Monday, September 25, 2006

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Up front side man

With all the saxophones playing (Johnny Griffin, Hank Mobley and Coltrane) it's funny that Wynton Kelly really caught my ear on Griffin's "A Blowin' Session," Blue Note, yesterday. Not that the saxes aren't great, they are. Could be the pianist knew he had to push it to avoid getting lost amid all those horns. (Lee Morgan on trumpet, too. Not to mention a pretty strong dummer name of Blakey.) Kelly uses about every kind of trick he likely had in his book, blues and stride, bebop and hard hard bop, and more than holds his own. Classic.

Monday, September 11, 2006

That other Sonny

My heart is pounding, I kid you not. I am shaking my head. I smile. Then laugh. I am listening to Sonny Stitt solo on "Love Walked In" from disk one of "The Complete Roost Sonny Stitt Studio Sessions," Mosaic, which arrived today.

The purest sound this side of Charlie Parker, with whom he was often compared, to his annoyance. The ballad following, "If You Could See Me Now," drenched in flawless soul, does nothing to quell my excitement. In command of the horn and flood of ideas, "Come Rain or Come Shine" could, in fact, be Bird. He might not have liked the comparison, but it was, at least at this juncture, 1955, an apt one, and no insult.

However, while he may have played like Bird, even used some of Bird's phrasing, he sounds like himself, some Parker in there, yes, and Coleman Hawkins, Johnny Hodges and Lester Young, but mostly Sonny Stitt.

And then there are the people playing with him, J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding, Joe Newman, Hank Jones, Oscar Pettiford and Charles Mingus, Papa Jo Jones ... and that's just on disk one. If all nine disks are like this I'll be one happy dude for the rest of the month. (I'm not eating this in one sitting, this is for savoring.)


They're as coordinated as synchronized swimmers when playing as an ensemble and on solos they hand off to each other like a finely honed championship relay team. My thoughts on Harold Land, sax, Jack Sheldon, trumpet, and Carl Perkins, piano, on the ballad "Counceltation" from "You Get More Bounce with Curtis Counce!"

The Contemporary/OJC disk culled from five 1956-57 sessions is one of those lesser-known gems from lesser-known artists that I think pervade '50s and '60s jazz.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Trane ride, Elvin Jones conducting

Walking home from work last night listening to the Nano, "India" from "Impressions," Impulse, came up and the greatness of Elvin Jones hit me like an epiphany. Here's Coltrane, plus Eric Dolphy, McCoy Tyner and two bassists, Reggie Workman in addition to Jimmy Garrison, making music without a script and Jones, to my ear, never issues an out-of-place beat.

The near-perfect way he melds his drumming with Coltrane's playing actually kind of shocked me, even though I must have played the disk a dozen times before. Most of the song's 14 minutes are just Coltrane, Jones and the basses, which also are uncannily in step with the saxophonist. Amazing stuff.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Birthday greetings

Happy birthday to Mr. Sonny Rollins, 76 years young today.

Celebrate by picking up "Our Man in Jazz," an RCA Victor/BMG CD of 1962-63 recordings, including a 25-minute remake of Mr. Rollins' "Oleo" by the saxophonist and trumpeter Don Cherry that could be used as a textbook example of how to play in the avant-garde vein but remain accessible.

Cool to hear Bob Cranshaw, who seems like he's been playing electric bass forever, playing an acoustic bass on three of the tracks as well. The great Henry Grimes handles the bass on the other three tracks and Billy Higgins drums throughout. This was a marvelous Sonny Rollins group.