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.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Microscopic Septet Plays Big Monk

The Microscopic Septet was active between 1980 and 1992 and came back together in 2006 on the occasion of the re-release of their original recordings.  Both the re-release and the reunion are very good signs for the state of modern jazz.  I will still lodge a complaint.  The re-release-Seven Men In Neckties-doesn't seem to be available for download.  There is no excuse for this!  I would have downloaded it tonight if I had found it.  

What I did download was Friday the Thirteenth: the Micros Play Monk.  It occurs to me that if I had a dollar for every album devoted to Monk compositions, I'd be able to buy more albums devoted to Monk compositions.  There is no such thing as too many.  This one is delicious.  Here is the lineup:
That's obviously a horn-heavy band, with almost a big band feel at times.  It excels at texture and drama.   The sound of each instrument is exquisite.  I just can't get enough baritone sax.  Sewelson's sax adds enormous muscle when all the horns are playing together. 

Each solo is a little gem.  Each piece sparkles with dozens of these gems.  There are no weak links in the chain, but I have to single out Forrester's piano and founder Johnston's soprano sax.  For heaven's sake and Monk's memory, get this one.

I am playing 'Brilliant Corners' and 'Misterioso'. 

I'm Back

My L365 station was offline for a couple of days.  Sorry.  Billing problem.  Anyway, I've got some new stuff playing: Archie Shepp, Andrew Hill, and a couple of pieces from a recently released live recording by Dave Holland.   The latter is the star of the show.  I intend to post on that pretty soon.  Meanwhile, I just uploaded a cut from Petit Ouiseau, by the William Parker Quartet.  I really ought to have something by Parker playing all the time.  

Friday, August 3, 2012

Pharoah Sanders @ Ronnie Scott's

My visit to Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club was a wonderful experience.  It had the flavor of a pilgrimage.  I arrived in England around noon, after many hours in the air and only a bit of sleep.  Coming up out of the Underground station into the smeared colors of Soho pavement later that day, we were a bit dazed.  We walked around in circles looking for the venue.  

Fortunately Soho has a staff of charming people sitting on the sidewalk with paper cups beside them.  Their dress is the basic uniform of the San Francisco homeless, but these Brits have a business model.  Seeing the look of confusion on our faces, one fellow asked "What play are you looking for?"  I am guessing he knew everything that was showing in the theater district.  I blurted out "Ronnie Scott's" and he gave me very explicit directions.  I am not sure if there was a going rate, but I dropped a two pound coin in his bank.  

You can get some idea of the interior from the photo above.  After all the travel and a martini, I wasn't in the best shape to review Pharaoh Sanders' performance, but I will say that I felt as though I had stepped into one of his live albums.  Sanders has two basic speeds: heartfelt ballad and tear the fabric of reality lion's claw.  I didn't hear the second, but I got a very delicious helping of the first.  Sanders opus also a pronounced spiritual dimension.  That was very evident in the several of the pieces his small band played.  

The Pharaoh is the real thing.  If you get a chance to see him, don't miss it.  I am glad to say that I did not miss it.  I just acquired Journey To The One, a "club classic," as the Penguin Guide calls it.  This 1979 recording sounds a lot like what I heard.  

I am playing the first two cuts: 'Greetings to Idris,' and 'Doktor Pitt'.  This is the basic band.  
It's all wonderful.  John Hicks shines especially bright and sparkly on piano.  Carl Lockett plays guitar on the first piece and Eddie Henderson plays flugelhorn on the second.  

Oh, and if you're in London and like jazz, pay Ronnie Scott a visit.  They make it easy to purchase tickets online.  Don't worry about finding it.  My friend on the street will direct you.