Friday, April 30, 2010

Bobby Hutcherson's Components

I just noticed that Amazon has Wayne Shorter's Adam's Apple available as MP3 download for two cents under four bucks.  I did a couple of posts on Shorter's magnificent work in the 1960's, and in the second post I review Adam's Apple as the last in that core Shorter collection.  If you don't have this recording, don't let this one slip away at this price.  

Today I grabbed Bobby Hutcherson's Components for a cool $7.99, bringing my collection of Hutcherson's recordings up to 1967.  This recording is very interesting as a document of Hutcherson's range in the period.  Here is the lineup. which I got from a very nice Hutcherson discography page:
Freddie Hubbard (tp);
James Spaulding (as, fl);
Bobby Hutcherson (vib, mar);
Herbie Hancock (p, org);
Ron Carter (b);
Joe Chambers (d)
It's hard to beat that for a band.  The album begins with a number that has Hubbard and Spaulding playing with almost a big band feel.  It is followed by lyrical, impressionistic piece.  These numbers are solid post bop, challenging only to the most conservative jazz fan. Much the same is true of the third and fourth numbers.  The last is back to the fat horn sound, and is quite beautiful.  Hancock's piano is especially haunting.  

The next three numbers shift abruptly into the new thing.  There is no bothering with melody, it's all down to playing with the components of music.  'Movement,' in particular, is a revealing avant garde document.  The interplay between horns on the one hand, and bass and percussion on the other, is very well articulated.  Some listeners may find it whiny, but I do not. 

The last number returns to romantic impressionism.  It is more or less what vibes are for.  Here it is for a sample.  
Bobby Hutcherson/Pastoral/Components
 Give it a try.  Let me know what you think. 

Cheap Vibes

I have stopped downloading from iTunes' store.  They rarely have the best deals, but that isn't the real problem.  Anything I store in their format can't be converted into MP3s.  This matters because the cd player in my RAV4 can read MP3 discs.  I like to load it with hours of music and listen to bits of that when I go for red potatoes or a bottle of Johnny Walker.  But I keep getting that message that I can't burn anything Apple has sold me or touched.  

Amazon has a lot more music, better deals, and you get honest MP3 files.  Yesterday I found another Bobby Hutcherson recording, Happenings, for about four bucks on Amazon.  I gather that this CD is no longer available in plastic.  The Penguin Guide (may it be praised!) mentions it but doesn't list it.  I have little patience for the music industry when it fails to make such recordings available for download.  Amazon has this one, with a Hutcherson/Herbie Hancock team up, with Bob Cranshaw and Joe Chambers.  It's a beautiful piece of work, and four dollars is about what I think a recording should cost.  Especially a recording that has been sitting in the vaults for decades.  

I have already mentioned Hutcherson's wonderful disc Stick-Up!  That is also available from Amazon for a handful of bucks.  Here is a sample from Happenings, one of Hancock's great compositions.
Bobby Hutcherson/Maiden Voyage/Happenings 
Enjoy.  And if you do, for goodness's sake go to Amazon and download them.  You can't get a magazine for this price, and you won't be throwing this stuff into the recycling bin. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Larry Young's Magnum Opus

One of the recordings I picked up at the Jazz Record Mart in Chicago was Larry Young's Unity.  It's a Penguin Guide core collection item, and I just hadn't got around to it yet.  Wow.  This is twenty-four karat blues-based bop.  There aren't a lot of organists at the top of the list.  Jimmy McGriff comes to mind, and Joe Zawinul.  Young's playing reverses the old cliche: he doesn't make it look easy, he makes it look hard as Hell. He is obviously a virtuoso, but the instrument seems to be always tripping over itself.  It is as if he makes it do something it doesn't want to do.  That might be its wonderful charm. 

The band includes Joe Henderson on tenor, Woody Shaw on trumpet, and Elvin Jones on drums.  Jones is a busy man.  The organ fills the space that God made for the bass.  All of this is good, and it is soul-lifting music.  If you want to be moody, try Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron (either one or both).  If you want a future you can believe in, try this blast from the past.  

Here is a sample:
Larry Young/Monk's Dreams/Unity
 Check it out quick.  The coppers are on my tail. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Steve Lacy, Herb Ellis, & the Copyright Cop Blues

I just had another post taken down by the "authorities".  Oddly enough, this one was an old post on Ike Quebec, with the link long since ineffective.  I found a copy of the original notice, and my blog appears in a long list of offenders.  I suspect that this is a largely automated process.  

Anyway, and while I am still in business, I picked up a bunch of great jazz at the wonderful Jazz Record Mart in Chicago.  One was a disc I have been searching for: Five Facings, by Steve Lacy.  This is a series of duets with Lacy on Soprano Sax of course, and different piano players.  If you know Lacy's music at all, well, this is more Lacy.  With just a piano and sax, it is very laconic music.  I find it exquisite: pure musical ideas laid out for all to hear.  

Five Facings is apparently out of print.  You can find it online, but only for the price of a new DVD player.  I was delighted to find it at the Jazz Mart.  Here is a sample.  It won't be here long.  
Steve Lacy/Ruby My Dear/Five Facings
I had planned to do a more extensive post in honor of Herb Ellis' passing.  I ain't got around to it yet, but I did pick up a beautiful double album, with Nothing But the Blues & Herb Ellis Meets Jimmy Giuffre.  It is quite a find, if you like Herb's lovely lines.  I think the latter is the real prize.  Jimmy Giuffre is easy to miss.  He looked and dressed like Lawrence Whelk, but played like he was from outer space.  On this album, he sounds more like Lawrence Whelk.  But the music is rockin' good jazz.  Here is a sample:
Herb Ellis/Remember  
You can get the double album at a reasonable price from Amazon.  If you like jazz guitar, you won't be sorry you read this post. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

@ Andy's In Chicago

I have been in Chicago the last several days for the Midwest Political Science Conference.  Tonight I went to see tenor sax man Von Freeman at Andy's Jazz club, just north of the river.  At 88, he looks pretty brittle, but he can still play with all of that feelin'.  It was a very nice evening.  Freeman had a vocalist with him, and a piano,bass and drums behind him.  I didn't get any of their names, but they were all very good.   I believe he said that the bass player was from the Chicago Symphony.  

Live jazz is priceless.  But this only cost me $15 and a few beers.  

Here is a sample I picked up from an out of print CD. 
Christian McBride, Nicholas Payton, and Mark Whitfield/Dolphin Dance/Fingerpainting: The Music of Herbie Hancock
McBride plays bass, Payton guitar, and Whitfield trumpet and flugelhorn guitar, Whitfield guitar and Payton trumpet and flugelhorn  It is very well recorded, and the guitar in particular is magnificent.  I heard it while strolling in The Jazz Record Mart in Chicago, one of my favorite stops in the windy city.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Best Live Gigs

I have been thinking about a list of best live gigs, i.e., recordings made over one or more days at some live venue.  As it happens, there is a thread at the Amazon Discussion Page on Jazz just now on best live jazz.  One TS Garp began the discussion by asking: "What are the best live jazz recordings ever?"  Just the kind of question that gets me hot.  

A lot of the discussion turned on the live v. studio recording question.  My take is that live jazz is not necessarily better than studio jazz once it's in the can.  Recording quality is generally better in the studio; audience reaction is part of the joy at a club recording.  What does matter in jazz more than other kinds of music is that the musicians be playing together at the same time, and not recording individual tracks.  Jazz is about dialogue.  

But jazz is also about tradition and history.  Great live recordings stand out as moments when the musicians were facing the music as it were, and exceeded all expectations.  I recommended a number of essential live recordings:
  1. Bill Evans Live at the Village Vanguard.
  2. John Coltrane at the VV.
  3. Sonny Rollins at the VV.
  4. Art Pepper at the VV.
  5. Miles Davis at the Black Hawk.
  6. Shelly Mann and his Men at the Black Hawk.
  7. Miles Davis at the Plugged Nickel.
  8. Eric Dolphy and Booker Little at the Five Spot
  9. Thelonious Monk and Johnny Griffin at the Five Spot
  10. Monk at the It Club.
  11. Monk and Coltrane at Carnegie Hall.
Those are just some of the great jazz gigs that come to mind. This weekend I have been listening to something more edgy.  On the 3rd and 4th of December, 1965, the Ornette Coleman Trio recorded a live date at the Golden Circle in Stockholm.  For anyone still trying to figure out Coleman (and that includes me), this recording is essential data.  The trio includes David Izenzon on bass, and Charles Moffet on drums.  

The piano-less trio certainly puts almost all the weight on Coleman's horn.  Whatever he is up to, it's here.  It's challenging listening, but I have decided I like it.  Like a lot of avant garde, what is being played at any moment is not all the different from what you might hear on any classic bop recording.  But in the latter case, the playful exploration would eventually resolve into a coherent melody.  In avant garde, it frequently fails to do that.  It just rides along on the bass and drum lines, like a predator hunting for prey.  I think you have to be in a certain mood, but if you are it will grab you.  Of course, that's like saying that is the sort of thing you will like if you like that sort of thing. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Frequent reader and friend of this blog, AndrĂ©, alerted me to this YouTube clip.  Art Blakey plays drums, Freddie Hubbard trumpet, Johnny Griffin tenor sax, Curtis Fuller trombone, and Walter Davis Jr. is on piano.  The arrangement is very similar to the Jazz Messenger's version.  Blakey's toothy smile and the trickle of sweat down his forehead are the distilled essence of hard bop jazz. 

Here is a clip of Blakey's Messengers doing the same number.  The composer, Bobby Timons plays piano, Lee Morgan blows his trumpet, Benny Golson plays sax, and Jymie Merritt thumps the bass.  What a delicious composition!  

Top Ten Avant Garde Recordings: Bobby Hutcherson

I did a post a few weeks back on a list of top ten avant garde recordings.  I had some difficulty compiling a list with ten recordings.  I wanted albums recorded in the late fifties and early sixties that stood out as core collection documents.  Here was the list I came up with:
Cecil Taylor/Jazz Advance/1956
Ornette Coleman/The Shape of Jazz to Come/1959
Jackie McLean/Let Freedom Ring/1962
Archie Shepp/The New York Contemporary Five/1963
Andrew Hill/Point of Departure/1964
Eric Dolphy/Out to Lunch/1964
Albert Ayler/Spiritual Unity/1964
John Coltrane/Ascension/1965
As my friend Ken Laster pointed out, McLean's album didn't really belong there.  I didn't want to put Coltrane's famous recording on, because I don't like it.  On the other hand, Taylor, Coleman, Shepp, Hill, Dolphy, and Ayler were easy.  

But I have at least one more disc that does easily fit: Bobby Hutcherson's Dialogue.  I confess that I didn't have any Hutcherson in my collection until today.  A few unexpected dollars came my way, and I bagged this disc along with Stick Up! from Amazon.  The price was right for both of them.  The first was about seven bucks for the MP3 download, and the second was under four dollars!  

Dialogue is basic document of experimental jazz in the mid-sixties.  Pianist Andrew Hill is responsible, I think, for all the compositions.  All of the sound and hypothesis of AG jazz is there.  Hutcherson's vibes and marimba are perfect for avant garde articulation.  Freddie Hubbard plays trumpet, and Sam Rivers, who would later record a number of great avant garde albums, plays sax.  Richard Davis plays bass, and Joe Chambers play drums.  Here is a sample:
Bobby Hutcherson/Ghetto Lights/Dialogue
I think this cut is worth its weight in fine whiskey.  Hubbard's solo, followed by Rivers and then Hutcherson, they make me want to holler.  All of the album is good.  Give it a listen and then give me a comment. 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Best Live Jazz: Davis & Griffin @ Minton's Playhouse

That's Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin.  It's fun to piece together a great live jazz set published on several different albums.  Eric Dolphy and Booker Little at the Five Spot comes to mind.  On January 6th, 1961, Davis and Griffin blew Minton's Playhouse in New York City out of the water.  Most or all of the event is captured on two records: The Tenor Scene, and Live at Minton's

This is gorgeous hard bop, soulful and ebullient.  I confess, I can't tell who is playing which sax.  I have loved Johnny Griffin for a long time.  All the Lockjaw Davis stuff I have has Griffin on it, well, except for Very Saxy.  That is a gem on its own.  

There was a lot of Monk exposed to Griffin and Davis' exegesis on that January night.  Here is one sample:
Eddie Lockjaw Davis & Johnny Griffin/Well, You Needn't/Live at Minton's
Here is the rest of the band: Junior Mance (p) Larry Gales (b) Ben Riley (d).  Griffin is an under appreciated deacon in the church of Monk.  Give this one a listen, download it from eMusic, and drop me a note. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

The World Saxophone Quartet Does Miles

It would be hard to love modern jazz if you didn't love hearing the saxophone.  It dominates the music in a way that no other instrument does.  That is not to say that it is the single most common instrument.  That would probably be the bass or drums.  But the sax in one form or another (usually, the tenor) gets star billing most of the time. 

Glancing at my list of top ten jazz albums, only one of them (Bill Evans Sunday at the Village Vanguard) is saxless.  Even (or especially) when the leader is a piano player, the sax is usually given a prominent role.  I think if you threw a dart at a list of top jazz artists in the modern period, you would likely hit someone with that brass inverted question mark in his hands. 

Of course part of that is that the horn is louder than damn near anything else.  But it surely more than that.  The sax just naturally communicates that jazz feeling more than any other instrument.  I have been listening tonight to the World Saxophone Quartet's Selim Sivad: A Tribute to Miles Davis.  The avant guard group was formed in 1977 by Julius Hemphill, David Murray, Hamiet Blueitt, and Oliver Lake.  On the Davis tribute, John Purcell replaces Hemphill.  If you want to go out with an overdose of sax, this is your medicine. 

It is a very interesting kind of tribute.  All of the tunes are presented as covers of Davis numbers, but the WSQ chose to honor Davis in the best way: not by imitation but by innovation.  I am guessing Miles would have wanted it that way.  There is a lot of African song here: percussive Bush music and bird tweets.  If you have at least an occasional urge for avant garde world music, you like this one. 

Here is a bit of comparison to give you an idea of the idea of the album.  First, a brief slice from Kind of Blue.  This is just the beginning of the number, to give you a point of reference.
Miles Davis/Blue in Green/Kind of Blue
Now here is the cover from the WSQ recording:
World Saxophone Quartet/Blue in Green/Selim Sivad: A Tribute to Miles Davis
Viva la difference!  This might be the most recognizable cover on the album.  The range of music on this disc is amazing.  It can be found at eMusic for a handful of credits.  Give it a shot. 

Here is a video clip of the WSQ in 2006. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ran Blake Drops Me a Note. Nothing so far from George Russell

I received a very kind email from Ran Blake in response to my last post.  Now, if only I can get a message from Thelonious Monk on my Ouija board!  This blog is a work of love for all those jazz artists that have touched me, and it is very rewarding to get a response from one of the greats.  

Mr. Blake advises me that a "memorial for George Russell will take place the second Saturday in may in Manhattan."  Living in South Dakota, Manhattan is a little bit out of my range.  If it weren't, I would certainly be there.  I have posted before on George 'Russell.  I am very fond of his magnum opus, Ezz-Thetics.  Any essential collection of modern jazz should include that and four or five other Russell recordings.  Get Stratus funk and The RCA Victor Workshop.  You won't be disappointed.  If you can make the Russell memorial, don't miss it.  Tell 'em I sent ya. 

Here is a wonderful sample:
George Russell/Bent Eagle/Stratus Funk
An actual note from Ran Blake got me interested in Ran Blake.  Blake is a representative of the "Third Stream" movement in jazz.  This, I gather, is analogous to jazz fusion, only here it is a fusion of jazz with classical music.  Don't take my word for it.  I don't know what I am talking about.  But that never stopped me before.  

I think a lot of jazz composition rivals the best of classical music.  Blake's teacher, Mal Waldron, is a good example.  I fell deeply in love with Waldron's many duet albums, which are more classical in feel, for the most part, than they are jazzy.  Waldron's duet with Marion Brown, Songs of Love and Regret, comes to mind.  I haven't heard anything in classical music (and I have listened to a lot of that) that is better than 'To a Golden Lady in her Gram Cracker Window'.   

Well, tonight I have been listening to Ran Blake's Epistrophy.  I am consistently amazed by the power that Monk's compositions have in modern jazz.  Scroll down the jazz genre section of my iPod (that's pretty much the whole iPod), stop and spit.  Chances are you will hit a Monk cover.  I shouldn't wonder.  I am myself obsessed with Monk.  You will find a lot of Monk posts on this blog.  I recently praise Anthony Braxton's marvelous album of Monk compositions.  Monk seems to be the Rosetta Stone of jazz: the one place that everyone understands everyone else.  

Blake's Epistrophy is another exquisite interpretation of Monk' genius.  If you like solo piano jazz in any form, you will like this.  As I listened, I kept thinking: okay, so that is what that meant!  Here is a sample.  
Ran Blake/'Round Midnight/Epistrophy
So get the CD.  You'll like it, especially if you like Monk's 'Epistrophy'.  He does it three times.  I do. 

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Short Life of Barbara Monk/Ran Blake Quartet

Now here's my plan: I will continue to include links to whole songs with each posting, but after a week or two I will eliminate those links.  I am hoping that this will keep the coppers off my back.  When and if I can find the time, I will replace those links with links to excerpts from the songs.  I have done this with a recent post on Mal Waldron

I would like this blog to be an informal but useful reference for jazz fans, and especially for those who are looking for the kind of music that I like.  I would like any reader to be able to listen to a least a little bit of the music I comment on in each post.  Ideally, I will go back through the blog and provide excerpts for all the posts.  I am not sure whether that is really worth the effort, but as I have said, doing this blog is part of my life as a jazz nerd. 

Meanwhile, I have been listening to a recording by pianist and composer Ran Blake.  I downloaded it some time ago and, as often happened, it didn't grab me when I listened to it the first time.  So it's been sitting idle on my iPod.  For some reason I punched it a couple days ago, and it is exquisite.  

I don't know much about Blake.  I have half of his solo album The Complete All That Is Tied Sessions.  How did that happen?  Like the drunk's tattoo, I haven't a clue.  The solo album is pretty far out there.  It reminds me of the solo work of Cecil Taylor, not that it sounds like Taylor as that it is the same kind of exploration.  There is a lot of space punctuated with pretty dramatic hammering.  It is interesting, if you are in the mood for that sort of thing; but it isn't all that jazzy.  

The Short Life of Barbara Monk is a treasure.  Rickey Ford plays a marvelous tenor, and in fact I think his playing is the highlight of the album.  Ed Felson plays bass, and Jon Hazilla beats the skins. It is a tribute to his friend who died of cancer in 1984, just two years after her father Thelonious Sphere Monk.  She was named after Monk's mother.  

It is hard to imagine a more perfect eulogy.  The recording is lyrical and deeply moving.  The dialogue between piano and tenor sax makes me cry.  Really.  I wish I knew more about Barbara Monk and Ran Blake, and what their friendship was like.  I miss Barbara, even thought I didn't know she existed until I listened to this recording.  If I could choose my own monument, it wouldn't be a statue or an immortal flame.  It would be recording like this.  Here is a sample. 
Ran Blake Quartet/Artistry in Rhythm/The Short Life of Barbara Monk
Now: add the recording to your collection.  It's available for a few credits at eMusic.  After you listen to it, drop me a line.  My readers have been awfully quiet of late.  Insert sad face here.

As reader Steve notes in the comments, this recording is available at  I note that the cds there are priced a bit lower than at other venues I have checked. 

Stolen Moments

I was tempted to put this title to this post: "Jazz Note's Last Post", and then follow that with April Fools!  But the line of time has passed into April 2nd, and that wouldn't be fair, would it?  I am going to try to introduce some discipline and delete links to music after a week or so.  Maybe that will get the coppers off my back.  So if you want to enjoy my music samples, be prompt in your reading. 

I enjoy doing this blog.  Part of the reason is very simple.  I enjoy jazz and want to share it with someone.  My significant other doesn't want to hear it.  My kids don't listen to jazz.  You, my dear readers, are it. 

I have been pushing Booker Ervin since I began this blog.  The Texas tenor made his mark with Charles Mingus, and he shows up on a lot of Mingus' great albums.  These include Mingus Ah Um, and Mingus at Antibes.  Ervin's work as leader is recognized by The Penguin Guide to Jazz and the All Music Guide to Jazz.  I can highly recommend his "Book" recordings:
Song Book
Space Book
Freedom Book

& Blues Book
This week I have been listening to Structurally Sound.  This is one of those recordings that was only recently hard to come by.  Now you can get the MP3 album from Amazon.  Charles Tolliver on trumpet, John Hicks on piano, Red Mitchell on bass, and Lenny McBrowne on drums.  The band has a very large sound.  It is hard driving bop all the way.  It will make you happy. 

Here is a sample.  Listen quick, it won't be here for long. 
Booker Ervin/Stolen Moments/Structurally Sound
Booker Ervin is reliable.  When you want that solid bop thing, you can always go to him.