What would life be without music? A nullity, no doubt. It would surely be “an error” as Nietzsche said. And what would music be without Jazz? Wouldn’t it be a white page waiting desperately for the interplay of little black mute, but so melodious and expressive, entities to make it meaningful to some lonesome keen ears? Yes, that's Jazz: black and white meet to go beyond sensitiveness to forge out of ivory and brass, with their pain and joy, a world, so tuned to make both hell and paradise jealous. Let there be JAZZ & JAZZ Only.
Hamidou Hamdan

"It's when one is not staring that art works"
Gilbert Sorrentino

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We need to remember to take the time to show gratitude to artists by putting hands in our purses (of course if we can afford such comfort), and willingly treasure the generous intention to buy their recordings.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Woody Shaw: Dark Journey (To My Dear Yussef)

Dark Journey is a 2-CD compilation of some of the best recordings by the great trumpeter Woody Shaw. Tracks are gathered from recordings dating from 1965 to 1987, and most impressive is the breadth of the guest list: Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, Cedar Walton, Kenny Garrett, J. J. Johnson, Joe Henderson, Horace Silver, Larry Young, Elvin Jones, Herbie Hancock, Paul Chambers, and Ron Carter, along with Shavians like Steve Turre and Onaje Allen Gumbs.

Anyone unfamiliar with the astoundingly accomplished trumpet work of Woody Shaw should start with Dark Journey. There are two tracks from what is arguably his best album, The Moontrane. His incisive 1965 album with Joe Henderson, Cassandranite, is represented with three cuts. One track is taken from Woody's sideman gig on Larry Young's legendary Unity, and one from another Blue Note classic, Horace Silver, with the man who was then the Hard Bop New Pop and J. J. Johnson's sharp-as-a-tack trombone. There are five tracks from Woody's later albums, Solid (three) and Imagination (two). These should dispel any doubt that the man's powers were failing near the end — although a skillful choice of material may be compensating for the loss of a step or two.
It seems like a long way from J. J. Johnson to Anthony Braxton, but Shaw sounds at home in all settings. Of course, the most maverick of the guest stars — Abrams and Braxton — play it straighter here than they are usually given credit for doing, dancing with Shaw through an utterly delightful rendering of "Jitterbug Waltz," a tune made famous by one of Shaw's early boosters, Eric Dolphy. "Spiderman Blues," from 1983, show our man in fine form, as does the aching ballad "Imagination" (1987) but in another way. Steve Turre's trombone on "Imagination" is especially noteworthy. Shaw is subdued here but shows some of the old fire on a dark take of Bobby Timmons' loping "Dat Dere," from the same session.
The material from Cassandranite and The Moontrane is the pick of this lot. "Cassandranite" itself and "Sanyas" from The Moontrane are among the best tracks this trumpeter ever recorded, and he recorded a lot of great music. Thanks to Joel Dorn and 32 Jazz, Woody Shaw may finally begin to get some of the recognition he so richly deserves.
All About Jazz

CD 1 (1977 – 87):
1 Jitterbug Waltz (Maltby, Waller)
 2 Spiderman Blues (Shaw)
3 Imagination (Burke, VanHeusen)
4 Solid (Rollins)
5 Dat Dere (Brown, Timmons0
6 Speak Low (Nash, Weill)
7 The Woody Woodpecker Song (Idriss, Tibbles)

Personnel: (CD 1)
Woody Shaw Trumpet
Anthony Braxton Clarinet (1)
Muhal Richard Abrams Piano (1) 
Cecil McBee Bass (1)
Victor Lewis Drums (1)
Cedar Walton Piano (2)
Buster Williams Bass (2)
Victor Jones Drums (2, 4, 6, 7)
Kirk Lightsey Piano (3, 5)
Steve Turre Trombone (3, 5)
Ray Drummond Bass (3, 5)
Carl Allen Drums (3, 5)
Kenny Garrett Sax (Alto) (4, 6)
Kenny Barron Piano (4, 6, 7)
Neil Swainson Bass (4, 6, 7)

CD 2 (1965 – 74):
1 Nutville (Silver)
2 The Moontrane (Shaw)    

3 Tetragon (Henderson)  
4 Baloo Baloo (Johnson)    

5 Cassandranite (Shaw)   

6 Obsequious (Young)  
7 Katrina Ballerina (Shaw)  
8 Sanyas (Turre) 13:05

CD 2: (Personnel)
Woody Shaw Trumpet
J.J. Johnson Trombone (1)
Joe Henderson Sax (Tenor) (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
Horace Silver Piano (1)
Bob Cranshaw Bass (1)
Roger Humphries Drums (1)
Larry Young Organ (2, Piano (5, 6)
Elvin Jones Drums (2)
Herbie Hancock Piano (3, 4)
Paul Chambers Bass (3, 4)
Joe Chambers Drums (3, 4, 5, 6)
Ron Carter Bass (5, 6)
Azar Lawerence Sax (Soprano), Sax (Tenor) (7,8)
Steve Turre Trombone (7, 8)
Onaje Allan Gumbs Piano, Piano (Electric) (7, 8)
Cecil McBee Bass (7,8)
Victor Lewis Drums (7, 8)
Tony Waters Congas (7)
Guilherme Franco Percussion (7)

Released on September 23rd, 1997 - Label: 32. Jazz Records

The Dark Journey  

Didié à mon cher Imad
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sean Jones: Eternal Journey (Mack Avenue - 2004)

Sean Jones makes a splash into the pool of jazz trumpet players with this debut recording. At 25 years old, Jones has a sound that's reminiscent of other modern trumpeters in the vein of Marcus Printup, Nicholas Payton, and Roy Hargrove. A teacher and student pursuing a doctorate at Duquesne University, his musical credits include names such as Jon Faddis, Joe Lovano, and the Gerald Wilson Orchestra.
Though Jones is considerably new on the block, Eternal Journey benefits from a stellar group of musicians which includes Ralph Peterson, Mulgrew Miller, Orrin Evans, and newcomer Tia Fuller, who contributes impressively on saxophone and flute. Veteran Charles Fambrough rounds out the set of musicians with solid bass work.
The eleven compositions include five written by Jones, two by Fuller, and four standards. Jones has a controlled and sparkling sound that is evident on the opening up-tempo piece “Gullyism” with rapid solos. He also performs with poise on the mellow title “Eternal Journey” with the addition of Fuller’s lovely flute work. Things do get interesting on “The Serpent” with its circuitous syncopation and urban-styled flair.
The veterans perform as expected with Peterson’s all encompassing drum work and Miller and Evans shining on piano. On “The Last Minute” the art of hard bop is shown in full effect as everyone glows with intense performances. Jones plays like a veteran and brings to mind another seasoned trumpeter, Terence Blanchard, on the soulful “95 South.” On an interesting interpretation of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Jones completely shines in terms of composition and harmony as he makes his own statement on the classic.
While seasoned listeners may find little new on Eternal Journey , they will be treated to some well executed music and the revelation that Jones is a skilled player with presence and potential.
All About Jazz    

Track List:
1. Gullyism
2. Eternal Journey
3. John
4. The Serpent
5. You Are My Everything
6. God Bless the Child
7. At the Last Minute
8. Searching
9. Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Bruce's Rainbow)
10. 95 South
11. The Very Thought of You

SSean Jones (trumpet)
Tia Fuller  (Alto and sopr sax, flute)
Mulgrew Miller (piano)
Orrin Evans (piano)
Charles Fambrough (bass)
Ralph Peterson (drums)
Released on May 18th, 2004 - Label: Mack Avenue

Eternal  Journey 
Monday, May 14, 2012

Bobby Selvaggio: Modern Times (Arabesque Jazz - 2009)

Alto saxophonist Bobby Selvaggio carries an expressive torch when he fronts this ensemble. His fifth CD as leader brings nine original pieces and a cover of "You've Changed" into the improvisation arena for a program of acoustic modern jazz that ranges from quirky and dynamic to bluesy and frank. His fluid tone and easygoing articulation carry the alto and soprano on a journey that respects tradition while pumping new energy into the scene. Selvaggio leaps with high-octane drive on numerous romps and simmers gently with passion on the session's ballads.
A few expressive squeals and experienced blue tones help the leader to create his message with class. He and trumpeter Sean Jones interpret "More or Less" with an authentic legacy that recalls Cannonball Adderley feeling down home and pretty much at ease. Along with piano, double bass and background drums, the quintet shines enthusiastically in its candor. Walking bass and an economical rhythm make this track stand out as an automatic favorite. The same happens with "Fastfood Wisdom," which provides sparks for Selvaggio's quintet in a flurry of expressive conversation. This unit has plenty to say, and it's all highly creative.
Selvaggio's title track takes a dreamy situation and allows it to ramble with lethargy as a tired soul with moaning interest. Other selections, such as "Out of Time" and "Timbuktu Step," follow a quicker pace that provides spontaneity and refreshing solace. Selvaggio moves randomly through a field where nothing stays the same as he lifts the music and shares it with his fellow artists in a show of rhythmic variety.
Pianists Kenny Werner and Dan Murphy add considerably to the leader's modern jazz session by planting its harmonic foundation and stretching out with creative solo work. Selvaggio enjoys the interplay and smokes alongside their stellar support. Each track contains a new surprise that finds the saxophonist and his musical partners carrying the jazz torch over uncharted territory.
All About Jazz  

1. Quick Solutions
2. Timbuktu Step
3. You've Changed
4. Whirlwind
5. Waiting
6. More or Less
7. Out of Time
8. Fastfood Wisdom
9. Time Being
10. Modern Times

Bobby Selvaggio: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone (4, 5, 10); 
Kenny Werner: piano (3-5, 7, 9, 10); 
Sean Jones: trumpet (1, 2, 6, 8); 
Matt Wigton: bass; 
Nathan Douds: drums; 
Dan Murphy: piano; 
Paul Tynan: flugelhorn.
Recorded on May 26th, 2009 - Label: Arabesque Jazz

Modern Times
Friday, May 11, 2012

Woody Shaw - Night Music (Wounded Bird, 2009)

After decades of being out of print and not issued on CD, the Elektra Musician series of recordings are slowly being trickled back into the marketplace, with Woody Shaw's Night Music being one of his strongest efforts in the latter days of the fiery, iconic trumpeter's brilliant career. A live recording at the Jazz Forum in New York City, Shaw's saxophone-less sextet sports an incredible front line, with trombonist Steve Turre and vibist Bobby Hutcherson assuring sparks will fly. Pianist Mulgrew Miller is the fuse that sets off the dynamism in this ensemble with his modal block chords and witty, inventive piano runs or solos, while Shaw's longstanding rhythm team of bassist Stafford James and drummer Tony Reedus feed the fire in the burning cauldron of this original post-bop jazz band. Two definitive compositions that will live for all of jazz time are included -- Turre's "Orange Crescent" and Miller's "Apex," both representing the absolute finest modern jazz vehicles of this early-'80s time period. A one-note bassline on the former piece, with Hutcherson and Miller's resonant, repeat, modal three chords, set the trumpet and trombone blazing through this marvelous, choppy, and complex, extended line, while "Apex" is a dazzling display of the pianist's formidable gifts as he sets up a beautiful, memorable melody for Shaw and Turre to wax poetically with total energy and playfulness -- exciting music to be sure. Of course these masters can't help but turn out the best in hard bop, as on Shaw's "To Kill a Brick," perhaps a basketball reference, as the group steams ahead with no messing around or after-effects on a brief melody before jamming away, with Reedus as the quintessential pace maker. The lone standard, "All the Things You Are," sounds like a cakewalk in contrast, but instead is a patient and carefully interpreted take of the single most played standard in jazz history, a languid version over 13 minutes that does cool the ensemble's jets in cut time, but allows an unhurried, relaxed tempo to allow solos that linger on the palate of one's aural sensitivities. This reissue is quite welcome for Shaw devotees, a solid live effort that can proudly stand next to his other concert and club date releases from the Muse label, and the Columbia label issue Stepping Stones. In his prime, Woody Shaw was perhaps the most formidable modern jazz trumpeter of his generation, and this recoding offers proof positive.
CD Universe  

01. Orange Crescent
02. To Kill a Brick
03. Apex
04. All the Things You Are

Woody Shaw (trumpet) 
Steve Turre (trombone) 
Mulgrew Miller (piano) 
Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone) 
Tony Reedus (drums)

Recorded at The Jazz Forum, New York, NY on Feb, 25th, 1982
Released on Mar 17th, 2009 - Label: Wounded Bird

Night Music

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Russell Gunn - Young Gunn (32. Jazz - 1995)

Recorded in 1994 when young lion Russell Gunn was a mere 23 years old, the Muse album Young Gunn is a quintet session with tenor saxophonist Sam Newsome, pianist John Hicks, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Cecil Brooks III. This 32 Jazz reissue adds three tracks with a different quintet. Coming from a background that like that of many younger jazz artists, Russell Gunn learned the trumpet in elementary school, enjoyed and benefited from public school instrumental programs, and allowed his musical interests to range far and wide. That he attended the same high school as Miles Davis shows up in Gunn's pretty ballad tone. His experience includes avant-garde work with Oliver Lake, Wynton Marsalis' Blood On The Fields, and Branford Marsalis' Buckshot LeFonque. A more recent recording, Gunn Fu on the High Note label, teams the trumpeter with tenor saxophonist Greg Tardy and flutist Sherman Irby.
The ballads "You Don't Know What Love Is," "There Is No Greater Love," and "Fly Me to the Moon" present straight-ahead mainstream jazz and feature Gunn's lyrical trumpet. "Pannonica," presented as a trumpet-piano duet, offers yet another opportunity to appreciate Gunn's sensitive trumpet tone and manner. The leader's compositions "East St. Louis" and "The Message" represent hard bop ideas with "outside" or avant-garde stretches. The quintet is tight and burns accordingly. "The Concept" invites guest rap artist Chef Word to relate the biographical tale of Russell Gunn's change in focus from everyone's music to jazz. The syncopated hip-hop lyrics include:
"Son of a gun.Old socks, new shoes,Feels kinda like the bluesWith the fat groove.Runnin' the bustos, crush fo's,Chef Word and Russ-o, go with all the gusto.He used to be your MC before we ever played a keister,Got the love as he evolved musically.Straight-ahead, see, as we swing."
Branford Marsalis replaces Sam Newsome on the final three tracks. Recorded in 1995, the additional pieces employ a different piano trio as well, but Gunn is in fine form. He and Marsalis present a fiery hard bop take of Jimmy Heath's "Ginger Bread Boy" that includes solos from all. Recommended.
All About Jazz
1. East St. Louis 
2. Fly Me to the Moon 
3. Wade in the Water 
4. D.J. 
5. You Don't Know What Love Is 
6. The Concept 
7. The Message 
8. There Is No Greater Love 
9. Blue Gene 
10. Pannonica 

Russell Gunn: trumpet 
Sam Newsome, Branford Marsalis: Ten Sax 
John Hicks, James Hurt: Piano 
Peter Washington, Eric Revis: Bass 
Cecil Brooks III, Ali Jackson: Drums 
Chef Word (Derek Washington): rap on "The Concept."
Released on July 14th, 1998 - Label: 32. Jazz Records

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Woody Shaw With Tone Jansa Quartet

Sean Jones: Eternal Journey

Bobby Selvaggio: Modern Times

Woody Shaw: Night Music

Russell Gun: Young Gun