Saturday, July 31, 2010


Today I enjoyed a jazz collector's experience.  A colleague of mine is giving up a bundle of jazz cds, and I got to pick through it.  I got a lot of fine recordings that were on my list, including Miles Davis Live at the Plaza.  I also got the Max Roach/Clifford Brown collection Alone Together, and some basic J.J. Johnson trombone brilliance.  There was some fine Art Farmer stuff there, some Kenny Garrett, Michael Brecker, Zoot Sims, and Oliver Nelson's More Blues and the Abstract Truth.  I also got the Complete Atomic Basie.  There's more, but I won't bore you further.  

Mostly what I got was a big boomin' lot of Cannonball Adderley.  It's hard not to admire Julian Adderley.  He was taught music in high schools in Florida before moving to New York.  What happened there, I will trust Wikipedia to tell.
Adderley visited the Cafe Bohemia (Oscar Pettiford's group was playing that night) where he brought his saxophone into the club with him, primarily because he feared that it would be stolen. He was asked to sit in as the saxophone player was late, and in true Cannonball style, he soared through the changes, and became a sensation in the following weeks.
Good story.  Maybe better is the story of how he got his nickname.  Miles Davis called him Cannibal because of his appetite.  He was a big guy.   Some reporter misheard, and wrote down "Cannonball".  That was better. 

Maybe the prize today was the live Lighthouse Recording.  Adderley is backed by his brother Nat on coronet.  Victor Feldman steps in on piano.  Sam Jones plays bass, and Louis Hayes drums.  Wrap this one up and send it by subspace radio to the Klingons.  Tell 'em this is hard bop.  It'll bring 'em around. Here is about half of the first cut.  You're gonna want the rest when it suddenly stops. 
Cannonball Adderley Quintet/Sack O' Woe/Cannonball Adderley Quintet Live at the Lighthouse Excerpt
I've got a lot of Adderley to listen to this weekend. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Andrew Hill and the Penguin Guide Lists

I chanced upon a some jazz lists this afternoon, and that put me back in that classical mood.  First there is the Jazz Calendar Page.  Did you know that today is Charlie Christian's 94th birthday?  Happy Birthday, Charlie, in that great jazz club in the sky.  

Better yet, here is a site that presents all the four star rankings from the Penguin Guide to Jazz (may it be praised).  I have relied heavily upon the Penguin Guide in my collecting, and I think it is the only standard for collectors.  This stalwart soul lists all the albums that have received a four star ranking in any of the nine editions of the Guide.  He also notes those that got a crown (author's favorite) and those that get a "core collection" rating.  I have almost all of the core entries from my well worn Eighth Edition.  If you are collecting, get the most recent Guide.  The reviews are very helpful.  Either way, download the lists from this site linked above.  It is very helpful.

For example: I noticed a recording by Andrew Hill from the Ninth Edition that I didn't know about.  I am waiting for the 10th!  So I downloaded it from Amazon for a cool seven smackers.  Hill is one of those artists I first approached because of the PG.  His Point of Departure is one of the greatest jazz recordings, IMHO.  Nearly as good is Andrew!  Both make the PG core.  

Dance with Death (a 2004 reissue of a 1968 recording) isn't in that circle of heaven, but it is quite good.  The song titles, like the album title, remind one of Wayne Shorter's great spooky albums.  Unlike Shorter's works, the music isn't really very spooky in feel. That's okay.  If you like Hill, you will like this one. Here is the lineup, from the AllAboutJazz review:
Personnel: Charles Tolliver (trumpet), Joe Farrell (tenor sax, soprano sax), Andrew Hill (piano), Victor Sproles (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)
And here is a sample, excerpted from the first cut.  
Andrew Hill/Yellow Violet/Dance with Death
 Even the flower thing reminds me of Shorter.  Tolliver's trumpet is exquisite.  Put this one on your Christmas List.  

Meanwhile I am contemplating a list of the Top Ten Jazz Men (1950-1965).  I am thinking about artists who are stand out in fame and impact on the music.  Okay, Miles and Trane are going numbers one and two.  If you have any ideas, let me know. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wynton Marsalis channels Louis Armstrong channeling Thelonious Monk

Can Ouija Boards be networked?  Wynton Marsalis thinks so.  I have been listening to the fourth volume of his Standard Time Series: Marsalis Plays MonkThe Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (may it be praised!) informs me that Marsalis intended to "recast Monk's music in the form of the ensemble jazz of Louis Armstrong's jazz orchestra of 1927 and 1928."  Okay.  What

I'm not sure what all that means, but this album is one more tent revival meeting for the cult of Monk.  As a true believer, I can only say amen.  Has any jazz composer been so frequently covered or so deeply worshiped as Thelonious Monk?  Monk's compositions haunt modern jazz.  You might enjoy a good evening by listening to this album along with Anthony Braxton's Monk album and Monk's own Brilliant Corners.  Hey, I think I'll do that.  Marsalis Plays Monk is a brilliant work, and brilliantly recorded.  You can hear the buzz of the bass.

Here is an excerpt from one of the numbers.  It is features the piano player Eric Reed.  This guy straightens out Monk, in accord with the general theme, but that only highlights the genius of the composition.  I love this piece of music. 
Wynton Marsalis/Brilliant Corners/Marsalis Plays Monk/excerpt
Also don't miss the last piece on the album: 'Green Chimneys'.  I didn't recognize that Monk number.  I won't forget it. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Avant Garde 101: Anthony Braxton Deconstructs Charlie Parker

I have heard there is a recipe for deconstructed Caesar salad: you assemble the ingredients and eat each one separately without combining them.  Avant Garde jazz is a lot like that Caesar salad.  I acquired Anthony Braxton's Charlie Parker Project largely because I am so in love with Braxton's Monk album.  I was hoping for more of the same, on the principle that avant garde do wonderful things when they sacrifice some of their cherished freedom and navigate the parameters of good hard bop composition.  I didn't get what I was hoping for.  

What I did get is very interesting.  You might get an idea if you imagine Charlie Parker's music interpreted by an visitor from the Crab Nebula.  Being open to all, including alien invaders, I am entertained.  Nonetheless, I am trying to keep the spider thingies away from my beagle.  

Here is a perfect chance to see what avant garde is.  Braxton's live recording is devoted to mysterious morphings of Parker compositions.  You really have to forget about the salad and be prepared to listen to discourses on the veins in the lettuce.  As an illustration, consider this Parker number from the Dial recordings.
Charlie Parker/Scrapple from the Apple/The Complete Dial Recordings
That's a nice bebop classic, with crackly sound.  Dexter Gordon does a great version of it.  The melody is clear all the way through.  Now listen to Braxton's version. 
Anthony Braxton/Scrapple from the Apple/Charlie Parker Project
That's Charlie Parker after he has been eaten by some H.P. Lovecraft worm.  You have to like the guttural slither of sound from the horns and Joe Fonda's bass if you are going to make it through.  If you do, you can hear the melody begin to emerge from the slither. 

Well, that is by God avant garde.  I have been enjoying it all evening.  Let me know what you think. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A little more Red

I have mentioned pianist Red Garland on several occasions.  One reason he is kinda special is that I really began my serious (=systematic) jazz collecting with Miles Davis' first quintet.  I have been traveling of late, hence the gap in posts.  This afternoon I stepped out of my car into an honest Dakota rain and walked into a used CD shop in Sioux Falls.  All I found in their four foot square jazz section was Red Garland's Groovy

It's not a great piece of jazz, but if you like bop piano trios, you'll like this.  Paul Chambers plays bass, and Art Taylor beats the skins.  Here is a sample, with Chambers using the bow.  Garland clearly had that feelin'. 
Red Garland Trio/What Can I Say (After I'm Sorry)?/Groovy
You gotta love that title.  Garland carries his own jazz club with him.  Listen a bit and it closes around you, with a sexy and somewhat tragic young lady pouring you a beer.  Try it. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Jimmy Heath & Lee Konitz

No, not together.  Except in so far as I acquired two CD's last week.  Jimmy Heath is a tenor sax player.  His first album as leader was The Thumper, and it is thumpin' good bop.  If you are in the mood for straight ahead jazz boogie, this would be it.  Nat Adderley c, Curtis Fuller trb, Wynton Kelly p, Paul Chambers b, and Albert Heath d, play behind Jimmy.  Here is a sample:
Jimmy Heath/Two Tees/The Thumper
As for Konitz, I finally found Another Shade of Blue,  with Brad Mehldau and Charlie Haden.  It is a mostly live recording, and a companion to one of my favorite Konitz records Alone Together.  If you haven't got the latter, by all means pony up.  It is a superb horn, piano, bass trio recording.  You don't want to live without their interpretation of Round Midnight. The live album doesn't quite match up, but if you have the one you will want the other.  Konitz's sound is unique.  It's dry, to be sure, but that just pulls the passion out of the listener.  Here is a sample:
Lee Konitz/Everything Happens to Me/Another Shade of Blue
 Well, there's some straight ahead jazz for you. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Don Cherry Was There

You might think of Don Cherry as a lesser Eric Dolphy.  Cherry's work, so far as I know it, hardly measured up to Dolphy's indispensable contributions to jazz, and he has no recordings as leader that stand anywhere near Far Cry or Out To Lunch.   On the other hand, Cherry's own recordings are very impressive and unjustly overlooked, and like Dolphy he managed to appear as sideman on a considerable number of seminal documents.  

Cherry's most famous work was as sideman on Ornette Coleman's recordings on Atlantic.  This was a body of music that, according to those who treasure it, changed jazz forever.  You can get it all in a box set: Beauty Is A Rare Thing.  I haven't made up my mind yet about the value of this set of records, but there is no denying that The Shape of Jazz to Come is a monumental achievement.  Likewise with Archie Shepp's The New York Contemporary Five.  That is not to forget The Avant Garde, on which Cherry shares billing with John Coltrane, which is kinda like Jimmy Olsen sharing billing with Superman.  Cherry is also featured prominently on one of my personal favorites: Steve Lacy's Evidence.  Don Cherry was by Zeus there when it was happening.  

All of this work is pretty challenging avant garde jazz, and to be a figure of secondary importance in a music that necessarily appeals to an audience that is only a subset of the jazz audience is not a recipe for immortal fame.  That can lead to a great injustice, and the neglect of Cherry's first album as sole leader is a crime.  

Complete Communion (1965) is superb.  The quartet was made up of Cherry, Leandro "Gato" Barbieri on saxophone, Henry Grimes on bass, and Ed Blackwell on drums.  The synergy between the four is perfect, but the real brilliance of the album comes from the dialogue between Cherry and the Argentine Barbieri.  I don't know the latter's work.  I gather that he rediscovered his Latin heritage and specialized in it in later recordings.  He began, however, as a devotee of Charlie Parker.  His life reads like a Mario Vargas Llosa novel.  On this recording, his playing is nothing short of genius.  In fact, if I may reuse the analogy, it reminds me in places of Eric Dolphy's early accompaniments. 

Like its successor, Symphony for Improvisers, this album consists of two "symphonies," each about twenty minutes in length.  I don't want to give away half an album, so here is an excerpt from the first side of the first album.  It will give you a pretty good idea of the Cherry/Barbieri dialogue that I am talking about.  
Don Cherry/Complete Communion (excerpt)/Complete Communion
If you like this, Cherry's recordings for Blue Note are available individually, or you might be able to find the box set The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Don Cherry.  The latter includes Where is Brooklyn?  Listen to all three.  You still won't know where Brooklyn is, but you will know that Cherry is where it's at. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Voodoo Drums & Ghostly Horns

Not exactly a Fourth of July theme, but then I am writing at 40 minutes into the new day.  After a wonderful day of cooking ribs and cleaning house, followed by eating ribs and drinking beer with friends, I am in the mood for something less wholesome and a lot less fattening.  

Here it surely is.  I've been listening to Birth and Rebirth, a duet album by drummer Max Roach and horn player and "philosopher" Anthony Braxton.  Wow, does Braxton have spooky eyes.  It is an odd meeting between the mainstream and the jet stream.  It is pretty dry, overall, but good in the way that a dry martini is good.  You can hear and appreciate everything these two jazz genies conjure up.  Here is a sample:
Max Roach and Anthony Braxton/Spirit Possession/Birth and Rebirth
If that is not enough to cut the fat in your bloodstream, try this one from one of my beloved Mal Waldron/Steve Lacy duets.  It's sad romance, but pairs the emotion down to something not much more complicated than a beating heart and a sigh.  
Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron/A Flower is a Lovesome Thing/Sempre Amore
Sempre Amore is one of those albums that nobody but me seems to listen to.  Well, suddenly I am in the mood for something a little richer, with the same mood.  So here is a cut from my latest Sonny Criss acquisition.  Would you ever have expected a brilliant jazz interpretation of this song?  Criss, whose flag I have long been flying, managed to wield all his hard bop magic without ever losing the original sad mood of the Beatles' hit.  God, but I love Sonny Criss. 
Sonny Criss/Eleanor Rigby/Rockin' in Rhythm
Well, that's all for tonight.  Pick up these recordings.  That's an order. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

More Big Band with Joe Henderson

I did a little calculation tonight.  The Penguin Guide to Jazz, may it be praised, claims 14,000 reviews.  Here's the thing: if you listened to each reviewed disc for five minutes, about the average length of a single number, that would add up to 70,000 minutes, or 1167 hours.  At eight hours a day, that would be 146 days.  I trust that the authors of the Guide have nothing else to do.  

I have more than 900 jazz albums, according to my iTunes program.  Of course, that includes every single disc in my three Bill Evans box sets.  No wonder I am behind in my listening.  

But tonight (it's payday!) I added another gem: Joe Henderson's Big Band.  I have a very warm spot in my heart for Joe.  His deep heart dredge has gotten me through more than one funk.  I listed his State of the Tenor as one of the ten best jazz recordings.  Maybe Sonny Rollins is "greater".  I would rather spend my time with Joe.  

As I said in my previous post, jazz big band albums are frequently concertos: a dialogue between an instrumentalist and an orchestra.  It kinda reminds me of baseball.  Joe, with his sax, squares off against a field of horns and mallets.  Anyway, Henderson's Big Band is a marvelous album.  Everything you want in a Henderson album is there, with that lush sound behind him.  I got it from Amazon for a song.  Here's a sample:
Joe Henderson/Inner Urge/Big Band