Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mickey Hart - Mickey Hart's Mystery Box

After the passing of Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia and the venerable band's demise, it was percussionist Mickey Hart who proved to be the most creatively resilient. As Deadheads and appreciators of world music can attest, Hart -- who is also an author and learned ethnomusicologist -- has been fusing genres ever since his debut release, 1972's Rolling Thunder, which included Native American sounds and motifs along with rock and jazz. Mickey Hart's Mystery Box harks back to that project with his first album of pop-oriented material in nearly a quarter-century. He combines the seemingly disparate world of percussion-based rhythms with traditional "Western-style" structures
containing lyrics by Grateful Dead wordsmith Robert Hunter. All the more diverse are the contributions of the Mint Juleps. This female vocal sextet features siblings Debbie Charles, Elizabeth Charles, Marcia Charles, and Sandra Charles as well as Julie Isaac and Debbie Longworth. Collectively, their paradisaical harmonies support Hart's occasional leads, while they're effectively incorporated as primary participants on the infectious groove of the opener, "Where Love Goes (Sito)," and the new wave vibe of "Full Steam Ahead," which is reminiscent of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club. The Hart-sung "Down the Road" offers a nod to the late Garcia and provides a focal point for Hunter's obviously heartfelt tribute. "Only the Strange Remain" resembles something similar to a latter-era Dead song, bringing to mind "West L.A. Fadeaway" and "Days Between," both in terms of Hunter's piercing insight and a practically tangible noir feeling permeating throughout. The bombastic "John Cage Is Dead" is a masterful amalgam of percussive-heavy world beats in an undulating modern context. "The Last Song" is an apt conclusion as cultures once again collide, yielding a tune that wouldn't have sounded out of place on urban contemporary radio. As the name of this 1996 release suggests, Mickey Hart's Mystery Box has a little something for every taste and reinforces the Grateful Dead adage "Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right." - by Lindsay Planer, AMG

Artist: Mickey Hart
Album: Mickey Hart's Mystery Box
Year: 1996
Label: Rykodisc
Runtime: 54:07

1.  Where Love Goes (Sito) (Mickey Hart/Robert Hunter/Mint Juleps/Babatunde Olatunji/Zakir Hussain/Giovanni Hidalgo) 5:25
2.  Full Steam Ahead (Mickey Hart/Robert Hunter/Mint Juleps/Zakir Hussain/Giovanni Hidalgo/Sikiru Adepoju/Karl Jenkins/Vinve Welnick) 5:18
3.  Down The Road (Mickey Hart/Robert Hunter/Karl Jenkins/Vince Welnick/Giovanni Hidalgo) 5:59
4.  The Sandman (Mickey Hart/Robert Hunter/Karl Jenkins/Vince Welnick/Mint Juleps/Zakir Hussain) 4:09
5.  The Next Step (Mickey Hart/Robert Hunter/Karl Jenkins/Vince Welnick/Jeff Sterling/Zakir Hussain/Giovanni Hidalgo/Sikiru Adepoju) 5:23
6.  Look Away (Mickey Hart/Robert Hunter/Mint Juleps/Sikiru Adepoju/Giovanni Hidalgo) 5:58
7.  Only The Strange Remain (Mickey Hart/Robert Hunter)  6:24
8.  Sangre De Christos (Mickey Hart/Robert Hunter/Karl Jenkins/Vince Welnick/Zakir Hussain/Giovanni Hidalgo) 4:14
9.  John Cage Is Dead (Mickey Hart/Robert Hunter/Karl Jenkins/Vince Welnick/Zakir Hussain/Giovanni Hidalgo) 6:02
10.  The Last Song (Mickey Hart/Robert Hunter/Mint Juleps/Sikiru Adepoju/Giovanni Hidalgo) 5:15

Mickey Hart (Drums, Timbales, Castanets, Claps, Vocals, Cowbell, Udu, Berimbau, Prepared Piano, Dumbek)
The Mint Juleps (Vocals)
Giovanni Hidalgo (Bongo, Timbales, Congas, Metal Percussion, Guiro, Cowbell, Bata, ) - 1-3,5-10
Zakir Hussain (Dholak, Shekere, Tarang, Djembe, Octobon, Udu, Dimri, Madal) - 1,2,4-6,8,9
Sikiru Adepoju (Talking Drum) - 1,2,4-6,10
Habib Faye (Bass Guitar) - 1-3,5,7,9
Jeff Sterling (Synthesizer, Burundi Drums, Low Bamboo) - 1-4,6,8-10
Babatunde Olatunji (Backing Vocals, Shekere) - 1,10
Airto Moreira (Bells, Caxixi, Percussion) - 2,4,6,10
Bruce Hornsby (Accordion, Backing Vocals) - 3
Mark Smith (Bass Guitar) - 4,6,8,10
Bob Weir (Guitar) - 4
Robin Millar (Marimba, Sine Bass, Computer Vocal, Keyboards) - 4,7-9
Taro Hart (Drums) - 6
Graham Wiggins (Didjeridoo) - 7
The Gyuto Monks Trantic Choir (Choir) - 7

Monday, December 15, 2014

Gene Ammons - Preachin'

This is a most unusual session. With accompaniment by organist Clarence "Sleepy" Anderson along with bassist Sylvester Hickman and drummer Dorel Anderson, the great tenor performs 11 religious hymns that are straight from the church. Ammons mostly sticks very closely to the themes but gives such melodies as "Abide with Me," "You'll Never Walk Alone," "What a Friend," and "Holy Holy" passion, soul, and honest feelings. Reissued on CD, this little-known album is a rather touching and emotional outing, and is quite unique. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Gene Ammons
Album: Preachin'
Year: 1962 (Prestige)
Label: OJC (Digital remastering, 1993)
Runtime: 35:14

1.  Sweet Hour (Traditional) 3:15
2.  Yield Not (Traditional) 2:01
3.  Abide With Me (Traditional) 3:18
4.  Blessed Assurance (Traditional) 3:18
5.  The Prayer (Traditional) 3:00
6.  You'll Never Walk Alone (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein) 3:44
7.  I Believe (Ervin Drake/Irvin Graham/Jimmy Shirl/Al Stillman) 3:18
8.  Precious Memories (Traditional) 4:11
9.  What A Friend (Traditional) 3:35
10.  Holy Holy (Traditional) 2:45
11.  The Light (Traditional) 2:49

Gene Ammons (Tenor Saxophone)
Clarence Anderson (Organ)
Sylvester Hickman (Double Bass)
Dorral Anderson (Drums)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Herbie Hancock - Inventions & Dimensions

For his third album, Inventions and Dimensions, Herbie Hancock changed course dramatically. Instead of recording another multifaceted album like My Point of View, he explored a Latin-inflected variation of post-bop with a small quartet. Hancock is the main harmonic focus of the music -- his three colleagues are bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Willie Bobo, and percussionist Osvaldo "Chihuahua" Martinez, who plays conga and bongo. It is true that the music is rhythm-intensive, but that doesn't mean it's dance music. Hancock has created an improvisational atmosphere where the rhythms are fluid and the chords, harmonies, and melodies are unexpected. On every song but one, the melodies and chords were improvised, with Hancock's harmonic ideas arising from the rhythms during the recording. The result is risky, unpredictable music that is intensely cerebral and quite satisfying. Inventions and Dimensions displays his willingness to experiment and illustrates that his playing is reaching new, idiosyncratic heights. Listening to this, the subsequent developments of Miles Davis' invitation to join his quartet and the challenging Empyrean Isles come as no surprise. - by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AMG

Artis: Herbie Hancock
Album: Inventions & Dimensions
Year: 1963
Label: Blue Note (1988)
Runtime: 40:01

1.  Succotash 7:42
2.  Triangle 11:04
3.  Jack Rabbit 6:00
4.  Mimosa 8:40
5.  A Jump Ahead 6:35
All compositions by Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock (Piano)
Paul Chambers (Double Bass)
Willie Bobo (Drums, Timbales)
Osvaldo Martinez (Conga, Bongo)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Jim Hall - Concierto

Guitarist Jim Hall is the sort of musician who displays such technical expertise, imaginative conception, and elegance of line and phrase that almost any recording of his is worth hearing. Still, Concierto ranks among the best albums of his superb catalog. For starters, the personnel here is a jazz lover's dream come true. Paul Desmond (saxophone), Chet Baker (trumpet), Roland Hanna (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Steve Gadd (drums) are on board, creating -- along with Hall -- one of the highest profile lineups ever put to tape. Yet Concierto is not about star power and showboating. As subtle, nuanced, and considered as any of Hall's output, the ensemble playing here demonstrates great group sensitivity and interplay, giving precedence to mood and atmosphere over powerhouse soloing. Conductor and arranger Don Sebesky evinces a chamber ambience from the sextet on "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," the smoky "The Answer Is Yes," and the Hall centerpiece "Concierto de Aranjuez." - by Anthony Tognazzini, AMG

Amongst the many CTI classics of the 1970s, few stand the test of time as well as guitarist Jim Hall's Concierto, an ambitious album that, in its original form, married one side of modern mainstream with a second taken up by a 19-minute version of Joaquin Rodrigo's 1939 piece for classical guitar and orchestra, "Concierto de Aranjuez." That Miles Davis and Gil Evans already delivered what was considered the definitive jazz adaptation on the trumpeter's 1960 classic, Sketches of Spain (Columbia), and that pianist Chick Corea had grabbed parts as the intro to his now-classic "Spain," were clearly no deterrents to Hall, or to arranger Don Sebesky, who—sticking with this minimalist quintet/sextet rather than the overblown orchestras he'd sometimes resort to on other CTI titles—delivers one of the best charts of his career. Sebesky perfectly balances the innate economy and astute improvisation acumen of Hall's group with written scores that maximize the beauty of space and nuanced understatement. Trumpeter Chet Baker is in terrific form here, in the midst of a relatively brief cleanup period from heroin and with two strong CTI recordings from the previous year—his own She Was Too Good to Me (reissued in 2010 by CTI Masterworks) and Carnegie Hall Concert, with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan sax, baritone  and a crack band that includes drummer Harvey Mason, and a young John Scofield on guitar. Paul Desmond is also in great shape, interacting particularly empathically with Baker on the swinging opener, "You Be So Nice To Come Home To," before the trumpeter takes over with a solo of surprising fire and even occasional grit. As is the case on the lion's share of CTI recordings, bassist Ron Carter stokes the engine room— this time with drummer Steve Gadd—demonstrating his remarkable versatility. Hall's career has been founded on a thoughtful and restrained economy that's made every note, every voicing, count. What's most remarkable about his playing here is how perfect his choices still are, nearly 40 years later. It's often easy to look back and reassess performances for what they might have been, but there's absolutely nothing here that could (or should) be changed; pianist Roland Hanna also plays with a combination of melodic invention and Spartan lyricism on the two versions of "You'd Be So Nice," including a bonus alternate that, taken at an ever-so-slightly-slower tempo, breathes a tad more than the album version; though, with slightly softer edges, it's easy to see why Hall and producer Creed Taylor made the choice they did. With its reading of "Concierto de Aranjuez" standing easily beside the Davis/Evans version on Sketches of Spain, Concierto deserves to be considered an equal classic, and a masterpiece in its own right—proof that music can be deep, modern, timeless and accessible. - by John Kelman, AllAboutJazz.com

Artist: Jim Hall
Album: Concierto
Year: 1975
Label: CTI
Runtime: 37:55

1.  You'd Be So Nice To Come Home (Cole Porter) 7:06
2.  Two's Blues (Jim Hall)  3:52
3.  The Answer Is Yes (Jim Hall)  7:41
4.  Concierto de Aranjuez (Joaquín Rodrigo) 19:16

Jim Hall (Guitar)
Roland Hanna (Piano)
Ron Carter (Double Bass)
Steve Gadd (Drums)
Chet Baker (Trumpet)
Paul Desmond (Alto Saxophone)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Grencso Collective - Plays Monk

From the sixties on, in all of the 80 or 90 Hungarian jazzclubs the art, piano playing and compositions of Thelonius Monk attracted a following. The pianist himself visited Budapest twice, both times in the seventies as a member of the Giants of Jazz touring group. Bearing the name of Thelonius Jazzclub, a local club operated here from 1984 to 1990 to cultivate the heritage of Monk.
From among the most famous compositions of Monk, 'Round Midnight was recorded girst, in 1962, by the Qualiton Jazz Ensemble. Straight. No Chaser was taped by violinist Csaba Deseő in 1964, on his first recording date ever. These were followed by nomerous other recordings. - From original liner notes

Artist: Grencso Collective
Album: Plays Monk
Year: 1995
Label: Pannon Jazz
Runtime: 42:32

1.  In Walked Bud (Thelonius Monk) 4:19
2.  Bemsha Swing (Thelonius Monk) 3:54
3.  Misterioso (Thelonius Monk) 6:28
4.  Epistrophy (Thelonius Monk) 6:15
5.  Rhythm-A-Ning (Thelonius Monk) 3:36
6.  Blue Monk (Thelonius Monk) 3:24
7.  Well You Needn't (Thelonius Monk) 3:45
8.  Straight No Chaser (Thelonius Monk) 3:56
9.  'Round Midnight (Thelonius Monk/Bernie Hanighen/Cootie Williams) 6:55

István Grencsó (Alto and Tenor Saxophone)
Béla Ágoston (Bass Clarinet) - 1-6,8
István Gyárfás (Guitar) - 1-6,8
György Jeszenszky (Drums and Metalophon) - 1-5,7,8

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Grant Green - The Latin Bit

Grant Green, being known mainly as a soul jazz guitarist, eventually gravitated into the popular boogaloo sound. The Latin Bit is the natural bridge to that next phase, though a bit premature for most in 1961-1963, even relative to the subsequent bossa nova craze. Pianist Johnny Acea, long an underrated jazzman, is the nucleus of this session, grounding it with witty chops, chordal comping, and rhythmic meat. The Latino rhythm section of drummer Willie Bobo and conga player Carlos "Patato" Valdes personify authentic, seasoned spice, while at times the chekere sound of Garvin Masseaux makes the soup too thick. At its collective best, the group presents a steady, serene, and steamy "Besame Mucho" and the patient, slow, slinky, sultry "Tico Tico." Just a small step below is a classy take on Charlie Parker's "My Little Suede Shoes," a premier jazz bebop (emphasis) tune with a Latin undertow and Green's tiniest staccato phrases, slightly marred by the overbearing constant chekere, but still classic. "Mama Inez" ranks high for its calypso-infused happy feeling and wry stop-start lines. The straight-ahead hard bopper "Brazil" and lone soul-jazz tune, "Blues for Juanita," display the single-note acumen that made Green's style instantly recognizable. This date always yielded mixed results for staunch fans of Green, but it remains a credible effort, even if slightly flawed in part. [Some reissues add two selections with pianist Sonny Clark and tenor saxophonist Ike Quebec, the latter of whom plays hip secondary harmonies on the bossa nova-flavored "Granada," but is in the complete background and a non-factor on the pop tune "Hey There."] - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Grant Green
Album: The Latin Bit
Year: 1962
Label: Blue Note (1996)
Runtime: 59:42

1.  Mambo Inn (Mario Bauzá/Edgar Sampson/Bobby Woodlen) 5:50
2.  Besame Mucho (Sunny Skylar/Consuelo Velázquez) 7:11
3.  Mama Inez (L. Wolfe Gilbert/Eliseo Grenet) 6:40
4.  Brazil (Ary Barroso/Bob Russell) 5:01
5.  Tico Tico (Jose Abreu/Ervin Drake/Aloysio Oliveira) 7:45
6.  My Little Suede Shoes (Charlie Parker) 6:23
7.  Blues For Juanita (Grant Green) 7:04
8.  Grenada (Agustín Lara) 6:26
9.  Hey There (Richard Adler/Jerry Ross) 7:22

Grant Green (Guitar)
Wendell Marshall (Double Bass)
Willie Bobo (Drums)
Carlos "Patato" Valdez (Conga)
Johnny Acea (Piano) - 1-7
Carvin Masseaux (Chekere) - 1-6
Ike Quebeck (Tenor Saxophone) - 8,9

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hank Crawford - Mr. Blues Plays Lady Soul

The concept for the Lady Soul date from 1969 is perfect for Crawford, who typically plays close to the melody, using his great blues feeling and jazz chops to create interest and excitement. Crawford evokes the spirit of Aretha Franklin's music without resorting to literal re-creation of the originals. Arif Mardin's driving, big-band arrangements are impressive, but it is the rhythm section that makes these tracks. Essentially, it's the Atlantic house band: guitarist Eric Gale, pianist Paul Griffin, bassist Charles Rainey, and drummer Bernard Purdie. They all get ample opportunity to show their stuff, especially on the seven-plus minute master blast of the blues, "Going Down Slow." - by Jim Todd, AMG

Artist: Hank Crawford
Album: Mr. Blues Plays Lady Soul
Year: 1969
Label: Atlantic (24bit remastered, 2014)
Runtime: 37:05

1.  Groovin' (Eddie Brigati/Felix Cavaliere) 2:40
2.  I Can't See Myself Leaving You (Ronnie Shannon) 3:33
3.  Never Let Me Go (Ray Evans/Jay Livingston) 3:29
4.  Baby, I Love You (Ronnie Shannon) 3:41
5.  Lady Soul (Hank Crawford) 3:14
6.  Soul Serenade (King Curtis) 3:31
7.  Ain't No Way (Aretha Franklin/Carolyn Franklin) 3:57
8.  Since You've Been Gone (Aretha Franklin/Teddy White) 2:16
9.  Take A Look (Clyde Otis) 3:15
10.  Going Down Slow (James Burke Oden) 7:25

Hank Crawford (Alto Saxophone)
Bernard Purdie (Drums)
Eric Gale (Guitar)
Paul Griffin (Organ, Pano)
David Newman (Tenor Saxophone, Flute)
Frank Wess (Alto Saxophone) - 1,2,4-8,10
Pepper Adams (Baritone Saxophone) - 1,2,4-8,10
Charley Raney (Double Bass) - 3-6,10
Jerry Jemmott (Double Bass) - 2,8
Ron Carter (Double Bass) - 1,3,7
Seldon Powell (Tenor Saxophone) - 1,2,4-8,10
Benny Powell (Trombone) - 1-3,7,8
Jimmy Cleveland (Trombone) - 1-3,7,8
Bernie Glow (Trumpet) - 1,2,4,5,7,8,10
Ernie Royal (Trumpet) - 1,2,4-8,10
Snookie Young (Trumpet) - 1,2,4-8,10
Joe Newman (Trumpet) - 1,2,4-8,10

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Stan Getz & Bill Evans - Stan Getz & Bill Evans

The only studio meeting between Stan Getz and Bill Evans took place over two days in 1964, with the aggressive drummer Elvin Jones and either Richard Davis or Ron Carter on bass. It is peculiar that Verve shelved the results for over a decade before issuing any of the music, though it may have been felt that Getz and Evans hadn't had enough time to achieve the desired chemistry, though there are memorable moments. The punchy take of "My Heart Stood Still," the elegant interpretation of "Grandfather's Waltz," and the lush setting of the show tune "Melinda" all came from the first day's session, with Davis on bass. (Evidently he was unavailable the following day, so Carter replaced him.) Evans' driving, challenging "Funkallero" is the obvious highlight from day two, though the gorgeous "But Beautiful" and the breezy setting of "Night and Day" are also enjoyable. Only the brief version of "Carpetbagger's Theme," which seems badly out of place and suggestive of the label's interference with the session, is a bit of a disappointment. Obviously neither Getz nor Evans liked the tune, as they go through the motions in a very brief performance. - by Ken Dryden, AMG

Artist: Stan Getz & Bill Evans
Album: Stan Getz & Bill Evans
Year: 1964
Recorded: 1964.05.05. - 1964.05.06. at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio (Englewood Cliffs, USA)
Label: Verve (1988)
Runtime: 62:09

1.  Night and Day (Cole Porter) 6:49
2.  But Beautiful (Johnny Burke/James Van Heusen) 4:44
3.  Funkallero (Bill Evans) 6:44
4.  My Heart Stood Still (Richard Rodgers/Lorentz Hart) 8:40
5.  Melinda (Alan Jay Lerner/Burton Lane) 5:07
6.  Grandfather's Waltz (Lasse Farnlof/Gene Lees) 6:31
7.  Carpetbagger's Theme (Elmer Bernstein) 1:50
8.  Wnew (Theme Song) (Larry Green) 2:53
9.  My Heart Stood Still (Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart) 6:45
10.  Grandfather's Waltz (Lasse Farnlof/Gene Lees) 5:32
11.  Night and Day (Cole Porter) 6:34

Stan Getz (Tenor Saxophone)
Bill Evans (Piano)
Elvin Jones (Drums)
Ron Carter (Double Bass) - 1-3,7,8,11
Richard Davis (Double Bass) - 4-6,9,10

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Jimmy Witherspoon - Roots

Jimmy Witherspoon laid out two great records in 1962 on Reprise, Spoon and this one. Roots places the great blues singer and guitarist in the company of saxophonist Ben Webster, trumpeter Gerald Wilson, and a rhythm section consisting of pianist Ernie Freeman and drummer Jim Miller. The mood is laid-back, down-home, and full of emotion and sentiment. The warmth of Witherspoon's voice on material like "Your Red Wagon," "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water," "Key to the Highway" (in one of the more unique versions ever recorded), and Jimmy Rushing's "Did You Ever" is on the other side of lonesome. Webster and Wilson underscore the sung lines with fills that accent the deep blue in Witherspoon's vocal. Jay McShann's "Confessin' the Blues" is a more jazzed-up arrangement, but Witherspoon's deep in the R&B groove here, taking a hint from Joe Turner. The finger-popping read of Turner's "It's a Low Down Dirty Shame" is in the gutbucket; the rhythm section swings hard. It's not as raucous as the original, but Witherspoon's smooth, clear, and deep register is beautifully complemented first by Wilson's solo and then by Webster's. The real stunner is near the end, when the band takes on Big Bill Broonzy's "Just a Dream," where Witherspoon wails and moans the blues. It's just chilling. This is one of those recordings that is a true hidden classic. - by Thom Yurek, AMG

Artist: Jimmy Witherspoon
Album: Roots
Year: 1962
Label: Warner Japan (24bit, 2014)
Runtime: 40:30

1.  I'd Rather Dring Muddy Water (Eddie Miller) 3:56
2.  I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town (Andy Razaf/Casey Bill Weldon) 3:36
3.  Key to the Highway (Charles Segar/William Broonzy) 2:54
4.  Did You Ever (Jimmy Rushing) 3:24
5.  Confessin' The Blues (Jay McShann/Walter Brown) 3:00
6.  Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out (Jimmie Cox) 2:31
7.  Your Red Wagon (Don Raye/Gene DePaul/Richard M. Jones) 5:12
8.  Rain Is Such A Lonesome Sound (Jimmy Witherspoon) 3:01
9.  Cherry Red (Big Joe Turner/Pete Johnson) 3:15
10.  It's A Low Down Dirty Shame (Ollie Shepard) 3:02
11.  Just A Dream (William Broonzy)  3:00
12.  Please, Mr. Webster (Buddy Johnson) 3:32

Jimmy Witherspoon (Vocals)
Ben Webster (Tenor Saxophone)
Gerald Wilson (Trumpet)
Ernie Freeman (Piano)
Herman Mitchell (Guitar)
Ralph Hamilton (Double Bass)
Jim Miller (Drums)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Oliver Nelson - Fantabulous

By the time Oliver Nelson and his big band had recorded Fantabulous in March of 1964 for Argo, the great composer, saxophonist, conductor, and arranger was a man about town in New York. He had
released some truly classic dates of his own as a leader in smaller group forms -- Blues and the Abstract Truth and Full Nelson among them -- and had done arrangement work for everyone from Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Hodges, Nancy Wilson, Frank Wess, King Curtis, Etta Jones, Jimmy Smith, Jack Teagarden, Betty Carter, Billy Taylor, and Gene Ammons, to name more than a few. For Fantabulous, he took his working big band to Chicago for a gig sponsored by Daddy-O-Daylie, a famous local disc jockey. He had also worked with a number of the players on this date before, even recording an earlier version of the tune "Hobo Flats" that opens this set a year before on an album of the same name. Altoist Phil Woods, baritone roarer Jerome Richardson, trumpeters Snooky Young and Art Hoyle, bassist Ben Tucker, and drummer Grady Tate are a few of the names on Fantabulous. Nelson holds down the tenor chair, and Patti Bown is on piano with additional brass and reed players. Another Nelson original, "Post No Bills" features killer alto work from Woods, and a brief but smoking hot baritone break form Richardson on the same cut. This program is compelling in that it provides an excellent meld of all of Nelson's strengths-as an advanced, colorful harmonist
who insisted on the hard swinging esthetic, as an excellent tenor saxophonist and a killer conductor. Another highlight is "Daylie's Double," (which bears a similarity to Nat Adderley's "Work Song"")
named for the aforementioned DJ, with smoking tenor breaks from Nelson, and big fat soulful chord soloing from Bown. Likewise Billy Taylor's "A Bientot," it opens in true big brass Ellingtonian
elegance, and unravels itself as a gorgeous bluesy ballad with echoes of "I Only Have Eyes for You" in its melody. The subtle shades of flute and twinned clarinet are a nice touch before the entire band arrives to carry it out on a big yet tenderly expressive lyric cloud. That said, there isn't a weak moment here, there isn't anything that doesn't captivate, delight, and even astonish, as in the smoking, striated harmonic bop head on "Three Plus One." It's almost amazing it took more than 20 years before this appeared on American shores on CD, but at last, here it is in excellent sound at a budget price as part of Verve's Originals series. This is for those who are fans who don't have it yet (and who are unwilling to pay high collector's fees for good vinyl copies or the wages of Japanese import insanity), and those wondering where to begin with Nelson the arranger. - by Thom Yurek, AMG

Artist: Oliver Nelson
Album: Fantabulous
Year: 1964:
Label: Verve (Argo, 2008)
Runtime: 34:35

1.  Hobo Flats (Oliver Nelson) 4:13
2.  Post No Bills (Oliver Nelson) 5:30
3.  A Bientot (Billy Taylor) 3:47
4.  Three Plus One (Oliver Nelson) 3:25
5.  Take Me With You (Willie Jean Tate/Oliver Nelson) 5:28
6.  Daylie's Double (Audrie Nelson) 4:01
7.  Teenie's Blues (Oliver Nelson) 4:08
8.  Laz-ie Kate (Oliver Nelson) 3:59

Oliver Nelson (Tenor Saxophone)
Jerome Richardson (Baritone Saxophone, Flute, Alto Flute)
Phil Woods (Alto Saxophone, Clarinet)
Robert Ashton (Tenor Saxophone, Calrinet)
Kenny Soderblom (Alto Saxophone, Flute)
Roy Weigano (Trombone)
Tony Studd (Bass Trombone)
Art Hoyle (Trumpet)
Eugene 'Snookie' Young (Trumpet)
Patti Bown (Piano)
Ben Tucker (Double Bass)
Grady Tate (Drums)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Bill Frisell - Blues Dream

For those who have been wondering where Mr. Bill's musical wanderings would lead him in the wake of his first solo CD, Ghost Town, Blues Dream provides the ambitious answer. Nearly all Frisell's fascinations are here: the pastoralism of Have a Little Faith, a Nashville tinge, and the cinematic sounds of Quartet. There's also the electronic loop atmospheres of his ECM and early Elektra years and the alternating Ellingtonian and Salvation Army horns of his quintet period. All of this melded into 18 new compositions commissioned by the Walker Arts Center. A textural richness comes courtesy of Greg Leisz's various guitars backing Frisell's own guitar and a stunning integration of three horns: Curtis Fowlkes's trombone, Ron Miles's trumpet, and Billy Drewes's saxophones. As you listen to this string of broad-shouldered pieces, tributes to greats like Ron Carter, and strangely blues-inflected soundscapes, it's apparent that the solos of Ghost Town</I> can operate as a sort of sketch or "cartoon" for this, the full painting; or a short that is then expanded into a feature. Frisell's career is taking on the aspect of a well-crafted movie or novel that explores different story lines before bringing them together for the finale (and this might be the prelude to the finale). by Michael Ross

From the beginning of Blues Dream, the listener knows that something special is going on. The spare notes of Ron Miles' trumpet and the relaxed guitar work of Greg Leisz lay the groundwork for a spacious sound on the title cut. This openness remains throughout the album, even when alto and trombone are added into the mix. The instrumental "Ron Carter" begins with the loose, electrified feel of an early Miles Davis fusion piece, with Bill Frisell's distorted guitar exploring the space of the piece without resorting to excessive volume. The short and sweet "Pretty Stars Were Made to Shine" leans heavier on the country side, with steel guitar and Chet Atkins' fingerpicking dominating. The arrangements on Blues Dream are a big change from last year's solo effort, Ghost Town. An essential part of the overall sound is Leisz' steel guitar and lap steel work. He also played with Frisell on Good Dog, Happy Man, and helps to set the mood and pace throughout Blues Dream. Ron Miles plays a smaller role, but it is fascinating how well his relaxed trumpet, with its carefully chosen notes, fits into the mix on the title cut and the short "Episode." Blues Dream is a perfectly chosen title: the material, steeped in the blues, is approached in a lazy, dreamlike fashion. Frisell's fondness for putting unusual combinations of instruments together adds to the overall effect, leaving the listener to wonder why no one has ever tried this before. Blues Dream is a lovely release that should satisfy Frisell fans as well as jazz, country, and blues fans looking for a genre-bending experience. - by Ronnie D. Lankford Jr., AMG

Artist: Bill Frisell
Album: Blues Dream
Year: 2001
Label: Nonesuch
Runtime: 61:58

1.  Blues Dream 2:31
2.  Ron Carter 6:45
3.  Pretty Flowers Were Made For Blooming 3:20
4.  Pretty Stars Were Made To Shine 1:41
5.  Where Do We Go? 5:21
6.  Like Dreamers Do (Part One) 1:34
7.  Like Dreamers Do (Part Two) 2:37
8.  Outlaws 4:18
9.  What Do We Do? 7:08
10.  Episode 0:49
11.  Soul Merchant 2:43
12.  Greg Leisz 6:14
13.  The Tractor 2:27
14.  Fifty Years 1:31
15.  Slow Dance 3:11
16.  Things Will Never Be The Same 4:49
17.  Dream On 3:06
18.  Blues Dream (Reprise) 1:53
All compositions by Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell (Electric Guitar, acoustic Guitar, Loops)
Greg Leisz (Pedal Steel Guitar, Lap Steel Guitar, National Steel Guitar, Mandolin)
Ron Miles (Trumpet)
Billy Drewes (Alto Saxophone)
David Piltch (Double Bass)
Kenny Wollesen (Drums, Percussion)
Curtis Fowlkes (Trombone)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ella Fitzgerald - At the Montreux Jazz Festival

Although Ella Fitzgerald had been on the jazz scene for over four decades by the time of this 1975 concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival, she still knew how to swing and keep the audience in the palm of her hand. Backed by lyrical pianist Tommy Flanagan, the solid bassist Keter Betts and the driving drummer Bobby Durham, the vocalist wows the crowd with a mix of standards, popular jazz compositions and ballads in a way that only she could do it. Even though her voice shows evidence of a little more vibrato on her held notes at the end of a phrase (especially on the ballads), she still emotes like no one else, occasionally adding some playful scat in the up-tempo numbers and captivating the audience with her romp through "How High the Moon," a piece she kept fresh even though she had performed it hundreds of times over the years. This is easily one of Ella Fitzgerald's better live sets from late in her career, which would continue for another decade before ill health finally caused her to retire. - by Ken Dryden, AMG

Artist: Ella Fitzgerald
Album: At the Montreux Jazz festival 1975
Year: 1975
Label: Pablo
Runtime: 46:40

1.  Caravan (Duke Ellington/Irving Mills/Juan Tizol) 2:36
2.  Satin Doll (Duke Ellington/Johnny Mercer/Billy Strayhorn) 2:49
3.  Teach Me Tonight (Sammy Cahn/Gene DePaul) 4:36
4.  Wave (Antonio Carlos Jobim) 5:11
5.  It's All Right with Me (Cole Porter) 2:59
6.  Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love) (Cole Porter) 5:40
7.  How High the Moon (Nancy Hamilton/Morgan Lewis) 8:36
8.  Girl from Ipanema (Vinícius de Moraes/Norman Gimbel/Antonio Carlos Jobim) 8:14
9.  'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do (Percy Grainger/Robert Prince/Clarence Williams) 5:59

Ella Fitzgerald (Vocals)
Tommy Flanagan (Piano)
Keter Betts (Double Bass)
Bobby Durham (Drums)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Toufic Farroukh - Drab Zeen

Drab Zeen represents one of the finest examples of this important emerging new sub-genre, Arab-jazz. The genius of this disc is how Farroukh has effortlessly melded such disparate elements as jazz trombone and saxophone, chill-beats, French vocals, acoustic piano, oud, ney, and accordion into a singly tapestry of unique sounds, all the while retaining the essential elements of each instrumental voice even as he transforms the whole into something entirely new and heretofore unheard. Farroukh has grown in every facet of his music-making: tighter and more evocative compositions, a richer and more varied sound palette, cleaner production, superior sax blowing, and a deeper groove. An altogether remarkable disc. Highest recommendation. - by Jan P. Denis, amazon.com

Artist: Toufic Farroukh
Album: Drab Zeen
Year: 2002
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Runtime: 53:12

1.  Fusic (Toufic Farroukh) 6:19
2.  Lili s'en fout (Toufic Farroukh) 5:51
3.  The Pain in Spain Stays Mainly in the Brain (Toufic Farroukh) 4:35
4.  Land of Milk and Money (Toufic Farroukh) 5:18
5.  Calipyge (intro) (Toufic Farroukh) 1:00
6.  Calipyge (Toufic Farroukh/Tania Saleh) 2:22
7.  Kaf skoon (intro) (Toufic Farroukh) 1:40
8.  Kaf skoon (Toufic Farroukh) 4:38
9.  L'homme qui a perdu son ombre (Toufic Farroukh/Laurent Gehant) 4:57
10.  A Night in Damascus (Toufic Farroukh) 4:10
11.  Bilan actuel (Toufic Farroukh/Laurent Gehant) 3:51
12.  Blues for Ali (Toufic Farroukh) 4:31
13.  Petites mains et longues jambes... (Toufic Farroukh/Laurent Gehant) 3:53

Toufic Farroukh (Bendir, Percussion, Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Bouzouki, Piano and Vocals)
Bassam Saba (Nay) - 1,2,4-13
Keya Tabassian (Setar) - 1,2,5-9,12
Nabil Khalidi (Banjo, Oud) - 1,2,4-6,9-11,13
Leandro Aconcha (Synthesizer, Organ and Piano) - 1-4
Gueorgui Kornazov (Trombone) - 1,2,10,11
Jean Wellers (Double Bass, Viola and Rhythmic Violin)
Ali Alkhatib (Req and Bendir) - 1,2,4-13
Tania Saleh (Vocals) - 1,5-8
Yasmine Hamdan (Vocals and Voice) - 2,9,13
Antoine Khalifé (Violin) - 2,4-6,10,11,13
J.J. Sage (Backing Vocals, Bass Guitar and Folk Guitar) - 2,4,11,12
Ibrahim Jaber (Udou) - 2,5,6,9,10
Tony Dib (Accordion) - 2,4-6,10,11
Mounir Khauli (Acoustic and Electric Guitar) - 2,11
Nicole Choueiry (Vocals) - 1,4
Saad Menkara (Voice) - 3,4
J.M. Hure (Guitar) - 4,7,8
Charbel Rouhana (Oud) - 10
Najawa Abou Alhessein (Voice) - 11
Rabih Lamah (Vocals) - 11
Phil Tohme (Vocals) - 12
DJ Roger (Scratch) - 2

Monday, September 8, 2014

Georgie Fame - Walking Wounded

At least once a year, usually just before the holiday season, Georgie Fame takes up residency at Ronnie Scott’s club in London. This particular recording was done during November, 1995.Having the legendary Georgie Fame sitting behind the Hammond organ, night after night, in a London club is wonderfully reminiscent of the time, more than thirty years ago, when he held held court at the Flamingo Club. Back then, in the early sixties, it wasn’t just for a week or two at a stretch, but for months at a time. He was at the heart of the ongoing scene, where American servicemen, budding British rockers and Georgie himself mixed it up and, ultimately created a musical stew that went on to change the pop scene the world over. So this recording takes its place in the pantheon of great Georgie Fame moments. So this record is full of spirits, spirits of great men who made the music, great moments when it was made and great places where the musicians held forth. Today, even the owner and namesake of the club where this album was recorded -- saxophonist Ronnie Scott -- is no longer with us. Yet Georgie Fames carries on with the good work, and is aware of his role in preserving and passing along the great jazz spirit.To that end, he has enlisted the able assistance of some of his favorite people to make this passage possible. The front line of the band includes some of Britain’s finest players, trumpet man Guy Barker, tenor saxophonist Alan Skidmore, alto saxophonist Peter King and Anthony Kerr on vibes. In the rhythm section is his regular bassist (and dapper man about town) Geoff Gascoyne along with the Powell brothers, Tristan on guitar and James on drums. These two boys have grown up with Georgie Fame’s music and are helping him carry the torch into the next century.It is our great pleasure and distinct honor here at Go Jazz to join hands with them all and fall in step. - by Ben Sidran (from liner notes)

Artist: Georgie Fame
Album: Walking Wounded (Live at Ronnie Scott's)
Year: 1998
Label: Go Jazz
Runtime: 72:40

1.  Eros Hotel (Georgie Fame/F. Landesman) 6:08
2.  If You Live (Mose Allison) 3:57
3.  Yeh Yeh (Rodgers Grant/Jon Hendricks/Pat Patrick) 3:52
4.  Moondance/Blue Moon (Van Morrison/Richard Rodgers/Lorentz Hart) 12:23
5.  How Long This Has Been Going On (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin) 8:23
6.  Cape Cuckoo (Georgie Fame) 5:02
7.  Abide With Me (Henry Francis Lyte/Thelonious Monk) 2:03
8.  The Woodshed Intro (Georgie Fame/Peter King) 1:39
9.  The Woodshed (Georgie Fame/Peter King) 6:45
10.  It Happened to Me/My Buddy (Georgie Fame) 11:01
11.  Zavolo (Zaks Nikosi) 11:27

Georgie Fame (Hammond Organ, Piano and Vocals)
Guy Barker (Trumpet)
Anthony Kerr (Vibraphone)
Alan Skidmore (Tenor Saxophone)
Peter King (Alto Saxophone)
Geoff Gascoyne (Double Bass)
Tristan Powell (Guitar)
James Powell (Drums)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fairy Tale Trio - Jazz Across the Border

The Fairy Tale Trio plays a kind of hybrid music combining elements of Bulgarian folk music and jazz. Kaval player Theodosii Spassov has developed a style that allows him more chromatic and timbral possibilities than previously associated with that instrument, while soprano saxist Anatoly Vapirov can go from tricky folk melodies to Coltrane-like wailing in the space of a few notes. The trio is rounded out by percussionist Stoyan Yankoulov, who uses mostly the traditional tupan (a double-headed drum, played with sticks) with a few modern additions. The music, composed by the trio, makes full use of their resources. There are a few odd-meter rave-ups, but there are also some quieter, textural pieces. The kaval and soprano sax take turns soloing and supporting each other, while the percussion supplies a sturdy rhythmic framework. There are also a few solos and duets that, along with great attention paid to dynamics, help keep the sound varied and interesting. In its more peaceful moments this reminds me a little of Codona, the old Don Cherry-Collin Walcott project. Then the musicians turn up the heat and could be mistaken for an Art Ensemble of Chicago offshoot. But the approach taken here is a melding rather than a juxtaposition, with the jazz elements logically flowing from the Bulgarian roots, and as such is one of the more successful folk-jazz fusions I've heard in some time.- by Joe Grossman, RootsWorld

Artist: Fairy Tale Trio
Album: Jazz Across the Border
Year: 1998
Label: Wirgo
Runtime: 52:21

1.  Karandila (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 5:18
2.  Lastuna (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 2:02
3.  The House Behind the River (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 7:14
4.  Cadence in Green (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 2:33
5.  Samotek (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 7:45
6.  Sun Sanuvah (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 5:43
7.  Chorovod (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 2:24
8.  Marvellous Pig Stories (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 4:08
9.  Shepherd's Baroque (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 3:02
10.  Gornjak (Theodosii Spassov/Anatoly Vapirov/Stoyan Yankulov) 4:16
11.  Shuma (Ljobomir Pipkow) 7:50

Theodosii Spassov (Kaval and Voice)
Anatoly Vapirov (Soprano Saxophone)
Stoyan Yankulov (Tupan and Percussion)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bill Evans Trio - Since We Met

This album captures the best Bill Evans Trio (Eddie Gomez on bass and Marty Morell on drums) at the peak of their creative powers in a jaw-dropping performance. This is an absolutely flawless gem, musically. Bill plays like an angel. I have listened to this album well over 1000 times since I first bought it back in the mid-seventies. I wore out 2 vinyl records - fortunately I bought a 3rd, which I still treasure! I also enjoy the CD. This is a live album, recorded at the Village Vanguard. The recording quality is not the best; however, the music itself immediately transcends the limitations of the recording setup, grabs you by your soul and never lets go. Each exceedingly lovely piece is an inexhaustible mine of pure gold. I am constantly delighted. I had the great good fortune of meeting and chatting with Bill Evans at a couple of his concerts. I consider that I met the greatest pianist who has ever lived. His playing, especially as evidenced on this album, places him virtually alone at the summit of jazz-piano artistry. He reaches inside you and touches the deepest recesses of your heart. The opening solo piano work on 'Since We Met' floors me; the depth of feeling on 'Time Remembered' brings tears to my eyes; 'Sareen Jurer' flows like a river of... well, you get the idea. This must be what it sounds like in heaven. - by Scorpio69, Amazon.com

Thirteen years after his legendary Village Vanguard recordings, Bill Evans recorded Since We Met at the famous New York establishment again. Using his trio of the era (which includes bassist Eddie Gómez and drummer Marty Morell), Evans explores both familiar ("Time Remembered," "Turn Out the Stars" and "But Beautiful") and new (Joe Zawinul's "Midnight Mood," "See-Saw" and "Sareen Jurer") material. This CD reissue gives listeners a good example of Bill Evans' early-'70s trio as it typically sounded in clubs. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Bill Evans Trio
Album: Since We Met (Live at Village Vanguard)
Year: 1974
Label: OJC (1991)
Runtime: 46:16

1.  Since We Met (Bill Evans) 8:52
2.  Midnight Mood (Ben Raleigh/Joe Zawinul) 6:52
3.  See-Saw (Cy Coleman) 6:53
4.  Sareen Jurer (Earl Zindars) 6:40
5.  Time Remembered (Bill Evans) 5:27
6.  Turn Out the Stars (Bill Evans) 5:08
7.  But Beautiful (Johnny Burke/James Van Heusen) 6:21

Bill Evans (Piano)
Eddie Gomez (Double Bass)

Marty Morell (Drums)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Kudsi Erguner - Ottomania - Sufi Jazz Project

Kudsi Erguner’s Ottomania is the first World Music project that integrates the classical music of the Ottoman Empire with Western jazz improvisations and rhythms. It documents the story of a remarkable musical encounter, and is a logical continuation of Erguner’s eventful life.

Artist: Kudsi Erguner
Album: Ottomania - Sufi Jazz Project
Year: 1999
Label: ACT
Runtime: 49:31

1.  Semai (Mesut Cemil Bey) 5:48
2.  Sufimaj (Kudsi Erguner) 4:37
3.  Dua (Kudsi Erguner) 12:55
4.  Free space (Kudsi Erguner) 7:46
5.  Nefes (Kudsi Erguner) 9:06
6.  Hi-Jaz (Kudsi Erguner) 9:17

Kudsi Erguner (Ney)
Christof Lauer (Saxophone)
Derya Turkan (Kemence)
Michel Godard (Tuba)
Mehmet Emin Bitmez (Ud)
Yves Rousseau (Double Bass)
Hakan Gungor (Kanun)
Bruno Caillat (Percussion)
Necib Gulses (Tanbur)
Mark Nauseef (Drums)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Herbie Mann - Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty

Although it followed a formula similar to the hugely successful Memphis Underground, Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty stands on its own as a superb example of the fusion of jazz with '60s soul music, a genre that Herbie Mann stood atop at the time of its release. In addition to Mann band members Roy Ayers, Miroslav Vitous and Bruno Carr, the recording employs the Muscle Shoals rhythm section that had played together on numerous soul hits of the '60s, including those of Aretha Franklin. Standout cuts include the title track, with the its horn-driven groove; Sharrock's "Blind Willy," featuring a jew's-harp hook; and a smoldering version of Lennon & McCartney's "Come Together." Throughout the album, Mann's solos wail through the upper register of the flute, while Ayers finds interestingly funky passages on the vibes. - by Jim Newsom, AMG

TRY to do the impossible and just tune out the fact that Herbie Mann was responsible for that blasphemous "Hi Jack" thing during the depths of the disco phase in the late seventies. This remarkable album was recorded in 1970, at/with Muscle Shoals. You know all the Shoals alumni, they're all here on the record, and, funny, they don't sound a'TALL like they did with Wilson Pickett - which is NOT to be interpreted as a "slap," they're just displaying what consumate, remarkable musicians they are. If, for nothing else though, track #5, where Herbie tears into the Beatles' "Come Together" - oh, man, just dig how future Weather Report bassist Miroslav Vitous locks in with Shoals' own bassist-extraordinare David Hood - this is the only, I mean the ONLY time where a Beatles' song has been "covered" by another artist, and the new bass part isn't an insult to Paul McCartney. by "Bill Board", Amazon.com

Artist: Herbie Mann
Album: Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty
Year: 1969
Label: WEA Japan (2014)
Runtime: 37:06

1.  Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty (Herbie Mann) 6:54
2.  Claudia Pie (Herbie Mann) 4:41
3.  Can You Dig It (Edwin Birdsong) 5:17
4.  Blind Willy (Sonny Sharrock) 4:50
5.  Come Together (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) 10:10
6.  Panana Red's Panama Hat (Herbie Mann) 5:10

Herbie Mann (Flute)
Roy Ayers (Vibraphone)
Eddie Hinton (Guitar)
Barry Beckett (Piano)
David Hood (Double Bass)
Miroslav Vitous (Double Bass) - 5
Roger Hawkins (Drums) - 1-3,6
Bruno Carr (Drums) - 4,5
Jimmy Johnson (Guitar)
Wayne Jackson (Trumpet) - 1-4

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pee Wee Ellis - Ridin' Mighty High

The previous review should probably be ignored. The reviewer states 'He didn't do his due diligence... that this CD is gospel-based, not funk, as in Pee Wee's work with James Brown.' The first clue should have been the CD art shows Pee Wee standing in front of a church. On Amazon.com and other digital retailers, we have the opportunity to listen to track samples. It's important to actually do that. The review of one star of one star is not grading the CD for what it is, but rather what the buyer thought it should be. Pee Wee Ellis has a lifetime of soul, jazz, and gospel recording and performance, on his own, and as a sideman/collaborator with many other performers.This CD includes guest vocalists, including: Fred Ross, Lenny Williams (lead singer, Tower of Power, 1973 -1975), Shana Morrison, and Emma Jean Foster. For me, the two highlight tracks are: Gospel classic, 'How I Depend On You' - vocals - Fred Ross and 'Grandma's Hands' - vocals - Lenny Williams. - by Andrew R. Ebon, Amazon.com

Artist: Pee Wee Ellis (Alfred Elis)
Album: Ridin' Mighty High
Year: 2000
Label: Skip Records
Runtime: 66:17

1.  How I Depend On You (Doug Williams) 4:25
2.  What's Up With That? (Alfred Ellis) 6:23
3.  Oh My God (Chris Hayes/Alfred Ellis/Luther Carter/Scott Matthews) 5:33
4.  Grandma's Hands (Bill Withers) 5:34
5.  Shake A Hand (Joe Morris) 5:25
6.  Mighty High (David Crawford/Richard Downing) 4:25
7.  Blues Alley (Alfred Ellis) 3:44
8.  Goin' Up Yonder (Walter Hawkins) 4:43
9.  Mary Don't You Weep (Traditional) 5:44
10.  How Great Thou Art/The Old Rugged Cross (Traditional) 11:01
11.  Oh My God (d-phunk Remix) 5:04
12.  Mighty High (d-phunk Remix) 4:12

Pee Wee Ellis (Tenor Saxophone, Backing Vocals, Piano)
Chris Hayes (Guitar) - 1-9
Curtis Ohlson (Bass Guitar) - 1-9
John Mader (Drums) - 1-9
Jim Pugh (Hammond Organ) - 1,3-9
Nate Ginsberg (Synthesizer) - 1,6,7
Scott Mathews (Percussion, Backing Vocals) - 1-3,5,7-9
Emma Jean Foster (Backing Vocals, Vocals) - 5,7-10
Dallis Craft (Backing Vocals) - 5,7,8
Fred Ross (Vocals) - 1
Luke Styles (Rap) - 3
John Hunt (Trumpet) - 3,4
Johnny Myers (Trombone) - 3,4
Lenny Williams (Vocals) - 4
David Sturdevant (Harmonica, Backing Vocals) - 4,5,8
Shana Morrison (Vocals) - 5
Sabine Bachmann (Backing Vocals) - 5
Ron Sutherland (Piano) - 10

Monday, July 7, 2014

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane

For this classic encounter, Duke Ellington "sat in" with the John Coltrane Quartet for a set dominated by Ellington's songs; some performances have his usual sidemen (bassist Aaron Bell and drummer Sam Woodyard) replacing Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones in the group. Although it would have been preferable to hear Coltrane play in the Duke Ellington orchestra instead of the other way around, the results are quite rewarding. Their version of "In a Sentimental Mood" is a high point, and such numbers as "Take the Coltrane," "Big Nick," and "My Little Brown Book" are quite memorable. Ellington always recognized talent, and Coltrane seemed quite happy to be recording with a fellow genius. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Duke Ellington and John Coltrane are, individually, two tremendously influential and vital figures in the world of jazz who could do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. But when you combine their talents on record, then you have a recording that's not only music, it's also a piece of history. Though it's a brisk ride at 35 minutes in length, this collaborative effort brings out the best of both worlds during these seven tracks. "In a Sentimental Mood" is a stroke of brilliance: Ellington's angelic piano touches are set to Coltrane's velvet-smooth sax during this gentle number. It's a classic for the ages that must be heard to be believed. The tempo picks up in "Take the Coltrane," which has both in solid harmony. Few tracks can top the ultrasuave swagger of "Stevie," and the slow number "My Little Brown Book" has smooth touches which are underscored by Coltrane's light sax and drums by Sam Woodyard. A mastery of style, technique, and substance, this album is one of those must-have items that'll make your collection all the more complete. Duke Ellington. John Coltrane. Two visionaries. One album. Who can ask for anything more? - by The Groove, Amazon.com

Artist: Duke Ellington & John Coltrane
Album: Duke Ellington & John Coltrane
Year: 1962
Label: Impulse! (1995, 20bit remastered)
Runtime: 34:58

1.  In A Sentimental Mood (Duke Ellington/Manny Kurtz/Irving Mills) 4:17
2.  Take The Coltrane (Duke Ellington) 4:44
3.  Big Nick (John Coltrane) 4:31
4.  Stevie (Duke Ellington) 4:26
5.  My Little Brown Book (Billy Strayhorn) 5:23
6.  Angelica (Duke Ellington) 5:57
7.  The Feeling Of Jazz (Duke Ellington/George T. Simon/Bobby Troup) 5:38

John Coltrane (Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone)
Duke Ellington (Piano)
Jimmy Garrison (Double Bass) - 2,3,6
Aaron Bell (Double Bass) - 1,4,5,7
Elvin Jones (Drums) - 1-3,6

Monday, June 30, 2014

Larry Coryell & Alphonse Mouzon - Back Together Again

After going their separate ways upon the breakup of the Eleventh House, guitarist Larry Coryell, and drummer Alphonse Mouzon teamed up again for what turned out to be a disappointing reunion. This despite the added presence of guitarist Philip Catherine. The same high energy fusion that made each player so popular is on display here, but so is Mouzon's infatuation with disco. "Beneath the Earth," "Transvested Express," and "High Love" contain some impressive playing, but the disco/funk of "Get on Up (We Gonna Boogie)" and "Back Together Again" make for a dated and uneven recording. - by Robert Taylor, AMG

Well, it's midnight and I'm cruising around seeing if old classics have come out on cd. And I as a joke I type in "Coryell and Mouzon," and here we are. I didn't think anything would show up; I thought it was too obscure. I'll get to the point. This is absolutely one of the greatest jazz rock albums of all time. Except, I am a rock fan, not a jazz fan. So, this is a rock jazz album (ok, cd). It is entirely instrumental, but there is some brief singing on a song or two. This thing rocks hard, and I'm not kidding. The guitar playing is stellar, and I mean stellar. The bonus is you don't just get one great guitar player in Larry, you also get Philip Catherine - they are a great guitar duo. It is not pure "hard rock" but is as close to that as rock jazz can get. This really is not for pure jazz fans, it rocks too hard for you (I don't mean to be condescending). Of course, the drumming is fantastic, that is the Mouzon part of the title. And, I don't want to leave the bass player out, he does a great job; it's just that he has so much to compete with! If you like 70's hard rock with a jazz influence, and as a song I suggest Sister Andrea from Mahavishnu Live - this is that type of album. It is the best example I have ever heard of instrumental rock jazz. It is an absolute classic of that genre. Ok, I'm sorry, I said "genre," that's such a cliche word. But I'm not kidding, if you like rock with a jazz kick that makes it unclassifyable, this is it. I simply cannot say enough good things about this CD. And if I haven't convinced you yet, they also at times throw some great funk into the mix! BUY IT. - by Mbfthrasher, Amazon.com

Artist: Larry Coryell & Alphonse Mouzon
Album: Back Together Again
Year: 1977
Label: Atlantic (Japan, 24-bit remastered, 2013)
Runtime: 35:53

1.  Beneath the Earth (Alphonse Mouzon) 3:03
2.  The Phonse (John Arthur Lee) 3:48
3.  Transvested Express (Philip Catherine)  3:51
4.  Crystallization (Julie Coryell) 3:19
5.  Rock 'N' Roll Lovers (Alphonse Mouzon) 4:04
6.  Get on Up (We Gonna Boogie) (Alphonse Mouzon) 2:50
7.  Reconciliation (Larry Coryell) 2:34
8.  Back Together Again (Alphonse Mouzon) 3:05
9.  Mr. C. (Larry Coryell) 3:28
10.  High Love (Larry Coryell) 5:51

Larry Coryell (Guitar, Vocals)
Alphonse Mouzon (Drums, Percussion, Vocals)
John Arthur Lee (Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals)
Cheryl Alexander (Vocals)
Tawatha Agee (Vocals)
Philip Catherine (Guitar)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Kurt Elling - The Messenger

I really thought we'd open The Messenger with "The Messenger". We had an intense take of the piece, which Ed Petersen had written some time before and to which I had attached some favorite lyrics. We recorded it using Ed's regular Monday night band (with Jim Widlowski burning up the rhythm). In that session my improvised story or solo was followed by one of Ed's most impassioned and fierce solos. I was so proud of Ed and of the cut. I was hungry to send it out & thought of it as a musical calling card from the future. I was also really cheesed about "Endless", another Ed Band staple that I thought had come together in a spectacular way in the session. For that cut and based on Ed's great musical writing, I had written out random, free-association words on a napkin from the take-out place we were ordering from those days. I used them as a launching pad for my solo's thematic drive. I was (and am still) very happy with the outcome. The band, of course, sounds burning. Moreover, Laurence and I had written some new things that I knew people would like — things they'd be happy to have in their lives. "The Beauty Of All Things" came together because Laurence had a vision of me on a windswept, moonlight coastal night at some festival somewhere laying out that music and that message in such a way that we'd know we were doing what we came on this earth to do. Laurence had also ingeniously sewn "Beauty" and "Prayer For Mr. Davis", his sublime paean with my recently composed lyric in a suite with "The Dance" — a classic LH orchestration. I was coming to know more and more the remarkable gifts my collaborator possessed. He was (and is) musically astonishing. We also had "Tanya Jean", the first really long-form vocalese lyric I had completed. I wrote it over a favorite Dexter Gordon solo I first heard while living abroad, thanks to my friend Gordon Drummond. I did most of the writing work in a spate of sleep writing experiments I was doing then, staying up 'til all hours with the disc on permanent repeat and waking myself up to write down whatever connections were cohering between melody, emotion, concept and text. We had a lot of crazy cool stuff, I thought. Well, we sent in the rough mixed to Bruce and Tom Evered at Blue Note. They loved the new stuff, they said, "but do you think you could come up with some standards to round this thing out?" Standards? I was still young enough to be ignorant of the need in the Jazz world to draw listeners in before bonking them over the head with headstrong new-osity. I was full of beans. Without Tom's request, we would have missed many of the arrangements that have become our fans' favorites, some of our signature things. Sure, I had this vague idea of mixing "April in Paris" with a Metheny-like groove & we also had access to Ed Petersen's "Nature Boy" riff. But to put them on The Messenger? Hmmm. - by Kurt Elling

This is one of the most interesting jazz vocal sets to be released in 1997. Kurt Elling covers a wide range of music, continually taking chances and coming up with fresh approaches. He is assisted by his longtime pianist Laurence Hopgood, different bassists and drummers, and on various tracks trumpeter Orbert Davis and the tenors of Edward Petersen and Eddie Johnson. Among the more memorable selections are Elling's vocalese version of Dexter Gordon's solo on the lengthy "Tanya Jean," and his spontaneous storytelling on "It's Just a Thing" (a classic of its kind), some wild scatting on "Gingerbread Boy," the fairly free improvising of "Endless," and his mostly straightforward renditions of "Nature Boy," "April In Paris" and "Prelude to a Kiss." Cassandra Wilson drops by for "Time of the Season," but does not make much of an impression. This rewarding and continually intriguing set is particularly recommended to listeners who feel that jazz singing has not progressed much beyond bop.- by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Kurt Elling
Album.: The Messenger
Year: 1997
Label: Blue Note
Runtime: 72:06

1.  Nature Boy (Eden Abhez) 6:09
2.  April in Paris (Vernon Duke/Yip Harburg) 5:11
3.  The Beauty of All Things (Kurt Elling/Laurence Hobgood) 8:07
4.  The Dance (Laurence Hobgood) 1:33
5.  Prayer For Mr. Davis (Kurt Elling/Laurence Hobgood) 6:03
6.  Endless (Edward Petersen) 4:48
7.  Tanya Jean (Donald Byrd/Kurt Elling) 10:16
8.  It's Just A Thing (Laurence Hobgood/Eric Hochberg/Paul Wertico) 4:31
9.  Ginger Bread Boy (Jimmy Heath) 5:02
10.  Prelude To A Kiss (Duke Ellington/Irving Gordon/Irving Mills) 5:27
11.  Time Of The Season (Rod Argent/Paul Atkinson/Colin Blunstone/Hugh Grundy/Chris White) 5:53
12.  The Messenger (Kurt Elling/Edward Petersen) 9:00

Kurt Elling (Vocals)
Laurence Hobgood (Piano, Synthesizer)
Rob Amster (Double Bass, Bass Guitar) - 1-6,9,10,12
Paul Wertico (Drums, Percussion) - 1-5,7-9,11
Jim Widlowski (Drums, Percussion) - 2,6,11,12
Eric Hochberg (Double Bass) - 7,8,11
Edward Petersen (Tenor Saxophone) - 6,12
Eddie Johnson (Tenor Saxophone) - 10
Orbert Davis (Trumpet, Flugelhorn) - 2,5
Cassandra Wilson (Vocals) - 11

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Mose Allison - Swingin' Machine

Jazz fans may find this Mose Allison session unique among scads of releases from this laid-back, witty and original singer and pianist. Almost never found recording outside of the piano trio context, this album perhaps reveals the reason why: on a whole, adding horns to Allison's band just doesn't work that well. The trombonist Jimmy Knepper is of particular interest, in that he most often recorded under the intense leadership of Charles Mingus, a far cry from the loose and relaxed sound of Allison. His fellow hornman here is tenor saxophonist Jimmy Reider; not a very well-known jazzman but certainly competent in a swing style. If the leader had stuck to all vocal numbers this might have been a top drawer album. All the vocal tracks here are fine, with the song "Stop This World" rating among the best things this artist has recorded in a long career. It's the instrumental tracks that drag, however, since like any respectable pianist bandleader, Allison chooses to put the two horns out front for theme-solo-theme arrangements that would only be worth repeated listening if every other jazz performance ever recorded happened to vanish off the face of the earth. Allison's piano playing picked up some steam as the '60s wore on, so it is a shame he didn't revisit this concept at a later date. In all, an enjoyable album but a bit disappointing. - by Eugene Chadbourne, AMG

This recording represents a real departure for Mose in that he is fronting a quintet with horns instead of his usual trio. Jimmy Knepper on trombone and Jim Reider on tenor saxophone form a tight front line and both deliver the solo "goods" when called upon. Although Knepper is always a delight to hear---his quirky solo style was a very effective blend of Dixieland, Swing, Bop and avant-garde--Reider is the real surprise on this session. Prior to this release he had been heard on recordings only in occasional solos while playing in the saxophone section of Gerry Mulligan's Concert Jazz Band. His swinging style owes much to Zoot Sims, but he is very much his own man as an improvisor. Sadly, he died much too young in 1968. Mose of course, is Mose, and he is in fine form as both pianist, vocalist and composer. His "down home" vocals are especially effective on "Stop This World" and "If You're Goin' To The City," both delightful Allison originals that have stood the test of time. "Saritha" is a very swinging original instrumental by Mose whose sophisticated harmonic structure reminds us that one of Mose's earliest recorded appearences was with one of Stan Getz's early-50s combos.The uncredited arrangements for the two horns are both imaginative and effective and make this recording a unique "must have" for any Mose Allison fan. - by Bruce Armstrong, Amazon.com

Artist: Mose Allison
Album: Swingin' Machine
Year: 1962
Label: Atlantic Japan (24bit dig. transfer, 2013)
Runtime: 33:26

1.  Swingin' Machine (Mose Allison) 2:29
2.  Do It (Mose Allison) 4:34
3.  Stop This World (Mose Allison) 3:24
4.  Promenade (Mose Allison) 5:11
5.  If You're Goin' To The City (Mose Allison) 3:49
6.  Saritha (Mose Allison) 4:58
7.  I Ain't Got Nothing But The Blues (Duke Ellington/Don George) 3:56
8.  So Rare (Jerry Herst/Jack Sharpe) 5:00

Mose Allison (Piano, Vocals)
Jimmy Knepper (Trombone)
Jimmy Reider (Tenor Saxophone)
Addison Farmer (Double Bass)
Frankie Dunlop (Drums)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Choying Drolma & Steve Tibbetts - Selwa

In 1997 the contemplative, deeply moving collaboration between Tibetan Buddhist nun and monastic abbot Chöying Drolma and guitarist/soundscape artist Steve Tibbets was a textbook example of how to bring together two cultures whose musical and spiritual traditions were so different. Tibbetts, long a maverick who had little regard for the way world music was presented in modern contexts, set about working with Drolma, whose traditional and devotional Tibetan chants were revered in Buddhist circles. He understood that for Drolma, singing her prayers was a bedrock foundation of her spiritual practice. He illustrated them by composing guitar and percussion soundscapes to fit the context of her prayers; not the other way around. Seven years later, the pair re-team for Selwa. The title refers to the luminous mind, which is clear of obstacles and therefore awakened. Tibbetts takes more chances here sonically, but he remains committed to the source material. Whether Drolma is singing devotional or deity prayers such as "Palden Ranjung" or homages such as "Chenresig" or "Je Lama," or folk-oriented tunes such as the airy "Vakritundi," which comes form devotional Hindu music but reflects a modern Indian sensibility, Tibbetts stretches his backdrops to give Drolma's beautifully reedy voice flight. Tibbetts who, on his own recordings can be either beautifully subtle or outrageously harsh depending on the framework in which he is working, opts for crystalline impressionism here. The hinge piece of this outing is "Song of Realization," a hymn of aspiring Buddhahood, in which the diamond mind has been set free of all attachment, all subjective perception, all separation, and sees everything as full, empty of intrinsic existence. Drolma sings: "I do not recognize this earth as earth/It is an assembly hall adorned by flowers/I do not recognize me to be me/I am the supreme victor, the wish-fulfilling jewel...." Tibbetts multi-tracks the vocal, adding ghostly percussion in the form of hand drums, gongs, and shimmering symbols. His guitars, all edges rounded, float inside the space between her voice and the rhythm, coming closer, then backing away to give her vocal room for its transcendent chorus before the dynamic changes. Ultimately, Selwa is in many ways a stronger album than its predecessor. The principals are more comfortable with one another; there is an obvious element of trust and a shared sense of adventure. These two albums should be the standard by which all other East-West collaborations should be judged. - by Thom Yurek, AMG

Artist: Chöying Drolma and Steve Tibbetts
Album: Selwa
Year: 2004
Label: Six Degrees
Runtime: 46:35

1.  Padmakara 1:19
2.  Palden Rangjung 2:55
3.  Vakritunda 4:14
4.  Kyamdro Semkye 1:49
5.  Gayatri 4:10
6.  Song of Realization 8:56
7.  Yumcehn Tukar 5:39
8.  Mandala Offering 6:24
9.  Chenrezi 3:24
10.  Chendren 5:29
11.  Je Lama 2:09

Chöying Drolma (Voice)
Steve Tibbetts (Guitar)
Marc Anderson (Percussion)
Lodro Sangmo (Vocals)
Sherab Palmo (Vocals)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Eddie Harris - Silver Cycles

Still riding high from "Listen Here," Harris really started experimenting here with a dazzlingly eclectic LP that must have left his new fans wondering just who the real Eddie Harris was. There is good old Latinized funk in the opening cuts, "Free at Last" and "1974 Blues," but what was one to make of the next one, "Smoke Signals," with its interplanetary Echoplexed electric sax and ethereal wordless female voices? Then it's on to a long-limbed Coltrane tribute on pianist Jodie Christian's "Naima"-like "Coltrane's View," a wailing cry of raw pain with a huge band of horns, strings and voices ("I'm Gonna Leave You by Yourself"), another avant-garde electronic extravaganza ("Silver Cycles") and...well, you get the point; there's a surprise around every bend. The music is by turns swinging, touching, feverish, detached, nightmarish, and peaceful, bursting with new ideas generated from Harris' plunge into electronics. This album has been unjustly overlooked, probably because Harris was selling a lot of records and getting airplay at the time (a cardinal sin for purists), or perhaps for its free, anything-goes '60s spirit. The sound was always curiously distant on LP and on individual tracks reissued on CD; one wonders if this was due to a damaged or third-hand master tape. - by Richard S. Ginell, AMG

Artist: Eddie Harris
Album. Silver Cycles
Year: 1968
Label: Atlantic (24-bit remastered, 2013)
Runtime: 39:00

1.  Free at Last (Eddie Harris) 3:17
2.  1974 Blues (Eddie Harris) 4:28
3.  Smoke Signals (Eddie Harris) 3:02
4.  Coltrane's View (Jodie Christian)  4:12
5.  I'm Gonna Leave You by Yourself (Eddie Harris) 3:02
6.  Silver Cycles (Eddie Harris/Melvin Jackson) 5:52
7.  Little Bit (Eddie Harris) 5:30
8.  Electric Ballad (Eddie Harris) 2:56
9.  Infrapolations (Eddie Harris) 6:39

Eddie Harris (Tenor Saxophone, Electric Piano, Synthesizer)
Jodie Christian (Piano) - 1,2,4,9
Melvin Jackson (Bass) - 1,2,4,6,9
Richard Smith (Drums) - 1,2,4,9
Seldon Powell (Baritone Saxophone) - 1,2,5,7
Snooky Young (Trumpet) - 2,5,7
Bruno Carr (Drums, Percussion) - 1,5-7
Richard Davis (Double Bass) - 3,5,7
Ernie Royal (Trumpet) - 1,5,7
Billy Hart (Drums) - 3,5,7
Haywood Henry (Baritone Saxophone) - 5,7
Monk Montgomery (Bass Guitar) - 5,7
Joe Newman (Trumpet) - 1,2
Benny Powell (Trombone) - 1,2
Marcelino Valdez (Drums, Percussion) - 1,6
Phil Bodner (Clarinet, Flute, Oboe) - 5,7
Joe Zawinul (Piano) - 5,7
Bernie Glow (Trumpet) - 1
Melvin Lastie (Trumpet) - 2
Eileen Gilbert (Vocals) - 3,5
Melba Moore (Vocals) - 3,5
Valerie Simpson (Vocals) - 3,5
Maretha Stewart (Vocals) - 3,5

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Yusef Lateef - The Gentle Giant

Yusef Lateef's music from the early '70s commands large doses of both appeal and skepticism. At a time when funk and fusion were merging with the intensely volatile and distrustful mood of the U.S., Lateef's brand of Detroit soul garnered new fans, and turned away those who preferred his earlier hard bop jazz or world music innovations. Thus The Gentle Giant is an appropriate title, as Lateef's levitational flute looms large over the rhythm & blues beats central to the equation. Kenny Barron's Fender Rhodes electric piano is also a sign of the times, an entry point introducing him to the contemporary jazz scene, and on that point alone is historically relevant. The post-Bitches Brew, pre-Weather Report/Headhunters time period is to be considered, and how this music put Lateef in many respects to the forefront of the movement. While inconsistent and at times uneven, there's more to praise than damn in the grooves and unique musicianship he offers with this small ensemble of focused and singular-minded players. At once funky and cool, Barron's "Nubian Lady" sets the tone out of the gate, the tune totally trumping Herbie Mann's Memphis Underground/Push Push style. The similar-sounding "Jungle Plum" is more danceable, simpler, and less attractive. While "Aftican Song" is also in this vein, it is less about the continent in the title as it is reflective of the era, and a slower number. Perhaps that actual title and the sleigh bell-driven "Below Yellow Bell" could have been reversed, for it is more Afrocentric, with Lateef's wordless vocal counterpoint closer to sounds of the savanna over a baroque rhythm & blues. "Hey Jude," under-produced to the point of inaudibility at the outset (the caveat given is "do not adjust the playback level on your audio equipment, readjust your mind"), busts out on the incessantly repeated "na na" chorus with the Sweet Inspirations doing the honors. The other tracks lay low, as Lateef and Al "Tootie" Heath's flutes and Kermit Moore's cello go into late-night mode for "Lowland Lullabye," "The Poor Fisherman" explores the leader's interest in Asian sounds with call and response, and "Queen of the Night" is a two-minute shortie with Eric Gale's modulated guitar mixing up meters of 4/4 and 3/4 in a slightly macabre way. This recording was produced in the middle of Lateef's commercial crossroads phase that started with the Atlantic label issue Yusef Lateef's Detroit in 1969 and ended in 1977 with the CTI release Autophysiopsychic. Though these tracks are potent reminders of how jazz was willfully being manipulated by the record companies -- Creed Taylor in particular -- this album is clear evidence of how great a musician Yusef Lateef was, but not in the context of his best music. - by Michael G. Nastos, AMG

Artist: Yusef Lateef
Album: The Gentle Giant
Year: 1972 (Warner)
Label: WEA Japan (24bit remastered, 2013)
Runtime: 37:34

1.  Nubian Lady (Kenneth Barron) 6:37
2.  Lowland Lullabye (Traditional) 2:23
3.  Hey Jude (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) 9:03
4.  Jungle Plum (Kenneth Barron) 4:34
5.  The Poor Fishermen (Yusef Lateef) 3:41
6.  African Song (Kenneth Barron) 3:50
7.  Queen of the Night (Yusef Lateef) 2:13
8.  Below Yellow Bell (Yusef Lateef) 5:09

Yusef Lateef (Flute, Tenor Saxophone, Bamboo Flute, Oboe)
Ray Bryant (Piano, Electric Piano) - 1,4,6,8
Kenneth Barron (Electric Piano, Piano) - 1,4,6,8
Sam Jones (Double Bass) - 1,4,6,8
Bob Cunningham (Double Bass) - 1,4,6,8
Bill Salter (Bass Guitar) - 1,4,6,8
Kuumba "Tootie" Heath (Drums, Flute) - 1,2,4-6,8
Ladzi Cammara (Percussion) - 1,4,6,8
Eric Gale (Guitar) - 3,7
Chuck Rainey (Double Bass) - 3,7
Jimmy Johnson (Drums) - 3,7
Kermit Moore (Cello) - 2
Neal Boyer (Vibraphone, Chimes) - 3
The Sweet Inspirations (Choir) - 3

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Hank Crawford - Mr. Blues

When Ray Charles' musical director has the words "blues" and "soul" in large type on the covers of his own releases, there's a strong chance that's what the listener will find inside. They're definitely there in this compilation that reissues two of altoist Hank Crawford's Atlantic albums from the late '60s. The Mr. Blues set from 1968 is Crawford and a small horn section playing rocking blues riffs with a crack rhythm section. Instrumental R&B doesn't get much hipper. Crawford's tough but lyrical sound -- informed by a bebopper's command and facility -- is tailor-made for this blues-charged music. Highlights include the title track, a cool, finger-popping "Route 66," a sleazy, churning "Lonely Avenue," and a couple of no-nonsense Crawford originals. A middle-of-the road "On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)" is the only departure from the set's satisfyingly gritty feel. - by Jim Todd, AMG

Artist: Hank Crawford
Album: Mr. Blues
Year: 1965-66
Label: WEA Japan (2013, 24 bit remastered)
Runtime: 33:03

1.  Mr. Blues (Hank Crawford) 3:48
2.  On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever) (Alan Jay Lerner/Burton Lane) 3:40
3.  Hush Puppies (Hank Crawford) 3:07
4.  Danger Zone (Percy Mayfield) 4:15
5.  Route 66 (Bob Troup) 3:28
6.  Lonely Avenue (Doc Pomus) 3:06
7.  Teardrops (Sylvester Thompson/Seaphus Scott) 3:32
8.  Smoke City (Hank Crawford) 3:52
9.  The Turfer (Hank Crawford) 4:15

Hank Crawford (Alto Saxophone, Piano)
Fielder Floyd (Trumpet)
John Hunt (Trumpet)
Wendell Harrison (Tenor Saxophone)
Sonny Forriest (Guitar) - 1,2,4,6,7
Lonnie Shaw (Baritone Saxophone) - 1,3,5,7,8
Howard Johnson (Baritone Saxophone) - 4,6,9
Charles Green (Double Bass) - 1-3,5,7,8
Charles Lindsay (Double Bass) - 6,9
Charles Dungey (Double Bass) - 4
Milt Turner (Drums) - 5,7,8
Wilbert Hogan (Drums) - 3,6,9
Isaac Walton (Drums) - 1,2
Joe Dukes (Drums) - 4

Friday, April 25, 2014

Joe Harriott - Indo-Jazz Suite

At long last, Caribbean saxophonist Joe Harriott's classic collaboration with Calcutta composer and conductor John Mayer is back in print on this Koch CD reissue of the original Atlantic LP from 1967. In England in the 1960s, Harriott was something of a vanguard wonder on the order of Ornette Coleman. And while the comparisons flew fast and furious and Harriott was denigrated as a result, the two men couldn't have been more different. For one thing, Harriott was never afraid to swing. This work, written and directed by Mayer, offered the closest ever collaboration and uniting of musics East and West. Based almost entirely in the five-note raga -- or tonic scale that Indian classical music emanates from -- and Western modalism, the four ragas that make up the suite are a wonder of tonal invention and modal complexity, and a rapprochement to Western harmony. The band Harriott assembled here included his own group -- pianist Pat Smythe, bassist Coleridge Goode, and drummer Allan Ganley -- as well as trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, flutist Chris Taylor, Diwan Mothar on sitar, Chandrahas Paiganka on tamboura, and Keshan Sathe on tabla, with Mayer playing violin and Harriott on his alto. Of the four pieces, the "Overture" and "Contrasts" are rooted in blues and swing, though they move from one set of ascending and descending notes to the other, always ending on the tonic, and involve more than the five, six, or seven notes of Indian classical music, while the latter two -- "Raga Megha" and "Raga Gaud-Saranga" -- are out to lunch in the Western musical sensibility and throw all notions of Western harmony out the window. The droning place of the tamboura and the improvising sitar and alto shift the scalar notions around until they reflect one another in interval and mode, creating a rich, mysterious tapestry of sonic inquiry that all but folds the two musics into one another for good. Amazing. - by Thom Yurek, AMG

Artist: Joe Harriott Double Quintet
Album: Indo-Jazz Suite
Year: 1966
Label: Atlantic Japan (2014)
Runtime: 35:19

1.  Overture (John Mayer) 8:07
2.  Contrasts (John Mayer) 9:24
3.  Raga Megha (John Mayer) 8:39
4.  Raga Gaud-Saranga (John Mayer) 9:07

Joe Harriott (Alto Saxophone)
Allan Ganley (Drums)
Coleridge Goode (Double Bass)
John Mayer (Violin)
Pat Smythe (Piano)
Chris Taylor (Flute)
Kenny Wheeler (Trumpet)
Diwan Mothar (Sitar)
Chandrahas Paiganka (Tamboura)
Keshan Sathe (Tablas)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dirty Dozen Brass Band - Funeral For A Friend

On their tenth album, the Crescent City's Dirty Dozen Brass Band bring it all back to the cobblestone streets where it began. The Dozens have done it all, from straight New Orleans jazz to restless funky experimentation, and here they put it all down to the roots of its origin. Funeral for a Friend is just that, a complete reenactment of a New Orleans funeral or "homecoming." The Dozens played them at the beginning and continue to. The set is dedicated to the memory of founding member Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen, who passed away just a few weeks after its completion. The band performed it in the streets leading the horse-drawn carriage procession. Comprised entirely of gospel and spiritual songs, it follows the trajectory of a departed one's life from birth to celebrations of her or his character to death and resurrection in the afterlife. The first of the three stages begins with a slow, mournful dirge that emerges as "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," as the gathering begins at the courthouse and becomes a strident statement in "I Shall Not Be Moved," where the grief begins to give way to the feeling of victory, that the departed has broken the bondage of this life's prison. The music begins to swell and swirl and gains in stridency and emotion until it actually erupts about five tracks in with "Jesus on the Mainline," with the band accompanied by the Davell Crawford Singers. The mind-blowing thing is the sound; though this was recorded in a studio, the listener feels like she's in the middle of a throng of marchers, surrounded by the band and the choir. The second stage begins with a stunning rendering of "John the Revelator" that simulates being played at the gravesite and offers this bluesy prophetic read on the entrance of the departed into a new order prophesied. It is resolved in "I'll Fly Away," with Melody Palmer leading the choir in a rowdy statement of death's defeat. This is followed by an altar call in "Is There Anybody Here That Loves My Jesus?" The final stage -- leaving the cemetery for home -- is commenced by the funky read of "Down by the Riverside," and is resolved in the celebratory gratitude for mercy in "Amazing Grace." But this review does nothing, literally, to describe the sheer power of the transference of emotion that Funeral for a Friend does. This is easily the most heartfelt, honestly rendered, and stunningly captured moment of the DDBB's recording career; it belongs in every household where the celebration of life and its transition from the sorrow of death to the eternal afterlife is honored. It is not only a classic in the genre, but will come to be regarded as a jazz classic, period. - by Thom Yurek, AMG

Artist: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Album: Funeral for a Friend
Year: 2003
Label: Rykodisc (2004)
Runtime: 40:14

1.  Just A Closer Walk With Thee (Traditional) 5:30
2.  I Shall Not Be Moved (Homer Morris) 4:58
3.  Please Let Me Stay A Little Longer (Traditional)3:06
4.  What A Friend We Have In Jesus (Traditional) 3:44
5.  Jesus On The Main Line (Traditional) 5:18
6.  John The Revelator (Blind Willie Johnson) 4:39
7.  I'll Fly Away (A.E. Burnley) 3:39
8.  Is There Anybody Here That Loves My Jesus (Traditional) 3:06
9.  Down By The Riverside (William Stickles) 5:06
10.  Amazing Grace (John Newton) 1:04

Roger Lewis (Baritone Saxophone)
Kevin Harris (Tenor Saxophone)
Efrem Towns (Trumpet, Flugelhorn)
Gregory Davis (Trumpet)
Sammie Williams (Trombone)
Jamie McLean (Guitar)
Terence Higgins (Drums)
Julius McKee (Sousaphone) - 2,8,10
Kirk Joseph (Sousaphone) - 1,3,5,6
Jeffrey Hills (Sousaphone) - 4,7,9
The Davell Crawford Singers (Vocals) - 4,5,7
Melody Palmer (Vocals) - 7
David Hidalgo (Accordion) - 3


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