Saturday, October 18, 2014

Jimmy Witherspoon - Roots

Jimmy Witherspoon laid out two great records in 1962 on Reprise, Spoon and this one. Roots places the great blues singer and guitarist in the company of saxophonist Ben Webster, trumpeter Gerald Wilson, and a rhythm section consisting of pianist Ernie Freeman and drummer Jim Miller. The mood is laid-back, down-home, and full of emotion and sentiment. The warmth of Witherspoon's voice on material like "Your Red Wagon," "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water," "Key to the Highway" (in one of the more unique versions ever recorded), and Jimmy Rushing's "Did You Ever" is on the other side of lonesome. Webster and Wilson underscore the sung lines with fills that accent the deep blue in Witherspoon's vocal. Jay McShann's "Confessin' the Blues" is a more jazzed-up arrangement, but Witherspoon's deep in the R&B groove here, taking a hint from Joe Turner. The finger-popping read of Turner's "It's a Low Down Dirty Shame" is in the gutbucket; the rhythm section swings hard. It's not as raucous as the original, but Witherspoon's smooth, clear, and deep register is beautifully complemented first by Wilson's solo and then by Webster's. The real stunner is near the end, when the band takes on Big Bill Broonzy's "Just a Dream," where Witherspoon wails and moans the blues. It's just chilling. This is one of those recordings that is a true hidden classic. - by Thom Yurek, AMG

Artist: Jimmy Witherspoon
Album: Roots
Year: 1962
Label: Warner Japan (24bit, 2014)
Runtime: 40:30

1.  I'd Rather Dring Muddy Water (Eddie Miller) 3:56
2.  I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town (Andy Razaf/Casey Bill Weldon) 3:36
3.  Key to the Highway (Charles Segar/William Broonzy) 2:54
4.  Did You Ever (Jimmy Rushing) 3:24
5.  Confessin' The Blues (Jay McShann/Walter Brown) 3:00
6.  Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out (Jimmie Cox) 2:31
7.  Your Red Wagon (Don Raye/Gene DePaul/Richard M. Jones) 5:12
8.  Rain Is Such A Lonesome Sound (Jimmy Witherspoon) 3:01
9.  Cherry Red (Big Joe Turner/Pete Johnson) 3:15
10.  It's A Low Down Dirty Shame (Ollie Shepard) 3:02
11.  Just A Dream (William Broonzy)  3:00
12.  Please, Mr. Webster (Buddy Johnson) 3:32

Jimmy Witherspoon (Vocals)
Ben Webster (Tenor Saxophone)
Gerald Wilson (Trumpet)
Ernie Freeman (Piano)
Herman Mitchell (Guitar)
Ralph Hamilton (Double Bass)
Jim Miller (Drums)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Oliver Nelson - Fantabulous

By the time Oliver Nelson and his big band had recorded Fantabulous in March of 1964 for Argo, the great composer, saxophonist, conductor, and arranger was a man about town in New York. He had
released some truly classic dates of his own as a leader in smaller group forms -- Blues and the Abstract Truth and Full Nelson among them -- and had done arrangement work for everyone from Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Hodges, Nancy Wilson, Frank Wess, King Curtis, Etta Jones, Jimmy Smith, Jack Teagarden, Betty Carter, Billy Taylor, and Gene Ammons, to name more than a few. For Fantabulous, he took his working big band to Chicago for a gig sponsored by Daddy-O-Daylie, a famous local disc jockey. He had also worked with a number of the players on this date before, even recording an earlier version of the tune "Hobo Flats" that opens this set a year before on an album of the same name. Altoist Phil Woods, baritone roarer Jerome Richardson, trumpeters Snooky Young and Art Hoyle, bassist Ben Tucker, and drummer Grady Tate are a few of the names on Fantabulous. Nelson holds down the tenor chair, and Patti Bown is on piano with additional brass and reed players. Another Nelson original, "Post No Bills" features killer alto work from Woods, and a brief but smoking hot baritone break form Richardson on the same cut. This program is compelling in that it provides an excellent meld of all of Nelson's strengths-as an advanced, colorful harmonist
who insisted on the hard swinging esthetic, as an excellent tenor saxophonist and a killer conductor. Another highlight is "Daylie's Double," (which bears a similarity to Nat Adderley's "Work Song"")
named for the aforementioned DJ, with smoking tenor breaks from Nelson, and big fat soulful chord soloing from Bown. Likewise Billy Taylor's "A Bientot," it opens in true big brass Ellingtonian
elegance, and unravels itself as a gorgeous bluesy ballad with echoes of "I Only Have Eyes for You" in its melody. The subtle shades of flute and twinned clarinet are a nice touch before the entire band arrives to carry it out on a big yet tenderly expressive lyric cloud. That said, there isn't a weak moment here, there isn't anything that doesn't captivate, delight, and even astonish, as in the smoking, striated harmonic bop head on "Three Plus One." It's almost amazing it took more than 20 years before this appeared on American shores on CD, but at last, here it is in excellent sound at a budget price as part of Verve's Originals series. This is for those who are fans who don't have it yet (and who are unwilling to pay high collector's fees for good vinyl copies or the wages of Japanese import insanity), and those wondering where to begin with Nelson the arranger. - by Thom Yurek, AMG

Artist: Oliver Nelson
Album: Fantabulous
Year: 1964:
Label: Verve (Argo, 2008)
Runtime: 34:35

1.  Hobo Flats (Oliver Nelson) 4:13
2.  Post No Bills (Oliver Nelson) 5:30
3.  A Bientot (Billy Taylor) 3:47
4.  Three Plus One (Oliver Nelson) 3:25
5.  Take Me With You (Willie Jean Tate/Oliver Nelson) 5:28
6.  Daylie's Double (Audrie Nelson) 4:01
7.  Teenie's Blues (Oliver Nelson) 4:08
8.  Laz-ie Kate (Oliver Nelson) 3:59

Oliver Nelson (Tenor Saxophone)
Jerome Richardson (Baritone Saxophone, Flute, Alto Flute)
Phil Woods (Alto Saxophone, Clarinet)
Robert Ashton (Tenor Saxophone, Calrinet)
Kenny Soderblom (Alto Saxophone, Flute)
Roy Weigano (Trombone)
Tony Studd (Bass Trombone)
Art Hoyle (Trumpet)
Eugene 'Snookie' Young (Trumpet)
Patti Bown (Piano)
Ben Tucker (Double Bass)
Grady Tate (Drums)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Bill Frisell - Blues Dream

For those who have been wondering where Mr. Bill's musical wanderings would lead him in the wake of his first solo CD, Ghost Town, Blues Dream provides the ambitious answer. Nearly all Frisell's fascinations are here: the pastoralism of Have a Little Faith, a Nashville tinge, and the cinematic sounds of Quartet. There's also the electronic loop atmospheres of his ECM and early Elektra years and the alternating Ellingtonian and Salvation Army horns of his quintet period. All of this melded into 18 new compositions commissioned by the Walker Arts Center. A textural richness comes courtesy of Greg Leisz's various guitars backing Frisell's own guitar and a stunning integration of three horns: Curtis Fowlkes's trombone, Ron Miles's trumpet, and Billy Drewes's saxophones. As you listen to this string of broad-shouldered pieces, tributes to greats like Ron Carter, and strangely blues-inflected soundscapes, it's apparent that the solos of Ghost Town</I> can operate as a sort of sketch or "cartoon" for this, the full painting; or a short that is then expanded into a feature. Frisell's career is taking on the aspect of a well-crafted movie or novel that explores different story lines before bringing them together for the finale (and this might be the prelude to the finale). by Michael Ross

From the beginning of Blues Dream, the listener knows that something special is going on. The spare notes of Ron Miles' trumpet and the relaxed guitar work of Greg Leisz lay the groundwork for a spacious sound on the title cut. This openness remains throughout the album, even when alto and trombone are added into the mix. The instrumental "Ron Carter" begins with the loose, electrified feel of an early Miles Davis fusion piece, with Bill Frisell's distorted guitar exploring the space of the piece without resorting to excessive volume. The short and sweet "Pretty Stars Were Made to Shine" leans heavier on the country side, with steel guitar and Chet Atkins' fingerpicking dominating. The arrangements on Blues Dream are a big change from last year's solo effort, Ghost Town. An essential part of the overall sound is Leisz' steel guitar and lap steel work. He also played with Frisell on Good Dog, Happy Man, and helps to set the mood and pace throughout Blues Dream. Ron Miles plays a smaller role, but it is fascinating how well his relaxed trumpet, with its carefully chosen notes, fits into the mix on the title cut and the short "Episode." Blues Dream is a perfectly chosen title: the material, steeped in the blues, is approached in a lazy, dreamlike fashion. Frisell's fondness for putting unusual combinations of instruments together adds to the overall effect, leaving the listener to wonder why no one has ever tried this before. Blues Dream is a lovely release that should satisfy Frisell fans as well as jazz, country, and blues fans looking for a genre-bending experience. - by Ronnie D. Lankford Jr., AMG

Artist: Bill Frisell
Album: Blues Dream
Year: 2001
Label: Nonesuch
Runtime: 61:58

1.  Blues Dream 2:31
2.  Ron Carter 6:45
3.  Pretty Flowers Were Made For Blooming 3:20
4.  Pretty Stars Were Made To Shine 1:41
5.  Where Do We Go? 5:21
6.  Like Dreamers Do (Part One) 1:34
7.  Like Dreamers Do (Part Two) 2:37
8.  Outlaws 4:18
9.  What Do We Do? 7:08
10.  Episode 0:49
11.  Soul Merchant 2:43
12.  Greg Leisz 6:14
13.  The Tractor 2:27
14.  Fifty Years 1:31
15.  Slow Dance 3:11
16.  Things Will Never Be The Same 4:49
17.  Dream On 3:06
18.  Blues Dream (Reprise) 1:53
All compositions by Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell (Electric Guitar, acoustic Guitar, Loops)
Greg Leisz (Pedal Steel Guitar, Lap Steel Guitar, National Steel Guitar, Mandolin)
Ron Miles (Trumpet)
Billy Drewes (Alto Saxophone)
David Piltch (Double Bass)
Kenny Wollesen (Drums, Percussion)
Curtis Fowlkes (Trombone)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ella Fitzgerald - At the Montreux Jazz Festival

Although Ella Fitzgerald had been on the jazz scene for over four decades by the time of this 1975 concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival, she still knew how to swing and keep the audience in the palm of her hand. Backed by lyrical pianist Tommy Flanagan, the solid bassist Keter Betts and the driving drummer Bobby Durham, the vocalist wows the crowd with a mix of standards, popular jazz compositions and ballads in a way that only she could do it. Even though her voice shows evidence of a little more vibrato on her held notes at the end of a phrase (especially on the ballads), she still emotes like no one else, occasionally adding some playful scat in the up-tempo numbers and captivating the audience with her romp through "How High the Moon," a piece she kept fresh even though she had performed it hundreds of times over the years. This is easily one of Ella Fitzgerald's better live sets from late in her career, which would continue for another decade before ill health finally caused her to retire. - by Ken Dryden, AMG

Artist: Ella Fitzgerald
Album: At the Montreux Jazz festival 1975
Year: 1975
Label: Pablo
Runtime: 46:40

1.  Caravan (Duke Ellington/Irving Mills/Juan Tizol) 2:36
2.  Satin Doll (Duke Ellington/Johnny Mercer/Billy Strayhorn) 2:49
3.  Teach Me Tonight (Sammy Cahn/Gene DePaul) 4:36
4.  Wave (Antonio Carlos Jobim) 5:11
5.  It's All Right with Me (Cole Porter) 2:59
6.  Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love) (Cole Porter) 5:40
7.  How High the Moon (Nancy Hamilton/Morgan Lewis) 8:36
8.  Girl from Ipanema (Vinícius de Moraes/Norman Gimbel/Antonio Carlos Jobim) 8:14
9.  'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do (Percy Grainger/Robert Prince/Clarence Williams) 5:59

Ella Fitzgerald (Vocals)
Tommy Flanagan (Piano)
Keter Betts (Double Bass)
Bobby Durham (Drums)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Toufic Farroukh - Drab Zeen

Drab Zeen represents one of the finest examples of this important emerging new sub-genre, Arab-jazz. The genius of this disc is how Farroukh has effortlessly melded such disparate elements as jazz trombone and saxophone, chill-beats, French vocals, acoustic piano, oud, ney, and accordion into a singly tapestry of unique sounds, all the while retaining the essential elements of each instrumental voice even as he transforms the whole into something entirely new and heretofore unheard. Farroukh has grown in every facet of his music-making: tighter and more evocative compositions, a richer and more varied sound palette, cleaner production, superior sax blowing, and a deeper groove. An altogether remarkable disc. Highest recommendation. - by Jan P. Denis,

Artist: Toufic Farroukh
Album: Drab Zeen
Year: 2002
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Runtime: 53:12

1.  Fusic (Toufic Farroukh) 6:19
2.  Lili s'en fout (Toufic Farroukh) 5:51
3.  The Pain in Spain Stays Mainly in the Brain (Toufic Farroukh) 4:35
4.  Land of Milk and Money (Toufic Farroukh) 5:18
5.  Calipyge (intro) (Toufic Farroukh) 1:00
6.  Calipyge (Toufic Farroukh/Tania Saleh) 2:22
7.  Kaf skoon (intro) (Toufic Farroukh) 1:40
8.  Kaf skoon (Toufic Farroukh) 4:38
9.  L'homme qui a perdu son ombre (Toufic Farroukh/Laurent Gehant) 4:57
10.  A Night in Damascus (Toufic Farroukh) 4:10
11.  Bilan actuel (Toufic Farroukh/Laurent Gehant) 3:51
12.  Blues for Ali (Toufic Farroukh) 4:31
13.  Petites mains et longues jambes... (Toufic Farroukh/Laurent Gehant) 3:53

Toufic Farroukh (Bendir, Percussion, Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Bouzouki, Piano and Vocals)
Bassam Saba (Nay) - 1,2,4-13
Keya Tabassian (Setar) - 1,2,5-9,12
Nabil Khalidi (Banjo, Oud) - 1,2,4-6,9-11,13
Leandro Aconcha (Synthesizer, Organ and Piano) - 1-4
Gueorgui Kornazov (Trombone) - 1,2,10,11
Jean Wellers (Double Bass, Viola and Rhythmic Violin)
Ali Alkhatib (Req and Bendir) - 1,2,4-13
Tania Saleh (Vocals) - 1,5-8
Yasmine Hamdan (Vocals and Voice) - 2,9,13
Antoine Khalifé (Violin) - 2,4-6,10,11,13
J.J. Sage (Backing Vocals, Bass Guitar and Folk Guitar) - 2,4,11,12
Ibrahim Jaber (Udou) - 2,5,6,9,10
Tony Dib (Accordion) - 2,4-6,10,11
Mounir Khauli (Acoustic and Electric Guitar) - 2,11
Nicole Choueiry (Vocals) - 1,4
Saad Menkara (Voice) - 3,4
J.M. Hure (Guitar) - 4,7,8
Charbel Rouhana (Oud) - 10
Najawa Abou Alhessein (Voice) - 11
Rabih Lamah (Vocals) - 11
Phil Tohme (Vocals) - 12
DJ Roger (Scratch) - 2

Monday, September 8, 2014

Georgie Fame - Walking Wounded

At least once a year, usually just before the holiday season, Georgie Fame takes up residency at Ronnie Scott’s club in London. This particular recording was done during November, 1995.Having the legendary Georgie Fame sitting behind the Hammond organ, night after night, in a London club is wonderfully reminiscent of the time, more than thirty years ago, when he held held court at the Flamingo Club. Back then, in the early sixties, it wasn’t just for a week or two at a stretch, but for months at a time. He was at the heart of the ongoing scene, where American servicemen, budding British rockers and Georgie himself mixed it up and, ultimately created a musical stew that went on to change the pop scene the world over. So this recording takes its place in the pantheon of great Georgie Fame moments. So this record is full of spirits, spirits of great men who made the music, great moments when it was made and great places where the musicians held forth. Today, even the owner and namesake of the club where this album was recorded -- saxophonist Ronnie Scott -- is no longer with us. Yet Georgie Fames carries on with the good work, and is aware of his role in preserving and passing along the great jazz spirit.To that end, he has enlisted the able assistance of some of his favorite people to make this passage possible. The front line of the band includes some of Britain’s finest players, trumpet man Guy Barker, tenor saxophonist Alan Skidmore, alto saxophonist Peter King and Anthony Kerr on vibes. In the rhythm section is his regular bassist (and dapper man about town) Geoff Gascoyne along with the Powell brothers, Tristan on guitar and James on drums. These two boys have grown up with Georgie Fame’s music and are helping him carry the torch into the next century.It is our great pleasure and distinct honor here at Go Jazz to join hands with them all and fall in step. - by Ben Sidran (from liner notes)

Artist: Georgie Fame
Album: Walking Wounded (Live at Ronnie Scott's)
Year: 1998
Label: Go Jazz
Runtime: 72:40

1.  Eros Hotel (Georgie Fame/F. Landesman) 6:08
2.  If You Live (Mose Allison) 3:57
3.  Yeh Yeh (Rodgers Grant/Jon Hendricks/Pat Patrick) 3:52
4.  Moondance/Blue Moon (Van Morrison/Richard Rodgers/Lorentz Hart) 12:23
5.  How Long This Has Been Going On (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin) 8:23
6.  Cape Cuckoo (Georgie Fame) 5:02
7.  Abide With Me (Henry Francis Lyte/Thelonious Monk) 2:03
8.  The Woodshed Intro (Georgie Fame/Peter King) 1:39
9.  The Woodshed (Georgie Fame/Peter King) 6:45
10.  It Happened to Me/My Buddy (Georgie Fame) 11:01
11.  Zavolo (Zaks Nikosi) 11:27

Georgie Fame (Hammond Organ, Piano and Vocals)
Guy Barker (Trumpet)
Anthony Kerr (Vibraphone)
Alan Skidmore (Tenor Saxophone)
Peter King (Alto Saxophone)
Geoff Gascoyne (Double Bass)
Tristan Powell (Guitar)
James Powell (Drums)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fairy Tale Trio - Jazz Across the Border

The Fairy Tale Trio plays a kind of hybrid music combining elements of Bulgarian folk music and jazz. Kaval player Theodosii Spassov has developed a style that allows him more chromatic and timbral possibilities than previously associated with that instrument, while soprano saxist Anatoly Vapirov can go from tricky folk melodies to Coltrane-like wailing in the space of a few notes. The trio is rounded out by percussionist Stoyan Yankoulov, who uses mostly the traditional tupan (a double-headed drum, played with sticks) with a few modern additions. The music, composed by the trio, makes full use of their resources. There are a few odd-meter rave-ups, but there are also some quieter, textural pieces. The kaval and soprano sax take turns soloing and supporting each other, while the percussion supplies a sturdy rhythmic framework. There are also a few solos and duets that, along with great attention paid to dynamics, help keep the sound varied and interesting. In its more peaceful moments this reminds me a little of Codona, the old Don Cherry-Collin Walcott project. Then the musicians turn up the heat and could be mistaken for an Art Ensemble of Chicago offshoot. But the approach taken here is a melding rather than a juxtaposition, with the jazz elements logically flowing from the Bulgarian roots, and as such is one of the more successful folk-jazz fusions I've heard in some time.- by Joe Grossman, RootsWorld

Artist: Fairy Tale Trio
Album: Jazz Across the Border
Year: 1998
Label: Wirgo
Runtime: 52:21

1.  Karandila (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 5:18
2.  Lastuna (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 2:02
3.  The House Behind the River (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 7:14
4.  Cadence in Green (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 2:33
5.  Samotek (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 7:45
6.  Sun Sanuvah (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 5:43
7.  Chorovod (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 2:24
8.  Marvellous Pig Stories (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 4:08
9.  Shepherd's Baroque (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 3:02
10.  Gornjak (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 4:16
11.  Shuma (Ljobomir Pipkow) 7:50

Theodosii Spassov (Kaval and Voice)
Anatoly Vapirov (Soprano Saxophone)
Stoyan Yankulov (Tupan and Percussion)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bill Evans Trio - Since We Met

This album captures the best Bill Evans Trio (Eddie Gomez on bass and Marty Morell on drums) at the peak of their creative powers in a jaw-dropping performance. This is an absolutely flawless gem, musically. Bill plays like an angel. I have listened to this album well over 1000 times since I first bought it back in the mid-seventies. I wore out 2 vinyl records - fortunately I bought a 3rd, which I still treasure! I also enjoy the CD. This is a live album, recorded at the Village Vanguard. The recording quality is not the best; however, the music itself immediately transcends the limitations of the recording setup, grabs you by your soul and never lets go. Each exceedingly lovely piece is an inexhaustible mine of pure gold. I am constantly delighted. I had the great good fortune of meeting and chatting with Bill Evans at a couple of his concerts. I consider that I met the greatest pianist who has ever lived. His playing, especially as evidenced on this album, places him virtually alone at the summit of jazz-piano artistry. He reaches inside you and touches the deepest recesses of your heart. The opening solo piano work on 'Since We Met' floors me; the depth of feeling on 'Time Remembered' brings tears to my eyes; 'Sareen Jurer' flows like a river of... well, you get the idea. This must be what it sounds like in heaven. - by Scorpio69,

Thirteen years after his legendary Village Vanguard recordings, Bill Evans recorded Since We Met at the famous New York establishment again. Using his trio of the era (which includes bassist Eddie Gómez and drummer Marty Morell), Evans explores both familiar ("Time Remembered," "Turn Out the Stars" and "But Beautiful") and new (Joe Zawinul's "Midnight Mood," "See-Saw" and "Sareen Jurer") material. This CD reissue gives listeners a good example of Bill Evans' early-'70s trio as it typically sounded in clubs. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Bill Evans Trio
Album: Since We Met (Live at Village Vanguard)
Year: 1974
Label: OJC (1991)
Runtime: 46:16

1.  Since We Met (Bill Evans) 8:52
2.  Midnight Mood (Ben Raleigh/Joe Zawinul) 6:52
3.  See-Saw (Cy Coleman) 6:53
4.  Sareen Jurer (Earl Zindars) 6:40
5.  Time Remembered (Bill Evans) 5:27
6.  Turn Out the Stars (Bill Evans) 5:08
7.  But Beautiful (Johnny Burke/James Van Heusen) 6:21

Bill Evans (Piano)
Eddie Gomez (Double Bass)

Marty Morell (Drums)


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