Modern Jazz

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Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm

MILES DAVIS Kind of Blue Album Cover Kind of Blue
MILES DAVIS
4.93 | 91 ratings
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JOHN COLTRANE A Love Supreme Album Cover A Love Supreme
JOHN COLTRANE
4.86 | 67 ratings
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CHARLES MINGUS The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady Album Cover The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
CHARLES MINGUS
4.84 | 48 ratings
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MCCOY TYNER Sahara Album Cover Sahara
MCCOY TYNER
4.95 | 12 ratings
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MILES DAVIS 'Round About Midnight (aka Miles Davis) Album Cover 'Round About Midnight (aka Miles Davis)
MILES DAVIS
4.85 | 26 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Miles Smiles Album Cover Miles Smiles
MILES DAVIS
4.83 | 28 ratings
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ALICE COLTRANE Ptah, the El Daoud Album Cover Ptah, the El Daoud
ALICE COLTRANE
4.84 | 22 ratings
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ERIC DOLPHY 'Out to Lunch!' Album Cover 'Out to Lunch!'
ERIC DOLPHY
4.77 | 39 ratings
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JOHN COLTRANE Giant Steps Album Cover Giant Steps
JOHN COLTRANE
4.77 | 44 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Get Up With It Album Cover Get Up With It
MILES DAVIS
4.81 | 20 ratings
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MILES DAVIS In a Silent Way Album Cover In a Silent Way
MILES DAVIS
4.74 | 78 ratings
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SONNY ROLLINS Saxophone Colossus Album Cover Saxophone Colossus
SONNY ROLLINS
4.81 | 20 ratings
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modern jazz Music Reviews

TED HOWE Pinnacle

Album · 2015 · Progressive Big Band
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Matt
Often when buying current Jazz today one can find quite a few wonderful new releases each month with the majority mainly being small ensembles containing various styles from Bop, Fusion to Avante Garde and vocalists but Big Bands or Jazz Orchestras albeit although there are quite a few out there with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra being the most recognised of today’s current ones, there are not many new release albums that contain them excepting in the Latin scene. Ted Howe is one of those exceptions with a beautifully arranged and played, latest release “Pinnacle” which contains a 13 piece Jazz Orchestra with Ted leading, composing and writing the arrangements with the addition of providing superb piano input on two numbers throughout the album’s duration. This would be Ted’s fourth release as a leader with Summit Records with “Love Song” comprising a trio performing standards being the prior release to “Pinnacle” back in 2007.

One of Ted Howe’s greatest influences is none other than Duke Ellington and Ted actually has his own show he performs on a regular basis around the country,’ An Evening with Duke Ellington” and like The Duke himself he uses a Classical approach to his composing with the main section of “Pinnacle” containing three Movements but like the Duke wrote concerning his Jazz’ “It Don’t Mean A Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing” which is precisely what this album contains with Jazz of a gorgeous high Big Band standard being the result. Yes, it swings with that precision and tightness one can only attain with rehearsal but that is not to say there is a lack of improvision with the solos provided from various band members over all these time signatures and arrangements in the album’s compositions, just perfect. To quote, Ted Howe himself concerning the album’s theme and texture, “These pieces aren’t just about the music; they’re also about the instruments, the varied combinations of sound they make, and how great musicians can rise to just about any challenge and take the music to new and exciting places” and the Orchestra certainly does that, during this release.

The album’s compositions are titled with a Classical terminology with “Presto for Two Trombones” getting things underway with presto being a quite a good reference for the up tempo swing that the orchestra provides during the composition with two trombones soloing during the beginning and end by separate band members. Between this we also have a wonderful bass guitar solo from John Patitucci in amongst all those blazing trumpet segments and trombone solos and it is a wonderful composition and arrangement by Ted Howe. “Impromptu for Trumpet” follows, having a beautiful laid back introduction with Ted’s piano and Lester Walker’s trumpet that has Ted providing an absolute delight with his piano take and solo on the composition’s melody and meanwhile the orchestra stays in the background only coming forth during the number’s highpoints, it is performed beautifully. “Suite #1 For Jazz Orchestra” follows with three movements placed as separate tracks within the album’s content and all based on a four bar motif. “Movement 1” opens with 3 distinct electric guitar chords that are used in a repetitive manner but never over done and they re-occur later throughout the composition which changes tempo almost to a drum march time in places but goes back to the main tempo with the orchestra coming back with a superb full sound and a wonderful kick within the arrangement. “Movement 2” comes in with a slower time with more great guitar work to open and the Orchestra having quite a bit of Classical sound in the compositions opening but John Patitucci quickly changes all that when he appears on bass with the composition gaining quite a nice Brazilian influence in the later part. “Movement 3” is just as wonderful with the trumpet covered by the hat bringing that old time New Orleans feel but that quickly changes within Ted’s arrangement to a much quicker tempo with superb swing from the orchestra. “Adagio For Piano” as the title implies is the album’s ballad with Ted at the helm for a lovely interpretation with superb space on piano in the composition and even when the orchestra is right behind him you still hear every beautiful note even within the compositions intricate points which also has the addition of a sterling laid back trumpet to accompany him. . The more up tempo “Jazz Etude for Three Clarinets” brings the album to a close with a mixture of clarinets used from three of the band members and yes there is still more of that Big Band swing to savour.

Great album, Ted said in his album notes that he had never attempted a to write Suite and after this one let’s hope he has a go at another very soon. Wonderful to get something a little different and I suppose that it is bit sad to say, due to the lack of Big Band recordings released today as they were the corner stone of Jazz once, but Ted seems to trying to remedy the problem with this classy, swingin’ stompin’ and just wonderful Jazz album.

MATANA ROBERTS Matana Roberts & Sam Shalabi & Nicolas Caloia : Feldspar

Album · 2014 · Avant-Garde Jazz
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snobb
American sax player Matana Roberts,who is best known from her "Coin Coin..." albums series, regularly participates in other projects which are obvious less known.Between second and third "Coin Coin" series albums (2013 and 2015),she recorded and released highly experimental album with Montreal musicians - electric guitarist Sam Shalabi and acoustic bassist Nicolas Caloia.

Both Canadians are part of left-field Montreal scene, it's interesting to hear how their aesthetics work (or don't work) in collaboration with American trad music rooted Matana's jazz. Album is titled "Feldspar"(from my University time classic geology studies I still remember that feldspar is very hard mineral of silicate origin,which contains no ore or other valuable elements and Earth's outer crust is composed mostly of it), each album's song is titled by one of minerals name as well.

Seven improvisations present more or less tight interplay between extended ultra acoustic low bass vibrations, processed electric guitars sounds (from almost metal-rock shredding to synth-like soundscapes)and bluesy and tuneful Matana's clear sax soloing over it. At best, all three musicians find quite reflective if not telepathic interplay and demonstrates really effective and attractive form of free but tuneful jazzy improvs. Still often each of them three plays as he's interested in his own music first of all and don't care much about what happens around. In such moments Matana's sax works as cement molding music from components,which trying to run away each to its own direction. Sometimes it sounds even attractive, but more often just destroys music's integrity.

Not of the same league as Coin Coin albums, "Feldspar" has its moments and are bquite interesting release for listeners liking Matana's music. I expect her collaboration with free-improvs artists here (as well as work with different forms of processed sound) influenced Roberts' upcoming third Coin Coin album where differently from her two first Coin Coin releases,she plays solo all instruments with massive use of synths and samples and only accidental use of her main instrument - saxophone.

Matana's new album "Always" is already announced to be released in few months, what will she offer next?

MARK WINGFIELD Proof of Light

Album · 2015 · Classic Fusion
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memowakeman
For the last couple of years I’ve been introduced to the Moonjune Records catalogue, which features amazing musicians & bands from around the world whose music offers high quality in the jazz / rock / experimental scene; music that without a doubt, should expand horizons. One of the latest artists I was introduced to is Mark Wingfield, who in 2014 recorded and released “Proof of Light”, a 9-track album in which Wingfield shares credits with Yaron Stavi on bass, and Asaf Sirkis on drums.

The album opens with “Mars Shaffron”, which shows a nice jazz rock (rockier than jazzier) where guitars put a kind of heavy sound which is complemented by drums and bass. After a minute, the music slows down a bit and now the jazz side is much more evident, Wingfield’s guitar now produces endless different notes, but I can’t say it is a solo, no, it simply gives power to the guitar and let it guide us. I like a lot the use of keyboards as background, and the great bass base during the whole track. All of a sudden, the second song entitled “Restless Mountain” begins. The mood seems to be alike the opener, but in moments it explodes and for a split second becomes heavier and faster, however, it always returns to a mid-tempo rhythm where guitar stands out. In moments, drums also explode and give us entertaining passages.

I am not sure if this might enter into the fusion realm, I would say no, I would describe it more like experimental jazz, maybe avant-garde where guitars are the main act, but are wonderfully complemented by bass, drums and keyboards. Honestly, it took me at least three listens to dig the album and found its pure beauty, which can be perceived in “The Way to Etretat”, a beautiful 7-minute song. It is a melodic tune, quite dreamy in moments, where bass delights us with a solo while drums are constant and in the right place.

The names of Allan Holdsworth or John Abercrombie might come to your head in some moments, I think Wingfield’s guitar sound has some reminiscences of those legendary guitar players, though of course, Mark produces his own and particular style. “A Conversation we Had” is the next track. Let me tell you that the album itself is like “a conversation”, because the style is pretty similar in all the songs, of course there are highs and lows, there are changes, but it has a unique essence; it is like having a 53-minute conversation with Mark Wingfield.

What I cannot deny, is that my enthusiasm towards that conversation was not in the same level during those 53 minutes; there were moments where I felt a bit bored (sorry, I can’t lie) and was expecting a surprise, something really different to light me up. “A Thousand Faces” is the shortest track, here the guitar makes constant soft changes, but in the end, I could not find the thousand faces after all.

On the other hand, “Voltaic” is the longest composition, the most powerful and my favorite of the album. Since the very first second we listen to an explosive sound, heavier tunes, fast moments, dramatic turbulences covered by a sensual jazz atmosphere. After a minute, it slows down, the wind blows and a kind of tense and doubting passage appears. I am not sure if this was an improvisation or a true composition, because the musicians seem to be free, seem to be enjoying their brief craziness. “Summer’s Night Story” has a juicy in moments delicious sound, but I sometimes feel Wingfield and the guys could add more power to the music, which is gentle and soft, but lacks of a persuasive element that make you feel caught and with no exit. I mean, it is not difficult to be distracted by another non-album sound, it is not difficult to skip the song, and it is too difficult to remember it.

Of course, this album and its songs are not memorable song, I think that is not the aim, but I would have loved to find that element that made me think of it as a unique release, as a work or art. “Koromo’s Tale” is a soft piece that starts with bass playing the main role, while drums and guitars produced softer sounds. Despite the bass is what most caught my attention here, it is evident that Wingfiled’s guitar is the official album’s guide. Finally, “Proof of Light” is another great song, one of the two or three I really loved. It is evident that to my likes, I prefer more the faster-heavier-rockier moments, and this last song is one of them.

A very good album, it is something different, nothing to do with the regular jazz album, which is great because it means the artist has something diverse to tell; however, I am not a devoted, and can’t qualify this album as a memorable one.

Enjoy it!

MAL WALDRON Tokyo Reverie

Album · 1970 · Post Bop
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snobb
In early 1970 American pianist,already residing in Europe for some time,on the basis of his released album has been invited to visit Japan (by local Swing Journal company). On his first ever Japanese tour Mal spent two days (February 7 & 12) in studio in Tokyo where recorded some material.

Four songs,recorded by trio with domestic double bassist and drummer were soon after released as "Tokyo Bound" album. Eight compositions,recorded solo, has been released later same year as "Tokyo Reverie". Both albums didn't attract lot of attention but opened for Mal Japanese scene. He returned for next Japanese tour already next year and very soon became well known and popular pianist on Japanese mainstream scene.

When "Tokyo Bound" has been reissued few times including CD edition (in 1990), "Tokyo Reverie"'s first issue became its last. No surprise that even many Waldron fans don't know it exists.

Speaking about music, "Tokyo Reverie" contains eight Waldron originals, mostly all up-tempo rhythmic post-bop pieces, quite unmemorable. The only exception is album's closer "Blood And Guts" which stays in Mal's repertoire for decades ahead.

On "...Reverie" Waldron plays in his almost in full adopted technique of repetitive beats and rhythm domination against virtuosity,complexity and soloing. This his formula as rule perfectly works when used with trio or bigger combo, but for piano solo album (especially on not all that strong material)its limitations are obvious.No surprise this album has bigger value for completionists than for music lovers. One still can find original Japanese vinyl in European auctions at as much price as 30 euro.

Interesting evidence of Waldron's early career in Japan,no any reasons to pay fortune though.

OLIVER LAKE Oliver Lake / William Parker : To Roy

Album · 2015 · Avant-Garde Jazz
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snobb
Sax player Oliver Lake and bassist William Parker are two of a few still active 70s New York lofts' jazz musicians,true living legends. Here on "To Roy" (album dedicated to trumpeter Roy Campbell,passed away in 2014)them two are recorded together in studio for the first time ever. Even if drumless/pianoless duo isn't a conventional format,music presented is really full-bodied and quite accessible.

Both Lake and Parker represent same former lofters wing - their music has been always well structured,post-bop rooted with great balance between composed and improvised.Here on "To Roy" even quite minimalist acoustic bass/sax duo surprisingly offers lot of melodies and memorable tunes. From very first sounds one can hear that characteristic Lake soulful sax soloing and memorable Parker's vertical bass constructions.

As on many other both musicians' most successful recordings main secret is same on this album - they never let listener to stay bored even for a moment. On a composition which flows like well-cooked song with memorable tune right when one doesn't expect any surprises they add free solo,often quite explosive. What starts as free form improvisation still before you will start loosing your attention switches to beautiful sentimental melody with almost straight rhythm. Eleven members originals take 50 minutes - again not too much to become annoying. Nothing strange though - both Lake and Parker are known as masters of making even quirkiest improvisational music attractive.

Not the album for newcomers - better start form every artist's album where they play with larger band, but really great release for those who already know and love their music.

modern jazz movie reviews

WEATHER REPORT Live in Germany 1971

Movie · 2010 · Classic Fusion
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Sean Trane
Well if the world still has to find some live recording from the very first studio all-star line-up (not likely, though), at least we've got now something very close to and we can even see the quintet at work with this just-as-famous version in the form of a German TV show called the Beat Club. With only Airto Moreira gone, replaced by Brazilian countryman Um Romao, the other four being Vitous, Shorter, Mouzon and Zawinul, Weather Report embarked on this TV show adventure not knowing that Alphonse Mouzon would leave the band in a while.

As you'd expect this broadcast consisted mainly of tracks from the debut album, but some are fairly different as WR always made improvisation their force. So you'll recognize 'Umbrellas generic structure, but drafted fairly differently, not just because of Romao's constant change of percussions instruments - he's one of the visual focus of the group, who otherwise remains fairly static and even blows a flute (and later some whistles) for a short while. One of the big difference between the studio album and this broadcast is that Miroslav has taken up the electric bass (his contrabass is still very present but mainly played with a bow), thus allowing even more energy to invade the quintet's shared space. The group's steaming-hot improvised fusion is simply awesome and flows naturally from your speakers like a river of fresh lave spewing out from your volcanic woofers.

Clearly the gravitational centre of the band is Zawinul's Rhodes, but it is clear that it is the group's tightness its main force. Morning Lake is much needed breathing space, starting out slowly with Shorter's sax signalling the dawn for Romao's birdsongs. Just past that Dom pulls an Brazilian berimbau . Drummer Alphonse sings funkilly (rather well, too) a rare sung track in the closing medley, but it's will veer into the Dr Honoris Causa - later on the Body Electric album.

A while later, Mouzon would leave the band and be replaced by drummer Erik Gravatt and this line-up would go on to record Body Electric and the Tokyo concert (released in 77, but part of it in the ISTBE album) and in the process become the definitive line-up of the Vitous- era Weather Report But for now, this German TV broadcast is an inestimable witness of the group's almost original line-up, and is just as essential as their debut album, the Tokyo concert or Body Electric.Too bad it's relatively short, though. Run for this baby...

MEDESKI MARTIN AND WOOD Fly In A Bottle

Movie · 2011 · (Post-70s) Eclectic Fusion
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js
“Fly in a Bottle” is a documentary that follows Medeski, Martin and Wood while they are on tour developing the music that will become “Radiolarians”, as well as some of the recording sessions for that same album. The music on here is excellent, MM&W have a come a long way over the years. They were always a talented band from the start, but their confidence has grown. The funky tunes are funkier than ever, and the psychedelic jazz-rock tunes are more powerful, imaginative and original. Almost any music fan might enjoy watching their concerts and even some of their recording sessions, but a lot of the rest of this DVD is for hardcore fans only.

Along with the footage of MM&W playing music, you also get a lot of footage of them on tour visiting ecological tourist spots and talking, hanging out etc, which is where I think a lot of non-fans will probably start losing interest. They seem like nice sincere guys, but they aren’t particularly entertaining or charismatic, which is often the case with nice sincere guys. There are also some artsy short videos that follow the main feature, some more entertaining than others. Fans of MM&W may want to pick this up, it’s a well-made video and the music is excellent, but non-fans may find this lacking in substance in places.

DIXIE DREGS Live At The Montreaux Jazz Festival

Movie · 2005 · Classic Fusion
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Slartibartfast
This was the Dixie Dregs lineup that I first come to know live and otherwise. The Montreaux Jazz Festival performance was used for side two of the LP Night of the Living Dregs. I had no idea the concert was filmed. This represents the band at their prime. Keyboardist Mark Parrish, would soon be replaced by T Lavitz, who is a better keyboard player, but this as this performance testifies, he was no slouch either. Oddly enough, the back cover of this DVD shows a band picture with the original keyboardist from Freefall, Steve Davidowski (guess there was only room for one Steve in this band). Steve Morse was at his most inspired around this time, even though he has certainly grown in skill over the years.

The set list is a little disappointing as it lacks some of the prime cuts from What If (Night Meets Light, Odyssey, Travel Tunes, What If), but I'm not complaining. Now I have something more than just memories of the many Dregs shows I saw back then. It is more of a forward looking set which includes Attila The Hun, that didn't show up on an album until three years later. Also of note, but of less interest to progressive rock fans, is the bluegrass style ditty, Kathreen, never released on a regular album, but only showed up on their demo album, The Great Spectacular, from 1975. If you have a copy of that album, you have something rare, indeed.

Thrown in for bonus are two live TV appearances, one on American Can'tstand (Bandstand) and one on Don Kirschner's Rock Concert. On the former, you get to see them both try out a vocalist, in an attempt to appeal to a more mainstream audience, and with Mark O'Connor, who only played with them for one album, but a few great live shows before the band disbanded for a few years.

As great as the band studio albums were, the live shows took things to an even higher level. Now you can see what you missed, unless you didn't.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN Abstract Logix Live! / The New Universe Music Festival 2010

Movie · 2011 · Classic Fusion
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js
Abstract Logix’s New Universe Festival of 2010 was probably one of the more significant fusion concerts in recent history, and it is all captured in excellent form on this concert video. Many of the top names in current fusion are here and what a great varied and colorful approach they all bring to this music that will always be associated with its 70s roots. Ranjit Barot fuses fusion with Indian flavors and orchestral music, Human Element bring back the beautiful noise and chaos that has been absent since the early days of jazz-rock, Wayne Krantz takes on the modern NYC flavor with his harsh jarring free funk, Jimmy Herring plays sentimental, sometimes delicate, progressive rock flavored fusion, and of course the great John McLaughlin rounds it all up with high speed post bop mixed with funk and contemporary fusion. Every single performance is top notch and very convincing in letting us know that there is still plenty of life left in this sometimes maligned genre.

The music on here is great, but the video itself is even better. Its amazing how far concert videos have come over the years. This one is clear as a bell and features lots of accurate close-ups of the musicians as they display their virtuoso skills. They say that fusion is a musician’s music, if that is the case, then this video is a great learning tool for the aspiring player. Much of the footage on here goes right to the source and features the musician’s hands as they work their scales and fret boards. Any aspiring fusionist can pick up a lifetime of high speed licks and extended technique by studying this video and even stop-starting it it frame by frame. Long gone are the days of vague camera angles from way far away and pointless shots of musicians grimacing while they play, this video is all about accuracy and showing you exactly how this music goes down. This is a spirited and enthusiastic concert and highly recommended for fans of modern fusion.

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA Live At Montreux 74/84

Movie · 2007 · Classic Fusion
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Slartibartfast
The 1984 appearance of the MO was a lineup that didn't have any of the previous MO lineup of musicians except for John. Still there was a pretty impressive roster. Jonas Hellborg, on bass, steals the show. I suspect he's been rather influenced by Jaco at this point. Also, we also have Bill Evans, fairly fresh out of his stint saxing with Miles Davis. There's also a fine drummer, Danny Gottlieb, who'd played with Pat Metheny prior. Don't know much about Mitchell Forman. With John experimenting with the Synclavier Guitar so much, the keyboards are almost redundant in this ensemble. I had a hard time sitting through this at first. It definitely has that '80's taint, if you know what I mean. But I've warmed up to it. It's a bit like an attempt to return to the magic of the original lineup that doesn't quite get there. Still, if you judge it in the context of the time, it's not too bad.

I got this for one reason and one reason only, it was the two video bits from the Apocalypse lineup of Mahavishu Orchestra. Actually calling them bits isn't quite accurate. Wings of Karma and Hymn to Him are actually decently long pieces. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had some actual orchestra musicians with them there at Montreaux. The first inkling I got that there was some live footage from this MO lineup was a poor quality video of Smile of the Beyond on a certain video clip web site many of us know of. It's very disappointing that we only get two clips from the show with video and the rest are audio only. I'm guessing the rest of the original footage has been lost. One can only hope that it will resurface. The performance is a bit more structured than the more compact MO's could be live, but that's to be expected due to the larger number of musician's involved. Still the core band does get to work in some improvisation, McLaughlin in particular.

This release is all in all a pleasant surprise for 2007, but there's more video out there from the older Mahavishu Orchestras, and I hope to see that material surface soon. It gets a four on the round up.

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