Thursday, June 30, 2016

Oscar Peterson - Walking The Line / Another Day

Walking the Line:
Oscar Peterson's series of recordings for Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer during the 1960s and early '70s are one of many high points in his long career. With George "Jiri" Mraz on bass and Ray Price on drums, Peterson's flashy romp through "I Love You" (complete with a humorous detour into the opera "Pagliacci") and mid-tempo walk through "All of You" salute Cole Porter in style on Walking the Line. "Rock of Ages" isn't the old hymn but a lively, gospel-inflected Peterson original that will easily get any congregation swinging and swaying to the music. His mastery of the ballad form is heard in his sensitive interpretation of "Once Upon a Summertime," which showcases Mraz's gorgeous tone, as Price sits out this one. - by Ken Dryden, AMG

Another Day:
Good '70 session from pianist Oscar Peterson, arguably the most recorded mainstream stylist ever. He's made so many albums over the years, with a great deal sounding similar, that while they're never bad, sometimes they're for keyboard freaks only. That's something of the case here, although Peterson spins some fabulous solos. - by Ron Wynn, AMG


Artist: Oscar Peterson Trio
Album: Two Originals: Walking the Line/Another Day
Year: 1971 (MPS)
Label: Motor Music (1996)
Runtime: 72:57

Tracks:
Walking the Line:
1.  I Love You (Cole Porter) 5:14
2.  Rock of Ages (Oscar Peterson) 5:32
3.  Once Upon a Summertime (Michel Legrand / Johnny Mercer) 5:19
4.  Teach Me Tonight (Gene DePaul / Sammy Cahn) 5:07
5.  The Windmills of Your Mind (Michel Legrand / Marilyn Bergman / Alan Bergman) 5:04
6.  I Didn't Know What Time It Was (Richard Rodgers / Lorenz Hart) 6:37
7.  All of You (Cole Porter) 5:01
Another Day
8.  Blues for Martha (Oscar Peterson) 5:10
9.  Greensleeves (Traditional)4:30
10.  All the Things You Are (Jerome Kern / Oscar Hammerstein II) 6:13
11.  Too Close for Comfort (Jerry Bock / Larry Holofcener / Georg Weiss) 4:12
12.  The Jamfs Are Coming (Johnny Griffin) 5:40
13.  It Never Entered My Mind (Richard Rodgers / Lorenz Hart) 5:57
14.  Carolina Shout (James Johnson) 3:18


Personnel:
Oscar Peterson (Piano)
Jiri Mraz (Double Bass)
Ray Price (Drums)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Duke Pearson - How Insensitive

Like most Blue Note artists, Duke Pearson moved toward commercial-oriented soul-jazz in the late '60s. At least, How Insensitive was supposed to be commercial. Pearson simplified his original compositions, chose standards like "Stella By Starlight," and covered contemporary pop songs like Jobim's "Lamento." He also assembled a large band with rock instrumentation like electric guitars, bass, electric pianos, and drum kits. Most importantly, he hired the New York Group Singers' Big Band -- a group of singers that are arranged like a horn section (males are the trombones, females are alto saxes, etc.) -- to sing on each song. The vocalists may be technically gifted -- in particular, Andy Bey has a rich voice -- but their presence on these arrangements is quite bizarre, especially since they take center stage. Each song on How Insensitive boasts extravagant, layered arrangements that flirt with schmaltz, but the voicings and attack are so unusual, the result is a weird variation on easy listening. There is little opportunity for Pearson to showcase his tasteful playing through improvisation, yet the arrangements are so off-kilter, the music never quite works as background music. In other words, it's a very interesting failure and one of the strangest by-products of Blue Note's late-'60s commercialization. - by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AMG

Artist: Duke Pearson
Album: How Insensitive
Year: 1970 (Blue Note Records)
Label: Toshiba Japan (1995)
Runtime: 33:42
Recorded at the Van Gelder Recordind Studios, Englewood Cliffs, USA (April 11, 14 & May 5, 1969)

Tracks:
1.  Stella By Starlight (Ned Washington / Victor Young) 4:35
2.  Clara (DuBose Heyward / George Gershwin) 2:40
3.  Give Me Your Love (Duke Pearson) 3:20
4.  Cristo Redentor (Duke Pearson) 3:50
5.  Little Song (Jack Manno)  2:50
6.  How Insensitive (Antonio Carlos Jobim / Norman Gimbel / Vinicius DeMoraes) 2:12
7.  Sandalia Dela (Luiz Claudio) 3:25
8.  My Love Waits (O Meu Amor Espera) (Duke Pearson / Jack Manno) 4:35
9.  Tears (Razao De Viva) (Eumir Deodato) 3:25
10.  Lamento (Antonio Carlos Jobim / Vinicius DeMoraes) 2:50

Personnel:
Duke Pearson (Piano, Electric Piano, Flugelhorn)
Mickey Roker (Drums)
Airto Moreira (Percussion)
Jack Manno (Conductor)
Al Gafa (Electric Guitar) - 1-6,8
Bob Cranshaw (Double Bass) - 1-6,8
Andy Bey (Vocals) - 2,3
Flora Purim (Vocals) - 7,9,10
Bebeto Jose Souza (Double Bass) - 7,9,10
Dorio Ferreira (Guitar) - 7,9,10
The New York Group Singers' Big Band (Choir) - 1-6,8

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Leon Parker - Awakening

There was a time when many of Leon Parker's contemporaries thought the man was several cents short of a dollar. A cursory glance at the jazz drummer's gear in the 1980s appeared to confirm the suspicion that he was a little kooky: Parker's drum kit consisted of a single cymbal. No trap drum, no tom-toms, no hi-hat, just that lone cymbal. Now, minimalism in improvisational music rhythm-keeping has a long and storied history, but this? Parker would go on to add snare and a floor tom and bass to his spartan set-up, but that's about it. Less is more is an apt description of his philosophy. Awakening, his new album on Columbia, further illuminates Parker's status as a major innovator. For this session, Parker incorporates a panoply of musical influences from the African Diaspora. The percussionist is joined by like-minded musicians whose playing enhances the album's fiercely creative force. On "All My Life," the opening track, Parker effortlessly moves from conga to clave, slapping out polyrhythms beneath poet Tracie Morris' sparse, impressionistic lyric concerning spiritual awareness. Her incantatory style meshes well with the almost hypnotic pulse of the Parker-penned composition. Whether she is lovingly shaping phrases or repeating single words, mantralike, Morris subtly draws listeners into her dreamy world. Hovering above the percussive stew is Sam Newsome's alto and soprano saxophone. His playing is richly imaginative, ululating like a bird's cry here, drawing out extended notes elsewhere. As on all the cuts on the album, rhythm predominates. Co-written by Parker and vocalist/percussionist Natalie Cushman, "Tokyo" is wonderfully exotic yet deftly manages to skirt parody. Indeed, the composition offers only a feint nod to the East, providing instead a herky-jerky pulse that summons up images of a lushly verdant South American forest. Parker's marimba is liltingly songlike, melodically hinting at Coltrane's "India." Congas add to the rhythmic depth of the piece. Wilson's soprano work both reinforces the groove and offers imaginative variations of the melody. A threesome of vocalists offers background chanting with a West African flavor. "It Is What It Is," the album's longest track, is the most fetching. Ugonna Okegwo's sonorous bass opens things. In short order, Parker's conga insinuates itself into the rhythmic flow. Still, it is Adam Cruz's ringing steel-pan drumming that captures one's attention. Whether rattling off quick bursts of high-pitched notes, reiterating the song's catchily melodic theme or commenting on Sam Newsome's flighty soprano saxophone, Cruz shines. Rarely has this instrument been employed in such an artful manner; pay particular attention to Cruz's expertly executed second solo. Although Cruz and to a lesser extent Newsome command the spotlight, Parker is content to provide rhythmic flourishes; he seems to know the difference between gratuitous showmanship and genuine leadership. As song titles like "Awakening," "Enlightenment" and "Peaceful Dream" suggest, this album conveys a sense of spirituality. Not the fire and brimstone raging of red-faced evangelicals; rather, there's a feeling of becalmed dedication to a transcendent higher force. Indeed, one can say of Awakening that it is a nondidactic sound tract expressing love and devotion to that higher force through the joyful sound of music. One thing is certain, Leon Parker is a seeker whose tireless quest for musical perfection cannot be questioned, only admired.- by Nicky Baxter, Metroactive.com

Artist: Leon Parker
Album: Awakening
Year: 1998
Label: Sony/Columbia
Runtime: 51:17

Tracks: 
1.  All My Life (Leon Parker) 5:54
2.  Tokyo (Leon Parker/Natalie Cushman) 4:52
3.  It is What it is (Leon Parker) 9:19
4.  Mother Earth (Lisa Parker) 5:02
5.  Cruz (Leon Parker) 6:09
6.  Axe Bahia (Leon Parker/Sam Newsome) 5:00
7.  Enlightenment (Leon Parker) 2:53
8.  Awakening (Leon Parker) 6:11
9.  Peaceful Dream (Leon Parker/Natalie Cushman) 5:52

Personnel:
Leon Parker (Congas, Bell, Caxixi, Marimba, Clavé, Rattle, Piano, Ashiko, Snare Drum and Gong) - 1-3,5-9
Natalie Cushman (Gourds, Shekere, Caxixi, Ashiko and Vocals) - 1-4,8,9
Steve Wilson (Alto and Soprano Saxophone, Alto Flute) - 1,2,5,8,9
Sam Newsome (Soprano Saxophone) - 3,6
Adam Cruz (Steel Pan and Bell) - 3,5,8
Rita Silva (Vocals, Clavé and Wood Block) - 3,6,8
Lisa Parker (Flute) - 4,9
Tracie Morris (Vocals) - 1
Ugonna Okegwo (Bass) - 3
Elisabeth Kontomanou (Vocals) - 4,8
Ray Cruz (Timbales) - 5

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

John Coltrane - Settin' the Pace

Tenor saxophonist John Coltrane recorded quite a few records with the rhythm section of pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Art Taylor during 1957-1958. On this particular CD reissue, Coltrane performs "Rise and Shine," "I See Your Face Before Me," "If There Is Someone Lovelier Than You," and "Little Melonae." But more significant than the material are Coltrane's searching and passionate improvisations, which were pointing the way toward the future. This music
(along with Trane's other Prestige recordings) is also available as part of his huge Prestige Recordings box set. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: John Coltrane
Album: Settin' the Pace
Year: 1958 (Prestige)
Label: JVC Japan XRCD (2002)
Runtime: 40:46
Recording: at the Van Gelder Recording Studio, Hackensack, USA (03.26.1958)

Tracks:
1.  I See Your Face Before Me (Howard Dietz/Arthur Schwartz) 10:00
2.  If There Is Someone Lovelier Than You (Howard Dietz/Arthur Schwartz) 7:15
3.  Little Melonae (Jackie McLean)  14:08
4.  Rise 'N' Shine (Buddy DeSylva / Vincent Youmans) 9:23

Personnel:
John Coltrane (Tenor Saxophone)
Red Garland (Piano)
Paul Chambers (Double Bass)
Arthur Taylor (Drums)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Hughes de Courson - Mozart In Egypt

Hughes de Courson, member of the vintage French folk group Malicorne, has launched a new career as a musical fusionist on a grand scale. First he gave us Lambarena: Bach to Africa, which, in tribute to Albert Schweitzer, combined the religious music of J.S. Bach with the music of the Gabonese peoples of Africa. On Mozart l'égyptien, Courson unites the (mostly secular) music of W.A. Mozart with the traditional music of Egypt. - by Kurt Keefner, AMG

Artist: Hughes de Courson
Album: Mozart in Egypt
Year: 1997
Label: Virgin Classics
Runtime: 67:56

Tracks: 
1.  Ikhtitaf Fi Assaraya [Die Entführung Aus Dem Serail] 6:39
2.  Double Quartet In F, K. 496 5:32
3.  Lamma Bada Yatathenna/Symphony No. 40 4:48
4.  Mahdiyat [Lullabies] 2:10
5.  Concerto For Oud & Piano No. 23 7:21
6.  Hamilu Lhawa Tahibou/Papageno's Aria 3:25
7.  Yaman Hawa/Thamos, King Of Egypt 4:49
8.  Mawwall 5:04
9.  Double Quartet In E Flat, K. 374 7:23
10.  Ouazat Al Kahira [L'Oca Del Cairo] 3:01
11.  Egyptian Symphony No. 25 6:42
12.  Dhikr/Requiem/Golgotha 11:02

Personnel:
Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra (Orchestra) - 1,3,5-7,10,11
Mostafa Abd el Aziz (Arghul) - 1,2,8,9,11
Mohammed Mostafa (Rabab) - 1,8,9,11
Ibrahim Shahin (Kawal) - 1,2,8,9,11
Nabil Diab (Tabla) - 1,2,8,9,11
Ragab Sadek (Daff, Sagat) - 1,2,8,9,11
Abdou Dagher (Violin) - 3,6,7
Mostafa Abdel Naby (Violin) - 3,6,7
Mamdouh el Gibally (Oud) - 3,6,7
Maged Sourour (Qanun) - 3,6,7
Mohammed Fouda (Ney) - 3,6,7
Safwat Sourour (Tabla) - 3,6,7
Ashraf Essam (Riq) - 3,6,7
Alain Aubin (Vocals) - 4,10
May (Vocals) - 3,7
Rabah Dalil (Darbouka) - 3,7
Ivan Peev (Violin) - 2,9
Dimiter Stankov (Viola) - 2,9
Elka Zacharieva (Cello) - 2,9
Nasredine Dalil (Flute, Vocals) - 1,6
Samira Donya (Vocals) - 4
Henri Agnel (Oud) - 5
Mario Angelov (Piano) - 5
Azzedine Alaoui (Voice) - 6
Hassan el Meghannawaty (Vocals) - 1
Reda Shina (Vocals) - 8
Rosen Ovtcharov (Clarinet) - 9
Jim Cuomo (Clainet) - 1
Mahmoud Osman (Viola) - 9
Giorgi (Godulka) - 10
Aly El Helbany (Vocals) - 12
Maher El Helbany (Vocals) - 12
Mohammed El Helbany (Vocals) - 12
George Kyrillos (Oud) - 12
Radio Sofia Sinfonic Orchestra (Choir [Chidren]) - 12

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Oregon - Distant Hills

Distant Hills, Oregon's 1973 follow-up to Music From Another Present Era, is as eclectic, genre-bending, and pleasurable as its predecessor. The unique talents of multi-instrumentalists Collin Walcott, Glen Moore, Ralph Towner, and Paul McCandless work together in a fashion that recalls the collective precision of 20th-century classical chamber music, yet with the range and improvisatory flair of jazz. Like most of Oregon's output, Distant Hills is marked by forays into trans-global sounds. The sitar-fueled "Dark Spirit," for example, conjures uneasy, snake-charmer dreams, and the bongos-and-violin duet of "Mi Chinita Suite" sounds like an avant-garde recital in the Amazon. The high, reedy keen of "Confession" and the dramatic shape-shifting of "Canyon Song" testify to the fact that although Oregon's music is quite accessible, at its root it is dedicated to vital experimentation. - AMG

Artist: Oregon
Album: Distant Hills
Year: 1974
Label: Vanguard (1987)
Runtime: 43:40

Tracks:
1.  Aurora (Ralph Towner) 7:42
2.  Dark Spirit (Ralph Towner) 5:50
3.  Mi Chinita (Ralph Towner / Collin Walcott / Glen Moore / Paul McCandless) 6:57
4.  Distant Hills (Ralph Towner) 6:30
5.  Canyon Song (Ralph Towner) 4:59
6.  Song For A Friend (Ralph Towner) 5:19
7.  Confession (Ralph Towner / Collin Walcott / Glen Moore / Paul McCandless) 6:23

Personnel:
Glen Moore (Double Bass, Violin, Bass Guitar, Piano, Flute)
Ralph Towner (Guitar, Trumpet, Mellophone, Piano)
Paul McCandless (Oboe, English Horn, )
Collin Walcott (Sitar, Tabla, Tambura, Piano, Marimba, Drums, Guitar, Congas, Clarinet)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Duke Ellington - Afro Bossa + Concert In The Virgin Islands

Afro Bossa:
Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn combined old and new compositions to create the album Afro-Bossa, a suite consisting of a dozen pieces that was never performed in its entirety in concert, though several of the works remained in the band's repertoire. The title cut is a new work, though the "Bossa" does not refer to Brazilian music; instead, it is a mix of African and Latin influences that slowly builds with insistent percussion to a blazing finale of brass and reeds. "Purple Gazelle" (which was also recorded as "Angelica" in Ellington's small group session with John Coltrane, was described by the pianist as a "ragtime cha-cha." Cootie Williams (on muted trumpet), Ray Nance, Paul Gonsalves, and the composer are all featured soloists. Ellington returns to the jungle sound with the exotic "Moonbow," showcasing a trio of dissonant clarinets and Nance's effective plunger mute work on trumpet, along with the matchless altoist Johnny Hodges. Strayhorn's "Tigress" puts the spotlight on Gonsalves, Williams, and clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton in an infectious Latin setting. "Pyramid" dates from 1938, written by Ellington with Juan Tizol, but it is trombonist Lawrence Brown who takes over Tizol's role, along with contributions by baritonist Harry Carney and Williams. This is easily one of Duke Ellington's essential studio recordings of the 1960s, though it isn't as widely recognized as it ought to be. - by Ken Dryden, AMG

Concert in the Virgin Islands:
Although in his mid-60s, Duke Ellington proves on this program of mostly new music that he never declined nor lost his creativity. Four of the pieces comprise "The Virgin Islands Suite," and there are new versions of "Things Ain't What They Used to Be" and "Chelsea Bridge," and also a variety of miniature classics. In 1965 the Ellington orchestra had 11 very distinctive soloists; eight are heard from during this memorable set. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Duke Ellington and His Orchestra
Album: Afro-Bossa + Concert in the Virgin Islands
Year: 1963, 1965 (Warner Bros.)
Label: Reprise (2000)
Runtime: 72:25

Tracks:
1.  Afro-Bossa (Duke Ellington) 4:17 sam
2.  Purple Gazelle (Duke Ellington) 2:45
3.  Absinthe (Billy Strayhorn) 3:20
4.  Moonbow (Duke Ellington) 2:30
5.  Sempre Amore (Duke Ellington) 3:11
6.  Silk Lace (Duke Ellington) 2:30
7.  Tigress (Billy Strayhorn) 3:03
8.  Angu (Duke Ellington) 2:37
9.  Volupté (Duke Ellington) 2:42
10.  Bonga (Duke Ellington) 2:45
11.  Pyramid (Duke Ellington / Irving Mills) 3:00
12.  Eighth Veil (Billy Strayhorn) 2:48
13.  Island Virgin (Duke Ellington / Billy Strayhorn) 4:20
14.  Virgin Jungle (Duke Ellington / Billy Strayhorn) 3:45
15.  Fiddler on the Diddle (Duke Ellington) 3:13
16.  Jungle Kitty (Duke Ellington / Billy Strayhorn) 2:55
17.  Things Ain't What They Used To Be (Duke Ellington / Ted Persons) 2:56
18.  Big Fat Alice's Blues (Duke Ellington / Billy Strayhorn) 3:48
19.  Chelsie Bridge (Billy Strayhorn) 3:40
20.  The Opener (Cootie Williams / Duke Ellington) 2:45
21.  Mysterious Chick (Duke Ellington / Billy Strayhorn) 3:11
22.  Barefoot Stomper (Duke Ellington / Billy Strayhorn) 2:48
23.  Fade Up (Jimmy Hamilton / Duke Ellington) 3:36

Personnel:
Duke Ellington (Piano, Conductor, Arramger)
Cat Anderson (Trumpet, Percussion)
Roy Burrowes (Trumpet, Percussion)
Cootie Williams (Trumpet, Percussion)
Ray Nance (Cornet, Violin)
Lawrence Brown (Trombone)
Buster Cooper (Trombone)
Chuck Connors (Bass Trombone)
Russell Procope (Alto Saxophone, Clarinet)
Johnny Hodges (Alto Saxophone)
Jimmy Hamilton (Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone)
Paul Gonsalves (Tenor Saxophone)
Harry Carney (Baritone Saxophone, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet)
Billy Strayhorn (Piano, Percussion)
Ernie Shepherd (Double Bass)
Sam Woodyard (Drums)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Babatunde Olatunji - Drums of Passion: The Beat

Percussionist Olatunji was championing African music long before anyone devised the worldbeat marketing strategy. His 1989 recording Drums of Passion: The Beat updated his classic Drums of Passion concept, adding rock and pop energy and instrumentalists to the wall of multiple rhythms. The idea clicks, and Olatunji's African beats are contrasted by Airto Moreira's Latin percussion, Mickey Hart's bombastic presence, and such special guests as Carlos Santana and Bobby Vega. - by Ron Wynn, AMG

Artist: Babatunde Olatunji
Album: Drums of Passion: The Beat
Year: 1989
Label: Rykodisc
Runtime: 40:08

Tracks:
1.  The Beat of My Drum 7:09
2.  Loyin Loyin 7:32
3.  Ife L'oju L'aiye 6:49
4.  Akiwowo (a capella) 1:40
5.  Akiwowo 7:45
6.  Se Eni A Fe L'amo - Kere Kere 9:13
All compositions by Babatunje Olatunji 

Personnel:
Babatunde Olatunji (Lead Vocals, Drums and Ngoma Drums)
Carlos Santana (Guitar and Guitar Synthesizer)
Sarah Abakusta (Vocals)
Sikiru Adepoju (Talking Drum)
Rotimi Byrd (Ojembe Drum)
Frank Ekeh (Guitar, Agogo and Vocals)
Marijah Especialze (Agogo, Shekere and Vocals)
Sanga Francis (Djembe)
C.K. Ganyo (Bembe)
Ade Harris (Djembe)
Sundiata Keita (Djembe)
Joseph Bruce Langhorne (Guitar, Agogo, Vocals)
Airto Moreira (Caxixi)
Babafunmi Ohene (Djembe, Log Drum)
Iyalu Okanbi (Vocals)
Soji Randolph (Vocals)
Alfred C. Redwine (Guitar)
Gordy Ryan (Junjun, Toke Bell and Vocals)
Carolyn Sebron (Vocals)
Ayisha Shabaaz (Vocals)
Taiwo Duvall Shabaaz (Ashiko Drum)
Yao Tamakloe (Vocals)
Bobby Vega (Bass Guitar)

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