Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ella Fitzgerald - Ella in Hollywood (1961)



Ella in Hollywood is a live 1961 album by Ella Fitzgerald, with a jazz trio led by Lou Levy, recorded in Hollywood, Los Angeles. This album features Ella at the height of her vocal powers, one month before the recording of her most critically acclaimed studio album, Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie!. Ella in Hollywood features several songs that serve as starting points for Ella's seemingly effortless scat solos ("Take the 'A' Train" is considered one of her best scat performances on record), and a selection of beautiful ballads balance out the album. For many years, the album was only available on CD as a Japanese import, but in April 2009 Verve finally gave it a worldwide CD release.

There’s nothing rare about a joyous Ella Fitzgerald recording; the woman exuded joy in nearly every note she sang. Yet the level on these sessions soared higher and plumbed deeper. Gary Giddins, the veteran critic and author of “Jazz,” agrees. “This ranks on the top shelf of her live recordings,” he said. “It’s about as good as it gets.” The 1961 Crescendo gig, which took place from May 11 to 21 (with one night off), was booked as an afterthought to begin with, a time filler between a European tour that Fitzgerald and her quartet had begun in February and a monthlong stay at the Basin Street East in New York that June. Norman Granz took the unusual step of taping every set. But in the next year alone he and Fitzgerald recorded six studio albums, most of them with large orchestras, including two of her eight heavily promoted songbook albums, each devoted to standards by a prominent American composer. In this context it’s not so surprising that the Crescendo tapes received short shrift. “My guess,” Mr. Seidel said in a phone interview, “would be that Norman Granz was just recording Ella so much at the time, and was probably focused much more on her big studio projects.” Granz did pull 12 tracks from the roughly 14 hours of material recorded at the Crescendo and released them that year as an LP called “Ella in Hollywood.” But the album didn’t do well, perhaps because it sounded so strange. In between the songs, for reasons now unknown, someone spliced in loud applause that had been recorded in a large concert hall, making the whole album seem artificial. (The Crescendo was a nightclub of 200 seats). Whatever the reasons for the flat reviews and scant sales, the executives of Verve — which Granz had sold to MGM in 1960 — put the Crescendo tapes in the vault, where they were forgotten for the next 27 years (this refers to the 4-CD boxset also released by Verve in 2009).

Track listing:
1. "This Could Be the Start of Something Big" (Steve Allen) – 2:33
2. "I've Got the World on a String" (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler) – 3:44
3. "You're Driving Me Crazy" (Walter Donaldson) – 3:23
4. "Just in Time" (Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Jule Styne) – 1:56
5. "It Might as Well Be Spring" (Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers) – 3:07
6. "Take the "A" Train" (Billy Strayhorn) – 9:04
7. "Stairway to the Stars" (Matty Malneck, Mitchell Parish, Frank Signorelli) – 3:56
8. "(If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)" (Sam Coslow) – 4:05
9. "Satin Doll" (Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Strayhorn) – 2:53
10. "Blue Moon" (Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart) – 3:17
11. "Baby, Won't You Please Come Home?" (Charles Warfield, Clarence Williams) – 3:41
12. "Air Mail Special" (Charlie Christian, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Mundy) – 5:26

Personnel:
* Ella Fitzgerald - Vocals
* Wilfred Middlebrooks - Bass
* Lou Levy - Piano
* Gus Johnson - Drums
* Herb Ellis - Guitar

Recorded live, May 11- May 21, 1961, Hollywood, Los Angeles

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bill Frisell - Music for the Film of Buster Keaton - The High Sign ; One Week {Elektra Nonesuch 1995}



“The most inventive and compelling guitarist to emerge in more than a decade” (Oakland Tribune), composer/guitarist/bandleader Bill Frisell trains his unique compositional lens on the silent film works of 1920s comedic phenom Buster Keaton, forging Music for the Films of Buster Keaton: Go West and The High Sign / One Week, two remarkable recordings representing the sixth and seventh additions to Frisell's Nonesuch catalog.

Music for the Films of Buster Keaton provides a deeper look at Frisell’s longstanding fascination with Americana (also explored in his earlier Nonesuch releases This Land and Have a Little Faith). In a musical storytelling of the rises, falls and comedic/tragic mishaps of Buster Keaton’s most memorable screen personae, the voice of Frisell’s signature guitar presides conversing, pondering, scheming over vignettes of fluctuating rhythms, tempos and moods, weaving the particular atmosphere of placid tumult so intrinsic to Keaton’s work and life. After a New York City performance accompanying the films, the New York Times said, “Mr. Frisell’s scores perfectly balance the need to be abstract and the need to be literal ... [He has] recurring motifs that suggest the new American possibility of the time, motifs redolent of the sort of optimism heard in some country music, blues and jazz.”

Both Go West and The High Sign / One Week feature the Bill Frisell band, a tightly knit trio in which longtime collaborators Kermit Driscoll (bass) and Joey Baron (drums) flank Frisell’s inimitable fretwork, exhibiting a level of communication for which Frisell’s ensembles are renowned. Formed in 1986, the band often conspired with such notable talents as clarinetist Don Byron, trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, and accordionist Guy Klucevsek, among others. ”


Track Listing:
1 Introduction 0:37
2 The High Sign Theme / Help Wanted 0:42
3 Target Practice 1:16
4 The Blinking Buzzards 1:06
5 Good Shot / Swearing In / Shooting Gallery 2:30
6 Chase / Cop 5:45
7 The High Sign Theme / At the Home of August Nickel 1:10
8 Chase / Caught 3:21
9 The High Sign Theme 1:56
10 One Week Theme / The Wedding 0:27
11 Reckless Driving 1:39
12 Construction 0:49
13 Oh, Well / The Piano 3:12
14 Fight 2:05
15 Oh, Well / Bath Scene 1:42
16 Housewarming Party and Storm 2:32
17 One Week Theme / Aftermath 2:19
18 Here Comes the Train 0:44
19 Oh, Well 0:49

Personnel:
Bill Frisell, acoustic and electric guitars
Kermit Driscoll, acoustic and electric basses
Joey Baron, drums and percussion

Monday, December 28, 2009

Nikos Skalkottas (1904-49) Music For Violin And Piano



Nikos Skalkottas produced his abundant compositional legacy in virtual obscurity. Even some of his close colleagues and family members had no idea he was a composer. A half century after Skalkottas' early death, the Greek composer is finally getting his due. Gunther Schuller's Margun Music has published a significant handful of scores, while BIS continues what hopes to be an ongoing survey of his music. In certain respects, it's a miracle that the music has survived at all. Much of Skalkottas' prolific output only exists in manuscript; tracking it all down amounts to a detective job from hell. For instance, only the second movement survives from Skallkotas' first of four Violin Sonatinas recorded here. It's a three-minute curio that aptly can be described as "Schoenberg meets Samba".

Much of Skalkottas' music, in fact, evokes the lilting, cosmopolitan sound world of the composers who made up "Les Six", yet the grammar is thoroughly rooted in Schoenberg's gritty, uncompromising 12-tone lexicon. Hints of catchy melodies flicker in and out of thorny chordal bushes and spiky rhythmic cells. Skalkottas is fond of abrupt endings. Each of Sonata for Solo Violin's four movements, for example, concludes in midthought, as if the composer simply decided to stop in his tracks and give his feverish pen a rest.

While it makes programming and marketing sense to build a CD release around all the Skalkottas violin music, it's best to absorb these dense, quirky works in small doses. Start with the oddly engaging Little Chorale and Fugue, then proceed to the larger-scaled Fourth Sonatina. Then choose an encore from any of the five concluding miniatures at the end of the disc. Georgios Demertzis and Maria Asteriadou dive head first into this strange, insidiously original music, playing with ferocity and musicianly abandon. Powerful stuff. ~Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com

Track listing:

Sonata for Solo Violin (1925)
1. I. Allegro furioso, quasi Presto 2'33
2. II. Adagietto 2'42
3. III. Allegro ritmato 1'41
4. IV. Adagio - Allegro molto Moderato 5'40

Sonatina No.1 for Violin and Piano (1929)
5. II. Andantino 2'50

Sonatina No.2 for Violin and Piano (1929)
6. I. Allegro 2'13
7. II. Andante 2'20
8. III. Allegro vivace 2'01

Sonatina No.3 for Violin and Piano (1935)
9. I. Allegro giusto 2'55
10. II. Andante 5'06
11. III. Maestoso - Vivace 3'17

Sonatina No.4 for Violin and Piano (1935)
12. I. Moderato 3'26
13. II. Adagio 6'49
14. III. Allegro moderato 2'51

Little Chorale and Fugue (c.1936/37?)
15. Adagio 1'16
16. Moderato 1'40

17. March of the Little Soldiers (c. 1936/37?) 0'50

18. Nocturne (c. 1936/37?) 4'53

19. Rondo (c. 1936/37?) 1'18

20. Gavotte (1939) 1'36

21. Scherzo (c. 1940?) 2'22

22. Menuetto Cantato (c. 1940?) 2'14

personnel:

Georgios Demertzis, violin
Maria Asteriadou, piano

BIS CD-1024, 1999

ClassicsToday.com 10/10

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Stan Getz & Gerry Mulligan - Getz Meets Mulligan in Hi-Fi (1957){DCC GZS-1074 1995}



"This is the least satisfying of Gerry Mulligan's celebrated sax duet albums for Verve, but that's mainly because Getz and Mulligan switch instruments on the second half (a lame idea considering that Stan's sound on the tenor was as rare and unique as Mulligan's fluidity on the baritone). Thankfully, the CD reissue adds bonus cuts of them playing their respective horns..." sez a Mr. Nick Dedina reviewing this CD for Rhapsody.com.

Of course, we know better (or do we?) and will cherish this wonderful album for two reasons, the first one being playing the guess-who's-playing-the-bari-on-this-number and a more obvious one, i.e. the cracking enjoyment of listening to two of the greatest horn men in jazz at the peak of their artistic powers, happy holidays all...

Track Listing:
1. Let's Fall in Love
2. Anything Goes
3. Too Close for Comfort
4. That Old Feeling
5. This Can't Be Love
6. A Ballad
7. Scrapple from the Apple (bonus track)
8. I Didn't Know What Time It Was (bonus track)

Personnel:
Gerry Mulligan (tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone); Stan Getz (tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone); Lou Levy (piano); Ron Carter (bass); Stan Levy (drums)

Recorded Oct. 12, 1957 for Verve Records (monaural)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Johnny Hodges & Wild Bill Davis



This is a selection of some of the most memorable tracks from the many fast-selling LPs that Johnny Hodges and the organist Wild Bill Davis made together back in the good 'ole 1960's. Most of the material was written down by Hodges himself, sometimes in collaboration with one or another of his long-time associates in Duke Ellington's band and in two cases, "Hodge Podge" and "Harmony in Harlem", with the master himself. Several classics of easy-listening music such as Hash Brown and Wings and Things are included.

The latter, the longest track here, typifies the sort of performance that made the original releases so popular. Just as simple and direct is the more relaxed A&R Blues and in all cases the rapport between these masters is obvious. Davis sometimes uses his instrument with restraint, but he more often cuts loose, as in those many pieces where Hodges lays familiar blues phrases end to end with Davis blasting away behind him. Neither of them is afraid to repeat the same idea over and again, and on all tracks barring the ballads the rhythm sections keep up a heavy, absolutely unvarying beat, really driving things to the ground.

As should be expected there are no signs of hesitancy or inhibition in these performances, and that tells us a great deal about Hodges in the sense that he sounds completely different here from in the many sophisticated vehicles the Duke provided him with. The same goes for distinguished trombonist Lawrence Brown who plays along on several tracks. But it really is all down to Hodges and Davis who manage to make these pieces their own. Having heard these two play them, nobody would want to hear them played by anyone else.

Track listing:


1. Blue Hodge
2. Hodge Podge
3. Knuckles
4. Jones
5. I Cried for You
6. A&R Blues
7. Wings and Things
8. Peg o' my Heart
9. Spotted Dog
10.Blues for Madeleine
11.Rabbit Out of the Hat
12.Hash Brown
13.Harmony in Harlem
14.Blues o' Mighty

Various personnel, recorded between 1961-66, Verve 1988

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kenny Drew Trio - If You Could See Me Now (1974)



Born in New York City in 1928, Drew first recorded with Howard McGhee in 1949, and over the next two years recorded with Buddy DeFranco, Coleman Hawkins, Milt Jackson, Charlie Parker, Buddy Rich, and Dinah Washington. He then led many recording sessions throughout the 1950s, and appeared on John Coltrane's album Blue Train.

Along with several other American jazz musicians who went to Europe, in 1961 he moved to Copenhagen, Denmark. While he sacrificed much of the interest of the American jazz audience, he gained a wide following across Europe. Kenny Drew was a well known figure on the Copenhagen jazz scene, recording many sessions with the Danish bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen.

Kenny Drew and Dexter Gordon appeared onscreen in Ole Ege's theatrically released hardcore pornographic film Pornografi (1971), for which they composed and performed the score.

On his passing in 1993, Kenny Drew was interred in the Assistens Cemetery in Nørrebro, Copenhagen.

His son Kenny Drew, Jr. is also a jazz pianist.

If You Could See Me Now is the sequel album to Kenny Drew's most successful recording Dark Beauty (both for the Danish SteepleChase label). In fact, they were part of the same session as they were recorded a day apart (May 21 & 22 1974 respectively) and finds the trio in top form. Drew is expertly accompanied by Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen on bass and Albert "Tootie" Heath on drums.


Track Listing:

In Your Own Sweet Way
If You Could See Me Now
All Souls Here
I'm Old Fashioned
Prelude To A Kiss
This Is The Moment
Oleo

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Roy Ayers Ubiquity - Red Black & Green (1973)



The words versatile and multi-talented seem to damn vibraphonist/bandleader Roy Ayers with faint praise, but summing up a musician of this quality without going over the moon is a tough task. Known to the hip-hop generation as Icon Man of acid jazz, Roy Ayers roots extend deep into bop. He started playing with West Coast jazz ensembles back in the early Sixties when he was 22 or so, working with the likes of Chico Hamilton, Gerald Wilson and Hampton Hawes, among others. In 1966, he hooked up with jazz flutist Herbie Mann, and performed and recorded him for four years, most notably on Mann's Concerto Grosso In D Blues and Memphis Underground albums. By 1970, he was ready to move on, which he did with Mann's blessing and assistance. He formed the Roy Ayers Ubiquity, with an ever-changing cast that included saxman Sonny Fortune (who appears on this disc) and percussionists Billy Cobham and Alphonse Mouzon (who don't). Red Black & Green came along in 1973, at about midpoint in Ayers' Polydor career. He manages to straddle the line between jazz and soul quite comfortably, but that was an era (think Grover Washington Jr. and George Benson's CTI-era recordings) when the borders were fluid. The disc went Top 5 on the Billboard jazz chart, though it contains versions of such soul classics as Papa Was A Rolling Stone and Ain't No Sunshine.

Tracklisting:
1 Ain't No Sunshine 6:20
Written-By - Bill Withers
2 Henceforth 3:53
Written-By - Roy Ayers
Written-By, Co-producer - Myrnaleah Williams
3 Day Dreaming 5:32
Written-By - Aretha Franklin
4 Red Black & Green 4:43
Written-By - Edwin Birdsong , Roselle Weaver , Roy Ayers
5 Cocoa Butter 4:50
Written-By - Roy Ayers
6 Rhythms Of Your Mind 3:08
Co-producer - Myrnaleah Williams
Written-By - Dennis Davis
7 Papa Was A Rolling Stone 5:32
Written-By - Barrett Strong , Norman Whitfield

Credits:
Arranged By [Strings], Conductor [Strings] - William S. Fischer
Backing Vocals - Carol Smiley , Claudia Moore , Laverne Seabrook , Tamara Richardson , Victoria Haspedale , Wayne Garfield
Bass - Clint Houston , Emir Ksasan
Congas, Percussion - Billy King , Daniel Benzebulon
Drums, Vocals, Arranged By - Dennis Davis
Electric Piano, Piano - Harry Whitaker
Engineer - Buzz Richmond
Engineer [Remix] - Eddie Kramer
Guitar - Billy Nichols , Bob Fusco , David Barron
Producer - Jerry Schoenbaum
Saxophone [Soprano] - Sonny Fortune
Strings - Alfred Brown , Charles McCracken , Emanuel Brown , Gene Orloff , Kermit Moore , Selwart Clarke
Trombone - Garnett Brown
Trumpet - Charles Tolliver
Vibraphone, Vocals, Piano, Organ, Arranged By - Roy Ayers

Recorded at Electric Lady Studio N.Y.C.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bill Frisell - Music for the films of Buster Keaton - Go West


Amazon.com essential recording
Guitarist Bill Frisell's exploration of 20th-century Americana has led him to many places, but the films of silent-screen comedian Buster Keaton have been a special inspiration. What makes this "background" music so compelling is Frisell's ability to reimagine the particular landscape of Keaton's Wild West, its wide-open spaces and doomed humor. His compositional materials are almost minimalist. A few short melodies recur throughout, and the bass motif that appears with the brief "Box Car" appears again and again, in "Train," "Bullfight," "New Day," and "Cattle Drive," until it assumes the inexorable momentum of narrative. In his handling of these materials, Frisell is able to suggest a host of other musics (like the blues of "Card Game" and the dissonant near-flamenco of "Ambush") and a range of complex emotions. His then-regular partners make essential contributions: Kermit Driscoll provides rock-steady bass lines, while Joey Baron's creative use of percussion extends to using woodblocks for both humor and foreboding. Like Keaton, Frisell has the ability to take the expected, even the cliché, and make it resonate with subtle and sometimes disturbing dimensions. In the process, he has created a score that not only enriches the film but is able to stand on its own. For another Frisell take on Keaton, check out the shorter High Sign/One Week. --Stuart Broomer

For maximum enjoyment of this masterwork, one of course has to listen to the music while watching the film, he's in for an unforgettable trip, this 'soundtrack' works wonders on old Buster's antics carrying them to the late 20th century with aplomb -- kudos to these three master musicians then, and especially to Baron who propels the whole band.-- d3lta

Track listing

1. "Down on Luck" - 4:11
2. "Box Car" - 0:57
3. "Busy Street Scene" - 0:44
4. "Go West" - 1:00
5. "Train" - 3:06
6. "Brown Eyes" - 4:21
7. "Saddle Up!" - 2:41
8. "First Aid" - 0:51
9. "Bullfight" - 2:25
10. "Wolves" - 3:14
11. "New Day" - 5:27
12. "Branded" - 1:20
13. "Eats" - 1:13
14. "Splinter Scene" - 2:33
15. "Cattle Drive" - 4:36
16. "Card Game" - 5:03
17. "Ambush" - 4:02
18. "Passing Through Pasadena" - 1:52
19. "To The Streets" - 3:11
20. "Tap Dancer and Confusion" - 6:42
21. "Devil Suit" - 2:08
22. "Cops and Fireman" - 3:58
23. "That a Boy" - 1:31
24. "I Want Her" - 2:13

All compositions by Bill Frisell

* Recorded at Möbius Music, San Francisco 1995
Personnel

* Bill Frisell: acoustic and electric guitars
* Kermit Driscoll: acoustic and electric basses
* Joey Baron: drums and percussion

Label: Nonesuch

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tim Hagans & Marcus Printup - HubSongs - The Music of Freddie Hubbard


The Hub, of course, is Freddie Hubbard and although he doesn't play he's definitely at the center of this recording. Freddie picked and arranged the tunes, which are, save for one, all Hubbard originals. Hagans and Printup have both expressed their admiration for Hubbard's work and their delight in tackling his sometimes complex music is evident throughout. The bulk of the material is drawn from Hubbard's hard bop days at BlueNote and his jazz/funk output for the Atlantic label. Vincent Herring (alto), Javon Jackson (tenor), Benny Green (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Kenny Washington (drums) provide the twin trumpeters with "all-star" support. Green is most effective in a duo role with Hagans and Printup while Jackson gets to strut his stuff on "Thermo", a bop classic that dates back to Hubbard's tenure with Art Blakey. Herring is best heard on an intense performance of "Life Flight". The real stars of this date are, of course, Tim and Marcus. I'm betting that Freddie was thrilled by their crackling interplay and inventive improvisations on this terrific "tribute" CD. ~ John Sharpe @ allaboutjazz.com


Tracklisting:
1. Backlash
2. Happy Times
3. Hub Cap
4. Lament For Booker
5. On the que-Tee
6. Crisis
7. Byrd Like
8. Thermo
9. Up Jumped Spring
10. Life Flight

Release Date: Jan. 13, 1998
Recorded at Avatar Studio C, New York, New York on August 1 & 2, 1997
Produced & arranged by Freddie Hubbard
High-rez recording mastered from 20-bit sources

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Gil Evans Orchestra - Little Wing (Live 1978)



Let's stick to the '70s for a bit and this gem of a recording featuring Gil Evans and his superb group of soloists in an outstanding live set from 1978 consisting of reworkings in the unique Evans style. Every conceivable style is thrown in for good measure, the highlight of course being the superb rendition of Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing clocking a staggering 25 minutes. Absolutely essential listening.

Tracklisting:
1. Dr. Jeckyl (Jackle) 16:12
2. The Meaning of the Blues 9:04
3. Little Wing 25:09
4. For Bob's Tuba 9:58

The Gil Evans Orchestra consisting of:
Lew Soloff: trumpet, piccolo trumpet
Terumasa Hino: trumpet
Gerry Niewood: alto saxophone
George Adams: tenor saxophone, flute, percussion
Bob Stewart: tuba
Gil Evans: electric piano
Pete Levin: synthesizer
Don Pate: electric bass
Rob Crowder: drums

Recorded live in Germany, October 19, 1978

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Richard Davis - Now's the Time (1972)



Let's move into more adventurous musical territory: Chicago-born Davis (1930 - ) spent 23 years in New York City establishing himself as one of the world's premier bass players. Downbeat International Critics Poll named him Best Bassist from 1967-74. He has recorded a dozen albums as a leader and 2000 recordings/jingles as a sideman. Some of his performance/recording credits include Sarah Vaughan, Eric Dolphy, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Miles Davis Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Band, Dexter Gordon, Ahmad Jamal and a host of other notables. Davis is equally at home in the world of classical music, having played under the batons of George Szell, Leopold Stokowski, Igor Stravinsky, Pierre Boulez, Gunther Schuller, and Leonard Bernstein. His great versatility as a bassist keeps him in constant demand for worldwide concert appearances.

Now's the Time originally consisted of two side-long avant-garde jams on bebop standards in its LP form("Now's the Time" and "Epistrophy" which both clock in at over 22 minutes apiece), this live session was expanded upon its CD reissue with the inclusion of a version of Clifford Jordan's "Highest Mountain." Although tenor saxophonist Jordan, pianist Joe Bonner, drummer Freddie Waits and bassist Richard Davis were on the date, trumpeter Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson is the most dominant force, both as a player and in his conception of opening up the music. These very unpredictable renditions reward repeated listenings.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Pass, Ray Brown, Mickey Roker



In the autumnal phase of his recording career, Dizzy Gillespie was reunited with Jazz At The Philharmonic producer Norman Granz for a series of finely crafted recordings on his Pablo label (so named because Granz financed the label by selling off some of his valuable Picassos).

These later recordings are often mistakenly undervalued by critics, despite their superb production values, dynamic acoustic sound, and generally provocative mix of players and musical materials. DIZZY'S BIG 4 is one of the very best, featuring a dream team rhythm section that responds to all of Gillespie's virtuoso challenges, and then some. Ray Brown is one of the all-time greats, who startled the jazz world when he first emerged as Dizzy's bassist while still in his teens; drummer Mickey Roker is a commanding percussionist and long-time Gillespie collaborator, while guitarist Joe Pass is a stellar virtuoso, with a series of excellent recitals of his own on Pablo.

Gillespie is in a particularly puckish mood on these sessions. Where the youthful Gillespie might have ordinarily opted for more of the bravura pyrotechnics, represented herein by the relentlessly uptempo changes of "Be Bop (Dizzy's Fingers)," DIZZY'S BIG 4 is distinguished by the ballads "Hurry Home," "Russian Lullaby" and "September Song." Here the trumpeter's rich timbral shadings plumb deep new meaning from these familiar melodies. Most impressive is Dizzy's depth and range as a blues player, which further enlivens his improvisations on Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz," his own latin styled funk on "Frelimo" and the hard bopping "Birks Works."

Tracklisting:
1.Frelimo 8:06 (Gillespie)
2.Hurry Home 6:20 (Meyer/Emmerich/Bernier)
3.Russian Lullaby 6:46 (I. Berlin)
4.Be Bop (Dizzy's Fingers) 4:26 (Gillespie)
5.Birks Works 8:48 (Dizzy Gillespie)
6.September Song 2:45 (M. Anderson/K. Weill)
7.Jitterbug Waltz 6:49 (Fats Waller)

Personnel:
Dizzy Gillespie t
Joe Pass g
Ray Brown b
Mickey Roker d

Recorded at Cherokee Recording Studios, Hollywood, California on September 17 & 19, 1974. Originally released on Pablo (2310-719). Produced by Norman Granz.Includes liner notes by Benny Green.
Digitally remastered by Phil De Lancie (Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California).

Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie



Amazon.com essential recording
This 1977 date joins two jazz giants with contrasting approaches: Gillespie's explosive bop trumpet virtuosity and Basie's laconic piano style. The bare-bones quartet format--with the sterling rhythm team of bassist Ray Brown and drummer Mickey Roker--does nothing to conceal the differences, but it sets up a comfortable middle ground that accommodates swing and bop nuances alike. Differences apart, the co-leaders share infectious warmth, a deep feeling for the blues, and an absolute compulsion to swing. Basie's understatement triggers some of Gillespie's most thoughtful playing of his later career, developing long, intricate solos that combine harmonic exploration and direct, speechlike inflections, often with the distinctive burr of a harmon mute. The settings--two Gillespie tunes, the ancient "St. James Infirmary," and a series of impromptu collaborations--are casual, doing nothing to encumber the musicians in a session they're clearly enjoying. --Stuart Broomer

Tracklisting
1.Back To The Land 7:20
2.Constantinople 8:28
3.You Got It 5:21
4.St. James Infirmary 6:54
5.Follow The Leader 6:24
6.Ow 6:18

Personnel:
Count Basie p
Dizzy Gillespie t
Ray Brown b
Mickey Roker d

Recorded at Las Vegas Recording Studio, Las Vegas, NV; February 3, 1977 for Pablo Records. Produced by Norman Granz. Remastering 1996 - Phil De Lancie.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thelonious Monk Live at the It Club 1964



A lost Thelonious Monk treasure from the 60s -- a really open-ended live set recorded in LA in 1964, but not issued by Columbia until the early 80s -- making the package a wonderful re-discover of Monk's genius during these years! The tunes are much more freewheeling than some of the studio work cut by Monk's quartet at the time -- stretched out takes on Monkish favorites, played by Thelonious on piano, Charlie Rouse on tenor, Larry Gales on bass, and Ben Riley on drums -- all with plenty of room for extended solos. This wonderful 2CD package brings together the complete recordings from the show -- offering up many tracks in their full recorded versions, and adding in a few unreleased tracks too -- titles that include "Bemsha Swing", "Blue Monk", "Well You Needn't", "Misterioso", "Gallops Gallop", "Teo", "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You", "All The Things You Are", "Blues Five Spot", "Evidence", "Bright Mississippi", and "Nutty". Dusty Groove America

Recorded over two evenings in Los Angeles in 1964 and arranged in order, this recording presents the great Thelonious Monk at the peak of his considerable talents--and with his most enduring sidemen, including saxophonist Charlie Rouse and drummer Ben Riley. This version also restores 11 (!) cuts to their entirety (previous versions edited or offered shortened bass and drum solos). Aside from the now-complete versions of the set's songs, this It Club also offers three previously unreleased songs ("Teo," "Bright Mississippi," and "Just You, Just Me") and 20-bit digital remastering. The result is perhaps as close as we can come to a great-sounding complete show by one of the most fertile minds in the history of jazz. While not one of Monk's wilder live sessions, this set nonetheless effortlessly communicates the pianist's offbeat genius. From the first note, the sound (which thanks to the remaster, begs for high volume) is classic Monk: inquisitive right-hand chord exploration, thundering left-hand exclamations, and intoxicating runs up and down the keyboard fly from his fingers while the band gives him enough room so that every thought, strategy, and wild hare is allowed to range free. Highlights include an exquisitely gorgeous "I'm getting Sentimental over You", a spicy "Rhythm-A-Ning," and an uptempo "Bright Mississippi." With excellent liner notes by Bob Blumenthal and some new photos, this package rates as a must-buy for all Monkophiles. amazon.com

...Very little of his recorded legacy has more of the feeling of spontaneity and joy at music-making than this set, recorded in 1964.... Never before released in its entirety, the set contains 27 minutes of previously unreleased titles plus original tracks restored to their full length for the first time. BBC magazine

Tracklisting
Disc 1: Blue Monk; Well, You Needn’t; ‘Round Midnight; Rhythm-a-Ning; Blues Five Spot; Beshma Swing; Evidence; Nutty; Epistrophy (Theme).

Disc 2: Straight, No Chaser; Teo; I’m Getting Sentimental Over You; Misterioso; Gallop’s Gallop; Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-are; Bright Mississippi; Just You, Just Me; All The Things You Are; Epistrophy

Personnel
Thelonious Monk (piano)
Charlie Rouse (tenor sax)
Larry Gales (bass)
Ben Riley (drums)

Recorded live at the “It” Club, Los Angeles CA, on October 31st and November 1st 1964.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Billy Cobham



Coming to prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s with trumpeter Miles Davis and then with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Cobham is, in the words of critic Steve Huey, "generally acclaimed as fusion's greatest drummer," and "one of the best [drummers] in the world" with an influential style that combines explosive power and exacting precision.

This 1987 compilation documenting his Atlantic period ably demonstrates what a hell of a musician Cobham is (and a great guy speaking from personal experience). Snoopy's Search/Red Baron from his mega-hit Spectrum LP alone warrants the price of admission.

tracklisting

1 Quadrant 4 4:30
2 Snoopy's Search / Red Baron 7:39
3 Spanish Moss 4:08
4 Moon Germs 4:55
5 Stratus 9:50
6 The Pleasant Pheasant 5:11
7 Solo / Panhandler 4:06
8 Do What Cha Wanna 4:35

notes
Tracks 1,2 and 5 from Atlantic SD 7268 ''Spectrum'' LP.
Tracks 3 and 6 from Atlantic 7300 ''Crosswinds'' LP.
Track 4 from Atlantic 18121 ''Total Eclipse'' LP.
Track 7 from Atlantic SD 18149 ''A Funky Thide Of Sings'' LP.
Track 8 from Atlantic SD 18194 ''The Billy Cobham / George Duke Band Live'' LP.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Al Haig Plays the Music of Jerome Kern (1978)



Veteran bop survivor Al Haig plays four unaccompanied piano solos, has four duets with bassist Jamil Nasser, and backs singer and producer of this obscure album Helen Merrill on "They Didn't Believe Me." Although Jerome Kern did not care for jazz, his songs have long been viable vehicles for jazz improvisations, and Haig picked out some of the best ones for the date, including The Way You Look Tonight, All the Things You Are and The Song Is You.


Original LP cover

"...There is a curious sense of history revisited, or rewritten, in the release of this album by Al Haig. More than three decades ago, in 1947, Haig was a member of the large orchestra (woodwings, strings, French horns) conducted by Johnny Richards for a Dizzy Gillespie record session. The date was dedicated to Jerome Kern; in fact, two of the four songs recorded, The Way You Look Tonight and All the Things You Are are found in the present Haig collection.

As one of the first and most gifted pianists to become involved in the revolutionary new jazz of the period, Haig was in and out of the bebop scene for several years, working from time to time with big bands such as Charlie Barnet’s or Jimmy Dorsey’s, but also answering calls from Dizzy or Bird.

The present album finds Al in his element, provided with material from the long-prolific pen of Jerome Kern. Haig’s version of Yesterdays (introduced in a 1933 musical, Roberta) finds him in a reflective mood, with fills and ornamentations that are at times evocative of Art Tatum. It is interesting that even on the up tempo pieces such as I’m Old Fashioned, Al bears little resemblance to Bud Powell, who was generally accepted in his day as the pace-setting bebop pianists. The supple bass work on this and other tracks is by Jamil Nasser..." ~from the 1980 liner notes.



tracklisting:
The Way You Look Tonight
Yesterdays
Dearly Beloved
Can I Forget You
I'm Old Fashioned
All The Things You Are
The Song Is You
They Didn't Believe Me (Helen Merrill, vcl)
The Folks Who Live on The Hill


personnel: Al Haig (p), Jamil Nasser (b), Helen Merrill (vcl, producer)

rec Downtown Sound, NYC, 1978

Al Haig Quartet 1954



One of the finest pianists of the bop era (and one who learned from Bud Powell's innovations quite early), Al Haig was quite busy during two periods of his career but unfortunately was pretty obscure in the years between. After serving in the Coast Guard (playing in bands during 1942-1944) and freelancing around Boston, Haig worked steadily with Dizzy Gillespie (1945-1946), Charlie Parker (1948-1950), and Stan Getz (1949-1951); and was on many recordings, mostly as a sideman (including some classic Diz and Bird sessions) but also as a leader for Spotlite, Dawn, and Prestige. However (other than little-known dates in 1954 for Esoteric, Swing, and Period), Haig did not lead any more albums until 1974. He played fairly often during the 1951-1973 period, but was generally overlooked. That changed during his last decade, when he was finally recognized as a bop giant and recorded for Spotlite, Choice, SeaBreeze, Interplay, and several Japanese and European labels. ~ Scott Yanow, AMG.

Tracklisting:

1. Sweet Loraine (C.Burwell-M.Parish)
2. Tea For Two (V.Youmans-I.Caesar)
3. You Go To My Head (F.Coots-H.Gilespie)
4. You Stepped Out Of A Dream (Brown-Kahn)
5. Undecided (C.Shavers-S.Robin)
6. The Man I Love (G&I Gershwin)
7. Woodyn' You (D.Gillespie)
8. Stella By Starlight (Young-Washington)
9. Someone To Watch Over Me (G&I Gershwin)

Featuring: Al Haig (p), Benny Weeks (g), Teddy Kotick (b), Phil Brown (d)

Released September 1954

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Earl "Fatha" Hines with Coleman Hawkins and Roy Eldridge 1965



Earl "Fatha" Hines, a contemporary of Louis Armstrong, had been making musical history for four decades previous to recording this 1965 date at the Village Vanguard. It is beyond me why Hines is often "second fiddle" to lesser musicians in many texts and critiques of this music called Jazz. After all, he was present at the birth of Jazz as a musical art form; maybe second only to Jelly Roll Morton. His influence on musicians that came afterward (such as Art Tatum, Errol Garner and Nat Cole) cannot be denied. Why does he seldom show up on the short list of musicians in the Jazz pantheon?

I paid a small fortune for these two hidden gems; more than any other in my collection. But, the purchase has paid off in spades. What a dynamite performance by not only Hines but also elders Roy Eldridge and Coleman Hawkins. The program of standards is exemplary, the collaborative execution is exciting and the sound is superb for this live date. Add to this the wonderful liner notes detailing this trio's not so positive experience with Charles Mingus during the week at the Vanguard and you have a GREAT listening experience as well as a palatable history lesson. TEN STARS! (obviously) happy amazon customer

..This is one of the great feel-good jazz recordings of his or anyone's career. Hines plays it every way but safe here, taking outrageous harmonic and metric chances....It's one of Hawk's last superior performances...
JazzTimes (05/01/1996)

Tracklisting
DISC 1:
1. Portraits of Fats Waller: Keepin' Out Of Mischief Now / Two Sleepy People / Ain't Misbehavin' / The Jitterbug Waltz / Squeeze Me / Honeysuckle Rose
2. C-Jam Blues
3. Sunday
4. Broadway Medley: Baubles, Bangles And Beads / Tea For Two
5. Sweet Georgia Brown

DISC 2:
1. The Grand Terrace Medley: Breezin' Along With The Breeze / A Cottage For Sale / Fine And Dandy
2. Man I Love, The
3. Rosetta
4. Undecided
5. Just One More Chance - (previously unreleased)
6. Take the "A" Train

Album notes
Earl Hines Trio: Earl Hines (piano); George Tucker (bass); Oliver Jackson, Jr. (drums), Coleman Hawkins (tenor saxophone); Roy Eldridge (trumpet, flugelhorn)

Recorded live at The Village Vanguard, New York on March 14, 1965. Originally released on Limelight (86020, 86028) as two separate LPs. Includes liner notes by Dan Morgenstern, Ira Gitler and Chris Albertson.

Digitally remastered by Suha Gur (Polygram Studios).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Steve Coleman & Five Elements - Curves Of Life



When will Five Elements do a 'Live' recording?" When indeed - how about now! The Tao of Mad Phat (one of the previous Steve Coleman recordings) was recorded 'live' in a recording studio in front of an audience. According to Steve, "that recording (The Tao of Mad Phat) has a small club atmosphere to it, so when I got the opportunity to actually record in a club, I liked the idea a lot." Public response to 'The Tao' prompted the members of the band more eager to record a truly 'live' album.

While doing a very important grass roots style tour thru the west coast of the United States in the fall of 1994, Steve met with Jean-Paul Artero, owner of the club Hot Brass club in Paris (Artero happened to be in California at the same time). Jean-Paul had heard about a gig done in New York City earlier that year which featured several of Steve's groups in a series on the music of Steve Coleman. He approached Steve about doing this kind of thing at the Hot Brass in Paris. Coleman liked the idea so much that he approached BMG/RCA about recording at least some of the music. After a consideration, BMG France, in collaboration with BMG New York, decided to record all of the music that would be played during the band's 5 nights of performances at Hot Brass. The idea was to release the music on three separate CDs, each one representing one of Coleman's groups, and also to make the recordings available as a box set.

For this gig Steve chose to work with three of his groups - Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Steve Coleman and Metrics and Steve Coleman and The Mystic Rhythm Society. This last group had never been heard in Europe before these recordings were made. The musicians who contributed to this recording particularly liked the atmosphere at the Hot Brass club. The owners and workers of the club did everything possible to ensure the comfort of the performers and provide a nice atmosphere.

This recording, Curves of Life features Steve Coleman and Five Elements. The group had made eight recordings previously, five of these with BMG, so their identity has been well documented on recordings. But all of these recordings have been studio recordings and this recording captures the spirit of the music in an actual performance before an audience. The title refers to the way the music unfolds organically representing the growth patterns of living organisms. Steve has been in the process of studying this approach of creating music spontaneously for many years and he plans on using it as a basis for the future development of his music.

The band played as they normally would and was not overly concerned about the recording process. Even to the point of letting musicians in the audience sit in and participate in impromptu jams (David Murray's appearance on this recording was not planned, he just happened to be in Paris playing another gig and dropped by to see Steve perform). When the band plays a gig, they usually play whatever they feel at any given moment. None of the music is planned out ahead of time; the musicians don't have any idea what they are going to play themselves and in many instances play music that they had never conceived of before the moment of performance.. This meant that the recording engineers had to be alert and prepared for any sound (vocal or instrumental) that might come from the musicians. This situation is not normal but the engineers who recorded these concerts did a great job.

This album is part of a trilogy.

Volume 1:
Steve Coleman and The Mystic Rhythm Society
Myths, Modes and Means BMG 74321316922

Volume 2:
Steve Coleman and Metrics
The Way of the Cipher BMG 74321316902

Volume 3:
Steve Coleman and Five Elements
Curves of Life BMG 74321316932

Also available as a box set:
Steve Coleman's Music
Live at the Hot Brass BMG 74321316912

tracklisting:

1. Multiplicity Of Approaches (The African Way of Knowing) 15:34
2. Country Bama 19:12
3. The Streets 09:01
4. Round Midnight 07:06
5. Drop Kick Live 09:40
6. The Gypsy 03:46
7. I'm Burnin Up (Fire Theme) 13:40

personnel:

Steve Coleman (alto saxophone), Andy Milne (piano/keyboards), Reggie Washington (bass), and Gene Lake (drums).

Special guest:
David Murray (tenor saxophone) on "Country Bama" and "I'm Burnin Up". Sitting in on "I'm Burnin Up" are lyricists Black Indian, Sub-Zero and Kokayi.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wattstax (1973)



Wattstax is a 1973 documentary film by Mel Stuart that focused on the 1972 Wattstax music festival and the African American community of Watts in Los Angeles, California. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe award for Best Documentary Film in 1974. It was also screened at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, but wasn't entered into the main competition. The concert was held at the Los Angeles Coliseum on August 20, 1972, and organized by Memphis's Stax Records to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Watts riots. Wattstax was seen by some as "the Afro-American answer to Woodstock". To enable as many members of the black community in L.A. to attend as possible, tickets were sold for only $1.00 each. The Reverend Jesse Jackson gave the invocation, which included his "I Am - Somebody" poem, which was recited in a call and response with the assembled stadium crowd. In the film, interspersed between songs are interviews with Richard Pryor, Ted Lange and others who discuss the black experience in America.


Come Together - A Guitar Tribute to the Beatles (1993)



Legendary NY vibraphonist and producer Mike Mainieri gathered an amazing group of jazz guitarists to pay their respects to the masters of British pop. A real dream team in the likes of (in order of appearance) Mark Whitfield, Toninho Horta, Ralph Towner, Steve Khan, Zachary Breaux, Adrian Belew, John Abercrombie, Allan Holdsworth, Leni Stern, Larry Coryell and Toots Thielemans offer us their versions of Beatles standards in this very enjoyable (albeit romantic) set, enjoy.

Tracklisting

Come Together
She's Leaving Home
Here, There & Everywhere
Within You, Without You / Blue Jay Way
Eleanor Rigby
Blackbird
And I Love Her
Michelle
Norwegian Wood
Something
Yesterday

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nikos Skalkottas (1904-49) - Ballet Music for Piano



BIS' vividly titled The Land and the Sea of Greece takes its moniker from an inspired and lively ballet suite by that title dating from 1948; it, Island Images (1943), and The Maiden and Death (1938) constitutes all of the ballet music Greek composer Nikos Skalkottas produced for solo piano. It is played by a young Greek virtuoso, Lorenda Ramou, who also functions as one-half of Duo Palmós, which specializes in four-hand Greek piano music. This is the 16th disc in BIS' comprehensive series exposing the complete works of Skalkottas, the former Schoenberg student who was probably the greatest classical composer Greece produced in the twentieth century, little represented on recordings until BIS took up his cause in 1999.

The Maiden and Death is already recognized as a landmark work in Skalkottas' oeuvre, as it opens the door to what would prove the final chapter in Skalkottas' artistic development, a relaxation of his use of twelve-tone techniques in favor of more traditional, folk-derived motifs, nonetheless informed by his contact with serialism. The score for an orchestral version of The Maiden and Death, made by Skalkottas in the mid-'40s, has disappeared, so a reconstruction was made based on this piano version combined with old photographs taken of the missing orchestral score. The orchestral The Maiden and Death has already been recorded, but Ramou's performance here is the first of the piano original. Island Images was written for dancer Aleka Mazaraki-Katseli, then a student of Polyxeni Mathéy, whose work as a choreographer and ballet teacher proved the impetus that inspired much of the music here. There are some tiny photographs reproduced in the booklet of early performances of The Land and the Sea of Greece, one of which takes place on a barge mid-water off the Island of Aegina -- one wishes that these were easier to see.

Skalkottas' music is ruthlessly efficient, somewhat cold, and akin to Prokofiev's ballet music, although his musical style is unquestionably Greek and not Russian. It is also intense and brightly rhythmic; it is easy to see how well chiseled these creations were wrought for the dance. In these piano versions, however, it's rather hard for the sound of the music to avoid a certain "piano rehearsal" quality; that's pretty much what these scores were meant for. Nevertheless, Ramou projects the best aspects that the music has to offer, and it's a promising recording debut for her in addition to being a strong addition to Skalkottas' ever-expanding recorded catalog. ~ Uncle Dave Lewis, All Music Guide

Tracklisting
1-6 The Land and the Sea of Greece, ballet suite for piano 21:29
7-12 Island Images, ballet suite for piano 13:18
13-19 The Maiden and Death, ballet suite for piano 19:26
20 Procession to Acheron, ballet music for piano 4:23
21 Echo, ballet for Piano 4:11

Monday, October 26, 2009

Atlantic Jazz - Soul (1986)



An Atlantic Jazz slice of mostly '60s jazz-soul treats. Fittingly, the 11-track disc includes a side by one of the prime progenitors of soul, Ray Charles: He and MJQ vibraphonist, Milt Jackson, stretch out on the canonized "How Long Blues." Further expounding on the soul-jazz trajectory, the collection spotlights work by organist Shirley Scott (the Aretha Franklin hit "Think"), Les McCann and Eddie Harris (their classic Montreux Festival cut "Compared to What"), Yusef Lateef ("Russell and Elliot"), and Hank Crawford ("You're the One"). And there's even a bit of boogaloo-enhanced bossa, compliments of trumpeter Nat Adderley ("Jive Samba"). A nice introduction to the soul-jazz movement that superceded hard bop.



Track Listing

1. Think - Shirley Scott
2. Twist City - Matthew Gee, Johnny Griffin
3. How Long Blues - Ray Charles, Milt Jackson
4. Comin' Home Baby - Herbie Mann
5. Russell and Eliot - Yusef Lateef
6. Listen Here - Eddie Harris
7. With These Hands - Les McCann
8. Compared to What - Eddie Harris, Les McCann
9. You're the One - Hank Crawford
10. Jive Samba - Nat Adderley
11. Money in the Pocket - Joe Zawinul

Friday, October 23, 2009

Roy Ayers Live at Ronnie Scott's 1998



Captured back in 1988 within the intimate settings of London's legendary West End jazz haunt, Ronnie Scott's in Soho, Roy Ayers delivers big time his unique fusion of funk, jazz and soul -- topped by his trademark jazz vibe playing. The album includes infectious reworkings of such club classics as 'Running Away', 'Everybody Loves the Sunshine' and 'Cant You See Me'. (from the liner notes)

Indeed, this is a live set guaranteed to make everybody get up and start shakin' this booty as can be attested by embedded videos of this very set below. The participation of the late, great Zachary Breaux on guitar in this formidable band can only be regarded as a bonus and a fitting tribute.

Tracklisting:

1. The Spirit of Doo Do
2. I Wanna Touch You Baby
3. Everybody Loves the Sunshine
4. Fast Money
5. Battle of the Vibes
6. Can't You See Me
7. Running Away
8. Don't Stop the Feeling


Personnel:

Roy Ayers - vocals, vibraphone
Zachary Breaux - guitar
Errol Louis - Bass
Ben Peronsky - drums
Dwight Gassaway - percussion


Battle of the Vibes, where we get to meet Roy Ayers the stand-up comedian.


Running Away featuring a killer solo by Zachary Breaux, rip.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Roy Ayers Ubiquity - He's Coming (1972)



One of the rarest and greatest Roy Ayers albums of all time -- the sly, funky and spiritual masterpiece He's Coming from 1971 -- really the beginning of the funk years from Roy Ayers Ubiquity! This one's a totally solid mix of soulful jazz, jazzy soul and righteous funk -- and it's straight up wonderful all the way through -- with a groove that's hugely influential to say the least! Includes the amazing track "We Live In Brooklyn Baby", which has a slow sample bassline in the intro that's just incredible -- plus groovy cuts like the spiritual funk classic Jesus Christ Superstar "He's a Superstar", "He's Coming", and "Sweet Tears". The lineup includes Sonny Fortune on soprano sax and flute and Billy Cobham drums and percussion, and the record's co-arranged by Harry Whitaker, who's also on keys and vocals -- with other tracks include "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother", "Ain't Got Time", "I Don't Know How To Love Him", "Sweet Butterfly Of Love" and "Fire Weaver". Amazing stuff, really a beautiful encapsulation of Roy Ayers in peak form! ~Dusty Groove America

Tracklist
He's A Superstar
He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother
Ain't Got Time
I Don't Know How To Love Him
He's Coming
We Live In Brooklyn Baby
Sweet Butterfly Of Love
Sweet Tears
Fire Weaver

Credits
Electric Piano, Organ, Vocals - Harry Whitaker
Vibraphone, Organ, Vocals - Roy Ayers
Backing Vocals - Carol Smiley , Gloria Jones , Victoria Hospedale
Bass - John Williams, Ron Carter
Congas - Jumma Santos
Drums - David Lee, Jr.
Drums, Percussion - Billy Cobham
Guitar - Bob Fusco, Sam Brown
Soprano Sax, Flute - Sonny Fortune
Strings - Selwart Clarke
Engineer - Rudy Van Gelder

Polydor PD5022 1972

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Roy Ayers - Ubiquity (1970)



One of the greatest Roy Ayers albums of all time. The record is right in the same vein as Roy's groundbreaking He's Coming LP -- a righteous mix of soul jazz, subtle funk, and some of the cosmic wisdom that Roy was spreading among the jazz funk underground -- all wrapped up beautifully, but never in a way that's like commercial soul of the time. There's a few instrumental tracks on the album, plus some vocal ones that show that off-beat male/female style that Roy would use more famously in later tracks like "Everybody Loves The Sunshine" or his work with Ramp. Players include Harry Whitaker on electric piano, Edwin Birdsong on organ, Alphonse Mouzon on drums, Jumma Santos on congas -- and titles include a version of Nat Adderley's "Hummin", done as "Hummin In The Sun", and very much in the Ramp vein. Also features instrumental cuts "The Fuzz", which has Roy's vibes toned way up, and the cool mellow "The Painted Desert", a really offbeat slow jazz number. The group also does a great job with Edwin Birdsong's "Pretty Brown Skin", picking up the song as a really anthemic groover that gives the record a nice kick. ~Dusty Groove America

Tracklisting

1. Pretty Brown Skin
2. Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head
3. I Can't Help Myself
4. Love
5. The Fuzz
6. Hummin'
7. Can You Dig It?
8. Painted Desert
9. He Gives Us All His Love


LP 58496 Polydor, 1971

Roy Ayers Ubiquity - Virgo Red (1973)



Despite contributions from an abundance of soul-jazz greats including Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jimmy Owens, and Garnett Brown, VIRGO RED is the most stripped-down and nuanced of Roy Ayers's Ubiquity LPs. Its sinuous funk grooves are first and foremost a showcase for the intuitive interplay of Ayers and electric keyboardist Harry Whitaker, whose Fender Rhodes fill-ins orbit Ayers's vibes solos like a planet circling the sun. The material is a crazy quilt of righteously soulful originals and deeply funky covers spanning Leroy Hutson's soul classic "Giving Love" to Stories' soft-pop smash "Brother Louie" to absolute treacle like THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE's "The Morning After"--by all rights it shouldn't work, but as the astrological overtones winding through VIRGO RED attest, sometimes the stars align.

1. Brother Louie
2. Virgo Red
3. I Am Your Mind
4. The Morning After
5. Love From The Sun
6. It's So Sweet
7. Giving Love
8. Des Nude Soul

Baritone Vocals - Argerie Ayers , Arthur Clark , Denise Bridgewater* , Leslie Carter (2) , Seldon Powell , Willie Michael
Bass - David Johnson (2) , Gordon Edwards
Congas, Bongos, Vocals - Chano O'Ferral
Drums, Percussion - Dennis Davis
Guitar - Dennis Heaven , Will Hawes
Percussion - Adrian Dey , Stephen Sadiz Shbazzberrios
Piano, Electric Piano, Organ - Harry Whitaker
Producer - Jerry Schoenbaum
Sitar [Electric Sitar] - Jerry Friedman
Trombone - Garnett Brown
Trumpet - Cecil Bridgewater , Jimmie Owens
Vibraphone, Organ, Vocals, Percussion - Roy Ayers
Vocals - Dee Dee Bridgewater

Recorded at Electric Lady Studios, New York, July 1973

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Material - Hallucination Engine (1993)




Praising Hallucination Engine as a postmodern Bitches Brew may seem mad, but Material bassist-composerguru Bill Laswell risks a maneuver akin to the one Miles Davis pulled off with his 1969 trailblazer: fusing disparate sounds into one groovy om of exhilaration and release. For sonic gorgeousness, funky trance states and technical bravado, this bid is the boldest.

In fact, the array of guest musicians is more diverse than ever: Trilok Gurtu, Jonas Hellborg, Zakir Hussain, Bootsy Collins -- the list goes on and on and even includes William Burroughs (who intones a hilarious list of "Words of Advice" over a churning mid-tempo funk groove). In his ambient mode, Laswell has been accused of turning too little music into too much track length, and there's some justice to those criticisms; here, "Black Light" and the unbelievably well-named "Eternal Drift" both plod along for far too long with far too little development. But that William Burroughs track kicks in just as you're about to fall asleep, and it's followed immediately by a very funky and very jazzy remix of "Cucumber Slumber." "The Hidden Garden/Naima" proposes an interesting juxtaposition of Arabic pop song and modal jazz, with dramatic and beautiful results, while "Shadows of Paradise" brings the album to a close with a gentle whimper, not a bang.

* Arranged By - Bill Laswell
* Bass - Bill Laswell , Bootsy Collins , Jonas Hellborg
* Chatan, Congas, Percussion - Aiyb Dieng
* Daff, Tambourine - Michael Baklouk
* Drums [Kit] - Sly Dunbar
* Engineer - Martin Bisi , Oz Fritz , Robert Musso
* Ghatam - Vikku Vinayakram
* Guitar, Sitar, Baglama - Nicky Skopelitis
* Mastered By - Howie Weinberg
* Ney - Jihad Racy
* Oud - Simon Shaheen
* Piano [Electric], Organ [Hammond B-3] - Bernie Worrell
* Producer - Bill Laswell
* Qanoum - George Basil
* Sampler, Programmed By [Beats, Loops] - Bill Laswell
* Saxophone [Tenor, Soprano] - Wayne Shorter
* Synthesizer - Jeff Bova , Nicky Skopelitis
* Tabla - Trilok Gurtu , Zakir Hussain
* Violin - Shankar , Simon Shaheen
* Voice - Fahiem Dandan , Liu Sola , William S. Burroughs

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bill Ware · Marc Ribot - Dir Duke (2001)



Vibraphone demon Bill Ware and guitar wizard Marc Ribot both have well deserved reputations as doyens of the downtown avant jazz scene, players capable of pushing the music into uncharted territory. Thus, it's doubly surprising when the pair decide to not only collaborate on a duet album of Duke Ellington tunes, but to honor the Duke's work with some of the most straight-ahead playing in either man's career. There are no radical deconstructions going on here, as Ware and Ribot take on some of the most beloved gems in the Ellington catalog. Instead, there's a respectful adherence to the original melodic/harmonic framework of the tunes. The most striking aspect of the arrangements comes from the strict duo format of the album, which necessitates use of space, subtle dynamics, and a modern kind of minimalism. After listening to SIR DUKE, no one ever need wonder again about the old-school chops of these two warriors on the edge of jazz.

Recorded at Studio 900, New York.

Personnel: Bill Ware (vibraphone); Marc Ribot (guitar).

Track listing:
1. C Jam Blues
2. I Got It Bad
3. In a Sentimental Mood
4. Mood Indigo
5. It Don't Mean a Thing
6. Solitude
7. Caravan
8. Come Sunday
9. Take the -A- Train
10.Sophisticated Lady


CMJ (10/1/01, p.21) - "...The feel is like a late-night jam between friends out to prove nothing....The choice of material is non-stop Ellilngton, but the tunes take on a new life of their own..."
Down Beat (1/02, pp.73-4) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...A straight, down-the-middle homage to Ellington....a warm, very melodic and sympathetic collection..."
JazzTimes (5/02, pp.141-2) - "...A disc of bright, light music in the form of duets...it's all clever, pleasant music."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ella Fitzgerald Sings the A. C. Jobim Songbook (1981)



Ella Abraça Jobim or Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook is a 1981 studio album by Ella Fitzgerald, devoted to the songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim.

It was reissued on CD in 1991 (found here), although the CD version does not include the songs "Don't Ever Go Away" and "Song of the Jet".

Though it is subtitled as such, this album is not usually considered part of Fitzgerald's 'Songbook' series, the last of the 'Songbook' albums having been recorded in 1964.

It was Fitzgerald's first album of music devoted to a single composer since 1972's Ella Loves Cole, and it was her only album recorded entirely in the Bossa Nova style, though she had been singing Jobim's songs since the mid 1960's.

Fitzgerald never worked with Antonio Carlos Jobim, though she appeared alongside Frank Sinatra for a 1967 television special that also featured Jobim.

Ella Abraça Jobim translates (with a pun) as 'She Hugs Jobim' (Ela Abraça Jobim) in Portuguese.

Track listing

1. "Somewhere in the Hills" (Favela) (Vinícius de Moraes, Ray Gilbert) – 3:56
2. "The Girl from Ipanema" (de Moraes, Norman Gimbel) – 3:50
3. "Dindi" (Ray Gilbert, Aloysio Oliveira) – 6:37
4. "Desafinado" (Off Key) (Jesse Cavanaugh, Jon Hendricks, Newton Mendonça) – 3:41
5. "Water to Drink" (de Moraes, Gimbel) – 2:44
6. "Dreamer (Vivo Sonhando)" (Gene Lees) – 4:55
7. "Corcovado" (Lees) – 5:40
8. "Bonita" (Gilbert, Lees) – 2:50
9. "One Note Samba" (Mendonça, Hendricks) – 3:51
10. "Don't Ever Go Away (Por Causa de Voce)" (Gilbert, Dolores Duran) - 2:52
11. "Triste" – 4:07
12. "How Insensitive" (de Moraes, Gimbel) – 3:00
13. "He's a Carioca (Ele É Carioca)" (de Moraes, Gilbert) – 5:14
14. "This Love That I've Found (Só Tinha de Ser Com Você)" (Oliveira) – 5:17
15. "A Felicidade" (de Moraes) – 2:19
16. "Wave" – 5:22
17. "Song of the Jet (Samba Do Avião)" (Lees) – 3:40
18. "Photograph" (Fotografia) (Gilbert) – 3:49
19. "Useless Landscape (Inútil Paisagem)" (Gilbert, Oliveira) – 7:59

All songs composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim, with lyricists indicated.

Personnel

Recorded September 17-19, 1980, March 18-20, 1981 Hollywood, Los Angeles:

* Ella Fitzgerald - Vocals
* Clark Terry - Trumpet
* Zoot Sims - Tenor Saxophone
* Toots Thielemans - Harmonica
* Henry Trotter - Keyboard
* Mike Lang
* Clarence McDonald
* Joe Pass - Guitar
* Oscar Castro-Neves
* Paul Jackson
* Mitch Holder
* Ronald Bautiste
* Abraham Laboriel - Double Bass
* Alex Acuña - Drums
* Paulinho da Costa - Percussion

Pablo records, 1981

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Danny Gatton - 88 Elmira St. (1991)


This album is nothing short of a complete celebration of the electric guitar. Danny Gatton (1945-1994) was part fierce monster and part teddy bear. His playing style suggests bits of Dick Dale, bits of Chet Atkins, and traces of everything in between. During up-tempo numbers, Gatton could rip the roof off. His ballads and quiet moments never failed to draw tears. 88 ELMIRA ST. marked his debut on a major label after a handful of small-label releases.

The half-dozen originals among 88 ELMIRA ST's eleven tracks are more than simple vehicles for Gatton's soloing. He is ably backed by his regular quartet, and each number shows sharp character and a sense of style. Gatton's rapid-fire runs on such pieces as "Funky Mama" are balanced by the subtler pleasures of his version of The Beach Boys' "In My Room." Sadly, Gatton was even more troubled than Brian Wilson, and the guitarist took his own life four years after the release of this album.

Live RecordingRolling Stone (4/4/91) - 3 Stars - Good "...Gatton is essentially a pre-rock-era guitarist...a glorious anachronism."
Musician (3/91) - "Gatton isn't interesting for what he plays, so much as the way he plays it. Meaning there's little on this album that you haven't heard done a million times before, and nothing you've heard done better."

tracklisting:

1. Funky Mama 5:41
2. Elmira St. Boogie 4:06
3. Blues Newburg 4:11
4. Quiet Village 4:52
5. Red Label 5:06
6. In My Room 4:50
7. The Simpsons 3:16
8. Muthaship 4:40
9. Pretty Blue 6:10
10. Fandingus 3:08
11. Slidin' Home 4:58

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Luiz Bonfa - O Violao e o Samba (1962)


Luiz Floriano Bonfá (October 17, 1922 - January 12, 2001) was a Brazilian guitarist and composer best known for the compositions he penned for the film Black Orpheus.

Bonfá was born on October 17, 1922 in Rio de Janeiro. He began teaching himself to play guitar as a child; he studied in Rio with Uruguayan classical guitarist Isaías Sávio from the age of twelve. These weekly lessons entailed a long, harsh commute by rail and on foot from his family home in the western rural outskirts of Rio de Janeiro to the teacher's home in the hills of Santa Teresa. Given Bonfá's extraordinary dedication and talent for the guitar, Sávio excused the youngster's inability to pay for his lessons.

Bonfá first gained widespread exposure in Brazil in 1947 when he was featured on Rio's Rádio Nacional, then an important showcase for up-and-coming talent. He was a member of the vocal group Quitandinha Serenaders in the late 1940s. Some of his compositions were recorded and performed by Brazilian crooner Dick Farney in the 1950s. It was through Farney that Bonfá was introduced to Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, the leading songwriting team behind the worldwide explosion of Brazilian jazz/pop music in the late 1950s and 1960s. Bonfá collaborated with these and with other prominent Brazilian musicians and artists in productions of de Moraes' anthological play Orfeu da Conceição, which several years later gave origin to Marcel Camus' legendary film "Black Orpheus" (Orfeu Negro in Portuguese). In the burgeoning days of Rio de Janeiro's thriving jazz scene, it was commonplace for musicians, artists, and dramatists to collaborate in such theatrical presentations. Bonfá wrote some of the original music featured in the film, including the numbers "Samba de Orfeu" and his most famous composition, "Manhã de Carnaval" (translated to English as "A Day in the Life of a Fool"), which has been among the top ten standards played worldwide, according to The Guinness Book of World Records.

As a composer and performer, Bonfá was at heart an exponent of the bold, lyrical, lushly orchestrated, and emotionally charged samba-canção style that predated the arrival of João Gilberto's more refined and subdued bossa nova style. Jobim, João Donato, Dorival Caymmi, and other contemporaries were also essentially samba-canção musicians until the sudden, massive popularity of the young Gilberto's unique style of guitar playing and expressively muted vocals transformed the music of the day into the music of the future. Camus' film and Gilberto's and Jobim's collaborations with American jazzmen such as Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd did much to bring Brazilian popular music to the attention of the world, and Bonfá became a highly visible ambassador of Brazilian music in the United States beginning with the famous November 1962 Bossa Nova concert at New York's Carnegie Hall.

Bonfá lived in the USA from the early 1960s until 1975. He worked with American musicians such as Quincy Jones, George Benson, Stan Getz, and Frank Sinatra, recording several albums while in United States. Elvis Presley sang a Bonfá composition, "Almost in Love", in the 1968 MGM film "Live a Little, Love a Little". Bonfá remained well-connected in the US after returning to Brazil, but his profile receded into relative obscurity during his final decades. His last album, 1997's "Almost in Love", was a collaboration with Brazilian singer Ithamara Koorax.

Bonfá died in Rio de Janeiro on January 12, 2001 from prostate cancer complicated by ischemia. He was 78 years old.

In 2005, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings released an album of Bonfá's work, entitled, "Solo in Rio 1959", which included previously unreleased material from the original recording session.

In 2008, Universal Music France released a coffee table book containing two CDs which included previously unreleased material of "Black Orpheus" soundtrack, and a DVD. Also in 2008, Universal Music released "The Brazilian Scene" , "Braziliana" and "Black Orpheus" celebrating the 50th anniversary of the bossa nova.

Bonfá's major legacy continues to be his compositions from the "Black Orpheus" soundtrack, most notably the instantly recognizable bossa nova classic "Manhã de Carnaval." But Bonfá's huge discography also attests to his uniquely inventive mastery of Brazilian jazz guitar. Bonfá's guitar style was brassier and more penetrating than that of his major contemporary, João Gilberto, and Bonfá was a frequent and adept soloist whereas Gilberto plays his own suave, intricate brand of rhythm guitar almost exclusively. Bonfá often played solo guitar in a polyphonic style, harmonizing melody lines in a manner similar to that made famous by Wes Montgomery in the USA, or playing lead and rhythm parts simultaneously. As a composer and as a guitarist, Bonfá played a pivotal role in bridging the incumbent samba-canção style with the innovations of the bossa nova movement. (wikipedia)

Tracklisting:

01. Inquietação (2:27)
02. Nossos Momentos (2:35)
03. Meu Nome é Ninguém (1:45)
04. Lamento No Morro (2:10)
05. Pastorinhas (2:40)
06. Voce Chegou Sorrindo (2:26)
07. Murmúrio (2:31)
08. Liberdade Demais (1:56)
09. Amor Em Brasilia (2:19)
10. Saudade Da Bahia (Longing For Bahia) (2:30)
11. Copacabana (2:03)
12. Amor De Solidão (2:43)

amazing Japanese fan's link featuring Bonfa's prodigious recorded output can be found here:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

John Mayall - Jazz Blues Fusion (1972)



Superb 1972 live offering from British blues legend John Mayall throwing in some Clifford Jordan-style jazz for good measure expertly aided by trumpet giant Blue Mitchell in one of their classic collaborations.

personnel:

john mayal
blue mitchell
clifford solomon
larry taylro
freddie robinson
ron selico

rec. 1972

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

John Zorn's Masada - Live in Middelheim (1999)




Every album by John Zorn's Masada seems better than the last, and this one is no exception. By the time of this recording the group was a tightly cohesive unit, performing at an extremely high and satisfying level, with Zorn and Douglas playing comfortably at a blistering pace. The songs are tinged with hints of Eastern European harmony, but the heat generated, while perhaps related to the raucous dancing at a Jewish wedding, is firmly rooted in the ways of Avant Garde Jazz. Zorn takes some of his best solos on disk, sounding like silly putty on speed, while the more proper Dave Douglas lags only slightly behind. With a recording time nearing eighty minutes, and substantial contributions from the entire quartet, the recording marks not so much a milestone in the life of the group as a symbol of its ability to constantly expand upon itself and draw on its not inconsequential roots, proving again that you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy Jewish-tinged culture. ~ Steven Loewy, All Music Guide

In addition to Mr. Lowey's very knowledgeable review, I have to say that this is one of the best jazz albums in recent years, it grabs you by the balls and never lets go, enjoy. ~d3lta

track listing:

1. Nevuah
2. Sippur
3. Hath-Arob
4. Kedushah
5. Ne'eman
6. Karet
7. Kochot
8. Piram
9. Paran
10. Ashnah
11. Tahah

personnel:

john zorn as
dave douglas t
greg cohen b
joey baron d

rec. 1999

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bobby Broom - Modern Man (2001)



Guitarist Bobby Broom has been playing profesionally for more than 30 years. He's worked, with Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Dr. John, Art Blakey, Kenny Burrell, Charles Earland et al. Modern Man brings to mind the urgent, smoking energy of a young, unbridled George Benson, circa 1966's Cookbook. Indeed, fire-breathing baritone sax ace Ronnie Cuber and Hammond B-3 marvel Dr. Lonnie Smith - both key elements of that ferocious mid-60's Benson quartet - are both aboard here to ignite the fire beneath Broom's guitar in a set so diverse that it even includes pop-funk standards as Stevie Wonder's Superstition and Eric Clapton's rock anthem Layla. Great stuff.

Tracklisting:

1. Dance For Osiris
2. Ponta Grossa
3. Superstition
4. Mo'
5. I'll Never Fall in Love Again
6. Blues For Modern Man
7. Old Devil Moon
8. A Peck A Sec
9. After Words
10.Layla



personnel:

Bobby Broom - guitar

Dr. Lonnie Smith - Hammond B-3 organ

Ronnie Cuber - baritone sax

Idris Muhammad - drums

rec 2000

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Paul Bley Quartet w/J. Surman B. Frisell P. Motian (1988)



This 1988 release was the second by this quartet (Fragments, their first, was released two years earlier). The set features compositions written by each of the players, with two contributions from Bley. The ensemble is well matched and the absence of a traditional rhythm section allows the musicians to play in and around open spaces (an approach in keeping with the group members' own releases). Bill Frisell's long and lingering notes peek out from behind Bley's piano, while John Surman's reeds wrap the whole in a rich, gauzy cloth. All the while drummer Paul Motian plays his kit with the quiet majesty of volcanic ash settling onto horizontal surfaces. Recorded in Norway at one of the producer's preferred studios, the sonic clarity is gorgeous (a hallmark of ECM releases). The title of Bley's "Interplay" invokes the key word that makes this music work so well.

track listing:

Interplay
Heat
After Dark
One In Four
Triste

personnel:

Payl Bley piano
John Surman soprano sax bass clarinet
Bill Frisell guitar
Paul Motian drums

Recorded at Rainbow Studio, Oslo, Norway in November 1987 ECM 1365

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Paul Bley - Films · Jazz 'n (e)motion



Sumptuous out-of-print solo Bley offering from RCA France's 1997 Jazz 'n (e)motion series where this master of understatement takes a peek at favorite film themes that have entered the jazz canon in the form of standards. Exquisite stuff.

track listing:

Laura
All The Things You Are
As Time Goes By
I Got Rhythm
Someday My Prince Will Come
What Is This Thing Called Love
It Might As Well Be Spring
Married Alive

Paul Bley - piano

rec. Paris 1997