Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Season's greetings

Originally uploaded by mrgreg
Another holiday e-card from the mind and fingers of the great bassist Henry Grimes, whose talents extend beyond the bandstand. Check out last year's as well.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Smooth, as in good Scotch

On a Dave Brubeck jag today after buying Indian Summer on severe sale this morning (which, if Dave Brubeck never records again, is a wonderful solo capstone to his career) and it occurs too me that it's a shame smooth as in jazz has come to mean pap from, say, Kenny G, best consumed, if consumed at all, on an elevator.

Brubeck's Quartet through Brubeck & Rushing (a super outing with the blues shouting Mr. Five by Five), Jazz at the College of Pacific and Jazz at Oberlin defines "smooth" jazz in the good sense, rendered with nary a jagged edge but still adventurous, creative and full of surprises. They still take risks, they're just good enough to walk the tightrope without falling, and they can swing like mad, kind of like a smaller version of Duke Ellington's orchestra. (And outside of Johnny Hodges and Charlie Parker, I don't know an altoist with a more distinctive sound than Paul Desmond. I'd throw Benny Carter in there, too, although I think his sound got a little less distinctive over the years from all the people who appropriated it.)

Proof that "smooth" jazz doesn't have to be boring.

Will end the session with the classic Time Out, of course.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Stop that

Geez, I just had like a heart palpitation listening to Billy Preston on the third disk of The Complete On the Corner Sessions, which I am rationing slowly so as to savor, same thing I do when I buy maple sugar candy at Xmas.

Incredibly exciting music with, amazingly, not the least bit of dated feeling to it.

Then I'm sitting here and suddenly realizing I am frigging mesmerized by The Hen.

No wonder this stuff upset people when it came out. It's radical, man.

And I love it.

Corey Harris, Zion Crossroads, Telarc

On second pass I hear a nifty melding of blues-inflected rock with Marleyesque reggae (In the Morning) and lyrics sometimes belted out in a way a blues shouter like Jimmy Rushing could appreciate (Fire Go Come). I also like the way the horn and organ, which are pretty jazzy at times, flesh out the music without getting in the way (Cleanliness, among other places).

His synthesis of blues, rock and reggae, even a little country, on Plantation Town is particularly impressive.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Corey Harris, Between Midnight and Day, ALCD

I know two MacArthur "genius grant" winners and they are fascinating dudes, but I doubt either one could fit right in with Robert Johnson, Bukka White and Tampa Red. This guy pulls it off. The title track, for example, slides between covers of tunes by Blind Boy Fuller and White like it was right at home, in the Delta.

I thought his most recent thing, Zion Crossroads, was shades of Bob Marley (although none of the tunes were Marley's and almost all of the music was of his own manufacture) and yet in doing all this, his musical voice is unique, which tells me that genius money was well spent. I'm interested to see what's next.

Christian Scott, Anthem, Concord

So before fusion, I think the last great Miles Davis quintet (Miles, Shorter, Hancock, Carter, Williams) was pretty much the pinnacle of mostly acoustic jazz and this, electronics here and there notwithstanding, is in the vein. Diverse, complex, extremely technically proficient music with a drummer, Marcus Gilmore, as a linchpin.

My reservation: it's generally downbeat mood music (The Uprising, more or less, excepted). OK, it's about the aftermath of Katrina, but there must be something lively to touch on musically there. Kind of thing I'll play on a rainy day and dig as appropriate moodwise, but maybe not when the sun is shining.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I love her anyway...

In person, Anat Cohen is as tall as, or taller, than me and her fingers
are mondo long. But I still lust after every note from her clarinet. And
her saxes.
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Friday, November 16, 2007

That special kind of place... my friend Rodd Zolkos says of the Churchill Arms in London, where
nothing bad can happen and, I add, I am sure to be content.

The kind of place I think about when I am having a root canal.

The Velvet Lounge in Chicago. Especially when saxophones are wailing,
two of them, both tenors no less (Eliel Sherman Storey and Paul Pakisa Fenner, although the former does alto and soprano as well). Drummer Su Ra Ramses' E.S.P. Project, which belongs to the Chicago AACM lineage and is well worth catching.

The Old Style is cold, too.
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lanny Morgan, Pacific Standard, Contemporary

Coleman Hawkins ruined Body and Soul for everyone else if you ask me. I mean, what are you going to do for an encore after he takes possession of the song in 1939?

Likewise, Charlie Parker and the alto saxophone in general. Sonny Stitt, about as good a player as there ever has been, quit playing it for a long time (switched to tenor) largely to get out of Parker's shadow.

Benny Carter didn't, however, I have to think because he was such a great arranger and composer as well as a sax player that he felt secure enough as a musician to keep doing what he did. This must be the case with Lanny Morgan as well, who has pieces of Parker and Carter (listen to Broadway) in his own alto sound, which I think of, as I listen to this disk, as pristine.

He gets at least a slice of Body and Soul back from Hawk on a really nice rendition and I think his version of I'll Remember April is groovy. Nifty Latiny, bluesy, uptempo version of Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most. Yardbird would surely have dug it.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fred Anderson, Milwaukee Tapes Vol. 1, Atavistic

Opens with an Albert Ayler screech followed by an Archie Shepp foray into the blues and a lengthy trip, with lots of diversions, along whatever melody was in his his head, reminiscent of Sonny Rollins’ playing, before it becomes a breathless run of musical invention.

Breathless for me listening that is. Fred Anderson never loses his breath as far as I can tell.

He's a national not just a Chicago treasure in my opinion, and is still wonderful today. But he was certainly at his best when this (excellent quality) tape of a live performance in Milwaukee was made in 1980.

Hamid Drake is strong as well, not a surprise. It's hard for me to think of a more sympathetic tenor and drums pair. Maybe Mr. Rollins and Max Roach or Coltrane and Elvin Jones, the latter probably being the better comparison because of Drake's prominence here, basically as a another front-line player rather than a sideman, which was often the case with Jones.

This is a quartet date with Billy Brimfield on trumpet and bassist Larry Hayrod and when Brimfield solos, as on Black Woman and Bombay (Children of Cambodia), it reminds me of seeing Anderson last year at the Velvet Lounge in Chicago, Anderson's place, with Roy Campbell (and Henry Grimes), one of my favorite live jazz experiences. Bombay is great ensemble improvising all around.

Second volume of the Milwaukee tapes coming and I'm buying.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

More "Baby Face" Willette

Baby Face does some screaming on Behind the 8 Ball/Mo-Rock, which I assume was a nod to the "New Thing" stuff going on at the time (it makes me think of Linda Sharrock's wailing on husband Sonny's Black Woman, which caused me to trade that CD). Baby Face would have been better off leaving it out. Thankfully, it doesn't last long or appear often.

On some cuts, like Unseen and Unknown, he travels along the edge of the outside a lot like Larry Young on Unity or Lawrence of Newark (my favorite) and that works much better. Just another reason I'm thinking Baby Face was a heck of a multifaceted player who didn't get recorded enough.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Baby Face" Willette, Behind the 8 Ball, Groove Hut

Also includes Mo-Rock, both as I understand it with his regular Chicago trio mates (Ben White guitar and Jerold Donavon or Eugene Bass drums, White in particular worth a listen). This and the recent Blue Note reissue Face to Face make three-quarters of Roosevelt "Baby Face" Willette's four recordings as a leader available again and I think that's a good thing.

On the funk-eee end of things, he reminds me of the great Jimmy Smith, but he has more of a church organ tinge than J.S., kind of like Freddie Roach, but not as overt as Roach. I appreciate the color it adds and the subtlety with which he adds it.

This one leans more to funk and soul than Face to Face, which is more jazzy and bluesy and displays the church influence a bit more prominently, but they're both good. Jimmy Smith certainly would have appreciated Roll 'Em Pete. Bantu Penda makes me think of Benny Golson's composing for some reason.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Peter Brötzmann Octet, The Complete Machine Gun Sessions, Atavistic

Listening to this is akin to being in the middle of a really powerful Midwest summer storm with jagged dangerous-looking streaks of lightning flashing and booming thunder crashing like a giant's bass drum, literally illuminating and shaking my apartment and sending every dog within a mile under the bed for cover.

Like the force of nature, the music is awe inspiring and unsettling at the same time. You don't dance to it or tap your foot, but it makes my hair stand on end.

I also think of it as a very accomplished and logical extension of late Coltrane, his larger band works like Ascension, for instance. If Albert Ayler had ever found enough like-minded and like-skilled players for a group as large as an octet it might have sounded this way as well.

In short Brötzmann, Evan Parker, Peter Kowald, Sven-Ake Johansson, et al created a near-perfect work of free jazz in 1968 that sounds fresh, and unrelentingly cool, to me almost 40 years later. What a wonderful reissue.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

So cool...

In the last month I've been to the Austin City Limits festival, seen Sonny Rollins at Carnegie Hall (which was marvelous), done Mark Turner at the Village Vanguard, Marcus Strickland at the Zinc Bar and James Carter with a symphony orchestra and Jaleel Shaw with Roy Haynes. Wonderful saxophonists (and I live for wonderful saxophonists) all. But I ain't listened to anything better than Willie Akins doing Straight No Chaser at Spruill's Cocktail Lounge in St. Louis. Guy has one CD. Get if you can find it. But if you ever pass through St. Louis at the right time, see him live.
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Miles high

Working in East St. Louis again this weekend I passed right by this
local landmark. The music notes are a nice touch.

Slipping over to St. Louis tonight to catch saxman Willie Akins, one of
those local legends, like Fred Hess, Ernie Krivda or Bootsie Barnes not
too well known beyond home, but who should be.
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Friday, October 12, 2007

Joshua Redman, Wish, Warner Brothers

Listened to this on the way to East St. Louis this morning and kept
thinking, geez, that's good guitar, bass and drums.

Duh, as I found out when I pit stopped at a rest area and took a look:
Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins.

Redman sounds good as well, but very Sonny Rollins like. This is a nifty
disk on its own, but interesting to contrast with his stuff today as
well. He really has grown as a player and I now hear all Joshua Redman
even when he's playing some Rollins material, as on his recent, very
good, trio CD Back East.

I still think that, like Sonny Rollins, he's most impressive live.
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Chris Potter 10, Song for Anyone, Sunnyside

To me there are two kinds of horn "with strings" sessions, those where the strings are in the way and those where the strings are complimentary. I've always thought the strings on Charlie Parker with Strings added to what he was doing with his sax, for instance, although history tells us a lot of jazz snobs disagreed at the time it came out and, I'm sure, some still do.

Chris Potter 10, Song(s) for Anyone is a "with strings" session I got all the way through the first time and barely remembered hearing the strings. That's how well the compositions, all Potter's, and the group improvisation work, integrate to generate the sound he’s after. I think Against the Wind is a particularly good example of this. Likewise Closer to the Sun.

His saxophone stands out on the cuts, too, (with Coltrane-like power on the latter) and on the disk in general, which is a good thing. It occurred to me listening that he has to be one of the best of the younger veteran tenorists (also soprano on this) going today, in a league with, if different from, Branford Marsalis or Joe Lovano. (He's the equal of a Marsalis or the late Michael Brecker on his CD Gratitude as well.) I’ve got to think Sonny Rollins would dig All By All, a bluesy ballad with a western tinge that sounds like it could have come off Rollins’ Way Out West.

I noticed the strings more the second time through, but I was listening for them in checking my first impression. They’re definitely part of the mix in music that made me think of it as sweeping, soaring, towering, epic, jaunty, free, sophisticated and a logical extension of Miles Davis’ last great acoustic quintet, among other things, as it progressed. But the strings are never obtrusive. Stellar 21st Century jazz.

(I’m calling it a strings session. It’s not billed that way. But when a session includes violin, viola, cello, bass and guitar, I’d say that’s that pretty stringy. More than a horn with strings thing, however, because his tenet includes, besides drums and percussion, a clarinet, flute and bassoon. Michael Rabinowitz on the latter is just a natural jazz guy, classical instrument or not.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

So big...

The other night I saw James Carter play a saxophone concerto, written for him by composer Roberto Sierra, with the local symphony, which was cool (and pretty jazzy). After, somebody I was talking to about it pointed me to this clip.

Chasin' the Gypsy is the prime CD on which to hear J.C. wrestle this beast.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Miles Davis: Live at Philharmonic Hall, Columbia

This one is from the On the Corner period. With the Cellar Doors Sessions box from the Jack Johnson period, I make it exhibit one against the notion that Miles and his guys had a hard time doing what was heavily post-produced in the studio for the albums live. In fact, the live stuff in many cases is even more coherent and the musicianship is generally outstanding. Perfect, no, but that's what happens when you're taking risks and taking risks is what jazz is about.

Also strikes me that this is jazz, like 30 years after the heyday of swing, whose beat must have compelled people to get their feet moving, as in dancing. Funk-eee. Great driving, as in an automobile, music as well. A powerful pulse (from Michael Henderson's bass) also makes it great driving music musically.

That said, there are sections more in an electric free jazz or electronica or trance vein. In other words, Miles was pushing the envelope ... again.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Bruce Springsteen, Magic, Columbia

It's 1978 and we are riding in a red Triumph Spitfire, which breaks down a lot, but is great on a summer, or nice fall, day with the top down and Born to Run or Darkness on the Edge of Town blasting out of the speakers and our best years are ahead of us and we can do and be anything and we're probably bullet proof, too, and chicks dig us, the important chicks anyway, and there will be a party tonight and we feel great and life is so so good.

Kind of nifty all the places a good disk can take you. Magic, like in time machine.

(Favorite tracks: I'll Work for Your Love, Long Walk Home and secret track 12. It's all good.)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Andrew Hill, Dance With Death, Blue Note

Hill's playing on this one illustrates my thought that he was the next logical progression in the line running from Monk to Herbie Nichols.

Charles Tolliver gets in some strong Woody Shaw-like licks and tenorist Joe Farrell plays with the verve and sophistication that Joe Henderson was about this time (1968). Tolliver and Farrell are strong in ensemble as well, which struck me in particular on Black Sabbath and Dance With Death, but is true pretty much throughout.

You could also class this as the Jazz Messengers taken out closer to the edge of the avant-garde, although not over it.

Density, in an ideas and stuff happening sense, is the word that comes to mind whenever I am listening to Andrew Hill, especially his '60s Blue Note sessions.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall (1961), Columbia

I wanted this when I saw the album cover in the museum at Carnegie while there to see Sonny Rollins' 50th anniversary concert, but they didn't have it in the museum store last week. (Snapped it up after I flipped across it at B&N today.)

This is the acoustic playing by Miles Davis most reliant on power versus subtlety, at least that I can recall sitting here now; he blows like he would later in his electric bands, where he's strongest in a trumpeting sense over the course of his career, I think.

On Teo, he lets loose in a way that says he could have been Dizzy, or Maynard Ferguson, if that had been his thing.

I think he pulls Hank Mobley along with him (for instance on Walkin') as well and Mobley's playing is another thing in this set's favor. Nice addition to the Blackhawk sessions in the coverage I have of a Davis quintet that, along with the George Coleman group, doesn't get the attention deserved because of their transitional nature between the two landmark quintets with Coltrane-Garland-Chambers-Jones and Shorter-Hancock-Carter-Williams.

Miles pretty much has to play strong to stand out on three numbers with the Gil Evans Orchestra performed in the same concert at Carnegie. Maybe that carried over into the quintet pieces. He's even loud, fast and aggressive with the mute in place.

Crosses my mind that this, in fact, is a neat snapshot of his band in transition and his own playing, too, a movement toward the sound, less pretty but even more interesting, he ultimately will have in the second great quintet.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

From East St. Louis...

Where I am at present integrating the McDonald's for lunch. I ran across
this on my way to do some interviews this morning. It marks Miles' old

From Austin (ACL festival) to New York (Sonny Rollins in Carnegie Hall,
not to mention Kurt Rosenwinkel-Mark Turner at the Village Vanguard and
Marcus Strickland at the Zinc Bar) to East St. Louis (work) in a week.

I need a nap.
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dan Willis, Velvet Gentleman, Omnitone

So if Dan Willis was inspired to make the (outstanding) music on Velvet Gentleman by the compositions of Erik Satie and principles of quantum physics, and I think it's also rooted (maybe heavily) in the electric music of Miles Davis, and I know Miles was familiar with Satie, does that also mean he was quantum physics conversant?

Maybe he was, although he might not (probably wouldn't) have couched it that way.

He was, in a sense, musically an example of superposition and entanglement, for instance, his music often in multiple states at once (bop and cool, cool and hard bop, hard bop and modal, modal and free, modal free electrically charged abstraction and all of the above mixed with rock, funk and proto hip hop) and the various elements of his musical development are at a base level linked over space and time.

Side note: While thinking about this I happened to read a Jazz Improv interview with saxophonist Sue Terry, who talks about composing in a quantum fashion (in "particles," that is phrases, which she doesn't necessarily arrive at or assemble in a linear fashion but rather which come together kind of organically starting, perhaps, at the end, or even in the middle in a process that, in essence, leaps back and forth in time).

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Ike Quebec, Bossa Nova Soul Samba, Blue Note

Pay particular attention to the sound behind Ike's tenor (one of my favorite things). First tune, I picked up the jewel case to see who the organist was back there. There was none, but Kenny Burrell and Wendell Marshall on bass, Willie Bobo on drums and Garvin Masseaux on chekere (hollow gourd shakers) are so in sync they sound like one player and his instrument. Masterfully rendered, peaceful, slow-danceable music. (More graphically, some of it just drips sex.) They even make a bossa of Dvorak piece.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Logan Richardson, Cerebral Flow, Fresh Sound New Talent

Altoist (and soprano) the Dewars, Cahl and I caught a couple years ago in Kansas City with Joe Chambers opens with a high register piece that makes me think of Branford Marsalis, Greg Osby (who wrote the brief liner notes) and Jackie McLean.

That's by way of saying what he does here fits the title track. It's thoughtful, intricate music generally paced as neither ballad nor burner, more in the nature of a steadily flowing musical idea stream. Probably overstating a bit, there are variations in the pace, just not in typical ways. Animated Concept of Being may be slower, but it strikes me as a lament rather than being ballady. I don't hear any I've Got Rhythm changes in Release, a faster piece, either.

I think I'd like to hear him reach down into the horn more, but this is a good modern session skirting the border of, and sometimes sticking a toe over, the avant-garde. The instrumentation, sax, vibes, guitar, bass and drums gives it a rockish pulse that contributes to the not-your-father's jazz feeling. Nice Mike Pinto vibes solo on Free the Blues and on In the Wall. I like guitarist Mike Moreno as well. Kind of thing that will make me scoff at the next jazz obituary I read.

Friday, August 24, 2007


About 13 minutes into Astrogeny on John Blum Astrogeny Quartet, Eeremite, William Parker and Denis Charles, who would die a month later, achieve perfect bass-drums symmetry and create the exact base needed for pianist Blum and reedist Antonio Grippi to wrap up the improvisation. Should be taught in free jazz school, assuming free jazz school existed.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lee Konitz, Jazz Nocturne, Evidence

On Misty I started thinking "what an unusual rendering of an old standard," abstract, albeit it recognizable in a Picasso Don Quixote kind of way. Some Monkian cliff hanging and the concomitant tension and release also characterize the effort. Par for the program, which includes similar recastings of Body and Soul and My Funny Valentine, among other standards. A good illustration of what makes Konitz a special player.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Big Horn, Proper Records

Subtitle: The History of the Honkin' & Screamin' Saxophone. The thing amusing me right now is how much I hear Albert Ayler, who started out playing R&B in Cleveland and did a stint with Little Walter, in somebody like Wild Bill Moore. Albert would later bend that big tone and those high- and low-register effects to his own purposes, but the roots are the same and I think that's why I frequently discern an underlying sense of hand-clapping, foot-stomping swing in Albert's stuff.

The four CD-box covers proto-rock boogie-woogie, jump, R&B saxophonists only a few of which I know much about (Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, Willis "Gator Jackson, Buddy Tate) and while the music may not be serious art it is serious fun and guys like Wild Bill, Big Jay McNeely and Earl Bostic could flat blow. Not a boring cut in the lot. Great stuff.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Waverly Seven, Yo! Bobby, Anzic

Bought it because Anat Cohen is a key member of the group, plus Joel Frahm, a saxophonist I like. (Anat does some perfectly placed bass clarinet soloing on I Guess I'm Good For Nothing But The Blues, besides playing her usual array of other reeds).

Overall, it makes me think of Gerry Mulligan's Concert Jazz Band. The arranging (of songs associated with Bobby Darin) and the execution are stellar. No real curve balls, but a lot of exciting, pristine music where the plethora of nifty solos is like the icing (and, heck, ice cream) on the luscious super-cohesive cake of the ensemble playing. (I think all the more of Mulligan when guest baritonist Scott Robinson weighs in, as on The More I See You and Work song.)

They take A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square upbeat and apace, a contrast to the Sonny Rollins' version on This Is What I Do, which I revere but which always makes me feel a little sad when I hear it. Anat's sprightly clarinet work on I Can't Give You Anything But Love had me grinning on the other hand, but she can make it pull you the other way, too, and does on All The Way. Frahm on tenor and her brother Avishai on trumpet have nice solos on the latter as well.

Nature Boy is the only thing that tops six minutes (barely) and it's impressive how much they're able to work into mostly four- and five-minute pieces. Skill in buckets. A New Orleans-style treatment of Some Of These Days and a bluesy Black Coffee with Frahm's tenor and Vic Juris on electric guitar anchoring it are two other things I liked a lot. And I'd have to say nobody's made jazz this good of Mack The Knife ( again, with a distinct air of Congo Square) since Mr. Rollins and Moritat on Saxophone Colossus.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Anat Cohen, Poetica, Anzic

OK, I'll admit it, I am madly in love with Anat Cohen, or rather her playing, her clarinet playing in particular, not that I don't love her playing on the multiple saxophones she plays as well. But this is her clarinet CD and I don't frigging get how somebody once told her to play something else, unless the point was to expand her horizons and make her clarinet playing even better.

I'm saying Sidney Bechet and Benny Goodman, maybe even irascible Artie Shaw, would have been standing in the back of the room thinking, well hell, she is kicking my butt.

Stuff like Hofim (Beaches) and The Purple Piece (Cohen's composition) threaten to make the clarinet more than a novelty in jazz again. In between, she trots out her classical and Latin interests (sometimes with strategic strings) and as interest goes there's nothing here that isn't interesting. The with-strings recasting of Coltrane's Lonnie's Lament makes me appreciate Coltrane even more, not to mention Anat and the band playing it. Scintillating.

Must mention pianist Jason Lindner and bassist Omer Avital, who are perfect accompanists.

Max + Dizzy (Roach and Gillespie) Paris 1989, A&M Records

On Salt Peanuts, I imagine them as a street duo, drummer and trumpeter, working the crowds outside a train station somewhere (I like the Paris Metro, Denfert-Rochereau stop) and sounding too good to be doing it because they aren't really there for the spare change, rather for the amusement, two old pals just messing around (and messing with the heads of the people passing by).

Could have happened. Dizzy Gillespie was a noted joker after all, although Max Roach strikes me as having been a tad too serious for it. Still, he seems to be having a lot of fun on Max + Dizzy Paris 1989, a duet set with two guys who obviously had no problem playing together.

Salt Peanuts always gets my attention in particular when I listen to this because Dizzy takes it almost as an avant-garde piece and Max, not a youngster even in 1989, is amazing in the number of things he can accomplish on his kit at the same time, which I guess gets to the center of why everybody is writing about him today as a guy who made the drums a frontline instrument. One interlude where he's creating thunderous complexity on the drums and maintaining the pulse with the hi-hat, too, is especially nifty. On The Underground, they're basically symbiotic, creating a two-man improvisation that more or less unfolds simultaneously. They either read minds or knew each other, and their business, very well.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Anat Cohen, Place & Time, Anzic

On saxes, I hear Cannonball Adderley early and on Say It I hear Coltrane distinctly, but mostly Anat Cohen has a voice all her own on whatever reed instrument she's playing. She's marvelous on the clarinet, dexterity like a hummingbird yet with the presence of an eagle at the same time.

Six of the nine songs are her compositions and she's marvelous at that, too, with some post bop (Homeland, with Middle Eastern/traditional Jewish touches worked in, something of a motif in her stuff here) that reminds me of Wayne Shorter's more advanced material and Latin-inflected pieces that use the Latin influence as precision coloring rather than overtly. Pour Toi is a ballad impressive in both its melancholy and complexity. Gotta think Gerry Mulligan would have dug her sprightly tenor rendition of his As Catch Can.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Carr's theory of jazz in Europe

Reading Ian Carr's Miles Davis: The Definitive Biography (good mix of personal and music bio, albeit it a little too gushing at times) last night I was struck by his notion that jazz, representative of the American Lincolnesque ideal of freedom and individual liberty and equality within a unified, cooperative society and republic, became big in many parts of Europe, in part, as a form of resistance against oppressive governments, first the Nazis and then the Soviets, that tended to ban the music.

He has it most readily adopted by republican France and then, for example, by the Scandinavian countries (Nazi occupied in World War II) and Eastern block nations like Poland. After the war, he posits that the way people in Germany and Japan latched onto the music was symbolic of the post-war change in their societies. Meanwhile, Britain, stratified socially, was slower to appreciate it (and still lags in the extent and quality of its jazz offerings in my experience).

Personally, I think factors such as European traditions in avant-garde music, and art, have a lot to do with it as well. But I want to see if I can find more writing along the lines of Carr's thesis.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Thoughts on the Revenant Albert Ayler Holy Ghost box

1) I have to be in the right frame of mind for Albert. I found the first six disks of this a little disappointing on my initial pass. But my second listen of the first three today has me excited. Maybe because I came to them rested (and sober).

2) Albert takes repeated listening to "get," appreciate. As visceral as this music is, it's also highly intellectual. Your mind has to be engaged to reap the full benefit.

3) Anybody who thnks Albert just couldn't play is A) not listening, B) didactic, or C) stupid. He does things with his horn that wouldn't seem to be possible. And every once in awhile he lets loose with a snatch Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster or any other "inside" player would have been proud to issue.

4) I'm regularly amazed with the size of the sound these guys put out. You would think he had the Marine Corps band working with him on F# Tune (a favorite), not a quintet.

I was worried about the sound quality when I bought this. It's mostly amateur or broadcast tapes of live sets. But the quality is actually pretty good for the most part. The Coltrane funeral cut isn't good, but it's acceptable given the historic nature.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Kahil El'zabar, Renaissance of the Resistance, Delmark

My man Kahil El'zabar can sing. See Save Your Love for Me. He percusses even better, of course. The late Malachi Favors rules on this, both as a pivot point for the group's explorations and a soloist (same role he served in the Art Ensemble). But saxophonist Ari Brown is the revelation for me. Dude can blow, from Benny Carter sophisticated to late Coltrane visceral, which is a good description of the CD's range as well.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Gebhard Ullmann, Die Blaue Nixe, Between the Lines

Might be the quietest avante-garde, heavily improvised jazz album I own; certainly not your father's Pharoah Sanders. I notice the bass, Chris Dahlgren, and often barely notice the piano, Art Lande, in a trio session with Ullmann on saxes and bass clarinet as the central player. In spots he makes me think of Lester Young if Pres had been around, and down with, the post-Ornette stuff of the '60s, or maybe of Marzette Watts by way of Ike Quebec. Now that's an interesting mix. Will need more listens before I decide how I really feel about it, and that's a good thing.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Louis Sclavis, Napoli's Walls, ECM

Classical in nature and, yet, I have been listening to a lot of Albert Ayler lately and thinking that a big element in what made him memorable was his ability to make his instrument remind at whiles of the human voice; ditto this, but on a group rather than individual level. They also employ real voices in some spots, filtered through electronics, and hard to separate from the instrument-created voices.

I don't remember why I didn't like this much when I bought it. There's a diversity of music, avant-garde jazz and classical, Italian folk, Spanish-like quitar, fusion; it's even operatic in places, all from a quartet, albeit one that plays a heck of a lot of instruments. Some interludes remind me of (much bigger) Pink Martini. Sclavis is consistently memorable on his clarinets.

If someone asked me for an example of modern third stream jazz, this would be a good one.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Art Farmer Quintet, The Time and the Place, Mosaic

Subtitle The Lost Concert. Live 1966 set from unearthed master tapes on par with the Miles 1965 Plugged Nickel box I bought on eBay earlier this year and adore. Same base in standards treated in a modernist and extended fashion, maybe not quite as advanced as Davis' second great quintet (Who in conventional jazz was?) but darn close. Jimmy Heath on tenor is in the zone (heck of a solo on his own Far Away Lands) and I think Albert Dailey is every bit of Herbie Hancock, by way of Wynton Kelly.

I say standards, but a lot of these probably weren't at the time, like Heath's On the Trail and Kenny Dorham's Blue Bossa, so another advantage to this is hearing them fresh, before they've been worked over by all kinds of players for a few decades. Mosaic did wonders with the sound, again. What the band does with the popper The Shadow of Your Smile is classic jazz. Farmer's solo in particular is just pristine and Dailey's comes near matching it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bud Freeman, Chicago/Austin High School Jazz in Hi-Fi, Mosaic

This is marvelous small group (nothing bigger than an septet) traditional jazz rooted in swing with a heavy nod to New Orleans. The musicianship's flawless, to my ear, and outstanding, in particular Freeman on tenor, Pee Wee Russell and Peanuts Hucko on clarinet and Jack Teagarden and Tyree Glenn on trombones (the latter four trade off over three sets, no redundant instrumentation).

The guys who really struck me, however, are George Wettling on drums, who anchors everything perfectly, pianist Jimmy McPartland, excellent comping, and trumpeter Billy Butterfield, with some great solos. Generally joyous music and pristine sound from Mosaic's remastering. Their rendering of Chicago is an improvisational feast even a free jazz lover can appreciate.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Roy (Eldridge) and Diz(zy Gillespie), Verve

I need to get this out more often. I find a lot of these Norman Granz all-star sessions lacking in real rapport between the musicians and disappointing. This isn't, probably because Little Jazz was Dizzy's guy and, like Coleman Hawkins, rooted but not stuck in the big band and swing era. They compliment each other very well, whether it's working the mute or trading high notes. Oscar Peterson reins in his tendency toward notational verbosity and does a great job comping. Ray Brown always does a great job comping.

Anat Cohen, Noir, Anzic

With the Anzic Orchestra, I make it 18 pieces plus Cohen. I hear music I'd expect to hear from a Mexican cantina band, modern big band swing ala Gerald Wilson's In My Time or Charles Tolliver's With Love, Jobim on a clarinet if Jobim played the clarinet, hard bop (great play from Cohen on tenor and the Anzic sax section on Do It, a Johnny Griffin tune), and bluesy balladeering, among other things. At one point, they make a smile-inducing, seamless trip from a samba into Struttin' With Some Barbecue. I gotta think Julian Adderley would have been impressed with Cohen's cheescake-rich alto tone on Cry. On tenor, she's skilled and powerful enough to sound a lot like James Carter on You Never Told Me That You Care.

Pristine musicianship all around often with a Latin tinge in balanced not overpowering measure. Cohen plays tenor, alto and soprano saxes and clarinet, is accomplished on all of them, but really stands out on the latter, which could use a torch bearer these days having been largely relegated to second string (or third, or the bench) in jazz from its swing heyday. She could be as Pee Wee Russell was in late career to clarinet and bop, only young enough to drive the instrument for a long time.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

John Coltrane Live in Seattle, Impulse

I'm rating it with Live at the Village Vanguard and wondering why it seems to get overlooked. The classic quartet plus Pharoah Sanders and Donald Rafael Garrett. I like all of the two-disk set, but two cuts in particular fascinate me.

One is Body and Soul on the first disk, in which they barely refer to the original and yet, on close listening, are obviously working from it as a base. An incredible piece of in situ improvising.

The other is Afro Blue on the second disk. I love Coltrane playing this on every CD I own where he does (four now), but he's secondary here (in part because the tape runs out on his closing run). He hands off to Sanders for the first extended solo and Pharoah treats things about as gently as a horde of Visigoths sacking Rome, which his sax eventually ends up sounding like, leading into a pained, moaning vocal that's hard to separate from the sound of the horn. Just what he intended, I suspect. A long interlude of Garrett and Jimmy Garrison weaving a wonderful bass duet follows.

Too bad about the tape problem. Coltrane sounds like he might have been inspired by what came before, but we don't get to hear all of that inspiration come out.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bennie Wallace, Disorder at the Border, Justin Time

Coleman Hawkins songs and songs associated with Hawkins. Captures that bluesy Kansas City sound John Hammond heard, notably in Count Basie's band, as an antidote to the stagnation of swing, but in a thoroughly modern way.

Wallace's sax accommodates the advances of Rollins, Coltrane, Shorter, et al, (not to mention Hawk, Ben Webster and Ike Quebec) but in a voice of his own. Some memorable trumpet soloing from Terell Stafford and nice ensemble playing overall. The program progresses like a wonderful narrative story, with the tendency to captivate, right down to a great ending in Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Jerome Richardson, Jazz Station Runaway, TCB

One of the nicest and most melancholy renderings of In a Sentimental Mood I know of, and on the soprano sax no less. Kind of a travesty that he only got to lead about a half dozen sessions in 40-year career, although he played for a ton of people. Groove Merchant, Richardson's composition, is a great strollin' tune of a closer with some nice licks from a young Russell Malone.

Harry Potter Deathly Hallows surprise ending

I have a source at one of the places they're printing it (can't say more or the guy's job might be on the line) and the ending turns out to be a real shocker.

Harry, despondent over his inability to defeat the prince of darkness, what's-his-nameless, goes on a tequila bender and chokes to death on his own vomit.

Wow, I didn't see that coming. Nifty though.

Things I came across...

...looking at other things.

I had no idea the governor of Massachusetts is the son of Sun Ra saxophonist (especially baritone and alto) Pat Patrick, who also played with Coltrane and Duke Ellington. I wonder if the guv plays?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Archie Shepp, First Take, ArchieBall

Can't say what the liner notes tell me; they're in French. Merci. I do know Archie and a pianist dueting usually are worth the price of admission (see Duet with Dollar Brand and Trouble in Mind with Horace Parlan). This, with German avant-garde pianist Siegfried Kessler, is no exception. Nifty reworking of Misterioso. Plus, Archie sings the blues, well. Like Kindred Spirits, has some of the fire of Shepp's old Fire Music.

Screwing with traditional haiku

Kiss my ass now mother
In Macy's front window dude
Do it right now, punk

John Coltrane's Ascension, Rova's 1995 Live Recording, Black Saint

Bought Coltrane's Ascension, what, years and years ago. Didn't like it. Was annoyed. Gradually came to appreciate it. Then came to revere it, not as much as A Love Supreme, maybe, but in the same neighborhood. Same depth of expression, different context, same kind of emotional impact on me.

What's important about this? 1) Shows the underlying beauty of the music to start. 2) Recasts, but travels along the same path as, the freely improvised elements of the piece, graphically illustrating that none of it was just randomly issued sound.

A great tool for understanding a great piece of music, and some excellent musicianship displayed in the process to boot. Don't forget the original.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Oscar Pettiford Orchestra, Deep Passion, Impulse

Located on the same street as Duke Ellington and Benny Carter with a somewhat more modern construction (recorded in 1956-57) than either, which is to say its foundation rests in the hard bop rather than the swing era. About a million good solos and that's not surprising. Heck of a band, Benny Golson, Gigi Gryce (whose arranging magic is all over this), Jerome Richardson, Lucky Thompson, Kenny Dorham, Art Farmer, Julius Watkins and Tommy Flanagan, among others.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

That's a big clarinet you have there

In addition to David Murray, the bass clarinet player I've been listening to lately is Peter Fuglsang, who also works the relative beast of a horn like an alto saxophone, or at least a tenor, on a program ranging from "Cherokee" and Monk to Franz Schubert and several interesting originals. The CD is File Under Purple, which I bought on a lark at the Jazz Record Mart after being intrigued by the bass clarinet player (and contrabass clarinet, which is just huge) in a performance of Mingus' Epitaph.

Coltrane's quest

Nisenson's theme is that Coltrane had epiphany in the '50s driving him to shake heroin and booze (although never sweets, which is why he battled weight and rarely smiled, because his teeth were bad; pre-fluoride) and to devote his life to understanding the nature of the universe, himself and their creation using the tools he had at hand, his horn(s) and his music, requiring a constant striving to perfect his art (why he was an inveterate practicer).

Makes some sense to me. I do know I've always found Coltrane's music, at least from Cresecent on, almost painfully spiritual. A Love Supreme is like a sacred work, to me and a lot of other people, and I think Ascension, which Nisenson doesn't feel worked very well, preferring Meditations as the height of later Coltrane, can be almost scary in the boundaries it probes depending on your state of mind when listening.

Other thing I learned: Coltrane (and band) did LSD with some regularity in making his later music, according to Nisensen, who appears to have valid sources. Interesting, but not surprising, I think, given LSD's place in the '60s, a searching decade spiritually and in a lot of other ways. Beyond just getting high, acid was considered a tool for consciousness expanding after all.

Good read, nice bare-bones personal biography, excellent music biography.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Serenity song

Eric Nisenson in Ascension: John Coltrane and His Quest, says he thinks Coltrane, a student of world religions as well as music, not to mention Einstein's theories, deliberately used a chant form common in the East on a Love Supreme, so now I know why, when I started trying to clear my mind for a few minutes every morning, what passes for meditation at my place, I naturally used a love supreme, a love supreme, a love supreme to push away my tendency to plan, worry, et al instead of not thinking. Bring in the music, in my mind, behind the chant and I can pretty much take my mind off anything else.

Nisenson points out as well that Coltrane later repeats the chant on his tenor in a human voice-like fashion, which I'd noticed before, of course, but never really thought about. In New Orleans, and before, jazz and proto-jazz musicians worked to capture vocal qualities on their instruments (Morton, Bechet and Armstrong, among others). However, I think it is, in a more abstracted form, an integral quality of free, avant-garde jazz, a step on the way to the pure sound experiments that eventually resulted. Meaning A Love Supreme really does point the way to what Coltrane would be doing next, kind of like Miles and In a Silent Way.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Two Bands and A Legend, Smalltown Superjazz

Swedish garage rockers Cato Salsa Experience meet Swedish extremely avant-garde jazz group The Thing (Mats Gustafsson leader) and free jazz legend Joe McPhee (tenor, pocket trumpet) and produce one hell of a version of Louie Louie, among other things.

I have to think the jack-booted thugs at the NSA make it point to keep an eye on you if you buy this. Radical, subversive and as energetic as a triple espresso. Note to self: don't ever listen to it just before bedtime.

Shout out

Note to self: Next time you're in the mood for a blues shoutin' New Orleans-style jam fest put on Chicago the Living Legends: Alberta Hunter with Lovie Austin's Blues Serenaders. Makes me glad for the City of New Orleans, Amtrak and the Illinois Central, not to mention the dudes who set out to record these folks before they disappeared.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Sincerest form of flattery

Tolliver on Our Second Father, third disk of the Mosaic set, is positively Trane-esque on a song dedicated to the memory of Coltrane. The sax-like diversity he gets out of his trumpet in these sessions is just ear-catching.

Mosaic Select: Charles Tolliver

If I was independently wealthy I'd buy everything Mosaic puts out. This makes me giddy because 1) Tolliver is a wonderful trumpet player and composer who's playing seems to me to marry Woody Shaw and Miles; 2) you don't hear a lot of quartets with the trumpet as the only horn and Tolliver hauls these live sessions on his shoulders like he was a saxophonist: impressive; 3) it's another exhibit for my contention that jazz wasn't dead in the '70s, music companies just haven't bothered to release a lot of it on CD, probably because it didn't sell that well back when. Thank the gods for emusic, as well as Mosaic.

Archie Shepp, Kindred Spirits Vol. 1, ArchieBall

Seemed like Archie lost the fire in his Fire Music as he got older. I think he kind of found it again playing with Dar Gnawa, traditional musicians from Tanger (think a chorus of clackety thumb cymbals and a guitar-lute thingy). He's elemental in places on this. Makes me think of the first time I ever went to see live jazz at a jazz club, at New Morning in Paris, these very guys playing. So happy I bought this.

David Murray, Sacred Ground, Justin Time

I've been attracted to David Murray since the first CD of his I bought, Ming as I recall, and a reason strikes me here. He plays his tenor, and the unwieldy bass clarinet, with the dexterity of an alto.

Pairing his horn, whatever horn, and Cassandra Wilson's bluesy, boozy voice is genius.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Good line

"Jazz is sometimes seen as a history of great individual voices, instrumental soloists whose sound has the indelible singularity of a fingerprint."

From "It's About That Time: Miles Davis On and Off Record," by Richard Cook, who gets around having written yet-another Miles' biography by viewing Davis' life through the prism of Cook's picks for his seminal albums. I'm early into it at this point and not certain how well that works.

I think great jazz groups can have a fingerprint-like sound as well, whether driven by their leaders or the players in the ensemble, for instance Miles Davis' two great quintets, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Coltrane's classic quartet, any group Mingus led and the orchestras of Ellington and Basie.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

George Coleman, At Yoshi's, Evidence

I've read that Tony Williams didn't think, in essence, that he played beyond his obvious technical proficiency enough. I think Tony should have stuck to drums. He's as explorative as Coltrane on this (at least before 1964). Good Morning Heartache reminds me of a Sonny Rollins exploration, same kind of probing the boundaries at the same kind of length, albeit with a different voice. Miles did fine with Wayne Shorter, but he should have kept George Coleman around longer.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Charlie Mariano, Savannah Samuari, Jazzline

What Kenny G could have been if he hadn't gone bad. Mariano's Boston All Stars, OJC, which I already owned, is a great bunch of bop from the '50s. This, from the late '90s, shows he wasn't just sitting around for 48 years. He makes me think Lee Konitz in places, Kenny Garrett, with Miles in Miles' electric period no less, in others, with a healthy nod to freely improvised jazz. Ranges from an extension of post-Miles acoustic (the Shorter-Hancock-Carter-Williams era) to an extension of fusion. Vic Juris guitar, Deter Ilg bass stand out, too.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Joey Defrancesco, Where Were You?, Columbia

Hey, don't get, me wrong, I like Joey D. But it always pisses me off when he claims to have brought the B-3 back from the dead, which I doubt Jimmy Smith or Dr. Lonnie Smith or any number of other Hammond gods not named Smith who were making the beast hum when J.D. came along would agree.

Then there's this excellent CD from 1990. First, a young Joey D. benefits greatly from side dudes like Illinois Jacquet, Jerome Richardson, Milton Hinton and John Scofield. Second, this might be as good as he's ever played on a recording. So let's not get carried away, my friend.

The big surprise on this: smooth saxman Kirk Whalum, who wails. I don't know, maybe it was being on a session with a sax legend like Jacquet.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Another jazz joke

How many jazz singers does it take to perform My Funny Valentine?

All of them.

Jazz joke

What did Kenny G say when he got off the elevator?

That place rocks.

Sorry Kenny.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Thelonious Monk Trio Complete 1951-54 Recordings, Definitive Records

Monk said he just played (and composed) what he heard in his head. Given the way he recasts Sweet and Lovely and These Foolish Things there must have been some interesting stuff going on in there. The latter comes out sounding dangerous; the word that came into my head listening to it.

What a great format to hear Monk in, not as sparse a soundscape as his solo recordings, although I like them as well, but with his piano as the only "lead" instrument you get an unobstructed view, so to speak, of his playing. I kept waiting for Charlie Rouse to come in at first, a feeling which passed about halfway through Nutty, the first cut. Excellent versions of Blue Monk and Trinkle Tinkle.

I still think of Monk and his quartets with Rouse as the heights, but I am really glad I read about this Spanish import and bought it. Doesn't lack for commodious sidemen either, Art Blakey, Max Roach and Percy Heath among them.

I'm in no hurry to set a date, but I think I'd like someone to spin up Monk playing Just a Gigolo at the end of my funeral.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Joe McPhee, Underground Railroad, Atavistic (Unheard Music Series)

If he ever hears this, Kenny G wakes up screaming. I wonder whatever happened to Ernest Bostic, Tyrone Crabb and Reggie Marks? Crabb and Bostic are central to making this work. Bostic's drums are frequently a front-line instrument. You ride Underground Railroad for a dang long time and wonder where the idea train pulls into the station. But it just keeps rolling along. Harriet winds its way through snippets from a film noir score, the blues, a dirge from an African or Middle Eastern flute and more. Crabb's bowing on the song sounds almost orchestral.

Joe McPhee should be on the front line in any discussion of freely improvised jazz from the late '60s on. He's like Ron Carter in his ubiquity on great sessions. Great saxophonist, too, in the manner of Pharoah Sanders, albeit with a sound all McPhee. But I get giddy when he pulls out his pocket trumpet, which I hear him using as a nifty tool for adding different colors to his pieces, like Message from Demark here.

A second CD in the package (and two cuts on the first CD) adds a professional quality concert recording by the core group plus two other horns. The music also is excellent and has an Art Ensemble of Chicago feel. This was a great purchase.

Kenny G, Greatest Hits, Arista

I frigging love Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp, and Sonny Rollins is my deity; why in the flip am I listening to this cowflop? Well, I wanted to see how the other half lives and I have to say the dude can blow; which he does on this, in that limited sense of his. I'd like to hear him in a real jazz combo, say Tain Watts, Christian McBride and Robert Glasper. Pisses me off mostly. The waste of talent does. Songbird probably rates right up there with Chuck Mangione's Feels So Good from a crossover pop hit standpoint, but it ain't nearly so good from an adventure standpoint. And what should jazz be if not adventurous? Havana, a Latin beat thing, is the best of the lot and there's a fairly fascinating duet with an old, croaky Sinatra. Want to own one Kenny G CD? Pervert! But you could do worse.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Cannonball Adderley, Know What I Mean?, Riverside

Julian does not make his alto sound like a tenor and I have no problem with that. His high tone is lovely (and very Benny Carter-like in snatches) and I'd like to know how he got all the speed and dexterity in his fingering. This might be my favorite Cannonball Adderley CD. Was he inspired or challenged by playing with Evans, or just really good at it since they'd played together for years when this date came along, notably in the creation maelstrom that was working for Miles Davis. Percy Heath and Connie Kay, in a break from the Modern Jazz Quartet, can back anybody well. They're perfect compliments here.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Fantastic Frank Strozier, Koch Jazz

Must have been Woody Shaw's Little Red's Fantasy that perked my ears up and made me look at the credits to see who was playing that alto saxophone. Allmusic compares Strozier to Jackie McLean. I'm thinking more of a hotter Lee Konitz, or of Bobby Watson. He often gets an almost tenor-like sound out of his horn on this. (Struck me on Off Shore, where he sounds kind of like Clifford Jordan.) Enjoyably complex hard-bop songs, mostly Strozier's, that you don't hear played constantly, too, which is refreshing.

Booker Little has some memorable trumpet solos and the rhythm section is Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb, who all sound like they enjoyed playing with this guy. I wanna get some more Frank Strozier.

Frank Foster, Leo Rising, Arabesque

I certainly can't tell from this that Frank Foster made his bones playing (and composing) for Basie and later led the Basie Orchestra after Basie's death. More like a Jazz Messengers' date with elements of late '60s Miles Davis. Here, Foster reminds me more of Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and even Sam Rivers than Lester Young.

I liked Stephen Scott playing with Sonny Rollins and he does a nice job for Foster as well. Tasty Christian McBride arco interlude on When April Comes.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Listening to Monk's Misterioso...

... on Monk Big Band and Quartet in Concert, Columbia, and it made me think of this little fear of heights thing I have. I have no problem going up or looking down, whether it's the Grand Canyon, Eiffel Tower, whatever. But after awhile I always start thinking what it would be like to fall and my heart gets racy and the hairs on my arms stand up.

Waiting on the edge to see if Monk is gong to hit that next note sometimes affects me in the same way, even though I know he is. He's scary, man.

But I've always liked horror movies and Stephen King novels, too.

Great Butch Warren bass solo on Light Blue.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Cover this...

Jimmy Buffett cover band blows through town and does a passable Margaritaville. I don't have a problem with that.

Don't see any Sun Ra cover bands. I don't have a problem with that either.

Would like to see somebody try it.

Maybe James Carter.

Horace Sliver, You Gotta Take a Little Love, Blue Note

So almost anything by Horace Silver makes me happy, and what's wrong with that? This and United States of Mind drag me back to the heydays of my youth in the '70s, however, which makes them special from my perspective. Yeah, so, the '70s don't mean dick to you. The playing of Randy Brecker on trumpet and flugelhorn and Bennie Maupin on tenor sax and flute (note to self, and anybody reading this, incredible Maupin solos on It's Time and Lovely's Daughter) probably will. And then there's Silver, tickling the ivories in his always bluesy fashion and his compositional skill and his musical leadership in general. Ah crap, just buy the damn thing.

Lou Donaldson, Lush Life, Blue Note

Interesting, I think Sweet Lou sometimes gets kind of lost in his notable organ jazz sessions but here, while in a nonet, the Stitt-like beauty of his horn really stands out (see Star Dust and What Will I Tell My Heart). I think this and Blues Walk are the essential Lou Donaldson CDs.

Oh, and this one has Wayne Shorter, Pepper Adams, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner (god-like on It Might As Well Be Spring) and Ron Carter in the band. 'Nuff said.

Sun Ra, The Magic City, Evidence

Do I think there's a quintessential Arketstra CD? No. To understand Sun Ra, I think you have to listen to and contemplate his music over the course of his career, right up until his death. But the title track on this probably covers it about as well as anything in a single blow. It ranges from funereal music and traditional jazz to Art Ensemble of Chicago-like, African-influenced sections and free jazz reminiscent of Albert Ayler or Pharoah Sanders with not an unimpressive interlude from a compositional, conductorial, or musical skill perspective. If you think about it in terms of what it is, a song about Birmingham, Alabama, by a black man born in 1914 who grew up there, it is absolutely illuminating, which I think is the attraction of Sun Ra's music in general. I only wish I'd known about it when I was smoking pot lo those many years ago. (Note to Bush administration 'Net monitors, it's been, like, 25 years. So eat me!)

Junior Parker, Junior's Blues: The Duke Recordings, Vol. 1, MCA

I could easily make Jivin' Woman or Cryin' for My Baby my ramblin' songs. Lotso good horns on this, too.

Thinking about the Modern Jazz Quartet's Pyramid

I'm listening to this very sophisticated, finely wrought, almost classical music (as nearly anything in the hands of the Modern Jazz Quartet is) and it strikes me: the song is just an old blues. Still with all of its ability to tweak you in a gutbucket way, too. Masterful musicianship.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Ralph Peterson's Fo'tet, Ornettology, Blue Note

Don Byron does a great job capturing the essence of Ornette Coleman's playing, on the clarinet and bass clarinet no less. The whole group, led by drummer Peterson, gets the Coleman thing right, in fact. Even though they play only one Coleman song and Ornettize, so to speak, tunes by Monk and Wayne Shorter. The quartet consisting of Byron, Bryan Carrott on vibraphone, Peterson and bassist Melissa Slocum is an unusual instrumental mix for music in the Coleman vein that offers a different vantage point on Coleman's techniques and makes me appreciate his genius even more.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Art Ensemble of Chicago, Live, Delmark

A one-song performance from the University of Chicago in 1972 that lasts 70-plus minutes and does about everything I can think of a quintet doing with sound exploration in a jazz context heavy on the African flavor. (Don Moye's percussion is almost dominant.)

I don't know of anybody who gets more out of a penny whistle. I realize not everyone likes this stuff. To me, it is the sound of joy and ingenious.

Dimitri Vassilakis on MySpace

MySpace site for the excellent Greek saxophonist Dimitri Vassilakis (and excellent saxophonist in general), whose Candid CD "Parallel Lines" I like a lot.

Hentoff on Balliett

"Jazz has never been defined with more instant clarity than in Whitney Balliett's four-word overture: 'The sound of surprise.'"

A line I want to remember from Nat Hentoff, remembering the late jazz critic and historian in a column in today's Wall Street Journal.


Track listing references concerning Wynton Marsalis' "From the Plantation to the Penitentiary" may be askew. Some of the titles were mixed up on the label of the demo CD to which I listened. I lost the note I got about it. The point is, it's a good CD, maybe the most risky Marsalis has done since "Black Codes (from the Underground)" or "Live at Blues Alley."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Wynton Marsalis, From the Plantation to the Penitentiary, Blue Note

The title track on this begins with periodically discordant, almost avant-garde instrumentation (from pianist Dan Nimmer and drummer Ali Jackson Jr. especially) and singing (from Jennifer Sanon) and I think Marsalis' first trumpet solo has kind of a Lester Bowie thing going. (He switches to Don Cherry later.) I still hear the blues, New Orleans and Duke Ellington in sections. It is a Wynton Marsalis CD, after all. But it's got hard edges I haven't heard a lot from him since "Black Codes (From the Underground)" or "Live at Blues Alley" or maybe his Jazz Messengers days.

Also reminds me of his Pulitzer-winning opus on slavery, segregation and racism "Blood on the Fields," and the songs with lyrics generally have a political or social message; the disproportionate number of black men in prison, the homeless, the unfulfilling nature of consumerism (in the form of a frenetic Sanon scat on "Doin' (Y)Our Thing"). I think he's going to get some flak for "These Are Those Soulful Days," which takes a poke at the gangster end of hip-hop. But the message is worth considering and the music the message is wrapped around is wonderful. It's followed by "Where Y'all At?," on which Marsalis bends rap, second line style, to his own purposes.

Not every song is overtly message driven. "Find Me" is a pretty, bluesy ballad. "Supercapitalism" had me thinking of children's songs, Freddie Hubbard's '70s stuff and Gershwin. Go figure?

Some nice sax playing by Walter Blanding (tenor and soprano, where I can hear some Coltrane in his playing) as well, both solo and in the ensemble.

Maybe a tad too much singing for my tastes, but very interesting all the way through. Music writer at work loaned me a review copy of this. (Comes out in March.) I will buy it.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

William Parker Bass Quartet, Requiem, Splasc(H) Records

Over the weekend a strange late-December thunderstorm rolled through and that's what "Requiem" from the William Parker Bass Quartet (Parker, Henry Grimes. Alan Silva and Sirone) makes me think of; the basses are the rumbling thunder, punctuated by cracks (screeches) of lightning, and Charles Gayle's alto saxophone is the howling wind. Moody, but excellent freely improvised jazz and a bass-lover's feast.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Thinking about Take Five

Why is this song so infectious? There's Desmond's silk-and-satin saxophone playing, which ranges from strolling on a sunny day to sipping old scotch in a smokey barroom around midnight, and Brubeck's neoclassical piano playing, which essentially morphs into a percussive part of an expanded rhythm section under the soloists in the course of the tune.

But I think the actual "rhythm" section has a whole lot to do with it, especially drummer Joe Morello, whose soling is as front line as Desmond's on the alto.