Monday, January 31, 2011

Trio Stendhal - Earthsound

László Dés founded the Hungarian jazz band Trio Stendhal with Ferenc Snétberger and Kornél Horváth. They played chamber music in a unique line-up and had extraordinary success all over the world. The band toured in Austria, Italy, Spain and other countries of Europe, but even in India. -

Artist: Trio Stendhal
Album: Earthsound
Year: 1991
Label: Tom Tom Records (2009)
Runtime: 44:30

1.  Gipsy Mountain (Ferenc Snétberger) 6:06
2.  Shanti (Laszlo Des/Ferenc Snétberger) 5:43
3.  Earthsound (Laszlo Des/Ferenc Snétberger/Kornel Horvath) 7:29
4.  Theme For Angela (Ferenc Snétberger) 5:27
5.  Fanny & My Father (Laszlo Des) 5:09
6.  Galima (Laszlo Des/Kornel Horvath) 4:18
7.  Out Of Brazil (Laszlo Des/Ferenc Snétberger/Kornel Horvath) 8:18
8.  Lullaby For All Children (Ferenc Snétberger) 1:56

Laszlo Des (Tenor and Soprano Saxophone)
Ferenc Snétberger (Guitar)
Kornel Horvath (Percussion)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chuck Mangione - The Feeling's Back

Chuck Mangione laid low throughout much of the '90s, perhaps the end result of a disappointing string of albums for Columbia during the '80s. He returned to the road in 1997 and evidently it was a positive experience, since he returned to the studio the following year to cut The Feeling's Back. For all intents and purposes, The Feeling's Back is a comeback album, finding Mangione returning to the smooth, melodic style of Feels So Good, but laying off the sappy pop tendencies that dogged his '80s efforts. Although the end result is a little monotonous -- many of the tracks are quiet and slowly swinging, blending together into one long track -- it's charmingly laid-back, mellow and melodic, all of the things that brought Mangione fame and fortune in the '70s. There isn't a whole lot in the way of "real" jazz here -- the solos are extensions of the themes, and they never stand apart from the lite groove -- but this has the "feeling" that Mangione fans have been waiting to feel again. And that's enough to make it a successful comeback.  - by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AMG

I discovered Chuck Mangione in 1974, my freshman year at C.U. He was the darling of a local jazz station, long since vanished from the airwaves. I saw Chuck and his quartet at the legendary Tulage's on The Hill, in Boulder. I was close enough to touch the band and was blown away. The music was direct, the melodies flowed easily, and musicianship was second to none. I followed Chuck through college. The next time I saw him was with the full orchestra and Ester Saterfield at C.U.'s Mackey auditorium. The music was still great - Belavia had just been released, but it was more commercial. Chuck had been discovered by the masses, and the music seemed to be written more for the masses than for himself, and, while great, was strained. The Feeling is Back will probably disappoint those who only knew Chuck once he caught on with the "smooth jazz" format stations, but it will thrill those who loved Chuck's early work. No orchestra, a very tight group, and a lyric command of the flugel horn that demonstrates Chuck's technique has only improved with age. The new material, too, is top flight, especially Chuck's tunes, such as Once Upon a Love Time. Effortless, beautiful, naturally flowing melody performed with unparalleled musicianship. Given the commercial direction Chuck's music took after Chase the Clouds Away, I thought I was taking a flier on buying this disc. What I found is nothing short of a modern masterpiece. The Feeling is Back . . . way back. - by A Customer,

Artist: Chuck Mangione
Album: The Feeling's Back
Year: 1998
Label: Chesky (High Resolution Technology, 1999)
Runtime: 57:00

1.  Mountain Flight (Toninho Horta) 4:51
2.  Consuelo's Love Theme (Chuck Mangione) 7:39
3.  Leonardo's Lady (Chuck Mangione) 6:36
4.  Fotografia (Antonio Carlos Jobim) 6:05
5.  Quase (Mario Adnet/Carlos Sandroni) 3:34
6.  Aldovia (Chuck Mangione) 5:06
7.  Once Upon A Love Time (Chuck Mangione) 5:59
8.  Manha De Carnaval (Luis Bonfa/Francois Llenas/Antonio Maria) 8:25
9.  Maracangalha (Dorival Cyammi) 3:51
10.  Le Vie En Rose (Mack David/Louis Gugliemi/Edith Piaf) 4:50

Chuck Mangione (Flugelhorn)
Cliff Korman (Piano and Keyboards)
Jay Azzolina (Guitar)
Paulo Braga (Drums)
Café (Percussion)
David Finck (Double Bass and Bass Guitar)
Kip Reid (Bass Guitar) - 3,7
Sarah Carter (Cello)
Gerry Niewood (Flute and Alto Flute)
Maucha Adnet (Vocals)
Jackie Presti (Vocals)
Annette Sanders (Vocals)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Native Ground - One Fine Mama

One Fine Mama is a new release, by Native Ground, that achieves a unique synthesis of diverse cultures. Recorded live in a concert hall in France, this remarkable blend of aboriginal didgeridoo, African percussion, marimba and guitar creates music with an intense pulse and earthy melodies. Gordy Ryan (percussion) has performed and recorded with Baba Olatunji, Mickey Hart, Gabrielle Roth, Airto and Carlos Santana. Al Schackman (marimba and guitars) is currently the guitarist and musical director for the legendary Nina Simone. Gary Thomas (didgeridoo) has performed and recorded with Tim Wheaater and Gabrielle Roth... - from AMG

Artist: Native Ground
Album: One Fine Mama
Year: 1992
Label: Raven (1993)
Runtime: 56:10

1.  One Fine Mama 5:27 
2.  Sister's Gonna Dance Now 6:03 
3.  Side by Side 5:46 
4.  Dreamwalker 4:29 
5.  Within the Volcano 4:58 
6.  Ancestral Spirit 8:40 
7.  Embers 5:49 
8.  Urban Warrior 3:52 
9.  Midnight Crossing 3:16 
10.  Open Sky 7:44 
All compositions Gordy Ryan, Al Schackman, Gary Thomas

Gordy Ryan (Percussion)
Al Schackman (Guitar, Balafon)
Gary Thomas (Didgeridoo)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Toumani Diabate - Kaira

Toumani Diabate, like Foday Musa Suso, is regarded as one of the greatest living virtuosos on the kora, the 21-string West African harp-lute. Coming from a prominent musical family in the country of Mali, Diabate showcases his reputation as an inventive and lyrical performer on Kaira, his first solo album. The five pieces represent some of the classic kora works, and, at five to ten minutes in length, they allow Diabate plenty of time to stretch out and reveal his dazzling virtuosity. The tunes are all built around a solid bassline and a basic melodic theme around which Diabate improvises, producing a richly ornamented sound that is lively, fluid and engaging. - from AMG

Artist: Toumani Diabate
Album: Kaira
Year: 1987
Label: Hannibal (1988)
Runtime: 28:31

1.  Alla L'aa Ke (Traditional) 5:09
2.  Jarabi (Toumani Diabate) 3:35
3.  Kaira (Toumani Diabate) 5:44
4.  Konokoba (Toumani Diabate) 7:22
5.  Tubaka (Toumani Diabate) 6:39

Toumane Diabate (Kora)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

David Murray - Ballads

Ballads is one of David Murray's finest records. Like the three other excellent DIW releases that came from the same productive New York session of January 1988 (Spirituals, Deep River, and Lovers), it contains a mix of originals by Murray, pianist Dave Burrell, and drummer Ralph Peterson Jr., and it also includes fine bass work by Fred Hopkins. The rapport these players have on this record is stunning. They effortlessly move through a program of cool yet smart after-hours explorations that, in spite of the multi-layered arrangements, come out sounding almost artless. Of the six originals, two are penned by Murray: the touching, melancholic waltz "Love in Resort" and the graceful, pathos-driven piece "Ballad for the Black Man." Murray displays his usual inventiveness of phrasing and tone on these and the rest of the album's numbers but thankfully suppresses his penchant for gratuitous outbursts, keeping his solos flowing. This sort of studied, yet loose playing is heard from all the quartet members, including Peterson, who, like Murray, also has the tendency to eat up the scenery. Peterson also contributes the sophisticated "Lady in Black," which elicits some of Murray's most creative playing of the date. The fine, mostly straightforward originals by Murray and Peterson are complimented by Burrell's rhythmically sophisticated pieces like the tango-calypso hybrid "Valley Talk" and multi-tempo boss nova "Paradise Five." The set ends with Murray joining Burrell on the pianist's bravura duet "Sarah's Lament." Ballads is an excellent set on all levels and even the sound is superb. One of the best albums of the '80s. - by Stephen Cook, AMG

Artist: David Murray
Album: Ballads
Year: 1988
Label: DIW Records
Runtime: 46:32

1.  Valley Talk (Dave Burrell) 7:14
2.  Love In Resort (David Murray) 4:44
3.  Ballad for the Black Man (David Murray) 11:02
4.  Paradise Five (Dave Burrell) 8:19
5.  Lady in Black (Ralph Peterson Jr.) 8:00
6.  Sarah's Lament (Dave Burrell) 7:11

David Murray (Tenor Saxophone)
Dave Burrell (Piano)
Fred Hopkins (Double Bass)
Ralph Peterson Jr. (Drums)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia - Breathless

"This album was conceived as a series of street moods, hence the titles, short, to the point, and reminiscent of typical street slang... Listening to "Bad Blues", you have to imagine the large metropolis in the early hours with neon lights glimmering off wet pavements an the night people going about their business... "Sax Rap" features Barbara's original talking saxophone, instead of the more romance amidst the chaos of the city... "You must Be Jokin'" is a piece based on a typically English phrase, and dedicated to Ronnie Scott, his incredibly funny jokes and his internationally famous Jazz Club in the heart of London's Soho... where you would probably sit sipping that long cool drink while tapping your toes to "Jaunty"... "Cheeky" mirrors the bright costumes and festive atmosphere of any big City's Carnival week... "Squiffy" reflects the feeling of being high on anything that turns you on... "Gracey" is both graceful and folky, yearning for the neauty and peace so hard to find in the concrete jungle... from the CD cover

Artist: Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia
Album: Breathless
Year: 1990-91
Label: veraBra (1991)
Runtime: 61:44

1.  Breathless 9:25 
2.  Sax Rap 6:48 
3.  Jaunty 4:14 
4.  You Must Be Jokin' 6:03 
5.  Squiffy 6:57 
6.  Bad Blues 3:33 
7.  Cheeky 6:40 
8.  Gracey 6:26 
9.  Breathless (Short Cut) 3:53 
10.  Sax Rap (Short Cut) 4:23 
11.  Cheeky (Short Cut) 3:17 
All compositions by Barbara Thompson

Barbara Thompson (Alto and Soprano Saxophones, Alto Flute)
Jon Hiseman (Drums)
Peter Lemer (Piano, Synthesizer)
Malcolm MacFarlane (Electric and Acoustic Guitar)
Phil Mulford (Bass Guitar)
Hossam Ramzy (Percussion) - 1
Noel Langley (Trumpet) - 2,7
Ashley Slater (Trombone) - 2,7
Frank Holder (Congas and Bongos) - 7

Friday, January 21, 2011

Keith Jarrett - Treasure Island

Originally an Impulse LP that surfaced on MCA as a straight reissue on CD, this fine recording features pianist Keith Jarrett's best regular group. Dewey Redman is heard from on tenor, bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Paul Motian and percussionists Guilherme Franco and Danny Johnson are superb in ensembles and guitarist Sam Brown guests on two selections. The emphasis is on the band's sound and Jarrett's rich melodies; he contributed eight originals to this enjoyable modern set. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

It's great to see this beautiful album back in print at an affordable price! I stumbled upon an earlier edition in a bargain bin while record shopping one day about 20 years ago. I didn't know much about it, but glancing at the CD jacket I read the names of Paul Motian, Dewey Redman, and Charlie Haden. That was a good enough indicator for me, so I snatched it up and headed for the register. I'm no music critic or educated musician, I just love soulful music coming from the heart, and this is it! The other extremely brief review here mentions the word organic, and that's as close as a one word description could be. The music on Treasure Island is earthy, gospel infused modern jazz, informed by folk music influences, and driven by the spirit of improvisation. Oh, and Ornette Coleman too! This record is also full of lovely melodies I find truly inspiring. Keith Jarrett, Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, and Paul Motian are all supreme artists possessing unique musical voices , and this was a very special group. They made a number of other recordings for the Impulse label, but Treasure Island is probably the most appealing and accessible album for the uninitiated.The quartet is augmented by Guilherme Brown and Danny Johnson on percussion. Sam Brown plays guitar on the title track, and Sister Fortune. - by Star Thrower,

Artist: Keith Jarrett
Album: Treasure Island
Year: 1974
Label: Impulse (1988)
Total time: 44:14

1.  The Rich (and The Poor) 9:23 
2.  Blue Streak 2:34 
3.  Fullsuvollivus (Fools Of All Of Us) 6:28 
4.  Treasure Island 4:19 
5.  Introduction & Yaqui Indian Folk Song (K. Jarrett/Traditional 2:17 
6.  Le Mistral 9:22 
7.  Angles (Without Edges) 5:22 
8.  Sister Fortune 4:26 
All compositions by Keith Jarrett

Keith Jarrett (Piano, Soprano Saxophone and Osi Drum)
Dewey Redman (Tenor Saxophone and Tambourine)
Charlie Haden (Double Bass)
Paul Motian (Drums and Percussion)
Guilherme Franco (Percussion)
Danny Johnson (Percussion)
Sam Brown (Guitar) - 4,8

Gabor Szabo - Femme Fatale

Released in 1981 on a small Hungarian label, this 1978 session recorded in Hollywood is the guitarist's final record. "Out of the Night" interestingly pairs him with pianist Chick Corea. But the remainder of the record is a standard late-'70s fusion date without Corea, highlighted by the Return to Forever intrigue of "A Thousand Times." - by Douglas Payne, AMG

Jazz guitar greats have always been in short supply. The father of the instrument was Charlie Christian who died in his early 20's, the incredible Wes Montgomery died very young, thankfully we still have the inimitable and superbly tastefull Kenny Burrell, and the fine player-vocalists George Benson and John Pizzarelli. Alas, Hungarian born Gabor Szabo died young also, but no one brought more unique expressiveness and pop excitement, and by his recordings, still does than the Gypsy man Gabor. His mystic-jazz-exotica is instantly recognizable and delicious as well. The fact is, anything he left us from the incredibly creative 60's is a delicacy still to be savored. - by B. London,

Artist: Gabor Szabo
Album: Femme Fatale
Year: 1978
Label: Mambo Records (1998)
Runtime: 36:39

1.  Femme Fatale (Gabor Szabo) 3:41
2.  Zingaro (Antonio Carlos Jobim) 9:21
3.  Serena (James Harrah) 8:17
4.  A Thousand Times (Gabor Szabo) 8:09
5.  Out of the Night (Chick Corea) 7:09

Gabor Szabo (Guitar)
Chick Corea (Piano)
Jim Keltner (Drums)
Paulinho da Costa (Percussion)
Jerry Hey (Trumpet, Trombone)
Kim Hutchcroft (Saxophone)
Bud Nuanez (Guitar)
Ken Wild (Bass Guitar)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya - African River

For this excellent date, pianist Abdullah Ibrahim performs eight of his compositions with a particularly strong group of players: trombonist Robin Eubanks, John Stubblefield on tenor and flute, Horace Alexander Young switching between soprano, alto and piccolo, Howard Johnson on tuba, baritone and trumpet, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Brian Abrahams. But more important than the individual players are the colorful ensembles and the frequently memorable compositions. Highlights include "African River," "Sweet Samba," "Duke 88" and a beautiful version of "The Wedding." - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Abdullah Ibrahim (aka. Dollar Brand) & Ekaya
Album: African River
Year: 1989
Label: Enja
Total time: 45:38

1.  Toi-Toi 3:30 
2.  African River 9:47 
3.  Joan - Capetown Flower 5:50 
4.  Chisa 4:27 
5.  Sweet Samba 5:56 
6.  Duke 88 8:31 
7.  The Wedding 3:59 
8.  The Mountain of the Night 3:34 
All compositions by Abdullah Ibrahim

Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) (Piano)
Robin Eubanks (Trombone)
John Stubblefield (Flute, Tenor Saxophone and Piccolo)
Horace Alexander Young (Soprano and Alto Saxophone, Piccolo)
Howard Johnson (Tuba, Trumpet and Baritone Saxophone)
Buster Williams (Double Bass)
Brian Adams (Drums)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Kip Hanrahan - Vertical's Currency

Sting founded the Pangea label in the mid-'80s, unearthing some important and overlooked recordings from the defunct American Clave catalogue, much to the delight of ears lucky enough to hear (as a side note, some of tango sensation Astor Piazolla's most important work would be lost were it not for the mining of such treasure). Such is the case for Kip Hanrahan, a soulful, New York-based percussionist and producer who unleashed two particularly fantastic albums -- Days and Nights of Blue Luck Inverted and Vertical's Currency -- a lush, sensuous Afro-Cubano feast for the ears that is so warm as to engulf the listener with flames. There is a wonderful spirit to "Shadow Song," an instantly recognizable anthem of Ricky Ricardo cliché that roars with boisterous horn arrangements, congas, cowbells, and vocals of uncanny, third-person self-analysis: "Today I have these blues that are wittier than me/That jokes with my girlfriend while drinking my rum." "Smiles and Grins" follows with tight polyrhythms that snap and clap along with syncopated piano clusters, as vocalist Jack Bruce hurriedly lilts beat poetry through the chord changes that only twice pause for contemplation. Elsewhere in the disc there is an element of sultry longing and hot Miami sunsets, as with "Two Heartedly, To the Other Side," "Make Love 2," and "Dark (Kip's Tune)." It is with this all-star cast of the New York underground jazz fusion scene that Hanrahan finds such rich moods, textures, and symbiosis. Steve Swallow on the bass rarely disappoints, and both guitarist/avant-gardist Arto Lidsay and keyboardist Peter Scherer, who together comprise the group Ambitious Lovers, fill out the room with equally reliable musicianship. Vertical's Currency overflows with rich contributions in an organic stew of worldly fusion that slinks through the city streets after hours. Find this album and pounce on it. - by Keir Langley, AMG

Artist: Kip Hanrahan
Album: Vertical's Currency
Year: 1984
Label: American Clavé
Total time: 40:33

1.  A Small Map of Heaven 5:21 
2.  Shadow Song (Mario's In) 4:05 
3.  Smiles and Grins 3:09 
4.  Two Heartedly. To the Other Side 3:12 
5.  Chances Are Good (Baden's Distance) 5:12 
6.  Make Love 2 4:27 
7.  One Casual Song (After Another) 3:09 
8.  Intimate Distances (Jack's Margaret's Natasha) 3:00 
9.  Describing it To Yourself as Convex 4:17 
10.  What Do You Think? That This Mountain Was Once On Fire? 1:41 
11.  Dark (Kip's Tune) 2:55 

Kip Hanrahan (Percussion)
Ignacio Berroa (Trap Drums)
Jack Bruce (Vocals, Bass Guitar and Piano)
Milton Cardona (Congas, Bongos)
Arto Lindsay (Electric Guitar)
David Murray (Tenor Saxophone)
Puntilla Orlando Rios (Quinto, Congas)
Peter Scherer (Synclavier and Organ)
Steve Swallow (Bass Guitar)
Anton Fier (Trap Drums) - 3,6
Friesner Augustin (Tambou, Quinto) - 7,8
Elysee Pyronneau (Electric Guitar) - 7
Olufemi Claudette Mitchell (Chekere) - 1
Mario Rivera (Baritone Saxophone) - 2
Ned Rothenberg (Tenor Saxophone) - 2
Richie Vitale (Trumpet) - 2
Lew Soloff (Trumpet) - 2
Nancy Weiss (Vocals) - 11

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cal Tjader - Sentimental Moods

Fantasy Records is to be commended for re-releasing so many of their classic Cal Tjader albums in the budget-priced two-for-one CD format, even if Sentimental Moods features one of their odder pairings. The first ten selections are culled from the dreamy mood music album Latin for Lovers (aka Latin for Lovers With Strings), and the final ten are from San Francisco Moods, a lean and mean West Coast jazz ode to his hometown. While these two sessions don't really go together, they do show you the breadth of what Tjader was recording for Fantasy at the time. While the Latin for Lovers selections aren't really Latin jazz (or even "Latin" or "jazz," for that matter), it is superior mood music with fine string arrangements written by Jack Weeks. If all lounge music was this good, the term couldn't be used as an insult. The soloists don't really stretch out at all, but Tjader, pianist Vince Guaraldi, and flutist Paul Horn each make their presence felt on regal, melodic passages. Willie Bobo and Mongo Santamaria are on the session, but unlike their sizzling one-track cameo on the next session's "Viva Cepeda," they are only around to keep strict time. So while the first half of the disc is upscale easy listening, those culled from San Francisco Moods show how underrated Tjader was at mainstream small-group jazz. Tjader starts out the session on piano, but on most tracks his vibraphone skills are given a real chance to shine. Tjader was always a giving group leader and guitarist Eddie Duran and the rest of the quartet are featured prominently. San Francisco Moods is an exhilarating session, one that veers from gritty, hard-swinging romps to uptown "chamber jazz" and back again without a hitch. Cal Tjader had such great success with Latin jazz that listeners and critics have tended to forget that he really was a major part of the cool West Coast jazz scene and that he recorded all kinds of music throughout his career. This CD reissue is a must-have for Cal Tjader fans and one that reminds people how far-reaching the vibraphonist's mainstream musical talent really was.- by Nick Dedina, AMG

Artist: Cal Tjader
Album: Sentimental Moods
(originally realised Latin for Lovers [1-10] and San Francisco Moods [11-20])
Year: 1958
Label: Fantasy (1995)
Total time: 72:52

1.  I Should Care (Axel Stordahl/Paul Weston/Sammy Cahn) 2:36
2.  Spring Is Here (Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers) 2:39
3.  Time Was (Bob Russell/Gabriel Luna/Manuel Prado) 2:59
4.  Star Eyes (Don Raye/Gene DePaul) 3:17
5.  Stella By Starlight (Ned Washington/Victor Young) 3:16
6.  Alone Together (Arthur Schwartz/Howard Dietz) 4:29
7.  Ode to a Beat Generation (Jack Weeks) 2:20
8.  Skylark (Hoagy Carmichael/Johnny Mercer) 2:39
9.  Martha (Mongo Santamaria)  3:10
10.  Quizas, Quizas, Quizas (Joe Davis/Osvaldo Farrés) 4:01
11.  Running Out (Cal Tjader) 3:25
12.  Raccoon Strait (Cal Tjader) 2:28
13.  The Last Luff (Cal Tjader) 3:41
14.  Sigmund Stern Groove (John Mosher) 4:40
15.  Coit Tower (Cal Tjader) 1:38
16.  Triplet Blues (Cal Tjader) 6:03
17.  Union Square (John Markham) 4:23
18.  Skyline Waltz (John Mosher) 3:46
19.  Viva Cepeda (Cal Tjader)  3:43
20.  The Grant Avenue Suite (Jack Weeks) 7:30

Cal Tjader (Vibes, Piano 11, 13)
Paul Horn (Flute) 1-10
Vince Guaraldi (Piano)  1-10,19
Al McKibbon (Double Bass) 1-10,19
Mongo Santamaria (Drums, Congas and Percussion) 1-10,19
Willie Bobo (Drums, Congas and Percussion) 1-10,19
Boris Blinder (Strings) 1-10
Harry Moulin (Strings) 1-10
Frances Wiener (Strings) 1-10
Eugene Winkler (Strings) 1-10
John Markham (Drums) 11-18,20
Eddie Duran (Guitar) 11-18,20
John Mosher (Bass) 11-18,20
Jack Weeks (Bass) - 20

Friday, January 14, 2011

Jan Garbarek & Ustad Fateh Ali Khan - Ragas and Sagas

The saxophone is not an instrument usually associated with Pakistani music. And Pakistanis are not especially famous for collaborating with Norwegians. But that is what listeners have on this incredible recording. The music is predominantly Pakistani in sound, tonality, and structure; voice, sarangi, and tabla improvise along with Garbarek's saxophone on every track. For aficionados of Indian or Pakistani music, this is a great recording; Garbarek's lines are right in step with the traditional styles of improvisation. Listeners unacquainted with these traditions will find this recording a mesmerizingly exotic disc. Those familiar with Garbarek's work will be very surprised. This is a completely unique recording for him; one can only hope that he makes further explorations in this vein. - by Mark W.B. Allender, AMG

Artist: Jan Garbarek & Ustad Fateh Ali Khan
Album: Ragas and Sagas
Year: 1990
Label: ECM (1992)
Runtime: 51:50

1.  Raga I (Ustad Fateh Ali Khan) 8:38
2.  Saga (Jan Garbarek) 5:25
3.  Raga II (Ustad Fateh Ali Khan) 13:05
4.  Raga III (Ustad Fateh Ali Khan) 11:54
5.  Raga IV (Ustad Fateh Ali Khan) 12:45

Jan Garbarek (Soprano and Tenor Saxophone)
Ustad Fateh Ali Khan (Vocals)
Shaukat Hussain (Tabla)
Nazim Ali Khan (Sarangi)
Deepika Thathaal (Voice)
Manu Katché (Drums) - 2

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jan Garbarek - Legend of the Seven Dreams

Though in step with its time, this release suffers from excessive reliance on ambient synthesizers, which litter much of the recording, rendering it only slightly more interesting than many of the Windham Hill new age recordings of the same era. Unfortunate, because the disc opens with strength and gradually peters out by the end. The disc opens with "He Came From the North," which features a melody based on a traditional Lapp joik from the artist's native Norway and progresses into a longer section with an interplay that is both sparse and rhythmic. The sax line here is astonishingly beautiful. The second piece, "Alchuri, the Song Man," a sax and percussion piece, is energetic and lively as well. And from here the energy gradually diminishes. Much can be attributed to popular styles of the time, but this release simply does not stand up to other music of its genre that came later. - by Mark W.B. Allender, AMG

Artist: Jan Garbarek
ALbum: Legend of Seven Dreams
Year: 1988
Label: ECM
Runtime: 55:24

1.  He Comes From The North 13:41 
2.  Aichuri, The Song Man 5:05 
3.  Tongue Of Secrets 8:17 
4.  Brother Wind 8:10 
5.  It's Name Is Secret Road 1:54 
6.  Send Word 7:25 
7.  Voy Cantando 7:01 
8.  Mirror Stone I 1:19 
9.  Mirror Stone II 2:28 
All compositions by Jan Garbarek

Jan Garbarek (Soprano and Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Percussion)
Rainer Brüninghaus (Keyboards) - 1,3,4,6,7
Nana Vasconcelos (Percussion and Voice) - 1,3,4,6,7
Eberhard Weber (Double Bass) - 3,6

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rahul Sharma - Music of the Himalayas

Rahul Kumar Sharma is a master of the santoor, India's oldest stringed instrument and an ancestor of the hammered dulcimer, and this live album shows the extent of his virtuosity. Accompanied by a tabla player, he shimmers over the melodies (which come from the region of the Himalayas -- hence the title), letting the sounds ebb and flow. Whether tracing a slow tune or spiraling into a ravishing, dizzying improvisation, his command is complete -- as is his communication with his musical partner. The way they work together on the long "Melody of Kashmir in Contemporary Music" is nothing less than stunning; both together and alone they create a total sound, pushing each other along, and taking solos that seem to defy the possibilities of their instruments. It's a tour de force -- but that's true of the entire disc, an object lesson in both the santoor and the playing of ragas and folk tunes. - by Chris Nickson, AMG

People equate the Himalayas with Tibet, but in fact the foothills are in India. This poetic live performance is not energetic, but it is powerful in its subtlety and movement with fine fingerwork of Rahul Sharma coupled with the gentle rippling percussions in the background. A slow melodious journey in classical North Indian music. - Jeevan "jsiva",

Artist: Rahul Sharma
Album: Music of the Himalayas
Year: 2000
Label: Real World (2002)
Total time: 72:33

1.  Maqam-E-Navaa (Sufyana Musiqi) (Traditional/arr. by Rahul Sharma) 10:28
2.  Melody of Kashmir (Traditional/arr. by Rahul Sharma) 13:18
3.  Melody of Jammu & Kashmir (Rahul Sharma) 12:37
4.  Melody of Kashmir in Contemporary Music (Rahul Sharma) 36:09

Rahul Sharma (Santoor)
Ustad Shafat Ahmed Khan (Tabla)
Pandit Bhawani Shankar (Pakhawaj, Hudka and Ghungroo)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ana Caram - Maracana

While holding on tight to her bossa nova base, Caram ranges further afield in this Chesky outing to other strains of Brazilian music, even somewhat outside the country. Caram expands her palette to include a three-piece horn section -- Steve Sacks, Al Hunt (reeds), David Sacks (trombone) -- from whose versatile hands emerge a pocket-sized big band, a soulful flute choir, and other novel combinations. An occasional cello adds a brooding lyrical element, while an Argentine bandoneon sounds a bit cheesy and sentimental, and Caram herself plays an "electric" guitar with nylon strings -- which sounds only slightly more gleaming than an acoustic model. The album's clever title is the name of the title track, Brazil's biggest soccer stadium and an anagram of the singer's own name, though exactly why it reflects Caram's "two sides" as suggested in the packaging remains unclear from the album's contents. While it is a worthwhile experiment, this CD isn't as focused and as attractive as Caram's U.S. debut, Rio After Dark. - by Richard S. Ginell, AMG

Artist: Sonny Rollins
Album: This Is What I Do
Year: 2000
Label: Milestone
Runtime: 48:19

1.  Africando (Lula Barbosa/Wismar Rabello) 3:46
2.  Maybe (Luis Simas/Ellen Schwartz) 3:38
3.  De flor em flor (From Flower to Flower) (Djavan) 5:49
4.  Sem querer (You'll Never Know) (Harry Warren/Mack Gordon) 3:00
5.  Bem querer (Chevallier Servante) (Taeko Onuki/Nelson Motta) 3:58
6.  La Mentira (The Lie) (Alvaro Carrillo) 3:31
7.  A voz do morro (The Voice on the Hill) (Alvaro Carrillo) 4:12
8.  Lindeza (Beauty) (Caetano Veloso) 3:40
9.  Rio de Janeiro (Ary Barbosa) 3:57
10.  "Nossos amores" que reste-t-il de nos amours (I Wish You Love) (Charles Trenet/Leda Spinardi) 3:50
11.  Papel maché (Paper Maché) (Joao Bosco-Capinan) 4:09
12.  Maracana (Francis Hime/Paulo Cesar Pinheiro) 5:11


Ana Caram (Vocals and Guitar)
Cliff Korman (Piano and Synthesizer)
David Finck (Double Bass)
Duduka da Fonseca (Drums and Percussion)
Steve Sacks (Flute, Alto Flute, Tenor and Soprano Saxophone)
Al Hunt (Flute, Alto Flute, Clarinet, Oboe, English Horn)
Erik Friedlander (Cello)
Raul Jaurena (Bandoneon)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

George Coleman - I Could Write a Book

Inspired by a guest spot in a Carnegie Hall Jazz Band tribute to Rodgers and Hart, Coleman organized an entire album around the theme -- with a touch of Hammerstein too. It's a mostly mainstream hard bop session, with Coleman's slightly dry, plain-spoken tone on all three of his instruments -- soprano, alto and tenor -- lending an appropriately lyrical bend to the collection of well-known Rodgers standards; well, its mostly hard bop, "My Favorite Things" is cast perhaps inevitably in the modal Coltrane mold, with Coleman on soprano for good measure, and once in a great while, Coleman lets fly outside the changes. A fine, flexible rhythm section of veterans -- two fellow Memphis colleagues (pianist Harold Mabern, bassist Jamil Nasser) and one Angeleno drummer (Billy Higgins) -- sends Coleman on his way in style. As if in tribute to his rhythm section, Coleman sits out "People Will Say We're in Love" entirely and dukes it out with Higgins on a brief "Thou Swell." This is almost an echo of fellow saxman Joe Henderson's successful tribute formula of the early 1990s, although Henderson's CDs were somewhat more emotionally involving than this. - by Richard S. Ginell, AMG

Artist: George Coleman
Album: I Could Write a Book (The Music of Richard Rodgers)
Year: 1998
Label: Telarc Jazz
Total time: 59:29

1.  Falling In Love With Love (Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers) 5:14
2.  My Funny Valentine (Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers) 6:20
3.  Lover (Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers) 6:50
4.  Bewitched (Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers) 5:20
5.  I Didn't Know What Time It Was (Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers) 4:51
6.  My Favorite Things (Oscar Hammerstein II/Richard Rodgers) 6:06
7.  Have You Met Miss Jones (Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers) 7:57
8.  People Will Say We're In Love (Oscar Hammerstein II/Richard Rodgers) 3:38
9.  I Could Write A Book (Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers) 7:11
10.  Medley: There's A Small Hotel/Where Or When/The Sweetest Sounds (Richard Rodgers)  3:47
11.  Thou Swell (Lorenz Hart/Richard Rodgers) 2:15

George Coleman (Saxophones)
Harold Mabern (Piano)
Jamil Nasser (Double Bass)
Billy Higgins (Drums)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Nits - In the Dutch Mountains

After the synthesized hijinks and tomfoolery that blighted much of Henk, the Nits -- once again a four-piece with the addition of bassist Joke Geraets -- opted for a return to simplicity with In the Dutch Mountains. The result was an album that probably did more to seduce listeners far beyond their homeland than any other, not least because it was the first to secure a release in the U.S. and the U.K. Yet although it was recorded live in the studio direct to two-track tape, this is no mere exercise in bash-it-out, one-take boogie. It's a warmly atmospheric set that contains some of the Nits' most fully realized work to date. Many of the songs are inspired by childhood memories, including the title track with its reference to the young Henk Hofstede's assumption that there must be mountains beyond the borders of his home town of Amsterdam. A massive hit across continental Europe, "In the Dutch Mountains" still generates a storm of applause at Nits concerts. Another live mainstay is "J.O.S. Days," an atypically rustic song about Hofstede's failure to make his local football team, featuring sampled acoustic guitar and (real) harmonica. This contrasts sharply with the dreamy "Two Skaters," at around seven minutes one of the longest songs in the Nits' repertoire and as close as they've ever gotten to an exercise in pure atmospherics. Other highlights include "The Swimmer" (yet another in a long line of film references), with frenzied accelerating piano assaults framing a delicate melody; the faintly berserk "An Eating House"; and the gorgeous lullaby "Good Night," with Hofstede's tender vocals cushioned by a remarkably convincing brass band sample. On the vinyl edition, this made for a wonderful coda to the album, but for the CD release three bonus tracks -- none of them quite in keeping with the rest -- were tacked onto the end. Nevertheless, In the Dutch Mountains marked the beginning of a richly creative five-year period that the Nits have yet to top. - by Christopher Evans, AMG

Artist: The Nits
Album: In the Dutch Mountains
Year: 1987
Label: CBS
Runtime: 57:02

1.  In the Dutch Mountains 3:26
2.  J.O.S. days 3:13
3.  Two Skaters 6:51
4.  Pelican & Penguin 3:57
5.  In a Play (das Mädchen im Pelz) 3:36
6.  Pah Pah 1:21
7.  The panorama man 3:28
8.  Mountain Jan 4:42
9.  One Eye Open 3:16
10.  An Eating House 5:53
11.  The Swimmer 3:50
12.  Goodnight 2:44
13.  Strangers of the Night 4:27
14.  The Magic of Lassie 1:38
15.  Moon and Stars 4:30
All compositions by Hofstede/Kloet/Stips

Henk Hofstede (Guitar and Vocals)
Rob Kloet (Drums)
Robert Jan Stips (Keyboards)
Joke Garaets (Double Bass)

Lieve Geuens (Vocals)
Jolanda de Wit (Vocals)
Saskia van Essen (Vocals)
Jaap van Beusekom (Steel Guitar)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble

Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble's eponymous debut album was originally released in 2000 on the Enja/Tiptoe label. This is contemporary jazz that is still clearly recognizable as jazz, yet with a distinct World Jazz twist. Equally, one could argue, this is (at least in part) contemporary Ladino/Sephardi (Judeo-Spanish) music or Middle Eastern music with a strong jazz twist. No matter, for either way, this is an outstanding and exciting album that remains refreshing even nearly three years after its release. The Orient House Ensemble is led by Gilad Atzmon, an Israeli-born secular Jew living in self-imposed exile in London, England. Atzmon is an outstanding saxophonist and clarinetist with a superb, distinctive voice on both instruments and a flawless technique. The other members of the ensemble are Asaf Sirkis, an Israeli-born drummer/percussionist, and two young Cambridge musicians, Frank Harrison on piano and melodica and Oli Hayhurst on bass. The ensemble playing is tight and empathic. On Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble, Atzmon is revealed as a supreme improviser of flowing melodies, deeply steeped on the one hand in swing and bebop as well as post-bop, on the other in Ladino/Sephardi and other Middle Eastern melodies and rhythms. In essence, the music is a successful fusion of post-bop jazz with traditional Ladino and other Sephardic, as well as klezmer and Turkish and other Middle Eastern elements. The results are often hauntingly beautiful and leave much of what generally calls itself contemporary World Jazz or World Fusion Jazz sounding like the shallow, artificial, inorganic constructs that they too often are. Atzmon's powerful music is true world jazz at its best, in the best tradition of the genre's great pioneers such as Yusef Lateef and Ahmed Abdul-Malik who practically invented the genre decades before it acquired its name. Of the eight tracks on this utterly compelling album, three are Atzmon originals, two traditional Ladino songs, and one each by Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter, and one traditional Turkish. Each has its own strengths, and none is weaker than the others, and such consistency is alas only too rare particularly on many contemporary jazz albums. Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble is great music, with great charm, powerful emotions and great, haunting beauty. There is no flashy showiness for the sake of it here, instead, there is solid musicianship and great depth and passion. It is remarkably fresh and wonderfully refreshing. Ignore genre labels, just enjoy this fabulous music! - from www.

Artist: Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble
Album: Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble
Year: 2000
Label: enja
Runtime: 57:34

1. Pardonnez Nous (Trad. Ladino) 6:56
2. Shir (Gilad Atzmon) 6:30
3. Miron Dance (Trad. Ladino) 9:12
4. Nard-ish (Miles Davis) 8:25
5. Rai Print (Wayne Shorter) 7:14
6. Miserlou (Trad. Turkish) 12:17
7. Orient House (Gilad Atzmon) 2:40
8. Balladi (Gilad Atzmon) 5:40

Gilad Atzmon (soprano sax, clarinet, sol)
Frank Harrison (piano, melodica)
Oli Hayhurst (double bass)
Asaf Sirkis (drums, bandir)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Louis Armstrong - Ambassador Satch

As Louis Armstrong traversed the globe, bringing jazz to every corner of it, live recordings became the norm. This reissue brings together 1955 concert recordings with the All-Stars from Milan and Amsterdam, buffeted with three previously unreleased bonus studio tracks recorded in New York and Hollywood. Both Satchmo and the All-Stars are in top-notch form here, playing with a real spirit of abandon. Another real good one to add to the collection. - by Cub Koda, AMG

Artist: Louis Armstrong and His All Stars
Album: Ambassador Satch
Year: 1955-56
Label: Columbia (Original Jazz Classics, 2009)
Runtime: 54:12

1.  Royal Garden Blues (Clarence Williams/Spencer Williams) 5:10
2.  Tin Roof Blues (George Brunies/Paul Mares/Walter Melrose/Ben Pollack /Leon Roppolo/Mel Stitzel/Melville Stitzel) 4:30
3.  The Faithful Hussar (Hawkey Franzen) 6:11
4.  Muskrat Ramble (Ray Gilbert /Kid Ory) 5:43
5.  All of Me (Gerald Marks/Seymour B. Simons) 4:16
6.  Twelfth Street Rag (Euday L. Bowman/J.S. Sumner) 4:59
7.  Undecided (G. Osser/Sydney Robin/Charlie Shavers) 3:41
8.  Dardanella (Felix Bernard/Johnny S. Black/Fred Fisher) 2:59
9.  West End Blues (King Oliver/Clarence Williams) 4:16
10.  Tiger Rag (Harry Da Costa/Eddie Edwards/James LaRocca/Nick LaRocca /Henry W. Ragas/Tony Sbarbaro/Larry Shields) 3:37
11.  Clarinet Marmalade (Harry Da Costa/Eddie Edwards/James LaRocca/Nick LaRocca /Henry W. Ragas/Tony Sbarbaro/Larry Shields) 2:14
12.  Someday You'll Be Sorry (Louis Armstrong) 4:26
13.  When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along (Harry Woods) 2:04

Louis Armstrong (Trumpet, Vocals)
Trummy Young (Trombone)
Edmond Hall (Clarinet)
Billy Kyle (Piano)
Arvell Shaw (Double Bass)
Barrett Deems (Drums)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mark Isham - Miles Remembered

In A Silent Way is one of the most celebrated albums in jazz history and it still sounds fresh decades after it was originally recorded. During the '90s, its evocative sonic textures and blends of acoustic and electric instruments could be heard throughout contemporary music, particularly in electronica artists who seized the more cerebral aspects of the album. Conversely, Mark Isham hears the space and atmosphere within the album, along with the rest of Miles Davis' electric fusion period. That's why his Davis tribute, Miles Remembered: The Silent Way Project, is so interesting. Even on edgier numbers, such as "Right Off" (the closest Davis ever got to metallic hard rock), Isham finds spacious sonic textures. It may be smoother than Davis fusion and have a different sense of purpose, but it's never boring, and it's often quite rewarding, standing as a testament to Davis' original vision and Isham's skills as an arranger and interpreter. - by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AMG

Artist: Mark Isham
Album: Miles Remembered: The Silent Way Project
Year: 1996 (Recorded live at Baked Potato, N. Hollywood, CA)
Label: Columbia (HDCD, 1999)
Total playing: 68:39

1.  In a Silent Way - Milestone (Miles Davis/Joe Zawinul) 8:26
2.  Rioght Off (Theme from Jack Johnson) (Miles Davis) 5:06
3.  Internet (Mark Isham) 5:09
4.  All Blues (Miles Davis) 6:34
5.  It's About that Time (Miles Davis) 7:48
6.  Azael (Mark Isham) 2:48
7.  Spanish Key (Miles Davis) 15:27
8.  Ife (Miles Davis) 5:22
9.  Great Expectations (Miles Davis/Joe Zawinul) 5:45
10.  Black Satin (Miles Davis) 6:09

Mark Isham (Trumpet)
Peter Maunu (Guitar)
Steve Cardenas (Guitar)
Doug Lunn (Bass)
Michael Barsimanto (Drums)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sonny Rollins - This Is What I Do

When it comes to picking material, today's young hard boppers (both instrumentalists and singers) could learn a lot from Sonny Rollins -- a tenor titan who has always had a way of surprising us with interesting, unexpected choices. Over the years, he hasn't made the mistake of limiting himself to overdone Gershwin and Cole Porter favorites; Rollins doesn't exclude well-known standards by any means, but he has also made a point of interpreting a lot of material that other hard boppers have ignored (and that has included everything from forgotten show tunes to Stevie Wonder gems). True to form, the saxman continues to make interesting choices on This Is What I Do, which was recorded in 2000 and finds a 69-year-old Rollins joined by Clifford Anderson on trombone, Stephen Scott on acoustic piano, Jack DeJohnette or Perry Wilson on drums, and long-time companion Bob Cranshaw on electric bass. The CD's only real standard is the ballad "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" -- the other selections range from Rollins originals (which include the funky, playful "Did You See Harold Vick?" and the calypso-minded "Salvador") to forgotten songs from 1937 movies. "Sweet Leilani" (which the seminal Bing Crosby defined) is from the film Waikiki Wedding, while "The Moon of Manakoora" is from The Hurricane (which starred Dorothy Lamour). Neither are tunes that have been done to death by hard boppers, and Rollins has no problem showing us that they can be relevant to jazz. This Is What I Do falls short of essential, but it offers some nice surprises and is a rewarding addition to Rollins' huge catalog. - by Alex Henderson, AMG

Artist: Sonny Rollins
Album: This Is What I Do
Year: 2000
Label: Milestone
Runtime: 48:19

1.  Salvador (Sonny Rollins) 7:52
2.  Sweet Leilani (Harry Owens) 7:01
3.  Did You See Harold Vick? (Sonny Rollins) 9:19
4.  A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (Eric Maschwitz/Manning Sherwin) 8:06
5.  Charles M. (Sonny Rollins) 10:16
6.  The Moon of Manakoora (Frank Loesser/Alfred Newman) 5:45

Sonny Rollins (Tenor Saxophone)
Stephen Scott (Piano)
Bob Cranshaw (Bass Guitar)
Jack DeJohnette (Drums) - 1,2,4,6
Clifton Anderson (Trombone) - 2-5
Perry Wilson (Drums) - 3,5

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Geoff Keezer - Turn Up the Quiet

After several excellent dates as a leader, this Geoff Keezer session comes up short by comparison. The culprits are the extremely dull, new-agey "Island Palace" and "Bibo No Aozora," which are both infused with electronic keyboards and programming as well as forgettable melodies. They are way out of place on what otherwise is an outstanding jazz CD. Fortunately, the remainder of this release is quite enjoyable. Bassist Christian McBride and saxophonist Joshua Redman join Keezer on his playful tribute to his daughter, "Precious One," and an adventuresome take of "Stompin' at the Savoy." Diana Krall adds strong vocals to "Love Dance" and a touching version of "The Nearness of You." Keezer's solo covers of "My Shining Hour" and "Lush Life" capture the essence of these familiar standards, while his solo take of "Lose My Breath" (written by the pop group My Bloody Valentine) also proves to be a captivating, melancholy ballad. - by Ken Dryden, AMG

Artist: Geoff Keezer
Album: Turn Up the Quiet
Year: 1996
Label: Columbia (1997)
Runtime: 61:24

1.  Stompin' at the Savoy (Benny Goodman/Andy Razaf/Chick Webb/Edgar Sampson) 4:57
2.  The Nearness of You (Ned Washington/Hoagie Carmichael) 5:40
3.  Lush Life (Billy Strayhorn) 3:33
4.  Island Palace (Geoff Keezer) 6:46
5.  Madame Grenouille (Geoff Keezer) 8:37
6.  Lose My Breath (Kevin Shields) 3:21
7.  Rose (Ryuichi Sakamoto) 6:13
8.  My Shining Hour (Harold Arlen) 3:00
9.  Precious One (Geoff Keezer) 6:33
10.  Love Dance (Ivan Lins/G. Panzetta/Paul Williams) 5:25
11.  Bibo No Aozora (Ryuichi Sakamoto/Akiko Uchida Pavolka/Geoff Keezer) 7:14

Geoff Keezer (Piano)
Christian McBride (Double Bass) - 1,2,4,5,9
Joshua Redman (Tenor Saxophone) - 1,2,5,7,9
Diana Krall (Vocals) - 2,4,10,11
Cyro Baptista (Bass Drum, Percussion) - 4,11
Scott Frankfurt (Wallett, Hi-Hat) - 4
Nona Hendryx (Backing Vocals) - 4
Jason Miles (Programming) - 4,11
Tony McAnany (Backing Vocals) - 11
Laura Bontrager (Cello) - 11
Maria Kitsopoulos (Cello) - 11
Maureen McDermott (Cello) - 11
Caryl Paisner (Cello) - 11


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