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544 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 76 3.74
2 Avant-Garde Jazz 42 3.95
3 Hard Bop 30 3.95
4 Soul Jazz 30 3.35
5 Post Bop 27 4.28
6 Jazz Related Rock 26 3.79
7 (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion 25 3.74
8 World Fusion 24 3.63
9 Funk Jazz 23 3.59
10 Jazz Related RnB 22 3.41
11 Big Band 20 4.03
12 Nu Jazz 19 3.34
13 Funk 18 3.92
14 Pop Jazz/Crossover 17 2.53
15 DJ/Electronica Jazz 16 3.28
16 Bop 16 3.94
17 Third Stream 15 3.87
18 Progressive Big Band 14 4.07
19 Exotica 14 3.50
20 Cool Jazz 11 3.95
21 Jazz Soundtracks 11 3.55
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

QUINCY JONES The Birth of a Band (aka Fab!)

Album · 1959 · Big Band
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The Birth of a Band (Volume 1)” is one more excellent big band album by Quincy Jones recorded in the early part of his career when he was still a full time jazzer, but it will be one of his last pure jazz studio recordings. At the same recording session that yielded the ten songs for “Birth”, Jones and his band also recorded eleven kitsch pop/easy listening tunes that will show up many years later as “Birth of a Band Vol 2”. A recent CD re-issue of “Birth” has combined both volumes under the name ‘The Complete Birth of a Band’, which is unfortunate because the inclusion of the cheezy pop songs has tarnished the name of this album. The informed buyer needs to know that the music on the two original volumes of “Birth” are quite different from each other, and you may not want to purchase a set that includes both volumes.

If you are familiar with Jones’ albums that preceded “The Birth of a Band”, then you know what to expect here; colorful modern big band arrangements with super tight ensemble playing and an economical approach to jazz that shows Jones’ pop sensibilities. There are plenty of great soloists on here; including Phil Woods, Zoot Sims, Clark Terry and Benny Golson. All of the tunes are good, but the best is album opener and title song, “The Birth of a Band”, a super hot uptempo bop number with a couple of great sax solos.

If you seek Quincy’s jazz side, this is another good one to get, but if don’t care for his pop side, watch out for the ‘complete’ versions that include volume 2.

DUKE ELLINGTON Such Sweet Thunder

Album · 1957 · Progressive Big Band
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If ever there was a record where you want the original vinyl over the CD re-issue, “Such Sweet Thunder” is the one. After scoring a major coupe with their CD re-issue miraculous re-creation of Ellington’s 56 Newport concert, Columbia turned around and dropped the ball big time on their re-issue of “Thunder” by accidentally editing out key parts of Clark Terry’s famous trumpet soliloquy. An unforgivable mistake, it will be interesting to see what eventually happens with that CD. Meanwhile, I recently visited the local used record shop and picked up a vinyl copy of “Thunder“ (famous high quality ’6-eye’ Columbia label) in very good condition at a very reasonable price.

Of all the various Duke Ellington 3rd stream style ‘suites’ and other progressive big band projects, “Such Sweet Thunder” is probably his most successful. Its not his most experimental or ambitious collection, but probably his most coherent, and therein lies this album’s ability to keep the listener engaged. Billy Strayhorn also wrote and arranged much of this, and maybe someday he will get a much deserved co-billing. Although not labeled a suite, “Thunder” has much in common with late 19th century exotic Euro-Asian suites by composers like Grieg, Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov. Much like those composer’s colorful suites, “Thunder” is made up of short vibrant orchestral pieces that contrast with each other in sequence, but eventually add up to a logical whole.

Although Ellington and Strayhorn worked very much in a jazz context, in many ways their strengths and contributions to music put them more in line with those who can take a short pop piece and elevate it to high art. Its easy to see Ellington/Strayhorn as the beginning of a line that will progress through Henry Mancini and Quincy Jones, and then on to Brian Wilson, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder and more. Each one of the pieces on “Sweet Thunder” is like a unique gem, complete in itself, yet an integral part of the whole collection. I hesitate to use the word ‘charming’ as it can sound shallow, but these little instrumentals can be hella charming and not the least bit glib or shallow.

So many highlights to point out here; album opener and title song “Such Sweet Thunder” is classic Ellington with dark noire chords, swingin burlesque beat and wailing plunger horns, while follow up “Sonnet for Ceaser” is all about 3rd stream style abstract orchestral colors. Possibly the best pieces appear on side two with Strayhorn’s slinky mystical ballad, “The Star-Crossed Lovers”, and the exotic pseudo African colors of “Half the Fun”. The album closes with the up-tempo bop fire of “Circle of Fourths”, a bluesy riff that keeps modulating upwards until they’ve covered all twelve keys, all of this in only a couple of minutes.

This is an excellent album and a must have for fans of Ellington’s artsy side, just beware of the recent CD re-issue, there are a lot of unhappy customers out there.

ERIC HOFBAUER Prehistoric Jazz – Volume 1(The Rite of Spring)

Album · 2014 · Third Stream
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It seems every time you turn around these days someone has a new jazz version of “The Rite of Spring” out. Possibly the recent 100 year anniversary of the piece has something to do with that. A certain high profile piano trio got a lot of attention recently for their rendition of “Rite”, but their version was turgid and unimaginative compared to this far better version by the less known guitarist Eric Hafbauer and his four creative band mates (Jerry Sabatini - trumpet, Todd Brunel - clarinet, Junko Fujiwara - cello, Curt Newton - drums). This version of “Rite” uses the melodies and structure of the original for some very imaginative improvisations that also manage to stay true to the integrity of Stravinsky’s original piece.

There are so many interesting cross-references at work here, Hofbauer seems to have thought of everything. First of all, the sound and approach of this ensemble often sounds a bit like 1920s jazz, which would have been the era in which “Rite” could have been first played as an experimental jazz piece. None of this is obvious or ‘museum like’ as Hofbauer also draws on many modern elements such as free improvisation and more. The 20s sound of the ensemble and the modern NYC eclectic influences blend seamlessly, the end result is a piece that fits well with the music of today, but could almost pass as an avant-garde piece from the 20s as well. The 20s was a very experimental time in jazz, with a lot of borrowing from modern composers, and its possible Hofbauer may be paying tribute to that.

The other interesting cross-reference comes when you notice that when “Rite” is played with this small ensemble, it sounds a lot like Stravinsky’s “History of the Soldier”. “History” was one of Igor’s follow-ups to the massive “Rite”, a small scale piece by contrast, “History” was one of his first pieces to show a strong influence from jazz, both in the instrumentation and in the music. Possibly the key to bringing all these elements together, the 20s jazz and the latter jazz influenced Stravinsky pieces, is the fact that there is a clarinet on board instead of a saxophone. Todd Brunel’s clarinet playing is what gives this rendition of “Rite” so much of its flavor. All of this may sound academic, but despite their sensitivity to nuance, Eric and his crew approach this music with sly humor and a sense of chaotic fun.

Eric Hofbauer’s version of “The Rite of Spring” never gets boring or predictable, the main melodies of the piece come and go while they mix with all manner of diversions and excursions. Eric is able to accent the modernist elements of this piece, both in the context of its time period and today, and show the connecting similarities in both decades. This rendition really brings new life to Stravinsky's creation, and I think Igor would have enjoyed hearing it. The added plus is Hofbauer’s guitar playing, which somehow can capture some of the color of Stravinsky’s original orchestrations.

CHICK COREA Circling In (Circle)

Album · 1975 · Avant-Garde Jazz
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“Circling In” is one of those thrown together albums made up of different recording sessions, and because of that it doesn’t get a lot of attention, which is a real shame because this is actually one of the better Chick Corea LPs out there. Chick has stated that sometime in the early 70s he decided to change his approach to the piano in an attempt to ‘communicate’ better with the audience. Fortunately, all of the recordings on “Circling In” come from that time before his conscious change and feature the young fiery Chick Corea who combined elements of Monk, Cecil Taylor, Eddie Palmieri and Bill Evans into one of the most notable piano styles of the late 60s. Certainly Corea continued to be a great player for the rest of his career, but his early playing will always be his best.

Side one opens this double LP set with recordings left off of the “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs” LP with Roy Haynes on drums and Mirsolav Vitous on bass. I’m not sure why these recordings were left off the original “Now He Sings“ LP, because they are all excellent and are now included in the CD re-issue of the same LP. Generally these tunes are of the modern post bop variety that move in and out of free sections. The material ranges from an imaginative reading of “My One and Only Love”, to the more fragmented and dissonant “Gemini”. Side two continues with the same trio until we hit “Blues Connotation”, a fierce outside hard bop number with Dave Holland on bass and Barry Altschul on drums. The rest of side two, as well as sides three and four are filled with recordings by Corea’s short lived avant-garde group, Circle.

In keeping with the spirit of this album being an overlooked gem, the group Circle is one of the more under appreciated ensembles to ever play improvised music. The music they present on this album ranges from blistering free jazz assaults, to carefully constructed pieces that recall leading 60s concert hall composers such as Berio, Boulez and Stockhausen. Having the multi-talented Anthony Braxton on board doesn’t hurt as he and Corea both are able to easily move from the bar-room world of jazz to the highest of academia without any loss of integrity. Every track by Circle has its own unique flavor and vision, and often their performance carries a sense of de-constructive humor as well.

This was one of the first jazz albums I ever bought and its still one of my favorites. Chick was just a different pianist at this time, and after he decided to change his approach, I eventually lost interest in his playing. Because “Circling In” is a mixed bag, it does not command a high price. I would imagine some might prefer the post bop styled cuts with Roy Haynes, while others might prefer the more avant-garde Circle, but really, every track on here is excellent.

BOB BELDEN Various Artists: Miles From India

Album · 2008 · World Fusion
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Miles from India” was a fairly ambitious project that sought to re-visit some of Miles Davis’ music, but with more of an accent on the Indian influences that Miles sometimes hinted at. Miles’ relationship with Indian music was often not much more than fashionable 70s exotic tone colors derived from using the tambura and tablas, but on a few cuts from his “Big Fun” and “Get Up With It” albums, there appeared a deeper understanding and appreciation of non-western musical approaches. “Miles from India” contains some decent Indian flavored fusion jams, but unfortunately Bob Beldon and his crew missed an opportunity to expand on some of Miles’ more interesting musical concepts.

“Spanish Key” is a great opener with a lengthy Indian flavored fusion workout that features great solos from an all-star cast of well known Indian and Western musicians, this cut shows off all this album’s strengths. “All Blues” follows, and although they shift the time to a 5/4 feel, its still in swing time and there really isn’t an equivalent to swing time in Indian rhythm. This means the ‘Indian’ flavor is provided via a sitar melody and solo which almost sounds like cheesy Martin Denny styled ‘exotica’. I can appreciate the attempts at creativity here, but possibly swing era jazz and Indian music can only mix on a superficial level. “Ife” returns things to the Indian fusion style, the legendary Pete Cosey turns in a guitar solo, but the once soaring Cosey now supplies only subterranean snarls from an overly processed guitar, possibly that is on purpose.

Hearing the tune from “In a Silent way” played like a classic raga is a real treat, but the following “Its About that Time” seems to forget the delicacy of the original and just lapses into another well played, but not particularly remarkable fusion jam. “Jean Pierre” closes CD 1 with its familiar 80s hip-hop groove, it’s a great song, but except for a virtuoso Indian styled flute solo from Rakesh Chaurasia, this version is not particularly different from the original.

CD 2 opens with “So What” having its swing feel replaced with an Indo-fusion groove that really doesn’t go great with original riff. Once again, trying to mix the older Miles material with the Indian music seems like a clumsy experiment at best. For the rest of CD 2 you get a couple more decent fusion jams, plus an unexpected Indian vocal rendition of “Blue in Green”, also a short and inconsequential track from John McLaughlin and a very disappointing rendition of the classic “Great Expectations”. The original “Expectations” was a masterpiece of time and space distortion on which Miles presented a struggling groove that ground to a halt over and over only to restart, finally blossoming slowly into an Indian flavored electric piano nirvana. This remake seems to ignore all that, blindly rushing through the changes in a hurry to reach a meaningless conclusion. The only plus to this track is hearing Adam Holzman play the original electric piano tracks on acoustic piano, nice work on that re-enactment.

The good points to “Miles from India” are the several Indian influenced fusion tracks, with the bad points being the clumsy attempts to merge with songs from “Kind of Blue”, as well as the missed opportunities to expand on some of Miles’ more interesting experiments. A lot of people have picked up on the fact that Miles played futuristic psychedelic rock during the 70s, and its nice he finally got noticed for that, but there was so much more. Much of what Miles was experimenting with in the 70s was related to his interest in Stockhausen’s attempts to freeze time, and both Miles and Karlheinz were looking to classical music from Asia for inspiration. Its very disappointing that this Indian flavored look at Miles’ past did not seem to recognize this most salient feature of Miles’ music.

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Warthur wrote:
867 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:
913 days ago
js - please clear some space in your PM inbox, I'm trying to send you something.

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