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.