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530 reviews/ratings
LOUIS ARMSTRONG - Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five Volume 1 Classic (1920s) Jazz | review permalink
MILES DAVIS - Agharta Classic Fusion | review permalink
EARTH WIND & FIRE - Gratitude Jazz Related RnB | review permalink
HERBIE HANCOCK - Speak Like a Child Post Bop | review permalink
FRANK ZAPPA - One Size Fits All (as Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention) Jazz Related Rock | review permalink
HERBIE HANCOCK - Crossings Classic Fusion | review permalink
PARLIAMENT - Mothership Connection Funk | review permalink
COUNT BASIE - Count Basie and his Orchestra Big Band | review permalink
HERBIE HANCOCK - Thrust Funk Jazz | review permalink
SUN RA - Angels and Demons at Play Progressive Big Band | review permalink
SUN RA - Atlantis Avant-Garde Jazz | review permalink
SANTANA - Santana Latin Rock/Soul | review permalink
FUNKADELIC - America Eats Its Young Funk | review permalink
MILES DAVIS - Live At The Fillmore East Classic Fusion | review permalink
HERBIE HANCOCK - V.S.O.P. Post Bop | review permalink
DUKE ELLINGTON - Money Jungle Hard Bop | review permalink
MILES DAVIS - Get Up With It Classic Fusion | review permalink
JIMI HENDRIX - Electric Ladyland (Jimi Hendrix Experience) Jazz Related Rock
MILES DAVIS - Miles Smiles Post Bop | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Classic Fusion 75 3.75
2 Avant-Garde Jazz 41 3.94
3 Hard Bop 29 3.93
4 Soul Jazz 28 3.32
5 Post Bop 27 4.28
6 Jazz Related Rock 25 3.80
7 (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion 25 3.74
8 World Fusion 24 3.67
9 Funk Jazz 23 3.59
10 Jazz Related RnB 21 3.43
11 Nu Jazz 19 3.34
12 Funk 18 3.92
13 Big Band 18 4.14
14 Bop 16 3.94
15 DJ/Electronica Jazz 16 3.28
16 Pop Jazz/Crossover 16 2.50
17 Third Stream 14 3.86
18 Exotica 14 3.50
19 Progressive Big Band 12 3.96
20 Jazz Soundtracks 11 3.55
21 Cool Jazz 10 4.10
22 Dub Fusion 8 3.88
23 Jazz Related Blues 7 3.64
24 Post-Fusion Contemporary 7 3.50
25 Latin Rock/Soul 6 3.75
26 Swing 5 4.00
27 Acid Jazz 4 3.50
28 Jazz Related Improvisation 3 3.50
29 Latin Jazz 3 3.83
30 Vocal Jazz 1 4.50
31 Afro-Cuban Jazz 1 4.50
32 Dixieland 1 3.50
33 Bossa Nova 1 3.50
34 Classic (1920s) Jazz 1 5.00

Latest Albums Reviews

LAURINDO ALMEIDA Viva Bossa Nova!

Album · 1962 · Exotica
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Although Laurindo Almeida was involved in many top notch authentic Bossa Nova albums, he was hardly a purist and didn’t mind mixing pop elements with Bossa Nova with the intent of reaching a broader audience. Such is the case with “Viva Bossa Nova!” from 1962, the rhythms are pure Bossa Nova, and they are expertly played, but the melodies come from popular movies and TV shows. Adding to the early 60s pop appeal is Jimmy Rowles playing a beautifully cheezy electric organ, the ultimate in ‘lounge cool’ in this pre-hippie era. It all adds up, real Bossa Nova fans may not dig this, but its perfect for fans of exotica and 60s bachelor pad mystique.

Although this was mostly meant to be a pop album, none of these excellent musicians checked their creativity and talent at the door. All of the arrangements are varied and interesting and almost every tune provides a solo or two. Some top tune honors go to “Maria”, with a great sax solo from Bob Cooper, and “Petite Le Fleur” with a beautiful bass flute melody from Justin Gordon. “Mr Lucky” and “Theme from Route 66” are also successes in arrangement and execution. Throughout this album, Almeida and his producers stay away from overplayed tunes and the kind of super corny songs that can often drag these kind of records down. “Moon River” is probably the only song close to that category, everything else on here sounds fairly fresh.

Although the choice of songs pushes this album more in a pop/exotica type direction, the high musicianship and general good-taste in presentation might make this appealing to fans of real Bossa Nova too.

DUKE ELLINGTON Liberian Suite

Album · 1949 · Progressive Big Band
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Duke Ellington was such a prolific composer and performer that there are bound to be some overlooked gems in his vast recorded arsenal, and such is the case with “The Liberian Suite”, recorded in late 1947 and released in 1949. This suite was commissioned by the government of Liberia, who were celebrating the 100 year anniversary of their founding by freed slaves from the US. The original “Liberian Suite” was initially released by itself on a 10" LP. Later it was teamed with “A Tone Parallel to Harlem” for release on a 12” LP. After that, “Liberian Suite” was not re-issued often until recently when Columbia included it on their CD re-issue of “Ellington Uptown”.

“Liberian Suite” is not one of Ellington’s most ambitious works, especially compared to the “Black Brown and Beige Suite” that preceded it, and “A Tone Parallel to Harlem” that will follow in a few years. Instead, the ideas on “Liberian” are more direct and easier to absorb, creating a work that is more cohesive and easier to follow than some of Ellington’s more sprawling musical architectures. That’s what is special about this suite, it really works and it really connects with the listener. As is usual with all of Ellington’s ‘suites’, “Liberian” does not follow classical forms or imitate the classical composer’s tendency toward thematic development and recapitulation, instead, this piece wanders from one idea to the next, but with a creative flow that makes total sense and keeps the listener thoroughly engaged. Its hard to think of another composer who can work with such constant forward motion and still come up with something this logical and coherent.

As is usual, Duke’s band is outstanding on here. Ellington was smart enough to pay his men better than most, insuring that he had a very cohesive unit made up of musicians who were often with him for several decades. There are many highlights on here, Al Hibbler’s understated and thoughtful vocal delivery on the semi-mystical “I Like the Sunrise”, and Tyree Glenn’s exotic vibraphone solo on “Dance Number 2” are both worth mentioning. Another top contribution is Sonny Greer’s imaginative tympani playing that drives the band with a mix of African and western symphonic musicality. There are so many more inspired musicians and moments on here that is pointless to list them all, but to sum up, this music was ahead of its time then, and will continue to be so for many years to come. No one else in the world sounds like this. Its also worth mentioning that no doubt Ellington’s very important co-contributor, Billy Strayhorn, had much to do with the writing and arranging on here.

DIZZY GILLESPIE Sweet Soul

Live album · 1977 · Soul Jazz
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Dizzy Gillespie started out his career as one of jazz’s most important trailblazing innovators. Like most musicians who stick around long enough, Dizzy’s later career was a mixed bag with the always good-natured Diz willing to participate in endeavors that were sometimes less than stellar, which leads us to this pop-RnB soul jazz LP that is sometimes titled “Sweet Soul”, and other times, “Azure Blue”. Whatever it is titled, it is actually Dizzy's "Soul and Salvation", released in 1969, and it sounds very much like a 60s RnB production geared for am radio and automobile dashboard speakers.

Soul jazz in itself is a genre that ranges from excellent sides by folks like Eddie Harris and Herbie Mann, to pure commercial fluff put out by others. “Sweet Soul” falls somewhere in-between those two extremes with about half the cuts featuring solid RnB/jazz riffs, while the other half can range from trite to outright annoying. The credits on here are very sketchy, but there is a very prominent saxophonist on here who carries most of the melodies and a lot of the solos too, quite possibly it is James Moody, but there are several other saxophonists on here as well as a couple more trumpeters besides Diz.

“Sweet Soul” starts out fairly strong with the first five cuts all being fairly catchy RnB pop songs, third track “Azure Blue” is particularly striking with a great solo from Diz. Track six, “Party Man” introduces one of this album’s biggest faults, wordless vocals (“yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah”) that repeat every couple of bars throughout the entire song in a very mind-numbing fashion. Its really hard to make it through the entire song after you have heard that refrain more than three or four times. A couple more songs also contain the overbearing vocals and as the album wears on you begin to realize that a lot of these songs are very similar to each other. Adding to this album’s cheapness and lack of credibility is this hilariously polite canned applause that starts and ends each song. I seriously doubt this is a “live” record as the applause is exactly the same every time it comes around.

The main plus on here is that Dizzy’s soloing is high energy on every cut, even the banal ones. Fans of rare groove and classic soul jazz may want to pick this up, there are just enough good cuts on here to make it worthwhile, but anyone looking for Gillespie’s outstanding contributions to jazz will want to pick up something from earlier in his career.

MATTHEW SHIPP Root Of Things

Album · 2014 · Avant-Garde Jazz
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The most difficult artists to write about are those whose artistic vision is so unique and personal that it is hard to come up with comparisons and references, and such is the case with pianist Matthew Shipp and his latest trio outing, “Root of Things”. Early in his career Shipp displayed much influence from the high speed jagged and aggressive piano assaults of Cecil Taylor, and you can still hear some of the Taylor influence, but Shipp has distilled and reduced the Taylor approach, taking out much of the extravagance and leaving a more refined core. Is Shipp’s playing a ‘lounge’ version of Cecil Taylor’s pyrotechnics, that would be an odd way of putting things, but it could almost suffice as a layman’s description, but its also a bit shallow because Shipp is much more than just that. If Matthew has a possible reference in today’s world of pianists, Craig Taborn might be as good as any. Both Shipp and Taborn are drawn to thick busy contrapuntal textures that owe much to serial composers, and both favor a tonality that deceptively slips from extended harmonies to atonality and in-between areas that are not clearly one or the other. Apologies are due if this all sounds too technical, but Shipp’s music is not exactly easy listening.

On this CD you get two tracks with busy, but introspective piano work; “Root of Things” and “Code J”, while “Path” centers around bassist Michael Bisio, and “Pulse Code” is for drummer Whit Dickey. The more energetic work-out tracks are “Jazz It” and album closer “Solid Circuit”. “Jazz It” is probably the CD’s top cut. As the title implies, this is the ‘jazz number’ and the only cut that ‘swings’. It opens with a bluesy Monk like groove, but as Shipp goes into quadruple time while soloing, the rhythm section feels compelled to follow and keeps slipping into chaotic high speed romps. Overall, “Jazz It” has more humor and good times slap bang chaos than most of the rest of this CD, which often sounds more like concert hall music than post bop. Dickey’s solo on “Pulse Code” is nice because he goes more for interesting layered poly-rhythms ala Billy Higgins, rather than boring displays of flash. Closing number “Solid Circuit” is probably closest to the old days of free jazz blowouts, but even on this one, the trio shows much care and restraint in their interactions.

This is one of the better jazz CDs to come out so far this year and it should hold up well to many close listens for modern post bop fans, avant-garde listeners and even concert hall devotees who like the jazz as well. If every cut on here would have been as strong and imaginitive as “Jazz It”, this would have been close to album of the year.

THE BRAND NEW HEAVIES The Brand New Heavies (N'Dea Davenport vocals)

Album · 1991 · Acid Jazz
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There is a certain amount of confusion surrounding The Brand New Heavies’ first album (also called “The Brand New Heavies”). The original release featured Jay Williamson (named Jay Ella Ruth at the time) on vocals and was released in England in 1990. It was quickly replaced by a new version with a lot of the same songs, but with the much stronger N’Dea Davenport from the US on vocals. This version of the album was released first in the US and was also used later for any re-issues of the album worldwide. This review is also based on the Davenport version, as that has become the definitive version of the album for most.

This was the first album from England’s late 80s acid jazz fad to actually connect in the US. Although popular with the rave kids in England and elsewhere, acid jazz remained a mystery in the US, with only a few big cities on the coasts picking up on its trendy mix of 60s soul jazz, 70s funk and 80s DJ music. Early English acid jazz bands such as The James Taylor Quartet were a little too exotica cute and loungey to connect with the more funkified US RnB/dance/jazz scene. The Brand New Heavies, on the other hand, carried a lot more of the street rhythms and funky grooves that made them recognizable to the Americanos.

Musically the Heavies first album is similar to what The Commodores and Kool and the Gang were playing in the late 70s, a blend of pop and funk with very dance-able rhythms, but not as down and dirty as the more hardcore early to mid-70s funk sound. Every song and every riff on here is great, but its all done with a certain cleanliness that some funk fans may find a little on the lite side. Likewise, the instrumental numbers are similar to The Brecker Brothers, but not with the same blazing bebop chops. Davenport is a great singer, but her voice lacks character and personality, she sounds like the top notch back-up singer all of a sudden promoted to lead. It all adds up, this is a good album, but it would have been tops with a little more grit and grease.

Although most of this album stays on the pop-funk vibe, “Put the Funk Back In It” slows things down for a heavy p-funk groove, while follow up song “Gimme One of Those” takes the guitar riff from Funkadelic’s “Loose Booty” and tops it with classic James Brown style synth noodling. You’ll swear you’ve heard this song before somewhere back in the 70s. Live funk bands were a rarity in 1990, and this band was a real breath of fresh air and a wake up call to other musicians that the funk was back. It also still sounds great today, although maybe not nasty enough for the hardcore funk fans.

Latest Forum Topic Posts

  • Posted 4 hours ago in What Are You Listening To
    Well looks like youtube does not have the version from "Historically Speaking, the Duke". The horn buildup that happens at about the 40 second mark sounds totally bizarre on that version.That top version is good because it has Jimmy Blanton on bass, listen to how loud and clear the bass is, totally unique for his time and probably a huge influence on Mingus. Blanton died at a very young age.
  • Posted 4 hours ago in What Are You Listening To
    Here's a version I never hear before, but I'm still looking for the mid-50s version. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpOcySmCgzU
  • Posted 4 hours ago in What Are You Listening To
    Here is Jack the Bear in the 40s, let me see if I can find the mid-50s version.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKD-1YvFjkk

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Warthur wrote:
780 days ago
Hey dude,

You've banned me from the forums but I can still access the review submission system and site interactions.

If that is intentional then fair enough but if not I thought it'd only be honest to give you a heads up.

Warthur wrote:
827 days ago
js - please clear some space in your PM inbox, I'm trying to send you something.

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