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jazz music reviews (new releases)

ERNEST TURNER My Americana

Album · 2019 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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js
Ernest Turner has been working with some top names in jazz and pop for over 20 years, but he did not record as a leader until he put out “My Americana” this year. In many ways it has been worth the wait as this is not the work of a newbie, instead, “Americana” presents the well developed artistry of someone who has had plenty of time to formulate their approach to the piano trio. The CD’s title is reference to the fact that Turner is presenting his idea of a ‘great American songbook’ from an African-American perspective, hence the inclusion of tunes by Stevie Wonder, and Thelonious Monk, as well as a couple of well known gospel songs. The variety in the choice of songs is also reflected in Turner’s eclectic approach to the piano where his playing can range from cutting edge current to old school funky and down home soulful.

The album opens on that cutting edge tip with the turbulent intensity of “Return of Thanos”, a Turner original that carries one of the hottest piano solos you will hear this year. This, along with the other two Turner originals are probably the highlights of the album, the covers are all great, but Turner turns in his best solos on his self-penned numbers. Of the covers, Wonder’s “If It’s Magic” takes on a Brad Mehldau type air as Turner plays a hypnotic art pop vamp topped with an elastic solo that slips in and out of time. Fats Waller’s “Aint Misbehain” is barely recognizable as it has been altered and modernized to the extreme, I didn’t even know that was the tune I just heard until I saw the track list. Gospel music is something that cannot be faked, either you grew up in the church playing it, or it will be obvious you didn’t. Turner’s rendition of “Precious Lord” is drenched in all of those classic church rhythms and phrases, you can almost see the older women with their fans working back and forth.

There are so many great pianists these days, but Ernest Turner is ready to take his place along side the best of them. Much in the way of Jason Moran or Herbie Hancock, Ernest can play as technical and complicated as anyone, but he can also reach deep into the blues and play something that is just plain fun. His solos are never dull and I find myself wishing they would go on longer. I should also mention that Jon Curry on drums and Lance Scott on bass comprise a killer rhythm section and their well placed solo spots add to the overall arrangements.

ALFA MIST Structuralism

Album · 2019 · Nu Jazz
Cover art 3.00 | 3 ratings
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snobb
For some last years London's burgeoning jazz scene often associates with rebellious street-wise Afrobeat, Caribbean rhythms, electronics and hip-hop influenced fusion. Still not every artist there sounds such way.

Self-taught pianist,composer and producer Alfa Mist just released his second album which obviously being a part of about mentioned movement covers quite different areas. Proclaimed by artist as "battles with self and the societal pressures" product in real life "Structuralism" contains comfortable lite fusion recalling American smooth jazz.

There are lot of strings on some songs, two female guest vocalists, beautifully-melancholic sax soloing and modern slick production, plus hip-hop elements, but resulting music is all but rebellion. In fact, almost any composition fits quite well for use as soundtrack to Sunday morning Travel TV broadcast.

Still, few dramatic moments save the album of being openly boring so it could be recommended for those trying to escape from disturbing reality to comfortable (and sterile) pinkish-greenish lounge.

BRANFORD MARSALIS Branford Marsalis Quartet : The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul

Album · 2019 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.98 | 3 ratings
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js
For those who like their jazz on the more heated side of things, Branford Marsalis’ “The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul” should fit the bill. Its been said by more than a few that Branford’s studio recordings are no match for the fire of his live performances, and that may still be true, but this new one is probably the one studio recording that gets the closest to his live intensity, and likewise, this is also one of the better recordings in Branford’s lengthy career. Not everything on “Secret” is high energy, there is a variety of styles at work here, but it’s the ones on which Marsalis cuts loose that really mark this album as something special.

Opener “Dance of the Evil Toys” sets a modernist tone with its blend of a loping African rhythm, Stravinsky like snaky melody and harsh piano smashes. They throw a change up by introducing the ballad, “Conversation Among the Ruins”, as the second number, but it is a remarkable composition, something worthy of inclusion in future standard collections. The rest of the album is made up of a variety of 21st century post bop meets 60s free jazz with Branford and pianist Joey Calderazzo knocking out one high intensity solo after another. This all culminates with album closer, Keith Jarret’s “The Windup”, whose wacked out punky be-bop melody and arrangement sounds like something from today’s NYC scene, not the 70s when Keith wrote it. If there is one track that doesn’t quite fit, it’s the laid back Latin groove of “Cianna”, whose somewhat restrained solos don’t fit the energy and creativity of the rest of the album. Maybe that one is supposed to be the radio friendly song.

RUBY RUSHTON Ironside

Album · 2019 · Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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snobb
Eight years after they recorded their debut album, English spiritual jazz quartet Ruby Rushton led by now rising solo-star Tenderlonious releases their new album. Band of almost same line-up (with only drummer changed from Yussef Dayes to Tim Carnegie) plays tuneful and soulful fusion recalling early 70s spiritual jazz of Yusef Lateef slightly modernized with hip-hop.

Two album's songs ("One Mo' Dram" and "Eleven Grapes") has been already released as single a month ago and presented upcoming album well. After two successful albums released by Tenderlonious under his own name during last two years, his decision to reunite the old band doesn't look strange. During last decade London music scene changed dramatically from deep marginal underground to fashionable place so Ruby Rushton's music sounds right in place here.

There are not much of news or unusual tricks here on this album (as in almost any music coming from London jazz scene nowadays) but it works well presenting to younger generation some best things jazz invited four decades ago. Lot of flute/sax soloing, African dance-able rhythms,memorable melodies and very positive atmosphere in general works like magnet after years of destructiveness, deconstruction and dark nihilism dominated on musical scenes.

Surprisingly enough, album closes with beautiful and sensitive "Pingwin" - dedication to Polish cult jazz composer and musician Krzysztof Komeda usually not widely known outside of his home country.

JACK MOUSE Jack Mouse Group : Intimate Adversary

Album · 2018 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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kev rowland
Some albums feature musicians so in tune with each other and what everyone is doing that it isn’t possible to slip a sheet of paper between them, as they are just so tight, and that is exactly the case here. Jack Mouse sits at the back and drives his quintet through post-bop jazz which also contains swing and even brings in some influences of gospel blues. Jack shuffles, he fills, he never rests, and it is his energy which allows the rest of the band to relax and take the music where it needs to go and never having to force it. His last albums were improvisational, but here he has concentrated on compositions and arrangements and his band just sit in, harmonise, and play sublimely.

John McLean (guitar) and Bob Bowman (bass) do take their opportunity to shine when it is presented to them, but they are mostly here to provide support to Scott Robinson (tenor saxophone) and Art Davis (trumpet, flugelhorn) who takes their own solos when the time arises, but really come to the fore when they bounce against each other. But for me it is the drums which make this, with different rhythms and styles being put up and taken down as the melodies keep moving, and one can imagine the band playing in a circle, looking at each other, but more importantly looking at Jack. Simply superb.

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ERIC DOLPHY The Eric Dolphy Memorial Album (aka Conversations aka 1928-1964 aka Memorial aka Music Matador aka Jitterbug Waltz)

Album · 1963 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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js
Although its been known by many names over the years, the album that Eric Dolphy released in 1963 is mostly known by the title, “Conversations”, so that is the title we will use for this review. “Conversations” is a sort of pivotal album for Eric, coming after the expansive neo-bop of “Far Cry” and right before the avant-garde art jazz of 64’s “Out to Lunch”. “Conversations” does not possess the unity of those two, but instead is rather eclectic as it features both Dolphy’s bop side, as well as his more artsy ‘long haired’ leanings.

The album opens with the classic “Jitterbug Waltz”, played somewhat faithfully but with some decidedly ‘outside’ flourishes. Eric plays flute on here and turns in a dazzling solo. Woody Shaw also turns in a hot ride that toys endlessly with the original melody. Side one of the original LP closes out with “Musical Matador”, a rambling Caribbean number that features a rather large ensemble in joyous near cacophony. Side two features a lengthy duet with bassist Richard Davis that is neither free jazz, concert hall chamber music or relaxed post bop conversation, but contains elements of all of those. The album closes with Eric playing solo alto sax on a virtuoso and passionate rendition of “Love Me”.

The salient feature to “Conversations” is the second side on which Dolphy’s playing is isolated without a backing ensemble. It is on these tracks that his melodic skills are given free reign and the inventiveness of his playing achieves greater clarity.

KENNY WHEELER Double, Double You

Album · 1984 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.75 | 5 ratings
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Steve Wyzard
MASTERPIECE BLOWING SESSION

Don't expect an impartial review here: my enthusiasm for Double Double You knows no bounds. If I were making an "all-time top 20 jazz albums" list, three would come from the year 1984: Jean-Luc Ponty's Open Mind, Steps Ahead's Modern Times, and this album. Yet it's really Double Double You that has languished in undeserved obscurity for far too long and has only just recently been re-issued so everybody could finally hear it. Not only is this Kenny Wheeler's best album EVER, it's also among the best albums ECM released during the entire decade.

The line-up of musicians alone should tell you this will be a blowing session for the ages: Kenny Wheeler, trumpet & flugelhorn, Mike Brecker, tenor saxophone, John Taylor, piano, Dave Holland, bass, and Jack DeJohnette, drums. Yes, there is absolutely unbridled, ferocious soloing throughout by all the performers, without anyone dominating the proceedings. Some of Kenny Wheeler's recordings can best be described as avant-garde, but Double Double You emphatically leans toward the accessible end of the spectrum.

The unforgettable "Foxy Trot" (14:07) is carried by one of Dave Holland's greatest basslines, and is one of those compositions that everyone should know and cover. There is a brief respite from the intensity with "Ma Bel" (3:50), a duet between Wheeler and Taylor. "W.W." (7:48) is a showcase for the horns, and the side-long suite "Three for D'reen/Blue for Lou/Mark Time" (23:28) goes through a multitude of moods, and gives everyone a chance to stretch out without endless repetitions. And please ignore the famous Leonard Feather review that complained about DeJohnette's extended solo at the end: this is one of Jack's greatest moments EVER.

Let it be said right here that if you are familiar with any of the performers, you simply MUST add this recording to your collection immediately. Thank God this flawless album is now much more widely available, and if you love this art form, you really should give it a listen. Immaculate ECM recording, as always. I have no idea if these five were able to play this material in a live setting, but if they did, I have no doubt those in attendance must have been floored!

TAIGUARA Canções De Amor E Liberdade

Album · 1983 · Latin Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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GKAZZ
There is a reason why I have a great admiration for Taiguara. The past albums are great, and he is a superb musician, but its in his last two works that his political voice gain more sound and reverberation.

"Canções de Amor e Liberdade" (Songs of Love and Freedom), is the kind of album that shows an ageing musician dealing with themes new and old, in a new way. He gave attention both to more traditional tecniques as to a great bit of improvisation and experimentation. The whole album is filled with a communist reading of brazilian and latinamerican reality, as Taiguara were, by 1983, already in touch with Karl Marx and Lenin works, besides becoming a comrade of the communist leader Luiz Carlos Prestes.

The interesting is that his music is not "affected" by his politics: its accesible yet bold; popular yet scholar. As great music should be.

TAIGUARA Imyra, Tayra, Ipy - Taiguara

Album · 1976 · Latin Jazz
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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GKAZZ
Contextualization is necessary: ​​in the late sixties, Taiguara was seen as one of the biggest names in Brazilian popular music. He have won festivals, their albums sold well, their songs were reproduced constantly in the radios. Over time, Taiguara was fond of singing more freely, allowing himself to make small comments about the military dictatorship and the dreams of a new society - all in metaphors and innuendos. In 1971, in the album "Carne e Osso", there was a song dedicated to Cuba. The Brazilian censorship never left Taiguara rest for then on. In the following years, more than 60 songs would be prohibited, censored, or prevented from being reproduced in radio and concerts. His shows were constantly attacked by police forces. Taiguara decided to go on exile. In England, he records an album with Michel Legrand and the London Symphonic Orchestra. The album is banned from being released in England by the Brazilian government - today the original tapes have not yet been found. In 1975 he was allowed to return to Brazil and record a new album.

How? How to express his indigenous roots, his displeasure with censorship and dictatorship and his dream for another society without censorship attacking him? "Imyra, Tayra Ipy" is born.

With Wagner Tiso, Hermeto Pascoal and more than 80 musicians, "Imyra, Tayra Ipy" becomes a lavish album, absurdly complex, with thematic and concept from start to finish. The arrival in Brazil, his feeling of belonging to a land whose birds do not sing anymore; its indigenous, African and Spanish roots sung, while more than 3 musicians solo at the same time. "Imyra, Tayra Ipy" is a landmark of both the artist and Brazilian music. Albums like this were not usually recorded in Brazil: by technical and financial condition to gather all the attributes. "Imyra, Tayra Ipy" grandeur comes, often in the album, in its ability to completely subvert brazilian songs and themes in something completly different. One of the best example is his reading of "Aquarela do Brasil" in the track "Aquarela de um país na lua".

The result? Three days later, the Brazilian police collected the album form the shelves of the stores and destroyed the copies. Taiguara went into exile in Europe and Africa and would record again only almost ten years later.

But no matter, the song has come to us, we have the opportunity to see an artist who used the music to take revenge on a system, whith strings, drums and highly dreamy lyrics.

The Taiguara of the following decades would be extremely bold and would definitely drop the metaphors to reach his political ideas in a direct form.

ERIC DOLPHY Iron Man

Album · 1968 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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js
Although it was not released until 1968, the tracks for Eric Dolphy’s “Iron Man” were recorded in 1963 at the same sessions that produced the album “Conversations”. This all went down about one year before Dolphy released his art jazz masterpiece, “Out to Lunch”, so needless to say, the material on “Iron Man” is outstanding and a must have for any Dolphy fan. Although Eric and Sun Ra are both well known leaders in the world of avant-garde jazz, you do not normally hear much similarities in their music, except on this CD on which Dolphy is working with a mini big band ensemble that often carries a very Ra like sound in its arrangements and orchestrations.

“Iron Man” opens with two high energy bebop numbers that show Dolphy taking the musical innovations of Charlie Parker just one step further. Both of these tracks are sheer joy and feature great solos from Eric, Woody Shaw and Bobby Hutcherson. The large horn ensemble on these two returns on “Burning Spear”, for an ambitious arrangement that sounds like some of today’s cutting edge jazz. Two other tracks feature Dolphy in ballad duets with bassist Richard Davis. These two songs are played a bit more straight ahead, but with no lack of melodic invention and creativity.

Some versions of “Iron Man” carry a bonus track called “A Personal Statement”. This one features Eric in duet with an opera singer and a small combo performing a bizarre waltz and some other strange stuff that would be hard to describe. This track displays Dolphy’s interest in the avant-garde concert hall music of his time. There is a piano player on this one that carries a strong Sun Ra influence, and surprise surprise, its Bob James, who would later go on to become one of the most successful money making pop jazz artists ever.

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