Thursday, November 29, 2012

Branford Marsalis - Bloomington


Delfeayo Marsalis said, " Branford Marsalis is the most creative and imaginative person playing music today." I strongly agree to what he said, in other word, Branford is the best saxman playing the saxophone today (I wonder how many people agree with that?). Maybe you will agree with that statement after hearing to this trio album. Hmm, how do I start? Ok, the musicians.. In this trio, we have Robert Hurst playing the bass and Jeff Watts playing drums. These 2 guys are no ordinary musicians who just only play simple jazz standards or simply just come together for some lame jamming session. Robert Hurst, is by far the best bassist I have ever heard. Many people have given a lot of acclaim to the new bassist, Eric Revis (in Branford's band) whom is also a great bassist, but I still find something is missing in Eric's bass playing, that Robert has. Robert got a deep sounding bass line filling with complex harmonic, rhythmic structures and humor, at times he would do some tension thingy like the late Jimmy Garrison, sustaining low notes, banging his bass line that would give listeners a feel of susdiminish sensibility (I don't know how to explain the sound!). And most important of all, he keeps the groove in a solid condition. Not to mention he can swing at any odd-meter vamp with great ease. A bassist with deep running power of his beat provides a very strong foundation for the band in case of any earthquakes! And by the way, where's Robert, I haven't heard anything from him since he played in the Ellis Marsalis album <Whistle Stop>- another great album. Jeff Watts is one hell of a drummer, his function as a drummer is far beyond from just timekeeper. I just love his creative thundering herd of drum patterns. He is actually one of the drummers whom have invented many drumming "idioms" to the Jazz community (I don't know how to call that!). No matter what kind of music from post-bop contemporary to Ballads, the fire and polyrhythmic conception is always there. And everybody knows it! Branford is the best sax player of his generation, his playing is so consistent that those melodic and harmonic idea flows like a stream. His command on the instrument is so complete that one almost takes it for granted. The song <Xavier's Lair> is 15:14, you can listen throughout the song, he never run out of ideas, there Tain and Robert juxtaposing different time meters, call-&-responses and man, Branford is improvising on top of that!!! This Trio is not about just playing Jazz, what there are doing here is beyond the word "Jazz". Tell me how many bands can switch on and off in so many different time meter vamps? (5/4, 7/4, 15/8). How many bands can play in 13 bar or 11 bar blues? How many bands can exhibit such a fine dynamic extreme? These are what conventional bands can't do, as they normally play in 4 and 8 bar phrases, 12-bar blues, 4/4 or 3 /4 time meter, and that AABA sequence or that 2-5-1 progressions. This album display some of the most sophisticated, innovative, contemporary Jazz todate. Very few Jazz musicians can play in this setting comfortably. <The Beautyful Ones> is a kind of music that is not very easy to categorize. On the start of the track, Branford kinda evoke Coltrane's lyricism on the soprano and Robert Hurst mimics the bass playing of Jimmy Garrison which have a strong north India flavor. And slowly they increase the musical intensity and there, you have Tain playing his drum in reminiscence to the Tabla playing of the north India classical Tabla players (I guess you can imagine how it would sound!). Branford playing with a Coltrane lyricism throughout the music, with an extreme dynamic sensibility. Then they came to a momentary pause at 12:57, Robert Hurst did a fantastic bass solo beyond the explanation of Jazz improvisation theory, as I have say before, his bass playing here got a strong north India flavor. To me, that solo reminisces Imrat Khan' s Surbahar playing (a bass sitar that got a deep and mellow tone). I think it would be appropriate to use the Indian classical terminology on this track. The things they are doing here got a little sensibility to do with Raga Alap and Raga Jor. As in the Indian Classical music terminology, the depth of imagination and creative musicality of the performer and improviser is revealed in the Alap and Jor. Alap is the first movement of the raga (raga = solo). It is a slow, serene movement acting as an invocation and gradually develops the raga (Branford did it with the Coltrane's lyricism, like the way <Alabama> was played). Jor begins with the added element of rhythm which, combining with the weaving of innumerable melodic patterns (and Tain did it!), gradually gains in tempo and leads to the final movement (the trio achieve this too!!). <Citizen Tain> a New Orleans music that is very complex and have many mathematical solo structures by Branford... This album deserve all the credits it got. Nevertheless, like many other great albums by Coltrane, <Love Supreme> or <Live at the Village Vanguard>, Bloomington will not automatically arrive at your door step inviting you for a friendly listen. To understand the essence and true meaning of it, you would require some guts and depth. Listen it with an open-mind and you shall know what real joy is. - by Bandy, Amazon.com

This live set (part of which was included in the performance film The Music Tells You) features Branford Marsalis and his longtime trio (bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts) really stretching out on six pieces. Most of the playing is unfortunately very long-winded and rather dull. Marsalis seems content to play the part of a chameleon, doing his impressions of late-period Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and (when he switches to soprano) Ornette Coleman. Also, the music lacks variety and Marsalis is off-mic part of the time. Although the final two selections give this set a much needed dose of humor, it is too little too late. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Branford Marsalis
Album: Bloomington
Year: 1991
Label: Columbia (1993)
Runtime: 67:00

Tracks:
1.  Xavier's Lair (Branford Marsalis) 15:12
2.  Everything Happens To Me (Tom Adair/Matt Denis) 7:53
3.  The Beautyful Ones (Branford Marsalis) 19:02
4.  Citizen Train (Branford Marsalis) 16:18
5.  Friday the 13th (Thelonious Monk) 11:12
6.  Roused About (Robert Hurst) 7:21

Personnel:
Branford Marsalis (Saxophones)
Robert Hurst (Double Bass)
Jeff "Tain" Watts (Drums)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Charlie Haden - Always Say Goodbye


Always Say Goodbye is part of the continuing Quartet West project by Haden, in which the venerable bassist attempts to evoke the spirit of Hollywood circa 1930-1940. To that end, the record opens and closes with snippets from the soundtrack to The Big Sleep, one of Haden's favorite movies. After the introduction, the album seamlessly transitions to the title track, the leader's own composition and one of the high points on the record. Alan Broadbent's solo piano introduction perfectly sets the mood that is sustained throughout the entire album: one of acute nostalgia. Other devices used to inculcate this mood is the peculiar device of the dual performance, in which a recording of a song is played first by Haden's quartet and is then followed by a sampled performance of the same song by a great jazz artist of the past. The results, though at first a little bit unsettling, are quite spectacular. Particularly instructive is "Ou Es-Tu, Mon Amour? (Where Are You, My Love?)," where violin legend Stephane Grappelli joins the quartet for one reading, which soon makes way to a Django Reinhardt-Grappelli version of the same song recorded in 1949. Nostalgia has never been this tangible -- this solid and real. The quartet that Haden has assembled is top-notch. The leader is as tasty as ever, his warm lines implying the beat and the pulse of each song as often as they strictly denote and delimit it. Ernie Watts' tenor sound is one of the most vocal around, and pianist Broadbent and drummer Larance Marable make up a first-rate rhythm section. Broadbent also is an extremely melodic improviser, and his solos reveal a thoughtful, complete musician. Broadbent also is responsible for the extremely elegant use of strings on "My Love and I (Love Song From Apache)" and "Everything Happens to Me." Highly recommended. -by Daniel Gioffre, AMG

Artist: Charlie Haden Quartet West
Album: ALways Say Goodbye
Year: 1993
Label: Gitanes Jazz
Runtime: 69:59

Tracks:
1.  Introduction 0:57
2.  Always Say Goodbye (Charlie Haden)  6:37
3.  Nice Eyes (Charlie Haden)  5:04
4.  Relaxin' At Camarillo (Charlie Parker) 3:59
5.  Sunset Afternoon (Alan Broadbent)  4:13
6.  My Love And I (Love Song From Apache) (Johnny Mercer/David Raksin) 3:21
7.  Alone Together (Howard Dietz/Arthur Schwartz) 5:22
8.  Our Spanish Love Song (Charlie Haden) 6:08
9.  Background Music (Warne Marsh) 4:46
10.  Ou Es-Tu, Mon Amour? (Henry Lemarchand/Emil Stern) 6:47
11.  Avenue Of Stars (Alan Broadbent)  5:53
12.  Low Key Lightly (Variation On The Theme Of Hero To Zero) (Duke Ellington) 4:53
13.  Celia (Bud Powell) 5:00
14.  Everything Happens To Me (Tom Adair/Matt Dennis) 6:24
15.  Ending 0:35

Personnel:
Charlie Haden (Double Bass)
Ernie Watts (Tenor Saxophone)
Alan Broadbent (Piano)
Larance Marable (Drums)
Stephane Grappelli (Violin) - 10

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Eddie Vinson - Eddie Vinson Sings

One of only two albums that altoist/singer Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson led during 1956-1966, this infectious set finds him performing some of his best known tunes. With assistance by a medium-size group that plays in a Count Basie groove (including such Basie-ites as trumpeter Joe Newman, trombonist Henry Coker, either Frank Foster or Paul Quinichette on tenor, and pianist Nat Pierce), Cleanhead makes such songs as "Kidney Stew," "Caldonia," "Cherry Red," "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby," and "Hold It Right There" sound full of joy. This CD reissue adds three alternate takes that were originally recorded in stereo. A good sampling of the great Cleanhead. - by Scott Yanow, AMG


Artist: Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson
Album: Eddie Vinson Sings (Cleanhead's Back in Town)
Year: 1957
Label: Bethlehem Company (20-bit Remastered, 1996)
Runtime: 40:09

Tracks:
1.  Cleanhead's Back in Town (William Gray/Dossie Terry/Eddie Vinson) 3:01
2.  That's the Way to Treat Your Woman (William Gray/Dossie Terry/Eddie Vinson) 2:31
3.  Trouble in Mind (William Gray/Dossie Terry/Eddie Vinson) 2:28
4.  Kidney Stew (Leona Blackman/Eddie Vinson) 2:30
5.  Sweet Lovin' Baby (Chuck Darwin) 2:58
6.  Caldonia (Fleecie Moore) 2:50
7.  It Ain't Necessarily So (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin) 2:48
8.  Cherry Red (Pete Johnson/Big Joe Turner)  2:44
9.  Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby (Bill Austin/Louis Jordan) 2:51
10.  I Just Can't Keep the Tears from Tumblin' Down (Chuck Darwin) 3:11
11.  Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine (William Gray/Dossie Terry/Eddie Vinson) 2:26
12.  Hold It Right There (William Gray/Dossie Terry/Eddie Vinson) 2:29
13.  Trouble in Mind (stereo bonus track) (William Gray/Dossie Terry/Eddie Vinson) 2:26
14.  Kidney Stew (stereo bonus track) (Leona Blackman/Eddie Vinson)  2:27
15.  Hold It Right There (stereo bonus track) (William Gray/Dossie Terry/Eddie Vinson) 2:22

Personnel:
Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson (Vocals)
Joe Newman (Trumpet)
Henry Coker (Trombone)
Charles Fowlkes (Baritone Saxophone)
Nat Pierce (Piano)
Ed Jones (Double Bass)
Gus Johnson (Drums) - 1,5,10,11
Frank Foster (Tenor Saxophone) - 1,5,10,11
Freddie Green (Guitar) - 2,3,6,12
Charlie Rouse (Tenor Saxophone) - 2,3,6,12
Ed Thigpen (Drums) - 2-4,6-9,12-15
Paul Quinichette (Tenor Saxophone) - 2-4,6-9,12-15
Bill Graham (Alto Saxophone) - 1,4,5,7-11,13-15
Turk Van Lake (Guitar) - 2,3,6,12



Friday, November 16, 2012

Grant Green - Street of Dreams


Perhaps it's a bit odd that while the 1950s and 1960s threw up many notable guitarists--Montgomery, Galbraith, Puma, Hall, Ellis, Lowe, Pass, &c--they mostly tended to the quieter end of the spectrum: the guitar wasn't frequently encountered in the tough-as-nails, abrasive music known as hard bop. The only two guitarists to have made much of an impact at Blue Note, the home of hard bop, were Kenny Burrell & Grant Green. Green was a guitarist blessed with the ability to make just about anything sound good; even something as unpromising as "Moon River" (on "The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark") in his hands becomes convincing & impeccable jazz. His playing was supremely melodic, unornamented & relaxed; his sound was delicate, but surprisingly adaptable to even the toughest of hard bop contexts. He recorded in a lot of settings; at the time Blue Note seemed mostly interested in his more commercially-oriented work (gospel, blues, organ trio, Latin, pop standards), & it was only after Green's untimely death in the late 1970s that a lot of Green's most important & grittiest work was released, like a pair of albums with McCoy Tyner & Elvin Jones in the rhythm section, or a clutch of discs with Sonny Clark on piano. Unfortunately, as the 1960s wore on like many jazz musicians (& especially guitarists--think of Montgomery & Benson) Green more & more turned to commercially-oriented music; but his numerous mid-1960s discs amply document a figure who is as much a neglected master as, say, Sonny Clark or Herbie Nichols (though like them he is finally getting his due). This album was released during Green's life, fortunately, & remains one of his best. The band features Larry Young on organ, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes & Elvin Jones on drums. If at a casual glance the setlist looks more "commercial" than an album like "Idle Moments" (Green's finest album as a leader), given that it is dependent on standards rather than originals, don't let that fool you. The best of these four long, relaxed performances is a version of "Lazy Afternoon", reworked into a 5/4 groove, the theme given a tranced, elongated reading. But all four tracks are memorable, unfolding gently, with an almost mesmerizing shimmer. Despite its being on the Blue Note label, this disc is as introspective of mood as a contemporary Bill Evans trio date. The players on this disc crossed paths several times again. The Green/Young/Jones axis frequently appeared in Van Gelder's studio: they also recorded Green's "Talkin' About", Young's "Into Somethin'" (with Sam Rivers), & Green's "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (with Hank Mobley; the title track is another fine instance of Green's ability to make compelling jazz out of unlikely material)--if none of these discs quite touches "Street of Dreams" they are still all rewarding listens. Bobby Hutcherson was also a key component of "Idle Moments", which stands as Green's greatest achievement on disc. - by N. Dorward, Amazon.com

Grant Green's second session with organist Larry Young, Street of Dreams brings back drummer Elvin Jones and adds Bobby Hutcherson on vibes for a mellow, dreamy album that lives up to its title. There are only four selections, all standards and all around eight to ten minutes long, and the musicians approach them as extended mood pieces, creating a marvelously light, cool atmosphere that's maintained throughout the record. Hutcherson is the perfect addition for this project, able to blend in with the modal advancement of the rest of the ensemble while adding his clear, shimmering tone to the overall texture of the album. All the musicians play with a delicate touch that's quite distinct from the modal soul-jazz on Talkin' About; it's not so much romantic as thoughtful and introspective, floating along as if buoyed by clouds. There aren't really any fireworks or funky grooves, as the music is all of a piece, which makes it difficult to choose the highlights from French songwriter Charles Trenet's "I Wish You Love," "Lazy Afternoon," the title track, or "Somewhere in the Night." It's another fine record in a discography filled with them, and yet another underrated Green session. - by Steve Huey, AMG

Artist: Grant Green
Album: Street of Dream
Year: 1964
Label: Blue Note (20-bit SBM, 1998)
Runtime: 33:37

Tracks:
1.  I Wish You Love (Charles Trenet) 8:45
2.  Lazy Afternoon (John Latouche/Jerome Moross) 7:45
3.  Street of Dreams (Sam M. Lewis/Victor Young) 9:04
4.  Somewhere in the Night (Mack Gordon/Josef Myrow) 8:01

Personnel:
Grant Green (Guitar)
Bobby Hutcherson (Vibraphone)
Larry Young (Organ)
Elvin Jones (Drums)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Wilbur Harden & John Coltrane - Tanganyika Strut

To discuss styles on this date is to try and epitomize the entire current style of playing jazz. Each of these men represents on their instrument the most current thinking and styling in jazz. Coltrane, the most developed and authoritative voice (along with Taylor), utilizes his searing and soaring vast technical resources to heat up his conservation. Probing the extensions of the basic chords, his use of extended 32nd note and 64th note runs is cleanly executed in tune! This writer detects a particular usage heat of extended top notes that "whine" in a near-use of an old Lester Young technique, currently utilized by Yusef Lateef to give a "near East" influence to the tenor sax. Wilbur Harden approaches melody much like Miles Davis, yet weaving a more note tapestry around it. His extended used of middle range gives the "flat" sound of the flugelhorn a chance to come forth. Curiously, brass men report that this longer-tubed relative of the trumpet takes much more wind and blowing to make sound that the trumpet, yet Harden is able to "puff" effortlessly and brilliantly! Curtis Fuller still makes extended use of 32nd note staccato bursts into biting legato phrases as a trademark. Newcomer Howard Williams' developing style show an alternating pattern of lag-beat single notelines and a more florid chorded style, in contrast to the beautifully constucted and restrained work of Tommy Flanagan. - by H. Alan Stein (from original liner notes)

When listening to the many albums of John Coltrane it is easy to be unimpressed by his earlier works or else to find his later works too avant-garde and difficult to listen to. "Tanganyika Strut" is neither of these. This album seems to have captured him in his transitional phase (1958-1959) where he expresses a great amount of feel in his playing mixed with impressively fast and complicated solos which make his music easier to listen to. This is particularly true with the first two tracks on the album. To those who really get deep into their music you will find yourselves playing this album over and over again admiring the feel and technique than Coltrane possessed. For me, "Tanganyika Strut" along with "A Kind of Blue" (Coltrane and Miles Davis) and "My Favourite Things" represent the best of Coltrane. Remember that Coltrane's music is extremely deep and often difficult to get into. Personally, I place this album in my group of classics along with "Concierto" by Jim Hall, "The Last Concert" by The Modern Jazz Quartet", "A Kind of Blue" Coltrane & Davis, and "Live" by Jim Hall. - from Amazon.com

Artist: Wilbur Harden & John Coltrane
Album: Tanganyika Strut
Year: 1958
Label: Savoy (Nippon Columbia, 1991)
Runtime: 29:09
Audio type: Monaural

Tracks:
1.  Tanganyika Strut (Curtis Fuller) 10:03
2.  B.J. (Wilbur Harden) 4:30
3.  Anecdac (Wilbur Harden) 5:11
4.  Once In A While (Michael Edwards/Bud Green) 9:22

Personnel:
Wilbur Harden (Flugelhorn)
John Coltrane (Tenor Saxophone)
Curtis Fuller (Trombone)
Ali Jackson (Double Bass)
Art Blakey (Drums)
Howard Williams (Piano) - 2-4
Tommy Flanagan (Piano) - 1

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Larry Carlton - Playing/Singing


This is Larry Carlton's second independent recording, which has finally been reissued on CD. The trademark 'Carlton' guitar sound is evident throughout, as is his toneless singing. The tracks here have a more earthy feel, as opposed to the over-produced stylings he would later employ; however, the overall results are disappointing. The guitar playing is certainly impressive (especially the distortion-filled "Free Way"), but there is simply not enough of it. Regardless, this is an interesting part of Carlton's beginnings and there are enough moments here that foreshadow his evolvement into one of the most distinctive voices in the history of electric guitar. - by Robert Taylor, AMG

Artist: Larry Carlton
Album: Playing/Singing
Year: 1973
Label: Edsel (1995)
Runtime: 31:57

Tracks:
1. Easy Evil (Alan O'Day) 4:10
2. I Cry Mercy (Tim Smith/Steve Smith) 3:17
3. One More Chance (Terry Furlong) 3:15
4. With Respect To Coltrane (Tom Scott) 4:20
5. American Family (Alan O'Day) 4:05
6. Wavin' And Smilin' (Bob Siller)3:03
7. Captain, Captain (Walter Meskel) 3:29
8. Free Way (Larry Carlton) 6:15

Personnel:
Larry Carlton (Guitar, Vocals, Bass)
Michael Omartian (Electric Piano, Piano, Organ) - 1-3,5-7
Joe Osborne (Bass Guitar) - 2,3,6
Alan Estes (Percussion) - 3,4,6
Jim Gordon (Drums) - 2,7
Ron Tutt (Drums) - 3,6
Wilton Felder (Bass Guitar) - 4,8
Joe Sample (Electric Piano) - 4,8
Stix Hooper (Drums) - 4,8
Michael Mills (Percussion) - 1
Max Bennett (Bass) - 5
John Guerin (Drums) - 5
Reinie Press (Bass Guitar) - 7
Chris Neilson (Backing Vocals) - 7
Oma Drake (Backing Vocals) - 3
Julia Tillman Waters (Backing Vocals) - 3
Maxine Willard (Backing Vocals) - 3

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