new songs from performance to performance. One disk to go .. then I'm listening again.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Mr. Rollins gets his by the time it's over, however, on his first studio release in six years and the first release ever on his own record label Doxy. I thought his last two studio CDs, "Sonny Rollins +3" and "This is What I Do," both Milestone, were among his best. They also were his last new disks of any kind before the outstanding, Grammy-winning and live "Without a Song," also Milestone, released last year.
I think "Sonny, Please" rates with any of the three and will probably get even more interesting over time because there's a lot going on in the course of the program.
Mr. Rollins is at his lyrical best on "Someday I'll Find You" and "Stairway to the Stars," which I place up there with two of my favorites, "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" on "This is What I Do" and "What a Difference a Day Made" on "+3." (Nice supporting work from Dinizulu on "Someday I'll Find You" and Anderson and guitarist Bobby Broom on "Stairway.")
The great tenor saxophonist is on the avant-garde edge on "Nishi," with some very complex blowing, and he makes another wonderful tribute to an old friend on "Remembering Tommy" (pianist Flanagan, who played with Mr. Rollins on his masterwork "Saxophone Colossus.") He seems to get especially inspired when he pens tunes in honor of former musical mates, as he did with "Have You Seen Harold Vick?" and "Charles M." on "This is What I Do."
The highlight: Probably "Serenade," on which he engages in the kind of ultra-creative improvisational odyssey from a simple melody for which he's justly famous. He closes with another in a line of smile-creating calypso-influenced tunes, "Park Place Parade."
Here's to many more new Sonny Rollins' CDs.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Meanwhile, Eddie's outside fixing up some junkyard furniture for the garden patio he's building in front of the theater, even though he's played with Booker T. & the MG's, Isaac Hayes, Solomon Burke and Albert King and toured Europe 10 times and is in the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame (he was born in Little Rock) with Herb Ellis, Louis Jordan and Pharoah Sanders, among others, pretty good company.
When I got home, I downloaded "42nd Street," his last CD, cut in 2001, from iTunes. In his playing style, Eddie Fisher makes me think of ... Eddie Fisher. If he sounds comparable to anybody, it's George Benson or maybe Jimmy Ponder and there's a little Grant Green and Wes Montgomery in his playing, too. The music moves my feet from the opener, "Who Loves You," and has a funk, Motown, soul thing going along with the blues in the mix, as on "Ah Blues Thang." All the songs are Fisher's. "Mr. Smooth" is as driving and powerful as any jazz guitar performance I can recall and it gets balanced nicely by "For You Babe," the pretty ballad that follows. Good musician and a good guy.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Friday, July 07, 2006
I thought about Brown because Morgan sounds like Lee Morgan playing Clifford Brown, maybe in "The Clifford Brown Story," if there had been such a movie. Which is not to say Morgan's playing isn't good, because it's downright amazing for a 19-year-old kid who's obviously on the way to finding his own voice, soon to be considerable, on this disk from early in his career.
You get to hear it plainly. Morgan is leading a quartet session and he's the only horn, although Sonny Clark on piano certainly helps carry the load. Spiffy.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
I'm thinking Anderson, a mainstay of Wynton Marsalis' Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, enjoyed playing outside the necon confines of the big group and he took full advantage. I picked this up on a flier last week while poking around in my local used CD store, and I'm glad I did.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Cab Calloway, "Are You Hep to Jive?" OK, the songs on this Columbia compilation, 22 recordings by the Calloway band from 1939-47, are generally goofy. But hey, the Cabster could sing, even on novelties like "Minnie the Moocher," and the band he had behind him plain ruled. Little wonder with dudes such as Dizzy Gillespie (before he and Calloway came to blows), Chu Berry and Milt "the Judge" Hinton in it. "The Calloway Boogie" might, in fact, keep you groovy 24 hours a day. Everybody ate when they came to Cab's house. And that's all reet, hep cat.
Follow the links to my suggestions for disks featuring the bands of Jay McShann or Glenn Miller or Claude Thornhill or Chick Webb or Benny Goodman or Fletcher Henderson or Billy Eckstine or Earl Hines or Andy Kirk.
Monday, July 03, 2006
Sunday, July 02, 2006
So I've been in a Jazz Showcase, a Jazz Bakery, a Jazz Kitchen and a
Jazz Cafe. Tonight, I added a jazz barn, officially the new Music Barn
at the University of Illinois-run Allerton Park. I have to say the loft
of an old timber barn makes a pretty nice concert venue. Of course it
helped that the UI jazz profs who broke it in had trombone legend Slide
Hampton along as a guest artist for a wonderful program of their
compositions, plus one from Mr. H., who still cooks, baby. I wonder if
he's ever played a real barn before?