Monday, August 27, 2012

Chet Baker - Baby Breeze

Although Chet Baker's recordings from late in his life varied dramatically in quality, this series of studio sessions is a high point in his career. After having his trumpet stolen, he plays beautifully with a borrowed flügelhorn throughout most of these songs with a powerful tone, especially on "Baby Breeze" and Hal Galper's intense "This Is the Thing." Baker delivers some strong vocals on the session led by pianist Bobby Scott, though Scott's huge hit "A Taste of Honey" is marred somewhat by his odd honky tonk piano in the background. This is an unusual compilation worth acquiring. - by Ken Dryden, AMG

This album is SO perfect because it's NOT perfect. There is a little emotional weariness in Chet's voice, and there are times when you can hear a bit of a struggle with his flugelhorn (his trumpet was stolen before he recorded this album.) But that is what gives this album such a human quality, you can truly hear the sadness in Chet's voice when he sings "Born to Be Blue" - as though the song is about him. His playing is usually phenomenal, but you can hear a bit of a struggle on his usually so perfectly executed ballad solos, and there is such beauty to it. I love this album because it has such a wonderful human quality - there is so much emotion in Chet's voice and playing, that you can almost feel with him. Definitely buy this CD if you like Chet, or even if you just want a great jazz CD to add to your collection. - by J. Powell,

Artist: Chet Baker
Album: Baby Breeze
Year: 1964
Label: Verve (24-bit digital remastering, 1999)
Runtime: 55:46

1.  Baby Breeze (Richard Carpenter) 3:07
2.  Born to Be Blue (Robert Wells/Mel Tormé) 4:07
3.  This Is the Thing (Hal Garper) 4:55
4.  I Wish You Love (Charles Trenet/Leon Luis) 3:13
5.  Everything Depends on You (Charles Carpenter/Earl Hines/Louis Dunlap) 3:25
6.  One With One (Hal Garper) 3:47
7.  Pamela's Passion (Hal Garper) 5:23
8.  The Touch of Your Lips (Ray Noble) 2:43
9.  Comin' Down (Richard Carpenter) 4:30
10.  You're Mine, You (John W. Green/Edward Heyman) 3:12
11.  Sweet Sue, Just You (Victor Young/Will J. Harris) 2:20
12.  A Taste of Honey (Bobby Scott/Ric Marlow) 3:01
13.  Think Beautiful (Jack Lawrence/Stan Freeman) 4:15
14.  I Wish You Love (Charles Trenet/Leon Luis) 3:24*
15.  Thin Beautiful (Jack Lawrence/Stan Freeman) 4:18*
* - bonus tracks

Chet Baker (Flugelhorn, Vocals)
Frank Stozier (Alto Saxophone, Flute) - 1,3,6,7,9
Phil Urso (Tenor Saxophone) - 1,3,6,7,9
Bob James (Piano) - 4,8,13-15
Hal Galper (Piano) - 1,3,6,7,9
Bobby Scott (Piano) - 2,5,10,12
Michael Fleming (Double Bass) - 1,3,5-9
Charlie Rice (Drums) - 1,3,4,6-9
Kenny Burrell (Guitar) - 2,5,10,11

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Oscar Peterson - Night Train

Verve's edition of the Oscar Peterson Trio date released as Night Train includes stately covers of blues and R&B standards like "The Honeydripper," "C-Jam Blues," "Georgia on My Mind," "Bags' Groove," "Moten Swing," and "Things Ain't What They Used to Be." Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen provide tight accompaniment, and there are six previously unavailable tracks recorded the same day, including "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" and "Volare," as well as alternate takes of "Happy-Go-Lucky Local" and "Moten Swing." - by John Bush, AMG

Night Train is one of the best jazz piano albums I have yet to hear. Oscar Peterson is spellbinding -- both at breakneck and leisurely speeds -- and the ensemble is tight. Favorites here include Ellington's C-Jam Blues (only two notes!), The Honeydripper, Moten Swing, a definitive Band Call and of course a memorable rendition of the title track. I am a huge fan of Dave Brubeck, but one ride on the Night Train and it's obvious Peterson was something special. If you like exciting jazz piano -- this isn't background music -- Night Train is essential. - by Jon Warshawsky,

Artist: Oscar Peterson Trio
Album: Night Train
Year: 1962
Label: Verve
Runtime: 44:53

1.  C Jam Blues (Barney Bigard/Duke Ellington) 4:50
2.  Night Train (Jimmy Forrest/Oscar Washington/Lewis Simpkins) 3:25
3.  Georgia on My Mind (Hoagy Carmichael/Stuart Gorrell) 3:45
4.  Bags' Groove (Milt Jackson) 5:40
5.  Moten Swing (Bennie Moten) 2:54
6.  Easy Does It (Sy Oliver/Trummy Young) 2:45
7.  Honeydripper (Joe Liggins) 2:24
8.  Things Ain't What They Used to Be (Mercer Ellington/Ted Persons) 4:38
9.  I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good) (Duke Ellington/Paul Francis Webster) 5:08
10.  Band Call (Duke Ellington) 3:54
11.  Hymn to Freedom (Oscar Peterson) 5:30

Oscar Peterson (Piano)
Ray Brown (Double Bass)
Ed Thigpen (Drums)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Gerry Mulligan - Meets Johnny Hodges

Gerry Mulligan's 1959 studio date with Johnny Hodges is one of the most satisfying sessions of his various meetings with different saxophonists for Verve, yet it was inexplicably the last to be made available on CD. With a hand-picked rhythm section consisting of pianist Claude Williamson, bassist Buddy Clark, and drummer Mel Lewis, and three originals contributed by each of the two leaders, everything gels nicely, though several tracks took more than three takes (in spite of liner note writer Nat Hentoff's assertions) to reach their final form. Mulligan contributed the gorgeous ballad "What's the Rush" (where he sat back to enjoy Hodges' solo and never plays his own horn), the easygoing swinger "Bunny," and the brisk cooker "18 Carrots (For Rabbit)," the latter which its composer would revisit with his Concert Jazz Band. The veteran alto saxophonist contributed the low-key ballad "Shady Side," the sassy blues "Back Beat" (later re-recorded by Hodges during a still unreleased 1960 studio meeting with Ben Webster), and "What It's All About," another potent blues. Throughout the date, the two saxophonists blend beautifully and complement one another's efforts, even though this was their only opportunity to record together in the studio. Sadly, no alternate takes or unissued numbers (at least two of which exist) have been added to this long anticipated reissue. - by Ken Dryden, AMG

Artist: Gerry Mulligan
Album: Gerry Mulligan Meets Johnny Hodges
Year: 1959
Label: Verve (2003)
Runtime: 33:22

1.  Bunny (Gerry Mulligan) 5:47
2.  What's The Rush (Judy Holliday/Gerry Mulligan) 3:45
3.  Back Beat (Johnny Hodges) 7:28
4.  What's It All About (Johnny Hodges) 4:02
5.  18 Carrots For Rabbit (Gerry Mulligan) 5:16
6.  Shady Side (Johnny Hodges) 7:04

Gerry Mulligan (Baritone Saxophone)
Johnny Hodges (Alto Saxophone)
Claude Williamson (Piano)
Buddy Clark (Double Bass)
Mel Lewis (Drums)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Off Course - Tales of the Lighthouse

This wonderful album unites a quintet of Hungarian jazz musicians with Swiss trumpeter Erik Truffaz for a program of swinging, thoughtful, and emotionally rich melodies, including fresh takes on Truffaz's previously recorded "Betty" and "Yasmina." The somewhat introspective flavor of the session recalls the classic, spare, moody ECM sound of the mid-'70s in the best way, and fans of the early Pat Metheny Group should enjoy this CD, though the sound of Off Course is less flashy and less self-consciously virtuosic. This is a small group playing with intimate sympathy, and Truffaz's Miles-ish additions on six of these tracks makes "Tales of the Lighthouse" a perfect late-night or rainy Sunday afternoon listen. The first track, "Marmosets," features keyboardist Robert Szakcsi Lakatos on Fender Rhodes, which enhances the group sound so considerably that Off Course should consider using the Rhodes for an entire session. For Truffaz fans who don't mind hearing their hero in a somewhat old-school context, this record is a must-buy. - by Stephen Silberman,

I feel close to Hungarian musicians, because we share the same melodic approach, and although this was my fourth visit to the country, it was only my second chance to play with a local band.
My feeling was that the music we played wasn’t especially Hungarian, but rather European jazz and so I selected two of my more traditional compositions Betty and Yasmina in order to get the most out of these sessions. Though I have recorded Betty several times, I think this is my favourite version so far. I enjoyed playing with all the musicians because they performed with heart and spirit, as I believe that the most important thing about music is not technical perfection, but rather the achievement of magical moments. Also I really appreciated that Robi Szakcsi – a great pianist – played on a Fender Rhodes on Marmosets, giving the track a unique feeling. I loved doing it. - by Erik Truffaz

Artist: Off Course featuring Erik Truffaz
Album: Tales of the Lighthouse
Year: 2002
Label: BMC
Runtime: 54:02

1.  Marmosets (Robert Szakcsi Lakatos) 5:45
2.  Betty (Erik Truffaz) 4:57
3.  To My Father (Bela Szakcsi) 8:00
4.  Tales of the Lighthouse (Jozsef Horvath Barcza) 4:55
5.  Hope (Gabor Juhasz) 6:51
6.  Ogre (Jozsef Horvath Barcza) 5:13
7.  Black and Orange (Bela Szakcsi) 5:17
8.  Yasmina (Erik Truffaz) 5:18
9.  To My Father (Bela Szakcsi) 7:46

Gabor Juhasz (Guitar)
Robert Szakcsi Lakatos (Piano, Fender Rhodes)
Jozsef Horvath Barcza (Double Bass)
Andras Mohai (Drums)
Andras Des (Percussion)
Erik Truffaz (Trumpet) - 1,2,4,6,8,9

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Paul Desmond - Like Someone in Love

In 1992, Telarc unveiled a series of performances from the vault on a short-lived label punningly entitled "Telarchive," beginning with this long-delayed encore to the original releases from Paul Desmond's "Canadian" quartet. Recorded live in Toronto's Bourbon Street Jazz Club several months before the live dates released on Horizon and Artists House, it finds Desmond growing comfortable with his new Toronto friends but not quite settled into their laid-back ways quite yet. There are passages in this session where Desmond sounds a bit uncharacteristically scattered and unfocused, where guitarist Ed Bickert becomes the more fluid and stable solo partner, and bassist (and engineer) Don Thompson takes a lengthy solo on every track. Desmond seems to produce his best work in the material that he seems most familiar with. The title track is the one that catches fire most brightly (with a wry assist from "We're in the Money") and "Things Ain't What They Used to Be" finds him working in some clever asides from, yes, Ravel's "Daphnis et Chloe." The wistful European melancholy of Django Reinhardt's "Nuages" suits him perfectly and Jobim's "Meditation" makes its first appearance on a Desmond recording. The boxy, confined live sound doesn't suit the late saxophonist -- nor, obviously, the perfectionist standards at Telarc -- but every precious unreleased note from Desmond is definitely worth sampling at whatever sonic level. - by Richard S. Ginell, AMG

When I bought this recording I was only familar with Desmond through the song "Take Five". This CD, recorded live at a club called Bourbon Street in Toronto, shows Desmond and company playing standards in a variety of styles - none of them in 5/4. "Tangerine" is a bright little number that has one of the best Desmond solos ever. The band gets Brazilian on Jobim's "Meditation" and melancholy on Django Reinhardt's "Nuages". The blues get turned inside out on Ellington's "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" with bluesy solos from Desmond and guitarist Ed Bickert. Don Thompson (bass) and Jerry Fuller (drums) provide ample support although the dynamics of the recording make them sound slightly muted.
The recording quality is a little weak; other than the sax the band's sound is slightly muffled. And it can be intrusive to hear silverware clanging against china during the bass solos - not to mention the talking. But this is a great recording and any audible distractions will be overridden by the quality of the performances. A good introduction to Paul Desmond's skills as a soloist and interpreter of standards. - by Douglas T. Martin,

Artist: Paul Desmond Quartet
Album: Like Someone in Love (Live in Toronto)
Year: 1975
Label: Telarc (1992)
Runtime: 61:08

1.  Just Squeeze Me (Duke Ellington/Lee Gaines) 8:45
2.  Tangerine (Johnny Mercer/Victor Schertzinger) 9:46
3.  Meditation (Norman Gimbel/Antonio Carlos Jobim/Newton Mendonça) 10:59
4.  Nuages (Jacques Larue/Django Reinhardt) 10:37
5.  Like Someone in Love (Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen) 9:50
6.  Things Ain't What They Used to Be (Mercer Ellington/Ted Persons) 11:11

Paul Desmond (Alto Saxophone)
Ed Bickert (Guitar)
Don Thompson (Double Bass)
Jerry Fuller (Drums)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dave Brubeck Quartet - Their Last Time Out

In 1967, Dave Brubeck decided to disband his long-running quartet with Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright, and Joe Morello at the end of the year. Crowds turned out to catch the group for a final time, though this is only the fourth issued live recording from the tour, possibly recorded from the front of the concert hall, since the audience seems more prominent than usual, and the sound is in mono and not quite as well-recorded as the earlier releases, though the performances are of high caliber. The source of these recordings were long forgotten tape reels found in Brubeck’s home by his long time manager Russell Gloyd. Brubeck kicks things off by launching into one of his perennial favorites to open concerts, "St. Louis Blues," played in a breezy manner similar to their earlier recorded versions. Brubeck's "Three to Get Ready (And Four to Go)" was already a favorite of his fans, while Desmond whimsically inserts a bit of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" into his solo (for this concert taped on December 26), while Brubeck can be heard softly singing along with his solo. The quartet learned the Mexican folk song "La Paloma Azul (The Blue Dove)" prior to their tour of Mexico earlier in the year and it became a staple in Brubeck's repertoire afterward. The pianist is at his most lyrical in this touching ballad, with Desmond's spacious, melancholy alto adding a nice touch, along with Wright's solid groove and Morello's soft brushes. The band sizzles in their treatment of "Take the 'A' Train" and sounds jubilant with their rousing rendition of "Someday My Prince Will Come" to end the first set, both pieces which were part of Brubeck's performance repertoire over four decades later. To open the second set, the quartet launches a pulsating "Swanee River" in which the leader humorously works the standard "Lullaby of the Leaves" into his solo. Desmond's role is minimal in Brubeck's breezy "I'm in a Dancing Mood," with the focus being on the pianist and Morello. The standard "You Go to My Head" was long a feature for Desmond, who plays an inventive solo with Wright's swinging bass backing his as Brubeck stays mostly in the background. The drummer also has an extended feature to open "For Drummer's Only" to showcase his widely admired technique. It is inevitable that the evening had to close with a rousing performance of the quartet's signature tune "Take Five," which they manage to keep from going stale in spite of having to play it nearly every night after it became a best-selling single. Desmond's humor is in full force in his solo, while Brubeck's feature takes an exotic twist with a Middle Eastern flavor. Fans of Dave Brubeck will welcome the addition of this historic concert to his vast discography. - by Ken Dryden, AMG

Artist: Dave Brubeck Quartet
Album: Their Last Time Out (The Unreleased Live Concert) I-II
Year: 1967
Label: Columbia/Sony (2011)
Runtime: 98:14

CD 1 [48:00]
1.  Introduction 0:39
2.  St. Louis Blues (W.C. Handy) 8:42
3.  Three To Get Ready (Dave Brubeck) 5:38
4.  These Foolish Things (Eric Maschwitz/Jack Strachey) 10:24
5.  Cielito Lindo (Quirino Mendoza y Cortes) 4:57
6.  La Paloma Azul (Traditional) 5:20
7.  Take The A Train (Billy Strayhorn) 5:56
8.  Someday My Prince Will Come (Larry Morey/Frank Churchill) 6:24
CD2 [50:14]
1.  Introduction of the Members of the Quartet 1:07
2.  Swanee River (Stephen Foster) 10:26
3.  I'm in a Dancing Mood (Al Hoffman/Maurice Sigler/Al Goodhart) 3:19
4.  You Go to My Head (J. Fred Coots/Haven Gillespie) 8:51
5.  Set My People Free (Eugene Wright) 6:29
6.  For Drummers Only (Joe Morello) 11:43
7.  Take Five (Paul Desmond) 8:18

Dave Brubeck (Piano)
Paul Desmond (Alto Saxophone)
Eugene Wright (Double Bass)
Joe Morello (Drums)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Joshua Redman - Freedom in the Groove

As the title suggests, Joshua Redman explores new rhythmic territory on Freedom in the Groove. Abandoning the traditional hard bop that has dominated his past recordings, Redman attempts to work himself into hip-hop and urban dance rhythms, which results in an occasionally intriguing but often frustrating album. Occasionally, the fusions work, with Redman contributing sympathetic, graceful licks to the gently insistent rhythms. Too often, the record sounds forced and stilted, which is unfortunate, since jazz/hip-hop fusion need a musician of Redman's caliber to make it credible in the jazz world. - by Leo Stanley, AMG

I've recently read a couple critics who actually use terms such as "rather disappointing" and "bland" in reference to this CD. I have to wonder exactly what these critics are listening for as they reach these conclusions; to me, Redman, backed up by an absolutely phenomenal rhythm section, offers forth an intense display of energy and musicianship. I don't see how it is possible that somebody could listen to this CD with open ears and not notice how incredibly exciting the music is. Anybody who can't hear raw creativity and energy on "Freedom in the Groove" is thinking too much, in my humble opinion. I don't remember if it was Pops, Miles, or Duke that said, "If it sounds good, it is good." But this music is very, very good. It should be noted that the rhythm section is rock solid throughout, and the entire quintet really meshes nicely during solos and so forth. Certainly, some of Redman's later music is brilliant as well. But this album shouldn't be overlooked in the least. - by Thomas Hoberg, AMG

Artist: Joshua Redman
Album: Freedom in the Groovy
Year: 1996
Label: Warner
Runtime: 69:10

1.  Hide and Seek 5:36
2.  One Shining Soul 8:13
3.  Streams of Consciousness 8:53
4.  When the Sun Comes Down 7:15
5.  Home Fries 4:44
6.  Invocation 10:00
7.  Dare I Ask? 6:03
8.  Cat Battles 5:40
9.  Pantomime 7:27
10.  Can't Dance 5:13
All compositions by Joshua Redman 

Joshua Redman (Tenor, Alto and Soprano Saxophone)
Peter Bernstein (Guitar)
Peter Martin (Piano)
Christopher Thomas (Bass Guitar)
Brian Blade (Drums)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Simon Shaheen - Turath

Simon Shaheen is wonderful, and this is a great CD. I've been listening to it since high school (when it was originally released by CMP), and I'm now just short of twenty-nine. My favorite track, and really one of my favorite songs, is the uber-catchy "Longa Farahfaza." The addition of the bass oud really propels the song and gives it some funky oumph (pun intended). The tempos on the other songs tend to be slower, but the track I mentioned and the longer riqq/oud duet on the next track are well worth the price of the album. It's very seldom you'll hear this kind of repertoire with such high production values. If you enjoy this, I also recommend Mr. Shaheen's album devoted to the music of Mohammed Abdel Wohab. It rocks. It really really rocks. Fun-Fact: Dead Can Dance, the leading fake world music purveyors of the 80s and 90s, sample that one for the closing credits of their "Toward the Within" concert film. -by John Grunwell, AMG

Shaheen invited three other highly-respected virtuosi on istruments played widelyin Turkey and the Arab world to participate in the project: Hassan Ishkut, a well-versed musician originally from Turkey who played the qanun (a plucked zither); multi-instrumentalist Faruk Tekbilek, another Turkish musician, heard here on the nay (reed-flute); and Samir Khalil, an Egyptian percussionist currently living in London, who plays the riqq (small tambourine) and the tar (a large frame-drum). In addtition to showcasing the talents of these artists, the album also demonstrates Shaheen's innovative treatment of the music (e.g. adding the bass 'ud, a regular 'ud equipped with thicker, custom-made strings), as well as the care he has taken to preserve the integrity and character of the repertoire performed. - from the CD cover

Artist: Simon Shaheen
Album: Turath
Year: 1991
Label: CMP (1992)
Runtime: 59:18

1.  Bashraf Farahfaza (Ismail Haqqi) 5:42
2.  Sama'i Farahfaza (Tamburi Jamal) 6:41
3.  Taqasim on Violin (Simon Shaheen) 1:35
4.  Longa Farahfaza (Riyad al-Simbati) 3:15
5.  Taqasim on the Beat (Simon Shaheen/Samir Khalil) 9:33
6.  Sama'i Nahawand (Masud Jamil) 8:16
7.  Tahmilah Suznak (Traditional) 6:22
8.  Sama'i Nahawand (Ali Jihad Racy) 6:27
9.  Bashraf Kurd (Asdik Aga) 4:17
10.  Taqsim on Nay (Faruk Tekbilek) 1:13
11.  Sama'i Kurd (Simon Shaheen) 5:51

Simon Shaheen (Oud, Violin, Bass oud)
Faruk Tekbilek (Nay)
Hassan Ishkut (Qanun)
Samir Khalil (Riqq, Tar)


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