Steve Wyzard

Steve Wyzard
JMA Jazz Reviewer ·
Registered 1 year ago · Last visit 83 minutes ago

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394 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
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 95 4.19
2 Classic Fusion 74 4.24
3 Post-Fusion Contemporary 73 4.16
4 Hard Bop 46 4.35
5 Cool Jazz 18 4.31
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


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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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.


Album · 1993 · Classic Fusion
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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.


Album · 1978 · Classic Fusion
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For many years, this album was not available on CD, and was very hard to find. Now that it has been re-issued, listeners and collectors can finally hear this very successful pairing of the saxophones of Jan Garbarek with the organ of John Taylor. This album was recorded in December 1977, mere weeks after the very prolific Garbarek played on Keith Jarrett's My Song. He also appears on Gary Peacock's December Poems and Bill Connors' Of Mist and Melting, both of which were recorded at the same time. That's four full-length albums in less than three months, and Places is definitely the best of the four.

There is no double bass on Places, but the album doesn't suffer for it. Three of the four lengthy compositions open with Taylor's ethereal organ. "Reflections" is a two-part epic: "part one" features Garbarek's slow-building phrases, Bill Connors' softly picked acoustic guitar, and Jack DeJohnette's mystical cymbals. Suddenly the tempo picks up for "part two". Taylor contributes background colors over Garbarek's best blaring tone while Connors takes a solo over DeJohnette's louder, more vibrant drums. "Entering" is the shortest and most accessible track. Garbarek plays plaintively, nostalgically over Connors' acoustic guitar. DeJohnette enters halfway through, and the song closes peacefully with a short coda. In spite of brilliant performances, "Going Places" is just a little unfocussed, with a few too many mood changes. After a busy DeJohnette opening (this is his best playing on the album) and much shrill Garbarek soloing, this track moves into much slower, more atmospheric territory. There's also a great Connors solo and a drum-and-organ duet before Taylor switches to percussive piano for the only time on this album. "Passing" has Connors introducing the melody before Garbarek joins in over Taylor's organ cadences. This more subdued, almost bluesy track closes the album with Garbarek's best deep guttural groans and DeJohnette playing military drum patterns.

So where does Places fit within the Jan Garbarek catalog? It's not an earth-shaking, all-time classic like Witchi-Tai-To, or an openly experimental album like Dis or All Those Born With Wings. It's not as accessible as Photo with... or It's Okay to Listen to the Gray Voice, or as introspective as Paths, Prints. There's a similar feel on Places to some of Terje Rypdal's work from the same time period without ever digressing into the early-1970s avant-garde sound. And it's much better than Dansere, Eventyr, or Wayfarer. All this adds up to...highly recommended!

RALPH TOWNER Chiaroscuro (with Paolo Fresu)

Album · 2009 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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With the passage of time, the trumpet has become increasingly important to ECM Records. Following in the footsteps of Tomasz Stanko and Enrico Rava, we are here introduced to Paolo Fresu, who has led many ensembles and recorded many albums (available as imports) in his native Italy. For his first widely distributed release in he western hemisphere, he is paired with long-time ECM recording artist/guitar virtuoso Ralph Towner. The two met at a festival in Italy, and decided to perform and record together as a duo.

So when was the last time you heard a guitar/trumpet duet? This album works brilliantly on every level despite taking a risk with an unusual pairing. While this is mostly reflective, introspective, meditative music, there is also way too much happening with both performers for it to remain placidly in the background. Towner, who has played on many of ECM's greatest albums (Matchbook, Solstice, Solo Concert, et al), contributes fleet-fingered picking on "Punta Giara", double-tracks a baritone guitar on "Sacred Place" and "Doubled Up", and recaptures throughout the classical/jazz/world/folk sound he has given us since the early 1970s. Fresu plays both trumpet and flugelhorn, and his tone has just enough sharp edges (especially on the title track) to avoid being dismissed as a smooth impressionist. He performs a muted tribute to Miles Davis on "Blue in Green", which receives a very different arrangement from Towner's cover with Gary Burton on 1986's Slide Show album. Chiaroscuro closes with two brief but haunting improv pieces, "Two Miniatures" and "Postlude".

It all sounds "very ECM", and one wonders why this instrumental pairing hasn't been attempted before (or if it has, why so rarely). At 46:43, the idea is not overworked and never drifts into aimless repetitiveness. Outstanding recording and booklet graphics, as always, are a given with ECM. Highly recommended for late-night listening, and for those looking for something different.

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