Jazz Music Reviews

PAT METHENY Imaginary Day Live

Movie · 2001 · World Fusion
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Matti P
The gig date is July 1998 and the venue is not-so-ordinary stage at the Mountain Winery, Saratoga, California. The film is beautifully directed and edited by Steve Rodby, the bassist of the seven-piece group. The composition credits are shared by Metheny and keyboardist Lyle Mays. The main body of the set is from the then-latest album Imaginary Day (1997), which is one of the finest and most eclectic Pat Metheny Group albums.

On the opening solo number 'Into the Dream' Metheny plays peculiar 42-string "Pikasso" guitar that produces sounds reminiscent to kantele or zither. The group joins him on the groovy, bright & happy 'Follow Me' that features also some wordless singing from multi-instrumentalists Mark Ledford (trumpet, guitar, percussion) and Philip Hamilton (percussion, guitar). The frontman himself throws in his trade mark high-pitched guitar sound.

The 10-minute title track is an impressive example of the way this wonderful group builds exciting sonic textures and eclectic musical vocabulary without ever losing a certain positively charged accessibility and emotion. 'Heat of the Day' is a hectic piece full of percussive vitality but also a more serene pianism of Mays. Mellow 'Across the Sky' approaches a song structure in a nice way. The warm-spirited gig ends with three pieces outside of Imaginary Day. 'Message to a Friend' is a moody acoustic guitar solo.

Extra features on the 93-min. DVD include a Metheny interview, discography (featuring album covers and track lists), band member biographies, and Notes About the Album / Instrumentation / Tracks / Writing Process. Reading it all can be a bit exhausting, but in the end these extras help this DVD deserve a sincere recommendation for all fans of Pat Metheny. Musically speaking, this is one of the most enjoyable jazz/fusion live DVD's I have ever viewed.


Album · 1976 · RnB
Cover art 3.80 | 4 ratings
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In 1975 Earth Wind and Fire hit a creative peak with the release of both, “That’s the Way of the World’ and “Gratitude” . At this point the band had positioned themselves as a true force of nature worthy of their band name as they mixed modern RnB with funk, jazz fusion and art pop with neo-classical tendencies. In 1976 they rolled out “Spirit” in a similar style, and although this album does not quite soar to the heights of their 75 output, it gets very close. To their credit, EW&F at this point had the best solo and ensemble vocals in the business, as well as the best horn section. All of this was backed by a tight rhythm section that was at home playing either up tempo jazz or down tempo pop ballads.

Picking out the best tracks on here, we get the almost chaotic fierce energy of “Getaway’. If you were listening to RnB radio back then, there was no forgetting the first time you heard the kinetic blast of this horn driven scorcher with soaring vocals and a complex arrangement that was far beyond most anything else on the radio. “Saturday Night” is a good times winner with a persistent guitar rhythm and an unusual major key horn riff that sounds like classic 60s soul jazz. “Biyo” is an instrumental African fusion number with solos for everyone and some cool exotica synthesizer work. Maurice White turns in a superb lead vocal performance on “Biyo” with its lyrics of a spiritual nature. The rest of the tracks on here are good, although some may sound a bit like rehashes of earlier successful material.


Album · 2013 · RnB
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Matti P
One thing progheads tend to remember American keyboardist George Duke from, is his participation in Frank Zappa's band. After that he made a successful career blending rock, jazz and r&b, recording well over 30 studio albums. DreamWeaver is the very last one, released just a month before he passed away at the age of 67. Her wife Corine had died of leukemia in 2012. Three years since his latest album, as Duke was recovering from his grief, he confronted difficulties in making new music. Finally the inspiration came when he was on a cruise watching the sun rise. According to him, DreamWeaver was his most sincere album for a long time.

Stylistic diversity is common on Duke's albums, but this one is a very many-sided set of music, covering lively jazz/fusion, funk, soul-influenced pop, r&b ballads -- and synth music. Like the two little 'Transition' vignettes, the short title track in the beginning is a mysterious-sounding synth piece, followed seamlessly by 'Stones of Orion', an excellent, piano-led jazz/fusion track full of happy groove. Kamasi Washington is on tenor sax, Daniel Higgins on flute, and Stanley Clarke's upright bass sounds great. 'Trippin'' is a cool r&b-ish song sung by Duke. I don't like r&b in general, and the drum programming in this otherwise OK song represents the genre's bad sides. 'Ashtray' is pure funk, very catchy at that.

'Missing You' starts with Duke's spoken, piano-backed intro. The main vocalist is Rachelle Ferrell on this light-hearted song that makes me think of a cocktail bar on a cruise. R&b / gospel syrup 'Change the World' features several guest vocalists. 'Jazzmatazz' is a fast-tempo song with r&b and rap elements. The rest of the album operates more pleasantly between fresh-sounding instrumental fusion ('Brown Sneakers' has marvelous synth and electric guitar soli!) and pretty good vocal numbers that fortunately aren't soaked in that r&b attitude. Teena Marie sings 'Ball & Chain' jazz ballad with sensual passion. 15½-minute 'Burnt Sausage Jam' is a wonderful fusion piece; one can hear the joy of playing from the stellar cast. 'Happy Trails' is a nice, lightly r&b flavoured version of a song that Dale Evans wrote in the early fifties.

Surprisingly happy, sweet and life-celebrating DreamWeaver incorporates musical genres (r&b, funk, gospel) that may not hit the target among the fusion listeners, but being 74 minutes long it sure has several highlights too. When it's good, it's very good.

MARION BROWN Marion Brown Quartet

Album · 1966 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Marion Brown Quartet is a debut album of American free jazz alto sax player, recorded in 1965 - same year, when Brown participated on John Coltrane's one of the most noticeable avant-garde album,"Ascension".

The album contains just three longish compositions, all played very much in a fashion of time and the ESP Disk label aesthetics. Still, differently from noisy, aggressive and chaotic free jazz, which is almost a trademark of the mid-60s, Marion's music is quite well organized and is spiritual and even lyrical in moments. Playing with such strong collaborates as bassist Reggie Johnson, drummer Rashied Ali and sax player Benny Maupin among others, Marion is an obvious leader of this session. His free and lyrically-colored sax soloing is in formation period, but one can hear a lot of Brown's future characteristic sound.

Of three album songs, one is recorded with bassist Ronnie Boykins (two rest - with Reggie Johnson on bass), and on one more sax player Benny Maupin changes trumpeter Alan Shorter. Generally, it doesn't make a big difference in quite relaxed and acoustically warm album's sound. With obvious leader, there are enough space for each participant in album's music.

It's interesting to note, that on many later album reissues track "Exhibition" was replaced by "Mephistopheles" recorded at the same session with Alan Shorter but without Bennie Maupin. Covers of many these reissues use the original track listing, what can be confusing. 2005 CD reissue contains both tracks(four songs in all).

Very much a characteristic evidence of its time, this album preserves the spirit of early free jazz era quite well and can be recommended for everyone interested in better examples of late 60s free jazz as well as fans of Marion Brown music, he sounds good here.


Album · 1980 · Pop/Art Song/Folk
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Matti P
If you're into classic progressive rock, the first time you heard the vocals of RANDY CRAWFORD (b. 1952) might have been with the ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett's second solo album Please Don't Touch! (1978) and its gorgeous ballad 'Hoping Love Will Last'. That was the case for me, around the age of 18. Sometime later I found a compilation CD of this American soul/ r&b vocalist, but I haven't much listened to her full albums.

It's a bit sad to notice she never became as popular or well known as she would have deserved, in my opinion. Perhaps she was too "easy listening" to seriously compete in the particular genre, and on the other hand, not mainstream enough for the big audience. The reception in Europe has been a bit warmer than in the USA. This is her fourth album which earned gold in Netherlands and silver in Great Britain, and one of the few occasions when she penetrated the American r&b markets.

The bulk of the album was co-written by keyboardist Joe Sample -- one its three producers -- and lyricist Will Jennings. Their 'Last Night At Danceland' is a nice but rather fogettable song with a lighthearted groove and jazzy playing especially on keyboards and rhythm section. The sweet & soft arrangement on 'Tender Falls the Rain' gets cheesy, but the ballad proves that Randy Crawford has a good sense of melody as a composer. 'My Heart Is Not As Young As It Used to Be' is quite similar to the opener. The groovy arrangement features strings and a trumpet solo. Side One is finished by the fresh-sounding title track. The strings that appear on most pieces give a slightly watered-down effect to the r&b album.

The B side is stronger. 'Blue Flame' (6:25) has energy in the playing, even the strings are effective on it. 'One Day I'll Fly Away' was Crawford's highest charting single, and the song has also been covered by several artists. The final Sample-Jennings tracks 'Same Old Story (Same Old Song)' and 'When Your Life Was Low' are both good, the first with a solid r&b groove and a brief sax solo, the latter being a peaceful, thoughtful slow-tempo song avoiding to be syrupy.

This is a good album in its own right, but if you're new to the artist or a casual listener, some kind of a "Best of" compilation is very likely more satisfying.

IIRO RANTALA Iiro Rantala & Ulf Wakenius : Good Stuff

Album · 2017 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
Cover art 3.58 | 3 ratings
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Matti P
Finnish pianist and composer IIRO RANTALA (b. 1970) has made an impressive discography, and in addition he has written music for several films and stage productions, especially ones made for childern. In the 90's he became known as the frontman of Trio Töykeät. The albums released under his name include both solo performances and collaborations with all kinds of musicians and ensembles. Good Stuff is an acoustic duo collaboration with the Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius (b. 1958), whose recording career started in 1983. Each of them has individually composed pieces named after cities, while half of the 12 tracks are arrangements of various kinds of evergreens.

'Vienna' is a happy opening piece in a fast tempo. 'Carmen' is Rantala's slow-tempo take on Bizet's opera aria, very enjoyable in its serenity. Equally beautiful and personal is the duo's arrangement of the famous 'Nessun Dorma' aria of Puccini. Playful 'Helsinki', romantically laid-back 'Palma' and angular 'Seoul' are Rantala's compositions. The rest of the city pieces are moody 'Berlin' and dramatic 'Rome' by Wakenius. It was a nice idea to be inspired by cities, as the listener can add his/her own images and ideas of them.

'What a Wonderful World' is best known as a Louis Armstrong song. The duo's version is elegant and, in the improvisatory jazz tradition, often running away from the lovely original melody. Then there's Stevie Wonder's 'Sir Duke', the soul classic 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' and John Coltrane's 'Giant Steps'.

I think this album has a good balance between original compositions of Rantala and Wakenius and arrangements of well-known pieces from both opera world and popular music. Wakenius isn't so familiar to me, but anyone familiar with Iiro Rantala recognizes his personal style. Perhaps a little more emotional and melody-centred approach would have pleased me more on some tracks, and some electricity would have been interesting as well, so my rating is between the two existing ratings here, 3½ stars.


Album · 2004 · Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Matti P
American jazz guitarist BILL CONNORS (b. 1949) played on just one RETURN TO FOREVER album, Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (1973), before going his own way and Al Di Meola becoming RTF's guitarist. Debuting in the legendary ECM label with Theme to the Gaurdian (1975), he made a bunch of albums in the seventies and the eighties, up to Assembler (1987). Then a long break. Aptly titled Return (2004) is still his latest album. It seems he never quite received the status he definitely would have deserved, and that's underlined by the fact he's still usually referred as a one-timer Return To Forever member.

This music is very much the kind of jazz/fusion that I wholeheartedly enjoy. The guitar is sonically comparable to PAT METHENY, my fave jazz artist, and other instruments of the quintet playing on this album are acoustic piano, bass, drums and percussion. The co-musicians are no familiar names to me, but I really enjoy their fresh and mellow sound. Bill O'Connell's elegant piano fits brilliantly together with the guitar and is very equal with it, too.

Pieces such as 'On the Edge' and 'Mind Over Matter' are very charming compositions full of life. The virtuosity never becomes self-indulgent, not even in the most complex and fast moments, there's always the fluent flow in music. In the beginning of 'Mr. Cool' Lincoln Goines on bass gets the spotlight. The slightly slower piece 'McMinor' brings valuable variety in the mood, although it could have been more openly romantic. After nine pieces composed by Bill Connors the album is closed by a mellow, beautiful version of John Coltrane's 'Brasilia'.

Return is a finely written, played and produced, post-bop oriented jazz album very easy to enjoy if you like e.g. Pat Metheny. There may not be absolute superb highlights that really move you emotionally, but no weak or boring moments either. There's a perfect balance between melodic mellowness and energetic vitality and virtuosity.

CLAUDIO MILANO (NICHELODEON) ManifestAzioni live 2011​-​2023

Live album · 2023 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Vocalist/voice artist Claudio Milano is a stand-alone figure on the Italian music scene. A singer with wide-range operatic vocals, Claudio works on a fragile soil mixing classical music, free improvisation, Italian tradition and progressive rock aesthetics. Knowing Claudio almost for two decades, I still can't stop wondering about his ability to disappear for years and then return on the scene as a Phenix back again.

Newest Claudio release - double-CD album "ManifestAzioni live 2011​-​2023" contains previously unreleased live music from the last twelve years, recorded by Claudio's different projects and collaborations.

The double set opens with very eloquent music - true rock song, recorded by legendary Rock Progressivo Italiano band Area descendants, Area Open Project, with Claudio responsible for the vocals. In the early 70s, Area was a very popular band led by Greek-Egyptian vocalist Demetrio Stratos, renown by his theatrical vocals and unusual voice improvisations. Claudio obviously pays respect to Stratos, one of his big influences. An excellent piece for fans of progressive rock with original Area bassist Ares Tavolazzi on board.

Six set's tracks come from I Sincopatici - Milanese keys/bass/drums trio, accompanying Claudio singing the songs based on Dante Alighieri's poetry. Six more tracks are recorded with "border music" band Strepitz, with feel-able folklore influences and rock arrangements (Area's original guitarist Paolo Tofani's three-necks guitar soloing on "Aghe Aghe benedete" is impressive).

There are pieces on this set coming from some of Milano's own projects from the previous decade (multimedia NichelOdeon and duo with sounds artist Marco Tuppo InSonar) as well.

Second set's disc opens with a vocal-only composition, based on controversial Bulgarian author Nikolay Rainov (who studied Theology in Russia) "Il Diavolo Creatore". "Pan’s Pot" is a duet with voice artist Arrington De Dionyso and "SenseNonSex" is a vocal duet with Giulia Zaniboni.

Being of very eclectic origin, this album's material fits together quite well, especially on CD 1. With great recording quality considering its a collection of different periods archival recordings, and feel-able Italian progressive rock tradition, this release is probably a bit more framed than many of Claudio's previous works. Those already familiar with Claudio Milano's art will no doubt enjoy this, and probably it will attract some new listeners as well.


Album · 2019 · Pop/Art Song/Folk
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Matti P
Love Stories shows the much awarded Brazilian artist ELIANE ELIAS (b. 1960) in a mature age. She started her recording career in the mid-80's, at first being primarily a pianist. Quite early on Elias has also proved to be a capable band leader, composer, arranger and producer. As a coolly sensual pianist-vocalist she could be compared to Diana Krall. Many albums in her long career have a more or less distinctive Brazilian identity in the use of Portuguese and bossa nova style. This romantic and relatively American-style album is sung almost entirely in English -- 'Little Boat' is bilingual -- but it has bossa vibes to it.

Eliane Elias co-produced the album with her bass-playing husband Marc Johnson and Steve Rodby who's best known as Pat Metheny's bassist (he's not playing here). Guitars and drums are shared by several musicians. Orchestral arrangements are by Rob Mathes. Eliane's voice is still in a very good shape. Like Krall, she's just effortlessly being herself in an understatement approach that can be much more sensual than a more operatic virtuosity.

'A Man and a Woman' originates from the French 1966 film "Un homme et une femme". 'Baby Come to Me', originally recorded by Patti Austin in 1981, is very enjoyable as a smooth jazz version featuring male backing vocals. Equally cute is Antonio Carlos Jobim's 'Bonita' featuring sparse English vocals.

'Angel Eyes' and 'Come Fly With Me' are maybe best remembered as Frank Sinatra numbers. These versions are jazzier in comparison, especially noteworthy is the luxorious piano solo on the latter. Elias and her husband wrote together three songs for this album. 'The Simplest Things' and 'The View' are romantic jazz ballads easy to enjoy. 'Silence' is even in a slower tempo and puts the lush strings shamelessly in the centre.

To say something negative of this finely produced, amicable album, it surely could try to steer a bit further from the Easy Listening music and keep the piano jazz vitality more vibrant (as it does on some pieces). But if you and your sweetheart are looking for openly romantic music with soft and silky arrangements for your tender moments, this is a perfect choice.

ESA HELASVUO Think - Tank - Funk

Album · 1973 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Matti P
In 2015 I wrote the interview-based liner notes for the Svart Records LP reissue. I'll add parts of my article, but otherwise this review is based upon my album listening right now.

Think-Thank-Funk is one of the most innovative and boundary-free albums that were made in Finland in the seventies. It was the debut album of Esa Helasvuo (b. 1945), who at that point had already achieved a lot in the Finnish music scene. His entire career demonstrates an open-minded approach to music, without being restricted by imaginary fences between various genres. For roughly two years in the mid-sixties he played keyboards in The Sounds, a popular beat group inspired by The Shadows. He became known among studio musicians, and little by little he also received arranging duties.

He had also made his mark as a composer long before this album. Working as a musical dramaturgist at the theatrical department of the Finnish Broadcasting Company from 1969 to 1975, he wrote music for dozens of films and theatre pieces, as well as songs for individual artists. Instead of presenting his album idea to Love Records where the brave fusion of avant-garde and jazz would have felt more at home, the 28-year old composer and his collaborator Hasse Walli marched to the office of Toivo Kärki, the head of the schlager-oriented Finnlevy. Kärki, the legendary figure in the Finnish popular music history, could see the music's revolutionary value just by reading the score and promised to publish it, even if he predicted the poorest sales in the company's history.

Some of the music on Think-Tank-Funk was heard beforehand in a live performance. "I had my first concert as a composer in the Sibelius Academy. I chose the musicians in order to operate unpredictably on the line between free jazz and concert music. The choice for the core trio was easy: I had played with bassist Teppo Hauta-aho and drummer Edward Vesala in jazz clubs." The recording of the album took just one day, and another one was used for the mixing. "Hasse Walli was extremely efficient as the producer. Only three takes or less were needed for each track."

The albums starts with a 14-minute 'Mixed Fruit Flavoured Chorus' for dark-toned strings in an avant/modern art music fashion. A challenging but positively impressive piece! 'Mixed Balance of World Peace' (3:16) has Helasvuo's elegantly played piano backed by violins, viola and double bass. The first part of the title piece is more clearly jazz, albeit very experimental and improvisatory-sounding, highlighting Hasse Walli's electric guitar and Helasvuo's electric piano that may remind you of Chick Corea and other legends.

Was the arrangement for 'Lily Flower' an hommage to Toivo Kärki, the piece's composer? Helasvuo gives another kind of a motive: "I had played that tune in dance hall gigs. Markus Allan sang it with such delicacy that I wanted to make a dreamy instrumental version of it." For a casual listener his free-ish version is perhaps more likely a bit chaotic than dreamy, though. The two 'Dialogue' pieces for two violins Helasvuo had written for the concert.

The psychedelic/progressive rock influence is especially felt in the charmingly peculiar 'Song for a Tube' sung by Helasvuo's wife Pirjo. It was inspired by Pink Floyd, whose Atom Heart Mother had made a big impression on Helasvuo. "I was fascinated by their minimalistic loops, but I wanted to add some colour and counterpoint into the harmonization." The title track's second part continues the electric jazz ensemble's improvisatory approach for nearly ten minutes. Usually I'm not very fond of such free-jazz stuff, but this sounds interesting and bright, not too stuffy or restless.

The initial reception for this album was indeed pretty quiet and perplexed. For an open-minded jazz & modern art music listener it definitely offers a fascinating and unpredictable listening experience, and it deserves a high rating for its brave and boundary-free uniqueness that manages not to collapse into its own cleverness.

Esa Helasvuo's discography includes also the all-too-forgotten vocal music gem Huomenna sinä tulet (Polarvox 1985) sung by Susanna Haavisto.

VIJAY IYER Memorophilia

Album · 1995 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Albany-born son of Indian Tamil immigrants, Vijay Iyer is with no doubt one of the most celebrated jazz pianists of mid-generation. Starting from the beginning of a New Millennium, his music attracts lot of attention from music critics and listeners both. His early works are less known, and them as a rule have their moments.

"Memorophilia", released in 1994, is Iyer's debut as leader. It was recorded in studio with three different bands, and contains one solo piano track as well. Five of the nine songs come from an all-acoustic trio with bassist Jeff Brock and drummer Brad Hargreaves. The trio's groovy, barenaked songs work pretty well, the album's opener "Relativist's Waltz", recorded by the trio with participation from M-Bass ideologist sax player Steve Coleman, is absolute killer (Coleman participates on one more trio song, "Off The Top", as well).

Two of the album's songs come from Spirit Complex - a more abstract sounding quintet, containing one of the AAMC leaders in trombonist George Lewis and Asian Improv label owner tenor Francis Wong. Both pieces are much freer, than those recorded by the trio, with a lot of trombone improvisation and screaming sax soloing. Poisonous Prophets is a quartet, including the same drummer as Spirit Complex (Elliot Humberto Kavee) and renown electric guitarist Liberty Ellman, among others. The quartet's song is an electric funk with obvious M-Base touch. Iyer's solo piano piece - "Algebra" - is a quite complex blues-based composition.

Compiled with musical compositions of quite different aesthetic, "Memorophilia" sounds surprisingly well as a whole album. Even if on some compositions, the more experienced musicians leave Iyer a bit in a shade, this album is an interesting evidence where from Iyer's current music roots are coming.


Album · 2009 · Vocal Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Matti P
In my previous review I mentioned the groundbreaking 1963 album Getz/Gilberto [as the starting point of Astrud Gilberto's career]. The American jazz vocalist GRETCHEN PARLATO (b. 1976) has said hearing that album at the age of 13 was a turning point for her. She drew influence from bossa nova in general and João Gilberto's vocal style in particular. She earned a bachelor's degree in ethnomusicology/jazz studies at University of California, L.A., and in 2001 she was accepted into the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance as the first vocalist ever admitted into the program. Parlato has also earned several awards. Especially after her second album In a Dream she was hailed as a rising star.

Against all that, I feel almost sorry for not being particularily charmed by this album, or Parlato's voice -- which I think is quite similar to Emma Salokoski from Finland, whom I also seem to like less than the critics. Admittedly Parlato has a sensual and disarmingly light way to sing, but to me it also sounds very thin and lacking of depth, especially on higher notes. I guess it's a matter of taste.

Featured musicians are equally young bright hopes such as keyboardist Aaron Parks, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Kendrick Scott. The album's soundscape is modern, playful, often even quirky, and yet pretty intimate, elegant and gentle. Parlato's butterfly-light vocal stylings are always in front, and the musical backing, even at its quirkiest, mainly stays as her humble servant. The dreamy title track and 'Turning into Blue' are among my favourites (they are also the ones co-written by the vocalist herself), but I'm not fond of some sonic details on several tracks.

The opening track 'Can't Help It' (orig. by Stevie Wonder) features scatting and mouth pops by guitarist Lionel Loueke, and also 'Doralice' is backed by percussive human voices. A couple of pieces, such as basically instrumental 'E.S.P.' (Wayne Shorter), contain sound effects of a little child playing, which I find rather irritating.

Speaking of the album in general, I'd welcome more of a certain jazz groove in the playing, the kind you hear on 'Weak', in which electric piano and drums are deliciously strong. So, even if this album didn't really hit my own taste, I give it 3½ stars for personality and fresh musical approach, and for not being a usual bunch of well-known standards.

JOE ALTERMAN Joe Alterman Plays Les McCann : Big Mo & Little Joe

Album · 2023 · Soul Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Remember when jazz was as much about mentorship as it was about music? Joe Alterman certainly does. His tribute to Les McCann is a compelling example of mentorship, friendship, and timeless sounds. The Atlanta-based pianist's offering, "Joe Alterman Plays Les McCann: Big Mo & Little Joe," released on August 11, 2023, is a nostalgic nod to McCann's musical genius and a modern reinterpretation of his works.

McCann, a legend in his own right, was known for his expansive ensemble works. Here, Alterman condenses the vast soundscapes of McCann to an intimate trio of piano, bass (Kevin Smith), and drums (Justin Chesarek). The result? A tight-knit sound that retains the expansive feel of McCann's originals but with an added intensity and focus. In the process, Alterman breathes fresh life into lesser-known tracks that followed the iconic McCann's "Compared To What."

"Gone On And Get That Church" is steeped in gospel roots. There's an undeniable soulfulness, transporting listeners straight to a sunlit Sunday morning church service. Smith's bass and Chesarek's drums provide a driving backdrop to Alterman's rhythmically driving improvisation.

"Someday We'll Meet Again" carries a funky rhythm. Alterman's agile technique remains ever at the service of his expressive musicality. His soloing – built on rich bluesy ideas – speaks to his mastery and reverence for McCann's gospel blues influence.

"Ruby Jubilation" brings us a gospel swing that feels so right, with the trio's chemistry shining bright. Smith's bass line, undulating and assertive, complements Chesarek's dynamic drumming. Alterman's expressive touch on the keys here hints at a depth and versatility that's simply enthralling. Can I get a witness?

The choice of instrumentation pays homage to the quintessential jazz trio. Gospel influences, rich rhythmic textures, and the unmistakable touch of Alterman on the keys weave a tale of friendship, nostalgia, and spirituality. The impeccable recording quality, courtesy of Trammell Starks and the mastering finesse of Dave Nelson and Marlon Patton, ensures that every nuance is warmly captured.

This album chronicles a decade-long relationship between two jazz stalwarts. As the tracks flow, so do the tales of mentorship and camaraderie. Alterman's relationship with McCann comes through the music as deeply personal, making this tribute stand out from countless others.

While “Joe Alterman Plays Les McCann: Big Mo & Little Joe” induces us to reflect on the outcomes of jazz education's shift to academic institutions, this album beckons us back to an era where mentorship was intimate and deeply personal. It evokes memories of dimly lit bars, impromptu jam sessions, and life lessons intricately woven through every note and rhythm, handed down from master to apprentice.

In "Joe Alterman Plays Les McCann: Big Mo & Little Joe," Alterman reminds us that mentored jazz tells stories, evokes emotions, and bridges generations.


Album · 1967 · Bossa Nova
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Matti P
The Brazilian singer ASTRUD GILBERTO (March 29, 1940 – June 5, 2023) was a key figure in making the bossa nova music style internationally popular in the mid-sixties. For her the success and fame started almost accidentally as she sang additional vocals on a couple of tracks on the album Getz/Gilberto (1964), a collaboration between American saxophonist Stan Getz and Brazilian guitarist João Gilberto. (The pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim, another key figure of bossa nova, wrote most of the pieces of the album and yet he was only "featuring" on it.) João Gilberto had so lousy English pronunciation that his wife Astrud was invited to sing the English parts on 'Garota de Ipanema/The Girl from Ipanema'. The song became a world-wide hit -- and the rest was history. Astrud had immigrated permanently to USA in 1963. João and Astrud divorced in December 1964.

Beach Samba is her fifth album. All Music Guide considers it more mediocre than for example the preceding album Look to the Rainbow (1966), "primarily due to the more pop-oriented song selection", but it's included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. I'm not going to rank Astrud's albums, I just happened to pick this one as her very first JMA review altogether. The arrangements were done by Eumir Deodato and Don Sebesky, and the album was recorded in summery New York.

There are twelve tracks on this short, roughly 28-minute album. 'Stay' is a forgotten gem with its genuine bossa nova percussion, flute and vibes. Tim Hardin's 'Misty Roses' has a laid back bossa interpretation here. 'The Face I Love' has a charming waltz flavour, but 'A Banda (Parade)' is a downright irritating circus march. The course is safely steered back to bossa nova with Luiz Bonfa's vivant 'Oba Oba' and Deodato's speedy 'Canoeiro'.

Side two starts with a pleasant tune 'I Had a Craziest Dream'. The harpsichord is a nice vintage element. 'Bossa Na Praia (Beach Samba)' may be a bit naiive with its "daabadaa" singing, but I truly enjoy the summer feel. 'My Foolish Heart' represents the great American Songbook while 'Dia das Rosas (I Think of You)' is another nice Bonfa piece, with a bit cheesy arrangement featuring strings. And speaking of cheesiness, The Lovin' Spoonful song 'You Didn't Have to Be So Nice' is nearly irritating as a duet of Astrud and her 6-yr old son, plus Toots Thielemans on harmonica. The final track is another "daabadaa" semi-instrumental, and rather forgettable.

Indeed this album is quite uneven, but for a good deal it is enjoyable for anyone who likes Astrud Gilberto, one of the most charming female voices ever.

PEKKA POHJOLA Flight of the Angel

Album · 1986 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 3.45 | 2 ratings
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Matti P
Flight of the Angel ended PEKKA POHJOLA's most productive era that had started in the seventies; his next album was Symphony No. 1 (1990), an attempt to be a serious art music composer. His amateurish symphony hasn't received very positive feedback from the art music circles. Elements from the classical music have naturally always been present in his unique Fusion, also in this five-track album that features some strings too, although not very notably.

'How About Today?' is a rollicking up-tempo composition, very rock oriented in sound; Seppo Tyni's electric guitar is in the centre. I wouldn't place this one high in Pekka's scale, or in the scale of Fusion in general. The title track is unsurprisingly a delicate and more thoughtful piece, built on a simple melody -- not unusual in his composing style -- but the way the music grows grander before returning to gentler touch is very fine. One could think there's not enough substance for 6 ½ minutes, but there is.

'Il Carillon' is a solo piano composition (played by the respected pianist Liisa Pohjola, Pekka's aunt). It has some Sibelius influence and Debussy-like impressionism.

'Pressure' is very easily recognized as a typical Pekka Pohjola composition with the heavily repeated leitmotif and its stretching to the limit. It's a matter of taste whether there are enough ideas for 10 ½ minutes. Well, he's done similar things more succesfully too. The synths are central in the sound. The progressivity comes mostly as dynamic changes, not in the melodies.

The best is saved for last: 'Beauty and the Beast' (10:54) is a highly progressive track full of rich details; the arrangement is many-sided, from the funkiness of brass to the exciting synth patterns and the strings in the final section. And above all is the gorgeous bass playing! This is the masterpiece of this album which as a whole is more uneven than most of his earlier works.

(Edited from my 2014 review in ProgArchives, where I've reviewed almost each album of my legendary countryman.)

LISA EKDAHL When Did You Leave Heaven

Album · 1995 · Vocal Jazz
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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Matti P
The Swedish vocalist LISA EKDAHL (b. 1971) has a distinctive child-like voice which I find rather charming. She debuted with an eponymous, Swedish-language album in 1994. Most often she has sung in her native tongue, but there are also recordings in English. She is perhaps more interesting, and certainly more convincing and personal, as a pop singer with jazz leanings than as a jazz singer per se. This is her second album, a collection of more or less well known standard pieces of American Vocal Jazz. As such it's definitely not the most recommendable album from her, but at least we have an opportunity to evaluate how she can compete with the greats like Julie London, Sarah Vaughan or whoever who has recorded these songs earlier.

She's accompanied by The Peter Nordahl Trio (Nordahl is a pianist) plus some tenor sax here and there. Ekdahl and an acoustic jazz trio is a pretty nice combination to start with. If one isn't familiar with the chosen song already, like is the case for me with the opener 'When Did You Leave Heaven?', everything is fine. It's the thoroughly well known classics such as 'Cry Me a River', 'Lush Life' or 'I'm a Fool to want You' that reveal Ekdahl's striking lack of maturity as an interpreter of them. 'My Heart Belongs to Daddy' could be thought to fit for a childish voice, but nah... One remembers too well the sinful heat of Marilyn Monroe to be excited by Lisa's lukewarm version.

'Love for Sale' has a joyous feel in its fast tempo, and in it Ekdahl comes closer to her own territory between pop and jazz. But still, I'd rather listen to Swedish-language songs written by/for her. 'Blame It on My Youth' featuring a piano solo is among the album highlights.

Let's go with friendly 2½ stars, mainly for the good trio. Sad to say, Lisa Ekdahl pales in comparison with the glorious past when it comes to the evergreens of the Great American Songbook, and the innocent personality she manages to bring to the table doesn't necessarily fit the songs. But I don't see a reason to be as merciless as All Music Guide's 1½ star review: "[her] thin, girlish, mousy voice might work on bubblegum pop, but it's hardly appropriate for standards..." or "It's most regrettable that RCA Victor chose to record someone who should have stuck to commercial pop".


Album · 2004 · Vocal Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Matti P
KARRIN ALLYSON (b. 1963 in Great Bend, Kansas) is among those numerous female jazz vocalists I've discovered via public library, though I've only listened to this album and Footprints (2006); her debut is from 1993. Wild for You is a 13-song set that mainly covers adult pop oriented tunes of the 70's. Pianist Gil Goldstein has made the rather relaxed and spatial arrangements featuring the dominant piano, acoustic and electric guitars, electric piano, bass and drums.

The Joni Mitchell songs 'All I Want' and 'Help Me' suit extremely well for Allyson's natural, warm and flexible vocal style. I like the slight smokey element in her voice. I don't remember hearing James Taylor's 'Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight' but this slow jazz version with a late night feel reminiscent of Sinatra's 'One for My Baby and One More for the Road' sounds just right.

Allyson has no trouble at all interpreting familiar songs such as the Cat Stevens evergreen 'Wild World' or Elton John's sad ballad 'Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word' as sincerely herself, and Goldstein's elegant arrangements rely on the power of the songs themselves, without trying to make them scream jazz all over the place. A more demanding listener with a fondness for complex time signatures and unpredictability might find this album a bit too lame. But for example 'Help Me' contains a long, improvisatory piano solo in the finest jazz spirit. This is a solid (if very gentle) jazz album, not a plain pop cover album. For its moods it is oriented to gentleness and intimacy, well demonstrated in Jim Webb's 'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress'. The album title should be taken sensually -- compare the cover photo --, without expecting wild musical expression.

The few faster tracks such as 'Feel Like Makin' Love' give the needed dynamics while staying within an accessible territory. Ewan MacColl's 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' has gained lovely interpretations from e.g. Roberta Flack and George Michael, and this version is among my own Top Three.

3½ stars for this pleasant album, but as the YouTube is now playing me other finely arranged tunes from this artist, I believe that All Music Guide is right about not rating this one among Allyson's strongest albums. A good starting point nevertheless.

UNI SONO Unisono

Album · 1975 · Fusion
Cover art 3.45 | 2 ratings
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Matti P
Finnish jazz/fusion group UNISONO was founded in 1973. The original sextet made a tour in Poland in '73. The group's sole studio album featuring a changed line-up was recorded in Stockholm's Marcus Music studio in May 1975. Founding members Seppo "Paroni" Paakkunainen (sax, flute), keyboardist Olli Ahvenlahti and drummer Reino Laine were joined by guitarist Nono Söderberg and bassist Pekka Pohjola. A stellar line-up in which each musician already had a respectable CV in Finnish jazz and/or rock scene.

Three of the five tracks are composed by Paakkunainen who also produced the album with Ahvenlahti. The opener 'TVL' written by drummer Laine is a relatively lively piece with a jam-like atmosphere in which sax, electric piano, bass and drums (guitar stays slightly more in the background) have their spotlight moments. On 'Chorea Urbana' saxophone is taking the lead until Pohjola plays a cool bass solo, followed by a meditative slow movement for bass and keys.

Olli Ahvenlahti composition 'Boulevard Blues' is romantically charming, hurriless and laid-back, his Chick Corea -influenced electric piano in the centre. 'Jedi & Rekku' is undoubtedly named after two dogs barking at the beginning. This is the longest track (11:26) and it meanders with natural ease. Like the album as a whole, it contains first class musicianship without the feeling of self-indulgent showing-off. The Finnish title of the closing track means 'Evening Star'. This roughly 10-minute piece has a nearly hypnotic feel as saxophone, electric guitar and electric piano do their converstation against bass & drum patterns.

This is a fairly enjoyable and harmonic fusion album focusing on the airy lightness and peaceful tempos. Do not expect a fiery approach of Mahavishnu Orchestra! Actually I would have liked to hear a bit more of flute and guitar as solo instruments. Recommended for those who enjoy rather peaceful fusion. The CD re-issue was released in 2010.

(Edited from my review in ProgArchives.)

MILES DAVIS A Tribute to Jack Johnson

Album · 1971 · Jazz Related Soundtracks
Cover art 4.00 | 52 ratings
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In the late 60s, Bill Clayton was working on a documentary about the life and times of boxer Jack Johnson and decided he would contract Miles Davis and producer Teo Macero to provide the soundtrack. Rather than compose any specific music, Miles invited some of his favorite musicians over in the early months of 1970 for some loose jam sessions which Teo could then edit into a soundtrack and a soundtrack LP. The resulting jam sessions were a mixed bag, far from Miles’ best work, and often he and Teo left everything in there, warts and all. Warts including bassist Michael Henderson catching a key change a couple bars too late and Herbie Hancock trying to get a Farfisa organ to react so he lays his arms across the entire keyboard when it suddenly comes alive and plays Herbie’s massive tone cluster.

Side one opens with a rather mundane boogie from the rhythm section. Hard to believe that’s Billy Cobham on drums as this sort of thing is kind of beneath him. The saving grace on this side is the interplay between Miles and guitarist John McLaughlin. This is the pre-Mahavishnu McLaughlin, back when his playing was much looser, funkier and wonderfully gnarly. Coping John’s rhythm playing on this side should be a course requirement for an aspiring jazz and RnB guitarist, its just about the most inspiring and inventive rhythm playing one could hope for and Miles responds with a strong solo, but this does go on for a long time. Teo inserts a nice ambient break in the middle before the standard bar band boogie returns. Apparently Herbie happened to drop by for a visit so Miles directs him to a Farfisa organ in the room. A Farfisa is a hardly a pliable jazz instrument but Hancock gets some really cool kitsch garage band riffs out of the cumbersome beast adding to the sort of ‘off-the-wall’ nature of this album.

Side two opens with a much more sparse number, bordering on Miles’ experiments in ambience and static music, only this time the effect does not hold interest for long. John inserts some well timed funky riffs and just when the jam might take off, Teo fades the track into an excerpt from “In a Silent Way”. Oh boy, talk about cheating, trying to improve a mediocre album by inserting moments from a great album is just a really bad idea and it sticks out like a sore thumb, its like they are admitting this soundtrack needs all the help it can get.

As we move into the last part of the second side, Macero fades in a different jam, one with Dave Holland on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. With those two on board, things pick up considerably as we are now in classic syncopated jazz fusion over drive in a style similar to Miles’ excellent ‘Live at the Fillmore” album. This jam also features the very intense and avant-garde duo of Sonny Sharrock and Chick Corea using ring modulaters and echo feedback to build a Stockhausen like background for Miles’ solo. “Jack Johnson” is a not a great album, but fans of Miles’ fusion playing can find enough good on here to make it worth the purchase.

JONI MITCHELL Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm

Album · 1988 · Pop/Art Song/Folk
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Matti P
This was the first Joni Mitchell album I ever listened to: I borrowed it from library at the age of 19 maybe. That explains why I have a closer relationship to this one than to her more classic era of the late 60's or the 70's that I eventually got to know years later -- and which took me quite a long time to warm up to properly.

Sonically this album is very much a product of its time, the late 80's, and understandably it's not counted among Joni's finest works. The jazz elements are pretty absent here. Produced by her then-husband Larry Klein, Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm has an adult pop sound of the era, familiar from albums by artists such as Suzanne Vega and Clannad (Sirius, 1987). There are some similarities to the late 80's/early 90's Peter Gabriel as well, due to drummer Manu Katché. But Suzanne Vega's debut (1985) and Solitude Standing (1987) I find more similar sounding, especially for guitars and thin synth backings.

I was already back then a Peter Gabriel fan, so the opening duet 'My Secret Place' easily became my favourite which I still enjoy. The rhythm is interesting, but most of all I like the song's overall spirit and the vocals. Also several other popular names are guesting on vocals. Country legend Willie Nelson on refreshing 'Cool Water', Billy Idol and Tom Petty on the relatively rocking 'Dancin' Clown'. Don Henley of The Eagles guests on 'Lakota' and 'Snakes & Ladders'. Of these I like 'Lakota' the best.

My second fave is the atmospheric, slow-tempo 'The Tea-Leaf Prophecy (Lay Down Your Arms)'.The female backing vocals make me remember Fleetwood Mac's pleasant 1987 album Tango in the Night. Suzanne Vega-ish 'The Beat of Black Wings' is nice, too. All in all fairly pleasant if a bit uneven and sonically partly outdated pop album. For a Joni Mitchell fan who's grown with her classic albums, Chalk Mark will most likely sound too 80's and poppy.

BAIKIDA CARROLL Marionettes On A High Wire

Album · 2001 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Trumpeter Baikida Carrol, who played with almost every leading American jazz artist from the loft era, released only four studio albums as a leader till now. "Marionettes On A High Wire" is his last one to date.

From the very first seconds, the music represents something almost forgotten nowadays, but perfectly known from the earlier decades of free-bop - blues-rooted well-framed forms of free jazz with lots of tunes and controlled improvisations. Carrol's music is slightly melancholic, with a feelable accent on complex composition. All ten pieces are Baikida's originals, three of them had been written as theatre play soundtracks.

The band is really good, with the brilliant rhythm section of bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Pheeroan akLaff, and the lesser known Adegoke Steve Colson, plus female tenor Erica Lindsay. Sound is groovy, dynamic, but quite relaxed, all of the band obviously enjoys playing together.

This is one good example of an almost lost in a New Millennium branch of free jazz, non-nonsense and accessible, rooted in the best such music tradition, coming from the 70s and 80s.

DIANE SCHUUR Diane Schuur Featuring Caribbean Jazz Project : Schuur Fire

Album · 2005 · Latin Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Matti P
The American singer and pianist DIANE SCHUUR (b. 1953) *sure* sounds as uplifting and charming as she looks. Blind from the birth, she took her first steps as a musician at the age of three, and when she was ten she debuted on stage at the local Holday Inn. I'm not familiar with her earliest albums from 1985 onwards; Schuur Fire was the other of the two newer albums I borrowed from library years ago, and I was immediately charmed by her. Here she's accompanied by The Caribbean Jazz Project led by vibes player Dave Samuels. A perfect match!

'Lover, Come Back to Me' (composed by Oscar Hammerstein II) shows straight away the merry and dance-inviting Latin groove at its best, and Diane demonstrates her flexible vocal skills that IMHO are fully comparable to the great Ella Fitzgerald. James Taylor's 'Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight' turns into a jazz ballad with natural ease. Diane Schuur is known for her habit of picking songs from pop music. Don Gibson's country ballad 'I Can't Stop Loving You' was given a charming samba treatment, and the Latin dance version of Stevie Wonder's 'As' works brilliantly.

The song I was originally most gladly surprised by, comes -- of all bands -- from Duran Duran. My relationship with that band is more or less limited to digging Rio (1982) at my early teens -- and why not still --, but 'Ordinary World' happens to be my fave of the few further DD songs I remember. I may actually prefer the original for the mood, but Schuur's jazzy uptempo version has its own charm.

This well produced album is very easy to enjoy if you're at all into vocal jazz and Latin jazz. If you're looking for music to make you happy and carefree, try this.

JULIE LONDON Around Midnight

Album · 1960 · Vocal Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Matti P
As a music listener I have a soft spot for vocal jazz/entertainment/chanson/crooner kind of stuff, preferably orchestrated, dating from the 50's, 60's or the 70's, depending on the artists. In general, if the non-classical music that I listen to predates the year 1967, it's most likely NOT pop/rock (except e.g. Simon & Garfunkel), quite rarely it's instrumental jazz either, it is this particular area I'm talking about. Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett are IMHO the greatest male artists in this field, and the female entertainment vocalists I have enjoyed include e.g. Dusty Springfield, Astrud Gilberto, Doris Day -- and definitely Julie London whose sensual and sultry "cigarettes-after-sex" voice is a pleasure in itself.

London's career as a vocalist (she was also an actress) started big time in 1955 with the major hit 'Cry Me a River', after which she released albums in a steady pace til the late 60's. Around Midnight is among her best albums, a very rewarding set of orchestrated songs celebrating London's seductive voice.

The Thelonius Monk evergreen 'Round Midnight' sets the tone for this album perfectly. The second track 'Lonely Night in Paris' uses lots of brass and a faster tempo, as if to underline that the album leaning loosely towards the nocturnal theme is not entirely about introspective and moody delicacy. The arrangement in Erroll Garner's classic 'Misty' gives a special role for flute and other woodwind instruments. This must be my favourite interpretation of this famous tune. 'Black Coffee' has been covered by many newer artists too such as Sinead O'Connor (r.i.p.), but the song feels like tailor-made for Julie London. Perhaps it was, I don't know. I like the sensitive saxophone but would prefer to have less of the sharp-sounding brass.

Songs like 'Lush Life' and 'In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning' (the title track of Sinatra's 1955 album) are obvious choices and pleasantly orchestrated here. 'Don't Smoke in Bed' is another heartaching song you couldn't imagine being better performed than by London. The 12-track set of evergreens covers also Irving Berlin and George Gershwin ('But Not for Me'), and closes suitably with 'The Party's Over'.

I have a 2-in-1 CD featuring also Julie... At Home (1959) with intimate arrangements for a small jazz combo, thus being a good pair for this orchestral album.


Live album · 1975 · Fusion
Cover art 4.12 | 28 ratings
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Miles Davis’ sextet that existed from 1973 to 1975 is one of the more misunderstood and under appreciated bands in Miles’ career. By the mid 70s, very little was left of Miles’ mid 60s post bop, and he was even starting to move further from the fusion he adopted in the late 60s. Instead, this group, which consisted of Pete Cosey and Reggie Lucas on guitars, Mtume on percussion, Al Foster on drums, Michael Henderson on bass and Sonny Fortune on saxophone, was experimenting with static music, ambience, Stockhausen’s momente form, and layering multiple rhythms ala African music. Much of what they did often sounded like jazz fusion, but closer listens reveal a band that was exploring unknown terrain with their attempts to create music without specific form, music that was based on short melodic and rhythmic ideas that could be utilized and layered by any of the musicians at any time.

This brave new combo was best represented on the studio album, “Get Up With It”, and two live albums that took place on February 1, 1975, “Agharta” and “Pangaea”. The “Agharta” concert took place in the afternoon, while “Pangaea” went down at night. Of the two concerts, “Agharta” shows the band in top form, while “Pangaea” has some strong moments, but also some disorganization and fatigue. Apparently Miles was sick for the evening concert and the loss of energy is apparent, but still the band manages some excellent passages all the same.

Side one of “Pangaea's four sided concert starts strong with some relentless psychedelic funk rock. Guitarist supreme, Pete Cosey, is in fine scorching form as the band pummels the audience with a fierce assault. Notice as this side progresses, the funk starts to fracture and the more avant-garde side of the band comes through as the musicians layer almost incongruent rhythms and tonalities. Side two continues with more psych funk until Reggie and Michael take over for a somewhat mundane rock jam that is really not up to par for this group.

Side three gets things back on track as Sonny Fortune performs a mysterious exotica flute solo over a well known Henderson bass vamp. Later, Reggie starts playing something that almost sounds like a real song with chord changes amongst the cosmic ‘no chord changes’ murk and finally Pete Cosey kicks in with another searing blues soaked guitar extravaganza. On side four the band seems to run out of steam as Sonny has pretty much disappeared, while Reggie tries various riffs that no one picks up on and Mtume plays with his bizarre rhythm machine and Cosey toys with his synthi and various odd percussion instruments. As mentioned earlier, Miles was not feeling well during this show and his playing takes on the cries of a wounded spirit with very little semblance to the jazz soloing he had been known for in the past. Still, a lot of creativity went into his attempts to make the trumpet into something entirely different and his sound oriented approach is a big part of many modern horn players.

This is a fascinating sextet and well worth checking out further. “Pangaea”, may not be their best moment, but there is enough good on here to make it worth picking up. Besides the other two albums already mentioned, you can also hear this band on various Miles collections and complete boxed sets.

THE BUDOS BAND Frontier's Edge

EP · 2023 · RnB
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Thanks to the acid jazz movement of the late 80s and the rare groove DJs, a lot of 60s music was given a new life. Genres such as blaxploitation soundtracks, exotica, psychedelic RnB and soul jazz were pushed aside in the 80s as being too much of their time period and way too kitsch for sophisticated tastes. Surprise, all of these genres became cooler than ever since the mid-90s and are continuing to hold a steady popularity among devoted cult followings. This leads us to the Budos Band who hit the scene in 2005 playing their approximation of Ethiopian jazz mixed with Afro-beat and other influences. In recent times, they have been sliding towards 60s psychedlic funk and RnB, which is the case with their latest EP, “Frontier’s Edge”.

This is a power packed EP with seven compact tunes and no wasted space. Budos is a large ensemble, featuring anywhere from eleven to thirteen band members. Their horn sound is very African, sounding similar to Cymande or King Tubby’s dub experiments. The foundation of the group is trap set plus percussion and their jams are driven with funky wah-wah guitar and Farfisa organ, tying the pop music of Africa with the sounds of early Funkadelic and the Chambers Brothers. There are occasional short solos, but mostly this band is about great melodies pushed by a polyrhythmic base and sprinkled with psychedelic pixie dust. The effects from analog tape delay and the characteristic feedback such machines can produce is a big part of their colorful sound. This is righteous vibes music, drop the needle and let the party start.


Album · 2023 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Pianist, composer and one-time member of nu jazz trio Bad Plus, Orrin Evans on his new album, "The Red Door", sounds exactly like one can expect - quite straight forward, tuneful and accessible. Containing a well balanced collection of standards and originals, the album sounds very much as if it comes right from the eighties.

If Evan's former band's musical aesthetics can be described as pop-songs played in a fashionable jazzy key, the newest Evans work is more a traditional jazz band playing some popular jazz tunes. There are some freer solos on a few compositions, but generally very competent band plays up-tempo, sometimes r'n'b influenced well-rounded pieces. Three of the album's songs contain vocals - including the popular Jazzmeia Horn on "Big Small".

Taking a few risks, Evans music is well-done, sounds warm and comfortable without being cheesy. Listeners with nostalgia for eighties straight-forward jazz will probably find a lot to enjoy here.

SUN RA Out There a Minute

Album · 1989 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Out There a Minute" is a unique one in the Sun Ra discography in that it does not come from one concert or one studio session, but instead it is, as explained on the back cover of the album, "Sun Ra's personal selection of rare Arkestra recordings from the late 60s". This makes the album one of the closest things to a 'best of' collection that you will find with Sun Ra's name on it. Unique also in that most of his albums will portray a more or less unified musical vision for that album, "Out There", on the other hand, is a very eclectic album that covers a broad range of Sun Ra styles.

As we move from track to track, we may encounter cacophonous free jazz, exotic lounge fantasies, more or less straight ahead jazz that gets a little weird around the edges, or sometimes a lot weird around the edges, African flavored ensemble percussion or some sparse pieces that sound like Eurocentric avant-garde 60s concert hall music of the Stockhausen/Cage variety. Most of the tracks are really good making this one a must have for a Sun Ra fan.

If you know your Sun Ra history then you will recognize many familiar elements, such as the soloing of Marshall Allen and John Gilmore, which shows up on many tracks. "Somewhere in Space" features that bizarre singer who was with the band for a while and sang through a backwards megaphone, he had a made up stage name that is not listed on the album, but he does appear on at least one other Ra album. "Song of Tree and Forest" features echoed flutes and piano that were made possible when Sonny's sound man came up with a way to turn a reel to reel recorder into an echo device.

JAE SINNETT Jae Sinnett's Zero To 60 Quartet : Commitment

Album · 2023 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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It is a testament to an artist's vitality and creative skill when they can churn out their 19th record and still have it bristle with an electrifying freshness. Jae Sinnett, a veteran jazz drummer, composer, and bandleader who has spent decades enhancing his craft and teaching others to find their own musical voices, precisely achieves this with his album, “Commitment.” The record, an exhilarating mélange of Sinnett's compositions, and an intelligent reworking of standards explore jazz's multifaceted nature that showcases the immense versatility of the Zero to 60 Quartet members. The ensemble made up of all-star musicians, including Steve Wilson on alto and soprano saxophones, Randy Brecker on trumpet and flugelhorn, Allen Farnham on piano, and Terry Burrell on acoustic and electric bass, complement Sinnett's powerful drumming perfectly, each one adding a distinctive color to the rich tapestry of sounds.

The album sets off to a thrilling start with Sinnett's "Takin' It There," a formidable nod to the hard bop genre, pulsating with the energy that sets the tone for what follows. An equally impressive exploration is evident in the reinterpretation of Frank Foster's composition, "Simone." Sinnett's innovative arrangement and his polyrhythmic drumming are complimented by Brecker's fluid horn ideas and Farnham's application of modern voicings, imparting a modern edge to this timeless classic. Sinnett displays a nuanced understanding of pacing and intensity, demonstrated in the selection of tracks such as "Muhammara's Dance" and "Wait For Me." Here, muscular modern jazz is showcased with a display of raw, undiluted talent, each musician contributing to the overall energy of the pieces while retaining their individualistic flair.

The quartet's efforts to straddle diverse genres continue beyond there. Clare Fischer's Latin-tinged "Morning" and Antonio Carlos Jobim's rhythmic finale, "Chega de Saudade (No More Blues)," are delightful surprises that underscore the ensemble's ability to effortlessly navigate between different styles with Sinnett's deep rhythmic understanding leading the way. What truly stands out in this album is the artistic symbiosis between the quartet members. There is a clear dialogue between the musicians as they seamlessly move between solos and ensemble playing. Sinnett, a masterful drummer, and visionary composer, directs the flow of the music, expertly underpinning the melodic explorations of his colleagues while occasionally stealing the spotlight with his riveting solos.

Jae Sinnett's Zero to 60 Quartet has succeeded in creating an album that exemplifies the idea of 'Commitment'—a commitment to the craft, exploration, synergy, and, most importantly, to the listener. With each track, the album tells a unique story, creating a listening experience that is both thought-provoking and engaging. The audaciousness of the performances and the sagacity in the compositions make “Commitment” a stellar addition to Sinnett's extensive discography and a testament to his ongoing relevance in the jazz world.


Album · 2023 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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With the hutzpa of a brilliant polychord on a perfectly tuned Steinway and the elegance of a gently whispered standard melody, David Hazeltine steps back into the limelight with his latest gem, "Blues for Gerry." This album is a creative journey and a nostalgic trip down the Criss Cross memory lane, marking Hazeltine's first venture as a leader with the label in over a decade. The spirit of Gerry Teekens, Criss Cross' original founder, resonates in each measure, subtly tracing the evocative, rhythmic undertones this album delivers.

This compelling set of music, recorded in a whirlwind six-hour session, brings together the genius of modern jazz luminaries - Peter Washington and Joe Farnsworth - conjuring a magnetic synergy throughout the album. It's like savoring a rich blend of vintage wine, each track bearing its unique flavor yet still reflecting the distinct Criss Cross signature. By revisiting the essential "blues" that Gerry Sr. loved so dearly, Hazeltine crafts an intimate tribute that is as much about the past as it is about the future of jazz. So, sit back, tune in, and let the vibrant echoes of Hazeltine's piano, Washington's double bass, and Farnsworth's drums serenade your senses. Class is in session, folks - and the subject is "Blues for Gerry."

"Here Again," a dynamic Hazeltine opener that quenches your thirst for swing with the trio's elastic execution, is a track that serves as a tone-setting beacon, priming your ears for the sonic discoveries that lie ahead.

Hazeltine's interpretation of "Tangerine" is an instant stand-out, his masterful arrangement infusing the standard with an irresistible Latin flair. His chord voicings here are a veritable work of beauty, expertly sprinkled across the canvas of the rhythm section, painting a vibrant, pulsating picture.

The eponymous "Blues for Gerry" and "Firm Roots" dial the swing-o-meter back up, featuring a rich tempo spectrum that offers a delightful dance between the medium and the up-tempo. Again, Washington and Farnsworth prove themselves a formidable swing machine, supplying a steady, infectious rhythm that Hazeltine adorns with his polished lines and syncopation.

Midway through the album, we traverse the familiar terrain of "Body and Soul," "It Could Happen to You," and "Skylark," standards that have been visited and revisited countless times in jazz history. However, the trio breathes fresh life into these oft-trodden harmonic footprints. Hazeltine leads the charge, his inventive approach to harmony offering a refreshing outlook that frames these standards in an entirely new light. It's like revisiting a beloved book, only to discover that new chapters have been added. These performances are the album's heart, marking a memorable juncture in this real jazz musical journey.

As we round off this melodious journey through "Blues for Gerry," it becomes increasingly clear that Hazeltine has, once again, penned a radiant chapter in the narrative of jazz. This album doesn't just pay homage to the genre's roots and points towards its promising future. The potent collaboration with Washington and Farnsworth has given rise to a body of work that dances deftly on the delicate edge of tradition and innovation.

Suppose there's one truth to be gleaned from Hazeltine's latest opus. In that case, it's the reaffirmation of the pianist's exceptional ability to fuse swing, harmonic complexity, and emotional authenticity in a single, seamless, musical breath. In a world that can sometimes feel devoid of swing, "Blues for Gerry" offers a much-needed swing infusion, a record that makes you tap your foot, nod your head, and let the blues sway your spirit. Class is dismissed, but the music continues.

RODNEY WHITAKER Oasis : Music Of Gregg Hill

Album · 2022 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Rodney Whitaker's "Oasis: The Music of Gregg Hill," a musical canvas colored with bold strokes of intellect, sentiment, and compositional artistry. Whitaker, a beacon of jazz education and an accomplished double bassist, presents us with an inspired interpretation of Hill's compositions, offering listeners an intimate look into the heart and soul of the genre.

Whitaker, a distinguished professor, and director of jazz studies at the Michigan State University College of Music, has solidified his standing as a vanguard in the jazz world. His remarkable journey, from playing with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the Roy Hargrove Quintet to his influential contributions as an educator, reflects the depth of his commitment to this timeless art form.

On "Oasis: The Music of Gregg Hill," Whitaker brings together a quintet of renowned jazz virtuosos – Bruce Barth on piano, Terell Stafford on trumpet, Tim Warfield on saxophone, and Dana Hall on drums – to breathe life into Hill's compositions. Each track serves as an auditory feast, boasting stellar solos, fluid textures, dynamic momentum, and an unyielding swing that resonates throughout the album. Rockelle Fortin’s vocals add a lyrical dimension to four tracks, setting the tone with the high-octane opener, "Betty's Tune."

Hill’s compositions and Whitaker's arrangements are intrinsically symbiotic, both contributing to a resounding harmony that makes "Oasis: The Music of Gregg Hill" a compelling auditory tapestry. The result is a collection of tracks that not only pay homage to the rich tradition of jazz, but also challenge and expand the genre's boundaries with their innovative approaches and rhythmic experiments.

In the auditory delight of this album, Whitaker is indeed a foundational rock, grounding the music's diverse phases and moods with his firm, rhythmic anchor. From the compelling tempo of "Puppets" and the nuanced playfulness of "The Jazzdiddy Waltz," to the soulful resonance of "Blues for Gregg," each composition comes alive under Whitaker's deft touch and his thoughtful interpretation of Hill's musical vision.

Each of the 10 compositions by Hill on this album are imbued with a distinct sense of dynamism and intrigue, leading listeners on an unpredictable, yet deeply satisfying, sonic journey. Hill's compositions, under Whitaker's interpretation, become a playground for mood swings, wherein each unexpected turn or nuanced variation presents an opportunity to delve deeper into the captivating narrative of the music.

Hill, a prolific composer who only began composing after retiring from a career far from the world of jazz, uses the classic jazz standard as his creative springboard, crafting songs that are not only engaging but also resoundingly memorable.

"Oasis: The Music of Gregg Hill" serves as a testament to Whitaker's enduring versatility and deep-rooted connection to the language of jazz. The signature of Hill's composing style lies in his ingenious manipulation of mood and his daring explorations that tells stories, explores emotions, and invites listeners to step into the vibrant world of jazz.


Album · 2023 · Fusion
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Jeff Richman, a distinguished musician, composer, and producer, has carved a remarkable career as one of the world's foremost fusion guitarists. With an enduring influence from the late, great Jeff Beck, Richman's technical mastery and improvisational genius speak to his deep roots in rock and fusion. His impactful contributions to fusion have set him apart as an innovative trailblazer and advanced the genre, pushing its boundaries to new frontiers. A graduate of the esteemed Berklee School of Music in 1975, Richman's work in music has been steady for nearly half a century as his unique offerings continue to enrich the world of fusion.

"XYZ," Richman's latest album, is a testament to patience, innovation, and the art of collaboration. After several years since his last release, "Sizzle," Richman returns with his eighteenth record as a bandleader, serving up nine original compositions that marry his signature fusion sound with a modern-day swagger. Richman's ensemble is propelled by the talents of rhythm section powerhouses Vinnie Colaiuta and Jimmy Haslip, alongside notable keyboardists George Whitty, Scott Kinsey, Mitchel Forman, Otmaro Ruiz, and trumpet soloist Jeff Beal. This diverse line-up of musicians provides a rich backdrop for Richman's intricate compositions. Expanding upon Richman's established sound, "XYZ" ventures into a new sonic territory, delivering a fresh take on the limitless possibilities of fusion.

The album's title track, "XYZ," overflows with Richman's distinctive guitar-playing style, where his remarkable improvisation skills are prominently displayed. The solo Richman performs is an intricate tapestry that strikes a delicate balance between the sophistication of jazz and the raw energy of rock and blues. Richman's journey through the song's diverse musical landscape is underpinned by the blues' authentic emotion and the adventurous exploration of various jazz chord voicings, scales, and modes. His choice of notes, the intricate bends, and the way he uses the whammy bar all contribute to creating a musical narrative rich in rock's energy and dynamics. The result is Richman's unexpected twists and turns rooted in Richman's innate understanding of the song's underlying chord progressions and his ability to quickly and creatively navigate through them. In addition, his improvisation enhances the composition, making the music feel spontaneous yet coherent, a testament to his fluency in the language of jazz fusion.

"Optamystical," a Richman original, showcases the fusion guitarist's exceptional creativity and originality as he explores an array of musical terrains, cleverly navigating through shifting moods and textures with the steady pulse of Colaiuta and Haslip grounding the groove. What sets Richman's guitar playing apart is his ability to maintain a clear, warm, and lyrical tone, even when manipulating his sound through various effects to match the song's evolving sections. This careful, thoughtful approach to sound design and tone shaping is a testament to Richman's originality and enhances the track's overall appeal, drawing listeners into the intricate details of its construction.

Richman's "XYZ" is a remarkable testament to his enduring musical abilities and innovation in the ever-evolving world of jazz fusion. The album exhibits Richman's command over his instrument, his profound understanding of music theory, and his innate ability to fuse diverse musical elements seamlessly. The diverse talents of the assembled musicians further enrich the album, providing a robust, nuanced canvas for Richman's compositions and improvisations. "XYZ" meets the high standards set by his previous albums, but he also pushes the boundaries of his expression with jazz fusion guitar. It's an offering that undoubtedly expands Richman's legacy, solidifying his position as a leading innovator in the genre and a must-have for all fusion lovers, especially guitarists.

ANDREW CYRILLE Andrew Cyrille / Jeanne Lee / Jimmy Lyons : Nuba

Album · 1979 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Free jazz, as an example of a cultural component of social protest movements, came among the very first such musical genres and experienced its peak as such during late 50s - early 60s. Upcoming rock music era, which in big part was a product of that very same jazz/blues, exploded much louder and wider with Woodstock and the Sorbonne student's riots in the late 60s, and stayed as a dominate part of Western civilization's counter-culture for decades to come. Free jazz at the late 60s - early 70s silently returned back to where it came from - urban underground culture. As a result, "Woodstock aesthetics" survived as a renown cultural phenomena till now (fortunately, all tries to revitalize it finished unsuccessfully), free jazz aesthetics is now known between a small circle of fans and followers.

"Nuba", recorded by three true masters of the genre, and released in 1979 (a decade too late, I would say), is a great example of that unique atmosphere of the time and place. The unorthodox trio consists of drummer Andrew Cyrille, (who is active till now and is responsible for some best avant-garde jazz albums, released in last few decades), alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons and possibly the best ever free jazz vocalist Jeanne Lee (both passed away). The album's music is of free form, but contains a lot of tune snippets, and partially works as an accompaniment to Jeanne's poem. There is no leader, all of the musicians are equal collaborators with enough space for each. Cyrille builds aerial minimalistic rhythm constructions, Lyons saxophone is warm and soulful, often recalling the singer's vocals. Lee's singing is excellent - partially wordless, it builds a very spiritual atmosphere on the album of free form and with a lot of free space.

Differently from many more traditional jazz albums coming from the same time, "Nuba" doesn't sound as classic or dated, it is more timeless music from a parallel reality, far not everyone even knows it existed. Those interested to find out what it was, can start right here. Originally released on vinyl in Italy only on Black Saint label, the album has been re-issued on CD in 2009, so it's still possible to find a copy.

FRANK ZAPPA Cruising With Ruben & The Jets (The Mothers Of Invention)

Album · 1968 · RnB
Cover art 2.82 | 20 ratings
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Frank Zappa’s “Cruising with Ruben and the Jets”, is probably one of the more misunderstood and under appreciated albums in pop music history. Often called a satire on doo-wop music, or a parody, this album is actually a labor of love of sorts as Frank and his band mates, sincerely (mostly anyways) try to pay tribute to the music of their youth. Yes, there is some silliness on here, but doo-wop was music by, for and about teenagers, it is by nature a somewhat silly form of music in the first place. About half of the songs on here are straight ahead doo-wop, expertly performed and souped up with some creative chord progressions and arrangements. In addition to that, there are a couple of doo-wop meets art rock creations, and then, since it is Zappa, there are also a couple of kind of ‘silly’ tracks too. The more straight ahead doo-wop numbers are excellent, this band had killer vocalists and their vocal arrangements are stunning. Add to that, the production on here is some of Frank’s best, every little vocal detail is crystal clear. This is doo-wop, so you can bet all the lyrics deal with teenage romance, especially the heartbreak of failed teenage romance.

On a couple songs, Frank and his crew merge doo-wop with art rock tendencies such as changing rhythmic meters, unexpected chord changes and psychedelic guitar work. Of this lot, “You Didn’t Try to Call Me” and “I’m Not Satisfied” are master pieces. Then there are the numbers that contain overly silly elements, such as the rap part in “Desire”, or the gun fire and scream insert in “Stuff Up the Cracks”, which would have been a much better song without the extraneous sounds. Many reviewers will dutifully point out that there are Stravinsky musical quotes on here, but that’s what happens when people copy someone else’s review because it would be nice if they actually knew where the alleged quotes are because a listen to the album does not seem to reveal any such thing.

Zappa was not too fond of hippie culture and most hippie music. With this in mind, “Cruising” could be seen as Frank’s attempt to deflate the pretentious and overly serious nature of the trendy ‘revolutionaries’ of the late 60s. No doubt, fun mindless teenager music such as doo-wop was considered very un-cool when this album came out in the late 60s, and it seems that had a lot to do with why Zappa put "Cruising" out in the first place.

BENNIE MAUPIN The Bennie Maupin Ensemble : Penumbra

Album · 2006 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.52 | 2 ratings
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Multi-reedist Bennie Maupin made his name playing on Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew", and later being a member of Herbie Hancock's funky Headhunters. His moment of real glory is still "The Jewel in the Lotus"(1974) - Maupin's debut as a leader and one of the very best jazz fusion albums ever recorded. In 1977 he released "Slow Traffic To The Right" - strong fusion album, recorded in a key of its predecessor, another year later - less successful, "Moonscapes". Than Maupin stayed in silence for twenty years, returning for " Driving While Black..."(1998), and for the upcoming quarter of the century he released only four more albums. But Bennie was still more active as a collaborator on other artists releases.

Having a cult status among fans of early fusion, Maupin's extremely rare more current albums didn't attract a lot of attention, and in the case of "Penumbra", it's a real shame. Released on the avant-garde jazz label, Cryptogramophone, and recorded in California, this album contains an excellent incarnation of Maupin's music, in a new key and with a new band. Maupin predominantly plays bass clarinet and tenor sax here, the band contains excellent Polish bassist Darek Oles, LA-based veteran drummer Michael Stephans and percussionist Munyungo Jackson.

The album's music is mostly midtempo, very percussive and groovy, quite minimalist and almost chamber. All but one of the songs are Maupin originals ("Penumbra" is credited to all quartet members). Maupin's solos lead each song, sometimes lyrical, soulful, or in other cases - more meditative. It sounds very much as a seasoned veteran telling his life story from the distance of years, with maturity, but without sentimentality or melancholy. Very often Maupin's solos sound as monologues. Surprisingly enough, Bennie's playing is free, "Penumbra" is his freest album for sure. Rhythm section is very supportive, intuitive end intelligent adding lots of modern textures to this intimate music.

Along with "The Jewel in the Lotus", "Penumbra" is one of the very best Maupin albums, a real secret jam.

ROB MAZUREK Rob Mazurek Quartet : Father's Wing

Album · 2022 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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American trumpeter / multi-instrumentalist Rob Mazurek is a significant figure on the US contemporary jazz scene, and a prolific recording artist as well. He has offered a lot of unusual cross-genre musical experiments, mixing jazz with electronics and free improvs, adding Latin rhythms to bold techno, etc.

The main problem with Mazurek's music is that he often offers some interesting ideas and songs, but then mixing them with lots of raw material and less attractive pieces, sometimes just fillers. Almost any of his album would be best served with some editing. "Father's Wing", dedicated to his late father, is a rare exemption, really for the good.

Recorded with the excellent multi-national quartet of American drummer Chad Taylor, Canadian pianist Kris Davis and Norwegian acoustic bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (it's already this quartet's second album, after 2019's "Desert Encrypts Vol. 1"), it contains much better organized, executed and, what is really important, - composed music. Mazurek himself plays piccolo trumpet and adds lots of analog synth sounds.

The album's music is airy, almost minimalistic, with many beautiful tunes and complex, but quite ascetic arrangements. This release is worth hearing just for its almost 13-minutes long opener, "Crimson Song". Flying melody, full of optimism, played by the trumpeter over tasteful synth loops and framing rhythms of the drummer and pianist. This will stay in the listener's head for hours, or even days ahead. More rhythmic pieces, such as "Amber Wing" or "Spooled" are knotty, but don't destroy the beauty of the opener at all.

Coming after "Sun Ohm 3", is a ballad, but without even a trace of melancholy. "From Here To There" and "Sun Ohm 1" and the short "Signal Frame" are all more energetic, but still blessed with melodic snippets and varying complex rhythms. "Father’s Wing" is another of the album's beauty, sensual piano-based ballad, full of sunlight. "Ice Castles of Saturn", the closer, is a true free jazz piece, still quite bright and meditative, perfectly framing all of the album's conceptual music.

"Father's Wing" is Rob Mazurek at his best, in some of the best company he has ever had.

MARKUS BURGER The Vienna Sessions

Album · 2022 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Markus Burger's latest album, "The Vienna Sessions," finds Burger diving deep into the world of post-fusion contemporary and ECM-style solo piano. Packing sixteen original tracks performed by the man himself, this album is a joyous ride through melodic sophistication, harmonic exploration, and heart-stirring emotions. Recorded in the iconic Bösendorfer piano showroom in Vienna, Burger found his inspiration in the city's diverse musical history and the unmatched sound of the legendary Bösendorfer piano. His connection to Vienna is evident, and his love for the instrument shines through the album as he effortlessly blends subtlety, rhythmic freedom, and his powerful performance with silence. The result is a collection of fascinating and reflective pieces that invite the listener to join Burger on his musical stroll through the streets of Vienna, guided by the very essence of the piano itself.

In Burger's composition "Daybreak," the distinctive qualities of post-fusion contemporary and ECM-style solo piano shine through. Embracing melodic sophistication and harmonic exploration. The opening expansive arpeggio figures and complex layering showcase Burger's skillful touch on the piano. The relaxing soft B section, enhanced by added string sounds, illustrates the subtlety and nuance that define his playing, as well as the textural variety inherent in this style of music. With a lyrical and assured touch, Burger expertly weaves together rhythmic precision and emotional depth, creating a captivating listening experience that mirrors the introspective and deeply spiritual nature of his time spent recording in Vienna.

"An Afternoon in Vienna," another standout track from Burger's mesmerizing "The Vienna Sessions," seamlessly blends a beautiful melody that is developed through a theme and variation approach, highlighting Burger's harmonic exploration and melodic sophistication. His improvisations, deeply rooted in theme development, strike a perfect balance between activity and space, demonstrating his command of melodic structures and his thoughtful interaction with silence.

Markus Burger's “The Vienna Sessions” is a captivating showcase of his emotional depth, exceptional playing abilities, and engaging use of space that reels listeners in. Masterfully navigating the iconic Bösendorfer piano's delicate nuances, Burger crafts an introspective and spiritually resonant experience with his compositions and improvisations. This album highlights Burger's deep connection to Vienna, drawing inspiration from the city's rich musical heritage and seamlessly integrating the unique qualities that make his solo piano style so alluring.

TITO CARRILLO Urbanessence

Album · 2022 · Latin Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Tito Carrillo's latest album, "Urbanessence" on Origin Records, is a must-hear. This trumpet player and composer is mixing it up, blending jazz, salsa, Latin jazz, gospel, blues, funk, and soul to create a unique and magical musical experience. Carrillo even included an original track from Phil Koceril to mix things up even more.

Carrillo's ensemble is a powerhouse, featuring himself on trumpet, Troy Roberts on tenor and soprano saxophones, Ben Lewis on piano, Clark Sommers on bass, Jay Sawyer on drums and cymbals, and Victor Gonzalez, Jr. on congas.

The "Fire & Ice" track is off the chain, with feel changes, sick melodies, and wicked dynamics. Carrillo and Roberts work together seamlessly on the front line, with Carrillo's solos being hella fluid and Roberts showing off his skills in technique and motivic development. The whole band is in the zone, bringing the composition to life through exciting solos and ensemble interaction.

And then there's "Crazy, Stupid Fine," which starts with a funky bass line from Sommers. The two horns weave through the theme with harmonic twists and plenty of rhythmic possibilities. Carrillo builds up the energy with his rhythmic patterns, while Roberts' lines get us moving and grooving. Finally, Lewis' smooth single notes bring everything together in a colorful and flavorful way.

Overall, "Urbanessence" is a collection of tracks that captures Carrillo's unique blend of musical styles. He goes beyond the traditional jazz routine to create a sound that's intense, rhythmic, harmonic and textured all at once. It's a celebration of his life journey and his ability to craft something new and powerful from his musical influences. So if you're looking for something fresh and exciting, this album is it!


Album · 1965 · World Fusion
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Chico Hamilton is one jazz artist who definitely deserves more recognition and credit for being one of the more creative musicians of the 60s and beyond. If you had to pick one artist who kicked off the fusion movement in jazz, Chico would be the one, and second on that list would be guitarist Gabor Szabo, who was a perfect addition to Hamilton’s group as both were very open-minded, adaptable and entirely eclectic. “Chic Chic Chico” is not one of Hamilton’s best albums, even the title sounds rather unimaginative, but it still has plenty of good material. Joining Chico and Gabor on here is a mini-big band featuring Harold Land on tenor sax. This is west coast jazz, big on arrangements, experimentation and international influences, but its not ‘cool’ jazz as a lot of people tend to think all west coast jazz from this time period was ‘cool’ jazz.

The album’s title track is the only number recorded in New York with a different band, and it almost sounds like the famous party song, “Tequila”. Gabor’s syncopated Latin riffs on this one intertwine with the tenor sax melody in polyrhythmic fashion. The rest of the album features the west coast mini-big band. The high point on the rest of side one is “Tarantula”, a free jazz jam that has Gabor battling with Land on top of Chico’s busy drum work. Side two is a little stronger as the band gets into some extended fusion jams that would sound better if Hamilton and bassist Albert Stinson were mixed higher. Gabor’s “Swampy” features Chico doing his best New Orleans second line drumming style. This album has a couple songs that seem like jams or just filler, but top musicianship from Chico, Gabor and the others still make this an interesting listen.

BRAD MEHLDAU Your Mother Should Know : Brad Mehldau Plays The Beatles

Live album · 2023 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Much like some other aging jazz musicians such as Bill Frisell and John Scofield, Brad Mehldau seems to be heading in a somewhat nostalgic direction these days. His previous album saw him exploring the prog rock of his youth, and now his latest, “Your Mother Should Know”, goes back a bit further and into the musical reign of The Beatles. If you have ever heard Brad’s lengthy improv on “Bitter Sweet Symphony”, then you will know that he can pull things never imagined before from the simplest pop tune, but this Beatles tribute is not that extravagant. Instead, on this album Mehldau more or less stays with the original tune, both in melody and in the general length of the song, but what he inserts while exploring these songs makes for some fascinating listening.

The handful of Beatle songs that jazz musicians like to play are on here, particularly “Here, There and Everywhere”, a song well on its way to becoming a ‘standard’, but there is also some sillier stuff that one wouldn’t expect a jazzer to touch. In the well written pamphlet that accompanies this CD, Brad explains how he found it interesting that The Beatles would often dive into older styles of pop and vaudeville. In that style Brad gives us, “Your Mother Should Know”, and an Art Tatum and Ellington influenced version of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. On, “I Saw Her Standing There”, Mehldau digs into his boogie-woogie chops, something he is not usually known for.

“I am the Walrus” may be the artiest art pop song ever, and a real challenge for a solo piano player, but Brad handles it well by mostly sticking to the structure of the original with some interesting embellishments added. Yes, this album is kind of ‘cute’ and nostalgic, but there is enough true artistry and imaginative changing of harmonies and tone colors to make it interesting to even the hardcore jazz fan, or someone who just likes creative contemporary music. A hallmark of Brad’s playing is that he rarely gives into gratuitous flash, every note he plays counts and is well considered, and that is why he is so adept with pop material as pop songs are often composed under similar constraints.

MILES DAVIS Miles in the Sky

Album · 1968 · Fusion
Cover art 4.13 | 39 ratings
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Well if you are keeping score at home, “Miles in the Sky” is the album on which Miles started mixing rock and RnB into his music. Now if you think Miles was the first jazz artists to do this, well then you have a lot of music history to catch up on as jazz artists had been mixing rock n roll and RnB into their music since the early 50s when rock and RnB were birthed from a combination of jump blues and African American church music. The main difference between soul jazz and fusion was the fact that rock and RnB itself changed considerably in the late 60s, but that’s a subject for a whole nother essay.

“Miles in the Sky” opens up with Tony Williams cutting a persistent rock beat on “Stuff”, but this isn’t your standard pop rock of the day, no, this is Miles Davis and this track is far more abstract than what most rock bands were playing at the time. Herbie Hancock is playing the Fender Rhodes with his best gospel/RnB riffs and Miles is working out his ‘angry trumpet’ sound that will become full flower on “Live at the Fillmore”. Side one closes out with the somewhat experimental, “Paraphernalia”, that hints at the ‘static’ music Miles will feature on “Get Up With It” and “On the Corner”. Guest guitarist George Benson turns in one of the more interesting solos in his career.

Side two kicks off with, “Black Comedy”, an aggressive post bop number that recalls the “Miles Smiles” album and is the closest thing to straight up jazz on the album, but there is still that unsettling rage lurking in the background. We are a long way from “My Funny Valentine” at this point. The album closer, “Country Son”, is the most ambitious number as the band shifts from RnB riffs to floating ambience and back again in a rotation of compositional ideas. So much of what we hear in jazz in the 2020s can be traced back to this album, the mixing of genres, the tendency towards abstraction and the unexpected twists and turns in arrangement. On this album Miles does away with an opening melody on all of the songs, and instead just cuts straight to the improvs and compositional structures. In many ways, ‘In the Sky’, is more forward looking than many of the more celebrated Miles Davis albums that will follow it. The one drawback is the sound and production, the entire album just sounds a bit flat and grey, but that still can’t stifle the amazing creativity at work here.

JOHN COLTRANE Africa / Brass

Album · 1961 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.60 | 26 ratings
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Much has been written about this album.

An album that can easily be defined as a masterpiece. Coltrane has made different masterpieces, each different from the other.

This album is not a quartet album, but it features a 'big band', there are 21 musicians featured on this album, but not all at once. The core 'band' is Coltrane/Tyner/Workman/Jones, with Dolphy doing the arrangments.

Somewhere I read the whole album is in the key of 'E', making this an even more brilliant album, because it is worlds apart from anything Bop stands for.

This is an album wich so much happening that any time you play it, you discover something new. I think it is more a modern classical album than a straight jazz album.

I don't know if this album propelled Impulse! or later albums by Coltrane. I think that Nelson's Blues and the Abstract Truth was more succesfull, though, but I really don't know these things.

Back to Africa/Brass, a wonderful album with a lot of brass (horns), wonderful musicians, and everyone is really enjoying themselves and giving their best. You can really tell.

ART BLAKEY Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers : Soul Finger

Album · 1965 · Soul Jazz
Cover art 3.86 | 2 ratings
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A curious album, as it features both Hubbard and Morgan on trumpet. One would expect a lot of fireworks, but instead it's a rather tame album. Does that make it a bad album? No, not in my opinion. This one was released by Limelight and not Blue Note, and because of that it is a rather obscure release. In that sense that I did not even know of its existence.

There are some pleasant suprises on this record like the soprano saxophone of Lucky Thompson on the third track, wich is a played as a quartet (Blakey, Hicks, Sproles and Thompson). It is also a composition by Thompson. So it's kind of at odds on this album, but nevertheless a wonderful song.

Other important things about this album is, that is the last one to feauture Lee Morgan and it is also Gary Bartz's recording debut.

There are a lot of releases after this record, but the recordings are of earlier dates. This album is more of a transitionairy album, where Blakey and the Jazz Messengers make kind of bland albums (at least, the ones I heard of), until the Marsalis-brothers joined the band. Then the fire is back.

Soul Finger sure is a record to search for, Hubbard and Morgan together on trumpet is just a treat. Just listen to the groovy Freedom Monday to get a taste.

MAX ROACH Lift Every Voice and Sing

Album · 1971 · Jazz Related Gospel
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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A magnificent record blending all styles possible to an almost new style/genre.

Musically this is post-bop, but with all the vocals going on, there's gospel, soul and r&b aswell. This album can be considered a heavy variant on what Marvin Gaye and Aretha franklin were up to.

If only there were more cross-over albums like this. One could also consider this to be spiritual jazz, because of the lyrical concept, but it is too heavy and swinging to be considered spiritual jazz. It is almost impossible to define its genre/style.

Amidst all the vocals there's also Billy Harper playing some heave almost free-ish saxophone. The piano of George Cables really fit the gospel/blues-approach of the album. A wonderful line-up, if you ask me.

The only one really missed here is Abbey Lincoln, but Dorothy White and Ruby McClure can also really sing loud and powerful.

This really is one of Roach's masterpieces, and perhaps one of jazz's masterpieces.


Album · 1967 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.96 | 12 ratings
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From a distance of 50+ years, Pharoah Sander's second studio album (and his Impulse! debut) sounds a bit different than it did some decades ago. Sanders made his name working with John Coltrane on his avant-garde jazz albums, but it's Alice Coltrane's "astral jazz" which sounds much closer to the music on "Tauhid".

Just three songs, of which "Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt", the opener, lasts more than 16 minutes. Long slow-tempo piano/guitar intro sounded great in spiritual jazz meditative fashion of the time, but today is obviously too long. Sanders' sax starts after 9th minute only and it sounds mellow and relaxed, far from his signature explosive free jazz soloing. There are lot of tunes snippets on this song (sometimes recalling Coltrane's "A Love Supreme"), and even more - Eastern rhythms. The other two songs (vinyl edition side B) are a bit more energetic, both contain extravagant world rhythms. To be precise, there are only a few moments of Sander's more energetic, almost harsh sax soloing on all three tracks. At the same time, there are some of his flute soloing as well, which is an acquired taste mostly.

Sanders will develop "spiritual jazz" on his later releases, often moving towards post-bop or even r'n'b. "Tauhid" sometimes had almost cult status as his impressive solo beginning. It still is his important work, showing from where his music came.


Album · 1972 · Soul Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Although the line-up to this album is a great line-up (featuring hardboppers Cedar Walton and Billy Higgins amongst others), the aim of this album is mainstream funk.

It is a pleasant album, with some great solos, some nice electric guitar by Ted Dunbar, some funky and swinging grooves by Higgins, but it lacks a certain something.

Fuller tries hard here to make a mainstream-record, even the label is called mainstream, and the compositions in fact are not that bad, but somehow I don't like the overuse of the electric piano (courtesy of Cedar Walton) on this album. Also the electric bass is used on one to many songs.

Especially the first song drags on for too long, without really going anywhere. Fuller had made so much better records, as a leader or with the Jazztet / Jazz Messengers.

I do like the solos: trumpet by Bill Hardman, trombone, saxes by Jimmy Heath and guitar by Ted Dunbar. The songs on the B-side are more hardboppish, but are mostly ruined by the electric bass. The purist jazz-song is Stella By Starlight with acoustic bass and acoustic piano, and some magnificent soloing by Fuller. A real treat!

As a jazzfunk album it is okay, somewhat reminescent of what Nucleus was putting out these days. But there are already so many of these jazzrock/softfunk albums, that it almost sounds too easylistening for me.

SONNY ROLLINS Plus 4 (aka 3 Giants!)

Album · 1956 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.41 | 5 ratings
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Sonny Rollins Plus 4 is essentially the Clifford Brown - Max Roach Quintet, but with Sonny Rollins, who replaced Harold Land.

The reason why this album is released under the name Sonny Rollins, is because he is the leader on this album, also supplying two original compositions, in addition to three standards.

This albums is also the last album to feature Brown and pianist Richie Powell, as they both die in a carcrash, later that year.

On a side-note, there is also a album under the name Max Roach Plus 4, but that album was recorded after the death of both Brown and Powell, and features both Rollins and bassist George Morrow. Trumpeteer Kenny Dorham, and pianists Ray Bryant and Bill Wallace replace Brown and Powell.

On this Rollins plus Four, you hear the original Brown/Roach Quintet as it also featured on the marvelous live album On Basin Street (recorded january, februari 1956). This album was recorded in march.

The quality of playing is high, as the band is very tight, maybe the tightest rhythmsection (Roach, Morrow, Powell) imaginable, and the solo's of Rollins and Brown are great. They are both on fire and their phrasing and delivery fit very well.

Most songs are mid- and uptempo, really delivering a punch. This album is an essential hard-bop album and also is an important historical document, because it is the last (studio)album with Brown and Powell.

ART BLAKEY Impulse!!!!! Art Blakey!!!!! Jazz Messengers!!!!!

Album · 1961 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.88 | 4 ratings
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This line-up of The Jazz Messengers (Blakey, Fuller, Morgan, Shorter, Timmons, Merritt) is a very special line-up. It is the first line-up as a sextet, adding master-trombonist Fuller to the line-up. It will also be the last one with Bobby Timmons, who will be replaced by Cedar Walton on the next albums.

Fuller not only shows his soulful trombone-playing but also writes the first composition on this record, showing how good a composer he actually is.

The weirdest thing about this album, is that the only original is said composition by Fuller. All the others (who are excellent composers) have not contributed. All the other five compositions are standards.

But the band really know how to play these standards, with that special Jazz Messengers-sound. They all sound nothing like we've heard before. I must say that this is the most beautiful version of Invitation I have heard uptil now.

The playing on this album is more than excellent. The album is full force Hard Bop wich is kind of odd, as it is released on Impulse!. One would expect a more out-there album, but on the other hand, what would you expect of a Jazz Messengers album.

An unique album in the history of hardbop as it pairs Fuller and Timmons, who both have a very soulful and bluesy approach.

The solo's of Morgan and Shorter are also of very high standard and the whole album sounds warm and cosy. This is really an underrated and lesser known Jazz-Messengers album, but I can sure recommend it to anyone.


Album · 2013 · Fusion
Cover art 3.54 | 7 ratings
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Steve Wyzard

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.

YUSEF LATEEF The Golden Flute

Album · 1966 · Hard Bop
Cover art 3.75 | 6 ratings
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Like the other Impulses this is not Lateefs best work. But still it is of high standard. Lateef is not only a gifted saxophone-player but also one of the best jazz-flautists I know.

On this album most songs are straight forward hardbop with saxophone and rhythmsection, but there are some surprises, like the playful 'Exactly Like You' with some upbeat oboe-playing. An uplifting song, and if the oboe is not your instrument, I can understand, but I really enjoy the oboe in jazz.

The absolute high-point of this album is the titletrack, a wonderful and adventurous composition with some excellent interplay in the rhythmsection. The fluteplaying here is really beautiful as is the cymbalwork and the mallet-played tomtoms by Roy Brooks jr. The compositions is very mysterious and has an middle-eastern flavour. Not only a highpoint of this album, but a highpoint in jazz-flute-history.

I can understand that the Impulse!-albums of Lateef to some are a bit of disappointment. But on the other hand, the playing is magnificent and the production is really good. In fact the Impulses of Lateef are great hard/post bop albums with some excellent suprises. They are not freejazz, avant garde or out-there or the new thing, but enjoyable nevertheless.

YUSEF LATEEF Psychicemotus

Album · 1965 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.77 | 6 ratings
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This one may not be the best and most adventurous album of Lateef, but it sure is one of his most coherent.

A mostly mellow affair, with some hardbop thrown in the mix (the heavy and intense Semiocto), but like I said it's mostly modal jazz and ballads. But Yusef really knows how to blow a ballad. There are also a blues-piece and a wonderful adaption of my favorite composition in the world (Satie's Gymnopedie). Inn this version we have the flute playing the melody, and the rhythmsection (piano, drums and bass) filling in the gaps. Great playful drumming by James Black.

The most out-there composition is Medula Sonata, wich is a joy to listen to. A lot of percussion and great saxophone-playing and lot of dissonants make this composition the only real free-ish song on this album.

There is also a solo-piece by pianist Georges Arvanitas at the end of Side B, wich is a nice addition and a surprise to my ears. I have not heard of Arvanitas before, but he has a nice flowing playing-style.

There's is no oboe on this album, just tenor saxophone, flute and bamboo-flute. But that's okay. This album is definately a great Lateef-album and also a great Impulse!-album. I can strongly recommend this one.


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