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.