Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Barney Kessel - The Poll Winners

If the picture of three grown men hanging onto giant, colored swirl sticks looks a bit odd, or if the title The Poll Winners seems a bit conceited, the music, nonetheless -- recorded in 1957 -- still sounds great in 2002. Besides, guitarist Barney Kessel, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Shelly Manne really did win polls in Down Beat, Playboy, and Metronome in 1956, and this is precisely what brought the players together. Here, on their first outing, they interpret nine pieces for 40 lovely minutes of modern jazz. After kicking off with a fine take on Duke Jordan's "Jordu," the group delivers an emotionally warm, six-minute version of "Satin Doll," one the album's highlights. While each player is always fully engaged in this small setting, Kessel's guitar supplies the lead voice. His expressive style has more in common with bluesy players like Kenny Burrell than cool ones like Tal Farlow. This quality leads to sensitive interpretations of melody-filled standards like "On Green Dolphin Street" and "It Could Happen to You." As is traditional in small settings, both Manne and Brown are also given a piece of the action, usually near the end of a tune. The choice of material, the interplay between the three players, and the lead work all meld together beautifully on The Poll Winners, making it a classic guitar album in a small-group setting. - by Ronnie D. Lankford Jr.

Barney Kessel, Shelly Manne, and Ray Brown did not record together simply because they all happened to have won first place on their respective instruments in the Down Beat, Playboy, and Metronome polls. Their collaboration was due to mutual respect, and their sensitivity to one another's musical requirements. Here, in a set composed mainly of pop and jazz standards, they represent the ultimate in their fields, constituting a rhythm section that also provides brilliant solo interludes by all three members. Collectively, Kessel, Manne, and Brown won dozens of polls over the years; this record eloquently tells you why. - from concordmusicgroup.com

Artist: Barney Kessel Wirh Shelly Manne & Ray Brown
Album: The Poll Winners
Year: 1957 (Contemporary)
Label: OJC (20Bit Remastered, 1992)
Runtime: 40:32

1.  Jordu 3:30 (Duke Jordan)
2.  Satin Doll 6:32 (Duke Ellington)
3.  It Could Happen to You (Jimmy Van Heusen) 4:25
4.  Mean to Me (Roy Turk/Fred E. Ahlert) 6:30
5.  Don't Worry 'bout Me (Rune Bloom/Ted Koehler) 4:36
6.  On Green Dolphin Street (Bronislaw Kaper/Ned Washington) 4:03
7.  You Go to My Head (J. Fred Coots/Haven Gillespie) 4:24
8.  Minor Mood (Barney Kessel) 3:21
9.  Nagasaki (Harry Warren/Mort Dixon) 3:08

Barney Kessel (Guitar)
Ray Brown (Double Bass)
Shelly Manne (Drums)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Joshua Redman - Elastic

Coming fast on the heels of Redman's collaborative Yaya3 date with the same players (organist Sam Yahel and drummer Brian Blade), Elastic is more about pop/soul-funk than jazz, but it doesn't sacrifice any of Yaya3's organic feeling and improvisational focus. Here Yahel plays not only Hammond organ, but also Fender Rhodes, clavinet, and other assorted electric keys. Redman makes liberal use of overdubbing and signal processing, much of which is surprisingly subtle. The result is quite a lot of sound for three people, quite a lot of inspired blowing, and quite a lot of stylistic ground covered. Highlights include the agitated, over-the-top "Still Pushin' That Rock," the tight funk and involved lines of "Jazz Crimes" and "News from the Front," and the slow gospel of "Can a Good Thing Last Forever?" Redman seems fond of the Rhodes-soprano sax combination, particularly on mellower themes like "The Long Way Home" and "Unknowing." While one has to admire Redman's musical open-mindedness, his writing can take on a middle-of-the-road quality at times; on this record it surfaces on "Boogielastic". It says something that Yahel contributed the most alluring piece, a short-and-sweet song in five called "Oumou." - by David R. Adler, AMG

Joshua Redman appeared on the scene in the early 1990's, receiving much critical acclaim as a 'be-bop' revivalist of sorts. Jazz guitar legend Pat Metheny was amongst those who, early on, sang his praises (Metheny also wrote and performed on some of Redman's early records). Those early CDs revealed Joshua Redman to be an extraordinarily gifted (albeit somewhat imitative) tenor sax player with his feet firmly planted in the 'bop' tradition. But Redman's work of late has been evolving to some degree... which has some jazz critics (and some 'purists') crying foul. They say he has abandoned the straight-ahead 'be-bop' that characterised his first efforts. That may well be true; but to me this is a good thing. After a decade of making records (many of them highly praised) he has already proven he has the jazz 'chops'... so maybe he felt it was time to try something a little different. On his latest, 'Elastic' he is working with Sam Yahel (piano, keyboards, organ) and jazz drummer extraordinaire, Mr. Brian Blade. Brian Blade alone would be worth the price of admission here. His drumming on 'Elastic' is even more energetic and adventurous than on his own albums. He handles his drum kit like a gladiator... snare drums snap... cymbals sizzle... and the bass drum booms like THUNDER ! Brian Blade doesn't just play his drums... he actually makes them DANCE and SING! Meanwhile, Sam Yahel's groove-oriented Hammond organ playing keeps things moving along nicely... both on the slow, soulful ballads and also the more up-tempo funk numbers. As for Joshua Redman, he still displays the same dazzling technique and the rich 'earthy' tone he's become famous for. His saxophone swoops and swirls over the funky grooves laid down by his bandmates Yahel and Blade. He seems to be content to share the spotlight here... and he also genuinely seems to be enjoying himself within this trio setting. Joshua Redman fans who have not listened since his 'be-bop' days will be in for a little surprise on this one. But I do wish to emphasize that this new record is NOT a "smooth jazz" type of CD. There are no sequencers or other studio gimmicks here. And the music itself is far too sophisticated to be tossed in with the 'smooth jazz' crowd. Instead, what we have here are three jazz musicians who KNOW HOW TO PLAY making real live jazz music... but in a slightly skewered (and more listener-friendly) groove-oriented style. This one is great for music fans who like intelligent, yet funky & accessible jazz music. Excellent... HIGHLY RECOMMENDED !! - by a customer, Amazon.com

Artist: Joshua Redman
Album: Elastic
Year: (2002)
Label: Warner
Runtime: 69:20

1.  Molten Soul 8:10
2.  Jazz Crimes 6:43
3.  The Long Way Home 5:43
4.  Oumou 3:42
5.  Still Pushin' That Rock 8:27
6.  Can A Good Thing Last Forever? 6:18
7.  Boogielastic 7:55
8.  Unknowing 3:28
9.  News Front The Front 5:57
10.  Letting Go 5:07
11.  The Birthday Song Intro 2:43
12.  The Birthday Song 5:01
All songs composed by Joshua Redman

Joshua Redman (Tenor, Alto and Soprano Saxophone)
Sam Yahel (Hammond Organ, Synthesizers, Fender Rhodes, Clavinet, Piano)
Brian Blade (Drums)
Bashiri Johnson (Tambourine, Shaker, Congas) - 1,2,6,7,9

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Subroto Roy Chowdhury - Bageshree

The complex system of classical Indian music was handed down by gurus from generation to generation. There is no concrete notation system, yet the music has come down to the present from ancient scriptures, by legend, by ear, and by the demonstrations of the gurus. Refined through the centuries, it remains highly creative due to the degree of improvisation in performance. Pulling the world's heart-strings with its emotional deepness, Indian music has a strong fascination especially for Western audiences.
Born in Calcutta in 1943, Subroto Roy Chowdhury started playing the sitar at the age of 13. Inclined towards authentic traditional forms of Indian classical music, he leaned towards the gurus of yesteryears rather than the established masters in the limelight. Following his debut concert in North Calcutta in 1964, Subroto received various awards at All Bengal, All India, Inter-University and All India Radio musical competitions. In the 1970s he started visiting Europe where he played for Radio France, BBC, Radio Television Belgium, the North Sea Jazz Festival in Hague, and the Leverkusen Jazz Festival. He donated the royalties for his first record, Calcutta Meditation (ENJA), to Amnesty International. Subroto has performed over 300 concerts all over Europe and the States, spreading the message of universal peace and humanity with his soulmate - the sitar. - from enjarecords.com

Artist: Subroto Roy Chowdhury
Album: Bageshree
Year: 1995
Label: Tiptoe
Runtime 61:11

1.  Raga Bageshree Part 1 14:47
2.  Raga Bageshree Part 2 10:58
3.  Raga Bageshree Part 3 7:21
4.  Raga Bageshree Part 4 10:22
5.  Singhi Bhairavi Aochar 8:11
6.  Singhi Bhairavi Sadra 9:28
All composition are traditional, arranged by S.R. Chowdhury 

Subroto Roy Chowdhury (Sitar)
Anindya Chatterjee (Tabla)
Bimal Sarkar (Tamboura)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Jan Garbarek & Anouar Brahem - Madar

On this CD Jan Garbarek (doubling on tenor and soprano) is accompanied only by Anouar Brahem on oud and Ustad Shaukat Hussain's tabla. Garbarek shows off his distinctive tones and lyricism on a set of gradually developing group originals, two of which are based on traditional Norwegian melodies. It may take some time for listeners to get into this music and notice the fire beneath the ice but the close communication between the players is apparent from the start. Jan Garbarek has succeeded in carving out his own unique niche in improvised music and Madar (which also has individual features for Brahem and Shaukat) is a good example of how he can create a great deal out of what seems like very little. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Jan Garbarek's career has always followed 2 paths: his work with his own group and his collaborative output. The former has been consistent in terms of quality, but since the 90's has gradually become more and more predictable; the latter remains interesting and varied but is not always completely successful. This album falls firmly into the latter category. It starts off interestingly enough with all 3 musicians featuring on Sull Lull (a Garbarek arrangement of a Norwegian folk tune) and continues with the title track, a Garbarek and Brahem co-composition. Next, Sebika sees Garbarek and Brahem overdubbing solos onto a racing, repetitive oud pattern. Then after half an hour we drift off into solo territory - first 2 tracks by Brahem and then one behemoth of a tabla solo by Hussain. Most collaborations on ECM are instigated by label boss and producer Manfred Eicher, bringing together musicians from his roster who he thinks would work well together. Strange then that so much of this album should be given over to solo tracks. There's nothing wrong with the tracks themselves, other than they belong on solo albums. What listeners really want to hear is these 3 great players interacting, and with no harmonic instrument the musicians could hardly complain of a lack of creative breathing space. This point is emphasised by Epilogue. It's less than a minute long but what is a piano vignette doing here other than filling space that should have been left empty? Suspiciously no one takes credit for it! Fortunately, sense is restored towards the end and both Joron (another traditional Norwegian melody) and Qaws feature more than one player. Otherwise things are pretty much as you would expect. Typical ECM production, very spacious with copious amounts of reverb. Sometimes this can sound overly austere, but here it works well, making the drones hang in the air and giving them a deliciously haunting quality. Garbarek is as distinctive as ever, although this is not his best performance and he does rely on some trusty old phrases from time to time. Brahem is a revelation and the oud (or Arabic lute) is such a wonderful sounding instrument. Overall, of the 77 minutes of music on offer, there is a very good 50-minute album lurking in here, you just need to programme your CD player to get it out. The 3 musicians all have strong voices on their respective instruments and when they interact the playing is always excellent and on occasions really inspired. A qualified success. - by Nim-Chimpsky, Amazon.co.uk

Artist: Jan Garbarek, Anouar Brahem & Shaukat Hussain
Album: Madar
Year: 1994
Label: ECM
Runtime: 77:34

1.  Sull Lull (Traditional) 16:51
2.  Madar (Jan Garbarek/Anouar Brahem) 11:14
3.  Sebika (Anouar Brahem) 5:32
4.  Bahia (Anouar Brahem) 10:20
5.  Ramy (Anouar Brahem) 3:00
6.  Jaw (Ustad Shaukat Hussain) 8:04
7.  Joron (Traditional) 6:29
8.  Qaws (Jan Garbarek/Anouar Brahem) 15:12
9.  Epilogue 0:52

Jan Garbarek (Tenor and Soprano Saxophone)
Anouar Brahem (Oud)
Ustad Shaukat Hussain (Tabla)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ike Quebec - Blue and Sentimental

Ike Quebec's 1961-1962 comeback albums for Blue Note were all pretty rewarding, but Blue and Sentimental is his signature statement of the bunch, a superbly sensuous blend of lusty blues swagger and achingly romantic ballads. True, there's no shortage of that on Quebec's other Blue Note dates, but Blue and Sentimental is the most exquisitely perfected. Quebec was a master of mood and atmosphere, and the well-paced program here sustains his smoky, late-night magic with the greatest consistency of tone. Part of the reason is that Quebec's caressing tenor sound is given a sparer backing than usual, with no pianist among the quartet of guitarist Grant Green, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Philly Joe Jones. It's no surprise that Green solos with tremendous taste and elegance (the two also teamed up on Green's similarly excellent Born to Be Blue), and there are plenty of open spaces in the ensemble for Quebec to shine through. His rendition of the Count Basie-associated title cut is a classic, and the other standard on the original LP, "Don't Take Your Love From Me," is in a similarly melancholy vein. Green contributes a classic-style blues in "Blues for Charlie," and Quebec's two originals, "Minor Impulse" and "Like," have more complex chord changes but swing low and easy. Through it all, Quebec remains the quintessential seducer, striking just the right balance between sophistication and earthiness, confidence and vulnerability, joy and longing. It's enough to make Blue and Sentimental a quiet, sorely underrated masterpiece. (The CD reissue adds three bonus cuts, all standards, which fit the program very nicely indeed.) - by Steve Huey, AMG

This is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Ike's tone, breathy yet virile, is set against the unusually spare backing of guitar, bass and drums, and to stunning effect. The recording quality is spectacular (as it was on vinyl), and if you close your eyes the musicians are in the room with you. Grant Green's guitar work is relaxed, perfectly judged, and never competes for space. I much prefer this line-up to the organ-based arrangements of some of his other recordings. Apparently his story is one tragically familiar in jazz, dying young and leaving too little. In one sense this album defines saxophone jazz, in another it transcends genre. It's purely *music*, lyrical, sad, and occasionally full of lively spirit. It's been a personal favourite of mine for many years, and I frequently find myself humming his solos, and hearing that unique tone in my head. In fact, I'm going to stop writing this and listen to it again. This is music that will last you your lifetime. - by Ampar, Amazon.com

Artist: Ike Quebec
Album: Blue and Sentimental
Year: 1961
Label: Blue Note (1988)
Runtime: 50:33

1.  Blue and Sentimental (Count Basie/Mack David/Jerry Livingston) 7:29
2.  Minor Impulse (Ike Quebec) 6:35
3.  Don't Take Your Love from Me (Henry Nemo) 7:04
4.  Blues for Charlie (Grant Green) 6:49
5.  Like (Ike Quebec) 5:21
6.  That Old Black Magic (Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer) 4:53
7.  It's All Right With Me (Cole Porter) 6:05
8.  Count Every Star (Bruno Coquatrix/Sammy Gallop) 6:17
Ike Quebec (Tenor Saxophone)
Grant Green (Guitar)
Paul Chambers (Double Bass)
Philly Joe Jones (Drums)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Jazz Corps - Featuring Roland Kirk

I must say, it absolutely blew me away. The compositions (all by Tommy Peltier) each have their own distinct attitudes, and they're all awesome. Plus, it features Roland Kirk playing bari sax on half the album, which there are few recorded examples of, and the tracks on this album are by far the best. His bari playing is out of this world. On one track he sounds like I imagine Gerry Mulligan would if he gained about 100 pounds, in terms of sound, you know what I mean? It's soft and reserved, yet there's so much depth and warmth to his tone. On other tracks, he sounds like a bulldozer, crazy multiphonics and everything going. It also has some of his best flute playing I've ever heard, including a beautiful flute duet with Freddy Rodriguez. Speaking of Freddy Rodriguez, on tenor, he's a monster! I'd never heard him before...did he ever get any recognition? - by Shade of Blue, allaboutjazz.com

Likable like most of Kirk's albums from the early 60s.  However, less adventurous than others despite having an entire Jazz Corps behind him!  Good arrangements and the vibes (the instrument, not the mood) add a distinctive flavour.  There is also an interesting amount of Latin derived material, and of course, great sax and flute from the one and only - Roland Kirk.  I acquired this one about fifteen years ago for cheap when a record store was closing down and now it is a permanent, if not minor, part of my collection. Even though The Jazz Corps' recording legacy was a one shot deal, they will be remembered by serious Rahsaan Roland Kirk collectors for years to come.  The Jazz Corps knows its stuff and Kirk provides that extra little touch to make things spicy enough.  The drummer of the group, Maurice Miller, is quite good.  "Chalan Pago" features Kirk in a flute solo that is easily worth the price of the disk: an essential, classic Kirk moment.  What I really found most interesting was hearing Kirk play the baritone saxophone.  That's not something that he played very much.  If you see this at a used record store then grab it for sure. - by Lanky Caravan and Zappaholic, rateyourmusic.com

Artist: The Jazz Corps
Album: The Jazz Corps featuring Roland Kirk
Year: 1966
Label: Pacific Jazz (1994)
Runtime: 43:30

1.  Harplyness 4:47
2.  Serenity 3:28
3.  Peru-T 4:59
4.  Liberation 4:27
5.  Chalon Pago 3:48
6.  Le Blessing 8:17
7.  Meanwhile 8:33
8.  Another Plum 5:17
All compositions by Tommy Peltier

Tommy Peltier (Trumpet and Flugelhorn)
Fred Rodriguez (Tenor and Alto Saxophone, Flute)
Lynn Blessing (Vibraphone)
Bill Plummer (Acoustic Bass)
Maurice Miller (Drums)
Roland Kirk (Tenor and Baritone Saxophone, Flute, Manzello, Stritch)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Harry Belafonte & Nana Mouskouri - An Evening

Following the pattern of his album duet with Lena Horne on songs from Porgy and Bess, Harry Belafonte teamed up this time with Greek chanteuse Nana Mouskouri. Belafonte first performed with Mouskouri in Burlington, VT in 1964 during his first college tour. As with Lena Horne, Belafonte sings only two duets with Mouskouri; the remaining tunes may as well have been featured on solo albums, because the two singers didn't even share instrumentalists -- Belafonte used his usual stable of musicians, including guitarist Ernie Calabria, bassist John Cartwright, and percussionist Ralph MacDonald, while Mouskouri was accompanied by bouzouki player George Petsilas. The songs are sung in Greek with Mouskouri's naturally coming off as more authentic. Most of the tunes were written by the prolific Greek songwriter Manos Hadjidakis, writer of "Never on Sunday." - by Cary Ginell

This album will appeal to all fans of Nana Mouskouri's early recordings. She recorded this album with Harry Belafonte as a result of their successful college tours of the United States and Canada. All of the songs will be known by Nana's fans. The songs are shared between Nana and Harry. They sing two together and four each individually. The songs are named in English with the anglicised Greek name underneath. Eight are compositions by the great Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis who, along with Nana, created a whole new body of contemporary music based on Greek folklore. It is interesting to compare, for example, the track entitled "Dream", (otherwise better known as Odos Oniron) with Nana's subsequent recordings of this song, especially the live recording on the album "Recital 70" at the Olympia, Paris. It is one of my favourite Hadjidakis compositions that Nana sings, and this arrangement is accompanied by sizzling bouzouki strings. Nana's excellent accompanist is George Petsilas, her former husband. I like Nana Mouskouri's voice above that of Harry Belafonte's, because I've always been a Nana fan, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate Harry's singing here. The song "If you are thirsty" is one of the two duets on the album and is really beautiful to listen to. If you are a fan of Nana Mouskouri then you'll want to own this album - I've had it for years as an LP (but only in Mono) so it was nice to hear it in stereo at last. - by blackjemcat, Amazon.com

Artist: Harry Belafonte and Nana Mouskouri
Album: An Evening With H. Belafonte & N. Mouskouri
Year: 1966
Label: RCA (1990)
Runtime: 29:55

1.  My Moon (Fengari Moo) (George Petsilas) 3:03
2.  Dream (Oneero) (Manos Hadjidakis/Henry Onorati) 2:39
3.  If You are Thirsty (Kean Tha Depsasees) (Nikos Gatsos/Manos Hadjidakis) 3:16
4.  The Train (To Traino) (Manos Hadjidakis) 3:19
5.  In the Small Boat (Mes Tin Varka) (Manos Hadjidakis) 3:22
6.  The Town Crier (Telalees) (Manos Hadjidakis) 2:12
7.  Walking on the Moon (Pame Mia Volta) (Manos Hadjidakis) 3:37
8.  The Baby Snake (Feedakee) (Manos Hadjidakis) 3:17
9.  The Wide Sea (Thalassa Platia) (Manos Hadjidakis) 2:31
10.  Irene (Erene) (George Petsilas) 2:34

Harry Belafonte (Vocals)
Nana Mouskouri (Vocals)
George Petsilas (Bouzouki and Guitar)
Ernie Calabria (Bourouki and Guitar)
Jay Berliner (Guitar)
John Cartwright (Bass Violin)
Percy Brice (Percusiion)
Ralph MacDonald (Percussion)


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