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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Monday, May 31, 2010

Ralph Bowen - Soul Proprietor (2002 - Criss Cross)

As revolutionary as the compact disc has been to the music industry, sometimes you really can have too much of a good thing. More specifically, I can’t help but echo what producer Michael Cuscuna once told me about new releases. He bemoaned the fact that many of today’s discs are just too long, wearing out their welcome way before concluding their run, and I can’t help but admit that after about 50 minutes or so my attention starts to wander. So what does all this have to do with saxophonist Ralph Bowen’s most recent Criss Cross session as a leader? Well, at just about 70 minutes in duration, Soul Proprietor is definitely on the long side, but it holds up extremely well thanks to a great program of standards and originals and a cohesive ensemble that locks in tight for the duration.
Bowen first came to the fore as a member of the hard bop unit Out Of the Blue in the ‘80s. Since then the saxophonist has kept a low profile, active mainly as a college educator, yet his stature as a mature soloist has not diminished. Although he had previously recorded a set for Criss Cross many years ago, Soul Proprietor is a return to form and it features an outstanding rhythm section with organist Sam Yahel, guitarist Peter Bernstein, and drummer Brian Blade. As an added bonus, trumpeter John Swana fills out the front line on several tracks giving things an updated groove in the lineage of Larry Young’s Unity.
Bowen’s husky tone brings on “Invitation” with confidence, Swana quickly falling into the mix with his own distinctive voice. Things unfold in a relaxed manner, Bowen preferring to use space rather than cramming every beat with rapid flurries of notes. Peter Bernstein opens the title track and sings the melody in uncluttered fashion before stepping aside for Bowen to launch his initial gambit. “My Ideal” and “Peace” are spots where Bowen really gets to shine, the former a ballad feature and the latter a solo tour-de-force chock full of harmonics and over blowing. “Spikes” emerges as a cleverly disguised line built on Rhythm changes and at one point Swana and Bowen go at it without any accompaniment, their intertwined lines uniting in stimulating counterpoint. With a section in the odd meter of 7/2, Bowen’s “Meltdown” tackles Coltrane’s changes from “Countdown” but in a sage new way that offers a real challenge to all.
Of course, Yahel and Blade have worked together regularly, most recently as members of Josh Redman’s current trio, while the two joined forces with Bernstein on Yahel’s Criss Cross debut. Thankfully, Bowen and Swana have harnessed the power of this trio and the whole proves to be even greater than the sum of the individually gifted parts.
C. Andrew Hovan (All About Jazz)

Track List:
1- Invitation
2- Soul Proprietor
3- My Ideal
4- Spikes
5- Under a Cloud
6- The First Stone
7- Inner Urge
8- Meltdown
9- Peace 

Ralph Bowen (tenor sax)
John Swana (trumpet)
Peter Bernstein (guitar)
Sam Yahel (organ)
Brian Blade (drums)

Original Release Date: March 12, 2002 - Label: Criss Cross

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Orrin Evans - Faith In Action (2010 - Posi-Tone Records)

Faith In Action is Orrin Evans' first album on Posi-Tone Records and serves to further enhance the reputation of this New York-based pianist. The album is, in part, a tribute to and interpretation of the music of his friend and mentor, saxophonist Bobby Watson, who contributes five of the twelve tunes. It's a fine tribute, indeed, and demonstrates Evans' own talents as a player and interpreter.
Evans' own compositions have immediate impact—especially the opening "Don't Call Me Wally," which is driven not only by Evans' hard-hitting piano but by some fine rhythm work from drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Luques Curtis. "MAT-Matt" is complex and changeable, regularly shifting rhythmically and stylistically. In its opening section the band plays freely, before Evans shifts to a repetitive, percussive, style. Before long, the trio enters a hard bop section via a short burst of swinging lyricism, until Waits' brief solo drum part takes the tune into a slow and reflective ending. The more playful "Two Steppin With Dawn" features drummer Gene Jackson, with Evans returning to a hard-hitting and percussive style. Jackson suits this number admirably, hitting just the right groove to maintain the tune's dynamism.
Watson's compositions have the greatest emotional impact, however. "Faith In Action" is a gorgeous tune which Evans interprets with skill and empathy. On "Beattitudes," Evans performs solo on another beautiful tune, once again finding an emotional connection that is clearly expressed in his playing. Best of all is "Love Remains," with Waits and Curtis once again outstanding, while Evans is at his most delicate and affecting.
Faith In Action succeeds as a tribute to Bobby Watson, but it also succeeds as a demonstration of Evans' talents, and as an enjoyable, creative recording by musicians at the top of their game.
 (All About Jazz)
Track List:
1 Don't Call Me Wally Evans 
2 Faith in Action Watson 
3 Wheel Within a Wheel Watson 
4 Appointment in Milano Watson 
5 Matthews Song Evans 
6 Beattitudes Watson 
7 MAT-Matt Evans 
8 Love Remains Watson 
9 Two Steppin with Dawn Evans 
10 Why Not

Orrin Evans (piano)
Luques Curtis (bass)
Nasheet Waits (drums)
Rocky Bryant (drums) (3)
Gene Jackson (drums) (5,9)

Recorded May 26, 2009 at Acoustic Recording Brooklyn, NY - 2010 - Label: Posi-Tone Records PR8058

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Peter Bernstein - Monk (2009 - Xanadu)

Thelonious Monk’s music presents a challenge for any jazz musician, but the going can be especially rough on guitarists. The songs are often physically scaled for the piano: those sharp intervals and tangled clusters don’t fall as naturally on a fretboard. So Peter Bernstein faces a basic hurdle with “Monk” (Xanadu/The Orchard), his vigorous new album. To his credit, the translation goes almost unnoticed. What sticks out instead is his soulful affinity to the material and the dapper chatter of his partners, Doug Weiss on bass and Bill Stewart on drums. On much of the album the trio delivers on a promise of buoyancy, swinging as hard as the music demands. Elsewhere, on ballads like “Monk’s Mood” and “Reflections,” Mr. Bernstein plays alone, exploring a host of harmonic microvariations. And any listener still awarding degree-of-difficulty points can look to “Work” and “Brilliant Corners,” which arrive in sequence, like a couple of speed bumps.
The New York Times

Track List:
1 Let's Cool One Monk
2 Pannonica Monk
3 Work Monk
4 Brilliant Corners Monk
5 In Walked Bud Monk
6 Monk's Mood Monk
7 Well You Needn't Monk
8 Bemsha Swing Monk
9 Played Twice Monk
10 Ruby, My Dear Monk
11 Blues 5 Spot Monk
12 Reflections Monk

Peter Bernstein: (guitar)
Doug Weiss: (bass)
Bill Stewart: (drums)
Original Release Date: December 2, 2008 - Label: Xanadu

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Wycliffe Gordon - DigThis!! (2003 - Criss Cross)

Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon was the most adventurous musician to spin off from Wynton Marsalis' orbit. Since his tenure with Marsalis, Gordon collaborated with everyone from revivalists in the Sidney Bechet Project to progressive composer Ted Nash and Randy Sandke's Inside Outside project, which brings together practitioners from the musical extremes. He's been more restricted in his own solo dates but has shown he's willing to reach beyond the confines of traditional hard bop. Dig This!! finds him employing the fashionable textures provided by the Hammond organ. True to form though, Gordon refuses to get locked into the funk clichés of the organ combo sound. Rather with its wide-open swing feel Dig This!! comes off more as a contemporary version of swing trombonist Vic Dickenson's 1952 quartet dates with Bill Doggett. Certainly "Limehouse Blues" fits the mold, albeit updated. And Gordon's unaccompanied playing on "Blues Etude #2" and elsewhere shows him a fitting successor to Dickenson's rubbery expressionism. Gordon has surrounded himself with a fine band. Organist Sam Yahel and guitarist Peter Bernstein each reveal a debt to their swing precursors while saxophonist Seamus Blake plays in a hard-driving contemporary manner. All of them swing, and regardless the context Gordon puts himself in, that's a constant.
(All Music Guide)

Track List:
1. Dig This!!5:59
2. Mahajual7:54
3. Old Man Blooz, Take 28:17
4. Limehouse Blues7:21
5. The Beautiful Souls4:16
6. Jookin' the Blooz5:03
7. Lonnie's Lament7:28
8. I Can't Get Started5:19
9. Cone's Tune5:18
10. Blues Etude #22:48
11. Old Man Blooz, Take 1
Wycliffe Gordon  (Trombone)
Peter Bernstein (Guitar)
Seamus Blake: (Tenor Sax)
Sam Yahel  (Organ Hammond)
Bill Stewart (Drums)
Original Release Date: September 23, 2003 - Label: Criss Cross

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Edward Simon - Unicity (2006 - Cam Jazz)

Pianist Edward Simon has been quietly but profoundly making an impact for a number of years. He's been an astute sideman with high-caliber players like trumpeter Terence Blanchard, saxophonist Greg Osby and guitarist Adam Rogers, but it is his own works—The Process (Criss Cross, 2003) and Simplicitas (Criss Cross, 2005)—that truly reveal his performance and compositional prowess.
Edwards explores the mystic of the piano trio again on Unicity, joined by two other outstanding musicians: bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade, both of whom are a vital part of the recent award-winning Wayne Shorter Quartet. Having played together on Patitucci's 2003 Songs, Stories, and Spirituals, their chemistry is still intact.The underlying tone here is one of smooth and controlled power brought about by musicians who have a connected as a unit. Brian Blade is a drummer with a delicate sense of timing and detailed but never overpowering trap work. Patitucci, an awesome bassist, has never sounded better, with full-bodied rhythms, elaborate solos and a variety of textures. Simon, whose influences include pianists Chucho Valdes and Egberto Gismonti, plays with sophistication and classical training, reflecting his Venezuelan upbringing, combining lyricism and structure with jazz improvisation.One of Simon's strengths is his ability to absorb and extract styles, be it the post bop of "The Messenger or the romanticism of the too-brief "Abiding Unicity, with gorgeous lines and dramatic changes. The remainder of the set continues with an eclectic mix, including "Evolution, where Patitucci employs the use of an electric arco bass, and "Eastern, where Simon improvises over a simple theme colored by Blade's shimmering percussion.
(All About Jazz)

Track list:
1 Invocation Simon 0:54
2 The Messanger Patitucci 7:16
3 Abiding Unicity Simon 5:58
4 Gevriasolas Binney 7:25
5 The Midst of Chaos Simon 6:34
6 Prelude N.9 Mompou 4:11
7 Pathless Path Simon 5:30
8 Evolution Simon 6:40
9 Eastern Simon 5:09
10 Abiding Unicity (Reprise) Simon 3:01

Edward Simon: (piano)
John Patitucci: (bass, electric bass)
Brian Blade: (drums)
Original Release Date: August 29, 2006 - Label: Camjazz

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Seamus Blake - Bellwether (2009 - Criss Cross)

Some albums are named for a time, a place, an experience, or even a person. Others have a concept. Saxophonist Seamus Blake takes on concept with Bellwether, a term for leader or trendsetter.
Born in England and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Blake has gained recognition by Down Beat and JazzTimes magazines, and finished first in the 2002 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition. His associations include Mark Turner, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Larry Grenadier and Victor Lewis. For Bellwether, Blake is accompanied by guitarist Lage Lund, pianist David Kikoski, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Bill Stewart.
"A Beleza Que Vem," one of five Blake compositions, is an easygoing piece that features the leader on soprano saxophone, playing the melody in duet with Lund. Bass and drums are subtle, rim shots and strategically placed splash cymbals subtly accenting Kikoski's solo. Blake stretches out plenty on his solo, the music building in intensity, at one pointy, as if to signal the end, but he plays on.
"Subterfuge," another original, features Blake on tenor. Guitar and sax blend on the lead of a song in 4/4 time but which, because of some creative note placement, often sounds like another time signature. Lund's solo subtly references Pat Metheny, while Stewart gives the entire kit a workout during his solo.
Some of Bellwether's selections are symphonic in mood, but whether symphonic or hard charging, the music is always cohesive and expressive. Each musician shines as an individual, but there's never a moment when the group concept is lost.
Woodrow Wilkins (All About Jazz)

Track List:
1. Dance Me Home 
2. A Beleza Que Vem (
3. Subterfuge 
4. The Song That Lives Inside 
5. Bellwether 
6. Minor Celebrity 
7. String Quartet in G Minor, Opus 10 (Claude Debussy)

Seamus Blake (Tenor & Soprano Sax)
Lage Lund (Guitar)
David Kikoski (Piano)
Matt Clohesy (Bass)
Bill Stewart (Drums)

Original Release Date: September 22, 2009 - Label: Criss Cross

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Jeff "Tain" Watts - Detained at the Blue Note (Half Note Records - 2004)

On Detained at the Blue Note , Jeff "Tain" Watts' first live outing as a leader, the effusive drummer lets loose with one of the most unrestrained performances he's ever released. Watts' uninhibited style of drumming is best heard in the intimate club setting in which this disc was recorded. The outgoing Tain is inspired by the interaction with a live audience and the listeners respond in kind as the music escalates in intensity, delivering climax after climax to their roaring approval.
Opening with Bjork's "107 Steps," the quintet featuring saxophonist Marcus Strickland, pianist Dave Kikoski, guitarist David Gilmour and bassist Eric Revis engage in a liberated dance on the Latinish line, driven relentlessly by the leader's inexorable rhythms. The date's other four tracks reinvent Watts' compositions from his earlier studio dates. "JC Is The Man" from Bar Talk is appropriately a dedication to a former Zinc Bar mixologist (Jean Claude) and not John Coltrane, although the music is most certainly, like most of Watts' compositions, Trane influenced. The group bookends the song with a good-humored vocal chorus; in between they settle into a groove with Gilmore's guitar and Kikoski's keyboards setting a more Milesian mode.
Watts introduces the "powerful and soulful" Kenny Garrett, who joins the band for "Mr. JJ," raising the excitement level another point with a passionate Coltrane-Sanders inspired solo that culminates in an electrifying duet with the explosive Watts. Strickland holds his own on tenor, once again proving that he is the leading up-and-coming saxophonist on the scene today. Citizen Tain's "Sigmund Groid" receives a thorough treatment on a nineteen-minute examination of Watts' thoughtful melody, featuring a searing extended solo by Garrett.
The closing "Like The Rose," a moving ballad by Watts, begins with a beautiful bluesy piano prelude from Kikoski that introduces the leader's vocal recitation of his lyrics, which are almost Shakespearean in their romanticism. Garrett and Gilmore get downright funky on the body of the tune, gamboling joyously over a Tain backbeat that spirals into a whirlwind that drives Gilmore's guitar and Kikoski's keyboards into a frolicking frenzy before returning to the tune's tender words.
Few live dates succeed on the level of this one. Watts' ability to capture the hearts and souls of listeners with music that remains uncompromising in its creativity is a shining example to all who aspire to reach a wider audience without sacrificing their integrity.
(All About Jazz)

 Track list 
1 107 Steps  
2 JC Is the Man 
3 Mr. JJ  
4 Sigmund Groid  
5 Like the Rose .

Jeff "Tain" Watts: (Drums)
David Gilmour: (Guitar) 
Dave Kikoski: (Synthesizer) Piano;
Eric Revis: (Bass)
Marcus Strickland: (Tenor Sax) 

Original Release Date: September 14, 2004 - Label: Halfnote Records

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Gary Bartz - There Goes The Neighborhood (1990 - Candid Records)

Alto saxophonist Gary Bartz attended the Juilliard Conservatory of Music and became a member of Charles Mingus' Jazz Workshop from 1962-1964 where he worked with Eric Dolphy and encountered McCoy Tyner for the first time. He also began gigging as a sideman in the mid-'60s with Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach, and later as a member of Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers. His recording debut was on Blakey's Soul Finger album. Tyner formed his famed Expansions band in 1968 with Bartz on alto. In addition, Bartz also formed his own bands at this time and recorded a trio of albums for Milestone, and continued to tour with Max Roach's band. In 1970, Miles Davis hired Bartz and featured him as a soloist on the Live-Evil recording. Bartz formed the Ntu Troop that year as well, an ensemble that fused soul and funk, African folk music, hard bop, and vanguard jazz into a vibrant whole. Among the group's four recordings from 1970-1973, Harlem Bush Music: Taifa and Juju Street Songs have proved influential with soul jazzers, and in hip-hop and DJ circles as well. From 1973-1975 Bartz was on a roll, issuing I've Known Rivers and Other Bodies, Music Is My Sanctuary, Home, and Another Earth, all stellar outings. He meandered for most of the 1980s, coming back in 1988 with Reflections on Monk. Since that time, Bartz has continued making records of quiet intensity and lyrical power -- notably Red & Orange Poems in 1995 -- and has with become one of the finest if under-noticed alto players of his generation.
his CD is a living document of the musicianship of Gary Bartz who continues to be one of the most articulate and arresting saxophone voices. The title of the album has special significance for the alto saxophonist. He wanted to make a statement not mere
Although he dismissed notions about a comeback, this '90 album was the triumphant, exuberant vehicle Gary Bartz hadn't made in quite a while. His rippling solos and dominant presence were welcome for fans who wondered if he had squandered the potential he'd shown in the '60s
Thom Jurek

Track list
1 Racism (Blues in Double BB Minor) Bartz 9:47 
2 On a Misty Night Dameron 8:39 
3 Laura Mercer, Raksin 13:28 
4 Tadd's Delight Dameron 8:58 
5 Impressions Coltrane 10:09 
6 I've Never Been in Love Before Loesser 10:13 
7 Flight Path Barron 9:11 

Gary Bartz (Sax Alto)
Kenny Barron (Piano) 
Ray Drummond (Bass) 
Ben Riley (Drums) 
Original Release Date: 1990 - Label: Candid Records
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