Thursday, June 30, 2016

Oscar Peterson - Walking The Line / Another Day

Walking the Line:
Oscar Peterson's series of recordings for Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer during the 1960s and early '70s are one of many high points in his long career. With George "Jiri" Mraz on bass and Ray Price on drums, Peterson's flashy romp through "I Love You" (complete with a humorous detour into the opera "Pagliacci") and mid-tempo walk through "All of You" salute Cole Porter in style on Walking the Line. "Rock of Ages" isn't the old hymn but a lively, gospel-inflected Peterson original that will easily get any congregation swinging and swaying to the music. His mastery of the ballad form is heard in his sensitive interpretation of "Once Upon a Summertime," which showcases Mraz's gorgeous tone, as Price sits out this one. - by Ken Dryden, AMG

Another Day:
Good '70 session from pianist Oscar Peterson, arguably the most recorded mainstream stylist ever. He's made so many albums over the years, with a great deal sounding similar, that while they're never bad, sometimes they're for keyboard freaks only. That's something of the case here, although Peterson spins some fabulous solos. - by Ron Wynn, AMG

Artist: Oscar Peterson Trio
Album: Two Originals: Walking the Line/Another Day
Year: 1971 (MPS)
Label: Motor Music (1996)
Runtime: 72:57

Walking the Line:
1.  I Love You (Cole Porter) 5:14
2.  Rock of Ages (Oscar Peterson) 5:32
3.  Once Upon a Summertime (Michel Legrand / Johnny Mercer) 5:19
4.  Teach Me Tonight (Gene DePaul / Sammy Cahn) 5:07
5.  The Windmills of Your Mind (Michel Legrand / Marilyn Bergman / Alan Bergman) 5:04
6.  I Didn't Know What Time It Was (Richard Rodgers / Lorenz Hart) 6:37
7.  All of You (Cole Porter) 5:01
Another Day
8.  Blues for Martha (Oscar Peterson) 5:10
9.  Greensleeves (Traditional)4:30
10.  All the Things You Are (Jerome Kern / Oscar Hammerstein II) 6:13
11.  Too Close for Comfort (Jerry Bock / Larry Holofcener / Georg Weiss) 4:12
12.  The Jamfs Are Coming (Johnny Griffin) 5:40
13.  It Never Entered My Mind (Richard Rodgers / Lorenz Hart) 5:57
14.  Carolina Shout (James Johnson) 3:18

Oscar Peterson (Piano)
Jiri Mraz (Double Bass)
Ray Price (Drums)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Duke Pearson - How Insensitive

Like most Blue Note artists, Duke Pearson moved toward commercial-oriented soul-jazz in the late '60s. At least, How Insensitive was supposed to be commercial. Pearson simplified his original compositions, chose standards like "Stella By Starlight," and covered contemporary pop songs like Jobim's "Lamento." He also assembled a large band with rock instrumentation like electric guitars, bass, electric pianos, and drum kits. Most importantly, he hired the New York Group Singers' Big Band -- a group of singers that are arranged like a horn section (males are the trombones, females are alto saxes, etc.) -- to sing on each song. The vocalists may be technically gifted -- in particular, Andy Bey has a rich voice -- but their presence on these arrangements is quite bizarre, especially since they take center stage. Each song on How Insensitive boasts extravagant, layered arrangements that flirt with schmaltz, but the voicings and attack are so unusual, the result is a weird variation on easy listening. There is little opportunity for Pearson to showcase his tasteful playing through improvisation, yet the arrangements are so off-kilter, the music never quite works as background music. In other words, it's a very interesting failure and one of the strangest by-products of Blue Note's late-'60s commercialization. - by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AMG

Artist: Duke Pearson
Album: How Insensitive
Year: 1970 (Blue Note Records)
Label: Toshiba Japan (1995)
Runtime: 33:42
Recorded at the Van Gelder Recordind Studios, Englewood Cliffs, USA (April 11, 14 & May 5, 1969)

1.  Stella By Starlight (Ned Washington / Victor Young) 4:35
2.  Clara (DuBose Heyward / George Gershwin) 2:40
3.  Give Me Your Love (Duke Pearson) 3:20
4.  Cristo Redentor (Duke Pearson) 3:50
5.  Little Song (Jack Manno)  2:50
6.  How Insensitive (Antonio Carlos Jobim / Norman Gimbel / Vinicius DeMoraes) 2:12
7.  Sandalia Dela (Luiz Claudio) 3:25
8.  My Love Waits (O Meu Amor Espera) (Duke Pearson / Jack Manno) 4:35
9.  Tears (Razao De Viva) (Eumir Deodato) 3:25
10.  Lamento (Antonio Carlos Jobim / Vinicius DeMoraes) 2:50

Duke Pearson (Piano, Electric Piano, Flugelhorn)
Mickey Roker (Drums)
Airto Moreira (Percussion)
Jack Manno (Conductor)
Al Gafa (Electric Guitar) - 1-6,8
Bob Cranshaw (Double Bass) - 1-6,8
Andy Bey (Vocals) - 2,3
Flora Purim (Vocals) - 7,9,10
Bebeto Jose Souza (Double Bass) - 7,9,10
Dorio Ferreira (Guitar) - 7,9,10
The New York Group Singers' Big Band (Choir) - 1-6,8

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Leon Parker - Awakening

There was a time when many of Leon Parker's contemporaries thought the man was several cents short of a dollar. A cursory glance at the jazz drummer's gear in the 1980s appeared to confirm the suspicion that he was a little kooky: Parker's drum kit consisted of a single cymbal. No trap drum, no tom-toms, no hi-hat, just that lone cymbal. Now, minimalism in improvisational music rhythm-keeping has a long and storied history, but this? Parker would go on to add snare and a floor tom and bass to his spartan set-up, but that's about it. Less is more is an apt description of his philosophy. Awakening, his new album on Columbia, further illuminates Parker's status as a major innovator. For this session, Parker incorporates a panoply of musical influences from the African Diaspora. The percussionist is joined by like-minded musicians whose playing enhances the album's fiercely creative force. On "All My Life," the opening track, Parker effortlessly moves from conga to clave, slapping out polyrhythms beneath poet Tracie Morris' sparse, impressionistic lyric concerning spiritual awareness. Her incantatory style meshes well with the almost hypnotic pulse of the Parker-penned composition. Whether she is lovingly shaping phrases or repeating single words, mantralike, Morris subtly draws listeners into her dreamy world. Hovering above the percussive stew is Sam Newsome's alto and soprano saxophone. His playing is richly imaginative, ululating like a bird's cry here, drawing out extended notes elsewhere. As on all the cuts on the album, rhythm predominates. Co-written by Parker and vocalist/percussionist Natalie Cushman, "Tokyo" is wonderfully exotic yet deftly manages to skirt parody. Indeed, the composition offers only a feint nod to the East, providing instead a herky-jerky pulse that summons up images of a lushly verdant South American forest. Parker's marimba is liltingly songlike, melodically hinting at Coltrane's "India." Congas add to the rhythmic depth of the piece. Wilson's soprano work both reinforces the groove and offers imaginative variations of the melody. A threesome of vocalists offers background chanting with a West African flavor. "It Is What It Is," the album's longest track, is the most fetching. Ugonna Okegwo's sonorous bass opens things. In short order, Parker's conga insinuates itself into the rhythmic flow. Still, it is Adam Cruz's ringing steel-pan drumming that captures one's attention. Whether rattling off quick bursts of high-pitched notes, reiterating the song's catchily melodic theme or commenting on Sam Newsome's flighty soprano saxophone, Cruz shines. Rarely has this instrument been employed in such an artful manner; pay particular attention to Cruz's expertly executed second solo. Although Cruz and to a lesser extent Newsome command the spotlight, Parker is content to provide rhythmic flourishes; he seems to know the difference between gratuitous showmanship and genuine leadership. As song titles like "Awakening," "Enlightenment" and "Peaceful Dream" suggest, this album conveys a sense of spirituality. Not the fire and brimstone raging of red-faced evangelicals; rather, there's a feeling of becalmed dedication to a transcendent higher force. Indeed, one can say of Awakening that it is a nondidactic sound tract expressing love and devotion to that higher force through the joyful sound of music. One thing is certain, Leon Parker is a seeker whose tireless quest for musical perfection cannot be questioned, only admired.- by Nicky Baxter,

Artist: Leon Parker
Album: Awakening
Year: 1998
Label: Sony/Columbia
Runtime: 51:17

1.  All My Life (Leon Parker) 5:54
2.  Tokyo (Leon Parker/Natalie Cushman) 4:52
3.  It is What it is (Leon Parker) 9:19
4.  Mother Earth (Lisa Parker) 5:02
5.  Cruz (Leon Parker) 6:09
6.  Axe Bahia (Leon Parker/Sam Newsome) 5:00
7.  Enlightenment (Leon Parker) 2:53
8.  Awakening (Leon Parker) 6:11
9.  Peaceful Dream (Leon Parker/Natalie Cushman) 5:52

Leon Parker (Congas, Bell, Caxixi, Marimba, Clavé, Rattle, Piano, Ashiko, Snare Drum and Gong) - 1-3,5-9
Natalie Cushman (Gourds, Shekere, Caxixi, Ashiko and Vocals) - 1-4,8,9
Steve Wilson (Alto and Soprano Saxophone, Alto Flute) - 1,2,5,8,9
Sam Newsome (Soprano Saxophone) - 3,6
Adam Cruz (Steel Pan and Bell) - 3,5,8
Rita Silva (Vocals, Clavé and Wood Block) - 3,6,8
Lisa Parker (Flute) - 4,9
Tracie Morris (Vocals) - 1
Ugonna Okegwo (Bass) - 3
Elisabeth Kontomanou (Vocals) - 4,8
Ray Cruz (Timbales) - 5


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