Thursday, January 26, 2012

Donovan - HMS Donovan

Anyone who likes the Donovan of "Sunshine Superman" or "Mellow Yellow" will probably want to ignore this album -- but anyone who liked the Donovan of "Colours," "Turquoise," or "Poor Cow," or Gift From a Flower to a Garden, will have to track it down, because they'll find it essential. One has to give Donovan a lot of credit for attempting a release like HMS Donovan in 1971, although it never came close to charting at the time of its release. The drugged-out hippie era that had spawned trippy folk-based albums such as Gift From a Flower to a Garden was long past, and acoustic folk recordings were considered passe, yet here was Donovan setting words by Lewis Carroll, Thora Stowell, Ffrida Wolfe, Agnes Grozier Herbertson, Lucy Diamond, Edward Lear, Eugene Field, William Butler Yeats, Natalie Joan, and Thomas Hood, among others, to what were often hauntingly beautiful melodies, mostly strummed on a guitar. What's more, it just about all works perfectly, once one gets past the tape-effect tricks and other silliness of the opening track, "The Walrus and the Carpenter." Spawned at a time when the singer/songwriter was about to become a father, the album has a decidedly playful tone, even more so than its obvious predecessor, For Little Ones. Lovely as that record was, there are also long stretches of HMS Donovan that have far prettier melodies, arrangements, and accompaniment, played at more attractive tempos. The playing here, which is mostly just Donovan's solo guitar with maybe a string bass and organ, and an unnamed female singer or two backing him on a few tracks, is crisper and more focused (along with the recording), and the tunes are seldom short of gorgeous, whether written by Donovan or simply his arrangements of traditional folk melodies. HMS Donovan marked the singer's last venture of this kind, into his mid-/late-'60s folk style, or into folk-style children's songs, and it was the last of his albums to be characterized by whimsy. As a sign of some of the behind-the-scenes tensions that characterized its production, HMS Donovan contains one attempt at a rock track, in the form of "Homesickness" -- this failed attempt to emulate such late-'60s singles as "Hurdy Gurdy Man" is the only failed track on the album, and was also the only track here on which Donovan's longtime producer Mickie Most had any input. "Lord of the Dance" (written by Sydney Carter and utilizing a melody that Americans may know better as "Simple Gifts"), "Queen Mab," and "Celia of the Seals" are worth the price of admission by themselves. The BGO CD reissue sounds great and has very thorough annotation by John Tobler. - by Bruce Eder, AMG

Artist: Donovan (Leitch)
Album: HMS Donovan
Year: 1971
Label: BGO Records (Remastered, 1997)
Runtime: 74:09

1.  The Walrus And The Carpenter (Lewis Caroll/Donovan) 8:36
2.  Jabberwocky (Lewis Caroll/Donovan) 2:37
3.  The Seller Of Stars (Thora Stowell/Donovan) 2:52
4.  Lost Time (Frida Wolf/Donovan) 2:29
5.  The Little White Road (Thora Stowell/Donovan) 2:05
6.  The Star (Donovan Leitch) 1:45
7.  Coulter's Candy (Donovan Leitch) 1:44
8.  The Road (Lucy Diamond/Donovan) 1:08
9.  Things To Wear (Agnes Grozier Herbertson/Donovan) 1:06
10.  The Owl And The Pussycat (Edward Lear/Donovan) 2:24
11.  Homesickness (Donovan Leitch) 2:31
12.  Fishes In Love (Donovan Leitch) 1:04
13.  Mr. Wind (Donovan Leitch) 2:38
14.  Wynken Blynken And Nod (Eugene Filed/Donovan) 2:26
15.  Celia Of The Seals (Donovan Leitch) 3:02
16.  The Pee Song (Donovan Leitch) 2:06
17.  The Voyage Of The Moon (Donovan Leitch) 5:18
18.  The Unicorn (Donovan Leitch) 0:55
19.  Lord Of The Dance (Sidney Carter) 2:31
20.  Little Ben (Donovan Leitch) 1:44
21.  Can Ye Dance (Donovan Leitch) 1:32
22.  In An Old-Fashioned Picture Book (Donovan Leitch) 3:11
23.  The Song Of Wandering Aengus (W.B. Yeats/Donovan) 3:56
24.  A Funny Man (Natalie Joan/Donovan) 1:51
25.  Lord Of The Reedy River (Donovan Leitch) 2:38
26.  Henry Martin (Traditional) 5:08
27.  Queen Mab (Donovan Leitch) 2:18
28.  La Moora (Donovan Leitch) 2:21

Donovan Leitch (Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica)
Mike Thompson (Bass, Organ)
John Carr (Drums)
Danny Thompson (Bass Fiddle) - 15
Mary (Fiddle)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Antonio Farao - Next Stories

One doesn't come across many pianists who not only have a firm command of the blues, bebop, ballads and beyond but also bring something personal and original to the keyboard. Antonio Farao` who has collaborated with Franco Ambrosetti, Richard Galliano, John Abercrombie, Billy Cobham, Lee Konitz, Antonio Hart, Branford Marsalis, Joe Lovano and Terri Lyne Carrington, among others, is arguably the leading mainstream jazz pianist in Italy today. The reigning winner of the Martial Solal Competition, Farao` is a leading member of Europe's multifaceted jazz community and among the few instrumentalists from that side of the Atlantic to have hung out and held his own in jam sessions at Small's and other clubs on the challenging New York scene where he earned the respect of his Afro-American peers there like the late Kenny Kirkland. For his third album on ENJA, "Next Stories," two days had been set aside for taping and a third for mixing but Farao` and his cohorts had quickly become a tightly knit unit that effortlessly put down ten tracks in seven hours including a break for lunch. There were a few false starts but otherwise the quartet nailed each tune the first time around and did so with authority. Except for the Cole Porter song and the pianist's tender rendition of John Williams's moving ballad "I Could Have Done More" from his soundtrack for "Schindler's List," all the songs were written by Farao` during the year leading up to the session. In May 2000, American magazine Cadence commented Farao`'s ENJA debut, "Black Inside": "Farao` at times recalls McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock but basically has his own advanced style.The pianist is particularly adept at building up his solos, his technique is quite impressive and his originals contain enough quality to hold one's interest throughout." "Next Stories" is the latest chapter to chronicle the ongoing creative saga of Antonio Farao` who started his adventures in jazz during the mid-1980s as a teenage prodigy sitting in with the likes of Daniel Humair and Steve Grossman at the Capolinea Jazz Club in Milan. Although still in his mid-30s, the classically trained pianist who graduated with honors from the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milan is a mature artist today. - from Enja's website

Artist: Antonio Farao
Album: Next Stories
Year: 2001
Label: Enja (2002)
Runtime: 49:54

1.  I'm Waiting 5:14 
2.  Theme For Bond 9:43 
3.  Creole 4:34 
4.  Sweet 4:08 
5.  Next Stories 7:33 
6.  I Could Have Done More 4:44 
7.  What Is This Thing Called Love 4:05 
8.  Few Days 6:43 
9.  Sabrina And Joseph 3:05 
All compositions by Antonio Farao

Antonio Farao (Piano)
Ed Howard (Bass)
Gene Jackson (Drums)
Pibo Martinez (Percussion)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gabriel Yared - Shamrock

Lebanon-born Gabriel Yared started his career as a pop composer and musical arranger for the likes of Michel Jonasz and Françoise Hardy. His first encounter with films occurred in 1973 with Samy Pavel's Miss O'Gynie et les Hommes Fleurs. Six years later, he was invited by Jean-Luc Godard to score Every Man for Himself. From there, Yared went on to compose up to seven scores a year. Unlike other prolific film composers, such productivity did not result in simple repetition; Yared sought his inspiration in various genres and styles, ranging from classics to folk, rock, and jazz. His moody saxophone compositions in Betty Blue and his score for The Lover, in which he experimented with Oriental instruments, were awarded Cesars (French Oscars). In 1996, he enjoyed another success with The English Patient, for which he was awarded an Oscar. - by Yuri German, AMG

This material: music for a ballet. Based on a Story by Carolyn Carlson and performed by the National Ballet of Amsterdam. Premiered at the Natonal Theatre of Amsterdam on October 15th 1987. All tracks written and arranged by Gabriel Yared.

Artist: Gabriel Yared
Album: Shamrock
Year: 1987
Label: Les Disques du crepuscule (1988)
Runtime: 39:33

1.  Temptation 2:13 
2.  A Short Tale 3:32 
3.  Sidetrack 4:01 
4.  Shamrock I 7:10 
5.  Poules 0:56 
6.  Bagpipes 4:29 
7.  Alleluia 4:08 
8.  Human Clock 6:42 
9.  Shamrock II 2:16 
10.  Gaité Parisienne 4:01 

Gabriel Yared (Composer, Arranger)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Didier Lockwood - 'Round About Silence

The last 25 years have been like an extraordinary whirlwind of musical encounters, each more rewarding than the preceding. This time, however, I felt it necessary - even vital - to try and suspend time so as to relish the delicate silent space that surrounds it. All of us have tried, in our own way, to express the ineffable. To convey, sans artifice, the brittleness of things. It is in this spirit that we invite you to share these simple stories, tender, melancholic and sweet, like an escapade out of time, hoping that you will get as musch pleasure in listening as we have had in telling them. - by Didier Lockwood, from the CD cover

Artist: Didier Lockwood
Album: 'Round About Silence
Year: 1998
Label: Dreyfus Jazz
Runtime: 56:04

1.  I Remember Alby (Didier Lockwood) 4:32
2.  La javanaise (Didier Lockwood) 4:35
3.  Grenouille (Benoit Sourisse) 2:19
4.  Sao Luis (Francis Lockwood) 4:44
5.  Madiva (Didier Lockwood) 5:46
6.  Entrasystoles (Didier Lockwood) 3:30
7.  Round About Silence (Didier Lockwood) 4:06
8.  Bossa pour Didier (Stephane Grapelli) 4:56
9.  Nicou (Andre Charlier) 4:44
10.  Epique ou rien (Benoit Sourisse) 4:22
11.  Hati (Didier Lockwood) 3:11
12.  Rue de la foret (Didier Lockwood) 4:17
13.  Ballade des fées (Didier Lockwood) 2:39
14.  Jour de pluie (Didier Lockwood) 2:18

Didier Lockwood (Violin, Alto Saxophone, Trumpet, Mandolin)
André Charlier (Drums)
Marc-Michel Lebevillon (Double Bass)
Benoit Sourisse (Piano)
Guest musicians:
Bireli Lagrene (Guitar) - 2,8
Eric Séva (Soprano Saxophone) - 5,7,10
Marc Berthoumieux (Accordion) - 4,11
Caroline Casadesus (Vocals) - 4,7
Anne Ducros (Vocals) - 4,7
Dominique Marc (Tenor Saxophone) - 13
Claude Egéa (Trumpet, Flugelhorn) - 10
Damien Verherve (Trombone) - 10

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jacky Terrasson & Cassandra Wilson - Rendezvous

For this notable set, pianist Jacky Terrasson teams up with the smoky, chance-taking vocalist Cassandra Wilson, either Lonnie Plaxico or Kenny Davis on bass and percussionist Mino Cinelu. The music is quite impressionistic and atmospheric. Terrasson and Wilson stick to standards, but their renditions of such songs as "Old Devil Moon," "My Ship," "Tea for Two" and even "Tennessee Waltz" are quite haunting and floating, slightly disturbing and occasionally sensuous. Terrasson, who takes "Autumn Leaves" and "Chicago 1987" (the one non-standard) as solo pieces, was on his way to forming his own style, while Wilson had certainly found her niche. An intriguing matchup. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Jacky Terrasson & Cassandra Wilson
Album: Rendezvous
Year: 1997
Label: Blue Note
Runtime: 48:54

1.  Old Devil Moon (E.Y. "Yip" Harburg/Burton Lane) 5:47
2.  Chan's Song (Herbie Hancock) 5:45
3.  Tennesee Waltz (Pee Wee King/Redd Stewart) 4:47
4.  Little Boy Lost (Alan Bergman/Michel Legrand) 5:06
5.  Autumn Leaves (Joseph Kosma/Johnny Mercer/Jacques Prévert) 2:38
6.  It Might As Well Be Spring (Oscar Hammerstein II/Richard Rodgers) 4:59
7.  My Ship (Ira Gershwin/Kurt Weill) 3:25
8.  I Remember You (Johnny Mercer/Victor Schertzinger) 3:02
9.  Tea For Two (Irving Caesar/Vincent Youmans) 4:47
10.  If I Ever Would Leave You (Alan Jay Lerner/Frederick Loewe) 5:29
11.  Chicago 1987 (Jacky Terrasson) 3:09

Jacky Terrasson (Piano)
Cassandra Wilson (Vocals) - 1,3,4,6-10
Lonnie Plaxico (Bass) - 1,3,6-10
Mino Cinelu (Percussion) - 1-3,6,8-10
Kenny Davis (Bass) - 2

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Stacey Kent - Let Yourself Go

Let Yourself Go is an exceptional collection of 13 tunes written by the cream of popular song writers -- Berlin, Gershwin Brothers, and others -- honoring Fred Astaire's contributions to the vocal art. With his low key, narrow ranged voice, Astaire probably introduced and/or made popular more songs that were destined to become standard entries in the Great American Songbook than any other artist. Kent delivers this selective play list with one of three musical combinations, just piano, with piano plus rhythm, and with a larger aggregation which includes sax and guitar. Irrespective of the instrumental context, all of the tunes are delivered with Stacey's pleasant nasal twang to help her create the impression that the lyrics she's singing are part of an intimate one on one conversation with each listener. There's nothing over dramatic on this album. No gimmicks, just a voice as engaging as any on the scene conveying the meaning of a melody in the tradition of the person she is honoring, the inestimable Astaire.
Kent's pianist, David Newton, is one of the premiere accompanists in the U.K., having worked with such top flight singers as Tina May. He and Kent display their musical attraction to each other on a relaxed, suave rendition of "Isn't This a Lovely Day" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me," where Kent and Newton gently joust as they deliver an elegant rendition of this tune. "Relaxed" is as good a word as any to describe the atmosphere for this session. There's nothing frenetic here. "S'Wonderful," usually performed at a fast pace, gets a languid, medium tempo treatment with Newton's piano, an effortlessly lilting Colin Oxley guitar and Jim Tomlinson's tenor sharing the mike with Kent. "A Fine Romance" is about as upbeat as it gets, with Oxley's cleaned line guitar setting the pace. Newton engages in a bit of Erroll Garner-like humming during his solo on this tune. Tomlinson's romantic tenor is featured on "Let Yourself Go" and "They All Laughed." On "One for My Baby," he brings out his clarinet, using the middle register to help create the proper melancholy mood for this definitive "drowning my sorrows in booze" tune.
In addition to providing more than 50 minutes of musical entertainment, the liner notes set out the lyrics for each tune. This is another excellent album by American born, U.K.-based singer Stacey Kent, and is happily recommended. - by Dave Nathan, AMG

Artist: Stacey Kent
Album: Let Yourself Go
Year: 1999
Label: Candid
Runtime: 55:02

1.  Let Yurself Go (Irving Berlin) 3:49
2.  They Can't Take That Away from (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin) 5:02
3.  I Won't Dance (Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields/Jimmy McHugh) 4:42
4.  Isn't This a Lovely Day ? (Irving Berlin) 4:01
5.  They All Laughed (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin) 4:32
6.  He Loves and She Loves (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin) 4:26
7.  Shall We Dance? (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin) 3:05
8.  One for My Baby (Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer) 5:58
9.  's Wonderful (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin) 6:02
10.  A Fine Romance (Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields) 3:04
11.  I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan (Howard Dietzt/Arthur Schwartz) 2:39
12.  I'm Putting All My Eggs in One (Irving Berlin) 3:46
13.  By Myself (Howard Dietzt/Arthur Schwartz) 3:50

Stacey Kent (Vocals)
Jim Tomlinson (Tenor and Alto Saxophone, Clarinet)
Colin Oxley (Guitar)
David Newton (Piano)
Simon Thorpe (Double Bass)
Steve Brown (Drums)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fug - Ready for Us

Fug is not a name that is common in todays language. In fact I don't think it is in the Dictionary. (If so then please tell me). But if it was in the dictionary then Fug would be described as a band that likes to blend influences of house, jazz, and classical strings and vocals. With it adding, please look at Bent and Zero 7 for alternatives. This is a great album that features all of above. RFO is one of the stand out tracks for me as it has a really good beat and gliding classical strings that flow from from one to wave to another. By far the best vocal tracks are Overflow and Morning Sun. Overflow is a short and sweet song that has beutiful vocals and lyrics that are simple yet effective. In fact it can be put down that it should really be longer as you just want it to carry on forever like that of Morning Sun. Morning Sun is definatly a song for those who have just come back from the white Isle and wanting to relive those sunsets and sunrises of their holiday. It is a tune that many people will remember time and time again and relive those white isle days. The rest of the track follows the same suit as those tracks combining jazz filled sounds with a modern house beat and kick. Another one for the downtempo, chilled, and Nu-Jazz folk to add to their collection. - by A customer,

A tremendous listen. Tom Bailey, who appears to be the musical mastermind behind the album, interweaves delicious melodies that remind one of better times with a contempory backbeats and awesome vocals. Take the best of John Barry mix in some Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield with a pinch of Sade and you're halfway to how good this album really is . - by an another customer,

Artist: Fug
Album: Ready for Us
Year: 2001
Label: Nuphonic
Runtime: 52:01

1.  Ready For Us (Tom Bailey/Richard Garfoot/Matt Klose/A. Sadler/Ben Smith/Jess Williams) 7:06
2.  R.F.O (Tom Bailey/Matt Klose/A. Sadler) 4:36
3.  Thin Air (Tom Bailey/Matt Klose/A. Sadler/Jess Williams) 3:52
4.  Blue Movie (Tom Bailey/Matt Klose/A. Sadler) 6:32
5.  Overflow (Tom Bailey) 3:31
6.  Cheval Noire (Tom Bailey/Matt Klose/A. Sadler/Ben Smith) 5:08
7.  Chunk (Tom Bailey/Matt Klose/A. Sadler) 4:00
8.  Fairweather Friend (Tom Bailey/Matt Klose/A. Sadler/Jess Williams) 3:06
9.  The Prophet (Tom Bailey/Matt Klose/A. Sadler) 5:51
10.  El Diablo (Tom Bailey/Matt Klose/A. Sadler/Ben Smith) 4:37
11.  Shrewd Movements (Tom Bailey/Matt Klose/A. Sadler) 3:38

Tom Bailey (Keyboards, Piano)
Matt Klose (Drums)
Toby Coles (Trumpet and Flulelhorn) - 1,5,8,10
Ben Smith (Acoustic Guitar) - 1,5,6,10
Paul Deats (Alto and Baritone Saxophone) - 1,5,8,10
Gareth Bailey (Trombone) - 1,5,8,10
Jess Williams (Vocals) - 1,3,8
Anna Croad (Violin) - 2,5,6
Elizabeth Croad (Violin) - 2,5,6
Mike Shaw (Violin) - 2,5,6
Michelle Taylor (Violin) - 2,5,6
Ann Marie Morris (Viola) - 2,5,6
Katie Squiers (Viola) - 2,5,6
Maxine McGuiness (Cello) - 2,5,6
Sophie Pasquel (Cello) - 2,5,6
Richard Garfoot (Bass Guitar) - 1,5
Steve Truman (Double Bass) - 7,11
Richard Poynton (Electric Guitar) - 3
Bob Sadler (Keyboards) - 1

Friday, January 6, 2012

Burhan Öcal & Jamaaladeen Tacuma - Groove Alla Turca

Here we have again Burhan Ocal and friends.. Who are they? In this album we also have Natacha Atlas and Jamaaladeen Tacuma. There are 12 tracks at this cd. There are some very good tracks. Such as Nihavend Longa and Saz Caz and El Nino. Burhan Ocal again plays the darbuka. Natacha Atlas's vocals are exceptional... So who is BURHAN OCAL?? He was born in Kirklareli, a town in Thrace. He was introduced to religious music by his mother and to percussion by his father. He also carries the influence of neo-classical Turkish music in his works. He is a master of many different drums; such as darbuka, kos (kettledrum), kudum and bendir. Except these he can also play Turkish stringed instruments such as divan-saz,tanbur and oud. His first recording with Istanbul Oriental Ensemble "Gypsy Rum" won the 1995 German Record Critics Award. The second album "Sultan's Secret Door" won the same award in 1997. Öçal's solo disc of Turkish classical music of the 17th century titled "Ottoman Garden" received the 1996 Prix Choc award. Some of the tracks in this album are real old and famous Turkish classical songs but they are interpreted here in a jazz form. The poetry in the track called "Gene Gel" is from Mawlana Jalaud-din Rumi. This album was released first in Turkey about 3 years ago. Unfortunately this global release is a bit late. Ocal also released a new album in Turkey called "SULTAN OSMAN". This album is also exceptionally good. An ethno-techno album with Pete Namlook. Groove Alla Turca presents soulful, Oriental raps by the Egyptian pop singer Natasha Atlas. A must for Ocal fans!!!!!! - by Ali S. Erdogan,

Artist: Burhan Öcal & Jamaaladeen Tacuma
Album: Groove Alla Turca
Year: 1999
Label: Doublemoon
Runtime: 66:16

1.  Nihavend Longa (Anonymous/Burhan Öcal) 6:45
2.  Habibi (Burhan Öcal) 5:39
3.  Groove Alla Turca (Burhan Öcal/Jamaaladeen Tacuma) 5:27
4.  Elhamdulillah (Jamaaladeen Tacuma) 8:01
5.  El Nino (Burhan Öcal) 4:46
6.  Two By Two (Burhan Öcal) 5:24
7.  Kismet (Jamaaladeen Tacuma) 9:05
8.  I Can Feel It (Jamaaladeen Tacuma) 0:31
9.  Katibim (Anonymous/Burhan Öcal) 6:11
10.  Saz Caz (Burhan Öcal/Jamaaladeen Tacuma) 8:53
11.  Gene Gel (Burhan Öcal) 5:13
12.  Later for Now (Burhan Öcal) 0:16

Burhan Öcal (Percussion, Vocals, Saz, Tambourine)
Jamaaladen Tacuma (Bass Guitar)
Natacha Atlas (Vocals) - 2,5,8,11
Songül Aktürk (Vocals) - 7,9
Miles Griffith (Rap) - 3,7,9
Jack Walrath (Trumpet)
Art Baron (Trombone)
Daryl Burge (Trap Drums)
Rick Iannacone (Guitar)
Ben Schachter (Alto and Tenor Saxophone, Flute)
Hüseyin Bitmez (Oud)
Ekrem Basi (Darbuka)
Ferdi Nadaz (Clarinet)
Fetih Tekyyaygil (Violin)
Sahin Sert (Kanun)
Arif Erdebil (Ney)
Salih Nazim Peker (Saz)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dexter Gordon - Gotham City

Tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon was still in pretty good form at the time of this later recording. The veteran great is joined by an all-star rhythm section (pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Percy Heath and drummer Art Blakey) along with guest appearances from trumpeter Woody Shaw and guitarist George Benson. Although this boppish set is rather brief (just four songs totalling around 35 minutes), the quality of the solos is quite high. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

It’s been about fifteen years since I listened to this recording. Strange that I haven’t even missed it until now. Great music stays with you until the final erasure, be it slow or sudden, of the personal hard drive. That I own about half of Dexter’s recorded output isn’t much of collector’s boast, since he spent a good deal too much of the 1950s, which would have been one of his most productive decades, in jail for heroin possession.  Still, he made fifty or sixty recordings after his years in the big bands of Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong, and Billy Eckstine in the 1940s. I can’t say exactly why Gotham City holds a special place in my affections, but it does.  Yes, there are the dates of thrilling tenor madness with Wardell Gray, and some boisterous sets for Savoy in the mid-40s; also the gleaming monument, “Daddy Plays the Horn”, made in 1955 just before Dexter did a five-year stretch at Riker’s Island penitentiary.  Then there is the Blue Note series started before Dexter left to go play a month-long gig at Ronnie Scott’s London jazz club in 1962 (a trip that turned into fourteen years expatriation in Europe), and continued on occasional trips back to the U.S.  There are also the radio broadcasts (issued on Steeplechase) from the Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen, the city where Dexter lived for over ten years.  (Youtube has much excellent footage from this smoky, atmospheric venue.) There’s also the early 70s sessions done back in the U.S.; I would single out “The Jumping Blues” of 1970, simply because it has Wynton Kelly on piano). These were soon followed by Dexter’s return to this country in 1976, an event commemorated in Homecoming:  Live at the Village Vanguard (featuring trumpeter Woody Shaw’s marvelous quartet, with Ronnie Matthews making the Vanguard’s out-of-tune piano jump). Notable monuments of Dexter’s repatriated years are Great Encounters with saxophonist friend Johnny Griffin (“fastest tenor in the West”) in concert at Carnegie Hall, and the live recording from Keystone Korner in Oakland with Dexter’s stellar quartet from the late 70s—George Cables on piano, Rufus Reid on bass, and Eddie Gladden on drums. (I’ll admit that I’m not so enthusiastic, though still reverential, about the soundtrack for Round Midnight, the role for which Dexter received a Best Actor Academy Award nomination in 1985). But for today it’s Gotham City on the way to Gotham.  The bleak landscape looks different as soon as I hear guitarist George Benson’s eight-bar introduction to “Hi-Fly” by Randy Weston. Benson is much better known for his pop hits as a singer; his “Give Me the Night” was released the same year as Gotham City, and four years after he made it to number one on the pop charts with his album Breezin’ and “This Masquerade.” At the time of the Gotham session, the pop music money and stardom had done nothing to blunt Benson’s genius for jazz. After Benson’s intro, a volcanic drum roll ushers in a shuffle of such vitality that it can only be the work of Art Blakey, reunited on record with Dexter for the first time since 1944 when they were both members of Billy Eckstine’s Big Band, that traveling crucible of be-bop.  The long arms of Blakey’s drumming embrace all that enter the tent of his big beat, welcoming them with the ebullient counter-rhythms of his left hand and feet, the mighty crescendo of his right hand on the ride cymbal, electrifying the musical space like ionized steam. Dexter enters with warm-hearted noblesse oblige, lagging far behind Blakey’s beat with aristocratic surety.  This refined confidence will be in evidence both in swinging affairs and when he enjoys the album’s lone ballad, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.” The tallest tenor, Dexter is never in a hurry even at fast tempos like that of “Blues March,” where he’s joined by trumpeter Woody Shaw, whose angular, harmonically displaced lines spark like syncopated ricochets.What I love so much about Dexter’s playing, something which finds such glorious expression throughout Gotham City, is the balance of the expected with the unexpected. When Dexter shows you around his enormous musical estate, you never go quite the same way; it is the unexpected turns of path through a familiar landscape and his knowing asides that make the tour so enjoyable.  When embarking on a Dexter solo you know you will hear certain quotations and other figures, but never in precisely the way you’ve heard them before. It is also the way these figures are put together that is so compelling. . Each improvised motif seems both the answer to the preceding phrase and the question demanding the next response.  The architecture of Dexter’s solos are constructed from these units, whose meanings range from the lofty to the ridiculous.  Many of these building blocks are quarried from his own music and from pop, folk, and children’s songs. These motives are deployed with particular deftness on the album, as when his signature quotation of “Mona Lisa,” modulates onto itself across the boundary dividing two stanzas of “Hi-Fly.” There are those who might say that Dexter’s use of stock phrases is overly schematic, while others might claim that in signposting his improvisations in this way Dexter offers a critique of the art of improvisation itself, ironically laying bare the mechanics of his craft.  The great orators of antiquity built up their speeches with well-known rhetorical figures, stock phrases; it was the way in which they manipulated these figures that made their reputations and moved their audiences.  Dexter is the Cicero of the saxophone. Dexter’s inventive largesse has its effect on his sidemen. Benson’s solos are much more than prodigious technical demonstrations, filled with multi-directional arpeggios, virtuosic melodic configurations , rapid bursts of octaves, and a frenetic chordal arrays.  The way he complements Cedar Walton’s  incisiv e piano contributions with complex rhythmic commentary seems the perfect solution to the problem of having two chord-playing instruments playing behind a soloist. I’m guessing it is Blakey’s aegis that inspires his rhythm section colleagues to such great deeds.  After Dexter takes his final chorus on “Gotham City,”Blakey starts right off on Benson’s solo with a quick pair of rim clicks on the fourth beat of every other measure.  Walton notes this pattern and begins playing off of it.  The dialogue here is fierce.  Percy Heath’s bass is the grease in that groove, and though thick it’s just this side of combustion. By the second chorus Blakey is pushing into the ride cymbal on the fourth beat of those measures not given over to rim clicks, momentarily suspending the swing, so that there is a short, shimmering pause in forward momentum.  Walton quickly perceives this additional layer of complexity and there is spirited conversation between him and his former Jazz Messenger employer, Blakey.  They enjoy a second chorus combining these contrasting inflections of the fourth beat with bassist Heath joining in for its final utterance.  Once agreed upon by the entire ensemble, the motif is just as quickly dispersed by the counterpoint of individual intentions. A great band knows when to disband a musical idea and move on.  In this passage the dialectic between the ensemble and its members — perhaps the greatest contribution of jazz — reaches perfect and unforgettable synthesis. I’ve assembled my traveling companions for the drive south through Binghamton, Scranton, Stroudsburg and then east towards New York. There can’t be more than forty minutes of music on Gotham City, two tunes per side on the old LP. I get Gotham ten times back-to-back before the Empire State building rises above the New Jersey traffic. And on the way back, too. - by David Yearsley,

Artist: Dexter Gordon
Album: Gotham City
Year: 1981
Label: Columbia
Total time: 34:31

1.  Hi-Fly (Randy Weston) 9:37
2.  A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square (Eric Maschwitz/Manning Sherwin) 7:14
3.  The Blues Walk (Loose Walk) (Lou Donaldson) 8:20
4.  Gotham City (Dexter Gordon) 9:18

Dexter Gordon (Tenor Saxophone)
Cedar Walton (Piano)
Percy Heath (Double Bass)
Art Blakey (Drums)
George Benson (Guitar) - 1,4
Woody Shaw (Trumpet) - 3


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