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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Friday, March 30, 2012

Chris Minh Doky: Scenes From A Dream (Red Dot - 2010)




Bassist Chris Minh Doky’s 11th album presents a trio, with drummer Larry Goldings and drummer Peter Erskine, joined on most tracks by the Dutch Metropole Orchestra conducted by Vince Mendoza. Melancholy yet inspiring in tone and cinematic in quality, the music vividly depicts scenes and emotions with subtlety and sensitivity.
Opening the set is a poignant rendition of Don Grolnick’s “The Cost of Living,” dedicated to mentor Michael Brecker, with whom Doky played during Brecker’s final years. The album offers three of the bassist’s original tunes: “Arthos II” alludes to the ship which brought Doky’s father from Hanoi to Paris; “Rain” was inspired by the sound and rhythm of falling condensation, its enchanting melody enhanced by Mendoza’s grand arrangement; and “Dear Mom” is a touching ode to Doky’s ailing mother, capturing her singing voice. In homage to his Danish-Vietnamese heritage, Doky includes two Danish folk tunes and one Vietnamese traditional song, all speaking to themes of peace and tranquility. Mendoza contributes two compositions as well: The lyrical “Vienna Would” showcases the trio, while the beautifully arranged “Julio and Romiet” features tender bass and piano alongside hushed percussion and lush strings.
Goldings, Erskine and the orchestra offer fine, nuanced performances. Doky’s virtuosity, creativity and deep, warm tone tastefully utilize both the spaciousness and fullness of this music. In other words, his bass takes center stage without overwhelming the richness of the scenes created.
JazzTimes  

Tracklist:
1. The Cost Of Living
2. Arthos II
3. Fred Hviler Over Land Og By
4. Rain
5. All Is Peace/Ru Con Mien Bac
6. Vienna Would
7. I Skovens Dybe Stille Ro
8. Julio And Romiet
9. Dear Mom

Personnel:
Chris Minh Doky (bass); 
Larry Goldings (piano); 
Peter Erskine (drums)
The Metropole Orchestra conducted by Vince Mendoza 
Released on November 23th, 2010 - Label: Red Dot

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Eric Alexander: Nightlife In Tokyo (Milestone - 2003)




"Nemesis," the opening track of Eric Alexander’s latest release, Nightlife in Tokyo, encapsulates within its twisting motif and exotic garb both the positive and negative qualities of the album. The motif is compelling, but only because it is so reminiscent of Coltrane tracks like “India” and “Naima.” The tune provides a utilitarian launching pad for Alexander’s skillful, well-developed, well-blown tenor improvisations, but fails to provide enough fuel to ignite truly burning runs. That said, it is certainly a well-crafted piece, just like all the material on the album. Even so the overall result feels somehow unsatisfying, and the real problem is that it’s frustratingly difficult to figure out why.
There is no doubt whatsoever that Alexander knows his saxophone, and knows almost everything there is to know about the players that have preceded him on the instrument. In cases like these, however, it remains questionable how essentially good this exhaustive familiarity actually is. Alexander’s compositions display versatility and a great sense of balance. His tone is rich and cultured. He knows when to bend and when to remain firm, his phrasing is always right on the money, and he interacts well with his rhythm section. As is often the case on albums like this, it’s just this interaction which provides the most compelling listening material. Ron Carter’s bass work stands out, particularly on the relatively driving title track, “Nightlife in Tokyo."
In fact, there is no point where the instrumentation, phrasing, tone quality, or note choice stand out as particularly unappealing. In fact, that may be the problem. There is a deliberateness to Alexander’s playing which makes his smooth tone feel too controlled and his Coltrane-esque squiggles and tremolos too calculated. It often feels like there are two Alexanders playing simultaneously: the first initiating the impulse, and the second checking that impulse against an enormous file of technique, phrases, and historic data. This becomes increasingly notable on slower ballads like “I’ll Be Around” than on the edgier, harder tunes such as the already mentioned “Nemisis” and the album’s stand-out piece, “Cold Smoke.”
Overall, this is a solid, straight ahead album that once again reveals Alexander’s tone control and dexterity. There are individual moments and tunes that will without doubt capture the attention of individual listeners. Each listener will most likely identify a favorite tune or two, just as this reviewer has. However, over time the individual tracks tend to bleed together, just as much of today’s jazz output does as a whole, to create a rather homogeneous landscape.
(All About Jazz)


Tracklist:
1. Nemesis 
2. I Can Dream, Can't I? 
3. Nightlife In Toyko 
4. I'll Be Around 
5. Cold Smoke 
6. Island 
7. Big R.C. 
8. Lock Up And Bow Out 

Personnel: 
Eric Alexander: Tenor Saxophone; 
Harold Mabern: Piano; 
Ron Carter: Bass; 
Joe Farnsworth: Drums.
Recorded in New York, New York on December 19, 2002.

Benny Golson - Terminal 1 (Universal Gmbh - 2004)




Benny Golson's Terminal 1 is a commemorative album to Steven Spielberg's latest film, The Terminal, in which Golson plays himself: a legendary jazz saxophonist from whom Tom Hanks' character is trying to get an autograph.
On Terminal 1, 75-year-old hard-bopper Golson looks and plays just as fresh as he did in his younger days with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, where the saxophonist wrote one of the Messenger's most popular tunes, "Blues March." Golson's youthful and vigorous playing on Terminal 1 is aided by bassist Buster Williams and trumpeter Eddie Henderson, who got their big break with Herbie Hancock during the late '60s in the Mwandishi band.
Terminal 1 starts with its title track, which begins with a drum solo by Carl Allen that symbolizes the traffic of people in an airport. Like an airport crowd, the melody is always changing and constantly moving throughout "Terminal 1." The mood of the song moves from contemplative then into straight-ahead 4/4 time. Pianist Mike LeDonne solos lightly, but with strength, and Williams lets loose with a bass solo that cuts to the bone.
"Killer Joe," a tune from the film Terminal, opens up with LeDonne playing block chords in the style of Red Garland. The theme is then stated by the horns in unison, after which Henderson breaks into a beautiful muted trumpet solo, sounding like Miles Davis. "Caribbean Drifting" is a great example of Golson's warm, robust tone with a hint of Latin flavor. His deep, yet cheerful soloing on "Caribbean Drifting" invokes images of Afro-Cuban bop contemporaries like Sonny Rollins and Dizzy Gillespie.
"Blues March," originally recorded in '58 with Art Blakey, gets a nice makeover with a drum intro and solo that pay homage to Blakey with a sense of modernity. Golson sounds just as well as he did in the Jazz Messengers, probably even more seasoned.
Terminal 1 contains the classic standard "Sweet Georgia Brown" and also features a cover of Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way." The '50s hard bop sounds of New York are still alive today in Benny Golson's playing.
(All About jazz)


Tracklist:
1. Terminal 1 
2. Killer Joe 
3. Caribbean Drifting 
4. Park Avenue Petite 
5. Blues March 
6. Sweet Georgia Brown 
7. Cherry 
8. In Your Own Sweet Way 
9. Touch me Lightly 


Personnel: 
Benny Golson (saxophone); 
Buster Williams (bass instrument); 
Eddie Henderson (trumpet, flugelhorn); 
Mike LeDonne (piano); 
Carl Allen (drums).


Recorded at 39th Street Studios, New York, NY on Feb 24th 2004 - Label: Universal Gmbh

Terminal 1
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Scott Colley: Initial Wisdom (Palmetto - 2002)




Bassist Scott Colley steps into the big leagues with his first release for the adventuresome Palmetto Records label. Colley has been a leader of recording sessions in the past, his The Magic Line (Arabesque 2000) and Subliminal... (Criss Cross 1997) garnered critical press for the thirty-eight year-old musician and he has been part of several important recent sessions. Of note is his playing on Andrew Hill's Dusk (Palmetto), Greg Osby's Symbols Of Light (A Solution) (Blue Note), Brad Shepik's Short Trip (Knitting Factory), and Old School (MA) with Peter Epstein and Peter Erskine. He has also been a sideman to guitarist Jim Hall, pianist Jimmy Rowles, and singer Carmen McRae.
Initial Wisdom is a series of trio and quartet tracks with Bill Stewart who is Colley's drummer of choice from his other sessions, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, and guitarist Adam Rogers. This combination of players absolutely gels throughout. Rogers, a member of the jazz/rock/hip-hop band Lost Tribe, and recently singer Norah Jones, add a rocked-out gusto here. Not that Bill Stewart, a veteran of John Scofield's bands, is unfamiliar with loud jazz. His shuffle beat on "Rubber Clock" kicks off a jam sound favored in rock circles. Colley mixes things nicely here. Tempering the electric guitar with splashes of Rogers' acoustic action. Colley thumps through the funk on "The Susser" an obvious nod to the Brooklyn sounds of his former employer Greg Osby.
Colley exhibits the influence his instructor/idol Charlie Haden has over his playing by covering Ornette Coleman's "Alpha." The trio announces they are playing something else! with the aggressive tenor attack poised by Ravi Coltrane as Colley drives both Stewart and Coltrane onward. For the graybeards, this is the highlight of the recording. The band doesn't just cover Ornette they rekindle the Coleman revolution. Coltrane's horn playing has sounded cautious in the past, here he works both the soprano and tenor to great effect. His tenor sound is getting rounder and broader with age.
Colley penned six of the nine tracks heard here. Besides the modern sound he can move inside shifting moods pleasurably as on "Scorpios" and venture outward on the eerie "Trip," where Rogers showcases varied guitar effects.
This is a stellar effort from a nearly perfect combination of modern players. It bears repeated listening.
(All About jazz)

Tracklist:
01. The Susser
02. Scorpios
03. Far Rock Away
04. Alpha
05. Trip
06. Trouble In Paradise
07. Barracudas
08. Eccentric Circles
09. Rubber Clock

Personnel:
Scott Colley (Bass), 
Ravi Coltrane (Sop & Ten sax), 
Adam Rogers (Guitar)  
Bill Stewart (Drums)

Recorded on December 10 & 11, 2001  
Released on March 26, 2002 - Label: Palmetto

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Joe Farnsworth: Beautiful Friendship (Criss Cross - 1998)




A name that we'll definitely being hearing more of in the years to come, drummer Joe Farnsworth has developed an enviable reputation in the Big Apple doing what he does best- swinging like mad, booting the soloist along and sounding great while doing all the above! The 31-year-old native of Massachusetts is one of five bothers, all of them musical and all of them fostered by a father who was a trumpeter and teacher himself. Following studies with Alan Dawson and Art Taylor, along with time spent in the jazz program at William Paterson College, Farnsworth hit New York where he would work with Cecil Payne and the late Junior Cook and the rest, as they say, is history.
For several years Farnsworth led a regular gig at a New York club called Augie's (now re-opened as Smoke Jazz Club) which would bring him in contact with a group of musicians that have become the core of today's best mainstream players. Eventually appearing under the name One For All, the group would include tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, trumpeter Jim Rotondi, trombonist Steve Davis, pianist David Hazeltine, and bassist Peter Washington. Many of these men appear regularly on Criss Cross Jazz, leading to Farnsworth's latest spate of recording activity for the label and becoming as often recorded as his predecessors at Criss Cross, Kenny Washington and Billy Drummond.
All the above logically leads us to the session at hand, Joe's first to date as a leader and not surprisingly such old buddies as Eric Alexander and Steve Davis appear, with such ringers as Cedar Walton and Eddie Henderson thrown in for good measure. The chemistry is perfect and the three-horn front line is particularly strong. The opening "Eddie's Mood" by Steve Davis contains the hip kind of vamp figures that this talented writer has explored in the past so well. This leads to a string of tasty solos perfectly backed by a shuffle rhythm, a la Blakey, that serves as an impeccable introduction for what is to follow, namely 72 minutes of vigorous and animated hard bop of the first order. I nice mix of band originals and a few standards include such highlights as Walton's funky "I'm Not So Sure", Lee Morgan's "Melancholee" and Farnsworth's Coltrane- inspired "I See You, Brother."
Jazz has always thrived on its communal nature, older artists inspiring younger ones, younger ones advancing the music, and so on. Farnsworth has made the most of this tradition and is already one of the finest jazz drummers of his generation. The torch has been passed and, believe me, it's in good hands!
(All About Jazz)

Tracklist:
1. Eddie's Mood 
2. Beautiful Friendship 
3. Joobie 
4. Lament 
5. I'm Not So Sure
6. Something in Common 
7. I See You, Brother 
8. Melancholee 
9. Joe's Tempo

Personnel: 
Joe Farnsworth (drums)
Cedar Walton (piano) 
Eric Alexander (tenor saxophone) 
Eddie Henderson (trumpet, flugelhorn) 
Steve Davis (trombone) 
Recorded at Systems Two Recording Studios, Brooklyn, New York on December 11, 1998
Released on May 11th, 1999 - Label: Criss Cross

Beautiful Friendship
Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Jimmy Owens: The Monk Project (IPO Recordings - 2011)



Thelonious Monk is not suffering from inattention in 2011; it seems, in fact, that he's having a great year, for someone who died in 1982. His singularly quirky tunes have become the staples of hundreds of set lists, and it's hard to swing a dead cat in a record store without hitting dozens of new releases that include at least one Monk song. And why not? Monk's compositions are among the most original, identifiable and substantial music in the jazz canon; the guy was an eccentric genius but, as they say, it's the genius that counts.
Following on the heels of Eric Reed's The Dancing Monk (Savant, 2011), and Kim Pensyl & Phil DeGreg's Melodious Monk (Summit, 2011), Jimmy Owens takes his turn with The Monk Project, an album with the immediate benefit of an A-list lineup to take the veteran trumpeter/flugelhornist's arrangements through their paces. The unusual inclusion of Howard Johnson's tuba on several tracks adds a bit of strategically placed bottom heft. "Unusual" is generally a good thing where Monk's compositions are concerned, and the unorthodox horn is complimentary.Owens has a deep warm sound on his horns, and never sounds like he's in a hurry—a quality also reflected in the relatively moderate pace of the arrangements. "Brilliant Corners" varies between moderato for the distinctive theme, to downright laconic for the deepest blue improvisational passages.
Contributions by the reeds—tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland, and tubaist Johnson, also on baritone—are exemplary, supporting the arrangements with supple unison, but showing real chops when authorized to speak out. Wycliffe Gordon makes his trombone growl and moan during his standout romp through "Epistrophy," while pianist Kenny Barron wisely refrains from trying to directly ape Monk's peculiar fingering style, relying instead on his innate sophistication and the strength of the compositions.The arrangements, layered with harmonies and polyrhythms, are finely crafted, but they have a questionable relationship with Monk's original compositions. On Monk's signature "Epistrophy," Owens expands its basic structure by adding two notes to the original six note left-hand intro, and those extra notes are the rub. In the context of his time, Monk's music was revolutionary, in part, because of its dissonance. Comparing Monk's compositions back-to-back with his contemporaries and they are absolutely shocking for their angularity. By adding those two extra notes to the bass line, Owens transforms the passage from a powerfully discordant statement to little more than a mere bass line. It rounds the edges, downplaying the seditious element central to Monk's music.None of which is to say that The Monk Project is a bad record. It is very well-crafted and played, but it may simply stray too far from its source. It's worth hearing, but it's also worthwhile to listen to Monk's own recordings for comparison, where the difference in affect is not subtle. The Monk Project is a strong effort, but Owens may have over-reached Monk in his revising a classic set of compositions.
(All About Jazz)

Tracklist:
1.Bright Mississippi 
2.Well You Needn't 
3.Blue Monk
4.Stuffy Turkey
5.Pannonica
6.Let's Cool One
7.It Don't Mean A Think (If It Ain')
8.Brilliant Corners
9.Reflections
10.Epistrophy

Personnel:
Jimmy Owens - Trp, Flghn
Howard Johnson - Bar Sax, Tuba
Markus Strickland - Ten Sax
Wycliffe Gordon - Trb
Kenny Barron - Piano
Kenny Davis - Bass
Winard Harper - Drums
Recorded at Sear Sound Studios, New York, NY June, 2nd 2011
Original Release Date: 2011 - label: IPO
 
Tuesday, March 20, 2012

John Beasley: Positootly! (Resonance - 2009)



On Positootly!, pianist John Beasley explores a variety of styles for a thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating experience. Each track benefits immensely from the indelible touch of drumming great Jeff "Tain" Watts, in alliance here with percussionist Munyungo Jackson.
Hailing from Louisiana, Beasley started playing in the late seventies, getting his seasoning with such jazz greats as Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard and Dianne Reeves. Lately, he has gravitated towards composing for film and television, but he continues to release new music and tour with his band.
This recording follows-up Letter to Herbie (Resonance, 2008), in which Beasley presented an impressionistic take on Herbie Hancock's music. Besides Watts and Jackson on drums, the musicians participating here are bassist James Genus, along with the blistering front line of saxophonist Bennie Maupin and trumpeter Brian Lynch.
Most numbers are Beasley originals with three notable exceptions. The standout is a knockout rendition of, Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla's tango "Tanguedia III." On most selections, Beasley plays piano, but here he uses Fender Rhodes and synthesizer to create bandoneon accordion effects essential to tango. It's uniquely tango-jazz all the way in 2/4 start-stop fashion, building to a dynamic climax
Other selections range from funk and soul to bop and bossa nova. Staying in a South American vein, Beasley puts forth his take on Antonio Jobim's "Dindi." Genus' bass sets the tone for this soft reflective piece, with the piano delivering softly swaying interludes. Watts and Jackson, as expected, add complexity to the beat.
A further highlight is Beasley's "Black Thunder," dedicated to the late drummer Elvin Jones, and featuring Watts as a positive dynamo with pounding sticks. Maupin and Lynch deliver stirring solos as well. On Beasley's vigorous "The Eight Winds," Lynch's muted trumpet effectively leads the pianist into a burning,double-time solo, again resolutely backed by the churning drum duo.
For hard boppers, there is Beasley's opener, "Caddo Bayou," featuring the whole band in this energized tribute to the leader's hometown. For soulful funk there is Bobby Timmon's "So Tired," with Beasley again On Fender Rhodes, framing Maupin's strong tenor solo.
Since positivity is the theme of this CD, it is fitting that it ends with the piano solo piece "Hope, Arkansas," Beasley's stately ode to Obama's presidency.
(All About Jazz)

Track Listing: 
1. Caddo Bayou; 
2. Positootly!; 
3. Dindi ; 
4. Black Thunder; 
5. Shatita Boom Boom; 
6. Tanguedia III; 
7. Elle; 
8. So Tired; 
9. Eight Winds; 
10. Hope...Arkansas.

Personnel: 
John Beasley: piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizer; 
Bennie Maupin: tenor and soprano saxophones; 
Brian Lynch: trumpet; 
James Genus: bass; 
Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums; 
Munyungo Jackson: percussion.
Original Release Date: September 8, 2009 - Label: Resonance Records

Positootly!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Greg Osby: St. Louis Shoes (Blue Note - 2003)




It takes time to assess St. Louis Shoes. In fact, to wax intellectual about the process, it requires the exegetical approach usually reserved for vast, inter-textual novels like Dr. Faustus or Gravity's Rainbow. Each encounter reveals ever new intrigues, insights, and moments of grace. And just like with Faust, you?d better go back to the source material.
Each of the nine tracks on St. Louis Shoes is based on another composer's work. Through these, Greg Osby gifts the listener with a treatise on sax styles, displaying a range of tone moving from Hawkins to Young, Parker to Hodges, and finally, to his own unmistakable diamond-hard, angular voice. However, Osby has not produced a tribute album. Everything resonates with his own style, and nothing can be set aside as simply another take. This is jazz inter-textuality and it sounds great.
St. Louis Shoes opens with a direct reference to Osby?s birthplace, ?St. Louis Toodle-oo.? This bold reconfiguration of Ellington?s seminal work begins slowly, the opening retaining much of the original material. However, it quickly builds on the latent threat implicit in Ellington?s rhythms, thickening to enhance the sinister quality, so that in the end it feels as if you have traveled into the depths of St. Louis, and into a musical vision completely Osby?s own.
Initially, Osby?s performance of the next track, ?Shaw Nuff,? sounds like what Parker might have laid down had contemporary recording quality been what it is today, and the LP already in existence. However, this is not straight emulation or resurrection. With Payton as antagonist, Osby bends and twists the original, extending it into a six minute wild ride.
Conversely, ?Light Blue? comes in at just about half the size of Monk?s original. As always, Monk?s idiosyncratic yet sophisticated structure provides fertile territory for improvisers willing to delve into the material. Osby next turns to ?Whirlwind Soldier,? written by contemporary vocalist, composer, and former co-member of Osby?s M-Base project, Cassandra Wilson. By including a contemporary piece, Osby indicates that this project is not about reclaiming the past through homage. It's about improvisation and innovation, something that can be accomplished when working off of the latest as well as the oldest material.
Osby ends his album by returning to one of jazz?s oldest works, ?St. Louis Blues.? Originally written by W.C. Handy and first recorded in 1920, ?St. Louis Blues? was popularized by Louis Armstrong in 1930. Osby?s takes this wealth of history into account, proceeding at a slow tempo to accentuate the piece?s blues mood. Referenced are Armstrong?s succinct note placements, Gillespie?s faster, more dynamic lines, as well as the Latin-influenced rhythmic deviations of Gillespie?s big band arrangement. Green keeps the piece moving with a frenetic but soft rhythm, while O?Neal?s piano work stands out here as particularly adept.
It takes time to assess Osby?s St. Louis Shoes. Time to listen, to think, to sift through old albums and memories, then to listen all over again. There is a wealth of material here. Listen and see what emerges for you.
(All About Jazz)

Tracklist:
1. East St. Louis Toodle-Oo
2. Shaw-Nuff
3. Light Blue
4. Whirlwind Soldier
5. Summertime
6. Milton On Ebony
7. The Single Petal Of A Rose
8. Bernie's Tune
9. St. Louis Blues

Personnel: 
Greg Osby: Alto Saxophone; 
Nicholas Payton:Trumpet, Flugelhorn; 
Harold O'Neal: Piano; 
Robert Hurst: Bass; 
Rodney Gree: Drums.
Recorded at Systems Two, Brooklyn, New York on January 22 & 23, 2003
Release Date: Jun 10, 2003 - Label: Blue Note

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Marcus Strickland - Triumph of the Heavy, Volumes 1 and 2 (Strick Muzik - 2011)




The story continues. Yesterday saxophonist Marcus Strickland's new, double-disc record Triumph Of The Heavy, Volumes 1 & 2 went on sale, and the narrative of this record begins where the story of his prior one, Idiosyncrasies (2009), left off. On that CD, Strickland dives head first into the tricky balancing act of leading a sax trio, with bassist Ben Williams and drummer E.J. Strickland, his twin brother. He made it even more challenging by not falling back on tried-and-true standards, mostly coming up with originals, and even where he did play someone else's music, the songs weren't play-by-the-numbers standards, and mostly weren't even jazz tunes. The record put Strickland on a higher plane, an accomplishment I thought merited a spot on the 2009 Best of Mainstream and Modern Jazz list.
On Triumph Of The Heavy, Volumes 1 & 2, Strickland continues down the path of expanding his art, building upon the ambitious template he established on that prior record: direct, radiant saxophone playing set to songs and arrangements whose melodies are no-nonsense and well-defined, with forward-looking rhythms that absorb some of the more modern music fully into jazz. All while using space and placing his band mates in prominent roles. In these ways, Strickland is the present-day equivalent to Sonny Rollins (with apologies to the still living, still thriving Rollins).
Yes, the story continues, but first with Volume 2 instead of Volume 1, because this disc is a smoldering live date Strickland performed with his Idiosyncrasies trio. By this time, the three had been performing together as a threesome for some time, so it's possible to hear the growth in the bond among them since that studio date. The last two songs are even pulled from Idiosyncrasies, first a funky take on Jaco Pastorious' “Portrait Of Tracy," and then Strickland's own rubbery composition “Cuspy's Delight," where Marcus' tenor gets a little more ambitious here than on the original. The rest of the selections appear to be new originals Strickland is introducing in this live setting, like “Prime," performed in the video below. His soprano sax gets some spotlight, as on “Surreal," which fits the title of the song as it describes Marcus' performance during the solo, and E.J. is just killing it on his kit behind him. “Mudbone" is underpinned but some hip-hop/jazz rhythm and spidery bass playing from Williams that pops.
Volume 1 takes us to a new chapter of sorts. It's a studio set, and also a return to Strickland's quartet format, with the addition of pianist David Bryant to the trio. This isn't a step back to the earlier albums, however, because Strickland goes back to this configuration informed with the ideas he formulated and integrated into his music during the time as a trio. And Bryant is a willing and sympathetic participant to this fresher conception: his playing leaves the voids that afford everyone else breathing space and he's also fits into the groove nicely. “Breathe" in fact seems to be the name of the game on this disc, as Strickland opens up the melodies and lets everyone groove...not in the boring, cyclical sense, but by taking some basic shards of music and build a construction that blurs the distinctions between the composed and the improvisational. From the dynamic, bustling “Lilt," to the urgent “'Lectronic" (which, coincidentally or not, sounds sort of like an acoustic adaptation of an electronic song), finds the balance between the past of jazz and the future.
But there's more to Volume 1 than just taking the trio ideas and adding a piano. Strickland adds an alto sax to his repertoire, making this a highly unusual occasion where a leader is playing tenor, alto and soprano at various times on an album. All three saxophones, as well as a clarinet and bass clarinet are all dubbed together for “Virgo," to create a sleek, modern unplugged groove for him to jam over. “Za Rahula" displays the art of playing a dark, beautiful melody in an unhurried fashion. “A Temptress' Gait" is another display of the unique funk foundation of Williams and E.J., who through these trick rhythms never let go of the swing. With Bryant now in the mix, it seems to make that swing even more evident.
With all the tactical nods to current music forms dotting the sonic landscape on this album, Marcus Strickland's aim for this album is very much opposed to the goal for most music made today: “I wanted to associate the title of my next recording with weight, because I wanted to express that music with substance, a strong sound and which takes risks can triumph, it can move people," he explains. By taking pieces of the here and now and attaching it to the more substantive precepts of jazz from the past, Triumph Of The Heavy, Volumes 1 & 2 attempts to reach out to a wider audience without making any compromises. I don't know how many ears this album will actually persuade, but on an artistic level, it's already a triumph.
(All About Jazz)

Tracklist:
CD 1
1. Lilt
2. Za Rahula
3. A World Found
4. A Temptress' Gait
5. Dawn
6. Bolt Bus Jitter
7. Virgo
8. Shapes
9. Set Free
10. 'Lectronic

CD 2
1. Mudbone
2. Surreal
3. Gaudi
4. A Memory's Mourn
5. Prime
6. Portrait of Tracy
7. Cuspy's Delight

Personal:
Marcus Strickland (Alto, Soprano and Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet)
David Bryant (Piano)
Ben Williams (Bass)
E.J. Strickland (Drums)
Original Release Date: September 27, 2011 - Label: Strick Muzik

Triumph of the Heavy, Volumes 1 and 2
Saturday, March 17, 2012

Woody Shaw: Stepping Stones: Live at the Village Vanguard (Columbia - 2005)





When it comes to jazz reissues, the Mosaic label is to box sets what Columbia/ Legacy is to single-album releases: the gold standard. Stepping Stones makes available, for the first time on CD, Woody Shaw’s only live recording for Columbia. (His four Columbia studio albums were reissued in 1992 in the Mosaic box The Complete CBS Studio Recordings of Woody Shaw.) It contains three bonus tracks and vibrant sound (due to Mark Wilder’s mastering using Sony’s DSD technology). It also provides three new, moving, illuminating sets of liner notes by Shaw’s son Woody III, producer Michael Cuscuna and Shaw’s sideman and close friend Steve Turre.
It's one thing to play the right note, it's another to get it; one thing to play a phrase, another to get to its essence. With academic jazz education more accessible than ever, countless aspiring musicians are learning its vernacular. But music, like all art, is more than technique—it's an indefinable truth that can only come from complete immersion and commitment. Learn the language, but without getting on the bandstand every night, playing with as many people in as many contexts as possible, and it's impossible to make the transition from aspiration to being.
It's possible to tell almost immediately whether or not a group has managed to get inside the music, transcending mere method. That may not be something you can easily articulate, but it's something you know. From the opening notes of Columbia/Legacy's reissue of the late trumpeter Woody Shaw's 1978 live recording Stepping Stones: Live at the Village Vanguard, there's the instant ring of truth—here is a group of players who don't just play notes, they meanthem.
Hot on the heels of his critically-acclaimed The Moontrane (Muse, 1975), Shaw found himself on a major label with the kind of promotional power that should have led to greater acclaim. Still, his uncompromising devotion to a chosen path contrary to the popular predominance of fusion at that time resulted in a reputation that was greater amongst his fellow musicians than the greater listening public. Sixteen years after his tragic death in 1989, the significance of his potent melodies, bright tone, and incisive improvisational style are finally being recognized, with his blend of change-based writing and open-ended modality resulting in flexible but eminently memorable songs.
Shaw's band at the time—saxophonist Carter Jefferson, pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs, bassist Clint Houston, and drummer Victor Lewis—may be the best working group of his career. With everyone but Jefferson contributing songs to the set, it's clear that this is a cooperative, despite Shaw's name on the marquee. They come charging out of the gate for "Stepping Stone with transcendent intensity. Jefferson is especially notable, combining vivid themes with occasional Coltrane-esque sheets of sound. Shaw's "In a Capricornian Way is a modal waltz that's more slow burn than high heat, the perfect setup for Lewis' equally modal 7/4 workout, "Seventh Avenue.
But with all the energy and pure engagement of songs like Houston's up-tempo swinger "Escape Velocity and Shaw's equally fast-moving "Blues for Ball, it's Gumbs' lyrical "All Things Being Equal Are Not —one of two previously unissued tracks—that's the gem of the set. Shaw—who eschews trumpet on this date for cornet and, on this song, flugelhorn—squeezes pure emotion out of Gumbs' deeply moving ballad. While capable of fleet-fingered runs, Shaw understood the potency of a simple phrase, a well-chosen note, and a perfectly timed trill. Something the entire band clearly understands, making Stepping Stones an album that's more than strong material and imaginative playing. Indeed, it's a deep musical truth that many seek, but few find.
(All About Jazz)


Tracklist:
1. Stepping Stone 
2. In a Capricornian Way 
3. Seventh Avenue 
4. All Things Being Equal Are Not - (previously unreleased, studio) 
5. Escape Velocity 
6. Blues for Ball - (previously unreleased) 
7. Theme for Maxine

Personnel:
Woody Shaw - Trumpet
Carter Jefferson - Sax
Onaje Allan Gumbs - Piano
Clint Houston - Bass
Victor Lewis - Drums
Recording information: Village Vanguard, New York, NY (08/05/1978/08/06/1978)
Original Release Date: 2005 - Label: Columbia

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ron Blake - Sonic Tonic (Mack Avenue - 2005)




Saxophonist Ron Blake has everything he needs to be a rising star on the jazz scene. He seems intelligent, he has chops for days, and his bald head/weird beard thing is an extremely marketable look. Blake is adventurous enough, which he proves by including a remix disc in the CD package. He even has famous friends like Me'shell NdegeOcello to produce his album. There's just one thing he might not have yet—but we'll get to that in a second.
Let's focus on the positive. Blake's tone on tenor sax is pure and true; he is capable of gliding through ballads like "Pissarro's Floor" and punching through up-tempo numbers like "Tom Blake" while still sounding like himself. He might be a little too much in love with smooth jazz, turning interesting compositions like "Shades of Brown" into dentist-room fodder, but he is good enough as a stylist that it doesn't really offend the ears to hear him stretch out in a mellow way. And he's tough enough to take on "The Windmills of Your Mind" without sounding apologetic or tentative about it.
The most exciting things on Sonic Tonic are the hybrid songs, where Blake incorporates his West Indian heritage with other forms of music. The title track feels like ska, but it has some credible wah-wah funk from David Gilmore happening too. "Tom Blake" pulls in the Cuban side of the Caribbean, and it also allows Josh Roseman the latitude to pull off a wildly enjoyable trombone solo. And the two great takes of "Invocation" are worth mentioning, because they are majestic and multicolored, Latin and reggae-ish, and funky and modal all at once. They could be the blueprint for Ron Blake's next phase.
If, of course, there is a next phase. Because what I'm not sure of, after listening to this album several times, is whether or not Blake has any real ideas underneath the surface. Is all this style-jockeying part of a grand vision, or is it just to throw us off the scent? I'm guessing the former, but only time will tell. It's going to be fun watching Blake's career and trying to find out.
(All About Jazz)

1 - Invocation 
2 - Chasing The Sun 
3 - Your Warm Embrace 
4 - Dance Of Passion 
5 - The Windmills Of Your Mind 
6 - Shades Of Brown 
7 - Sonic Tonic 
8 - Tom Blake (Revisited) 
9 - Pure Imagination 
10 - Pissarro's Floor 
11 - Invocation (Dance Of Fire)


Personnel: 
Ron Blake (flute, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone); 
Reuben Rogers (acoustic guitar, electric bass); 
James Hurt (keyboards); 
Christian McBride (double bass); 
Chris 'Daddy' Dave, Chris Dave (drums); 
Gilmar Gomes (percussion); 
David Gilmore (electric guitar); 
Sean Jones (flugelhorn); 
Vincent Chancey (French horn); 
Josh Roseman (trombone); 
Marcus Rojas (tuba); 
Michael Cain (piano, Fender Rhodes piano, organ, keyboards); 
Terreon Gully (drums); 
Pedro Martinez (congas).
Recorded at Chung King Studios, New York, NY (08/2004); Skip Saylor Sound (08/2004).
Released on May 24th, 2005 - Label: Mack Avenue

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Jeremy Pelt: Insight (Criss Cross - 2009)




25 year old trumpeter Jeremy Pelt has garnered notice for his superb charts and professionalism since landing in New York four years ago. "Insight," his Criss Cross debut, demonstrates that he's also a composer with a point of view. Helping him articulate it are a take no prisoners ensemble of New York's finest callers, all 30 and under, with the exception of veteran drum avatar Ralph Peterson. Features tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene, alto saxophonist Myron Walden, pianist Rick Germanson and bassist Vincente Archer. 


Tracklist:

1. Ides Of March 5:26
2. In My Grandfather's Words 8:06
3. The Glass Room 5:31
4. Spherical Inclination 6:47
5. Remembrance Of The Lost 2:44
6. Madness 7:56
7. I Wish You Love 5:49
8. Sisyphus 5:00
9. From Within 6:00

Personnel:
Jeremy Pelt: trumpet, flugelhorn
Jimmy Greene: soprano & tenor sax
Myron Walden: alto sax
Rick Germanson: piano, Wurlitzer piano
Vincente Archer: bass
Ralph Peterson: drums
Recording information: Systems Two Studios, Brooklyn, NY (05/29/2002) - Label: criss cross


Insight
Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wallace Roney – Mistérios (Warner Bros - 1994)




Wallace Roney's dilemma recalls that of Sonny Stitt in the '50s and '60s: his trumpet tone, timbre, approach, phrasing, and sound so closely mirror that of Miles Davis in his pre-jazz/rock phase that he's been savaged in many places for being a clone and unrepentant imitator. Stitt stopped playing alto for years because of his disdain of being labeled a Charlie Parker clone; Roney, on the other hand, played many of Miles Davis' parts on the 1992 tribute to the Birth of the Cool sessions.
He avoids the standard repertoire altogether on this CD, playing pieces by Pat Metheny, the Beatles, Egberto Gismonti, Jaco Pastorius and even Dolly Parton among others but, try as hard as he may, he still sounds like Miles Davis every time he hits a long tone or plays a doubletime passage. Backed by a small orchestra that mostly interprets Gil Goldstein arrangements, Roney is the main soloist throughout this interesting ballad-dominated set.
(iTunes Store)

Tracklist
1. Meu Mentno 
2. In Her Family 
3. Michelle 
4. Cafe 
5. Misterios 
6. Last To Know 
7. Memoria e Fado
8. 71 + 
9. Muerte (5:48)
10. I Will Always Love You 

Personnel:
Wallace Roney: Trumpet
Geri Allen: Piano
Clarence Seay: Bass
Eric Allen: Drums
Gil Goldstein (tracks 4): Keyboards
Steve Berrios, Steve Thornton, Valtinho Anastacio: Percussion 

 Antoine Roney (tracks 4, 6, 8), Ravi Coltrane (tracks 9): Ten Saxophone
Original Release Date: June 28, 1994 - Label: Warner Bros

1  2  3  4  
Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Yusef Lateef: The Three Faces of Yusef Lateef (ojc - 1995)



On The Three Faces of Yusef Lateef, Riverside seems eager to present Yusef Lateef, technical virtuoso, on a series of songs that step closer to jazz tradition than any of his work in the recent past. Largely absent are Lateef's experiments with Eastern modes, rhythms, and instrumentation, and in their place is a collection of largely upbeat, accessible songs, with a balanced mix of standards and originals. Much of the introspective, personal quality of his previous albums seems lost in the effort, but Lateef's playing still remains stellar, especially on oboe. That instrument, which is by nature soft and muted, is given enough power by Lateef to lead on several songs, most beautifully on "Salt Water Blues," where its naturally melancholy sound seems perfectly matched with the low, rounded tones of Lateef's rhythm section, especially Ron Carter's bowed cello. The quintet also shines on the following track, Joe Zawinul's "Lateef Minor 7th," where they provide a gentle counterpoint to Lateef's sweet flute line. Not quite as expansive or daring as much of Lateef's other recordings, The Three Faces of Yusef Lateef still documents a fine musician at work during the peak of his career.
(Allmusic.com)

Tracklist:
1. Goin' Home 
2. I'm Just A Lucky So And So 
3. Quarantine 
4. From Within 
5. Salt Water Blues 
6. Lateef Minor 7th 
7. Adoration 4:31
8. Ma, He's Makin Eyes At Me 

Personnel:
Yusef Lateef (tenor sax, oboe & flute)
Ron Carter (cello)
Hugh Lawson (piano & celeste)
Herman Wright (bass)
Lex Humphries (drums)
Recorded in May 1960 - Label: Ojc (Date of release: 1995)

The Three Faces of Yusef Lateef

Monday, March 12, 2012

Jerry Weldon & Michael Karn: Head To Head (Criss Cross - 1998)




There's something magical about the idea of dueling tenor saxophones that has kept it a popular commodity for many years now. Historically, the first memorable pairing was that of Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray. Then, we had Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt, and let's not forget that incendiary duo of Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis! Now you can add a modern day equivalent in the likes of tenor men Jerry Weldon and Michael Karn. While certainly not yet household names, both players have established reputations and bring something fresh to the mainstream tradition. Karn, a student of Joe Lovano's, has worked with a number of New York mainstays including organist Charles Earland, while Weldon studied at Rutgers and has recently been heard in Jack McDuff's combo.
Like the best duos, Weldon and Karn share enough differences in sound and approach to provide the contrast needed for an engaging listen. The former has a beefy sound that has a swagger akin to players of the swing era, while the latter possesses that high-register cry that marks such modern players as Lovano and Michael Brecker. The rhythm section that rounds out the group is made up of first-call players. Bruce Barth is one of the few pianists of his generation with that uncanny ability to play just the right thing that will get everyone going, be it a mainstream gig or the avant-garde. And by now it should be known that bassist Peter Washington and drummer Billy Drummond are two of the greatest jazz musicians of this or any era in jazz.
The festivities get underway with Weldon's "Captain Morgan", a catchy number that recalls the up tempo romps of Lockjaw and Griffin. Karn's "Big 'D'" has hints of "Gingerbread Boy" with its stop-time passages and it serves as a perfect springboard to some inspired solos. Aside from one other original apiece from Karn and Weldon, the program is filled out with a choice selection of well- arranged standards, including a solo ballad performance from each tenor man. A brisk "Ko-Ko" wraps up an undeniably swinging and pleasurable date that, like a comfortable and well-worn shirt, will surely become an old favorite.
(All About jazz)

Tracklist:
        1.Captain Morgan (Jerry Weldon)
2.Sweet And Lovely (Gus Arnheim / Harry Tobias / Jules Lemare)
3.Who Can I Turn To (Anthony Newley / Leslie Bricusse)
4.Big 'D' (Michael Karn)
5.Late Last Summer (Jerry Weldon)
6.All The Way (Sammy Cahn / Jimmy Van Heusen)
7.Ow (Dizzy Gillespie)
8.Far East (Michael Kahn)
9.If Ever I Would Leave You (Alan Jay Lerner / Frederick Loewe)
10.Ko-Ko (Charlie Parker)

Personnel: 
Jerry Weldon- tenor saxophone, 
Michael Karn- tenor saxophone, 
Bruce Barth- piano, 
Peter Washington- bass, 
Billy Drummond- drums
Recorded June 9, 1998 in Brooklyn, NY, USA by Max Bolleman - Label: Criss Cross

Jerry Weldon & Michael Karn:  Head To Head
Sunday, March 11, 2012

McCoy Tyner with Stanley Clarke & Al Foster (Telarc - 2000)




From his revolutionary work with John Coltrane's classic quartet to his multi-hued solo career, McCoy Tyner is the most influential living jazz pianist of the modern era. Distinctive chord voicings, insightful solos and a neo-classical approach to the instrument have earned him accolades and a devoted following for more than 40 years.
On this buoyant and mostly acoustic trio outing, he's matched with two other jazz luminaries: trailblazing fusion bassist and Return To Forever co-founder Stanley Clarke, and ubiquitous drummer Al Foster. Their exhilarating and dynamic post-bop explorations glow with vitality on the wistful "Trane-like," and a remake from Tyner's Coltrane days, "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," while an Afro-Cuban soul inhabits "Carriba" and Clarke's original bossa nova, "In The Tradition Of." Also included are two takes of Tyner's "I Want to Tell You 'bout That," one featuring Clarke on electric bass, the other on stand-up. Rather than stoke their individual egos with grandstanding technical displays, they each serve the music first with taste, sensitivity, and the telepathic aplomb of seasoned legends.
(CD Universe)
        Track listing
1."Trane-Like" 
2."Once Upon a Time" 
3."Never Let Me Go" (Evans, Livingston) 
4."I Want to Tell You 'Bout That" 
5."Will You Still Be Mine?" (Adair, Dennis) 
6."Goin' 'Way Blues" 
7."In the Tradition Of" (Clarke) 
8."The Night has a Thousand Eyes" (Bernier, Brainin) 
9."Carriba" - 5:41
10."Memories" - 3:43
11."I Want to Tell You 'Bout That" [alternate take] 
All compositions by McCoy Tyner except as indicated


Personnel: 
McCoy Tyner (piano); 
Stanley Clarke (acoustic & electric basses); 
Al Foster (drums).
Recorded at Clinton Recording Studio "B", New York, New York on April 27 & 28, 1999.
Original Release Date: January 25, 2000 - Label: Telarc

McCoy Tyner with Stanley Clarke & Al Foster
Friday, March 9, 2012

Don Braden Septet: After Dark - (Criss Cross - 1993)




The nighttime is the theme for tenor saxophonist Don Braden's third Criss Cross release. On After Dark, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Carl Allen remain from Braden's previous two releases. They are joined by trumpeter Scott Wendholt, alto saxophonist Steve Wilson, trombonist Noah Bless, and pianist Darrell Grant to perform five originals, two standards, one jazz classic, and one pop song, Stevie Wonder's "Creepin'," arranged for septet. As with his previous recording, Braden's composing and arranging skills are the focus of the recording. Compositions such as the title track, "R.E.M.," and "Dawn" feature the septet and are characterized by Braden's harmonic imagination, challenging melodies, and sense of swing. But Braden is also a player, his distinctive sound and improvisational ideas displayed on "Night," an up-tempo version of "You and the Night and the Music" and Thelonious Monk's "Monk's Dream." This recording is one of 1994's best releases and a positive step in Braden's rapid development.
Greg Turner



Tracklist:
1. After Dark 
2. Night 
3. You and The Night And The Music 
4. Creepin' 
5. R.E.M 
6. Stars Fell On Alabama 
7. Monk's Dream 
8. Dawn 
9. The Hang 

Personnel: 
Don Braden (flute, tenor saxophone); 
Steve Wilson (alto saxophone); 
Scott Wendholt (trumpet, flugelhorn); 
Noah Bless (trombone); 
Carl Allen (piano, drums); 
Darrell Grant (piano); 
Christian McBride (double bass).
Recorded at RPM Studio, New York, New York on January 5, 1993 - Label: Criss Cross

After Dark
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Joshua Redman - Compass (Nonesuch Records - 2009)




Like its predecessor Back East (Nonesuch, 2007), saxophonist Joshua Redman's Compass invites comparisons with Sonny Rollins' totemic acoustic trio outing Way Out West (Riverside, 1957), whose instrumentation it reflects and whose influence Redman has acknowledged.
Another Rollins album which springs to mind, though more for its title than its structure, is Saxophone Colossus (Riverside, 1956); for with Compass, Redman, like Rollins 53 years earlier, has produced the most singular album of his career so far. Redman's previous acoustic albums have been uniformly strong, but have lacked a certain something—an in the moment, devil-may-care spontaneity—which would have lifted them beyond competence towards greatness. On Compass, however, the saxophonist has cast caution and concern with form aside: a loose-limbed, wayfaring vibe permeates the music, to its great advantage.
Gathering around him four longtime colleagues—bassists Larry Grenadier and Reuben Rogers and drummers Brian Blade and Gregory Hutchinson—Redman went into the studio with few preconceptions other than to dig deeper into the piano-less trio format and, as he writes in the liner notes, to "let go." Somewhere along the line he had the idea of using multiple bassists and drummers. Five of the 13 tracks on Compass feature two bassists and two drummers, while another pair include two bassists and one drummer. The remaining six tracks feature the four accompanists in various trio permutations with Redman.
On the quintet tracks, Redman has avoided using the doubled-up rhythm section simply for increased volume and impact. Instead he has fostered a call and response dialogue between the musicians, who—with the exception of Redman himself, magnificently on-mic practically from start to finish—take turns to lay out and listen as frequently as they step forward to be heard. While there are passages on "Identity Thief" and "Just Like You" when the band hits the listener with the force of a twin-engined express train, there are others, notably on "Little Ditty" and "Moonlight," a reading of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," which, despite the massed firepower, are pretty and delicate, sometimes even dainty.
With the exception of "Moonlight" all the tunes are group originals, most of them written by Redman. Sometimes, as on the boppish "Hutchhiker's Guide" and "Round Reuben," the Pat Metheny-esque "Faraway," or the Eastern-undertoned, soprano vignette "Ghost," Redman's tunes are conventionally conceived. Almost as frequently, they resemble exercises or motifs, skeletal and reiterative, but with each nonetheless possessing a recognisable emotional character—the restless "Insomnomaniac" and manic "Un Peu Fou" are as their titles suggest.
An album of vigorous, passionate, improvised music built on simple tunes and unfussy arrangements, Compass is Joshua Redman's first undeniably colossal album.
(All About jazz)


Tracklist:
1. Uncharted
2. Faraway
3. Identity Thief
4. Just Like You
5. Hutchhiker's Guide
6. Ghost
7. Insomnomaniac
8. Moonlight
9. Un Peu Fou
10. March
11. Round Reuben
12. Little Ditty
13. Through the Valley

Personnel: 
Joshua Redman: tenor saxophone (1-5, 7-9, 11, 13), soprano saxophone (6, 10, 12); 
Larry Grenadier: bass (1-6, 8, 10, 12, 13); 
Reuben Rogers: bass (1, 3, 4, 7-13); 
Brian Blade: drums (2-4, 6, 8-13); 
Gregory Hutchinson: drums (1, 2-5, 7, 8, 10, 12).

Recording information: Avatar Studios, New York, NY (03/24/2008-03/26/2008)  Record Label: Nonesuch Records

Compass 1        Compass 2


Monday, March 5, 2012

Chico Freeman & The Fritz Pauer Trio - The Essence of Silence (Jive Music - 2001)





"I was asked to play at the Vienna Jazz Festival as a special guest with whom I was told were some of the best musicians that Austria has produced. It was the Fritz Pauer Trio. I did not know Fritz Pauer or his trio at that time so I asked my agent Ilse Weinmann, who had arranged the engagement, who exactly Fritz Pauer was. She told me he was one of the best pianist/musicians she knew and she knew him from his work with the great saxophonist Johnny Griffin (a Chicago native just like me), who was also a client of hers. Needless to say I was pleased and excited to meet Fritz but not as much as when it actually happened on the first day of rehearsal at Jazzland Jazz Club in Vienna. Not only was Fritz an incredible musician, he was also one of the nicest and warmest people I’ve ever had the opportunity to meet. We became instant friends. In addition his trio, which consisted of Johannes (Hans) Strasser (bass) and Joris Dudli (drums), were also incredibly talented musicians and wonderful human beings as well. We bonded instantly and thus began our journey to the recording of this CD.
The chemistry was instantaneous and undeniable. We recorded for the radio the first night and I knew I wanted to work more with these guys and to document our future journeys together. This is the first of what I hope will be many more of those documentations."
Chico Freeman

Tracklist:
1. Enchance - 7:40
2. Helen's Song - 5:39
3. The Trespasser - 9:10
4. The Essence of Silence - 5:26
5. Shen Shun Song - 7:08
6. Will I See You in the Morning - 5:24
7. Minor Relations - 5:40
8. Salsa con Punta - 6:40
9. Epikur Intro - 1:25
10. Epikur Main - 5:38
11. To Hear a Teardrop in the Rain - 5:43
12. Dark Blue - 6:59
13. Drum Chant - 8:20
14. Angel Eyes - 11:30


Personnel:
Chico Freeman: Ten & Sop Sax
Fritz Pauer: Piano
Johannes Strasser: Bass
Joris Dudli: Drums
Original Release Date: 1st Dec 2010 - Label: jive Music

 The Essence of Silence
Sunday, March 4, 2012

Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane (Ojc - 1958)




Albums in which one jazz great "meets" another jazz great hold a special fascination with listeners and usually the collaboration itself is enough of a selling point to include it as the title. Consider Gerry Mulligan, who tended to record his best playing in tandem with another, like Ben Webster, Paul Desmond, and Stan Getz. Another frequent collaborator was Coltrane, who recorded with Ellington, Hawkins, and Hartman; however, his brilliant quartet recordings for Impulse tend to overshadow recordings such as Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane, which has recently been remastered in 20 bit.
Both Coltrane and Burrell were at pivotal stages in their career at the time of this session. Coltrane, currently with Miles Davis, wasn't afraid to dine with the jazz giants but still couldn't stop putting his elbows on the table from time to time. Burrell was a highly respected sideman, able to fit seamlessly into any context, who also recorded sturdy sessions as a leader. However, what makes this record stand out is the contributions of all five members, who seem to have an equal amount invested in it; this record, which could easily turn into a showcase for the two leaders, ends up as a group effort where everyone gets a chance in the spotlight. Coltrane and Burrell frequently trade off the first solo chair, never hogging the spotlight, and on "Big Paul" the rhythm section is allowed to navigate the changes for a few minutes while the two leads sit out. The end result is a record in which the best is brought out in five musicians rather than three musicians helping two reach new heights.
As you might expect, the soloing is fine throughout; Coltrane's bold tone, marked by dense arpeggios, is a harbinger of early classics like Giant Steps. Burrell, who plays with more of an edge than other guitarists of the era, pulls multiple riffs out of his bag of tricks. We get all this and a bowed solo from Paul Chambers. The highlight of the session is "Why Was I Born?", a duet between Trane and Burrell, which is intimate and beautiful. It's a treat to hear Trane accompanied solely by guitar, a setting that he only explored once. (In Coltrane's case, the answer to the question posed in the title is to record Kind Of Blue.)
Both artists went on to other things after this recording, but it would be interesting to hear what would happen had they recorded again a few years later. Both artists reached their most personal statements in 1964; Coltrane, the spiritual A Love Supreme and Burrell the criminally unrecognized Guitar Forms. In both albums each artist was branching out into new territory and another recording together would certainly have been rewarding. Still, though, we should be glad that we have this session as an example of what can happen when these two great minds came together.
(All About Jazz)  


Tracklist:
1. Freight Trane (Tommy Flnagan) 
2. I Never Knew (Ted Fio Rito/Gus Kahn) 
3. Lyresto (Kenny Burrell) 
4. Why Was I Born? (Oscar Hammerstein/Jerome Kern) 
5. Big Paul (Tommy Flnagan)  

Personnel: 
Kenny Burrell (guitar); 
John Coltrane (tenor saxophone); 
Tommy Flanagan (piano); 
Paul Chambers (upright bass); 
Jimmy Cobb (drums).
Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey on March 7, 1958
Released on July 1st 1991 - Label: Ojc

Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane
Friday, March 2, 2012

Ben Besiakov: aviation (Stunt - 2001)




Ben Besiakov is no born band leader, but a recording was to be made when he was in New York and had gathered a wonderful group of his favourite musicians in connection with "The Danish Wave" cultural campaign in New York. After a live gig he went into the legendary Manhattan studio Sound on Sound with his American peers and none other than Jabers Farber as sound technician. It turned out to be an incredible session, with drummer Billy Hart, bass player Ray Drummond, tenor sax player George Garzone and his old Danish sparring partner, trumpeter Jens Winther.
This session, led by Danish pianist Ben Besiakov, boasts a killer lineup. The title track and the lengthy "Square Time," both co-written by Besiakov and Winther, are the most abstract and adventurous cuts. (The latter could be the love child of Herbie Hancock's "Little One" and Wayne Shorter's "Sanctuary.") Winther's "That's the Way," in contrast, starts the session swinging hard and in the pocket, and Besiakov's "Blues on the Square" (a slow-and-steady riposte to McCoy Tyner's "Blues on the Corner") wraps up the disc in similarly straight-ahead fashion. Garzone and Winther take turns laying out: "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" features the tenor, "Body and Soul" and "Aviation" feature the trumpet, and Carlos Lyra's "Você e Eu" ("You and I") finds Besiakov in a trio setting. When the whole band unites, as on "Square Time," the going gets mighty serious.
(All Music Guide - David R. Adler)

Tracklist:
1. That's the way  
2. Aviation
3. The night has a thousand eyes  
4. Body & soul
5. Voce e eu
6. Square time
7. Blues on the square

Personnel:
Ben Besiakov: pianist 
Jens Winther: trumpet 
George Garzone: tenor 
Ray Drummond: bass 
Billy Hart: drums
Original Release Date: January 1, 2001 - Label: Stunt Records

Aviation (Part 1)        Aviation (Part 2)
Thursday, March 1, 2012

Darren Barrett: First one up (J Curve Records - 1999)




Winner of the 1997 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, trumpeter Darren Barrett picks up where many of today’s young cats start, at the alter of Clifford Brown, Freddie Hubbard, and Kenny Dorham. That ain’t all bad. Barrett, a member of Jackie McLean’s working band, churns from the gitgo on this recording. Produced by Donald Byrd, this session is recorded much like a Criss Cross record, which is to say, a lot like those old Blue Note workouts. Kenny Garrett sits in on three tracks, two of which are alternative takes on an absolute cooker, “First One Up,” which is a testosterone filled jam. You just have to dig the young lions. Barrett, like Marcus Printup show us that there will always be room for faster, hip, note slinging trumpeters. Sure it’s hard keeping track of the Paytons, Hargroves, Roneys, and Kisors of today. But, I’ll argue that like gunslingers, unless we maintain the competition, we’ll end up with a drunken sheriff and more fusion/smooth jazz than you can stomach.
(All About Jazz)

Tracklist:
1 - First One Up (take 1) 5:44
2 - Word! Dr. Byrd 5:31
3 - Impossible 7:58
4 - 2 To 4 5:18
5 - Grand Ravine 6:25
6 - Up Down - Inside Out 6:44
7 - Conceta Elfreda 5:09
8 - A New Day Comes 5:38
9 - Reflections 7:14
10 - First One Up (take 2) 6:44
11 - Dee's Theme 2:41

Personnel: 
Darren Barret (trumpet); 
Jimmy Greene (soprano & tenor saxophones); 
Kenny Garrett (alto saxophone); 
Aaron Goldberg (piano); 
Reuben Rogers (acoustic bass); 
John Lamkin (drums)
Recording information: Avatar Recording Studio (11/05/1998/11/06/1998) - Label: J Curve

First one up

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