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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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Wynton Marsalis: Marsalis Standard Time, Vol. 1 (1986 - SONY)

The first in a series, in which Marsalis re-investigates the jazz standards that many of his generation have, for one reason or another, rejected. The classic tunes that were part of the "songbooks" of all the great improvisers of the tradition--Charlie Parker, Art Blakey, Clark Terry, Max Roach--are here, and Marsalis and Co. carry on the tradition of making these tunes their own. He wails "Cherokee" while paying tribute to the style and influence of Dizzy Gillespie with a rapid-fire muted sound. "Goodbye" and "New Orleans" look to the sound of early-'60s Miles Davis.
Marcus Roberts is a joy to hear. His piano playing draws influence from Monk and Bill Evans, and he executes his carefully-chosen notes and phrases with perfect, no-excess flair. None of this comes off as imitation, but rather shows contemporary players continuing a great tradition. Marsalis uses this album to focus on, and pay tribute to, the standards and styles that formed the foundations for this superior American art form.
Stanley Crouch.

Track List:
1. Caravan
2. April in Paris
3. Cherokee
4. Goodbye
5. New Orleans
6. Soon All Will Know
7. Foggy Day
8. The Song is You
9. Memories of You
10. In The Afterglow
11. Autumn Leaves
12. Cherokee

Wynton Marsalis (trumpet) 
Marcus Roberts (piano)
Robert Hurst (bass)
Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums)

Recorded at RCA Studio A, New York, New York on May 29 & 30 and September 24 & 25, 1986.
Original Release Date: January 1, 1987  -  Label: Sony

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Christian McBride: Kind of Brown (2009 - Mack Avenue Records)

Bassist/composer Christian McBride is one of the most in-demand sidemen in the music business, having toured and recorded with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Diana Krall and Sting. The Philadelphia-native has also made a name for himself as a daring leader, exploring both acoustic and electronic styles. For Kind of Brown, his premier date for the Detroit-based Mack Avenue Records, McBride introduces his new acoustic jazz quintet Inside Straight, featuring pianist Eric Scott Reed, saxophonist Steve Wilson, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, Jr. and drummer Carl Allen.

The elegant funk of the opening blues, "Brother Mister," allows Reed, Wilson and Wolf to warm up on a down-home groove set up by McBride and Allen. The breezy mood is then interrupted as McBride rips through the intro to Freddie Hubbard's up-tempo swinger, "Theme for Kareem." The ferocious post-bop vibe showcases the quintet's command of the modern jazz language with unrivaled technique.
Lyricism shines through on "Rainbow Wheel" and "Starbeam," two of McBride's more poignant compositions. The gospel vibe of "Used 'Ta Cha" is a spirited good time with fun, blues-based soloing from all, including a punchy bowed turn from McBride. "The Shade of the Cedar Tree," which first appeared on McBride's debut as a leader, Gettin' To It (Verve, 1995), moves elegantly from swing to Latin with soaring solos from Wolf, Wilson and Reed.
Reed's vivacious "Pursuit of Peace" has a straight-forward melody on top of an intricate bass line, creating a contrapuntal effect with plenty of soul. McBride's beautiful waltz tribute to the late pianist James Williams, "Uncle James," features an impressive melodic turn from Wilson on soprano saxophone. "Stick & Move" is a barn-burner of a blues ripe with juicy blowing. The go-for-broke attitude here is a highlight of the session.
McBride closes the disc with bow in hand on the standard "Where Are You?," done as a lovely duet with reed; a quiet close to a disc of utmost sophistication and virtuosity.
John Barron (All About Jazz)

Track List:
1. Brother Mister 04:54 
2. Theme For Kareem 07:52 
3. Rainbow Wheel 06:30 
4. Starbeam 06:38 
5. Used Ta Could 06:35 
6. The Shade Of The Cedar Tree 07:50 
7. Pursuit Of Peace 06:06 
8. Uncle James 05:27 
9. Stick & Move 08:07 
10. Where Are You?  04:19

Christian McBride (bass) 
Carl Allen (drums) 
Steve Wilson (alto sax) 
Eric Scott Reed (piano) 
Warren Wolf, Jr. (vibes)

Original Release Date: June 16, 2009  -  Label: Mack Avenue Records 

Joe Henderson: Page One (1963 - APO)

This 1963 session was Henderson's debut as a leader, and it introduced a strikingly individualistic tenor saxophonist, with a distinctively muscular sound and approach, as well as a talent for finding a personal route through the dominant tenor styles of Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. At the time of the session, Henderson worked regularly in a quintet with the veteran trumpeter Kenny Dorham, and the two enjoyed a special chemistry apparent on several Blue Note recordings under their individual names. One unusual facet is the hard-bop take on the then emerging bossa nova, apparent in the first recording of Dorham's now standard "Blue Bossa," on which Henderson's thoughtful construction is apparent, and the saxophonist's own coiling Latin tune, "Recorda Me." Pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Butch Warren, and drummer Pete LaRoca provide more than solid support for a date that's as often reflective as it is forceful.
Stuart Broomer (Jazz Critic)

1. Blue Bossa 
2. La Mesha 
3. Homestretch 
4. Recorda Me 
5. Jinrikisha 
6. Out Of The Night 

Joe Henderson (Ten Sax)
Kenny Dorham  (Trp)
McCoy Tyner  (Piano)
Butch Warren  (Bass)
Pete La Roca  (Drums)

Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on June 3, 1963. Originally released on Blue Note (84140). Includes liner notes by Kenny Dorham and Bob Blumenthal.
Original Release Date: June 3, 1963  -  Label: APO

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Ravi Coltrane: Blending Times Savoy (2009 - Savoy Jazz)

Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane stands in the legacy of not one, but two great influences: his honored father, John Coltrane, one of the most influential musicians in jazz, and his mother, Alice Coltrane, a superb musician and spiritual guide whose untimely passing in January 17, 2007 left a void that will not be easily filled. Yet with a quiet demeanor contrasted by profound abilities, Ravi Coltrane delivers the long-awaited Blending Times.
This is his fifth release as a leader following 2005's acclaimed In Flux (Savoy). It is even more dynamic due in part not only to Coltrane's personal experiences, but also because of his excellent band that includes longtime members Luis Perdomo, a remarkable pianist, Drew Gress, a demonstrative in-demand bassist, and E.J. Strickland, a gifted drummer who is also the twin brother of saxophonist Marcus Strickland.
Coltrane's tenor is more robust than ever—marked by quickness, stamina, and warmth—showing glimpses of true brilliance on "A Still Life" with inquisitive soloing that has equal amounts of power and gentleness. The appropriate titled "Shine" shows stylistic properties—deliberate, passionate, freely expressed within an enlightening melody where the solos are connected like links in a chain.
The music follows the band's form: a gelatinous continuity conveyed in a mix of stirring contemporary music. Improvisational puzzles ("First Circuit" and "The Last Circuit"), some tricked funk syncopation in "Narcined," a circuitous cat-and-mouse chase in "One Wheeler Will," and swinging bopacity in Thelonious Monk's "Epistrophy." One of the many highlights is "Amalgams," which moves from atmospheric lushness into a smoldering groove. It articulates an identifiable group sound with sparkling individualism that documents a strong performing unit.
As in his previous recordings, there lies a cerebral quality in the music that is undeniable. This reaches an apex on the recording's final track with "For Turiya," a superb ending featuring special guests, longtime friend/bassist Charlie Haden and harpist Brandee Younger.
Written by Haden, the composition begins with a simply beautiful harp solo by Younger which introduces the theme, followed by declarative statements from Haden and Coltrane. It conjures memories of classic recordings that featured both Alice Coltrane's harp and John Coltrane's saxophone with gracefulness and serenity.
Coltrane can't deny his rich heritage and thankfully embraces it. But of equal import, he clearly has it within, to leave his own imprint, as witnessed on this superb release.
Mark F. Turner (All about Jazz)

1. Shine 
2. First Circuit 
3. A Still Life
4. Epistrophy
5. Amalgams 
6. Narcined 
7. One Wheeler Will 
8. The Last Circuit 
9. Before With After 
10. For Turiya 

Ravi Coltrane (Tenor Sax)
Drew Gress (Bass)
Charlie Haden (Acoustic bass)
Luis Perdomo (piano)
Brandee Younger (Harp)
E.J. Strickland  (drums)
Original Release Date: January 13, 2009  -  Label: Savoy Jazz

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Adam Rogers: Allegory (2003 - Criss Cross )

Jazz used to be a form of popular music, and indeed a folk music in its own right, before bebop intellectualized it and hard bop institutionalized it. That was a sad development in a way because the music drifted away from the public and ended up holed up in a tiny "art music" niche. When free jazz hit in the '60s, there was no mistaking that jazz would never really go back.
Guitarist Adam Rogers is committed to making serious music for serious listeners. His debut, Art of the Invisible (Criss Cross, 2002), brought an already active sideman to the full attention of the jazz world, and the new quintet disc Allegory offers music of a similarly high caliber. Rogers is a traditionalist in every sense, whether it be in his playing, his group concept, or his compositions (all originals here), but the state of the jazz tradition is an advanced one indeed at this point. Modern jazz, as a category or just a plain description, works as good as any when it comes to describing Allegory.
Rogers paces his compositions. "Genghis" works through arranged melodic phrases (mostly consisting of his instrument placed carefully alongside Chris Potter's tenor sax), loose reunions (more flexible and open), and explicit soloing (Rogers swinging bumpily along, almost funky but not quite there). He makes a conscious use of different meters: three, four, five, six, and seven are all featured on the record, sometimes in the same piece. The band sticks together through the changes, hiding them away and maintaining forward motion. "Orpheus" goes from six to seven and back, taking advantage of Rogers' switch to nylon to reinforce a pensive mood before the piece shifts to a higher gear.
Other than Rogers, the most forward voices on this record belong to saxophonist Chris Potter and bassist Scott Colley. Potter is responsible for most of the edgy feel when the music turns energetic, and Colley has a way of judiciously placing notes into various situations in order to round out harmonies and anchor the music.
The very same seriousness that gives Allegory its heft ironically subtracts from its effectiveness. Melodies are so focused that they rarely stick in your mind, the various changes in the music are abstract beyond ready comprehension, and the playing is so under control that it never really flies free. (Chris Potter provides just about all of the exceptions.)
I guess Adam Rogers has become too sophisticated for his own good. He's obviously talented in just about every respect, but I just wish he would loosen up and get a little closer to the real roots of the music, a place where regular people can pick up the message without putting on a heavy thinking cap and listening over and over again. Could just be me...
Nils Jacobson  (All About Jazz)

Track List:
1. Confluence
2. Phrygia
3. Was
4. Genghis;
5. Angle of Repose;
6. Orpheus;
7. Red Leaves;
8. Cleveland;
9. Purpose;
10. Angle of Repose -
11. Reprise.

Adam Rogers (guitar)
Chris Potter: (tenor saxophone)
Edward Simon: (piano)
Scott Colley: (bass)
Clarence Penn: (drums)

Original Release Date: September 23, 2003  -  Label: Criss Cross
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Alex Sipiagin: Out of the Circle (2008 - Sunny Side)

Out of the Circle by trumpeter/flugelhornist, Alex "Sasha" Sipiagin, provides modern jazz that is evenly vitalizing and cerebral. The recording's smooth style matches the lush sound of its leader's horns. But this is by no means tepid music, especially with some resourceful charts and stellar contributions from saxophonist Donny McCaslin, trombonist Robin Eubanks, guitarist Adam Rogers, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Antonio Sanchez, among others.
With a number of recordings under the Criss Cross label, Russian-born Sipiagin is a proven leader with a crafted voice that has contributed to the recordings of the Mingus Big Band, Dave Holland Big Band, saxophonist Michael Brecker and others.
Out Of The Circle, is an extension of Sipiagin's ideas of "exploring musical freedoms" on the 2007 Criss Cross recording Prints, with exquisitely detailed arrangements and instruments additions with the inclusion of accordionist Gil Goldstein, keyboardist Henry Hey and percussionist Daniel Sadownick.
Sipiagin's association with bassist Dave Holland is reflected in many of the pieces, which could have easily been penned for a larger ensemble. The flourishing and robust horns on "Wind Dance," open paths to ardent solos, interconnected movements, on the title track and throughout; all evince Sipiagin's effectiveness as a performer and writer.
"Syn" is a fine example of these stylistic approaches. With a beautiful intro acoustic guitar solo by Rogers, it also contains an elaborate, almost chamber-esque horn arrangement, Goldstein's accordion touches, and round of excellent solos, including one from Sadownick. This is creative music at its best.
Another striking chord is found on "Flash," which contains an extended bass solo by Colley, followed by Sipiagin's rich flugelhorn, an animated dialogue between Eubanks' 'bone and McCaslin's tenor sax, and rhythmic accents from Sadownick and Sanchez.
The inclusion of Sipiagin's wife, singer Monday Michiru, on two selections is also consistent with the set; smart lyrics that flow nicely with the instruments. The closing piece "Sketches Of Myself" combines her sensuous vocals in an arrangement that is very hip and thought provoking.
If you've had little exposure to Sipiagin's past music, Out of the Circle is a real discovery. For those who are familiar with his body of work, there's plenty to enjoy on this memorable release.
Mark F. Turner (All About Jazz)

Track List:
1. Wind Dance   
2. Afternoon Dreams(With Monday Michiru)   
3. Echoes Of Thought   
4. Out Of The Circle   
5. Flash   
6. Syn   
7. Sketches Of Myself(With Monday Michiru)

Alex Sipiagin (trumpet, piccolo trumpet, bass trumpet, flugelhorn)
Monday Michiru (vocals)
Adam Rogers (guitar)
Donny McCaslin (flute, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone)
Gil Goldstein (accordion)
Robin Eubanks (trombone)
Henry Hey (keyboards);
Scott Colley (bass guitar)
Antonio Sanchéz (drums);
 Daniel Sadownick (percussion)

Original Release Date: March 4, 2008  -  Label: Sunny Side Records
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Jim Rotondi: Blues for Brother Ray (2009 - Posi-tone)

Veteran trumpeter Jim Rotondi has been a fixture in the New York jazz scene for more than two decades. His clear, bold sound and polished soloing have been on display in such diverse groups as Lionel Hampton's and Bob Mintzer's big bands, as well as the powerhouse sextet, One For All, of which he is a co-founder. His most recent release, Blues for Brother Ray (Posi-Tone) celebrates the work of his early musical mentor and former boss, Ray Charles.
For jazz fans familiar with Rotondi's playing, this album may surprise with its relaxed feel. The name of the game here is simplicity. Tracks such as “One Mont Julep” and “Lonely Avenue” deliver simple blues heads in unison, backed by sparse and repetitive accompaniment. Looking at the track listing, full of songs from Charles' repertoire, this should not be surprising. Rather than viewing this album strictly as a jazz recording, it may best be seen as a jazz instrumental interpretation of soul and blues.
As such, this album is a success. Heads are delivered tastefully, and do not stray far from the feel of the originals with the exception of Rotondi's fiery arrangement of “Georgia On My Mind,” taken at a tempo more akin to that of the fast-paced jazz standard “Sweet Georgia Brown.” The rhythm section offers disciplined accompaniment; Peter Bernstein's guitar and Mike LeDonne's organ never step on each other’s toes, and Joe Farnsworth's drumming has an optimistic bounce.
The simple forms of this album's music might allow for a lot of freedom in soloing, but their straightforwardness also demands restraint when it comes to harmonic experimentation. Navigating this line beautifully is Mike LeDonne, whose organ solos chirp, growl, and scream in exciting waves of inspiration, though never sounding unconvincing in the songs' context. This is especially the case with his solo on “Makin' Whoppee,” a virtuosic romp.
Eric Alexander's saxophone style is best featured on “Cry Me A River,” perhaps because of the agitated modal swing context – his aggressive style sounds a bit impatient on simpler tunes such as “What'd I Say.” Rotondi is solid throughout, his tone full of belly and especially reminiscent of Freddie Hubbard. His soloing unfolds convincingly, blending bebop and blues language into cohesive statements.
A highly accessible album, I would recommend Blues for Brother Ray to jazz fans and casual listeners alike. If you were ever unsatisfied with the role of horns on Charles' own albums, this recording gives you a chance to hear skilled improvisation over some of his charts by five quality instrumentalists.
Jacob Teichroew  (About.com Guide to Jazz)

Track List:
What'd I Say
Baby, It's Cold Outside
Brother Ray
Cry Me A River
One Mint Julep
Makin' Whoopee
Lonely Avenue
Georgia On My Mind

Jim Rotondi  (Trumpet)
Eric Alexander  (Tenor Sax)
Peter Bernstein (Guitar)
Mike LeDonne (Organ)
Joe Farnsworth (Drums)

Original Release Date: March 10, 2009  -  Label: Posi-tone

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Danilo Perez: ...Till Then (2003 - Universal/Verve)

Interpretations of intent—always confounding—become both particularly difficult and intriguing with works of artistic expression as simultaneously precise, pleasurable, and subtly constructed as ...Till Then. Intense musical innovations often stem from the simplest, most confined of experiments, rather than an intellectually driven perspective. The kind of artistic directedness found on ...Till Then often creates a finished product either too forced to be aesthetically satisfying or too aesthetically driven to be convincing. Avoiding both these pitfalls, Danilo Perez has shaped a work of rare tonal consistency that quite astutely maintains a focused intellectual agenda while providing a moving, seamlessly natural experience.
In may ways, Perez's current release is the fulfillment of the experiment begun with the earlier Panamonk, which unabashedly combined Monk's rhythmic and compositional legacy with so-called Latin jazz. By expanding on his previous work, Perez has debunked many preconceptions regarding Latin jazz's possibilities. In fact, Perez's experiment has been so successful as to virtually erase the lines of division previously relegating Latin music to a separate, second class citizen of jazz.
The artist's innovations indicate that jazz and Latin jazz should be seen as one continuum. After all, Spanish, African, Caribbean, and other Latin inflections have existed within the jazz idiom from its earliest origins, and have year after year been tremendously influential on its further development. With pieces such as the steel pan-colored "Gracias a la Vida," the sumptuous ballad "Vera Cruz," and his own "Improvisations in Red," Perez states quite clearly that though Latin elements can be isolated and expanded, they can also be completely integrated into the jazz sphere. Or perhaps the other way around. Jazz elements can be completely integrated into Latin structures.
Such a musical statement would be significant enough, but in many ways this is only the formal background upon which Perez founds this album. If the formal concept indeed relies on synthesis and integration of stylistic elements, then the album as a whole represents a call for integration of a higher order, namely an integration of peoples, governments, and philosophic stances.
How else to explain the all-too timely inclusion of Joni Mitchell's classic protest song, "Fiddle and the Drum," the lyric of which quite dramatically raises concerns about America's international actions and responsibility? Further, the overall sedate, more refined, and lamenting feel of the album suggests contemplation and introspection instead of the more energetic and vibrant material displayed on some of Perez's previous material. This is not, however, the personal lament of an inward turning individual, but the iron-shod lament of emotional, political, and philosophic engagement.
In the end, under the influence of Perez's arrangements and instrumental skill, musicians John Pattituci (bass), Brian Blade (drums), Ben Street (bass), Adam Cruz (drums), Donny McCaslin (soprano saxophone) and Liz Wright (vocals) all contribute excellent performances to the balanced and unusually concise nature of the album. The result is an intriguing, powerfully evocative outing which raises pertinent questions regarding cultural hegemony, isolationism, and the potential of music, in this case quite literally at times, to not only vocalize these concerns, but transcend them.
Franz A. Matzner  (All About Jazz)

Track List
1. Native Soul
2. Gracias a la Vida
3. …Till Then
4. Overjoyed
5. Trocando em Miudos
6. Improvisation on Red
7. Paula C
8. Rabo de Nube
9. Fiddle and the Drum
10. Vera Cruz

Danilo Perez: (Piano,Fender Rhodes Piano)
Lizz Wright: (Vocals) (3,9)
Donny McCaslin: (Soprano Saxophone) (5,10)
Ben Street: (Bass) (1,4,7,8)
John Patitucci: (Bass)
Adam Cruz: (Drums,Steel Drums,Percussion) (1,4,7,8)
Brian Blade: (Drums) (2,3,5,10)

Original Release Date: August 4, 2003  -  Label: Universal/Verve

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Jim Hall - Live! (1975 - Verve)

Jim Hall is our greatest living jazz guitarist, and probably one of our greatest jazz musicians, regardless of instrument, to boot. So why, despite being widely acclaimed by jazz aficionados, is he not exactly a household name? It probably has to do with his innately self-effacing demeanor, both on and off the bandstand. Beginning in the late 50's and continuing on through the 60's, Hall worked as a sideman, albeit one who was often essentially a "co-leader", with Jimmy Giuffre, Paul Desmond, Art Farmer, and Sonny Rollins, among others. Even when he began making records more frequently under his own name, he tended to make quiet, intricate, and lovely music as an equal half of a duet: with Bill Evans, Ron Carter, and others. There are relatively few vintage records featuring Hall soloing at length as a leader of a group.
This is why another excellent reissue in the Verve Lp reproduction series, Jim Hall Live!, is so welcome. The music is taken from a series of 1975 club dates at Bourbon Street in Toronto, and features Hall in a trio with Canadians Don Thompson and Terry Clarke, with whom Desmond also made some great Bourbon Street recordings. The three obviously hit it off famously, and it is a pleasure to hear Hall let it rip on these five standards. The group is swinging and appealingly loose, going for broke so much that they get a little confused at the end of "Scrapple From the Apple" and humorously grasp for an ending to "The Way You Look Tonight".
Although bassist Thompson (who also made the clear and lifelike recording---what did he do, push the faders with his toes?) takes some nice solos (check out the quote of "One Note Samba" in "Angel Eyes"), this is Hall's show, and he doesn't disappoint. He combines beautiful single-note phrases with his trademark chordal runs to weave a tapestry of continual invention on a long "Angel Eyes", caresses the many harmonic possibilities of "'Round Midnight", and boppishly burns his way through "Scrapple". "I Hear a Rhapsody", taken at a sprightly pace, features some excellent counterpoint soloing by Hall and Thompson. Drummer Clarke provides tasteful, but unobtrusive contributions throughout.
For fans of Hall familiar only with his more mannered playing, this freewheeling live date will be a welcome revelation.
Joshua Weiner  (All About Jazz)

Track List:
1 Angel Eyes
2 Round Midnight
3 Scrapple from the Apple
4 The Way You Look Tonight
5 I Hear a Rhapsody

Jim Hall (guitar)
Don Thompson (bass)
Terry Clarke (drums)

Original Release Date: 1975  -  Label: Verve
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Geri Allen: Maroons (1992 - Blue Note)

Geri Allen's star had fully risen by 1992 with the release of this potpourri of tracks reflecting various aspects of her recording career and peeking at the future. Detroit mentor Marcus Belgrave appears on two tracks, while trumpeter and husband Wallace Roney is on the remainder of the ensemble selections -- and he has shed the Miles Davis clone visage, striking his own poses and shadings. There are also several trio or quartet tracks with different drummers and bassists, as Allen revisits older material and adds to her widening repertoire with new compositions, always with the ingenious, virtuosic, and spontaneous style that makes her one of the most interesting players in modern post-McCoy Tyner jazz. A remake of "No More Mr. Nice Guy" (done with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian on In the Year of the Dragon) is rendered a bit faster here with bassist Dwayne Dolphin and drummer Tani Tabbal, but retains its elusive, cryptic quality. There are three versions of "Feed the Fire" as preludes -- one with hand percussionists Tabbal and Pheeroan akLaff; one with them and twin bassists Dwayne Dolphin and Anthony Cox; and a third with Allen, Dolphin, and Tabbal -- and all are very energetic and probing, with drum solos or bop notions inserted. The best trio track is "Bed-Sty" with Dolphin and Tabbal, a steamrolling, head-nodding piece, swimming in the spontaneous improvisations only Allen can conjure on the spot. Of the cuts featuring the emerging personal voice of Roney's trumpet, "Mad Money" is all about the insane drive for the Benjamins, deliberate and clipped in its modal melody, but moving right into Allen's clever solo. "And They Partied" has the contemporary funky M-Base approach with a bit of an inebriated, sauced line from Roney, while the title selection is totally in an underground mood, with the trumpeter evincing voodoo tones but quite unlike Miles Davis. Allen and Belgrave play a jaunty, lyrical duet on the Lawrence Williams composition "Number Four" as a tribute to their Detroit home base, while the two trumpeters join forces for "Dolphy's Dance," an angular, scattered post-bop melody that has future standard written all over it. Because of the variety of groupings, ever-changing and chameleonic through this program, it makes for a remarkable listening session from beginning to end. Dressed in elegant Victorian period clothing in the artwork, Allen seems to suggest that her past is as important as her present -- yet Maroons still exists in modern times, and she refuses to be stuck in old habits while reaching for new vistas, standing solidly on terra firma. This excellent recording is easily recommended to her fans and potential new devotees.

Michael G. Nastos (A Jazz Critic)

Track listing
1. Feed the Fire I
2. No More Mr. Nice Guy
3. And They Partied
4. Number Four
5. Prayer for Peace, A
6. Mad Money
7. Two Brothers
8. Feed the Fire II
9. Dolphy's Dance
10. For John Malachi
11. Laila's House
12. Feed the Fire III
13. Brooklyn Bound "A"
14. Bed-Sty
15. Maroons

Geri Allen (piano) 
Marcus Belgrave (trumpet) 
Wallace Roney (trumpet) 
Anthony Cox, Dwayne Dolphin (bass) 
Pheeroan AkLaff, Tani Tabbal (drums)

Recorded at Sound On Sound, NYC on February 11-14, 1992
Original Release Date: 1992  -  Label: Blue Note Records

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Stefon Harris, Jason Moran, Greg Osby, Mark Shim: New Directions (2000 - Blue Note)

 Another modern mainstream sextet plays standards. Not exactly. It’s true that Greg Osby, Stefon Harris, Mark Shim and Jason Moran are four of the most exciting younger cats to come along in years. And it’s true that they’re playing classic tunes from the modern mainstream vocabulary. But this front line is made up of two saxophones, giving the ensemble a unique sound quite apart from a standard lineup. What’s more, their treatment of these familiar melodies is nothing at all like standard treatment. As evidenced by their individual albums of the past two years, each of these four artists has something new to say.
Besides a few originals, New Directions includes classic compositions by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Sam Rivers, Hank Mobley, Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, and Duke Pearson. The absence of a trumpeter on "The Sidewinder" cries out for a return to the CD collection. Old favorites like that one will be around forever, and the sound of Lee Morgan’s horn will always be close at hand. However, with this session it’s clear that Osby, Harris, Shim and Moran aren’t trying to reproduce the past. Instead, this sextet pushes everything further ahead, stretching the limits in hard bop fashion and recreating familiar standards with a fresh approach. Each of the four has already established himself as a dynamic leader with something new to say. Here, they say it together. Osby and Shim function as front line horns while Harris and Moran color and shade. Harris has the added role of functioning on occasion as a third horn; both he and Moran stretch out when soloing. Highly recommended, New Directions offers fresh, acoustic straight-ahead jazz with a unique delivery.
Jim Santella  (All About Jazz)

Track List:
1. Theme from "Blow-Up" (Hancock)
2. The Sidewinder (Morgan)
3. Ping-Pong (Shorter)
4. Beatrice (Rivers)
5. No Room For Squares (Mobley)
6. Song For My Father (Silver)
7. Tom Thumb (Shorter)
8. Commentary On Electrical Switches (Osby)
9. Big Bertha (Pearson)
10. Recorda Me (Henderson)
11. Song Of The Whispering Banshee (Harris)
12. Twenty Questions [false start] (Osby)
13. Twenty Questions (Osby)

Greg Osby: (alto sax)
Mark Shim: (tenor sax)
Stefon Harris: (vibraphone)
Jason Moran: (piano)
Taurus Mateen: (bass)
Nasheet Waits: drums)

Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on May 10-11, 1999. Produced by Greg Osby and Michael Cuscuna.

Original Release Date: January 25, 2000  -  Label: Blue Note Records

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Toots Thielemans: The Brasil Project Vol. 2 (1993 - Private Music)

This popular set matches the brilliant harmonica player Toots Thielemans with such top Brazilian performers as Ivan Lins, Djavan, Oscar Castro-Neves, Dori Caymmi, Ricardo Silveira, João Bosco, Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento, Caetano Veloso, Luiz Bonfá, Edu Lobo and Eliane Elias, in addition to bassist Brian Bromberg, keyboardist Michael Lang, trumpeter Mark Isham and Dave Grusin. Thielemans is often in a supportive role behind the many soothing Brazilian singers and performers. The atmospheric date surprisingly does not have any Antonio Carlos Jobim songs, instead emphasizing lesser-known tunes (other than Toots' greatest hit "Bluesette"). Easily recommended to fans of Brazilian pop and jazz, this CD was soon followed by a second (and equally rewarding) set featuring many of the same performers.
 Scott Yanow, All Music Guide

Track List
1. Ce
2. Choro Bandido
3. Retrato em Branco e Preto
4. Obsession
5. Travessia
6. Flora
7. Unconditional Love
8. Papel Mache
9. O Futebol
10. Linda (Voce e Linda)
11. One Note Samba
12. Oceano
13. Samba de Orfeu

Lee Ritenour, Oscar Castro Neves, Ricardo Silveira (guitar)
Mark Isham (trumpet)
Cassio Duarte, Bira Hawal, Jose Roberto, Paulinho da Costa (percussion)
Mark Bromberg, Nico Assumpcao, Marc Johnson (bass)
Steve Schaeffer, Teo Lima (drums)
Eliane Elias, Dave Grushin (piano)
John Clark (French Horn)
Gilson Peranzzetta, Mike Lang, Ivan Lins  (keyboards)
Luiz Bonfa, Dori Caymmi, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Joao Bosco, Capinan (violao)
Eugene Friesen (cello)

Original Release Date: 1993  -  Label: Private Music

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Zakir Hussain: Making Music (1987 - ECM)

Zakir Hussain is a poet of the tabla, but as this album makes clear, his interests extend far beyond Indian classical music. He's joined here by an international cast of players, each of whom lends a different influence to the proceedings. While the dynamic remains largely on the low end, preserving the music's meditative quality, there are elements of jazz (Jan Garbarek's liquid sax lines) and folk (John McLaughlin's pastoral acoustic guitar). These more Western influences contrast nicely with Hussain's tablas, which seem to tell a slowly unfolding story to the listener. Famed flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia navigates the middle ground between Garbarek's jazzy explorations and the traditional Indian bent of Hussain. While MAKING MUSIC would fit comfortably alongside the languid, atmospheric jazz that makes up the bulk of ECM's catalogue, Hussain's music is a singular animal--an utterly unique hybrid.
(CD Universe)

Tracks List
1. Making Music
2. Zakir
3. Water Girl
4. Toni
5. Anisa
6. Sunjog
7. You And Me
8. Sabah

Zakir Hussain (vocals, tabla, percussion) 
John McLaughlin (guitar, acoustic guitar)
Hariprasad Chaurasia (flute)
Jan Garbarek (soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone)

Recorded at Rainbow Studio, Oslo, Norway in December 1986 - Label:  ECM

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Kenny Burrell: 75th Birthday Bash Live! (2007 - Blue Note)

It’s not very often someone gets invited to a legendary jazz guitarist’s birthday party. Imagine such an invitation. After all, birthday parties are intimate affairs, everyone lets their guard down, and you leave getting to know the birthday boy pretty darn well. For Kenny Burrell’s 75th Birthday Bash Live!, in stores June 19, Blue Note pressed the record button at Burrell’s 75th birthday party and we’re invited to celebrate Burrell and his distinguished contribution to jazz music.
Listening to Birthday Bash is like going back in time, to the late 1950s and early 1960s to be exact, when jazz guitar had yet to be canonized, its mellow sound experimenting with ways to join the give-and-take of the hard-bop ensemble. Back at the Blue Note studios (recording engineer and wizard Rudy Van Gelder’s home studio), Burrell and fellow jazz guitarist Grant Green were dreaming up the new hard-bop guitar style. Each with his own unique style, they both added razor-knife crispness to the archtop’s mellow sound that, combined with strong rhythmic force and total blues power, allowed them to be part of Blue Note’s glorious 1960s hard-bop recordings. As fate would have it, only Burrell remains alive to help us re-live this very special groove.
This is a fun and exciting birthday celebration, yet thoughtful—the man of honor delights in sharing the great stories about his life and other giants who’ve helped him along the way. Birthday Bash is a three-act party, the first act going way back in time to the days of Duke Ellington and Count Basie. The luscious and wonderful Gerald Wilson Orchestra shows up to help Burrell tell of his warm friendship with Ellington, and the party gets started with Wilson’s latin-feel “Viva Tirado.”
Right away you know it is Burrell’s guitar you’re hearing. His playing is elegant, crisp, modally hip, bluesy, moving, and infectious – purely Burrell. He still has the same energy he had the day after he recorded his signature Midnight Blue record in 1963. The overall balance is just perfect for Burrell to lay down his groove. The orchestra finds the right spot to accentuate his solos, providing a sweet pedestal for the birthday boy to stand on and shine.
Up next is that beloved mistress of Burrell – the blues. To say that Burrell can play the blues is an understatement. You listen to “Stormy Monday/Blues For The Count,” and you understand how every note—no, every fragment of every note—is pure blues. Burrell’s blues playing is serious attention to detail. His expressive licks and use of repetition pull you in and take you along for Burrell’s blues ride. And as a bonus for showing up to the party, you get Burrell’s soulful singing and Wilson’s tip of the hat to Count Basie.
“Romance”, another Wilson composition, gives Burrell some more of the Latin feel he so enjoys. The tune is almost like a big-sound ode to his days playing with conguero Ray Barretto. There’s plenty of merit in the tune, but you can’t help to feel anticipation. It almost sounds like a prelude to the Ellingtonia that’s about to happen.
“Love You Madly” kicks off a trio of Duke Ellington tunes with an exciting swing. Burrell’s guitar and Wilson’s orchestra perfectly balance each other and muster the vision and skill needed to bring the Ellington stories to life. The tune’s outro gets you moving with the type of pulsating force that Ellington’s compositions are able to throw in the air.
“Sophisticated Lady” brings you Burrell’s elegant, imaginative, crisp guitar chord melody. The tune’s rendition is typical Burrell ballad—kick it off with guitar chord melody, let the band come in, then proceed to tell the story with single-line soloing, this time in beautiful interplay with Wilson’s orchestra. “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” is purely elegant and true to the original. Ellington must have been smiling in heaven, watching through the night sky from above, listening to this tribute convinced that Burrell remains his favorite jazz guitarist. All three Ellington tributes are short, yet long enough for the man of honor to share the best of times and get on with the rest of the party.
Birthday Bash’s second act leaves Wilson’s orchestra behind and takes us back to Burrell’s hard-bop days. And, what a shift. The small group begins with Wayne Shorter’s enigmatic “Footprints”. Burrell takes center stage and it is here where you understand his visionary side. He’s able to re-imagine the song’s melody in signature Burrell harmonic sophistication. You can hear in his solo how he mines his imagination for subtlety and color to fill Shorter’s sparse composition. Hat’s off to bassist Roberto Miranda for his great skill and huge tone, which produce a fine solo and bring to life this bass-driven composition.
“Lament”, a J.J. Johnson tune, brings us again Burrell’s precious chord melody style. Not only is his style crisp, but Burrell is able to produce perfect balance and intonation in the guitar’s low register. This superb quality takes his chord melody style to a much higher degree of sophistication and beauty. It opens up sheets of sound that you didn’t know could exist in the melody. And, as if Burrell’s playing wasn’t enough, the man of honor lets a guest take center stage and suddenly we’re enveloped by Hubert Laws’ brilliant flute sound, backed up by Burrell’s imaginative and delicious comping.
Then come stories of the days of Miles Davis and Kind Of Blue. Any bluesman with a taste for Davis holds Kind of Blue’s “All Blues” dear to his heart, and Burrell is no exception. This track showcases Burrell’s strength and prowess as he’s able to bring such an energetic song to life with only himself, a bass and drums. The man of honor is still a workhorse and blessed, at the age of seventy-five, with the fury that it takes to bring Miles Davis to life.
Burrell gets tougher as he tells us a little bit about Dizzy Gillespie in “A Night In Tunisia”. The ball of fire that was Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers adopted “A Night In Tunisia” into the house of hard-bop, and the tune’s driving force gets re-lived in Birthday Bash. This is the highlight of the party, when all guests are present and everybody is everywhere, and Burrell introduces us to some more of his friends. There’s some powerful and swinging sax soloing on the alto by Jeff Clayton and on the tenor by Herman Riley. Joey DeFrancesco takes an exciting organ solo that makes the band members moan and groan. Drummer Clayton Cameron invokes the demonic Mr. Blakey in a drum solo. Everybody, including Burrell, stretches out on this one for some righteous straight-ahead jazz playing.
With the standard ballad “I’ll Close My Eyes”, Burrell definitely reminisces about his days with organist Jimmy Smith. Burrell and Smith came to define the organ/guitar combo sound in jazz, and together covered “I’ll Close My Eyes” in Smith’s Organ Grinder Swing in 1965. At the party, Burrell pairs up with organist DeFrancesco to remind us of Smith’s love for playing ballads. It’s the perfect choice of sound and pure introspective guitar playing. This one makes you think about the greatness that was Jimmy Smith and Kenny Burrell coming together.
And just when you think the party may be nearing its end, up comes the third and final act. It’s short, but compelling—a celebration of what jazz is all about. Apparently Burrell had not considered playing Billy Strayhorn’s revered “Take The ‘A’ Train”, but the audience requested it (“Tell us more stories Kenny! C’mon, tell us what this is all about!”). So, Burrell calls the tune and sings an impromptu salute to all the cats in the band. He does some scat singing, dishes out some solos and lets everybody in on what jazz has meant to Burrell all his life—reverence (aimed at both the young and old), imagination, devotion, swing, and plain ol’ fun.
 Ignacio Gonzalez   (modernguitars.com)

Track List:
1. Viva Tirado
2. Stormy Monday/Blues for the Count
3. Romance
4. Love You Madly
5. Sophisticated Lady
6. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
7. Footprints
8. Lament
9. All Blues
10. A Night in Tunisia
11. I’ll Close My Eyes
12. Take the “A” Train

Kenny Burrell (guitar);
Hubert Laws (flute);
Jeff Clayton (alto saxophone)
Herman Riley (tenor saxophone)
Joey DeFrancesco (organ);
Roberto Miranda (bass instrument)
Clayton Cameron (drums).

Original Release Date: June 19, 2007 - Label: Blue Note Records

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Bill Evans Trio with Symphony Orchestra (1965 - Polygram Records)

This is an unusual Bill Evans recording, as it combines his trio with a “symphony orchestra” playing arrangements by Claus Ogerman of several “classical” themes along with two of Evans’s most haunting originals: “Time Remembered” and “My Bells”. Not that there’s much of a classical feel to the orchestrations: apart from the Vaughan Williams/Shostakovich overtones of Ogerman’s “Elegy”, the orchestral music is more reminiscent of a glossy 1960s/70s film score. There’s some attractive woodwind and french horn, but the large string section might be a bit too lush for some tastes. Fortunately, on most tracks the orchestra confines itself to stating the theme at the opening and in a few places playing a fairly discreet accompanying role, but generally keeping out of the way of Evans’s improvisations. So the main “fusion” interest here lies in what Evans does with the themes in his solos.
One of the minor oddnesses of the album is the way in which, on some tracks, the beginning of Evans’s solo launches into a very different tempo and mood from the one just established in the orchestra’s theme statement. Sometimes – as on Faure’s Pavane - this creates a musically effective contrast; elsewhere – as on “Granados” – it leaves you feeling too sharply aware of the incongruity rather than empathy between the different musical worlds being brought together. Maybe that’s partly why the most satisfying of the “classical” tracks are the Bach Sicilienne and “Blue Interlude” (on Chopin’s C minor Prelude): each solo seems to grow organically out of its theme and both themes inspire Evans to some excellent melodic improvisation. Listen, for example, to the way in which he exploits the “bluesy” aspect of the Chopin as his solo builds to its climax. Evans’s own “My Bells” is another high spot of the album – an attractively nostalgic modal theme tastefully arranged for the orchestra, leading to a gently swinging solo and a rubato restatement of the theme by Evans before a wistful coda.
There’s certainly a lot of absorbing, beautiful playing from the Evans trio here; but the appeal of the album will largely depend on what you think of the orchestra’s part in the proceedings.
Mike George

Track List:
1. Granadas (Enrique Granados)
2. Valse (Johann Sebastian Bach)
3. Prelude (Alexander Scriabin)
4. Time Remembered (Bill Evans)
5. Pavane (Gabriel Fauré)
6. Elegia (Elegy) (Claus Ogerman)
7. My Bells (Evans)
8. Blue Interlude (Frédéric Chopin)

Bill Evans (piano)
 Chuck Israels (bass);
Larry Bunker, Grady Tate (drums)
Claus Ogerman (arranger, conductor)

Recorded September 29, October 18, and December 16, 1965 at Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey - Label: Polygram Records

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Pat Martino: Think Tank (2004 - Blue Note)

It's been nearly twenty years since Pat Martino's comeback from a near-fatal brain aneurysm. In that time he's re-established himself as one of the jazz world's premier guitarists, a technically advanced post bop player who combines forward-thinking musical ideas with native Philly grit; think Pat Metheny with more soul.
Think Tank , as the name suggests, finds Martino at his most cerebral, which has its pros and cons. The title track, for example, is a blues of sorts built on an equation based on the letters of John Coltrane's name, which may sound like an exercise for a composition class, but manages to hold together pretty well organically. Coltrane, a Philadelphia mentor of Martino's, is a recurring reference on the album, both indirectly in Martino's intensely spiritual and intellectual approach to the music, and directly on the funk-based original "Phineas Trane as well as on an extended romp through Coltrane's "Africa.
Martino is backed by a lineup that includes heavyweights on every instrument: Joe Lovano on tenor sax, Gonzalo Rubalcaba on piano, Christian McBride on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. And while many all star lineups fail to live up to their promise, this one mostly comes through. All the musicians have moments of magic, especially Rubalcaba, the Cuban-born virtuoso who seems to have outgrown his youthful habit of simply playing as many notes as he can as quickly as he can. He shows welcome restraint here, especially on the ballad "Sun on My Hands, where he and Martino play off each other with beauty and subtlety. Martino himself is much more subdued than in the past, offering harmonically complex solos that challenge listeners but retain enough recognizable blues and bop roots to be accessible.
If there's any complaint about Think Tank, it's that it lacks some of the flat-out fire of Martino's 2001 Grammy-nominated Live at Yoshi's , a groove-laden organ trio summit with Joey De Francesco and Billy Hart. Martino may overthink things a bit this time around, but it's a serious album from a serious artist and well-worth checking out.
Joel Roberts (All About Jazz)

Track List:
The Phineas Trane
2 Think Tank
3 Dozen Down
4 Sun On My Hands
5 Africa
6 Quatessence
7 Before You Ask
8 Earthlings

Pat Martino (guitar)
Joe Lovano (tenor saxophone)
Gonzalo Rubalcaba (piano)
Christian McBride (bass)
Lewis Nash (drums)

Original Release Date: 2003  -  Label: Blue Note Records
Recorded at the Sony Studios, New York, New York in January 2003. 
THINK TANK was nominated for the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. "Africa" was nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo.

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Charlie Haden: Nocturne (2001 - Umvd)

When Charlie Haden took to the stage of Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art, his face beamed as he scanned what was a full house of enthusiastic fans. Even before playing a note, Haden seemed compelled to mention the inspiration he had taken from many of the art works he had seen while touring the galleries at the museum earlier in the day. Then he went on to extol Cleveland’s virtues, adding that according to album sales figures, his most recent album American Dreams has sold more copies in Cleveland than in such urban centers as New York or Los Angeles.
The occasion of Haden’s appearance in Cleveland (and a rare one at that) was the performance of music from his Grammy Award-winning Nocturne and most of the original players who were involved in that project were on hand, including pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, saxophonist David Sanchez, drummer Ignacio Berroa, and violinist Federico Britos Ruiz.
It seems that with his projects of recent years, Haden seems bent on painting with a softer hue that is often diametrically opposed to the kind of radical avant-garde stance that many associate with Haden during his formative years. The music from Nocturne is no exception, with the folkloric boleros that serve as fodder for Rubalcaba’s arrangements never making it much past your traditional ballad tempo. And therein lies the rub, because as beautiful and delicate as the music was throughout the performance, under the surface was a nagging desire to hear Haden and his cohorts break into an up-tempo romp that would dispel an irksome awareness of similitude.
One had to have just a bit of compassion for Berroa, who had limited opportunities for expressing himself much past the traditional swish-swish sound of his brushes. Sanchez, on the other hand, utilized extreme breath control in voicing his delicate statements, yet there was a burning fire smoldering just below the surface that coaxed from him some of the most radiant moments of the evening. At one point, the saxophonist even quoted a phrase from Wayne Shorter’s “Witch Hunt” as if to suggest that his thought process too was on something just a bit more extroverted. Haden’s solo opportunities were few, but he made the most of what he allowed himself, despite the fact that the decision to go for the minimal amount of amplification meant that his bass lines were often swallowed up by the rest of the ensemble.
Haden has acknowledged that his love of film noire has had a direct impact on his musical statement of the past several years. He’s clearly longing for the beauty and space that comes with the kind of lush balladic pieces that he chooses to explore. So maybe the onus is on all of us to catch up with Haden’s current developments, yet like even with the most enjoyable things in life, too much of a good thing can be a plausible certainty when taken to the extreme.
C. Andrew Hovan (All About Jazz)

Track List:
1. En la Orilla del Mundo (At the End of the World)
2. Noche de Ronda (Night of Wandering)
3. Nocturnal
4. Moonlight (Claro de Luna)
5. Yo sin Ti
6. No Te Empenes Mas (Don't Try Anymore)
7. Transparence
8. El Ciego (The Blind)
9. Nightfall
10. Tres Palabres (Three Words)
11. Contigo en la Distancia (With you in the Distance)/ En Nosotros (In Us)

Charlie Haden (Bass)
Gonzalo Rualcaba (Piano)
Ignacio Berroa (Drums)
Joe Lovano (Tenor Sax) (1,4,7,11)
David Sanchez (Tenor Sax) (6,10)
Pat Metheny (Guitar) (2)
Frederico Britos Ruiz (Violin) (1,5,8)

Original Release Date: April 17, 2001  -  Label: Umvd Labels
"NOCTURNE" won the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album.
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Enrico Pieranunzi: Fellini Jazz (2003 - Camjazz)

The elegance that is Fellini Jazz serves as a tribute to both the great director and this assembly of musicians.
Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi continues to make make dream recordings that are so much more than all-star get togethers. This release follows two stellar sessions, Plays Morricone and Current Conditions (both on CAM Jazz), with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joey Baron.
Think of Fellini and the name that follows is Nino Rota, who composed music for the director’s films and also Coppola’s Godfather series. Rota draws inspiration from all music to form his unique brand of folk music. This band measures out the composer's vision in satisfying portions.
Besides the pianist, the attention-grabbing performances come from trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and saxophonist Chris Potter. Potter a mainstay in Dave Holland’s band, has full command of his horn at the tender age of 31. He tends toward a gentle but large voice, for example covering the ballad “Il Bidone” like fresh syrup over warm pancakes. The two versions of that particular track are done in the form of a ballad and a post-bop workout. Wheeler’s flugelhorn complements Potter with remarkable telepathy. His muted trumpet fills the tango of “La Città Delle Donne” as well as the railroad-patterned version of “La Dolce Vita.”
Pieranunzi finds it almost second nature to be partnered with drummer Paul Motian and bassist Charlie Haden. Motian, who played with Bill Evans, keeps that open, loose rhythm swirling behind Pieranunzi’s Evans-like clean vision. Haden and the pianist close the record with a sentimental duo of a Pieranunzi bitter/sweet original that could be the end piece to a "love found/love lost" movie.
The band keeps the music in the forefront here. They play the circus theme version of “La Dolce Vita” with a straight-face, Pieranunzi ringing in the track by comping around Potter’s soprano flight. The favorite always is the composition “Amarcord.” Played as a blues, it reveals Fellini’s bittersweet cinematic themes.
This is a sensational recording, worthy of its subject matter and its superb cast.
Mark Corroto (All About Jazz)

Enrico Pieranunzi (piano)
Charlie Haden (bass),
Kenny Wheeler (trumpet)
Chris Potter (saxes)
Paul Motian (drums)

Track List:
1. I Vitelloni;
2. Il Bidone,
3. Il Bidone;
4. La Città Delle Donne;
5. Amarcord;
6. Cabiria’s Dream;
7. La Dolce Vita;
8. La Dolce Vita;
9. La Strada;
10. Le Notti Di Cabiria;
11. Fellini’s Waltz.

Original Release Date: November 25, 2003  -  Label: Camjazz

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Steve Kuhn Trio: Mostly Coltrane (2009 - ECM)

Mostly Coltrane is pianist Steve Kuhn's venerable ode to his onetime employer, John Coltrane, with whom he played for eight weeks in early 1960 at New York City's Jazz Gallery. Kuhn revisits those seminal days without ignoring Coltrane's later period advancements, extrapolating his controversial innovations with rare lyricism and tenderness—a uniquely beautiful tribute unencumbered by nostalgic sentimentality.
Mirroring the instrumentation of Coltrane's Classic Quartet, (which featured pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones), Kuhn is joined by his regular associate, bassist David Finck, veteran tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, and in-demand drummer Joey Baron.
Expanding on the Classic Quartet's advancements in modal harmony and rhythmic displacement, Kuhn, Lovano, Finck and Baron balance individual expression with focused group interaction. Digging into these sonorous themes with simmering intensity, they expound on the original Quartet's collective spiritual fervor with restrained dynamics.
One of Coltrane's most elegant compositions, "Welcome" from Kulu Se Mama (Impulse!, 1965), opens the album, followed by an inspired version of "Song of Praise," setting a stately tone for the majority of the session. Kuhn also returns to the standard tunes he played with Coltrane—"Central Park West," "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" and "I Want To Talk About You," highlighting the quartet's congenial rapport and effervescent lyricism.
Surveying the untapped potential of Coltrane's late period, the quartet covers a number of recently discovered tunes. "Configuration" and "Jimmy's Mode" made their premier on Stellar Regions (Impulse!, 1967), posthumously released in 1994, while "Living Space" was recorded in 1965—with the album of the same name unreleased until 1998. Although the majority of this date elicits a serene, ruminative view of Coltrane's legacy, there are moments of unfettered bliss that acknowledge the master's move towards abstraction. "Configuration" is the most visceral—a bristling excursion fraught with Baron's pneumatic salvos, the leader's quicksilver cadences and Lovano's intervallic torrents.
Interestingly, Kuhn shares none of the stylistic traits of Coltrane's primary pianists, sounding unlike Tyner or Alice Coltrane. Kuhn's feathery touch and delicate, dancing filigrees amplify the melodious lyricism at the core of Coltrane's most impassioned work with a harmonic density that maintains crystalline clarity, even in the most frenetic passages. Kuhn's original contributions, "With Gratitude" and "Trance"—introspective solo piano meditations that ebb with timeless beauty—reveal the master's influence without resorting to imitation.
A heartfelt, regal homage to one of the idiom's most celebrated artists, Mostly Coltrane is a superlative tribute album, breathing new life into acknowledged masterworks.
Troy Collins  (All About Jazz)

Track List
1. Welcome
2. Song Of Praise
3. Crescent
4. I Want To Talk About You
5. The Night Has A Thousand Eyes
6. Living Space
7. Central Park West
8. Like Sonny
9. With Gratitude
10. Configuration
11. Jimmy's Mode
12. Spiritual
13. Trance

Steve Kuhn (piano),
Joe Lovano (ten sax, tarogato),
David Finck (bass),
Joey Baron (drums)

Original Release Date: July 7, 2009  -  Label: ECM

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Clark Terry: Color Changes (1960 - Candid Records)

This is one of flügelhornist Clark Terry's finest albums. Terry had complete control over the music and, rather than have the usual jam session, he utilized an octet and arrangements by Yusef Lateef, Budd Johnson, and Al Cohn. The lineup of musicians (C.T., trombonist Jimmy Knepper, Julius Watkins on French horn, Yusef Lateef on tenor, flute, oboe, and English horn, Seldon Powell doubling on tenor and flute, pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Joe Benjamin, and drummer Ed Shaughnessy) lives up to its potential, and the charts make good use of the sounds of these very individual stylists. The material, which consists of originals by Terry, Duke Jordan, Lateef, and Bob Wilber, is both rare and fresh, and the interpretations always swing.
Scott Yanow  (All Music Guide)

Track List:
1 - Blue Waltz
2 - Brother Terry
3 - Flutin' and Fluglin'
4 - No Problem
5 - La Rive Gauche
6 - Nahstye Blues
7 - Chat qui Peche

Clark Terry (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Yusef Lateef (tenor, flute, English horn, oboe)
Jimmy Knepper (trombone)
Julius Watkins (French horn)
Seldon Powell (tenor, flute)
Tommy Flanagan (piano)
Budd Johnson (piano, Nahstye Blues)
Joe Benjamin (bass)
Ed Shaughnessy (drums)

Original Release Date: November 19, 1960  -  Label: Candid Records

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Michael Brecker: Tales from the Hudson (1996 - Grp Records)

In the crowded field of excellent tenor players, Michael Brecker rises to the top of my list. I think the thing that gives Brecker an edge over the others is the fact that he is a master of so many genres of jazz. Many people are no doubt familiar with the electric, funky side of Michael Brecker as the co-leader of the Brecker Brothers and former member of Steps Ahead. He has done significant pop dates with Paul Simon, Carly Simon, and Joni Mitchell. One could easily fill a CD collection with albums on which he has performed as a sideman in many jazz contexts.
Yet this is only his fourth CD as a leader. All of them have been in the modern, progressive, straight-ahead jazz vein. This one is, to my ears, his most successful outing yet. I think the difference is that this one is a little less "progressive" or "outside." The melodies here are a little more accessible and memorable, yet the soloing is just as creative and adventuresome as we have come to expect from Brecker and the other jazz luminaries on this CD. The top-notch team of sidemen here are Pat Metheny on guitar, Jack DeJohnette on drums, Dave Holland on bass, and Joey Calderazzo on piano. Pianist McCoy Tyner and percussionist Don Alias are added on two tunes.
Six of the nine compositions are Brecker's. They are varied, thoughtful, and provide great vehicles for improvisation. Metheny contributes "Bilbao" from his Travels album, Calderazzo contributes a medium tempo swinger, and "Willie T." comes from the late pianist Don Grolnick, who produced Brecker's first two solo albums and performed with Brecker frequently.
I would especially recommend this album to those who have come to jazz through the "new adult comtemporary" door and are ready to take the next step towards discovering what real jazz is all about.
Dave Hughes (All About Jazz)

Track List:
1. Slings and Arrows
2. Midnight Voyage
3. Song for Bilbao
4. Beau Rivage
5. African Skies
6. Introduction to Naked Soul
7. Naked Soul
8. Willie T.
9. Cabin Fever

Michael Brecker (tenor saxophone)
Joey Calderazzo, McCoy Tyner (piano)
Pat Metheny  (guitar)
Dave Holland (bass)
Jack DeJohnette (drums)
Don Alias (percussion)

Original Release Date: September 10, 1996  -  Label: Grp Records
Recorded at the Power Station, New York

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Chris Potter's Underground - Ultrahang (2009 - ArtistShare Records)

With a consistent line-up since the debut of Underground (Sunnyside, 2006)—where, after alternating between guitarists Wayne Krantz and Adam Rogers, the reed man settled on Rogers as the group's full-timer for Follow the Red Line: Live at the Village Vanguard (Sunnyside, 2007)—Chris Potter has not only created his most personal and identifiable music to date, but he's clearly also found the group with which to make it. Potter and Rogers, along with mainstays Craig Taborn (Fender Rhodes) and Nate Smith (drums), work at many levels, and Ultrahang continues to mine similar territory while demonstrating steady growth.
Potter's penchant for shifting meters—despite being couched in curiously grounded visceral grooves less firmly entrenched in a conventional rhythm section's more fixed pulse—remains intact on the down-and-dirty opening title track, though he goes for four-on-the floor with the fierier "Rumples," where the saxophonist and Rogers deliver a knotty, mind-bending theme of near-light speed velocity. Taborn holds down the bottom end—not only by contributing gritty bass lines, but with a disposition towards chordal accompaniment in the instrument's lower register. Smith is the group's unshakable yet empathic anchor—tightly locked in with Taborn while keeping his ears open to the rest of his band mates.
Potter's ascendance as one of his generation's most important saxophonists may be more the result of his outstanding work with trumpeter Dave Douglas and Dave Holland—especially the remarkable chemistry he shares with the bassist's longtime trombonist Robin Eubanks—but he deserves equal, if not more, accolades for his own work. He's one of the few saxophonists alive today who can build lengthy solos that avoid repetition and excess, the one clearly best- suited to carry on Michael Brecker's legacy. Like the late saxophonist, Potter is uncannily versatile—near-chameleonic, in fact—capable of fitting into virtually any context and bringing a focused intent that can be, in turns, frighteningly powerful and painfully lyrical, as he is, respectively, on the intense "Small Wonder" and a tender rework of Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe."
Taborn's career has been defined by breadth and a nearly unparalleled encyclopedic knowledge that, like Potter and Rogers, makes him a perfect fit regardless of context. Soloing with relative economy on a gentle arrangement of Joni Mitchell's balladic "Ladies of the Canyon"—available as a digital bonus track but not on the CD—he morphs easily into the Orient-facing and episodically detailed "Facing East." Rogers demonstrates equal versatility,despite his own albums, including Apparitions (Criss Cross, 2005) and Time and the Infinite (Criss Cross, 2007), leaning more towards modern mainstream. Here he demonstrates his full breadth, ranging from sharp-toned and obliquely effected punctuations beneath Potter's solo on the title track to an equally abstruse but edgy solo on the high octane "Boots" and softer side on "Ladies of the Canyon."
With a group this versatile, there's little Underground can't do. Still, it speaks with a clear voice that incorporates elements of M-Base mathematics, funk, fusion, and folkloric pop references into a unique mélange that, based on the trajectory of Underground, Follow the Red Line and, now, Ultrahang, has nowhere to continue but up.
John Kelman  (All About Jazz)

Track List:
1. Ultrhang
2. Facing East
3. Rumples
4. It Ain’t Me, Babe
5. Time’s Arrow
6. Small Wonder
7. Boots
8. Interstellar Signals

Chris Potter  (Tenor Sax , Bass Clarinet)
Adam Rogers  (Guitar)
Craig Taborn  (FenderRhodes)
Nate Smith  (Drums)

Released on une 1st, 2009  -  ArtistShare Records

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Freddie Hubbard: Here To Stay (Blue Note - 1962)

This album has certainly had a sad history. It was left in the Blue note vaults for fourteen years. Then it was reissued in a double-vinyl set with Hub Cap, a coupling that doesn't reveal either session in the best light.Then a decade later, it finally was released as a single album. And that brings us to the present version, on which occasion the devout Bob Blumenthal seems to say in his liner notes (well, he hedges around the fact) that this is just fine, but he'd might rather listen to other Hubbard Blue Notes. That leaves the impression that perhaps Blue Note was right for keeping this in the vaults for so long.
Here's an attempt to redeem "Here to Stay," perhaps one of Hubbard's finest ever, and surely misunderstood as well as undervalued. The case for this album's value can be built simply. Forget the original track sequence. Begin with Hubbard's cover of "Body and Soul," a completely remarkable ballad performance marked for the maturity of the individual interpretation the young trumpeter (who was 24 years old in 1962) brings. Hubbard is thinking hard—harder than most trumpeters double his age have thought—about the lyrics, holding a lot of passion in reserve while maintaining a determined, probing tone. I think only the classic Coleman Hawkins' original recording outclasses Hubbard's reading.
While Hubbard recorded with drummer Philly Joe Jones on a number of sessions, I think their chemistry was never as intensely pitched as on this session, particularly on the opening "Philly Mignon," written by Hubbard for the fiery drummer. This is one of Philly Joe Jones' supreme moments in the studio, and this CD deserves top-drawer billing for that alone. If you listened to "Body and Soul" first, then skip to "Philly Mignon," where you'll drop the cliche of the young Hubbard as all brassy confidence with brio to the brim, and instead hear a mature musical intelligence at work that is as questioning and questing, as conflicted as Lee Morgan's.Another indication of Hubbard's well-seasoned taste on this session is revealed in using two of Cal Massey's most memorable compositions, "Father and Son" and "Assunta." Listen to the solos by Hubbard and Shorter on "Assunta" and ask yourself if they haven't slipped to a new phase of their growth, apart from Blakey's band at this juncture, that's more darkly introspective.
Norman Weinstein (All About Jazz)

Track List:
1. Philly Mignon
2. Father and Song
3. Body And Soul
4. Nostrans And Fulton
5. Full Moon And Empty Arms
6. Assunta

Freddie Hubbard (trumpet)
Wayne Shorter (tenor sax)
Cedar Walton (piano)
Reggie Workman (bass)
Philly Joe Jones (drums)

Blue Note Records 1962 - Original Release Date: September 12, 2006

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Tim Hagans & Marcus Printup:HubSongs (The Music of Freddie Hubbard) (1998 - Blue Note)

Hubsongs is a tribute to the great Freddie Hubbard by young trumpeters Tim Hagans and Marcus Printup. Produced by Hubbard himself, the album features an all-star cast (including saxopohonist Javon Jackson and pianist Benny Green) turning in an outstanding performance that is a testament to Hubbard's influence. From the blistering "Hub Cap" and "Byrd Like" to the mournful "Lament For Booker," Hubbard's impact in sound, swing and soulfulness is evident in the work of Hagans and Printup. These young lions are more than just note-takers, though. They've taken Hubbard's principles of sound and expanded on them.
The bulk of the material is drawn from Hubbard's hard bop days at BlueNote and his jazz/funk output for the Atlantic label. Vincent Herring (alto), Javon Jackson (tenor), Benny Green (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Kenny Washington (drums) provide the twin trumpeters with "all-star" support. Green is most effective in a duo role with Hagans and Printup while Jackson gets to strut his stuff on "Thermo", a bop classic that dates back to Hubbard's tenure with Art Blakey. Herring is best heard on an intense performance of "Life Flight". The real stars of this date are, of course, Tim and Marcus. I'm betting that Freddie was thrilled by their crackling interplay and inventive improvisations on this terrific "tribute" CD.
John Sharpe (All about Jazz)

Track list:
1. Backlash
2. Happy Times
3. Hub Cap
4. Lament For Booker
5. On the que-Tee
6. Crisis
7. Byrd Like
8. Thermo
9. Up Jumped Spring
10. Life Flight

Tim Hagans (Trumpet)
Marcus Printup (Trumpet)
Vincent Herring  (Alto Sax)
Javon Jackson  (Tenor Sax)
Benny Green (Piano)
Peter Washington (Bass)
Kenny Washington (Drums)

Original Release Date: January 13, 1998  -  Label: Blue Note Records

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

James Carter: Out Of Nowhere (2005 - Halfnote Records)

When James Carter burst onto the scene a dozen years ago, it was akin to the second coming. Not since the 1960s had someone emerged with so potent a combination of astounding advanced and extended techniques, fiery intensity, and unfettered imagination. Clearly well-versed in the mainstream, Carter nevertheless approached it from the left with a rawness informed by artists like Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders. Early recordings found Duke Ellington, Sun Ra, and Mel Tormé comfortably coexisting with his own far-reaching compositions.
They say the light that shines twice as bright burns half as long. Carter's ascendancy continued through the end of the decade, with a series of recordings bridging the chasm between Django Reinhardt and contemporary funk, then he fell relatively silent. He returned in 2003 with Gardenias for Lady Day, a heartfelt tribute to Billie Holiday featuring detailed arrangements that combined his traditional and avant leanings. Last year's Live at Baker's Keyboard Lounge found Carter on a straightforward blowing session, an approach he continues with on Out of Nowhere: Live at the Blue Note.
Live at Baker's was something of an all-star affair, with drop-ins including David Murray and Johnny Griffin. Out of Nowhere is a more focused group effort featuring Carter's trio with organist Gerard Gibbs and drummer Leonard King. Baritone legend Hamiet Bluiett and guitarist James "Blood Ulmer expand the group to a quintet for the second half, but it feels more planned than the impromptu vibe of Live at Baker's.
Those unfamiliar with Carter's larger-than-life unpredictability are eased into it gently. The gently-swinging title track opens, with Carter's robust tenor demonstrating but a fraction of the extended techniques for which he's regarded. The time the band picks up steam for Benny Golson's "Along Came Betty with Carter—this time on soprano—beginning to move farther afield. Combining incredible articulation, timbral breadth, dense sheets of sound, and notes almost beyond hearing range, Carter shows how a mainstream song can be liberally stretched and still swing hard.
Things shift even further when Bluiett and Ulmer take the stage for Ulmer's "Highjack, a modal 2/4 vamp with a rock edge. The piece begins with a powerful solo from King, and Ulmer's angular lines demonstrate why he's long been considered by those in the know as one of jazz's more intrepid guitarists. Bluiett and Carter—both on baritone—create striking waves of such intensity that one wonders how this can possibly fit with the set's more conventional openers. Yet it does, and the rest of it—Bluiett's soulful ballad "Song For Camille, Ulmer's vocal turn on the gritty blues of "Little Red Rooster, and a surprisingly faithful take on the pop hit "I Believe I Can Fly —continues to mix styles yet remain focused.
This recording's sense of adventure and avoidance of the expected makes for an entertaining and eye-opening experience. For those who wonder where Carter's been, the answer is right here. And for those who don't know him—or his illustrious associates—this is as painless an entry into their audacious world as you're apt to find.
Al Campbell  (All Music Guide)

Track List:
1. Out of Nowhere   
2. Along Came Betty
3. Highjack   
4. Song for Camille   
5. Little Red Rooster
6. I Believe I Can Fly

James Carter  (saxophone)
Gerard Gibbs  (organ)
Leonard King  (drums)
James Blood Ulmer  (guitar)
Hamiet Bluiett  (baritone saxophone)
Gerard Gibbs  (organ)
Leonard King  (drums)

Live Recording at Blue Note, NY (May 6th & 7th 2004)
Original Release Date: June 28, 2005  -  Label: Halfnote Records

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Joshua Redman: Timeless Tales "For Changing Times" (1998 - Warner Bros)

Where does the time go? The ‘90s seem to be flying by faster than previous decades. Tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman  just came up a few years back in a media "explosion" that introduced his Warner Bros. albums and provided biographical details about his Berkeley youth years, his Harvard credentials, his Thelonious Monk Institute award, and the differences in style between Josh and his father, saxophonist Dewey Redman. In just three months (already) the younger Redman will turn 30. Far from being born "with a silver spoon in his mouth" the saxophonist has shown creative skills as an expressive communicator through his instrument and as an innovator who will readily pump up the hard-core edge in his performances. The acoustic piano trio on Timeless Tales is a perfect fit and each artist can be heard clearly in support of Redman’s melodies. Redman employs the alto sax on "Yesterdays," "Love For Sale" & "The Times They Are A-Changin’," and soprano sax on "I Had a King" & "Eleanor Rigby."
"Summertime" begins the session, which is somewhat lightweight while remaining within the confines of a creative journey. Redman’s approach to the horn is warm and laid-back, while the trio behind him explores various textures from a subdued vantagepoint. Right from the start, each of the four artists show that they prefer creative interplay and a free flow of ideas. Cole Porter’s "Love For Sale," Jerome Kern’s "Yesterdays," and Irving Berlin’s "How Deep Is the Ocean" certainly come to mind as classic jazz standards, but Redman’s decision to include newer tunes too, proves his point that good music comes from all eras. The haunting melody of Joni Mitchell’s "I Had a King" is presented in a sparse setting with both pianist and saxophonist offering solo spots. Stevie Wonder’s "Visions" is presented with a Latin beat and an expressive ballad charm. The quartet picks up the energy level some on Bob Dylan’s "The Times Are A-Changin’," which has a comfortable rural charm. These tunes tell stories. The tale accompanying "Eleanor Rigby" is a familiar one, and Redman depicts it in a manner, which contains both drama and sweetness. Prince’s "How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore" ends the session in a lovely blues fashion enhanced by the quartet’s overt head-shakin’ finger-poppin’ slap-bass sense of telling a familiar story. Highly recommended.
Jim Santella (All About Jazz)

Track List:
1. Summertime
2. Interlude 1
3. Visions
4. Yesterdays
5. Interlude 2
6. I Had a King
7. The Times They Are A-Changin'
8. Interlude 3
9. It Might as Well Be Spring
10. Interlude 4
11. How Deep Is the Ocean?
12. Interlude 5

Joshua Redman (soprano, alto & tenor saxophones)
Brad Mehldau (piano)
Larry Grenadier (bass)
Brian Blade (drums)

Original Release Date: September 22, 1998  -  Label: Warner Bros / Wea

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