Jazz Music Reviews

PAT METHENY From This Place

Album · 2020 · Fusion
Cover art 4.91 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
darkshade
Pat is back! With a new lineup, bringing over long-time bandmate at this point, Antonio Sanchez, on drums. On bass is Linda May Han Oh, and on piano is Gwilym Simcock. The band is backed up by an orchestra. This is arguably one of his best albums over a 50 year career, which is quite a feat this late in the game. I haven't felt this great about a Pat Metheny album since The Way Up, released almost 15 years prior to this album. There's been some good stuff released in between, but nothing that has been as enjoyable as anything from 2005 and earlier... until From This Place.

From the massive prog-jazz opening track America Undefined, to the final heartfelt Love May Take Awhile, this album is a journey, and an emotional roller coaster, as Pat's best albums usually are. I enjoy every track here. The opener is very intense, with even some kind of rock out section in the last part, very exciting way to open things up. Same River is very classic Pat Metheny, Pathmaker is possibly the most fun tune on this album, and the harmonica player from The Way Up appears on The Past Is Us, a great tune. The emotional title song touches on the political climate of the late 2010s, but I think the final two pieces, Sixty-Six, written for Pat's age at the time, and the aforementioned Love May Take Awhile, are two of the most powerful pieces of music Pat has put out yet. The orchestral strings really shine on these last two.

I am reminded of Lyle Mays throughout this album, who passed away about a week before this album was released. The tune Sixty-Six takes on a whole other meaning for that is the age Lyle was at his passing, and the music is reminiscent of the Pat Metheny Group classic, "Last Train Home" makes it seem like a tribute to the life of Lyle Mays. The piano work of Gwilym Simcock is to be commended as he really brings out the spirit of Lyle throughout the music of From This Place. The orchestra does this as well, providing the synth-heavy background ambience Lyle would often provide in the PMG along with is piano playing, with an orchestra instead.

Overall, this album is like a marriage of Secret Story and The Way Up, while also bringing back some of the mid-Western sound from the 70s bands, with a pinch of the 80s PMG sound for good measure. All the while pushing things forward, there are many surprises throughout, some things I've never heard Pat do before. As far as his guitar playing, of course it's fantastic as usual, but this time he sounds more inspired than usual as of late, and his classic tone is back. Pat has never sounded so good. His clean guitar tone here is well balanced and warm, unlike his previous few albums where his tone was dry, far-away sounding, and cold.

Highly recommended for anyone who is even slightly into Pat's music. Great album from the modern master of Jazz.

MASAHIKO SATOH 佐藤允彦 Masahiko Satoh Trio : Transformation '69/'71

Album · 1971 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
Almost all of Japanese pianist Masahiko Sato's albums were released solely in Japan which means they are not easily accessible in the Western world. For those interested in the best Japanese jazz, his name is probably heard, but the problem is where to start with his prolific discography.

Being one of the very best Japanese jazz pianists of the last half-a-century (the other equal name is Yosuke Yamashita), Sato released plenty of albums, and they all are quite different stylistically. He was one of the leading stars of the early Japanese avant-garde jazz scene, switched towards fusion later, returned back to freer forms, collaborated with more modern electronics wizards, etc, etc.

Still, if you are new to his music, and want to chose the one album where to start, "Transformation '69/'71" is the place.

Side A is recorded in 1969 and the music is excellent post-bop, groovy and elegant, with Sato's original "Tigris" being almost a jazz standard level song.

Side B is recorded with the same trio (including another Japanese avant-garde jazz scene legend drummer Masahiko Togashi and more straight and lesser known acoustic bassist Yasuo Arakawa), but two years later. The album's title comes from those two session dates and the second one is polarly different from the first one.

Still with some beauty and grace, the trio here plays knotty jazz with lots of air inside. As it is characteristic almost exclusively to early avant-garde jazz, being a free form music here radiates some spiritual energy and doesn't sound as formalistic experiment at all. It's interesting that "cosmic" effects on side B are produced by Togashi percussion, not early synth.

It doesn't evidence Satos' evolution from mainstream towards free jazz though, since during these same few years he played very different music (the good example of his r'n'b / jazz rock album is 1970 "Bridge Over Troubled Water").

This short (less than 35 minutes) album is a quintessence of Satoh's music, and it's sound quality is extremely high even for so high raised Japanese jazz recordings sound standards of the early 70s. Original vinyl is a rarity, but 2011 CD reissue (of same excellent crisp sound) being out of press still circulates on secondary market.

JOHN DAVERSA Cuarentena : With Family at Home

Album · 2020 · Latin Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
Its not unusual for a John Daversa album to carry a theme outside of the music itself, so it is with his new album, “Cuarantena: With Family at Home”, on which he explores the importance of familial relationships in a time of quarantine through a collection of boleros, a musical form that was often a part of his family gatherings when he was young. Many of these compositions by Daversa are homages to various family members, and also many other of the compositions were written by other family members. Interspersed between the tracks, the various members of Daversa’s quintet discuss how family and music interact in their own lives. Speaking of the assembled quintet for the recording, this is an all-star ensemble with top names at every position; Gonzalo Rubalcaba on piano, Carlo De Rosa on bass, Dafnis Prieto on drums and Sammy Figueroa on percussion.

As mentioned already, every one of these songs is a bolero, but do not expect sameness, instead this album is laden with creative eclecticism. Boleros tend to be rhythmically laid back and very melodic, and you do get a lot of that on here, but there are variations too. “#45” features some high speed bebop unisons, “#22” contains fiery solo trade offs, “Puppitas” has a far out arrangement that borders on the avant-garde, and “#19”builds into an aggressive samba like energy. Still, the hallmark of “Cuarantena” are the more laid back boleros that fascinate with their open spaces and relaxed timing. The open spaces can almost recall a classic ECM disc, only with a Latin flavor and no icy reverb. When Daversa’s lonely trumpet plays over a sparse accompaniment I’m also reminded of Miles’ classic “Quiet Nights” album. All members of the band are careful not to overplay and the tracks are made more interesting because different members of the band will drop out of the mix for a while instead of all five going at it all the time. Overall, a most valuable player award could go to Rubalcaba whose wide ranging skills can add variety through his knowledge of post bop, Latin jazz and classical.

This is a beautiful album, very thoughtful and sensitive. Its great to hear musicians with mind blowing chops set their pyrotechnics aside for a while to just play music that anyone can relate to, not just fans of jazz or Latin music.

CHRISTIAN SCOTT (CHRISTIAN SCOTT ATUNDE ADJUAH) Axiom

Live album · 2020 · Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
Five years ago I saw Christian Scott playing live on his European tour with almost the same band (vocalist Isadora Mendez Scott is not on board, sax player Braxton Cook instead of current Alex Han and percussionist Joe Dyson instead of Weedie Braimah). He sounded quite similar to what is recorded on this newest album "Axiom", just here he sounds a bit better.

Exactly as during the gig I saw live, Scott speaks a lot, plays trumpet and manages his band well. Flutist Elena Pinderhughes is a night's star filling space with nice solos generally, not too knotty for the band's music. Lawrence Field's retro keys sound great and add a lot of 70s spirit.

Comparing with some of Scott's last studio albums, music here is much more organic, and that's for good. There is a groove and a lot of African percussion, and in general this album is not much different from today's popular London based African fusion influenced sound.

Exactly as during the concert I saw, songs here are quite long, being accessible and not too complex, the lengthiness can make the album simply sound a bit bulky as a result. Still, taking in account all the pros and cons, "Axiom" is probably the best Scott album I have ever heard.

CHICO HAMILTON Chico Hamilton Trio Introducing Freddy Gambrell

Album · 1958 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
Freddie Gambrell is another pianist you can file under the tag, ‘one of the best piano players you never heard of.’. The reason you probably never heard of him is that he only recorded three albums, and the best of those three, “Chico Hamilton Presents Freddie Gambrell”, shows up in the Chico Hamilton discography, not Gambrell‘s. The best way I can introduce Freddie is to describe how I found his playing. I was listening to a 5 CD collection of Chico Hamilton music from the late 50s on random shuffle when I noticed this rather odd and attention grabbing pianist would show up occasionally. His playing was rooted in hard bop, but there were these weird surprises and unexpected jumps in his solos. All of this was reminding me of Herbie Nichols or Jaki Byard, but this guy was obviously neither of them. I didn’t even think that Chico ever worked with a pianist, but upon checking the CD package I see there is this one album with pianist Freddie Gambrell, someone I was not familiar with at all, so I wanted to find out more.

Apparently after recording this one album with Chico in 1958, Freddie released two more in 1959, with neither making much of an impact and although he worked regularly in San Francisco for the rest of his life, both as a pianist and big band leader, you can not find much more information about him than that. So really, the best of Freddie’s lasting legacy is just this one album with Hamilton. The style on here is west coast hard bop, in other words somewhat laid back. Chico and bassist Ben Tucker provide a rhythmic pocket for Gambrell but not much else. There is little interplay between the players and no bass or drum solos either, this is very much a Gambrell solo act. Freddie’s playing is rooted in the pre-Bill Evans school of Art Tatum and Erroll Garner, with a lot of blues thrown in as well. Then there are his unique excursions that can go anywhere unpredictably, this is what grabbed my attention about this guy in the first place, and its what continues to get my attention anytime I give him a listen. If you like any of the other pianists I referenced in this review, or other slightly off-kilter players like Monk or Ellington, then give Gambrell a try. This is one jazz musician who should be better known.

WYNTON MARSALIS Wynton Marsalis & Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra : The Ever Fonky Lowdown

Album · 2020 · Third Stream
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
After an incredibly long and productive buildup, it looks like Wynton Marsalis has hit the apex of his career with “The Ever Fonky Low Down”, a tour de force of spoken word, music and dance that speaks volumes against the negative forces that have been on the rise in recent times. The album itself is excellent, but I do hope someday he makes the filmed performance of this more available because with dancers, a large music ensemble and a charismatic narrator in Wendall Pierce, much of the appeal of this opus is visual. The real star of the show here is the lengthy text read by Pierce as the hustling character, Mr Game (“Sell you a loan that will take your home“). Mr Game is part insincere wealthy preacher, corrupt politician and conniving criminal hustler all rolled into one as he attempts to brainwash his audience. The words were all written by Wynton, who is apparently just as talented at libretto as he is with music as he displays the background for the cynical logic that threatens our world today. I won’t try to give out too many details about Mr Game’s rap as he tries to deride ‘they’ and buildup ‘his people’, but you will hear similarities to Hitler’s speech about the Polish people, Trump’s exaggerated and fabricated claims about illegal immigrants and the twisted logic of those who try to justify, or deny, the evils of slavery, genocide and ‘ethnic cleansing’. But its not just about the Mr Games of the world, instead, Wynton is challenging us to look deeper at how we react to Mr Game and his opponents. Do we let them manipulate and divide us, or are we able to think for ourselves and keep our moral compass on track.

The rhythms on here are pure New Orleans in many flavors such as RnB, Dixieland, odd metered modern jazz, post bop modal grooves, street marches and more. On top of this rhythmic foundation Wynton interjects his orchestrations that show similarities to Ellington, Mingus, Stravinsky, Bernstein and Sun Ra. There are plenty of hot solos from the all-star band and lots of free form interaction during the longer jams. It's very telling that the music is based in New Orleans, that fertile birthplace of creativity from which a subjugated people ended up spreading their culture and changing much of the world. As mentioned before, this is a very visual production and its great watching the three male dancers improvise and move in synchronicity with methods taken from jazz ballet and New Orleans street dancing. Also enjoyable is Wendall Pierce’s very charismatic performance, especially when his eyes flash like the devil when Mr Game moves in for the ‘closer‘. Wynton's hand picked musicians bring much personality to the proceedings as well, particularly the three female singers and blues/country guitarist and vocalist Doug Wamble, whose southern drawl can sound charming and also ironically troubling.

What makes ‘Fonky Lowdown’ so powerful is that Marsalis has very thoroughly laid out what dangers lay in wait in today’s world. In a recent interview Wynton pointed out, “This is no time to be sleep walking”. I was already aware of much of what Marsalis relates here, but I have never heard it all illustrated in such a cohesive manner, once again, in Wynton’s own words, “showing us a blueprint on how to rise above populist propaganda”. Don’t expect easy answers or liberal platitudes on how to make things better. Also don't expect cliche shaming and a roll call of past grievances. Instead, Marsalis is shooting for bigger game as he displays the thinking that allows those that should know better to stand by while the 'Mr Games' of the world go about their business. 'Fonky Lowdown' is a call for everyone to pay attention and be ready to act if needed.

CHARLES TOLLIVER Connect

Album · 2020 · Fusion
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
Trumpeter Charles Tolliver made his name during the late 60s-early 70s, playing creative post bop in small bands with pianist Stanley Cowell and sax player Gary Bartz among others and co-founding an impressive progressive big band Music Inc. His albums from early 70s all are classics and sound pretty well even now.

From late 70s Tolliver disappeared from active recordings with a very few predominantly live recordings coming from 90s and 00's. "Connect" is his first studio album in fourteen years.

Recorded and released in UK, the veteran's album is of traditional 70s size - 39 minutes (or vinyl LP) long. It contains four Tolliver originals, some of them has been already heard on his more current albums in big band arrangements. His cross-generation all-American quintet (recorded in renown RAK studio during European tour) contains seasoned musicians bassist Buster Williams (played with Herbie Hancock and Archie Shepp among many others) and drummer Lenny White (of RTF fame), mid-generation altoist Jesse Davis and youngster pianist Keith Brown. Fashionable Brits tenor Binker Golding participates as a guest on two tracks.

Well recorded, music itself is quite conservative and recalls more early fusion era than second decade of a New Millennium. What is not necessarily a bad thing, just depending on the listener's taste. Compositions are tight, up-tempo, quite straight and not too knotty, just well played without any tricks. Fans of early fusion ca.72 will probably enjoy the sound which is really rare nowadays.

There are two reasons why "Connect" isn't as great an album as some of Tolliver's best works. First, compositions are not all that memorable, and second - drummer Lenny White (as almost always) sounds very much as rock drummer in a jazz band - heavyweight,straight-forward and non-subtle that doesn't add elegance to whole music at all. It's interesting that Binker Golding's, who is an artist of very different background and generation, soloing is quite successful and embellishes the song's sound a lot.

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Between Nothingness & Eternity

Live album · 1973 · Fusion
Cover art 3.49 | 21 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
Although most Mahahvishnu Orchestra fans tend to go for their first two studio albums, its the third album, the live “Between Nothingness and Eternity”, that best captures what this band was best at, high energy hard rock. Whereas other fusion pioneers of the day were mixing and matching various genres and cultures, Maha went straight for the rock jugular, mixing a Deep Purple/Hendrix Experience adrenaline fueled rhythm overdrive with solos that fused bebop agility with rock n roll sledge hammer tonality. There was nothing particularly subtle about this group, and that’s why many jazz fans were not interested, but many rock fans embraced them as a band that set a higher standard for ultimate shredding. “Eternity‘s” recording quality is far from perfect, there is distortion and uneven sound balances, the performance is somewhat sloppy, but that intense explosive energy that was this band’s salient feature comes through more on this live outing than it does on their previous studio albums. Consider “Eternity” to be the first ‘punk jazz’ album if you will.

There are lots of cool musical highlights to be found on here. Side one opens with McLaughlin’s signature sweeping tamboura like guitar arpeggios that promise a special performance to come. A few minutes into this side Cobham launches into a high speed double time beat that foreshadows the hardcore thrash scene that will happen in the 80s. This side closes with “Sister Andrea”, which features one of the funkiest Fender Rhodes riffs ever. The best highlight on side two comes when the rest of the band backs off and allows Cobham and McLaughlin to take off on a high speed conversation that matches the old Mitchell/Hendrix jams for a display of two guys who really enjoy each other’s musical company. That interchange also shows how Maha was essentially a McLaughlin and Cobaham band. Bassist Rick Laird does well, but he is essentially a jazz musician. Violinist Jerry Goodman digs into the funk numbers, but seems over his head when Cobham turns up the tempo. Keyboardist Jan Hammer deals with the music by more or less imitating McLaughlin.

John’s original idea for the band was supposed to be himself, Cobham, Larry Young on keyboards, Jean Luc Ponty on violin and Tony Levin on bass. That would have been the better band as both Young and Ponty would have brought more original ideas that could have stood on their own and countered McLaughlin’s intensity.

MAGIC MALIK Magic Malik Fanfare XP, Vol. 2

Album · 2020 · Nu Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
You may have noticed the recent drop off in new albums since the world wide pandemic put a serious dent in things. As many people seek the refuge of self quarantine, artists have been forced to dig through their recording archives and release things that may not have been put out under better circumstances. We can consider our selves very fortunate that Magic Malik was able to release “Fanfare XP Vol 2” while things cleared up in Europe for a while, because at this point, this album looks to be one of the best this year so far.

For many jazz woodwind players, the flute is a secondary instrument, something to play when they aren’t playing saxophone, but for Malik, it is his main axe, and it shows. Malik gets a big beefy sound out of the flute, no small feat as it can lean towards shrill thinness very easily. “Vol 2”, like many of his albums, features a fairly large ensemble with big sounding horns like the trombone to compete with, but Malik’s muscular flute tone is always able to elbow its way into the mix. Making yourself heard is not always easy in a Malik composition as he often has more than one solo going at a time, plus most tracks feature busy ensemble arrangements that compete with the soloists for air time.

You could roughly categorize the music on “Vol 2” as ‘nu jazz’, due to its use of modern beats and tasteful electronics, but unlike other trendy nu jazz offerings that tend to be lite and fluffy, Malik’s compositions are big on substance and innovation. Its that balance of attractive modernity and deep complex musical arrangements that promote concentrated listening that make “Vol 2” such a success. It’s not boorishly heavy, but it is definitely way more than hip background. If you want to hear something new in jazz that will still sound great 50 years from now, “Fanfare XP Vol 2” is your ticket.

TOWER OF POWER Step Up

Album · 2020 · Funk
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
Tower Of Power were a true giant of funk in the seventies, and even if they celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2018, they are not going to slow down. Their previous release "Soul Side of Town" was a perfect one, presenting rich sound of funky brass band with excellent vocals and quality songwriting. From very first seconds, their most current album "Step Up" sounds as continuation of that previous one, and it's not strange at all.

The opener "East Bay! All the Way!" jumps right on the dance floor but unexpectedly disappears after less than a minute (very same way as on their previous album). What comes after is "Tower Of Power" at their best - beautiful vocal harmonies, memorable tunes and groovy perfectly arranged music, on the level of their best releases, coming from the 70s.

Under the skin, new album is not actually all that new - it contains solely tracks from the same sessions which gave us their previous release, "Soul Side of Town". Then, its pros and cons lay right in its origin. The material is surprisingly strong since we're speaking about the album of outtakes, some songs are possibly even stronger than some numbers included in "Soul Side of Town". From the other hand, there are no visible difference in sound, arrangements or compositions between current and the previous release. "Step Up" could easily be a second half of imaginary double "Soul Side of Town" set.

Both albums represent best funk and groovy r'n'b coming right from the 70s, the genre's golden age. After many line-up changes, the band still is rooted in their founders Emilio Castillo lead vocals/tenor sax and Stephen ‘Doc’ Kupka bari, and the full sound of a twelve-piece band with some guests. There is no particular use of electronics, and no traces of more modern arrangements, but for fans of big sound of funk/r'n'b bands from 70s, (like Earth,Wind & Fire), this music is a real pleasure. If you like it that way, and still didn't listen to "Soul Side of Town", better start there. If you already like "Soul Side of Town", take "Step Up" for another doze of excellent music.

ROBERT FRIPP (No Pussyfooting) (with Eno)

Album · 1973 · Jazz Related Improv/Composition
Cover art 3.69 | 6 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
Robert Fripp and Brian Eno’s “No Pussyfooting” will probably be regarded as a ground breaking recording in the long run of music history, but it was barely noticed when it came out in the mid-70s. In fact, I would imagine that many who bought this back then were pretty disappointed in what they had just purchased. Both artists at the time were enjoying successful art rock careers and I am sure many were looking for a cross between Fripp’s King Crimson and Eno’s Roxy Music, only to find that their collaborative effort sounded nothing like either of those bands. This album is not the first ambient album, but it is one of the first to be marketed toward a rock/pop audience, and as such it broke all sorts of new ground that both artists would go on to enjoy as ambient music continued to be a big part of their careers, as well as the careers of the thousands of artists that they inspired. Ever since the mid-90s electronica boom, ambient music has become a very popular genre, and you can trace the roots of that popularity right back to Fripp and Eno.

Side one opens with an F# drone that Fripp solos over in a raga like style in the Dorian minor mode. His solos are given infinite sustain via Eno’s tape loop methods. Once again, Eno was not the first person to use tape loops like this, but possibly the first to use them in this sort of Hendrix meets Shankar psychedelic sound that would eventually attract the more experimental side of the rock world. Side two uses a busier backdrop via Eno’s VCS3 synthesizer as Fripp solos in E Ionian, Mixolydian and Lydian modes before finally fading out. Fortunately Robert is a very talented soloist who has no problem constructing an interesting narrative over a drone like background, otherwise, this album could have been a real snooze-fest.

Given the long history of ambient music at this point, this album does not sound particularly unusual anymore, but back in the day many of us were watching the record spin around for the first time and wondering when was the drum beat going to kick in, ha. It never kicks in. Welcome to your brave new ambient future.

SAM RIVERS Sam Rivers trio - featuring Cecil McBee and Norman Connors : Emanation

Live album · 2019 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
Reedist Sam Rivers was one of key figures in New York loft jazz, but before that he did his name playing as a member of Cecil Taylor's group. Rivers left only a limited amount of recordings coming from the 70s, so any archival release from that time attracts interest of artist's fans.

"Emanation" comes from 1971 Rivers' Jazz Workshop residency in Boston and contains just one 76-minutes long track, divided in two parts because of physical vinyl album space limitations. "Emanation" represents a rare recording of early Rivers' trio with bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Norman Connors, which has been documented only once till now - on excellent (and as well live) "Stream", recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1973 and released same year on Impulse!.

Trio format for Rivers usually was a platform for his most freer experiments and "Emanation" is no exemption. The album opens with inspired sax soloing tuneful and playful, and high energizing all at once. Sound quality is quite acceptable for such sort of recordings, but the mix is a real problem here. Drums fill the sound mix with lot of cymbals, but what is even worse - at 11:25 Rivers leaves the scene for McBee's almost five minutes long bass solo improv, during which the listener hears almost nothing, especially during the very first minutes. Bass is placed far behind the scene on the sound mix, and it's a real pity since McBee does a really great job here.

At 16:00 Rivers returns with flute, and then switches to piano (sounding a bit out of tune and too far behind the scene in the mix as well). Still in whole the recording demonstrates pretty well the spirit and energy of the time, and evidences Rivers great ability at playing post-bop rooted free jazz in his own inspired and quite accessible way.

"Emanation" is a great addition for Rivers (who was under-documented, especially during his early solo period) fans. Not really a place to start for newbies, it is a valuable evidence of this great artist's legacy and in general - the spirit of the time.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN Extrapolation

Album · 1969 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.76 | 19 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
John McLaughlin, much like his contemporary and sometimes band mate, Chick Corea, started his career with a very distinctive style, only to abandon that approach and tone things down for the rest of his career. Interesting to note that both were influenced by guru types when they changed their way of playing. “Extrapolation” is McLughlin’s first album as a leader and features a young guitarist willing to take crazy chances while plying with a fierce intensity that never totally returns on subsequent albums. Don’t get me wrong, John had many more great performances and recordings throughout the rest of his career, but he never again played with the freedom and abandon he does here. This McLaughlin has a rough approach that is both avant-garde and rootsy at the same time, especially compared to the po0lished sheen of many of his later albums.

The music on “Extrapolation” is all McLaughlin originals that combine bop, blues, free jazz, RnB and Indian music. Besides John, the next star of the show here is the versatile and energetic drumming of Tony Oxley, who is right at home playing anything from bluesy grooves to all out free onslaughts. John Surman’s gnarly baritone fit’s the gritty music perfectly as he adds his solos that combine RnB riffing with soaring free jazz. Brian Odges is an anchor on bass, and his well recorded input adds strength to the mix. Many of the tunes are very short and eclectic ranging from ballads to avant-garde bebop, but the best tracks are the longer ones where the band is given time to build their intensity. Listen to John’s intense note bends influenced by Indian music. Along with dropping the freer tonality, McLaughlin never recorded as much in that style again. Indian note bends have always been a part of his playing, but on this first album he merges this with a soulful blues flavor that adds so much bite to his solos. Some of John’s subsequent work with Miles Davis also features his earlier approach to the guitar.

MARC JOHNSON Second Sight

Album · 1987 · Fusion
Cover art 4.25 | 4 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
Steve Wyzard
ENDLESS SUMMER DAY

If you've never been convinced that a back-cover photograph could epitomize an album of instrumental performances, take a look at Dieter Rehm's placid beach scene on the back of Marc Johnson's Second Sight (1987). While Johnson's first album with the same line-up (1986's Bass Desires) was an off-the-wall avant-garde surprise, Second Sight, while retaining some of the same textures, is otherwise very different. This is a much more cohesive, accessible, thought-provoking, and yes, relatively quieter album that doesn't sacrifice any of Bass Desires's sense of adventure or experimentalism. Second Sight remains the better album for the simple reason of more memorable compositions and atmospheres. Which of course begs the question, "Why is there a lone helicopter over the ocean on the front cover?"

The vigorous drumming of Peter Erskine and the howling guitar trade-offs of Bill Frisell (left-channel) and John Scofield (right-channel) mark "Crossing the Corpus Callosum" as a continuation of the previous album. The beach seems very far away in this musical depiction of a futuristic landscape with Frisell's special effects and Johnson's arco playing. From here on out, the sonic atmosphere changes radically, with Frisell's following "Small Hands" being a gently picked largo. Erskine's "Sweet Soul" is one of those magical moods you wish could last forever: somewhat reminiscent of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows", Scofield takes the first verse, Frisell the second verse, and both join together on two choruses for this album's most soulful (naturally) track. Before anyone thinks this has become an easy-listening album, Scofield's "Twister" and "Thrill Seekers" restore order with twangy guitars, rock'n'roll clichés, offbeat drumming, bizarre basslines, and much soloing. Johnson, who never dominates the material, takes his first solo on "Thrill Seekers", which fades with more of Frisell's loopy effects. "Prayer Beads" is entirely a solo piece for Johnson, with a performance moving from leisurely to energetic. Listen to the double-bass strings snap against the fretboard in a resonant recording studio (credit: Rainbow/Oslo). "1951" is a quirky, country-ish Frisell composition with stops and starts, bends, slides, a wandering bridge, and subtle percussion from Erskine. The album closes peacefully with Johnson's "Hymn for Her".

Before recording this album, both Johnson and Erskine had guested on John Abercrombie's masterful Current Events, and many of the same ethereal atmospheres on that album appear on this one. In spite of the wild contrasts, Second Sight is a lot more beautiful and a lot more "just plain fun" than Bass Desires, and is highly recommended to fans of all the players involved. In 1998, Johnson and Frisell would record an album called The Sound of Summer Running that attempts to be an aural sequel to this album, but falls just short. It's on the Verve label, and has Pat Metheny replacing John Scofield, and Joey Baron instead of Peter Erskine.

MUHAL RICHARD ABRAMS Celestial Birds

Boxset / Compilation · 2020 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
It is almost an axiom that no-one likes compilations in jazz (and rock music as well). Still, there are hundreds and thousands of them, predominantly with the openly commercial reason of trying to sell old as new, usually collecting all the most successful pieces in one place.

"Celestial Birds" is oppositely different. It contains some more unusual Muhal Richard Abrams compositions, with a strong accent on early electronics sound.

Avant-garde jazz never had a commercial potential as musical genre, and it has even less in the 20's. The risk of releasing such albums is moderately high, but thanks to zeitkratzer series director Reinhold Friedl and German label Karlrecords the world got the rare possibility to refresh (and for many newcomers - to find out) this lesser know side of AACM founder.

Vinyl album's side A is dedicated to 22+ minutes long "The Bird Song", which originally filled whole side B of Abrams debut, "Levels and Degrees of Light", released in 1968. The composition opens with recitative Chicagoan poet David Moore's poem and continues with dominating analogue synthesizer's vibes scented with minimalist saxes(Anthony Braxton & Kalaparusha), bass(Leonard Jones), drums (Thurman Barker) and violin (Leroy Jenkins). Differently from later and more regular use of electronics in jazz, here the whole music sounds quite cold, technological and close to minimalist composers pieces. It's interesting, that for this compilation the original version of the song has been used, with reverberations removed from the CD reissues.

"Conversations With The Three Of Me" is taken from much later, 1989 album "The Hearinga Suite", released in Italy. Here we found Abrams playing solo, first on piano and then - on synth. Piano part sounds as neo-classic dry composition which ends as spacey synth improvs. "Think All, Focus One" is another Abrams solo composition, played solely on analogue synths (comes from 1995 album of the same name). Abrams sounds not much different from Frank Zappa playing Synclavier on his unorthodox album "Jazz From Hell". The closer, "Spihumonesty", is recorded with a larger combo, including Roscoe Mitchell on reeds among others. Dominating synths sound here is mixed with free jazz small orchestra.

Early recordings presented on this compilation are coming from the time when synthesizer meant actually an extremely expensive studio, which were rare and hardly accessible for the jazz musician. Abrams was among very first jazz musicians experimenting with synthesis of jazz and electronics, and his works sound interesting even now.

MAX ROACH Deeds, Not Words (aka Conversation)

Album · 1958 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.41 | 4 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
If you are looking for a midway point on that line that runs from ‘out there’ bebop to free jazz, Max Roach’s “Deeds not Words” would be a good place to start. Max is one of those young guys in the 1940s who helped invent the new radical style that became known as bebop. As time moved on, Max always stayed involved in what was happening, making him the perfect musician in the late 50s to craft a sound that bridged that short gap from Yardbird to Ornette. His crew on here share a similar vision, particularly trumpeter Booker Little, who eschewed the bluesier sounds of Miles and Lee Morgan for a busy and angular bop approach much like his frequent band mate, Eric Dolphy. Although the hectic energy on here is east coast, Max’s use of a three horn front line to build complex arrangements and intertwining contrapuntal lines is more like the west coast innovators of the day. Along with Booker, the front line includes George Coleman on tenor and Ray Draper on tuba.

Most of the tracks on here fall in the up tempo range, plus there is one ballad, and one odd sort of Latin groove titled “Filide“. “Filide” is a Draper original and it features the tuba prominently. Tuba can not be an easy instrument to solo on and Ray does about as good as anyone could hope to. The ballad, title track “Deeds not Words”, gives Little a great vehicle to show off how much he can do with and to a melody. Its interesting to note that Max’s drumming foreshadows the way drummers play today. Instead of just keeping time on the ride cymbal, Max is all over the kit and quite free in his approach as he maintains a constant interchange with the soloists. Although the original version of this album probably carries a hefty tag, the vinyl re-issue titled “Converstion” can be found at a very reasonable price.

CHRIS POTTER Circuits

Album · 2019 · Fusion
Cover art 4.95 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
Steve Wyzard
AWESTRUCK - SO MUCH MUSIC!

Don't let the word "much" throw you. This is not a long, meandering album. Rather it's an unparalleled exercise in how much music four gifted musicians can pack into a visceral 61:35. A huge departure from his relatively restrained work on ECM, not only is Circuits Chris Potter's best album yet, but it's also a strong contender for one of the best of the last decade.

This 21st century fusion masterpiece open with a brief "Invocation", a multi-tracked chorale with layers of saxes and clarinets. The temperature rises with the massive thrust of "Hold it", where James Francies's keyboards remind one of the mid-1970s performances of Hancock/Zawinul/Duke. "The Nerve" is this album's "Eastern"-flavored number, beginning with a loop-pedal of multi-tracked flutes before settling into a groove. "Koutome" features a bass clarinet intro and the bubbling/bustling drums and percussion of Eric Harland before a segue into the chaotic "Circuits". More tape-loops, a mind-bending synth solo, and sax lines of Monkian-complexity almost beg for transcription: I dare you!

The non-pastoral "Green Pastures" is probably this album's most accessible composition. After a synth bass/bass clarinet opening, the Michael Brecker comparison Potter is often saddled with applies here. "Queens of Brooklyn" provides a brief respite from the intensity, with mellow soprano sax over piano chords, before dissolving into a brooding sax/clarinet chorus backed by guitar (played by Potter). Then strap yourself in for the ridiculously speedy tempi of "Exclamation" and the rhythmic, keyboard-heavy "Pressed for Time". Potter and Harland seemingly never stop soloing, while Francies contributes a Fender Rhodes showpiece. Then sit back and wipe your brow when it's all over. Let it also be said that Linley Marthe contributes phenomenal electric bass to "The Nerve", "Koutome", "Circuits", and "Exclamation".

I'm not sure if Potter painstakingly writes out all his lines/arrangements beforehand, but whether or not he does, it's obvious a lot of time, work and thought went into this recording. Circuits (appearing on the Edition label) is one of those albums you can listen to for the rest of your life and still not hear everything. Some will say, "there's too much going on" or "this is just showing off", as this is a far more extroverted album than much of Potter's previous work. Yet Potter and Harland remain leaders in the jazz field on their respective instruments, while both Francies and Marthe are names to be reckoned with based on this album. Until hearing Circuits, I might have proclaimed Dave Holland's Prism album (2013, also featuring Eric Harland) to be the clearest candidate for Jazz Album of the 2010's Decade. Now, I'm not so sure.

GEORGE RUSSELL George Russell Sextet Featuring Don Ellis & Eric Dolphy ‎: 1 2 3 4 5 6extet

Boxset / Compilation · 1969 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
“George Russell Sextet” is a compilation album that pulls from three of Russell’s albums from the early 60s, “Ezz-thetics”, “Stratus Seeker” and “the Outer View”. Much of what goes on in today’s jazz world can be traced back to George Russell and his sidemen such as Eric Dolphy, Don Ellis, Dave Baker and Steve Swallow. Listening to these tracks you can hear today’s abstract approach that walks a thin line between post bop and the avant-garde. Much like today’s players, sometimes Russell and his crew are in the pocket, and other times quite free. Likewise, they have room to play both inside and outside the chord changes. This is creative music that avoids clichés or expectations.

The album cover promises the appearance of Don Ellis and Eric Dolphy, which is only partially true. While Ellis does appear on every track, Eric is only on three, but the other tracks feature brilliant saxophone work from under-rated horn men such as John Pearce and Paul Plummer. Possibly just as important, Steve Swallow is the bassist on every track and he turns in his usual powerful performance. Hearing the young Ellis is interesting as his playing changed a bit over the years. In his youth, his playing was very bright and extroverted, and displayed a very noticeable Dizzy Gillespie influence.

This is a great selection of tracks that flow together very well for a compilation album. The music ranges from a very out there rendition of Charlie Parker’s “Au Privave”, to a funky blues original by Russell called “Blues in Orbit”. Elsewhere on here, Dolphy turns in the most intense reading of “Round Midnight” ever, and altoist John Pearce breaks a few land speed records on “The Stratus Seekers”. As mentioned earlier, much of what goes on in today’s scene can be traced back to these albums. If you are not familiar with Russell, this compilation is a great place to start.

GINGER BAKER Ginger Baker Trio ‎: Going Back Home

Album · 1994 · Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 3.11 | 3 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
Imagine British rock supergroup Cream with jazz bassist Charlie Haden instead of Jack Bruce and Americana-jazz guitarist Bill Frisell instead of Eric Clapton. Here they are - original Cream drummer-led Ginger Baker Trio. They sound actually as it looks on paper - quite odd.

Frisell fans will recognize his guitar sound from very first seconds, and it stays a signature sound for all of the album. Haden, most of the time, stays on safe support, but Baker's ambition to be a leader is obvious, not always for good. His playing recalls an elephant, dancing in a crystal glass room, elegance (with big help of strangely sounding drum set, probably a rock band's one), and this thunder like drums are placed on the front of the sound mix.

Two standards (incl.Monk's Straight, No Chaser) sound unusual, but hardly all that attractive. Other songs are members' originals, some sound more like rock songs (and they are probably among the better songs). Most of the time I've been thinking that this album's edition in "minus one" format (without the drummer, of course) would sound really more attractive (if a bit too sleepy, as many similar Frisell works). In general, all the music sounds as if it has been recorded separately by each musician at home and then mixed as one in the studio, not a good feeling for jazz of any form.

Not really unlistenable, this album has its attraction in the weird combination of musicians, but too often it doesn't work properly.

CHARLIE PARKER The Magnificent Charlie Parker (aka The Genius Of Charlie Parker #8: Swedish Schnapps)

Album · 1955 · Bop
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
God bless Record Store Day, not only does it help support one of civilization’s finest institutions, ie your local record store, but it has also been encouraging labels to re-release classic vinyl albums that many of us thought would be forever unattainable. If you had told me a few years ago that I would soon be able to buy pristine copies of Charlie Parker LPs, I would have thought you plumb crazy, but then, here we are with another outstanding Record Store Day release in the form of “The Magnificent Charlie Parker”. This album was originally released in the mid-50s on the Clef album and it contains much of Clef’s Parker singles from 1951 when Bird was playing at his best. It’s a wonderful collection of singles all arranged in logical succession with no weird volume or sound quality leaps as you go track to track. Those who are familiar with some Parker CD collections will know what I mean by incongruent track succession.

Side one opens with four tracks that feature a young Miles on trumpet, as well as Max Roach on drums. Miles’ playing at that time was very clean and precise, revealing the influence of Clifford Brown, as well as Miles’ classical background. All of these tracks are great, with “She Rote” being the ultimate in bebop styled abstraction and modernity. The last two cuts on this side are exotica pop numbers with a vocal choir and small orchestra arrangement. by Gil Evans. Side two features Red Rodney on trumpet, possibly Parker’s most cohesive and inspiring sideman outside of Dizzy Gillespie. This group also features a young John Lewis on piano before he became known as a purveyor of 3rd stream chamber jazz.

Every track on here is excellent and its nice that the song choices lean away from show tunes and more towards bebop originals that really bring out the witty urban flavor of one of jazz’s most creative eras. I think there are only about 3000 copies of this available, so grab it while you can.

CHARLES LLOYD 8 : Kindred Spirits (Live From The Lobero)

Live album · 2020 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
Sax player Charles Lloyd, one of the few still active jazzmen from Coltrane era, made his name in mid 60s playing soulful hard bop and spiritual jazz, often beside rock musicians in arenas, not tiny jazz clubs.

In the eighties, he returned back on scene with slightly modified post-bop, adopted to more chamber-like ECM listeners. Not really grooveless as many European ECM recordings, his music was accessible, tuneful and enough safe to fit comfortably in label's catalog. In new Millennium, Lloyd moved to Blue Note again with some usual and some unorthodox recordings(as 2018's Vanished Gardens with Lucinda Williams). '8: Kindred Spirits ',recorded during his 80th birthday celebration gig on March 15, 2018 at his hometown venue, Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre,and released in early 2020,comes as a pleasant surprise.

Recorded with his slightly modified regular band from some last years (guitarist Julian Lage, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Eric Harland), this album contains strong songs from different periods,but more important - for the first time for many years (if not decades)it leaves safely comfortable (some can say -'sleepy') zone of Lloyd releases from few last decades and music here really burns.

Depending on edition (the regular one contains just four songs plus DVD), the listener receives some well played, muscular and tuneful music, played with enthusiasm, spiritually and a touch of adventure. The opener,'Dream Weaver,'comes from Lloyd's glory day in mid sixties (most probably it is his biggest hit ever). Stretched till twenty-plus minutes, it has enough space for some extended improvisations still staying warm and framed at the end of the day. 'Requiem', the ballad originally released in 1992 on Lloyd's one of ECM album, sounds bluesy and 'organic' against more sterile original.

'La Llorona', a Latin trad tune, is elegant and only very slightly melancholic here.The closer,'Part 5: Ruminations,' is second longest album's composition, and besides of strong tune it has a lot of place for soloists improvs (some of which are quite free). Besides of Lloyd's regular pianist Gerald Clayton,in big part responsible for band's sound for years, there's a guitarist Julian Lage who makes this album so special. Lot of excellent guitars soloing refresh the sound a lot and makes all music sound very gracious.

Other editions can contain three vinyls+DVD and deluxe editions with full concert documented (12 songs). Strong choice of material and lively, inspired musicianship makes '8: Kindred Spirits' one of the better Lloyd release for some years,if not decades.

GEORGE RUSSELL Electronic Sonata For Souls Loved By Nature

Live album · 1971 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
Igor91
George Russell's Electronic Souls Loved by Nature is one of the severely underrated jazz releases from the late 1960's/early 1970's. I, personally, would put this up there with Miles Davis' Bitches Brew as far as its inventiveness and uniqueness for the time. The recording is actually from April of 1969 (not released until 1971), which predates the Bitches Brew sessions by about 3 months! This is a very European sounding release, due to the musicians involved in it hailing from Norway, most notably the young Jan Garbarek and Terje Rypdal. The use of tape noises and sound collages with a live band, and recorded in a live setting was innovative for 1969. The musicians performed the piece impeccably and with conviction. There are two, side long tracks that combine cool, repetitive jazz grooves, free jazz, and touches of jazz rock, mostly due to Rypdal's occasional Hendrix-inspired shredding. It has a kind of psychedelic vibe, but in that dark, Norwegian style in contrast to Bitches Brew's very American sound. This one should really be recognized for what is - a groundbreaking jazz classic.

DEODATO Artistry

Live album · 1974 · Big Band
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
dreadpirateroberts
On ‘Artisry’ Deodato’s arrangements of classical covers (and his Latin, smooth jazz pieces too) are fleshed out by an orchestra and it’s great to hear them with extra depth compared to the studio recordings.

The sound is maybe a bit ‘warmer’ in a live setting and the band seem to be having a good time too, which I noticed on “St. Louis Blues” and “Superstrut” – especially John Tropea on guitar. Maybe the set list draws a little too heavily from ‘Deodato 2’ compared to what I’d hoped for but if you want a more comprehensive collection of live songs you might have to look to the latter stages of his discography.

JOHN TROPEA Tropea (aka Guitarra Galáctica)

Album · 1975 · RnB
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
dreadpirateroberts
If you’re a fan of the more laid back CTI Jazz or Deodato then you’ll probably enjoy this album from John Tropea who worked as a sideman for so, so many folks in the 1970s Jazz Fusion and Funk scene.

His self-titled debut as a leader finds him playing more so as an important ‘part’ of the music rather than dominating with endless soloing. (Having said that, I certainly don’t hate the idea of lots of solos at all). I was really interested to see that he both produced and mixed this album too and it sounds really clear and sharp, making great use of the wide range of performers and friends he draws upon.

I think that the funk and jazz on here ranges from energetic to a little too laid back at times – although, that’s not automatically a problem. And based on my star rating, I think this album is objectively better than the amount which I *enjoyed* it, if that makes sense.

Still, I tend to be drawn to some of the fuller arrangements on these songs – like the stellar “Muff’ and the opener too, one of the places Tropea fires up a bit. I also enjoyed the final, more atmospheric piece “Dreams” where I noticed a trumpet solo. Now, I don’t want to rest my whole review on some idea of “solos = jazz” and thus “less or no solos = pop” but it might give you an extremely general idea of the style here, which is firmly pop/light funk and not so much Jazz Fusion as some of Tropea’s other work.

BOBBY TIMMONS Chun-King

Album · 1965 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
dreadpirateroberts
Bobby Timmons is well-known for playing with Blakey and Adderley but until recently I hadn’t come across his work as a leader and I found ‘Chun-King’ from 1964 and really enjoyed it.

There’s a range of standards and original compositions on this hard bop, almost funky release that has snap and drive, but also more relaxed pieces like Timmons’ take on “I Could have Danced All Night” and Gershwin’s “Someone to Look Over Me” which rhythmically is soothing – yet Timmons is almost ‘busy’ over the top.

My favourites are probably the more up-tempo ones with “Gettin' It Togetha'” and especially the title track standing out. I can’t quite put my finger on why but maybe the Keter Betts’ arrangement on that one gives me a slight post-bop feel, signaling that nice variety to the record. It was also fun to hear some bossa nova too, with the “O Grande Amor” cover.

FREDDIE HUBBARD Keep Your Soul Together

Album · 1973 · Fusion
Cover art 3.48 | 3 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
Following leads set by Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis, jazz fusion with a bit (or a lot) of psychedelic production became a trend for a short while with varying degrees of success and/or failure for different artists. Freddie Hubbard’s 1973 release, “Keep Your Soul Together” is not exactly a particularly ‘trippy’ outing, but still there is a subtle touch of that ‘cosmic’ space that was hip at that time. Like Freddie’s career itself, this album is very eclectic ranging from laid back pop to frantic free form flights, all tied together with some spacious reverb and tasteful use of electronic effects.

Side one opens with “Brigitte”, a medium groove laid back ballad that might have you thinking this album is one of Freddie’s more commercial outings, but things pick up more steam after this opener. Side one closes with a lengthy workout on the album’s title track which is soul jazz topped with heated fusion solos and driven with interesting rhythm change-ups and horn arrangements. Side two continues the energy buildup with “Spirits of Trane”, a high speed post bop track played with a free jazz abandon. The album closes with, “Destiny’s Children”, which is classic Miles’ styled angry funk rock with the required screaming horn solo. Is it possible that this one is a slightly sarcastic shot at the dark prince.

With only four tracks for the whole album, one can easily surmise that there is plenty of solo room for the players as each number gets stretched out. All the soloists are good, but none can match Freddie who is in top form throughout and shows why he was/is the best trumpet player of his generation. This isn’t one of Hubbard’s best albums, it lacks a certain consistency in vision, but there is enough good 70s style jams on here to make it worth checking out.

YOSUKE YAMASHITA Yosuke Yamashita Trio ‎: Dancing 古事記

Live album · 1969 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
"Dancing 古事記" is respected Japanese piano player Yosuke Yamashita's debut album, coming from the time he was a student of musical college in Tokyo. A bassless trio, coming from behind the barricades during the student occupation of Waseda University in July 1969.

The years 1968 and 1969 were both a breaking point in Western world, with counterculture peak, explosion and start of decline as well (ie Woodstock, barricades in Paris' Sorbonne, etc, etc). The world will never be the same again, and what is probably much less known, these events catalyzed the reaction in Japan as well.

Three tracks, of which first 50-seconds long one is not a music but recorded on barricades agitator's speech (on Japanese). It introduces the atmosphere of the moment and two upcoming long free jazz pieces perfectly.

What in a Western world of the time is a rock revolution of late 60s, on Japanese ground has it's equivalent in avant-garde jazz, extremely radical music for the time.

Yamashita plays with his early days trio, containing drummer Takeo Moriyama and sax player Seiichi Nakamura. Their music here still doesn't reach the level of aggression known from Peter Brötzmann's "Machine Gun", but despite of some tuneful inclusions, it sounds as perfect soundtrack to the actions in a student campus that's for sure.

Later same year Yamashita will release with same trio his first studio album "Mina's Second Theme" which bring him first success, still as underground jazz artist for the beginning.

Quite aptly titled "Dancing 古事記", this album represents both the spirit of era and a music of the short-lived but very creative moment of Japanese jazz history.

P.S. There is still available short filmed video from this concert on youtube which is very recommended for those interested in catching the spirit of the moment

10000 VARIOUS ARTISTS No Energy Crisis

Boxset / Compilation · 1974 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
ABC Records compilation, “No Energy Crisis” , features one of the most unattractive and banal album covers ever, yet houses some of the hottest avant-garde jazz from that era. In fact, this may very well be the best compilation of early avant-garde jazz ever as it contains an all-star roster that leaves very few of the big names out. It also helps that almost every track is an absolute smoker as the players enthusiastically dig into the ‘new sound’ of the early days of free jazz. Free jazz is the tie that binds much of these artists together, but there is plenty of variety on here too. John Klemmer plays loose and noisy jazz rock, Gato Barbieri performs wild and chaotic Brazilian grooves, while Marion Brown backs his saxophone explorations with an African percussion ensemble. Side two of this four record set features some imaginative ensemble arrangements by Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler. At least four tracks on “No Energy Crisis” did not appear on any previous recordings, which furthers its value to the jazz vinyl collector.

Like most compilations, “No Energy Crisis” never made it to CD, or even vinyl re-issue, but it still shows up at used record resources for fairly reasonable prices. If you want to hear eleven of the biggest names in early avant-garde jazz history playing at their best, its all right here.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN John McLaughlin, Shankar Mahadevan, Zakir Hussain : Is That So?

Album · 2020 · World Fusion
Cover art 2.55 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
Living legend English guitarist John McLaughlin is a man responsible for probably best ever recorded guitar fusion album. His early interest to Indian music (and culture in general)is well documented on "My Goal's Beyond"(1971) and more significantly on early Shakti albums which were again excellent examples of Indo-fusion.

Don't be fooled by the name though - the newest work, credited to McLaughlin as leader, "Is That So?", is not in the league of both above mentioned masterpieces.To be honest, "Is That So?" in reality is first of all vocal album of prolific Indian singer and films soundtrack composer Shankar Mahadevan. Being a cult figure in India, he's almost unknown in Western world, so crediting his album to McLaughlin as leader is understandable marketing trick for American label AbstractLogix,who released the album just a week ago.

Then,under the cover we have what we have. Shankar Mahadevan sings six lyrical songs,ballads of sort, under minimalist accompaniment of McLaughlin processed guitars and even more minimalist licks of another Indian,former Shakti tabla player Zakir Hussain.

Fortunately, all music doesn't sound as Bollywood soundtrack. It is more rooted to Indian traditional sound, but it is still first of all singer's album. McLaughlin guitars sound processed using computer,is liquid,rhythm-less and hardly differs from what could be produced using inexpensive synths. Tabla's soloing is most livable and most attractive element of all music, but we don't get a lot of it. Harmony-less Indian music without rhythmic component after some time sounds same again and again, at least for Westerner's ear.

Quite a weird release,it will hardly attract McLaughlin guitar work's fans or even Shakti early albums lovers. Maybe Shankar Mahadevan singing followers will find it interesting though.

TONY ADAMO Did Mark Murphy Believe in UFOS?

EP · 2020 · RnB
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
tonyrocadamo
By NICHOLAS F. MONDELLO Allaboutjazz

The interrogative title of this fine track shares an interesting insight, as well as its supposition. Whether the late singer literally did buy into UFOs—a la Sun Ra who saw "space as the place"—or he didn't is irrelevant. What is key is the fact that Mark Murphy has had a definitive and lasting impact on jazz vocalists today—and very much so on the High Prince of sing-speak, Tony Adamo who salutes Murphy on this infectious single. Further, the savvy integration of Michael Franks' "Don't Be Blue" into the performance adds encouragement and a positive sheen on the proceedings. It's a brilliant production choice.

Adamo, the ultimate hipster's hipster, is dead on his game on this hip-hop grooved masterpiece. Brilliantly performed and laid down over a killer rhythm, Adamo speaks "jazz gospel" and offers verbal high praise to Murphy by way of his own poetics about Murphy's verbiage on Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments." (Murphy wrote a well-known version of lyrics for the classic tune.)

https://www.allaboutjazz.com/did-mark-murphy-believe-in-ufos-tony-adamo-ropeadope-records

YOSUKE YAMASHITA Yosuke Yamashita Trio ‎: Sunayama

Album · 1978 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
During early seventies, pianist Yosuke Yamashita trio were a front-line power of Japanese avant-garde jazz. Cecil Taylor-influenced high-energy percussive straight-in-your-face piano playing style in combination with Akira Sakata's free sax attacks and drummer's (Takeo Moriyama and later, Shota Koyama)rock-heavy artillery built complex,usually knotted aural constructions of surprisingly well-organized beauty. Their albums,released between 1970 and 1975 all are classics of Japanese avant-garde jazz.

On "Sunayama", Yamashita's work from second half of 70s, one can evidence quite unusual for him instrumentation. Credited to his regular trio, the album contains three pieces,recorded actually by septet/octet when Yamashita's trio is improved with brass section (and an electric guitarist on one track).

Being characteristic for his trio busy high energy free jazz under the skin, in many moments album's music sounds as avant-garde jazz big band with rich brass (and addition of soling electric guitar on "Usagi No Dance - Dedicated To Pepi"). It's interesting to mention, that intentionally or not the combo never sounds as one small orchestra - more like two groups of musicians, the trio and four-piece brass section improvising each their own way.

On paper it most probably sounds as a chaos, but surprisingly enough all album long Yamashita controls the situation well and final music has its own internal order. Not such explosive as on his earlier works, this album's attraction lays mostly in a rare possibility to hear the great master trying something different. Perfectly recorded (as many Japanese releases coming from seventies), "Sunayama" is an attractive release for Yamashita fans, still probably a bit risky try for newcomers.

Being for years an obscurity, in 2009 the album has been reissued in Japan on CD so there is a bigger chance to find it now.

JOE MCPHEE McPhee, Rempis, Reid, Lopez, Nilssen-Love : Of Things Beyond Thule Vol 1

Live album · 2020 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
One of the early releases coming in a very beginning of a new year is a collaborative work, recorded by high class free improvisers quintet of seasoned tenor Joe McPhee and cohort of younger creative jazz stars.

Joe McPhee (probably in a pair with Charles Gayle) is one of the busiest veterans of loft jazz around playing with many today's sound names and recorded intensively. His new quintet contains such leaders of modern avant-garde jazz as sax payer Dave Rempis and Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, rising star cellist Tomeka Reid (who toured Europe last year as Art Ensemble of Chicago's member) and relatively lesser known New Yorker bassist Brandon Lopez.

Just two compositions, recorded live at Chicagoan The Hungry Brain on December 16 2018. Each lasts less than 20 minutes.Quite surprisingly, there are only a few explosive moments on this album, slow to mid-tempo music predominates. Saxes often sound as bird calls communication with cello vibrations and lot of percussion on the back. Common mood is more philosophical than energizing, and excellent interplay between quintet members builds intellectual and rousing atmosphere. Without leaving a frames of the genre, this album belongs to a more successful examples of live recordings in prolific Joe McPhee discogs.

DIZZY GILLESPIE The Small Groups 1945-1946 Original Recordings

Boxset / Compilation · 1970 · Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
If you are looking for that unmistakable sound of early bebop on vinyl and don’t want to spend a bundle, then you might want to keep an eye out for, “Dizzy Gillespie: The Small Groups {1945 - 1946}”, on the Phoenix label. This is an excellent compilation that came out in the 70s and shows up in used stores and the internet for very reasonable prices. The music on here comes from five different recording sessions, every track features Dizzy, while other tracks feature varying bebop greats such as Charlie Parker, Al Haig, Sonny Stitt, Curly Russell and more.

Side one opens with a band that is more in a pre-bop swing style, but when we hit track five, Sonny Stitt and Al Haig have stepped in to push things in a more modern direction. The big revelation all through this side is Chuck Wayne’s jaggedy swinging guitar lines. Alice Roberts guests to sing a bluesy “A Handfulla of Gimmie”, and “Blue ‘N’ Boogie” features a young Dexter Gordon on tenor sax. Side two features Charlie Parker and starts off with a band that is competent, but not quite up to what Bird n Diz are capable of. For the second half of this side, Al Haig takes the piano chair and Curly Russell picks up the bass and now we are in abstract cubist bebop heaven. The recorded sound on “Salt Peanuts” is perfect for this era, unfortunately, the next three tracks fall off a bit in the high end department, but are still enjoyable and musically superb, the best tracks on the record.

CHARLIE HADEN Magico (with Jan Garbarek, Egberto Gismonti)

Album · 1980 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
Cover art 3.86 | 7 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
Steve Wyzard
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SOUND...

Whenever anyone brings up the much-discussed subject of the "ECM Sound", the first album I think of is Magico by Egberto Gismonti (guitars/piano), Jan Garbarek (saxophones), and Charlie Haden (bass). This is one of those unlikely "all-star" aggregations ECM Records specialized in during the late 1970s (see also: Abercrombie/Holland/DeJohnette and Rypdal/Vitous/DeJohnette). Released in 1980 to minor acclaim, this album today is seen as a forerunner to what we now refer to as "World Fusion".

Most listeners bring pre-conceptions to a recording like this, so let's deal with them right away. The lack of a drummer/percussionist does not make this a "quiet album", especially with Garbarek's piercing (no flute) tones sprinkled liberally throughout. A close listen also reveals this is not a "loosely structured jam session" as much thought was obviously given to the arrangements and double-tracking (especially Gismonti's intricate solo above his playing on "Magico"). While a previous familiarity with the performers will best prepare one for this aural soundscape, this album remains very accessible and was my first introduction to the music of both Gismonti and Haden over 25 years ago.

So what can one expect? Gismonti is the dominant voice both figuratively and literally: like on most of his recordings, "Bailarina" includes some brief ad-libbed vocals. There are a multitude of versions of Haden's "Silence" on the market, but this album's is the finest: 16 repeated chords on the piano above solos by Garbarek, Haden, Garbarek (again), and Gismonti. Garbarek's "Spor" features some of Haden's darkest arco playing, and Gismonti's "Palhaco" with its gospel-tinged piano is the peaceful closer with its other-worldly, haunted atmosphere.

The masterful performances throughout this album make Magico a true highlight in the voluminous catalogs of all three players. Never before has ECM's original motto "The Most Beautiful Sound Next To Silence" been more appropriate. Let it also be known that this same trio recorded a follow-up album (Folk Songs) 5 months later that is nowhere near as good as Magico. And just what is that artful cover supposed to signify: is it trees behind powerlines, or painted industrial siding super-imposed over trees?

JOEY DEFRANCESCO In The Key Of The Universe

Album · 2019 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
With a title like "In the Key of the Universe", and promotional advertising that plays up Pharoh Sanders' contributions on saxophone, it would be easy to think that Joey DeFrancesco is trying to cash in on the current 'spiritual jazz' revival on his new album. Its true that there are some tunes on here that reference Sanders' past as the originator of the spiritual modal jazz style, but none of this is gratuitous or insincere, and there is also such a wide variety of music on here that the modal jams are just a part of what goes down. Also, Sanders only appears on a couple tracks, elsewhere on here the very capable Troy Roberts supplies the tenor, alto and soprano sax work. In short, 'In the Key' is one of Joey's better albums and is rife with inspired solos and top notch song writing.

DeFrancesco's rapid fire solos take the Coltrane idea of 'sheets of sound' to new levels on the Hammond B3. This is used to good effect on the energetic post bop of "Awake and Blissed", and then given a double dose on the bebop barn burner, "It Swung Wide Open". The next couple tracks feature Pharoh, who still sounds as great as ever, as he takes a somewhat laid back and mature approach to classic material such as "The Creator has a Master Plan". Some other highlights include a couple of mystical samba lounge outings and a few hard groove blues numbers.

On the two closing tracks, Joey caps things off with something we don't hear often enough, really interesting melodies set to non-cliche chord changes. Both of these songs would make for great vehicles for others to try out their creativity on. The production is a little heavy on the reverb, which sounds fine on the groove numbers, but a bit heavy handed on the uptempo ones.

GARY PEACOCK Tales of Another

Album · 1977 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.98 | 4 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
Steve Wyzard
A CRYING SHAME (LITERALLY)

This is a good Gary Peacock album, but not a great album generally speaking. After the opening track, the excellent "Vignette", all of the others are buried beneath Keith Jarrett's moaning and screeching. And I don't mean for short periods or occasional intervals but for LONG stretches of time. Jarrett's vocalizations appear on most of his albums, but this is his only ECM recording I've heard where it becomes a major distraction. Whenever there is any discussion about this album, EVERYBODY mentions the unintentional histrionics, unless they pre-determine to not mention it out of respect for Jarrett.

It's really too bad that Gary Peacock's performances and compositions are not given their due, because with exception of the experimental "Tone Field", this would be a great jazz piano trio album. Peacock's playing on "Trilogy II" is especially outstanding. Jack DeJohnette plays with his usual brilliance, although from time to time he seems perplexed by the discordant directions the material sometimes takes. The group's headlong rush to the finish of "Trilogy III" is a true highlight on an album that doesn't provide as many as the all-star line-up might promise. This trio would go on to perform mostly standards for 30+ years, so to hear them play newly-composed material is greatly appreciated. Be forewarned about Jarrett's singing, however.

GIL EVANS The Gil Evans Orchestra Play the Music of Jimi Hendrix

Album · 1974 · Progressive Big Band
Cover art 4.14 | 5 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
When The “Gil Evans Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix” came out in the early 70s, it was a big deal, and for good reason too. Attempts to merge heavy rock and orchestral music were still a new thing then and many attempts at such a merger were often a clumsy mess. Gil was given much well deserved praise in that he quite successfully took the music of Jimi Hendrix and gave it a big band treatment that somehow managed to capture the best of both the rock and big band jazz worlds. Flash forward several decades to today and this album still holds up, but since it became a blueprint for others to follow, its rockin big band sounds are hardly unusual anymore. Late night entertainment shows such as Saturday Night Live and David Letterman have been featuring big bands playing classic rock and RnB tunes for some time now and several tracks on the ‘Evans Plays Hendrix’ album sound like they would fit in well during a commercial break while Paul Shaffer or G.E. Smith is trying to keep the audience hyped.

Opening track, “Angel”, is probably the one closest to a late night break rave up, especially since it features the sax melody and solo of David Sanborn, the owner of one of the most imitated horn sounds on late night TV. “Cross Town Traffic” and “Foxey Lady” are the other two that also fall more in this direction. “Castles Made of Sand” is the first track to really head in an interesting and alternative direction as Evans introduces counter melodies that hang like dissonant clouds and totally transform the song. “Up from the Skies” is essentially a jazz song to begin with, which might explain why it works so well as Evans once again produces an appealing murkiness that takes the track towards exotic Sun Ra territory. “1983 - A Merman I Should Turn to Be” is also given an interesting facelift as it becomes a spaghetti western movie theme. The least successful track is “Voodoo Chile”, whose melody is played by Howard Johnson who sounds like he is humming through his horn producing a non-appealing kazoo type sound.

This is a Gil Evans album, so the performances and orchestrations are outstanding, its just that this album probably would have aged better if he had gone more in the experimental direction, and less in the rockin direction.

EVAN PARKER Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Paul Lytton : Concert in Vilnius

Live album · 2019 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
Three British free jazz giants playing together already for some decades, recorded live during their gig at Vilnius Jazz Fest in 2017. Three names that are written in gold to European avant-garde jazz history playing in my hometown and I just listen to their playing two years later from my home sound system and not live from the dark scene of the Russian Drama Theater, a regular home for Vilnius Jazz Fest for the last few years? What's wrong with me?

Or - it's not me? In a fast changing world where even my conservatism towards technologies gives up against the comfort of paying for your Saturday coffee and eclairs with smart phone apps and using Google Maps trying to find a shorter way from small countryside town to nearest lake, free jazz, just in one day, turned into a predictable attraction. What was a blowing-your-head new experience in 60s, reinvented in loft culture in the 80s and reborn for a short time at the beginning of the new Millennium, in one day just became an artifact of the past, the world that doesn't exist anymore.

Four free form improves, near an hour of music. Well recorded, with few screams and applause from the public here and there, the music here is competent but doesn't radiate an energy of artists earlier concerts. Not explosive but more philosophically calculated, and often slightly melancholic, somehow it transfers that feeling of paradise lost very well.

As with almost any bigger free jazz artist, all three musicians never repeat same thing twice, but at the same time all what they play sounds already heard for many times. True, the difference is in tons of nuances, but do we are still interested in all these small things?

Anyway, those who love the music of the times when they were young will really appreciate the album. For young folks it will probably sound as a strange thing, but in all cases Parker, Guy and Lytton are those who left their significant footprint in a history of European jazz.

WILLIAM HOOKER Symphonie Of Flowers

Album · 2019 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
William Hooker - one among the most technical and progressive thinking drummers around, who has played with Billy Bang, Thurston Moore, David Murray, David S. Ware and William Parker among many others, comes with his new ambitious work. Double-vinyl album "Symphonie Of Flowers" contains a suite of sorts. Drums are obviously the dominant here, but there are duos (with piano player Mara Rosenbloom), trios, and bigger combo music presented.

The album opens running train-like with Hooker's drumming pushing the music ahead, that rhythm and the feeling doesn't disappear the whole album long. Pianist Mara Rosenbloom plays free piano in a manner of Cecil Taylor. Then there is a trio of Hooker, Rosenbloom and saxophonist Stephen Gauci, with free sax soloing series. On three songs, pianist Mara Rosenbloom plays duets with multiple drummers,and a larger ensemble contains electronic musician Eriq Robinson among others.

Quite a long recording, this album isn't boring or repetitious. The music varies from muscular rock-like avant-garde jazz, to energetic electronics-spiced wizardry. As with many of his previous albums, Hooker works in a class of his own and always offers something new for open ears listeners.

WOLFGANG DAUNER Dream Talk

Album · 1964 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
Igor91
Wolfgang Dauner's first LP under his name is an interesting beginning to an extremely eclectic output of jazz and jazz fusion. He is joined by two musicians that would work with him for many years to come: drummer Fred Braceful and bassist Eberhard Weber. Listening to Dream Talk now, after hearing much of his experimental late 60's early 70's material that came afterwards, one cannot but think how tame the music sounds. A closer listen, however, reveals that Dauner was already experimenting and not doing "straight" jazz. The music is in the early, more grounded, arena of Avant-Garde jazz. All the musicians are locked in subconsciously, creating a loose feel, yet contain elements of structure and melody. All three artists perform impeccably, and my remastered CD version sounds excellent. Weber's bass is high in the mix, giving it a warm, and even modern sound when compared to many recordings of the era. Definitely an enjoyable album to listen to, even if it doesn't leave you disorientated like some of his other work does! Four stars.

AVRAM FEFER Avram Fefer Quartet : Testament

Album · 2019 · Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 3.52 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
Sax player Avram Fefer's trio, already known from their two previously released albums, has improved with their new release by adding cult guitarist Marc Ribot. The final result is accessible and enjoyable music, a mix of all-in-one but without possibly expecting chaos.

There are a lot of things happening when you start listening, and it's difficult to decide whether it is a jamming rock band led by shredding guitar hero Marc Ribot, or is it an Ayleresque avant-garde jazz quartet with tuneful high energy saxist Fefer on the front. Up tempo compositions contain explosive guitars, a lot of exotic influences (from African to klezmer), and very groovy pushing ahead rhythm section.

Different from many bands of the same genre, Fefer's quartet doesn't sound too serious, too complex or too abstract - not at all. Just don't expect to find any directions here - the musicians obviously enjoy playing their music and they expect the listener feels the same way.

AMIRTHA KIDAMBI Elder Ones : Holy Science

Album · 2016 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
New York based singer and composer Amirtha Kidambi just released her third album as leader - on Astral Spirits(Phase Eclipse), already second new album coming this year(From Untruth - just released in Japan, after the US release, as well).

Her debut, released three years ago, Holy Science, passed somehow unnoticed,and that's a shame. Born in US of Indian origin, Amirtha combines in her music some best traditions of India’s Carnatic,American free jazz and modern drone.

Just four lengthy tracks,each as a part of "Yuga" suite,contain Amirtha's (predominantly wordless) vocals recalling Jeanne Lee under strong accompaniment of lesser known but perfectly working sax-bass-drums trio. The music,if a bit ascetic,is complex and multilayered with each listening opening more new details.

Excellent debut on the edge between jazz/non-jazz avant-garde and Indian classic.

HANS KOLLER (SAXOPHONE) Nome

Live album · 2017 · Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
Igor91
After discovering Hans Koller's impressive 1974 release, "Kunstkopfindianer," I came across this live recording of the same line-up for that album. This CD release is on the B.Free label, which is listed as a bootleg label on Discogs, yet the parent label, Be!Sharp, is not listed as such. Bootleg or not, the sound quality on this release is excellent. The packaging states that it was recorded May 15, 1974 in Cologne, Germany "from the original tapes in pristine audio," and it certainly sounds that way. This was apparently taped for a radio broadcast. Along with Koller are Wolfgang Dauner on keys, Zbigniew Seifert on violin and alto sax, Adelhard Roidinger on bass, and Janusz Stefanski on drums.

This live recording draws from the material on the album "Kunstkopfindianer," but, like any good live performance, expands the boundaries of the studio recordings. The avant-garde/free jazz aspects of "Kunstkopfindianer" are further explored here, making it a more challenging listen than the studio versions. That's not to say it isn't good, you just need more attention and patience when listening. "Nome" (the song) is a whopping 40 plus minutes long, a huge leap from the mere 6 1/2 minutes of the studio version. The remaining 35 minutes consist of 3 other tracks from the studio album and some needlessly included announcements.

As would be expected, the musicianship displayed here is top-notch, and, as mentioned above, the recording is impeccable. Overall, a wonderful document of a great group of musicians at the top of their game. If you like "Kunstkopfindianer" or Dauner's experimental jazz and fusion, then this is a must-hear. 4 stars.



HANS KOLLER (SAXOPHONE) Kunstkopfindianer

Album · 1974 · Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
Igor91
I came across this album while searching works by Wolfgang Dauner in Discogs and decided to give it a listen. I was happy I did, for this is an excellent example of experimental fusion from that era.

While the album is under saxophonist Hans Koller's name, it is heavily influenced by Dauner's experimental work of that time period. This is really more of a band project, with Koller being just one of the equally important members. Koller, the elder statesman in the group, was in his early 50's at the time, and I give the man credit for releasing music like this at this point in his career. I haven't heard much of his earlier work, but what I did listen to was firmly in the bop tradition. "Kunstkopfindianer" is something quite different.

I would describe this album as a mix of fusion, avant-garde/free jazz, and hard bop. The free jazz/avant-garde aspects of the music never goes too far before becoming grounded by some element of structure and melody. All of the musicians give superb performances, and all but drummer Janusz Stefanski contribute compositions. Stefanski does, however, lay down some incredible, at times ferocious, drum-work throughout the LP. Dauner is his usual genius on the keys, while bassist Adelhard Roidinger is all over the place (in a good way) on his instrument. Koller delivers a convincing performance in the mix, like he'd been a free jazz master all of his life.

I truly enjoy listening to this album and would recommend it to those who like Dauner's experimental work, such as Et Cetera. I give it a solid 4 1/2 stars - an obscure, yet essential album of experimental 70's jazz fusion.

PORTICO QUARTET Memory Streams

Album · 2019 · Nu Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
Brits Portico Quartet always had very special place on British nu jazz scene since they arrived more than a decade ago. Among very firsts in a genre their sound was closer to Brian Eno ambient than melodic chamber jazz/songs-oriented soft fusion of their scene's colleagues. But even more important - their ambient-jazz was very organic thanks to the use of exotic "hang"(form of steel-pan) instead of modern electronics of more club-oriented bands.

They received an early fame and some decline, changes in line-up and hardly successful flirting with vocal-based pop. With "Memory Streams" they return back to basis and it's their true return to form of sort.

Oppositely to their very early releases, band's fans wouldn't find an unexpected sound and very new music in general; on Portico's new album they play mostly everything they already played before. But they do it well.

Very melodic well executed "organic" ambient jazz,very accessible and often balancing on the dangerous edge with "elevators music" but fortunately never crossing the border. Not really a listening for one's brain but simply beautiful music for many's heart.

Band's traveling Europe with new program these days so don't miss your chance to see them playing live.

PIGBAG Dr Heckle And Mr Jive

Album · 1982 · World Fusion
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
If you have been keeping up with current sounds from England, then possibly you are familiar with today’s youthful streetwise high energy music that features a charged up punky approach to Afrobeat, often with some hip hop, spiritual jazz and other urban flavors thrown into the mix as well. Likewise, if you have followed UK’s popular music for many decades then possibly your initial introduction to today’s sound might have carried some reminders from the past, if so, then its possible you are recalling a short lived early 80s outfit known as Pigbag. Its hard to believe that Pigbag happened almost 40 years ago, but back then they turned a lot of heads with their hyperactive and free wheeling approach to current African dance music. There are some big differences between today’s scene and Pigbag. The scene today is driven by those of African descent who are bound together in political and cultural struggle and their music reflects that. Pigbag, on the other hand, was predominantly (if not entirely) Caucasian and not particularly political. Another difference is that today's players are more sophisticated and technically developed than Pigbag. At this point it should be pointed out that the originator of street level politically charged African dance music is of course Fela Kuti and his Afrobeat bands. Pigbag was merely an approximation of what Fela was all about.

The band was started by Chris Hamlin and Roger Freeman, but when Chris Lee and James Johnston joined, the ability to move beyond just jamming with friends to more professional level aspirations became possible. In the early 80s they were the right thing at the right time. The English youth had burned out on punk rock and a more biracial music scene was building around the 2-tone ska movement. It was during this initial heady success that Pigbag released their first long player, “Dr Heckle and Mr Jive”. Within these grooves you can hear their recipe for success as they play hyper African dance beats topped with electronic sounds and screeching horns. Pigbag was not a particularly technical band, their rhythms were solid and the horn charts were tight, but no one in the band could really build a solo, no big deal, this was dance music, not jazz. To this day this is still a fun album, not great for deep listening, but perfect for a party, and given what is happening today, it still sounds somewhat contemporary.

ANTHONY JOSEPH People of the Sun

Album · 2018 · World Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
I really like having the opportunity to hear your beloved album at a live concert, it doesn't happen as often as I would like unfortunately. In case with Anthony Joseph "People Of The Sun" I was lucky enough to experience that.

Released on the tiny French label Heavenly Sweetness, "People Of The Sun" demonstrates fashionable new London jazz with its Caribbean influences. Trinidad-born band's front man Anthony Joseph (who is a professor of creative literature at London University) prefers to call himself a poet, and is obviously rooted in the free jazz and spoken word traditions of the late 60s and Gil Scott-Heron legacy. Joseph is more Caribbean Leonard Cohen than Amiri Baraka.

Album music is full of calypso, salsa, reggae, steel pans sound and Latin accent. Anthony combines his homeland rhythms with funk and spiritual jazz adding slightly melancholic lyrics without avoiding sharper themes such as slavery or problems of more current life in the Caribbean. All of this is offered with philosophical elegance and doesn't quite sound similar to an "angry men" street manifesto at all.

With fifteen musicians participating, the musical part is well-arranged with a percussive relaxed sound, accessible and very dance-able. Short instrumental solos are presented here and there as spices in a brew, it adds to the music's very livable and even hip feel, being in reality not all that simple, the album is very accessible and vibrant.

Returning back to their show, there was a smaller band of slightly different line-up playing live. They sounded much heavier, less refined and recalled more funk-rock garage band than relaxed Caribbean orchestra as heard on album. The compositions played were mostly all more extended with burning long soloing (partially Jason Yarde sax, wah wah guitar or percussion) and very charismatic dynamic Joseph on the front. It perfectly demonstrated band's live energy - opposite side of generally quite relaxed studio material.

One great example of today's London jazz scene great both for your legs, your heart and your head.

BIG BEAT Sounds Good. Feels Good

Album · 2019 · Big Band
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
Big Beat is a new big band originating from William Patterson University in New Jersey that also doubles as a hot horn driven RnB outfit with Allison McKenzie on vocals, plus when they break it down to the rhythm section, they are also an intense fusion combo that is not afraid to take things on an ‘outside’ trip. There is a lot of versatility at work here as each song on “Sounds Good Feels Good” displays a different side of the group. Although this is very much a modern ensemble, there is a healthy 70s style looseness to the group, as well as a similar open-minded approach to eclectic material.. It’s no surprise then that their playing often recalls other 70s big band leaders such as Thad Jones, Don Ellis and Gil Evans who embraced, fusion, RnB and experimentalism in wide open anything goes arrangements.

Allison McKenzie sings lead on seven of the nine tracks and she has the sort of range and versatility that should make her well known with or without her fellow band members. Her style easily shifts from jazz to RnB, making her the perfect vocal front person for this versatile group. Her solo voice is good enough, but occasionally she double tracks her voice into some very interesting harmonies and vocal arrangements. The two instrumental numbers give the band a chance to get crazy. On “Just Too Much”, Will Dougherty’s electric piano solo pushes drummer Joe Spinelli into some free form mayhem, and on “A Penny for Your Thoughts”, the band peaks with an aggressive hard rock drive topped with an equally intense electric trombone solo.

Four of the vocal numbers are McKenzie originals, and they hold up well against some classic covers composed by Stevie Wonder, Jill Scott and the Jackson 5. This band is just getting started, and if they can keep this together the future looks very bright as they hit a good balance between bring the party energy and complicated and challenging arrangements. I would imagine that this is a band best enjoyed in a live situation.

PHIL RANELIN Phil Ranelin Collected 2003-2019

Boxset / Compilation · 2019 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
snobb
The opener "Freddie's Groove" says it all - excellent tune with deep respect to mainstream jazz tradition and rich brassy arrangements, I'm sure you will love it from the very first seconds. Phil Ranelin, an Indianapolis born unsung slide trombone hero you most probably never heard about served much better awareness than he got till now.

First Boston,than - Los Angeles based for decades, Ranelin dedicated above mentioned song to his childhood friend Freddie Hubbard. Started recording as leader in mid 70s, he released two excellent free jazz influenced albums on own Tribe label ("Vibes From The Tribe"(1976)) contains some early example of free funk),later switching to more orthodox jazz. Still, his music has always been very soulful,tuneful and often spiritual.

At the end of the last century, Ranelin was known and popular mostly between DJs,searching for rare grooves. His early music re-release and album of remixes(2001) make him more visible for wider listener. In new Millenium, he recorded and released a series of albums for West Coast tiny label Wide Hive, which is responsible for this compilation.

Already mentioned opener,"Horace´s Scope","Shades Of Dolphy","This One´s For Trane" and compilation's closer "Black On The Nu" all come from his Wide Hive debut (and probably best release for the label)- " Inspiration"(2004). In fact, you have here all the album but two tracks.

Latin scented "Blue Bossa","Living A New Day" and "Metamorphisis" come from his second release on Wide Hive,"Living A New Day"(2005). Spiritual jazz/fusion with melancholic touch, memorable tunes and lot of tasty slide trombone soloing.

"A Tear In Elmina","Moorish" and "In Search Of The One" are taken from Ranelin album, recorded with congas percussionist Big Black. Not only more percussive, but surprisingly freer and closer to his earlier works from mid 70s, spiritual jazz."Perseverance" ,originally recorded for the same album, on this compilation is presented in a new edition, as Eastern-scented exotica.

The rest partially less impressive material comes from Ranelin last released album to date "Portrait In Blues" plus some unreleased songs.

Some renown collaborators presented are Pharoah Sanders(on "This One's for Trane") or then virtually unknown Kamasi Washington on compositions,coming from "Perseverance" album.

In a light of revitalized spiritual jazz popularity peak in UK and partially around US and Europe, this compilation is an excellent present for everyone who never heard Ranelin's name but is interested in this genre's music of highest probe. For fans (as myself), who already owns his best Wide Hive released albums "Inspiration" and "Perseverance", the compilation gives a possibility to evaluate his better songs coming from other label's albums.

HENDRIK MEURKENS Cobb's Pocket

Album · 2019 · Hard Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from JMA partners
js
For those not hip to pro musician lingo, the word pocket refers to keeping a steady groove, and if a drummer has ‘pocket’, then the rest of the band can solo with confidence knowing their man is not going to drop the beat or lose the momentum. One of the kings of pocket for several decades now has been Jimmy Cobb, the drummer for Miles Davis’ famous groove fest known as “Kind of Blue”, as well as countless other well known jazz recordings on up to the present. It should come as no surprise then that when Hendrik Meurkens wanted to record his new album of hard bop and soul jazz numbers he reached out to his old friend Jimmy to man the drum chair one more time, hence his new CD title, “Cobb’s Pocket”. Joining Hendrik and Cobb on here are two other veterans who have jammed often with Meurkens in the past, Mike LeDonne on B3 and Peter Bernstein on guitar.

Hendrik is somewhat of an odd one in the jazz world in that he is a virtuoso harmonica player. He started out on vibraphone, which he still teaches, but switched to harmonica early on and remains one of the few jazz performers on the instrument. Don’t expect too much of the bluesy and country sounding clichés we often associate with the harmonica, instead, Meurken’s playing is infused with rapid bebop runs that recall saxophonists like Charlie Parker and Eric Dolphy. Some of the wide interval leaps he takes almost sound like vibraphone licks, possibly he pictures the vibe keyboard while choosing his notes. LeDonne and Bernstein fill out the sound with a mix of blues and bop sourced soulful solos.

Three of the tunes are Henrik originals. Meurken’s tunes remind me of 60s Quincy Jones in that they would make for great TV theme songs. Other tunes include a Latin flavored Mancini “Slow Hot Wind” and Sam Jones’ hard driving “Unit Seven”. Possibly the top track is the high speed title tune, “Cobb’s Pocket”.

JMA TOP 5 Jazz ALBUMS

Rating by members, ranked by custom algorithm
Albums with 30 ratings and more
Kind of Blue Cool Jazz
MILES DAVIS
Buy this album from our partners
A Love Supreme Post Bop
JOHN COLTRANE
Buy this album from our partners
The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady Progressive Big Band
CHARLES MINGUS
Buy this album from our partners
My Favorite Things Hard Bop
JOHN COLTRANE
Buy this album from our partners

New Jazz Artists

New Jazz Releases

Joe McPhee, Lasse Marhaug ‎: Harmonia Macrocosmica Jazz Related Improv/Composition
JOE MCPHEE
Buy this album from MMA partners
Connecting The Dots 21st Century Modern
GUY MINTUS
Buy this album from MMA partners
Whirlwind - Live At Sam First Post Bop
MAX HAYMER
Buy this album from MMA partners
Speak Low II Vocal Jazz
LUCIA CADOTSCH
Buy this album from MMA partners
Tenacity Progressive Big Band
DJANGO BATES
Buy this album from MMA partners
More new releases

New Jazz Online Videos

Out on a Limb
RASMUS OPPENHAGEN KROGH
js· 21 hours ago
More videos

New JMA Jazz Forum Topics

More in the forums

New Site interactions

More...

Latest Jazz News

members-submitted

More in the forums

Social Media

Follow us