Jazz Music Reviews from Matt

BRAD MEHLDAU Seymour Reads the Constitution!

Album · 2018 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Matt
Brad Mehldau’s latest release “Seymour Reads The Constitution” is his second for this year after his well received prior “After Bach” As with the majority of the recent Trio releases they are all not Standards but Brad’s own compositions included with a few contemporary Pop or Rock tunes thrown in with this album having two of them leaning more towards the Pop side. His old stalwart Larry Grenadier who been with him since the beginning is back on Bass with Jeff Ballard who joined the Trio in 2005 playing drums. There are eight compositions included with three being Brad’s, one Standard, two Pop and one from Elmo Hope and the other Sam Rivers.

“Spiral” is first being one of Brad’s compositions with title explaining the lay out in the composition having the higher keys climbing in an up and down in a circular manner throughout this delightful first piece. The following track being the album’s title “Seymour Reads The Constitution” is in a slower introspective manner being another one of Brad’s compositions within the album employing that technique that Brad plays on piano with his left hand keeping the basic pattern while his right is adding the improvision in different timing. Larry Grenadier brings the Bass up early during the title’s structure with Brad gradually climbing the piano’s higher notes for the remainder within this beautiful piece. “Almost Like Being in Love” is the album’s only Standard played with that McCoy Tyner influence of joy infusion with a drum solo from Jeff Ballard included within this spritely take. Elmo Hope’s composition Brad keeps well recognisable and does not stray too far from the original with the theme and this time Larry Grenadier has a shot on Bass within . It’s the Beach Boys, “Friends” with the Trio bringing forth a lovely different take to the song with Brad’s left hand keeping the time with the right adding more sparkle throughout followed by the marvellous changing “Ten Tune”. Paul McCartney gets the nod with an interesting take for the song “Great Day” from his “Flaming Pie” album and then we finish up with the Sam Rivers composition “Beatrice” where we get some great interplay between Brad on piano and Jeff on drums for just another of the album’s delights.

Wonderful new album from Brad Mehldau with a bit of difference from the majority of today’s Trio albums where quite a few seem to be primarily ballads injected with crystal clear space and although many of them I do enjoy it is refreshing to get something a bit different.

ROBERTO ROENA Roberto Roena Y Su Apollo Sound

Album · 1970 · Afro-Cuban Jazz
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Matt
Percussionist Roberto Roena’s second release and the first with his new band at the time in 1970 Apollo Sound (“Roberto Roena Y Su Apollo sound”) with each album afterwards being mainly titled by number reaching to ten but if you want to disagree there is an eleventh from the band but by then in 1982 they were named Super Apollo with the album “47:50”. As it was 1970 with this release we still have boogaloo included but the genre was on its last legs by this time with Salsa becoming the main. Not only that we have a couple of popular English songs included within as well and the addition “Sing A Simple Song” bringing it to three. This record is sorted after by the groove collectors these days and as time passes many Fania and other early Latin albums are long out of print with just the big ones primarily be re- released occasionally on record or cd. Due to the popularity in the return of records they are becoming scarcer with hen’s teeth easier to acquire in good condition and a lot cheaper.

“Tu Loco Loco, Y Yo Tranquilo” kicks things off with some quite crazy and not to calm Salsa with great piercing trumpet input from Mario Alvares Cora with quite a nice montuno from the coros not to long before the numbers ending. The following “Sing A Simple Song” was also included in the compilation that was released in 2000 “Broasted Or Fried” that concentrated on Boogaloo and Back Beats with this one on the Boogaloo side. More Salsa with “Consolacion” with the following “Sonando Con Puerto Rico” being a Bobby Capo penned number and of course if it is one of Bobby’s numbers it is a Bolero and quite a nice one at that. “El Escapularo” is percussion with congas opening and they remain the main driver throughout this Afro style song. The straight up Salsa is back for “El Sordo” and the following although titled “El Pato De La Bahia” is sung in English being Otis Redding’s “Dock Of The Bay” slightly Boogalooed up. Its Salsa for “El Barrio Sin Guapo” with another Bolero to follow for “Han Pasado Algunos Dias” with a quick tenor solo from Al Abreu inserted and the album finishes up with a cover of Blood Sweat and Tears “Spinning Wheel”.

Nice album but I feel the band were still finding their feet with better things still to come throughout their next nine releases. Still not at to an exorbitant price unlike Roberto’s first album “Se Pone Bueno”.

WADADA LEO SMITH America's National Parks

Album · 2016 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.48 | 2 ratings
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Matt
“Tracing back to Wadada Leo Smith’s most recent epic masterpieces, The Great Lakes Suites and especially Ten Freedom Summers” ( excerpt from the album’s notes) concerning the double album “America’s National Parks” construction and contents”. Wadada has changed how he does musical writing and notations with his theory of Ankhrasmation which uses a set of four colours and depending where they are positioned on the chart, left or right being slow or fast with six rhythm units included that start long and then become short with the cover for his album “Sonic Rivers” showing one example of this type of intonations and how “America’s National Park” was composed with the orchestra having a fixed bound input and the soloist free to go where he wants. The ensemble that was used for the album was Wadada’s Golden Quintet which has had quite a change in its line up throughout the years with this current one containing Anthony Davis on piano, Ashley Walters, cello, His old cohort John Lindberg on bass, Pheeroan akLaff, drumming and of course Wadada on trumpet as well as directing the ensemble. One other mention is Jesse Gilbert being a video artist as when the pieces were recorded film was running in front of the ensemble for each National Park pertaining to which piece was being played for it. Although not technically Free Jazz it does have on the album an element of it concerning the soloists.

“New Orleans: The National Culture Park USA 1718” opens being a 21 minute in length composition with Pheeroan akLaff drum’s and Wadada’s trumpet commencing proceedings and the band following in fairly quickly as the music seems to be slowly getting stretched with more and more extensions from the trumpet and Anthony Davis’ piano becoming gradually more complex with the cello seemingly being pushed more to the front but the music does change when Davis’s piano returns with quite a lovely complex solo of varying times and then John Lindberg gets pushed to the front on bass for a delightful bass solo and input which gradually is moved out of the way for Ashley Davis on cello to have a shot with Wadada coming back to close things up. There are two other compositions Eileen Jackson Southern, 1920-2002; A Literary National Park” and “Yellowstone: The First National Park and The Sprit of America- The Mountains, Super-Volcano Caldera and Its Ecosystem 1872” following and although “Eileen Jackson Southern” not being quite as dramatic in sound as “Yellowstone” but that does not mean “Yellowstone” is bombastic either with its gradual opening containing seemingly more space than the prior composition. and I love Anthony’s piano solo within.

Disc 2: Three more suites are included opening “The Mississippi River: Dark and Deep Dreams Flow The River-a National Memorial Park c. 5000 BC and as the first on Disc 1 it is the longest track running for 31 minutes with each musician having quite an individual input and often in short bursts entirely alone within the composition often punctuated with sharp trumpet interjections from Wadada but you could not name it as call and response either for this extremely interesting number where later into the composition Anthony Davis is playing the same four notes repetitively with Wadada’s trumpet just soaring in bursts with more change still to come within. “Sequoia/Kings Canyon national Parks: The Giant forest, Great Canyon, Cliffs, Peaks, Waterfalls and Cave systems 1890” having the longest title is actually the shortest track with piano and trumpet and plenty of space brought to the fore with the album finishing up with the majestic “Yosemite: The Glaciers, the Falls, the wells and the Valley of Goodwill 1890”

Highly original and interesting album which won awards in 2017. Although it is about the Parks, the politics concerning them played just as big a part in the album’s compositions and one would be going to find anything even close to similar in releases unless Wadada did it himself. Getting a bit tired with Bop, Third Stream, Fusion and Avante Garde well try this one for something refreshingly different.

HENRY THREADGILL Henry Threadgill & Make A Move ‎: Where's Your Cup?

Album · 1997 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.52 | 3 ratings
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Matt
Henry Threadgill’s second album with what was at that time when released in 1997 comprised his current new ensemble, Make A Move being a Quintet with Henry providing alto sax and flute, Brandon Ross on electric and classical guitar, Tony Cedras, accordion and harmonium, Stomu Takeshi, 5 string bass with J.T. Lewis drumming. As per the usual for Henry the compositions maintain a degree of structure providing quite a solid ground for the above mentioned artists solos and input whilst keeping the music from becoming chaotic which can lead to the ruination of any Avante Garde Jazz album. Whilst not an easy listen the benefit of persevering becomes apparent after a few spins and like all good albums of this nature it requires a little work from you the listener. One other mention is Bill Laswell shares Production duties with Henry in the making of this delightful excursion into some truly original Jazz.

Being the most structured of the compositions “ 100 Year Old Game” kicks the album of with Tony Cedras’ accordion beginning the composition with a change in tempo and Henry commencing quite a delightful solo interjected with guitar and accordion as Henry just keeps bringing more and more intensity into it for this superb opening number which has another time change before heading back to the original start time. “Laughing Game” follows with a brief drum solo to get things going with great guitar work from Brandon Ross and Henry following with more of that intensity. The title “Where’s Your Cup” runs at a fairly slow tempo with guitar and accordion opening and Henry providing flute in this lovely atmospheric composition. Things just keep getting better with the album’s longest track “And This” bringing the accordion followed by electric guitar back to open another gradual build up and Henry following on alto with more superb input from Brandon Ross’ electric guitar to follow. There are three other compositions remaining with all keeping up the quality with the last title named “Go To Far’. Well did it?, not really because as I stated previously there is structure for this delightful Avante Garde album from Henry Threadgill’s back catalogue.

It needs work from you the listener as the music can be complicated at times but the reward is there if you persevere. Great album.

WAYNE HORVITZ Sweeter Than The Day

Album · 2001 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
Cover art 4.45 | 2 ratings
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Matt
Released in 2001 with the same personnel as Wayne Horvitz’s band Zony Mash but not the same music as the band being still a Quartet is acoustic now. Wayne Horvitz has quite a good a resume for a Jazz musician with film scores, various other bands and styles of music predominately Jazz, Electric and Classical that he has participated in. Many know him from his input into John Zorn’s music with the most well known being “Naked City” but this album “Sweeter Than The Day” also being the band’s name is at opposite ends of that spectrum. What we have here is, albeit being a Quartet this album seems to have more of a Trio sound with a laid back subdued take on the compositions that Wayne included for this project. Prepared and standard piano are played by him for this 2nd album by this incantation with Timothy Young on six and 12 string electric guitar, Keith Lowe on bass and Andy Roth on drums.

There is something about Wayne Horvitz’s piano technique that has always entranced me with the sound seeming to harken back to the early years of Jazz but still presented with a beautiful contemporary sound which is quite present in this acoustic album which starts off with the composition “In One Time and Another”. Plenty of space for this lower timed opening number and that old time sound really starts to emanate with the following “Julian’s Ballad” with Wayne keeping the theme never far off throughout with some beautiful subdued guitar from Timothy Young just adding to the sublime. “LTMBBQ” is mid tempo with Wayne again bouncing around the theme and never straying too far which is the technique he applies in all the compositions for the entire album and once again Young’s guitar just adds a lovely texture. “Sweeter Than The Day” the title track is back to a ballad with more of that old sound emanating from the piano input. “Irondbound” follows with “Waltz From The Oven” after which once again contains just a few notes that just keep reappearing to work around and is another of those beautiful subdued tracks within the album. Another that always grabs my attention whilst listening is “The Little Parade”. “George’s Solo” finishes the album up with more space and silence.

Still getting play here after 17 years since it release and for those days where time seems to slow whilst whiling away your day in the sun or just hanging out it is hard not to appreciate how Wayne Horvitz has captured and placed an atmosphere into wherever you are. Lovely stuff.

CHARLES LLOYD Charles Lloyd & The Marvels + Lucinda Williams : Vanished Gardens

Album · 2018 · Jazz Related Pop/Art Song/Folk
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
Lucinda Williams first ran into Charles Lloyd who himself was already was a fan from her “Car Wheel On a Gravel Road” days after attending one his concerts where they met back stage afterwards which planted the seed for this current project and latest release. Charles stated during an interview co- shared with Lucinda concerning the making of “Vanished Gardens” that “You can’t go in there with fixed ideas” and that perception he keeps throughout the production for the amalgamation of Jazz and Americana bringing something fresh and original for all of us with tired ears who often ponder these days even with a new artist who we have not heard prior, that when their music commences we think, “I’ve heard it before” but at least concerning this album that is difficult to claim. Five of the ten tracks comprising the album are instrumentals with three written by Charles with one other being the standard “Ballad Of The Sad Young Men” and the other being “Monks Dream” . Lucinda’s input is also five tracks taken from various albums from her past productions with the addition of the Jimi Hendrix tune “Angel”.

The album kicks off with the instrumental “Defiant” with Charles opening on tenor saxophone with a down tempo approach which turns to a rolling along number with Bill Frisell’s guitar coming in for the second solo followed by Greg Leisz on pedal steel and finishing up with Charles back again with his beautiful deep tone on tenor . This one has actually been released as a single. Lucinda William s comes in for the following number being “Dust” where the original tune is kept and easily recognisable which is maintained throughout the entire album for all her compositions included within but the difference lays with the backing Quintets input with the loops of Lloyds’s sax and the stretching out of the numbers. Bill Frisell with Greg Leisz open the title number “Vanished Gardens” with a slow build up till Charles appears getting stronger by the second. Another Williams number follows being her classic “Ventura” and once again keeping to its original construction but placed in a Jazz mode. The tracks alternate throughout the album’s duration with an instrumental followed by a Williams vocal song. Charles actually does a little singing in the background during “Unsuffer Me” being one of my favourites from the session but I may add that it is one of my picks from Lucinda’s back catalogue taken from her stunning album “West”. Charles also does do a flute lead for the lovely “Blues For Langston and LaRue” bringing a little more variety to it all.

Does it work?, sure does, I think more to the addition of guitar and pedal steel from Frisell and Leisz which brings a junction point for Charles Lloyd and Lucinda Williams being two Southern artists to combine for quite an interesting listen and yes, something different from two of today’s top musicians. Special mention for Reuben Rogers (bass) and Eric Harland on drums.

WADADA LEO SMITH Najwa

Album · 2017 · Fusion
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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Matt
Variety seems to be the key with the latest batch of releases from Wadada Leo Smith with “Najwa” continuing that mode in an exceptional manner. The prior album “ America’s National Parks” played by Wadada’s Golden Quintet was quite an outstanding effort and deservingly so, being highly regarded after the double album’s release last year in 2016. “Najwa” is quite a different beast being Fusion but this is not Miles Davis or The Mahavishnu Orchestra albeit there are elements contained but due to Bill Laswell’s presence on the album playing electric bass, providing the Mix and the addition of four Electric Guitarists, we are veering just as close to Praxis and Material.

Jazz though is still the key “Ornette Coleman’s Harmolodic Sonic Hierograhic Forms: A Reasonance Change In The Millennium” is performed as a suite with varying times and some stunning trumpet from Wadada in conjunction with the guitarists providing quite a diverse sound with their input but Bill Laswell’s bass is grumbling and booming in the distinct manner that he play’s right along with them. Track 3 “Najwa” is a short dreamy piece. I have to admit when I first saw the title for the next track “Ronald Shannon Jackson: The Master of Symphonic Drumming and Multi Sonic Rhythms, Inscription of a Rare Beauty” I was ready for long percussion pieces but not so, although drum driven there is plenty addition from the band with some great guitar work injected with Wadada’s trumpet thankfully. “The Empress, Lady Day: In a Rainbow Garden, with Yellow-Gold Hot Springs, Surrounded by Exotic Plants and Flowers” finishes the album up in a contemplative manner with pieces from the various musicians floating across an ambient ether that only Bill Laswell could Mix. Track 2 the dedication to John Coltrane has the same high standard.

WADADA LEO SMITH Solo-Reflections And Meditations On Monk

Album · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Matt
Solo trumpet sounds a bit dicey but Wadada Leo Smith pulls it of beautifully. I noticed the selections are more towards Monk's slower tempo compositions which seemed to be a wise choice for this concept. Three of the compositions are Wadada's own with the rest being Monk's. Having the music stripped to just solo trumpet it is often the fragments of the tunes whilst being played that just drift the melodies in

"Ruby My Dear", "Crepuscule with Nellie", "Round Midnight" and the not often played early comp "Reflections" are outstanding in their interpretation but that is not to say that Wadada's compositions are any less either bringing quite an interesting balance to the album with perhaps "Monk and His Five Point Ring At The Five Spot Cafe" which gives a nudge to Monk's most renowned Live album, "Thelonious in Action" being my pick.

If you know your Monk you should love hearing these masterful echoes provided my Smith's solo trumpet throughout but if you don't grab a copy of "Monk's Music" and "Genius Of Modern Music Volume 1" where the majority of the original compositions performed by Smith on this recording lay and work from there to gain a better grip and understanding to where Wadada is coming from with the concept to this album. Beautiful and different stuff

LOUIS ARMSTRONG The Complete Louis Armstrong Decca Sessions (1935-1946)

Boxset / Compilation · 2009 · Classic (1920s) Jazz
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Matt
“This man never disdained what was served up but always found a way to enhance it” ,taken from the Mosaic set notes compiled by Dan Morgenstern: and these Decca recordings contain precisely that with the soaring trumpet and gravel voice taking on any composition or style from New Orleans, Standards, Gospel, Polynesian, Spoken word or narrations, with any other popular or novelty song suggested, and Louis and the band took it all away with absolutely superb musicianship. Tommy Dorsey, Bing Crosby, Mills Brothers, Decca Mixed Chorus, Glen Gray and His Casa Loma Orchestra, Ella Fitzgerald and even an appearance from a young Dexter Gordon albeit only in a support role but they are all included within the seven discs. Often one hears concerning his Decca output that it was not up to the same quality of the early Hot Five and Seven‘s or in the later forties onwards to the sixties with his All Star Band material that were all primarily recorded with Columbia Records and then we also have his later Verve recordings that are included in that list with his Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson collaborations being the high point but during the period of 1935 to 1946 with Decca nobody really has been taking notice or listening except for the good folks at Mosaic and they certainly have rectified the problem with putting out the entire catalogue with alt takes included but still had the extremely good sense to keep away from false starts, studio banter etc by just keeping to all the wonderful music that Louis recorded during this time.

Where does one start when digging out a massive gold vein as you may miss some gorgeous big nuggets and there are plenty here to find with quite a lot of the material being recorded here for the first time that would become his show regulars and perhaps his finisher would be the most memorable of “When The Saints Come Marching In” or was it at the beginning with “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South”, “Pennies From Heaven”, “Jeepers Creepers and ”Rockin’ Chair” are also included. Not to mention there is a few 2nd takes of his earlier material comprising “West End Blues”, “Mahogany Hall Stomp”,” Savoy Blues” and “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue”. Then there is so many of my favourite old Trad Jazzers with, “Ain’t Misbehavin”, “Save It Pretty Mama”, “On The Sunny Side Of The Street”, “Dipper Mouth”, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and they keep coming but my top will always be “(I’ll Be Glad When Your Dead) You Rascal You” (7th disc). Duke Ellington’s “Solitude”, Billie Holiday’s “I Cover The Waterfront” ( Louis recorded it first) are covered with one of the most interesting being his first duet with Ella Fitzgerald (“You Won’t Be Satisfied” and “The Frim Fram Sauce”) albeit more from an historical viewpoint but still quite enjoyable. The Polynesian themed sessions are a delight simply for the variety with the tropical feel of “On A Coconut Island” often bringing a smile. “La Cucaracha” is covered so we better light one up for Louis with the songs meaning as we all know he didn’t mind a bit of kif. The two most different tracks would be Elder Eatmore’s Sermon’s with Louis of course handing out some quite humorous sermons with quite a Southern viewpoint from that period in time with both being narrations. ( Disc 6). Yet, still there are still so many more songs that would be later redone by him in the later part of his career still included and we even have “Happy Birthday” with Louis giving a dedication to the recipient Bing Crosby before the number.

Louis Armstrong’s trumpet soars over the sets contents, his vocals fill it with so many memories from a time that has long gone but his music with always live on,as he is The King of Jazz or any other music that he chose to play. I doubt if ever another greater musician/entertainer is, or ever will be out there. Fantastic Box Set absolutely essential to any Louis Armstrong devotee with myself included or even if you have never heard him before, grab one as there is only 5,000 of these little gold nuggets for sale. Highly recommended and absolutely essential music.

By the way, my first song that I remember hearing as a child was “Hello Dolly” and although in later life I have found out it was not one that Louis thought that highly of, I still love to hear it. I am still learning about this gentleman as there is so much more to find out and I only have 20 years left, if I’m lucky.

SLY AND ROBBIE Language Barrier

Album · 1985 · Dub/Ska
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
In 1985 Island Records released Sly and Robbie’s first foray to be recorded with Reggae placed as an influence and not the major component within the recording by bringing a digitalised funk and Hip Hop sound to the recordings fore front. Looking back today when one listens closely to “Language Barrier” you realise just how far in front of the pack they were running. Afrika Bambaata, had only been known for three years with a complete new genre of music still in its infancy being Rap and Hip Hop which was still facing more criticism than appreciation except within the younger music community and not content with just Afrika Bambaata the imitable Doug E. Fresh with his own sounds being the human beat box even took things to another original level. As well, we had another fairly new artist making quite a name on the scene for himself being the Producer and bassist Bill Laswell who was currently with his band Material back in 1985 bringing already a diverse original anything goes approach with his take on creating modern music. Wally Badarou is also present on synthesizer, Herbie Hancock, Robbie Lyn and Bernie Worrell are also included supplying keyboards and piano. Manu Dibango on sax, Daniel Ponce, congas, Bernard Fowler, backing vocals and vocals, Eddie Martinez, Pat Thrall, Mike Hampton, Mikey Chung and Barry Reynolds all supplied guitar at various stages from Funk, Jazz and Rock and talking about Rock, Bob Dylan even provides harmonica in the album.

During this period Sly and Robbie had not long finished recording Mick Jagger’s solo debut, “She’s The Boss” with Bill Laswell where many of these musicians came into contact. Some of the others had already been playing in the Compass Band which was Island Records studio band for many of their productions during this period with most of the band members originating from Jamacia and a Reggae background. Bob Dylan had not long before had Sly and Robbie provide support for his latest release “Empire Burlesque” with the most memorable song of the album recorded being Bob’s second shot at “When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky” containing Sly’s electric drum kit and Robbie’s beautiful bass line. In addition to all this consorting Bill Laswell with a few of the artists mentioned above had just recorded Manu Dibango’s ,“Electric Africa” bringing Manu along to lend his superb saxophone with that gorgeous tone on various album tracks, found within “Language Barrier”.

Sly’s electronic drums open up with the Funk coming in quick, Manu Dibango’s sax is darting in and out, Wally’s synthesizer is whirling around and Afrika Bambaata are chanting “make em’ move, make em’ move” with additional verse lyrics and with three cracking guitar solos inserted with of course Robbie’s bass lines and the first number “Make Em’ Move” gets the album underway. “No Name On The Bullet” which follows is one rhythm worked over beautifully with Hip Hop added over a dub and an another album highlight which is followed by the Miles Davis composition “Black Satin” aptly named “Miles” within the album’s track listings with more fabulous rhythm employed as the bed rock , two fabulous drum leads from Sly, more Synthesizer and guitar, a keyboard loop that just keeps repeating and one quite distinct take was created. “Bass And Trouble” is the first on the flip with Manu Dibango providing quite a nice solo and input over more electronics used for the rhythm with Doug E. Fresh doing his sound effects, Wally’s synthesizer is back, Mike Hampton is putting in the Funk guitar and Sly and Robbie are once again a stunning back bone to it all. The rhythm just keeps pounding along for the title track “Language Barrier” with Doug back rapping effects and even more funk lines from Mike Hampton’s guitar. Of course funk finishes the album up with quite a catchy “ Get To This, Get To That” and here we get to hear Bernard Fowler singing lead over more of a seventies style take albeit it is laced with electronics.

It did not receive the recognition that this album deserved when it was released garnering quite a mixed reception but if one looks back with today’s view point you will notice these musicians are light years ahead or right on the cusp if you prefer. Myself personally I love the use of the electronic kit that Sly Dunbar played and how he used the full electronic sound with Robbie’s pumping bass providing the support and Bill Laswell’s production. Their next similar album “Rhythm Killers” which garnered a much better reception is perhaps better played and mixed but “Language Barrier” was a more original album and who else would rush in and get that new Rap stuff included, although at this time it was really not all that new for the Rhythm Twins as they had been doing Jamaican Dancehall for around 7 to 8 years by then, “Yep, they were light year s ahead”.

AARON GOLDBERG The Now

Album · 2015 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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Matt
Aaron Goldberg first came to my attention in the year 2000 when he was supporting Joshua Redman on his current tour throughout that period. At that time Aaron had released his first album “Turning Point” with his follow up “Unfolding” having already been recorded and coming out within a few months. With another two albums that have since followed we have finally arrived at his fifth release “The Now” with his old cohorts in music Ruben Rogers on Bass and Eric Harland drumming who have both been with him since the beginning of his recorded output and comprise what basically could be termed as Aaron’s Trio these days. Post Bop, Brazilian, Haitian, a Charlie Parker cover with Aaron’s original compositions bring a wonderful diversity to the albums make up and content with plenty for the Trio to work around with a mix of tempos and melodies.

Aaron choose the Chico Buarque composition, “Trocando Em Miudos” for the album’s opening comprising a beautiful relaxed take with the number and less relaxation of course if you are Aaron who brings this up within his solo with that gradual increase in notes and speed to almost the highest point but that old Jazz art of landing back on that tunes theme is right there. We are heading to Haiti with the next “Yoyo” with Ruben and Eric opening the number with the rhythm and Aaron’s piano providing some wonderful input and lead over this lively number. Kudos must go the rhythm section of Ruben and Eric with both keeping the rhythm of the composition’s Haitian feel at the beginning and end when so often in other Jazz recordings the compositions can become lost of their original sound. The ballad, “The Wind In The Night” follows with plenty of space provided between each piano key and with the exquisite backing from Ruben and Eric you might be excused if one walked in to hear, “Bill Evans”? The diversity keeps coming throughout the ten album tracks with the short modern composition of Aaron’s named “E-Land”. That Charlie Parker sprite appears instantly with “Perhaps” and the lovely Brazilian ballad , “Triste Baia da Guanabara” follows. “Background Music” by Wayne Marsh must have originated from a very fast world with its great up tempo timing. “One’s A Crowd” as the notes’ state “Even when you’re alone you’re not. What is this you anyway”? with the band all having an input for solos within this contradictory set up at time within Aaron’s composition. The dedicated “One Life” closes the album with Kurt Rosenwinkel guesting on guitar and one could be excused if mistaken for a flute with the stunning sound he produces. The composition is dedicated to a married couple that Aaron met who had lost their teenage daughter, let’s hope that a small amount of relief is brought to them.

Gets better with every time I hear this and that old phrase that I have used so often applies, “something new to hear with each play” . Highly recommended new release. If you are interested Aaron signed the cover of Joshua Redman’s “Beyond” album on the 2/28/00 which he dated luckily for me on that wonderful evening of Jazz at the now defunct “Continental Club” in Melbourne Australia. Also got Ruben Roger’s whilst he was there.

SLY AND ROBBIE Dubrising

Album · 2014 · Dub/Ska
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Matt
Last time the Dub was underwater but this year it is rising with the latest Dub offering from the Rhythm Twins. I could go on for hours about these two who have appeared with everybody at some time or the other and if they have not appeared with them then they most likely Produced their album. Still Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare have always kept those Jamaican Roots to the forefront within their own music and releases while still staying contemporary in the genre at the same time. After all it was Sly and Robbie who were the main movers toward digital within the Reggae scene back in the eighties and like it or not it is here to stay with the introduction of Dancehall and Ragga but with “Dubrising” it 100% good old Dub.

Paul “Groucho” Smykle is the man behind the mixing board who has not worked with Sly and Robbie for nearly 30 years when he mixed their two earlier albums “Raiders of the Lost Dub” and “Dub Experience”. The tracks from the album were picked by Groucho using Sly and Robbie’s prior Productions from Horace Andy, Chezidek, Bunny Rugs and Khalifa between 2006 to 2012 bringing quite a modern feel but still staying right at the Old School. The instrumentals were recorded live at two studios in Kingston. Dan Donovan from Big Audio Dynamite added synthesizer and Bunny McKenzie added dread harmonica. No Protools were used as Groucho mixed it live to bring that old feel of how it was done back in those Lee Perry and King Tubby days during the seventies where if things did go wrong, it was start again and not just a quick patch up.

The dubs themselves come through beautifully with a mix of tempos throughout the rhythms used with all the reverb and echo employed and as heard on “Satan Fall” and the 2nd Dub “Freedom Ring”. The synthesizer provides a little more fill bringing a good fresh quality and is quite a nice touch. “Drone Snipers” motors along with a great echo and vocal remnants with the addition of Bunny McKenzie playing his dread harmonica. There are plenty of sound effects with zaps and whirrs layered over great rhythms which keep up a nice rapid tempo for the majority of Dubs that follow. “To The Rescue" is laced with Synthesizer and vocal remnants put to echo, “No Surrender”, “Flame Thrower” with its effects and slightly slower tempo and then to finish the pumping bass of “Double Agent” which comes in last.

Wonderful new Dub album from Sly and Robbie with a wonderful sounding mix from Groucho.

THELONIOUS MONK Genius Of Modern Music Volume 2

Boxset / Compilation · 1956 · Bop
Cover art 4.95 | 2 ratings
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Matt
These were the last sessions that Thelonious Monk recorded during his tenure at Blue Note Records which lasted from 1947 to 1952 and they comprise as the previous Volume 1 edition the first incantations of so many of his classic compositions that he would record again throughout the later 1950’s and 60”s. If one looks at his recording dates whilst at Blue Note there is a four year gap and although he had lost his Cabaret License and was no longer able to play licensed venues and clubs, it was that his records did not sell being more the reason for his absents. Monk’s music was not the usual BeBop with its fast tempos and starring solos but more a collective with each musician required to interlink with each other to maintain those looping, jaunting, up and down notes that the majority of Thelonious Monk compositions contain. Nobody back then really got it apart from his fellow Jazz musicians and what other people termed as music odd balls. It was different music for that period in the History of Jazz and the other issue was getting fellow musicians who could grasp the times and structure that Monk used within his compositions which although the prior Volume 1 has so many of his original classic compositions contained and is a Jazz Classic in its own right due to this fact, it is just some of the musicians used in those first three sessions back in 1947, at times seemed to be out of sync with Monk. “Genius Of Modern Music Volume 2” seems to have remedied this problem with the only two musicians still included from those early sessions being Art Blakey drumming and Sahib Shihab on alto saxophone.

The album is divided into two sessions with alternate takes included with the first being a Quintet comprising Monk, piano, Sahib Shihab on alto saxophone, Milt Jackson on vibes, Al McKinnon, bass and Art Blakey is drumming. The first composition is “Four In One” with Monk opening and quickly inserting the compositions theme with Sahib on alto providing quite a distinct sound to accompany Monk’s piano, with a solo to follow each with Milt Jackson’s vibes included last. The alternate take which follows is the same for quality, as like true Jazz musicians the solos are not the same with Monks being a little longer and Sahib’s shorter. “Criss Cross” another Monk classic follows and Milt Jackson solos first on vibes in quite an up tempo composition with Sahib and Monk following. The alternate is again slightly different to the first. “Eronel” which follows has Sahib’s opening alto and the band interlinking for more wonderful original music. “Straight No Chaser” comes next, being superb in its original format and one can hear Monk playing a heavily influenced Stride piano during his solo. “Ask Me Now” has two takes included with the alternate running to 4 and a half minutes with a slightly slower tempo than the master which only ran to 3. This composition is only performed in a Trio setting with the rhythm section. I find the alternate more appealing as one can hear a 1920’s distinct touch of Stride and Dance Hall within Monk’s piano technique. “Willow Weep For Me” is the last for the session and the only Standard and is played superbly of course with Monk’s technique which brings this first session to an end.

The 2nd session contains a completely different line up and is a Sextet comprising Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Lou Donaldson, alto saxophone, Lucky Thompson, tenor saxophone, Nelson Boyd, bass and Max Roach on drums. The first three Monk compositions all have alternate or a 2nd take included and it is “Skippy” which comes first with a marvellous fast tempo including wonderful solos by the musicians on both takes. “Hornin’ In” which follows is pure Monk and why he never used this composition more is a mystery as it has the required kook inserted by the tunes theme. “Sixteen” another composition which he seemed to have left behind, as with the previous two compositions is pure Monk again with the structure and timing. A cover of “Carolina Moon” was also superbly done at this last session with the last Monk composition being his classic “Let’s Cool One”. The session finished recording that day playing the Standard “I’ll Follow You” in a Trio setting. A lot of the credit should go to a young Max Roach throughout the session for his superb take on the music with his drumming.

These first two Blue Note volumes contain the Exodus section from the Bible for Jazz as this where Thelonious Monk first presented his original Bop compositions which became the foundation for so many influences that permeate the music genre. Sure there has been better recordings of some of these numbers since but this is the original presentation. The inclusion of Milt Jackson on vibes laid a template for so many Avante Garde recordings which would follow in the future. The horn arrangements used more often than not as counters within his compositions themes are another influence that has forever left its mark on Jazz.

Twenty one days prior to recording the first session of “Volume 2” Monk recorded with Milt Jackson at Blue note with the material from that session appearing under Milt Jackson’s name as part of his release “Wizard Of The Vibes” with some of the material from this session recorded on July 23 1951 being also included. There also was a 10 inch (1952) and a 12 inch ( 1956) record issued under “Genius Of Modern Music Vol 2” with some of the material crossing over. Lucky for us the first cd issued in 1989 puts all of Monk’s music with his last session recorded approximately 10 months later in actual recording order. There are so many editions released since with an RVG (Rudy Van Gelder) remaster following this original cd release which I would also recommend or get the record as that is available as well these days.

JIMMY COBB The Original Mob

Album · 2014 · Hard Bop
Cover art 3.95 | 2 ratings
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Jimmy Cobb has been drumming for 70 years at the time of this recent release, “The Original Mob” and is best remembered for his participation in the classic Miles Davis album “Kind Of Blue” as well he contributed to 6 others with Miles during that period from the late fifties to the mid sixties. Played on half a dozen John Coltrane albums around the same time, worked with Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Holiday, Wes Montgomery, Nat Adderley and his slightly more famous brother Cannonball. He states on the albums notes that it was through Cannonball Adderley that he was originally introduced to Miles but that all happened over 50 years ago. Today Jimmy at age 86 is playing his drums superbly and he has not lost any touch with age as evidenced upon hearing this new album from Smoke Sessions. If you are wondering, Smoke is a Jazz Club in New York and where the album was recorded. The club was empty at the recording time making the album closer to a studio session with great fresh results emanating from the one day.

Cobb’s Mob is the name of Jimmy’s band and throughout the last twenty years has gone through changes in its line up but with “The Original Mob” as the title implies the line up is precisely that from 20 years prior. Peter Bernstein the guitarist is credited with naming them when he and Brad Mehldau were students in one of Jimmy Cobb’s Jazz classes and it was Peter who brought in the bassist John Webber. Since this time Brad Mehldau’s Jazz career has passed orbit and one only knows where he keeps all his awards for pianist of the year after really hitting the scene when he started to release his “Art Of The Trio” albums back in the later nineties. Peter Bernstein’s career is not far behind Brad’s with Jimmy stating in the notes that he plays with a similarity to Grant Green the famous Blue Note Jazz guitarist. Peter has been leading an organ based trio primarily with Larry Goldings and drummer Bill Stewart since to rave reviews and worked with quite a few current big names in Jazz such as Joshua Redman, organist Melvin Rhyne, Nicholas Payton, Diana Krall, Dr Lonnie Smith, Tom Harrell and even Sonny Rollins. The bassist John Webber is another having played with Johnny Griffiin, George Coleman, Eric Alexander and freelance appearances with Etta James, Horace Silver, Lou Donaldson and a list of many more which one could add to all his past collaborations.

The albums compositions are a quite a nice mix with standards, covers and original numbers from the band with all supplying one each and Jimmy providing two of his own.”Old Devil Moon” starts the album off with John Webber’s bass coming in first being quickly joined by drums and piano. Peter Bernstein’s guitar provides a wonderful solo which is followed by Brad’s turn on piano over this fairly up tempo take. Brad Mehldau is an absolute joy with his piano input and it keeps coming with the following mid tempo George Coleman composition, “Amsterdam after Dark” where Peter Bernstein provides one lovely little groove again right across the top followed by more from Brad. “Sunday In New York” has a great skip for all the band to work around, “Stranger In Paradise” with its quick time and Jimmy’s cracker of a drum solo just keeps the album motoring along quite nicely. The album’s fifth composition “Unrequited” is from Brad with Peter Bernstein’s guitar dropped and Brad plays with that beautiful touch that he has on piano with John Webber’s bass providing a wonderful counter and solo combined with Jimmy’s stick work and drumming. Great stuff. The two Jimmy Cobb compositions follow providing plenty of groove from “Composition 101”with the next, “Remembering U” being the album’s only ballad. The standard “Nobody Else But Me” is next with the Peter Bernstein composition “Minor Blues” following being quite a delight. John Webber’s composition “Lickety Split” with it’s up tempo timing and stellar contributions from Peter Bernstein’s guitar and Jimmy’s drum solo brings the album to a close.

Fabulous Jazz with plenty of good old fashioned Bop. Peter Bernstein and his guitar almost steal the show but with such other wonderful musicians present he did not quite get away with it. Highly recommended new release from a smokin’ new Jazz label, Smoke Sessions Records.

TOM HARRELL TRIP

Album · 2014 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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It has been a “Trip’ for Tom Harrell after commencing his professional career playing trumpet in Stan Kenton’s band in 1969. He recorded his first album as a leader in 1976 and currently has 27 albums under his belt including “Trip” His site claims that he has participated in 260 recordings but perhaps they may include arranging as well which is just another bow from Tom’s talent. Since 2007 Tom has been working primarily with a Quintet excepting the previous release to “Trip” which was “Colors Of A Dream” where a 2 Bass Sextet were the band’s make up with the regular, saxophone, piano and drums included. With “Trip” he has chosen a Quartet comprising saxophone, bass, drums and Tom’s trumpet comprising the band’s line up with the piano being dropped..

The quartet comprises Mark Turner on saxophone who himself has released his own album currently on ECM, “Lathe Of Heaven” within the same year of this release and he is considered one of today’s top saxophonists in Jazz with a list of musical associations that could fill this page. Ugonna Okegwo is on bass and the only surviving member from Tom’s previous Quintet albums and prior to Tom Harrell primarily worked with Jackie Terrasson . Adam Cruz is on drums and another highly experienced musician having played with Chick Corea, Chris Potter, Steve Wilson, David Sanchez and been a member of The Danilo Perez Trio.

The album opens with “Sunday” being mid tempo with Ugonna’s bass right up front providing a wonderful time and structure with Adam’s drums supporting things beautifully and filling the composition which gives Mark Turner and Tom Harrell a wonderful layer to play over with their solo’s. Every composition included in the album is written by Tom Harrell and “Cycle” which follows is precisely that with the musicians seeming to circle within the tunes structure and reminiscent of ‘Orbits’ a Wayne Shorter composition but still it is Tom’s beast excepting for the circular pattern comprising the compositions make up. The album’s main focus is the suite that Tom Harrell has included, “The Adventures Of A Quixotic Character” which includes six different compositions of Tom’s interruption of the Cervantes novel. “The Ingenious Gentleman” is first and the suite’s longest piece running at just over 7 minutes with Adam Cruz up first on drums providing quite an interesting solo and opening to the number with Mark’s saxophone, Tom’s trumpet and a bass solo from Ungonna following. The arrangement is superb as the rhythm section drops volume with the horns and each solo is clear and distinct or stands alone from the drums and bass but all come back in a seamless manner for the following short pieces, “The Duke and the Duchess”, “Enchanted” comprising a beautiful solo bass from Ungonna, “Sancho and Rocinante” with the entire band as Mark Turner leads on saxophone with him still remaining for the fifth slowed down piece “The Princess” keeping the entire suite seamless with a marvellous up and down solo followed by Tom’s usual trumpet perfection. “Windmills” is the Suite’s last composition with a slight increased timing with the drums and a clarity of sound from Adam’s kit. Tom and Mark take a call and response with their input with the notes becoming higher and more frantic but they still hold quite a bit back for the last piece of the stunning suite. Things though do not drop all the same with the following, the beautiful “Coming Home” the album’s superb ballad. “Coastline”, After The Game Is Over” and “There” are the three remaining tracks from the album with all being enjoyable and exquisitely played compositions and all different.

I have heard quite a few new ones from 2014 with “Trip” being my personal favourite. Tom Harrell has created an absolute Jazz jewel with this one by dropping the piano which provides less clutter enabling the respective musicians to come through as clear as a bell with their various inputs. Not to mention the beautiful compositions, arrangements and superb trumpet playing from him. Great Jazz and highly recommended. Tom also appeared on Niels Vincentz’s, “Is That So” another of these piano less Quartets this year, if you are looking for something else from him in 2014.

BOBBY HUTCHERSON Enjoy the View

Album · 2014 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Back in 1976 Bobby was looking at “The View From The Inside” with his 2nd last Blue Note recording before the Label folded for a period lasting to the mid eighties but this time with his newest release Bobby recommends to “Enjoy The View” and yes, it is on Blue Note. Bobby Hutcherson is one of Jazz music’s greats having played vibraphone on so many albums that today are considered classics in this genre with a myriad of styles with many fans still trying to work out whether it is his Bop or early Avante Garde contributions, they enjoy better. “Enjoy The View” is Bobby Hutcherson’s return to Blue Note records after an hiatus of 37 years and with a period away for this length of time you would expect nothing but the best and Don Was being Blue Note’s President within EMI is the album’s Producer. Could one find a better Producer having recorded so many artists with styles ranging from Country to Algerian Rai but this time it is some great Boppin’ Jazz. Bobby first recorded for Blue Note in 1963 ( Jackie McLean sideman)and stayed with the label till it’s brief demise in 1979 with Horace Silver the pianist being the only other artist still remaining from the Classic period during the time that Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff owned it.

Joey DeFrancesco provides organ for the album and with the addition of trumpet on one of the compositions and having been playing with Bobby for a few years and been included on his last Live album brings a wonderful understanding and feel to the music. David Sanborn is playing alto saxophone with his unique slightly abrasive tone and he also has been recently performing in Joey DeFrancesco’s trio and provides beautiful input with his addition. Both musicians also provide two compositions of their own to the album . The great Billy Hart is drumming who is currently signed with ECM and doing an absolutely fantastic job for someone who is 74 and last but not least is Bobby Hutcherson on vibraphone who has one up on Billy being 73 years of age at the present time of this album’s release. All of these artists have practically played with the entire Jazz community at some time, if all their projects, bands etc were combined in a group . All this experience shows with the music one hears performed by the band during the album’s duration

There are seven compositions contained on the record with David Sanborn’s “Delia” commencing the album where David employs his wonderful abrasive alto saxophone tone during a solo interlinked with space and varying twists to open. Bobby follows with that sparse technique that he employs when playing vibes with Joey DeFrancesco providing an ample laid back groove from Hammond organ and adding quite a nice little solo to follow Bobby’s. “Don Is” is Joey’s turn for a composition and perhaps a hat tip to Don Was which has a slight Avante touch used for the tunes opening with a wonderful mid tempo groove provided for Bobby’s vibes to lead us in. “Hey Harold” was previously included from Bobby’s “Head On” album in 1971 but the duration is not so long for this interpretation coming in at 7 minutes whereas the original was 20 with its slow tempo opening but the tune motors along quite nicely in no time and this is where Joey DeFrancesco provides some wonderful high loopy trumpet during the composition’s beginning and end, combining interplay between him and Bobby and is a lovely quick highlight. David Sanborn and Billy Hart are also superb with their input to this number. “Little Flower” is another Sanborn composition at a slower tempo than the previous with David Sanborn playing an extremely interesting beautiful solo and providing most of the tune’s lead sound. “Montara” is another of Bobby’s compositions given a new life with quite a nice variation which came from the album of the same name he released back in 1975, which is followed by a new up tempo composition from Bobby named “Teddy” with lots of drive and superb musicianship contained within from the entire band. The last track is ‘You” being another Joey De Francesco composition with some great flow coming from the band throughout this mid tempo number.

Wonderful return to his old label for Bobby Hutcherson, great band, great compositions and a great record is the result. For myself I would get it alone for David Sanborn’s superb saxophone input as I just love how he puts his solo’s together. This album is not “Dialogue”, “Stick Up” , “Happenings” or “Total Eclipse” it is a something a little different from Bobby this time. Great to see that he is still moving along nicely in his career and not sitting in the one spot after all this time which would have been so easy to do. Takes a few listens and what is better, there is constantly new things to hear each time from the entire band throughout the record with every play.

TOMASZ STAŃKO Leosia

Album · 1997 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.41 | 4 ratings
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Matt
Sublime music was created in January 1996 during the recording of “Leosia” by The Tomasz Stanko Quartet which comprised Tomasz Stanko on trumpet with Bobo Stenson, piano, Anders Jormin, bass and an absolute stunning display from the drummer Tony Oxley on this beautiful slow to mid tempo album with a myriad of Jazz influences from different styles played in a subtle manner throughout.

Tomasz Stanko has been playing since the early 1960’s and is best remembered during this period playing with the great Polish pianist and composer Krzysztof Komeda which has given Tomasz the grounding from which his Jazz emanates with “Leosia” having echoes from the Komeda collaborations back during this early period in Tomasz’s career. Miles Davis is the major influence within the tone that Tomasz brings forth from his trumpet being a beautiful low one which is superbly used throughout the album’s duration. Bobo Stenson is another musician with credentials as long as his arm and a band leader in his own right and it would be no surprise to see him in those top ten lists for pianists. Anders Jormin on bass is actually a member from Bobo Stenson’s Trio bringing a wonderful connectivity to the music within “Leosia”. Connectivity is also present with Tomasz and Tony Oxley as both at times played with Cecil Taylor bringing a slight Avante Garde touch within this album’s compositions and interruptions. Tony Oxley on drums gives us a master class with his minimal backing and different approaches for the Quartet with his sticks and brushes but it is when he uses his hands and just sounds that he obtains with even using the metal on the kit and not the skins.

“Morning Heavy Song” is the album’s first composition and is a beautifully played ballad with Tomasz’s low tone in a sparse stretched manner with a dream like quality with Bobo Stenson’s piano following Tomasz but it is the trumpet which takes the majority of play throughout on this Stanko composition. Tony Oxley’s drums opens the next “Die Weishert von Le Comte Lautremont” with a much higher note played by Tomasz for this composition with a near frenzy at the end of his solo which is followed by Bobo Stenson’s beautiful piano input but listen to Tony Oxley doing what he does with a minimal method within his drumming. “A Farewell To Maria” was a film where Tomasz Stanko wrote the score and is another of those sparse ballads with Andres Jormin providing a superb subtle bass solo. “Brace” is an Oxley/ Jormin composition with just Tony’s drums and Ander’s bass present which brings that Avante Garde dimension to within the album as with the opening on the following number “Trinity” with just Bobo Stenson’s piano and the rhythm section present on this contemplative but never boring composition. This is where the album’s magic lays with Tomasz not being present on all numbers which keeps it all lovely and variable helping to maintain interest in this superbly created modern Jazz album. Still things keep getting better actually with a quick mid tempo and some brilliant high points form Tomasz’s trumpet following on “Forlorn Walk” but “Hungry Howl’ for me is the album’s delight and the sound of metal scrapping at times (cymbals most likely) from Tony’s kit brings a stark feel to within this stunning composition with a simply gorgeous input from Bobo Stenson’s piano. “No Bass Trio” is precisely what the title implies and Tony is doing that scrap off and on here as well, “Eurofilla” and the beautiful title number “Leosia” finishes up this highly original album.

Extremely highly recommended, needs a few plays but like all high quality music it just keeps getting better with every repetition. Of all his ECM output “Leosia” is the special one and for Tomasz’s next project “Litania” he covers his mentor’s music Krzysztof Komeda. Which was recorded the same year as” Leosia’s” release in 1997. Another highly recommended album is “From The Green Hill” released after “Litania” in 1999 with the piano dropped and Dino Saluzzi’s bandeneon used in its stead. All are on ECM Records.

ESTHER PHILLIPS The Country Side Of Esther Phillips (aka Release Me!)

Album · 1966 · Jazz Related Blues
Cover art 4.93 | 2 ratings
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Matt
Esther Phillips hit rock bottom by 1954 at 19 years of age and stayed there till 1962 after leaving Johnny Otis’ band in 1950 . She was known as Little Esther back then and in her first year with Johnny Otis she had a string of hits but as a roller coaster climbs to the top one knows where it is going next and Esther took that ride down at a quite a speed. She left Johnny Otis’s band after the first year and went solo but the hits stopped. She recorded thirty songs with her new record label Federal with only one getting to number eight on the charts. She went back home to Texas and worked clubs and venues locally but drug addiction kept getting in the way and luckily for Esther a young Kenny Rogers saw one of her shows in 1962 and signed her to his brother’s record label, Lenox. She went on to record a Ray Price hit “Release Me” (1963) which was a Country song and made it number one on the R&B charts and number eight on the Pop ones. After a brief hiatus at Lenox Esther signed with Atlantic Records and recorded her first album “And I Love Him” in 1965 which was released in 1966 with a follow up in the same year “Esther Phillips Sings” but she was not finished yet for 1966 when she also released “The Country Side Of Esther Phillips”.

The title explains the album’s theme quite sufficiently and all are given a beautiful Soul injection from Esther with the Anita Kerr sisters providing backing vocals throughout the album’s duration which was recorded down in Nashville for even more Country authenticity. Ray Charles was the ground breaker for these type of integrated albums with his release in 1962 of “Modern Sounds In Country And Western” which today is considered his greatest album by many and “The Country Side Of Esther Phillips” is not far behind for quality. Eleven tracks were included within the album with two Hank Williams’, being “I Can’t Help It” and “Why Should We Try Anymore” and Esther makes them her own with a stunning Soul interpretation of both. “I’d Fight The World” a Hank Cochrane song is given a lovely Soul rendition and for me is one of the top songs included. “Just Out Of Reach” was a Ray Price hit and an album single for Esther, “Be Honest With Me” is simply superb which is a Gene Autry and Fred Rose composition( Hank Williams covered many a, Fred tune). Even an early Charlie Rich “No Headstone on My Grave” with a Blues feel injected is just another album highlight with “After Loving You”, “Am I That Easy To Forget”, “Just Out Of Reach” and also included is a beautiful Soul version of “I've Forgotten More Than I’ll Ever Know About Him”. “Release Me” is a different version to Esther’s 1963 single and for myself it is actually an improvement with more emotion contained within.

“The Country Side Of Esther Phillips” is the female version of Ray’s “Modern Sounds In Country And Western” and could be considered the greatest female take of a Soul/Country album ever recorded. Esther had her own distinct sound with her voice bringing a distinct magic to this album and she sang from her guts with all the necessary emotion placed beautifully within every song. Many say her later Kudu Label material is better due to her hit “Home Is Where The Hatred Is” but for me it is the Atlantic albums with this being her jewel. We lost her far too young, she was only 48 back in 1984. If like myself you love these Country/ Soul albums and find this and Ray Charles enjoyable another good one is Joe Tex’s, “Soul Country” on Atlantic as well.

BALLA ET SES BALLADINS "Objectif Perfection" (aka Reminiscin' In Tempo With Balla Et Ses Balladins)

Album · 1980 · World Fusion
Cover art 5.00 | 2 ratings
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Matt
Politics, Colonialism, Dictatorship, Marxism and Independence are all interlinked with the music that was coming out of Guinea from 1959 till 1984 due to the rule of Sekou Toure who rejected France’s offer concerning the new Constitution and became the countries first independent President. Authenticite’ is the term that was used for Guinean music during this period of Sekou Toure’s rule as the government being Marxist paid and supplied the band’s salary and equipment to play authentic West African music and not Colonial influenced. The Government under Toure’s direction also established in the mid sixties one of Africa’s most famous record labels Sylipohone ( 75 albums were released). Bembeya Jazz became the most famous of the bands to record for Syliphone in Guinea but there were numerous others with many interlinking artists at times due to band restructures and Government direction. Balla et Ses Balladins sprang out of a twenty five piece band that was cut up into their two regions in 1964 with Balla et Ses Balladins being based in Jardin de Guinea and the other band Keletigui and his Tambourinis over in La Pailotte.

This compilation is derived from 5 albums which the band released with “Objectif Perfection” being in its entirety (stereo) and one song each from four other releases ( mono ) with track ten comprising the sound of the record finishing as the needle hits the end with the addition of an interview with Balla and Pivi in French for track 11 “reminiscin’ with balla and pivi”. The band itself usually comprised 10 to 11 members with a good bit of brass included, trumpet, trombone, tenor alto, soprano saxes with bass ( electric), electric guitar, congas and drums. Balla played trumpet, Kante Manfila vocals ( not to be confused with two other musicians under the same name with the most famous Manfila coming from Ambassadeurs and the other Orchestre Keletigui ) , Pivi Moriba played trombone and alto sax, all permanent members over the bands life with two others included but the rest of the line up is changed from “Objectif Perfection” and the other four tracks within this compilation.

‘Bambo” is first with just vocals and percussion opening for a short period and then the orchestra kicks in with a beautiful rhythm and theme comprising a quick trombone, alto sax, guitar solo between chorus with that beautiful choral vocals that is a trademark of Guinean music. Benny Soumah is singing lead for “Soufougne” over the beat with an African style skip guitar accompanying him over one monstrous bass grumble that pervades the whole album just adding to the mix and bringing a stunning base for this Orchestra to work around.The albums highlight is the following “Paulette” with that bass riding and grumbling right behind the Orchestra’s horns and vocalists as there are two present being Kante Manfila and Emile Benny. More of that glorious skip guitar is featured with a great tenor sax and guitar solo included. The percussion section (drum kit and congas) keep providing one constant African rhythm right behind every track contained within the album. ‘ Assa” is a love song with more great input from the Orchestra followed by “Keme Bourema” with its low key guitar opening and that grumbling bass and percussion right behind. This is an historical song concerning the fearless Keme Bourema and this really is were griots come to the fore with their vocal African formality providing a distinct stamp to this beautiful number which just picks up throughout and lands back beautifully each time with the song’s structure. There are two versions of “Sara” which follow with two other tracks that follow from the other albums within this compilation with all comprising that beautiful trademark Guinean music.

Highly recommended for people who want to hear real West African music. Another point that needs to be mentioned is the album has a slight low fi sound but that was due more to a lack of money and not studio or artistic fault as they had what they had and anyway to be honest this fault actually adds even more to the appeal of the music giving it actual Authenticity from this fabulous period in Guinea, “for music that is”

ZOOT SIMS Zoot Sims Plays Johnny Mandel: Quietly There

Album · 1984 · Cool Jazz
Cover art 4.43 | 3 ratings
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If sheer talent and absolutely stunning musicianship was a perquisite for popularity this would of made number one in 1984 but alas more than likely just a handful of old blokes with Johnny Mandel heard this album, Zoot Sims plays Johnny Mandel, “Quietly There”. Johnny Mandel is still going and is a young 89 currently but he is one of those in the music world who most would not recognise but they all sure have heard his music. Johnny is best known for his composition with the television show MASH and it’s opening number “Suicide Is Painless” but there is a lot more to him than just that. Johnny Mandel played bass trumpet for Zoot during the fifties over on the West Coast but that was not the only instrument that he played with trombone, trumpet and piano also being in his skills. He has arranged for so many musicians including another arranger Quincy Jones ( Grammy “Velas” 1981) with also Barbara Streisand, Natalie Cole ( Grammy “Unforgettable” with Nat,1991), Tony Bennet, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Diana Krall and the list goes on. Bill Evans (pianist) included Johnny’s composition “Emily” on his album “Further Conversations With Myself” with Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennet also giving the song a take (Lyrics Johnny Mercer). Soundtracks were another area that Johnny excelled with contributions to over thirty productions including picking up an Academy Award (1965) for his tune from The Sandpiper, “The Shadow Of Your Smile”.

The band or Quintet comprise Zoot on tenor saxophone, Mike Wolford piano, organ (album does not list), Chuck Berghofer, bass with Nick Ceroli drumming and Victor Feldman only doing percussion and not piano. All of these musicians have a jaw dropping list of who they have played and appeared with, and have plenty of experience to contribute to the album’s input, just beautifully.

“Rissy” is first with Zoot coming straight in on this lovely mid tempo number in the opening theme and is followed by Zoot’s solo, when Mike Wolford introduces his contribution on piano it quickly flicks to organ ( not listed in album’s credits with Mike?)and back to his piano with Zoot contributing for the numbers end and theme. “A Time for Love” which many musicians listed above have covered is a lovely ballad with that Zoot fluidity that just seems to pour with every note beautifully inter-linked and not a spot out and when he hits that high and just drops back, does Jazz get any finer? “Cinnamon & Cloves” is just back to more of that superb Bop that Zoot could only play with another mid tempo composition that just not does have a flaw and quite a few little brilliant inputs to within Zoot’s solo and tune’s contribution with Mike Wolford’s piano just adding to this superbly played take. “Low Life”, “Zoot” with an obvious reference are other numbers included in the album with “Emily” following being another of those ballads comprising that Zoot fluid and is the longest composition within the album, running for just under ten minutes and another album highlight. The closing number on the record is the title “Quietly There” with even more beautiful West Coast sounding jazz and I am sure I am feeling a bit of ocean breeze with this one.

No new ground covered but “who cares” when Bop is played to such an extraordinarily beautiful high standard, as only a bunch of old blokes who have played this music all their life, can do. Sadly this was Zoot’s last album before his death the following year and quite a swan song it is. It is not often one can say this about artists last album’s and genuinely mean it. Also recommended from Zoot’s later period on the Pablo Label is his collaboration with Harry Sweet Edison “Just Friends”( !980). So “Who The Hell is Johnny Mandel”, well now you know.

CAB CALLOWAY Hi De Hi De Ho

Album · 1960 · Big Band
Cover art 5.00 | 3 ratings
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Matt
It all kicked off for Cab Calloway back in 1931 even though his Orchestra previously known as The Missourians started going in 1930 when Cab took over the reins, it was the release of that all time song which today is still played and listened too by many, being “Minnie The Moocher” . Cab’s Orchestra had been opening for Duke Ellington around the same time as well performing with him in the most famous Jazz Club in history, The Cotton Club. Duke and his Orchestra often toured and had time off which was no problem for Cab as he then headlined at that Club which also broadcast it’s shows over the radio live, so many Americans were exposed to this wonderful style and approach Cab Calloway possessed. He was man of so many talents, not only did he sing, lead the orchestra, he danced like no other except for maybe Bojangles. Cab showed Michael Jackson how to do it with “The Buzz” because Cab was going backwards looooooong before Mike with his “Moonwalk”. Not only that Cab was wonderful on stage and nobody played “Sportin’ Life” from “Porgy and Bess” like Cab, after all having sung “Reefer Man with his Orchestra in the thirties, playing a dope peddler was right up Cab’s alley “so to speak” (the part was written with Cab in mind for the role), which he played on Broadway and toured throughout the time of the production during the fifties.

“The Hi De Ho Man” is another one of those Calloway songs that is instantly recognisable and many a different take Cab recorded with the tune, ( “Hi De Ho Miracle Man, Hi De Ho, Romeo and Juliet, and Hi De Ho Serenade”). “Kickin’ The Gong Around” was another Minnie, “Wah-Dee-Dah” ,” Zah Zuh Zah” were a couple more songs from many and all had one thing in common with the singing, being Scat which derived from Louis Armstrong’s influence. There was a term used by Cab Calloway to describe his music being Jive and there is plenty of that here, with a few ballads thrown in with the release of his 1960 album “Hi De Hi De Ho”. They all said at the time with the album’s reception, ”the originals were better” from his Big Band period in the thirties but once again, time has proven those critics wrong. They should of read from Cab’s “Hepsters Dictionary” which Cab to put together so all could speak or understand Jive talk. Some people are born with a gift commonly called charisma and Cab used this to great effect in all facets of his artistic skills which turned him into one hell of a showman.

The album backed by Cab’s Orchestra comprises many of his most famous song’s and all today are Jazz Standards with two song selections included that are from the Gershwins’ “Porgy And Bess” but it is the title “Hi De Ho Man” which opens the album with scat from beginning to end, delivered with plenty of that Cab gusto and one must realise the song’s opening scat is almost impossible to put in writing. Throughout the album the Orchestra’s backing vocals esp. during these Jive tracks provide a wonderful repetition throughout the Chorus’. “I’ll Be Around” is a beautiful Alec Wilder ballad being sung in a slight formal manner which just seems to make it even sweeter. “Summertime” the old chestnut of a tune from “Porgy and Bess” is given the perfect touch from Cab and although his character did not sing this one in the Production, Cab sure delivers it beautifully. Sportin’ Life (Porgy and Bess, Cab’s character) sings the next of the album’s tracks being “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and with a beautiful low verse and muted trumpet backing, co- joined by a much different raucous take of a chorus and even a bit scat thrown in by Cab for good measure and is another of the album’s delights. “Kickin’ The Gong Around” is the answer for “Minnie The Moocher” . The last track on the record’s first side is an absolutely full swing approach to that old Jazz classic “You Rascal You”. “Minnie The Moocher” opens side two with a wonderful rendition, followed by another beautiful ballad “I See a Million People”. Another all time Jazz classic is next, given a wonderful touch as well being one of Cab’s old hits, “Saint James Infirmary”. Cab had worked with Al Jolson and often when I hear “Stormy Weather” I sense Al’s influence but Cab had that Black American touch bringing a wonderful interpretation to this beautiful Jazz standard and even though it is hard to find an album highlight due to the fact all the songs are within, “Stormy Weather” just seems to always bring me a smile. “The Jumpin’ Jive” finishes up with “The Jim Jim jump is a jumpin’ jive, makes you hip hip on the mellow side, oh hop do do di, etc”

Classic Jazz from one of the original masters. Believe it or not, this is not currently available on cd but the record has been reissued. “Grab one before they all go” No matter how old you are, you will be smiling after.

MARCIN WASILEWSKI TRIO Spark Of Life (with Joakim Milder)

Album · 2014 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
Cover art 3.98 | 2 ratings
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Matt
The Marcin Wasilewski Trio first came to International recognition in 2002 with the release of Tomasz Stanko’s “Soul Of Things” . They backed Tomasz Stanko on 13 variations of his composition which is no mean feat due to the fact of working just this one tune for the entire album. One could be excused for thinking that things could get a little dull and boring with only working the one piece but not so as every variation was performed beautifully and all had a different perspective. I was not the only Jazz fan that was impressed with the album which garnered impressive reviews and comments. They went on to do the next two albums with Tomasz Stanko being “Suspended Night” and Lontana” and all were recorded on the ECM Jazz label. Between the release of these two albums they released their debut on ECM as their own band simply named “Trio” in 2005 and once again all were highly impressed. After the release of “Trio” although the band treat all equal they decided to use the name, Marcin Wasilewski Trio as the pianist is usually referred to when naming Jazz trios. Albeit, as well Marcin does write the most of their material. Three albums have been recorded since by the band with just the trio present but this time around for the fourth they have decided to have Joakim Milder on tenor saxophone as an addition. Joakim Milder has also played with Tomaz Stanko being included in the line up for “Litania-The Music Of Krzysztof Komeda” which came out back in 1997. Joakim though like all these other musicians mentioned is not Polish but Swedish. Connections between these musicians are everywhere as Tomasz being a friend of the great Krzysztof Komeda ( Rosemary’s Baby Soundtrack plus loads more) has always had a special connection to this man’s music as Marcin’s Trio do, which is how Tomasz Stanko came across them in his native Poland and over a few years prior to their International debut they had been recording albums back in Poland and supporting him on various projects.

The trio still contain the same personnel and comprise Marcin Wasilewski , piano, Slawomir Kurkiewicz , double bass player and Michal Miskiewicz, drums for their latest release “Spark Of Life”. Space, time, silence with a touch of minimalism seem to best describe their approach with primarily a gentle laid back approach and every note and chord resounding with a beautiful contemplative clarity. “Austin “ with just the trio present opens the album with Marcin playing this ballad to perfection and The Rhythm section are spot on with the bass from Slawomir and brush work from Michal providing a simply low played beautiful support. You could never accuse Marcin of overplaying as every note that he plays, a simply gorgeous clarity is coming through. Joakim Milder comes in with his tenor for “Sudovian Dance” and similar to Marcin he has that space approach to his technique on tenor saxophone with a slight gradual build up throughout his input into what is another laid back number. The title “Spark Of Life” is given two separate takes on the album being track three and the last with a different approach for each but both are at that contemplative tempo with once again another absolutely beautifully played composition. We also have “Sleep Safe And Warm” the usual Komeda addition and it is another of the albums highlights played to perfection with an outstanding take of the tune containing a wonderful bass solo and piano input from Marcin and the band picks up a little tempo here for this one. Police’s “Message In A Bottle” is also included but for me it is the Marcin Wasilewski compositions including “Three Reflections” with the one Komeda and Herbie Hancock’s “Actual Proof” that are the album’s highlights. There are eleven tracks contained within the album but all but two seem to be heading to a sameness due to the same slow tempo approach. The albums length is just under 74 minutes which I find is for myself is a little too long and a good description maybe a Filet Mignon is just right for a dinner but to have the whole Chateaubriand given to one is just too much.

Superb musicianship from a superb band and saxophonist but just because on cds you can pile more content and it is great to think that bands feel they want to give everybody their money’s worth it sometimes gets a little too much.The album is superbly played and with that usual ECM production,sounds even a little more exquisite and if it had ran no more than 50 minutes I would be hitting repeat on the player but as it is 74, I'm kinda glad it is over.

RED GARLAND At the Prelude

Live album · 1959 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
Granted as one gets older, hence the more music one has heard, especially if like myself you just love to hear some great music every day, it does become harder to find quality reissued albums that one has not heard at some time or another but early this year Jazz Wax records released “Red Garland At The Prelude” and what an absolute joy to hear some beautiful Bop from a trio that sounds as fresh “as a loaf of bread straight out the oven”. Why this Red album, did he not do those ones with Coltrane and other luminaries including Coleman Hawkins for Prestige? Not to mention that Quintet that Miles Davis lead. For myself perhaps it was Red was just in absolute sparkling form on the night with this album’s numbers being the jewels picked from the entire evenings recordings, or was it Rudy Van Gelder doing the actual recording? Another factor could be we do not have the usual Rhythm Section of Paul Chambers and Art Taylor or Philly Jo Jones who appeared on many of his studio Trio Recordings which seems to give this a slight different feel. The added addition of the album being, it is a beautiful Live Recording for that period in time (1959, first for this type of venue) by Rudy Van Gelder.

The Trio or Band comprise Red Garland on piano, who needs no introduction but it is the Rhythm section that is not as well known as Red’s usual above three that was mentioned, being Jimmy Rowser on bass and Specs Wright playing drums. Jimmy Rowser had originally been the house bassist at Philly’s Blue Note from 1954 to 56 and then did an approximate two year stint with Dinah Washington and then another two years with Maynard Ferguson which brings us to this point in time with Red’s trio. Specs Wright on drums had “been around the block” musically to say the least by working with so many other great musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Heath, Howard McGhee, Earl Bostic, Cannonball Adderley and also being a member In Carmen McRae’s trio. Both musicians are a joy to hear with their input throughout the recording.

The sparkle and stride seem to be coming out of Red’s piano and band as soon as the needle hits with the first composition “Let Me See” coming in with a beautiful bounce applied to this Basie, Edison, Hendricks tune. The Rhythm section feature prominently with Red’s piano hitting that stride and with the call and response used by the band throughout the composition’s input even the drum solo keeps us right on bouncing along with this wonderful opening number. “Prelude blues” follows which is one of Red’s own compositions and sure he hits hard with that percussive technique that he played with but this lovely slow Blues is full of a glorious piano technique and if one wants to hear ivories tickled this is right up your alley. One of the two Ellington compositions within the album “Just Squeeze Me” is up next and that sparkling Red piano sound is all around on this mid tempo number. “Cherokee” comes next and it is a bonus track for this reissue followed by Basie’s “One O’Clock Jump” with another bonus take of this thrown in to finish the album on the B Side. “Satin Doll” the other Ellington composition is first up on the record’s flip with “Perdido” following with more of that Ellington presence felt and both are played beautifully by the trio. The album’s ballad “There’ll Never Be Another You” is played in a mid tempo range with more of that great timing coming from the Rhythm section with Red’s piano seeming to dance right across them and is just another highlight as the rest of the numbers seem to be contained within this lovely trio recording. “Bye Bye Blackbird” is the original album closer and it sounds wonderful here from the trio with that necessary jaunt within the songs chorus and it is for me a nice stripped take of that version he did with Miles Davis from his “Round Midnight” album.

Red Garland unfortunately has been labelled a cocktail bar pianist but to us fans we know that is from people who have not bothered to take the time and concentration to listen to his many Trio recordings because sure Red had a wonderful hard hitting technique with also having that knack to always keep a string on the tune right throughout, including solos. No wonder Miles wanted him. Very Highly recommended from this old boy. Sure it ain’t Bill Evans but that is what is so nice about the difference.

FRANK SINATRA Francis A. & Edward K.

Album · 1967 · Vocal Jazz
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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Matt
Recorded in 1967 with the last session on Frank Sinatra's 52nd birthday. First time that Duke Ellington had ever worked with the chairman of the board and also we have none other than Billy May arranging and conducting. What a fabulous co-joining of great artists with Billy May having been behind so many of Sinatra's classic Capitol albums with his arranging. What can one say about Duke Ellington that has not been said as we all know Jazz would not be the same without that mans contribution beginning in the 1920's and most of his orchestra from the time is here with him. Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney are just a few of the sax players, Rev. Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson on trumpets with Sam Woodyard drumming and Jimmy Hamilton blowing clarinet. Sounds great and sounds just as good with all these total professionals involved. Frank Sinatra had already had two great albums with Count Basie and band, done a beautiful one with Antonio Carlos Jobim just short of two years previously and now it was Duke Ellington's turn.

Eight tracks only within the album with "Follow Me" out of "Camelot" first with great swing coming from the orchestra and Frank comes in with that swagger with his vocal delivery on this mid tempo number, for this style of music. Beautiful sax contribution from Johnny Hodges and what would an Ellington sound be without a trumpet playing only a sound that emanates from the old South and Cootie Williams does just that with Cat Anderson's trumpet contribution cracking mirrors with it's high points. Of course the Duke plays superbly with that absolutely minimum touch. "Sunny", Bobby Hebb's hit and composition is given the treatment from Frank and co. next up with Cootie Williams really laying down some more of his great trumpet sound at the intro of the tune which is played at a slightly slower pace than Bobby's original hit and Cootie just keeps jabbing that trumpet in between Frank until he solos with that beautiful slow drag. Another tune picked from a musical "All I Need Is The Girl" with more Sinatra swagger and the Ellington Orchestra right on the spot with Frank but already by this time within the album I am starting to think it is more of the same, albeit the orchestra keeps playing absolutely beautifully and Frank is right on the money as usual it is just these mid tempos after mid tempos that already are starting to bring a sameness to the album. "Indian Summer" which follows with even the Ellington Composition "I Like The Sunrise" seem to be going in the wrong direction being even more of a slower tempo within the album. They are great songs but together that sameness is creeping in. "Yellow Days" and "Poor Butterfly" are played to perfection but only back to that mid tempo. Finally on the last track we get the punch with "Come Back To Me" being the only number that really swings within the album but alas it is all to late due to the album's sameness. Play this one first or mid album and try and break the album up.

Good album but that sameness with so many of the songs tempo's starts to make thing a little on the boring side at times even with all these legends present. There should have been another one or two numbers with punch which the Ellington Orchestra would have delivered superbly instead of these tunes picked with one even harkening back to Frank's Dorsey days, all sounding the same due to their time structures. Who picked the song selection?

GREG OSBY Banned In New York

Live album · 1998 · Post Bop
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
Similarities with Miles Davis "At The Plugged Nickel" with not only the music but the atmosphere injected into the recording. Sure it is not the famous Quintet but the music has a similar hurried Bop feel with the timing and the way Greg and the band play their solos in a manner that just keeps it all moving along. The other point is "Greg Osby" decided to use a mini disc player placed on a table in front of the bandstand and that was it. Lo-fi but not in a bad way it actually does enhance the music and it does sound like you are in a club with banter and glasses,applause etcetera in the background with the music still being quite enjoyable. Raw and uncompromising Jazz is what this album is about with only one ballad which is beautifully treated written by "Duke Ellington" and all the compositions bar the first are written by Jazz greats such as "Sonny Rollins","Charlie Parker", "Thelonious Monk" and of course the Duke. Greg has penned one and that is the first composition "13th Floor". The band are a Quartet and are all his regulars at the time with "Jason Moran" on piano, "Atushi Osada" playing bass,"Rodney Green" drums and "Greg Osby" is blowing his alto saxo-phone. The band were not even aware that the recording was taking place except Greg of course who stated that he did not want them to feel uptight, he just wanted to record what they really sound like on a normal night for this period back in 1998. The club where the recording took place is undisclosed and the audience were unaware as well because as Greg said he just wanted a normal night with half the audience not even listening.The sound being recorded in the manner that it was does give a little uneven distrubution with the band members but it is not too bad. Of course Greg's alto is loud and clear but Rodney on the drums has lost a little volume but there was only one microphone on the table and the closer you are the louder you will be. Still though the atmosphere is there and it does have that 40, to 60's live recorded sound with some absolutely awesome jazz played by the entire band.

"13th Floor a mid tempo Greg Osby composition is the begining to this show and with a fairly down tempo intro by Greg and the band with some wonderful phrasing from Greg during his solo. Jason Moran is superb with his turn on piano and as Greg did he builds throughout.The first four tunes are all between 12 to 14 minutes in length so each musician gets plenty of space and with the following the Sonny Rollins tune "Pent Up House" is at a quicker tempo and played with great intensity and the entire band are just pushing it along with a great Bop influence. The Ellington tune,"I Didn't know You" is the ballad" and played beautifully. We have "Bigfoot" by "Charlie Parker" and of course it is BeBop in style and play and is the absolute highlight for me with Greg really putting that Bird influence there and the band sounding like they were back there in the early 1950,s. The Monk tune 52nd Street is the album closer and a night of classic jazz from the entire band.

Greg also did not introduce one tune throughout as Greg says "this is not radio". They just played them one straight after the other and jazz with more jazz is the result with also one very nice live jazz album included.

FRANKIE LAINE Hell Bent For Leather

Album · 1961 · Exotica
Cover art 4.91 | 3 ratings
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Matt
Back in 1956, Mitch Miller requested that Frankie Laine record a song named "Moonlight Gambler" with the addition of Ray Conniff not on trombone but providing a whistle which would be included. Johnny Ray and Guy Mitchell had only a few months before used Ray's whistle in their hits "Singin' In The Rain" and "Singing The Blues" respectively. Ray Conniff is known more as a trombone player and a wonderful arranger but whistling had become another arrow too his bow during this period. Mitch Miller provided the horse clicking with his tongue on the roof of his mouth during the recording of "Moonlight Gambler" but when he suggested to Frankie Laine to release this as a single Frankie thought that this would not be one of his successes but a bet was made that Mitch would shave off his beard if the single did not sell a million or if Frankie was wrong he would grow a beard and wear it for the next six months. Now I always thought Frankie Laine looked good in a beard anyway and this little story shows why sometimes no matter how good an artist thinks he is, an outside viewpoint as in a great producer like Mitch Miller will know instinctively what course or style an artist should follow. Frankie Laine always respected Mitch's opinions and he even re-recorded the song in 1962 for his 2nd Western themed album, "Deuces Wild" and it was Mitch Miller's influence right behind Frankie Laine's first Western themed album "Hell Bent For Leather".

There was a new arranger and pianist working around Columbia Records in 1960 named Johnny Williams but today we know him as John Williams one of the greatest Soundtrack composers and arrangers living with "Star Wars" being his most famous and this man has more awards on his shelf than Elvis and The Beatles combined at a glance, what hasn't he won over the years for the countless soundtracks and so many classic productions in stage and screen. Here though he is just Johnny and previous to this he had been working with Henry Mancini and actually providing the piano for his classic "Peter Gunn",and after joining Frankie in 1960 on the next four albums. Johnny Williams conducts the orchestra and the chorus used throughout the entire album. Things really started for the album back in June 1958 when Frankie Laine recorded the first take of "Rawhide" and when the sessions were held in 1960, late December over five days (16,19,20th) for the album "Hell Bent For Leather", "Rawhide's" vocals on the album were given an overdub from Frankie.

"Wanted Man" is first and the story relates to a jealous murder with the posse in hot pursuit with a great spirited vocal from Frankie just putting one straight into the old west and does it get anymore western with the next, than the classic song "High Noon" which originally was a hit for Tex Ritter and Frankie in 1952 but although I would often recommend the original not so here as Frankie Laine put us right in Gary Coopers shoes with this stunning re-vamp and the chorus sounding beautifully right behind him. "Gunfight At The O.K. Corral" maybe it is the boy still in me but the marching time provided by the drums and Frankie hitting the notes, it really is a study in that old Americana from the old west that we loved. Can things get any better, well yes with the following tale "Bowie Knife" they do exactly that and for me one of the absolute standouts in the album concerning the tale of a duel in New Orleans over slighted pride and of course it gets the big Frankie Laine finish. The horses are clip clopping in the slow tempo "Along The Navajo Trail" and the side finishes off with another re-do of "The Cry Of The Wild Goose" which Frankie first recorded back at Mercury in 1950.

"Head em' up and move em' out" it's "Rawhide" which gets the album flip underway is the unforgettable theme for the television show which Frankie first recorded in 1958 with Frankie providing not only a wonderful vocal with the yips etc, that just makes things better. "City Boy" is a stage coach ride out west and followed by a song that the Sons Of The Pioneers made famous being "Cool Water" and this being another re-do from Frankie which he first recorded back in 1955. The new take on the "3.10 To Yuma" is more beautifully themed music with the chorus sounding beautifully high right behind Frankie Laine's lead vocal. "The Hanging Tree" seems to be the only obvious song with a Country instrument at the fore with the banjo getting the lead but is it, or maybe it is Tommy Tedesco's guitar tuned and played that method? The album finishes off with "Mule Train" what many people claim to have the first sound effects used with music back in 1949 when Frankie first recorded it with Mitch Miller at Mercury Records. Here we have a slightly even more spirited take from Frankie with all the whip cracks and Frankie yelling 'Get along there" with that growl one has for driving animals and it is difficult to pin point out an artist, who when he does re-do a tune he gives the song an improvement and although I do love the original takes one must give credit not only to Johnny Williams for adding his certain spice but to Frankie Laine himself as many an artist often sounds tired not so with Frankie. He sings them like his life depends on it with every new version being an improvement and sounding just an fresh as the original if not more so.

Classic album that is for sure, no it is not Jazz really but neither would you term this strictly Country music. It is a concept album of Western themed songs and one that many may lump into the Cowboy catergory but there is a lot more bounce and who else could do an album this good anyway but a great Jazz singer.

FRANKIE LAINE Frankie Laine And The Four Lads

Album · 1956 · Jazz Related Blues
Cover art 4.40 | 2 ratings
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Matt
You can't say Frankie Laine did not have the training to do a Gospel album, after all he had been an altar boy at his local Parish in Chicago and in early January 1953 recorded his smash hit "I Believe" with all it's Gospel connontations and around that same time all this was happening for Frankie a new vocal group had started called The Four Lads, who Mitch Miller, Frankie Laine's friend as well as being the main man at Columbia records had seen at a club and decided to use them with the vocalist Johnny Ray on his hits, "Cry" and "The Little White Cloud That Cried" in 1953 and they recorded them for nothing but not really, as they did score a one year contract for their effort from Mitch. The Four Lads comprised of Connie Cordarini (bass), Bernie Toorish (tenor), Jimmy Arnold (lead ) and Frank Busseri (baritone) and spirituals, folk and pop were all included in their repertoire of songs but at this time we are still very early days in their careers as they would still be performing and recording into the 1970's. "Frankie Laine And The Four Lads" was recorded over three sessions with the first two in June 1954 on the 26th and 27th with another session recorded on October the 27th in 1955. One interesting point is Albert Lerner is on piano for all the sessions but the line-up does change quite a bit for the last one with Edwin LeMar "Buddy" Cole replaced by Richard Hyman on organ and Vincent Terri on guitar is replaced by none other than the old twanger Al Caiola but Al would have been quite early in his career at this point with both the bass player and drummer replaced as well in that last session with this personnel comprising a quintet in number for the band which gives the vocals absolute front and centre as any good spiritual music should contain. Yes, it was back to basics for the albums construction which is one of the joys within, due to this small line-up as anything more would simply have swamped the album draining all that freshness which all the vocalists bring to every song with Old Leather Lungs himself, superbly right out front.

There is a real mix of tempos used throughout the album with usually a fairly up-tempo number followed by the slower one which brings great continual variety to the album with many being on the joyous side with "Juba-Juba-Jubalee" with it's organ introduction and Frankie Laine singing the title in repitition and before you know it we are in full gospel mode with The Four Lads singing right in between Frankie on this joyous up-tempo number. The organ is used as the main section within the bands music throughout putting us right into the church pew and the following number being a slow spiritual with a spoken prayer from Frankie within and here one hears why he was named leather lungs with the notes that Frankie hits with his beautiful and powerful voice. You need to be on your feet and clapping along with "What Would I Do Without The Lord" followed by another of the those slow beautiful numbers with Frankie stretching his lungs in "Let Me Be Ready, Lord" concerning ones death and after you will be ready for that "chariot to take you to those heavenly lands" with this rendition from Frankie and The Four Lads. One of the standouts for me from that last session is "Didn't He Moan" with it's blues/gospel influence and it is simply superb. The album's songs on the flip that deserve a mention are "Rain, Rain, Rain" which was the albums single and hit and listen to Frankie and those Lads swap the vocals around throughout the tune with both taking lead and singing backing in turns. "God's Gonna Take The Saints To Heaven" has us in a lifeboat with the saints, all the way to heaven, followed by the swing and joy of "Wa-Hoo". The next, "Aint It A Pity And A Shame" is one of it's own within the album with The Four Lads singing just halo primarily with electrifying effect right behind Frankie Laine's lead vocal. The album closes with "I Heard The Angels Singing" where one should stand, clap and sing along with this great romper of a spiritual.

Fabulous distinct album within Frankie Laine's discography where he shows us that he can sing anything with anybody. Frankie Laine was a devout Catholic all his life and this religious influenced material was a joy for him to perform and one can hear that clearly within these songs all beautifully sung in conjunction with The Four Lads. Another note on Frankie's versatilatity is three days before that last session for this album in October 1955 he recorded another last album session for his classic "Jazz Spectacular" with Buck Clayton.

DEAN FRASER Big Up!

Album · 1997 · Dub/Ska
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
1997 was the year that Chris Blackwell with his new label Island Jamacia Jazz released three albums by Monty Alexander, Ernest Ranglin and the saxophonist Dean Fraser in amongst them. Dean plays all types of saxophones throughout excepting baritone on what could be described as a Jazz re-working of many a classic Reggae number spanning across a few decades with the addition of some of Dean's own compositions and a Curtis Mayfield cover thrown in for good measure being "Queen of The Minstrels" or "Minstrel and Queen" as it is more well known when done by The Impressions. Dean Fraser is one of the Jamacian greats with many thinking that they have never heard Dean but if one has listened to any form of Reggae from the 1970's to today it is guaranteed thst you have heard Dean blowing one of his saxophones of whatever type. Dean got his first big break through none other than Sly Dunbar when invited by him to sit in on many sessions throughout the mid-seventies. It was at Joe Gibb's studio that Dean cut his first album "Black Man Horn" in 1978 with many to follow and it was not long after Bob Marley's death in 1981, Dean performed his famous take of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" which would have brought the audience close to tears at Sunsplash that day and made Dean Fraser Jamacia's number one sax man over night. One interesting point is Dean Fraser is just as well known as a producer these days with many a saxophone contribution to some of the biggest singles to come out of Jamacia throughout the late eighties and up to today with Dean also right behind the new digital Dancehall, Ragga and Roots styles to emerge. So you can blame Dean if Ragga is not your thing but whatever Dean is always moving forward within his productions which have included Shaba Ranks, Gregory Isaacs, Cocoa Tea, Dennis Brown, Luciana, Sly and Robbie of course, Beenie Man, Buju Banton and the list keeps going. Sly Dunbar is actually drumming in the album but only for one side of your stereo being left and Idris Muhammed is drumming from your right speaker throughout the album, (yes two drummers) so ears to the speaker if you want to hear them separately as they do play in unison but using the balance dial instead would be my recommendation for your hearing longevity. Jon Williams is the pianist, Maurice Gordon twanging guitars with Wayne Batchelor strumming bass and Larry McDonald tapping percussion when required being the rest of the band included for "Big Up!

Eleven numbers with the album having a running time of over seventy minutes with Dean Fraser and band managing to keep things interesting and moving along right throughout with Ska coming in first for Dean's take on the classic "Dick Tracy" from none other than The Skatalites days with its driving intro which just keeps driving right through with Dean blowing tenor right over this classic ska rhythm with Maurice Gordon's guitar darting in and out and Jon Williams playing a great little snappy piano solo followed by some great picking from Maurice's guitar but now we have a drum solo from Sly Dunbar with Idris Muhammed, who is keeping time with the bass drum and hi-hat and ride cymbals and Sly is slamming the snares and toms and what a wonderful little co-joined solo both drummers put together. "None A Jah Jah Children Shall Cry" follows, a Ras Michael hit from the mid seventies with Dean on soprano for this beautiful mid-timed Reggae number with a mesmerising seap that just keeps one listening as Dean plays disjointed in little bursts to a great effect with Idris Muhammed doing the front drumming within the twin drum solo for this one. More classic reggae and don't we love it as "Big Up/Armaggedon Time" is next where Dean has composed the "Big Up" section himself with "Armageedon Time" being a Willie Williams hit which actually Jackie Mitoo the keyboard king contributed too back in mid seventies and Larry McDonald does the nyabinghi percussion with Dean having a shot on alto to great effect for this one. There are Junior Byles, Mighty Diamonds, Culture and all mid seventies songs given a jazz re- working also throughout the albums duration, without a poor take on any but perhaps the album standout is the last with Dean's beautiful ballad interruption of Luciano's number 1, 1995 hit "It's Me Again Jah", which Dean actually produced and played on during the original recording and it has become a regular concert feature for him today. You will need the Rasta coloured hanky to wipe your eyes for this one.

Great mix of Reggae and Jazz with all the musicians playing absolutely superbly and it is difficult to say who is the best as the lot are stunning with their input. Wayne Batchelor's bass could not be any better who I have not mentioned and he has kept masterful timing over these riddims which Dean and the band have taken to Jazz heights. Not easy releasing seventy minutes of music and keeping up this high standard but Dean Fraser has done exactly that.

BILL LASWELL Dub Meltdown

Album · 1997 · Dub/Ska
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Matt
There is not much that Bill Laswell has not had a shot at. Rock, Funk, Ambient, Punk, Jazz, World Fusion, Cuban, Celtic, Spoken Word and the list goes on but like most gentlemen with an appreciation for good music he has a real penchant for Reggae but he prefers the Dub primarily due to it electronics, as well being one hell of a great place to really thump up your electric bass with room shattering effects. 1996 was the year of this Drum n' Bass extravaganza named "Dub Meltdown" which was released by Word Sound Recordings with their main man for tha label under the pseudonym of "The Eye", doing what the album states as chronic/ sounds/ pressure which is most likely adding lots of those little electronic touches. The Eye is actually "Skiz" Fernando Jr and an old friend of Bill's and Bill actually back in 1993 gave Skiz a thousand bucks to get his new Word Sound label going with recently a dedicated new vinyl hip hop label "Black Hoodz" added to his music resume recently. The actual main man though for the album is the addition of Style Scott on drums, yes that one from Adrian Sherwood's ON-U Sound label and the man behind Dub Syndicate. Style Scott was originally a member of The Roots Radics who did many a studio session back in Jamacia in the early 1980's. The two other musicians listed are Capt. Kowatchi on percussion and Prof. Shehab placing his samples. Bill Laswell also not only plays glorious pounding bass but is adding Loops and fx programming and also doing seven of the eight track's mixing with Prof Shehab mixing only the one "Aeon".

Eight great hypnotic, thumping numbers are within the album "Dub Meltdown" with "Crooklyn Dub Syndicate" coming in first with that distinct Reggae electronic echo over the rythmn but soon all those electronic noises are injected with who I presume to be Style Scott adding fragments of spoken word within the dub which also has the addition of beautiful booming bass from Bill's guitar and the foundation of Style Scott's drumming which has been only slightly touched over with electronics as this could have gone through the mixing board or he could have used either triggers on his drum kit but one thing he keeps a beautiful spaced time right throughout this tune, "Crooklyn Dub Syndicate". The next is "Fourth Column", Style Scott's drum workout with some brilliant stuff from Style and more devastating bass booming from Bill with an injection of loops and electronic sounds at various times throughout the dub which keeps Style Scott's drums at the fore right throughout. "Aeon" is the only dub not mixed on the album by Bill Laswell but Prof Shehab who gives us the Doctor Who synth sound at the begining of this slow hypnotic pounder and this is one great mix that just seeps right through you in that great dub hypnotisng method. The fourth track is my favourite dub perhaps due to its slightly faster time or is it the sound of electronic sirens placed throughout but "Emergency At The Plant" sounds just like that with the electronics additions over some great drum n' bass. Still another four fabulous dubs to be played on the album with "A Greater Source Of Power" being being the pick with it's cock crowing introduction and the addition of tablas from Capt. Kowtachi mixed in with all those spoken word echo's, electronic effects and the glorious drum n' bass from Bill and Style over this wicked riddim.

Bill Laswell is musically a Forest Gump box of chocolates as you do never know what you are going to get but here we did not pick the ginger one but one with caramel and nuts by that I mean not so the music styles but my comprehension for the music from all the albums that Bill Laswell has created with varying degrees of listenability as some to be honest I think are dreadful while others I rate close to masterpiece status but one thing whatever Bill Laswell does it has his originality stamp on the production and I myself are always curious to hear what he has created next. This for me is one of Bill's better ones and cudo's must go to Style Scott from Dub Syndicate. If you are interested and enjoyed this album I highly recommend Dub Syndicates albums "Stoned Immaculate" from 1991 and "Echomania" from 1993 with both being on Adrian Sherwood's label, On-U Sound. Great music.

KING CURTIS Blues At Montreux ( with Champion Jack Dupree)

Live album · 1973 · Jazz Related Blues
Cover art 4.48 | 3 ratings
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More so a Champion Jack Dupree album than King Curtis but no matter as music really does not get much better than this Live recording which came about unintentionally as Jack was only at the Festival playing his solo barrel-house Blues piano and King Curtis was actually supporting the head-liner Aretha Franklin with his stunning saxophone contributions. Neshi Ertegun from Atlantic was in the bar at the Montreux Casino with Joel Dorn, Champion Jack Dupree and of course King Curtis and the idea was floated for the King and Jack to do a set together for the Festival. Different style of musicians is noted on the album cover but not really as the Blues is the basis for all that Jazz and R&B that King Curtis played anyway. King Curtis was a wonderful saxophonist and was in hot demand and had made 26 albums under his own name by this period with "Yackety Yak" which he did with The Coasters giving him his first break. King Curtis could play Jazz without a problem but he knew that Jazz was not going to give him the return that he received by playing all those Pop and Country hits and he did state himself "I wanted to hit the public's pulse, to play what they could understand and enjoy" which he sure did. Champion Jack Dupree was New Orleans born, never learned to read music but learnt to play by ear from an early age which is not surprising when he was brought up in an orphanage having lost both his parents in a fire. Blues is usually played in bar sequences with the number 12 often being the main one but Jack being self taught does not really pay that much heed with his count on piano but this is one of the reasons for his appeal with although a lack of training this does stamp Jack's music as his own, making it a beautifully rough distinct style of piano based Blues. It has been ten years since his last recording at Atlantic Records with "Champion Of The Blues" being the album but Jack Dupree had been around a long time before that with many recordings that were originally recorded with Okeh during the early 1940's. and his masterpiece "Blues From The Gutter" which was actually released in 1958 by Atlantic.

Talking about "Blue's From The Gutter" it is the song "Junker's Blues" taken from the album which gets the show underway by Jack putting down a bit of Boogie Woogie piano with King Curtis and band following with a quick spoken word introduction concerning the tune from Jack about reefers with their ups and downs in life with a laconic humorous approach that only a Southern Blues man can deliver but the slow groove that the band maintains is superb with some great work from King Curtis with his alto gargling at times during his solo and the beautiful blues bounce from Jack's piano on this classic number. That blues bounce is back even at a quicker tempo for "Sneaky Pete" with Boogie Woogie just pushing it all along with King Curtis putting down some terrific solo sax bits in between Jack's comments and he really hits one riding groove to just keep things interesting in between and not only that remember the band has to keep one ear on Jack's piano count and this material was not even rehearsed for the show with masterful being only the word to desribe King Curtis and band. It just keeps boogie-ing along with the next "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" and does the King give it to us with his sax on this one with one beautiful blues solo with the band in full swing right behind him but yes there is more when Cornell comes in on lead guitar with Jack's piano flicking in and out to lead us to his own great little tinkler.

That was just side one of the record with things staying in full swing for the flip with "Get With It" which is followed by "Poor Boy's Blues" being the big slow blues with Jack singing "I'm just a poor boy a long way from home" I ain't got nobody to teach me right from wrong" of course with a blues repitition and amongst all this slow build up Jack keeps singing that "he keeps on drinking like a fool" and King Curtis just powers through with that saxophone during his superb blues solo. Jack gets right back into the full swing boogie for "I'm Having Fun' which is what Jack is doing in this little rough diamond of a song to finish of this great spontaneous set that was recorded back in 1971 at some Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

This is fresh, rough, has the odd muck-up but it only makes things more authentic with Roots being the source for this wonderful distinct Blues album. This is not Chicago Blues with all it sharp lead guitar and harp breaks but primarily piano, saxophone with just a little tasty lead guitar at times thrown in from Cornell Dupree. Essential music and it does not get much better than this with a New Orleans influence of course.

BEN WEBSTER The Consummate Artistry of Ben Webster (aka King Of The Tenors)

Album · 1954 · Bop
Cover art 5.00 | 2 ratings
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Recorded over two sessions in 1953 with a mix of personnel for both but Oscar Peterson is on piano with Ray Brown on bass present right throughout on what could be considered Ben's debut album, "King Of The Tenors". Yes it is his debut but after all the years with Duke Ellington and playing beside his mentor Johnny Hodges he is an old hand by this time. Tenor saxophone tones are what make Jazz such an interesting listen as with many other brass and woodwind instruments due to the fact the great players are indentified are soon as they put they're horn to their mouth because they have they're own sound and Ben Webster's tone is unmistakeable with that coarse, rough sound that emanated from his tenor and another bonus is Ben could play a ballad like no other with a beautiful warm and most important of all emotional approach. All the musicians from both sessions were playing in Norman Granz's, Jazz At The Philharmonic at the time of the recording and that familarity was brought to the two sessions with a seamless gorgeous album being created. Harry "Sweets" Edison is on trumpet for four of the ten numbers with Herb Ellis, guitar, Benny Carter, alto saxophone and Alvin Stoller, drumming in five tracks and the other session is reduced from a septet to a quintet with J.C. Heard drumming this time around with Barney Kessel replacing Herb Ellis on guitar and Harry with Benny on horns dropped. Norman Granz supervised the recording giving that classic Jazz sound that many of his recordings comprised stretching right back to those early Kansas City Big Band days with Lester Young which is exactly where Ben Webster started in the early 1930's.

"Tenderly" is the opening number with "Sweets and Benny dropped from the septet(who are there for next three, following) is an old standard that Ben played during his time with Duke Ellington and Ben comes in first with his coarse breathy blues sound right throughout during this old waltz that was put to 4/4 time. Ben was nicknamed "The Brute" but even so he wrings this one right out with a stunning interruptation and plays right throughout. "Jive At Six" is right on the title as it does jive with Ben coming in first, big and bold as usual with Harry "Sweets" Edison laying down great mute with his trumpet and then Ben storms back taking his sax right to the limit but always keeping perfect space so every note with every beautiful coarse nuance comes through loud and clear. Here is another old standard co-written by Ben's former associate the Duke himself with "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" with Ben putting the compostion down superbly never straying too far with always perfect interrupatation. The ballads are something else when Ben played them and one can hear that light breathy approach that Lester Young played them with and Ben is exactly the same, as it was in the Young Family Band with Lester that Ben played early in his career. "Poutin" is one of Ben's own compositions and a great Blues jaunt with Ray Brown's Bass keeping time right under that tenor of Ben's. The record flip starts with "Bounce Blues" another Ben composition with Harry "Sweets" Edison playing some stunning muted trumpet for his solo folllowed by more stunning musicianship when Barney Kessel gets a shot on guitar but Ben's tenor is big and bold and it keeps you right on him. "Pennies From Heaven" with "Cottontail" are Ben's bread and butter with more top shelf standard Jazz maintaned and one last interesting point on the album is Ben Webster's take on the old Celtic folk song "Danny Boy" which I will add I do prefer the folk approach but Ben still gets his money's worth with the tune and unlike Count Basie's later take does not make hash of it.( Sorry Count).

There is an alt take of "Billie's Bounce" added to this LP release which was not on the original. Oscar Peterson is superb right throughout and when one looks back you could say that he ran Verve Records house band and this is how I love Oscar the most when he did all those classic studio sessions in the fifties behind so many Jazz greats which he, himself is today. Essential Jazz that anyone, Jazz fan or not will like. King of the tenors I will leave that for you to decide but Ben was his own man with his own beautiful gruff but yet, so tender sound

BOZ SCAGGS Dig

Album · 2001 · Jazz Related RnB
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Number seven was the number of albums that Boz Scaggs recorded when his biggest and most famous album "Silk Degrees" was released in 1976 and another seven studio albums and twenty five years later Boz releases "Dig". Not only do we seem to have a numbers coincidence but one other more important matter is that Boz Scaggs is back with David Paich who is more well known in Toto but another little point is that David Paich was also was one of the main contributers to "Silk Degrees" and here on "Dig" provides keyboards, synths as well being involved with the song writing in six of the albums compositions. There is another main man contributing being none other than Danny Kortchmar on guitar who also is contributing with some of the song writing for the album as well. Danny goes a long way back in the music business and he has performed, as many of the other musicians have used in the albums construction, with a list of the top names in music going around but suffice to say that Danny Kortchmar's contribution to the one of the biggest selling albums of all time being Carole King's, "Tapestry" should be enough. These three gentleman are the album's back bone with Boz and David on all of the compositions except for Danny Kortchmar who particapates in only eight. Recorded in three sessions with some other musicians being used but more so in a guest spot manner with Steve Lukather on guitar who has been on three other Boz Scaggs albums as well being another Toto member popping up quite a bit as Roy Hargrove does on the odd track providing trumpet with some of the others being Nathan East on bass, Ray Parker Jr, yes "Ghostbusters" provides guitar, Greg Phillanganes, Michael Rodriguez more keyboards and Steve Jordan with a bass contribution but all appear mostly on just the one or two tunes. The backing vocals are done by Monet and she does a wonderful job but who is she?

"PayDay" is the commencent of the cool which is what the albums vibe is straight from the start with a great beat and Boz's laid back vocals with Ray Parker Jr and Danny Kortchmar providing some guitar great licks throughout with Roy Hargrove applying more of that cool with his trumpet. "Sarah" that follows is a ballad and delivered superbly with Monet's backing vocals, beautifully assisting Boz Scaggs in the lead with a lovely bridge used within the song making it quite catchy as the previous "PayDay"is. The quality though just keeps coming with the slow funk underlay of "Miss Riddle" or "I Just Go" that follows with Boz's lyrics concerning why he left her but he sure leaves us with one great slow beautiful guitar solo, ala' Mark Knoppler style. Many say that the next is a rap by Boz, but "Get On The Natch" is more so a narration for me as many old sixties tunes were with spoken word delivery but still right on the melody and Monet once again really lays down great backing vocals and with the addition of Steve Lukather's crunchy guitar, it has brought good results to this lively number played over one great back beat. Another great ballad being "Desire" is next with the more uptempo "Call That Love" following containing more of that funk underlay. "King Of El Paso" has more of a Country/Rock feel to the song with great guitars from Boz and Danny Kortchmar and provides the variety right at the perfect spot within the album's track listing as the next "You're Not" also contains just a straight Rock approach and the last two songs to finish off the album "Vanishing" and "Thanks To You" is more of that Boz Scaggs cool applied in a liberal dose.

Wonderful album and not a copy of "Silk Degrees" but one that stands on it's own but that David Paich influence mixed with Boz does harken back due more to the quality than any similarity. Danny Kortchmar provides a great counter balance having a more Folk/Rock approach with his input and writing. Great production which was done by David and Danny bringing two slightly different influences to the albums construction but also a little variety keeping things nice and interesting throughout. Came out in 1991and disappeared fairly quick which is a shame for the album's quality.

ERYKAH BADU Baduizm

Album · 1997 · Jazz Related RnB
Cover art 3.89 | 3 ratings
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Recorded during 1996 and released early 1997 "Baduizm" was Erykah Badu's debut album after having been signed by Universal due to her duet with D'Angleo "Your Precious Love" bringing her enough attention from the company to record an album. Neo Soul is the term we all call this genre of music these days but back in 1997 for me it was one cool late night album mixed with a primarily electronic sound with keyboards and guitar used here and there with the great Ron Carter himself playing bass on one track "Drama" but is the electronics that are the main driver with primarily, a beautiful Hip Hop vocal delivery from Erykah Badu. Not only that Erykah has put down the backing vocals herself for the albums construction and it brings a wonderful even sound with Erykah primarily singing the background work and the Hip Hop delivery for the lead vocal. Don't worry too much about the electronic backing as it is very good with some superb programming with the bass thumping out front and a real nice snap with the drums and percussion add. Desertion seems to be the driving theme behind the lyrics with enough angst and insercurity from a womans view point that you could possibly want but aren't these type of albums the best when one is wallowing in the down side of life and love. Cleaned up at The Grammy's in 1997 with two awards, one for best R&B album and the other for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

Eleven tracks with "Rimshot" being used as the albums opener and closer and the first thing one hears is bass which is present up front henceforth right to the albums ending with the repitition of Erykah's backing vocals and her lead lyrics laying down a groove that the album maintains right throughout. The following number was the single taken from the album "On & On" having a great laid back groove within and the next following number contains an almost hypnotic beat and perhaps one of the albums best being "AppleTree". "Other Side Of The Game" has a slow funk time with great sultry vocal work from Erykah. The quality keeps coming with a brief mix of "Sometimes" which appears in its original form later in the album. "Next Lifetime" has a conversation from Erykah and a suggestive male at the begining which is the song's theme concerning "she is already somebody's girl", but maybe next lifetime. "Afro (freestyle skit) is pure Jazz with its content and has a great low Southern sleazy trumpet accompanying Erykah. "Certainly", "Four Leaf Clover", "No Love" the quality and groove just keeps coming. "Drama" has Ron Carter playing bass and is quite good but the original take of "Sometimes" that follows does tend to over shadow with more of that sublime bass, beat and groove with the last two numbers in the album keeping that high standard right in place.

Great modern interruptation of Soul and when I think back we already were saying then "Hey, listen to this great new Soul music" so Neo Soul is quite an appropriate description and after all Erykah is known today as "The First Lady Of Neo Soul" so looks like the name has stuck but what does one call the old stuff today, "Paleo Soul"?

ERNEST RANGLIN Below the Bassline

Album · 1996 · World Fusion
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Ernest Ranglin recorded "Below The Bass Line" in 1996 on a new off shot Island label named "Island Jamacia Jazz" from Chris Blackwell who has known Ernest from their old days back in Kingston since 1958 and first recorded Ernest's debut album back in 1960-61 "Guitar In Ernest" . Who is Ernest Ranglin as he is mainly well known only through the Little Millie smash hit back in 1964 being "My Boy Lollipop" but Ernest was there at the actual creation of Ska when he laid down that groove with Cluett Johnson with the famed Studio One main man Clement (Coxsone) Dodd. Previous to this and after, Ernest Ranglin played Jazz which started in the fifties with many a large Jamacian band with Val Bennet's being the first of them. During the late fifties and continuing on into the seventies he recorded with practically all the Reggae greats he was involved in the early Sound Systems with Coxsonne Dodd, Duke Reid and the quirky Prince Buster. Then he was in The Skatalites but still finding time to perform at Ronnie Scotts in London where he was kept on for quite a few months back in 1964 and during this time as well he also contributed to one of the most famous tunes to come out of Jamacia "The Rivers Of Babylon" with the Melodians. In 1974 he first played The Newport Jazz Festival with his old friend the pianist Monty Alexander who is right here on this album "Below The Bass Line" with him. Ernest also contributed to Monty's first album "Yard Movement" for the new label of Chris Blackwell's released around the same time. Not only does Monty Alexander play piano but he also contributes melodica with none other than Idris Muhammed drumming, Ira Coleman on bass, Gary Mayone, keyboards and percussion with another old Ska friend of Ernest's present for a guest spot being Cuban born Roland Alphonso with the tenor and soprano saxophone additions.

Out of the eleven compositions four were written by Ernest Ranglin with the other seven being primarily Jazz takes on many a classic Reggae number with "Congo Man" being the first with a slightly slower time than the original by The Congoes which gives the song plenty of space for Ernest to do some absolutely great Jazz picking over this classic Rasta tune. "Surfin" which follows with that jaunt is a concert regular and no surprise either as it one lovely picked over composition from Ernest with some beautiful playing but listen to Monty as well on that piano with some lovely deft touch throughout. Ira Coleman on bass gets to show his presence with a take from "King Tubby Meets The Rockers" written by the most famous melodica player of them all Augustus Pablo. Remember that this is taken from a Dub hence Ira's thumping bass and everybody plays with touches of fragments at various times giving a wonderful result to the number. Talking about famous Jamacian Reggae songs, do they get any more so than The Abbysinians, "Satta Massagana" with another stunning Jazz take and Monty gets to blow in his melodica for this one and not the previous song of Augustus Pablo's as one would expect. You would be going to beat Augustus but Monty does a wonderful melodica solo within ."Ball Of Fire" the old Skatalites number is perhaps one of the albums best with Roland Alphonso playing tenor and soprano saxophone with that delightful Ska sound in his tenor. Another pick could be the Johnny Clarke roots reggae classic "None Shall Escape Thy Judgement" as another old song is from Winston Rodney, "Black Disiciples". The title "Below The Bass Line"is the albums closer with more of this exquisite Jazz guitar from Ernest just riding over the groove from the band and the bass thump of Ira Coleman.

The band is fabulous with the pick for me being Ira Coleman's contribution on bass as he puts down one thumping Reggae time and being so out front it keeps that Reggae influence right in there but still Monty Alexander's contribution on piano is perfect dipping in and out between Ernest's guitar and adding his little beautifully deft solos. The drumming is just as good from Idris Muhammed with Gary Mayone's keyboards and percussion which keeps not the whole foot but a good size toe in Reggae waters. Wonderful album and one that is interesting from start to finish with not a dull spot present. Island Jamacia Jazz like Chris Blackwell's Mango and Fourth And Broadway labels are all gone these days which really is a shame as Chris always has something interesting to release from anywhere in the world but I suppose Reggae will always be his favourite as this little Jazz gem of an album shows.

ME'SHELL NDEGÉOCELLO Peace Beyond Passion

Album · 1996 · Jazz Related RnB
Cover art 4.48 | 2 ratings
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Released in 1996 , three years after her debut "Plantation Lullabies" but here Me'shell Ndegeocello with her follow-up album "Peace Beyond Passion" has slowed the beat just a little increasing the quality actually and bringing something to her music that no other artist has with sublime vocal restraint yet the instrumentation is quite another matter at times throughout the production. First and foremost Me'shell is a wonderful bass player but her vocals are nothing to sneeze at either and although we have a Hip Hop delivery with her technique at times, Me'shell still sings within areas of her songs but with restraint never really hitting any vocal heights per-say but still right on that funk/soul beat and this is where the albums appeal squarely lays with that restraint. This is not an album one should listen to once as it does require a bit of work but the reward is there with every play bringing the music's quality to the fore. Me'shell has performed with quite a few artists these days with quite an assortment as she had her biggest hit with John Mellencamp ("Wid Night"), played with Herbie Hancock and of course Madonna being one of the owners of the Maverick Label at this point in time. They say it was Me'shell Ndegeocello who started the Neo-Soul movement and I would have to agree as when I purchased "Peace Beyond Passion" and first played the album it was nothing quite like I heard before with her own take on two songs by Bill Withers and Marvin Gaye. The other ten songs on the album are all composed with various collaborations by Me'shell Ndegeocello and not a poor one in amongst the lot and all with an original distinct sound with a funk groove always permeating underneath. One other great point concerning the album is we have a young Joshua Redman providing the saxophone as required on various tracks with the addition of Billy Preston's keyboards in "A Tear And A Smile" and Luis Conte provides all the percussion as required giving the album a great continous flow as they are not just on one track excepting Billy Preston and basically are just part of the band.

Twelve numbers with the short piece "The Womb" being the albums intro and laying down quite a nice little groove with Oliver Gene Lake's drums tapping away nicely underneath on this instrumental which just links to the following "The Way" with Me'shell using spoken word to the tune's commencement but that sublime funk groove starts coming with the vocal restraint and the backing vocalists taking the high points and of course that bass of Me'shell's is just trading in amongst the drum programming and do not fear the programming is good. More of that slow funk following with "Deuteronomy:Niggerman" with Me'shell singing alll she "Wanted was a Niggerman who would be true" with Joshua Redman putting in some lovely fast sax additions and the following number "Ecclesiastes: Free My Heart" could be considered one the albums ballads and once again that vocal restraint is superb as much as that crunchy lead guitar is right throughout. Two of the albums high points are "Mary Magdalene" which is followed by the brilliant "God Shiva" with the chant from Me'shell during the brilliant building lead break from the guitar of David Fiuczynski of "Free me from this world, free from my body, free me from this world", gorgeous original stuff. The Bill Withers tune is next "Who Is He And What Is He To You" and that funk is all over it and this was the albums single. The track that I must also mention is the beautiful take on Marvin Gaye's "Make Me Wanna Holler" with a running time of just under nine minutes and Me'shell's big bass sound with her vocals just riding this sublime slow groove right throughout. There are few others I did not mention all are good.

Originality is something we all search for in music as it is a freshness for our ears and as time goes by we seem to be having more of the other where although it is new we have heard it before but when this album came home back in 1996 I found I had one of those freshies that are often a one off such as this beautiful re-interupatation and modernisation of Soul and Funk with a little Hip Hop thrown in for good measure. Great stuff but as I said before, give this a few plays before you make your decison which will most likely be the same as mine. Wonderful music.

RAY BARRETTO Mysterious Instinct

Album · 1962 · Exotica
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
Back to the jungle for the album "Mysterious Instinct"? Not quite but "El Watsusi", Ray Barretto has paired up here with vocalist Brock Peters of Senegalese descent. Brock will always be known more so for his acting as Tom Robinson in "To Kill A Mockingbird" as well as a list of acting credits that follow including even working with Fess Parker in "Daniel Boone" during the sixties television show. Brock Peters was also an accomplished singer and was there adding background vocals to Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat" (Day-O) as well as performing with the Duke Ellington's concert of Sacred Music. The majority of the songs are traditional African, spiritual and slavery songs with three Bobby Scott originals and the first song "Sing A' Man" being the only ones not concerning the subject. Brock sings in formal manner but can sing with a more African dialect approach but that formal training still remains within which brings a a wonderful clear clarity to his vocals. Brock has a voice similar to James Earl Jones but not quite as deep as Brock also did the speaking sections for the radio version of Star Wars playing Darth Vader showing not only his singing abilitys but he also has a lovely deep voice for narrations which is what we get between the compositions with Brock giving a description before a few concerning the African traditional numbers.

This is one strange album for Ray Barretto being nothing like any of the innumberable others that he released over time and if Salsa and driving Latin Jazz are what you are chasing, there is not a bit here but a more Exotica influence throughout. Although the material could be thought as way out it is not all that much with a more traditional feel always kept concerning those particular African songs but still providing that western take for this style of music from this period being recorded in 1965 near the tail end for Exotica. Two conga players are included with Ray Barretto and Chief Bey the other. George Duviivier is on bass, Stick Evans plays tympani and Al Leas provides flute to great effect throughout the album with Brock Peters singing the vocals and narrating between the odd tune.

The notes on the album are not all complete as we have no mention who the backing vocalists are but most likely just band members who like coros are singing usually singing the chorus in repitition as with the first number "Sing A' Man which has a bit of an up tempo beat. That beat though quickly dissipates for the next composition "Wide Dark Troubled Waters" being a spiritual and sung in a formal style with a slow time and Brock Peter's voice bringing that deep sound within but things do get more interesting for the next traditional African number "Papa Zimbi" and the flute from Al Leas brings a beautiful old time African feel. "Go Round The Wall" is closer to a Cuban rumba but no matter with the voices sung in chorus and Al's flute darting in and out between the twin congas it is one of the delights from the album. Talking about album delights, strangely the following slow timed spiritual "Way Yonder Far" with Al Sears flute gets a special mention within the albums notes as one but I do prefer his other contributions myself. "Way Yonder Far" just does not quite crack it here for me as it gets just a little dreary but things do pick up for the following "The Gambler". The actual narration sequences and the more distinct African feel is all within the following three numbers being "Igama La Bantwana, Mysterious Instinct and Water Bird" with the first two being only percussion backed and right here we have something very close to traditional African with great backing percussion, stunning African dialect vocals with the neccasary yips in between and the last of the three "Water Bird" has a beautiful old time African Zulu chant with Al's flute being the choice for the album here with just those short bursts in between the chants and percussion. The last three numbers are the Bobby Scott compositions which brings us back more to that spiritual theme with "Sorrow Valley" and two more songs to wind up the album being "Or Three Farm" being an African slavery style number that were often sung and written in desperation for better times and the strange selection of "Gonna Leave You Baby" to wind it up.

Essential not really. Interesting to a degree but will you play it? Sometimes for me, but I do prefer Ray Barretto doing what he does best Afro Cuban Jazz with lashings of improvision within. Collectors only and although there are some good sections and there are some where I could drift of for quite a nice sleep.

FRANKIE LAINE Jazz Spectacular (with Buck Clayton And His Orchestra Featuring J. J. Johnson And Kai Winding)

Album · 1956 · Vocal Jazz
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Matt
The title describes the album perfectly being named "Jazz Spectacular" which is what it is, with a great take on many classics from the genre with five being re-dos from Frankie Laine's previous days at Atlas and Mercury Records . One of the reasons apart from Frankie's stunning vocals this album is so spectacular is the band behind him which one could almost say was Count Basie's with many lumanaries from his past big band present and the man leading the show is none other than the beautiful trumpeter Buck Clayton. It was actually Buck's idea for the album as he and Frankie went way back to his early days with Mercury Records where Buck lead the the band which the company used to back many of it's stars for a revue which Frankie headlined. Mitch Miller did not get the job of producing the album and Irving Townsend was chosen as he had more Jazz experience. Three sessions were used to record the album with Jo Jones the great Basie Orchestra's drummer with Urbie Green on trombone for four of the songs with J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding replacing Urbie on trombone for the remainder as Jo Jones on drums is replaced by Bobby Donaldson. The orchestra has two pianists with one being Sir Charles Thompson who played with Bird (Charlie Parker) not to mention Coleman Hawkins and Dexter Gordon as well Ray Copeland is assisting Buck as the 2nd trumpet and the bassist is none other than the great Milt Hinton who was originally form Cab Calloway's orchestra. Also four saxophonists with two tenors an alto and a bass with Al Sears and Budd Thompson Sr being the two tenor players and all of them contributing magnificently. Recorded over three sessions from October the 25th to the 27th in 1955 and released in 1956 and the album did not sell all that well for Frankie but it was one of his favourites as it is mine from his discography as this is not your ordinary jazz vocal album but one that has plenty of swing, lengthy solos and best of all that New Orleans touch with the music's presentation which Buck Clayton's trumpet tone rams home.

Swing is what is first up with Frankie's take on a previous number he recorded at Mercury "S'posin" and Buck shows what a stunner on trumpet he is with the first solo he inserts which is followed by tenor sax, trombone, piano all having a quick one to do and the song swings along with Frankie Laine's exquisite vocals. Buck trumpet opens "Stars Fell On Alabama" and this beautiful shuffle of a song is sung so beautifully with Frankie's take and during this album the musicians solos that are placed within as every song on the album are jazz heaven with Sir Charles Thompson's piano sounding more traditional giving a great feel to the music with "Stars Fell On Alabama" being my favourite from side one of the record but the other three are superb with a gorgeous take of Billy Holiday's "Until The Real Thing Comes Along" followed by my "Old Flame" with the swing being applied in a large does with "You Can Depend On Me". The standard "That Old Feeling" opens up side two and the jazz just keeps coming with more swing in "Taking A Chance On Love" followed by another of those beautiful shuffle ballads "If You Were Mine" and a simply beautiful take of "Baby, Baby All The Time" which Frankie first recorded in 1945 at Atlas with a simply glorious tenor solo opening the song and Frankie Laine sings the tune even better this time around. The pick of the album for me is the last number "Roses Of Picardy" which was another re-do from Frankie's Mercury Record days and he first recorded the song in 1947 and it swung back then but this time it parctically comes of the over head bar with the punch from the band with absolutely flat out solo's from the orchestra all in quick succesion and the swing that Frankie Laine's vocals applies to the number, it does not get any better.

Frankie Laine would go back with Mitch Miller after this to start more Country themed material with even more success but that was only because so many people missed the boat by not giving this album one good listen which was obvious with the records sales. This is one beautiful Jazz vocal album presented with a Louis Armstrong approach to the proceedings with the addition of Kansas City swing by Buck and the orchestra and by repeating myself again, yep it is, "Jazz Heaven". One other note is J.J Johnson and Kai Winding were new at Columbia and the company placed them on the album for exposure but that does not matter with the stunning calibre of both trombonists but it was Columbia who pushed them to be at the sessions.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG Chicago Concert - 1956 (aka The Great Chicago Concert)

Live album · 1980 · Classic (1920s) Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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They nearly threw the lot out at Columbia records in 1980, someone had decided to get rid of some old tapes and "The Great Chicago Concert" was on a desk ready to go when Michael Brooks who was producing reissues strolled by and enquired what they were. George Aviakan was the original producer behind the live recording of the concert but at the time decided to shelve it due to techinical issues with the recording as well as there being a lenghty narration by Helen Hayes at the begining concerning Jazz with Louis included. Louis had practically stepped of the plane and here he was with The All Stars straight into this concert. Things are a little out of order due to issues that arose during the event with sound quality problems with some of the material and also there really was not much new material which George Aviakan was hoping for so he decided to shelve the tapes. George was expecting a few more new numbers as Louis Armstrong was not renowned for changing his song list often in concert and usually had the same fifty tunes or so that he and the All Stars performed. Always opened with "When It Is Sleepy Time Down South" and usually wound it up with "When the Saints Go Marchin' In". There is a bit of mix with "When It Is Sleepy Time" coming in at a later spot and only briefly but still we have some great stuff. The All Stars at this time are Edmund Hall, clarinet, Trummy Young, blasting trombone and vocals on two songs, Billy Kyle, piano, Dale Jones, bass, Barrett Deems on drums and Velma Middleton does her thing with Louis doing vocals on three numbers. How many concerts Louis performed would be anybody's guess but he always gave it his best shot and although things do not gel technically they still do with the music as the poorer quality material was dropped with the narration by Helen Hayes and still we have two discs of material with 26 numbers included with four of them being medleys and it is all Live.

Two medleys in a row is what gets the first cd underway with the first being a New Orleans funeral march "Flee As A Bird To The Mountain" and "Oh Didn't He Ramble" which was the only section of the concert ever released until 1980. The second medley has "Memphis Blues", "Frankie And Johnny" and "Tiger Rag" with no vocals but plenty of that gorgeous New Orleans tradition is applied and if one listens close you can hear some of the techinical issues with the recording volume as a wagon was used on stage making it difficult to mic' up to say the least but it does not cause any problems as the small fault is at the begining. What are the best songs that are performed for the next eleven on this first disc, one would be hard pressed to decide with so many classics. "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans", Fats Waller's absolute classic "Black and Blue which is one of my standouts but that was preceded by "Basin Street Blues" and followed by King Oliver's composition "West End Blues" which Louis transformed back in 1928 to become one of the greatest Jazz tunes ever played."On The Sunny Side Of The Street" needs no introduction, "Struttin' With Some Barbecue" another of Louis's classics from the twenties followed by three superb takes of "Indiana", "The Gypsy" and a great take on "The Faithful Hussar" which Louis made his own from an old German song that he performed at practically every concert.

Disc 2 has another German number as well which was a hit for Louis being "Mack The Knife" but the disc opens with "Rockin' Chair "with Trummy Young doing vocals as he does later on "Margie" but I love the old standard that follows "Bucket's Got A Hole In It" which was the original way to pick up ones beer. "Perdido", "Clarinet Marmalade" is giving the band a go with "Mack The Knife" after but we have another medley that follows with "Tenderley" bridged with Billy Kyle's piano solo followed by the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein composition "You'll Never Walk Alone" and Louis wrings it right out with his beautiful interruptation of these two ballads playing them entirely instrumental and even someone yells a comment that Billy plays so sexy during his piano solo. Louis does take a bit of back seat with the second disc as Thelma Middleton gets do the majority of vocals for three numbers with Louis introducing Thelma with the quote "and now it is blues time" with "Big Mama's Back In Town" coming first with plenty of swing included. The ballad "That's My Desire" is given the Thelma treatment as the following "Ko Ko Mo (I Love You So)" with that swing back and Louis joining in for this one on a duet. Do you know I still have not mentioned another famous classic form the swing period that Louis used to include being Louis and Chick Webb's "Jumpin' At The Savoy". At closing time he always played "When The Saints Go Marchin In" which I have known all my life and cannot even remember when I first heard the tune it is like you are born with it already there but no matter how many times one hears this, it is always enjoyable and an instant singalong and who better to do it with his beautiful trumpet than the great Louis Armstrong. The concert finishes with Louis playing "The Star Spangled Banner"

There are small sound faults at times but they are only on three numbers and not that noticable as they are at the start of the songs with "Sleepy Time Down South" being the major issue and when the volume picks up, just think it is the band moving a little closer to the audience. Wonderful material, wonderful concert, wonderful album but most of all what is really wonderful is the sound of Louis Armstrong's trumpet and there is no shortage of that for "The Great Chicago Concert".

CHANO POZO "El Tambor De Cuba"

Boxset / Compilation · 2002 · Afro-Cuban Jazz
Cover art 5.00 | 2 ratings
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Matt
Chano Pozo was one of the most fascinating musicians to ever live with the story to go with it. He came from Cuba played a conga was a fantastic dancer with no proper musical training and lived in absolute poverty, had a temper on him that would lead to his own demise but Chano Pozo would rise from the slums of Havana to go and play at Carnegie Hall in New York City next to Dizzy Gillespie when CuBop was born. Before he got to accompany Diz though Chano Pozo would play with nearly every Cuban great including Orchestra Casino De la Playa with Miguelito Valdes his old friend singing lead vocals and record his first version of his most famous tune "Blen, Blen, Blen" and go on to accompany Arsenio Rodriguez in the early days when Cuban Son was played henceforth in a Conjunto format and the old sextet and trios were put to the side. This set explains it all with notes to let you know everything possible about Chano Pozo but the music is actually even better with a wide variety of tracks within the three discs comprising the set. Tumbao is the company who have released this beautiful set as well as releasing over the years nearly every other Cuban great on cd from the 1920's to the late fifties and perhaps this could be their one of their main jewels with their two other sets released after on Beny More and Arsenio Rodriguez. The music has been remastered and also included with the set are comments from Mario Bauza, Machito, Billy Taylor, Cecil Payne and Dizzy Gillespie concerning Chano. The three discs within are compiled superbly with disc one giving us all the original takes on Chano Pozo's own compositions including two with Dizzy Gillespie, disc two has his best recordings as leader and sideman and disc three has the CuBop material with Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody and Milt Jackson as well as finishing off with three compositions which were a tribute to him after his death by Prez Prado, Miguelito Valdes and Beny More.

The set starts of in 1939 with Miguelito Valdes fronting Casino De La Playa but the music that Chano composed was pure Cuban with Rumba being the major component and this Rumba that Chano played which was pure roots for the Santeria ( Cuban God) and not only that perhaps it is the African influence that permeates his conga which gives authenticity like no other with these early tracks that are contained within the first disc of this set. Four of the tunes within "Blen, Blen, Blen", "Guaguina Yerabo", "Parampampin" and "El Pin PIn" have (studio recordings) two seperate takes of each. The conga solo from Chano in "Blen, Blen, Blen" is worth the set alone. The list of Orchestras that Chano played his early compositions with is amazing with Orchestra Casino De La Playa as mentioned above and the rest include, Xavier Cugat, Orchestra Havana Riverside, Tito Rodriguez, Machito, Cascarita with Julio Cueva's orchestra and there are still a few I did not mention with disc 1 including two with Dizzy Gillespie from 1948 and 51 being "Guarachi Guaro" and "Tin Tin Deo" at one could say was the birth of CuBop. Miguelito Valdes is the vocalist for about 50% of the material being a bonus but the two Tito Rodriguez songs that he sings are beautiful as well with the tres solo from "Bang, Que Choque" and the same could be said for the following number "Rompete" with flute, trumpet, tres and of course all underpinned by Chano Pozo's pure Cuban roots conga. The best version by the way of "El PIn Pin" is the first with Julio Cueva the trumpet players orchestra with Cascarita singing lead for my money over Machito's as it has a wonderful old time Cuban piano solo within.

Disc 2 contains more of Chano Pozo's best work with a myriad of artists included with "Blen, Blen, Blen" and El PIn Pin" having another shot but most of these are when Chano was leading his own orchestra starting from 1946 with some of the Arsenio Rodriguez material included. There are so many songs that could be mentioned but lets say that the three son montuno performed with Arsenio Rodriguez are outstanding but also this disc includes four of Chano's compositions being pure afro influenced starting with "Ya No Se Puede Rumbear" and finishing with "Placetas" or known as Ritmo Afro-Cubano No1 to number 4 and they all follow one after the other. The disc closes with a quick comment from Mario Bauza the long time trumpet player and main associate of Machito saying how Chano changed the music with a lovely little quick trumpet solo of Mario's own wafting over the end of it.

Disc 3 is the one for all you Jazz Heads with Dizzy Gillespie's Orchestra and Chano together at various settings comprising studio and live material with also Mario Bauza and Dizzy Gllespie commenting on how they first heard about and met Chano when they played in Cab Callaway's orchestra together. Do not be turned off by the comment insertions as there are six all up ( including Dizzy speaking about his co-composition with Chano, "Manteca") but they are primarily short and it is one of the best lessons in Jazz you could hope to hear and where better than "straight from the horses mouth" so to say with Mario and Dizzy themselves on Billy Taylor's radio program from this period in time. Wonderful stuff hearing Dizzy speak especially as we all know what an absolute character he was with his comments. The music is the birth of CuBop with Dizzy at the helm with the Charlie Parker composition "Relaxin' At Camarillo's being first on the disc but still for me the high point perhaps in amongst all this wonderful Jazz is Chano taking us right back to those roots with the introduction for "Cubana Bop" with Dizzy and orchestra following and the same can be said for the other great composition they wrote together "Manteca" which is a Latin Jazz standard today. Milt Jackson's Quintet and James Moody and his Bopmen have their material included with Chano Pozo but the most poignant part of the disc are the last three numbers as tributes to Chano Pozo after his untimely death with the last being sung by none other than the greatest Cuban sonero ever, Beny More being "Rumberos De Ayer".

What happened to Chano, well he got himself shot and not for the first time either as he was shot three times in Trinidad in one incident and survived but not so this time when in a restaurant in New York, December 1948 he was shot seven times over a fight that had occured the previous day with the assailant over the dubious quality of marijuana that Chano had bought from him. He sure was a wild man and the list of people who came to his funeral and viewing was the who who's of Jazz and Latin music from that era and as all things in life seem to circle it was Miguelito Valdes his old friend who paid for Chano's coffin and did the arrangements for his funeral. His compositions will always live on and his conga will always be heard, even so long after his death as his rythms originate from the Santeria being the authentic stuff and all the conga players that have followed have not be able to place this raw roots in their playing that could only have been obtained by living the life that Chano did being brought up in the toughest part of Cuba in the early 1920's with the culture and the music.

Best disc for me is the first but the others are only just behind but it is when Chano still was playing those early rythms of his that are mesmerising with the energy, timing and most of all that authentic conga sound. Absolutely essential music no matter what you like to listen too and not only that this set has great in depth notes and the discography, photos etc to go with it.

LARRY HARLOW El Exigente

Album · 1967 · Afro-Cuban Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Matt
Larry Harlow's third album was recorded in 1967 when Boogaloo was still in vogue as one of the most popular forms of Latin music. The vocalist Ismael Miranda makes his first performance with Orchestra Harlow and Larry had seem him sing with his brother Andy Harlow earlier in the year and being impressed had invited Ismael to sing for "El Exigente" his third album project with Johnny Pacheco one of the co-founders of the Fania Label contributing the musical direction. One thing though Larry still had that Cuban tradition behind him with two Guarachas and a Rumba in the mix between all this great Boogaloo and Shingaling. Ismael Miranda would go onto record another four albums with Orchestra Harlow including "Abran Paso" which is under his own name but this one "El Exigente" ( The Demanding One) was the first of them. NuYorcian, you bet is the vibe with that sound that accompanied it from a time back when this was still all new and here is one album for all you groove collectors with the obvious element great Latin grooves making this another of those records or cd that you will want in your collection. The cover with Larry looking hippy with the psychedelic theme was done by none other than Izzy Sanabria who I would have to say did some of the most interesting album covers in any form of music with the Willie Colon albums being some of his best which is just another great bonus for you to enjoy.

Sound of a train is the album starting point with the first great Boogaloo being the album title "El Exigente" with the band all adding some spoken introduction all at once and we are off with Ismael dropping Larry's surname at one point as the demanding one and a great loopy Boogaloo is the result with the coros singing "El Exigente" in constant repitition. "Las Luces" ( The Lights) is a Guaracha containing plenty of Cuban element but Larry adds that modern contempary touch to his take with this material with the brass section comprising trumpet and trombone bring great support with Ismael's vocals with a dance feel to the tune when the montuno commences mid-way and Larry slays us with his quick piano solo with the horns coming in all over it at the end. A Rumba is calling is next being "Rumba Llaman" but not in the traditional Cuban percussion method but Larry takes a full blown Orchestra approach with this number with the rhythm right under it and to be honest the result is really Son but does it matter when the timbales are being pounded in such a great solo."El Mejor" is another of those Harlow Guarachas that just come right out of the gate with that classic Cuban rhythm being the base for Ismael's vocals and they are sung beautifully as they all are right throughout the album for someone who was such a young singer of 18 at the time of this production .The Boogaloo gets underway from here on in for the rest of the album with "Mess Around" containing all the required great prequistes and the next "Groovin' To The Afro Twist" which is something you could twist too I suppose but myself I just like to groove along from my chair. "That Groovy Shingaling" is precisely that, groovy as only the sixties knew how to make. "Freak Off" is more pounding Boogaloo with Larry and his Orchestra and one often hears this is an album high point and although a great tune I think the name could be just as much an attraction in itself. "Be Free" is the last with it's percussion intro and the coros are singing "Who cares what they say, I'm gonna do it anyway" and hopefully it is with plenty of great music as the chorus sings "Be free come along with me, you can be what you want to be", ahh the sixties!, as I hear that train pull out again for the album close.

Fabulous stuff as all Larry Harlow albums usually are with plenty of bounce and great musicianship. One of his early albums and a great one at that. It is available on vinyl more readily than cd these days and most likely that would suit you if you are interested in this album anyway.

SONNY ROLLINS Horn Culture

Album · 1973 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Matt
Sonny Rollins must have liked hearing Billy Holiday with two of her absolute classic numbers included and a composition he composed himself which has no familarity with Billy Holiday's classic "Loverman" but the title "Love Man" sandwiched in between the two Billy Holiday numbers does make one think. Anyway recorded in 1973 and this album "Horn Culture" is Sonny's second album after his last absence from the Jazz scene in the late sixties and early seventies doing yoga and the Eastern thing but he sure came back vibrant and as usual he played beautifully with this album being no exception. Many of his albums from this period in the seventies are not as highly regarded as his classics from the fifties and sixties but if one maintained that thought you would miss out on some absolute fantastic Jazz which is what Sonny has played from day one when he arrived on the scene all those years back in the early fifties. Walter Davis Jr. is on piano, Masuao, guitar, Bob Cranshaw, electric bass, David Lee, drums and Mtume percussion with some slight changes at times throughout by three of the band members on their usual instruments. One thing it is great to see the album cover mentions that there are over-dubs used and "honesty is the best policy" with Sonny's sax being where but it is done very well as it applied only sparingly. Bit of a mixture of styles contained within bringing a great variety to the album with Post and Hard Bop, touch of Funk and the composition "Sais" could have fitted nicely on to a Jazz Fusion album with the use of the electric, accoustic piano combined and Masuo's electric guitar added. One thing Sonny has the lions share and his glorious horn is all over the album which is precisely why one listens to Sonny Rollins and although things seem to have changed within the music his horn has not belting out some absolute gloriously linked Bop based solos.

"Pictures In The Reflection Of A Golden Horn" and I wonder whose? but this is the album commmencement and things start of with a nice Soul feel from Sonny and the band but it is not long before the intensity picks up and Sonny keeps just blowing harder on this wonderful album starter which is one of the three compositions by Sonny included for the album. The next one though is written by the percussion player Mtume being "Sais" and is the longest track on the album going for just under twelve minutes and one of the most striking with Mtume playing basically a constant repitition of piano chords with a solo included instead of percussion and Walter Davis Jr is playing the keyboard bringing that underlay with Bob Cranshaw's electric bass on this just below mid tempo composition. Sonny Rollins puts a beautiful solo on soprano and tenor with it gradual intensity increase with Masuo following him on electric guitar and I do find this reminscent of a Wayne Shorter style composition with its own distinct structure and perhaps one of the best tracks on the album. "Notes For Eddie" is another Sonny composition and Sonny is his usual great self with the drum and percussion mix giving the song a great feel and another great stabber of a guitar solo from Masuo within. Billy Holiday gets the Rollins treatment first up on Side B with her absolute classic ballad "God Bless The Child" being played beautifully with a slight jaunt to open the number and Sonny pretty much keeps too the tune with Masuo back on guitar and Walter finally getting his chance on piano within this beautiful version. "Love Man" is side two's variety with its up-tempo approach with a little funk thrown in which just rips along and of course Sonny is good. The album closer is another Billy Holiday classic "Good Morning Heartache" and the other ballad on the album and it is played as all the other numbers within the album are, at a great high standard but it is Sonny near the end when he plays the song unaccompanied which he would do more frequently in the future to come after this album and I for one just love it.

Think outside the box with this one and although I would be the first to say the Sonny's albums from that classic late fifties to early sixties are his best there is nothing wrong with this and we should all be grateful that he did change bringing this other variety to his music which he still uses today in concert with Bob Cranshaw playing his electric and a percussion player in his current band in 2011. Once again, "it is just that Sonny Rollins magic".

FRANK SINATRA The Main Event

Live album · 1974 · Vocal Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
"Live from New York, the city of whose landmarks are familar all over the world, centre for shipping, transportation, communication, finance, fashion and above all entertainment" excerpt from Howard Cossell's introduction to "The Main Event" with Frank Sinatra in concert at Madison Square Garden on October the 13th back in 1974. Produced by Don Costa with the swinging arrangements and conducting by Bill Miller with a myriad of classics and a few new ones thrown in from Frank for this big occasion which was the actual end of his U.S tour culimanting at Madison Square Garden with celebrities as common as rabbits in the audience of 20,000 and not only that this was televised right across the country also. Frank had retired back in 1970 but he was back by 73 and recorded and released "Ole Blue Eyes Is Back" and then set off on his American tour with quite a few current hits under his belt with one getting on the song list being his most famous which must have been quite a surprise as it was late in his career but "My Way" does get to finish the gig off. Two other contempary songs for the time included being Stevie Wonder's, "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" and Jim Croce's, "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" with swinging results. Bit of banter also included for song introductions by Frank Sinatra and one other note the recording has one great clear sound and with what I can gather there are no over-dubs so things are kept nice and fresh with the very odd small imperfection noticed when one listens hard and close enough but that is what is so wonderful about Live and spontaneous material bringing a true character to the music whatever is being created.

Howard Cossell's big introduction with the Orchestra adding swing right behind him over a medley of "It Was A Good Year", "All The Way" and "My Kind of Town" is the album commencement to where Frank Sinatra or "The Chairman Of The Board" makes his appearance and swings straight into his classic number "The Lady Is A Tramp" with the orchestra boucing along beautifully behind him with of course a glorious finish from Frank and from a Rodgers and Hart composition he goes straight for a Cole Porter song that Frank also has made his own "I Get A Kick Out Of You" and who else could sing this any better and I love that kick from the orchestra right in the right places with Frank's vocals just before he sings kick in the chorus. There are two Paul Anka songs covered with the most famous for Frank being last but here we get Frank doing "Let Me Try Again" which is the first ballad in the concert and Frank gives it his treatment with a great result. "Autumn In New York" is about as standard as a standard can get which would have been chosen due to the concerts location but no matter he could sing this anywhere and get a tumultous reaction from the audience. Cole Porter is back with another classic "I've Got You Under My Skin" and the following number many would think a little unFrank but "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" swings and he gets away with it without a hitch by adding all the swing and bouce to the song. "I have never felt so much love in my life" is the first thing Frank says to the audience for this song's introduction "Angel Eyes" and an interesting note in his intro is how he mentions there are not many saloon singers left just him, Drunky Dean and Tony Bennett and it is a ballad of course. Stevie Wonder's "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" is another great Chairman of the board take and "The House I Live In" is originally from a short musical with Frank showing patrotism. "My Kind Of Town" is second last and the album closer which Frank introduces as the national anthem being of course "My Way" which is the other Paul Anka tune included and there will never be another version done of this song that will ever eclipse what Frank Sinatra recorded and made his concert regular.

Heaps of banter between the songs with even a reference to Australia in a light hearted fashion with a reference from Frank stating that instead of "Ole Blue Eyes" he is more known as "Ole Big Mouth" down here but he still always toured here. Nine times I believe and he was always a hit as this album was when it was released back in 1974. Great stuff and a real concert feel with great versions of all the songs having a mix of ballads, standards and most of all what I love the most about Frank Sinatra's music is the Swing.

MILES DAVIS You're Under Arrest

Album · 1985 · Fusion
Cover art 2.83 | 15 ratings
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Matt
"You're Under Arrest" which many Jazz fans thought should have happened to Miles Davis after the release of this later album in his career but didn't they slam "On The Corner" as well and at least Miles puts some great notes together on his horn at times throughout this recording. Plenty of big names accompanying Miles on this album with John Scofield, John McLaughlin, Al Foster and even Sting makes a cameo. Recorded in 1985 with that 1980's electronic sound and beat to go with it that seems to be primarily funk but more in a low key manner with Miles playing his solos and additions over this. Once again there were questions over some of the chosen material in particular "Human Nature" and "Time After Time" but if one looks back didn't they say that when he chose "Bye Bye Blackbird" to be included back in 1957 on his first Columbia album "Round Midnight" and a good pop song is a good pop song which Miles had no problem with playing. This album surprsingly made it to number three on the jazz charts at the time of its release, so someone was buying it and perhaps it was the young people who like myself back then knew these two songs from Michael Jackson and Cyndi Lauper with both of them being contempary for that time. They are only a small proportion of the album though with Miles Davis and John Scofield in a less manner writing the majority of the material for the rest of the album. Funk seems to be the main undercurrent to all the majority of these tunes although slightly subdued as well there is the addition of Miles actually doing a narration in his best gravel tone.

"One Phone Call, Street Scenes" is the album opener and the funk begins with Miles narrating the call but the stab and solo of John Scofields guitar throughout with the addition of Miles on mute and open trumpet in the proceedings brings in that early seventies sound to the track. "Human Nature" is played exactly as that with Miles on mute and keeping primarily to the tune with a great laid back result. Driving beat with more Funk is back in the three part composition "MD1/Somethings On Your Mind/MD2" with a more straight approach in the centre of the three part composition. "Ms. Morrisine" is where John Scofield takes a break and is replaced with John McLaughlin on guitar which brings some great stretch and range that he has with his style and Miles goes first with the majority of the solo time but John puts in quite a nice one to finish of this composition with those stabbing points coming from the band right throughout. This is actually one of the great sequences within the album as John finishes off his solo for "Ms Morrisine" he leads us in with the prelude for "Katia" and he then leads the main composition with his wonderful crunchy guitar that he played at times. Cyndi Lauper's tune "Time After Time" follows and once again Miles plays mute and keeps the song well within its structure but surprisingly it works beautifully with Miles's beautiful trumpet tone. The album title "You're Under Arrest" which is a John Scofield composition is more electronic funk undercurrent with Miles and the last track which is a medley and it is primarily Miles playing over the funk again but there are some sound additives within the composition with a crying baby etc with the last section being more stretched in a Jazz manner.

I am not a fan of Miles Davis's later work but still there were times when it is just a joy to hear Miles play not to mention John Scofield and John McLaughlin and if one takes this album for what is, a creature of the 1980's and at least Miles was still trying. I find this a much more interesting listen than the more electronic sounding "Tutu" which followed. There are not many people who have a good thing to say about the album "You're Under Arrest" these days but take it for what it is and although I do admit it is far from Miles Davis's best there are some great moments and playing at times and it those pop tunes that I like the best with that funk undercurrent starting to tire towards the albums end.

FRANK SINATRA Come Dance With Me! (with Billy May And His Orchestra)

Album · 1959 · Vocal Jazz
Cover art 4.63 | 7 ratings
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Matt
"Come Dance With Me" was Frank Sinatra's and Billy May's 2nd collaboration, recorded in December 1958 and released in 1959 on Capitol Records. This album picked up three Grammy awards, stayed in the charts for over two years and it was Frank's biggest. Included are some oldies from Frank's Columbia years "Saturday Night ( Is The Loneliest Night Of The Week)", "Dancing In The Dark" and some new ones being the title "Come Dance With Me" and "The Last Dance" both written by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen who had also written the previous hit and album title for Frank "Come Fly With Me". Swing is the major ingredient in the album and all delivered with Frank Sinatra's relaxed singing approach and Billy May's great swing and kick within his arrangements with the usual mix of theatre songs, popular and standards all presented, arranged and sung beautifully.

Twelve songs included on the original album with the title "Come Dance With Me" being first and although the title is familar with the previous "Come Fly With Me" the song is quite different with not as much emphasis on the title in the chorus but plenty of swing which keeps coming in the next song written by Johnny Mercer being, "Something's Gotta Give" with Billy May's arrangement of the song bringing his orchestra right up front at times between Frank's fabulous vocals. More swing with "Just In Time' with the songs roll and swgger with an oldie following from Frank Sinatra's early years and given a much more modern approach being "Dancing In The Dark" from his previous recording at Columbia with the same being said for "Saturday Night (Is The Loneliest Night Of The Week)" from their original 1940's versions. There are a couple of songs that could only be considered classics from this period included with "Day In-Day Out" and the joy of flirting in "Cheek To Cheek" being an Irving Berlin composition with Johnny Mercer writing the first. Every song is pure swing, that is until we get to the last song recorded being a ballad written by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen and aptly named "The Last Dance" to finish off the album.

Good as their first one? Most defininately with the added bonus of a couple of less ballads being replaced with great bouncy swing tunes on this effort together for Frank Sinatra and Billy May. "Come Dance With Me" is quite a suitable title with the contents being just that. Essential Sinatra as all of his are with Billy May and his Orchestra.

KENNY DORHAM Una Mas (One More Time)

Album · 1963 · Hard Bop
Cover art 4.42 | 5 ratings
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Matt
One more time, I always thought just one more as "Una Mas" is that when translated but no matter it still is just another great album from Kenny Dorham. Tad short I have to admit running for around 32 minutes with only three compositions included but quality is all high standard with all the compositions written by Kenny Dorham. Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone makes his very first Blue Note recording here as it was Kenny who introduced him to the label. Herbie Hancock, on piano is still in his early twenties and had only done the one album "Takin"Off" although he was playng in the Miles Davis's Quintet and Butch Warren on bass had been around a little time at this stage since his first recording in 1959 with Jackie McLean. Another very interesting point is Tony Williams is only 17 years old when he played the drums on this recording and this is Tony's (or Anthony as he is named on the album cover) very first recording at Blue Note as well. With a mixture of Jazz maturity but with the addition of Joe, Herbie and Tony we get all that youthful energy in their playing and solos. Tony Williams as we know was never short of energy and often it is these recordings from when he was very young that I appreciate and enjoy more with his early material that brought jazz drumming techniques a great update with his arrival on the scene. Kenny Dorham is one of the greats from the Bop idiom in Jazz and never gained his due recognition and once again as with his previous release on Blue Note, "Whistle Stop" we have a beautifully constructed and played album albeit it is a little short in time duration and although another composition would have put the icing on the cake it is still one great Hard Bop album.

The album title "Una Mas" is the first composition as well as the longest running for just over fifteen minutes with Herbie Hancock on piano leading the tune in and the beat is established before Kenny on trumpet takes the first solo with his great mid-tone that he played with plenty of room to stretch due the compositions length and stretch he does making his horn screech at times but keeping it all beautiful. Joe Henderson follows on tenor playing all glorious Hard Bop but still you feel he was just at times getting close to the out there border and he keeps it back with a simply stunning driving solo being the result and Herbie follows them up with his usual superb touch,space and groove. This tune was recorded in a session in April 1963 and when one listens to Blue Note's biggest hit Lee Morgan's "Sidewinder" which was recorded later in December of that year the similarities are there and although I am not claiming anything concerning who wrote what it just seems to me the luck of Kenny Dorham as "Una Mas" could be rated just as good as "The Sidewinder" and Kenny added a Bossa vibe as well within "Una Mas". That was Side 1 of the record with the other two numbers on the album flip with "Straight Ahead" the begining where the whole band bar Butch on Bass has a solo with Kenny going first in this up-tempo composition with Joe following on tenor and he plays just another one of his solo's that are are joy to hear and how he motors through them. Herbie displays his beautiful touch on piano with another stunner but next up we get that 17 year old drummer who I will add has been simply brilliant from the first note of the album to the last with his contribution and Tony shows his wicked timing and whack on that drum kit with Kenny and Joe breaking things up througout this fairly quick solo. "Sau Paulo" is the album closer being in a mid-tempo time with a touch of Bossa but keeping it primarily beautifully played Hard Bop with Joe Henderson on tenor having the honour of going first in the solos with Herbie and Kenny following in this slightly unusual structure within the theme being played between each solo.

What about the cover, one of Blue Notes best and what did Kenny Dorham do, maybe he kicked a gypsy or spat on a witch but he seemed to have bad luck with his album's sales. Great album albeit it is a bit short but they are all great numbers played beautifully and also we have Joe, Herbie and Tony red hot with youth contributing. The cd release does have an extra track added to the original album.

STANLEY TURRENTINE Blue Hour

Album · 1961 · Soul Jazz
Cover art 4.95 | 2 ratings
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Matt
Those late night Jazz albums that are full of beautifully played ballads or a slowed down version of a more faster tempo number, that seem just perfect to hear late a night in the small hours of the morning are really not such an easy find because although you may think of many primarily late night sessions that might fit the mould they must have one neccesary major component for myself, being the Blues. This being the major reason that this album "Blue Hour" is one of the absolute stand-outs for after midnight spinning. Blue Note records has another two that do fit this high standard being Ike Quebec's, "Blue And Sentimental" and Grant Greens, "Idle Moments". This collaboration of Stanley Turrentine and The Three Sounds was suggested by Alfred Lion originally and is just as good if not better than Ike and Grant's albums. The material is all from the second session which was recorded in December 1960 with the first session recorded six months earlier. Alfred Lion really only wanted two more numbers during this 2nd session to use with the remaining material from the earlier session to make up an album but things hit that groove and "when you are hot, you are hot" which precisely what the musicians were when this session was recorded.

We are very early days in Stanley Turrnentine's career at Blue Note as he had only started with label earlier that year in April recording as a sideman with Dizzy Reece and by the end of the year come December he had appeared at Blue Note studio's counting close to double figures. Two of the albums that he appeared as a sideman in this time was on one of Blue Note's big sellers, Jimmy Smith's, "Back At The Chicken Shack" as well as his album debut on the label being "Look Out" within this 8 month time span. Stanley's early experience with Ray Charles has a major influence on his approach that he took for his playing within the album keeping that Blues grit but presented as stunning late night Jazz.

The Three Sounds being a trio are led by Gene Harris on piano and they had been selling a few at Blue Note as well for Alfred and Francis the owners when they first joined the label in 1958. In 1959 they had recorded a meeting with Lou Donaldson generating the album "LD+3" and although quite a good result was achieved with the album it is "Blue Hour" which is the far better album. The band is Stanley Turrentine on gruff tenor saxophone as that great gruff was always in his tone with also Gene Harris, tinkling piano, Andrew Simpkins, bass and Bill Dowdy doing a fair bit of brushing on drums.

Gene Harris leads the first composition on the album in, on piano being "I Want A Little Girl" with a slow rolling blues feel and throughout Gene remembers what he is playing being blues with passages within his playing being straight quick blues additions at times.Stanley's tenor not only has the great up and down volume but he does not over play with beautiful spacing and volume levels within his playing. The blues keeps coming by the bucketload with the following "Gee, Baby Ain't I Good To You" with Stanley coming in a lot earlier into this tune than the previous with superb spacing and not only from Stanley on tenor but the whole band is sublime. Gene Harris plays perfectly with his approach by using blues passages within his solos but still keeping it Jazz. There are three more tracks on the album with "Blue Riff" being the most sprightly at a mid-tempo but it does not detract from that late night feel and actually it is great to get away from the ballads giving the album a refesh if you like for the last two numbers with both being ballads. "Since I Fell For You" is more of that beautiful slow spaced approach taken to the album and runs for just under nine minutes with the last track actually not a ballad but played at at much slower tempo from its original form with a version that runs just short of ten glorious minutes being the standard "Willow Weep For Me".

One of the best out there for this style and one of my essential Jazz albums. You can get all the sessions together these days on a double cd with "Blue Hour" the actual album comprising the first disc with two numbers and an alt take from the 2nd session included with all the material from the first session on the 2nd disc. Hope that did not confuse you but "who was on first base?" as Abbot and Costello asked each other.

CUBANOSON Recordando A Cuba

Album · 2006 · Afro-Cuban Jazz
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Matt
Cuban Son, glorious Cuban Son are the components or backbone for this wonderful debut release from the New York band Cubanoson with three original compositions from the bands leader Leonel "Papo" Ortega who in all modesty will say that they really are from his uncle Sergio Sori and three from Silvio Cebrian. Leonel "Papo" Ortega was born to Cuban parents who themselves played classic roots Cuban music as many other members of his close family including his uncle Sergio Sori in the Cuban style Punto Guajiro which is the accoustic classic country style from Cuba. Papo first started on guitar but changed to piano during his youth and throughout his career since has played with many of the greats with Jose Fajardo the great Cuban flautist one his high points but there are quite a few names to drop with two actually in the band for this release being Ray Rodriguez on trumpet and acting as Musical Director with Junior Rivera playing tres guitar as well. Tradition is what Cubanoson's music is all about and the band was formed to play precisely that but it is the type that we all can all dance too or at least tap our foot with a conjunto being the bands make-up. In the actual album notes we have the quote "Cubanoson honors the great artists who have bestowed upon us the utmost musical education. To them and others we have passed on our music through generations, we will continue honoring them with New York's Cuban dance orchestra, Cubanoson!" and honor them they do with great interruptations from many of the old greats and the lively originals penned for this wonderful Cuban roots release.

The horns are staright in for "Cubanoson" the first song being Papo's composition with Chico Alvarez singing lead on this great lively up-tempo number dedicated to the bands traditional music with Junior on tres, Papo on piano and Ray on trumpet soloing in that order and all are superb but that tres of Junior's is wicked and do not worry there is plenty more to come and the other artists are superb with their solos throughout as well but it is not often we get great tres guitar in many Latin releases these days played in such a beautiful a talented style. The traditional keeps coming with "Monsieur Jose" with guest Ronnie Baro adding French vocals and coros and of course it swings as the following which is another Papo composition "Recordando A Cuba" with the vocals sung in duet with Papo and Chico sharing duties all underpinned by a beautiful rhythm with Papo putting down some great piano with some fabulous licks from Ray on trumpet on this stomper of a tune. Alexis Llerena provides the trombone for "En La Campina" with Papo singing lead for this beautiful Son tune. There are ten compositions contained within and all played superbly with "No Te Preocupes" being a dance floor prequisite and more great addition within from Ray on trumpet. One of the albums great points is although we have all Cuban music the variety is constantly changing with the solo exchanges and the next is no different which is the Arsenio Rodriguez song "Que Mala Suerte" where we have Junior back on tres of course due to the songs author but we also get trombone from Alexis again with Ray and Oscar on trumpet just staying back in the band. "Guajiro Soy" is where Junior lays down more wonderful tres guitar and a great slow dreamy Cuban trumpet from either Ray or Oscar for the solo and another one of the highlights of the album. The quality keeps coming for the last three album songs with more of that glorious son in "Son Bailadores" with Papo's piano riding it all underneath and Junior is back on tres with Ray on trumpet. The second last song it is penned by Fransico Repilado or better known these day as Compay Segundo the great Cuban counrty artist being "Mujeres De Mayari" but this is not in that country manner but delivered with all the required style of a modern conjunto. "Lagrimas Negras" is another Cuban classic but from the great Miguel Matamoros this time and given more of that great driving swing Cubanoson treatment to finish this wonderful album off.

Cubanoson have come a long way since these early days from the bands formation with particapating in many Latin festivals and even getting on to the Latin Grammy Awards not to mention all the gigs and so they should, as quality does always shine through as this is what this album contains, quality Cuban music sung, played and delivered in a lively up tempo manner. If you are lucky enough to live in the States particulary in the New York area, catch them live becuase I know I will if I ever get there.

FRANKIE LAINE The Lucky Old Sun

Boxset / Compilation · 2000 · Vocal Jazz
Cover art 5.00 | 2 ratings
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Matt
Frankie Laine an absolute American singing legend is given the Bear Family box set treatment with "That Lucky Old Sun" being the first of three which will be issued over the following two years. If you are reading this review there is a good chance that you will be familar with Frankie's music and all its diversity and in this set "The Lucky Old Sun" the time span that it encompasses is from 1944 with his very first recordings at Goldseal and Beltone ( 3 in total) with all his Atlas recordings (17 in total) and finishing up with all his Mercury output right up 1951. The set was prepped by Tony Cooper and Richard Weize the founder of Bear Family records with another twenty people involved at various stages with Frankie Laine himself assisting and adding his own personal photos for the acompanying book. Todd Everett was the biographer for the hard cover Lp size book that is included which includes Frankie Laine's personel photos, concert posters, film posters, reviews from that period, movie stills, storys of other musicians who played with Frankie with of course Carl Fisher getting a mention. Not only that, the book also has the complete discography with dates, recording sessions, personnel all in order with pictures of his releases littered throughout amongst the pages which is absolutely stunning. Bear Family do state even they are little unsure for some of the very early listings due to conflicting information even with Frankie himself assisting at times. One other thing is you also get an old style picture disc that is included in the set with "Mamselle" and "All Of Me" being the songs included.

There are six discs within the box set with everyone packed to capacity for space with 153 songs starting from Frankie Laine"s very first recordings of "That's Liberty" and "In The Wee Small Hours". Another interesting point with the first disc is the inclusion of the demo for Frankie's first hit "Thats My Desire" with the last track being "Pickle In The Middle" with Artie Auerbach singing and Frankie providing backing vocals as a peanut seller. There is something about disc 1 with these early recordings with many of the songs being re-recorded later by Frankie at Columbia on his Jazz Spectacular album and to hear them in these early Jazz recordings is a true delight. Many of the recordings within would later be recorded again at Columbia and there is a difference with them and although at times there may seem a little less bounce but that is equalled up by the freshness from these wonderful early Jazz recordings of Frankie Laine. Every hit in this time span is included with even a French version of "West End Blues" which is actually track 1 on disc 2 and the hits keep coming throughout with "Black and Blue", Mamselle", "All Of Me" (the flip), "Two Loves Have I", "Shine", "On The Sunny Side Of The Street", with even "You're All I Want For Christmas and it is Jazz Vocals the lot. Many of the original hit versions have been placed on the last disc if there is an alternate or demo version of them with others being "Sunny Side Of The Street", "Georgia On My Mind" and "When Your Smiling" with Jerome Courtland from their movie soundtracks. We also get the two duets with Patti Page, yes two as only one was originally released and the other not till this set with two songs being respectively "I Love You For That" ( 2000) and "If I Were Your Baby" (1950) but they are on disc 4 which is where things take a turn for Frankie Laine as this is were he meets up with Producer Mitch Miller and his career started to take that Western touch. One should remember that way back in 1949 that the sound effect used on "Mule Train" were some of the first recordings to add these exotic touches with whips being the main addition. Of course previous to the recording of "Mule Train" we had the sets title which was a huge hit being "That Lucky Old Sun" which was recorded only three months prior to "Mule Train" and quite a few of these numbers would later be redone with Mitch Miller again as well when they both left for Coloumbia on his late Western themed albums in the sixties.

Pick of the discs is extremely difficult but I will say that disc 1, 4, 5, and 6 are equal with 2 and 3 not really far behind. Pick of the songs, some that have to be mentioned are "Roses Of Picardy", "By The River Of Sainte Marie" with all their swing and bounce or perhaps that dark blues of "Black Lace", the beautiful ballad "Your Wonderful" and all the joy, swing and bounce of "Exactly Like You". It does not get any better, complete or accurate with the Bear Family releases and this is no exception. One other note the remastering is superb with hiss, static etc removed with the sound quality being the best there is for every song. Even if you are thinking of getting into all this early Frankie Laine material you would have to purchase a myriad of old records at 78,45 and 33 rpm and thats if you could find them in a reasonable condition which would far outlay the price of the set and still there are added tracks that were never even released. This is the best thats out there in any sound format and if you do take the punt and buy this set you will sure not be disappointed and like me you will play it all over and over and not just certain areas within. Gorgeous, music from Frankie Laine at this time span but the quaility really never changed no matter what he sang it was all done beautifully and with the added bonus of the emotion that Frankie Laine placed within every number he sang.

FRANKIE LAINE Rocks And Gravel

Boxset / Compilation · 2010 · Vocal Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Matt
The Omni Recording Company are an independant label founded by an Australian named David Thrussell which specialise in re-releasing Country, Folk, Early Electronic and Exotica as well as anything that could be considered slightly "off the wall" with all the kooky and strange songs that predominately sprung from the sixties and early seventies. At this time for the company we are up to their 36th release although currently the catalogue would be closer to fifty at this time of the review in December 2011.Not only do they re-release the kooky stuff, Omni also release albums that were quite good and innovative as well but went nowhere.

"Rocks And Gravel" is the title for this compilation that encompasses quite a lot of Frankie Laine's Country material that he recorded at Columbia where many of these songs are what he will always be remembered as singing concerning cowboys, gunfights, stage coaches, duels, hard work, despair, joy and lost or gained loves with every word sung precisely and clear as a bell being no need for you look at lyrics as Frankie Laine was a total professional. Although the material that is included is labelled Country in all honesty it is slightly removed from that genre with the stylings, albeit the lyrics are pure Cowboy at times the music is not and actually Frankie Laine still uses his Jazz stylings in many a song with accents on certain passages and when one hears the production behind him on many of these songs which borders on Exotica at times with the sounds of whips, horses, hammers added to the backing for many of them with the added addition of a chorus bringing that Western feeling to the proceedings. That western feeling behind all these arrangements and the conducting for many of these tracks was done by a young Johnny Williams who today is more well known as John Williams and is recognised as one of the top soundtrack men around today with the film Star Wars being his most well known among many other classic movies. One great thing about this compilation is they have released seven songs that are in their single versions which have not been available since their releases between 1956 till 1964. As well the compilation has material taken from six of Frankie Laine's albums all at Columbia with not all being in his Country format with a track from "Rockin" and quite a few of the more Jazz/Popular leaning tunes from the "Balladeer" album.

Twenty eight songs are included and many of them are considered western classics and there are a few which actually are fresh takes that were done at Columbia but were originally recorded when Frankie was recording at Mercury in their original versions with "The Lucky Old Sun","The Swamp Girl"," Old Virginny", "Black Lace" and "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die" being five. They are almost all here with exception of "Rawhide", "Mule Train" and "High Noon" included which is bit of a let down for people who have not heard Frankie Laine's songs in this styling but still there are plenty of absolute classics to sing along with, "The 3.10 To Yuma", "Gunfight At The O.K Corral", "Wanted Man", "Hangin' Tree" and perhaps the best for me is "Bowie Knife" concerning a duel down in New Orleans to the death and all were on the "Hell Bent For Leather" album but here we get the single versions for "Yuma and O.K Corral". Two great numbers are "Cherry Red" being more blues and "Careless Love" with it's W.C Handy origins with the addition of a superb version of "Wayfaring Stranger" but the absolute stand out track is Frankie Laine's version of "Riders In The Sky" and he sings it with a great gusto and feel with a beautiful take being the result and I still have heard none superior.

A few could have been dropped perhaps to make way for the missing ones I mentioned above but still this is a wonderful compilation of Frankie Laine's Western material from Columbia and congratulations must go to David Thrussel at Omni for releasing all this great missing material on cd and that is not just for this one but all the others in their exquiste little catalogue of forgotten albums.

FRANKIE LAINE One For My Baby

Album · 1951 · Vocal Jazz
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Matt
Recorded and released in 1951 Frankie Laine's Columbia debut "One For My Baby" was the first time that Frankie recorded with Paul Weston's Orchestra although Carl Fischer on piano was still with him from his previous tenure at Mercury. All new material with none of the songs previously recorded by him with a fairly wide selection for the material all being Jazz influenced. Frankie had arrived at Columbia records through Mitch Miller who had been handling things for Frankie Laine previously at Mercury and it was Mitch who teamed up Paul Weston Orchestra's which would be the first of many more recordings that the two artists would do in conjunction at Columbia with addition of The Norman Luboff Choir for this release providing the backing vocals. It was also Mitch Miller who had been the driving force behind Frankie Laine's two previous hits "The Lucky Old Sun" and "Mule Train" as well as other material recorded near the end at Mercury which was leaning more toward an Americana style which would become his mainstay at Columbia in the 1960's but here on "One For My Baby" it was all still Jazz and Popular music with a mixture of show tunes added comprising Frankie Laine's debut at Columbia.

Eight tracks only released in 10 inch format with the first track being "Tomorrow Mountain" with quite a slow intro only in the first verse with a great addition of swing added for the rest of the song with Frankie Laine really bringing his vocals to the front with that gusto that emanated from him whilst he was singing this style of up tempo tunes from this time in the 1950's with the Norman Luboff Choir providing it's distinct style of backing vocals The song is taken from a stage musical and actually is a Duke Ellington adaptation and one will recognise the similarity with the classic Country song "Big Rock Candy Mountain" with all the connotations of a bum's heaven with everything for free, just waiting to be picked from the trees but this time we are in a city and not a rural setting for the song. "Song Of The Islands" having a distinct Hawaiin touch with the guitar is at a much slower pace than the first and that Choir is backing this one too but not with vocal repitition from Frankie Laine's lead but they add a tonal texture to the tune with the female vocals singing word less additions. The glorious swing is back with it's shuffle beat for the next "She Reminds Me Of You" and Frankie takes on this song without Norm's Choir bringing a nice texture to the album and the following closer for side 1 is the ballad "To Be Worthy Of You" again without the choir and given the "Old Leather Lungs" treatment with a beautiful interruptation from Frankie with one of those big finishes that only he could do.

"When It's Sleepy Time Down South" opens up the flip and I myself will always compare it to Louis Armstrong's take as it was one of Pop's standards which he performed at almost every concert he ever played but back here with Frankie Laine's take, yes it is up there and whats more one should remember it was not often a white popular artist would cover this sort of material but not so with Frankie Laine who always remembered the true birth place of Jazz and he would always pick many of his songs from the more traditional standards down in the glorious South where all those classic songs originated from which Louis Armstrong brought to the entire world. "Love Is A Cheat" has a slight gypsy influence with the vocals sang in rapid manner over quite a fairly quick beat by Frankie to great effect with "Necessary Evil" following with a straight Jazz take with the version presented and the album finisher is the classic "One For My Baby" and lets just say, "and one more for the road" and you should know the song with that addition to the lyrics in this timeless tune. Of course it is good and Frankie takes a fairly low key approach to the song.

The time was 1951 and one should remember that Swing was really still a term for all those Big Bands and not really used as a description for Jazz or popular vocals during this time and another Frank with the surname Sinatra would be the leading exponent in this music format for all time but one does wonder if Frankie Laine had not been do diverse with his song selections he may have knocked the other off his perch or at least made him move over. The songs all have those big vocal finishes from "Old Leather Lungs and the Norman Luboff Choir is present for two of the eight numbers but it is the ones without them that shine for me. Great mix of song styles from this time but I always go for Frankie's more up-tempo material personally and this one just falls a little short but then the diversity would be missing from the release and as the old saying goes, "You can't have your cake and eat it too". Still wonderful stuff and there is a cd release out there with the "Mr Rhythm" album combined and well worth picking up if you are interested in Frankie Laine.

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