Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Low Down on Frank Lowe

Frank Lowe didn’t like the studio system much and so didn’t leave behind the kind of legacy that he deserved.  He was an avant garde jazzman to his core but, as is often the case, there were deep streaks of tradition in his locks.  I have been listening today to a new acquisition: Decision in Paradise (1985).  All the comments on the recording I have read describe it as “conservative”.  It is in fact a genuine exploration of the bop sentiment.  In many ways, this is my favorite kind of jazz recording: an avant garde revolutionary trying out the old whiskey. 
I chose the album mostly for the band.  Don Cherry on trumpet suggests wild, but the suggestion goes wide of the mark.  Grachan Moncur III on trombone also misleads.  But I am a big fan of Moncur.  Geri Allen on piano, well, what’s not to like?  Charnette Moffett plays bass and Charles Moffett beats the skins. 
I am playing the title cut and ‘You Dig!’  This is one album that you will dig.  It’s available from Amazon for about $5.  Get it and dig it. 
I am also playing a cut from The Flam (1976), a more characteristic Lowe recording, I suspect, and a flamboyant avant garde document.  Joseph Bowie plays a spitting trumpet, Leo Smith draws from a quiver of horns, Alex Blake is on bass and Charles Bobo Shaw is on drums.  Lowe’s tenor is squelching and screechy, in a Charles Gaye sort of way.  Let it run. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Andrew Hadro Makes Me Happy Sometimes you just want to hit play and hear something that you were waiting for, something that joins to your heart like a key to a lock.  It isn’t easy to find that key, even when you have a large jazz library.  There is too much to choose from. 
Tonight the lock and the key met.  I am presenting a paper at the International Political Science Association in Montreal next week and I have been making notes all day.  I wanted some music to settle me in as I anticipate the plane ride and a city I have never seen.  I got this CD to review and boy did it do the trick. 
Andrew Hadro’s For Us, The Living is just splendid jazz.  Hadro plays baritone sax and flute.  I am very fond of the low horn.  It just seems to dig down into my heart.  Here is some info on the band:
Hadro's band is a powerhouse, starting with veteran drummer and bandleader Matt Wilson, whose unerring time and creative use of sound give the rest of the band a strong foundation for exploration. Pianist Carmen Staaf, recently accepted to the exclusive Monk Institute, shows again why she's one of the current jazz scene's most sensitive and inventive players. Bassist Daniel Foose works well with Wilson rhythmically and with Staaf harmonically. Together the quartet creates a rich sonic world for each of these compositions.
The album's title comes from President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Lincoln's speech, which marked its 150th anniversary in 2013, urged Americans to appreciate, honor and respect the unsung and fallen heroes, and to further their unfinished work and thus usher in a new era. Hadro felt it a fitting title for an album featuring current American composers who are carrying on the tradition of those who came before.
As I was schooled under a Lincoln scholar, Harry Jaffa, I cannot but salute the historical reference in the title.  Lincoln saved the United States both by preserving the Union and by returning it to the founding principle that “All men are created equal”.  That is the root from which all American culture flowers.  I am profoundly grateful to see this brilliant flower. 
Hadro’s band erupts with moody significance.  It lifts all sails.  All the band is superb.  Staaf’s piano makes me want to learn to play the damn thing and makes me despair of ever doing so.  Foose keeps laying down pegs into the soil.  Wilson’s drumming punctuates my mood. 
This is excellent jazz.  Buy the disc, if ever you listened to good advice.  I am playing
‘Allegrecia’ and ‘Wadding the Sea’ on my Live365 Station. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Alternating Current I got a fine CD last week from master drummer Jeff Cosgrove.  Jeff is a fearless explorer of those regions of avant garde hyperspace opened up by the elder captains.  I have previously reviewed his amazing tribute to the music of Paul Motian: Motian Sickness. 
Alternating Current is another voyage for which you will want to be on board.  Cosgrove leads a trio including Matthew Shipp on piano and William Parker on bass.  Anyone who has followed this blog or listened to JazzNoteNSU knows that I am devoted to the music of William Parker.  I think that he might be the greatest living composer of jazz.  I have also featured Matthew Shipp frequently, as I think his word is fundamental.  I will take the liberty of including a bit from one of Jeff’s emails: “Playing/meeting Matt and William was definitely life changing.  The best part is they are some of the kindest people as well.”  I can only imagine, but I am grateful to Jeff for including me in the outreach part of the project. 
Finally, I note that the album is dedicated to Andrew Cyrille who, according to the liner notes, “helped connect the musicians for this recording and has long been an inspiration in improvisation”.  Cyrille is another master whom I have pushed with all the power of my meagre resources. 
The disc has three cuts: ‘Bridges of Tomorrow’ is 38 minutes long.  It is textbook free jazz: a weaving of three great minds with thick rope here and stringy sinews there.  The second and third cuts are shorter and sweeter, if more impressionistic. 
If you love jazz, you will want to get this disc.