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TONY MALABY Tony Malaby Tamarindo: Somos Agua

Album · 2014 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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snobb
It took quite a lot of time for me to find out my key to sax player Tony Malaby music, and that key was his Tamarindo project - a supertrio with bassist William Parker and drummer Nasheet Waits. Parker needs no introduction,he's a cult bassist leading his own projects for decades,one of my bass-hero of all times. Nasheet Waits is a New-Yorker who played in pianist Jason Moran's Bandwagon (fantastic band even if a bit too straight for my taste) where I saw him playing live a decade or so ago.

"Somos Aqua" is third Tamarindo album, all released on Portuguese Clean Feed. Power trio plays groovy dense progressive jazz with lots of experimental steps and tricks but never lost the track. Working as one unity,all three musicians demonstrate excellent balance between tunes and space,free and organized. Music is complex,running as river flows,changing every minute but very permanent in its continuity.

Malaby's sax sounds ascetic,often warm and lyrical, sometimes harsh. His power is not in loudness or emotive attacks,but in philosophical talking-like acuity,constant dialogue with bassist and drummer(can't call them rhythm section here - both Parker and Waits are equal soloists and creators on this album).

More concentrated and crystallized than on Malaby's works with bigger bands,Tamarindo's music is the place where his talent shows at its best. One among better advanced jazz albums coming from 2014.

JERRY KALAF Welcome to Earth

Album · 2014 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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js
“Welcome to Earth” is the fourth CD from drummer, arranger and composer, Jerry Kalaf, and it finds him working with three different groups that provide somewhat similar styles of music. The three different groups include two piano trios, and one sextet. The overall style of all three groups is modern post bop, with a slight ECM styled contemporary sound on the sextet. All of the songs were composed by Kalaf, and they all feature smart abstract open structures that give the soloists room to build their statements. Bill Evans is definitely an influence on here, you might also hear traces of Brad Mehldau and Keith Jarret as well.

All three of the groups featured on here are good, but possibly the most interesting is the trio led by pianist Leonard Thompson. Leonard shows the Bill Evans influence, but also a little more rhythmic approach along the lines of Herbie Hancock’s “Speak Like a Child”. The sextet features Doug Walter on sax and Barry Coates on guitar, their cool approach recalls artists such as Jan Garbarek and Jim Hall. The other trio is led by pianist Rich Ruttenberg, and their playing leans a bit towards a post bop/art pop crossover as they turn in a couple of melodic ballads.

The overall sound of “Welcome to Earth” leans toward the ‘cool’ side of things, with the Leonard Thompson trio being the most heated of the three groups. If there is one small complaint with this CD, it has to do with the volume mix. If I did not already know that this was the drummer’s CD, I would have been able to guess, because Kalaf is up just a tad too high in the mix. It’s a small matter, and I suppose if you were a fan of Kalaf’s subtle percussion work, you may want to hear every little nuance. Overall, this is a solid CD for fans of post bop, but for my money, I wouldn’t mind hearing a whole CD with just the Leonard Thompson group.

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JAMES BROWN Hot

Album · 1975 · Jazz Related RnB
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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js
Ironically titled “Hot”, this album, except for a few cuts, is not, but instead marks the beginning of James Brown’s long downhill slide that will take up the rest of his career. At this point, there was really no where else for James to go but down. His successes from the 60s into the early 70s made him one of the most energetic, creative and visionary artists in the pop/RnB/rock field, and his wide reaching influence was topped only by Hendrix and the Beatles. Its hard for any artist to burn bright for ever, and “Hot” is evidence of that.

It’s a strange mish-mash that makes up this thrown together album. Side one opens with title song, “Hot”, which is basically a direct lift of David Bowie and Carlos Alomar’s famous “Fame” riff retooled to sound like James and his group. Some are critical of this one, but it hits a solid groove. This is followed by a couple older pop songs updated for no particular reason other than to fill up an album. They’re not bad tracks really, but hardly great either. Track three, “Try Me”, is a terrible update of one of James’ classic ballads. The orchestration is sweet simple corn syrup that would be a better fit on a children’s album or something by Rick Wakeman. Side one closes with some bizarre psychedelic funk that would be alright except that there are these incidental vocal noises that are mixed too loud.

Side two starts strong with the classic funk of “Woman”, easily the best track on the album. The rest of side two is made up of more pop re-makes, some better than others. The best of these is “Most of All”, a doo-wop flavored tune with sophisticated jazzy orchestrations and interesting time change-ups, it also features some of James' best vocals on the album. The re-make of Brown's classic “Please, Please, Please”, seems unnecessary, but at least the arrangement is not near as bad as the previous “Try Me”.

There are a few tracks on here that James Brown fans will want to pick up, but almost any previous James Brown album is better than this one. Unfortunately, James will continue the rest of his career in less than stellar fashion, but fortunately, that will in no way tarnish the best of his early work.

ARCHIE SHEPP Archie Shepp Meets Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio ‎: Conversations

Album · 1999 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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snobb
Percussionist Kahil El'Zabar born in Chicago and studied music in University of Ghana.He was chairman of the AACM up to 1975 leading his early band Ethnic Heritage Ensemble.

From eighties Kahil runs his another project - Ritual(or Ritual Trio). More concept than stable line-up team, in different time in contained many known Chicagoan musicians,including Lester Bowie,Malachi Favors,Billy Bang and Pharoah Sanders among others.Ritual Trio released all series of albums starting from mid 80's, as rule on almost every album they have new guest musician presented.

Here on "Conversations" Ritual Trio are El'Zabar plus Art Ensemble Of Chicago's bassist Malachi Favors and sax player/pianist Ari Brown. The guest is tenor Archie Shepp (who occasionally plays piano here as well). Being one in a series of many for the Trio, this album is really significant recording for Shepp. Being a free jazz icon from mid 60s to early 70s,he never left the scene, but from late seventies for two decades his music was a sporadic collection of hard bop tunes released on tiny labels. It let Shepp to survive as active musician but not much left from his younger angry avantgardist image.

"Conversations" with Ritual Trio is Shepp's first album on major American label for more than two decades and ,what is more important,is first try to return back playing more adventurous music.Formally this recording is a tribute to bassist Fred Hopklns and AACM member who died in January of 1999.Recorded in Chicago's Riverside studio, this album contains all AACM was and is well known by: African ritual meditative rhythms,tuneful free improvisations,colorful arrangements and most important - that unique free jazz spirit. Being a tribute to passed away friend, music here is melancholic,even sad in moments,lyrical,but never sentimental or dark. In a tradition of Art Ensemble of Chicago quartet plays hymn to life first of all, with respect and commemoration to those who passed away. Percussionist-led band surprisingly didn't record very percussive or rhythmic music though - here is place for everyone,from lot of piano soloing(even if no musician on this album plays piano as first instrument)to liquid sax with some dissonance (as in Shepp's early years). There are even gospel-like vocals on "Brother Malcolm"(title,returning listener back to Shepp's late 60s again).

Music on "Conversations" doesn't open any new horizons - it just recalls and refreshes sound and atmosphere of free jazz great years and it's great to confirm it doesn't sound any retro-like or nostalgic.Released on the edge of the centuries,this album came a little too early to become noticed since wider wave of interest to free jazz (old and new)will come some years later. But for Shepp it became quite symbolic release anyway - starting from here he step by step will return to more adventurous jazz leaving decades of straight playing for being able to pay his bills in the past.

SONNY ROLLINS Saxophone Colossus

Album · 1957 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.76 | 21 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
To clarify the confusion of this album that seems to have different info with every source i encounter, it was recorded on 22 June 1956 and released in April 1957 and the excellent Rudy Van Gelder remaster finding its way onto the market in 2005. SAXOPHONE COLOSSUS is without a doubt the most revered album released by SONNY ROLLINS with the leading track “St. Thomas” being one of the most celebrated jazz standards of not only the 50s hard bop scene but of all jazz history. Although the track was a traditional calypso number, SONNY literally jazzed it up to make a classic of the ages.

This album finds many a jazz veteran lending a hand and an ear to the process. SONNY ROLLINS, of course, is the star here with his masterful melodic tenor saxophone, but we also get Tommy Flanagan on piano, Doug Watkins on bass and the inimitable Max Roach handling drum duties. By definition, hard bop incorporates everything from R&B and gospel music to the blues and beyond and this album is a great example of these mixings and commingling of styles.

The saxophone and piano are obvious contenders here but the beauty of this album is how well every musician on board weaves his magic around the cohesive whole. While jazz ballads can be a point of contention in my world, i must admit that “You Don’t Know What Love Is” comes across as a tender yet intricately beautiful piece of work that straddles the pop world’s sensibilities while keeping the jazzy touches as the dominant feature.

This is music well before my time but it has a sense of timelessness to it. I was particularly surprised to hear “Moritat” which is a jazz interpretation of a song composed by Kurt Weil originally titled “Mack The Knife” or in German “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer” which was in The Threepenny Opera which originated at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm in Berlin in 1928. While the original had lyrics and was a product of its time SONNY deftly tackles the vocal parts on his sizzling sax and retains the spirit of the original without sacrificing the hard bop sensibilities of the time of release.

“Blue” which is a ROLLINS written original is another satisfying track. It delivers all the beauty of a blues standard with all the jazz touches as the icing on the cake. Somehow these four guys keep the whole thing sounding like a blues song even when they break into clear jazz territory of syncopated drum solos and the like. Very impressive.

This was a grower indeed. While feeling underwhelmed upon first encounter i have really grown to like SAXOPHONE COLOSSUS a lot and understand the hype behind its majesty. While not fluent in ROLLINS’ massive discography, i as an abecedarian of his music, can gleefully advocate recommending this album as the perfect introduction into his hard bop and beyond universe. While it’s true that in the 50s jazz appears a little incestuous with every musician at one time playing on someone else’s albums just like marriages in a TV soap opera, on this particular occasion the stars aligned for all involved and a veritable masterpiece was born.

NAOSUKE MIYAMOTO Step!

Album · 1973 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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snobb
Double bassist Naosuke Miyamoto has been already experienced jazz musician in his late 30th (played with George Kawaguchi and Sadao Watanabe among others)when he released his debut as leader in 1973. "Step!" received positive press and became one of the most popular jazz albums,released that year in Japan.This didn't change Miyamoto's musical career at all - soon he left Tokyo for life in provincial town where stayed playing jazz in local scene for decades. Last year(2014) Naosuke Miyamoto (77) participated as youngest band's member seeking Guinness World Records recognition as world's oldest jazz trio (with average age of 81).

Miyamoto's debut(and most probably the only true album as leader; the other one he released some years later exists as promo/limited edition release)has been released on Japanese one of most prestigious label Three Blind Mice(kind of Japanese ECM known by their audiophile sound)and is perfect illustration how important sound/mix quality is for any release success.

Miyamoto-led sextet(consisting of some musicians of his generation and some youngsters)plays very solid but quite safe mainstream jazz, somewhere between hard-bop and post bop. Of five album's compositions,two are less known Harold Land songs("Step Right up to the Bottom" and "A New Shade of Blue"),rest are members' originals. Miyamoto, obviously influenced by Mingus music,plays deep and rich but quite linear bass,accented on the mix as leading instrument. All sound is extremely spacious,warm and sounds as if the listener is sitting on scene between musicians. Both sax players soloing is tuneful,clear with beautiful tones as well as piano sounds. Trying to analyze all music components it becomes obvious that music and musicians all are good professional band and hardly more, but entirety is much better than each part.

Many Three Blind Mice albums have same fantastic sound, not all them sound same attractive though. Still "Step!" is a great example how virtuosic production can make one just a little better-than-average music sounding much,much better.Being a true artist and label success at the time of release, this album is still popular till now and evidences many reissues (incl. SACD audiophile versions). Good sound engineering is important part of musical art doing good music even better.

QUINCY JONES Quincy Jones And His Orchestra At Newport '61

Live album · 1961 · Big Band
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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js
If if you’re in a hurry, we can wrap up a quick review of Quincy Jones’ “Newport 1961” by saying that this CD contains a spirited performance that often involves material that is not up to this big band‘s talent, and its poorly recorded as well. These Newport live recordings tend to lean toward crowd pleasing type material as the festival was known to attract many curious non-jazz fans and people who just wanted to hang out. “Air Mail Special” has some great bop flavored high speed unison horn lines, and Phil Woods supplies a moving solo on “Evening in Paris”, but much of the rest of this CD is given to foot-stomping, hand-clapping pop RnB dance tunes that probably had the crowd on its feet, but as a home listening experience, it doesn’t quite carry over.

Despite the repetitious material, the band is excellent and burns bright all the way through. Checking the band lineup, its interesting to note that Pat Patrick, from Sun Ra's big band, was riding with Quincy at this time. The biggest problem with this CD is the sound. It sounds like everything was recorded through the soloist’s microphones, so needless to say, the soloists come through loud and clear, while the ensemble lines and rhythm section are too much in the background. How bothersome this is depends on the system you are listening to. I found this CD to be bearable in the house, but almost un-listenable in the truck.

Some people hold this CD in high regard, but a much better live Quincy Jones big band CD from this same time period is “The Great Wide World of Quincy Jones Live”. It has better material, and better sound too.

JOHN TCHICAI Rufus (with Archie Shepp)

Album · 1966 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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snobb
There are two great but almost forgotten albums, recorded at early days of free jazz by two great collectives. To be correct,both them were recorded at the same day and in the same studio, even more - them both were released only three years after they were recorded, by same label,just one right after another.

The New York Contemporary Five have been founded by trumpeter Don Cherry after he left Ornette Coleman and sax player Archie Shepp after his departure from Cecil Taylor band. Third reedist Denmark-born John Tchicai was less known but already played with some progressive New York artists. With support of groovy boppish rhythm section (Don Moore and J. C. Moses) the quintet was a all-star collective of sort.

In August 1963 quintet came to studio to record music, heavily influenced by "the New Thing". Besides of original band's session, some additional material has been recorded in studio same day - by the same band but without Don Cherry. Somehow all music recorded stayed unreleased till 1966,when it was released by Dutch Fontana as two separate albums. Full band recordings came as New York Contemporary Five's "Consequences” and music,recorded without Don Cherry came as John Tchicai - Archie Shepp's "Rufus".

If on "Consequences” trumpeter Don Cherry (still all in free jazz and not on his new upcoming interest - world fusion)is obvious leader, Cherry-less quartet represents balance of two quite different sax players - linear European classic influenced Tchicai on alto and African-American jazz tradition rooted Shepp on tenor. Well-framed by rhythm section,them both surprisingly founds way of collaboration successfully enough. Five compositions are all full of energy, tunes and rhythms and are closer to Dolphy's free-bop than to some free-form improvs which will dominate on free scenes some years after.

Not on the level of best advanced jazz releases of the time,this album contains really interesting early free jazz boppish and well structured form which almost disappears with no traces just few years later.Re-released many times (including CD versions)in Europe and Japan,it looks this album has been never issued in States. It's a shame - it not only contains quite original early free jazz but evidences beginning of successful career of two great jazz sax players - John Tchicai and Archie Shepp.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946)

Boxset / Compilation · 2009 · Classic (1920s) Jazz
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Matt
“This man never disdained what was served up but always found a way to enhance it” ,taken from the Mosaic set notes compiled by Dan Morgenstern: and these Decca recordings contain precisely that with the soaring trumpet and gravel voice taking on any composition or style from New Orleans, Standards, Gospel, Polynesian, Spoken word or narrations, with any other popular or novelty song suggested, and Louis and the band took it all away with absolutely superb musicianship. Tommy Dorsey, Bing Crosby, Mills Brothers, Decca Mixed Chorus, Glen Gray and His Casa Loma Orchestra, Ella Fitzgerald and even an appearance from a young Dexter Gordon albeit only in a support role but they are all included within the seven discs. Often one hears concerning his Decca output that it was not up to the same quality of the early Hot Five and Seven‘s or in the later forties onwards to the sixties with his All Star Band material that were all primarily recorded with Columbia Records and then we also have his later Verve recordings that are included in that list with his Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson collaborations being the high point but during the period of 1935 to 1946 with Decca nobody really has been taking notice or listening except for the good folks at Mosaic and they certainly have rectified the problem with putting out the entire catalogue with alt takes included but still had the extremely good sense to keep away from false starts, studio banter etc by just keeping to all the wonderful music that Louis recorded during this time.

Where does one start when digging out a massive gold vein as you may miss some gorgeous big nuggets and there are plenty here to find with quite a lot of the material being recorded here for the first time that would become his show regulars and perhaps his finisher would be the most memorable of “When The Saints Come Marching In” or was it at the beginning with “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South”, “Pennies From Heaven”, “Jeepers Creepers and ”Rockin’ Chair” are also included. Not to mention there is a few 2nd takes of his earlier material comprising “West End Blues”, “Mahogany Hall Stomp”,” Savoy Blues” and “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue”. Then there is so many of my favourite old Trad Jazzers with, “Ain’t Misbehavin”, “Save It Pretty Mama”, “On The Sunny Side Of The Street”, “Dipper Mouth”, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and they keep coming but my top will always be “(I’ll Be Glad When Your Dead) You Rascal You” (7th disc). Duke Ellington’s “Solitude”, Billie Holiday’s “I Cover The Waterfront” ( Louis recorded it first) are covered with one of the most interesting being his first duet with Ella Fitzgerald (“You Won’t Be Satisfied” and “The Frim Fram Sauce”) albeit more from an historical viewpoint but still quite enjoyable. The Polynesian themed sessions are a delight simply for the variety with the tropical feel of “On A Coconut Island” often bringing a smile. “La Cucaracha” is covered so we better light one up for Louis with the songs meaning as we all know he didn’t mind a bit of kif. The two most different tracks would be Elder Eatmore’s Sermon’s with Louis of course handing out some quite humorous sermons with quite a Southern viewpoint from that period in time with both being narrations. ( Disc 6). Yet, still there are still so many more songs that would be later redone by him in the later part of his career still included and we even have “Happy Birthday” with Louis giving a dedication to the recipient Bing Crosby before the number.

Louis Armstrong’s trumpet soars over the sets contents, his vocals fill it with so many memories from a time that has long gone but his music with always live on,as he is The King of Jazz or any other music that he chose to play. I doubt if ever another greater musician/entertainer is, or ever will be out there. Fantastic Box Set absolutely essential to any Louis Armstrong devotee with myself included or even if you have never heard him before, grab one as there is only 5,000 of these little gold nuggets for sale. Highly recommended and absolutely essential music.

By the way, my first song that I remember hearing as a child was “Hello Dolly” and although in later life I have found out it was not one that Louis thought that highly of, I still love to hear it. I am still learning about this gentleman as there is so much more to find out and I only have 20 years left, if I’m lucky.

QUIET SUN Mainstream

Album · 1975 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 4.36 | 15 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
QUIET SUN is a strange little beast. The jazz-fusion band existing in the Canterbury Scene was one of the few to incorporate highly distorted rock guitar in its sound. The band actually started under the ridiculous Pooh And The Ostrich Feather moniker in 1970. The band’s existence has everything to do with Robert Wyatt who with Bill McCormick the bassist brought this idea into fruition. MAINSTREAM is the first and only offering from this band which formed and disbanded and then reunited and because of Phil Manzanera’s success in Roxy Music allowed this group to reform and record these ideas and finally release this wonderful musical magic in 1975.

The band consisted of percussionist old-school friend Charles Hayward (This Heat, Mal Dean’s Amazing Band, Radar Favourites, Dolphin Logic), bassist Bill MacCormick (Matching Mole, Robert Wyatt, 801 w/ Manzanera, Eno, etc) and of course, Phil Manzanera, who is most famous for his lead guitar work in Roxy Music but is also less famous for his Latin American music hailing from Colombia and Venezuela. This album, however, was his very first collaborative effort and what a beautiful one it is.

While MAINSTREAM incorporates all those wonderful, delectable sounds that make up the Canterbury scene of jazz-rock fusion like the beautiful jazz-rock offerings of Hatfield and the North, QUIET SUN offers some serious rock guitar to the mix above and beyond the call of duty. It didn’t hurt that Brian Eno participated in the project as well as long time music critic and Nick Drake popularizer Ian MacDonald who not only contributed as a lyricist with QUIET SUN but also lent his vehement support of the band’s credentials in the progressive musical world.

Really, how can you go wrong with such progressive classics titled “Mummy Was An Asteroid, Daddy Was A Small Non-Stick Kitchen Utensil”? The Canterbury scene is here in full swing with the addition of excellent guitar contributions. The musicianship is absolutely brilliant and the tracks may need a bit of time to grow on you but ultimately they have won me over big time. This is an album that whispers in my ear that it’s time to hear it again.

When i ordered this i expected a simple original album format but i ended up with the 2011 remastered version that is in a strange form of a booklet that explains the entire history of the band and although it doesn’t fit neatly in the midst of my CD collection, it does present itself as a standout amongst the crowd in not only packaging but also in its unique approach of incorporating the Canterbury Scene with the hard rock that dominated the mid-70s. I, for one, find this to occupy a unique niche in all of music history at a particular time and place. The irony is that this album which was an idea of the earliest of 70s almost never came to be. I am grateful that it did because it is one beauty in the making.

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