Steve Wyzard

Steve Wyzard
JMA Jazz Reviewer ·
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit 5 days ago

Favorite Jazz Artists

All Reviews/Ratings

773 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
MILT JACKSON - Sunflower Fusion
MILT JACKSON - Olinga Bop
EBERHARD WEBER - Yellow Fields Post Bop
DOUBLE IMAGE - Dawn Post-Fusion Contemporary
GARY BURTON - Passengers (with Eberhard Weber) Hard Bop
CHET BAKER - Peace Post Bop
MIKE NOCK - Ondas Post-Fusion Contemporary
HERBIE HANCOCK - Quartet Post Bop
JOHN ABERCROMBIE - Timeless Fusion
JOHN ABERCROMBIE - Gateway (with Dave Holland & Jack DeJohnette) Fusion
BRANFORD MARSALIS - Eternal Post Bop
DAVE HOLLAND - Emerald Tears Avant-Garde Jazz

See all reviews/ratings

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Post Bop 209 4.23
2 Hard Bop 120 4.30
3 Fusion 116 4.26
4 Post-Fusion Contemporary 105 4.14
5 World Fusion 27 4.19
6 Bop 27 4.02
7 Avant-Garde Jazz 26 4.13
8 Cool Jazz 24 4.23
9 Third Stream 21 4.14
10 Pop/Art Song/Folk 20 4.00
11 Vocal Jazz 13 4.31
12 Soul Jazz 10 4.10
13 Swing 10 4.05
14 21st Century Modern 8 4.25
15 Eclectic Fusion 7 4.43
16 Funk Jazz 6 4.25
17 Nu Jazz 5 4.20
18 Jazz Related Rock 5 4.40
19 Jazz Related Improv/Composition 4 4.13
20 Bossa Nova 3 4.17
21 Blues 2 4.50
22 Latin Jazz 2 3.75
23 Jazz Related Soundtracks 1 3.50
24 Exotica 1 5.00
25 RnB 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

FREDDIE HUBBARD Straight Life

Album · 1971 · Fusion
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SUNSET SHADOWS

Let's address the elephant in the room right away: Freddie Hubbard's Straight Life album will always live in the shadow of its predecessor, Red Clay. There are those of us who believe this comparison is unfair, despite the two very different albums being recorded only 10 months apart. Yet as ground-breaking as the Red Clay album is, it's Straight Life that remains the far more awe-inspiring session of the two, even with its slightly shorter running time.

Straight Life gives us two long jams with an all-star group, and one classic ballad performed as a trio. As soon as you hear Freddie's trade-offs with Jack DeJohnette that open "Straight Life", you will know you're about to hear something special. The first big solo goes to Joe Henderson (tenor sax): a true 4-minute monster that will erase any doubt on whether he belongs among the all-time greats. Then it's Freddie's turn, before Herbie Hancock (banging away on electric piano), George Benson (guitar), and DeJohnette (drums) are given space to strut their stuff before Hubbard returns to wrap it all up. "Mr. Clean" has Hubbard and Henderson playing the main theme in tandem before and between everyone's solo spaces. This track moves and grooves more deliberately than the previous one, and Benson features more prominently. The album closes with a truly beautiful version of "Here's that Rainy Day". Hubbard and Benson duet before being joined by bassist Ron Carter, a truly memorable finish to a truly classic album (with no lost/missing tracks on subsequent re-issues).

So what's not to like? The critical orthodoxy will insist these songs are not compositions, but simply backdrops for soloing (as if that's a bad thing). Occasionally the musical textures (which also include a very busy percussionist, Richie Landrum) can become cluttered, but with all this firepower, why not use it? It was probably strongly suggested to Freddie that he make another Red Clay, but thankfully he didn't, and the jazz world is better for it. Hubbard's future CTI albums would add strings/horns/woodwinds (without Herbie Hancock), and just never be as downright masterful as Straight Life always will be.

KENNY GARRETT Triology

Album · 1995 · Post Bop
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EXHILARATING!

1995 was a banner year for jazz, and Kenny Garrett's Triology album remains one of the most memorable and re-listenable after all these years. His seventh studio album, Triology does without the melodic "oomph" of keyboards, guitar, or another horn. It's just Kenny on the alto, Kiyoshi Kitagawa (7 tracks) and Charnett Moffett (3 tracks) on bass, and the magisterial Brian Blade on drums. Many listeners dismiss sax trio albums as "dry", "tiring", or "too serious", but those adjectives come nowhere near to describing these recordings. There are no weak links and no showing off, nor is there any hint of "hushed reverence". Triology is the work of a true virtuoso who knows who he is, and where he wants to go.

Let's talk about TONE. Garrett's very unique alto may remind one of the soprano sax from time to time, but it never dissipates into that wispy Paul Desmond sound (and I mean that with NO disrespect). There are no solo pieces on Triology, yet only rarely does Garrett take a breather throughout. Give Kenny credit for not starting with something simple: "Delfeayo's Dilemma" is a barnstormer with the "almost soprano" tone front and center. The pace hardly slackens throughout: "Night and Day", "Giant Steps", and "Pressing the Issue" would all fit comfortably on the "snappy-to-fast" spectrum. "Oriental Towaway Zone" (with a formidable Kitagawa solo) and "What is this thing called love?" could both be described as "blistering". After a Brian Blade intro, Garrett spools off line after line over a bass ostinato on "Wayne's Thang" before teasing with not one, but two false endings. The trio does (relatively) slow down for "A Time for Love" and "In Your Own Sweet Way".

When discussing the alto sax, people always want to compare and contrast with players such as Cannonball Adderley, Marion Brown, Lee Konitz, and Art Pepper. And as great as those players are, Kenny Garrett remains his own man, respectfully paying tribute to the past while forging ahead to the future. It was a great temptation to title this review "Honkin'", that wonderful quality which can certainly be found amidst Triology's 57 minute run time, but that would not do this command performance justice. This album never ceases to amaze me and is far less "tiring" than plain and simply "exhilarating"!

RALPH TOWNER My Foolish Heart

Album · 2017 · Post-Fusion Contemporary
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KALEIDOSCOPIC

What could Ralph Towner possibly have to add to his deep catalog after 40+ years with ECM Records? Plenty, it turns out, and while some may grumble about the 40:28 running time, My Foolish Heart is proof positive that his unfettered guitar greatness has not even remotely diminished with age.

Towner's albums (even in the CD age) have never run long, and have rarely included a liner note like this one does. He tells us that the title track (and the Evans/LeFaro/Motian version in particular) had an "immeasurable impact" upon his formation as a musician, and that he "decided to pay a visit" to this "reverent musical space". It's one of the album's true highlights, and the only cover version among the other eleven which are his own compositions.

Long-time listeners will recognize all of the classic Towner trademarks, from the angular, jagged lines of "Pilgrim" to the unbridled vigor of "Rewind". Everything is played with an effortless authority, and the impressionistic "wide-open-spaces-under-a-wild-sky" atmosphere is always present. This is familiar, well-trodden ground, but Towner's intuitive intellect always gives us something original and he continues to turn new pages. The relentless subtlety of "Dolomiti Dance" is this album's stunner, but don't overlook the haunting nostalgia of "I'll Sing For You" or the searching ruminations of the shorter pieces. "Saunter", the longest track at 5:01, begins whimsically, but soon ventures toward probing bent notes and intense slides that are truly awe-inspiring.

Yet another Towner trademark is to be found in the closing flourishes he uses to wrap up his performances, almost as if he's letting the audience know, "we're done now". There's nothing in the kaleidoscopic sound-world of My Foolish Heart to indicate he's anywhere near to being "done". This album can stand head-and-shoulders next to anything else he's ever recorded without any qualifications. The ECM recording is, as always, pristine.

IKE QUEBEC With A Song In My Heart

Album · 1980 · Swing
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BALLADS'N'BLUES

In this album's effusive sleeve notes by Bob Porter, Ike Quebec is called "one of the very best tenor players who ever lived." That might be stretching it just a bit, but it's nice to have With A Song In My Heart to hear what the fuss was all about. Both Jimmy Smith and Grant Green thought highly enough of Ike to have him sit in on two different albums each.

Part of Blue Note's infamous "LT" series, this album was recorded in two sessions less than a year before Ike's untimely death from cancer (age: 44) in 1963. Often compared to Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster, Ike's late night boudoir tone is on full display throughout these recordings. If the listener should notice a lack of cohesiveness, it's because these songs were not meant to be compiled to make an album, but to be released as 45s for the jukeboxes of bars and restaurants. Lightly backed by organ, guitar, bass, and drums, Ike wails his way through six standard ballads. The tempos pick up for "With a Heart in My Song", "All of Me", and "But Not For Me" before returning to the blues phrases he plays so well.

Due to "personal problems", Ike Quebec's recording career can be considered "spotty" at best. In the interest of full disclosure, all nine of the songs on With A Song In My Heart have been compiled with others into a 2-CD set with all of his "jukebox" work. Consider this album to be an effective sampler, despite the darkly lit theatre curtain that serves as its cover.

ROY HARGROVE Roy Hargrove/Christian McBride/Stephen Scott Trio : Parker's Mood

Album · 1995 · Post Bop
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DRUMMERLESS YET TIMELESS

This trio album was first announced to the world in the September 1995 issue of DownBeat, in a cover story with Roy Hargrove and Kenny Garrett. Naturally, it was one of those "young lions of jazz" stories that mentioned Parker's Mood would be released to celebrate Charlie Parker's 75th birthday. While the three performers (Hargrove, trumpet, Christian McBride, bass, and Stephen Scott, piano) would all move on quickly to other projects, and while there is a multitude of Bird tribute albums out there, this one is different and deserves to be heard again and again.

First, look at the track listing. While many people have covered "Yardbird Suite", "Parker's Mood", "Steeplechase", and even "Dewey Square" (I'm thinking of you, Mr. Redman) over the years, these three really dug deep into the Parker catalog for material. Heard any versions of "Laird Baird" recently? How about "Cardboard" or "Bongo Beep"? The opener "Klactoveedsedsteen" is an almost unknown masterpiece of bebop writing that, were there any sensitivity toward such things in the world today, this recording would have restored to rightful prominence. (Of course, the song's title alone has probably scared off most of the potential audience.) For those who want to investigate further, the CD booklet lists the original Parker recordings with dates and record labels.

Then there's the performances. Did I tell you these guys are awe-inspiring? Of the 16 tracks, 10 include the whole trio, including a speedy version of "Marmaduke", a poignant "Laura", a driven "Dexterity", and the Latin swing of "Repetition". The three duets are "Yardbird Suite" for trumpet and piano, "Laird Baird" for piano and bass (McBride's playing is unreal here), and "Chasin' the Bird" for trumpet and bass. And of course, everyone receives a solo spotlight: Hargrove on "Dewey Square", a blistering "Red Cross" by McBride, and Scott's freeish read of "April in Paris". The trio's closing "Star Eyes" will remain in your mind long after it's over.

The players address the challenges associated with playing these songs without a drummer in the liner notes, and the end results exceed everyone's expectations. That's to say nothing about not including an alto sax, but the compositions prove to be durable enough to handle these unique arrangements, which of course is the biggest tribute of all. The total program lasts 64:37, but flies by in seemingly 1/10th of that time. In spite of the seriousness of purpose, a good time was clearly had by all. Parker's Mood is highly recommended to both Bird acolytes as well as those who have not yet heard how powerful and far ahead of their time these compositions are.

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