Steve Wyzard

Steve Wyzard
JMA Jazz Reviewer ·
Registered 1 year ago · Last visit 3 days ago

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400 reviews/ratings
MIKE MAINIERI - Wanderlust Pop Jazz/Crossover
MILES DAVIS - In a Silent Way Classic Fusion
RALPH TOWNER - Matchbook (with Gary Burton) Post-Fusion Contemporary | review permalink
GARY BURTON - Crystal Silence (with Chick Corea) Post Bop
JAN GARBAREK - Witchi-Tai-To Post Bop
SONNY ROLLINS - East Broadway Run Down Avant-Garde Jazz
JEAN-LUC PONTY - Enigmatic Ocean Classic Fusion
JEAN-LUC PONTY - Open Mind Classic Fusion
BOBBY HUTCHERSON - Happenings Hard Bop
FREDDIE HUBBARD - Straight Life Post Bop
MILT JACKSON - Sunflower Bop
MILT JACKSON - Olinga Bop
EBERHARD WEBER - Yellow Fields Post Bop
DOUBLE IMAGE - Dawn Post-Fusion Contemporary
GARY BURTON - Passengers (with Eberhard Weber) Hard Bop
TONY WILLIAMS - Believe It Classic Fusion
CHARLIE HADEN - Magico (with Jan Garbarek, Egberto Gismonti) World Fusion
CHET BAKER - Peace Cool Jazz
MIKE NOCK - Ondas Post-Fusion Contemporary
HERBIE HANCOCK - Quartet Post Bop

See all reviews/ratings

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Post Bop 96 4.20
2 Classic Fusion 77 4.24
3 Post-Fusion Contemporary 74 4.16
4 Hard Bop 48 4.34
5 Cool Jazz 17 4.29
6 Third Stream 16 4.19
7 Avant-Garde Jazz 14 3.93
8 World Fusion 12 4.25
9 Bop 8 4.13
10 Pop Jazz/Crossover 7 4.29
11 Soul Jazz 5 4.10
12 Swing 4 4.13
13 Nu Jazz 4 4.38
14 (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion 4 4.13
15 Bossa Nova 3 4.17
16 Vocal Jazz 3 4.50
17 Jazz Related Improv/Composition 2 4.25
18 Jazz Related RnB 1 4.00
19 Jazz Related Rock 1 5.00
20 Jazz Soundtracks 1 3.50
21 Latin Jazz 1 4.50
22 21st Century Modern 1 5.00
23 Exotica 1 5.00

Latest Albums Reviews

JOE HENDERSON Barcelona

Live album · 1979 · Post Bop
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If you're a Joe Henderson fan, his 1980 (re-released twice since) trio album Barcelona can be recommended but with one caveat. Let it be known this album is nothing like the string of tribute albums he released in the 1990's that resurrected his career. While casual listeners might immediately dismiss it as avant-garde, Barcelona is actually an improvisatory, exploratory statement that might best be described as THORNY. Simultaneously, it is also an experiment in minimalism (just sax/bass/drums), yet one that will repay repeated listening, especially for those who are already familiar with Joe's style.

The 28-minute title track is divided into two parts (to accommodate its original pressing on vinyl) and was recorded at Wichita State University in 1977. It opens with a long, occasionally abrasive duet between Henderson and bassist Wayne Darling, who arco playing summons a Vitous-like fury. Drummer Ed Soph soon joins in, and this sprawling track moves through a variety of moods, including a very rhythmic section at the 13-minute mark. Part 2 is fast and ferocious, and includes Soph's solo. The audience seems mesmerized until the very end, and occasionally Joe will stray from his mike, but otherwise the sound is good for a not-very-high-profile live recording.

The album's other two tracks, "Mediterranean Sun" and "Y Yo La Quiero" both run about five minutes each, and are much more accessible. Recorded in a German studio in 1978, these showcase Joe at his minimalistic best: no drums, just Joe's wonderful soloing backed by Darling's bass.

Once again, this album is definitely not for first-timers, nor is it background music. The extended title track may be rough going at first, but speaking for Joe's fans we can be thankful these dates were saved for posterity. Free? No, it might set you back a bit (especially if you're looking for the original cover with Gaudi's architecture), but well worth the time and effort spent tracking it down. Every time I listen to this album, I like it more.

FREDDIE HUBBARD Outpost (aka Freddie Hubbard -Amiga Jazz)

Album · 1981 · Post Bop
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As most Freddie Hubbard fans know, his discography can be divided into two distinct categories: 1) his highly acclaimed pre-1975 recordings, and 2) his far-less-acclaimed post-1975 recordings. What happened in 1975? He signed on with Columbia and released a string of albums that can best be described as soul/funk/disco rather than jazz (and I'm attempting to be diplomatic here). Visit any good used record store and you will find truckloads of these albums carefully filed behind Freddie's name.

Then suddenly, in 1981, he released Outpost, his only album on the Enja label. This recording harks back to his classic sound, almost as if those Columbia albums had never happened. With Kenny Barron on piano, Buster Williams on bass, Al Foster on drums, and a very ECM-ish cover, Freddie declares in no uncertain terms that he is back (even if he never really left).

Outpost opens with "Santa Anna Winds", a brooding yet turbulent Hubbard composition with an exploratory center section that highlights his fiery trumpet tone. The flugelhorn ballad "You don't know what love is" will not make anybody forget his performance of "Here's That Rainy Day" (from 1970's Straight Life) but is still far above the crowd. The straight ahead "Outpost Blues" features Freddie at his swinging best. The uptempo "Dual Force" gives composer Buster Williams a chance to shine on the bass. Eric Dolphy's "Loss" closes the album with Freddie putting his own virtuosic stamp on some challenging material.

And now for the disclaimers: 1) the credits on this album clearly read "Freddie Hubbard: trumpet", but the man is very obviously playing the flugelhorn on both "You don't know what love is" and "Dual Force". 2) piano master Kenny Barron gives a fabulous performance throughout this album, but is sadly buried far too low in the mix. At the same time, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Al Foster are almost too loud, and many times are drowning out Barron's piano work (credit: producer Horst Weber, engineer David Baker). If you can overlook these faults, you should have no problem enjoying this album. With a back-catalog like Freddie's, it's easy to condemn with faint praise, but I can definitely recommend this album even if it's not one of his Blue Note/Atlantic/CTI classics.

TAD BRITTON Black Hills

Album · 2007 · Post Bop
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There I was, minding my own business and listening to my local jazz radio station (remember jazz radio?) when suddenly I heard a very gifted piano trio playing a bopish cover of James Taylor's quintessential hit "Fire & Rain". Why hasn't anyone else done this before? I wondered in stunned amazement, completely forgetting about Hubert Laws' version on his 1971 album Afro-Classic. Only later was I to discover that this trio was led by drummer Tad Britton, with pianist Marc Seales and bassist Jeff Johnson, and had recorded this outstanding album for Seattle's Origin Records in 2007.

"Fire & Rain" was unavoidable if you lived in the USA during the 1970s, even if you didn't regularly seek out the music of what came to be known as "the singer-songwriters". Clocking in at 10:46, this version is an absolute show-stopper. Starting slowly, the trio moves through four verses and choruses. Each time around, Seales picks up the tempo and ranges farther and farther from the famous melody line. Then Johnson takes his best solo on the album, and the group runs through one more repeat of the verse and chorus. An extended coda follows, and suddenly you'd swear Keith Jarrett is sitting in, bluesily vamping it up like never before. Finally there's a quiet fade, and all one can say is, "WOW!"

So what of the rest of the album? In spite of a well-rounded variety of moods and tempi, there's almost an ECM Records-like aura to these performances. Britton (who originally hails from South Dakota - thus the album title) does an excellent job in choosing material and allowing Seales and Johnson to continuously steal the show. This is not a typical "drummer's album", and Britton is content to let each song dictate the necessary percussion. There's a rousing, rambunctious version of Bill Evans' "Time Remembered", a more leisurely take of George Duke's "Love Reborn", and an uptempo cover of Steve Swallow's "Falling Grace" that strays very far from more familiar versions. A brief run-through of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" is sure to bring a smile.

There are some recording/engineering issues with this album that prevent it from being an out-of-left-field (left coast?) masterpiece. On Jeff Johnson's ballad "Dark Kiss" and the peaceful closer, "The Windmills of Your Mind", Britton's brushes are miked too closely and are far too loud: it sounds like there's a windstorm or crashing ocean just outside the studio. On Britton's one brief solo piece, "Red Drum", the toms are overly resonant to the point of distraction. Throughout the album, Johnson is not recorded to his best advantage, and even when soloing seems buried too far low in the mix.

Some might complain this album is too short (48:35), but this is just the outstanding discretion of not overworking a good studio session. In spite of its minor imperfections, Black Hills is definitely a keeper and worth your while if only for "Fire & Rain", and for resisting the obvious temptation to cover Vince Guaraldi.

EBERHARD WEBER Little Movements

Album · 1980 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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NOT BAD...JUST NOT MUCH

When looking through the Eberhard Weber discography, let it be said here that Little Movements (1980) is for completists only. It's certainly not a bad album, but Weber has set such a high standard that this one only just barely passes muster.

For the uninitiated, this is the third album by the Colours group, with Weber on bass, Charlie Mariano on soprano sax and flute, Rainer Bruninghaus on keyboards, and John Marshall on drums/percussion. "Bali" and "A Dark Spell" are both dynamic masterpieces: the group interplay is especially strong, and these two would be among the best recordings they ever made. "The Last Stage of a Long Journey" and "Little Movements" are a bit more problematic: experimental, phlegmatic mood pieces that don't quite work. "'No Trees?' He Said" is pleasant in a Pat Methenyish way. There are distinguished performances throughout, and if you own everything else Weber has ever done, you'll find this one coming off the shelf every now and again. Still, Little Movements absolutely pales in comparison to the previous two group albums, Yellow Fields (1976, with Jon Christensen on drums) and Silent Feet (1978). Both are flawless, timeless classics from beginning to end, and contain everything that made this such an outstanding ensemble.

After Little Movements, Weber would continue to make phenomenal albums with seemingly casual effort (more masterpieces: 1982's Later that Evening, and 1993's Pendulum) and also became a part of Jan Garbarek's group. John Marshall would go on to play with Arild Andersen and John Surman, while Charlie Mariano and Rainer Bruninghaus (outstanding players both) would be heard from a lot less often. There's definitely a feeling of finality on this album, as if the group realized their best days were behind them. Where, if anywhere, could they have gone from here? At the very least, the album cover, by Weber's wife Maja, is especially cute.

JOHN ABERCROMBIE While We're Young

Album · 1993 · Classic Fusion
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THUNDERSTORM FADING TO SLOW DRIZZLE

The 1990s were not a golden age for ECM Records in general, or for John Abercrombie in particular. He entered the decade still focused on the guitar-synth/electronic experimentalism that was not popular with his fan base. Then he formed the trio featured on this album, with Dan Wall on Hammond organ and Adam Nussbaum on drums. While We're Young is the best of the three albums this trio recorded, but for those who were hoping for another album along the lines of 1975's Timeless, you may be disappointed. Which is not to say that it's a bad album, but it could have been so much more.

While We're Young is quite simply a dichotomy: the first four tracks feature the atmospheric, boundary-pushing music Abercrombie is known for, while the last four tracks are much more relaxed, and well, mellow. Listen to the hushed opening measures of both "Rain Forest" and "Stormz". The former builds slowly to a fabulous pinched-tone Abercrombie electric solo. The latter showcases a drum/guitar duet, and Abercombie's bended/tremolo notes must be heard to be believed. On "Dear Rain", Nussbaum plays only cymbals over Abercrombie's clear tone and Wall's sustained chords. "Mirrors" is this album's most aggressive and uptempo number, with a drum/organ duet and Wall handling the bass line under Abercrombie's solo. It leads one to wonder what a double-bassist or electric-bassist could have contributed to Abercrombie's understated but distinctive, fluid yet bluesy playing on this album.

After an impressive start, the brakes are applied and the intensity fades. To put it plainly, the last four tracks are elusive, muted, effortless, moody, peaceful, leisurely, etc. There are occasional moments of vigor and energy, but for the most part both compositions and performances pale next to the previously established sound-world and blend one into another. Abercrombie's amplified acoustic on "Scomotion" would fit right in on most any Pat Metheny album of the last 20 years. Such a drastic change-of-pace on an album's second half is not unprecedented, but it is disheartening after such a promising beginning.

At 59:08, While We're Young doesn't overstay its welcome, but the final four tracks do not help matters. Perhaps it's unfair (especially with the passage of decades) to compare everything Abercrombie records with the incandescence of Timeless or 1976's Gateway, but a precedent was indisputably set. If you're a long-time Abercrombie listener, there is much to enjoy on this album, but it can't rightfully be classified among his best. Thankfully it doesn't meander into the long-winded aimlessness of some of his later albums, and it does provide enjoyable listening every time it comes off the shelf. But that's all.

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