Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Keith Jarrett Trio - Bye Bye Blackbird

This is the Keith Jarrett Trio's -- featuring bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette -- elegy for their former employer Miles Davis, recorded only 13 days after the maestro's death. The lonely figure in shadow with a horn on the cover contrasts with the joyous spirit of many of the tracks on this CD, yet there is still a ghostly presence to deal with -- and in keeping with Miles' credo, Jarrett's choice of notes is often more purposefully spare than usual. There is symmetry in the organization of the album, with "Bye Bye Blackbird" opening and the trio's equally jaunty "Blackbird, Bye Bye" closing the album, and the interior tracks immediately following the former and preceding the latter are "You Won't Forget Me" and "I Thought About You." The centerpiece of the CD is an 18-and-a-half-minute group improvisation, "For Miles," which after some DeJohnette tumbling around becomes a dirge sometimes reminiscent of Miles' own elegy for Duke Ellington, "He Loved Him Madly." As an immediate response to a traumatic event, Jarrett and his colleagues strike the right emotional balance to create one of their more meaningful albums. - by Richard S. Ginell, AMG

Artist: Keith Jarrett Trio
album: Bye Bye Blackbird
Year: 1991
Label: ECM (1993)
Runtime: 67:32

Tracks:
1.  Bye Bye Blackbird (Ray Henderson) 11:11
2.  You Won't Forget Me (Kermit Goell/Fred Spielman) 10:42
3.  Butch And Butch (Oliver Nelson) 6:37
4.  Summer Night (Al Dubin/Harry Warren) 6:38
5.  For Miles (Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnnette) 18:39
6.  Straight No Caser (Thelonious Monk) 6:44
7.  I Thought About You (Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Mercer) 4:01
8.  Blackbird, Bye Bye (Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnnette) 3:00

Personnel:
Keith Jarrett (Piano)
Gary Peacock (Bass)
Jack DeJohnette (Drums)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Paul James & Mark Hawkins - Horse

Paul James, the unforgettable former leader of the historic English band Blowzabella, is a very skilled wind-instrument player and composer and has worked with more artists and bands, such as Scarp and Ancient Beatbox. In recent years James has worked together with keyboard player and composer Mark Hawkins, dealing with soundtracks for documentaries and TV programmes. Their début CD is an effective blend of acoustic and electronic sounds. - Albumtrad.com

English musicians James and Hawkins put together a pastiche of dance, ambient, jazz, Celtic, Indian, Middle Eastern, and other flavors in this fine release. Cross-cultural experiments so often either fall flat or end up a tangled mess of limbs on the floor. (As a friend and excellent musician once put it, you can have the finest olives and the finest chocolate, but chocolate-covered olives are pretty rank.) Here the cultures manage to coexist without stepping on each other's toes. Saz and sax, bagpipes and bouzouki, keyboards and konnakol all dovetail into each other quite smoothly, thank you. Of course James and Hawkins have some big guns helping them out, such as Sheila Chandra, Nigel Eaton, and Eleanor Stanley. Several of the tracks here will do for Celtic and Indian music what Moby did for blues and gospel on Play. "Grownover" is a tender yet moody piece with fluttering Macedonian flute, delicately ringing guitar and well-placed loops. "The Four Points" is a pure Irish jig, with whistle and Phil Cunningham- inspired accordion, yet the presence of saz and the subtle layers of programming turn it into something more. Sheila Chandra's konnakol on several of the tracks is nothing short of breathtaking. Eleanor Stanley's contributions are among the most startling, in part because they are so structurally simple after so much layering. The traditional song "Beidh Aonach Amárach" has little to adorn it but a mysterious little drone break in the middle, adding an ominous touch to an otherwise spry little number. Her take on "Blacksmith" is windblown and eerie, sung over whistle and electronic drones. The longest track on the CD, it segues into a sharp Middle Eastern groove backed by industrial beats, before ending on a dime. "Voodoo that u doo" sounds like what would happen if an old-time string band was caught in a time and space warp. Horse is nothing if not quirkily varied, but all in all a rewarding listen. - by Peggy Latkovich, Rootsworld.com

Artist: Paul James & Mark Hawkins
Album: Horse
Year: 2001
Label: Folkclub Ethnosuoni
Runtime: 58:20

Tracks:
1.  Horse (Paul James/Mark Hawkins) 6:49
2.  Fat Earth (Paul James/Mark Hawkins) 5:26
3.  The Four Points (Paul James/Mark Hawkins) 5:13
4.  Hillfigures (Paul James/Mark Hawkins) 7:36
5.  Grownover (Paul James/Mark Hawkins) 4:26
6.  Beidh Aonach Amárach (Traditional) 2:23
7.  Biniou (Paul James/Mark Hawkins) 4:47
8.  Cornhead (Paul James/Mark Hawkins) 5:00
9.  Blacksmith (Traditional) 9:17
10.  Voodoo that u doo (Paul James/Mark Hawkins) 3:47
11.  Horse (radio edit) (Paul James/Mark Hawkins) 3:36

Personnel:
Paul James (Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Snare Drum, Flute, Whistle, Drones, Organ, Bagpipes)
Mark Hawkins (Keyboards, Piano, Guitar, Programming, Drones)
Victor Nicholls (Bass Guitar, Electronics, Loops) - 1,2,4,5,8-11
Nigel Eaton (Hurdy-Gurdy) - 1,3,5,7-9,11
Kenny Stone (Drums) - 1-4,7,8,11
Luke Daniels (Accordion) - 1,3,7,10,11
Carlos Beceiro (Saz, Cumbus, Bouzouki) - 1,3,7,11
Sheila Chandra (Konnakol) - 1,5,7,11
James Carter (Guitar) - 3,4,8
Eleanor Shanley (Vocals) - 6,9

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ahmad Jamal - Ahmad's Blues

This CD reissues most of the music recorded on one night by the 1958 Ahmad Jamal Trio (which consisted of the pianist/leader, bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier) during a live performance in Washington D.C. Originally released as the LP Ahmad Jamal plus part of Portfolio of Ahmad Jamal, these 16 selections display the uniqueness and tightness of this memorable unit. With great attention paid to dynamics and the use of space yet always swinging (at least lightly), the Ahmad Jamal Trio is heard at its best on such numbers as "It Could Happen to You," "Stompin' at the Savoy," "Squatly Roo," "A Gal in Calico" and "Let's Fall in Love." - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Ahmad Jamal is a seminal name in the hallowed annals of jazz piano artistry, and being a big fan of the jazz piano trio, I knew I had to check some out. I read in Fred Hersch's liner notes to Bill Evans' _Trio '64_ that his other favorite trio is this particular one, with bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier, so this seemed like a must-hear. That it is. You can see why Miles Davis dug this guy. Jamal just digs into the *groove* of a tune, playing with it, vamping on it, leaving space for his bandmates to inhabit it, and apparently all the while having a rollicking good time. The playing of this trio throughout this 1958 live performance is absolutely distinctive, and that's a bit part of what makes it such compelling listening. There's the signature tune "Ahmad's Blues", which even if you haven't heard it before, you'll think you have. It's that basic, and yet Jamal didn't pull it off some "standards" list. Then there's the standard-of-standards "Autumn Leaves", but what this trio does with it is amazingly creative. You just have to hear it. And who else would start out "Stompin' at the Savoy" with a quote of "La Marsellaise"?? And these are just examples. It's all that good. Don't miss out. - by Micah Newman, Amazon.com

Artist: Ahmad Jamal Trio
Album: Ahmad's Blues (Live at the Spotlite Club, Washington D.C.)
Year: 1958
Label: GRP (1994)
Runtime: 65:09

Tracks:
1.  Ahmad's Blues (Ahmad Jamal) 4:06
2.  It Could Happen To You (Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen) 4:15
3.  I Wish I Knew (Mack Gordon/Harry Warren) 3:45
4.  Autumn Leaves (Jacques Prevert/Johnny Mercer/Joseph Kosma) 7:40
5.  Stompin' At The Savoy (Benny Goodman/Chick Webb/Edgar Sampson) 4:15
6.  Cheek To Cheek (Irving Berlin) 4:47
7.  The Girl Next Door (Ralph Blane/Hugh Martin) 3:26
8.  Secret Love (Paul Francis Webster/Sammy Fain) 3:51
9.  Squatty Roo (Johnny Hodges) 2:18
10.  Taboo (S.K. Russel/Margarita Lecuona) 4:01
11.  Autumn In New York (Vernon Duke) 3:18
12.  A Gal In Calico (Leo Robin/Arthur Schwartz) 4:44
13.  That's All (Allen Brandt/Bob Haynes) 2:38
14.  Should I? (Arthur Freed/Nacio Herb Brown) 3:39
15.  Seleritus (Ahmad Jamal) 3:12
16.  Let's Fall In Love (Ted Koehler/Harold Arlen) 5:06

Personnel:
Ahmad Jamal (Piano)
Israel Crosby (Double Bass)
Vernel Fournier (Drums)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sharon Isbin - Journey to the Amazon

Journey to the Amazon is a fascinating collaboration between classical guitarist Sharon Isbin, saxophonist Paul Winter and percussionist/composer Thiago de Mello. The three musicians explore South American, particularly Brazilian, rhythms and songs, devising a mesmerizing fusion of worldbeat, jazz and classical. While this certainly isn't music for purists, it's adventurous and evocative, and it often fulfills its grand ambitions. - by Leo Stanley, AMG

This recording was one of my early exposures to Sharon Isbin on CD. I had the pleasure of experiencing her live performance prior to the purchase of this CD. As a fan of heavier guitar music, (i.e. Steve Vai and Eric Johnson), I never believed I would enjoy a classical guitarist. I was so completely moved by the performance Ms. Isbin gives on this CD, that I promptly purchased "Dreams of a World" and most recently "Baroque Favorites for Guitar". I highly recommend this CD if you want to hear a guitarist whose work defies traditional categorization. I give it 10 stars! Please try to see Ms. Isbin live in recital if she comes to your area; you will experience a remarkable performance. - by Guitar Guru, Amazon.com

Artist: Sharon Isbin
Album: Journey to the Amazon
Year: 1997
Label: Teldec
Runtime: 53:49

Tracks:
1.  Historia Do Luar (Laurindo Almeida) 2:09
2.  Seis Por Derecho (Antonio Lauro) 3:32
3.  Waltz, No.4 (Agustín Barrios-Mangoré) 3:58
4.  A Hug For Pixingha (Thiago de Mello) 3:52
5.  Chants For The Chief (Thiago de Mello) 5:28
6.  Julia Florida (Agustín Barrios-Mangoré) 4:25
7.  El Marabino (Antonio Lauro) 1:27
8.  Waltz, No.3 (Antonio Lauro) 2:22
9.  Porro (Gentil Montana) 2:16
10.  Batucada (Isaias Savio) 2:38
11.  Lago De Janauacá (Thiago de Mello) 2:47
12.  Chants For The Chief, No.1 (Thiago de Mello) 5:17
13.  Canción De Cuna (Leo Brouwer/Eliseo Grenet) 3:42
14.  Aire De Joropo (Benito Canonico) 1:26
15.  Cochichandro (Alfredo Vianna) 2:43
16.  Choro Alegre (Thiago de Mello) 1:42
17.  Cavaleiro Sem Armadura (Thiago de Mello) 4:05

Personnel:
Sharon Isbin (Guitar)
Thiago De Mello (Percussion) - 1,2,4,5,8-10,12-17
Paul Winter (Soprano Saxophone) - 5,12,17

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Charlie Hunter - Ready...Set...Shango!

Although it is never clear what "shango" is, this set by guitarist Charlie Hunter's quartet is quite accessible and enjoyable. Marketed as some type of new alternative jazz, the music in reality is bop-based and not that far from soul-jazz. The most unusual aspect of the set is that Hunter plays an eight-string guitar, which not only allows him to play basslines (there is no bassist on the CD) but at times to emulate an organ. Both tenorman Dave Ellis, who would soon start his own solo career, and altoist Calder Spanier have plenty of solo space, while drummer Scott Amendola keeps the music grooving and moving. The nine selections may all be originals, but the music is also tied to the swinging tradition. Recommended. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

This is funky, organ-driven soul-jazz, with one catch: there's no organ. Because Hunter fills the organ's role with his fluid eight-string guitar grooves, everyone wants to lump him into acid jazz or even rock. Hunter borrows a certain intensity from rock, but he also includes dynamic funk-oriented rhythms and jazz's improvisational aesthetic. Like many of the best of the soul-jazz albums, this 1996 release is predicated on emotion and feeling, not complex chord changes or technically impressive flurries. These nine originals use a variety of rhythms as improvisational springboards: joyous romps, slow grinds, soft Latin-tinged waves, and bluesy shuffles. Saxmen Dave Ellis and the late Calder Spanier can handle fragile melodic phrases as easily as from-the-belly wails. Hunter's guitar aims for tones, moods, and textures while he anchors the bass line with those extra two strings. - by Marc Greilsamer

Artist: Charlie Hunter Quartet
Album: Ready... Set... Shango!
Year: 1996
Label: Blue Note
Runtime: 52:34

Tracks:
1.  Ashby Man (Charlie Hunter/Calder Spanier) 5:18
2.  Teabaggin' (Calder Spanier) 5:41
3.  Let's Get Medieval (Charlie Hunter) 6:35
4.  The Shango Pt. III (Charlie Hunter) 7:49
5.  Dersu (Charlie Hunter) 6:48
6.  911 (Charlie Hunter) 5:22
7.  Shango...The Ballad (Charlie Hunter) 4:34
8.  Thursday The 12th (Charlie Hunter) 5:43
9.  Sutton (Calder Spanier) 4:44

Personnel:
Charlie Hunter (Guitar)
Dave Ellis (Tenor Saxophone)
Calder Spanier (Alto Saxophone)
Scott Amendola (Drums)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Freddie Hubbard - Fastball - Live at the Left Bank

This previously unreleased 1967 concert features Freddie Hubbard leading a quintet that includes tenor saxophonist Bennie Maupin, pianist Kenny Barron (whose playing is somewhat muffled much of time and he is plagued by an obviously out of tune instrument), bassist Herbie Lewis, and drummer Freddie Waits. All of the tracks are extended blowing sessions for the group, especially featuring the leader's rapid-fire trumpet solos. Highlights include the bossa nova "Pensativa," a stunning arrangement of "Willow Weep for Me," and Hubbard's lively post-bop composition "Bob's Place." The overall performances more than make up for the erratic fidelity of this nonprofessional recording,  so fans of Freddie Hubbard will definitely want to pick up this CD. - by Ken Dryden, AMG

Artis: Freddie Hubbard
Album: Fastball - Live at the Left Bank
Year: 1967
Label: Label M (2001)
Runtime: 63:15

Tracks:
1.  Pensativa (Clare Fischer) 16:53
2.  Echoes of Blue (Robert Cunningham) 10:34
3.  Crisis (Freddie Hubbard) 12:31
4.  Willow Weep for Me (Ann Ronnell) 10:03
5.  Bob's Place (Freddie Hubbard) 13:11

Personnel:
Freddie Hubbard (Trumpet)
Bennie Maupin (Tenor Saxophone)
Kenny Barron (Piano)
Herbie Lewis (Double Bass)
Freddie Waits (Drums)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Barney Kessel - Contemporary Latin Rhythms

These three Barney Kessel albums, recorded for Reprise in the early 1960s, are true gems. Reprise dabbled in recording jazz artists during this time and these Kessel albums truly shine. I remember finding the Kessel "Breakfast At Tiffany's" on vinyl about 10 years ago and listening to it was a dream come true. I am so glad it is here on CD along with more of Kessel's work during that period. "Breakfast At Tiffany's" has a slight jazz flair. True, that Kessel did not choose to make it a hard core jazz album and we should be thankful for his decision. Instead, he plays it with sophistication and style, adding his signature jazz touches where they add depth to the score but never overdoing it. I highly recommend this collection. - by Johnny K, Amazon.com

What better way to start this review than with the following sentence: Contemporary Latin Rhythms by guitarist Barney Kessel (1923–2004), released in 1963, is one of the best Latin albums ever created… because it is actually an Exotica release! I cannot stress this assertion enough, as it is not overly well-known in these circles. Twelve musicians deliver ten different, presumably Latin cuts, but again, the prospect evoked by this album is not necessarily fulfilled. One Latin fan's flaw is an Exotica lover's advantage. Or as Stanley Wilson of Pagan Love (1961) fame fittingly states in the liner notes: "Latin music has moved much closer to our own." Thus, the presented material is surprisingly exotic and less about Latin clichés than you might imagine. Even perfectly normal North American tunes are featured here, and they are admittedly Latinized quite a bit. Their real driving factor, though, is and remains Exotica, I kid you not. Contemporary Latin Rhythms is roughly comparable to the already splendidly exotic and dreamy Gone Native (1957) by the New York Jazz Quartet, but even that album is more Latin than Kessel's artifact. Six renditions and four unique tracks by Barney Kessel made it to the green-tinged album. While Kessel is prominently featured with his guitar on all of the tracks, he lets each player shine nonetheless, holding back every so often in order to let the aqueous mallet instruments and silky brass sections unfold all the better. The album features drummer Stan Levey, bassist Keith Mitchell, guitarists Bill Pitman, Alton Hendrickson and Barney Kessel himself, a trio of percussionists comprising of Francisco Aguabelle, Edward Talamantes and Franck Capp, saxophonist and flutist Paul Horn, trumpeter Conte Candoli, the dedicated marimba player Emil Richards as well as vibraphonist Victor Feldman. The album is unexpectedly bright and coruscating, and only one out of ten tracks delivers a whimsical lamento that is so typical for Latin songs. Sambas are as present as delicately downbeat Exotica pieces. So without further ado, here is one of the lost Exotica classics which has much more in common with my favorite genre than with the usual Latin outings. - AmbientExotica.com

Artist: Barney Kessel
Album: Contemporary Latin Rhythms
Year: 1963
Label: Reprise (Japanese 24-bit dig. remestered, 2014)
Runtime: 30:46

Tracks:
1.  Blues In The Night (Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer) 2:39
2.  Days Of Wine And Roses (Johnny Mercer/Henry Mancini) 2:30
3.  Latin Dance N°1 (Barney Kessel) 2:32
4.  Lady Byrd (Tadd Dameron) 3:30
5.  One Note Samba (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Jon Hendricks/Newton Mendonça) 4:15
6.  The Peanut Vendor (Marion Sunshine/Moises Simons/Wolfe Gilbert) 3:10
7.  Quizas, Quizas, Quizas (Joe Davis/Osvaldo Farrés) 3:13
8.  Everytime I Hear This Song (Barney Kessel) 3:47
9.  Love (Hugh Martin/Ralph Blane) 2:47
10.  Twilight In Acapulco (Barney Kessel) 2:23

Personnel:
Barney Kessel (Guitar)
Red Mitchell (Bass)
Stan Levey (Drums)
Paul Horn (Saxophone, Flute)
Conte Candoli (Trumpet)
Victor Feldman (Vibraphone)
Al Hendrickson (Guitar)
Bill Pitman (Guitar)
Emil Richards (Marimba)
Eddie Talamantes (Percussion)
Francisco Aguabella (Percussion)
Frank Capp (Percussion)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Chico Hamilton - Gongs East!

The best-known of all the 1950s Chico Hamilton Quintet sets, this is also the only early Hamilton music that has been fully reissued on CD. At the time, the drummer's group also included cellist Nate Gershman, guitarist Dennis Budimir, bassist Wyatt Ruther and the young Eric Dolphy on alto, bass clarinet and flute. Dolphy has quite a few short solos on this rewarding music, and the highlights of the date include "Beyond the Blue Horizon," "Passion Flower," Gerald Wilson's "Tuesday at Two" and the exotic "Gongs East." Recommended. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Former Gerry Mulligan Quartet drummer Chico Hamilton formed his own quintet in the mid-1950s and proceeded to record some of the best and most definitive music to emerge from the West Coast "cool" jazz school. He is probably better remembered today, however, for having introduced multi-reedsman Eric Dolphy to the world in the second incarnation of his band. GONGS EAST! was the first album released by that famed lineup, and it's a fine introduction to Hamilton, Dolphy and the subtler side of fifties jazz generally. At a time when the blues-based post-bop sound ruled the jazz roost, Hamilton was exploring Asian, chamber and avant-garde classical influences, with the ironic result that the leader/drummer is the least-featured player here. Instead, it is Dolphy - in a far more restrained and accessible form than his explosive later performances would lead one to expect - and cellist Nate Gershman who hold the spotlight for most of GE!, though the whole quintet does an outstanding job of realizing Hamilton's influential and historically quite underappreciated vision. All but one of the tunes are covers (and for some reason the track listing is completely jumbled), but the unique chemistry of this unit remakes everything with its own indelible stamp as slow, quiet grooves part like a soft fog, allowing the soloists to shine before closing again with a tinkle of chimes or the distant thunder of a Chinese gong. Now out of print, GONGS EAST! is well worth seeking out for anyone interested in fifties jazz and/or the duly celebrated musicians involved. For more from this combo, check out The Original Ellington Suite and Dolphy's Hot, Cool & Latin. Those were the days, indeed! - by Richard Luhrs, Amazon.com

Artist: Chico Hamilton
Album: Gongs East!
Year: 1958 (Discovery)
Label: Warner Bros. Japan (24 bit dig. remastered, 2014)
Runtime: 38:15

Tracks:
1.  Beyond The Blue Horizon (Leo Robin/Richard Whiting/Frank Harling) 3:01
2.  Where I Live (Gerald Wilson)  2:59
3.  Gongs East (Chico Hamilton) 5:06
4.  I Gave My Love A Cherry (Hale Smith) 4:04
5.  Good Grief, Dennis (Carlson Smith) 3:19
6.  Long Ago And Far Away (Ira Gershwin/Jerome Kern) 3:06
7.  Tuesday At Two (Gerald Wilson)  4:02
8.  Nature By Emerson (Fred Katz)  4:50
9.  Far East (Nat Pierce) 4:39
10.  Passion Flower (Billy Strayhorn) 3:05

Personnel:
Chico Hamilton (Drums, Gongs)
Eric Dolphy (Alto Saxophone, Flute, Bass Clarinet)
Wyatt Ruther (Double Bass)
Nathan Gershman (Cello)
Dennis Budimir (Guitar)

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