Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wynton Marsalis, Vitoria Suite. EmArcy

Look, if you question the importance of Wynton Marsalis in the history of jazz, you're just wrong. This CD is exhibit A. It is where Wynton the composer and his big band the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra position themselves alongside, that's right, Ellington and Basie (and also Kenton). I heard them play portions of this in Chicago's Orchestra Hall earlier this month and I was blown away. I feel the same way about this CD, where they do all of the suite he wrote in homage to, and melding rhythms from jazz and its blues roots with, the Basque region of Spain, where they play regularly.

It makes for sophisticated, intricate stuff executed with an amazingly high level of musicianship. Sean Jones, Ryan Kisor and Marcus Printup on trumpet, for example, plus Wynton. Now that's a lineup. I think it is difficult to argue that there is a better baritone sax player working today than the Scotsman Joe Temperley, nor a more versatile reedman than Victor Goines. Duke would have salivated at the prospect of playing this band.

Fred Anderson, Hamid Drake, Back Together Again, Thrill Jockey Records

So there are many, many great Fred Anderson CDs, but I might suggest this one to anyone who's wondering whether to join the Church of Fred. Why? Because this is Fred with the guy he maybe dug playing with above all others and who happens to be one of the world's great percussionists. That is, you get Fred with lots of room to be Fred, and Hamid Drake with lots of room to be Hamid Drake and, buddy, there's nothing better.

The DVD with this actually hurts me, watching Fred hunched over that tenor and making it talk with such eloquence and thinking I'll never see that again. The interviews could be used as a recipe for living a righteous life.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fado Tradicional, addendum

When I wrote about Mariza's new CD Fado Tradicional I should have said this: It is the least-produced Mariza CD and hence the best look at just how good a fadista she has become. Elegant amid the simplicity and, amazingly, even more powerful in the emotional responses she can conjure with her singing. I can't get this out of my playing rotation.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Aldina Duarte, Apenas o Amor, EMI

Aldina Duarte makes me think of the late Koko Taylor not because their voices sound anything alike. Rather it is because as Taylor's singing was the very essence of Chicago blues, almost organically so, Duarte's is the essence of Lisbon fado.

You might call her voice pretty but for the world weariness, the miles and miles of bad road, sadness, loss and longing she packs inside the fetching wrapper. A Voz e o Silêncio, The Voice of Silence, is one of the saddest songs I have ever heard, in Portuguese or any other language. (The CD title means Only Love.)

In addition to how she sounds and the emotion she conveys, I just like what she does with her voice in a technical sense, as a tool, so to speak. She understands the value of space the way Miles Davis did and there are places where she pauses leaving the music, and me, hanging and in a state of tension before pulling us back from the precipice. Which is to say she sometimes sings like Thelonious Monk played the piano. Listening carefully, and repeatedly, pays dividends.

This kind of fado singing demands the traditional, spare accompaniment by two guitars (Portuguese and classical) and it is executed perfectly here by José Manuel Neto and Carlos Manuel Proença. A cherished CD that I recommend to anyone wishing to explore fado.

Friday, February 04, 2011

What Wynton and the gang make me think

Playing in an "orchestra" hall. The difference is that an orchestra plays the notes perfectly, or as perfectly as possible. It is bad not to do so. A jazz orchestra must willfully play the notes imperfectly, yet still logically in the context of the music and of the group.

If you swing like hell, it ain't bad either.

Sent from Mr. Greg's iPhone.


I know there is something fundamentally screwed up about the global climate system when it is warmer in Ely, Minn., than where I am sitting in the lower Midwest. Hell, I've been in Ely in late May when it was about as cold (warm) there as it is now.

Sent from Mr. Greg's iPhone.