ALBUM REVIEWS - ROUND-UP OF THE LATEST RELEASES, April 2015
Triple Point Records in the past has done fine, carefully produced limited editions archival LPs of Cecil Taylor and Frank Lowe in such a loving, caring manner. It is a tribute to the music and an indication of the esteem Triple Point holds for this art form. Their latest production, a limited edition of 665, is CALL IT ART [TPR 161] by the NEW YORK ART QUARTET. These 5 LPs, along with a 156 page [11 1/2” X 11 1/2”] book are all housed in a 13” X 13” birch wood box. The whole lot weighs a shade under 10 pounds and costs $340. Art costs. Since the 1960s, when independent creative improvising music and independent productions and labels began to take root, just the cost of record production was about $3.00 or $4.00 each on an edition of 1000 albums (the average pressing for this type of music), these records were then sold to a distributor somewhere between $3.20 and $4.20 and then sold to stores between $5.00 and $6.00 and then to the public around $7.98 and $8.98. These prices were set, so to speak, in order to be competitive with commercial records which were produced in mass and hopefully sold in mass, in quantities perhaps in the millions. Back then I was in the distribution business, later a producer of unpopular music, and it was my contention that the mind-set was such that there was tyranny in setting a loss leader price on records, of small circulation and relative high cost, so as to be price competitive with the mass producers. I thought that to be realistic these independents should be selling their productions to distributors at perhaps twice the price. But being an independent group, artists were willing to lose money in the chance people would listen to their work. For a while Blossom Dearie priced her label at $15.00+ list and, having to put my money where my conviction was, I agreed to pay her price. About 6 months later she lowered her price, the moral being; fight the industry on pricing as an individual and you won’t sell but a handful of records. CDs are not as bad and offer a better margin to the artist if they sell a thousand or more, which today with theft, burning and downloading is not that easy. Now there are labels that do magnificent work, have limited productions and hold their price, accordingly. Mosaic is a leading example and issue limited editions averaging about 2500. Add Triple Point to this list and figuring a pressing/printing of 665 their price is pretty much in the same area of Mosaic, so are their production values.
The New York Art Quartet had its heyday from 1964 through 1965. At the groups core were Roswell Rudd and John Tchicai and over that period, at one time or another, the group encompassed; Reggie Workman, Don Moore, Eddie Gomez, Bob Cunningham, Lewis Worrell [b], Milford Graves, J.C. Moses [drm], Alan Shorter [tpt] and on a few tracks [1/17/65] Amiri Baraka does readings. These recordings took place in the early years of, post Ornette Coleman, the New Music explosion that was centered in NYC. It was a heady time when expression was encouraged and sought. Free music and avant guard were de rigueur and while it opened up the field to a lot of pretenders, some eventually went on to be artists of substance. The openness of the Free music scene also encouraged artists and audience to expand and be involved in what music could be. It was the ‘60s, a time of great upheaval of the status-quo, a time of try, if not yes at the very least the door to possibilities was opened in place of the previous presumptive no. It’s my memory that economics then were not any better than they are today, for foragers of noncommercial music. The NYAQ was first issued on ESP records then on (French) Fontana and more recently Cuneiform issued some recordings, made in Denmark, from October 1965. The Triple Point set collects the remaining recordings extant, including their first recordings from 10/31/64.
In the book co-producer Ben Young (Joe Lizzi is the other co-producer) gives an accurate and encompassing tutorial of the times and the artists. Duck Baker offers a short recollection of the group then and hearing them today. A complete itinerary of the group is included. The book ends with an extensive commentary of the records. The records are not programmed in chronological order but more or less go from last date to earliest date. The book is full of photos and published ephemera, of the time, along with notes and correspondence relevant to the presentation.
This is without doubt an artful box and it got me thinking— is the music perceived as art because of its presentation or is it presented in a fashion befitting the art? I was well familiar with the NYAQ before I approached this work and I include the collective them to be art of high order. It is not the packaging, worthy though it may be, that decides artistic merit as I have seen elaborate presentation on what I would generously consider low art. This is an archival effort of a very important time, socially and artistically, in the United States, with ramifications throughout out much of the world and it is deserving of the loving attention it receives here.
One of the first things which will strike the listener is the independence and the unorthodox rhythmic patterns set by Milford Graves, the main drummer in the NYAQ, different from Sunny Murray who for all his challenge to standard (up to then) drumming still presented a rhythmic unity and propulsion. Graves, who often goes counter to the horn directions and intrudes on solos, though on duet sections with Rudd, when things are even more freeform, it is more traditional. Rudd, in composition and playing is familiar by his quick runs and blats, a style carried forth today by Steve Swell. The WBAI radio recordings [LP # 1] of 1/17/65 suffer some channel fuzziness. These are the sides with Baraka, who is in a subdued anger compared with his racist spew on a Sunny Murray date recorded just ten months later. Record #3 is made up of rehearsals from Michael Snow’s loft, probably early 1965, and includes a fine take of Tchicai’s “For Eric”, which has remained unrecorded since them. Record #4 contains a nice, if brief, recording of the MOMA concert [7/15/65] and a long outing on Ornette’s, “Oh-No” from 10/31/64. It’s rambling and poorly recorded with a loft (Marzette Watts) ambiance. The book doesn't dodge the problems here but points out several facts that, even with its faults, make this recording not without interest. The Watts’ gathering continues and fills record #5, but with greater fidelity and musical coordination. Rudd’s especially in the mood and with careful editing the 75 minutes at Watts’ loft would in itself make a strong CD—but that is not the point of this archival effort. And in that regard this is a masterful job and greater in its whole than the sum of its parts.
I think it has been about five years since ORNETTE COLEMAN [as] released a new recording. Now quite un-expectantly he appears on a newly issued recording called NEW VOCABULARY [System Dialing] LP  and CD . This is a trio date with JORDAN McLEAN [tpt/electronics] and AMIR ZIV [dms]. On three tracks ADAM HOLZMAN [p] is added. This was recorded 7/18-20/09 and no credits on the 12 tracks are given, but I imagine the majority are Coleman’s as they display Colemanesq playfulness. Music aside—why is this just coming out now and why 3 days in the studio? There are no liner notes and the accompanying hype sheet offers only effusive quotes ranging from Bill T. Jones to Maggie Gyllenhall. So Mr. Columnist what about the music? The music and compositions are wonderful. My perspective on Ornette is, he rarely plays with a piano yet Holzman’s contributions work well and do not seem to inhibit Coleman, though Ornette is less featured on the Holzman tracks. It should be noted that Holzman plays only acoustic piano and not the usual electric keyboards. The electronics come from McLean and are used mostly for coloring and trumpet echoing. Ziv plays a rather traditional role, underpinning the group, shadowing Coleman. I probably played this recording a half dozen times and it holds up and unfolds very nicely and leaves me with the feeling this is Ornette’s date as far as the lead voice is concerned and that voice is in top form, fresh and almost totally free of the Ornette clinches, lovely though they may be, that are often in his playing. It’s not the classic quartet or the harmolodic format it is different but this format works and works refreshingly well. Is there more to come? Let’s hope so. Co-produced by McLean and Ziv.
FORTUNE RECORDS is one of the many Eastern European companies which have sprung up, in the new millennium, that are dedicated to championing post bop music. For the most part these companies have developed catalogues that treat improvising music on an equal international basis representing improvised music from Europe and similar musics from North America with an equanimity rarely found in this country. Unlike the musical innovations presented in the 1970s, by companies like FMP, BVHaast and Incus, these Eastern European labels are more exploring, and perhaps expanding, the post bop music of the past 40 years; a horizontal movement not so much a vertical movement. Fortune Records, out of Poland which I believe, started in 2011 by Jerek Polit, and since then has amassed almost 50 releases. I think the secret of continuing to maintain this substantial and growing catalogue may be that Fortune has enlisted various partners from the business world to sponsor individual releases. I am speculating here as questions directed to the company have gone unanswered. Packaging on the releases runs from fairly elaborate booklets full of photos and program notes to basic promotional slip cases publishing tunes and personals but often minus recording dates and publishing credits. Promotional or not the releases all have a unified outside look; titles over a black and white photo. If I were to characterize the musical imprint, from what I've heard of the label, overall I’d say it is hard as opposed to pointillistic or minimalistic. The releases tend to be sax focused. A look at what I consider some of the most outstanding and/or interesting of the Fortune releases follows, in no particular order.
BOOZER [Fortune 0003/003] is a live recording by the MAGNOLIA ACOUSTIC QUARTET [Kuba Sokołowski-p, Szymon Nidzworski-ss/ts, Patryk Dobosz-dms, Mateusz Dobosz-b] with guests [Maciej Obara-as, Tomasz Dabrowski-tpt] playing 7 constructs/compositions that display a series of free jazz improvisations from a backbeat format to more etherial colorings, all of which is tight and well executed. These are emerging musicians, the only one I am remotely familiar with is Obara, and very impressive as there is little sense of purposeless playing in solos or ensemble. Sokołowski’s piano work stands out, in contrast to the ensemble, and a solo recording might be suggested. Another strength here is drummer Dobosz, a powerhouse, whose work marks all aspects of this concert and includes a very impressive, almost 4 minute, solo. A very satisfying listen which will have you at times holding your breath.
CHES SMITH [dms] brings a familiar group together [Mary Halvorson-gtr, Andrea Parkins-acc, Tim Berne-as, Tony Malaby-ts] for a live recording from the Warsaw Festival of 1/13/12 called INTERNATIONAL HOOHAH [Fortune 0033/23]. The emphasis, on the six Smith originals here [40:31], is on form and composition, which for me often interrupts the flow of the music with voids and wandering. Anticipation unrewarded.
The NIKOLA KOŁODZIEJCZYK [kbds] Orchestra on CHORD NATION [Fortune 0042/30] is 25 strong on five originals [54:31] by the leader. One can feel the power of this crew and it offsets nicely solo outings from individuals. This music is tightly scored much like a stage band….on steroids. Much is the musical designs here are built of piano patterns from the leader, as it builds and layers and lumbers through the landscape. It’s a rather exciting adventure and one gets the feeling of the sound track to a narrative. This is not a loose band, say in the manner of Basie, it’s closer to Kenton, but perhaps even there—less swinging. There is some wordless vocalizing that fits in well as a background sound. For orchestration this is an impressive outing and a good listen.
TOMASZ DABROWSKI [tpt], KRIS DAVIS [p] and ANDREW DRURY [dms], calling their trio 3D, collaborate on VERMILION TREE [Fortune0030/021], a recording from New York City in 2012. The 14 tracks here [53:53], with few exceptions, are short forays into extemporaneous directions that rarely get a chance to develop past an initial exposition. For me it was tedious listening.
Recorded just 3 days earlier TOMASZ DABROWSKI is back in studio for a duo with TYSHAWN SOREY [dms] for STEPS [Fortune 0005/005]. Perhaps because this is a duo the music seems better and more closely integrated. Dabrowski’s trumpet has a warm burnished sound and he and Sorey, over the course of the 10 originals, when not playing parallel to each other, take turns playing into each other, rather than always having the drums following the horn leads. A pleasant listening for a moment of moments.
TOMASZ DABROWSKI [tpt] also has a trio date titled RADICAL MOVES [Fortune 0045/032] with Nils Bo Davidsen [b] and Anders Mogensen [drm]. Dabrowski faces off the ten originals [42:17] with mid-range trumpet work which ventures little from that range and after a while becomes akin to noise pollution. Any one or two of these cuts is inviting but together the coloring is so consistent that it neither advances the whole program or makes much demand compositionally. These are three veteran musicians and this is not the first time they have played together and it’s a shame they chose such tight parameters in which to play.
PULSARUS [Fortune 0023/015] is a group: Dominik Strycharski-flutes, Aleksander Papierz-as, Ray Dickaty-ts, Stefan Orins-el.p, Jacek Mazurkiewicz-b, Jakub Rutkowski-dms], which Tomasz Dabrowski-tpt is also a part of, for BEE ITCH [Fortune 0023/015]. This is densely loaded music, with the ensemble mostly lumbering as one, in unison, often offset by a repetitive back-beat-like rhythm. In that way it brings to mind some of Willem Breuker’s writing but with less breaks for soloists. The power of this music and its various paths is engaging. A pity there is not more solo space for the little there is used effectively. My suggestion is listen to these eleven tracks [57:13] with breaks as it is dense, but do listen.
YELLS AT EELS is the name DENNIS GONZALES [tpt] has called his groups since the late 1990s. On IN QUIET WATERS [Fortune 0046/033] he is joined by his sons, Aaron Gonzales [b] and Stefan Gonzales [drm] for ten original compositions [64:38]. This is live, probably from the Dallas, Texas area, and seems less focused than previous releases. Everyone sounds in great form but the tales, woven out of the rather simple lines, do not a profound story make. It sounds to me that there is a great effort to light a fire, but it never really catches in a sustained manner. The audience is enthusiastic but for me this is a let down from an artist who has previously had a strong track record.
WACŁAW ZIMPEL [clt] heads a quartet [Krzysztof Dys-p, Christian Ramond-b, Klaus Kugel-dms] on STONE FOG [Fortune0009/009]. This recording has 2 personalities; 3 of the tracks are by Zimpel, and are for the most part sober affairs carried by the tension of the music line, the remaining 5 cuts are improvs credited to the entire quartet. Zimpel wields the clarinet with great authority be it on his rather sober compositions or the more tentative, albeit aggressive, group improvs. The group as a whole really listens and as a result builds some strong statements. Folks who are fans of the clarinet, among others, should check this issue out. For me this changed colors with each listen and seemed to offer a new listening path each time.
The INFANT JOY QUINTET [Ray Dickaty-ts/ss, Michał Kasperek-dms, Jan Małkowski-as, Dominik Mokrzewski-dms, Ksawery Wójciński-b/tp] has issued NEW GHOSTS [Fortune 0029/020]. Joining the quintet is Laura Waniek- harm, whistles, jew’s harp- for 3 long [49:39] improvs, which while sounding nothing like Ayler, do evoke the spirit of him. The two, somewhat lyrical, saxes dominate the directions and at times offer a Bechet coloring as well. Even with 2 drummers this is not a drum heavy date but they buttress the developing climaxes with brushes and sticks and what at times sounds like hand drumming. This is dense, repetitive, organically developed, positive spiraling music and while the format is familiar the development is powerful. To my ears guest Waniek is unheard.
MARCO ENEIDI [as] brings his plaintive and compelling alto to PANTA REI [Fortune0047/034]. This quartet date [Marek Pospieszalski-ts, Ksawery Wójciński-b, Michał Trela-dms] is live and I believe the program of four cuts is all improvised with perhaps some guideposts. Eneidi is a driving sax player and has a good match in Pospieszalski as both seem to gulp air and spit out sinewy lines and emotive pleas. Eneidi, an ex-pat, is one of the more dynamic and passionate players around today. Unfortunately his recording are few and infrequent, this release meets the standard he has developed. Bass and drum do an excellent job of propelling this music along and on the last track [Arco M] have their own features. A very strong outing.
RAFAŁ MAZUR [b.gtr] and KEIR NEURINGER [as] take a duo outing on THE KRAKÓW LETTERS [Fortune 0032/022] which presents 4 musical letters [letter #1-4 54:08]. Neuringer uses a combination of circular breathing and more conventional breathing as he attacks and struggles in to make his statements in a duo environment. Mazur ventures pulling and bowing but once Neuringer finds his footing/direction Mazur pretty much runs patterns. Small doses of this at a time offers rewards; one Letter over a period of time as opposed to four Letter(s) at one time.
IREK WOJTCZAK [ss/tsb.clt] brings his NY Connection [Michael Stevens-p, Herb Robertson-tpt, Joe Fonda-b, Harvey Sorgen-dms] together on FOLK FIVE [Fortune 0050/006]. The program here is eight polish folk songs [47:28] arranged by Wojtczak. It probably helps that I did not previously know the music here, so the material sounds fresh and remarkably full. This studio recording is tricky music well run through. The NY Connection is a formidable group both as a unit as well as individually as soloists. The material is varied and nicely programed from polka-ish based music to a lovely solo piano interlude near the middle of the program. The rhythm section is right on top of the music and offers a tight format for Robertson and Wojtczak to work off from. A wonderful effort, meaty and fun.
MACIEJ OBARA [as] and his quartet; Dominik Wania [p], Gard Nilssen [dms], Ole Morten Vågan [b], have issued LIVE AT MANGGHA [Fortune 0022/14]. Obara has a bit pinched, forlorned searching sound. He also leaves vast space for the rhythm trio to search out directions for themselves. The trio seems very fluent in the vocabulary of post bop, pre free but structured, playing. Vågan is a bull and he and Nilssen can create a power ambience all by themselves. Vågan got his start playing Mainstream and has made himself quite at home in this freer world. Wania’s playing has a touch of McCoy Tyner and is wandering but remains logical and close to the music while advancing it. It occurs to me this quartet came to play and left their egos behind. A stimulating session.
ANTHONY BRAXTON [as/ts] along with Taylor Ho Bynum- cor, James Fei-as, and Erica Dicker-vln are all aboard for QUARTET [WARSAW] 2012 [Fortune 0020/005]. The program here is Composition 363b+, which runs the entire length of the CD [70:05]. There is a fifth “member” to the program here and that is interactive electronics to which the players respond. There are graphic notations also supplied by Braxton. I found the electronics a loathsome drone which too often stood between me and the acoustic ensemble. Furthermore, except to perhaps get the players in the zone, I didn't feel it added to the compositional whole. When the electronics turn off it is a welcome relief to hear the quartet clearly as they interact as a group. Most of the work is minimalistic and searches for sounds, if not from the air then placed there by the quartet. A must for fans of the arcane Anthony Braxton methodology.
It’s all acoustic on MNEMOTAKSJA [Fortune 0028/019] by the PIOTR DAMASIEWICZ [tpt] quartet [Gerard Lebik-ts/contralto clarinet, Wojciech Romanowski- dms, Maciej Garbowski-b]. The ten originals [64:44] here are composed form, for the most part, followed by improvisation. Damasiewicz has a warm clear tone which he likes to extend to the listener on long tones. Lebik is a gritty reed player and when the two frontmen engage together, which was more often than not, it can be very effective. The rhythm section is utilitarian, and when featured are less than exciting. Reservations aside, I rather enjoyed the whole.
I also enjoyed FEDERICO BRITOS [vln] presents HOT CLUB OF THE AMERICAS [ 3 Knocks Entertainment 792278 008771]. The subtitle here is, when Grappelli meets Latin America which is both descriptive and misleading in that this is Latin-tinged music but Britos sounds little like Grappelli. There is a taste of Django here and yes, in the program of 12 standards, they do play “The Sheik”, “Honeysuckle Rose”, “Nuages”, “Djangology” and other tunes associated with Hot Clubs but it is Latinized. The Hot Club here is a sextet to which, depending on which cut, a variety of rhythm is added along with special guests that include, among others; Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Cecile McLorin Salvant and Hendrik Meurkens. Nothing heavy or pretentious here and a nice break from music that is.
Tony Purrone [g] brings a Django-est touch, at times, to HEADIN’ OUT [Jazzeria Records Matt 2014] by MATT CRISCUOLO [as]. Purrone is a strong presence on this record whether soloing or playing in tandem with Criscuolo. The leader has a pinched sound, reminding me a bit of Ornette Coleman, and is fond of playing emotive long jamming lines. In fact the whole quartet [Preston Murphy-b, Ed Soph-dms] seems ready to jam and shows no hesitancy in attacking the music [Little Niles, Sippin’ At Bells, A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing and six originals] head on, breathlessly squeezing out any nuance lurking. Even on “A Flower…”, where Criscuolo brings to mind Johnny Hodges, there is, at times, a sense of pushing the line. Jazz upfront and swinging.
ABDULLAH IBRAHIM [p] continues to be in reflective mood on THE SONG IS MY STORY [Sunnyside 1404]. Now in his 80th year he delivers a one two punch with this release as the CD is one in a wonderful series of reflective solo playing but there is also a DVD of playing, spoken reflections and storytelling. Less than 40 minutes long, the CD opens and closes with brief solo playing on sax by Ibrahim. It includes 17 originals (most previously unrecorded) and the CD program/concert, while short, is quite moving and attention holding and divides itself between Ibrahim compositions and improvs. The DVD, also recorded in June 2014, in Italy, has the pianist mostly sitting at the piano telling tales of history and his-story and playing to illustrate his narrative. This is beautifully filmed and recorded and runs close to an hour, ending, with a portion of a concert. As wonderful as the CD is get this for the DVD. Ibrahim has issued many fine records over the past 60 years, this is moving and essential.
Nemu Records is a small, new music, label, out of Berlin, who since about 2003 have released 15 CDs. Their latest is THE LOFT SESSIONS [Nemu 015] by FANTASM, a cooperative trio of, ALBRECHT MAURER [vln], MAT MANERI [viola] and LUCIAN BAN [p]. The nine original tracks [by trio members and one by Paul Motian] suggest a contemporary string trio. For the most part the music is dark, serious and reflects little humor. This trio has worked together in larger groups and Maurer has appeared on many previous Nemu recordings. They work well together, as there is little sense of hesitation or lack of direction. This is music, improvised perhaps, that shares qualities and overlaps with contemporary notated music.
ENCOUNTERS [Leo 716] is an unapologetic jump into free improvisation by LUC HOUTKAMP [sax], SIMON NABATOV [p] and MARTIN BLUME [dms]. This is the first encounter all 3 have had together as an improvising unit. Houtkamp’s fluttering work is the main voice over the 8 improvs on this [2/23/14] date. As might be expected this is an improv free for all utilizing overblown sax, percussive piano and bowed (or something that sounds like that) cymbals. These are seasoned artists with, between them, over a 100 years experience and dozens and dozens of recordings and their sounds of surprise are with thought and logic. There is nothing here, in form, that is new, it is now a familiar strategy that is over 50 years old. This is a fine example of mature free improv.
Label Rives is a small (3 releases to date), French label notable for its odd packaging. Their CDs, so far, come sandwiched between 2 magnetic sheets [7” X 7”] silkscreened with artist names and label number. Inside is the CD and booklet. Their latest effort [label Rives 3] is GAËL MEVEL[p], MICHAËL ATTIAS[saxes]. Ten originals make up the, most deliberative, music on this set. According to the minimal notes Mevel asked Attias to hold back in order for each note, each step [to] fulfill its promise. The effect being a slow movement through the composition. Even where Attias takes the lead, or goes it solo, the tempo is running-through-water slow and labored. The effect for this listener was contemplative.
Also contemplative is PAOLO PORTA’s [ts], BEGINNER’S STATE OF MIND [Slam 561]. Porta for the most part stays in the mid range and at a relaxed tempo playing in an understated manner on nine originals and Randy Newman’s, “That’ll do”. The trio [Alessandro Maiorino-b, Alessandro Minetto-drm] works well together, bass and drum keep the themes buoyed and at the same time have their own conversation. There are times Porta reminds me of Frank Lowe, he is quite lyrical in his compositions, at times almost sounding like folk lullabies. A calming jazz postbop outing.
A recording of originals and not so calming is CHERRY PICKIN’ [Slam 294] by PAUL DUNMALL [reeds], JIM DVORAK [tpt], MARK SANDERS [b] and CHRIS MAPP [dms]. This is a very well put together group who shows a mercurial form as they lay down music all composed by Dvorak with the exception of a 19:20 free excursion at the conclusion of the CD. Dunmall’s sax work is the solo power of the group as his playing moves the music ahead with a sense of insistent searching. The rhythm section for the most part keeps things churning, while Dvorak contributes supporting jabs and statements. On two of the tracks Dvorak sing-talks including some prose from Lord Buckley’s beat reinterpretation of the Gettysburg Address which now sounds dated. An uneven recording that unfortunately shares billing with the good and not-so-good.
The SEE THROUGH TRIO [Karen Ng-as, Pete Johnston-b, Tania Gill-p] has produced PARALLEL LIGHTS [Woods and Waters 008] a recording of nine Johnston originals. Johnston has a writing style similar to Monk, not in melody or harmonics but in its sense of randomness. Combine that randomness with Ng’s wispy sax and the suggestion of Tristano looms large. The single note and counterpoint work of Gill’s piano works well at drawing the listener into, what on the surface is, thin music, but not often stark or uninviting. Johnston’s bass pretty much shadows the line or punches in line-less notes. There are moments here when it suggests the trio is tuning up against the piano. See Through indeed, with space sometimes big enough to drive an octet through.
GREG MURPHY [p], who worked for many years with Rashied Ali, has released BLUES FOR MILES [Jazzintensity Records 001]. Accompanying him, in various combinations, are; Kush Abadey [dms], Eric Wheeler [b], Tom DiCarlo [b], Josh Evans [tpt], Ben Solomon [ts] and Raphael Cruz [perc]. Musically the reference to Miles is lost on me, other than 2 of the 14 titles are “Blues for Miles” [two takes], in fact if there is anything suggested it’s Ben Solomon’s pleasurable Coltrane inspired playing. The program here ranges from, let’s call it inside, on tunes like “Easy To Remember”, “Brother, and Can You Spare A Dime” to some very effective free playing on “Free Ur Mind” and “Free Han Solo”. Murphy is credible in all styles and moods but it is on the uptempos and later styles where he seems most mentally energized and inspired. A strong ensemble, a bit derivative, but believable when turned loose.
MICHAEL JEFRY STEVENS [p] came on the scene in the mid ‘80s and over the years has amassed a considerable discography as sideman but more often as leader or co-leader with a number of cooperative and reoccurring groups (see Fortune 0050/006 above). His range is considerable— seemingly at home in bop as well as free settings. He also appears rather industrious as he manages to keep new releases issued and books himself world wide as well as keeps himself up to date on social media. A look at some of his recent issues.
MICHAEL JEFRY STEVENS [p], JON HEMMERSAM [gtr], SZILÁRD MEZEI [viola] make up an international trio outing on UPCAST [Artist Recording Collective ARC 893682 002307] recorded on 10/20/09, in Budapest, and issued in 2011. This is all improvised (16 sections divided into 7 parts). For the most part this is minimalistic and may have been issued in the same order as recorded—though I doubt it was recorded in one sitting as the improvised encounters are much more decisive as the CD progresses. And as a result the music takes on a more composed, less tentative, feel. Mezei’s mid range viola falls nicely between the piano and guitar range, though possibly cello might have been an even more comfortable fit- but comfort is not necessarily what is aimed for here.
MICHAEL JEFRY STEVENS [p], JUHO LAITINEN [cello], and ESA PIETILA [reeds] call themselves the Brain Inventory Trio, on THE WALL [Konnex 5284]. This was recorded 9/29/10 in Helsinki, and features a mixture of improvs and compositions over eight tracks. Here the improvs are less in unison, or counterpoint, and dominated more by the sax. The compositions are seemingly so informal that perhaps they were only suggested guild lines. The entire date moves at a very deliberate slow speed that will either put one in the zone or make one impatient. After the applause and the last printed track on the CD, there is a lovely lyrical track [8:10], apparently meant as an encore, and held at the same deliberate speed as the whole recording and very effective.
MOUNTAIN SONG [Artist Recording Collective ARC 893682 002604] is a 4/20/2012 recording by MICHAEL JEFRY STEVENS [p/medodia] and ELIOT WADOPIAN [b]. The seven compositions are all by Stevens about which he writes in his informative liner notes. The music here is again slow, deliberant and suggests a hymn-like peace. Much of Wadopian’s bass work is bowed and it adds a complimentary harmonic depth and soul to the music. A word about the melodica, which is listed prominently on the cover of the CD, it’s only used once briefly for a coloring effect; be not afraid. A lovely, if short [43:14] recording.
20TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR [Artist Recording Collective ARC 893662 0002536] presents the JOE FONDA [b]/MICHAEL JEFRY STEVENS [p] group [Herb Robertson-tpt, Harvey Sorgen-dms] live from Speilboden, Austria. Eight tracks, evenly split between compositions of Fonda and Stevens make up this post bop program. I found this to be a very mixed program of some very powerful playing and some average and with Robertson being off mike at times things are further hurt. I had high expectations for this recording as in my mind this is an all star group but unfortunately only hints of how powerful this group can be are in evidence here. A better representation can be heard on Fortune 0050/006 [see above].
Michael Jefry Stevens [p] also plays a prominent part on WENDY JONES’ [voc] PERFECT DREAM [Artist Recording Collective ARC 893682 005274] in that he wrote all but one of the 11 songs as well as headed the backing trio [Zack Page-b, Rick Dilling-d]. This is Ms. Jones’ second recording, the first was made under Wendy Hayes [unheard by me]. She has a warm and sincere voice and occasional intonation lapses. She is not particularly a jazz singer, though she does some scatting. The trio provides fine backing and I am surprised how tuneful the music is and how the compositions stick. Stevens wrote almost half the lyrics here and he does it well. Liners give background and tune info. Reservations noted, this is a rather nice issue.
DIETER MANDERSCHEID [b] and SEBASTIAN STERNAL [p] go at it duo on FLUSSRAUCHEN [Jazzhaus JHM 228]. Manderscheid has been around, and heavily recorded over the decades, but I believe this is the first time he has led a recording. Sternal is much younger and I believe works in academia. Together these two are brilliant. The 16 tracks here [56:40] range from seven originals to a beautiful and deeply conveyed “Reincarnation Of A Lovebird”. Actually there are many many deeply moving moments, “Prelude to a Kiss” (called “Prélude Dansé” here and credited to the duo] amongst them. There are times when the duo takes a classical bent (Vivaldi) but lose none of their credibility as improvising artists. Other composers here include Bill Evans, Kenny Wheeler, Jerome Kern, Webern and Thomas Heberer. This is a richly rewarding listen and fans particularity of the bass should seek it out.
Also duo is ENA/ONE [Klopotec IZKCD 026] by ZLATKO KAUČIČ [drm/voice] and MILKO LAZAR [p/ss]. This live concert is total improvisation, no words, rehearsals or expectations. The concert consists of 13 parts/tracks which move purposely along over more than 70 minutes. Kaučič’s “voice” parts are minor and are sort of a conversation with his percussion work. Lazar, using a Steinway D, plays piano on all but one track, when he plays a prepared piano it effects 95 percussion instruments. The duo works nicely parallel with each other, sometimes melodically sometimes not but always in unison; free perhaps but not a free-for-all.
ZLATKO KAUČIČ joins GIOVANNI MAIER-b and DANIELE D’AGARO-reeds on a freeform concert called DISORDER AT THE BORDER [Palomar records 50]. D’Agaro plays sax and clarinet on this program of 6 tracks [74:32] and shows a good touch of Evan Parker. Maier wields his bow with a solid soul development. As with the CD concert above the players listen closely and work in sync with each other. Music has come a long way to work in such an intuitive manner. Veterans at work.
ANDREAS LAMMEL [p], RENÉ BORNSTEIN [b] and FLORIAN LAUER [drm] team together on NOVEMBERLIEDER [Nabel 4722], an album whose eight originals are evenly divided between Lammel and Bornstein. In his liners, Ralf Dombrowski writes in this music, the interest resides in those empty spaces (to some extent a truism about all jazz/improvised music). It’s accurate in that at times the piano can be ethereal and wandering but there is much more here than that. There are cluster parts, open parts, ebb and flow all of which makes for a most pleasant listening. I think this is the trio’s debut and it is a good one.
ANDY LUMPP [p] has been around since the mid ‘70s and made a number of recordings mainly on Nabel. MUTATION [Nabel 4724] is his latest and he is joined by his regular trio [HEINRICH CHASTCA-b, STEFAN HOELKER-dms] on a recordings of six improv pieces. Here there is a greater sense of random than found on the Lammel recording. And as for those quiet times they are less in evidence. Actually I would have skipped over this album, which I felt would have been more effective as a solo piano session, as I felt the rhythm, especially the drums, was more distractive than complimentary to the piano lines. Except for the last track “No Return” which seemed powerful and instrumentally well placed. There was a different strategy in place on this cut. On previous cuts the piano takes the lead and bass and drums try to fit in. On the last cut bass and drums take the lead and later the piano plays into them. For me it made all the difference and so I bring it to your attention.
YOU ARE A CREATURE [Sunnyside 1389] is an album by NICK SANDERS [p] trio [Henry Fraser-b, Connor Baker-drm]. Sanders has a curious style in that he reminds me a bit (compositionally) of Ornette Coleman in that he writes and plays short phrases that hang out for a moment before he extemporizes under them. The rhythm plays with, or counter, to the piano lines while remaining supportive and complimentary to them, on one track the pianist goes solo. This trio has been together, I believe, for over two years and it shows in the integration of the group. Working with this pianist, in a sideman role, staying on top of it with this music, would take a knowing past the rudiments. All the 13 tracks here are Sanders originals with the exception of “The Blessing” by Ornette Coleman which is perhaps the most traditional of all the pieces. Produced by Fred Hersch, this is an interesting listen.
Another trio can be found on RUBY PROJECT [Double Moon 71150]. For this album DAVID FETTMANN [as] took liturgical Hebrew songs gave them arrangements, re-composed them, and added 4 compositions by Abraham Ellstein to make up this rather upbeat program. Joining the trio are Guillaume Naud [org] and Johnathan Blake [drm]. The organ is not a B3, which would have made a major difference in hipness. The organ often shadows Fettmann’s lines and when standing by itself suggests a baritone electric piano. All of this is salvaged to a great extent by Blake’s energized drumming which is a constant and gives support throughout, often canceling attention on the organ. Naud is usually a pianist and, had that been the case here, it would have been more effective to Fettmann’s facile alto sax and program. An appealing, if mixed bag.
TILL MARTIN [ts] has written ten compositions that make up THE GARDENER [Unit 4555] that are distinguished by an unhurried, sometimes impressionistic, ambience that owes more to chamber jazz than traditional modern jazz. The quintet [Andreas Höricht-viola, Christian Elsässer-p, Henning Sieverts-b/cello, Bastian Jütte- drm] creates a soft, light touch throughout, often punctuated by a reoccurring pulse, but not a jazz beat. An unpretentious date which will most probably get lost in the pile of releases that is issued every month. A composer’s session.
Unit has also released JAZZ TALKS [Unit 4556] by VEIN [Michael Arbenz-p, Thomas Lähns-b, Florian Arbenz-dms, Dave Liebman-ss/ts/recorder]. This a wonderful free-wheedling and lyrical group. The program is a fine mix of four standards [All The Things You Are, Autumn Leaves, April In Paris, You And The Night And The Music] and nine originals from group members, some quite intriguing. Liebman, who, is not a regular member of the group but a feature, fits in with wonderful agility and feel. The rhythm has had about a dozen previous releases, including another with Liebman, and they are a very polished group, yet remain exciting and able to turn on a dime. Special note to the interplay and juxtaposition between the group and Liebman on “All The Things You Are”. It is brilliant, it’s the opening track and runs the risk of making the rest of the date a let down, but brilliance aside it really serves as an h’orderve for the rest of this fine release. Fans of the kind of interplay that Martial Solal and Lee Konitz could engage in might be advised to acquire this music if only for the opening track.
The Trio DAS LETZTE KANGURU [Christoph Beck-ts, Sebastian Schuster-b,Felix Schrack-dms] presents a nicely balanced album of nine original compositions on ABSPRUNG [JazzHaus JHM 222]. Post bop but pre-Brotzmann, this trio presents a comfortable confidence in interaction and examines jazz within a mid range both in tempo and dynamics. Not particularly identifiable as stylists; these are kangaroos content to feed by the road, rarely venturing into the outback.
ELMER BERNSTEIN, along with Henry Mancini, Neal Hefti and Quincy Jones were some of the most prolific soundtrack writers and the most hip of the last half of the 20th century. The 18 piece BIG BAND DE CANARIAS [Canary Islands] pays a tribute to some of Bernstein’s jazz scores on THE WILD SIDE [Varèse Sarabande 302 067 3128]. This is not really much of a jazz recording, it comes across as a bit sterile reading of scores—albeit jazzy and well done. It is marked by solid solos that spill into jazz, done mainly by tenor man Kike Perdomo [he is also the founder and director of the BBDC]. Many of the compositions are so suggestive that one might be tempted to write a screen play from them. If you’re a fan of music, jazz or not, this will satisfy. The program is: The Man With The Golden Arm/Saints And Sinners/The Rat Race/Jubilation/The Age Of Innocence/The Caretakers/The Silencers/Ghostbusters/Johnny Staccato/Devil In A Blue Dress/Sweet Smell Of Success/Walk On The Wild Side.
There must be more Monk tribute albums, topped only by Ellingtonia Tribute releases, than to any other creative improvising artist. One of the latest, is also 25 years old, CRISS CROSS-LIVE AT THE RED SEA [K2B2 4569], by the group THELONIOUS [Marty Krystall-ts, Hugh Schick-tpt, Bill Cunliffe-p, Billy Osbourne-drm]. Thelonious is headed by Neidlinger and Krystall and beginning in the mid ’80s have released a handful of Monk homages. This was recorded live, 2/17&18/90 in Santa Monica, California, and it is very live indeed. And the liveness is a part of the charm. The balance is uneven as the chomp-chomp-chomp of the drums is too upfront, voices of encouragement are in evidence but the spirit is wonderful. Krystall is a killer and reminds me of the spirit exhibited by Johnny Griffin on the Monk at the 5 Spot releases. Cunliffe, who had yet to make a featuring recording, sounds like he is having a ball and has the Monk filagrees down and, like other members of the quintet, is at times all over the place. This would be an excellent subject for a blind fold test. Ten Monk compositions given new life on an old date. Mark Weber has written liners about the whys and wherefores, a creative force writing on creative forces. I share the performers’ enthusiasm.
Another refreshing tribute to Monk can be found on ALEX CONDE’s [p], DESCARGA FOR MONK [Zoho zm 201501]. Descarga, I believe, suggests a Cuban jam session and the latin influence is certainly present on this quartet’s [Jeff Chambers-b, Jon Arkin-dms, John Santos-perc] interpretation of nine Monk originals. Conde manages to break loose of the Monkian structures that so define his compositions, while still relating to the now familiar themes. On some pieces, including one of Monk’s most haunting compositions, “Ugly Beauty”, the pianist incorporates Amparo Conde and Carmen Carrasco on hand claps and [Flamenco-esq] foot stomps in counterpoint to his ballad reading of the composition. It’s very effective. A delightful effort.
Still more Monk can be found on MONK WORK [Ambiances Magnétiques 218] by a group calling itself EVIDENCE [Jean Derome-as/bs, Pierre Cartier-el.b, Pierre Tanguay-drm]. The main voice is Derome, heavily recorded in Quebec, Canada since the mid 1970s he remains almost unknown outside of the province. The saxman has had a long interest in Monk music. Here is Monk of a different color as the group runs down 11 Monk compositions in somewhat of a sing-song manner, it is almost Monk-lite. Part of this effect is the groups approach but it is also complimented by Cartier’s choice of electric guitar, which lightens things. Tanguay’s drumming is light and rolling for the most part. Even a heavy composition like “Brilliant Corners” remains march upbeat. Monk with a difference but still charming.
Another tribute album, this time to Stanley Turrentine, can be found on DAVE STRYKER’S [gtr]; MESSIN’ WITH MISTER T [Strikezone 8812]. Stryker’s quartet [Jared Gold-b3 org, McClenty Hunter-drm, Mayra Casales-perc] does a fine job of capturing the feel of a Turrentine date. Besides the fine use of the B3 by Gold and Stryker’s Wes inspired guitar the catch here is the guesting of a different tenor man [Houston Person, Mike Lee, Don Braden, Jimmy Heath, Chris Potter, Bob Mintzer, Eric Alexander, Javon Jackson, Steve Slagle, Tivon Pennicott] for each tune [La Place Street, Pieces Of A Dream, Don’t Mess With Mister T, In A Sentimental Mood, Impressions, Gibralter, Salt Song, Side Steppin’, Let It Go].The various groups capture well the feel and mood of a Turrentine date and Stryker’s group makes it all seamless. A 16-page booklet gives a good account of background and foreground.
Dave Stryker also plays on, and produced, RACHEL CASWELL’s, ALL I KNOW [Turtle Ridge Records 002]. This is a series of duets with Stryker or Jeremy Allen [b]. Caswell's intimate (believable, in that she seems connected with the lyrics) singing has a somewhat vintage feel to it as she exhibits both her scat and vocalese chops. My only complaint is that on higher or emphasized notes the range tends to grate, distracting from the lyrics (it’s possible what I'm hearing is audio overload). 12 cuts including: If I Should Love You, Agua De Beber, I’ve Never Been In Love Before, Sometimes I’m Happy, You Don’t Know What Love Is, For All We Know, I Fall In Love To Easily.
Another guitarist, CLAUDIO LODATI, brings his guitar, loops and live electronics to ANIMAL SPIRIT [Setola Di Maiale no#]. Here he is a one-man-band on eight (non overdubed) originals. Lodati utilizes the loops heavily, often as the main voice as opposed to creating an underneath pattern. Lodati is playing and having fun with sound and it goes down easy. Fortunately this recording is free of the electronic screech and feedback that he has been known to utilize from time to time. Clocking in at 25:02 this hardly has time to overstay its welcome.
While on the subject of guitar, LARRY CORYELL has a new album out, HEAVY FEEL [Wide Hive 0325]. Coryell is associated with fusion, the difference between him and dozens of other fusion players, is he has musical sensibilities and usually brings intellectual interest to his music. This album in fact does have a heavy (as in profound) feel to it. The nine originals are contributed by the group [Matt Montgomery-b, Mike Hughes-drm, George Brooks-ss]. Coryell has been off my radar for some time and this recording makes me think I should reassess my opinion. Fusion for thinking people.
Daedalus records  has issued THREE OF A MIND by the ADAM BIRNBAUM trio [Doug Weiss-b, Al Foster-drs]. This is, I believe, Birnbaum’s forth release as a leader and he addresses the task with an assured ease and a clarity of sound. There is a touch of Bill Evans in his playing, a bit of introspection, though Birnbaum is a much more forward player, it is the hints of rubato in his lines that suggests this Evans touch. The trio works well over the nine pleasant originals by Birnbaum or Foster, and the aggressiveness of the drummer is a positive asset to the success of this mainstream, but not sleepy, date.
Smoke Records  continues to build up a strong catalogue with STEVE TURRE’s SPIRITMAN. This session is not recorded live at Smoke, as most of their releases, but in a NYC studio [6/1/14]. Joining Turre are: Bruce Williams [as/ss], Xavier Davis [p], Gerald Cannon [b], Willie Jones III [drms] and for one track, Chembo Corniel [congas]. Turre’s dark toned (classic Jay Jay Johnson) trombone is in good voice and the front line with Williams works well on this soulful and swinging release. The whole sounds like the group came ready to tell tales and play. The ten tracks here are half standards and half Turre originals, all missing the perfunctory reading that too often affects studio dates. Turre, as is his want, briefly brings the conch shell into play and it fits well, less of a gimmick than on some of his previous work, here it affects a forlorn, shimmering, alto sound that effectively introduces “All Blues”, a fine romp, which ends the recording. A solid Steve Turre recording and yet another, better than average, release from Smoke.
Also from Smoke Sessions comes HAROLD MABERN: AFRO BLUE [SSR 1503]. Here Mabern takes his trio [John Webber-b, Joe Farnsworth-drm] and augments it with various guests including Gregory Porter, Norah Jones, Jane Monheit, Kurt Elling, Alexis Cole, Peter Bernstein, Jeremy Pelt and Eric Alexander. This is really a wonderful release, a mixture of standards [Afro Blue/ Fools Rush In/I’ll Take Romance/My One And Only Love/Billie’s Bounce/Do It Again/Portrait Of Jennie/You Needed Me] and five originals by Mabern or Farnsworth. The big surprise to me is how poignant Norah Jones sounds, maybe I should pay more attention to her. Less than his best was Elling. Because of the changing personnel the album has aspects of a mixed tape, a most enjoyable one. This is the second studio session in a row from Smoke, when they started, last year, all but one release were live dates, and among some of the best releases of the year. I would hope that that predominance continues. As with previous releases the digi-pack has full liners in the form of an interview with the session leader and photography by Jimmy Katz. A nice production.
I also found SLANT SIGNATURE [Papaya Records 888295 195997] by BENNY SHARONI [ts] to be better than average. Joined by Jim Rotondi-tpt, Joe Barbato-p, Mike Mele-gtr, Todd Baker-b and Steve Langone-drm, on a program of five solid originals and three compositions out of the jazz repertoire [Freddie Hubbard’s “Down Under”, Lee Morgan’s “Ceora” and Ray Bryant’s “Tonk”]. This group breezes through with a bop familiarity that never ventures from that genre. My only wish is that the players were more individually distinctive. Reservations aside, this is a solid and very enjoyable listen.
Kichemak Records has released ON THE CROSSWALK [KR003] by YNGVIL VATN GUTTU[ tpt]. Ms Guttu wrote the 11 tracks on the recording and is backed a quartet [Renato Diz-p, Joe Goehle-b, Mareike Wiening-drm], augmented on four tracks by various sax and trombone, but the story here is Guttu. Her compositions show an exspansive ability to set out a broad musical plane and fill it with interesting searching solos. The tracks run from 1:26 to 9:02 in time and exhibit an attention to detail in the carefully worked lines and total construction which makes for very engaged listening. This is apparently her third recording but she is a new name to me (and with her name one surly would remember), but one whose name, for me, is as memorable as her music. Guttu, who claims homes in New York, Alaska and Oslo, really deserves a bigger stage, one which it seems she could successfully fill as composer, arranger and soloist. This is stark music but also warm and full of emotion and reflection. Worth your search.
Also worthy of your attention is SILVER CORNET [Nessa ncd-36] a live concert [3/30/14] with the BOBBY BRADFORD [cnt] - FRODE GJERSTAD [as/clt] Quartet [Ingebrigt Håker Flaten-b, Frank Rosaly-drm]. Gjerstad is a totally free player and one of the best at making something out of nothing. Bradford, older, has a more notated background who put a foot into totally free jazz in the early ‘80s and by the mid ‘80s began his association with Gjerstad. Their conversations are unforced and more often than not inspiring, as they are here on three tracks [45:05]. While the leaders are laying out, Flaten and Rosaly do a fine job of sustaining the line and interest. Music which should exhilarate not exhaust listeners of the genre. And, yes, I have produced many recordings of Frode’s and recorded him and Bobby together and rather than make my comments suspect it should add credibility.
It would be hard to pigeon hole trumpeter KIRK KNUFFKE, who has graced a number of recordings in a number of manners and genres. On ARMS AND HANDS [Royal Potato Family 020286 217749] he brings his considerable technique to the company of Bill Goodwin [drm] and Mark Helias [b] on 14 Knuffke originals and Eddie Miller’s “Thanks A Lot”. This is a jaunty session with lots of humor and kick-along feel. On some tracks Bill Drye [tbn], Daniel Carter [as] or Jeff Lederer guest and keep the mood flowing. Knuffke fun.
I’ve come to expect a degree of excellence from the North Texas State Jazz Bands over the past 4 decades. THE ONE O’CLOCK LAB BAND: LAB 2014 [NTJ LA1401-sw] displays the expected flash and professionalism, from this 20 piece big band, but relative to previous issues I found the nine piece program here rather dull, full of gee wiz arranged climaxes and not terribly full of memorable soloists.
Not wishing to encourage an in house rivalry I’d point out that UNT TWO O’CLOCK LAB BAND’s TWO MUSIC: IT DON’T MEAN A THING IF IT…[NTJ LA1402-JS] is a much more satisfying listen than Lab 2014. This 21 piece unit, plus 2 vocalists, offers up a 2 CD program of 17 tracks which I find much better paced and programmed. Standards, like; I Didn’t Know What Time It Was/Detour Ahead/Lament/Nardis/You must Believe In Spring/J&B/Inner Urge/Del Sasser, mix it up, for variety, with originals. Solid but with space and breath this band gives the suggestion of a small/combo within its framework. In addition to all this I find the pacing of the program works well. An enjoyable listen if a bit too generic.
JIM SNIDERO [as], who got his start at North Texas State, has released MAIN STREET [Savant 2142], a somewhat understated session, with his quartet [Fabian Almazan-p, Linda Oh-b, Rudy Royston-drm]. If one takes main street as the inspiration for the program of five originals plus “Autumn In New York”, “Las Vegas Tango” and “The Streets Of Laredo”, then this is a leisurely stroll. Even on up tempos Snidero’s occasional Coltrane-styled lines ease into the mood while on ballads there is a noticeable Phil Woods influence. The program ends with a burning “Laredo” that will get you going, in case you got too relaxed, and ready to listen again. My only complaint is a faded ending on one cut— why?
FREE RANGE MUSIC [Jazzhaus JHM 224] by the COMPOSERS’ ORCHESTRA BERLIN is a wonderful collection of original compositions by members of the orchestra. The C.O.B. is under the direction of Hazel Leach [flt], who for years worked with various large women's orchestras. In the liners, she writes, “… the music written for this band would have no exclusion zone…..to combine from all possible styles to create music which is truly ‘free range’”. The orchestra draws from a pool of almost 2 dozen musicians, pretty equally divided between men and woman, near half contributing to the 10 compositions. It’s my thinking that it is in these composer’s orchestras where individually of statement is now most consistently found. Individual stylistic playing continues to be very limited to a handful of individuals past and present. It is still possible to hear fresh/new styles but it is rare, as the individual sound is more and more generic. In these composer’s orchestras individual orchestrations can sprout fresh and give individual players a wonderful setting in which soloing can shine, all the while engaging listeners on many levels. The C.O.B. is off to a wonderful start with Free Range Music.
TASCHEN DRACHE [Slam 298] is a duo recording with IRENE KEPL[vln] and MARK HOLUB [dms] on 12 improvs. Holub is best known for his work with his group Led Bib [Slam and Cuneiform] while Kepl is unknown to me and this may be her debut release. I mention this here not because it is a satisfying listen, it isn’t, but because her’s is an interesting voice. She seems to have a feel for free-ish improvising but the duo work here is so much num-fumbling that it suggests a need for seasoning and familiarity with her partner and genre. Time will tell.
VAMPYROTEUTHIS INFERNALLY [Slam 558] may also be LUIZ MORETTO’s [vln/rabeca] first release. Here the group [Alipio C Neto-ts/ss, Francesco Lo Cascio-vbs/perc, Gianfranco Tedeschi-b, Marco Ariano-dms] is well tuned in to each other and solos dovetail nicely within their free constructs. The eight cuts here are all originals and the use of vibes here harkens back to the free music of the 60s and 70s as it gives a suspended sense while soloists set their ideas in motion. Neto is the outstanding soloist in the group but it is the contributions and coloring of all that makes this such a successful listen.
TOBIAS MEIER [sax], a player who seems more interested in the texture and composition as a whole as opposed to sax statement displays, has issued IM WALD [Wide Ear Records no number], a short [31:57] CDR of 3 tracks with his quintet [Matthias Spillmann-tpt, Frantz Loriot-viola, Nicola Romanò-cello, Raffaele Bossard-b]. The music here is often glacially slow with repeating riffs/patterns with emphasis on the ensemble. One could easily imagine this being the sound track to a surreal impressionistic film. Aside from compositional qualities there is little solo work except for Spillmann’s occasional counter forays over the ensemble, something I would have welcomed more of. A fine work in need of soloists.
There is little solo development in CHRISTOPH GALLIO’s [ts/ss], ROAD WORKS [Percaso 28/29]. Other than an existential effort I really don't know what to make of this. There is a CD and DVD. The CD runs 49:23 and is made up of 72 tracks, most running less than a minute in length, and having little connectedness. Gallio leads a sextet and the music is not hard to digest assuming you like snippets. The DVD is visuals by BEAT STREULI and consists of almost 50 minutes of brief shots of cars, bikes, people, color, form and texture. It is what it is, I could see or hear no further.
There is greater development on ARTISTS [Percaso 31/32] a 2 CD set by DAY & TAXI, a title heading for groups, led by CHRISTOPH GALLIO [ss/as/bari s/c-melody sax], since the mid 1980s. Joining Gallio, on this undated release, are Silvan Jeger [b] and David Meier [drm], both new to the grouping and to the scene in general. Jeger and Meier do a fine job but this is Gallio’s show. Again these are relatively short forays, 30 cuts ranging from 22 seconds to 6:42, but there is a greater sense of fullness and unity in the whole. One gets the distinct feeling that these themes are as long as needed and any expansion on them by the participants would just be an indulgence. On repeated listening they become more endearing and the brevity is appreciated. On soprano the Lacy influence is notable, Gallio is a bit softer in tone but he obviously leans that way as opposed to the Coltrane school. Tasteful and engaging, Gallio deserves more attention than he gets in North America.
Also falling into the category default of “it is what it is” is Jacques Demierre’s [p] THE THIRTY PIANOS ORCHESTRA [Flex Records 008]. Divided into 4 sections [49:04] this is, as advertised, 31 pianos playing Demierre compositions and conducted by the composer. Together they create a sort of ambient sound ranging from a swarm of bees to a percolating pot. Listed are 29 pianists with the following note— some who are not on the list did play some who are on the list did not play—so there you are make of it what you will. The last track has some individual random (?) playing accompanied by I guess 30 pianos, maybe—maybe not. My aim for this column was to cover material I felt deserving or interesting, consider this the latter.
Hard bop is now over 60 years old and has become the mainstream for those of an age too young to remember mainstream, which was defined as jazz coming after swing and before bop. The majority of jazz records now issued (by the bucket full) are bop/hard bop with a couple of missing elements; passion and personality. Passion is what gives DIALECTICS [Cellar Live Records10115], by CURTIS NOWOSAD’s [dms] quintet, its personality. I’m not familiar with Nowosad, but he leads this quintet [Jimmy Green-ts/ss, Derrick Garner-tpt, Steve Kirby-b, Will Bonness-p] on the mark. This was a working band, in various configurations, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, since 2009. If you’re looking for ballads don’t look here, as only one of the nine tracks is a ballad the rest lopes or blazes its way through the program, which opens with “Speak No Evil” and closes with “I Remember You”, taken at a tempo worthy of the Jazz Messengers. In between are Nowosad originals and Monk’s Bye-Ya. Everyone acquits themselves with strength and passion with trumpeter Gardner’s Hubbard-inspired work particularly memorable. My only complaint is a couple of fade-out endings—come on guys, what don’t you want us to hear or, don’t you know how to end?
IAN SIMS [ts] leads a strong quintet [Alex Norris-tpt, Paul Bollenback-gtr, Ed Howard-b, EJ Strickland-dms] on CONUNDRUM [Ian K. Sims 889211 086849]. Sims, who contributes nine structured originals, has an authoritative delivery on a hard-ish bop date. The quintet sounds quite coordinated as a group so much so I expect that a good number of run throughs/takes preceded the recording, as there is little sense of surprise. The front line fits nicely, Norris seems full of ideas and seems eager to run with the lead while Bollenback’s guitar is slightly left of center and often resets the direction or ambience of a piece while maintaining the integrity of the whole. While still a generic tenor stylist this is a strong debut for Mr. Sims.
It has been fashionable of late to take rock material and process it through the improvised music/jazz genre, a methodology which I have not found terribly successful from a jazz perspective. Recently LA LUCHA [John O’Leary-kbds, Alejandro Arenas-b, Mark Feinman-dms, Jun Bustamante-voc] have issued STANDARDS, NOT-STANDARDS [Blue Line Music 0814]. This recording presents 11 compositions [Lovefool/The Way You Look Tonight/Never Can Say Goodbye/My Little Suede Shoes/Everybody Wants To Rule The World/Love Me Or Love Me/Lucky/Have You Met Miss Jones?/The Warmth Of The Sun/Lullaby Medley/Can’t Stand Losing You] drawn from the great American songbook, jazz and the contemporary music song books and approaches them in a fresh jazz manner, beyond genre identification. Of course this may not please those who are composition purists, but for those who like to listen to music for its challenge and mental stimulation this should prove a pleasant experience. The packaging leaves something to be desired and is a bit uninformative in its cuteness, so get this for the music. Special notice to Jun Bustamante whose flexible voice conveys feeling and respect for lyrics as she is greatly responsible for taking this music out of its usual genre and making it credible as jazz.
DONNA DEUSSEN [voc] and PAUL WEITZ [gtr] have teamed up with Mat VanBenschoten [b] and Gus Duffy [dms] for ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE [Eloise Records 4-14782]. Ms Deussen has a clean and pleasant voice, albeit gritless, as she sings, seemingly effortlessly, on ten tunes [California Dreamin’/Do Wrong Shoes/On The Street Where You Live/Both Sides Now/Black Coffee/A Night In Tunisia/Fly Me To The Moon/The Very Thought Of You/Sister Sadie/If I Only Had A Brain/Waltz For Debby]. The program is a nice mix of jazz and pop that would be comfortable on AM radio. What gives this recording its jazz edge is the credible jazz backing of the Weitz trio which is augmented by Geoff Nudell [clt/flt] or Wayne Wayne[sax] on nine of the ten tracks. Short [39:28] but pleasant.
Also pleasant, wish it were longer than 26:03, is ALYSSA ALLGOOD’s [voc] LADY BIRD [no label 888295 215558]. Allgood is backed by a quartet of organ [Dan Chase], guitar [Tim Fitzgerald], drums [Matt Plaskota] and sax [Alex Beltran] which along with her vocals and choice of material gives a very pleasant vintage jazz sound to the work. The singer does a lot of scatting and it goes down well, as do her lyrics to Dameron’s “Lady Bird”. She often has a slightly delayed delivery, giving an added resonance to her vocals. There is sufficient space given to the backup which gives them more than a perfunctory roll. Along with the title track the program is; Yardbird Suite, If You Never Come To Me, If I Should Lose You and one original, Jaded, sung wordless. Again, I wish it was longer.
LAINIE COOKE’s [voc], THE MUSIC IS THE MAGIC [Onyx 005] is a full length CD and I’m glad it is. At 73 when she recorded this, she shows little sign of voice deterioration and her choice of material is refreshingly hip. Beside the title track, one of Abbey Lincoln’s finest compositions, there is Ronnell Bright’s “Sweet Pumpkin”, Monk’s “How I wish” [Ask Me Now], Peggy Lee’s “Mañana”, Frishberg’s “Our Love Rolls On” and Kellaway’s “I Have The Feeling I’ve Been Here Before”. These titles are joined by “Lazy Afternoon”, “Loving You”, “When I Look Into Your Eyes”, “Fascinating Rhythm”, “Out Of this World” and “Them Their Eyes”. Besides fine renderings of the program (the aging of this singer is only apparent on ballads like “When I Look Into Your Eyes” but with it comes an emotional punch youth could not bring) add to that fine jazz work from the rest of the group [Tedd Firth-p, Luques Curtis or Tabari Lake-b, Myron Walden-sax, Ralph Peterson-dms/tpt] and you get music well worth listening to.
It’s possible you’ll find BETTY LAVETTE [voc] on AM radio but perhaps WORTHY [Cherry Red Records MVD Audio 6872a] just may be too provocative to qualify. Ms LaVette is an R’&B’ singer and has been singing the blues for almost 50 years. Her no nonsense delivery is full of aged vision and a dignified plea to make anyone believe her songs. She brings to mind a bit of Esther Phillips and Gladys Knight but would not be mistaken for either. Singing a program of 11 compositions, including songs penned by Dylan, Jagger & Richards, Lennon & McCarthy, she imbues these compositions with a soul for the most part missing on the originals: Lady Gaga, Rod Stewart and the lot please take notice. She is backed by a small rhythm combo, except on “Step Away” which adds a horn section. One of the best R’&B’ efforts I’ve heard in some time. Believability.
RICHIE COLE has always played with passion, or, as he might call it madness. VOCAL MADNESS [Housekat Records 700261 415591] teams the UPTOWN VOCAL JAZZ QUARTET and Richie Cole on 12 cuts, most of them penned by Cole or Ginny Carr, part of the UVJQ [Robert McBride, Holly Shockey, André Enceneat]. The material here is lyric heavy, by that I mean, like Sheila Jordan, they form narratives with jazz music. As for style they are in some ways similar to the Singers Unlimited and in more ways to Manhattan Transfer. Richie Cole adds a definite zing and hipness to the material and after almost 25 years together UVJQ has its own style. Special note for the interpretation of Anthony Newley’s, “Pure Imaginaion”, built on a Cole solo, it and Cole have never sounded better. If by now you know what to expect from the UVJW and Richie Cole you won’t be disappointed by this recording. No compromises on either side and nicely integrated.
LU OLUTOSIN [voc] is a fresh voice, assured and full, and he is backed by a fine quintet [Antonio Ciacca-p, Tivon Pennicott-sax/flt, Jeremy Pelt-tpt, Mike Karn-b, Jerome Jennings-dms] on SWEET LOU’S BLUES [Twins music 888295 205184]. The group sounds involved with the singer and suggests they were all in the same room and together. There are times the vocals could have had a bit more separation and a lyric printout would have been helpful in hearing the lyrics on some of this material. OLUTOSIN at times reminds me of Oscar Brown Jr., in his lyrics, and Eddie Jefferson in delivery. There are only two standards here, “Nancy With The Laughing Face”, which he does an injustice to by changing Nancy to Kathy in tribute to Olutosin’s wife, and “Every Day I Fall in Love”. There are a number of tunes by other jazz artists [Malcolm’s song, Blackjack, Driftin’, Mamacita] plus 3 [Lagos Blues, Baron 5, Sweet Lou] by Ciacca, all of which have been retitled with lyrics by Olutosin. There is an unpolished sense to this recording, but the ambiance is real and hip and sticking and anyone with an interest in vocal jazz should seek this out. One complaint, the packaging is professional but not reader friendly, fortunately this came with a hype sheet duplicating the liner in a more readable fashion. Rough and deserving of greater recognition by the press and public.
SUNSUM [BillCole 3] by BILL COLE’s [didgeridoo, piri, shenai, nagaswarm, sona] UNTEMPERED ENSEMBLE [Joe Daley-euphonium,tuba, Ras Moche-ts, flt, Gerald Veasley-bass guitar, Lisette Santiago-hand drum, Warren Smith-dms] is not something you’re going to find on AM radio in the United States. This, for lack of a better term, takes its lead from World music. This is music that to be accepted one must force fixed western definitions as to what music is. There are elements of jazz here but as important is the vibrations [literally] of the music and the communal propulsion of the music. The compositions here, all originals by Cole, are evolving, usually over a percussive weave from a variety of players from within the group. Solos project in a familiar manner, though except for the tenor sax the instruments for the most part are foreign to jazz listeners. Recorded live [7/7/14] at the San Clemente Soto Cultural Center in NYC, NY, the audience is silent until the final note; perhaps caught up in the wash of the music.
BILLY MINTZ [drm] has been inhabiting the back lots of jazz since the 1970s and has now issued his second leadership recording, THE 2 BASS BAND…LIVE [Thirteenth Note Records 008]. This recording [1/11/14] is made up of 11 Mintz originals with basses [Cameron Brown and Masa Kamaguchi] only featured on one track, the rest of the compositions feature various horns from this 11 piece, piano-less, band. Mintz’ band has a unique sound, it is unsymmetrical in that it is a bit lopsided in that it does not have the familiar voicing or rhythm support of a more traditional band. There is a lot of room for soloing and it’s made good use of as the band members take advantage of the freedom the charts offer. There is a great fresh approach here and while you might not guess who it is, it is hard to imagine it would be mistaken for anyone else. Others in the band are Dave Scott & Ron Horton-tpt, Brian Drye & Samuel Blaser-tbn, John O’Gallagher, Kenny Berger & Adam Kolker-reeds.
Also on Thirteenth note is a fine solo effort by ROBERTA PIKET [p] called EMANATION [TNR 007]. This is Piket’s second solo release and it’s a good one as she brings touches of Bud Powell and Art Tatum to a combination of originals and otherwise [Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise, Haunted Heart, Con Alma, Ba Lue Bolivar Ba Lues, All The Things You Are, Ambiance, Actual Proof]. Whether she is re-harmonizing standards or filling an original with dreamy ambient emotional developments, this recital will hold your attention. A recording full of warmth and personal soul and quirkiness.
A fresh approach is what marked Gil Evans’ work 30 some years ago and anyone who remembers that original voicing fondly will embrace RYAN TRUESDELL’s, LINES OF COLOR [Artist Share ASBN 0133]. This is part of Truesdell’s ongoing Gil Evans project, and here he conducts a (cumulative) 25 piece band live [5/13-18/14] at the Jazz Standard. Among the 11 Evans arrangements and/or compositions presented here are some going back as far as 1942 and up to 1965, including, some previously unrecorded works. Okay what to listen for?; the sound is here, the band is seamless, the conducting flawless, there is a wealth of solos and they are fitting and a pleasure to hear. One thing that occurred to me was how music I used to view as modern now seemed a bit nostalgic to me. It’s a warm nostalgia, not dated and the soloists see to that, and this is a very fine production. A 16-page booklet with a full rundown on the whys and wherefores of the recording’s being (by Truesdell) is the final kiss of this effort. Soloists include: Marshall Gilkes, Ryan Keberle [tbn], Donny McCaslin, Scott Robinson, Dave Pietro [sax], Lewis Nash [drm], Mat Jodrell, Greg Gisbert, Augie Haas [tpt], Frank Kimbrough [p], Steve Wilson, Steve Kenyon [clt], James Chirillo [gtr], Lois Martin [viola], Jay Anderson [b] and Wendy Gilles [voc].
Most folks probably think of HOWARD ALDEN as a rhythm guitarist so I was surprised to come across SOLO GUITAR [K2B2 4469]. Recorded 6/22/13 this set is made up of 14 tunes familiar to any jazz fan. It’s a fine recital and I hear influences from Bucky Pizzarelli to Joe Pass. Alden plays a 7-sting guitar. On the last two pieces on this album he is joined by Buell Neidlinger, [pizzicato] on cello, for a couple of Duke Ellington compositions. Enjoyable as the solo work is the expansiveness and humor the cello brings is lots of fun.
Hubro records has released pianist CHRISTIAN WALLUMRØD’s first solo recording, PIANOKAMMER [Hubro 2542]. This brief [37:20] cd has Wallumrød manipulating the pianos sound to create soundscapes that are lumbering ambient excursions that are offset at other times by traditional piano playing thats rolling and hymnal, at one moment, pointillistic the next. A sense of the ephemeral is the lasting impression on these ears.
Tum Records has issued a pretty impressive 2 CD set by MIKKO INNANEN [as/bs/clt], William Parker [b] and/or Andrew Cyrille [drm], called SONG FOR A NEW DECADE [Tum cd 042-2]. CD one is from 1/15/10 and is the trio side, CD two is from 6/2/12 and is a duo with Cyrille. The multi-instrumentalist plays with, seemingly, an unforced ease and reserve of ideas and there is little sense of purposelessness playing. On the trio side the program is seven Innanen originals and one group improv, while on the duo CD, six improvs are gathered under the title, Songs For A New Decade. On the trio sides the bass and drum, besides being well heard, are nicely offset as their solos are often unaccompanied. On the duo sides there is more tentativeness but it doesn't last long and Cyrille, full of his percussive tricks, keep a lively interest. During this set, Innanen has a second or two on a penny whistle on one track, effectively and sparsely used but on the last track it is over used, along with kazoo and duck call sounds, a gimmick which soon lost favor with this listener. However overall the track is saved by some passionate alto sax work. As is the usual case Tum does a first class production job in attractively packaging their releases with an illustrative liner booklet, photos, credits and a note about the artist and cover painting.
Before hard bop, bop, mainstream, swing, Chicago/dixie there was traditional jazz the music from which folks, like Armstrong, Bechet and Hines, gave to and got inspiration from and it is from where THE INTERNATIONAL TRIO draws its musical breath from. The trio was born in 1981 originally as The Art Hodes International Trio and made its first recordings under that name. In 1991 Hodes had a stroke and Ralph Sutton took over the piano chair, then Christian Azzi took over for Sutton around 2004. TREVOR RICHARDS [drms] and REIMER VON ESSEN [reeds], cofounders, have been the constant throughout the decades. GBH records and Jazz I Like Records have teamed to release 25 YEARS [JIL cd-01-03-06] a 3 CD set covering the trio over five years from 1999 to November 2004. JIL 06 is perhaps the purist of the three. Azzi’s piano is almost N.O. formal, Von Essen’s blues based clarinet has a nod to Bechet and a bit of Johnny Dodds in its lower registers. Meanwhile Richards, a student of Zutty Singleton’s keeps things flexible and rolling with a nice, but not overt, touch of Zutty which is best heard on a lovely drum break on “Buddy’s Habit”, written in 1923. 14 traditional tracks, except for Azzi’s solo outing on his own “Catalina Rag”. On JIL 01 and JIL 03 Rene Franc [clt/as] and son [?] Olivier Franc [ss/clt] respectively are added on soprano sax and clarinet and Sutton is at the piano. With the two reed front line and the mutual respect for Sidney Bechet there inevitably is a similar Soprano Summit blend evident. Number 03 is a live recording and is perhaps the weakest of the discs due to muffled audio and the groups move at times from trad to dixie. What really shines is Ralph Sutton, he was such a mutha of a player be it his thundering stride work or his flowery ballads, its all here and you gotta smile as he flowers through even on the occasional less than stellar performance. I’ll admit to a bit of distress at the forgetfulness of the media and jazz fans of this genre. Few people who know Sutton also know Schlippenbach, Trevor Richards from Han Bennink or R. Von Essen from E. Von Essen. It’s unfortunate as all these folks have rich histories and play music to be enjoyed, albeit different. This without doubt is enjoyable music.
SVEND ASMUSSEN [vln] made his first recording 79 years ago and he is now 99 and remains that other European jazz violinist. He and Grappelli bring a melodic sweetness and bounce to the instrument and both have lived long lives but Asmussen is still alive and next year will be 100. I had heard fairly recently he was in good shape and playing, I hope it is still true. Storyville records has issued a wonderful recording, EMBRACEABLE [101 4296], a 9/4/85 Paris recording of 12 tracks (Singin’ In The Rain, Sophisticated Lady, Hushabye, Trubbel, Prelude In C-Minor, Things Ain’t What They Used To Be, Waltz For Sonny, Just A Gigolo, There Will Never Be Another You, Embraceable You, Pent-up House, June Night) with George Arvanitas-p, Charles Saudrais-drm and Patrice Caratini-b. This is not my favorite Asmussen recording (Asmussen claims it is his), as I'm not enamored by the workman like support, but it has its unmistakable charms and joys and while I might pine for others, I’ll always have Paris.
THE COMPLETE DIAL MODERN JAZZ SESSIONS [Mosaic md 9-260] is the latest effort from Mosaic records. This brings together all of the sessions recorded or owned by the Dial record label of the 1940s. I write the 1940s as there were other Dials for a while in Argentina, France and later in the USA. I spent the better part of 3 hours going through discographies checking on items here for inclusions or omissions; time better spent listening to music. This material should be very familiar to readers not just for the prime Charlie Parker documented here but also because the recordings were licensed or bootlegged by dozens of labels. Many of these labels I call drug store labels due to the fact they were issued as cheap LPs, racked in drug stores, selling for a buck or two which appealed to folks (like myself) with limited funds. These recordings served as my introduction to people like Red Norvo, Slam Stewart, Dizzy Gillespie and such. The only title that I couldn't find included in this collection, was a third take of “Love is the Strangest Game” from an Erroll Garner Dial session, of 6/10/47, recorded but released on other labels so perhaps it was sold outright by Dial. No mention is made of this in the excellent 32-page program booklet, so I’ll assume that was the case since Mosaic is pretty exacting about such things. Over the years Tony Williams’ Spotlight label (UK) has reissued much, if not all of this material in a tidy fashion. The program notes here from Ross Russell [now dead] and Williams are from 1995 and, while illuminating, could have used an update. Dial was an important label, one of many post war independents, best and justifiably known, along with Savoy, for documenting Bird’s earliest contracted studio works. Beside the Bird recordings there are seminal works by trumpeter Sonny Berman, Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray and Dodo Marmarosa and others who went on to be bop masters. As usual the nine CDs here come smartly packaged in a 12” X 12” box and along with the program notes are about three dozen photos, many of which, were new to me. There is no need to recommend what history rightfully has already declared essential.
Trevor Richards, who was referred to earlier regarding his work on The International Trio, has coordinated and produced, PAUL BARBARIN: RARE & UNISSUED RECORDINGS 1954-1962 [GHB Records 111/112]. This is a 2 CD set with the first CD issuing/reissuing material from four Southland Records [8/31/56, 2 dates from ?/?/62 and 12/?/54] while the second CD issues previously unissued takes from the same sessions. I prefer to have unissued takes played following the issued material—but that’s an ongoing preferential debate. The music is pleasant enough, a cursory look at some of his work from the period covered. (He was no fly-by-nighter, he had a long tenure with King Oliver and later with Louis Armstrong, was a native of New Orleans, his lifetime home.] But what really gives this reissue its edge is the 24-page accompanying booklet which, besides giving discographical details, offers a history and brief assessment of both the leader and other players. The total time on these CDs is a bit brief—together they could accommodate at least another 40 minutes of music, enough perhaps for some of the King Oliver sides which I believe are now public domain.
The G.H.B. Foundation has also acquired Harry Lim’s Famous Door label and Gus Statiras’ Progressive label and has begun an ambitious reissuing program by including extra material from those sessions. The previously unissued takes are included as “bonus tracks” at the end of the originally issued tracks. SCOTT HAMILTON: SWINGING YOUNG SCOTT [Progressive 7152], was originally issued on Famous Door Records. This 1977 recording features the leader still very much in his Ben Webster mode along with Warren Vaché [tpt], John Bunch [p], Michael Moore [b] and Butch Miles [dms]. Derivative though it may be this is a fine mainstream date and has held up very well after almost 40(!) years. The additional titles are; Blues For Mastertone/Scott’s Idea/It’s You Or No One/Liza. Scott Hamilton is quoted as saying, about this album, it’s a little rough, but the spirit is there. Sometimes a little rough is good, as it is here.
The rough upfront tenor stylings are announced by ARNETT COBB on FUNKY BUTT [Progressive 7054], a reissue of a 1/22/80 session, here with three extra takes [Jumpin’ at the Woodside/Funky Butt Blues/I Got Rhythm], from the original Progressive session. Cobb was the epitome of the Texas tenor, very much like Illinois Jacquet, who he replaced in Lionel Hampton’s iconic band of the 1940’s. Dan Morgenstern’s lengthy liners nicely complement this release but are out of character when he incorrectly writes that Cobb’s final recording was in 1982. The fact is Cobb recorded into the late ’80s, a little less than a year before he died [3/24/89]. A minor point and not one that should discourage acquiring this reissue. Joining Cobb are Derek Smith [p], Ray Drummond [b] and Ronnie Bedford [dms].
Those who grew up with the muffled and hot tones of CLARK TERRY [tpt/flg] will find much joy in the original motion soundtrack of KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON [Varése Sarabande 302 067 3158], the documentary on Terry, moved along by a conversation with pianist Justin Kauffin. Terry died, at 94 on 2/21/05 but in listening to this reissue of material from his career, one is struck by how joyful his playing is and can’t help but be saddened for our loss. Terry did a lot of commercial work, which was unusual as his was not a bland/non-distinct trumpeter, the kind favored by studios and contractors. One of the most recorded trumpeters of the last half century he was more recognizable instantly, for his signature sound, than any other trumpeter. The 24 tracks here also include comments from both Kauffin and Quincy Jones along with some piano interludes from Kauffin and Dave Grusin. Sweet Nostalgia.
Acrobat records has issued SO MANY THINGS [ACQCD 7085] by the JOHN COLTRANE Quintet [Eric Dolphy, McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman, Elvin Jones]. This is a 4-CDR set that pretty much reissues the European Tour [11/18, 11/20, 11/22, 11/23] of 1961, that has been issued on a number of labels over the years. The sound ranges from tinny and thin to professional and similarly listening ranges from tiring to inspired. Boxed with a 44-page booklet, a pretty classy packaging for CDRs.
Avid continues its reissue program, usually reissuing 4 LPs on 2 CD sets. Recently they issued HARRY JAMES; FOUR CLASSIC ALBUMS PLUS [AMSC 1149]. The four albums are: Today, The Spectacular, Plays Neal Hefti and His New Swingin’ Band. The plus is half of the album, Requests On The Road. Harry James was an identifiable trumpet stylist with solid jazz instincts. He also was gifted with matinée good looks, ran with the Hollywood crowd and attracted lots of press outside his music abilities. But, again, his jazz instincts were solid. This set goes down very smoothly and certainly anyone with a taste for Basie or big bands in general will find much to delight in here. There are a couple Mickey Mouse cuts but they are only moments. These bands included Ray Sims, Juan Tizol, Willie Smith, Jake Hanna and Ernie Wilkins was often the arranger. Harry James is often overlooked, as is Les Brown, by todays jazz audience. He shouldn’t be.
Also from Avid comes EARL HINES: FOUR CLASSIC ALBUMS PLUS [AMSC 1152]. Hines was rather taken for granted [1905-89] and now rather over looked in what has become a very crowded and diluted jazz field. In the last 30 years of his life he more and more played solo, where he could and did stretch out in breathtaking runs. Perhaps he recorded too frequently and like Oscar Peterson, made it sound too easy but the fact remains he was an important figure in the birth of jazz and was an important factor in mainstream, bop and right up until he died— one of its finest pianists. This reissue brings together; Paris One Night Stand, The Incomparable, Earl’s Pearls and Monday Date. These dates are from 54 to 61 and are fairly short tracks emphasizing his New Orleans/Chicago part, pleasant enough but not at his greatest. Backup included Jimmy Archey, Darnell Howard, Pops Foster, Calvin Newborn, Earl Watkins, Dicky Wells and Jerome Richardson. Enjoyable but short of wow!
Cadence Magazine April 2015 Edtion