Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Michael Philip Mossman - The Orisha Suite

Trumpet master Michael Philip Mossman has extended himself on this outing, reaching out into all of the various places he has visited in his jazz career in the vanguard with Anthony Braxton, in the hard bop university with Art Blakey, and in his long association with the Latin jazz world where he has studied with Machito, Tito Puente, Chico O'Farrill, Daniel Ponce, Mario Bauza, Michel Camilo, and Ray Barretto. He has brought all of this to bear on a work that is at once ambitious, wonderfully expansive, exotic, and thoroughly accessible. The Orisha Suite is a call from the modern to the ancient to the unknown. It seeks to express a musical longing that can only be answered by more questions and mysteries. The band assembled on this gorgeously lush Afro-Cuban exercise is tasteful, innovative, and literally mind-blowing; composing, arranging, and chops are all stellar as Paquito D'Rivera, Barretto, Patato Valdes, Arturo O'Farrill, Todd Williams, John Benítez, and Adam Rogers log in to realize Mossman's tour de force. The compositions on The Orisha Suite are varied by all in the sense that they reflect different sides of the Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz experience, philosophically, rhythmically, and dynamically. The arrangements are tight, punchy, and full of dreamy escapes into harmony and polyrhythmic complexities. But given that these works are so precisely composed, the spaces for solos and improvisations are even more profound -- check out Mossman's trumpet break at the end of "The Mountain at the Edge of Time." The loping front-line harmony on "The Lepered Lover," fraught with contrapuntal accents, is romantic and edgy. Likewise, the clean hard bop statements from the front line on "The Lord of Thunder," with it's funky backbeats, Cuban twists, and elongated soloing, are delightfully savvy. The smoking, funk-driven "Iron and Blood," with its son feel, salsa and rhumba time signatures, and knotty ensemble engagement before Williams' solo, is nothing short of breathtaking. This is an album that deserves to be at the forefront of the new jazz revolution. It is the finest moment of Mossman's career -- and for a composer and New York edge trumpet player, that's saying plenty. This is a necessary addition to the collection of any serious jazz fan, and a welcome, accessible, and phenomenally executed example of the genre in the modern day for anyone curious enough to check it out. - by Thom Yurek, AMG

Artist: Michael Philip Mossman
Album: The Orisha Suite
Year: 2000
Label: Connector Music
Runtime: 63:45

Tracks:
1.  Mambanita 6:49
2.  The Mountain at the Edge of Time 5:50
3.  Divine Hunter 5:20
4.  The Lepered Lover 6:26
5.  In the Land of Ile' Ife' 6:20
6.  Copper...Then Gold 6:49
7.  The Lord of Thunder 7:52
8.  The Moon and the Sea 5:54
9.  Iron and Blood 6:13
10.  The Guardian of the Crossroad 6:12
All compositions by Michael Philip Mossman  

Personnel:
Michael Philip Mossman (Trumpet)
Todd Williams (Tenor Saxophone, Flute)
Arturo O'Farrill (Piano, Organ)
Adam Rogers (Guitar)
John Benitez (Double Bass)
Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez (Drums)
Joe Gonzalez (Congas, Guiro)
Paquito D'Rivera (Alto Saxophone, Clarinet) - 1,5,10
Carlos "Patato" Valdes (Congas) - 2,5
Ray Barreto (Congas) - 3-6

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Yusef Lateef - Cry! - Tender

In 1959, Yusef Lateef began using the oboe in his recording sessions and on live dates. This album marks that occasion, and is thus a turning point in an amazingly long and varied career. Accompanied by Lonnie Hillyer on trumpet, Hugh Lawson on piano, bassist Herman Wright, and drummer Frank Gant, Lateef was digging deeply into a new lyricism that was Eastern-tinged (the full flavor of that obsession would be issued two years later on Eastern Sounds and had been touched upon two years earlier on Other Sounds, released on New Jazz, where Lateef had used an argol as well as his sax and flute), modally informed, and distinctly light in texture -- with the exception of the deep, dark, arco work at the beginning of "Dopolous," by Wright. Lateef was already moving away from what most people would call jazz by this time, yet, as evidenced here, his music remained challenging and very accessible. This is meditative music with a stunningly rich rhythmic palette for how muted and edgeless it is. And, like John Cage or Morton Feldman, the absence of those edges was written in; it's not random. On tunes like the aforementioned, "Butter's Blues," or even "If You Could See Me Now," Lateef could take the blues and move it into shadowy territory, pulling out of the intervals and changes certain harmonic concepts to turn the music back on itself. If restraint got practiced in the dynamic range, the drama in the music would be all the greater because of the wider harmonic palette -- because it could be heard, not just felt. The result is a seamless, velvety, yet poignant take on the blues that echoed the tears referenced in the title of the album. And yet, the beauty, such a tender beauty, was so unspeakably fragile that the brass and reed instruments seemed to hover over the rhythm section and cut holes in the air like fine razors that can only be praised for the fineness of their slash. This was the beginning of Lateef's change in direction and, as a result, it deserves to be noted for that. However, it needs to be doubly noted for its truly magnificent sound, texture, playing, composition, and choice of tunes. - by Thom Yurek, AMG

Artist: Yusef Lateef
Album: Cry!- Tender
Year: 1959 (New Jazz)
Label: OJC (1990)
Runtime: 37:12

Tracks:
1.  Sea Breeze (Al Hoffman/Dick Manning) 3:11
2.  Dopolous (Yusef Lateef) 3:18
3.  Cry!-Tender (Yusef Lateef) 6:00
4.  Butter's Blues (Yusef Lateef) 5:45
5.  Yesterdays (Jerome Kern/Otto Harbach) 4:24
6.  The Snow Is Green (Yusef Lateef) 3:13
7.  If You Could See Me Now (Tadd Dameron/Carl Sigman) 4:49
8.  Ecaps (Yusef Lateef) 6:30

Personnel:
Yusef Lateef (Tenor Saxophone, Flute and Oboe)
Lonnie Hillyer (Trumpet) - 1-7
Hugh Lawson (Piano) - 1-7
Herman Wright (Double Bass) - 1-7
Frank Gant (Drums) - 1-7
Wilbur Harden (Flugelhorn) - 8
Ernie Farrow (Double Bass) - 8
Oliver Jackson (Drums) - 8

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Michel Legrand & Natalie Dessay - Entre elle et lui

Two icons of French song – Natalie Dessay and Michel Legrand – follow the huge worldwide success of their album Entre Elle et Lui with a DVD of the very special concert on the 11th June 2014 at the Orangerie of the Château de Versailles. This is a unique collaboration from two giants of French music. The CD release in 2013 was hotly anticipated and received great critical acclaim upon its release. Natalie Dessay brings her lyrical voice and fresh interpretations to a selection of some of Michel Legrand’s best-loved songs including 'La Valse des Lilas', 'Les moulins de mon cour' (Windmills of Your Mind), 'Duo de Guy et Genevieve', 'Papa Can You Hear Me' and many more. - WarnerClassic.com

Artist: Michel Legran & Natalie Dessay
Album: Entre Elle et Lui
Year: 2013
Label: Erato
Runtime: 65:30

Tracks:
1.  Chanson de Delphine 3:23
2.  Le cinema 3:06
3.  Chanson de Delphine a Lancien 2:18
4.  Papa Can You Hear Me? 4:31
5.  Recette pour un cake d'amour 2:39
6.  La valse des lilas 4:09
7.  Les Moulins de mon cour 3:06
8.  L'ame soeour a l'hamecon 1:57
9.  What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life? 7:51
10.  Chanson des jumelles 3:25
11.  Le rouge et le noir 3:24
12.  Conseils de la fee des lilas 2:02
13.  Duo de Guy et Genevieve 6:14
14.  La chanson de Louba 3:04
15.  La chanson 2:02
16.  Paris Violon 2:55
17.  The Summer Knows 5:04
18.  Mon dernier concert 4:13
All songs written by Michel Legrand

Personnel:
Natalie Dessay (Vocals)
Michel Legrand (Piano, Vocals)
Pierre Boussaguet (Double Bass)
Francois Laizeau (Drums)
Patricia Petibon (Vocals) - 10
Laurent Naouri (Vocals) - 13
Catherine Michel (Harp) - 18

Monday, January 18, 2016

Nina Simone - In Concert

This is probably the most personal album that Simone issued during her stay on Philips in the mid-'60s. On most of her studio sessions, she worked with orchestration that either enhanced her material tastefully or smothered her, and she tackled an astonishingly wide range of material that, while admirably eclectic, made for uneven listening. Here, the singer and pianist is backed by a spare, jazzy quartet, and some of the songs rank among her most socially conscious declarations of African-American pride: "Old Jim Crow," "Pirate Jenny," "Go Limp," and, especially, "Mississippi Goddam" were some of the most forthright musical reflections of the Civil Rights movement to be found at the time. In a more traditional vein, she also reprises her hit "I Loves You, Porgy" and the jazz ballad "Don't Smoke in Bed." - by Richie Unterberger, AMG

The piano and vocalist virtuoso at the top of her artistic expression. Her version of the Pirate Jenny soliloque from the Three Penny Opera is chilling. Her "Plain Gold Ring" brought me to tears with the inherent sadness of the portrayal of love lost and put aside. Nina Simone is another artist gone too soon. - by Rodney Brown, Amazon.com

Artist: Nina Simone
Album: Nina Simone in Concert
Year: 1964 (Philips, Recorded at the Carnegie Hall, New York City)
Label: Universal (2006)
Runtime: 35:30

Tracks:
1.  I Loves You, Porgy (Ira Gershwin/George Gershwin/Dubose Heyward) 2:32
2.  Plain Gold Ring (George Stone) 6:20
3.  Pirate Jenny (Marc Blitzstein/Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill) 6:37
4.  Old Jim Crow (Jackie Alper/Nina Simone/Ron Vander Groef) 2:40
5.  Don't Smoke in Bed (Willard Robison) 5:27
6.  Go Limp (Alex Comfort/Nina Simone) 7:01
7.  Mississippi Goddam (Nina Simone) 4:53

Personnel:
Nina Simone (Vocals, Piano)
Rudy Stevenson (Guitar)
Lisle Atkinson (Double Bass)
Bobby Hamilton (Drums)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pee Wee Ellis - Different Rooms

Pee Wee Ellis is best known as one of the architects of funk, the orchestrator of James Brown's sound. He also was the musical director on multiple Van Morrison CDs. On the tracks of Different Rooms, Ellis offers up another facet of his musical life. He's called this development of his sound Smunk (smooth funk). It bears similarities to Fusion, both in the selection of popular tunes covered and in the use of the cool timbre of the electric piano. But I would suggest that more than anything, this CD is Ellis coming home to jazz. Jazz rooted in body rhythms, but first and foremost exceptional jazz. The horn arrangements are nothing short of masterful. And Ellis' tone on tenor sax is a total pleasure. His lyrical solos don't scream and shout - they achieve greater power through nuanced restraint and emotional depth. Several tunes stick with me, running through my mind long after listening (particularly the title track, and Who knows the answer). Wonderful CD by an under-appreciated master jazzman. - by Doctor D., Amazon.com

Artist: Pee Wee Ellis
Album: Different Rooms
Year: 2006
Label: Skip Records
Runtime: 58:44
Recorded live at Radio Bremen Sendesaal (Germany) in 24.08.2004 

Tracks:
1.  I Heard It Trough the Grapevine (Barrett Strong / Norman Whitfield) 6:39
2.  All Four Seasons (Gordon Sumner) 5:34
3.  Different Rooms (Alfred Ellis) 7:40
4.  Who Has the Answer? (Alfred Ellis) 7:21
5.  Blue Bell Pepper (Alfred Ellis / Ralf Schmid) 4:21
6.  Boogie On Reggae Woman (Stevie Wonder) 3:33
7.  Now And Then (Alfred Ellis / Ralf Schmid) 6:57
8.  Do Dee Dum Diddy (Alfred Ellis) 5:32
9.  You Haven't Done Nothin' (Stevie Wonder) 4:41
10. On a Slow Boat to China (Frank Loesser) 6:26

Personnel:
Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis (Tenor Saxophone, Voice)
Ralf Schmid (Keyboards)
Joo Kraus (Trumpet)
Joe Gallardo (Trombone)
Martin Scales (Guitar)
Christian Diener (Bass)
Torsten Krill (Drums)
Biboul Darouiche (Percussion)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Wes Montgomery - Fingerpickin'

Guitarist Wes Montgomery first recorded in the late '40s during his brief period with Lionel Hampton before returning to Indianapolis. He next emerged on record on December 30, 1957, for a Pacific Jazz set with local musicians including his two brothers, vibraphonist Buddy and electric bassist Monk. This CD reissues the complete album (which usually has appeared in piecemeal fashion) and finds Wes already quite recognizable. The pretty standard hard bop music (which usually features Buddy's vibes as the lead voice) is also of interest due to the presence of trumpeter Freddie Hubbard who at age 17 was making his recording debut; he sounds a bit nervous. In addition to this set, the CD has three songs from the one session that Wes made with his brothers' popular group, the Mastersounds. He actually appeared on the full album (a set of music taken from the film Kismet) but these are the only titles that include guitar solos. Although this reissue on a whole is not essential, the music is generally enjoyable and the CD will fill some gaps in one's Wes Montgomery collection. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Wes Montgomery
Year: 1957 (Pacific Jazz)
Label: Capitol (1996)
Runtime: 56:24

Tracks:
1.  Sound Carrier (Buddy Montgomery) 6:57
2.  Bud's Beaux Arts (Buddy Montgomery) 7:33
3.  Bock To Bock (Buddy Montgomery) 10:08
4.  Billie's Bounce (Charlie Parker) 4:42
5.  Lois Ann (Buddy Montgomery) 4:45
6.  All The Things You Are (Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II) 3:59
7.  Fingerpickin' (Wes Montgomery) 2:32
8.  Stranger in Paradise (Alexander Borodin/George Forrest/Robert C. Wright) 4:55
9.  Baubles, Bangles and Beads (George Forrest/Robert C. Wright) 3:29
10.  Not Since Nineveh (George Forrest/Robert C. Wright) 7:24

Personnel:
Wes Montgomery (Guitar)
Monk Montgomery (Bass Guitar)
Buddy Montgomery (Vibraphone) - 1-6,8-10
Paul Parker (Drums) - 1-7
Freddie Hubbard (Trumpet) - 1-4
Wayman Atkinson (Tenor Saxophone) - 1-4
Alonzo Johnson (Tenor Saxophone) - 1-4
Joe Bradley (Piano) - 1-5,7
Richie Crabtree (Piano) - 8-10
Benny Barth (Drums) - 8-10

Monday, December 14, 2015

Nils Petter Molvaer - Solid Ether

Like 1998's Khmer, Solid Ether is an unusual addition to the ECM catalog, reflecting the Norwegian trumpeter's continued fascination with drum'n'bass, jungle, and other underground club genres. Molvaer's work in this idiom is indicative of a new wave sweeping Europe and Scandinavia, where boundaries between jazz and electronica are being creatively blurred by a growing number of forward-thinking artists. (The trend is catching on in the States as well.) Molvaer's trumpet is consistently in the forefront, as is the case in the music of his French contemporary, Erik Truffaz. This will inevitably prompt comparisons with Miles Davis, and Molvaer indeed credits Davis as a major influence in his musical development. The music on this record, however, sounds nothing like Davis ever played nor could have foreseen. (That said, in all likelihood he would have heartily approved.) With its driving beats, spare-to-barren harmonies, and dense atmospherics and samples, Solid Ether breaks completely with traditional notions of jazz performance. Most of its tracks segue directly from one to the next, creating a seamless "mix" in the style of much experimental dance music. While ten guest artists are credited in addition to Molvaer (including guitarist Eivind Aarset and DJ Strangefruit, aka Paal Nyhus), they don't often play clearly delineated "parts" or solos. One exception is the two-part "Merciful," which pairs Molvaer's piano with the vocals of Sidsel Endresen, bringing Annette Peacock to mind. Not everyone will "get" this kind of music, and die-hard jazzers might laugh it off as an inconsequential fad. But it's actually a seismic innovation that is just getting started. - by David Adler, AMG

Artist: Nils Petter Molvaer
Album: Solid Ether
Year: 2000
Label: ECM
Runtime: 50:32

Tracks:
1.  Dead Indeed 7:30
2.  Vilderness 1 7:48
3.  Kakonita 4:59
4.  Merciful 1 1:02
5.  Ligotage 6:43
6.  Trip 6:24
7.  Vilderness 2 4:56
8.  Tragamar 4:45
9.  Solid Ether 5:12
10.  Merciful 2 1:13
All compositions by Nils Petter Molvaer

Personnel:
Nils Petter Molvaer (Trumpet, Piccolo Trumpet, Synthesizer, Bass, Loops, Electronics, Percussion, Piano)
Eivind Aarset (Guitar, Electronics) - 1,2,5-9
Audun Erlien (Double Bass) - 2,5-9
Per Lindvall (Drums) - 2,5-9
Rune Arnesen (Drums) - 2,5-9
Paal Nyhus (aka Dj Strangefruit) (Beats, Samples, Voice, Vinyl, Ambience) - 5,6,8,9
Sidsel Endresen (Vocals) - 4,10
Reidar Skar (Vocoder) - 6

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Modern Jazz Quartet - Blues On Bach

In the MJQ's early years, critics often found something incompatible between John Lewis's European classical leanings, particularly the baroque, and Milt Jackson's unfettered gifts improvising over bop-blues changes. This 1973 date is structured by that dichotomy, alternating between Lewis's compositions (based on some of Bach's best-known melodies) and a series of original blues, the first three by Lewis, the last by Jackson. Lewis emphasizes the contrast by playing harpsichord on the Bach tunes. His treatment of Bach can drift toward the merely pretty, as in his handling of "Sleepers Awake," but there's a genuine beauty in "Don't Stop This Train" and "Tears from the Children," based on Bach keyboard works. Jackson's fluent solos on the blues are a continuing delight, while Lewis demonstrates once again that he, too, is a musician imbued with the same roots, inserting a telling variation on "St. James Infirmary" into "Blues in A Minor."- by Stuart Broomer

This album has an interesting concept, alternating four original blues with five adaptations of melodies from classical works by Bach. The Modern Jazz Quartet had long been quite adept in both areas, and despite a certain lack of variety on this set (alternating back and forth between the two styles somewhat predictably), the music is largely enjoyable. Vibraphonist Milt Jackson, pianist John Lewis (doubling here on harpsichord), bassist Percy Heath, and drummer Connie Kay were still all very much in their musical prime during the 21st year of the MJQ's existence. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Modern Jazz Quartet
Album: Blues On Bach
Year: 1974
Label: Atlantic
Runtime: 41:27

Tracks:
1.  Regret? (John Lewis) 2:04
2.  Blues In B Flat (John Lewis) 4:56
3.  Rise Up In The Morning (John Lewis) 3:28
4.  Blues In A Minor (John Lewis) 7:53
5.  Precious Joy (John Lewis) 3:12
6.  Blues In C Minor (Milt Jackson) 7:58
7.  Don't Stop This Train (John Lewis) 1:45
8.  Blues In H (B) (Milt Jackson) 5:46
9.  Tears From The Children (Johann Sebastian Bach) 4:25

Personnel:
Percy Heath (Double Bass)
Connie Kay (Drums, Percussion)
John Lewis (Piano, Harpsichord)
Milt Jackson (Vibraphone)

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