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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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Freddie Redd & Howard McGhee Quintet: (Music From) The Connection - (1960 - Iris Music Group)

Freddie Redd composed the music for Jack Gelber's The Connection, a gritty play about musician junkies. Gelber had originally thought that the play would feature real musicians — who would also double as actors in minor roles — improvising on blues and jazz standards in the tradition of Charlie Parker, but Redd convinced him to use an original score. The two weaved Redd's original compositions into the score, making it an integral part of the play, but the music holds up superbly on its own. Using the direction "in the tradition of Charlie Parker" as a starting point, the pianist wrote seven pieces of straight-ahead bop, wide open for improvisations, and then assembled a sterling quartet featuring himself, alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, bassist Michael Mattos, and drummer Larry Ritchie. The end result was a set of dynamic straight-ahead bop. While both Redd and McLean show signs of their influences — the pianist blends Monk and Powell, while the saxophonist has built off of Bird's twisting lines — they have developed their own voices, which gives the driving, bluesy bop on Music From the Connection an edge. McLean's full, robust tone often dominates, but he never overshadows Redd's complex, intricate playing, and both musicians, as well as Mattos and Ritchie, effortlessly keep up with the changes from hard-hitting, up-tempo bop numbers to lyrical, reflective ballads. Musically, Music From the Connection might not offer anything unexpected, but whenever straight-ahead bop is done this well, it should be celebrated.

   1. Who Killed Cock Robin?
   2. Wigglin
   3. Music Forever
   4. Time To Smile
   5. Theme For Sister Salvation
   6. Jim Dunns Dilemma
   7. O.D. (Overdose)
Freddie Redd (Piano);
Jackie McLean (Alt Sax);
Michael Mattos (Bass);
Larry Ritchie (Drums)
Recorded at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on February 15, 1960 - Label: Iris Music Group 
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Roy Hargrove Quintet With The Tenors of Our Time - (1994 - Label: Verve)

Verve has certainly pushed the boat out for Hargrove, newly captured from Novus. For his first release they have provided him with no less than five guest stars—all tenor players. They are Joe Henderson, Johnny Griffin, Stanley Turrentine, Branford Marsalis and Joshua Redman. What Hargrove's incumbent tenor player, Ron Blake, thought of this is not known, but he plays remarkably well himself. The change certainly seems to have done Hargrove good. He sounds more relaxed and expansive here than on previous albums, with the slightly manic enthusiasm toned down a bit, although this was always more evident in person than on record. He is 23 now, roughly the same age as Lee Morgan when he was with The Messengers, no longer a prodigy with something to prove. It is now 38 years since Clifford Brown died and his influence among trumpeters has proved as durable as Charlie Christian's among guitarists. Who could have imagined then the brilliant players yet unborn who would follow his brief, inspiring example?

1. Soppin' The Biscuit   
2. When We Were One   
3. Valse Hot   
4. Once Forgotten   
5. Shade Of Jade   
6. Greens At The Chicken Shack   
7. Never Let Me Go   
8. Serenity   
9. Across The Pond   
10. Wild Is Love   
11. Mental Phrasing   
12. April's Fool

Roy Hargrove (Tp, fh)
Ron Blake (Sop & Ten Sax)
Cyrus Chestnut (Piano)
Rodney Whitaker (Bass)
Gregory Hutchinson (Drums)

Additional personnel: (Ten Sax)
Stanley Turrentine,
Johnny Griffin,
Joshua Redman,
Joe Henderson,
Branford Marsalis    
Recorded at Clinton Recording Studios, New York, New York on January 16 & 17, 1994 and at Teatro Mancinelli, Orvieto, Italy on December 28, 1993. Includes liner notes by Bob Blumenthal. - Label: Verve

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The James Moody and Hank Jones Quartet - Our Delight - (2006 - IPO Recordings)

 The title Our Delight should have been subtitled with (to borrow a line from Ornette Coleman) "This Is Our Music," not so much in the sense of revolution as revelation. But then Pianist Hank Jones and saxophonist James Moody have been revealing their precious gifts of music since the 1940s.
Both artists have been witness (and contributors) to the history of jazz. Jones played music in the hotbed of Detroit as did his brothers Thad and Elvin, then there were the many years accompanying Ella Fitzgerald. His 'solo' career of the last thirty years has elevated him into the living legend category. Likewise James Moody, who might best be known as a songwriter and sideman to Dizzy Gillespie. His encyclopedic jazz brain has probably stored more music than most artists will ever learn.
Although they did play together on Great Day (Argo, 1963), the intersection of these two rarely happened. Their common denominator here is the music of Dizzy Gillespie, which they reinvestigate with the joyfulness of a welcome home party.
With capable drummer Adam Nussbaum and Todd Coolman, perhaps Dizzy's favorite bassist aboard, the ride certainly is a smooth one. The music of mostly familiar tunes allows you to delight in the assuredness and bliss of the session.
Moody's saxophone playing is like his fellow Baha'i mentor Dizzy Gillespie, always perfect. After Hank Jones' brief introduction on the blues "Birk's Works," the saxophonist states the theme with tremendous ease. Then he is on to a complicated improvisation that follows with such fluency, you might be fooled into believing this is simple music. It is anything but simple, and likewise Hank Jones who has made a career out of an economy of notes, his brand of jazz sounding simple.
The Tadd Dameron track "Good Bait" spills its infectious theme into a tasteful and quiet solo by Nussbaum. Jones takes a hesitative solo here, as he seemingly has done so in his whole career. His preference is to support his fellow players, not hog the spotlight. When he is not playing in a trio or perhaps solo, sometimes listeners can overlook his contributions. On the duo "Body And Soul" this is not possible. Sure, this track has been recorded thousands of times, but it may be the highlight of this recording. Moody's saxophone is both a nod to Coleman Hawkins and, well, James Moody. Jones' contribution, although brief, maintains the spirit and character of the moment.
The disc ends with Italian vocalist Roberta Gambarini's take on "Moody's Groove." The vocalist, a favorite of Jones, who has accompanied her in concert and record of late, sings with a clarity much treasured in jazz. Her scatting fits comfortably with our two heroes' approach.
All About jazz (Mark Corroto)

1. Our Delight
2. Birk's Works
3. Con Alma
4. Lady Bird
5. Eternal Struggle
6. Body and Soul
7. Good Bait
8. Darben the Red Foxx
9. Soul Trane
10. Woody 'N You
11. Old Folks
12. Moody's Groove

James Moody (Tenor Sax, flute)
Hank Jones (piano)
Todd Coolman (bass)
Adam Nussbaum (drums)
Recorded at Sear Sound Studios, New York City, 28. & 29. 6. 2006 - Label: IPO

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

George Adams Don Pullen Quartet: Earth Beams - (1980 - Timeless Records)

 Three out the four members of the George Adams/Don Pullen Quartet died in middle age: drummer Dannie Richmond in 1988 at age 52, saxophonist Adams in 1992 at 51, and pianist Pullen in 1995 at 53. As a result, the band had a regrettably short life. It was nevertheless one of the greatest jazz groups of the '70s and '80s. To a degree greater than perhaps any other band of its time, the group was able to cohere the various strands of jazz's development in creating a seamlessly modern music a state of the jazz art in all its multifaceted glory.
Adams, Pullen and Richmond comprise one of the music's most potent partnerships and this — their fourth quartet LP — is perhaps their most compelling yet. Its honourable tradition began with a pair of albums for Horo, taped during a Mingus tour of Italy in 1975, and, in More Flowers, shows a direct link with the late bassist's then Jazz Workshop, this title being a passionate reshaping of Flowers For A Lady.
But it celebrates the bassist's ideals in less obvious ways, too — through its championship of individual creativity and its inspired, but disciplined abandon. To this extent, Adams, Pullen and Richmond represent a more rewarding development of some aspects of Mingus's work than the comparatively pale 'Mingus Dynasty'. They produce music of sharp, often violent contrasts in texture, tempo, mood and attack. Seething figures melt into plumply lyrical interludes, only to snap into lines that swerve and dart among the strong rhythms set up by Brown and Richmond.
Some of the richest moments occur during Adams' duets — with Pullen on the pulsating Magnetic Love Field, and with Richmond in some percussive polyphony at the end of Earth Beams itself: these are powerful and vivid meshings of rhythm and melody. In contrast, there is the good-humoured soul of Sophisticated Alice — another lady who's changed with the times having initially appeared in more commercial guise as Pullen's Big Alice on the pianist's 'Tomorrow's Promises', again with Adams. Dionysus is an appropriately Bacchanalian romp, opening deceptively as an elongated waltz before developing a complex rhythmic undertow.
However hectic the atmosphere or fervent the emotions, the sense of abandon is skilfully channeled, forging music of lasting value. This is strongly recommended, along with a second LP from these sessions, 'Life Line'. Those with finely-balanced budgets should aim for 'Earth Beams' first.

1.Earth Beams (G.Adams)
2.Magnetic Love Field (G.Adams)
3.Dionysus (D.Richmond)
4.Saturday Night In The Cosmos (D.Pullen/F.Dean)
5.More Flowers (G.Adams)
6.Sophisticated Alice (D.Pullen)

George Adams - (Ten Sax)
Don Pullen,  (Piano)
Cameron Brown (Bass)
Dannie Richmond  (Drums)
Original Release Date: August 3, 1980 - Label: Timeless Records
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Friday, December 24, 2010

Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (1962) (2007 Verve Originals)

 For Ellington, it was one of many collaborations with fellow jazz-greats in the early 1960s, including Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Max Roach and Charles Mingus. More unusually, it placed him in a jazz quartet setting (in this case, sax, piano, bass and drums), rather than his usual one in a big band. The quartet was filled out by the bassist and drummer from either of their bands. The tracks they recorded featured Ellington standards ("In a Sentimental Mood"), new Ellington compositions and a new Coltrane composition ("Big Nick").
For Coltrane, it was an opportunity to work with one of jazz's all-time greats. It was one of several albums he recorded in the early 1960s in a more conservative and accessible style, alongside John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman and Ballads. Despite their differences in background, style and age (Ellington was 63 and Coltrane 36 when the tracks were recorded), the two interact seamlessly and subtly, neither one outshining the other.
Coltrane felt very honoured to work with Ellington: "I was really honoured to have the opportunity of working with Duke. It was a wonderful experience. He has set standards I haven't caught up with yet. I would have liked to have worked over all those numbers again, but then I guess the performances wouldn't have had the same spontaneity. And they mightn't have been any better!"
(Excerpt from the CD booklet.)

1. In a Sentimental Mood
2. Take the Coltrane
3. Big Nick
4. Stevie
5. My Little Brown Book
6. Angelica
7. The Feeling of Jazz
Duke Ellington (piano);
John Coltrane (tenor & soprano saxophones);
Jimmy Garrison, Aaron Bell (bass);
Elvin Jones,
Sam Woodyard (drums).
Recorded on September 26, 1962 and released in February 1963 on Impulse! Records

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dewey Redman: In London (1996 - Palmetto Records)

Accompanied by pianist Rita Marcotulli, bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Matt Wilson, veteran tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman puts on a well-rounded program. On "I Should Care," "The Very Thought of You" (a tribute to Dexter Gordon) and the bossa nova "Portrait In Black & White," he shows that, although his roots are in avant-garde jazz, Redman is quite capable of caressing a melody. In contrast, his renditions of "I-Pimp," "Tu-inns" and "Eleven" emphasize freer improvising and plenty of fire. In both contexts, Dewey Redman emerges as an underrated giant.
All Music Guide (Scott Yanow)

01 - I Should Care
02 - The Very Thought of You
03 - I-Pimp
04 - Portrait in Black and White
05 - Tu-Inns
06 - Kleerwine 
07 - Stablemates 
08 - Eleven

Dewey Redman (Ten Sax)
Rita Marcotulli (Piano)
Cameron Brown (Bass)
Matt Wilson (Drums)
Recorded Live by The BBC at Ronnie Scott's, London, in October 1996 - Label: Palmetto Records

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Donny McCaslin: The Way Through (2004 - Arabesque Jazz)

 Since the early '90s tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin has been a member of a loose collective of talented and creative young artists on the cutting edge that includes alto saxophonist Dave Binney, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Kenny Wollesen. They previously documented their genre-busting chemistry on CD under the name Lan Xang. Along with pushing the envelope in that more experimental context, McCaslin has also been a potent and reliable sideman in far more inside situations for such bandleaders as vocalist Luciana Souza and the Maria Schneider Orchestra. On The Way Through, his third CD as a leader, McCaslin blends his inside and outside sensibilities into one sumptuous and satisfying package.
McCaslin makes judicious use of alto flute, bass clarinet, marimba and steel pan alongside his signature tenor-alto blend with Binney, and the arrangements are quite adventurous. The music runs the gamut from forcefully swinging free-bop romps ("Break Tune") to pan-global exoticism ("San Lorenzo") to gentle lyricism ("The Way Through") to the kind of spacious kind of freewheeling improv pieces that Lan Xang favored in performance and on its recordings ("What Remains"). Drummer Adam Cruz, clarinetist Douglas Yates, flutist Anders Bostrom and Souza further assist McCaslin in this excellent outing.
From the opening original, "Skyward," McCaslin demonstrates an impressive command of his horn, leaping from honking lows to squealing highs with relative ease while maintaining a swinging pulse. His startling, unaccompanied extrapolation on Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody 'n' You" further demonstrates his eagerness to push the envelope with daring Brecker-esque intervallic leaps on his tenor while still acknowledging the tradition. Likewise, his sparse tenor-bass-drums trio rendition of Sammy Cahn's "I Should Care" is simultaneously unorthodox and reverential.
Souza adds a haunting quality with her ethereal unison lines alongside McCaslin's tenor on the churning Afro-Cuban undercurrent of "San Lorenzo" before chiming in with a robust overdubbed choir. The full ensemble turns in a relaxed, faithful reading of Wayne Shorter's "Fee Fi Fo Fum," which features dissonant harmonies for alto flute and bass clarinet. And McCaslin lets his experimental tendencies run wild on two provocative cat-and-mouse improv duets with Binney ("Free California" and "Flutter") and on "Break Tune," where he blows freely over some techno loops.
In touching all of these bases, McCaslin has put together his most fully realized project to date. The Way Through represents a complete picture of this talented, up-and-coming saxophonist-arranger-composer, with promises of even grander schemes to come.
JazzTimes:  (Bill Milkowski)

1. Skyward 
2. San Lorenzo 
3. Shadowlands 
4. I Should Care 
5. The Way Through 
6. Break Tune 
7. Free California 
8. Fee Fo Fi Fum 
9. What Remains
10. Woody and You
11. Flutter

Donny McCaslin Ten & Sop Sax
Scott Colley Bass
Adam Cruz drums & perc
Luciana Souza: voice
David Binney Alt sax, sampler
Andres Bostrom: flute, Alt sax
Original Release Date: September 2, 2003 - Label: Arabesque Recordings

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Archie Shepp - Black Ballads (2000 - Timeless Holland)

Tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp, who was one of the enfant terribles of the free jazz generation in the 1960s, once said, seemingly uncharacteristically, "You can hear every minute of every hour of every day of every year a player puts into practicing his horn when he plays a ballad." He was being prophetic, of course, as this date from 1992 suggests. Teamed with pianist Horace Parlan -- with whom he recorded the magnificent duet of spirituals Goin' Home -- bassist Wayne Dockery, and drummer Steve McCraven, Shepp leads the quartet through an astonishing series of ballads that are as revelatory for their understatement as they are for their musical aplomb. Shepp takes the Ben Webster approach on these 11 sides and comes off as a singer of songs (he is not singing) rather than as a saxophone player. His readings of "Angel Eyes," "All Too Soon," and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," and his souled-out cover of "Georgia on My Mind," are stunning for the restraint and nuance they contain. Parlan's comping slips toward fills of uncommon texture and dimensionality in the bridges of these tunes, and on Shepp's own "I Know About the Life," he reinvents the tune itself. The high point of this glorious record is Shepp's own "Déjà Vu," as it comes out of an uncommonly long "Lush Life," where the lyric of both compositions becomes a kind of recitation on the blues in stretched time. Issued on the Timeless label, this is a must-have for all Shepp fans, but more importantly, it is for all followers of the development in harmonic thinking about the ballad form in Jazz. 
Thom Jurek, Rovi

01.Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?
02.I Know About The Life
03.Georgia On My Mind
04.Embraceable You
05.Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
06.How Deep Is The Ocean
07.Lush Life
08.Déjà Vu
09.Angel Eyes
10.All To Soon (5
11.Ain't Misbehavin'
January 01, 2000
Archie Shepp:   Ten and Alto Sax
Horace Parlan:  Piano
Wayne Dockery:  Bass
Steve McRaven:  Drums. 
Recording information: Studio 44, Monster, The Netherlands Jan 13th, 1993
Released on January 1, 2000 - Label: Timeless Holland

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Roy Haynes: Out of the Afternoon (1962 - Impulse! Records)

This splendid-sounding CD reissues a 1962 set from the Roy Haynes Quartet -- which, at the time, consisted of Haynes, Henry Grimes on bass, Tommy Flanagan on piano, and Roland Kirk on saxes, manzello, stritch, and flutes. The album is a delightful mix of techniques in arrangement and performance, with all of the musicians delivering terrific work -- Haynes' drumming is absolutely wonderful here, lightly dancing around the other instruments, Flanagan's piano playing is equally light and delicate, Grimes' bass work is outstanding (during "Raoul" you have a chance to hear one of the few bowed bass solos on records of that era), and there's not much that can be said about Kirk's sax and flute work that hasn't already been said a hundred times, apart from the fact that the flute solos on "Snap Crackle" help this cut emerge as particularly outstanding. 
Steven McDonald, All Music Guide.

1. Moon Ray
2. Fly Me To The Moon
3. Raoul
4. Snap Crackle
5. If I Should Lose You
6. Long Wharf
7. Some Other Spring

Roy Haynes: Drums
Roland Kirk: Ten sax & flute
Tommy Flanagan: Piano
Henry Grimes: Bass
Released in 1962 - Label: Impulse! Records
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jimmy Giuffre - Fly Away Little Bird (2003 - Sunny Side)

Recorded a year before this trio's final record in ’93, Fly Away Little Bird delivers a more grounded, earthy performance than Conversations With a Goose. Here, Jimmy Giuffre, Paul Bley, and Steve Swallow explore their blues roots, particularly Giuffre. And, in addition to their trademark spontaneous inventions, they lovingly render five standards and a surprisingly strong composition by Juanita Odjenar Giuffre, Mrs. Jimmy. This was their third album for Owl after a 27-year hiatus.
Giuffre’s credited with the title track, a wistful group piece with Jimmy on clarinet. The three musicians easily revolve in and out of their solos and supporting roles. “Fits” gives Swallow a solo run that carries a vaguely Spanish flavor with classical counterpoint. All three give a heartfelt reading to Vernon Duke’s “Can’t Get Started.” After Jimmy’s mournful turn, Swallow bends his notes bluesy, and Bley takes a theatrical interlude.
Bley goes solo on “Qualude,” working a walking bass line through some minor harmonies. The modal inventions that follow are pure Bley, some deceptively simple ideas the build into a complex off-kilter blues. Juanita Giuffre’s “Possibilities” starts with a rubbery throbbing Swallow and Giuffre making short statements on soprano. Bley plays the progression in a clipped style, before blowing it apart. Giuffre goes on one of his amazing solo excursions on “Tumbleweed,” a clarinet workout that includes extended techniques, vocals sounding like Italian operetta, and sweet bluesy musing.
Kern and Hammerstein’s “All the Things You Are” gets a stiff intro from Bley and Giuffre, then Swallow enters in hyper-swing mode, and everyone gets on his bus. Bley manages to tweak his chords enough to keep it from being a totally straight interpretation. “Starts” continues Swallow’s solo exploration, this time less jaunty, less Spanish, but no less contrapuntal. The Gordon Jenkins composition, “Goodbye,” originally showed up on the trio’s second album for Verve, Thesis in 1961. Giuffre’s clarinet sings the sad song, with Swallow and Bley finishing his and each other’s phrases. Swallow’s unique bass approach creates a call and response role with the clarinet.
The long group improv “Bats in the Belfry” begins with a few lines from Giuffre on soprano that echo back from Bley and Swallow, and the variations commence. After various changes, Giuffre switches to clarinet, and in one sequence Bley sounds as if he’s playing prepared piano.
All About Jazz (Rex Butters)

1.- Fly Away Little Bird
2.- Fits
3.- I Can’t Get Started
4.- Qualude
5.- Possibilities
6.- Tumbleweed
7.- All The Things You Are
8.- Starts
9.- Goodbye
10.- Just Dropped By
11.- Lover Man
12.- Postlude
13.- Sweet And Lovely
14.- Bats In The Belfry

Jimmy Giuffre:  Sop Sax, clarinet, voice;
Paul Bley:  piano;
Steve Swallow:  electric bass
Recording information: Sound on Sound Studio, NY (April 25th ,1992). - Released on July 29th, 2003 - Label: Sunny Side

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Anthony Braxton: 23 Standards (2004 - Leo Records)

Anthony Braxton returns with a 4-disc set that resumes where 2001's 8 Standards left off. 23 Standards features the same quartet as the previous release, again touring the archives of jazz and popular song composition to come up with a refreshing and varied program of familiar tunes to work with. Joining Braxton, longtime collaborator Kevin Norton executes percussion, and Andy Eulau plays bass. Remarkable newcomer guitarist Kevin O'Neil exhausts his fretboard on every track, maintaining carpal tunnel inducing runs and tasteful chorded accompaniment. For all his startling compositions with scary chemical equation titles and librarian persona, here Braxton leaves no doubt how rooted in the jazz tradition he remains.
Gems include Sammy Kahn & Jimmy Van Heusen's "Only the Lonely." Played in duet, the heart tugging ballad backs Braxton's reticent phrasing with O'Neil's bell tone chords. Suddenly, all structure dissipates and they maintain the tempo and tone with free improv. Gracefully, they reenter the ballad and nestle it home. Pumping a load of Geritol into "After You've Gone," they take the old girl out dancing and everyone's young again. Eulau maintains a deadly pace on bass, Braxton exuberant on alto. With Norton riding the cymbal, O'Neil peels measure after measure of inhuman technique joined to encyclopedic imagination.
On Meyer & Kahn's "Crazy Rhythm" there are moments this could be Jim Hall and Paul Desmond, except here the alto's had the martini as Braxton tinkers with syntax, timing, phrasing, harmony simultaneously with the trio greased in downhill semi mode. When Eulau and Norton break it down with a duet, O'Neil snaps it back with an electrifying declaration. Dazzling for it's sheer velocity, there are no spare notes. From his blistering post bop mastery to his ease slipping briefly out with Braxton, to his nudging accompaniment, he steals an impressive show.
They bring toy box fun to Monk's "Off Minor." This band likes their Monk spiky, and they play to sharp turns. Braxton's shaky snaky soprano flies unscathed through the cactus garden, then O'Neil follows with flashing finger work. Later in the set they deliver a fog and moonlight take on "Round Midnight." Braxton caresses the theme and its variations on alto, the band appositely sultry. Eulau plays a thoughtful solo, then O'Neil stays blue with lightning deliveries and precise hesitations.
The bossa nova craze gets a nod with interpretations of Jobim's "Desafinado," and Luis Bonfa's "Black Orpheus." The former begins with familiar Braxton minimalism, muted guitar strings, bass piano arco. Norton's vibes add color, and the soprano doesn't state the theme until three quarters into the performance. Braxton plays a slightly sharp sopranino for "Black Orpheus." O'Neil thrives in guitarist Bonfa's composition, while Braxton sounds like a soulful oboe.
John Coltrane receives his due in three interpretations, beginning with "26-1." The group gives it a looser swing than Trane, Braxton effusively inventive, and O'Neil going from stroll to sprint. A blistering double improvisation has O'Neil and Braxton flying over the rhythm section on "Giant Steps." Braxton successfully takes on Trane's lip lacerating solo on the brisk "Countdown."
The quartet plays an affectionate take on Sam Rivers' sunny "Beatrice." The alto communicates tenderness and longing on Vernon Duke's "I Can't Get Started," and O'Neil keeps a straight face quoting the Woody Woodpecker song.
This is crucial listening for anyone who cares about this catalogue of songs, Braxton shoulders open a doorway to a viable jazz future. Rather than presenting an airless mummified Sunday afternoon at the Jazz Museum, the band's ability to dance with history and buy it a drink resembles the time traveling sensibilities of Mingus and Kirk. Release is limited to 1000 copies.
All About Jazz (Rex Butters)

1 Crazy Rhythm - 16'50 (Joseph Meyer & Roger Wolfe Kahn)
2 Off Minor - 11'36 (Thelonious Monk)
3 Desafinado - 04'35 (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
4 26-1 - 11'15 (John Coltrane)
5 Why Shouldn't I - 10'42 (Cole Porter)
6 Giant Steps - 12'32 (John Coltrane)

1 Tangerine - 14'35 (Schertzinger)
2 Black Orpheus - 13'53 (Luois Bonfa)
3 Round Midnight - 13'07 (Thelonious Monk)
4 Ju-Ju - 10'26 (Wayne Shorter)
5 After You've Gone - 17'16 (Creamer & Layton)

CD 3
1 Everything I Love - 12'24 (Cole Porter)
2 I Can't Get Started - 11'09 (Vernon Duke)
3 It's A Raggy Waltz - 10'12 (Dave Brubeck)
4 Countdown - 12'08 (John Coltrane)
5 Blue In Green - 5'11 (Bill Evans)
6 Beatrice - 9'27 (Sam Rivers)

1 Only The Lonely - 6'37 (S. Cahn & J. Van Heusen)
2 Recorda Me - 15'52 (Henderson)
3 Ill Wind - 17'00 (Harold Arlen)
4 I'll Be Easy To Find - 11'29 (B. Howard)
5 Three To Get Ready - 10'29 (Dave Brubeck)
6 Dolphin Dance - 10'47 (Herbie Hancock)
Anthony Braxton: Sax
Kevin O'Neil: guitar
Kevin Norton: percussion
Andy Eulau: bass

Released on October 26th, 2004 - Label: Leo Records UK
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Miles Davis: Miles in Tokyo (1964 - Label: Sony)

Recorded in '64, Miles in Tokyo finds the iconic Miles Davis performing with his almost-second great quintet. Tenor saxophonist Sam Rivers, a more accomplished and daring experimentalist than his predecessor, George Coleman, joined the group after a fellow Bostonian, drummer Tony Williams, recommended him to Davis. There are times on this recording when one might understand why Davis and Rivers never meshed, and times when the partnership is quite wonderful, though brief.
On "If I Were a Bell," for example, after a lucid and melodic statement by Davis, Rivers purposely goes off-center on his solo. He does it with enough force that his motions are neither subtle nor nuanced; they're noticeable. Yet on the more forlorn and dark "My Funny Valentine," he shows greater care to stay within the song's melody, a treatment that resonates well with the rest of the group.
"So What" is taken at a faster pace than the version on the seminal Kind of Blue with, again, Davis and Rivers varying in their melodic approaches. By "Walkin'," though, it is Davis who alters his style, accepting some restless elements into his approach. He flies fast and furiously through his solo, provoking Williams into some manic beats. Williams, for his part, always sounded best in contexts that were more "out" than "in," and the inclusion of Rivers on this date certainly allowed him greater, rhythmic latitudes. Herbie Hancock, as well, finds some dissonant and interesting moments on "Walkin'." The finale, "All of You," finds Davis muted and lyrical, Rivers wild but compliant, and the rest of the group providing a wonderful groove.
Months after this concert in September of '64, the definitive version of the second great quintet, with Wayne Shorter on tenor, finally took form. The almost-second great quintet heard on Miles in Tokyo is an aberration, a rare gem, and worth investigating.
All About Jazz (Germein Linares )

1. Introduction by Teruo Isono   
2. If I Were A Bell   
3. My Funny Valentine   
4. So What   
6. All of You   
7. Go-Go (Theme And Announcement)
Miles Davis (tpt);
Sam Rivers (ts);
Herbie Hancock (p);
Ron Carter (b);
Tony Williams (d)
Recorded live at Kohseinenkin Hall,Tokyo, Japan on July 14, 1964 - Label: SONY 
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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sam Rivers - Contours (2004 - Blue Note)

Unlike pianist Andrew Hill, who, late in life, is finally being awarded the accolades he deserves, saxophonist/flautist Sam Rivers never received his proper due and continues to work in relative obscurity. Sure, his name is known amongst those who know, but mention him to casual jazz listeners and most will go "Sam who?" or perhaps, with the recent release of the Miles Davis Seven Steps box, "Oh yeah, the guy who played with Miles for one tour and then got fired."

And it's a shame, because along with Hill and others, including another sadly-overlooked artist, trombonist Grachan Moncur III, Rivers was at the forefront of the mid-'60s movement that evolved hard bop towards a more left-leaning avant-garde. And while Rivers recorded fewer albums as a leader for Blue Note than Hill, his contributions are equally significant, just in a different way. While Hill leaned towards complex, convoluted compositions that set the stage for more oblique improvisations, Rivers, while no less cerebral, was a looser spirit, more disposed towards a liberated approach that combined heady themes with enough swing to satisfy the hard bop enthusiast, and exploratory soloing that took it all to a different place for the more enthusiastic experimentalist. None of Rivers' Blue Note releases combined these elements more successfully than '65's Contours , finally reissued in remastered form with an alternate take of the aptly-titled "Mellifluous Cacophony" included as a bonus.
Joining Rivers on the date are trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, drummer Joe Chambers and, most significantly, pianist Herbie Hancock and bassist Ron Carter, two players who were also exploring a more intellectual avenue between tradition and invention with Miles Davis, albeit with a more elastic time sense thanks to drummer Tony Williams. Chambers, who emerged seemingly out of nowhere around '64, was no less investigative than Williams but, on sessions with artists including Bobby Hutcherson, Wayne Shorter and Hill, demonstrated a lighter touch, less of the explosive power that was Williams' inclination. Whereas Hancock, Carter and Chambers had proven themselves with more outer-reaching material, the surprise of the set is Hubbard, a player who typically leaned more towards the hard bop centre, but on this set is positively on fire, matching Rivers note-for-note on "Dance of the Tripedal," a more-or-less swinging ¾ time piece that is anchored by Chambers until Hancock's abstract solo breaks down the time and Chambers confidently reasserts it.
Rivers' tenor is sharp and incisive as always, but it's his reedy, oboe-like soprano that sets the pace on "Point of Many Returns," a piece with a challenging but memorable theme. Chambers and Carter swing hard through Hubbard and Hancock's spots but become more adventurous with time during Rivers' visceral but clearly considered solo. And on the more transcendent "Euterpe" Rivers' flute combines with Hubbard's muted horn to create an attractive texture.
Rivers would ultimately go on to further heights of freedom, but with Contours he posits a formal yet less rigid compositional alternative to Hill's more intricate constructions that is essential listening.
John Kelman - All About Jazz

Track Listing: 
01. Point of Many Returns; 
02. Dance of the Tripedal; 
03. Euterpe; 
04. Mellifluous Cacophony; 
05. Mellifluous Cacophony (alt tk) 

Sam Rivers (Ten and Sop Sax, flt), 
Freddie Hubbard (Trp)
Herbie Hancock (p), 
Ron Carter (bass), 
Joe Chambers (Drm) 
Recording on 21st, May 1965 - Remastered (2004) - Label: Blue Note Records
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Thelonious Monk & Sonny Rollins (1955-1986 - Label: Prestige)

Since a 50th Anniversary edition of this recording was released only several years ago, it's possible that this recent RVG edition was seen by the parent company, Concord, as an opportunity to capitalize on the success—critical and popular—of the Monk/Coltrane Carnegie Hall concert (Blue Note, 2005). Regardless, this early meeting of masters, while yielding music of undeniable historical significance and timeless interest, is no match for the later one.
To begin with, the title is deceptive. Rollins and Monk play together on three of the five tracks on the album, which comprises three separate sessions recorded between November 1953 and September 1954. On the opening "Way You Look Tonight Monk's solo is a mere half chorus—played in a fairly conventional bebop style. This leaves but two tunes, "I Want to Be Happy and "Friday the 13th, on which the two strong musical personalities seek to negotiate a happy result.
The proceedings are enjoyable, frequently original and illuminating, but not as miraculous as some reviews of earlier editions have suggested. It's instructive to hear the "real" Monk emerge on "Happy," allowing the beat to establish itself before he plays off of and around it, making the piano another polyrhythmic, percussive voice—as opposed to a solo voice accompanied by rhythm section or simply another member of the accompanying team itself.
The individualist/pianist solos for three choruses, each discretely original in conception and execution. After a chorus of connected, seamless lines played in the middle register, he leaps to the upper register for the second chorus, jabbing dissonant chord clusters at irregular intervals in the unfilled space. The third chorus finds him relinquishing his left hand to its independent devices while maintaining an elliptical melody in the right. Always an authoritative solo voice, Rollins seems emboldened by Monk's example, playing with unmistakable conviction, especially compared to his work on an earlier session like Miles Davis' Diggin' (Prestige, 1951), where the tenorist clearly was aiming to make an impression.
Still, after hearing the Monk/Coltrane concert this encounter is inescapably anticlimactic. Rollins, whose playing anticipates some of the melodic/rhythmic characteristics of his successor Charlie Rouse, lacks the light articulations and responsive quickness of the less-renowned player. Compared to Rouse's sportive playfulness, the tenor colossus sounds somewhat heavy and ponderous in Monk country. On the other hand, Coltrane's intensity meshes with Monk's whimsy because the piano "grounds the rapturous, altissimo flights of the tenor saxophone, as though Monk's insistent harmonies and unyielding time are the falconer around which the falcon's gyres are free to expend themselves without spiraling out of control.
Julius Watkins adds his solo voice for Monk's extended and challenging (certainly for the listener) four-bar composition, "Friday the 13th, and the album is rounded out by the two trio numbers which, though they include Blakey, aren't the equal of the later dialog between the pianist and the percussionist on Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk (Atlantic, 1957)—a fascinating and lively, yet ultimately one-sided conversation that might just as well have been titled "The Thelonious Monk Quintet."
Samuel Chell  - All About Jazz

1.Way You Look Tonight, The   
2.I Want to Be Happy   
5.Friday the 13th

Thelonious Monk (piano);
Sonny Rollins (tenor saxophone);
Julius Watkins (French horn);
Percy Heath, Tommy Potter (bass);
Willie Jones, Art Blakey,
Arthur Taylor (drums).
Recorded in the 1955 and reissued in 2006 - Label: Prestige

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ted Curson - Tears For Dolphy (1964 - Black Lion)

Fantastic work from the team of Ted Curson and Bill Barron – a rare French session from 1964, one that captures all the brilliance of their American work from the early 60s! The set features the pair playing in an extremely fragmented mode – no doubt inspired by the recent loss of Eric Dolphy, alluded to in the title of the album, but also possibly because the freedom of the session gave them room to explore a bit more than on previous albums. Includes a great version of Curson's "Quicksand", plus the tracks "Kassim", "East 6th Street", "Tears For Dolphy", "7/4 Funny Time", and "Desolation".

1. Kassim 7:42
2. East 6th Street 5:48
3. 7/4 Funny Time 5:29
4. Tears for Dolphy 8:32
5. Quicksand 6:40
6. Reava's Waltz 7:10
7. Searchin%27 for the Blues 7:43
8. Desolation 8:41
9. Light Blue 3:39

Personnel :
Ted Curson  (Trumpet)
Bill Barron  (Clarinet, Teno Sax)
Herb Bushler  (Bass)
Dick Berk  (Drums)
Released on August 1st 1964 - Label : Black Lion

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Doug Raney Sextet: Meeting The Tenors (1983 - Criss Cross)

Doug Raney is probably fed up with being described as the son of Jimmy Raney, but that's the way it goes when your father is one of the most revered guitarists in jazz. This set was recorded in 1983, when Doug was 26 and still very much under Jimmy's musical influence. The connection is less marked in his playing today. The tenors in question are Ferdinand Povel, perhaps best known for his work with Dutch Radio's Metropole Orchestra, and Bernt Rosengren, a leading Swedish player. The session was recorded at the end of a tour, and has the ease and looseness that comes from playing together regularly. The arrangements are neat but not elaborate and the rhythm section of Horace Parlan, Jesper Lundgaard and Ole Jacob Hansen steams along nicely. No one would describe this album as a towering classic, but it is thoroughly enjoyable, none the less. It also contains that great rarity: a literate and informative insert-note.
Mark Gardner

1.: Up In Quincy's Room
2.: Blues For Bart
3.: Waltz Number One
4.: Arrival
5.: Lover Man
6.: The Night Has A Thousand Eyes

Doug Raney (Guitar)
Horace Parlan (Piano)
Bernt Rosengren (Ten Sax / Flute)
Ferdinand Povel (Ten Sax)
Jesper Lundgaard (Bass)
Ole Jacob Hansen (Drums)
Recorded April 29, 1983 in Monster, The Netherlands by Max Bolleman - Label: Criss Cross

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Mike DiRubbo: From The Inside Out (2005 - Criss Cross)

The proliferation of accomplished young saxophonists continues with New Haven native Mike DiRubbo's debut on Sharp Nine, which continues its admirable policy of promoting undiscovered but no less deserving talent. DiRubbo, now 28 years old, was only 23 when From the Inside Out was recorded in 1994. He'd already graduated from the Hartt School of Music, where he studied under alto master Jackie McLean, and was playing in the Explorer's Quintet with trombonist Steve Davis, his front'line companion here. Besides the seasoned pianist Bruce Barth, the rhythm section includes another of DiRubbo's teachers from Hartt, bassist Nat Reeves, and drummer Carl Allen, who played with Reeves in McLean's small ensemble. DiRubbo, who says his approach and phraseology are based more on the tenor saxophone than the alto (and he speaks the truth), is firmly rooted in the bop tradition, as are his compositions (four are included, the vamp to one of which, 'Blues to Your Old Country,' sounds like Duke Pearson's 'Jeannine'). There are echoes of McLean, and Parker too, in DiRubbo's keen'edged horn, as well as such tenor influences as Trane, Rollins, Shorter, Mobley and others. What emerges is an alert, expressive voice that should become bolder and more persuasive as the years go by. Davis, obviously inspired by J.J. Johnson among others, is relaxed and fluent, but content for the most part to let DiRubbo command the spotlight. Davis makes it a quintet on six of the nine tracks including his original composition, 'The Search Within.' DiRubbo and pianist Barth play a duet on the saxophonist's ballad 'For First,' which leads directly to the fleet'footed finale, Dizzy Gillespie's explicitly titled 'Bebop,' played sans Davis. Barth has another emphatic solo on that one, while the rhythm section is nimble and productive as ever. While there's nothing seismic in DiRubbo's debut, it does serve as a noteworthy preamble to what could be a long and prolific career.
Jack Bowers - All About Jazz

1. From the Inside Out
2. Rue de la Harpe
3. Role Reversal
4. You're a Weaver of Dreams
5. Blues to Your Old Country
6. Over the Rainbow
7. Search Within, The
8. For First
9. Bebop

Mike DiRubbo (alto sax)
Steve Davis (trb)
Bruce Barth (piano)
Nat Reeves (bass)
Carl Allen (drums)
Original Release Date: April 10, 1999 - Label: Sharp Nine Records

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ernie Watts: The Long Road Home (1996 - JVC XRCD)

 Grammy winning saxophonist Ernie Watts re-releases his third and final audiophile XRCD (extended resolution) via his own Flying Dolphin Records. "The Long Road Home reflects my voyage back to the music that inspires me," says Watts. "When doubt and darkness engulf us, the memory of our essence begins to call and we begin our journey back home." Recorded in New York, Watts surrounds himself with superb players; Kenny Barron (piano), Mark Whitfield (guitar) and Reggie Workman (upright bass). Carmen Lundy lends evocative vocals on two tracks. Recorded without drums, the sessions have a mellow, bluesy feel. The disc contains the Charles Mingus classics âGoodbye Pork Pie Hatâ and âNostalgia In Times Square,â along with "Willow Weep For Me" and "Lover Man" Watts' originals "River of Light" and the title track further define his respect for the jazz idiom. His composition âBirdâs Ideaâ pays tribute to the great Charlie Parker.
Ernie Watts started his musical journey at age 13 when he first picked up a saxophone. He won a scholarship to the Wilmington Music School in Delaware, where he studied classical music and started to learn jazz by ear, often falling asleep at night listening to a stack of Coltrane records. Although he would enroll briefly at West Chester University in music education, he soon won a Downbeat Scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, renowned for jazz.
With 18 solo recordings to his credit and two Grammy Awards, he has established himself as one of the most prolific saxophone players on the music scene.
1. Lover Man 
2. At the End of My Rope 
3. River of Light 
4. Nostalgia in Times Square 
5. Bird*s Idea 
6. The Long Road Home 
7. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
8. Willow Weep for Me
09. Moonlight and Shadows

Ernie Watts (Ten Sax)
Kenny Barron (Piano)
Reggie Workman (Bass)
Mark Whitfield (Guitar) - 1,2,5,7
Carmen Lundy (Vocals) - 2,8
Release Date:   Mar 13, 2007  -  Label:    JVC XRCD

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Ted brown & Jimmy Raney: "In Good Company" (Label: Criss Cross - 1985)

In Good Company makes a nice companion piece to Warne Marsh's Back Home, another mid-'80s Criss Cross date reissued in 2001. Ted Brown and guitar legend Jimmy Raney are essentially co-leaders here, teaming with a stellar rhythm section in pianist Hod O'Brien, bassist Buster Williams, and drummer Ben Riley. The CD adds five alternate takes to the original seven selections. There's some good Tristano-oriented bop writing here, particularly Brown's opening "Blimey," based on "Limehouse Blues." 
David R. Adler, All Music Guide

1 Blimey 
2 Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You
3 Lost and Found 
4 Sir Felix 
5 Instant Blue 
6 We'll Be Together Again 
7 People Will Say We're in Love 

Ted Brown (tenor saxophone); 
Jimmy Raney (guitar); 
Hod O'Brien (piano); 
Ben Riley (drums).
Recorded December 23, 1985 in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, USA by Rudy Van Gelder (Label: Criss Cross)

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