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









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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Greg Osby: The Invisible Hand (Blue Note Records - 2000)

Greg Osby has come a long way from his beginnings in St. Louis playing funk and R&B. His sound crossed our radar screens after moving to Brooklyn and joining forces with Steve Coleman in the mid-‘80s to form M-BASE, an urban-beat driven jazz. Osby had a very calculated, sometimes emotionless sound. It was if he was working equations in his head as he played. Where his older recordings suffered from a staid studio approach, his recent effort, Banned In New York, a live “bootleg” recording, displays Osby as an emotional quick-witted band leader. His last disc, Friendly Fire, a co-led affair with Joe Lovano proved Osby deserves to be considered as one of the top musicians working today.
The Invisible Hand is further proof that Osby treads comfortably between the past and, importantly, the future of jazz. Joining him are Gary Thomas and Teri Lynn Carrington from his early Brooklyn days and two of the professor emeriti of jazz, Jim Hall and Andrew Hill. Hall is a guitarist that favors a subtle touch; a peculiar feature for someone so associated with cutting edge jazz. He has recorded classic albums with Sonny Rollins, Lee Konitz, and Paul Desmond. Lately, his Telarc dates have featured his third stream thinking. Andrew Hill’s Blue Note dates of the sixties were cerebral efforts, not quite post-bop and not really free jazz affairs. Early in Osby’s career he was a sideman for the late-‘80s Blue Note comeback of Hill. Likewise, he has recorded on two recent Hall dates. The Invisible Hand trades mathematics for emotion. The slow to mid-tempos presented are fertile grounds for group interplay and interpretation. For instance, they take on Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz,” a tune forever associated with Eric Dolphy. Rather than compete with our collective memories, Osby deconstructs the composition choosing bug parts over the whole, reworking it as an intellectual exercise. Osby’s deference to his esteemed colleagues shows. A stately and exquisite affair.
(All About Jazz)

Tracklist:
1 Ashes
2 Who Needs Forever?
3 The Watcher Osby
4 Jitterbug Waltz
5 Sanctus Hall
6 (Back Home Again In) Indiana
7 Nature Boy
8 Touch Love
9 With Son Osby
10 The Watcher, No. 2

Personnel:
Greg Osby Clarinet, (Alto Sax )
Gary Thomas (Flute, Alto & Tenor Sax)
Jim Hall (Guitar)
Andrew Hill (Piano)
Scott Colley (Bass)
Terri Lyne Carrington (Drums)

Original Release Date: February 29, 2000 - Label: Blue Note Records

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Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Avatar (Blue Note Records - 2008)


Although his sound is as blazing and inspiring as ever, Gonzalo Rubalcaba's new album may mark something of a departure. Recorded at the famed New York studio of the same name, Avatar provides listeners with a unique melting pot of songs and styles, while also implying new freedom and possibility for the renowned Cuban pianist. Only one of the seven tunes on this album is a Rubalcaba original, but the majority are written by his bandmates. The virtuosic turn that was a signature of his younger musical persona has been replaced by an ensemble-mindedness: here, Rubalcaba appears to be turning outward.
Avatar opens with two compositions for the quintet by saxophonist Yosvany Terry, each one a different take on the same angular 5/4 bass melody. Following Rubalcaba's cryptic entry on "Looking in Retrospective," the full band bursts in with a tight, warm sound, hugging every curve in the piece while losing none of their bristling speed. Marcus Gilmore's drumming is particularly responsible for this brilliant unity: he manages to allude to the Latin rhythms that anchor Rubalcaba's brand of jazz, while also giving the ensemble space to experiment in an open, nebulous environment. At certain moments, the quintet sounds like they're making a foray into a very free, boundless kind of jazz. But just as quickly, Gilmore raps out a quick cue on the snare drum and they're back in an intense, dazzling groove.
Beginning on his early albums and even carrying on into the late 1990s, Rubalcaba placed paramount importance on texture. As a younger musician, he played the piano with a full, honeyed tone, even on up- tempo pieces. This sound is still apparent when Avatar slows down for ballads: the trio setting of Horace Silver's "Peace" recalls the hovering rubato of tunes like "I Remember Clifford" from the 1995 release Diz (Blue Note). But now, the Cuban master's pianism is principally concerned with a more complicated set of musical possibilities.
Essentially, time is the core concept for this record. From the three fast tunes by Yosvany Terry, which focus on embracing tight ensemble grooves over an almost-inscrutable downbeat, to the delicacy of "Aspiring to Normalcy" and "Peace," which hover ethereally outside of time, the Rubalcaba band fashions its aesthetic out of a shimmering, ever-changing vision of what meter can be. Yet, even when the sound gets propulsive, abstract, or cutting-edge, filled with the New York City in which they recorded this set, they never lose track of certain essences of the Latin groove: a deep rhythmic pocket and a lyrical virtuosity, even on the most inventive, burning tunes.
(All About Jazz)

Tracklist:
1. Looking In Retrospective
2. This Is It
3. Aspiring To Normalcy
4. Peace
5. Hip Side
6. Infantil (Dedicated to John McLaughlin)
7. Preludio Corto No.2 For Piano (Tu Amor Era Falso)

Personnel:
Gonzalo Rubalcaba (piano)
Yosvany Terry (sax)
Mike Rodriguez (trumoet)
Matt Brewer (bass)
Marcus Gilmore (drums)

Original Release Date: 2008 - Label: Blue Note Records

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Keith Jarrett Charlie Haden: Jasmine (ECM Records - 2010)

As close to a direct pipeline to the heart as anything, it's hard for music to be anything but intimate reflection of events transpiring in a musician's life. Pianist Keith Jarrett's last release—the stunning triple-disc Testament—Paris / London (ECM, 2009)—was, self-admittedly, impacted by the pianist's "incredibly vulnerable emotional state," but resulted in some of his deepest, most moving solo improvisations yet. Recorded in 2007, the year before the shows from which Testament was culled, the song choices on Jasmine—Jarrett's first non-solo/non-Standards Trio disc in 30 years—speak to the pianist's tenuous marital situation of the past several years. And yet, this collection of intimate, yearning love songs—recorded at Jarrett's home in an informal setting not unlike The Melody At Night, With You (ECM, 1999)—possesses a bittersweet mix of melancholy and joy, suggesting the inherently healing power of music.
Participating in Reto Caduff's 2009 film about Charlie Haden (Rambling Boy) brought Jarrett together with the bassist for the first time since the dissolution of the pianist's much-heralded American Quartet. The two played for well over a decade—from Jarrett's debut as a leader, Life Between the Exit Signs (Atlantic, 1967), through to the American Quartet's swan song, Survivor's Suite (ECM, 1979). Reuniting in 2007 for the filming of Rambling Boy, their relaxed rapport encouraged Jarrett to invited Haden to his home, and the result is this elegant collection of well-heeled standards, including "Body and Soul," "For All We Know" and "Where Can I Go Without You."
Over the course of three decades, much has changed, but some things have remained. Both players have largely become interpreters rather than composers, although Jarrett has rightfully argued that interpretation is composition. Still, their empathic approach to this ballad-heavy set—only the swinging Evans/Mann chestnut, "No Moon At All," comes close to breaking a sweat—remains as profound as it was when they were collaborating regularly on original (and more left-of-center) music.
With no rehearsal other than, at most, running through a few changes, Jasmine's sound—like The Melody At Night—is more direct, more immediate than most of Jarrett's recent releases, recorded in larger concert halls. The dryness of the sound makes the warm but slightly funky tone of Jarrett's piano and deeply wooden timbre of Haden's bass feel particularly inviting. Recorded in Jarrett's small home studio, it feels like it was recorded in a living room, with both players at ease, turning a group of nine well-loved, well-known songs into informal conversations, where individual spotlights shine occasionally, but are far more often about gentle give-and-take, lyrical spontaneity and nothing-to-prove economy.
Critics of Jarrett' longstanding allegiance to solo and Standards Trio performances may be disappointed by this perhaps overdue foray outside those contexts, given the choice of material and renewal of a relationship that predates them. But they'd be missing the sublime beauty, elegant serenity and evocative resonance of Jasmine—an album that, like The Melody At Night, rests somewhere outside Jarrett's discography, yet simply couldn't have been made by anyone else.
(All About Jazz)


Tracklist:
1. For All We Know
2. Where Can I Go Without You
3. No Moon At All
4. One Day I'll Fly Away
5. Intro - I'm Gonna Laugh You Right Out Of My Life
6. Body And Soul
7. Goodbye
8. Don't Ever Leave Me

Personnel:
Keith Jarrett: (piano)
Charlie Haden: (double-bass)
Recorded on May 25, 2010 - Label: ECM

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Marcin Wasilewski Trio: January (2008 - ECM)

With January, pianist Marcin Wasilewski, bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz step out of the benign shadow of their mentor, trumpeter Tomasz Stanko—on whose Soul Of Things (ECM, 2001), Suspended Night (ECM, 2003) and Lontano (ECM, 2005) they were featured accompanists—and confirm the mighty promise of their international solo debut, Trio (ECM, 2005).
Stanko's absence, felt from time to time on Trio, is noticed no more. On January—an album of warm and glowing lyric beauty which belies any chilly connotations suggested by its title—the trio are complete in themselves.
Appropriately, the disc heralds a re-branding of the group, which now goes by the moniker the Marcin Wasilewski Trio, rather than the egalitarian Simple Acoustic Trio of before. Wasilewski wrote four of the five originals, co-created the fifth, is on-mike in solo or comp-plus mode practically throughout, and is unmistakably the leader.
While Trio was a mixture of eight composed and five freely improvised pieces, there is just one group improv on January (the brief "New York 2007" which closes the set). There are five covers—Gary Peacock's Satie-esque "Vignette," Prince's pretty "Diamonds And Pearls," in which Wasilewski and Kurkiewicz share the melody, Ennio Morricone's "Cinema Paradiso," full of childlike wonder, Carla Bley's "King Korn," which brings a refreshingly acerbic breeze halfway through the disc, and Stanko's gorgeous "Balladyna," given a sumptuous, rubato treatment which (if you're prone to flashbacks) evokes the rippling, trippy, late 1960s astral jazz of saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and pianist/harpist Alice Coltrane more than the work of another piano trio.
In the main understated, regally unhurried, and spacious—qualities which distinguished Trio—January regularly erupts into surging rhythmic intensity, when Kurkiewicz's resonant low-end bass and Miskiewicz's emphatic tympani-sticks on tom toms create waves of propulsion on which Wasilewski can surf. This month of January is a time of pause and reflection, but brings with it too intimations of spring and new growth.
While this lovely music comes out under Wasilewski's name, it is impossible to imagine it being made with any other bassist and drummer, so hard-wired are Kurkiewicz and Miskiewicz into a collective aesthetic. One day, hopefully long off, there may be partings, but until then, MWT are as perfect as it gets.
(All About jazz)

Tracklist:
01. The First Touch 
02. Vignette (8:08)
03. Cinema Paradiso 
04. Diamonds and Pearls 
05. Balladyna 
06. King Korn 
07. The Cat 
08. January 
09. The Young And Cinema 
10. New York 2007 

Personnel: 
Marcin Wasilewski: piano 
Slawomir Kurkiewicz: double bass 
Michal Miskiewicz: drums 
Original Release Date: January 28, 2008 - Label: ECM Records

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

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.
(All About Jazz)

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

Personnel: 
Jim Hall (guitar);
Don Thompson (acoustic bass);
Clark Terry (drums).

Recorded live at Bourbon Street, Toronto, Canada in June 1975. Originally released on Horizon Records (705). Includes liner notes by Doug Ramsey.
Original Release Date: 1975 - Label: Verve

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David Sanchez: Cultural Survival (Concord Picante - 2008)

It's been almost four years since saxophonist David Sanchez released Coral (Columbia, 2004), the disc which marked the end of an eleven year relationship with Sony Music—and it's wonderful to have his big, singing, prolix tenor back, on song and kicking.
Sanchez has not been idle since Coral, touring extensively with his own band, on a world tour with singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, and on a US tour with guitarist Pat Metheny. He also gave a few headline performances in the US of Eddie Sauter's "Focus," a suite originally written for tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, who recorded it on Focus (Verve, 1961). Sanchez was also Artist in Residence at Georgia State University during the 2005/06 academic year.
Of these experiences, the one that has had the most obvious impact on Cultural Survival, Sanchez's Concord Picante debut, is the tour with Metheny. Though pianists Danilo Perez and Robert Rodriguez are heard on three tracks, their's are guest appearances, and it is guitarist Lage Lund—a vibrant in-the-tradition player with an interesting sideline in subtle, textural, digital effects—who is the album's key chordal player and second soloist.
There are seven originals and one cover—a gorgeous version of Thelonious Monk's "Monk's Mood." Aside from this track and the elegiac "The Forgotten Ones," the disc is up-tempo, assertive, and fiercely energetic. Most of the music sounds like it must have needed detailed written arrangements—there are frequent shifts in tempo, rhythm and dynamics, the introduction of secondary themes, and tension-building passages centered on reiterated motifs—but it all sounds remarkably fresh and organic.
After four years away from the studios, Sanchez has a lot to say, and he solos vigorously, richly, and at length. But while he is generally tagged as a muscular, freebooting player, there's a delicate side to him too. This shines through in the more pastoral passages on Cutural Survival, and is enjoyably reminiscent of saxophonist Phaorah Sanders during his astral jazz explorations of the late 1960s. The African-derived drums, percussion and chanted vocals which open and close the twenty minute opus "La Leyanda Del Canaveral," carry unmistakable echoes of "Upper Egypt And Lower Egypt" from Sanders' Tauhid (Impulse!, 1967). So, too, do Rodriguez's trippy note clusters. The bass ostinato that introduces Sanchez's main theme, however, references Jimmy Garrison's on "Acknowledgement" from saxophonist John Coltrane's A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1964).

Sanchez has been missed. Cultural Survival is a brilliant return to disc.

 Tracklist:
1. Coast To Coast
2. Manto Azul
3. Adoración
4. Monk's Mood
5. Ay Bendito
6. Cultural Survival
7. *The Forgotten Ones
8. La Leyenda del Cañaveral

Personnel:
David Sanchez: Ten Sax, percu(1, 2), vocal  (8);
Lage Lund: electric guitar;
Danilo Perez: piano (2, 6);
Robert Rodriguez: piano and Fender Rhodes (8);
Ben Street: bass (1-7);
Hans Glawisching: bass (8);
Henry Cole: drums (1, 4, 5, 8);
Adam Cruz: drums (2, 3, 6, 7);
Pernell Saturnino: percussion (2, 8).

Original Release Date: May 20, 2008 - Label: Concord Records

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Joshua Breakstone: Let's Call This Monk! - (1997 - Joshua Breakstone)

 Supported by drummer Mickey Roker and bassist Dennis Irwin, guitarist Breakstone capably salutes the great Thelonious Monk this time out, although "no attempt has been made to mimic Monk's own playing." Overall, Breakstone improvises fluently, shaping smoothly arching contours on tunes like "Let's Call This," "Work," "We See," and "Monk's Dream;" however, after a while his relatively conservative phrasing takes on a certain predictability, especially when the same medium swing tempo crops up again and again (then there's the guitar's sound, which lacks presence and clarity). Be that as it may, Breakstone and company generate considerable energy on "I Mean You," "Brilliant Corners," with its unorthodox chord progression, and "Humph," an obscure rhythm changes tune.

Track listing
1. Let's Call This
2. Work
3. We See
4. Reflections
5. Monk's Dream
6. I Mean You
7. Ruby, My Dear
8. Eronel
9. Brilliant Corners
10. Humph

Personnel:
Joshua Breakstone (guitar)
Dennis Irwin (bass)
Mickey Roker (drums)

Original Release Date: March 18, 1997 - Label: Double Time Jazz

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Ray Drummond - One Two Three Four (1999 - Arabesque Jazz)

Despite a lengthy (though low profile) career in jazz, this recording marks the first time 52 years young bassist Ray Drummond has recorded as leader of a quartet. 1-2-3-4 is his fourth recording for Arabesque and as such exemplifies the label’s continued documentation of Drummond’s honest, unpretentious musical style. This style is best understood by considering that Drummond is possessed of a deeply personal commitment to remain consistent within jazz legacy while simultaneously striving to move the music forward.

To realize this vision, Drummond has assembled an extraordinarily sympathetic band consisting of long time ally Billy Hart (drums), Craig Handy (saxophones), and Stephen Scott (piano). It may be cliché to say so, but this is one well-balanced outfit. The playing is persistently selfless, intelligent, and disciplined without being rigid or staid. Drummond’s arrangements are sparse and uncluttered, leaving room for himself and his partners to roam gracefully. This is not to say that the music is simplistic however. It simply refrains from gratuitous ornamentation. Neither is it to say that the music is meek or listless. On the contrary, it is imbued with passion.
1-2-3-4 consists of 12 tunes, including 5 Drummond originals. The remainder are drawn from amongst classic tunes, e.g., Wayne Shorter’s “Ana Maria” and “Nefertiti” (a long time Drummond favorite), peer Ron Carter’s “Little Waltz”, Duke Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss” and John Coltrane’s “Mr. P.C.”.
But despite this wealth of traditional material, as the liner notes attest, the “common pattern of head-solo-head-and-out does not dominate.” (Jon W. Poses) Furthermore, not every tune is configured for the entire quartet. Drummond performs “Prelude to a Kiss” without accompaniment. “Mr. P.C.” is performed admirably and unconventionally as a duet between Drummond and Hart. Interestingly, this duet scenario doesn’t unfold as a sparring match between instrumentalists, but more as a playful dance. Drummond states that with 1-2-3-4 he didn’t want to make just another quartet record. In that respect, 1-2-3-4 is successful.
To conclude, 1-2-3-4 was created, performed, and recorded by a singularly intuitive group of musicians under the guidance of a legitimate mainstay in the modern jazz tradition. An in-depth critical analysis of 1-2-3-4 is unnecessary; it should simply be listened to and enjoyed. After a respectable career, there shouldn’t be much left for Ray Drummond to prove. The fact that Drummond has gone largely ignored is not only unjust but also inexplicable. Hopefully. 1-2-3-4 will go a long way to rectify this situation.
(All About Jazz)

Track List:
1 Ana Maria Shorter  
2 Ballade Poetique Drummond 
3 Driftin' Drummond 
4 Prelude to a Kiss Ellington, Gordon, Mills 
5 What Is Happening Here Drummond  
6 Little Waltz Carter  
7 Goin' Home Traditional  
8 Kinda Like Drummond  
9 Nefertiti Shorter  
10 Mr. P.C. Coltrane  
11 Oh Jay Drummond  
12 Willow Weep for Me Ronell  

Personnel:
Ray Drummond (bass)
Craig Handy (ten & sopr sax)
Stephen Scott (piano)
Billy Hart (drums)
 Original Release Date: February 9, 1999 - Label: Arabesque Recordings

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Frank Morgan: Raising the Standard (2005 - HighNote Records)

Raising the Standard, Frank Morgan's second album for HighNote, is a followup to last year's widely acclaimed City Nights, recorded, like that release, before an audience at the Jazz Standard nightclub in New York City. The lineup remains the same, with Morgan accompanied by a superlative rhythm section comprised of pianist George Cables, bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Billy Hart.
Morgan, who was out of circulation for three decades owing to drug addiction and imprisonment for same before making a successful comeback in 1985, is one of a handful of distinctive voices on alto saxophone, post bop sector (others who spring to mind are Phil Woods, Lee Konitz and Bud Shank). Among them, he is closest to Shank in luminous sound and Konitz in economy of phrasing, even though he is very much his own man, with a vocabulary that owes its genesis to Bird but is unmistakably Morgan.
At 71, Morgan can still summon the requisite fire to scorch such up-tempo numbers as Miles Davis' "Tune Up and Wayne Shorter's "Footprints, but he prefers the placid and more meditative temper of ballads such as "Polka Dots and Moonbeams, "In a Sentimental Mood or "Old Folks. He's at his lyrical best on them, as he is on Ellington's classic "Don't Get Around Much Anymore and Cables' lovely "Helen's Song. Completing the charming program are Shorter's soulful "Nefertiti and John Coltrane's romping "Bessie's Blues, as agreeable a closing number as one could want.
Good as he is, Morgan has to stay on his toes to keep pace with his sidemen, who are among the best in the business. Cables, an erudite master who should be winning polls, is a perceptive accompanist and resourceful soloist; Hart is one of the most eloquent and tasteful drummers on the scene; and Lundy keeps unerring time, giving the others, as Morgan says in John Murph's liner notes, "that assured feeling that your back is covered. Even though Morgan is the headliner, no one is less indispensable than he in helping to make the session sparkle.

Track List:
1. Polka Dots and Moonbeams 5:03
2. Footprints 8:39
3. Nefertiti 2:50
4. Don't Get Around Much Anymore 9:37
5. Old Folks 5:26
6. Tune Up 8:45
7. In a Sentimental Mood 5:01
8. Helen's Song 7:26
9. Bessie's Blues 7:10

Personnel:
Frank Morgan: (alto sax)
George Cables: (piano)
Curtis Lundy: (bass)
Billy Hart: (drums)

Original Release Date: June 28, 2005 - Label: Highnote Records

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Donny McCaslin: Declaration (2009 - Sunnyside)

 Venturing into unexplored territory, New York-based tenor saxophonist's third recording for Sunnyside Records is a marked departure from his previous release, the stripped-down trio session Recommended Tools (Greenleaf, 2008). Augmenting his working ensemble with an understated brass section, Declaration showcases McCaslin's stellar skills as an improviser while demonstrating his mettle as a burgeoning writer and arranger.
Renowned for his Olympian tenor solos, McCaslin's facile interpretive abilities were honed under the tutelage of George Garzone and Billy Pierce at Berklee, and documented as a sideman in the company of such luminaries as David Binney, Dave Douglas, Danilo Perez and Maria Schneider. McCaslin comes into his own as a composer on this panoramic session, which highlights his creative virtuosity as soloist and writer in a variety of settings.
Joined by pianist Edward Simon and a four-piece brass choir, McCaslin's augmented quintet interprets these multi-hued compositions with brio. As veterans of McCaslin's previous Sunnyside dates, In Pursuit (2007) and Soar (2006), guitarist Ben Monder, bassist Scott Colley, drummer Antonio Sanchez and percussionist Pernell Saturnino lend this session a congenial sensibility filled with lyrical panache.
New to this longstanding core line-up, Simon proves as valuable a foil for McCaslin as Monder. Restrained and economical, Simon delivers billowy narrative soliloquies on "M" and "2nd Hour," offering serene contrast to the leader's fervid cadences. Whether amplifying McCaslin's muscular phrasing with scorching fretwork on the appropriately titled "Rock Me," or unveiling gossamer filigrees on the lush ballad "Jeanina," Monder's chameleonic versatility is peerless.
Embracing a wealth of genres and styles, the anthem-like opener "M" showcases the leader's pneumatic tenor, while "Fat Cat" demonstrates McCaslin and Simon's expertise navigating percolating Latin rhythms. The opulent harmonies of "Jeanina" and the plaintive Americana of the title track are the inverse of "Uppercut" and "2nd Hour"—labyrinthine post-bop excursions fraught with oblique angles and ingenious arrangements. Indicative of their titles, "Rock Me" is an electrified rave-up, with "Late Night Gospel" one of McCaslin's most compelling tunes—an ascending blues meditation featuring Simon and Monder's silver-toned lyricism buoyed by soulful brass accompaniment.
Considered one of the reigning mainstream tenor stylists of the post-Michael Brecker generation, Declaration is a bold new step for McCaslin, proving his abilities as a developing composer and arranger of note and opening new vistas on an already promising career.
By Troy Collins (All About Jazz)

Tracklist:
01 - M
02 - Fat Cat
03 - Declaration
04 - Uppercut
05 - Rock Me
06 - Jeanina
07 - 2nd Hour
08 - Last Night Gospel

Parsonnel:
Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone, alto flute (1, 8)
Edward Simon: acoustic piano, organ (5)
Ben Monder: guitar
Scott Colley: bass
Antonio Sanchez: drums
Pernell Saturnino: percussion (2)
Alex Sipiagin: trumpet, flugelhorn (1, 2, 3, 5, 7)
Chris Komer: French horn (1, 2, 3, 5)
Marshall Gilkes: trombone (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8)
Marcus Rojas: tuba (3, 5, 7, 8), bass trombone (1)
Tatum Greenblatt: trumpet (1)
Original Release Date: July 28, 2009 - Label: Sunny Side Records

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Jacky Terrasson: Push (2010 - Concord Music Group)

There are three qualities about pianist Jacky Terrasson's music that make it irresistible and riveting. The first is that it dances interminably. Secondly, it is jagged and angular—an epithet often used to describe the music of Thelonious Monk and which suits Terrasson well as, even with his singularly distinctive voice, he is genealogically connected. Finally, Terrasson has a penchant for a playful, almost puckish, interpretation, where humor is implicit. As such he negotiates all melodies, even those that are contemplative, with sparkling and almost child-like candor. Above all, of course, Terrasson plays piano with devastatingly beautiful expression, sublime technique and incomparable virtuosity.
Push, then, is absolutely classic Terrasson. It is full of double entendre, unbridled ideation and luminosity. Like Monk, his muse, Terrasson's solos are abstruse. This is because his purported approach is never linear, but is instead curved—and if he can get away with it, inside out. He attacks melodies askance, sometimes taking cues for his solo excursions from the third or fourth line in a verse. He is decidedly phonetic in his choice of notes, when expressing melodic invention in a kind of "E Flat's Ah Flat too" sort of way. Thus, he sometimes makes the most unlikely sequence of notes fit mellifluously. His soloing seems to come from deep within his lean guts, careening through his lean body and gaunt shoulders, and flung as if waved on by a magical wand onto the keyboard, where his fingers settle their scores with the keys.
On Push, Terrasson saves some of his most inventive work for the Monk songs—"Ruby My Dear," which is played with abject tenderness, as if pleading Monk's case for an old sweetheart, and "'Round Midnight," a magical crepuscular sketch, which gads about, ultimately losing its mind with lonely splendor. His harmonic treatment of "Beat It" and "Body and Soul," tagged together here, turns the fleetingly familiar phrases of the melodies into an ad libitum essay that ultimately enriches the music as it veers way off course before eventually returning to the original melodies, almost as a codicil. "My Church" and "Say Yeah" contain some refreshingly beautiful "preaching of the Gospel" amid dazzling improvised parts, the latter with vocals and the rhythmic inflections of Brazilian percussionist, Cyro Baptista—one of several guest appearances.
Terrasson's treatment of "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" is wonderfully irreverent—full of crushed notes and mashed chords. "Carry Me Away" is elegiac and luminous, and features some wonderful percussion from Baptista, and guitar from Matthew Stevens. Also memorable is the work of the extraordinarily talented harmonicist Gregoire Maret, who whose solo on "Ruby My Dear" echoes the song's implicit heartbreak, and that of tenor saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart on "Morning." But in the guts of the music is bassist Ben Williams and drummer Jamire Williams, who underscore its utter beauty throughout the album.
(All About Jazz)

Track list:
1. Gaux Girl
2. Beat It/Body and Soul
3. Ruby My Dear
4. Beat Bop
5. ‘Round Midnight
6. Morning
7. My Church
8. Say Yeah
9. You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To
10. Carry Me Away
11. O Café, O Soleil

Personnel:
Jacky Terrasson (piano, kbrds, voc)
Ben Williams: (bass)
Jamire Williams: (drums)
Gregoire Maret: (harmonica) (3, 8)
Jacques Schwarz-Bart: (Ten.Sax) (6)
Matthew Stevens: guitar (8);
Cyro Baptista: (perc)(8, 10, 11)

Original Release Date: April 27, 2010 - Label: Concord Jazz

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