Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dirty Dozen Brass Band - Funeral For A Friend

On their tenth album, the Crescent City's Dirty Dozen Brass Band bring it all back to the cobblestone streets where it began. The Dozens have done it all, from straight New Orleans jazz to restless funky experimentation, and here they put it all down to the roots of its origin. Funeral for a Friend is just that, a complete reenactment of a New Orleans funeral or "homecoming." The Dozens played them at the beginning and continue to. The set is dedicated to the memory of founding member Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen, who passed away just a few weeks after its completion. The band performed it in the streets leading the horse-drawn carriage procession. Comprised entirely of gospel and spiritual songs, it follows the trajectory of a departed one's life from birth to celebrations of her or his character to death and resurrection in the afterlife. The first of the three stages begins with a slow, mournful dirge that emerges as "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," as the gathering begins at the courthouse and becomes a strident statement in "I Shall Not Be Moved," where the grief begins to give way to the feeling of victory, that the departed has broken the bondage of this life's prison. The music begins to swell and swirl and gains in stridency and emotion until it actually erupts about five tracks in with "Jesus on the Mainline," with the band accompanied by the Davell Crawford Singers. The mind-blowing thing is the sound; though this was recorded in a studio, the listener feels like she's in the middle of a throng of marchers, surrounded by the band and the choir. The second stage begins with a stunning rendering of "John the Revelator" that simulates being played at the gravesite and offers this bluesy prophetic read on the entrance of the departed into a new order prophesied. It is resolved in "I'll Fly Away," with Melody Palmer leading the choir in a rowdy statement of death's defeat. This is followed by an altar call in "Is There Anybody Here That Loves My Jesus?" The final stage -- leaving the cemetery for home -- is commenced by the funky read of "Down by the Riverside," and is resolved in the celebratory gratitude for mercy in "Amazing Grace." But this review does nothing, literally, to describe the sheer power of the transference of emotion that Funeral for a Friend does. This is easily the most heartfelt, honestly rendered, and stunningly captured moment of the DDBB's recording career; it belongs in every household where the celebration of life and its transition from the sorrow of death to the eternal afterlife is honored. It is not only a classic in the genre, but will come to be regarded as a jazz classic, period. - by Thom Yurek, AMG

Artist: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Album: Funeral for a Friend
Year: 2003
Label: Rykodisc (2004)
Runtime: 40:14

1.  Just A Closer Walk With Thee (Traditional) 5:30
2.  I Shall Not Be Moved (Homer Morris) 4:58
3.  Please Let Me Stay A Little Longer (Traditional)3:06
4.  What A Friend We Have In Jesus (Traditional) 3:44
5.  Jesus On The Main Line (Traditional) 5:18
6.  John The Revelator (Blind Willie Johnson) 4:39
7.  I'll Fly Away (A.E. Burnley) 3:39
8.  Is There Anybody Here That Loves My Jesus (Traditional) 3:06
9.  Down By The Riverside (William Stickles) 5:06
10.  Amazing Grace (John Newton) 1:04

Roger Lewis (Baritone Saxophone)
Kevin Harris (Tenor Saxophone)
Efrem Towns (Trumpet, Flugelhorn)
Gregory Davis (Trumpet)
Sammie Williams (Trombone)
Jamie McLean (Guitar)
Terence Higgins (Drums)
Julius McKee (Sousaphone) - 2,8,10
Kirk Joseph (Sousaphone) - 1,3,5,6
Jeffrey Hills (Sousaphone) - 4,7,9
The Davell Crawford Singers (Vocals) - 4,5,7
Melody Palmer (Vocals) - 7
David Hidalgo (Accordion) - 3

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sussan Deyhim & Bill Laswell - Shy Angels

Shy Angels is Bill Laswell’s reinterpretation of the entire "Madman Of God" album, in which Sussan Deyhim presents her uniquely personal reading of divine love poems by Rumi, Saadi and other Persian Sufi masters. In true Laswell form, Shy Angels stretches Deyhim’s material into a world of Eastern fusion that incorporates elements of dub, arabesque and Laswell’s signature ambient drum programming. - from

Artist: Sussan Deyhim & Bill Laswell
Album: Shy Angels (Reconstruction and Mix Translation of "Madman of God" by Bill Laswell)
Year: 2002
Label: Cramned Disc
Runtime: 45:30

1.  The Candle and The Moth 5:42
2.  Bade Saba 11:32
3.  Daylaman 4:12
4.  Meykhaneh 5:24
5.  Navai 5:18
6.  Negara 4:18
7.  Gereyley 6:46
8.  Hamcho Farhad 2:14

Sussan Deyhim (Vocals)
Abegasu Shiota (Electric Piano)
Karsh Kale (Drums, Tabla, Programming)
Bill Laswell (Bass Guitar, Programming)
Zakir Hussain (Tabla)
Hamid Drake (Drums, Tabla)
Aiyb Dieng (Chatan)
Abdou Mboup (Percussion)
Reggie Workman (Double Bass)
Reza Derakhshani (Tar, Setar, Kamanche, Ney)
Dawn Avery (Cello)
Glen Velez (Daf)
Hearn Gadbois (Zarb)
Michael Harrsion (Tamboura)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Paul Desmond - Bossa Antigua

Bossa Antigua picks up the samba-based rim shots of drummer Connie Kay on Take Ten and tries to make a whole new record out of them. While the title track duplicates the original percolating groove of "El Prince," other tracks like "Samba Cantina" revert to a typical bossa nova rhythm of the period, which leads one to conclude that "bossa antigua" is merely whatever Desmond says it is. Of the album's two non-originals, "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," of course, is made-to-order for Desmond's wistful, sophisticated temperament, and he delivers exactly what a Desmond devotee would expect and love; and "A Ship Without a Sail" has some memorable off-the-cuff solo ideas. Jim Hall is around again to lend subtle rhythm support and low-key savvy in his solos, and like many Desmond companions of this period, he makes a fine sparring partner in the contrapuntal exchanges. The Brubeck Quartet's Gene Wright again lends a sturdy hand on bass. The playing is wonderful throughout, though just missing the full-throttle inspiration of Take Ten. - by Richard S. Ginell, AMG

The bossa was no longer nova when Paul Desmond got around to working in the style, but this 1964 recording ranks with the best Brazilian-inspired jazz. His pure, melodic approach required almost no adjustment (compared with Getz, for example) and his original writing, which dominates on this release, is strongly idiomatic. Connie Kay and Eugene Wright do great work in making the Bossa beat live and breathe. But the biggest attractions are Desmond's lovely sound and inspired phrasing, and the astonishing work of Jim Hall. Guitar fans don't like to hear it, but there are really no guitarists after Wes in the very top rank of soloists. Hall at his best does compare with any piano accompanist of the time, however, and his solos are as well-conceived as Tommy Flanagan's or Barry Harris'. The interplay between Hall and Desmond is always great, but the unhurried elegance of Bossa Antigua is special even for this great team. Three fine alternate takes enhance this very desirable release. - by Duck Baker,

Artist: Paul Desmond
Album: Bossa Antigua
Year: 1964
Label: BMG (1994)
Runtime: 50:46

1.  Bossa Antiqua (Paul Desmond) 4:35
2.  Samba Cepeda (Paul Desmond) 5:09
3.  The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (Buddy Bernier/Jerry Brainin) 4:47
4.  O Gato (Alternate take) (Jane Herbert) 4:56
5.  O Gato (Jane Herbert) 4:28
6.  Samba Cantina (Paul Desmond) 5:34
7.  Curacao Doloroso (Paul Desmond) 4:31
8.  A Ship Without a Sail (Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers) 6:16
9.  Alianca (Paul Desmond) 4:31
10.  The Girl from East 9th Street (Paul Desmond) 5:59

Paul Desmond (Alto Saxophone)
Jim Hall (Guitar)
Gene Wright (Double Bass)
Connie Kay (Drums)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Deep Rumba - This Night Becomes a Rumba

It is said that a master perfects technique in order to transcend it. This deeply satisfying disc, which merits a presence on 1998 best-of lists, applies the theory to rumba and proves it. Steeped in the tradition of voice- and percussion-based music, the members of Deep Rumba allow their talents and spirits to soar. The players are enormously sensitive to each other at all tempos. Most instructive is their "Sunshine of Your Love." Typically, a Latin jazz band would simply play the tune with a different beat; here the familiar rhythmic underpinning provides the basis for inspired percussion improvisation, and one doesn't notice until it's over that the melody never made an appearance. Also of note is Jerry Gonzalez' contribution on "The Bronx With Palms Trees," where his dreamy trumpet vamps weave in and out of the complex of sound, reminiscent of the tone and texture of early electric-era Miles Davis bands. Least satisfying are the couple of vocal ballads toward the end of the disc, essentially generic Latin pop fare. On a program of over 63 minutes, they were not needed as filler. - by Janet Rosen, AMG

Artist: Deep Rumba
Album: This Night Becomes A Rumba
Year: 1998
Label: Justin Time
Runtime: 63:19

1.  Vallejo (Cesar Vallejo/Kip Hanrahan/Ruben Blades) 0:23
2.  Cuentale (Puntilla Orlando Rios) 4:21
3.  Columbia Dos Santos (Puntilla Orlando Rios) 6:18
4.  Una Noche De Verano Comenca (Horacio Hernandez/Kip Hanrahan/Ciamara Laugart) 8:46
5.  Yambhoracio (Horacio Hernandez) 2:14
6.  Sunshine Of Your Love (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown/Eric Clapton) 2:49
7.  The Bronx With Palm Trees (Andy Gonzalez) 4:45
8.  Negro And Andy Run This Very Night Into The Rumba (Horacio Hernandez/Andy Gonzalez) 3:56
9.  Calma Morena (Kip Hanrahan/Ciamara Laugart) 0:54
10.  Yambu Chevoret (Puntilla Orlando Rios) 7:08
11.  Si! No! (Luis Abreu/Ciamara Laugart) 9:34
12.  I Wish You Love (Charles Trenet/Leon Chauliac) 9:51
13.  Vallejo (Reprise) (Cesar Vallejo/Kip Hanrahan/Ruben Blades) 0:43
14.  Distancia (Hernando Alfonso) 1:32

Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez (Trap Drums, Timbales)
Roby Ameen (Trap Drums)
Andy Gonzalez (Double Bass)
Puntilla Orlando Rios (Vocals, Congas)
Milton Cardona (Congas, Backing Vocals)
Ciamara Laugart (Vocals)
Abraham Rodriguez (Vocals, Clave)
Amadito Valdez (Timbales)
Ruben Blades (Vocals)
Paoli Mejias (Congas, Quinto)
Richard Flores (Congas, Quinto)
Jerry Gonzalez (Trumpet, Percussion)
Kip Hanrahan (Percussion, Backing Vocals)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Larry Coryell - The Coryells

Like father, like sons, acoustic guitarist Larry Coryell and sons Julian and Murali get together for their first recorded project, and it sounds fine. Larry tends to dominate improv space, but doesn't get in the way of his kids, who are adept in their own bluesy ways. Bassist Brain Torff and percussionist Alphonse Mouzon (no drum kit, only hand drums and tambourine) join on several selections. Murali sings in his down-home, slightly affectated manner for three cuts, quite soulfully on the Rahsaan Roland Kirk lyric re: Lester Young on "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," on the original pop blues "Somebody's Got to Win-Lose," and on Al Green's simple, funk-blues "Love & Happiness." Julian has two features by himself, with Torff only on the easy two-beat "Something Pretty" and the nice waltz "Song for Emily." The hippest workout between the three occurs during the bulk of Julian's "Sink or Swim," while up and down, cascading and tumbling, waterfall crystalline-clear guitars shine on Larry's "Transparance." Two tracks are unearthed from Larry's days with the Eleventh House: the stunning "Low-Lee-Tah" is dark, moody, and ominous, with Larry playing the intricate melody first all the way through and his sons joining in with heavy embellishments and startling improvisation; "Funky Waltz" is not so much funky as the loud original, but shaded with Native American punctuations from Mouzon. Though some speedy lines crop up here and there, this is a more musical than pyrotechnical display that proves quite enjoyable throughout. A very good first step for the Coryell family's musical bonding recorded for public display, this is definitely recommended. - by Michael G. Nastos, AMG

Artist: The Coryell Family
Album: The Coryells
Year: 1999
Label: Chesky
Runtime: 61:55

1. Sentenza Del Core - Allegro (Larry Coryell) 5:14 
2. Sentenza Del Core - Interlude (Larry Coryell) 0:27 
3. Sentenza Del Core - Adagio (Larry Coryell) 2:57 
4. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (Charles Mingus) 4:11 
5. Sink Or Swim (Julian Coryell) 3:53 
6. Zimbabwe (Larry Coryell) 5:07 
7. Low-Lee-Tah (Larry Coryell) 6:01 
8. Love And Happiness (Al Green/Mabon Hodges) 5:23 
9. Something Pretty (Julian Coryell) 3:56 
10. Trouble No More (Muddy Waters) 3:14 
11. Funky Waltz (Alphonse Mouzon) 8:18 
12. Transparence (Larry Coryell) 4:55 
13. Somebody's Got To Win, Somobody's Got To Lose (Murali Coryell) 3:49 
14. Song For Emily (Julian Coryell) 4:23

Larry Coryell (Guitar) 
Murali Coryell (Guitar, Vocals) 
Julian Coryell (Guitar) 
Alphonse Mouzon (Percussion) 
Brian Torff (Double Bass)


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Yo-Yo Ma & Bobby McFerrin - Hush

A surprisingly good collaboration from two virtuosos of their given instruments. Bobby McFerrin, the master of the voice, and Yo-Yo Ma, the master of the cello, combined to perform various pieces, from classical, traditional, and contemporary classical sectors. Some of the McFerrin compositions are quite amazing simply as compositions to begin with, but when the cello and vocal performances are added, they become something even more exciting. More than likely, the main highlight on the album is Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee," which is performed on a dual line by both musicians and allows an ample chance to note the amazing virtuosity of McFerrin, once you can distinguish the voice from the cello (yes, they follow the lines that close). For any fan of either musician, it's a wonderful find of an album. - by Adam Greenberg, AMG

Artist: Yo-Yo ma & Bobby McFerrin
Year: 1991
Label: Sony (1992)
Runtime: 46:34

1.  Grace (Bobby McFerrin) 3:54
2.  Andante (Antonio Vivaldi) 4:03
3.  Flight of the Bumblebee (Nikolai Rimsky-Kossakov) 1:08
4.  Stars (Bobby McFerrin) 4:04
5.  Hush Little Baby (Traditional) 2:36
6.  Vocalise (Sergey Rachmaninoff) 6:26
7.  Musette (J.S. Bach) 4:12
8.  Coyote (Bobby McFerrin) 2:51
9.  Allegro Prestissimo (Jean Barriere) 2:37
10.  Ave Maria (Charles Gounod) 2:37
11.  Hoedown! (Bobby McFerrin) 5:38
12.  Air (J.S. Bach) 5:11
13.  Good-Bye (Bobby McFerrin) 1:11

Yo-Yo Ma (Cello)
Bobby McFerrin (Vocals)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Nicola Conte - Other Directions

For those who became acquainted with Nicola Conte via his Bossa Per Due and Jet Sounds Revisited, Other Directions will come as a real surprise. Along with being a producer and DJ, Conte is a classically trained musician who is a multi-instrumentalist and a very accomplished arranger. His previous work in the acid jazz and electronic bossa movements could not have prepared listeners for this solid jazz and bossa nova set. Working with a tough, top-notch group of Italian jazz players -- the country's jazz scene has a built-in lyricism, whether in the vanguard realm or in the "tradition" that puts most American counterparts to shame in terms of swing -- Conte uses all but his DJ skills to create a musical tapestry that reflects the perfect meld of jazz and bossa that occurred in the early '60s while moving both musics forward with his sophisticated yet soulful and accessible arrangements. Till Bronner guests on "Sea and Sand," the disc's first cut, playing trumpet and singing in his plaintive, Chet Baker-derived style (he's a more proficient singer than his mentor). On "Wanin' Moon," Bembe Segue gets the vocal nod, but it's saxophonist Daniele Scannapieco and flugelhornist Fabrizio Bosso with their exotic yet bluesy solos that take the cake on the tune. The Afro-Brazilian rhythmics on "Nefertiti," (no relation to the Miles Davis tune) drive a wordless vocal and tight horn section that counters the intense polyrhythms as Bosso's trumpet takes the first break, wailing in the middle register with relatively few notes to capture the dark groove perfectly. Pierpaolo Bisogno's vibraphone keeps soloists and percussionists anchored in the groove. "A time for Spring" gently nods toward "Take Five," for its intro, before becoming a shimmering, pop-jazz nugget that combines bossa, cool, and post-bop. Truth be told, there isn't a dud in the bunch. The vibe is relaxed, the music open, even when complex -- check out "Dharma Bums" -- and the execution is precise and full of soulful, airy grooves. Bossa nova is the wheel on which everything turns here, and Conte knows how to shade and color his harmonics with texture and chromatic subtlety. This is a jazz record for folks who don't really like jazz, but jazz fans will be delighted by its many twists and turns, never forsaking vamps or lyricism for rhythm, while making rhythm a central tenet of each composition. This is a winner through and through. It's a shame it was only issued on Blue Note in Europe (the American label is largely clueless and is trying to score pop radio hits these days while issuing the same jazz records over and over). Other Directions is the perfect recording for American fans of fine jazz and bossa nova. It's hip, elegant, graceful, and smart. - by Thom Yurek, AMG

Artist: Nicola Conte
Album: Other Directions
Year: 2004
Label: Blue Note
Runtime: 60:24

1.  Sea and Sand (Nicola Conte) 3:58
2.  Wanin' Moon (Nicola Conte) 4:54
3.  Nefertiti (Nicola Conte) 6:19
4.  Impulso (Nicola Conte) 4:30
5.  A Time for Spring (Nicola Conte) 3:55
6.  Kind of Sunshiene (Gianluca Petrella/Nicola Conte) 5:40
7.  Aphrodite's Dream (Nicola Conte) 4:32
8.  Several Shades of Dawn (Nicola Conte) 3:36
9.  The Dharma Blues (Nicola Conte) 4:50
10.  All Gone (Harold Pinter/John Dankworth) 4:09
11.  Other Directions (Nicola Conte) 5:53
12.  The in Between (Gianni LeNoci/Nicola Conte) 4:03
13.  Le Depart (Krzysztov Komeda) 4:05

Pietro Lussu (Piano)
Pietro Ciancaglini (Double Bass)
Lorenzo Tucci (Drums)
Daniele Scannapieco (Tenor Saxophone, Flute) - 1-9,12,13
Fabrizio Bosso (Trumpet, Flugelhorn) - 1-3,5-9,12,13
Gianluca Petrella (Trombone) - 1,3-6,8,9,11,12
Nicola Conte (Guitar) - 13
Till Bronner (Vocals, Trumpet) - 1,9,10
Bembe Segue (Vocals) - 2,8
Cristina Zavalloni (Vocals) - 3,13
Pierpaolo Bisogno (Vibraphone, Bongos) - 3-6,8-10,12
Lisa Bassenge (Vocals) - 5,10
Nicola Stilo (Flute) - 5
Lucia Minetti (Vocals) - 5,9,12
Rosario Giuliani (Alto Saxophone) - 10,11

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Billy Cobham - The Art of Three

These musicians are legends, needing no introduction. They have have played with every key figure in the encyclopaedia of modern jazz. All three are also band leaders in their own right with recording experience that spans over 50 years. Billy Cobham, as leader of the band, is most famous for his fusion albums in the 70s which have been heavily sampled by a whole new generation of artists. 'Spectrum', for example, was the basis of 'Safe From Harm' by Massive Attack. This album is a radical departure from the rest of Bill's recorded work as it is the first time he has recorded an album of straight-ahead jazz standards. The album has been anticipated for a long time by his many fans who cover genres as diverse as jazz, hip-hop & rock. It must be stressed that this album is very much a jazz CD and not a dance floor record. It is however, a superb album. - Product info (

Billy Cobham formed the Art of Three with fellow seasoned artists Kenny Barron and Ron Carter, who had known each other for several decades prior to this 2001 European tour, but had rarely played as a unit. This CD includes excerpts of two concerts, and while the drummer is listed as the leader, this is essentially a meeting of three all-stars with no one player dominating the spotlight. Beginning with a spry "Stella by Starlight," featuring Barron's playful piano, Carter's inventive accompaniment, and Cobham starting on brushes and switching to sticks, the trio sizzles from the very start. Carter's "New Waltz" is a tender tune, suggesting a parent teaching a young child a few basic dance steps in the intimacy of home. Barron's lively "And Then Again" blends a delicious bop line in the style of Bud Powell, with Carter and Cobham fueling his flight, while they also offer a rollicking treatment of Powell's "Bouncing with Bud." The setting of Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" focuses more on the lyricism of the piece than an overly brooding air, as it is often played. It's hard not to think of Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, or Bill Evans when a jazz group plays "Someday My Prince Will Come," but this trio adds a catchy introduction that combines beauty with a bit of tension before seguing into the familiar waltz tempo of this Disney-associated theme. The group followed up this excellent CD with two more from a tour of Japan in 2003; the obvious chemistry between them merits future reunions as well. - by Ken Dryden, AMG

Artist: Billy Cobham
Album: The Art of Three
Year: 2001
Label: In & Out
Runtime: 73:50

1. Stella By Starlight (Ned Washington/Victor Young) 10:43
2. Autumn Leaves (Joseph Kosma/Johnny Mercer/Jacques Prévert) 10:00
3. New Waltz (Ron Carter) 6:55
4. Bouncing With Bud (Bud Powell) 7:02
5. 'Round Midnight (Bernie Hanighen/Thelonious Monk/Cootie Williams) 7:56
6. And Then Again (Kenny Barron) 11:25
7. I Thought About You (Johnny Mercer/James Van Heusen) 10:26
8.  Someday My Prince Will Come (Larry Morey/Frank Churchill) 9:19

Billy Cobham (Drums)
Ron Carter (Double Bass)

Kenny Barron (Piano)


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