Monday, December 15, 2014

Gene Ammons - Preachin'

This is a most unusual session. With accompaniment by organist Clarence "Sleepy" Anderson along with bassist Sylvester Hickman and drummer Dorel Anderson, the great tenor performs 11 religious hymns that are straight from the church. Ammons mostly sticks very closely to the themes but gives such melodies as "Abide with Me," "You'll Never Walk Alone," "What a Friend," and "Holy Holy" passion, soul, and honest feelings. Reissued on CD, this little-known album is a rather touching and emotional outing, and is quite unique. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Gene Ammons
Album: Preachin'
Year: 1962 (Prestige)
Label: OJC (Digital remastering, 1993)
Runtime: 35:14

1.  Sweet Hour (Traditional) 3:15
2.  Yield Not (Traditional) 2:01
3.  Abide With Me (Traditional) 3:18
4.  Blessed Assurance (Traditional) 3:18
5.  The Prayer (Traditional) 3:00
6.  You'll Never Walk Alone (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein) 3:44
7.  I Believe (Ervin Drake/Irvin Graham/Jimmy Shirl/Al Stillman) 3:18
8.  Precious Memories (Traditional) 4:11
9.  What A Friend (Traditional) 3:35
10.  Holy Holy (Traditional) 2:45
11.  The Light (Traditional) 2:49

Gene Ammons (Tenor Saxophone)
Clarence Anderson (Organ)
Sylvester Hickman (Double Bass)
Dorral Anderson (Drums)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Herbie Hancock - Inventions & Dimensions

For his third album, Inventions and Dimensions, Herbie Hancock changed course dramatically. Instead of recording another multifaceted album like My Point of View, he explored a Latin-inflected variation of post-bop with a small quartet. Hancock is the main harmonic focus of the music -- his three colleagues are bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Willie Bobo, and percussionist Osvaldo "Chihuahua" Martinez, who plays conga and bongo. It is true that the music is rhythm-intensive, but that doesn't mean it's dance music. Hancock has created an improvisational atmosphere where the rhythms are fluid and the chords, harmonies, and melodies are unexpected. On every song but one, the melodies and chords were improvised, with Hancock's harmonic ideas arising from the rhythms during the recording. The result is risky, unpredictable music that is intensely cerebral and quite satisfying. Inventions and Dimensions displays his willingness to experiment and illustrates that his playing is reaching new, idiosyncratic heights. Listening to this, the subsequent developments of Miles Davis' invitation to join his quartet and the challenging Empyrean Isles come as no surprise. - by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AMG

Artis: Herbie Hancock
Album: Inventions & Dimensions
Year: 1963
Label: Blue Note (1988)
Runtime: 40:01

1.  Succotash 7:42
2.  Triangle 11:04
3.  Jack Rabbit 6:00
4.  Mimosa 8:40
5.  A Jump Ahead 6:35
All compositions by Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock (Piano)
Paul Chambers (Double Bass)
Willie Bobo (Drums, Timbales)
Osvaldo Martinez (Conga, Bongo)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Jim Hall - Concierto

Guitarist Jim Hall is the sort of musician who displays such technical expertise, imaginative conception, and elegance of line and phrase that almost any recording of his is worth hearing. Still, Concierto ranks among the best albums of his superb catalog. For starters, the personnel here is a jazz lover's dream come true. Paul Desmond (saxophone), Chet Baker (trumpet), Roland Hanna (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Steve Gadd (drums) are on board, creating -- along with Hall -- one of the highest profile lineups ever put to tape. Yet Concierto is not about star power and showboating. As subtle, nuanced, and considered as any of Hall's output, the ensemble playing here demonstrates great group sensitivity and interplay, giving precedence to mood and atmosphere over powerhouse soloing. Conductor and arranger Don Sebesky evinces a chamber ambience from the sextet on "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," the smoky "The Answer Is Yes," and the Hall centerpiece "Concierto de Aranjuez." - by Anthony Tognazzini, AMG

Amongst the many CTI classics of the 1970s, few stand the test of time as well as guitarist Jim Hall's Concierto, an ambitious album that, in its original form, married one side of modern mainstream with a second taken up by a 19-minute version of Joaquin Rodrigo's 1939 piece for classical guitar and orchestra, "Concierto de Aranjuez." That Miles Davis and Gil Evans already delivered what was considered the definitive jazz adaptation on the trumpeter's 1960 classic, Sketches of Spain (Columbia), and that pianist Chick Corea had grabbed parts as the intro to his now-classic "Spain," were clearly no deterrents to Hall, or to arranger Don Sebesky, who—sticking with this minimalist quintet/sextet rather than the overblown orchestras he'd sometimes resort to on other CTI titles—delivers one of the best charts of his career. Sebesky perfectly balances the innate economy and astute improvisation acumen of Hall's group with written scores that maximize the beauty of space and nuanced understatement. Trumpeter Chet Baker is in terrific form here, in the midst of a relatively brief cleanup period from heroin and with two strong CTI recordings from the previous year—his own She Was Too Good to Me (reissued in 2010 by CTI Masterworks) and Carnegie Hall Concert, with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan sax, baritone  and a crack band that includes drummer Harvey Mason, and a young John Scofield on guitar. Paul Desmond is also in great shape, interacting particularly empathically with Baker on the swinging opener, "You Be So Nice To Come Home To," before the trumpeter takes over with a solo of surprising fire and even occasional grit. As is the case on the lion's share of CTI recordings, bassist Ron Carter stokes the engine room— this time with drummer Steve Gadd—demonstrating his remarkable versatility. Hall's career has been founded on a thoughtful and restrained economy that's made every note, every voicing, count. What's most remarkable about his playing here is how perfect his choices still are, nearly 40 years later. It's often easy to look back and reassess performances for what they might have been, but there's absolutely nothing here that could (or should) be changed; pianist Roland Hanna also plays with a combination of melodic invention and Spartan lyricism on the two versions of "You'd Be So Nice," including a bonus alternate that, taken at an ever-so-slightly-slower tempo, breathes a tad more than the album version; though, with slightly softer edges, it's easy to see why Hall and producer Creed Taylor made the choice they did. With its reading of "Concierto de Aranjuez" standing easily beside the Davis/Evans version on Sketches of Spain, Concierto deserves to be considered an equal classic, and a masterpiece in its own right—proof that music can be deep, modern, timeless and accessible. - by John Kelman,

Artist: Jim Hall
Album: Concierto
Year: 1975
Label: CTI
Runtime: 37:55

1.  You'd Be So Nice To Come Home (Cole Porter) 7:06
2.  Two's Blues (Jim Hall)  3:52
3.  The Answer Is Yes (Jim Hall)  7:41
4.  Concierto de Aranjuez (Joaquín Rodrigo) 19:16

Jim Hall (Guitar)
Roland Hanna (Piano)
Ron Carter (Double Bass)
Steve Gadd (Drums)
Chet Baker (Trumpet)
Paul Desmond (Alto Saxophone)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Grencso Collective - Plays Monk

From the sixties on, in all of the 80 or 90 Hungarian jazzclubs the art, piano playing and compositions of Thelonius Monk attracted a following. The pianist himself visited Budapest twice, both times in the seventies as a member of the Giants of Jazz touring group. Bearing the name of Thelonius Jazzclub, a local club operated here from 1984 to 1990 to cultivate the heritage of Monk.
From among the most famous compositions of Monk, 'Round Midnight was recorded girst, in 1962, by the Qualiton Jazz Ensemble. Straight. No Chaser was taped by violinist Csaba Deseő in 1964, on his first recording date ever. These were followed by nomerous other recordings. - From original liner notes

Artist: Grencso Collective
Album: Plays Monk
Year: 1995
Label: Pannon Jazz
Runtime: 42:32

1.  In Walked Bud (Thelonius Monk) 4:19
2.  Bemsha Swing (Thelonius Monk) 3:54
3.  Misterioso (Thelonius Monk) 6:28
4.  Epistrophy (Thelonius Monk) 6:15
5.  Rhythm-A-Ning (Thelonius Monk) 3:36
6.  Blue Monk (Thelonius Monk) 3:24
7.  Well You Needn't (Thelonius Monk) 3:45
8.  Straight No Chaser (Thelonius Monk) 3:56
9.  'Round Midnight (Thelonius Monk/Bernie Hanighen/Cootie Williams) 6:55

István Grencsó (Alto and Tenor Saxophone)
Béla Ágoston (Bass Clarinet) - 1-6,8
István Gyárfás (Guitar) - 1-6,8
György Jeszenszky (Drums and Metalophon) - 1-5,7,8

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Grant Green - The Latin Bit

Grant Green, being known mainly as a soul jazz guitarist, eventually gravitated into the popular boogaloo sound. The Latin Bit is the natural bridge to that next phase, though a bit premature for most in 1961-1963, even relative to the subsequent bossa nova craze. Pianist Johnny Acea, long an underrated jazzman, is the nucleus of this session, grounding it with witty chops, chordal comping, and rhythmic meat. The Latino rhythm section of drummer Willie Bobo and conga player Carlos "Patato" Valdes personify authentic, seasoned spice, while at times the chekere sound of Garvin Masseaux makes the soup too thick. At its collective best, the group presents a steady, serene, and steamy "Besame Mucho" and the patient, slow, slinky, sultry "Tico Tico." Just a small step below is a classy take on Charlie Parker's "My Little Suede Shoes," a premier jazz bebop (emphasis) tune with a Latin undertow and Green's tiniest staccato phrases, slightly marred by the overbearing constant chekere, but still classic. "Mama Inez" ranks high for its calypso-infused happy feeling and wry stop-start lines. The straight-ahead hard bopper "Brazil" and lone soul-jazz tune, "Blues for Juanita," display the single-note acumen that made Green's style instantly recognizable. This date always yielded mixed results for staunch fans of Green, but it remains a credible effort, even if slightly flawed in part. [Some reissues add two selections with pianist Sonny Clark and tenor saxophonist Ike Quebec, the latter of whom plays hip secondary harmonies on the bossa nova-flavored "Granada," but is in the complete background and a non-factor on the pop tune "Hey There."] - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Grant Green
Album: The Latin Bit
Year: 1962
Label: Blue Note (1996)
Runtime: 59:42

1.  Mambo Inn (Mario Bauzá/Edgar Sampson/Bobby Woodlen) 5:50
2.  Besame Mucho (Sunny Skylar/Consuelo Velázquez) 7:11
3.  Mama Inez (L. Wolfe Gilbert/Eliseo Grenet) 6:40
4.  Brazil (Ary Barroso/Bob Russell) 5:01
5.  Tico Tico (Jose Abreu/Ervin Drake/Aloysio Oliveira) 7:45
6.  My Little Suede Shoes (Charlie Parker) 6:23
7.  Blues For Juanita (Grant Green) 7:04
8.  Grenada (Agustín Lara) 6:26
9.  Hey There (Richard Adler/Jerry Ross) 7:22

Grant Green (Guitar)
Wendell Marshall (Double Bass)
Willie Bobo (Drums)
Carlos "Patato" Valdez (Conga)
Johnny Acea (Piano) - 1-7
Carvin Masseaux (Chekere) - 1-6
Ike Quebeck (Tenor Saxophone) - 8,9

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hank Crawford - Mr. Blues Plays Lady Soul

The concept for the Lady Soul date from 1969 is perfect for Crawford, who typically plays close to the melody, using his great blues feeling and jazz chops to create interest and excitement. Crawford evokes the spirit of Aretha Franklin's music without resorting to literal re-creation of the originals. Arif Mardin's driving, big-band arrangements are impressive, but it is the rhythm section that makes these tracks. Essentially, it's the Atlantic house band: guitarist Eric Gale, pianist Paul Griffin, bassist Charles Rainey, and drummer Bernard Purdie. They all get ample opportunity to show their stuff, especially on the seven-plus minute master blast of the blues, "Going Down Slow." - by Jim Todd, AMG

Artist: Hank Crawford
Album: Mr. Blues Plays Lady Soul
Year: 1969
Label: Atlantic (24bit remastered, 2014)
Runtime: 37:05

1.  Groovin' (Eddie Brigati/Felix Cavaliere) 2:40
2.  I Can't See Myself Leaving You (Ronnie Shannon) 3:33
3.  Never Let Me Go (Ray Evans/Jay Livingston) 3:29
4.  Baby, I Love You (Ronnie Shannon) 3:41
5.  Lady Soul (Hank Crawford) 3:14
6.  Soul Serenade (King Curtis) 3:31
7.  Ain't No Way (Aretha Franklin/Carolyn Franklin) 3:57
8.  Since You've Been Gone (Aretha Franklin/Teddy White) 2:16
9.  Take A Look (Clyde Otis) 3:15
10.  Going Down Slow (James Burke Oden) 7:25

Hank Crawford (Alto Saxophone)
Bernard Purdie (Drums)
Eric Gale (Guitar)
Paul Griffin (Organ, Pano)
David Newman (Tenor Saxophone, Flute)
Frank Wess (Alto Saxophone) - 1,2,4-8,10
Pepper Adams (Baritone Saxophone) - 1,2,4-8,10
Charley Raney (Double Bass) - 3-6,10
Jerry Jemmott (Double Bass) - 2,8
Ron Carter (Double Bass) - 1,3,7
Seldon Powell (Tenor Saxophone) - 1,2,4-8,10
Benny Powell (Trombone) - 1-3,7,8
Jimmy Cleveland (Trombone) - 1-3,7,8
Bernie Glow (Trumpet) - 1,2,4,5,7,8,10
Ernie Royal (Trumpet) - 1,2,4-8,10
Snookie Young (Trumpet) - 1,2,4-8,10
Joe Newman (Trumpet) - 1,2,4-8,10

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Stan Getz & Bill Evans - Stan Getz & Bill Evans

The only studio meeting between Stan Getz and Bill Evans took place over two days in 1964, with the aggressive drummer Elvin Jones and either Richard Davis or Ron Carter on bass. It is peculiar that Verve shelved the results for over a decade before issuing any of the music, though it may have been felt that Getz and Evans hadn't had enough time to achieve the desired chemistry, though there are memorable moments. The punchy take of "My Heart Stood Still," the elegant interpretation of "Grandfather's Waltz," and the lush setting of the show tune "Melinda" all came from the first day's session, with Davis on bass. (Evidently he was unavailable the following day, so Carter replaced him.) Evans' driving, challenging "Funkallero" is the obvious highlight from day two, though the gorgeous "But Beautiful" and the breezy setting of "Night and Day" are also enjoyable. Only the brief version of "Carpetbagger's Theme," which seems badly out of place and suggestive of the label's interference with the session, is a bit of a disappointment. Obviously neither Getz nor Evans liked the tune, as they go through the motions in a very brief performance. - by Ken Dryden, AMG

Artist: Stan Getz & Bill Evans
Album: Stan Getz & Bill Evans
Year: 1964
Recorded: 1964.05.05. - 1964.05.06. at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio (Englewood Cliffs, USA)
Label: Verve (1988)
Runtime: 62:09

1.  Night and Day (Cole Porter) 6:49
2.  But Beautiful (Johnny Burke/James Van Heusen) 4:44
3.  Funkallero (Bill Evans) 6:44
4.  My Heart Stood Still (Richard Rodgers/Lorentz Hart) 8:40
5.  Melinda (Alan Jay Lerner/Burton Lane) 5:07
6.  Grandfather's Waltz (Lasse Farnlof/Gene Lees) 6:31
7.  Carpetbagger's Theme (Elmer Bernstein) 1:50
8.  Wnew (Theme Song) (Larry Green) 2:53
9.  My Heart Stood Still (Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart) 6:45
10.  Grandfather's Waltz (Lasse Farnlof/Gene Lees) 5:32
11.  Night and Day (Cole Porter) 6:34

Stan Getz (Tenor Saxophone)
Bill Evans (Piano)
Elvin Jones (Drums)
Ron Carter (Double Bass) - 1-3,7,8,11
Richard Davis (Double Bass) - 4-6,9,10

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)


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