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.