Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gabriel's new trumpetmate

Forget (no, don't) Freddie Hubbard's own great sessions, Ready for Freddie, Breaking Point, Red Clay, Straight Life, First Light, et al; this list struck me in reading his L.A. Times obituary today:

"Seemingly the first choice for artists of every stripe, he was present on many of the most significant jazz albums of the '60s, among them Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz, John Coltrane's Ascension, Eric Dolphy's Out To Lunch, Oliver Nelson's Blues and the Abstract Truth, Wayne Shorter's Speak No Evil and Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage." And, I would add, Sonny Rollins' East Broadway Run Down (and Coltrane's Africa/Brass as well). Now that's a list, and it doesn't even include his stellar Jazz Messengers stuff, like Caravan.

I got to see Freddie Hubbard twice this year, first at Yoshi's in San Francisco in April for his 70th birthday celebration performance. Still working on overcoming a series of health problems, he was, frankly, awful on the horn(s). But with the good soul, and the sense of humor, he exhibited and the effort he exerted despite everything, you just had to pull for him. Plus, the band he had around him, which included Bobby Hutcherson, James Spaulding and George Cables, among others, was fabulous.

In August, I thought about heading home before his appearance at the Indy Jazz Fest. I stayed and was so glad (now, even more) that I did. He was never going to be the Freddie Hubbard of the '60s and '70s again, but he sounded a lot better and seemed to me to have figured out how to cope with his limitations, judiciously employ the chops he still had and maximize them in the context of the band. It was a memorable show. I'm sorry I won't see another one like it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Good enough to eat...

Herbie Hancock Maiden Voyage, Joe Henderson Page One, Lee Morgan the Sidewinder today.

I could probably live fulfilled on the classic Blue Notes.

But I did throw in Monk Underground and Mingus Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, the latter a classic, or classical, in any company.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays

Henry's 2008 Xmas card
Originally uploaded by mrgreg
The 2008 Xmas card from the great bassist, and artist extraordinaire, Henry Grimes, which appeared in my inbox yesterday.

Many thanks and happy holidays to Henry and Margaret, and the rest of you, too.

Friday, October 31, 2008

How to have a good morning...

Chester Arthur Burnett, aka Howlin' Wolf, (Cause of it All) makes me want to get nasty.

Anthony Braxton (Mosaic box) gets my neurons firing like little arc welders.

Eddie Harris blowin' the Love Theme from the Sandpiper (The In Sound) makes me glad to be alive.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jolie Holland, The Living and the Dead, Anti

So this morning I'm reading Ted Gioia's excellent new book Delta Blues: The Life and Times if the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music, in particular a discussion of the dark nature of some of Robert Johnson's most popular songs, which would seem to be oxymoronic. But I think people, myself included, are often attracted by raw emotion and tragedy in art, whether it is paintings, movies, plays or music (not to mention books, try Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle on for size.)

This occurred to me over breakfast and Jolie Holland's latest, The Living and the Dead, which is mostly every bit as dark as Hellhound On My Tail and might have made me think of Robert Johnson, or Son House and Skip James, even if I hadn't been reading Gioia's book when I first heard it. Holland's music isn't the blues, although it doesn't lack for blues elements, along with folk, pop, rock and a smattering of jazz.

But her lyrics are certainly emotive in the manner of the great blues songs and the way she uses vocal modulation reminds me of some of the tools employed by a James or a Johnson. (I've always loved her voice, which is kind of twangy, truth be told. Then again, Son House's was not exactly Ella Fitzgerald's, nor Louis Armstrong's for that matter. It's what he did with it that counted.)

Mexico City, and especially Corrido por Buddy, leave me feeling like I do when I walk out of the theater after seeing something like No Country for Old Men or finish a book like The Road (talk about dark, just check out Cormac McCarthy). Like I've been through an emotional wringer, sad, yet exhilarated, too.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Well dust my broom...

Woke up this morning, coffee maker wouldn't heat...

Woke up this morning, coffee maker wouldn't heat...

Woke up this morning, coffee maker wouldn't heat...

Thank the gods for my micrcrowave, and for Earl Grey hot tea.

Broken Mr. Coffee Blues.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Al Gallodoro, Out of Nowhere, Basta

With the Beau Hunks, a Dutch retro pre-swing pop jazz band in 1999. Chops like Pee Wee Russell on the clarinet and Benny Carter on the alto sax with the verve of a youngster like Anat Cohen, even though the Paul Whiteman, TV and other orchestra vet was well on at the time (he passed Oct. 4 at 95).

Great versions of Back Home Again in Indiana and Struttin' with Some Barbecue and a cool original, dedicated to his guitar-playing grandson, in Kevin's Tune. It may be rooted in before-Ellington jazz, but there's nothing "old" about it. Need more Al Gallodoro. Just sorry it took his death for me to find him.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I am woman, hear me roar...

I find it ironic and really cool that the blues musician I am almost certain is the best interpreter today of thoroughly male-dominated traditional Delta blues, both singing and most certainly guitar playing, is a 59-year-old woman who is, frankly, hot, although I'd probably be in love with Rory Block even if she looked like Son House, the legend she pays tribute to on Blues Walkin' Like a Man, Stony Plain. She was just as lovely on The Lady and Mr. Johnson, Rykodisc. If she's going home on the morning train, or driving her Terraplane, I'm in for the ride.

What's next, Wynton Marsalis hiring a woman horn player for his Lincoln Center band?

Never mind.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Jake Langley, Movin' & Groovin', Alma

Remember Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith on, say, Dynamic Duo? Well, this is right there. You can talk all you want about how they put a modernist touch on it, blah, blah, blah, but the fact is, it's just an old-fashioned organ, guitar, drums trio romp, and a butt-kicking one at that.

Joey DeFrancesco (and though the Jakester leads this session, this is, in fact, Joey D's working trio) plays the Hammond JS left him when he passed and I figure Jimmy must have been taking a break at Club Heaven and channeled some inspiration the way of this session. I don't think Langley was playing Wes Montgomery's old guitar, but he might as well have been. You walk away from Bobby Timmons Dis Here drenched in bluesy soul. They're flat-out symbiotic on Canadian Sunset. Great stuff.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy birthday to me...

For which I bought The Complete Dean Benedetti Recordings of Charlie Parker from the wonderful folks at Mosaic, which Scott Yanow on allmusic refers to as "quite unlistenable." Now, I like Scott Yanow's AMG entries and books and find them to be, generally, useful guides. But here, he's plain wrong, especially if you've delved into the accessible Charlie Parker (Yardbird Suite: The Ultimate Collection and JSP's Charlie Parker: A Studio Chronicle come to mind) and want more, more, more.

The first more, more for me was The Complete Savoy Live Performances (mostly at the Royal Roost) and more recently The Complete Savoy and Dial Studio Recordings (which is basically what you get on the JSP set, plus all the alternate takes, which, as this is Charlie Parker, inevitably are different every take and instructive, if not scintillating, which they often are).

So comes the Benedetti recordings, by a guy who was actually an accomplished musician and musicologist, not a degenerate heroin dealer, as thoroughly incorrect legend has it, who put a recorder (tape and disk, not wire, again as legend has it) to Parker live at performances in California and New York, after Bird's stint in rehab in Camarillo and his return to New York, which is to say at the height of his powers.

Dean Benedetti, more or less, turned on the recorder when CP soloed and turned it off otherwise. Would I like to hear all of every set? Sure. Does it matter that I am listening as I type this to one Charlie Parker solo (more or less) after another? No. The music is incredible. I kept waking up last night with it playing in my head after listening to it before bedding down. That's powerful. The sound is fine, even really good, if you consider where it came from. The hair on my body stands on end sometimes listening to this stuff.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

An observation...

2 CDs of Best of Miles Davis on the juke at ye olde Esquire Lounge in downstate Illinois. I slip in 3 bucks and spin up 8 tunes. As they play, I notice people moving their heads to the rythm, tapping feet, mouthing it. While talking about Dwight Yocham. Somehow, I don't think Dwight will translate as well 40 or 50 years from now.
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Friday, July 25, 2008

Melvin Jackson, Funky Soul, Limelight/Dusty Groove

Exhibit A in the anti to the notion that those guys from the Art Ensemble of Chicago only went abstract because they couldn't play (semi anyway) straight. King Curtis would have been impressed by Roscoe Mitchell here and Lester Bowie sets the pace for about any rock, soul trumpet maven. Melvin anchors it all with his double bass fed through an electronicizing device to a point where it reminds me of Michael Henderson's effect on Miles Davis' electric bands, years before Miles Davis copped Henderson from Stevie Wonder. The title track is George Clinton funk-eee and the rendition of Eddie Harris' Cold Duck time is precious. But it's all good.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Silence, David Murray and Mal Waldron, Justin Time

Gotta wonder if Mal Waldron recording Soul Eyes, his composition, one last time knew it was the last time, because he sure puts every bit of heart and soul into it.

And David Murray, on bass clarinet in this instance, is right there with him. Amazing affinity between the two on the whole CD, as a matter of fact.

Sitting here now, I can't bring up a better piano and reeds duet session, and I rate it as one of my favorite, in a long list of them, Murray disks of any sort.

What they do with the Miles Davis electric tune Jean-Pierre says a lot about their skill, and the elemental musicality of Miles' electric stuff as well.
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hey, it is Indiana...

Blue skies at the Indy Jazz Fest Sunday, too, until just prior to the end of Paquito D'Rivera's set, when a deluge accompanied by lightning rolled in; oh well, I wasn't staying for Fourplay anyway. D'Rivera, accompanied only by 20-year-old pianist Alex Brown, was really good, playing everything from Piazzola to Gillespie to his own tribute to the Dizzy one, A Night in Englewood. I enjoyed his clarinet as much as his saxophone, which he made sound amazingly like a bandoneon on the Piazolla piece.

I think a lot is going to be heard from Brown, by the way. He matched Paquito blow for blow from a creativity and chops perspective. Worries me that age and guile may not always, in fact, beat youth and speed.

Ramsey Lewis and his trio with first-call Chicago bassist Larry Gray were nifty as well. I like the way he mixed the Motownish, funky, soul-oriented stuff he became notable with, church music, the blues, Ellington and even classical in a wide-ranging, consistently catchy show.

The bonus for me was getting there early enough to hear the IUPUI Jazz Ensemble, which was great, and even better with guest artist Oliver Nelson, Jr., on flute and piccolo. Nature or nuture, the guy's a heck of player just like dad.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Blue skies...

Over the Indy Jazz Fest this afternoon. Freddie Hubbard was sounding better than when I heard him at Yoshi's in San Francisco in April. I think he's getting some of his stuff back, particularly on the flugelhorn. You sure couldn't beat the supporting cast he brought along, James Spaulding on alto and flute, Curtis Fuller on trombone, George Cables on piano and Joe Chambers drums. Every one a big hitter. Still, it was a younger guy who really stood out to me, Javon Jackson on tenor. Very creative blowing.

I really dug Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band in the set prior. Amazing how he works the mute Miles style and yet doesn't come off as the least bit imitative. You just don't hear a lot about these guys outside of a small circle and they ought to be headliners. I love the way they put their own stamp on Monk's stuff. I'd like to hear them do a full show instead of one of those hour-long festival things.

Listening to their Moliendo Cafe now, which I bought at the fest. Nifty version of Stardust. Joe Ford rates right up there with James Spaulding in my book and Carter Jefferson on tenor is strong on this as well.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Willie Pickens and six young dudes, marvy singer Saalik Ziyad leading them, making surprises at Fred Anderson's Velvet Lounge. Essence of AACM. Note to self, keep and eye out of saxophonist Fred Jackson and trombonist Norman Palm IV. These guys have some chops.
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II


Wayne Shorter doesn't much need to record anymore, but wishing he would, at least live. His current quartet is a creativity machine.
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Friday, June 06, 2008

Thinking ahead...

Retire to the beach?
I think I'll retire to the South Loop, get up late every day.
And spend my evenings at the Velvet Lounge.
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Saturday, May 24, 2008


In my almost empty co-op listening to Irvin Mayfield and Ellis Marsalis, good stuff for the end of a trail.
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Friday, May 16, 2008

Irvin Mayfield, Love Songs, Ballads and Standards

With Ellis Marsalis. Hey, not a note out of the tradition, unless maybe it's Neal Caine slipping a few in on the bass, but it matters not a tad. So I have to listen to Ellis Marsalis play standards, kind of, with Irvin Mayfield, who's, like, channeling Louis Armstrong wherever he goes; what's the problem? Highlights: My One and Only Love and Yesterday. (They're doing "standards," I said, not chestnuts.) Mo' Betta Blues is worth the price of admission alone.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Slap me silly...

In a galaxy long, long ago and far, far away my man Rodd Zolkos introduced me to Tom Waits' Small Change and tonight I'm listening to it and I take a gander at the lineup and I notice Jim Hughart, bass, and that ain't so surprising, because TW used JH on bass regularly. But Shelley Manne on drums and Lou Tabackin on tenor? Not the least bit surprising that I've always loved this.

Nice little group...

Just happens to have Lester Young playing tenor, Walter Page and Jo Jones holding down the bass and drums spots, Mr. 5x5 Jimmy Rushing shouting (Evenin' slays me) and a guy name of Bill Basie in the piano chair. (He's playing organ on Goin' to Chicago and I'm giddy.) I hear no notes out of place anywhere and the acute sense of time is simply amazing.

New Classic Columbia, Okeh and Vocalion Lester Young with Count Basie (1936-40) set from my pals at Mosaic, which threatens to keep me up for like the next four hours anyway.

But I'll dream good.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Warm and dry at the Velvet Lounge

Kelan Phil Cohran plays
An electric kora, harp thing he made himself
And somewhere in the cosmos Sun Ra is smiling
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Every town should have one...

Headed back from Berkeley and languishing at O'Hare between flights.

I'll miss walking by this place on my way from motel to campus and
environs. I have to rate San Francisco as a pretty good jazz town.
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Sing-a-long for Fred

So I (along with the rest of the audience) got to sing happy birthday to Freddie Hubbard accompanied by Bobby Hutcherson. Now that's living. James Spaulding was great on alto and flute. They should have given some more solo space to Craig Handy on tenor. And drummer Lenny White III, who's off on tour with Chick Corea and Return to Forever this summer, was a beast.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Dinner at the Fillmore Street Cafe

Jazz legends on the walls
The house salad bops
Ready for Freddie
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Barking dogs

I walked a long way for this view, but at least there was a free, clean
public toilet when I got there.

On to the new Yoshi's and Freddie Hubbard's 70th birthday show.
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Sunny Sonny

Sonny Rollins' concert at Berkeley last night was my seventh time seeing Mr. Rollins and, not surprisingly, I haven't heard the same thing yet. Musically, checks in a No. 2 on my memorable list. Orchestra Hall in Chicago a few years ago is No. 1 because of the amazing, expansive flights he went on, some of them lasting nearly half an hour. (The Olympia in Paris and Carnegie Hall for his 50th anniversary performing there last September are memorable for the music and, well, because it's Paris and Carnegie Hall).

Berkeley, I think, compares to the first time I saw him, in Ann Arbor, Mich. His solos weren't as long and he let his band carry more of the load. But when he played, it was plenty long, full of interesting ideas and joyous. He made me chuckle several times last night at the clever touches he threw down and I noticed that he smiled a lot, too. I think he was having fun.

Highlight: In a Sentimental Mood, both his own playing and his comping with percussionist Kimati Dinizulu, who's really become an integral part of what he does these days, as has guitarist Bobby Broom. At one point, it struck me what a masterful comp man he is, besides being the great soloist, and that makes this concert memorable as well.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Goin' to church

Having coffee in the Fillmore Cafe across the street from Yoshi's, the new one in the Fillmore Jazz Preservation District not the old one in Oakland, and the Church of St. John Coltrane, which doesn't cut much dash in digs, it's a store-front chapel, but makes me feel pretty spiritual anyway.

Love the cross made of two soprano saxophones.

Sonny Rollins at Berkeley tonight, so it promises to be a day of
religious experiences.
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Great BJ

Never got to see Stitt and Ammons (or Stitt and Rollins, Rollins and Coltrane, Rollins and Hawkins for that matter, not even Zoot and Al) but I have to think Joshua Redman and Branford Marsalis locking horns, so to speak, was something like it. I'd have paid $25 for a recording of their interchanges on Blues Up and Down and Body and Soul had they been selling CDs in the lobby after (musicians in this digital age need to start doing that). Boss tenors (and sopranos, too, which they whipped out on Redman's Mantra #5). Will go down as one of my best memories from a jazz show.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Time for that BJ

Headed to Chicago's Orchestra Hall to hear the Joshua Redman Trio with Branford Marsalis tonight and been listening to their stuff all week.

Today it's Branford's Romare Bearden Revealed. I'm Slappin' Seventh Avenue brings to mind the word jaunty. Branford's soprano (he plays tenor, too) sounds a lot like a clarinet. Jungle Blues starts out making me think Ragtime and quickly morphs into a trad, Jelly Roll Morton-like New Orleans thing, albeit modernized, again with the clarinet-sounding soprano (tell me he's not channeling Sidney Bechet). Brothers Wynton and Delfeayo do some talking on the trumpet and 'bone.

The program is diverse, Seabreeze a Latinized slow dance number; Wynton's J Moood a blues-based advanced post bop piece in the manner of Miles Davis' second great quintet; B's Paris Blues with a Django feel and amusing solos and interplay between Branford and Doug Wamble, who goes it all alone in kind of a Piedmont style on Autumn Lamp. I think of Laughin' & Talkin' (with Higg) as abstract bebop. The duet between Branford and Harry Connnick Jr. (forget his singing, he's a boffo pianist) on James P. Johnson's Carolina Shout is a blisteringly fast minor classic.

It occurs to me that every time I put this on I find something else to enjoy in it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

BJ week, day 4

Branford Marsalis, Random Abstract. Sophisticated, if not overly exciting blowing from a much younger Branford (this is from '88, 20 freaking years ago) who already was developing many of the distinctive touches he uses today, I think to greater effect. The guy who really keeps striking me throughout the session is pianist Kenny Kirkland.

Nice version of Monk's Crepuscule With Nellie, a song I have a thing for. Reminds me of T.M. and Rouse.

Joshua Redman, Wish. The young lion (this was issued in '93) in a strong hard bop session with older cats, and Ornette Coleman alums, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins and Pat Metheny on guitar, who stands out, not that Redman doesn't play well, he does, but more like Wayne Shorter in the Jazz Messengers than O.C. The Deserving Many is sure a snappy tune. Maybe it's the guitar, but I hear regular Latin, Spanish influences on this. Nice jazz ballad made of Clapton's Tears in Heaven.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

BJ week, day 3

Joshua Redman Quartet Spirit of the Moment Live at the Village Vanguard. Less ethereal and more earthy, but also less individual, than his mature sound today. He makes me think of honkers like Arnett Cobb and Illinois Jacquet on Jig-A-Jug and Remember. (I wonder if the "Jug" is a reference to Gene Ammons?) The soprano piece Second Snow could be Coltrane, which is a compliment in terms of technical proficiency if not innovation. Dialogue is an abstract, free thing constructed around a marchy theme ala Albert Ayler. The standout is the stamp very much his own he puts on Sonny Rollins' St. Thomas. Reminds of Mr. Rollins having his way with something like, say, Autumn Nocturne. The melody is more an underlying framework for improvisation than recognizable on the surface for much of his run, yet it's all quite logical. Lot of S.R. on Roots and Herbs, his song or no.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

BJ week continues

Today it's Branford Marsalis' Eternal. This time through I hear a lot of Coleman Hawkins- and Ben Webster-like interludes I didn't notice before (check out Dinner for One Please, James) and I admire the pulse Eric Revis sets down with his bass and the subtlety "Tain" Watts displays on a program all pretty much ballady tunes.

Monday, March 24, 2008

BJ week

Mind out of the gutter; that's B as in Branford Marsalis and J as in Joshua Redman, whom I'm catching at Orchestra Hall in Chicago Friday night.

Marsalis, Braggtown. Brings to mind another mature quartet fronted by one of the most powerfully inventive saxophonists of all time playing off a drummer with thunder, lightning and, yet, gentle rain as well in his sticks, a lyrical pianist and a bassist adept at holding it all together. Branford no longer sounds much like Coltrane, however. He makes me think more of Rollins and Dolphy with some Sanders and Coleman (Ornette and George for that matter) thrown in here, but it's an impression more than anything overt because his playing is all him now. Jack Baker, Blakzilla and Black Elk Speaks are noisy and pretty freely improvised romps, offset by quietly complex tunes like Hope, Fate and O Solitude almost classical in nature. His shift between soprano and tenor on the solos in the latter gives me goose bumps.

Redman, Elastic. His electric trio/quartet with Sam Yahel on B3, Rhodes and a host of other plugged-in keyboards and synths, which fits well with Redman's, as one review of him live I read lately put it, "silvery improvisational style, fluid eighth-note streaks and rangy altissimo runs." I've always been attracted by the way he works the high register and you get a lot of that on this, on soprano and alto (where he's got Charlie Parker speed) as well as tenor. Dig Molten Soul, Still Pushin' That Rock and Can a Good Thing Last Forever? Boogielastic shows off one of the cleanest sax sounds around. Ton of music in The Birthday Song. I enjoy his tendency to play more of the whole horn now, but this is an overall goodie with a lot of creativity and musicianship on display.

Trane tome

Interesting story in my newspaper yesterday about a local guy's, and others', handiwork. Even at $150 this sounds like it's worth it.

I am working my way through Downbeat's Miles Davis Reader right now and I find it captivating to read what Miles was saying at the time about music so important to me today, and what other people were saying about Miles and his music. His Blindfold Test appearances are a hoot in particular.

The story, in part:

"CHAMPAIGN – For nearly seven years, Chris DeVito spent literally thousands of hours holed up in the University of Illinois newspaper and music libraries, researching jazz saxophonist John Coltrane.

"Using microfilm and other archives, he scoured hundreds of mainstream, black and underground newspapers and jazz magazines, looking for references, no matter how obscure, to Coltrane's gigs as a sideman or a band leader and to his life and his music.

"At the same time, Wolf Schmaler of Ottweiler, Germany, was doing similar research in Europe on the pioneering jazz musician's tours there. Their work plus more was compiled for "The John Coltrane Reference," an 821-page book recently published by Routledge Press. DeVito, of Rantoul, is lead author.

"The tome represents a massive amount of painstaking work by not only DeVito and Schmaler but also two other Coltrane experts, one in the United States and the other in Japan who focused on the discography. One, Yasuhiro Fujioka, uncovered rare recordings and met with the musician's son, Ravi Coltrane.

"The book, edited by jazz scholar/performer Lewis Porter, offers a detailed and expansive chronology of Coltrane's life and music from his birth in 1926 to his premature death in 1967. The discography updates two earlier ones that had been considered standards and had been compiled by Fujioka and co-author David Wild.
Among the many illustrations are vintage photographs, copies of more than 350 album covers, and newspaper reviews and interviews, some of which had never been reprinted before."

-- Melissa Merli, The News-Gazette, 3/23/08

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sonny Rollins, Next Album

Been on a '60s and '70s Rollins kick recently, Next Album is Mr. Rollins with George Cables on electric piano and Bob Cranshaw hitting the electric bass pretty hard (albeit not with the overwhelming pulse you get from Miles' electric bassists) in a session leaning into the fusion wave of the time (1972) starting with Playin' in the Yard. For all of that it's pure Rollins (see The Everywhere Calypso), who sounded like himself even playing with the Stones, let alone his own kind-of rockish band.

Kenny G could learn something from his rare turn on the soprano in recrafting Poinciana. Skylark is classic Sonny having his way with a popular tune, no fusion about it (Cables and Cranshaw go acoustic).

A little gem I should spin up more often.

Today's playlist

Wynton Marsalis, All Rise. Got to hear it live last year with the Chicago Symphony and Chorus and I have to say this is quite close to that performance, which was marvelous. Picked it up on a bargain table for $7.99, all the better. I am filing it under Classical, although there are some really jazzy bluesy interludes.

Coltrane, A Love Supreme. What the hey, it's Easter. Like I need an excuse to listen to one of the greatest pieces of music ever created.

Billy Mitchell, This is Billy Mitchell. Got to thinking about him the other day listening to Thad Jones' Detroit-New York Junction. Should have been a bigger deal, not a Coltrane or a Rollins maybe, but at least a Hank Mobley.

Wynton, Black Codes (From the Underground). Miles' second great quintet influenced and almost abstract in places (especially when Branford is saxing), which is different for Mr. Classicist. I like it when he stretches all that technical proficiency he has out.

Branford Marsalis, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born. Mostly a trio session he's still coming to grips with Coltrane and Rollins here but clearly on the way to the very personal sound he has today, which I think makes him the most interesting saxophonist in jazz who isn't Sonny Rollins, James Carter or Wayne Shorter.

Joshua Redman, Back East. I'm going to hear him at Orchestra Hall Friday night, with Branford as a special guest so I am listening to their stuff all week. Oddly, it will be the fourth time I've seen Dewey's boy even though he isn't someone I would generally go out of my way to catch (he's been in Champaign-Urbana three times). I think this disk shows some impressive artistic growth, however, perhaps no where more than on I'm an Old Cowhand and Wagon Wheels, nods to Mr. Rollins' famous trio date Way Out West that nonetheless aren't the least imitative. His Monkian The Surrey with the Fringe on Top is quite innovative, while Zarafah is like an East Indian blues and his rendition of Shorter's Indian Song (dueting with Joe Lovano) sounds Albert Ayler-tinged to me. He duets with Dewey on Coltrane's India and Dewey plays his last recorded date, the song GJ, written for his grandson, on the final track. Both pretty gripping. I have a feeling Friday's show will be memorable.

Wynton, Blue Interlude. Pure Ellingtonia, from a septet no less.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Velvet Lounging, how I love it

Lester Lashley's vibes are junky
The vibes he makes on them are golden
What"s that tell me/you
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II

Friday, February 29, 2008

Otis Taylor, Recapturing the Banjo, Telarc

Cahl, bless his heart, sent me this. Now, I like Otis Taylor anyway, because he's one of a few modern blues guys whose CDs I cue up and never am quite sure what's going to hit my ears next, which is to say he advances the art in a jazz-like way that isn't always the case with the blues today.

But this is even a step beyond that involving, as it does integrally, the banjo, an instrument I basically loathe as a device employed mostly by peckerwoods.

Taylor, a stellar cast including my men Corey Harris, Guy Davis and Don Vappie, whom I saw playing in Orchestra Hall in Chicago last fall, recapture the banjo, an African-American instrument at its roots, not only for the blues, but I'd say folk, jazz, rock and more (and just see Live Your Life for all of them).

Check out Hey Joe for a serious rock-blues employment of the banjo. Who knew?

I've sung Little Liza Jane since I was a kid, but I will sing it far more cooly now that Davis has showed me how.

Five Hundred Roses is what you might get if John Lee Hooker had been a banjo player.

The banjo wasn't always, clearly, the purview of Grand Ole Opry white boys, as Vappie et al make clear on the trad New Orleans tune Les Ognons and, ditto, Alvin Youngblood Hart on Deep Blue Sea.

Still the extensibility happens mostly in the tunes penned by Taylor, of which there are plenty.

This is not your father's, assuming he was an inbred mofo, Dueling Banjos.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

This is your brain on jazz...

Interesting study scanning the brains of jazz musicians with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging as they improvise (on a keyboard in this case).

The crux: performance-monitoring regions of their brains shut down and various areas associated with dreaming, with all of the senses and with regulating emotions kick in, in addition to an area involved in organizing self-initiated thoughts and behaviors.

In other words, they stop thinking about what they're doing on a conscious level and just let it come to them, which sounds a lot like Mr. Sonny Rollins describing what happens to him in concert, or Michael Jordan in one of those stretches where he'd hit every shot he tossed up for that matter.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Thanks, Teo

So sad to read that Teo Macero died. He produced a ton of stunning
sessions by jazz artists from Monk to Wallace Roney.

I owe him big for some of my favorite Miles Davis electric music, which
is some of my favorite music period, including In a Silent Way, which I
think is Miles' masterpiece. Not to mention Sketches of Spain.

I won't say Miles couldn't have done it without Teo, but he would have
had to find (and later did) someone to take Teo's place and the stuff
might not have been as uniformly interesting and evolutionary (and
later wasn't}.

I hope they're working somewhere tonight.

Teo was a pretty good bop sax player, too, which people tend to forget.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Criss craft

What I like about Sonny Criss is that he works that alto with the freedom Charlie Parker fought for but with his own sound entirely.

Good stuff: I'll Catch the Sun! Absolutely benefits from the sympathetic piano playing of Hampton Hawes (read his autobiography, Raise Up Off Me, which Cahl turned me on to). These guys should have played together all the time. Their version of I Thought About You is stunning. Monty Budwig on bass is sympathetic as well. S.C. has all the panache of Bird and Benny Carter on California Screamin' and his version of Cry Me a River is blues city. Check out the title track for a guy every bit of Bird, in his own way.

Sonny's Dream. S.C. in a tenet with Teddy Edwards on tenor (great solo on The Black Apostles), Conti Candoli on trumpet, Tommy Flanagan on piano (as righteous here as Hawes) and Ray Draper on tuba, among others. But Criss is the centerpiece, whether wailtastic on Sonny's Dream or on the semi-classical Ballad for Samuel. I read that Horace Tapscott laid all this out. He ruled.

Somewhere, Big Ben is smiling

I have to think Mr. Ben Webster, maybe the ultimate ballad player on the tenor, would greatly appreciate Saxually Romantic by J.J. Jones, whose tone is as thick as peanut butter (smooth, no nuts) and as sweet as honey. Wonderful version of Stardust followed by a standout rendition of She's Out of My Life. Even his fast-paced take of Fly Me to the Moon is soul drenched.

He doesn't play My Funny Valentine anything like Chet Baker or Miles, who clearly played it to kick Chet's ass, but he spins it just as emotively. And his funktastic roll through Summertime is such that I'm willing to forget I've heard, what, a million versions of it. He makes well-trod Misty similarly interesting.

By the way, I think this stuff would absolutely promote getting laid.

A gem.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Thoughts on Holy Ghost (not that one)

day old donuts
I didn't eat them coming home from Chicago last night
Albert Ayler makes them taste better
-- From Mr. Greg's Sidekick II