Steve Wyzard

Steve Wyzard
JMA Jazz Reviewer ·
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit 2 days ago

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931 reviews/ratings
MIKE MAINIERI - Wanderlust Pop/Art Song/Folk
MILES DAVIS - In a Silent Way Fusion
RALPH TOWNER - Matchbook (with Gary Burton) Post-Fusion Contemporary | review permalink
JAN GARBAREK - Witchi-Tai-To Post Bop
SONNY ROLLINS - East Broadway Run Down Avant-Garde Jazz
JEAN-LUC PONTY - Enigmatic Ocean Fusion
JEAN-LUC PONTY - Open Mind Fusion
BOBBY HUTCHERSON - Happenings Hard Bop
MILT JACKSON - Sunflower Fusion
MILT JACKSON - Olinga Bop
EBERHARD WEBER - Yellow Fields Post Bop
DOUBLE IMAGE - Dawn Post-Fusion Contemporary
GARY BURTON - Passengers (with Eberhard Weber) Hard Bop
CHET BAKER - Peace Post Bop
MIKE NOCK - Ondas Post-Fusion Contemporary
HERBIE HANCOCK - Quartet Post Bop
JOHN ABERCROMBIE - Timeless Fusion
JOHN ABERCROMBIE - Gateway (with Dave Holland & Jack DeJohnette) Fusion
MARC JOHNSON - The Sound of Summer Running Post Bop
BRANFORD MARSALIS - Eternal Post Bop

See all reviews/ratings

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Post Bop 259 4.25
2 Hard Bop 151 4.27
3 Fusion 137 4.24
4 Post-Fusion Contemporary 114 4.14
5 Avant-Garde Jazz 39 4.21
6 Bop 39 4.09
7 World Fusion 30 4.18
8 Cool Jazz 24 4.17
9 Pop/Art Song/Folk 23 3.96
10 Third Stream 21 4.10
11 Vocal Jazz 19 4.29
12 Soul Jazz 14 4.14
13 Swing 11 4.09
14 21st Century Modern 11 4.36
15 Eclectic Fusion 8 4.44
16 Funk Jazz 7 4.43
17 Jazz Related Improv/Composition 6 4.33
18 Nu Jazz 5 4.10
19 Jazz Related Rock 3 4.50
20 Bossa Nova 3 4.17
21 Blues 2 4.50
22 Latin Jazz 2 3.75
23 Jazz Related Soundtracks 1 3.50
24 Exotica 1 5.00
25 RnB 1 4.50

Latest Albums Reviews

GRANT GREEN Street of Dreams

Album · 1967 · Hard Bop
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RAINY DAY MASTERPIECE

Taking into account that all Grant Green albums are unfairly marginalized in the shadow of the previously recorded Idle Moments, let's take a look at some of the myths and assumptions that have arisen regarding his 1967 release, Street of Dreams:

1) "It's quiet and dreamy": Don't take the title too seriously. Loaded with that intangible quality known as "atmosphere", Larry Young's brooding organ chords push this album far closer to noir than to "dreaminess". All of the players are motivated, and absolutely no one is sleep-walking through this session.

2) "It's far too simple and laid back": Street of Dreams can be described as low-key, contemplative, or even nostalgic, but any "easy listening" accusations can be immediately dispelled with the first track, the Latin-flavored "I Wish You Love". Grant's fluid picking/soloing is downright inspired, and not just on this track but throughout the entire album. Then Larry Young's intense performance on the title track will help you understand why he has sometimes been called the "Coltrane of the organ".

3) "Is that really Elvin Jones on drums?": Yes, it's really him on drums, but don't expect the fireworks he contributed to the John Coltrane Quartet. Elvin shows himself to be a master of restraint on this album, with just the right percussion for each and every track. His famous polyrhythms do make an appearance on the title track.

4) "Bobby Hutcherson is relegated to the background": While Bobby had led a few sessions by the time this album was recorded, none had yet been released to the music-listening public. But to call him a "supporting" player here is just wrong. He is given extensive solos on 3 of the 4 tracks, and he even doubles the melody line with Grant to open and close "Somewhere in the Night".

Recorded in November 1964, Street of Dreams does have to answer to one accusation made against it that costs it half-a-star. At 33:37, this album, as good as it is, is over far too soon. Nor have any alternative takes or extra tracks ever turned up on CD/boxset re-releases. It would have been exquisite if this session had lasted just a little bit longer, and yet the flawless performances do not indicate someone was hurrying to finish and catch the next train to who-knows-where. It's best to think of this album as a passing cloudburst that briefly drops everything it has before quickly moving on. And while nothing will stop you from enjoying this little masterpiece at noon on the brightest day of the year, it seems to become that much more magical on days and times when it's anything but.

MAX ROACH Scott Free

Album · 1985 · Post Bop
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MORE COMPLEX - NOT FOR BEGINNERS

One of the main reasons for writing this review is to correct an egregious error that appears in multiple editions of the Penguin Guide. To wit: "Scott Free is a hefty two-part suite dedicated to the brilliant young bassist Scott LaFaro, who died in a motor accident in 1961." Of course, with super-percussionist Max Roach, the truth is just a little more complicated than that. If one were to read the actual liner notes for this amazing album, one would find: "Scott Free was inspired, in part, by the case of the Scottsboro Boys, who, in 1931, were convicted (with evidence that can, at best, be called nonexistent) of the rape of two white girls aboard a train in Alabama. Although they were later exonerated, some of the Scottsboro Boys were in prison for over 15 years". There is no mention of Scott LaFaro.

Now that's taken care of, what of the actual music, recorded in May 1984 for the Soul Note label. Max's compatriots on this album are Cecil Bridgewater, trumpet & flugelhorn, Odean Pope, playing a snarly tenor sax, and Tyrone Brown on the electric upright bass. Composed by Bridgewater, this two-part suite (19:58 / 20:17), while not quite "blowing up a monsoon of music" (as the liner notes claim) gives ample opportunity for these phenomenally virtuosic players to truly strut their stuff. Part One opens with a quartet fanfare statement before launching into solos: Bridgewater, Pope, Brown, and Roach in that order. Part Two jumps immediately into the four soloists (in the same order) before closing with a repeat of the opening fanfare statement.

According to Bridgewater himself: "Basically it's a simple piece that just becomes more complex by the way everyone solos." So yes, this album would definitely qualify under that time-honored epithet "blowing session". Yet we're also told that there was some definite rehearsal (including a 90-minute version) before recording, so this is not an entirely improvised album. While categorized as Post Bop, Scott Free thankfully has no vocals and occasionally will push across boundaries into Avant-Garde free playing. Whether you like it or not will depend on how you already feel about the individual styles of the four extraordinary players, who shine like the stars they should be.

ANDREW HILL Time Lines

Album · 2006 · 21st Century Modern
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AUTUMNAL FINALITY

It's only natural that as Andrew Hill's last studio recordings, Time Lines should elicit the "end-of-an-era" autumnal atmosphere that so many "last time out" jazz albums share. Hill was 73 when this album was recorded, and he had less than 2 years to live. Not that you could tell from listening to these performances, but one can only wonder where this group could have gone next after recording this under-the-radar masterpiece. Unfairly marginalized as a Monk/Powell disciple, Andrew Hill was his own man right up to the very end.

The best way to discuss this album is to look at each player's contributions to the whole, one by one:

Greg Tardy: tenor sax / clarinet / bass clarinet: From his slow, brooding clarinet on the opening "Malachi" to his vicious tenor blasts on the title track, Tardy is this album's biggest and best surprise. His bass clarinet work on "Ry Round 1", "For Emilio", and "Ry Round 2" will draw comparisons to Bennie Maupin.

Charles Tolliver: trumpet: As someone who has listened to Tolliver's 1970 album The Ringer many times, hearing his bright tone on Time Lines was like running into an old friend. His soloing on the first few numbers is somewhat understated, and he doubles contrapuntal lines throughout with Tardy. Don't miss his big, rambunctious moment on "Ry Round 2".

John Hebert: bass: This was my first acquaintance with his playing, and I'm glad the introduction was made. Hebert's vigorous openings on both "Time Lines" and "Smooth" push the group into overdrive, and he joins Tardy's bass clarinet for a duo on "For Emilio".

Eric McPherson: drums: Critics like to dismiss this kind of boundary-pushing virtuosity as "blustery", but his big solo on "For Emilio" will surely remind one of both Jack DeJohnette and Eric Harland.

Andrew Hill: piano: All the material is composed by Andrew, and don't for a moment think his age has slowed him down. Prepare to be amazed as you listen to his stuttering, pounding lines on the title track, his clattering solo on "For Emilio", and his searching intro to "Whitsuntide". His thudding bass piano notes on "Ry Round 2" show how he never "comps" his way through his compositions, but rather adds his own personal punctuation wherever he sees fit. The album closes with a solo piano version of "Malachi", dedicated to Malachi Favors who had recently passed away.

For those who may be new to Andrew's style, this album is probably not the best point of entry. For that I would recommend Dance of Death (recorded 1968, released in 1980), which was my first experience with his exuberant pianism. That being said, Time Lines is much easier going than some of his admittedly difficult mid-1960s albums, such as Compulsion. So if you are familiar with any of the players involved, I can safely say this album is a must-own. Not only that, but I would even go so far as to nominate Time Lines for Jazz Album of the Year, 2006, along with Bennie Maupin's (there's that name again) Penumbra.

JOSH LAWRENCE And That Too

Album · 2023 · Hard Bop
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RETRO COVERS

Drawn in as I was by Ola Baldych's delightfully retro cover design, no one could have been more surprised than I was to discover a 21st Century hard bop masterpiece. Without any form of plagiarism or obvious imitation, And That Too brings the sound of Lee Morgan-era Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers into the modern, post-Jet Age world. This album was recorded in June 2021, but a first-time listener could be graciously forgiven for assuming it was from June 1961, yet with crisp, digital sound/production.

When I first became aware of this release, I was only familiar with one of the two drummers, Jason Tiemann. In 2020, he self-released a phenomenal organ-trio album called T-Man. And That Too features Josh Lawrence on trumpet, Willie Morris III on tenor sax, Art Hirahara on piano, Boris Kozlov on bass, and Rudy Royston drumming on five of the eight tracks. Let it be said here that ALL of these players are true masters of their instruments, which makes this amazing album a true force to be reckoned with. If news about this release reaches influential listeners, these guys will not be residing in virtual anonymity for long.

The album opens with the driving energy of "Grit". Lawrence, Morris, and Hirahara all take formidable solos before a sudden ending. The only cover is Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti", played luminously slow with Lawrence adding a mute. "Cosmological Constant" is ridiculously fast, while "North Winds" is bright and brilliant. The album's true stand-out, "Black Keys", starts with a Hirahara intro before the group joins in for a 1...2...3... cadence. Lawrence's guttural growls make this Louis Armstrong tribute, topped by Royston's exquisite brushwork, a much-too-short stunner. The brisk "Hole in the Wall" is this album's "exploratory" moment before Kozlov's arco playing highlights the muted ballad "Left Hanging". Finally, "Cantus Firmus" becomes a "band showcase" number with fiery trade-offs galore.

You know how successful an album is by how fast it goes by. May I submit that And That Too is one of the fastest 56:30 albums ever recorded? These guys are THAT good. And while skeptics may doubt that anything released in 2023 could be comparable to something from 60 years ago, I challenge one and all to give this album an honest listen and prepare to be blown away. Thank you Posi-Tone Records for putting this one out: it will still be good in 2083!

DAVE HOLLAND Prism

Album · 2013 · Fusion
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FUSION!

When I first reviewed Prism for another site 10 years ago, I will admit I kind of pooh-poohed it. It's not really a fusion album, I insisted. There are no organs, exotic substances, inner enlightenment, or sci-fi crossovers. I'd like to now walk this view back and own up, after listening to it for the last 10 years, to the fact that yes, it is a real fusion album. It should also be noted that unlike many Dave Holland albums, there are also no brass/horns, and it's not a big band album. So allow me to make myself clear: Prism is not only an honest-to-goodness fusion album, but it's also one of the very best jazz records of the 2010s decade.

Holland's cohorts on this album are Craig Taborn, piano and Fender Rhodes, Kevin Eubanks, guitars, and Eric Harland on drums. Do you enjoy frantically driven, intense soloing? You've come to the right place, for Prism provides bushels and bushels of it over its 70:07 runtime. I say this as someone who believes that very few studio albums merit a runtime of longer than 60-65 minutes, but in this case it's absolutely justified.

Wait until you hear Eubanks's twisted, distorted lines on "The Watcher", the Leslie-cabinet effect on "Choir", the Gibson hollow-body tone on the spooky "The Color of Iris", and the Wah-Wah pedal on "Breathe". His solo at the end of "A New Day" brings Wes Montgomery into the 21st century. More than just a non-stop soloist, he often doubles the melody lines with Taborn. Eric Harland is quite simply amazing, especially in a rimshot showpiece at the end of "Evolution". Taborn is the "most free" of this incomparable quartet: the quirky stops and starts of "Spirals" and the stunning piano solo on "The True Meaning of Determination" are beyond awe-inspiring.

And what of Holland himself? As always, he's the bedrock beneath the terra firma. His all-too-rare solos sound so effortless that they almost defer attention. In spite of throwing jabs like a heavyweight champ, the listener can almost take his lines for granted, so cohesively do they mesh into the musical fabric. And while no one would compare Prism to 1978's all-solo Emerald Tears, his dexterity, innovation, and virtuosity have not suffered after almost 50 years of recorded performances.

So yes, this is a fusion album, and if you haven't heard this yet, I strongly urge you to rectify that situation. Even at this late date, Prism deserves to be mentioned among the all-time greats of the genre.

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