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

Tracks:
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

Personnel:
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, Amazon.com

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

Tracks:
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

Personnel:
Bill Evans (Piano)
Eddie Gomez (Double Bass)

Marty Morell (Drums)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Kudsi Erguner - Ottomania - Sufi Jazz Project

Kudsi Erguner’s Ottomania is the first World Music project that integrates the classical music of the Ottoman Empire with Western jazz improvisations and rhythms. It documents the story of a remarkable musical encounter, and is a logical continuation of Erguner’s eventful life.

Artist: Kudsi Erguner
Album: Ottomania - Sufi Jazz Project
Year: 1999
Label: ACT
Runtime: 49:31

Tracks:
1.  Semai (Mesut Cemil Bey) 5:48
2.  Sufimaj (Kudsi Erguner) 4:37
3.  Dua (Kudsi Erguner) 12:55
4.  Free space (Kudsi Erguner) 7:46
5.  Nefes (Kudsi Erguner) 9:06
6.  Hi-Jaz (Kudsi Erguner) 9:17

Personnel:
Kudsi Erguner (Ney)
Christof Lauer (Saxophone)
Derya Turkan (Kemence)
Michel Godard (Tuba)
Mehmet Emin Bitmez (Ud)
Yves Rousseau (Double Bass)
Hakan Gungor (Kanun)
Bruno Caillat (Percussion)
Necib Gulses (Tanbur)
Mark Nauseef (Drums)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Herbie Mann - Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty

Although it followed a formula similar to the hugely successful Memphis Underground, Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty stands on its own as a superb example of the fusion of jazz with '60s soul music, a genre that Herbie Mann stood atop at the time of its release. In addition to Mann band members Roy Ayers, Miroslav Vitous and Bruno Carr, the recording employs the Muscle Shoals rhythm section that had played together on numerous soul hits of the '60s, including those of Aretha Franklin. Standout cuts include the title track, with the its horn-driven groove; Sharrock's "Blind Willy," featuring a jew's-harp hook; and a smoldering version of Lennon & McCartney's "Come Together." Throughout the album, Mann's solos wail through the upper register of the flute, while Ayers finds interestingly funky passages on the vibes. - by Jim Newsom, AMG

TRY to do the impossible and just tune out the fact that Herbie Mann was responsible for that blasphemous "Hi Jack" thing during the depths of the disco phase in the late seventies. This remarkable album was recorded in 1970, at/with Muscle Shoals. You know all the Shoals alumni, they're all here on the record, and, funny, they don't sound a'TALL like they did with Wilson Pickett - which is NOT to be interpreted as a "slap," they're just displaying what consumate, remarkable musicians they are. If, for nothing else though, track #5, where Herbie tears into the Beatles' "Come Together" - oh, man, just dig how future Weather Report bassist Miroslav Vitous locks in with Shoals' own bassist-extraordinare David Hood - this is the only, I mean the ONLY time where a Beatles' song has been "covered" by another artist, and the new bass part isn't an insult to Paul McCartney. by "Bill Board", Amazon.com

Artist: Herbie Mann
Album: Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty
Year: 1969
Label: WEA Japan (2014)
Runtime: 37:06

Tracks:
1.  Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty (Herbie Mann) 6:54
2.  Claudia Pie (Herbie Mann) 4:41
3.  Can You Dig It (Edwin Birdsong) 5:17
4.  Blind Willy (Sonny Sharrock) 4:50
5.  Come Together (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) 10:10
6.  Panana Red's Panama Hat (Herbie Mann) 5:10

Personnel:
Herbie Mann (Flute)
Roy Ayers (Vibraphone)
Eddie Hinton (Guitar)
Barry Beckett (Piano)
David Hood (Double Bass)
Miroslav Vitous (Double Bass) - 5
Roger Hawkins (Drums) - 1-3,6
Bruno Carr (Drums) - 4,5
Jimmy Johnson (Guitar)
Wayne Jackson (Trumpet) - 1-4

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pee Wee Ellis - Ridin' Mighty High

The previous review should probably be ignored. The reviewer states 'He didn't do his due diligence... that this CD is gospel-based, not funk, as in Pee Wee's work with James Brown.' The first clue should have been the CD art shows Pee Wee standing in front of a church. On Amazon.com and other digital retailers, we have the opportunity to listen to track samples. It's important to actually do that. The review of one star of one star is not grading the CD for what it is, but rather what the buyer thought it should be. Pee Wee Ellis has a lifetime of soul, jazz, and gospel recording and performance, on his own, and as a sideman/collaborator with many other performers.This CD includes guest vocalists, including: Fred Ross, Lenny Williams (lead singer, Tower of Power, 1973 -1975), Shana Morrison, and Emma Jean Foster. For me, the two highlight tracks are: Gospel classic, 'How I Depend On You' - vocals - Fred Ross and 'Grandma's Hands' - vocals - Lenny Williams. - by Andrew R. Ebon, Amazon.com

Artist: Pee Wee Ellis (Alfred Elis)
Album: Ridin' Mighty High
Year: 2000
Label: Skip Records
Runtime: 66:17

Tracks:
1.  How I Depend On You (Doug Williams) 4:25
2.  What's Up With That? (Alfred Ellis) 6:23
3.  Oh My God (Chris Hayes/Alfred Ellis/Luther Carter/Scott Matthews) 5:33
4.  Grandma's Hands (Bill Withers) 5:34
5.  Shake A Hand (Joe Morris) 5:25
6.  Mighty High (David Crawford/Richard Downing) 4:25
7.  Blues Alley (Alfred Ellis) 3:44
8.  Goin' Up Yonder (Walter Hawkins) 4:43
9.  Mary Don't You Weep (Traditional) 5:44
10.  How Great Thou Art/The Old Rugged Cross (Traditional) 11:01
11.  Oh My God (d-phunk Remix) 5:04
12.  Mighty High (d-phunk Remix) 4:12

Personnel:
Pee Wee Ellis (Tenor Saxophone, Backing Vocals, Piano)
Chris Hayes (Guitar) - 1-9
Curtis Ohlson (Bass Guitar) - 1-9
John Mader (Drums) - 1-9
Jim Pugh (Hammond Organ) - 1,3-9
Nate Ginsberg (Synthesizer) - 1,6,7
Scott Mathews (Percussion, Backing Vocals) - 1-3,5,7-9
Emma Jean Foster (Backing Vocals, Vocals) - 5,7-10
Dallis Craft (Backing Vocals) - 5,7,8
Fred Ross (Vocals) - 1
Luke Styles (Rap) - 3
John Hunt (Trumpet) - 3,4
Johnny Myers (Trombone) - 3,4
Lenny Williams (Vocals) - 4
David Sturdevant (Harmonica, Backing Vocals) - 4,5,8
Shana Morrison (Vocals) - 5
Sabine Bachmann (Backing Vocals) - 5
Ron Sutherland (Piano) - 10

Monday, July 7, 2014

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane

For this classic encounter, Duke Ellington "sat in" with the John Coltrane Quartet for a set dominated by Ellington's songs; some performances have his usual sidemen (bassist Aaron Bell and drummer Sam Woodyard) replacing Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones in the group. Although it would have been preferable to hear Coltrane play in the Duke Ellington orchestra instead of the other way around, the results are quite rewarding. Their version of "In a Sentimental Mood" is a high point, and such numbers as "Take the Coltrane," "Big Nick," and "My Little Brown Book" are quite memorable. Ellington always recognized talent, and Coltrane seemed quite happy to be recording with a fellow genius. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Duke Ellington and John Coltrane are, individually, two tremendously influential and vital figures in the world of jazz who could do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. But when you combine their talents on record, then you have a recording that's not only music, it's also a piece of history. Though it's a brisk ride at 35 minutes in length, this collaborative effort brings out the best of both worlds during these seven tracks. "In a Sentimental Mood" is a stroke of brilliance: Ellington's angelic piano touches are set to Coltrane's velvet-smooth sax during this gentle number. It's a classic for the ages that must be heard to be believed. The tempo picks up in "Take the Coltrane," which has both in solid harmony. Few tracks can top the ultrasuave swagger of "Stevie," and the slow number "My Little Brown Book" has smooth touches which are underscored by Coltrane's light sax and drums by Sam Woodyard. A mastery of style, technique, and substance, this album is one of those must-have items that'll make your collection all the more complete. Duke Ellington. John Coltrane. Two visionaries. One album. Who can ask for anything more? - by The Groove, Amazon.com

Artist: Duke Ellington & John Coltrane
Album: Duke Ellington & John Coltrane
Year: 1962
Label: Impulse! (1995, 20bit remastered)
Runtime: 34:58

Tracks:
1.  In A Sentimental Mood (Duke Ellington/Manny Kurtz/Irving Mills) 4:17
2.  Take The Coltrane (Duke Ellington) 4:44
3.  Big Nick (John Coltrane) 4:31
4.  Stevie (Duke Ellington) 4:26
5.  My Little Brown Book (Billy Strayhorn) 5:23
6.  Angelica (Duke Ellington) 5:57
7.  The Feeling Of Jazz (Duke Ellington/George T. Simon/Bobby Troup) 5:38

Personnel:
John Coltrane (Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone)
Duke Ellington (Piano)
Jimmy Garrison (Double Bass) - 2,3,6
Aaron Bell (Double Bass) - 1,4,5,7
Elvin Jones (Drums) - 1-3,6

Monday, June 30, 2014

Larry Coryell & Alphonse Mouzon - Back Together Again

After going their separate ways upon the breakup of the Eleventh House, guitarist Larry Coryell, and drummer Alphonse Mouzon teamed up again for what turned out to be a disappointing reunion. This despite the added presence of guitarist Philip Catherine. The same high energy fusion that made each player so popular is on display here, but so is Mouzon's infatuation with disco. "Beneath the Earth," "Transvested Express," and "High Love" contain some impressive playing, but the disco/funk of "Get on Up (We Gonna Boogie)" and "Back Together Again" make for a dated and uneven recording. - by Robert Taylor, AMG

Well, it's midnight and I'm cruising around seeing if old classics have come out on cd. And I as a joke I type in "Coryell and Mouzon," and here we are. I didn't think anything would show up; I thought it was too obscure. I'll get to the point. This is absolutely one of the greatest jazz rock albums of all time. Except, I am a rock fan, not a jazz fan. So, this is a rock jazz album (ok, cd). It is entirely instrumental, but there is some brief singing on a song or two. This thing rocks hard, and I'm not kidding. The guitar playing is stellar, and I mean stellar. The bonus is you don't just get one great guitar player in Larry, you also get Philip Catherine - they are a great guitar duo. It is not pure "hard rock" but is as close to that as rock jazz can get. This really is not for pure jazz fans, it rocks too hard for you (I don't mean to be condescending). Of course, the drumming is fantastic, that is the Mouzon part of the title. And, I don't want to leave the bass player out, he does a great job; it's just that he has so much to compete with! If you like 70's hard rock with a jazz influence, and as a song I suggest Sister Andrea from Mahavishnu Live - this is that type of album. It is the best example I have ever heard of instrumental rock jazz. It is an absolute classic of that genre. Ok, I'm sorry, I said "genre," that's such a cliche word. But I'm not kidding, if you like rock with a jazz kick that makes it unclassifyable, this is it. I simply cannot say enough good things about this CD. And if I haven't convinced you yet, they also at times throw some great funk into the mix! BUY IT. - by Mbfthrasher, Amazon.com

Artist: Larry Coryell & Alphonse Mouzon
Album: Back Together Again
Year: 1977
Label: Atlantic (Japan, 24-bit remastered, 2013)
Runtime: 35:53

Tracks:
1.  Beneath the Earth (Alphonse Mouzon) 3:03
2.  The Phonse (John Arthur Lee) 3:48
3.  Transvested Express (Philip Catherine)  3:51
4.  Crystallization (Julie Coryell) 3:19
5.  Rock 'N' Roll Lovers (Alphonse Mouzon) 4:04
6.  Get on Up (We Gonna Boogie) (Alphonse Mouzon) 2:50
7.  Reconciliation (Larry Coryell) 2:34
8.  Back Together Again (Alphonse Mouzon) 3:05
9.  Mr. C. (Larry Coryell) 3:28
10.  High Love (Larry Coryell) 5:51

Personnel:
Larry Coryell (Guitar, Vocals)
Alphonse Mouzon (Drums, Percussion, Vocals)
John Arthur Lee (Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals)
Cheryl Alexander (Vocals)
Tawatha Agee (Vocals)
Philip Catherine (Guitar)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Kurt Elling - The Messenger

I really thought we'd open The Messenger with "The Messenger". We had an intense take of the piece, which Ed Petersen had written some time before and to which I had attached some favorite lyrics. We recorded it using Ed's regular Monday night band (with Jim Widlowski burning up the rhythm). In that session my improvised story or solo was followed by one of Ed's most impassioned and fierce solos. I was so proud of Ed and of the cut. I was hungry to send it out & thought of it as a musical calling card from the future. I was also really cheesed about "Endless", another Ed Band staple that I thought had come together in a spectacular way in the session. For that cut and based on Ed's great musical writing, I had written out random, free-association words on a napkin from the take-out place we were ordering from those days. I used them as a launching pad for my solo's thematic drive. I was (and am still) very happy with the outcome. The band, of course, sounds burning. Moreover, Laurence and I had written some new things that I knew people would like — things they'd be happy to have in their lives. "The Beauty Of All Things" came together because Laurence had a vision of me on a windswept, moonlight coastal night at some festival somewhere laying out that music and that message in such a way that we'd know we were doing what we came on this earth to do. Laurence had also ingeniously sewn "Beauty" and "Prayer For Mr. Davis", his sublime paean with my recently composed lyric in a suite with "The Dance" — a classic LH orchestration. I was coming to know more and more the remarkable gifts my collaborator possessed. He was (and is) musically astonishing. We also had "Tanya Jean", the first really long-form vocalese lyric I had completed. I wrote it over a favorite Dexter Gordon solo I first heard while living abroad, thanks to my friend Gordon Drummond. I did most of the writing work in a spate of sleep writing experiments I was doing then, staying up 'til all hours with the disc on permanent repeat and waking myself up to write down whatever connections were cohering between melody, emotion, concept and text. We had a lot of crazy cool stuff, I thought. Well, we sent in the rough mixed to Bruce and Tom Evered at Blue Note. They loved the new stuff, they said, "but do you think you could come up with some standards to round this thing out?" Standards? I was still young enough to be ignorant of the need in the Jazz world to draw listeners in before bonking them over the head with headstrong new-osity. I was full of beans. Without Tom's request, we would have missed many of the arrangements that have become our fans' favorites, some of our signature things. Sure, I had this vague idea of mixing "April in Paris" with a Metheny-like groove & we also had access to Ed Petersen's "Nature Boy" riff. But to put them on The Messenger? Hmmm. - by Kurt Elling

This is one of the most interesting jazz vocal sets to be released in 1997. Kurt Elling covers a wide range of music, continually taking chances and coming up with fresh approaches. He is assisted by his longtime pianist Laurence Hopgood, different bassists and drummers, and on various tracks trumpeter Orbert Davis and the tenors of Edward Petersen and Eddie Johnson. Among the more memorable selections are Elling's vocalese version of Dexter Gordon's solo on the lengthy "Tanya Jean," and his spontaneous storytelling on "It's Just a Thing" (a classic of its kind), some wild scatting on "Gingerbread Boy," the fairly free improvising of "Endless," and his mostly straightforward renditions of "Nature Boy," "April In Paris" and "Prelude to a Kiss." Cassandra Wilson drops by for "Time of the Season," but does not make much of an impression. This rewarding and continually intriguing set is particularly recommended to listeners who feel that jazz singing has not progressed much beyond bop.- by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Kurt Elling
Album.: The Messenger
Year: 1997
Label: Blue Note
Runtime: 72:06

Tracks:
1.  Nature Boy (Eden Abhez) 6:09
2.  April in Paris (Vernon Duke/Yip Harburg) 5:11
3.  The Beauty of All Things (Kurt Elling/Laurence Hobgood) 8:07
4.  The Dance (Laurence Hobgood) 1:33
5.  Prayer For Mr. Davis (Kurt Elling/Laurence Hobgood) 6:03
6.  Endless (Edward Petersen) 4:48
7.  Tanya Jean (Donald Byrd/Kurt Elling) 10:16
8.  It's Just A Thing (Laurence Hobgood/Eric Hochberg/Paul Wertico) 4:31
9.  Ginger Bread Boy (Jimmy Heath) 5:02
10.  Prelude To A Kiss (Duke Ellington/Irving Gordon/Irving Mills) 5:27
11.  Time Of The Season (Rod Argent/Paul Atkinson/Colin Blunstone/Hugh Grundy/Chris White) 5:53
12.  The Messenger (Kurt Elling/Edward Petersen) 9:00

Personnel:
Kurt Elling (Vocals)
Laurence Hobgood (Piano, Synthesizer)
Rob Amster (Double Bass, Bass Guitar) - 1-6,9,10,12
Paul Wertico (Drums, Percussion) - 1-5,7-9,11
Jim Widlowski (Drums, Percussion) - 2,6,11,12
Eric Hochberg (Double Bass) - 7,8,11
Edward Petersen (Tenor Saxophone) - 6,12
Eddie Johnson (Tenor Saxophone) - 10
Orbert Davis (Trumpet, Flugelhorn) - 2,5
Cassandra Wilson (Vocals) - 11

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