Jazz Music Reviews

PIGBAG Dr Heckle And Mr Jive

Album · 1982 · World Fusion
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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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
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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
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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
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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 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
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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”.

MUHAL RICHARD ABRAMS Levels And Degrees Of Light

Album · 1968 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Levels And Degrees Of Light",released more than a half-century ago, is an almost forgotten cornerstone evidence of the entire epoch, and that's a shame. One of AACM founder pianist Muhal Richard Abrams (or simply Richard Abrams at the time of release) debut contains lot of ideas which have been developed for upcoming decades with a great success.

Just three longish compositions, all different but beautiful in their own way. One big surprise is lot of ambient sounds, similar to "white noise" on two longest album's compositions, recalling early synthesizers sound. Not common in jazz, early (rare and really expensive) synthesizers attracted interest of some known pianists, as Paul Bley or Richard Teitelbaum among others,so there are some recordings coming from 70s with use of this instrument,but the biggest surprise is that there on "Levels And Degrees Of Light" no electronic devices are used at all!

Main sources of ambient noise are Gordon Emmanuel vibes on opener and Leroy Jenkins violin on "The Bird Song". On "Levels And Degrees Of Light" classically trained vocalist Penelope Taylor sings over the ambient sounds, with addition of Abrams soloing on clarinet. Album's longest composition "The Bird Song" (filling all B-side on original vinyl release, but stated second in line on CD reissue)contains characteristic for 60s recitative poetry (read by David Moore).

"My Thoughts Are My Future - Now And Forever" which closes digital edition of this album, is shorter and more usual for the time groovy high-energy free jazz composition with staccato piano,sax soloing from Anthony Braxton (most probably his first ever recorded work) and lot of space for drummer Thurman Barker.

The album which probably doesn't sound such a radical from time distance at the day of release was innovative and perfectly illustrated the musical concept of then newly established musical school/movement of innovative Chicagoan artists which is still alive and active nowadays.

STEVIE WONDER Innervisions

Album · 1973 · RnB
Cover art 4.60 | 16 ratings
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Stevie Wonder was on a roll in the 70s, knocking out one great album after another that placed at the top of the game in RnB, pop and singer/songwriter productions. With so many good albums to choose from, picking the best would be hard, but you couldn’t be too far off if your choice was 1973’s “Innervisions”. Here we have a near perfect Wonder album, with each song being a polished gem that bears the obvious fruits of endless care and toil. When you listen to all the ornate instrumental details, you can hear the immense amount of labor that went into this project, but just let the songs sing and you will be immersed in emotional narratives that cover the spectrum from mournful to celebratory.

“Innervisions” is an eclectic album that ranges from the hard funk of “Living for the City”, to the art balladry of “Visions” and “All in Love is Fair”, to the jazzy abstractions of “Too High”. The music is inventive and became very influential over the years, but likewise, the lyrics are heartfelt and can hit hard in their insights and unflinching truth as Stevie address personal turmoil in relationships, as well as the irrational hatred and fear of his fellow man. Wonder performs almost every instrument on here himself, with some limited help from guests on a few tracks, but the result does not sound stifled as some home recording projects can sound, instead, Stevie by himself sounds like one hell of a hot jam session, no easy task.

WAYNE SHORTER The Collector (aka Etcetera)

Album · 1979 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.43 | 7 ratings
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Steve Wyzard
WAYNE: THE GREAT ONE

So what's the best Wayne Shorter album? While many would opt for Night Dreamer, The All-Seeing Eye, or Adam's Apple, let it be said here that in spite of its complicated release history, Et Cetera is his crowning achievement as a leader in the studio. Recorded on June 14, 1965, four of the five tracks (all except "Toy Tune") were released with "The Collector" (an outtake from Adam's Apple) in Japan only. The full album was finally given a wide release as part of Blue Note's "LT" series in 1980.

As of this writing (2019), all four performers are still with us today: Wayne on tenor sax, Herbie Hancock on piano, Cecil McBee on bass, and Joe Chambers on drums. The low-key opener, "Etcetera" (6:20) is an ever-opening flower, both hypnotizing and unforgettable as it gradually unfolds. I have no idea if this was ever performed live, but it would have made a phenomenal solo trade-off number on stage. One of Shorter's most beautiful ballads, "Penelope" (6:44), comes next, with Wayne's tone and Herbie's solo being especially poignant. The light and breezy "Toy Tune" (7:22) is followed by Gil Evans's "Barracudas" (11:04). This intense workout gives the group a chance to stretch out, with both Wayne and Herbie having their most awe-inspiring moments on the album. Cecil McBee's bizarre bassline and substantial solo dominate the closing "Indian Song" (11:35). Everyone is at the top of their game throughout, and fans of all four players are urged to seek this one out.

It remains an unfathomable mystery why it took 15 years for this album to be released in USA/Europe. I will even go so far as to say that this is the best release in the famous (or is it infamous?) "LT" series, beating out Larry Young's Mother Ship and Grant Green's Nigeria by a close margin. Don't let Et Cetera's original cover dissuade you: yes, it's a wall of TV's. Huh?

GONG The Universe Also Collapses

Album · 2019 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Founded in France in late 60s by Australian beatnik Daevid Allen Gong for decades was possible best known musical hippie commune, based in Europe. They never received a commercial success but after all these years there are still people around discussing their Radio Gnome Trilogy (I'm serious - I can even mention a name or few!).

So, right after the half of a century (serious age for active music collective, isn't it?) we get an offer to listen to the new music recorded by "Gong". What is in a menu?

Band's founder and spiritual/creative leader Daevid Allen passed away in 2015 and the yeasr after there was released an album contained his legacy (unfinished ideas and works and lot of music from his younger collaborators who played beside of him). It was quite a great memorial release if not really a Gong album. Now, three years later (and four years after Allen's death), we have an album of new material,not something from the vaults. I'm far not a person who idolize even a great artists, but in a case with Gong things are not so simple.

Original Gong has always been more then just a band, in fact at their best they were talented counter-couture commune playing for fun and time to time recording their hippie-dada-space tales to dedicated followers. There were lot of line-up changes and there were more then a few Gong versions as well. Even best of them (different then Allen "original" one) was a better-then-average jazz fusion band (I'm speaking about so-called "Pierre Moerlen Gong" and their "Shamal" and "Gazeuse!" albums from mid 70s), but they lost that Allen's childish playful freakiness from very first steps. It was Allen himself who saved this ingredient for any project ,he participated, no-one else.

Returning back to newest album,"The Universe Also Collapses" is surprisingly strong (for second decade of new Millennium) progressive rock release. Skilled musicians who all played on last Gong album with Allen still on board - "I See You"(2014) - do the great job here. From twenty-plus minute long space-rock opener "Forever Reoccurring" ("Hawkwind" fans must to hear it for sure)to short guitars driven well-arranged "If Never I'm And Ever You" (do you still remember American AOR bands from early 80s?)to "My Sawtooth Wake" (I really respect Steve Wilson music too)and finally the closer "The Elemental" (Jethro Tull goes AOR?)they play a high quality progressive rock of sort with enthusiasm and positive energy not so characteristic for the time when progressive rock too often become a form of self parody.

Still is it enough for calling themselves "Gong"?

RAY OBIEDO Carousel

Album · 2019 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Even if you don’t recognize his name, if you are a fan of contemporary jazz and RnB you have probably heard the guitar playing of Ray Obiedo many times by now. Ray is a busy session guy who has recorded with just about everyone in his field, including heavy weights like Herbie Hancock, Sheila E and George Duke. Ray also releases his own albums, and many of those are favored by the jazz radio crowd, so there is a good chance when you are hearing jazz as background, that might be Ray as well. “Carousel” is Obiedo’s latest CD and it finds him serving up an eclectic mix of RnB, Brazilian, Cuban, smooth jazz and more.

Ray invited 32 musicians to work with him on “Carousel”, with many coming from his hometown area of Northern California where they work with local stalwarts such as Tower of Power and Santana. Some of the better known guests include Bob Mintzer, Toots Thieleman, Peter Garibaldi and Andy Narell. As mentioned earlier, every track carries a distinctive rhythm and flavor as Ray attempts to cover all the bases. Two of the more energetic songs come early on with the RnB of “Jinx” and the Latin drive of “Sharp Aztec”. Bob Mintzer’s funky sax solo on “Modern World” is also a winner. Possibly the top track though is a mystical cover of Mancini’s, “Lujon”. First of all, it is a Mancini composition, and secondly, the ambient drift and arrangement on this track has a more modern sound. A couple other songs seem geared towards the radio in a smooth jazz context. Throughout “Carousel”, Obiedo plays soulful licks and solos that recall George Benson and Wes Montgomery, two other guitarists who were adept at combining hard bop grit with pop sheen.

THE ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO Nice Guys

Album · 1979 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.98 | 5 ratings
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The Art Ensemble of Chicago(AEOC) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. They already played a series of gigs in US and announced upcoming European tour in October. Double album with new studio and some live recordings "We Are on the Edge" has been just released as well.

The band for all these decades was an unorthodox avant-garde celebrities of sort - their early circus-like shows and use of nontraditional sound instruments ("little instruments" - bells, bicycle horns, birthday party noisemakers,etc,etc)made them name partially around Europe as non-conformist forerunners, at the same time they were rarely supported by music critics and never experienced real commercial success. With years to come they received almost cult status as influential early avant-garde jazz band, but many newcomers are often disappointed when listening their one or another album.

There are many reasons why it happens that way, but the main one is their music worked well when evidenced live and in the times when them looked really alternative/counterculture act (i.i. late 60s -early 70s). The Western world was different and it wanted something revolutionary or even "revolutionary". They just started in right time (and in a case with Paris ca.1969 - in right place). Their music doesn't date all that well, at least some part of it.

The other reason why many their albums (to be honest - almost all) doesn't sound all that attractive today is on a peak of their early popularity they released plenty of badly recorded and edited music. All but one their albums recorded between 1969 and 1974 were released on tiny European (predominantly French) labels as BYG or America and often sound as unedited demos. In case with AEOC music bad sound mix and uninspired editing means that the listener receives a collection of muddy directless never-ending noises coming from small instruments time to time interrupted by tuneful marches and "true" instruments soloing. Those familiar with band's impressive discogs will probably agree that it is almost impossible to mention even a few really great their albums (in whole). As rule, even their better releases contain few stronger pieces and lot of fillers. At the same time, early live recordings are predominantly of bootleg quality and can be recommended for hot fans and collectors mostly.

Their first American major label release came in 1974 only (on Atlantic) and it stays one of their better works for sure. Second album has been released after five years only, and it is the one we are speaking about - "Nice Guys" on prestigious ECM! Musically it represents a wide variety of regular AEOC music, but in term of quality it is a big step ahead. Renown by their recordings exclusive airy clear sound, ECM people recorded the material in their main Tonstudio Bauer in Ludwigsburg with full respect to each of many sounds traditionally produced by band. At last the dedicated listener can hear every smallest bell's ring and car signal's call as if he's in a room where the band is playing live.

Surprisingly how much that sound/mix quality adds to band's music - being musically mostly the same on "Nice Guys" the band sounds much richer and for sure more attractively. Then, there are only 6 compositions chosen for the album and them mostly are all quite short (in AEOC terms). It means there are no long bulky "little instruments" soling at every possibility, as it was before. General band music's relaxed and improvisational nature is presented well enough but still all material is edited making it much more listenable.

The opener "Ja" contains reggae rhythms and is one of these band's songs that stays in memory for years. Less than two-minutes long "Nice Guys" is a groovy song nicely filling the gap between the opener and "Folkus" - a longer and freer composition demonstrating all the collection of band's "little instruments" and gongs sounds and excellent recording studio and ECM engineers abilities as well. And - it doesn't sound annoying or boring.

On "597-59" band runs ahead on whole cylinders with continuing reeds soloing over the groovy drums/bass shaking ground, in a true free jazz fashion. Finishes with extended solo bass dance.

"Cyp"doesn't have such busy sound as other album's compositions, it is slower,almost static with crispy sound from each instrument, free and near philosophical. "Dreaming of the Master" - the closer and longest album song, is dedicated to Miles Davis and surprisingly enough it sounds not much different from Miles himself, circa late 50s.At least in the beginning and the end - central part is dedicated to free jazz.

"Nice Guys" is a high quality representative AEOC album covering their first five years. As almost any other ECM release it has re-issued many times and it isn't a problem to find it for purchase. One better choice for newbies and anyone interested to find out why Art Ensemble of Chicago are celebrities till now. Find it, listen and then go to see them live.

WILLIAM PARKER Voices Fall From The Sky

Album · 2018 · Vocal Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Voices Fall From The Sky" is an unusual album even for bassist and composer William Parker who's music is always way unpredictable. And not because it is a massive three-CD set - Parker often uses similar format for his releases in new millennium. Simply, it is a vocal album. Parker often uses vocalists for some his projects, but songs with vocal usually take smaller part of the album, if at all. And here we have three-CD set exclusively dedicated to vocalists!

Not all music here is jazz and far not all material is new as well. First disc in a set, titled same as whole release - "Voices Fall From The Sky" - is a new recording with only a short opener coming from Parker's 2006 album "Long Hidden: The Olmec Series". It contains predominantly duos or small combos playing avant-garde ballads (jazz and non-jazz) sung by ten different female and male singers, one or two per piece). It works quite well and recalls Ran Blake recordings with Jeannie Lee."We Often Danced" with Fay Victor is a peak. On this part, Parker himself plays on five songs only (all but one - bass, and ngoni on "Airlift").

Disc 2 titled simply "Songs" contains lot of previously released material. Only four songs have been previously unreleased and are material from the vault (recorded in 1991 and 1993). All them are minimalist duets of William Parker on bass or Japanese pianist Yuko Fujiyama with singers Lisa Sokolov or Ellen Christi. All but one rest songs on this CD are duets as well, piano or bass plus singer, all comes from already released albums. Parker is an only bassist, but we can hear two more pianist - another Japanese Eri Yamamoto and Parker's regular collaborator Cooper-Moore changing each other. Well known from other Parker projects singer Leena Conquest is added on the vocalists list (beside of lesser known Senegalese Mola Sylla). Predominantly dark bare-naked minimalist ballads continue the spirit and atmosphere of the first set's CD. Part are jazzy, others - more camber/non-jazz avant-garde.

CD 3 opens with live big-band version of "The Essence Of Ellington" with Ernie Odoom on vocals, recorded live in Italy in 2012 and already released on Parker's "Essence Of Ellington" same year. It continues with "Lights Of Lake George" sung by Indian classical vocalist Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay and supported by same Parker's Orchestra (already released in 2008 on "Double Sunrise Over Neptune"). Deep sultry Leena Conquest voice is easy recognizable on perfect but already heard "For Fannie Lou Hamer"(from "For Those Who Are, Still",2015). "Deep Flower" is groovy composition with recitative vocals coming from obscure "Wood Flute Songs. Anthology / Live 2006-2012"(2013).

What comes after is probably a biggest surprise of whole release. Parker's composed four-part avant-garde jazz suite of sort, performed by trio of already mentioned above Japanese pianist Eri Yamamoto,Estonian drummer Leonid Galaganov and Afro-American mezzo-soprano AnnMarie Sandy combines avant-garde minimalist piano-drums duo with operatic vocals. It is a new material, released for the first time here, it not always works but at the same time it is the music which attracts the attention for sure.

Whole set closes with beautiful "Natasha's Theme" from "Alphaville Suite, Music Inspired By The Jean Luc Godard Film", a Parker's album released in 2007 on French Rogueart Jazz label.

A mixed bag, this album contains a lot of great music and some interesting music, but cleaned from reissues and edited till more listenable size of single CD, it could be an another Parker's strong release. Still worth listening for sure, at least for recordings one can't find on any other Parker's album.

WILLIAM PARKER William Parker Quartets : Meditation / Resurrection

Album · 2017 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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snobb
There are quite a few avant-garde jazz veterans still creative and active around, but surprisingly enough some of them experience a true renaissance for last decade or more. Henry Threadgill or Wadada Leo Smith are great examples. Bassist William Parker, who played still with Cecil Taylor, is another one on the list. What is even more surprising, all three artists mentioned above during last years somehow switched towards more monumental forms of music releasing large scale recordings, from extended suites to double and triple disc sets one after another.

Parker's "Meditation/Resurrection" is another example of such release. Double-CD set contains twelve compositions recorded with two different bands, each on separate disc. The music presented is characteristic for Parker melodic groovy avant-garde jazz rooted in trad jazz and blues with African rhythmic elements and European composition influences.

Both parts sound not all that much different what is understandable - both are recorded by same William Parker core trio consisting of himself on acoustic bass,alto saxophonist Rob Brown and drummer Hamid Drake, just rounded out till quartet with two different musicians.

On a first CD it is a kalimba and trumpet player Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson. With Hamid Drake switching on gong and Parker himself playing tarota (a Catalan double-reed instrument) in moments, "Meditation" is quite a true title for this part. Partially relaxed, freer and esoteric, this music combines Eastern gathering with early jazz and blues marching playfulness.

On a second CD,"Resurrection", core Parker's trio contains their usual fourth member - pianist Cooper-Moore (all quartet is known under the name "In Order To Survive"). Here pianist is a significant player pushing the band towards more structured compositions with brilliant Rob Brown alto and Parker bass soloing above often bluesy in deep but complex and knotty piano-drums rhythmic flow.

Equally strong release among some more released by Parker during last years, not too massive but (as even more in case with his so beloved triple sets) would be more useful released as two separate albums. OK, his label probably has a different opinion here.

MISSUS BEASTLY Bremen 1974

Live album · 2006 · Fusion
Cover art 3.98 | 3 ratings
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Igor91
The following is a review that I originally published on the sister website of Jazz Music Archives, Progarchives, on 1/15/17:

Missus Beastly's "Bremen 1974" is, in my opinion, their best release. This may be hard to believe, considering that it is a live recording from 1974 that was not released until almost 30 years after their final studio album. But this is an incredible, jammy, jazzrock recording that should get more attention.

I'm not really a huge fan of Missus Beastly's other releases, including their wildly different debut, but this one really grabs me. It's loose, yet tight at the same time, and is the only recording of splendid guitarist Eddy Marron's participation in the band. His excellent guitar work soars on this release and leaves one to wonder what the band's subsequent releases may have sounded like if he had stayed on. The album features 3 long, jam-heavy tracks, each one different from the other. The songs incorporate jazzrock, ethnic flourishes, psychedelia, and funk into a masterful live performance. Highly recommended for fans of German jazzrock from that era! 4 stars.

THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND At Fillmore East

Live album · 1971 · Blues
Cover art 4.25 | 9 ratings
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Those who know the Allman Brothers Band well know that there are two distinctly different versions of the band, the first version with Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, and the second version after Duane and Berry had both died in separate motorcycle accidents. The second version of the band was/is a talented rock band, but no match for the first version of the band. The original Allmans led by brother Duane were an absolute force of nature, one of the most creative and talented groups of their generation. The fact that the early Allmans were called a rock band probably had more to do with their hippy garb and their gigs with other rockers, but listen to the music, there is actually very little rock to be found, instead you will hear plenty of blues in swing time, some jazz fusion, southern RnB, and a touch of country too. Whereas many others in their peer group were following the blues rock of Cream and Hendrix, the Allmans were charting their own hybrid combinations that did not sound like anyone else. Their first two studio albums got some attention, but it wasn’t until they released the incendiary “At Fillmore East” that people began to recognize what this group was capable of. This only makes sense because the Allmans were first and foremost a very live act. These guys knew how to jam and improvise in ways that other groups could only imagine. The Brother’s improvs were not always your typical two chord hippy jam, they often went off on tangents that showed diverse influences from Indian ragas, soul jazz, rock fused bluegrass and creative creations of their own that are hard to define or label.

Side one of “At Fillmore East” opens with a trio of blues numbers, on “Stormy Monday” they show their interest in soul jazz when the band goes into a double time swing while Gregg Allman knocks out a B3 solo in the style of Jimmy McGriff and Jack McDuff. On side two’s “You Don’t Love Me”, the band hits their trademark locomotive groove and now we are on our way. Side three is the jazz side with the lengthy Santana sounding, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”, taking up much of the side. Side four closes out the album with the hard charging groove of “Whipping Post”, an all-time Allman Brothers favorite. Each of these lengthy jams usually contain side variations and excursions into styles that I can’t describe because they don’t fit any known genre. The whole band was extremely talented, but Duane Allman was one of the most creative guitarists of his generation, possibly topped only by Jimi Hendrix, his fellow super nova who burned so bright for a couple of years and then suddenly left us. If you want to hear the Allman Brothers at their very best, "At Fillmore East" is the one,

WYNTON MARSALIS JLCO with Wynton Marsalis and St. Louis Symphony : Swing Symphony

Album · 2019 · Third Stream
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Certainly Wynton Marsalis has worn many different hats in his career as a musician, but possibly his strongest talent is as a classic 3rd stream composer, and his latest effort “Swing Symphony”, does much to bear this out. Much like Stravinsky and Ravel, Marsalis is a ‘natural composer’, that is to say, no matter how complex or complicated his music may get, it always seems to roll along as naturally as someone walking down the street whistling a favorite melody. This is an ambitious piece that strives to present the history of jazz in a concert hall setting, but don’t expect a dry history lesson, do expect some swingin music and plenty of hot solos backed by driving rhythmic accompaniment.

Much of “Swing Symphony” recalls that time period when jazz first met classical under the guidance of composers like Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Darius Milhaud and others. In that respect this piece could be seen as ‘future retro’ in that it captures the modern tone of a certain era that manages to remain modern in appearance for all history, for instance, the always futuristic style known as art deco. In many ways, the more experimental music of the 20s and 30s is the art deco of the musical world. Wynton’s symphony does not stay in the 30s, but even as the presented musical styles move up to the late 20th century, its that early mix of classical and jazz that marks the overall tone of this piece.

Avoiding a laborious retelling of all the events in “Swing Symphony”, it is interesting to note some of the highlights. Before the symphony gets into jazz’s roots as ragtime, there is a brief opening section that recalls Ellington’s version of African music. Yes, it all starts with Africa, and I never doubted Wynton would start anywhere else. After this, the ragtime arrangements kick in and then there is a trumpet break, who is this, Buddy Bolden or Louie Armstrong or possibly a little bit of both. In the third movement of the symphony we find ourselves in the swing era and Wynton does a great job of capturing the sound of the Ellington saxophone section.

The fourth movement opens like a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie as we move from bebop to Afro-Cuban. A particularly melancholic saxophone melody closes out this movement and it is quite possibly a reference to the tragic downfall of one of jazz’s most prominent geniuses, Charlie Parker. As we move through the last three movements the music becomes more abstract and dissonant, often recalling Edgar Varese, Charles Ives, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Gil Evans. Movement five features a modal hard bop jam in the style of Coltrane and Miles, and in movement six we get some rather brutish and clumsy rhythms, possibly a satirical jab at fusion. Movement seven brings back an African groove, this time existing halfway between the worlds of the Duke and Sun Ra with a dash of Stravinsky and the symphony closes out with a floating abstract return to swing.

“Swing Symphony” is one of those pieces that should gain strength through the ages and hopefully it will find its deserved place in the concert hall 3rd stream repertoire. Its easy to imagine a future symphonic program that might include Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, Stravinsky’s “Ebony Concerto”, Ellington’s “Black, Brown and Beige’, and Marsalis’ swingin symphony.

JAMIE SAFT The Jamie Saft Quartet : Hidden Corners

Album · 2019 · Fusion
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Pianist/keyboardist Jamie Saft is one of more interesting figure connecting New York down town jazz with burgeoning London jazz scene (through collaboration with London-based RareNoise label). His newest all-star quartet's album "Hidden Corners" continues this direction presenting Saft & Co.s touch on such a fashionable in London spiritual jazz.

Album's opener "Positive Way" is possible the best illustration what "Hidden Corners" are all about - soulful composition influenced by "Love Supreme"/Coltrane circa '65 music will obviously attract fans of Pharoah Sanders spiritual jazz re-birth. It is most memorable song coming from the album, what comes after is quite a mixed bag though. Right after very skilled but not same inspired quartet offers freer journey which is quite bulky and directionless.

Rest of the album contains a songs collection of two types - more soulful and spiritual (though a bit faceless) compositions and freer but too formal and emotionless pieces. Music here is well played but has no chances to win in a competition with enthusiastic youngish British bands dominating on London scene. Today's spiritual jazz attracts new listeners mostly because of its fresh, maybe partially naive, atmosphere and re-invented spirit of late 60s. Saft's quartet sounds as a bit bored bunch of pros playing some fashionable tunes on request (or because of contractual obligation). Not a bad music, but it lacking inspiration.

ISAAC HAYES The Isaac Hayes Movement (aka Superstarshine Vol. 31)

Album · 1970 · RnB
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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“The Isaac Hayes Movement” is Isaac’s third studio album and is also the immediate predecessor to his highly acclaimed soundtrack masterpiece, “Shaft”. A lot of the diverse elements that would make “Shaft” such a powerful statement are all here, just not as fully developed yet. There are four songs on “Movement”, and each one has its own distinctive flavor. Album opener “I Stand Accused” is one of those long confessional soul ballads that opens with a detailed spoken soliloquy, a technique used by Hayes before, and also favored by artists like Barry White, James Brown and Betty Wright. In this very convincing spoken word segment, Isaac confesses to his best friend’s girlfriend that he is madly in love with her. Its all here; passion, complication, human frailty and no doubt an inevitable heartache and broken friendships. Side one ends with more modern psychological drama in the form of “One Big Unhappy Family”, a story of a ‘good’ family by all appearances who do their best to hide their emotionally bankrupt lives. This one carries its message with sublime chord progressions and subtle orchestrations, all Hayes trademarks.

Side two opens with more heartache in the form of Burt Bacharach’s “I Just don’t Know what to do with Myself”, like most Bacharach creations, this one is top notch both musically and lyrically. All three of these opening songs are great, but the real masterpiece comes with Isaac’s sprawling arrangement of George Harrison’s “Something”. Its on this track that Hayes’ shows the diversity that will go on to make “Shaft” such a success. During the 12 minute multi-movement “Something” opus, Isaac combines, psychedelic pop, classical orchestral arrangements, soul balladry, big band rave ups, progressive rock, free form jazz rock freak outs and more. It’s a very early 70s sort of creative creation as it slowly builds and finally culminates in a raging electric violin solo by John Blair. If you are looking for Isaac Hayes at his most creative, “Something” has got it.

JOHN ZORN John Zorn / George Lewis / Bill Frisell ‎: More News For Lulu

Live album · 1992 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.05 | 3 ratings
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John Zorn is one of key figure in New York down town scene for some last decades who for many listeners associates with radical experimentation and/or prolific accessible jazz-related releases long lasting history. Both tags are right, but Zorn has much more faces then just this. In late 80s, besides of developing one of his most shocking and influential Naked City project, based on Japanese brutal avant-rock jazzier interpretation, Zorn played in unusual trio with his regular guitarist of that time Bill Frisell and AACM trombonist George Lewis. Two albums has been recorded - both in Europe.

First one - "News For Lulu" - is mostly studio work, when its continuation "More News For Lulu" contains similar material but this time coming from two gigs - one in Paris and the other in Basel, Switzerland. Unusual trio of sax player, trombonist and guitarist plays Blue Note material,or more precisely - hard bop compositions from Sonny Clark, Hank Mobley, Big John Patton, Kenny Dorham, and Freddie Redd, in addition to one selection from Misha Mengelberg.

Most unusual is the fact that this music, recorded almost in the same time when Zorn worked with Naked City,sounds very bright, swinging, light-full and in general very optimistic. Surprisingly enough, trio doesn't cross hard bop frames too often and their down town touch on material is noticeable mostly by modern arrangements and some freer soloing.

Probably a bit too long (lasting one hour and 18 minutes),the album demonstrates some repetitiveness in a second half, but in all it's an enjoyable example of three highest class musicians' work, one among best music John Zorn ever recorded under his name and excellent entry point for newcomers with mainstream jazz background interested in John Zorn massive legacy and unorthodox modern jazz in general.

MARIUS GUNDERSEN Brazilian Guitar Music by Marco Pereira

Album · 2019 · Third Stream
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Something wonderful happened in the world of music starting sometime in the 1920s and continuing to today and that is the merging of jazz and European classical traditions to create new modern hybrids. Its hard to think of a composer past the 1920s that wasn’t influenced by jazz’s sophisticated syncopated rhythms, and certainly jazz musicians had no chance to escape the classical influence as more than likely most of their advanced lessons centered around Chopin, Bach and the rest. In today’s musical universe, other musical components can enter the picture as well, such as Indian ragas, Indonesian Gamelan and Latin American traditions. Its within that merger of classical, jazz and Brazilian practices that we find the new album by Marius Noss Gundersen, “Brazilian Guitar Music by Marco Pereira”.

The title says it all, Gundersen’s new album is a collection of compositions for classical acoustic guitar written by Marco Periera, who’s classical compositions are inspired by Brazilian song forms. In the album liner notes Periera expresses his gratitude to Marius for producing the first album entirely devoted to Marco’s music. Marco also includes very helpful notes for every track on the album, which is nice because very few of us are going to be familiar with all of the Brazilian traditions he is referencing, so its good to have some program notes as a guide if you want to learn more.

The compositions are excellent, deep enough for close and repeated listening, but also pleasant enough to be attractive to people who might not know a thing about Latin jazz or contemporary classical music. Marius’ guitar playing is impressive as he tends to bring out the delicate side of this rather difficult instrument. Listening to how well he can control volume as an aid to expression proves that he is definitely in that upper echelon of guitarists. Fast passages sound unrushed and handled with ease, this CD is a treasure chest for fans of nimble finger picking in any style. So many good tracks on here, but some standouts include, “Estrela da Manha” with its mystical mixolydian chord changes, “Bate-Coxa” has an almost Carribean sounding celebratory style, and album closer, Baiao Cansada” with its modernistic Lydian melodies.

ERNIE WATTS Ernie Watts Quartet : Home Light

Album · 2018 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Double Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Ernie Watts is back with the latest album with his quartet, which has had the same line-up of Christof Saenger (piano), Rudi Engel (bass) and Heinrich Koebberling (drums) since 2011’s ‘Oasis’, although Watts originally formed the quartet in 2004. But his own history goes back much farther than that, as he originally won a won a Downbeat Scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. While he was there, Gene Quill quit Buddy Rich's Big Band, and trombonist Phil Wilson (a professor at Berklee), was asked to recommend a student as temporary replacement. A young Ernie Watts was referred, and “temporarily” stayed with Rich from 1966-1968 and toured the world, and since then has been a professional musician who works in popular music (Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan etc.), TV and film (“Ghostbusters” among literally hundreds of others), but whose first love is jazz, ever since he was blown away by Coltrane on what was then the brand-new Miles Davis album ‘Kind of Blue’.

When someone has been playing music for as many years as Watts, it is of course no surprise that he has an amazing tone, and when four top musicians have been together for this long, they all know each other incredibly well and bounce ideas off each other with panache. Watts’ sax is often the lead melody instrument, but not always, and the feeling is that this really is a band as opposed to one person with a bunch of supporters behind him. It is fresh, it is exciting, powerful, uplifting music which also includes a sense of fun and joy. It is bright, full of life and light: the sun breaking through on the horizon is a perfectly apt photo for the cover as it ties in directly with this. The band work through different styles from bebop and gospel through to the likes of swing, always with aplomb, care and direction. Watts will even sit back out of the music for complete sections to allow the others to take the lead, knowing he doesn’t always have to be in the thick of it for magic to happen. Ian Patterson at All About Jazz has been quoted as saying about Watts “Not just at the top of his game, but at the top of THE game”, and here is yet another example of why that is the case.

ERIC DOLPHY Musical Prophet : The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions

Boxset / Compilation · 2018 · Post Bop
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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In early July 1963 Eric Dolphy went into the studio and recorded several new tunes as well as a couple of covers. He worked with a variety of ensembles ranging from mini big band to smaller combos, as well as several duets with bassist Richard Davis. Several tracks were selected from that session and released on the album that came to be known as “Conversations”. Several years after Eric’s death, more of the session was released under the title “Iron Man”. Recently the good folks at Resonance collected all these recordings together, plus some other odds and ends and a few alternate takes and released the whole thing as “Eric Dolphy Musical Prophet”, and needless to say, this sucker is bursting with goodness.

Its nice to have all these recordings in one place now because the previous albums were sometimes frustrating in what was kept and what was left out, now its all here in one package. The variety on this CD is admirable. For those who like Eric’s bebop side there’s “Jitterbug Waltz” and “Iron Man”. Dolphy displays his ultra modern compositional style with “Mandrake” and “Burning Spear” and his duets with Richard Davis show a deep meditative side that results in chamber music of concert hall quality. There is one track taken from a different recording session, and that is “A Personal Statement”, an avant-garde tone poem that features vocalist David Schwartz vocalizing lyrics about Jim Crow laws in the US south.

For Eric Dolphy fans and those interested in the more experimental side of 60s jazz, this collection is essential. Of most interest to many of us is how advanced many of Eric’s compositions were. Listening to how he shifts time signatures and tempos while playing both inside and outside of the chord changes we hear much of what is happening in jazz today. Eric was not really a ‘free player’, and he was also far from conventional, instead, Dolphy had unique takes on composition and tonality that were decades ahead of his time.

STAN GETZ Sweet Rain

Album · 1967 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.67 | 3 ratings
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FIRST OF THE REST

Remember the bumper sticker that read "Today is the first day of the rest of your life"? Sweet Rain can be considered the first album of "the rest" of Stan Getz's career. By the time it was released in 1967, Stan had already played with Woody Herman and Johnny Smith, conquered Europe, introduced bossa nova to America, and recorded movie soundtracks, albums with strings, and albums with vocalists. While there had been previous hints of things to come, Sweet Rain would do nothing less than epitomize Stan's "sound" for the rest of his career: smaller ensembles, unassuming formats, and the wistful, ethereal tones that only he could produce.

Three phenomenal players accompany Stan on Sweet Rain: a very young (just short of 26) Chick Corea on piano, Ron Carter (doing some session work in between Miles Smiles and Sorcerer) on bass, and the immaculate Grady Tate on drums. This album features the first appearance of the now-standard Corea composition "Windows", and what a performance it is. No "easy-listening" album this, everyone is given ample soloing space, with Stan soaring above it all. Given his recent bossa nova success, one can't help but wonder if Verve Records "influenced" the inclusion of Jobim's "O Grande Amor" and Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma". Slight Latin inflections can be detected in the quartet's sound, but this never becomes even close to a bossa nova album. Corea's powerful "Litha" and the dreamy title track complete the set-list. With Creed Taylor and Rudy van Gelder behind the boards, one might expect a CTI Records prototype, but the wonderful performances prove that assumption mistaken (even if it does prove true with Stan's previous album, Voices).

Retro-flashbacks and reunion albums aside, Sweet Rain, over 50 years later still proves to be a definitive recording of the Stan Getz "sound". This American life truly did have a "second act", and it started right here. And though it certainly can't be considered his best album over a very-checkered recording career, it made possible later masterpieces like The Master, Pure Getz, Voyage, and Blue Skies. Sweet Rain is short and (yes) sweet, yet simultaneously unforgettable and all-encompassing. Enjoy!

DIZZY GILLESPIE Dizzy Gillespie - Charlie Parker ‎: Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945

Live album · 2005 · Bop
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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When this full concert of Gillespie and Parker's quintet surfaced in 2005 it was a major event. A complete and previously unknown concert recording of Bird and Diz in New York in the spring of 1945 with full length performances (not limited by the short running time of 78RPM records) was the jazz equivalent of finding the Dead Sea Scrolls. Amazingly, the acetate discs on which the concert was recorded were found in an antique store nearly 60 years later.

The Town Hall concert captures Gillespie and Parker, along with Max Roach, Al Haig and Curley Russell, as they were just beginning to take over the jazz world. Chronologically, this gig fell right in the middle of a run of studio dates that would produce the foundational texts of bebop: Groovin' High, Dizzy Atmosphere, Bebop, A Night In Tunisia and many more were all recorded in this period, some of them not yet released at the time of the concert.

The show was produced by the jazz DJ Symphony Sid Torin, and he starts off the proceedings with a spoken introduction that sounds painfully corny to modern ears. (Torin returns throughout the program. His introductions feel more like interruptions, but for better or worse, his presence helps put the listener "in the moment.") Then the music blasts off with Bebop taken at a blistering tempo. At first the horns are inaudible, but the engineer quickly got the levels dialed in, and for the rest of the concert the sound quality is surprisingly good for a 1945 live tape. The quintet comes charging out of the gate with Gillespie showing off his virtuosity and Roach dropping bass drum bombs all over the place. Don Byas also takes a sax solo on Bebop, sitting in briefly for Bird, who was running late! In the middle of Byas's solo the audience starts applauding spontaneously, signaling that the Yardbird was in the house. Parker took the next solo and nearly lit the room on fire.

The intensity level never flags through the different tempos. Bird and Diz were playing with tremendous energy and creativity, with each one picking up his solos right where the other left off. Dizzy shouts encouragement while Bird wails on A Night In Tunisia before peeling off his own red hot solo. The tempo launches back into the stratosphere for Salt Peanuts, including an extended solo by Roach. Sid Catlett sits in on drums for the last couple of numbers, and he must have been a fan favorite because he was greeted with raucous applause. Catlett gets his own solo feature on Hot House before the quintet ends with a short version of what was already the traditional closing number of the bop era, Thelonious Monk's 52nd Street Theme.

The concert was issued only on CD by the independent label Uptown Records. The liner notes include an essay by Ira Gitler about the concert and his memories of the early days of bebop, along with plenty of photos, reproductions of contemporary ads and press clippings about the concert, and notes on how the recordings were finally found.

The 1953 Massey Hall concert is probably the best known live document of Bird and Dizzy together. By the time of that recording they were major stars of jazz and exerting influence on all who followed. But on the Town Hall concert of 1945, we can hear Parker and Gillespie in extended performances for the first time when they were still young and hungry, two young lions about to set the jazz world on fire.

JAMES BROWN Love Power Peace: Live at the Olympia, Paris, 1971

Live album · 1992 · Funk
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Love Power Peace is the only official live release from the Godfather of Soul with his most powerful band, the original JBs. The story of their arrival on the scene is the stuff of legend: when James Brown's band quit on him en masse in the middle of a tour, he flew in a young band from Cincinnati called the Pacemakers to replace them. The Pacemakers were rechristened as The JBs, and their work with Brown set a new standard of funkiness. Powered by the Collins brothers, Bootsy on bass and Catfish on guitar, the new group recorded a string of funk classics in the studio, including Sex Machine, Talking Loud and Saying Nothing, Soul Power, Greedy Man, and Super Bad.

The JBs were also incendiary in concert, and the show that became Love Power Peace was captured live in Paris in 1971. But the original JBs parted ways with Brown soon after, and the album was shelved. It was finally issued on CD in 1992, with the full show following on a 3-LP set in 2014. (This review is for the CD mix.) I can't help but wonder if this would have supplanted Live at the Apollo as the essential James Brown live album if it had been released in 1971, because it is an amazing performance.

The band includes the aforementioned Collins brothers, along with funky drummer Jabo Starks (sometimes spelled by second drummer Tiger Martin), backup singer Bobby Byrd, and Fred Wesley on trombone getting most of the horn solos. This band is so tight it's almost difficult to believe - they can switch tempos or stop on a dime based on JB's cues. (Indeed, there is video of this show on Youtube. When I first watched it I was astonished to see that some of the segues between songs which I was sure were edited for the CD were actually played live.) This can be heard right from the opening medley of Brother Rapp and Ain't It Funky Now, as the band adjusts the tempo seamlessly while amping the energy level ever upward. Catfish Collins's guitar solo on Ain't It Funky Now is both a delight and a preview of great moments still to come, while Bootsy lays down the groove in a way seldom heard before or since - often imitated but never duplicated.

The show includes two great ballads (Georgia On My Mind and an incredible rendition of It's A Man's World) but it's never a long wait for this band to get back to givin' up the funk. The centerpiece of the album is a hypnotic 9-minute version of Sex Machine, with Catfish Collins spiraling out line after ecstatic line on the guitar while Brown and Byrd repeat the familar "Get Up, Get On Up" refrain, Starks accents Brown's dance moves from the drums and the audience gets worked into an absolute frenzy. And that energy level never lets up, all the way through the closing medley of Super Bad, Get Up Get Into It Get Involved, and Soul Power. When the concert finally ends, the crowd erupts and chants James Brown's name, and you just might find yourself doing the same.

DANNY BARKER Save the Bones

Album · 1988 · Original New Orleans Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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A marvelous album by the great New Orleans guitarist Danny Barker, playing and singing unaccompanied on eleven old standards. This album is filled with Barker's charisma and humor as he performs in a folksy style, allowing the songs to become vehicles for musical storytelling. There are no guitar solos to be found here, but there are plenty of ad libbed vocal asides that will put a smile on your face. The highlight of the album is Barker's performance of St. James Infirmary, perhaps the best version of that old song ever recorded. Barker somehow finds new life in this old chestnut with a slow, bluesy performance, full of improvised surprises and a gravitas that will take your breath away.

ERIC DOLPHY The Eric Dolphy Memorial Album (aka Conversations aka 1928-1964 aka Memorial aka Music Matador aka Jitterbug Waltz)

Album · 1963 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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Although its been known by many names over the years, the album that Eric Dolphy released in 1963 is mostly known by the title, “Conversations”, so that is the title we will use for this review. “Conversations” is a sort of pivotal album for Eric, coming after the expansive neo-bop of “Far Cry” and right before the avant-garde art jazz of 64’s “Out to Lunch”. “Conversations” does not possess the unity of those two, but instead is rather eclectic as it features both Dolphy’s bop side, as well as his more artsy ‘long haired’ leanings.

The album opens with the classic “Jitterbug Waltz”, played somewhat faithfully but with some decidedly ‘outside’ flourishes. Eric plays flute on here and turns in a dazzling solo. Woody Shaw also turns in a hot ride that toys endlessly with the original melody. Side one of the original LP closes out with “Musical Matador”, a rambling Caribbean number that features a rather large ensemble in joyous near cacophony. Side two features a lengthy duet with bassist Richard Davis that is neither free jazz, concert hall chamber music or relaxed post bop conversation, but contains elements of all of those. The album closes with Eric playing solo alto sax on a virtuoso and passionate rendition of “Love Me”.

The salient feature to “Conversations” is the second side on which Dolphy’s playing is isolated without a backing ensemble. It is on these tracks that his melodic skills are given free reign and the inventiveness of his playing achieves greater clarity.

KENNY WHEELER Double, Double You

Album · 1984 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.75 | 5 ratings
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MASTERPIECE BLOWING SESSION

Don't expect an impartial review here: my enthusiasm for Double Double You knows no bounds. If I were making an "all-time top 20 jazz albums" list, three would come from the year 1984: Jean-Luc Ponty's Open Mind, Steps Ahead's Modern Times, and this album. Yet it's really Double Double You that has languished in undeserved obscurity for far too long and has only just recently been re-issued so everybody could finally hear it. Not only is this Kenny Wheeler's best album EVER, it's also among the best albums ECM released during the entire decade.

The line-up of musicians alone should tell you this will be a blowing session for the ages: Kenny Wheeler, trumpet & flugelhorn, Mike Brecker, tenor saxophone, John Taylor, piano, Dave Holland, bass, and Jack DeJohnette, drums. Yes, there is absolutely unbridled, ferocious soloing throughout by all the performers, without anyone dominating the proceedings. Some of Kenny Wheeler's recordings can best be described as avant-garde, but Double Double You emphatically leans toward the accessible end of the spectrum.

The unforgettable "Foxy Trot" (14:07) is carried by one of Dave Holland's greatest basslines, and is one of those compositions that everyone should know and cover. There is a brief respite from the intensity with "Ma Bel" (3:50), a duet between Wheeler and Taylor. "W.W." (7:48) is a showcase for the horns, and the side-long suite "Three for D'reen/Blue for Lou/Mark Time" (23:28) goes through a multitude of moods, and gives everyone a chance to stretch out without endless repetitions. And please ignore the famous Leonard Feather review that complained about DeJohnette's extended solo at the end: this is one of Jack's greatest moments EVER.

Let it be said right here that if you are familiar with any of the performers, you simply MUST add this recording to your collection immediately. Thank God this flawless album is now much more widely available, and if you love this art form, you really should give it a listen. Immaculate ECM recording, as always. I have no idea if these five were able to play this material in a live setting, but if they did, I have no doubt those in attendance must have been floored!

ERIC DOLPHY Iron Man

Album · 1968 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 4 ratings
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Although it was not released until 1968, the tracks for Eric Dolphy’s “Iron Man” were recorded in 1963 at the same sessions that produced the album “Conversations”. This all went down about one year before Dolphy released his art jazz masterpiece, “Out to Lunch”, so needless to say, the material on “Iron Man” is outstanding and a must have for any Dolphy fan. Although Eric and Sun Ra are both well known leaders in the world of avant-garde jazz, you do not normally hear much similarities in their music, except on this CD on which Dolphy is working with a mini big band ensemble that often carries a very Ra like sound in its arrangements and orchestrations.

“Iron Man” opens with two high energy bebop numbers that show Dolphy taking the musical innovations of Charlie Parker just one step further. Both of these tracks are sheer joy and feature great solos from Eric, Woody Shaw and Bobby Hutcherson. The large horn ensemble on these two returns on “Burning Spear”, for an ambitious arrangement that sounds like some of today’s cutting edge jazz. Two other tracks feature Dolphy in ballad duets with bassist Richard Davis. These two songs are played a bit more straight ahead, but with no lack of melodic invention and creativity.

Some versions of “Iron Man” carry a bonus track called “A Personal Statement”. This one features Eric in duet with an opera singer and a small combo performing a bizarre waltz and some other strange stuff that would be hard to describe. This track displays Dolphy’s interest in the avant-garde concert hall music of his time. There is a piano player on this one that carries a strong Sun Ra influence, and surprise surprise, its Bob James, who would later go on to become one of the most successful money making pop jazz artists ever.

BRANFORD MARSALIS Branford Marsalis Quartet : The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul

Album · 2019 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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For those who like their jazz on the more heated side of things, Branford Marsalis’ “The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul” should fit the bill. Its been said by more than a few that Branford’s studio recordings are no match for the fire of his live performances, and that may still be true, but this new one is probably the one studio recording that gets the closest to his live intensity, and likewise, this is also one of the better recordings in Branford’s lengthy career. Not everything on “Secret” is high energy, there is a variety of styles at work here, but it’s the ones on which Marsalis cuts loose that really mark this album as something special.

Opener “Dance of the Evil Toys” sets a modernist tone with its blend of a loping African rhythm, Stravinsky like snaky melody and harsh piano smashes. They throw a change up by introducing the ballad, “Conversation Among the Ruins”, as the second number, but it is a remarkable composition, something worthy of inclusion in future standard collections. The rest of the album is made up of a variety of 21st century post bop meets 60s free jazz with Branford and pianist Joey Calderazzo knocking out one high intensity solo after another. This all culminates with album closer, Keith Jarret’s “The Windup”, whose wacked out punky be-bop melody and arrangement sounds like something from today’s NYC scene, not the 70s when Keith wrote it. If there is one track that doesn’t quite fit, it’s the laid back Latin groove of “Cianna”, whose somewhat restrained solos don’t fit the energy and creativity of the rest of the album. Maybe that one is supposed to be the radio friendly song.

JACK MOUSE Jack Mouse Group : Intimate Adversary

Album · 2018 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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kev rowland
Some albums feature musicians so in tune with each other and what everyone is doing that it isn’t possible to slip a sheet of paper between them, as they are just so tight, and that is exactly the case here. Jack Mouse sits at the back and drives his quintet through post-bop jazz which also contains swing and even brings in some influences of gospel blues. Jack shuffles, he fills, he never rests, and it is his energy which allows the rest of the band to relax and take the music where it needs to go and never having to force it. His last albums were improvisational, but here he has concentrated on compositions and arrangements and his band just sit in, harmonise, and play sublimely.

John McLean (guitar) and Bob Bowman (bass) do take their opportunity to shine when it is presented to them, but they are mostly here to provide support to Scott Robinson (tenor saxophone) and Art Davis (trumpet, flugelhorn) who takes their own solos when the time arises, but really come to the fore when they bounce against each other. But for me it is the drums which make this, with different rhythms and styles being put up and taken down as the melodies keep moving, and one can imagine the band playing in a circle, looking at each other, but more importantly looking at Jack. Simply superb.

DAVE HOLLAND Uncharted Territories

Album · 2018 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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Possibly “Uncharted Territories”, and its emphasis on free improvisation, is a bit of a nostalgia trip for Dave Holland. Back in the late 60s, Holland had performed with saxophonist Evan Parker in John Steven’s Spontaneous Music Ensemble, and although Holland would go on to leave the ‘free scene’, Parker made a career of it. Some time in recent years, Holland contacted Parker about the two of them recording some free duets like back in the day. As Dave reflected on this proposed endeavor, possibly he was drawn to another avant-garde memory, the group Circle he performed in with Chick Corea and Anthony Braxton, because when Holland decided to add Craig Taborn and Ches Smith to he and Evan’s recording date, he re-created an ensemble quite similar to the original Circle.

The tracks on “Uncharted Territories” are almost entirely spontaneous improvisations, with just a few tracks featuring some pre-conceived composition. To keep things interesting, the musicians vary the lineups for the sessions into various ensembles of 2,3, or 4 people. The tracks are usually fairly short by free improv standards and feature a wide variety of music. This is a very versatile and talented foursome, so the music can vary from interesting sound sculptures to quiet chamber passages to be-bop gone berserk and all out free jazz explosions. The integrity of the musicians involved shines through as they very carefully interact with each other.

This is a very good modern free jazz album, yet somehow disappointing too. Especially with a modernist like Taborn on board, one might expect something a little different from a classic free session. Electronics are listed in Craig’s instrument arsenal and yet they barely make an appearance. Judging by the musicians and instruments listed, it would be easy to expect some modern sound exploration and compositional constructs, and that does happen occasionally, but as mentioned earlier, this recording may be a lot about Holland’s attempt to re-visit his past.

ALLISON MILLER Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom : Glitter Wolf

Album · 2019 · Fusion
Cover art 4.48 | 2 ratings
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snobb
Perfectionist modern jazz album sounding as if it is a progressive rock one. First new(coming from 2019) release in my player with serious chance to win a place on year's top list.

Drummer Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom is a super-group of sort with varying line up and number of members but in all cases rooted around her,bassist Todd Sickafoose and violinist Jenny Scheinman. On different stages cellist Eric Friedlander and pianist Myra Melford were the members among others. "Glitter Wolf" is recorded by sextet improving core trio with pianist Myra Melford, cornetist Kirk Knuffke and clarinet player Ben Goldberg.

Tightly composed melodic and quite complex musical material is played by the band intensively gigging for two years - one can hear how perfectly they feel each other! Miller's drumming pushes well produced(under the hands of Ani DiFranco & Carly Simon producer Julie Wolf) songs ahead with muscular energy more common for rock albums. At the same time, all things happen under perfect control avoiding chaos or directionless development. There are no lyrics/vocals otherwise the album could be alternatively classified as excellent art-rock work. Each composition has it's own face, atmosphere and is precisely executed.

Differently from some modern jazz albums, "Glitter Wolf"(isn't the title sounding rockish?) successfully avoids sterile chamber/academic sound. It often sounds as your morning alternative music TV, all these young guys with beards singing their songs with guitars somewhere out of town at the sunrise...

It is jazz sounding as rock or just cross-genre music without formalism and repetitiveness, radiating positive energy - really rare thing our days. It must be heard!

BILL LASWELL Hear No Evil

Album · 1988 · World Fusion
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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js
“Hear No Evil” comes fairly early in Bill Laswell’s career as it is only his second solo album apart from his band, Material. Of course Bill would go on to release about another 50 million albums, but that’s a subject for another review, at this point in his career he was still taking some time with his albums. Back in the day “Hear No Evil” seemed somewhat profound in its somber ambient atmosphere and cultural mixtures, and its still a good album, but as the years have passed, it doesn’t have quite the same impact as it once did. For one thing, albums that feature cultural hodge-podges are much more common now, as well as records that feature ambience with a rhythmic groove.

At his very best, Bill Laswell can produce an almost religious sobering atmosphere filled with vague longing that is a skill at which he alone excels at. “Hear No Evil” is probably one of the first albums in which Bill displayed this talent, and on here he looks to southern US delta blues for the inspiration for his mournful and lonely melodies. Both Bill and guitarist Nicky Skopelitis play a lot of laid back slide work on here, which they then mix with Asiatic influences. Three percussionists, including Zakir Hussain, provide the percussion, but they are somewhat hemmed in by fairly standard Western time signatures. Indian fusion violinist, Shankar provides excellent solos that match with Bill’s background perfectly. Along with the somewhat straight rhythmic grounding, the other main fault with this album is the almost pop structure of the songs, which can push things in a new age direction.

There is one track that doesn’t quite fit, and that’s the clumsy funk of “Assassin”, take it out and you have a better album. The best tracks are the last two, and on the finale, “Kingdom Come”, the percussionists finally get a chance to go off. This album’s appeal can change with your mood, need some music for reflection, put this on, sometimes it almost seems to have the same impact it had back in the late 80s.

TONY MONACO The Definition Of Insanity

Album · 2019 · Soul Jazz
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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js
If there is one musical genre I would not have expected to make a comeback, soul jazz would be that one, and that goes double for Hammond B3 soul jazz. Much like cool jazz and bebop, soul jazz seemed terminally connected to the era that spawned it, and the B3 itself became terribly un-hip during the 80s and seemed destined to stay that way. You can thank both England’s acid jazz scene and changing tastes in US commercial jazz radio for opening the door for funky bluesy B3 jazz to return, but not necessarily in a nostalgic way, this music has managed to adjust and sound relevant and hip again. One deserving recipient of this revival is B3organist Tony Monaco who has just favored us with his 11th album as a leader, “The Definition of Insanity”. This is one helluva fun album, and if that sounds too glib or shallow I’m sorry, but I have been listening to this one a lot lately and it never fails to pick me up, it’s a kick and a half.

“The Definition of Insanity” is an extremely eclectic album, yet it all works. Tony usually includes some originals on his albums, but this time he decided to go mostly with covers and just one original, and that’s where much of the eclecticism comes from as Tony takes on tunes from Phish, Lee Morgan, The Grateful Dead, Floyd Cramer and even includes a classic Italian ballad. Tony cites organists Jimmy Smith, Groove Holmes and Larry Goldings as influences, and all that comes through in his flashy blues drenched solos. Along with plenty of classic soul jazz, this album also covers, Latin, Middle-Eastern grooves, country and a couple vocal ballads too.

Some highlights on here include the driving energy of Phish’s “Cars Trucks Buses”, the contemporary groove of Jimmy Smith’s “Root Down” and the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin” which makes for an excellent soul jazz number. On Floyd Cramer’s country classic, “Last Date”, Tony manages to make the B3 imitate a steel guitar. A couple ballads feature Tony’s vocals which may remind some of Willie Nelson, and that is a good thing. There is a lively energy to this entire outing, during my initial listens I just assumed this was a live date, it certainly sounds like one. As I said earlier, this is a ‘fun’ album, and I definitely need something like this in my collection sometimes.

MAKAYA MCCRAVEN Universal Beings

Album · 2018 · Eclectic Fusion
Cover art 4.52 | 2 ratings
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snobb
"Universal Beings", a massive double album and the result of four gigs recorded material, heavily reworked in a studio, is a genre-defying album of sort. Depending on starting point, the music here could be tagged as hip-hop with jazz elements or jazz- hip hop. French-born Chicago-based drummer Makaya McRaven himself calls it “organic beat music".

Four different bands played gigs in four world's large music centers (all-acoustic) and the resulting tapes have been digitally processed,looped and mixed in studio. Differently from more conventional clubbing music of this kind, original live material (with lot of improvisations) gives very new quality to the final sound - the music being quite flexible and liquid sounds surprisingly "lively".

New York side is recorded with harpist Brandee Younger, cellist Tomeka Reid, vibraphonist Joel Ross, and bassist Dezron Douglas. Strings-dominated band plays tuneful and quite soulful mid-tempo fusion with world elements and lot of ambient. Chicago side is radically different with London new jazz scene's leader tenor Shabaka Hutchings on forefront.More raw sound and lot of sax soloing in combination with characteristic Afro-beat and repetitive hip hop structures makes it sounding not much different from Hutchings own more organic projects as Sons Of Kemet or Shabaka and the Ancestors.Cellist Tomeka Reid who plays on New York side as well produces here some sound which could be mistakenly indicated as analog synth on the background in the moments.

London side is not much different from Chicago's.Probably the reason is another rising name from London scene's - tenor Nubia Garcia sounding often as Pharoah Sanders on his spiritual jazz albums. Los Angeles side contains dominating Jeff Parker guitars sound adding lot of blood to music (plus Josh Johnson on alto, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson on violin, Carlos Niño on percussion and very physical acoustic bassist Anna Butterss). Groovy fusion with exotic rhythms and some beautiful tunes.

All-together hour-and-half long album doesn't lasts long, always changing instrumentation,rhythms and arrangements make it one beautiful soundtrack to second decade of new century modern jazz scene's non-existing documentary. Newbies seeking for short but informative introduction to most modern jazz of today are in a right place choosing this album.

ANDY SUMMERS World Gone Strange

Album · 1991 · Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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Steve Wyzard
STRANGE INDEED!

It is an absolute crying shame that Andy Summers's late 1980s-early 1990s albums on the Private Music label are almost forgotten today. All four, though very different from each other, are exquisitely crafted and have stood the test of time very well. 1991's World Gone Strange, the last of the four, attracted some attention due to its special guests (Tony Levin, bass, Chad Wackerman, drums, Eliane Elias, piano/vocals, Mike Mainieri, marimba/producer), but was his last solo project until 1995's Synaesthesia.

For those who enjoyed the envelope-pushing sounds and atmospheres he added to the pop group that made him world-famous, you'll find plenty of that here. Summers has never been known as a "lead guitarist" per se, but World Gone Strange, more than any of his other work, features extensive amounts of his lucid, fluid soloing. A tangible blues influence makes itself known throughout, above and beyond "The Blues Prior to Richard". This is not just aimless studio noodling: the compositions and arrangements are rock solid, with the title track and "Oudu Kanjaira", with its distinct "eastern" feel, remaining in your head long after the album is over. Three percussionists add extra texture, and wordless vocals appear on a few tracks without becoming a major distraction.

"A little too erratic" and "Too jazz for rock, too rock for jazz" were undoubtably the general reactions to World Gone Strange at the time of release. If you are familiar with Summers's matchless style, there's nothing here that can't be easily assimilated and "figured out". This is not an inaccessible avant-garde work, just a headache for marketers who couldn't deal with a true artist who continued to grow, expand, and progress with each album he released. Highly recommended, even in the 21st century!

THE BLACKBYRDS Flying Start

Album · 1974 · Funk Jazz
Cover art 3.91 | 3 ratings
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js
Donald Byrd was not only one of the top jazz trumpeteers of the 60s and beyond, but also a music professor at Howard University and one of those talented individuals who could foresee upcoming musical trends and capitalize on them. Sometime in the early 70s, Donald recruited some of the top local talent for his university jazz ensemble and then figured if he could get these guys in a recording studio and on the road he could have a top notch jazz/RnB group on his hands, and so it came to pass that the Blackbyrds came to be. “Flying Start” was actually the Blackbyrd’s second album, but possibly the first one where they developed their own identity outside of Byrd’s well known persona and finds them working within their familiar territory of funk jazz and proto-disco RnB. The Blackbyrd’s early albums are their best, and “Flying Start” is no exception as it features super hot funky grooves and plenty of top notch jazz solos from the band members, plus horn work from some famous guests including Ernie Watts and George Bohanon.

Almost every track on here is good with some standouts including the supercharged disco funk of “I Need You”, possibly one of the best songs in its genre before disco became watered down and lost its funk roots. “Future Children, Future Hopes” and “Spaced Out” are instrumentals with extensive solos on the then newish Arp Odyssey. The Donald Byrd composed “The Baby” features sophisticated flute arrangements that show what he learned from his time working with Quincy Jones. Possibly the only weak track is the pop love song, “April Showers”, but even it can be endearing in its naïve saccharine sweetness. Any fan of 70s funk jazz, rare groove and the roots of acid jazz should own this one.

CHICK COREA Chick Corea, Christian McBride & Brian Blade : Trilogy 2

Live album · 2018 · Post Bop
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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snobb
Same way as five years ago, with first snow Chick Corea acoustic trio's live recordings collection from world tour comes again this early winter. Titled "Trilogy 2" it is obvious continuation of their successful 2013 Japanese release (in 2014 released in Europe and US as well). Complied from 2010-2016 concerts, this time it is a double CD (previous one was a triple) and comes from Japan again. Most probably next year will offer more accessible Western editions as well.

Working formula didn't change a lot - with opener "How Deep Is The Ocean" (the only song presented on both first and second "Trilogies") with Corea's Latin/Fusion hits "500 Miles High" and "La Fiesta", his early success "Now He Sings, Now He Sobs" and few standards.

As in case with first "Trilogy", biggest interest here is a new interpretations of known songs. Started with very relaxed and even unusually for him slightly sentimental manner, Chick after few first songs returns back to more dynamic enthusiastic grooving post-bop - music he plays best starting from mid 70s.

Despite of obviously entertaining character of presented material, trio of highest class professionals never sound repetitive or boring, mostly because of unexpected takes on well known material. It's really impressive to hear how different from popular versions many songs sound without leaving mainstream/chamber jazz frames.

Great X-mas present for pianist fans.

ESPEN ERIKSEN Espen Eriksen Trio with Andy Sheppard : Perfectly Unhappy

Album · 2018 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
Cover art 3.98 | 2 ratings
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Matt
For this latest release “Perfectly Unhappy” from Norwegian Espen Eriksen and his Trio, one of Britain’s most well saxophonists Andy Sheppard joins them bringing a change in texture to their current slightly minimal but still highly melodic sound that the Trio display within their compositions. Their first album release garnered extremely good praise and many great reviews for “You Had Me At Goodbye” with the following two albums “What Took You So Long” and “Never Ending January” keeping the standard right up there. If you have not heard of them before Espen Eriksen is the pianist, Lars Tormond Jenset, bass and Andreas Bye is the drummer with the Trio performing together since 2007 with this album being the ensemble’s fourth release. Andy Sheppard’s addition of saxophone in the album works beautifully bringing quite a bit of a fresh sound for the Trio and keeping things in an interesting manner but still keeping them well within the melodic style that they have become known for.

“Above The Horizon” opens with a beautiful piano and bass interchange before stating the composition’s theme before Andy Sheppard’s saxophone to joins on this lovely inward piece with the following “1974” having a beautiful contemplative sound where Espen’s piano is more prevalent. The melancholy and contemplation just keeps on coming with the album’s title ‘Perfectly Unhappy” with Andy’s saxophone and Espen’s brief solo providing a lovely wistfulness within the number. “Indian Summer” just keeps the dreamy spaced melody prevalent, where “Suburban Folk Song” has a slightly more intricate opening and all these melodies that are intertwined with space and beautiful timing just keep coming with “Naked Trees”, the following “Revisited” containing a delightful solo from Espen and the beautiful melancholic closing composition “Home”.

Lovely album and an absolute delight to have on with the compositions being in a similar realm to Mathias Eick’s of maintaining a strong melody and quite a lovely contemporary sound. One other note is Andy Sheppard plays quite a major part and is in the majority of all the compositions with that gorgeous deep tone that he resonates.

WAYNE HORVITZ The Snowghost Sessions

Album · 2018 · Nu Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
In 2015 Wayne Horvitz headed out to Montana to record this album at Snowghost studios, hence the title “The Snowghost Sessions”. Comprising a trio with Wayne on piano as well providing keyboards and electronics, Geoff Harper who had previously appeared with Wayne on his 2014 release “At The Reception” on Contrabass and Eric Eagle who also had appeared with Wayne on “At The Reception” as well the 2015 release which was a tribute to the writer Richard Hugo “Some Places Are Forever Afternoon” is playing drums. Wayne Horvitz states that he had not recorded a Trio album since the eighties and took quite a few tunes and sketches to this session with the majority of the album recorded Live and Wayne providing some overdubs with keyboards. He actually says that he did not set out to make an album but just wanted to try some ideas that he had with amplified and processed piano as the studios at Snowghost are in a class of their own for acoustics with the addition of an already installed Steinway Grand Piano. For these sessions the studio owner Brett Allen is the album’s engineer and co-producer with Wayne.

Fifteen tracks on the album if one counts the bonus with none running over five minutes which keeps things quite fluent with the beautiful “The Pauls” opening being a lovely spaced composition and as with the majority of the album it is down tempo with the following composition “No Blood Relation #1” bringing the electronics into the mix but in a subtle manner with wonderful recurring chords from Wayne on piano with superb support from the bass and drums by just being there in a minimal fashion which is how their support is performed right throughout the majority of the album. There is “No Blood relation #2” being the eighth track and that composition is its own without borrowing from the prior #1. More of that gorgeous piano space and time for “Trish” with many people describing this as contemplative but it sure has that Wayne Horvitz piano tone. “IMB” does bring out the Electronics and would be the album’s most up tempo composition with Eric Eagle having quite a shot on the drum kit within the number.There a quite a few more interesting and beautiful compositions included with the following “Apart From You #1” , “Northampton”, “For James Tenney”, “The Trees”, Yukio and Noa’s Duet” with these four tracks divided by the short piece “Flies On Friday”. All of those compositions having something different to say and some are straight while others have that subtle electronic keyboard effect added. “55 6 (21) Variations” has that organ addition and “55 6 (7) Variations” has a much deeper bass and piano sound bring us to the album’s end with “Apart from You #2” comprising the trio with more of those subtle electronics appearing more to the fore as the composition progresses.

Wonderful and quite different piano based Trio album from Wayne Horvitz and band which requires a few listens to fully appreciate and gets better with every play. Well worth the purchase as Wayne Horvitz albums are.

SAM MANGWANA Lubamba

Album · 2016 · African Fusion
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
Sam Mangwana has lived, played and sang Rumba right through the golden period of African music accompanying and packing stadiums with Franco Luambo’s TPOK Jazz throughout the seventies to the early eighties and prior with Tabu Ley Rochereau in the late sixties in his African National Fiesta with another stint to follow in the late seventies with him. Considered one of the elder statesman of African music pertaining more to the Central area with his take on Congolaise music with touches of Angolan and Zimbabwean at times thrown in from his parents birth place one could say he pretty much had done it all within this genre with the popularity to go with it. Although Sam was in Franco’s TPOK Jazz and Tabu Ley’s band Afrisa he was still doing solo material and releasing his own albums as well with his second one giving him the big hit “Maria Tebbo” in 1982 albeit his biggest one with Franco was still to come in the same year being “Cooperation” ( Odongo). Still within all these bands and solo material Sam Mangwana has been far from one dimensional with Rumba being his staple and later heading towards a not so hard Soukous Sound as well as taking on Caribbean rhythms, Acoustic albums but in his later material he has returned to his Rumba roots which is what the majority of “Lubamba” contains with a beautiful laid back palm tree sound added with a slight Caribbean influence included.

It’s the album ‘s title track “Lubamba” with the horns opening within this Rumba having Sam’s smooth vocals to follow with mentions to his native Africa throughout with a delightful guitar solo placed within the song. The following “Felicite” the tempo picks up slightly with more of that beautiful Rumba guitar taking the song to a chorus with a beautiful guitar input. “Juventude Actual” based on today’s youth and sung in Portuguese has another African statesman present being the great Cameroon saxophonist Manu Dibango included within the song’s predominant guitar Latin influence with Manu just providing sax throughout the chorus and the addition of a beautiful solo included but no vocals with just Sam doing that job within this number. The tempo and bounce picks up for “Georgeta Marcory” with that Sam swing included and the following song has an electronic keyboard opening for “Luvueso” which quickly is put to the side for more of that Rumba guitar and great African chorus. “J.B. Kavungu”, “Lokossa Yo Nzombo”, Luzingu Ke Novela Ko” are the last three of the eight songs included and all are Rumba based of course within this delightful album keeping up the Tropical theme.

He has come a long way from singing in The Salvation Army choir as a child in Kinshasa up until today and I for one was pleased to see a new release from Sam Mangwana as I have always loved his take on Congolaise music with all its swing. It has been a long break for fresh material from Sam as his last prior album was “Cantos De Esperanca” in 2003 with only reissues that have followed to the release of “Lubamba” in 2016. Still the album is good but really it is for the fans and if you are looking for Soukous you won’t find any here just the old beautiful Rumba influence but really, Sam actually does not have a lot to say that’s new.

KETIL BJØRNSTAD La notte

Live album · 2013 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
Commissioned by the Molde International Jazz Festival and Recorded Live in 2010 at the Norway Festival for later release By ECM records has the multi talented Norwegian Ketil Bjørnstad presenting his perception in music on Italian Filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni with his 1961 film sharing the title of this very album from Ketil Bjørnstad “La Notte” ( The night). Ketil Bjørnstad has been around since the late sixties since playing Classical piano in his later teens but in the seventies headed for Jazz and Folk with a distinct Northern European influence of retaining Classical elements within his compositions. He has recorded over fifty albums as well most likely written as many books, hence the multi talented which is often used to describe his artistic output. Although this album was recorded in 2010 ECM did not release it until three years later in 2013 due to most likely the fact they already had an album recorded by Ketil prior, still in the can being “The River”.

The album line up is a Sextet with the majority involved having played with each other in various ensembles and bands with Arild Anderson the bassist having the most extensive experience with Ketil Bjørnstad and just about everyone else in European Jazz. The cellist David Darling who has played with Ketil extensively in the past is not present and has been replaced with the stunning German born Anja Lechner who usually you will find in ECM’s New Series having played with the Rosamunde Quartet, Tarkovsky Quartet, the pianists Vassilis Tsabropoulos and Francois Couturier as well as the great Bandoneon player Dino Saluzzi. Andy Sheppard who is usually in Carla Bley’s ensembles or leading his own these days is on tenor and soprano saxophone, Marilyn Mazur is on percussion and drums having played with Jan Garbarek for one as well as doing her own albums and also included is Eivind Aarset also an artist in his right as well as playing with Andy Sheppard above and who also has many well known productions behind him is playing guitar and providing electronics.

Ketil Bjørnstad has composed eight parts within the album’s structure with “La Notte I” commencing with a slight electronic drone and touches of bass and percussion with the sound picking up as the introduction of piano and cello is added in this mediative opening number. Andy Sheppard’s tenor and Eivind Aarset’s guitar inject two lovely pieces with Ketil’s piano and Marilyn’s percussion as the base in the bolder “La Notte II”. The ensemble delivers a delightful mix within “La Notte III” with Andy Sheppard’s saxophone barely noticeable coming in over Anja Lechner’s cello with a superb middle timed underlay from the rest of the musicians within the piece. It’s a slow tempo for “La Notte IV” primarily comprising piano and more of that beautiful cello from Anja Lechner who I have to say is the star amongst all these musicians within these beautiful compositions from Ketil Bjørnstad. The album continues with more of the stunning mediative input for “La Notte V and VI” with more stunning cello, soprano sax and Marilyn Mazur’s just right percussion comprising the odd chimes, beat etc with the ensemble picking things up again in “La Notte VII” with Arild Anderson’s superb bass opening and Eivind’s fabulous guitar solo. The album comes to an end with another beautiful slow relaxing piece in “VIII”

Leaning towards Classical at times and leaning towards some great Fusion at others in this highly interesting album which after quite a few plays with many in a row, I still have not tired of. One other note although the album states it is Live there is not a whisper of audience sound to be heard.

VASIL HADŽIMANOV Vasil Hadžimanov Band : Lines in Sand

Album · 2019 · World Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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js
How does one put out an interesting fusion record these days? Once the new kid on the block, fusion has been around for almost 60 years now, what can someone do that’s new in the fast approaching third decade of the new century. A good place to start would be to check out, “Lines In Sand”, the new CD by Balkan keyboardist Vasil Hadzimanov. Here we find music that combines influences from the Balkans and Middle East with American jazz, funk and RnB plus plenty of modern day sounds and rhythms via the youthful world of electronica and European nu jazz and you end up with a creation that opens new doors and presents fusions of fusion that you haven’t heard before.

Vasil Hadzimanov has been performing and composing professionally for almost 25 years now, and his group featured on here has been together since 2001. The fact that these guys have known each other for some time shows in their intuitive interactions. For being a fusion record, “Lines in Sand” is gratefully short on long winded solos. There are plenty of barn burning rides for Vasil and his band mates when needed, but often they eschew the solos for a more team oriented approach to improvisation. In that respect they recall classic Weather Report at their best. Of the solo spots themselves, honorable mention must go to guest saxophonist Rastko Obradovic and his Coltrane like excursions.

It’s the variety and the creativity within that variety that makes “Lines in Sand” work. Here is a band that can go from swinging acoustic post bop to Balkan techno within one song and make it sound as organic and natural as a hearty bowl of super crunch granola.

ORCHESTRA DE LA PAILLOTE Volume 1

Album · 1968 · African Fusion
Cover art 5.00 | 2 ratings
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Matt
There had been 3 compilation albums released in 1967 with Guinean orchestra’s and artists prior to this release in the sixties but this actually is the first number in the Syllart’s label catalogue (SLP 1) “Orchestra De La Paillote Vol 1", The band actually was one of two at the very beginning which had morphed from one big Orchestra during this time of change in Guinean music which started after independence in 1958 when Sekou Toure came to power and as he said ‘if you can’t play the music of one’s own country then one should stop playing altogether”. One of the bands was led by Balla Onivogui later recognised as the leader of the legendary Balla Et Se Balladins and for this one it was Keletigui Traore who led “Orchestra De la Paillote” named after the Paloitte where they played but in the sixties the band changed their name to “Keletigui Et Ses Tambourinis”. The basis on how many of these songs were composed was using Traditional material, Cuban music and Jazz which became the backbone for so many West African orchestras with Bembeya Jazz to become the leader of this music style. Here for this release “Orchestra De la Pailotte’ as they were known at that time we have the beginning of modern West African music containing many a beautiful and delightful piece contained within this essential album from the late 1960’s.

The Cuban based “Diarby” get things going beautifully with the required groove and superb guitar input with Balla Et Se Balladins doing this one as well on their upcoming “Jardin De Guinea” release but listening here you will know that Orchestra De la Paillote had the best. The following “Mariama” the trumpet rules the chorus with Kante Manfila’s vocals with excellent support from Kerfal Camara on trumpet with this song becoming one the band’s classics. The more up tempo “Nadia’ follows with more superb trumpet and a totally delightful saxophone solo from Keletigui Traore included. The beat and groove keep coming within “Mone Magnin” but the following slow Cuban timed “La Guinee Moussolou” being a homage to Guinean women who helped rebuild the country sung by Kante Manfila with some stunning repetition in the vocal chorus and some absolutely gorgeous saxophone and guitar accompaniment with the band following in is another album highlight. More up tempo groove in “Nankoura” and “Wouyamagnin” with the later being my pick containing great percussion. The delightful “Orchestra Paillote” follows which will have you tapping your foot in amongst the horns in this self explanatory song title with “Bandian” next and it is another of those slow greasy Cuban burners “N’Djiguinira” to finish off this all time African Music Classic in that reminiscing manner.

Of course you need this! Total West African Classic!

BEMBEYA JAZZ NATIONAL Bembeya Jazz National

Boxset / Compilation · 1993 · African Fusion
Cover art 5.00 | 2 ratings
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Matt
Taken from Bembeya Jazz National’s later material recorded during the 1980’s and although the band had reached massive popularity back home in Guinea and West Africa during the early 1970’s it was that car crash that killed their loved vocalist Demba Camara that commenced their slide in popularity in the 70’s but that is not to say that the music took a slide because if this compilation is any example they were still putting out some beautiful and stunning grooves of all those old Manding tunes given the band’s unique touch. This compilation is derived from their 1985 release “Bembeya Jazz National”, ESP 8418, 1986 releases ESP8430,ESP8431 with all these releases having just the band’s name as the title and the 1987 release “Sabu” ESP8442. Not all the tracks of course are included but what is here on this compilation is quite a delight with Sekou (Diamond fingers) Diabate still doing the majority of the arranging and writing one song with all those added delightful guitar inputs and interjections that was his stamp and there is also another song that is not Folkloric being “Gbapie” written by Yebe Traore and arranged by the band’s trumpeter Mohamed Kaba of the ten tracks included within the cd’s compilation.

Percussion is the back bone of so much of Bembeya Jazz National’s repertoire and “Telegramme” is no exception being written by Sekou Diabate over this mid timed song containing some lovely saxophone input, great choral singing and one superb guitar solo from Sekou included within this African based number. Sekou Diabate is the lead vocalist for the following “Lan Naya” ( La Confiance) with the lyrics concerning trust and keeping a relationship durable. “Moussokoro” delivers a fabulous groove with the band in full swing with the following track “Sukabe” keeping the Manding groove going along nicely. “Gbapie” has a slight Cuban influence starting in a slow tempo with the song changing midway to a completely faster time in this wonderful West African number with “Yekeke” following not to be confused with Mory Kante’s smash hit ‘Yeke Yeke” but still that title when sung does reminds me of it. One of my favourites from the compilation is up next being the driving beat based “Sabu” with some stunning hitting the notes Manding vocals, a kicking horn section and one absolutely full on percussion solo mixed with Sekou’s guitar within this great kicking number. More beautiful Guinean Music follows with “Koumba Tenin” and “Yelema Yelemaso” with one of the other real highlights to finish the compilation of being the highly Cuban influenced “Yarabi” with that beautiful slow sleaze included.

Personally I play this period within the band’s time frame more so than their famous earlier material perhaps it was the eighties and the push towards more beat and a slight clearer sound in the band’s recordings. If you see this compilation on Sonodisc grab it as it does contain Classic African Music from one of the continents greatest exponents.

DON CHERRY Complete Communion

Album · 1966 · Avant-Garde Jazz
Cover art 4.42 | 7 ratings
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js
Recorded in 1966, “Complete Communion” was Don Cherry’s first album as sole leader. Having already spent time as co-leader with the likes of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler and Sonny Rollins, Cherry was more than ripe for his turn to lead things. On board with him is Gato Barbieri, who had met Don in Rome and was interested in trying out this ‘new thing’ called free jazz. Rounding out the band is Henry Grimes on bass and Edward Blackwell on drums. Right off the bat this album bears a strong resemblance to Cherry’s early 60s work with Ornette, which is no big surprise since Blackwell is on drums. Eddie’s drumming with Ornette and Don had helped define the group since he joined them in 1960, and likewise his unique skills also help define this outing giving it some Ornette quartet similarity. Yes, there are those similarities in basic style, but “Complete Communion” is hardly a facsimile as both Cherry and Gato spin their unique take on what can happen within this 60s free bop framework.

The whole album was recorded in one take with every tune butted up against each other without break. In fact its not often exactly clear where one song starts and the other ends, which is a good thing. This one take approach makes for a very imaginative arrangement and it is one of this album’s big pluses. The various tunes that come and go owe a large debt to the work of Bird and Diz, which is also a very good thing. Once the players dig into their solos, they often have a four way conversation going, but also there are times where any one of the performers might step to the forefront, particularly Don and Gato. While Cherry is mostly melodic on here, Gato often goes for an Archie Shepp style barrage of notes and above the normal range high pitched excursions. Despite how well he handles all of this, Gato did not stay in the avant-garde scene for long, which is another feature that makes this album unique.

This is an excellent album that, much like what Miles was playing live at this time, rides that border between free jazz and really out there post bop. Fans of Don’s early work with Ornette will dig hearing another possibility of where that music could end up. It also helps that the recording quality on ‘Communion’ is very good. Some are critical of this album claiming that Cherry will find his true voice as a leader when he starts working with African and Asian influences, but taken on its own merit, this album is one far out be-bop trip.

ART BLAKEY Hard Bop

Album · 1957 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
Just a year after the original line up in The Jazz Messengers the entire band had changed excepting of course for Art Blakey on drums and since Horace Silver had left perhaps it was from default more than ambition that the name became Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers but all jokes aside the new line up for this release of “Hard Bop” being a Quintet did not last long either and never really attained the fame that the following line up to come would when Bobby Timmons, Lee Morgan, Benny Golson, Johnny Griffin, and Jymie Merrit came through the band in the next two years with all of them knowing how to write superb compositions as it was Bobby Timmons who penned their most popular number not all that long after this album being “Moanin”. The folks at Mosaic have rectified this time omission all the same with this 2006 reissue of “Hard Bop” bringing to us this not all that well known or recognised period in the Jazz Messengers history and after hearing this you will realise what a wonderful line up the band contained during this period who recorded some great cracking Hard Bop back in late 1956 for what was originally a 10 inch release being the first five tracks with the following three issued on the album “Drum Suite” with all this combined material included in this cd release being recorded at the same sessions on December 12 and 13th in 1956 including some great compositions from trumpeter Bill Hardman and alto saxophonist Jackie McLean included who both are in this current line up with also Sam Dockery playing piano, Spanky De Brest on bass and of course Art Blakey is drumming.

The Bill Hardman composition “Cranky Spanky” gets things underway in a frantic manner with Jackie, Bill and Sam respectively playing their solos in this delightful high speed Bebop composition with one of the most covered Jazz Standards to follow “Stella by Starlight” and what is nice about this cover is the band comes in mid tempo motoring the track along having a lovely swing with a driving solo from Jackie McLean followed by Bill Hardman on trumpet and Sam again on piano just keeping the Bop coming right throughout it. You may think it is Ballad time for the next being the Rodgers and Hart song my “Heart Stood Still” but one thing for sure with Jackie McLean’s opening solo it is anything but which brings us to the next being the penned composition from Jackie McLean who had already released it earlier on his album “Presenting Jackie McLean” being the Bluesy “Little Melonae” which would become well known in future years which already at this time Miles Davis had recorded but not released with later versions from Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane to come. “Stanley’s Stiff Chickens” is co written by Bill and Jackie to finish this 10 inch album off with once again great superb Hard Boppin’ solos throughout this mid tempo number and the inimitable drum rolls from Art Blakey included. The three remaining bonus tracks included keep up the high standard and a brief drum solo from Art opens “Nica’s Tempo” if that is what you are looking for but as the cd booklet notes suggests for the last track was Art Blakey serious for his “Gershwin Medley” or was it more tongue in cheek, the booklet leans towards the later but still I find, it ain’t bad.

There is no Swing shortage or Boppin’ for that matter, foot will be tapping, fingers clicking on this wonderful early driving release from Art Blakey and one of the album highlights for me is how Jackie McLean’s solo just rips through that ballad “My Heart Stood Still”. Unfortunately all those Blue Note albums seem to have over shadowed this one that was released on Columbia but hopefully people will come to see after a listen what wonderful high speed driving Bop has been recorded here in these two sessions just before Christmas in 1956

ANDREW CYRILLE Andrew Cyrille/Wadada Leo Smith/Bill Frisell : Lebroba

Album · 2018 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.02 | 2 ratings
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snobb
Seasoned drummer Andrew Cyrille is better known by his collaboration with leading jazz musicians of different time periods starting from Cecil Taylor to Anthony Braxton to Oliver Lake among many others but he has released two dozen albums as leader as well."Lebroba" is his second album for prestigious German ECM label and here he leads a super trio containing living legends trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and guitarist Bill Frisell.

Don't worry much about unimaginative album's title(Lebroba is a contraction of Leland, Brooklyn and Baltimore, birthplaces of trio's members), the music is really more impressive.

Frisell,who did his name playing with John Zorn's radical avant-garde projects and later moved solo towards trademark Americana-jazz, is in great form here and differently from his many solo works from last decades he plays more inventively and far not such safe. There are even some explosive guitar solos what wasn't heard from him possibly from 80s. Still everyone knowing his sound will easily recognize who's playing guitar here.

Wadada Leo Smith was one of AACM founders in early 70s and he experiences huge renaissance during last two decades after all these years.His trumpet is a main beauty of "Lebroba" music. On many pieces he sounds as early electric Miles but not pushing the music ahead with explosive soloing,instead slowing it down with aerial and quite dry sound.

Now the music - it is expected for those familiar with Smith's most current works, but still quite different. Low-to-mid tempo songs are well-composed and sound not meditative but dry-calculated, minimalist and contains some internal tension. The opener is renown Frisell song "Worried Woman" sounding here as if Frisell has invited Miles Davis to his small band.

"Turiya:Alice Coltrane Meditations and Dreams:Love" is written by Smith and lasts 17+ minutes."TGD" is written by all three members and last two songs are Cyrille's.

Minimalist, with anchoring drummer and airy guitar and trumpet interplay (what an usual format for a trio!)spiced with tasteful and live-full (and sometimes free) soloing this music is new, beautiful,quite accessible but trully creative.

It's almost unbelievable how jazz veterans (with youngest Bill Frisell(68))can take risks searching for new sounds and succeed doing it.

SOFT MACHINE Hidden Details

Album · 2018 · Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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kev rowland
There can be few British bands that can say that they have had as much impact on music as the mighty Softs, and here a mere 37 years after their last studio album they are back with a new one. Originally formed in 1966, with their debut album in 1968, they have continued to be at the cutting edge of fusion and have had some incredible musicians pass through their ranks. The band officially disbanded in 1978, then reformed briefly in 1981 and then 1984 before returning as Soft Ware in 1999, which in turn became Soft Works, before morphing into Soft Machine Legacy in 2004, and then at the end of 2015 they decided to drop the word “Legacy”. But given that guitarist John Etheridge, bassist Roy Babbington and drummer John Marshall were all in the same line-up(s) in the Seventies, they have a more than valid claim to the name. The only member of the band who wasn’t involved back then is Theo Travis, who provides sax, flute and Fender Rhodes. But, he joined Soft Machine Legacy as long ago as 2006, when he replaced Elton Dean after he had passed away.

Anyone who admits to enjoying Canterbury progressive rock or fusion will have multiple Soft Machine albums in their collection, and this one fits right in. John Etheridge is an incredible guitarist, and it takes someone very special indeed to step into the shoes of Allan Holdsworth, not once but twice. He is lyrical, dramatic, restrained yet over the top, simple yet complex, allowing the music to take him where it will. Every musician is an absolute master of his craft, and they push the envelope in so many ways. Jazz, prog, fusion, call it whatever you like but this is intricately crafted music that is both awe inspiring yet inviting, eclectic yet so very easy to get inside of, and the more time spent with it the greater the rewards. Some of these guys are nearly 80 years old now, yet show no sign at all of slowing down. This is an essential purchase.

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