Steve Wyzard

Steve Wyzard
JMA Jazz Reviewer ·
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit 11 minutes ago

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698 reviews/ratings
MIKE MAINIERI - Wanderlust Pop/Art Song/Folk
MILES DAVIS - In a Silent Way Fusion
RALPH TOWNER - Matchbook (with Gary Burton) Post-Fusion Contemporary | review permalink
JAN GARBAREK - Witchi-Tai-To Post Bop
SONNY ROLLINS - East Broadway Run Down Avant-Garde Jazz
JEAN-LUC PONTY - Enigmatic Ocean Fusion
JEAN-LUC PONTY - Open Mind Fusion
BOBBY HUTCHERSON - Happenings Hard Bop
FREDDIE HUBBARD - Straight Life Post Bop
MILT JACKSON - Sunflower Fusion
EBERHARD WEBER - Yellow Fields Post Bop
DOUBLE IMAGE - Dawn Post-Fusion Contemporary
GARY BURTON - Passengers (with Eberhard Weber) Hard Bop
CHET BAKER - Peace Cool Jazz
MIKE NOCK - Ondas Post-Fusion Contemporary
HERBIE HANCOCK - Quartet Post Bop
JOHN ABERCROMBIE - Timeless Fusion
JOHN ABERCROMBIE - Gateway (with Dave Holland & Jack DeJohnette) Fusion

See all reviews/ratings

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Post Bop 184 4.25
2 Fusion 110 4.26
3 Post-Fusion Contemporary 100 4.15
4 Hard Bop 99 4.30
5 Cool Jazz 30 4.25
6 Avant-Garde Jazz 27 4.06
7 World Fusion 26 4.17
8 Bop 23 4.02
9 Pop/Art Song/Folk 19 4.03
10 Third Stream 19 4.16
11 Vocal Jazz 10 4.40
12 Soul Jazz 9 4.11
13 Swing 7 4.07
14 Jazz Related Rock 5 4.40
15 Eclectic Fusion 5 4.40
16 21st Century Modern 5 4.30
17 Funk Jazz 4 4.25
18 Jazz Related Improv/Composition 4 4.13
19 Nu Jazz 4 4.25
20 Bossa Nova 3 4.17
21 Latin Jazz 2 3.75
22 Jazz Related Soundtracks 1 3.50
23 RnB 1 4.00
24 Exotica 1 5.00

Latest Albums Reviews


Album · 1997 · Post Bop
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Recorded in 1993, mixed in 1994, but not released until 1997, Kenny Wheeler's All the More is nothing short of a quartet masterpiece. Sadly, even many from Kenny's worldwide following have not heard this album, as it only appeared on an obscure Italian label, Soul Note. Not only that, but it was competing in the marketplace with the much higher-profile ECM album, Angel Song, with which it shares a common composition, "Nonetheless". The two albums will not be compared as they are very different, but I really wish All the More had been better marketed and distributed, as it is truly one of Wheeler's best albums over a long and checkered career.

This album's instrumentation (trumpet/piano/bass/drums) should remind many of another well-known Wheeler album. Backed by Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette, 1976's Gnu High first brought Wheeler to international attention in his mid-40's. All the More is a much longer and more fiery album than Gnu High, and Wheeler plays far more trumpet than flugelhorn. Pianist John Taylor and drummer Joe LaBarbera have backed many different performers over the years, but have never sounded as impassioned as they do on this album. I was not familiar with bassist Furio di Castri until hearing this performance, but he more than holds his own and makes a major contribution throughout. The ever-generous Wheeler makes sure everybody receives extensive time in the solo spotlight. There's even room for a Bill Evans tribute, LaBarbera's composition "Kind of Bill".

The multi-faceted work of Kenny Wheeler includes free jazz, avant-garde jazz, and a huge pile of compositions for both big band and much smaller ensembles. His biggest sellers are sometimes dismissed with pejoratives such as "pensively lyrical" or "ethereally haunted". While it's possible to understand where these critics are coming from, none of these adjectives apply to All the More, which is not only one of his best, but also one of the most significant (in spite of its obscurity) jazz albums of the late 1990's. The fact it didn't have the distribution of an ECM album makes it harder to find, but the search will be more than repaid to fans of the players involved. Let it also be known that this album shares a composition ("Mark Time") with Wheeler's other masterpiece, 1984's Double Double You.

TOMASZ STAŃKO Tomasz Stańko Quintet : Dark Eyes

Album · 2009 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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Inevitably, this album will be compared to Stanko's three preceding albums for ECM, Soul of Things (2002), Suspended Night (2004), and Lontano (2006). The Polish quartet has been replaced with a Scandinavian quintet, and while the Stanko trumpet sound remains the same and there are some similar tonal textures, Dark Eyes is also something very different. Most significantly, the addition of electric guitar and electric bass produce a fuller, more modern, even urban soundscape. Where some will recognize a natural progression from the experimental Lontano, surely others will lament the loss of the classic quartet atmosphere. Dark Eyes is a shorter album (61:44) than the quartet albums, and with a variety of moods takes some time to come to grips with. This is definitely not an avant-garde side-street, but it's also not an accessible "start here" recording.

The album begins with the pace-setting, scratchy-toned "So Nice". It's unusual, after the three piano/bass/drums albums, to hear a guitar backing Stanko. Dark Eyes was my introduction to guitarist Jakob Bro, and he plays moodily and unobtrusively throughout. The thunderous drumming of Olavi Louhivuori and the rumbling bass of Anders Christensen are the highlights of "Terminal 7". Many of the songs begin hesitantly, such as "Amsterdam Avenue", "Samba Nova", and "Grand Central", which stops completely before resuming. Pianist Alexi Tuomarila takes his best solos on these three. The album closes with a call-back to 1976's Balladyna album, "Last Song", and the poignant "Etude Baletova No.3".

Special mention must be made of the following stand-outs: "The Dark Eyes of Martha Hirsch" is this album's instant classic, beginning as a dirge before Stanko launches into his wildest solo on the album. Over tolling piano chords and splashing cymbals, Stanko wails and Bro plays an airy solo on "Dirge for Europe". The ethereal "May Sun" does without Stanko entirely: a simple piece for guitar and piano, reminiscent of a Chick Corea "Children's Song".

While risks are taken, Dark Eyes is an overwhelmingly subdued album. The melancholy ECM sound is ever-present and will repay repeated listening. The first two quartet albums notwithstanding, this album sits very securely among the best of the now complete Stanko oeuvre. And lest any doubt be raised, the greatest trumpet with electric guitar albums remain Miles Davis's In a Silent Way (John McLaughlin), and Enrico Rava's The Plot (John Abercrombie).

WAYNE SHORTER Beyound the Sound Barrier

Live album · 2005 · 21st Century Modern
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Recorded between November 2002 and April 2004 before very enthusiastic crowds, Beyond the Sound Barrier can best be described as a collection of tour highlights. I hope that doesn't sound too disparaging, because we are treated to some truly awe-inspiring performances. Yet at 61:17, it seems obvious that Verve Records didn't want to put out a double-disc set of a full concert. Instead, they have given us a "best of" selection without duplicating any titles from the previous live album, Footprints Live (2002).

When you are Wayne Shorter, you don't have to settle for just anybody, or whoever happens to be available when putting together a touring ensemble. If Wayne is on the line, nobody says, "Let me check my schedule." With John Patitucci on bass, Danilo Perez on piano, and Brian Blade on drums, Shorter would have been very hard-pressed to find more qualified players. These are all world-class performers of jaw-dropping virtuosity, and an excellent live mix makes sure every note comes through perfectly. Patitucci in particular shines extra brightly on this album.

So what do we get in a mere 61:17? "As Far as the Eye Can See" and "On Wings of Song" are both faded early in mid-performance. "Beyond the Sound Barrier" is faded in, then faded out. "Tinker Bell" is a brief trio improv with Shorter sitting out. The remaining 4 tracks are all complete performances. Shorter devotes far more time to the soprano sax than the tenor, but we aren't complaining. Don't miss his and Patitucci's amazing solos on "Joy Ryder", or Perez's stunning work on "Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean". The listener is almost tempted to take Blade's drumming for granted, but he never allows us to do just that.

This disc could have accommodated 18 more minutes of music, but for unknown reasons, Verve decided we could do without. That alone prevents this album from a higher ranking, because the actual performances could not be topped. Had I known about the truncated recordings, I would still have bought the album, as I am a huge fan of all the players involved. And while it does leave one to wonder what remains languishing in "the vaults", let us be thankful for what we do have here, especially for those of us who've never seen these guys live.


Album · 1979 · Hard Bop
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Jackie McLean's Consequence album was originally released as part of Blue Note's infamous LT-series 14 years after it was first recorded (December 1965). The liner notes suggest that McLean's more avant-garde albums (Let Freedom Ring/One Step Beyond/Destination Out) rendered sessions such as those that make up Consequence "too straight ahead" in comparison. Yet listening to it today, one can only wonder "what's not to like?" about this intensely visceral recording. Consequence is unequivocally one of McLean's most definitive achievements, to the point where if someone asked me, "Just what is hard bop anyway?", I would simply point them to this record.

What's so memorable about this album? From the start I must insist that all of trumpeter Lee Morgan's fans hear his performance on this record immediately. His blistering first solo on "Bluesanova", his shrieking second solo on the same track, and his solo on "Slumber" are all truly awe-inspiring. Harold Mabern's slam-bang piano work on this album can only be described as "Tyner-esque". Drummer Billy Higgins destroys absolutely everything in sight, and bassist Herbie Lewis deserves to be a little higher in the mix. For ensemble playing, watch out for the furious title track, the trade-offs on "Tolypso", and Morgan and McLean playing the heads together throughout the album, but especially on "Vernestune". Altoist McLean plays his wildest solo on the aforementioned "Vernestune", and don't miss the fiery playing behind the slower tempo of "My Old Flame".

When I first heard this album, I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. While not to be compared to a Coltrane-like intensity, the "oomph" that gives hard bop its name can be heard on every track. Consequence never fails to amaze and lift one's spirits, like all the best albums of this genre. And while "definitive" shouldn't be confused with "greatest", there's no better word to describe the epitomizing performances on this sadly underrated album.


Album · 2020 · Fusion
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For those of us who can never get enough of albums like What Comes After, Odyssey, and Chaser, this album came as a HUGE surprise. For the past 20 years, Terje Rypdal has entirely devoted himself to classical composition and experimental collaborations, as opposed to the fusion performances that saddled him with the sobriquet, "the Jimi Hendrix of Norway". Without warning, we are suddenly graced with a retro/throwback album called Conspiracy.

With Stale Storlokken on keyboards, Endre Hareide Hallre on basses, and Pal Thowsen on drums/percussion, Rypdal's worldwide fan-base can be forgiven for thinking this is an outtakes album from the late-1970s or early-1980s. All of the classic trademarks are here: the soaring, ascending, infinitely-sustained guitar tones, dreamy pre-digital organ textures, busy bass/drums, thunderous dirges, and a general howling, wind-driven sub-Arctic atmosphere.

Composed entirely by Rypdal, he never dominates the material and everybody receives a chance to show their stuff. Three tracks in particular deserve comment. "By His Lonesome" is an ethereal backdrop for a Hallre bass solo: Rypdal doesn't even enter until almost the 2-minute mark. "Baby Beautiful" (the longest track at 8:01) opens with tinkling tuned percussion before Thowsen (who longtime ECM listeners will remember from Arild Andersen's quartet in the 1970s) sets up a rhythmic pattern for the solos to follow. The album closer "Dawn" begins with a very low rumble, as if a huge double bass section is playing in the distance, before dissolving into guitar effects and then vanishing.

Recorded in Oslo in February 2019, the immediate initial reaction to Conspiracy regards its length: 35:04. We've come a long way from the mid-1990s where everybody felt it was obligatory to issue 65-minute albums. Now that the LP has returned to the mainstream, shorter albums are once again back in fashion, but at what cost? Rypdal is now in his 70s: the cynical are likely to dismiss this as just a cash-grab to help with inevitable healthcare costs. Some would suggest this is an exercise in nostalgia, perhaps an aural last-will-and-testament. When there is such a deep, accessible back-catalog (even tribute albums), one might be tempted to say, "Not bad, just not much." Conspiracy neither greatly adds to nor subtracts from Rypdal's recorded legacy, but is rather an excellent quick reminder of just what he did so uniquely well.

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