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The Daily Jazz



Jazz reviews and comment from one man with an unfeasibly large record collection.



Updated: 2018-03-06T12:13:39.440+00:00

 



Blowing In From Chicago

2007-02-21T06:55:40.034+00:00

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CLIFFORD JORDAN & JOHN GILMORE
Blowing In From Chicago

Blue Note 1549
Recorded March 3rd 1957

Side One


1. Status Quo
2. Bo-Till
3. Blue Lights

Side Two

1. Billie's Bounce
2. Evil Eye
3. Everywhere

Oh you lucky, lucky people! Yes, the daily jazz has returned for another stab, and with what a gem! This 1957 LP on the Blue Note 1500 series is unusual for many reasons, featuring as it does two tenors together. Not only that, but the Chicago school (in the case of Jordan and Gilmore) and the New York set (in the shape of a superlative rhythm section - Art Blakey, Horace Silver and Curly Russell) collide in a high energy hard bop spectacular.

It's also one of the very few (the only?) place where you'll hear John Gilmore playing it straight. This would have been recorded near the beginning of his extended tenure with Sun Ra's various groups so is a great chance to hear him just blowing, unencumbered by his bandleader's more unusual compositions.

The music is unreconstructed hard bop, often at a furious pace (see today's audio clip, 'Status Quo', for an example), very much in the style of hard bop innovators like the jazz messengers. In some respects it sounds a little dated for 1957. The sound quality isn't as good as some RVGs either, though perhaps my thin-vinyl 80s repressing is to blame for that. In any case, it's recently had a reissue on Blue Note's ever expanding RVG series, so you can decide for yourselves. See, I told you you were lucky, lucky people!



John Coltrane - Live At The Village Vanguard Again

2006-11-23T18:10:59.703+00:00

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'Live At The Village Vanguard Again' is the stub of a (lost) longer recording of a 1966 show featuring Trane, Pharoah Sanders on tenor and flute, Alice Coltrane on piano, and Jimmy Garrisson and Elvin Jones on bass and drums as usual. Oh, and Emanuel Rahim on percussion, too. What fascinates me about these late Coltrane live recordings is the raw emotion, and this record is no exception.

Without a doubt the main attraction here is the contrasting styles of Trane and Sanders, best seen on 'Naima'. To Trane, this has always been a lush ballad, expressing the deep gratitude he felt towards his ex-wife, the woman that he credited with saving him from drug addiction in the late 1950s. So he plays his heart out - I never fail to be moved by the way he plays this piece. Sanders had no such concerns though, and takes the piece somewhere much darker during his extended solo. Reflecting perhaps the darker side of Trane's emotional state in those late days, Sanders sounds almost to be in tears, his tenor audibly wailing. Sanders clearly felt very much in debt to Trane (as did many of his generation) and went on to show his gratitude with a fine reading of 'Naima' in the 1980s (on his LP 'Africa', on Timeless records).

Next up is 6 minutes of Garrisson playing solo as the introduction to a surprising version of 'My Favourite Things'. One associates late period Trane with the free-noise assaults of 'Ascension' and 'Om' but this piece opens with a funky Garrisson backing up a sweetly melodic Trane on soprano. Things soon take a turn for the bizarre as Trane gets further out, but the band never lose the plot, there is always a rhythmic thread. Sanders is effective on flute, adding texture and colour behind the soaring Coltrane.

Alice Coltrane was well in the band by this time, but she was still developing as a player at this time and often sounds like she's in another band, her clumsy block chords no match for the virtuosity going on right next to her on stage. Better was to come from her, and soon - see her gutsy piano playing on 'Gospel Trane' from her LP 'A Monastic Trio' for example.



Alan Silva - Skilfullness

2006-11-22T16:59:28.830+00:00

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Alan Treadwell DaSilva played bass on a number of noteworthy recordings during the 1960s, including Cecil Taylor's mighty 'Unit Structures' and Albert Ayler's impulse! recordings from the Village Vanguard. He was heavily involved in the whole Paris scene of 1969-1970, and it was there that he recorded the first album under the name of the Celestial Communication Orchestra, 'Luna Surface' on BYG. The music on that record was captured as part of the mammoth session from 13th-18th August 1969 that also featured such major names in the avant-garde as Archie Shepp, Anthony Braxton, Lester Bowie and Sunny Murray (as well as some very unusual names indeed - step forward, Philly Joe Jones and Hank Mobley).

1970 saw Silva on ESP records with the release of 'Skillfulness'. This time around the group featured less well-known but still excellent musicians, particularly Karl Berger on vibes. The album features only two tracks, both occupying a single side of vinyl. The meat of the sandwich is definitely the title track that runs for 20-odd minutes on side A. If you click on the link through to the review of 'Luna Surface', you'll see that reviewer mention this track also and describe it as 'skull-crushing'. I'm not sure I agree. 'Solestrial' on side 2 is certainly made up of free-noise, but 'Skilfullness' is much friendlier than that - one could almost call it intimate. Once you get past the dissonance and strange shrieks of Silva's violin, you'll notice that the piece is actually made up of a series of duets between Silva and usually just one of his sidemen. The highlights for me are the intricate interplay between Silva and Berger around the 11-minute mark, and the smooth lines of Becky Friend on flute that contrast with Silva's urgent, high-pitched piano style (he is heard on violin, cello and piano on this track).

ESP releases are known for their uncompromising freedom, and this album is no exception. The label was set up in 1965 and is still going, with many of it's past releases still available on CD - this album being no exception. Have a look!

ESP records

Alan Silva's 'Skilfullness' at ESP records



I Get The Message

2006-11-16T22:40:22.190+00:00

Don't worry guys, I've got the message. I was just looking at my traffic, and once again I see that the hits per day have dropped by about 50% after posting about Weather Report. I won't do it again, I promise.



Stormy Weather

2006-11-13T07:17:16.173+00:00

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I got into Weather Report in totally the reverse order. Growing up, my dad often played 'Heavy Weather', with the track 'Birdland' being a particular favourite. For those that don't know, this album was the band's commercial peak, and in sound is pretty typical of where jazz fusion was in 1977. Anyway, from these inauspicious beginnings, with an inkling that the earlier stuff was supposed to be better, I found my way to 'Mysterious Traveller' from 1974. This was more like it - dark and slippery with a real sense of funk. Now I could see that this was the band based around the same guys that made Miles' 'In A Silent Way' so special (Joe Zawinul wrote the original version of the title track). 'I Sing The Body Electric' is even earlier, 1972 to be exact. This is pretty much the original WR of Zawinul on keys, Wayne Shorter on saxes and Miroslav Vitous on bass. Word is that Vitous' influence gave the music a harder edge, and that is certainly true of the track I'd like to mention today. I haven't previously thought of WR being about anything other than complex, slowly developing tunes. Intensity is not a word that I've associated with their output - until now.

Side two of the album contains edited versions of a performance in Japan that was later released in full (in 1977) as 'Live In Tokyo'. First up is a medley of pieces - 'Vertical Invader', 'T.H.' and 'Dr. Honoris Causa'. What strikes you from the opening drum solo to the final, distorted electric piano notes is the incredible level of energy. The story goes that the band found the Japanese audiences on that particular tour to be such good listeners that they felt they could "...hit 'em hard, right from the first note" - and that's what happens. The intensity of the first section, 'Vertical Invader' is unsurpassed in their catalogue. Zawinul's rhodes is so heavily distorted that at first listen you would swear you'd just heard a guitar player start up. Only in the higher notes does it sound like an electric piano. It's not all fire and brimstone, though. The same section of track is also marked by some superb interplay between Zawinul and Shorter, both improvising with great inspiration. Zawinul plays especially well, using single lines in the most part, like a horn player. This approach also brings to mind a soloing guitarist, adding to the feeling that there's an uncredited guitar player in the band. Throughout the whole thing the rhythm section keep up a tight, fast and furiously funky groove, Vitous driving them forward with abandon. The overall effect is intoxicating and unsettling - stormy weather indeed.

It would be great to hear more, and of course you can by getting hold of a copy of 'Live In Tokyo', which I shall be doing very soon I think. If you have any interest at all in WR, please have a look at Weather Report: The Annotated Discography which is an example to all of us who have tried to put together artist-orientated websites.



Butter or Jam?

2006-11-12T08:40:51.096+00:00

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This cover has little going for it, although it's not bad considering the period and style of music. The question is, though - what's Pharoah got on his toast?

While you're puzzling that out, check out 'Pharomba' on the radio (you know the drill - main page, right hand column, click the track names to play), and for more commentary on that, see yesterday's post.



Pharoah Sanders - Love Will Find A Way

2006-11-11T09:54:09.476+00:00

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Way back in december last year I reviewed Pharoah's 1976 LP 'Pharoah'. I noted that it was, by and large, a laid back funky slice of post free-jazz that was worth a listen. One well-known track on this album is 'Love Will Find A Way', and this is the name of his 1978 album on the Arista record label.

I don't know if it's the major label influence, or the march of time (remember that other ex-free jazzers were mellowing around the same time - like this and this), but this is Pharoah's most commercial album so far. That is not a criticism - in fact there is plenty to enjoy here. The first track to grab my attention was a cover of Marvin Gaye's soul hit 'Got to give it up'. It's in no way free-jazz, but what it is is tight and funky. It's more of an ensemble piece than a vehicle for Pharoah's blowing - the horn and rhythm sections play incredibly well here. Pharoah comes out for pretty much only one solo, but rather than breathing fire he chooses to express his energy inside the groove and comes over a bit like Maceo Parker. Only in the dying seconds of the track are some trademark squeals heard, as the music fades. It's as if Pharoah was placing his free days firmly in the past.

Elsewhere, most of the tracks have a latin feel, with smooth production and female vocals giving them a real mainstream feel. Again, that's not a bad thing. There's still some of the meditative quality that was to be found on Pharoah - especially on the title track. It's been radically rearranged since 76's simple format - all lush strings and heavenly choirs, but Pharoah takes a solo that is so heartfelt that you are immediately reassured that his new commercial style is in no way a sell out. Also good is 'Pharomba', which is reminiscent of some of Gato Barbieri's impulse! recordings from the early 70's. I've always thought that the Argentinian tenor comes across like a latin Pharoah Sanders on some of these recordings, and here Pharoah does exactly that.

By the way, the image above is of the rear sleeve. I love that photo, since seeing it on the cover of a recent double album retrospective of Pharoah's work titled 'You've Got To Have Freedom', which I have reproduced below. I haven't bought the album as I've got pretty much everything on it already, but if you're new to Sanders' music then it would be a very good place to start.

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Bill Dixon - Intents and Purposes

2006-11-07T13:00:08.110+00:00

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I'm unsure what attracts me towards free jazz sometimes. There's the unbridled creativity, of course, and the 'living-in-the-moment' spontaneity that I try to live by myself. But that doesn't change the fact that much of it sounds just plain odd. I'm a fan of unusual instrumentation (see the recent post about Dorothy Ashby for example) so was delighted to pick up this Bill Dixon album. It's credited to the Bill Dixon orchestra, which tells you a lot already about the instrumentation. There's a horn section - Dixon himself on trumpet and flugelhorn, then a couple of reeds (alto sax, bass clarinet) and a couple of brass (bass trombone, english horn) - that's hardly conventional, as well as a cello, bass and various percussion. It's looking pretty odd already, and that's before you consider Dixon's arrangements.

Arrangements? Yes, despite being loosely attached to the free-jazz genre, Dixon's music is much more considered than that genre suggests. Of note is the presence of several bass instruments on these pieces - as a result the music often has a dark, brooding quality (once again at odds with the preconceived ideas that people have about free music). Dixon's music is always full of space, and his improvisational style reminds me a little of contemporary Don Cherry, although perhaps a little more considered - maybe with a splash of 'In A Silent Way'-era Miles?

Dixon was arguably one of the main driving forces behind the development of free jazz. After meeting Cecil Taylor (recording with him on 'Conquistador!'), Dixon became involved with the free jazz community and funded (although didn't play with) The New York Contemporary Five. He also briefly played in a quartet with Archie Shepp that released one album in 1962. Despite these associations though, Dixon went very much his own way in terms of his recordings. After this album was released in 1967, he didn't record again until 1980, but has been a regular in the studio since then. He favours smaller groups now, but the brooding atmosphere of 'Intents...' remains thanks to his use of two basses on many recordings.

Dixon's discography can be found here although many of his recordings are difficult to find.



Dorothy Ashby - Soul Vibrations

2006-11-04T21:08:02.633+00:00

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Something of a pioneer of the harp as a jazz instrument, Dorothy Ashby was born plain Dorothy Thompson in Detroit in 1932. Somehow she managed to overcome the resistance of fellow jazz musicians (might have had something to do with going to the same school as Donald Byrd and Kenny Burrell) and made herself a household name in her native city, even presenting a radio show in the 1960s. Her recorded output includes several albums for Prestige in the late 50s/early 60s, one of which, 1958's In a minor groove becoming critically acclaimed.

As the sixties went on, many bop players started to look for inspiration from othe styles, including popular music, soul and gospel. And the result of Dorothy Ashby's excursions into these genres was 1968's 'Afro-Harping' - a soulful and thoroughly contemporary take on her original, bop-influenced style. Original is a word that will always be used to describe her playing - the harp is a strange bedfellow for most modern jazz styles (perhaps suited mainly to the sort of spiritual free-jazz that was Alice Coltrane's forte).

"Soul Vibrations" is the lead track from this LP, and immediately on hearing it one can spot it's many influences. The backing has a strong soul music feel and the string introduction lends an eerie feeling that is in keeping with Ashby's following minor-key solo. Apart from a string break about half-way through, pretty much the whole track is dedicated to Ashby's soloing. She never seems to dominate - perhaps because of how low she is in the mix. It works, but I'm not sure this was the effect that Ashby herself would have wanted, having held her own with hard bop giants like Roy Haynes and Richard Davis. I just get the feeling that she ought to have sounded louder. In addition to the soul feel, the strings lend a soundtrack-like feel - to me it brings to mind that tense moment just before a chase - perhaps the hero of the tale is becoming paranoid that he is being followed. The otherworldly sound of the harp is perfect in this context, and makes the piece considerably more unusual and memorable than many of the period. And of course, there is a strong jazz feel in Ashby's solos that give it some real bop credibility (thus keeping the critics happy).



Brad Mehldau - Day Is Done

2006-10-10T07:05:44.906+01:00

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The Bop guys had no problem in plundering contemporary popular music for source material, so it's a mystery why many players keep on rehashing the same old stuff in the 21st century. I mean, bop happened 60 years ago - a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, including the whole rock era - so why is it still odd for a mainstream jazz artist to dip their toe into music written after 1950?

That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it's certainly a thought that comes to mind when listening to 'Knives Out', the opening track on this, pianist Brad Mehldau's 13th album. Released in 2005, the album is one his most energetic, as evidenced by the opener. In the hands of Radiohead it was yet another piece of minor-chord introspection, but the unusual chord structures make a fine vehicle for solo improvisation. The tension in the harmonic structure of the piece is palpable from the off. Mehldau plays it pretty straight to begin with (if that is possible) before shattering preconceptions in a sustained and intense bout of soloing that lasts for most of the track's 8 1/2 minute length.

It's a hard act to follow - the highlight of the album in many ways - but there is much to enjoy later on. The two Lennon-McCartney compositions come off well - 'Martha My Dear' is pretty much dismantled and put back together again in a virtuoso solo piano performance, while 'She's Leaving Home' is pleasant enough, in keeping with the original's wistful mood. Paul Simon's 'Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover' also gets the dismantling treatment, though this time it's a group effort with Meldhau and the rhythm section sparring on the theme for much of the piece.

Jeff Ballard on drums is worth a mention. His playing is satisfyingly complex, driving and polyrhtymic at the same time. It's a particular joy to hear him playing quietly, tapping out ever-changing rhythms on the hi-hat, or gently using brushes. He doesn't get a lot of solo space, but all that needs be done is to focus on his playing at any point to hear his improvisational qualities.



Audio Problems

2006-10-05T10:22:58.350+01:00

Apologies if you've been trying to listen to the Radical Reconstructive Surgery track on the radio player. For some reason that I can't seem to fathom it's playing at the wrong speed. You'll have to mentally convert it from 45rpm to 33 1/3 rpm for now, until I can get to the bottom of this.



Radical Reconstructive Surgery

2006-10-05T06:51:41.266+01:00

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This was a bit of a random purchase, but a good one all the same. It's even more surprising when you consider the background to the record. Scott Harding (aka Scotty Hard, aka Radical Reconstructive Surgery) is a Canadian born producer who spent the 80s and 90s working with some of the biggest names in hip-hop, including Biz Markie, Cypress Hill and Wu-Tang Clan. Some of that influence percolates through into his latest release on the independent Thirsty Ear label.

He's gathered together a simmering collection of talent including keyboard maestros John Medeski and Matthew Shipp. The coming together of sequenced, often heavy beats with jazz virtuosity is beautifully balanced and goes way beyond any ideas you might have about 'jazz-rap' production from previous excursions into the genre. There's a real sense of flow to the album - the tracks have been sequenced carefully to give the impression of listening to a single, constantly evolving piece of music. Opener 'Primray Humor' and the following 'St. Clare's Hospital' layer big hip-hop beats over abstract electronic sounds and some amazing piano work courtesy of Shipp. As the album continues the pace gets less frantic, the beats die down in intensity, and the funky hammond of Medeski gets a chance to shine - first dirty, as on 'Eclipse', then bluesy and funky on 'Apothecary's Cabinet'. The arrangements are constantly challenging - the beats might be sequenced, but we're not talking four-to-the-floor here, intricate rhythmic patterns are augmented and lightened by live drums and bass.

Standout track on the album, though, is the closer, 'Round 2', which sounds as pugilistic as it's title would suggest. A mid-paced grinder, it sees John Medeski playing some seriously dirty hammond, which is then further processed into a staggering wall of sound that bombards and delights in equal measure. This record really does sound like nothing else out there at the moment. It's another example of jazz innovation that totally does away with any association with bop or it's many offshoots, free-jazz included. It's still high-quality, cleverly constructed improvised music, simply with a different set of influences than those that Bird had in the late 1940s. To paraphrase Miles, 'It's about time'.



Solid Ether/Recoloured

2006-09-29T07:19:13.836+01:00

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Nils Petter Molvaer - Solid Ether/Recoloured

Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer started out playing 'nu jazz' with Masqualero and went on to make his solo debut for ECM records in 1998. Solid Ether was his second solo LP in 2001.

As you might expect from the label, the style of 'Solid Ether' is, well... ethereal. Molvaer's sound owes a lot to Miles Davis circa 'In A Silent Way'. Where this album differs is in it's use of electronics - and particularly drum'n'bass on many tracks. 'Merciful' stands out, with it's melancholy female vocal. As an album, 'Solid Ether' has a very relaxed, saturday night/sunday morning feel, but can seem dull at times. Grey, even.

So it's lovely to hear 'Recoloured'. Remixed by a variety of electronic and jazz musicians, the ideas in 'Solid Ether' are given wings and the result is an album bursting with energy and colour. 'Merciful' opens in the style of the original then bursts into life with ever expanding layers of rhythm. 'Dead Indeed', in the hands of Mind over Midi, turns from Miles-goes-drum'n'bass to an extended piece of ambient acid house. But as seen by Pascal Gabriel, it's funky mid-tempo electronica. Anything goes, pretty much, and it's pulled off beautifully in most cases.



Black Fire

2006-09-27T09:29:52.153+01:00

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ANDREW HILL - Black Fire

If I had to pick a favourite pianist I would find it very difficult, but Andrew Hill would have to be on the list. (the others? Herbie Hancock, definitely, and probably Tord Gustavson, too). Picking an Andrew Hill album would be even harder, so where better to start than with his 1963 Blue Note debut. Playing alongside luminaries such as Joe Henderson (tenor), Richard Davis (bass) and Roy Haynes (drums), Hill works a bop revolution starting from the inside. This is unusual for the time - most of the innovations taking place in jazz in 1963 were heading into free jazz territory.

All of the pieces have strong bop structures and melodic elements, but with Hill's characteristic unusual block chords. The harmonies have a modal feel that is reminiscent of the contemporary work of the more well-known Hancock. Opener 'Pumpkin' is a standout with it's strong tenor melody and melancholy feel. Hill's playing is at times complex but never sounds uncontrolled, even when he plays his trademark descending runs on the keyboard. These bring to mind a vision of his hands falling over each other as they run down the keyboard, but the playing is always totally accurate despite often being at odds with the accepted choice of chord. These unusual choices of chords make the music seem fresh, and give a feeling of freedom that is not dependent on abandonment of traditional notions of rhythm and harmony.

Black Fire has been reissued several times on CD, but the current Blue Note edition is a corker, with fine extra takes of 'Pumpkin' and 'Black Fire', and exquisite sound, beautifully remastered from teh original Rudy Van Gelder recordings.



Tina Brooks - Back To The Tracks

2006-09-26T17:35:55.770+01:00

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Album - Back To The Tracks
Recorded - 1960

Those of you who've been reading for a while will know how much of a Tina Brooks fan i am. Very few tenormen have come close to the easy virtuosity of Harold Floyd Brooks. He recorded only a handful of times, with only 3 records as leader being released in his lifetime. 'Back To The Tracks' comes from the album of the same name, one of the many great 'lost' Blue Note LPs. This 1960 recording was slated to come out at the time and even had a catalogue number (4052) and sleeve. For some reason the release was pulled and the record didn't see the light of day until it came out in Japan in the early 1980s. I've previously written about another blue note release, Jimmy Smith's Cool Blues, that also suffered a similar fate (Brooks is featured on that LP, too). I was lucky enough to track down a recent vinyl repressing which sounds fantastic.

What marks this LP out from other Brooks releases on Blue Note is the presence of the hugely talented Jackie McLean on alto; 'Back To The Tracks' is an umptempo blues that nicely demonstrates the similarities between Brooks' and McLean's styles. Both are natural virtuosos, and despite the quick pace both create a sense of spaciousness in their playing that makes it sound easy. You know that muscians making a piece sound as easy as that just has to be very, very difficult.



Marion Brown - Exhibition

2006-08-10T15:23:50.476+01:00

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Album - Marion Brown Quartet
Recorded - 1966

Thought i'd post another Marion Brown on the radio player. If you're not familiar with his work you might not appreciate how different 'Spooks' was from his usual style; fear not, as 'Exhibition' will show you the way. Instead of tight, controlled riffing, you get long sprawling solos along with a sense of formlessness created by the floaty rhythm section. That's why 'Spooks' is such a shock - subversive (in terms of being totally different from what the rest of the avant-garde were up to) and brilliant.



Marion Brown - Spooks

2006-09-29T14:45:48.643+01:00

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Album - Three For Shepp
Recorded - 1966

Altoist Marion Brown came to prominence with his appearance on John Coltrane's seminal 'Ascension' in 1965, but had in fact been recording at various sessions for about a year before that famous date, mostly under the leadership of Archie Shepp. Consequently, there was a great deal of gratitude felt by Brown for Shepp, and it gave rise to this 1966 album in much the same way that Archie had recorded 'Four For Trane' in 1964.

The album consists of one side of Brown originals with the other having been written by Shepp. 'Spooks' kicks off the second side and blows Brown's tunes into the weeds. The Brown side is very much in keeping with his ESP dates - long winding pieces that develop slowly while keeping up the usual free jazz exploration. But 'Spooks' fires straight in, the staccato introductory figure sounding reminiscent of a roaring twenties hot five (Shepp was always keen to explore the history of jazz in his music). The upbeat feel and rhythmic drive continues throughout the solos; Stanley Cowell on piano in excellent form, then Grachan Moncur III on trombone and finally Brown himself in his distinctive style. Shepp doesn't play, but he doesn't need to, his personality is stamped all over the track - so it's even more of a feat that Brown manages to retain some of his style through it all.



We Love You Oscar Peterson

2006-08-04T08:19:28.596+01:00

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Not sure what this is all about - read the full story at Surreality Times - but it looks as if legendary Jazz pianist Oscar Peterson is taking some stick at the moment. I can't comment on that, but it surely is a great excuse to take a look at the life of a Jazz stalwart.

Like so many Jazz musicians, Oscar showed musical ability from a young age, and had his future shaped by hardships. In Oscar's case it was tuberculosis that gave him the opportunity to develop his skills on the piano. After hearing Art Tatum (and nearly giving up, being so intimidated!) he was inspired to become a full-time jazz musician, and when he got in tow with legendary producer (and founder of Verve records) Norman Granz, he was set. Incredibly, Peterson is still going strong today despite being 80 years old and having suffered a stroke. Apparently he's still playing incredibly strongly too, as this review notes.

On record Oscar's melodic sense and lightness of touch are well known. He can come across as unassuming, but there's real passion in his playing that's unmstakable. Add to this a fearsome improvisational technique and a strong sense of rhythm and I think you've got all of the ingredients of a great pianist.



Jimmy Smith - Walk On The Wild Side

2006-08-02T19:50:02.266+01:00

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Album - Bashin'
Recorded - 1962

What better for a night when I'm in a big band mood than this? Coming right at the start of Jimmy Smith's fertile association with both Verve and Oliver Nelson, this is a lesson in both arranging and solo performance. The piece splits itself into two; the first half is the slow building band section, bringing out the original melody in a tight arrangement that has moments of high brass drama interspersed between the swagger.

Jimmy bursts in at the half way point with one of his trademark descending introductions, then proceeds to redefine the role of the organ in jazz (yet again). He manages to be melodic, inventive, funky and gritty all at once, as usual. Also featured is as fine an example of Jimmy's 2-note modulating solos that you could ever wish to hear. Then we get to hear what we all came for - Jimmy playing with the band in an exciting call-and-response section that leads up to the all-horns-blazing climax. Phew!

Somehow I don't think I've done this outstanding piece of music justice. Go listen!

Any more information regarding the Jimster is best found here.



Trinidad Oil Company - Feelin' Alright

2006-08-01T21:52:35.256+01:00

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Album - Blue Juice Vol. 2
Recorded - 1977

No apologies here - i'm sure some of you will complain that this "isn't jazz", but, well, it's on Blue Note, it suits my mood tonight, and that's good enough for me. The fact is that this is a damn funky take on a number by 70s rockers Traffic, played by a Dutch steel band. Now that does sound a bit odd, i'll admit, but have a listen and just try and tell me you don't like it.

It's an upbeat, funky tune that's perfect for good moods and sunny days. The first half of the track is a pretty straight take on the original, but the second half of the track is where it's at, with probably the only steel band solo anywhere in popular music. It's a proper solo, too, exploring the harmonic possibilities of the instrument as any good jazzer should.

I'd love to say more about this band but haven't found a whole lot out there. Maybe one of you knows something?



Jackie McLean - Lights Out

2006-08-14T16:37:35.436+01:00

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Album - Lights Out (Also reissued on Contour, 1977)
Recorded - 1956

I'm a bit tired tonight after a busy weekend, so what better than a sultry, smoky blues to kick back to at the end of a hard day. Altoist Jackie McLean is probably best known for his Blue Note sides of the 1960s where he was instrumental in pushing the boundaries of hard bop well towards free jazz territory. But before any of that, he served his hard bop apprenticeship with towering Jazz figures like Miles Davis (on his early blue note sessions) and Charles Mingus (Pithecanthropus Erectus). While doing this he also found time to lead his own quintet on a set of sessions for Prestige that resulted in the LPs 'Lights Out' (Prestige 7035) and '4, 5 and 6' (Prestige 7048). Both albums saw a reissue as a single package titled 'Contour' in 1977, which is the record that I have in my possession.

As I said above, it's a smoky blues number, a McLean composition that is basically an extended jam. As is so often the case, the loose feel of the jam session brings out the best in all the players. Mclean is no exception, his soloing making up for what it lacks in pace with a performance full of emotion. Donald Byrd also makes a decent fist of a muted trumpet solo - quite a feat in my book. The rhythmic pairing of Doug Watkins (bass) and Art Taylor (drums) also excel in their steady yet shifting support for the soloists. Only pianist Elmo Hope lets the side down with a predictable solo that just doesn't engage my imagination as the horns did.



Anthony Braxton - Composition 8J

2006-07-28T21:18:42.333+01:00

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Album - Saxophone Improvisations Series F
Recorded - 1972

There's something about the saxophone that makes it sound like the most human of instruments. Actually, writing that makes me think that the same is true of all wind instruments, and the reason for that is the breath. Breathing is fundamental to who we are, but we often fail to appreciate that. Listening to a virtuoso performance on a wind instrument reminds us of the ability of our breath to communicate enormous levels of power and emotion.

I say this in introduction to an Anthony Braxton piece, as on this particular track it is impossible to escape the breath. It's part of an album of solo saxophone performances entitled 'Saxophone Improvisations Series F' (on which it is also known by the more arcane 'NBH - 7C K7' - i've never made an attempt to understand Braxton's naming convention). Such is the intimacy of the recording that the listener can hear Braxton's breath, his fingers clacking on the keys

It has a sentimental air that suits my mood tonight (slightly spent, but content that it was all for the good). This mood is present on several other tracks on the album, along with a number of squawkers, as you might expect. There's much to admire in the piece - a definite sense of melody without a theme, for example. This approach can sound aimless in the hands of lesser talents, but in Braxton's capable hands there is a real sense that the track journeys from one melodic station to the next, quite effortlessly.



Pharoah Sanders - Village Of The Pharoahs

2006-07-26T20:55:58.483+01:00

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Album - Village of The Pharoahs
Recorded - 1973

Pharoah Sanders' impulse! albums of the late 1960s and early 1970s are some of the best examples of the free jazz genre ever comitted to vinyl; from the full-on freak out of 'Izipho Zam' to the classic freedom-on-acid 'Karma' (home of 'The Creator Has A Masterplan'). 'Village of the Pharoahs' comes from the 1973 album of the same name. This was comparatively late in his impulse! career and as such is now relatively unappreciated. If anyone connected with impulse! records is reading, get this album a CD release now.

Stylistically the track leans more towards the funky free-jazz end of Sanders' style, with the addition of a mystical edge in the presence of tamboura and shakuhashi (a type of japanese flute that creates an otherworldly, ethereal sound). Bass and percussion set up a hard-edged groove over the tamboura's drone before the theme is stated by the piano. Sanders enters on soprano with a wailing melody - emboldened by this strong introduction, he goes on to play with great passion and intensity for the next 12 or so minutes. His style is instantly recognisable, the shreiks and wails associated with his music are very much in evidence, but are kept under control at all times and fit well within the confines of the ever-shifting rhthymic backing. Towards the end of the piece things get a bit quieter, with Sanders trading vocal lines with guest Sedatrius Brown. The piece closes with the tamboura and percussion of the opening section, but slowed down many times, continuing the mystical air of the piece right to the end.

In my opinion this is one of Sanders' finest moments, in terms both of his individual performance and the group dynamic (sound and feeling conveyed). It also has the distinction of being one of the only Quadrophonic records that I own, not that I have the music system to do that justice.



Candido - Thousand Finger Man

2006-07-26T09:24:08.410+01:00

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Album - Thousand Finger Man/ Best of Blue Juice
Recorded - 1969

We're basking in something of a heatwave here at dailyjazz towers, so it's appropriate that my thoughts have turned to latin jazz, in the form of this gem by cuban percussionist Candido. Originally released as part of the 'Thousand Finger Man' LP in 1969, the track came to my attention as part of Blue Note's excellent 'Best of Blue juice' compilation (also good is 'Feelin Alright' by Trinidad Oil Company - in fact the whole album is great).

As a piece of percussion driven cuban jazz this track is hard to beat. It gets it's energy from the irrepresible Candido who really does live up to his 'Thousand Finger Man' monicker by playing ever more complex and detailed rhythmic patterns on his congas. As well as all that percussion, the track has a nice funky groove - a catchy horn figure is underpinned by some great organ work and one of the deepest brass sounds you're ever likely to hear on record. But it's at it's best when it's just drums, bass and some of the finest conga in the business.



Art Blakey - Noise In The Attic

2006-07-25T09:05:51.030+01:00

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Album - The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Art Blakey's 1960 Jazz Messengers (also 'Like Someone In Love' Blue Note 4245)
Recorded - 1960

I haven't got long tonight so this is going to be a kind of edited review. Here goes...

Drums. Lee Morgan. Wayne Shorter. More drums. Bobby Timmons. More drums. Lots more drums. For a long time. 'Noise in the attic' indeed. Did I say it had drums? Listen to Blakey's solo - sublime...

I think that just about sums it up.