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JOHN COLTRANE A Love Supreme Album Cover A Love Supreme
JOHN COLTRANE
4.83 | 90 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Kind of Blue Album Cover Kind of Blue
MILES DAVIS
4.81 | 121 ratings
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BILL EVANS (PIANO) Waltz for Debby Album Cover Waltz for Debby
BILL EVANS (PIANO)
4.93 | 13 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
4.78 | 67 ratings
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BILL EVANS (PIANO) Sunday at the Village Vanguard (aka Live At The Village Vanguard) Album Cover Sunday at the Village Vanguard (aka Live At The Village Vanguard)
BILL EVANS (PIANO)
4.87 | 15 ratings
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JOHN COLTRANE Blue Train Album Cover Blue Train
JOHN COLTRANE
4.74 | 56 ratings
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JOHN COLTRANE My Favorite Things Album Cover My Favorite Things
JOHN COLTRANE
4.73 | 48 ratings
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WES MONTGOMERY The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery Album Cover The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery
WES MONTGOMERY
4.88 | 10 ratings
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KEITH JARRETT The Köln Concert Album Cover The Köln Concert
KEITH JARRETT
4.73 | 32 ratings
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ESBJÖRN SVENSSON TRIO (E.S.T.) Live in Hamburg Album Cover Live in Hamburg
ESBJÖRN SVENSSON TRIO (E.S.T.)
4.94 | 7 ratings
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MILES DAVIS 'Round About Midnight (aka Miles Davis) Album Cover 'Round About Midnight (aka Miles Davis)
MILES DAVIS
4.72 | 38 ratings
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HERBIE HANCOCK Empyrean Isles Album Cover Empyrean Isles
HERBIE HANCOCK
4.75 | 24 ratings
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modern jazz Music Reviews

GARY BARTZ Gary Bartz & Maisha : Night Dreamer Direct-To-Disc Sessions

Album · 2020 · Fusion
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snobb
Sax player Gary Bartz was a celebrity of sort half-a-century ago when he played on the forefront of the then young American fusion and post bop scene. Seasoned veteran doesn't record too often but still is active today.

Maisha is a fashionable British African fusion band, playing relaxed and sunny-bright music around burgeoning London scenes. Combination of the two is presented on "Night Dreamer" - vinyl-size long album, recorded in 'popular in 80's' direct-to-disc techniques in Dutch Haarlem (not American Harlem).

Starting from the opener, "Harlem - Haarlem", the listener can enjoy the usual Maisha sound (to be honest, "Maisha feat. Gary Bartz" tag fits much better to this music than tagging it as Gary Bartz's album as leader), just less relaxed, better framed and more energized. Or - Bartz's fusion, made from Maisha's African influenced jazz.

The sound is great, Bartz sounds warm and soulful and the music is positive and comfortable in general, but quite soon one can feel like you are listening to just one long song. Repetitive rhythms with no striking tempo, rhythm or tonal changes make this short album sound a bit like a long live jam without any specific direction. Some short pieces can be accepted as nice examples of modern revitalization of fusion from the early 70s, but unfortunately, in full it doesn't work as well.

Here we have two great artists coming together to sound much like musical wall paper, it isn't what one would expect from such a collaboration.

MIKE SCOTT Collecting Things

Album · 2020 · Soul Jazz
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js
Mike Scott is a 20 year veteran of the Los Angelas music scene and every ten years or so he puts out a CD of original music. His latest, “Collecting Things”, is his third album as a leader and finds him performing an eclectic, but relaxed set of hard bop, blues, Latin jazz and folk rock instrumentals. Scott has that Jim Hall influence that we tend to associate with the west coast, plus a good dose of Wes Montgomery’s blues jazz. In a recent interview, Pat Metheny complained that too many current guitarists sound like himself, well Pat would be happy to know that Scott does not sound like Pat, or any other guitarists with that contemporary soft sound. Instead, Mike’s attack has some welcome bite to it, somewhat like John Schofield, but without a trace of John’s well known clichés. Helping Mike out here we also have the keyboards of Joe Bagg, plus Darek Oles on bass and Jake Reed on drums.

Mike has a background in classical guitar, and his training in expressive finger picking pays off on the opening classically flavored “Sol Minor Prelude”. This is followed by three hard bop/blues tracks with “Jack’s Dilemma” achieving a nirvana like tranquil balance with its very cool space blues vibe reminiscent of “All Blues” and “Killer Joe”. “On a Clear Day” is the one cover on the album and it is given a Latin rhythm which also applies to the next two numbers. Mike concludes the album with a couple soulful rock ballads that have a Curtis Mayfield or Bobby Womack vibe to them.

“Collecting Things” is one of those albums that will probably slip by a lot of people. Mike’s playing is somewhat understated, but he is very musical and repeat listens will surely play to this CD’s advantage. The aforementioned “Jack’s Dilemma” is a great song for showing Mike’s strengths. A simple melodic statement packed with a lot of soul and delivered with perfectly patient timing.

CARLOS SANTANA Love Devotion Surrender (with John McLaughlin)

Album · 1973 · Fusion
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js
Love Devotion and Surrender” is an odd one in the Carlos Santana discography. Released in 1973 when jazz fusion had hit a popularity peak and had enticed rockers like Carlos and Jeff Beck to take part in the genre, this will be one of a few full fusion albums that Carlos will release during this time. Santana is joined on here by the flamboyant John McLaughlin as they pay tribute to both John Coltrane and Sri Chimnoy. The spiritual jazz of Coltrane and Pharoh Sanders is a big influence on here, but so is the macho rockin jazz fusion of the day, making for a sometimes clumsy hybrid.

The album opens with Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”, which is given a huge electric mystical 70s hippie sound that is attractive at first, but as McLaughlin and Santana flail at each other with ill-advised lick trading exercises, the track becomes more of an athletic workout than something more musical. Fortunately this is the only song on which they ‘battle’ each other in this fashion. “Naima” is played acoustically and in very good taste, but their performance doesn’t offer anything new to this often recorded ballad. Side one closes out with “The Life Divine”, on which the two guitarists get to stretch out without the annoying frantic lick trading of the opening cut. Many great drummers are credited on this album, but there is no doubt that it is Billy Cobham on “Life Divine”, his distinctive drum roll makes it obvious.

Side two is taken up mostly with “Let Us Go into the House of the Lord”, possibly the best track on the album and one in which the two guitarists are allowed to stretch out unfettered and finally organist Larry Young is allowed to take a ride. Larry eschews the more rockin style of his band mates and turns in the most interesting solo on the album. Unfortunately, the last part of his solo is almost buried by McLaughlin’s insistent rhythm playing. The album closes with another short ballad featuring McLaughlin’s rather pedestrian piano playing.

The opening of this album promises good things to come with its big open psychedelic sound and spirited energy, but as things develop, many of the solos are not that interesting as they lean heavily on repeating rock riffs delivered with the subtlety of a sledge hammer. All of the performers could have done well to pay attention to Larry Young’s approach as he swells in and out of the mix adding tamboura like colors that blend well with the electric guitars and the multitude of percussion. Very much a product of its time, “Love, Devotion and Surrender” is for those who like the excesses that marked what was both good and bad musically in the 70s.

KENNY WHEELER All the More

Album · 1997 · Post Bop
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Steve Wyzard
OBSCURE MASTERPIECE

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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Steve Wyzard
RISKS ARE TAKEN!

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).

modern jazz movie reviews

WEATHER REPORT Live in Germany 1971

Movie · 2010 · 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 · Eclectic Fusion
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“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 · Fusion
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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 · Fusion
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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 · Fusion
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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.

Artists with Modern Jazz release(s)