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.