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

Tracks:
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

Personnel:
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

Tracks:
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

Personnel:
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

Tracks:
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

Personnel:
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

Tracks:
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

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

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