Wednesday, June 30, 2010
I am not a big band fan. My ears live almost exclusively between the one and the nine. But there are exceptions to every rule, except perhaps for this one. Tonight I am listening to Bob Brookmeyer and the New Art Orchestra: New Works. This is a superb album, as good perhaps as Blues and the Abstract Truth.
It is what classical music people would call a concerto. Why aren't there more valve trombone players? This music builds its own venue: soft blue lights, a table with a drink or two, just off the stage. There is just you, your love, the orchestra, and Brookmeyer. All that resolves into a dialogue between your heart and the cage in which it beats.
If you don't have this disc, you have a hole in your collection. Here is a sample.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Almost every note Coltrane played into a microphone has been issued under his name, with the exception of course of his recordings with Miles Davis. I think I have all the Trane box sets, except for Side Steps. I haven't ponied up for that one because I have almost everything that is on it. Today I picked up another puzzle piece at the Last Stop CD Shop in Sioux Falls.
Mating Call, with pianist Tadd Dameron as leader, is not an essential Coltrane recording. It is a solid document from Trane's 1950's work. It was recorded at Rudy Van Gelder's studio on November 30th 1956, with John Simmons on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums. I haven't heard anything else by Dameron, and I am guessing, neither have you. What I heard on this recording is enough to get me looking.
Here is a sample:
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Tonight I am going walkabout. Jazz is obviously my main thing, musically speaking. But there was a brief period, back many years ago, when I listened to nothing but blues. Real blues. Chicago twenty proof. I think that period did me some good as a jazz fan. The blues is part of jazz the way iron is part of steel.
I also like the blues because it incorporates the spookiness that I love in horror fiction and film. Here again I come by this honestly. I was born about fifty minutes by buss from the crossroads where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil. Every now and then I listen to The Complete Recordings of Robert Johnson. Was that ever a great moment in music!
So many of Johnson's compositions have become standards in blues and jazz that he ranks as a founding father of both musics. But my favorite Johnson recording has been resolutely ignored. 'Malted Milk' is an exquisite horror story with guitar. I think that malted milk is a metaphor for whiskey, and that should raise the hairs on the back of your head. According to legend, Johnson was poisoned by the husband of one of his lovers. Listen to this one:
Robert Johnson/Malted Milk/Complete Recordings
"Door knob keeps on turning, must be spooks around my bed..." Wow.
While I am at it, here is one more. Muddy Waters did a couple of brilliant recordings with guitar great Johnny Winters. One was published under Winter's name: Nothin' but the Blues. It is superb. Here is a cut from the other one, with Waters as leader.
Muddy Waters/I Can't Be Satisfied/Hard Again
This is classic juke joint blues. Stories stitched together that are all the same story: "I just can't be satisfied, and I just can't keep from cryin'."
But good and fundamental as those samples are, my favorite blues recording is I am the Blues, by Willie Dixon. Dixon's music was almost as influential as Johnson's. Howlin' Wolf recording several Dixon compositions, and Led Zeppelin covered some of those. 'I Can't Quit You Babe,' and 'You Shook Me', for example. The album is a bit of mystery. I have never been able to figure out who played behind Dixon's bass. It's pure Chicago to be sure. Here is my favorite cut.
Willie Dixon/Spoonful/I am the Blues
"It could be a spoonful of water, to save you from the desert sands. One spoonful of led from my forty-five will save you from another man..." The piano work on that number is superb, but the harmonica is pure hoodoo. Who are these guys?
The blues had more than one baby. One was rock and roll. Another was jazz. Get all of this stuff.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Here is a worthy disc I am betting you haven't heard. Gianluigi Trovesi is an Italian sax player and composer. I purchased his recording From G to G a while back, and I listen to it occasionally. The recording is very clear, and the music is compelling. I am not sure about the jazz funk number 'Now I Can', but the title piece is soundtrack of your life good.
Here it is. Enjoy. Purchase.
Gianluigi Troves/From G to G/From G to G
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Okay, there it was. Sitting in the top left hand corner of my blessed Penguin Guide. Page one thousand, one hundred, and something. Archie Shepp's The Way Ahead. I can't say why I ignored it until now. I have Shepp's famous 1964 recordings: Four for Trane, The New York Contemporary Five, and some others. This one from 1968 is close to ground zero.
Well, I have it now. It is vintage Shepp, raw, wild, and uncompromising, like someone trying to punch his way out of jail cell. If you the 64 recordings and would fight to give them up, you'll want this one too. If you think that Shepp is all about noise, you will still want to hear the opening number. It is so spectacularly good that this one number would suffice to demonstrate Shepp's genius. Here it is:
Archie Shepp/Damn if I Know/The Way Ahead
And here is the lineup, courtesy of the Jazz Discography:
Jimmy Owens (tp) Grachan Moncur III (tb) Archie Shepp (ts) Walter Davis Jr. (p) Ron Carter (b) Roy Haynes (d -1,4) Beaver Harris (d -2,4)
Now I admit that one think that caught my eye was the presence of Grachan Moncur III. I have been paying a lot of attention to this trombone wizard lately. Well, it is Father's Day, and I had a few bucks to spend. So I spent them on Shepp's album and on Moncur's Exploration.
At least two numbers on the latter were worth whatever you have to pay. 'Love and Hate' is one of the pieces that stops you in your tracks. What am I listening to? How can I possibly get more of it? If you want to hear it, sorry. You'll have to pony up for the recording. It's on eMusic, and you can get it from Amazon.
But here is a piece from the album, a composition that also appears on the Shepp album. It will give you some idea what this is worth.
Go for it.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
For some reason I am in a Lee Morgan mood tonight. I have mentioned Morgan occasionally, but I don't think I have devoted a post to him. High time, squire! I got to know Morgan mostly from his work with the Jazz Messengers. I am very fond of his most popular album, Sidewinder, but I have said that Search for the New Land was his magnum opus. The Gigolo, an attempt to repeat the commercial success of Sidewinder, is worth a listen, as is Candy. I can also recommend The Young Lions.
Whenever I think of Morgan, I think of two things. One is that he recommend Wayne Shorter as a replacement for Benny Golson when Golson left the Messengers. That, I think, was a great contribution to modern jazz. The second thing is that Morgan's girlfriend/wife shot him through the heart at Slugg's jazz club in NYC in 1972. Morgan was 33. I wonder if she ever had any idea what she was putting a bullet into the heart of?
Morgan was a bit frustrated about his great success with Sidewinder. He thought his best work at the time was on Grachan Moncur III's Evolution. I concur. I blogged about Moncur recently. Having listened to a lot of Morgan tonight, his work on Evolution is more serious. Here is a sample:
Grachan Moncur III/Air Raid/Evolution.
And here is a sample from Morgan's 1957 album.
Lee Morgan/Since I For You/Candy
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Here's a little love in the form of a consummate jazz duo: piano player Martial Solal and avant garde trumpet man Dave Douglas. This is one of those cases where you get to the heart of the music by going through the cover and album title. Rue de Seine puts us in Paris, a city I have otherwise never visited. Martial is apparently legendary in France, which is a good place to be legendary. There is a brilliant piece on him at the British Guardian.
Martial Solal lives in Chatou – the island-like Paris suburb on the Seine they call the ville des impressionistes. His house is so unlike any jazz musician's home I've visited that I feel I've flipped into a parallel world. Peering like a child through the high metal fence at a tree-shrouded villa beyond an ornamental garden, I'm in a fairytale in which jazz artists are feted, instead of consigned to dividing up the door money. But eventually I have to break the spell, press the buzzer, and wind my way through the shapely flowerbeds to meet France's most famous living jazz artist.
Yes, it would be nice if all jazz greats had ornamental gardens. But it's hard to argue that legendary American jazz men aren't treated pretty well. See Wynton Marsalis.
The Solal/Douglas duo is very impressive. Duos are often a bit dry, but this is anything but dry. I have a special fondness for one number, a tribute to soprano sax genius Steve Lacy. So I will offer that.
Martial Solal and Dave Douglas/Blues to Steve Lacy/Rue de Seine
You can pick it up at eMusic for a song. You don't want to miss 'Elk's Club' and their inventive interpretations of 'Have You Met Miss Jones?' and 'Body and Soul'.
Monday, June 14, 2010
I fell in love with Tommy Flanagan back when my knowledge of jazz was limited to John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell, and Bill Evans. I had a special affection for Burrell, and I got to see him twice. It seemed like Flanagan showed up on all my Burrell recordings. I think Flanagan was a very underrated player.
Here is one of my favorite pieces, a Flanagan composition. It is from an album that was originally released under the piano player's name. I think it has been repackaged under Coltrane's name. Trane and Burrell play on it.
Tommy Flanagan/Minor Mishap/The Cats
That's a marvelous piece of joyous jazz. A similar album was released under the names of Coltrane and Burrell. It is so bubbly and alive it could talk a man off the edge of a bridge. You just have to have these two recordings on your shelf.
Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane/Lyresto/Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane
And don't miss 'Why Was I born?' and 'Big Paul'. These will explain to you why you were born.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Tonight, courtesy of Netflix, I watched Miles Davis: Around Midnight. The DVD includes several numbers from a 1967 concert in Stockholm, and one last number from a concert in Germany. The band was the Second Quintet: Wayne Shorter on tenor, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. Williams looked so young! I think he was twenty two.
It is a great pleasure to actually see Miles and his men do their stuff. The music reminded me most of the great Live at the Plugged Nickel recordings. Melodies were briefly stated, and then each player zeroed in on a simple musical idea and concentrated on it with remarkable discipline. One number they did was Shorter's exquisite 'Footprints'. Hancock's work was fascinating, but I think the most amazing thing was the synergy between Tony Williams and whoever else was playing. Miles knew a genius when he saw one.
Do yourself a favor, and put this on your Netflix list. Meanwhile, here is a sample from the aforementioned document.
Miles Davis/Stella By Starlight/Live at the Plugged Nickel
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
One joy of doing a blog like this for several years is that I am often amazed at what I had to say. Sometimes I said something stupid, but other times I emphatically agree with myself. In Feb. of last year I did a post on Miles Davis and Tony Williams. I mentioned a book by Christopher Meeder, only because cherished reader André posted a chunk of it in the comments to an earlier post. The book was Jazz: the Basics.
Mr. Meeder left a comment on that post which I failed to responded to. I don't know if I missed it or just didn't get around to it. I feel a bit guilty about that. Here is Meeder's comment:
Heh. I haven't Googled myself in a while. Thanks for the nod to my book. Did you ever get it? Did anyone?
The theoretical comparison of Rivers and Shorter is very nice, but not entirely necessary... You can hear Rivers with the 2nd quintet rhythm section and Miles on the 1964 Tokyo concert on Columbia. I haven't heard the album in about seven centuries and can't really comment about what I think about it anymore.
I happened upon this old post because last night I happened to download the very album he mentions. I chanced upon it on eMusic. I have wanted to get to know Sam Rivers better, and I vaguely remembered that he played with Davis for a bit, just before Wayne Shorter came aboard. I had just enough eMusic credits to nail the album, so I did.
It was worth it. I just plain love what Miles was doing in this period. I think that one could learn a lot by comparing Sam Rivers playing with what Shorter does, say on ESP. I even enjoyed the one credit introduction. Sam Reevers, Run Catta... I don't know exactly what it was about Rivers that Miles didn't like, but he is good here. Here is a sample:
Miles Davis/My Funny Valentine/Miles in Tokyo
And Christopher: if you are Googling yourself again, I am ordering your book.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
I thoroughly approve of NPR's Village Vanguard series. I have directed a lot of attention to it on these pages. Tomorrow night (Wednesday, June 9th) Wayne Escoffery debuts at the Vanguard. I don't know this tenor player, except by his album Intuition. Another Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings recommendation. The album is kick ass, rich cloth bop. I downloaded it from eMusic partially on the PG recommendation, and also because of Jeremy Pelt plays his trumpet. I recently acquired a Pelt recording Men of Honor, which I really should post about. It's Pelt channeling Miles Davis.
Anyway, Intuition is a fine album. In addition to Escoffery and Pelt, Rick Germanson plays piano, Gerald Cannon bass, Rickey Peterson drums, and Carolyn Leonhart (Escoffery's wife) on vocal. Here is a sample:
This number strikes me as an obvious tribute to another Wayne: Wayne Shorter. Both the tenor playing and the piano remind me of Shorter's great sixties recordings. Suddenly I feel all tingly.
I expect that Wednesday's concert will be available for download. It would be worth catching live. Escoffery seems to know what he is doing.
Friday, June 4, 2010
I read a review of this album in JazzTimes (hard copy edition), and I found it on eMusic for a cool six credits. AllAboutJazz has a nice review as well. Irby plays alto for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Ensemble. This is superb, swinging, hard bop.
The material consists of one original composition, named after Irby's wife Laura, and five bop classics: 'Bohemia After Dark' (Cannonball Adderley); 'Depth' (?); Countdown (John Coltrane); 'Four' (Miles Davis); and 'In Walked Bud' (Thelonious Monk). All of the treatments are inventive in the best sense: they honor the masters by demonstrating that each composition is an endlessly renewable source of genius. Everything on the recording is very fine. His treatment of Trane's 'Countdown' is astonishing.
The band includes Irby on alto sax; Nico Menci on piano; Marco Marzola on bass; and Darrel Green on drums. One ought also to credit the audience, which is very audible on the recording.
Since this is very new, I hesitate to offer a whole song. So here is a long excerpt from the first number. When it cuts off well short of the end, buy the darn thing. You'll be playing this one over and over.
Sherman Irby Quartet/Bohemia After Dark/Live at the Otto Club
In my last post I indulged in a little self-pity, and considered the possibility of ending this blog. I got five prompt responses from my loyal friends and readers. Oddly enough, my hits almost doubled over two days. I am not sure how that works. But then, this morning, unlooked for, a box set of Dexter Gordon recordings arrived on my doorstep. Along with it was a Netflix envelope with a video of the second great Miles Davis Quintet. I take this as a sign from the the Jazz gods. Who am I to go against the gods?
I have admired Dexter Gordon for a long time. One of my very favorite jazz numbers is his recording of 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas'. My children have had to endure that for many a holiday. In the late 80's, Gordon did some appearances on TV and film. I liked Gordon's movie, Round Midnight, a lot more than most of the critics did. Gordon also appeared in an episode of then my favorite tv show Crime Story. I won't say he acted, because he mostly just mumbled. But in the context, that worked.
Gordon was the real thing, if you think that bop is the real thing. He had both hands on the melody at all times, and he never stopped squeezing. Here is a sample from today's gift:
I have only started listening, but this looks to be a great document. Eleven CDs! His marvelous LTD and XXL recordings in Baltimore are included. Enjoy.
ps. Here is one at Will's suggestion.
ps. Here is one at Will's suggestion.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
I've been posting a lot lately, but readership is way down. Nobody loves me. I am giving serious though to shutting this thing down. Yeah, I have thought about that before. I have long thought about launching a podcast, like my friend Ken Laster. I could do it. But right now I am enjoying my blues.
So here are some sample in accord with my mood.
You gotta dig Toots Thieleman's harmonica. And here is another moody piece:
That is Pepper's great horn and strings album. Just following that in my iTunes list was a great blues:
Well, enjoy. I have done my part to keep jazz alive. Right now I am feeling old and tired. Maybe I'll be back. Maybe not.