Friday, March 30, 2012

Ravi Shankar & Friends - Towards the Rising Sun

As Ravi Shankar explains in the notes to this cd all music in the East, despite other differences, is based on similar structures. This fact gives him the oportunity to explore a merging of the music of India with that of Japan. So here Ravi Shankar uses ancient indian ragas (system of melody forms which form the structure of Indian music) which use five notes and are similar to the modes used in Japanese music to execute his experiment. Of the six pieces contained in the cd five are permormed with the use of both Indian (sitar, tanpura, tabla) and Japanese instruments (the stringed koto and the shakuchachi flute). Of these, four are based on Indian ragas as mentioned above specifically composed to accomodate the use of Japanese instruments and make for very pleasing and meditative listening. The other piece which is called "Improvisations on the theme of Rokudan" is a 17th century Japanese composition for koto and here it is performed with the addition of Indian instruments. Whereas all the pieces on this record including the sixth which is a straight Indian raga are mesmerizingly beautiful, "Rokudan" is the showcase. There is an ascending structure to this piece which concludes with a magnificent crescendo that Shankar himself composed. Overall the music on this cd seems to have a stucture as opposed to other recordings of Indian music I have listened to which feel more free-form that makes it more easily comprehended the way western music is. So from India we travel east to meet Japan and further east to meet the West? - by S. Tsalavoutas,

Artist: Ravi Shankar
Album: Towards the Rising Sun
Year: 1978
Label: Deutsche Grammophone (2005)
Runtime: 69:19

1.  Padhasapa 8:40
2.  Kaharwa 4:59
3.  Improvisation of the Theme of Rokudan 10:46
4.  Namah Shivaya 7:59
5.  Tribute to Nippon 13:20
6.  Homage to Baba Allauddin (Raga Hemant) 23:35

Ravi Shankar (Sitar, Tanpura)
Alla Rakha (Tabla)
Susumu Miyashita (Koto) - 1-5
Hozan Yamamoto (Shakuhachi) - 1-5
Prodyot Sen (Bass Tanpura) - 6
Sunil Kumar Banerjee (Treble Tanpura) - 6

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dee Dee Bridgewater - In Montreux

Dee Dee Bridgewater's move to France awhile back has resulted in her having a relatively low profile in jazz. This excellent live set should help restore her reputation. Whether it be a three-song Horace Silver medley, the warhorse "All of Me," Jobim's "How Insensitive," "Night in Tunisia" or the rarely performed "Strange Fruit," Bridgewater (who is backed by a French rhythm section) is in top form, singing with swing and sensitivity. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Dee Dee Bridgewater and her excellent band capture the life experience of the fantastic Montreux concert on this lovely album. Those who have seen the concert probably already have this album, if not, they should get it. For those who havn't seen the concert, this album can give a lovely glimpse at Dee Dee Bridgewaters incredible performing style. Even on this recording, you can feel her presence, her wonderful connection to the audience and her exquisite handling of the band. The band in turn is a blessing to Ms. Bridgewater's voice and energy, and is probably among the finest you can hear these days. - from

Artist: Dee Dee Bridgewater
Album: In Montreux
Year: 1991
Label: Polydor
Runtime: 49:53

1.  All of Me (Seymour Simons/Gerald Marks) 7:51
2.  How Insensitive (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Vinicius de Moraes) 7:51
3.  Just Friends (John Klenner/Samuel Lewis) 7:51
4.  A Child Is Born (Thad Jones/Alec Wilder) 4:35
5.  Strange Fruit (Lewis Allan) 5:12
6.  Night in Tunisia (Dizzy Gillespie/Frank Paparelli/Chaka Khan/Ahmet Ertegun) 9:18
7.  Horace Silver Medley (Horace Silver) 7:11

Dee Dee Bridgewater (Vocal)
Bert van den Brink (Piano)
Hein Van de Geyn (Double Bass)
André Ceccarelli (Drums)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gonzalo Rubalcaba - Rapsodia

Pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba has such impressive technique that he has the potential of completely overwhelming any song he plays but Rubalcaba shows admirable restraint throughout much of this quartet date. Influenced to a degree by Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, Rubalcaba still shows a fresh personality when he utilizes an electric keyboard on a few of the selections. His quartet (which includes trumpeter Reynaldo Melian, bassist Felipe Cabrera and drummer Julio Barreto), in addition to fine support, offers a contrasting solo voice in its virtuosic trumpeter. This is a well-rounded set of complex but fairly accessible music. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Gonzalo Rubalcaba doesn't politely play the piano: He consumes it and conquers it with dazzling technique and intensity. While his albums with American jazzers have fueled his growing legacy, this jazz-fusion session on Rapsodia, with his regular Cuban group may be a truer portrait. With bravado, dizzying precision and speed, knotty harmonies, and blendings of electric and acoustic keyboards, this is a potent showcase for a young virtuoso who, at the moment, has little interest in relaxing. - by Josef Woodard,

Artist: Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Album: Rapsodia
Year: 1992
Label: Blue Note (1993)
Runtime: 54:40

1.  Contagio 6:41 
2.  Circuito II 9:46 
3.  Tributo 9:07 
4.  Santo Canto (Holy Chant) 4:45 
5.  Moose the Mooche 6:39 
6.  Chancletera 7:27 
7.  Rapsodia Cubana 10:10 
All songs composed by G. Rubalcaba except 5 composed by Charlie Parker

Gonzalo Rubalcaba (Piano)
Felipe Cabrera (Bass)
Julio Barreto (Drums)
Reynaldo Melian (Trumpet)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Shakti - Natural Elements

I do not believe there is a "best" Shakti album. All of them are brilliant and exhilarating and essential like chapters in a book. _Natural Elements_ does, however, stand out as the most lyrical and beautiful of Shakti's albums from the 70s, in my opinion. Shakti is a pluralistic group adapting some Western jazz idioms with an Indian environment, and here they also capture the widest range of moods. John McLaughlin straddles the line dividing Western and Eastern musical traditions, bridging the two with his guitar as his soul burns along the fretboard. Such is evident enough from the get-go, with "Mind Ecology", a fast-paced opener penned by McLaughlin, tearing along the pattering gallop of earthen percussion. But to celebrate their virtuosity as an end in itself would be a dishonor. "Mind Ecology", for all its speed and wild playing, exemplifies the "hidden" allure of Shakti -- the incredible virtuosity of these musicians is just a means to an end. The end of course being the articulation of an thrillingly joyful disposition, infectiously spiritual and focused. "Baby Baby Come Dance With Me" and "Happiness Is Being Together" are merry, vivacious jewels sparkling in the desert sands. The heavenly "Face to Face" and "Bridge of Sighs" slow that Shakti is just as engrossing when softened and calm. "Peace of Mind" is a spare beauty (that is unfortunately short) written by McLaughlin, where Shankar's violin renders a rapturously crying melody over gentle strumming. Definitely one of the most lovely moments in Shakti's discography. "The Daffodil and the Eagle" is exquisite, charged with the clairvoyant interplay that is typical of this group, with lead instruments and percussion entwining magnificently. Hearing them live would be the most prime way to experience the group's sheer acumen and togetherness, but for the diasporal Shakti, _Natural Elements_ is definitely essential. If you've never heard Shakti, this is as good an introduction as any. - by Lord Chimp,

The third and final Shakti recording from the 70s. The songs here are shorter than those on Shakti and Handful of Beauty, but no less impressive. The novelty of combining Eastern and Western musical styles had worn off and McLaughlin sounds comfortable. This allows for memorable compositions and interchanges, rather than the blistering virtuosity that characterized the first two releases. From the intense ("Daffodil And The Eagle") to the joyful ("Happiness Is Being Together"), Natural Elements stands as a milestone in McLaughlin's illustrious career. - by Robert Taylor, AMG

Artist: Shakti
Album: Natural Elements
Year: 1977
Label: Columbia (Master Sound)
Runtime: 39:33

1.  Mind Ecology (John McLaughlin) 5:47
2.  Face To Face (John McLaughlin/L. Shankar) 5:58
3.  Come On Baby Dance With Me (L. Shankar) 1:58
4.  The Daffodil And The Eagle (John McLaughlin/L. Shankar) 7:03
5.  Happiness Is Being Together (John McLaughlin) 4:28
6.  Bridge Of Sighs (John McLaughlin/L. Shankar) 3:52
7.  Get Down And Sruti (John McLaughlin/L. Shankar) 7:02
8.  Peace Of Mind (John McLaughlin) 3:22

John McLaughlin (Acoustic Guitar and Vocals)
L. Shankar (Violin, Viola and Vocals)
Zakir Hussain (Tabla, Timbales, Bongos, Dholak, Nal, Triangle and Vocals)
T.H. Vinayakram (Ghatam, Nal, Kanjeera, Moorsing and Vocals)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bayuba Cante - Cheba

Bayuba Cante is a band of excellent musicians from eclectic and diverse musical backgrounds with a single aim in mind: keeping alive the African Yoruba tradition still found in Cuba. They remain true to the tradition, while using modernized musical styles. This Afro-Cuban music combines many different styles of music, being African, of course, Cuban, Latin, Brazilian, jazz, funk, flamenco, including Indian music. Each of the musicians brings to the band an expertise that make this most colorful music the most fascinating. Also the range of instruments used is as fascinating, being the cello, the Indian bansuri, the Iranian daf, and many more unusual instruments. Simply unique! - by Bruno Deschenes, AMG

Artist: Bayuba Cante
Album: Cheba
Year: 2000
Label: Network
Runtime: 55:49

1.  Cheba (Traditional) 5:56
2.  Badaue (Jeroen Van Hoof/Viviany Godoy) 5:08
3.  Yemaya (Traditional) 6:08
4.  Chenche Kururu (Traditional) 7:06
5.  Iya Made (Traditional) 5:36
6.  Iya Laguatrad (Traditional) 6:22
7.  Rumba Maltero (Adrian Elissen) 8:20
8.  Oyan Cara (Traditional) 5:38
9.  Afimaye Ilu (Traditional) 5:31

Leoni Santander (Vocals)
Martha Galarraga (Vocals)
Adrian Elissen (Acoustic Guitar, Palmas)
Jeroen v. Hoof (Bass Guitar, Vocals)
Praful (Soprano and Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Bansuri, Vocals)
Liber Torriente (Drums)
Tjakina Oosting (Cello)
Afra Mussawisade (Percussion)
Sjahin During (Percussion)
Luis Luz (Timbales)
Viviany Godoy (Vocals)
Paulina May (Vocals)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Joey Calderazzo - Joey Calderazzo

A powerful trio outing, Joey Calderazzo's self-titled Columbia debut is comprised almost entirely of fine original compositions, in addition to Bill Evans' haunting "Time Remembered" and Michael Brecker's hard-swinging "Slings and Arrows." Bassist John Patitucci and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts provide an unwavering and hip rhythmic foundation for the blazing pianist. Calderazzo's tunes range from the richly contrasting waltz feels of "The Oracle," "Haiku," and "Catania" to the all-out uptempo fury of "Detonation." Combining melodic ingenuity, harmonic adventurism, and sheer aggressiveness of attack, Calderazzo's playing on this record stands as a yardstick against which all other post-bop pianists can be measured. - by David R. Adler, AMG

Artist: Joey Calderazzo
Album: Joey Calderazzo
Year: 1999
Label: Columbia/Sony (2000)
Runtime: 55:55

1.  The Oracle 8:51 
2.  Toonay 7:39 
3.  Haiku 5:55 
4.  Detonation 6:23 
5.  Time Remembered (Bill Evans) 6:38
6.  Catania 8:15 
7.  Sling and Arrows (Michael Brecker) 5:13
8.  The Charmer 6:57 
All songs written by J. Calderazzo except 5th and 7th

Joey Calderazzo (Piano)
John Patitucci (Double Bass)
Jeff "Tain" Watts (Drums)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Renaud Garcia-Fons - Navigatore

The most amazing double bass player of our times, Renaud Garcia-Fons is known for his overwhelming virtuosity, his Mediterranean melodic sense and his viola-like con-arco sound. A student of the legendary Syrian bassist François Rabbath, Garcia-Fons is not only influenced by jazz and classical music, but also by flamenco, new musette, tango, Bretonian, Andalusian, African, Latin American, Arabic and Indian traditions. His unique artistry led to many exciting and successful collaborations with other open-minded players like Rabih Abou-Khalil, Michael Riessler, Dhafer Youssef, Nguye^n Le^, Gérard Marais, Pedro Soler and Michel Godard.In the tradition of his visionary album "Oriental Bass" of 1997, Garcia-Fons' joyful east-western synthesis comes to a climax on "Navigatore" that features 22 different players in a string of powerful original compositions. An epic and compelling ensemble music, "Navigatore" displays a wide spectrum of moods and grooves using even Spanish, Bretonian, Arabic and Indian instruments. Says Garcia-Fons: "Each composition tells a story - the story of a life, a round trip - somehow as if we would pass successively through several existences in time and place. In the sequence of these 12 compositions I have tried to evoke memories of imaginary lives which happened in the orient and the occident, yesterday and before yesterday. The double bass personifies a voice with different shadings - a voice of a being in transition. - from

Artist: Renaud Garcia-Fons
Album: Navigatore
Year: 2001
Label: Enja
Runtime: 64:27

1.  Navigatore 7:25 
2.  Wadi Rum (Introduction) 1:18 
3.  Wadi Rum 5:26 
4.  Fui Piedra 5:42 
5.  Sahari 8:27 
6.  Bolbol 5:11 
7.  Alto Pais (Introduction) 1:17 
8.  Alto Pais 5:06 
9.  Monajat (Le Temps Ne Revient Pas) 4:30 
10.  Ultimo Fandango 4:30 
11.  Tavakkol 5:07 
12.  Vagabundo 4:09 
13.  Chokr 1:33 
14.  Mohabbat 4:46 
All compositions by Renaud Garcia-Fons

Renaud Garcia-Fons (Double Bass, Percussion, Handclapping)
Jean-Louis Matinier (Accordion)
Claire Antonini (Lute, Tar, Cistre, Tambur, Saz)
Hakan Gungor (Kanoun)
Antonio Ruiz (Flamenco Guitar)
Francoise Couvert (Violin)
Philippe Couvert (Violin)
Franck Pichon (Violin)
Kudsi Erguner (Ney)
Pierre Hamon (Bagpipes, Recorder)
Chris Hayward (Flutes)
Bruno Sansalone (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet)
Yves Favre (Trombone)
Laurent Malet (Flugelhorn)
Franck Tortiller (Marimba, Timbales, Gongs)
Dahmane Khalfa (Carcabas, Saguetes, Tbel, Derbouka, Bendir)
Rabah Khalfa (Derbouka, Carcabas, Bendir)
Adel Shams El Dine (Riq)
Bruno Caillat (Tablas, Daf)
Jorge Trasante (Drums, Bombo, Congas, Shakers, Campanas, Cajon, Djembe)
Patrice Héral (Drums, Snare drum, Tambourine)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Aldo Ciccolini - Satie: Works for Piano

Italian pianist Aldo Ciccolini has enjoyed a long and varied career, but to many music lovers his name is most readily associated with the music of Erik Satie.
Ciccolini started playing a wide range of Satie works on his programs of the 1950s, including many pieces that had been forgotten since the composer's death. This attracted attention among the musical cognoscenti in Paris, including some of the most forward-thinking musicians of the time. They recognized in Ciccolini's interpretations of Satie's works elements in keeping with current-day avant garde approaches that had been previously overlooked. Ultimately this led to a revival of Satie's music and to Ciccolini's recorded versions of it for EMI; while the earliest of these recordings have proven the best sellers over time, Ciccolini has recorded the entire keyboard output of Satie twice over. - by Uncle Dave Lewis, AMG

I must confess my ignorance with respect to Satie and his music, so this fine CD was a revelation. Satie clearly falls in the same group of "Impressionist" composers such as Debussy, but still remains an enigmatic figure, in part because of the satirical content of his music, as well as his personality. In Aldo Ciccolini, Satie had one of his foremost champions. This CD is replete with graceful, lyrical playing of Satie's works. I am truly surprised that Satie was neglected until the 1960's, when Ciccolini began championing his music. The sound quality isn't nearly as warm as earlier EMI analogue recordings, but this isn't a major disappointment in what is otherwise a splendid introduction to Satie's music. - by John Kwok,

Artist: Aldo Ciccolini
Album: Satie: Works for Piano
Year: 1986
Label: EMI Classics (Remastered, 2000)
Runtime: 70:57

1-3 Trois Gymnopédies 7:43
4-9 Six Gnossiennes  13:18
10-12 Croquis et ageceries d'un gros bonhomme en bois 3:52
13-15 Embryons desséchés  4:58
16 Sonatine bureaucratique 3:37
17-19 Avant-dernieres pensées  3:02
20-22 Céritables préludes falsques (pour un chien) 2:46
23-27 Cinq Nocturnes 12:39
28-34 Trois Morceaux en forme de poire*  12:45
35-38 La Belle excentrique 6:07

Aldo Ciccolini (piano)
Gabriel Tacchino* (piano)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Charlie Byrd - At the Village Vanguard

One of my favorite Charlie Byrd albums. The setting is intimate, the playing is very good, the guitar is umamplified--or nearly so. These two sets reveal that Charlie Byrd was a skillful and mature guitarist two years before his association with Stan Getz. The arrangement of "Why Was I Born," is a very nice guitar arrangement (key of A) and shows that Charlie knew how slowly a ballad can be played--many musicians would have been unable to keep the tempo down and still be creative. Some nice improvising and Charlie's trademark crazy classical tricks on Ellington's Just Squeeze Me. A pleasantly warm trio in a real setting. Buy it and transport yourself to a small club in the Village in the early, early sixties, before life was complex! - by Douglas A. Nickerson,

Shortly before departing on his epochal 1961 State Department tour of South America, the one that ignited his love affair with bossa nova -- and subsequently, ours -- Charlie Byrd played this trio gig at New York City's Village Vanguard. At first, "Just Squeeze Me" goes at an easygoing stroll as Byrd adheres swingingly to the beat, and "Why Was I Born" isn't terribly eventful. But then, there are definitely hints of things to come in the fluid samba-like rhythm that the trio kicks up on "You Stepped Out of a Dream." The 20-minute fantasia on the old union rouser "Which Side Are You On?" also has a Brazilian-tinged groove, and the combination of that and Byrd's low-key classical savvy keeps you as mesmerized as the quiet audience must have been. It is also significant that both of Byrd's cohorts on the date, bassist Keter Betts and drummer Buddy Deppenschmidt, would play on Byrd's historic Jazz Samba album with Stan Getz a year later. The direction is clear; Byrd was about to open the door to bossa nova, and you can hear him inching up to the starting gate here. - by Richard S. Ginell, AMG

Artist: Charlie Byrd
Album: At the Village Vanguard
Year: 1960 (Riverside)
Label: OJC (Digital remastered, 1991)
Runtime: 46:19

1.  Just Squeeze Me (Duke Ellington/Lee Gaines) 13:00
2.  Why Was I Born? (Oscar Hammerstein II/Jerome Kern) 5:57
3.  You Stepped Out of A Dream (Nacio Herb Brown/Gus Kahn) 6:48
4.  Fantasia on Which Side Are You On? (Charlie Byrd) 20:32


Charlie Byrd (Guitar)
Keter Betts (Double Bass)
Buddy Deppenschmidt (Drums)


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