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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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Brandon Wright: Boiling Point (Posi-Tone - 2010)




Over four decades after his premature passing, Coltrane is still a near-inescapable force for jazz saxophonists who opt for tradition-minded playing. Twenty-something Brandon Wright certainly sounds under the master’s spell. From the bright, soaring unisions of “Free Man” the opening number on his new release, the tracks of Trane are a primary method of melodic travel. That observation may read like a slight, but it’s not indended as one. After all, if a player is going to cop a sound to build on, it might as well be that of the heavyweight champion.
Subsequent pieces in the program betray other indelible influences. “Drift” sounds shorn from a cloth similar to that of Wayne Shorter’s Sixties tune-smithing in the warm enveloping harmonies and dusky overriding melody. “Here’s That Rainy Day” has etchings of Ammons in the robust rounded tone Wright rings from his horn’s reed. A capable band of conscripts aid him in his cause starting with his canny frontline partner,Alex Sipiagin. Morgan and Hubbard weigh heavily as ringers in the trumpeter’s lithe phraseology and there are moments in his animated interplay with Wright that intimate stimulating frontline partnerships so common to the classic Blue Note-ear. Pianist David Kikoski, bassist Hans Glawischinig and drummer Matt Wilson also make fine company for the leader.
Tune-wise no true surprises present themselves in what is galvanizing, but ultimately somewhat generic hardbop fare. Wright was the 2009 ASCAP Young Composer award winner so the manner in which he limns close to convention in most of the contexts here is slightly disappointing. Five originals balance against a pair of jazz standards and the left field choice of the Stone Temple Pilots “Interstate Love Song”, reconfigured here as a ballad with muscle. All pieces prove able-bodied blowing vehicles and Wright and his crew tackle them wih equal aplomb. There’s a pleasing consitency between compositions and a solid album coherence to the set.
Source



Tracklist:
1 Free Man Wright  
2 Drift Wright  
3 Odd Man Out Wright  
4 Boiling Point Wright  
5 Here's That Rainy Day Heusen  
6 Castaway Wright 
7 Interstate Love Song  
8 You're My Everything Warren  

Personnel: 
Brandon Wright (tenor saxophone) 
Alex Sipiagin (trumpet) 
Dave Kikoski (piano) 
Matt Wilson (drums)
Hans Glawischnig (bass)
Released on April 20th, 2010 - Label: Posi-Tone Records

Boiling Point
Friday, April 27, 2012

Wynton Marsalis: Black Codes (From the Underground) (Columbia - 1985)




Even if Wynton Marsalis sat with his feet up watching 'EastEnders' for the rest of his life, he'd still have accomplished twice as much as most hard-working megastars. He's on a tireless crusade to educate the world about jazz, and besides being a technically brilliant jazz and classical trumpet player, he's co-founder and Artistic Director of Jazz At Lincoln Center, he was the talking head on Ken Burns' epic and controversial series Jazz, he's composer of a Pulitzer prize-winning oratorio on slavery, he's a UN Messenger of Peace and an honorary musketeer !
For his 40th birthday, Sony has released Popular Songs - The Best of Wynton Marsalis - featuring Wynton's own favourite post-Jazz Messengers tracks. Naturally, the Marsalis family name is sprinkled liberally through the credits; Branford on sax, Delfeayo producing and Dad Ellis on piano.
The earliest recording on the album is Wynton's "Black Codes", from one of an astonishingly accomplished series of albums with his first quintet. After the quintet split, Marsalis went back to jazz's roots, studying blues and gospel. His technical skill means that even on a super-fast standard like "Cherokee", he gets a laid-back and bluesy sound.
Wynton's split musical personality eventually led him to merge string orchestra and jazz quartet. In "I Got Lost" his trumpet weaves through tangoing strings, but he plays the whole piece muted. In fact, that's the down side of Marsalis; he labours the point. "Root Groove", arranged for big band, overdoes the wah-wah mute effects, but Marsalis' mastery of the trumpet is put to great use in the high-pitched, closely-scripted 5/4 piece "Sunflowers" (honouring the people of Marciac, France, whose jazz festival he patronises).
Popular Songs does a fair job of charting Wynton's career as a jazz musician, but the best of Wynton Marsalis is not the music he plays, it's the work he's doing to get jazz recognised as the classical music of America. The prizes and honorary musketeerships attest to that.
BBC    


Tracklist:
1. Black Codes
2. For Wee Folks
3. Delfeayo's Dilemma
4. Phryzzinian Man
5. Aural Oasis
6. Chambers Of Tain
7. Blues

Personnel includes: 
Wynton Marsalis (trumpet); 
Branford Marsalis (tenor saxophone); 
Kenny Kirkland (piano); 
Ron Carter, Charnett Moffett (bass); 
Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums).
Recorded at RCA Studio A, New York, in January 1985 - Label: Columbia

Black Codes
Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ahmad Jamal: Blue Moon: The New York Session (World Village - 2012)



Miles Davis once said, “All my inspiration comes from Ahmad Jamal,” which is high praise indeed from the legendary trumpeter. Anyone even remotely familiar with Davis knows that he did not hand out compliments lightly. Ahmad Jamal was born in July 1930, as Frederick Russell Jones, which makes him 81 years young today. One of the greatest things about jazz musicians is they just seem to get better with age, and Jamal is no exception. His new Blue Moon recording is a fine example of this.
Jamal has always worked in the “small combo” format. For Blue Moon, the quartet features Reginald Veal (double bass), Herlin Riley (drums), Manolo Badrena (percussion), and of course the great piano work of Ahmad himself. The approach works perfectly for the type of music he makes, and Blue Moon is a wonderful way of hearing what it is he does best.
The album contains nine tracks, three of which are Jamal originals. They fit in perfectly with the remaining six tunes, which come from the worlds of film, Broadway, and the standards songbook. While I certainly cannot speak for Davis, I interpret what he had to say in regards to Ahmad’s music as being somewhat vast. His piano playing is always uniquely creative, which is most definitely applicable to the trumpet playing of Miles Davis.
Blue Moon opens up with “Autumn Rain,” which is an Ahmad Jamal original. This is an excellent example of what he does best. The mid-tempo track begins with the entire band stating the theme and playing off of it. Then, about half-way through, Ahmad takes a solo which is dazzling in its virtuosity.
From there we proceed to the title track, which has been recorded by everyone from Elvis Presley to Bill Monroe, and many, many others. Jamal’s interpretation of this standard is great - and surprising. Drummer Riley and percussionist Badrena open the tune with some unexpected soloing, which immediately sets the song apart from the “usual” approach.
Next up is the classic Billy Reid-written track “Gypsy,” which hit the Billboard charts in three different versions - with the Ink Spots, Dinah Shore, and Sammy Kaye. The song has been recorded by numerous jazz artists over the years as well. The various contrasts Jamal’s quartet bring to it make the song one of the album’s highlights.
The eclectic nature of Blue Moon continues with a visit to Broadway for “Invitation,” and “This is the Life.” Jamal then goes solo for the title song of the Otto Preminger film Laura (1944), which was written by Johnny Mercer. Of the nine tunes here, I was most impressed with Ahmad’s own “I Remember Italy.” The entire quartet recieve plenty of opportunities to stretch out over the course of this 13:14 piece, and they all take full advantage of it.
Blue Moon closes with a tribute to the jazz form itself, “Woody ’N You,” written by Dizzy Gillespie. Ahmad calls the song is one of his “go-to” classics. He certainly has a history with it, as his first recorded version of it was on the Live At Pershing album from 1958.
Ahmad Jamal has recorded jazz of just about every stripe over the course of his long career, including some outstanding work for the Impulse! label in the late sixties and early seventies. Blue Moon does a brilliant job of drawing together the various strands and styles he does so well. The liner notes of this JazzVillage Records release contain a beautiful poem titled “For Ahmad Jamal” by Catherine Vallon-Barry. It is a fitting tribute to this living legend, and Blue Moon contains some fantastic music, from top to bottom this is one very strong album.
Blog Critics                

Tracklist:
1. Autumn Rain
2. Blue Moon
3. Gypsy
4. Invitation
5. I Remember Italy
6. Laura
7. Morning Mist
8. This Is the Life
9. Woody'n You

Personnel: 
Ahmad Jamal: piano; 
Reginald Veal: double bass; 
Herlin Riley: drums; 
Manolo Badrena: percussion
Released on February 14th, 2012 - Label: World Village

Blue Moon
Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wayne Escoffery: The Only Son of One (Sunnyside Communicat - 2012)



Charlie Parker proclaimed: “if you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.” The thirty-seven year old, tenor/soprano saxophonist Wayne Escoffery – a veteran of New York’s brightest bands, including The Mingus Big Band and Tom Harrell’s, and a protégé of Jackie McLean – now releases his latest Sunnyside CD, The Only Son of One, an inspired and impassioned recording that chronicles a turbulent but ultimately triumphant tale of his life which began in North London, where he was born to a loving mother and her abusive Jamaican husband, who forced her to emigrate to the United States when Escoffery was eight years old to settle down in Hartford, CT.
It was here in the United States where Escoffery navigated America’s murky waters of fatherlessness, race and identity. He enrolled and excelled at Jackie McLean’s prestigious Hartt School of Music, The New England Conservatory of Music and the Thelonious Monk Institute. Escoffery created a new name for himself while wrestling with the emotional minefields left by his absent father.
As James McBride, author of The Color of Water, writes in the CD liner notes, “Wayne saw a lot as a child. More than he should have seen. He stored those memories in a deep well of psychological stir, and later poured them into the horn. The results have always demanded attention. But here, where they’re assembled together for the first time as homage to a troubled but instructive past, they take on added resonance.”
Supported by a swinging group featuring Orrin Evans on piano and Fender Rhodes, keyboardist Adam Holzman, bassists Hans Glawisching and Ricky Rodrigues, and drummer Jason Brown, Escoffrey’s Coltrane-tinged, rapid-fire attack is the pen that writes his compelling story on the epidermis of jazz art.
“World of the Bardo” is a powerful reference to Escoffrey seeing his father’s ghost after his father’s death from cancer during Escoffery’s junior year of high school (Bardo, translated from the Tibetan means transitional state). “Banishment of the Lost Spirit” is haunted by McCoy Tyner’s powerful spirit, in contrast to the ancient, Lao Tze-influenced embers of “Perilous Desires.”
The title track is a reminder of his spare, Stateside upbringing, followed by “If I Am, Who You Are,” rendered in the tempo of the Benny Golson/Quincy Jones classic swinger, “Killer Joe,” with an admonition for the son to never be like his father. “Selena’s Song,” is the leader’s waltzy shout out to his courageous mother, while a grooving backbeat rocks “Presumed Innocence.” “Color Spectrum” is a soulful meditation on the racial dimensions of black, brown and beige people. The CD closes with an intimate duet, “Two Souls,” between Escoffrey and Evans.
It has been quite an emotional journey for Wayne Escoffrey and this CD shows that his journey has only just begun. “At every step, in every key, in every way and manner, this assortment of music reflects an American/British/Jamaican artist of extreme importance and enormous spiritual wealth,” McBride writes. “The originality and accessibility of this music will stir the soul and spirit of even the most jaded jazz listener.”

Tracklist:
1. World of the Bardo
2. Banishment of the Lost Spirit
3. Perilous Desires
4. The Only Son of One
5. If I Am, Who You Are
6. Selena's Song
7. Presumed Innocence
8. Color Spectrum
9. Two Souls

Personnel:
Wayne Escoffery (Ten & Sop sax)
Orrin Evans  (Piano)
Adam Holzman  (keyboards)
Hans Glawischnig   (Bass) (1, 2, 4 & 5)
Ricky Rodrigues  (Bass) (3, 6, 7 & 8)
Jason Brown  (Drums)
Released on April 10th, 2012 - Label: Sunnyside Communicat

The Only Son of One 
Monday, April 23, 2012

Dayna Stephens: Today is Tomorrow (Criss Cross - 2012)




A Bay Area native, tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens makes his auspicious debut on the Criss Cross label with Today Is Tomorrow – a soaring, lyrical, deeply swinging collection of originals and jazz classics (Hoagy Carmichael’s Skylark, Joe Henderson’s Black Narcissus). As a 2003 graduate of the Thelonious Monk Institute, Stephens had the opportunity to work with the likes of Dave Holland, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, whohelped strengthen his complex sensibility as a composer and improviser. In recent years Dayna has appeared with the likes of Carlos Santana, Kenny Barron, Terence Blanchard, Gretchen Parlato and many others.
Joining Stephens on Today Is Tomorrow is a stellar cast, featuring Aaron Parks on piano and the sturdy rhythm section of Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass and Donald Edwards on drums. Supplementing the lineup are Julian Lage, one of the jazz scene’s most exciting newcomers on guitar, and Michael Rodriguez, a fiery trumpeter with credits including Charlie Haden and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Stephens pilots them through the set with finesse and heart, proving himself a player quickly on the rise.
Source  
Tracklist:
1. Paterson Falls (Stephens)
2. The Ritual and the Blues (Kontrafouris)
3. Our World (Stephens)
4. The Wong Song (Stephens)
5. Pacific Coast Highway (Sumelius)
6. Dah Dot Dah (Stephens)
7. Village Nights (Sumelius)
8. A Week Ago Today (Stephens)

Personnel:
Dayna Stephens (Tenor Saxophone)
Raffi Garabedian (Tenor Saxophone) track (3)
Michael Rodriguez (Trumpet, Flugelhorn)
Aaron Parks (Piano)
Julian Lage (Guitar)
Kiyoshi Kitagawa (Bass)
Donald Edwards (Drums)
Released on February 21st, 2012 - Label: Criss Cross

Today is Tomorrow
Sunday, April 22, 2012

Terell Stafford: Time To Let Go (Candid Records - 1995)




This is trumpeter Stafford's first album under his own name. In the insert-note he laments the "diminishing emphasis on apprenticeship among today's jazz players". And so say all of us. Really good technicians abound, memorable soloists are few. Stafford is on safe ground for, still under 30, he worked for five years in the Bobby Watson Quintet and has been director of bands at Cheyney University since 1992. His music is in the Art Farmer tradition — fleet bop and ripe ballads. His interpretations of the standards here are interesting, with dulcet versions of Polka Dots And Moonbeams, Soon and Send In The Clowns, a well-valved version of Clark Terry's Forte, Grofes On The Trail and a determinedly traditional Just a Closer Walk With Thee which makes use of early Miles trumpet style. I noted the emergence of a good new pianist in my January review of an album by Charles Farnborough. His name is Edward Simon and he crops up again here. It turns out that he is Venezuelan. His performance on this album is even better than the first effort as he follows Stafford through his varied idioms. Simon and the drummer here, Victor Lewis, were also in the Watson Quintet. Stafford's band, which also includes two saxophones, has made a pleasing and impressive debut upon which it will be hard to improve.
Gramophone.net    

Tracklist:
1. Time To Let Go 
2. Was It Meant to Be 
3. Polka Dots & Moonbeams 
4. Qui Qui 
5. On the Trail 
6. Why? 
7. Soon 
8. Send In The Clowns 
9. Just a Closer Walk With Thee

Personnel: 
Terell Stafford (trumpet); 
Tim Warfield (tenor saxophone, trumpet); 
Steve Wilson (saxophone); 
Steve Nelson (vibraphone); 
Ed Simon (piano); 
Michael Bowie (bass);  
Victor Lewis (drums); 
Victor See-Yuen (percussion)
Released on September 19th, 1995 - Label: Candid Records

Time To Let Go

Anthony Wonsey: The Thang (Sharp Nine - 2006)





Anthony Wonsey's latest disc finds the pianist coming into his own creative voice. Wonsey has been at the center of some very notable works over the past few years, including recordings by trumpeter Nicholas Payton, songstress Carmen Lundy and others. The Thang, his fifth disc as a leader, continues in the straight-ahead format of his label, Sharp Nine Records. While others artists his age are dabbling in freer modes, make no mistake that Wonsey is a skilled artisan who plays with fire, regardless of the genre.
A luminous presence fills the music with soulful overtones, an airy bopping vibe, and music that feels right. The eight selections are split evenly between a trio (with bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Joe Farnsworth) and a quartet (with the ever-strong horn of saxophonist Eric Alexander). The key is that Wonsey and his group know the art and language of the groove, and they speak it well.
Wonsey's playing is like melting butter: smooth. On the bossa-cadenced "Pamela his keys are sophisticated and cool as the rhythm section floats the melody like a gentle wind, with sweet drum work by Farnsworth. Alexander is an understated but powerful saxophonist and he brings the heat on the title selection and "The Paper Chase with fluttery notes, skronks and quick runs.
The record could easily have been a demonstration of rapid solos and hard bop bravado, but instead the music casually entices with a song-like charisma. Enticing numbers like the funky struttin' blues of "The Thang and Stevie Wonder's R&B classic "Overjoyed linger long after they are finished. Even the time-weathered standard "Billy Boy is given a fresh, totally swinging facelift, ending this enjoyable recording.
All About Jazz    

Tracklist:
1. All The Things You Are
2. The Thang
3. Pamela
4. Hey Jimmy
5. The Paper Chase
6. Speak Low
7. Overjoyed
8. Billy Boy

Personnel: 
Anthony Wonsey (piano) 
Eric Alexander (saxophone, tenor saxophone) 
Nat Reeves (bass instrument) 
Joe Farnsworth (drums)
Recorded at Systems Two Studios, Brooklyn, NY on June 08th, 2005
Audio CD  released on February 21st, 2006 - Label: Sharp Nine Records


The Thang
Saturday, April 21, 2012

Seán Lyons: Roar Of Lyons (Posi-Tone - 2009)




Talented tenorman Seán Lyons shows up with some heavy cats behind him on "Roar of Lyons" available now from Posi-Tone. Supported by an all star rhythm section, comprised of pianist David Hazeltine, the ever steady John Webber and living legend drummer Al Foster, Seán Lyons really swings and demonstrates his command of his instrument. The record also features appearances by Tom Harrell, Conrad Herwig, and Jim Rotondi as special guests. With his strong debut, Seán Lyons succeeds in announcing that he is a new cat to keep an eye on.
Posi-Tone

Tracklist:
1. Herk From The South End 
2. Bonnie Rose 
3. Nostalgia 
4. Soultrane 
5. Blackbelt Bebop 
6. Woody 'N You 
7. Ask Me Now 
8. Poinciana 
9. Realized Dream 

Personnel:
Seán Lyons (tenor sax)
David Hazeltine (piano)
John Webber (bass)
Al Foster (drums)
Special Guests:
Conrad Herwig (trombone (1, 2))
Tom Harrell (trumpet, flugelhorn (6, 9))
Jim Rotondi (trumpet (1,2))
Original Release Date: 2009 - Label: Posi-Tone Records

Roar Of Lyons

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dave Ellis:  State Of Mind (Milestone - 2001)







A severe gap exists between technical facility and profound expression. The jazz world has become flooded with technically adept performers, and whether they’ve come up from within the rigorous university system or the art institutes, they all display a studied command of their instruments, harmony, sight-reading, and composition. They’ve all been tested, certified, and approved; they’re all fully saturated with the historical development of their instruments. Unfortunately, the majority fails to translate this scholastic excellence into the kind of personally explorative and challenging music that defines the heart of artistic expression.
Though more adept than some, Dave Ellis’s debut release, State of Mind provides little more than another example of the phenomena just described. Every element of State of Mind has been precisely constructed, executed, and produced. The backing provided by Mulgrew Miller (piano), Peter Washington and Christian McBride (bass), Carl Allen and Lewis Nash (drums), plus alto guest Vincent Herring, only confirms the trend. All excellent, well-proved musicians, their collective voice on this outing reveals tremendous ability, but a definitive lack of depth.
Pieces like Coltrane’s “Grand Central” and Horace Silver’s much covered “Peace” prove the adage that it’s not always what you say, but how you say it. Delving into such classic and moving compositions, Ellis fails to get inside the tunes, producing renditions both redundantly chaste and overly smoothed. Despite de rigor squawks, honks, squeals, breathy ballad readings, and some admittedly funky piano by Mulgrew, the album is frustratingly safe.
This is an album that sounds like manicured nails and the glint of candle light on the corner of a white wine glass. It will definitely go well with the chicken. Or the fish. Or the fillet mignon. And the sincerity clearly brimming beneath Ellis’s fingers reminds one of the comforts evoked by sweater-vests. To fulfill what his talent demands Ellis still has a lot of growing to do.
ALL About Jazz


Tracklist:
1. Not That You Asked
2. Barbados
3. Soul-Leo
4. Something To Live For
5. Sunshowers
6. Grand Central
7. Don't Blame Me
8. Isabella Blue
9. Peace
10. Summertime

Personnel: 
 Dave Ellis (tenor saxophone)
Vincent Herring (alto saxophone) 
Mulgrew Miller (piano) 
Christian McBride, Peter Washington (bass) 
Lewis Nash, Carl Allen (drums)
Recorded at Avatar Studios, New York, NY & Fantasy Studios, Berkley in 2001
Released in 2003 - Label: Milestone

State of Mind



Sunday, April 15, 2012

Woody Shaw: Master of the Art (Wounded Bird Records - 1982)




Master of the Art is the studio companion to the album Night Music, also reissued on Wounded Bird records from the original Elektra Musician masters, with the same band as on the live date, but with completely different songs and a short interview from the trumpeter. At a time when Shaw was one of the most consistently brilliant trumpeter's of the modern era, this effort did nothing to hurt that estimable reputation. Vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and trombonist Steve Turre being on the front line made for an arresting sound, while the emerging pianist Mulgrew Miller was asserting himself as a major force, with drummer Stafford James and drummer Tony Reedus sounding like they had worked together for decades. The four tracks include here are quite lengthy, allowing for stretched melody lines and beefy solos, showing the inventiveness and stamina of this mighty sextet. The Walter Davis, Jr. composition "400 Years Ago Tomorrow" shapeshifts from 5/4 to 6/8 to hard bop gears in a bright sound, and a complex and aggressive manner, with Shaw's best effort as a soloist. Thelonious Monk's "Misterioso" reflects its typical stairstep melody with Shaw's trumpet inserts between the folds of trombone and vibraphone in a long blues over 17-plus minutes. Shaw's lone written contribution, "Sweet Love of Mine," is one of his very best, a pretty melody in a light samba mode that will linger on any jazz lovers brain, while the semi-standard ballad "Diane" is the easier and most relaxed piece on the date, with a line parallel to "You Turned The Tables on Me." The "interview" is more a statement by Shaw relating how much fun this session was after having toured Europe with the band, and the high level of musicianship this ensemble enjoyed. Master of the Art is another example of how Woody Shaw was at the top of his game before he died in a subway accident, and why he was revered as a force to be reckoned with pre-Wynton Marsalis.
All Music


Tracklist:
1 400 Years Ago Tomorrow (Davis)
2 Diane (Pollack, Rapee)
3 Misterioso (Monk)
4 Sweet Love Of Mine (Shaw)
5 An Interview with Woody Shaw


Personnel: 
Woody Shaw (trumpet, flugelhorn); 
Steve Turre (trombone); 
Mulgrew Miller (piano); 
Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone);
Stafford James (bass); 
Tony Reedus (drums).
Recorded on Feb 25th 1982, New York
Original Release Date: 1982 - Label: Wounded Bird Records

Master of the Art
Thursday, April 12, 2012

Branford Marsalis: Random Abstract  (Sony -1987)




Branford Marsalis (on tenor and soprano) and his 1987 quartet (which also includes pianist Kenny Kirkland, bassist Delbert Felix and drummer Lewis Nash) stretch out on a wide repertoire during this generally fascinating set. Very much a chameleon for the date, Marsalis does close impressions of Wayne Shorter on "Yes and No," John Coltrane ("Crescent City"), Ben Webster (a warm version of "I Thought About You"), Ornette Coleman ("Broadway Falls") and even Jan Garbarek (on a long rendition of Coleman's "Lonely Woman"). Random Abstract also includes a jam on Kirkland's "LonJellis," a piece without chord changes. This is one of Branford Marsalis' most interesting (and somewhat unusual) recordings.
All Music    


Tracklist:
1. Yes And No 
2. Crescent City 
3. Broadway Fools 
4. Lonjellis 
5. I Thought About You 
6. Lonely Woman 
7. Steep's Theme 
8. Yesterday's 
9. Crepuscule With Nellie 


Personnel includes: 
Branford Marsalis (saxophones)
Kenny Kirkland (piano) 
Delbert Felix (bass) 
Lewis Nash (drums)
Original Release Date: June 28, 1988 - Label: Sony

Random Abstract
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jon Gordon - Along the Way (Criss Cross - 1997)



Score one for the judges: Jon Gordon, winner of the 1996 Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition, here demonstrates that his promise has staying power. One expects facility from a prize-winner, and there's plenty of that; but, more than his chops, one comes away admiring his instinct for the complete phrase. His solos are not strings of licks, but thoughts that spring from the material at hand. His supporting cast here includes Mark Turner on tenor sax, Kevin Hays on piano, Joe Martin on bass and Billy Drummond on drums. Drummond in particular lifts the level of the entire session, save for "Empathy," a freely-cast piece that recalls Steve Coleman but never gels. Gordon's other compositions hold up better, particularly the title track, a pleasingly asymmetrical composition that gives the soloists plenty to chew on. Gordon is a cool and confident musician who will give his colleagues and listeners plenty to think about in the course of his career.
JazzTimes

Tracklist:
1 - Inner Urge (Joe Henderson) 
2 - Empathy (Jon Gordon) 
3 - Friday The 13th (Thelonious Monk) 
4 - Softly As In A Morning Sunrise (Oscar Hammerstein / Romberg) 
5 - Portrait Of Jennie (Burdge / Robinson) 
6 - Just In Time I (Jule Styne / Betty Comden / Adolph Green) 
7 - Vale (Jon Gordon) 
8 - Along The Way (Jon Gordon) 
9 - Body And Soul (Johnny Green / Robert Sour / Edward Heyman / Frank Eyton) 
10 - Just In Time II (Jule Styne / Betty Comden / Adolph Green) 

Personnel:
Jon Gordon (soprano & alto saxophones); 
Mark Turner (tenor saxophone); 
Kevin Hays (piano); 
Joe Martin (bass); 
Billy Drummond (drums).
Recorded at Acoustic Recording Studio, Brooklyn, NY June 30th 1997. Label: Criss Cross

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Greg Gisbert: The Court Jester (Criss Cross - 1996)




Trumpeter Greg Gisbert is a modern-day equivalent of such predecessors as Conte Condoli, Marvin Stamm, Richard Williams, and Clark Terry. That is to say he has spent much of his young musical career in the big bands (Buddy Rich and Maria Schneider) and doing studio work that while providing a living doesn't necessarily make for high visibility among the record-buying public. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Gisbert has never lacked for work over the years and has been lucky enough to appear on a number of fine releases as of late (Mickey Tucker's Hang in There, on SteepleChase, comes to mind) in addition to cutting two previous discs for Criss Cross Jazz.
The album at hand, The Court Jester, is Gisbert's most impressive outing to date and the maturity shown in his writing is most apparent. For proof of that, one needs look no further than the album's two highlights. "The Love Dirge" starts with a military snare drum opening that leads to a swaggering line that Gisbert's muted horn makes the most of (shades of Ellington and Strayhorn to be sure!) The title track then goes for broke, with a dense scoring that develops a momentum all of its own. Gisbert's incendiary trumpet shouts towards the conclusion are certainly some of his finest recorded moments to date.
Elsewhere one gets the sense that Gisbert was trying to present a taste of all the recent writing tricks he has added to his arranger's bag. The tunes are unusual and the voicings for this large ensemble (that includes trombone, saxophones, and flutes) are sonorous and delightful. It should also be mentioned that the crack rhythm team of pianist Janice Friedman, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Gregory Hutchinson adds support that can only be described as perfect. And while Gisbert's comments in the liner notes tend to suggest that he's a bit hard on himself in terms of his own playing, the fact remains that there's nothing here that seems at all superfluous or mundane. The Court Jester is a memorable disc that will stand up over repeated listening and what more could you want then that?
All About Jazz  

Tracklist:
1 - Robyn Song
2 - The Love Dirge
3 - The Court Jester
4 - Soft Snow
5 - Smile
6 - My Ideal
7 - Waltz For Toots
8 - Dizzy Atmosphere

Personnel:
Greg Gisbert: trumpet, flugelhorn
Jon Gordon: soprano & alto sax
Tim Ries: soprano & tenor sax, flute
Conrad Herwig: trombone
Janice Friedman: piano
Jay Anderson: bass
Gregory Hutchinson: drums
Recorded in New York, New York on December 27th, 1996 - Label: Criss Cross

The Court Jester

Friday, April 6, 2012

Tim Garland: Libra (Global Mix - 2008)



Listening to British reed player Tim Garland, it's easy to be reminded of saxophonist Sonny Rollins' remark, decades ago, about Stan Tracey, the Ronnie Scott's house pianist who accompanied Rollins on many of his appearances at the London club. "Does anybody here realise how good he is?" asked Rollins rhetorically. Happily, times have changed and many Brits do realise how good Garland is, but there remains the suspicion that were he an American, half the country would be genuflecting before him.
A magisterial tenor and soprano saxophonist and bass clarinetist, Garland is also a richly atmospheric composer and arranger. He is at home in both jazz and classical musics, and in either big orchestral settings or smaller, more intimate surroundings. These qualities are all heard, seamlessly woven together, on the outstanding 2CD set Libra, which features one of Garland's current trios alongside the massed ranks of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Garland has two trios on the go in 2009. One is the prettily understated Acoustic Triangle, with pianist Gwilym Simcock and bassist Malcolm Creese; the other is the more expansive, at times ferocious Lighthouse Trio, in which Creese is replaced by percussionist Asaf Sirkis, who plays not a conventional drum kit but a customised percussion set-up. Since it was featured alongside the Northern Sinfonia on If The Sea Replied (Sirocco, 2005), the Lighthouse Trio has been Garland's most active live band and it is at the core of Libra.
The trio, augmented by the Sacconi Strings on just one track, is heard unaccompanied on Libra's second disc, "Moon," a series of live recordings. Most of the crowd noise has been edited out and the sound is rich, resonant and warmly embracing, live recording at its best. There are three covers—Miles Davis' "Blue In Green," Kenny Wheeler's "Sly Eyes" and Charles Mingus' "Nostalgia In Times Square"—and four Garland originals. The salsa and tango informed "Bajo Del Sol," with Garland on bass clarinet, shows how intense the Lighthouse Trio can be and just how much noisy excitement three musicians can create while still remaining lyrical.
On the first disc, "Sun," the trio is featured alongside the RPO on the four-part suite "Frontier." The first part, "Sungod," featuring the orchestra alone, has Garland the composer and arranger exploring the same high volume, high impact territory as the trio did on "Bajo Del Sol," but magnified by a power of ten going on a hundred. Thunderous timpani, big brass, crashing cymbals, and what sounds like bass saxophones dominate. The trio are on an equal footing with the orchestra by the third part, "On Sungod," which includes a killer Garland tenor solo of dervish-like ferocity.
The trio completes the first disc with four studio-recorded tracks. Guest guitarist Paul Bollenback adds a thrillingly percussive, chordal solo to "Hang Loose," which also features Sirkis on hang, the must-have exotic drum for British-based percussionists since it was introduced by the Portico Quartet on Knee Deep In The North Sea (The Vortex, 2007).
Garland's most rounded statement to date, Libra is a masterpiece by any standards.
All About Jazz

Track List: 
CD1 - Sun: 
1 The Eyes Of Ages
2 Hang Loose
3 Arabesque For Three
4 Frontier Pt. 1: SunGod 
5 Frontier Pt. 2: Moongod
6 Frontier Pt. 3: On Sungod
7 Frontier Pt. 4: Libra
8 Old Man Winter

CD2 - Moon: 
1 Blue In Green
2 Bajo Del Sol
3 Darkhouse
4 Sly Eyes
5 Black Elk
6 Break In The Weather
7 Nostalgia In Times SquarePersonnel: 

Personnel:
Tim Garland: ten and sop sax, bass clar bass fl; 
Gwilym Simcock: piano; 
Asaf Sirkis: percu set, hang drum, udu, frame drums; 
Paul Bollenback: guitar (CD1#2, 5, CD2#7 ); 
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Tim Garland (CD1#4); 
Sacconi Strings (CD2#3).
Recorded in 2008, Released in Jan 2009 - Label: Global Mix

Libra CD1      Libra CD 2
Thursday, April 5, 2012

Woody Shaw: Rosewood (Columbia Records - 1977)




This Columbia/Legacy recording was the first major label effort from the trumpeter Woody Shaw. Recorded in 1977 at Columbia's famous Studio B on 52nd Street and originally released in 1978, this stands as one of the stronger statements of Shaw's genius as a player, composer, and bandleader. He fronts both his quintet and his larger concert ensemble here and the results are exceptional. Also included are three bonus tracks from a later Columbia recording, FOR SURE. Shaw died young in 1989 but his fire and innovative improvisation survive on ROSEWOOD.
The title track is Shaw's own and features the complex layering of the larger ensemble as arranged by pianist Onaje Alan Gumbs. Shaw's playing on this upbeat, happy tune written to honor his parents is joyful and soaring. The leaping intervals characteristic of Shaw's playing and his ability to just pull out the stops and swing are evidenced in full force on "Rahsaan's Run" (also by Shaw) and on "Sunshowers"

Tracklist:
1. Rosewood
2. Every Time I see You 
3. The Legend Of The Cheops 
4. Rahsaan's Run; Sunshowers 
5. Theme For Maxine 
6. Isabel The Liberator;
7. Joshua C.
8. Why?

Personnel includes: 
Woody Shaw (trumpet, flugelhorn); 
Carter Jefferson (soprano & tenor saxophones); 
Gary Bartz (alto saxophone); 
Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone); 
Steve Turre, Curtis Fuller (trombone, bass trombone); 
James Spaulding (flute); 
Larry Willis, Onaje Allen Gumbs (piano); 
Clint Houston, Stafford James (bass); 
Victor Lewis (drums); 
Sammy Figueroa (congas); 
Nana Vasconcelos (percussion).

Recorded in New York, New York in December 1977 and December 1979 - Label: Columbia Records

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Andy Scherrer: Wrong is Right (TCB Music - 2008)




While the European jazz scene is growing and exploring bit by bit, there's a special love of the tenor sax in Switzerland. Andy Scherrer has been near the top of that Swiss sax movement for a while now, and here he shows why. In combination with a collection of Swiss performers and a stray pianist from Michigan (and New York, ultimately), a set of modern pieces is kicked around, played with, tinkered with, and eventually released to the winds. The combination is a powerful one. The songs, primarily originals, flow from the group in a fairly bouncing manner, written and/or arranged for the sensibilities of the band itself. The stray pianist, Bill Carrothers, takes every opportunity to show off some particularly nice chops, with an extended tinkering solo in "Waltz for Blaine" standing as one of the better examples. The melodic lines throughout are held up by a front line of no less than three saxophones: Scherrer as well as Domenic Landolf and Jurg Bucher. The three tend to work in tandem with one another, diverging primarily for accentuation and counterpoint. The result is a thick sound, warbling saxes united for much of the record. As the album progresses, the band moves from straightforward soul-jazz and hard bop to post-bop in a Bill Evans vein, to moaning, exploring free jazz in the realm of Albert Ayler, to a twinkling, tinkling rendition of Coltrane's "After the Rain" courtesy of Carrothers. Though there's a bit of a lull when the band breaks out the kazoos (yes, the kazoos), there's a lot of goodness to be had here.
AllMusic  

Tracklist:
1. In Or Out 
2. For Anne 
3. Jordan Is A Hard Road To Travel [04:34]
4. Freckles 
5. Waltz For Blaine 
6. Karma 
7. Wrong Wrong Wrong 
8. After The Rain 
9. Happy House 

Personnel:
Andy Scherrer (saxes); 
Domenic Landolf (tenor sax, bass clarinet); 
Jurg Bucher (tenor sax, bass clarinet); 
Bill Carrothers (piano); 
Fabian Gisler (bass); 
Dre Pallemaerts (drums)
Released on October 14th, 2008 - Label: TCB Music

Wrong is Right
Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Michael Dease: Clarity (Blues Back Records - 2007)





At the tender age of twenty-four, jazz trombonist and educator Michael Dease has developed an impressive musical résumé that now includes his third album as leader with Clarity and his second 2007 issue (Dease Bones, on Astrix Media). With credits that include an extensive performance roster—including Wynton Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, Alicia Keys and Slide Hampton, being a member of the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Star Big Band and former member of the Illinois Jacquet Big Band---Dease is well on his way to establishing himself as one of today's premier jazz trombonists.
A gifted composer and arranger, for this recording Dease pens nine originals and provides a creative arrangement to Kurt Weill's "Speak Low. Staying within the musical landscape of the mainstream/straight-ahead jazz genre, Dease is very successful in crafting accessible melodic harmonies, resulting in an enjoyable session of music that will appeal to a broad jazz audience.
Employing a light ensemble that includes the trumpet, tenor and alto saxophones, as well as the standard piano rhythm section, there's plenty of space provided here for timely and stylish solos from various members of the band. On Clarity however, it is the pronounced sounds of the trombone that clearly come through as the album's primary lead instrument.
Dease introduces the music with an exciting melody and extensive solo performance on "Relentless. He pays tribute to trombonist extraordinaire Steve Turré with the lively and up-tempo "One 4 Steve, delivering another appreciable solo, while trumpeter Brandon Lee and featured saxophonist Victor Goines lead an array of sparkling solos from the band.
Pianist Eric Reed is showcased on the lovely ballad, "Lullaby For Rita, leading to one of the best cuts of the album, "Mixed Feelings, where Goines once again compliments the trombonist with a teasing solo statement. Dease provides exceptional leads throughout the remainder of the album, finishing off with a catchy rendition of "Speak Low.
Though claiming influences from Curtis Fuller, Jay Jay Johnson and Frank Rosolino, as well as Turré, Dease does not play in their shadows and so demonstrates, through his many exemplary trombone lines on Clarity, a charming session of modern jazz.
All About Jazz

Tracklist:
1. Relentless 7:48
2. One 4 Steve 6:06
3. Lullaby For Rita 7:46
4. Mixed Feelings 7:51
5. You Dig? 6:16
6. Believe 6:05
7. Elusive 6:00
8. Top Of The Morning 5:23
9. Clarity 6:14
10 - Speak Low 8:25

Personnel: 
Michael Dease: trombone; 
Brandon Lee: trumpet; 
Sharel Cassity: alto saxophone; 
Kris Bowers: piano; 
Mathew Heredia: bass; M
Marion Felder: drums (2, 4, 7); 
Kenneth Salters: drums (1, 5, 6, 9); 
Mark Whitfield, Jr.: drums (3, 8, 10); V
ictor Goines: tenor saxophone (2, 4, 9); 
Eric Reed: piano (1, 3, 10).
Released on November 20th, 2007 - Label: Blues Back Records |

Clarity
Monday, April 2, 2012

Myron Walden: Hypnosis (NYC - 1996)




Youth continues to be served by the jazz record marketplace as NYC introduces its entrant, a native New York alto saxophonist, 24 years of age, striving to be fresh. This quest is displayed most notably by the program of eight original Walden compositions. On his horn, Walden displays a nice cry in his tone that serves him well, with an urgency that is more cerebral than visceral. His attractive tone is best displayed on "As The Sun Peaks," a fine composition that given further exposure could enter the modern real book currently in production.
The title track is another gem: a veiled bit of misterioso that shows Walden in evolution as a composer. While presenting a program comprised totally of original tunes is seductive to young artists, Walden has frankly committed a cardinal sin for a debut artist. The wise course dictates that one never deliver a program comprised entirely of standards in this age of conservatism, unless one's career is accompanied by enormous advance buzz. When you render a program of all originals as your debut you're not giving radio programmers enough to hang their hats on. Being under constant product barrage, radio programmers generally gravitate toward recognizable tunes first, and if the record is compelling enough the standards will have their turns at bat. The same often holds true for your basic, non-adventurous consumer. The best approach is that even if it is drastically re-worked, a familiar piece or three are always advisable for the mix.
That said, this is a thinking man's record, issued to a world lacking many true thinkers. And much of Walden's writing is of an impressionistic bent, perhaps serving to further blunt the impact of his largely attractive opening date. One thing's for certain: Myron Walden is clearly no one-record wonder; so stay tuned.
(JazzTimes)

Tracklist:
1. My House 
2. Telepathy 
3. Dimensions 
4. Hypnosis 
5. Untitled In A Flat Minor 
6. Marva 
7. As The Sun Peaks 
8. Departed 

Personnel:
Myron Walden: alto sax
Mulgrew Miller: piano (1, 2, 6)
Kevin Hays: piano (3, 5, 7, 8)
Dwayne Burno: bass
Eric McPherson: drums (1, 2, 6)
Eric Harland: drums (3, 5, 7, 8)
Recorded at Clinton Recording Studios, New York, NY; RPM Studios, New York, NY
(Releases on August 6, 1996 Label: NYC)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Darrell Grant - Twilight Stories (32. Jazz - 1998)










This session remained unissued in the archives of Muse until it was acquired by Joel Dorn when he purchased the label. Most of Grant's earlier releases were done for European labels, so this CD is a great opportunity to get to know a talented pianist. His originals "Afrique-ville" and "Twilight" showcase his talents as a composer as well as at the keyboard. Also recommended are his mellow take of "My Old Flame" and a snappy, stutter-stepped run through "I Thought About You." Tenor saxophonist Don Braden, bassist Joris Teepe and drummer Cecil Brooks III complement Grant's playing, and each contributed a valuable original to the session.
(allmusic)


Tracklist:
1. Afrique-Ville (D. Grant) 
2. Yvette (C. Brooks III) 
3. When You Dance That Way (D. Grant) 
4. Twilight (D. Grant) 
5. My Old Flame (A. Johnston - S. Coslow) 
6. I Thought About You (J. van Heusen - J. Mercer) 
7. The Resumption (J. Teepe) 
8. Wake up Call (At Sister Maya's House) (D. Grant) 
9. Arise (D. Braden) 
10. Please Send Me Someone to Love (P. Mayfield) 


Personnel: 
Darrell Grant (Piano); 
Don Braden (Ten Sax); 
Joris Teepe (Bass); 
Cecil Brooks III (Drums).
Original Release Date: July 14, 1998 - Label: 32. Jazz Records

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