Saturday, December 29, 2012

David S. Ware: Pastor at the Church of Jazz

Avant garde sax man David S. Ware passed away in October.  I confess that I didn't find out about his passing until last week.  NPR had a tribute to Ware and Lol Coxhill and Von Freeman, all of whom we lost last year.  I would note that I got to hear Freeman in Chicago a few years back, in a small club just north of the river.  

I don't know Coxhill, but I do have a healthy collection of David S. Ware in my library.  Most of Ware's music is what I call Page Four Jazz.  Someone who likes hard bop (Page Three) will recognize Page Four as music, but may find it very challenging.  Ware played a very muscular, frenetic horn.  You'll like it if you like the scratchy texture of his sax (I do) and if the way he slices and reassembles musical ideas does that avant garde thing to you (it does to me).  

You can watch a very interesting short film about David S. Ware produced by the David Lynch Foundation.   It includes Ware's voice along with William Parker.  "Now Jazz is one of the world's greatest churches, for sure," Ware tells us.  Don't miss it.  You can also read a fine obituary at the Guardian

Ware recorded Sonny Rollins' 'Freedom Suite' twice, once on an album of that title and again on Live In The World, a splendid avant garde document by the David S. Ware Quartet.  Either is a good place to start for the wary looking for something accessible.  These are fine examples of jazz in a classical format.  I am playing the third movement from the Freedom Suite album.  Here are the usual suspects:
I am also playing 'Mikuro's Blues' from Go See The World, the studio album released just as the tour documented in the album above was going.  It is a very accessible blues number and gives you a pretty good idea of Ware's brilliance.  I just downloaded this recording tonight, so I can't give you a review.  No surprises on the score card:
 Meanwhile, what I really want to talk about is an Andrew Cyrille album that features Ware: Special People (1980).  I was already up to the eyelids deep in love with Cyrille.  He is one drummer who can lead a band the way a catcher directs the diamond.  Special People is so bloody good I can't believe I didn't have it until today.  Every single number is toe curling delicious.  Here is the lineup:
Just from the first listen, I would have guessed that Nick De Geronimo was the leader.  His bass supports the other instruments the way the treads support an armored personnel carrier.  He knows just how to find his footing in each musical topography and how to reach for the delicious push.  Cyrille's percussion frames the music and keeps the horns on top the tread.  Ware is magnificent, playing with the heart of a war horse.  The same goes for Ted Daniels on brass, who is lighter afoot but just as poetic.  This album is simply superb.  Get the darn thing!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Kahil El'Zabar does my mood

I posted not long ago on Kahil El'Zabar.  Yesterday I downloaded one of his early albums as leader (of the Ritual Trio): Renaissance of the Resistance (1994).  El'Zabar has roots in very edgy jazz, but this album is both accessible and very compelling.  Here is the trio:
I am playing the title cut.  It is one of those long, moody, meditations that are just right when you want to wallow in the sweetness of your sadness.  Frankly, I need to assemble a playlist of such compositions.  

I am also playing 'Trane In Mind'.  I am not sure it brings Trane to mind, but it kept me dancing with my beagle while I put together the Kung Pao Shrimp.  Trust me; this one will make you want more.  Ari Brown's sax wails like he thinks he is Pharaoh Sanders.  There is a lot of love in them there notes.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Booker Ervin Cooks the Books

I have been collecting Booker Ervin recordings for some time now.  Ervin played sax on a number of Mingus recordings, including Mingus Ah Um and Mingus at Antibes (1959 and 1960).  That was the most significant moment in modern jazz. 

Booker Tellefero Ervin II has never received the appreciation due for his fine work as leader.  Oh Wait! He has received it here!  His playing is pure heart.  Everything that makes hard bop great is present in all his recordings.  Tonight I finally got around to buying his first recording as leader, The Book Cooks (1960).  What a snoot-full of wonderful horns.  
I have a special place in my heart for Tommy Flanagan, who playing on many of the first jazz albums I owned.  The same goes for Zoot Sims, whose warm sound could melt the ice off my sidewalk.  
I am playing  'The Blue Book' and the title cut. I snuck in a cut 'Gichi' from Tex Book Tenor

I am also playing a cut from Mingus' Blues and Roots, 'Moanin', another horn fest.  
That's enough Booker to get you bookin'.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Irene Schweizer

I have occasionally delved into the impossible task of classification.  When you try to do something that can't be done, you will discover that you cannot do it.  Still, the resulting errors are at least entertaining to myself.  

Irène Schweizer is a Swiss pianist whom I discovered just tonight, after downloading her duet album with drummer Han Bennink.  I haven't had time to digest the whole album yet, but the second cut is simply magnificent.  Schweizer is described as a free jazz musician, but 'Verzweigelt' (desperation) seems to me to be a showpiece of avant garde.  

I like to keep classifications as neat as possible, and here is how I see the two sub-genres of jazz.  Free jazz is improvising that is unencumbered (by melody, time signatures, etc.) either externally by an prearranged form or internally as the music proceeds.  Avant garde is jazz that is fundamentally abstract, taking music apart and rearranging it according to the forms rather than the narrative.  The two types of music are not exclusive; however, when some kind of story line emerges, it is more proper to call it avant garde.  

It seems to me that 'Verzweigelt' surely finds a story.  While challenging, I think it is not that hard to follow and it is warm and compelling.  The above is not so good a sample, but it's mighty fun to watch.  I am also playing 'Eine andere Partie Tischtennis'.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

I am playing that tune by the Dexter Gordon Quintet.  I have loved this tune for years and years.  It was one of those pieces of music that pulled me into jazz.  I found it on Jingle Bell Jazz, a CD that combined two previous LPs.  I hope you enjoy it.  And have a Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vandermark 5

Somehow Ken Vandermark manages to produce a steady stream of recordings despite the uncompromising character of his music.  Not only is he unwilling to compromise in any commercial sense, he is unwilling compromise with ordinary jazz sensibilities.  Any given Vandermark 5 album will have a range of compositions each of which challenges the mood and taste that might have been satisfied by the previous piece.  

Still, much of his work is firmly rooted in the common soil of blues-based jazz.  A good case in point are the Free Jazz Classics, vol 1-4.  Even the title of that series of live recordings is challenging.  Free jazz conjures up a picture of musicians spontaneously conversing without the encumbrance of either a plan or a melody.  What exactly could a "free jazz classic" possibly mean?  The answer, of course, is that just because the original piece (say, by Ornette Coleman or Anthony Braxton) was free doesn't mean that it didn't produce both a plan and a melody that could be executed again.  So is the repeat version really free itself?  That is a bit beyond my grasp of musical metaphysics.  

I will only say that the Free Jazz Classics is a smashing collection of jazz performances.  I am playing 'The Earth/Jerry/The Moon' and 'C.M.E./G Song' from vol. 2.  The former is a Frank Wright composition, from Wright's album The Earth.  The latter is a Julius Hemphill piece.  Here is the lineup:
I am also playing 'The Earth' from the Frank Wright Trio album of that name.  Here is the trio:
  • Frank Wright (ts)
  • Henry Grimes (b)
  • Tom Price (d)
Wright's horn here sounds a lot like Albert Ayler (though it is rather more coherent than was Ayler's style).   It is an interesting study to compare the Vandermark version with Wright's original.  Both are well worth your dime. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Old and New Dreams

I am playing 'Law Years' from A Tribute to Blackwell
This group consists of Ornette Coleman alumni and their work is a tribute to that master of inventive genius.   I have long admired the composition, from Coleman's superb Science Fiction Sessions.   I think I will post the original.  Enjoy. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Anyone who has consulted my political blog will guess that I did not vote for Barack Obama either this time or last.  While I have been a frequent critic of the President, I also recognize the extraordinary historical importance of his election and reelection.  In his honor, I am playing 'Meditations on Integration (or for a pair of wire-cutters)' from The Great Concert of Charlie Mingus.  No, we are not a color-blind society yet and perhaps such a thing is not to be expected.  But Mr. Obama's success proves at least that the wires have been cut. 

Every time I return to the music of Mingus, I am astounded anew.  As a band leader, composer, and bass player, Mingus was equally brilliant.  This 1964 Paris concert is a fine sample of his genius.  
This composition has a classical grandeur that much of jazz aspires to.  I can't get enough of Eric Dolphy.  Everyone on the piece is in very fine form.  Enjoy.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tord Gustavsen

I said in a recent comment that I didn't have any Tord Gustavsen in my library.  Shows you what I know.  I did have a TG Trio album: Changing Places (2003).  Tord Gustavsen: piano; Harald Johnsen: bass; Jarle Vespestad: drum.  

It's a fine example of the Nordic flavor in jazz: slow and deeply introspective.  I am playing 'Where Breathing Starts', an evocative title if ever there was one.  I especially like how the three layers of sound slide over one another for each solo.  The texture of the percussion seems woven of soft straw, allowing the bass to bounce on it and the piano to weave its sparkle through both.  This is one worth having for anyone fond of piano trios.  Hat tip to John for sending me looking. 

The Lush Tenor of Ricky Ford

If you are in a mood for that lush sax, have I got an album for you.  Manhattan Blues was recorded in 1989 and features the wonderful Jaki Byard on piano, Milt Hinton on bass, and Ben Riley on drums. Trust me on this one: this is one big heart on display.  Every note is fat and has the texture of crushed velvet.  Of course, Ricky Ford won't mean a thing if you ain't got that sing.  If you got it, give this one a listen.

I am playing 'Ode to Crispus Attucks', and 'My Little Strayhorn'. 

ps.  I have added 'The Short Life of Barbara Monk', from Ran Blake's album of the same title.  Ford plays wonderfully on this essential album.  It ought to get a lot more attention.  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I am not quite sure why I bother with this blog.  Although my stats show plenty of readers, no one ever bothers to comment.  As a result, I don't bother much with it.  The thing is, I love jazz so much I just can't help talking about it from time to time.  I like a lot of musical genres, especially rock and roll, Celtic traditional, and Reggae.  Nothing, however, seems to dig deeper into my soul than jazz. 

Earlier this year I listened to Brad Mehldau and Joshuah Redman perform 'Hey Joe', a duet interpretation of Jimi Hendrix's great blues composition.  I still get shivers when I remember it.  I just downloaded Mehldau's new album Where Do You Start.   I am playing 'Hey Joe' from that album on my station.  It can't match what I heard, but it gives you a pretty good feel for it.  I am also playing 'Holland', an exquisitely pensive meditation.  I urge you to get this album.  Tell 'em I sent ya.

Meanwhile, Brad, post me a comment.  I have been pushing your music for a long time.  Push back.  And if your are reading, leave me a note.  It's lonely here.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Jemeel Moondoc & William Parker

I finally bought New World Pygmies Vol. 2, with Moondoc on sax, Parker on bass, and Hamid Drake on drums.  New World Pygmies (1999) is a brilliant piece of avant garde precision with no prisoners taken.  The duo format leaves nothing unexposed.  

The two disc Vol. 2 (2001) is less uncompromising for two reasons.  One is that they add a drummer.  The existential distance between duo and trio is profound in avant garde and pretty much in all jazz.  Hamid Drake is fine choice for third.  Second, the album includes several lyrical compositions by Parker and Moondoc.  I consider Parker to be one of the most important composers in modern jazz.  'O'Neal's Porch' is the title cut from a Parker album.  'Three Clay Pots' is from Parker's superb avant garde document, The Peach Orchard

I am playing 'O'Neal's Porch' and a Moondoc composition 'Spirit House' from New World Pygmies Vol. 2 and 'Theme for Pelikan' from New World Pygmies.  I also loaded 'Judy's Bounce' from a Moondoc album of the same title.  Fred Hopkins plays bass and Ed Blackwell drums. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I have peppered my Live365 playlist with spooky jazz and one irresistible blues number.  Robert Johnson's 'Malted Milk' is one of the spookiest songs I have ever heard, especially when you consider that he allegedly died from poison. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fortunately More Sonny

I was sufficiently impressed by Sonny Fortune's Great Friends that I went in search of greater fortune.   Here my Penguin Guide to Jazz (may it be praised!) let me down, unfortunately.   Fortunately, my alternative All Music Guide to Jazz was well stocked with album titles by Fortune.  This sent me looking for Four in One, an album of Monk covers.  It doesn't seem to be in print, let alone available for download. 

That was fortunate, as it turns out.  Amazon had The Trilogy Collection, a package of three Sonny Fortune albums for Blue Note including Four in One.  The mp3 download was available for the deliciously low price of $6.99.  The other albums are A Better Understanding and From Now On

I have just been listening to Four in One  and it is splendid.  You just can't have enough Monk covers in your collection.  I am playing the title cut.  Here is the lineup:
  1. Sonny Fortune (flute, alto saxophone, piano); 
  2. Kirk Lightsey (piano); 
  3. Ronnie Burrage, 
  4. Billy Hart (drums).
I am listening as I write to From Now On.  I will start with the lineup:
  1. Sonny Fortune (alto saxophone); 
  2. Joe Lovano (tenor saxophone); 
  3. Eddie Henderson (trumpet); 
  4. John Hicks (piano); 
  5. Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums); 
  6. Steve Berrios (percussion).
That's pretty impressive.  I like what I am hearing a lot.  I am playing 'This Side of Infinity' and the title cut.  Both are muscular and richly marbled.  Who cares what the third album sound like?  Get The Trilogy Collection. Sonny Fortune is good fortune.  In return, I will try to turn off my pun engine when next I blog. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Charlie Haden & Sonny Fortune

I've added a bunch of music to my station lately, but I haven 't had time to comment.  I'll focus here on two albums.  For some strange reason I didn't get around to acquiring Charlie Haden's Quartet West (1987) until last week.  I have a lot of Haden on various disks, but this one looks to be my new favorite.  The compositions are bold and accessible and exquisitely crafted.  Haden is obviously brilliant on bass.  He shows up on some classic albums such as Lee Konitz's trio disc Alone Together (with Brad Mehldau) and Beyond The Missouri Sky (Short Stories) with Pat Metheny.  That puts him in a special sub-genre of jazz that I do not know how to name.

Quartet West has a lot of that sound but is a more typical bop production.  It is very lyrical and romantic.  If you're in a mood for being in a mood, this is your soundtrack.  I am playing three cuts.  "Hermitage," seems to remind me of Herbie Hancock somehow; not the piano work so much, but the feel of the song.  "The Blessing," an Ornette Coleman composition, hardens the bop by several notches on the dial.  "Bay City," is one of those big romantic indulgences that hard bop jazz men employ to remind you of why it is good to have a heart.  Don't let your collection go without this one.  Here is the lineup:
  1. Charlie Haden (bass)
  2. Ernie Watts (tenor, soprano, and alto saxophone)
  3. Alan Broadbent (piano)
  4. Billy Higgins (drums)
I didn't know Sonny Fortune at all when first listened to Great Friends (1986).  Or so I thought.  This fine alto player is on Mal Waldron's Crowd Scene and The Git-Go, ah, that was Where Are You?, two albums I love (even if I am not sure what their titles are).  This 1986 album is not for your romantic moods so much.  When you need a big charge to you heroism battery, this is your powerhouse.  I am very grateful for this addition to my library.  Here is the lineup from AllMusic:
Recorded on July 7, 1986, at Sysmo Studio in Paris, it is the only recorded output of the aggregation that included alto saxophonist Sonny Fortune, tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, Stanley Cowell at the piano, bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Billy Hart.
 This is a very fine hard bop document.  You don't want to be without it. I am playing 'Equipoise,' 'Thoughts' and 'Cal Massey'. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Craig Harris

More trombone!  I've been listening to Craig Harris documents over the last couple of days.  It is partly a matter of chance.  I put a lot of recent downloads (all legal!) on a CD and slid it into my car player.  I found myself listening to a magnificent cut but I couldn't figure out from the MP3 text who it was.  It was 'Blackwell', from a Harris recording Black Bone (1984).  It put me right in the deep end of the jazz zone.  

Craig Harris has been present at the creation of a lot of excellent jazz.  He has recorded with Sun Ra and David Murray, to mention only a couple of my favorites.  'Blackwell' is muscular and epic.  You can here at on my L365 station.  The whole album is much the same.  Here is the lineup.  
So what do I do when I find such a gem?  I look for more.  I purchased F-Stops.   This is a much more conceptual album, with seven compositions entitled 1st Flow to 7th Flow.  I am playing 'F-Stops: 5th Flow'  and 'F-Stops: 3rd Flow' .

Here is the lineup for F-Stops
You will want some Harris in your collection.  These are a good place to start.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cherry Ripe

NPR's All Songs Considered is not the place I usually go for news about jazz.  It's not that Bob Boilen and his crew are neglectful, let alone disrespectful of jazz; they do occasionally review jazz recordings.  It's just on the periphery of their musical interests.  ASC is where I go to find out what Jack White is up to.  

Today, however, I listened to one from a few weeks ago and they played a cut from an album called The Cherry Thing.  I ran to the laptop and spent some eMusic credits on it.  The Cherry is Neneh Cherry, stepdaughter of the great avant garde trumpet player, Don Cherry.  The Thing is Mats Gustafsson (saxes, organ, and electronics), Ingebrigt Haker Flaten (bass), Paal Nilssen-Love (drums).  The Trio is a hard driving avant garde instrument in the style of Ken Vandermark.  The combo reminds me less of other attempts to blend rap and jazz and more of the Steve Lacy cuts that include vocals, such as 'Inside My Head' on The Holy La

The album includes original compositions as well as interpretations of punk, hard rock, and rap numbers.  It also has one composition by Ornette Coleman and one by Don Cherry.  I am playing the latter "Golden Heart', and  'Sudden Moment' by Gustafsson.  

This is an album worth listening to.  Don Cherry is by far the biggest gravitational force in the music.  At times, Gustafsson seems to be channeling him.  Give it a try. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Michael Feinberg: The Elvin Jones Project

I received a delightful recording for review: The Elvin Jones Project.  I am a big fan of Elvin Jones, so I was happy to see this tribute album.  I will be lazy and give you what the publicity release has:

Twenty five year old bassist/bandleader Michael Feinberg was particularly inspired by the core of Coltrane’s rhythm section: drummer Elvin Jones.  While he perused his favorite drummer’s catalog, Feinberg found himself drawn to the interplay the legendary percussionist had with a multitude of bassists. Feinberg soon discovered that his favorite bassists had had a significant musical relationship with Jones. The study of these relationships became the root of Feinberg’s project and subsequent recording: The Elvin Jones Project.

Feinberg’s third recording as a leader, The Elvin Jones Project, was inspired by the relationships that Jones established with bassists Jimmy Garrison, Gene Perla, George Mraz, Richard Davis and Dave Holland. Feinberg decided to create an ensemble that would tackle compositions reflecting the link between these rhythmic pairings without emulation. As Feinberg was set to channel the vibe of these various bass players, he enlisted the great drummer Billy Hart to substitute for the deceased Jones.

Two years younger than Jones, Hart had a close, brotherly relationship with the drummer. The two had been good friends and Jones’s techniques had rubbed off onto the younger player. Feinberg chose Hart for this project because he felt that Hart played with a similar style as Jones, with an emphasis on the 1 while most drummers focused on the 4. Hart also possessed a certain “swagger” that Feinberg liked: “He can bang the shit out of a drum.” Upon their first meeting, Hart remarked to Feinberg: “Elvin would have liked playing with you!”

The other members of Feinberg’s ensemble include two of the most inspiring musicians of the past few decades and a young lion. Saxophonist George Garzone - who co-produced the record and who had once played with Elvin - and trumpeter Tim Hagans are featured as a well-seasoned frontline, while the up and coming Leo Genovese – a member of Esperanza Spalding’s ensemble - holds down the keys.
All of the musicians on this disc play with sparkle and depth.  Some of the earlier pieces have a magical, slightly fussionesque sound.  The latter cuts are equally impressionistic, but more solidly hard bop in mood.  I am especially impressed by Hagans' trumpet and Genovese's piano.  

I am playing two cuts from the album: 'Miles Mode' and 'Three Card Molly'.  I am also playing the latter tune from an Elvin Jones recording.  You should give this recording a good listen and then buy it.  Need I say that contemporary jazz men deserve our support. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012


I have never agreed with the old saw that "you can't judge a book by it's cover".  A book is a whole thing, consisting of cover, title, introduction, content, etc.  A really good cover can color your appreciation of a book in a decisive way.  The same is true of a record album.  I could no more imagine my experience of Led Zeppelin's third album apart from the LP cover with the spinning wheel than I can imagine my brother without his smile.  Much the same is true of a lot of Blue Note Jazz recordings. 

On that same score I am very sensitive to titles of jazz albums and songs and, occasionally, band titles.  I could not help but be attracted to an outfit that calls itself The Either/Orchestra.  The delicious ambiguity of that name immediately makes me wonder what I am choosing between and which it is.  Even better are the album titles of the two recordings that I have purchased.  

The Calculus of Pleasure is an extraordinary album.   I don't play a lot of big band music, but there are exceptions.  Big band music draws me in when it is done concerto style, like baseball.  One player faces off against the rest of the field.  I also like the low horns.  I am playing 'Bennie Moten's Weird Nightmare' and 'Ecaroh'.  Here is the lineup:
The title of the second, The Half-Life Of Desire, is even better.  What images that conjures up!   "A modest sized big band full of outsized talents" is how the Penguin Guide puts it.  I can't argue.  This is jazz with real power behind it.  I am playing 'Premonitions' and 'He Who Hesitates'. 
Enjoy.  If you do read this post and/or hear one of these tunes, please pay in the only coin I value here.  Leave a comment.