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