Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pee Wee Ellis - Different Rooms

Pee Wee Ellis is best known as one of the architects of funk, the orchestrator of James Brown's sound. He also was the musical director on multiple Van Morrison CDs. On the tracks of Different Rooms, Ellis offers up another facet of his musical life. He's called this development of his sound Smunk (smooth funk). It bears similarities to Fusion, both in the selection of popular tunes covered and in the use of the cool timbre of the electric piano. But I would suggest that more than anything, this CD is Ellis coming home to jazz. Jazz rooted in body rhythms, but first and foremost exceptional jazz. The horn arrangements are nothing short of masterful. And Ellis' tone on tenor sax is a total pleasure. His lyrical solos don't scream and shout - they achieve greater power through nuanced restraint and emotional depth. Several tunes stick with me, running through my mind long after listening (particularly the title track, and Who knows the answer). Wonderful CD by an under-appreciated master jazzman. - by Doctor D., Amazon.com

Artist: Pee Wee Ellis
Album: Different Rooms
Year: 2006
Label: Skip Records
Runtime: 58:44
Recorded live at Radio Bremen Sendesaal (Germany) in 24.08.2004 

Tracks:
1.  I Heard It Trough the Grapevine (Barrett Strong / Norman Whitfield) 6:39
2.  All Four Seasons (Gordon Sumner) 5:34
3.  Different Rooms (Alfred Ellis) 7:40
4.  Who Has the Answer? (Alfred Ellis) 7:21
5.  Blue Bell Pepper (Alfred Ellis / Ralf Schmid) 4:21
6.  Boogie On Reggae Woman (Stevie Wonder) 3:33
7.  Now And Then (Alfred Ellis / Ralf Schmid) 6:57
8.  Do Dee Dum Diddy (Alfred Ellis) 5:32
9.  You Haven't Done Nothin' (Stevie Wonder) 4:41
10. On a Slow Boat to China (Frank Loesser) 6:26

Personnel:
Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis (Tenor Saxophone, Voice)
Ralf Schmid (Keyboards)
Joo Kraus (Trumpet)
Joe Gallardo (Trombone)
Martin Scales (Guitar)
Christian Diener (Bass)
Torsten Krill (Drums)
Biboul Darouiche (Percussion)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Wes Montgomery - Fingerpickin'

Guitarist Wes Montgomery first recorded in the late '40s during his brief period with Lionel Hampton before returning to Indianapolis. He next emerged on record on December 30, 1957, for a Pacific Jazz set with local musicians including his two brothers, vibraphonist Buddy and electric bassist Monk. This CD reissues the complete album (which usually has appeared in piecemeal fashion) and finds Wes already quite recognizable. The pretty standard hard bop music (which usually features Buddy's vibes as the lead voice) is also of interest due to the presence of trumpeter Freddie Hubbard who at age 17 was making his recording debut; he sounds a bit nervous. In addition to this set, the CD has three songs from the one session that Wes made with his brothers' popular group, the Mastersounds. He actually appeared on the full album (a set of music taken from the film Kismet) but these are the only titles that include guitar solos. Although this reissue on a whole is not essential, the music is generally enjoyable and the CD will fill some gaps in one's Wes Montgomery collection. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Wes Montgomery
Year: 1957 (Pacific Jazz)
Label: Capitol (1996)
Runtime: 56:24

Tracks:
1.  Sound Carrier (Buddy Montgomery) 6:57
2.  Bud's Beaux Arts (Buddy Montgomery) 7:33
3.  Bock To Bock (Buddy Montgomery) 10:08
4.  Billie's Bounce (Charlie Parker) 4:42
5.  Lois Ann (Buddy Montgomery) 4:45
6.  All The Things You Are (Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II) 3:59
7.  Fingerpickin' (Wes Montgomery) 2:32
8.  Stranger in Paradise (Alexander Borodin/George Forrest/Robert C. Wright) 4:55
9.  Baubles, Bangles and Beads (George Forrest/Robert C. Wright) 3:29
10.  Not Since Nineveh (George Forrest/Robert C. Wright) 7:24

Personnel:
Wes Montgomery (Guitar)
Monk Montgomery (Bass Guitar)
Buddy Montgomery (Vibraphone) - 1-6,8-10
Paul Parker (Drums) - 1-7
Freddie Hubbard (Trumpet) - 1-4
Wayman Atkinson (Tenor Saxophone) - 1-4
Alonzo Johnson (Tenor Saxophone) - 1-4
Joe Bradley (Piano) - 1-5,7
Richie Crabtree (Piano) - 8-10
Benny Barth (Drums) - 8-10

Monday, December 14, 2015

Nils Petter Molvaer - Solid Ether

Like 1998's Khmer, Solid Ether is an unusual addition to the ECM catalog, reflecting the Norwegian trumpeter's continued fascination with drum'n'bass, jungle, and other underground club genres. Molvaer's work in this idiom is indicative of a new wave sweeping Europe and Scandinavia, where boundaries between jazz and electronica are being creatively blurred by a growing number of forward-thinking artists. (The trend is catching on in the States as well.) Molvaer's trumpet is consistently in the forefront, as is the case in the music of his French contemporary, Erik Truffaz. This will inevitably prompt comparisons with Miles Davis, and Molvaer indeed credits Davis as a major influence in his musical development. The music on this record, however, sounds nothing like Davis ever played nor could have foreseen. (That said, in all likelihood he would have heartily approved.) With its driving beats, spare-to-barren harmonies, and dense atmospherics and samples, Solid Ether breaks completely with traditional notions of jazz performance. Most of its tracks segue directly from one to the next, creating a seamless "mix" in the style of much experimental dance music. While ten guest artists are credited in addition to Molvaer (including guitarist Eivind Aarset and DJ Strangefruit, aka Paal Nyhus), they don't often play clearly delineated "parts" or solos. One exception is the two-part "Merciful," which pairs Molvaer's piano with the vocals of Sidsel Endresen, bringing Annette Peacock to mind. Not everyone will "get" this kind of music, and die-hard jazzers might laugh it off as an inconsequential fad. But it's actually a seismic innovation that is just getting started. - by David Adler, AMG

Artist: Nils Petter Molvaer
Album: Solid Ether
Year: 2000
Label: ECM
Runtime: 50:32

Tracks:
1.  Dead Indeed 7:30
2.  Vilderness 1 7:48
3.  Kakonita 4:59
4.  Merciful 1 1:02
5.  Ligotage 6:43
6.  Trip 6:24
7.  Vilderness 2 4:56
8.  Tragamar 4:45
9.  Solid Ether 5:12
10.  Merciful 2 1:13
All compositions by Nils Petter Molvaer

Personnel:
Nils Petter Molvaer (Trumpet, Piccolo Trumpet, Synthesizer, Bass, Loops, Electronics, Percussion, Piano)
Eivind Aarset (Guitar, Electronics) - 1,2,5-9
Audun Erlien (Double Bass) - 2,5-9
Per Lindvall (Drums) - 2,5-9
Rune Arnesen (Drums) - 2,5-9
Paal Nyhus (aka Dj Strangefruit) (Beats, Samples, Voice, Vinyl, Ambience) - 5,6,8,9
Sidsel Endresen (Vocals) - 4,10
Reidar Skar (Vocoder) - 6

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Modern Jazz Quartet - Blues On Bach

In the MJQ's early years, critics often found something incompatible between John Lewis's European classical leanings, particularly the baroque, and Milt Jackson's unfettered gifts improvising over bop-blues changes. This 1973 date is structured by that dichotomy, alternating between Lewis's compositions (based on some of Bach's best-known melodies) and a series of original blues, the first three by Lewis, the last by Jackson. Lewis emphasizes the contrast by playing harpsichord on the Bach tunes. His treatment of Bach can drift toward the merely pretty, as in his handling of "Sleepers Awake," but there's a genuine beauty in "Don't Stop This Train" and "Tears from the Children," based on Bach keyboard works. Jackson's fluent solos on the blues are a continuing delight, while Lewis demonstrates once again that he, too, is a musician imbued with the same roots, inserting a telling variation on "St. James Infirmary" into "Blues in A Minor."- by Stuart Broomer

This album has an interesting concept, alternating four original blues with five adaptations of melodies from classical works by Bach. The Modern Jazz Quartet had long been quite adept in both areas, and despite a certain lack of variety on this set (alternating back and forth between the two styles somewhat predictably), the music is largely enjoyable. Vibraphonist Milt Jackson, pianist John Lewis (doubling here on harpsichord), bassist Percy Heath, and drummer Connie Kay were still all very much in their musical prime during the 21st year of the MJQ's existence. - by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Modern Jazz Quartet
Album: Blues On Bach
Year: 1974
Label: Atlantic
Runtime: 41:27

Tracks:
1.  Regret? (John Lewis) 2:04
2.  Blues In B Flat (John Lewis) 4:56
3.  Rise Up In The Morning (John Lewis) 3:28
4.  Blues In A Minor (John Lewis) 7:53
5.  Precious Joy (John Lewis) 3:12
6.  Blues In C Minor (Milt Jackson) 7:58
7.  Don't Stop This Train (John Lewis) 1:45
8.  Blues In H (B) (Milt Jackson) 5:46
9.  Tears From The Children (Johann Sebastian Bach) 4:25

Personnel:
Percy Heath (Double Bass)
Connie Kay (Drums, Percussion)
John Lewis (Piano, Harpsichord)
Milt Jackson (Vibraphone)

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