Jazz CDs Pt. 1 - November 2001

The one and only Ornette Coleman was signed to Columbia only briefly in the early Seventies, but he managed to get a near-total cross-section of his musical concerns on tape in that time. Now Legacy has done the right thing and compiled The Complete Science Fiction Sessions, a double-CD set that collates the original Science Fiction album and another Lp of afterthoughts called Broken Shadows, adding three new masters to the canon in the process (An alternate take of "Street Woman," an alternate mix of "Civilization Day," and the previously unissued "Written Word.") By gathering all of his significant collaborators for a widely varied program that included flat out swingers like the exhilarating septet version of "Happy House" or "School Work" (another reworking of the melody that became "Theme From A Symphony"), unique melodic songs like "Broken Shadows" or "Law Years," vocal features (Asha Puthli on "What Reason Could I Give" and "All My Life'" Webster Armstrong on "Good Girl Blues" and "Is It Forever"), and experiments with poetry and with extended instrumentation featuring guitarist Jim Hall on Armstrong's features, Coleman made the most of his contract and crafted a set of pieces that summed up his career to that date while simultaneously pointed out new directions for his music. The absolute highlights for me are the first four tracks of disc 2 featuring the double drumming of Billy Higgins and Ed Blackwell, but instrumental high points abound, with lots of powerful work from the masterful Charlie Haden throughout. Often magnificent music, very well presented. (Columbia/Legacy C2K 63569; Collective personnel: Ornette Coleman (as, t, vln) Don Cherry (pocket t) Bobby Bradford, Carmine Fornarotto, Gerard Schwartz (t) Dewey Redman (ts, musette) Jim Hall (g) Cedar Walton (p) Charlie Haden (b) Billy Higgins, Ed Blackwell (d, perc) David Henderson (poet) Asha Puthli, Webster Armstrong (v) plus unidentified fl, cl, oboe, bassoon, Fr hn on *; NYC, September 7-10, 13, 1971; Disc One (60:57): WHAT REASON CO LD I GIVE/ CIVILIZATION DAY/ STREET WOMAN/ SCIENCE FICTION/ ROCK THE CLOCK/ ALL MY LIFE/ LAW YEARS/ THE JUNGLE IS A SKYSCRAPER/ SCHOOL WORK/ COUNTRY TOWN BLUES/ STREET WOMAN (alternate take)#/ CIVILIZATION DAY (alternate mix#). Disc Two (47:57): HAPPY HOUSE/ ELIZABETH/ WRITTEN WORD#/ BROKEN SHADOWS/ RUBBER GLOVES/ GOOD GIRL BLUES*/ IS IT FOREVER*. (Tracks marked # are previously unreleased.)

- Stuart Kremsky

 

One part of his work not documented during the Science Fiction sessions was Coleman's writing for orchestras. Skies Of America, with Coleman performing with the London Symphony Orchestra, was his other Columbia release, 40 minutes of pretty melodies expressing complexly with dramatic string writing most often set against a pulse established by the percussion. Due to an assortment of problems, this is not exactly the music that Coleman envisioned when he began the project. Union hassles forced the cancellation of a British concert, and caused changes of form for the music to reflect the practical realities of the situation; technical considerations required the elimination of two movements. Still, the music that made it to record is as progressive today as it was on its premiere in 1972. The singular flavor of a wailing Coleman on alto saxophone with a string background is not to be missed by fans of this key figure in modern American music. (Columbia/Legacy CK 63568; Ornette Coleman (as on *) London Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Measham; London, England, April 17-20, 1972; SKIES OF AMERICA PART ONE (SKIES OF AMERICA/ NATIVE AMERICANS/ THE GOOD LIFE/ BIRTHDAYS AND FUNERALS/ DREAMS/ SOUNDS OF SCULPTURE/ HOLIDAY FOR HEROES/ ALL OF MY LIFE/ DANCERS/ THE SOUL WITHIN WOMAN/ THE ARTIST IN AMERICA*)/ SKIES OF AMERICA PART TWO (THE NEW ANTHEM/ PLACE IN SPACE/ FOREIGNER IN A FREE LAND*/ SILVER SCREEN*/ POETRY*/ THE MEN WHO LIVE IN THE WHITE HOUSE*/ LOVE LIFE*/ THE MILITARY/ JAM SESSION*/ SUNDAY IN AMERICA); 41:13)

 

Forest Flowers is compiled from three albums that master bassist Richard Davis made for Muse in the late Seventies, selected to showcase Davis' gorgeous and penetrating arco sound (Bill Lee's "Monica" or Billy Strayhorn's "Passion Flower") as well as his dancingly deft pizzicato on tunes like Strayhorn's "Take The 'A' Train" or Lee's madly swinging "Baby Sweets." A tasty set that includes a wonderful bass/tenor sax duet with Joe Henderson on "On The Trail." (32 Jazz 32208; Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson (t) James Spaulding (as, fl) Consuela Moore (p) Ted Dunbar (g) Richard Davis, Bill Lee (b) Freddie Waits or Billy Hart* (d); NYC, May 3 & 16, 1977; FOREST FLOWER/ TAKE THE 'A' TRAIN*/ PASSION FLOWER/ A THIRD AWAY*/ WIND FLOWER; Chick Corea (p) Sam Brown (g) Davis, Lee (b) Sonny Brown (d) Frankie Dunlop (perc); date and location not specified; DEAR OLD STOCKHOLM/ MONICA/ THE RABBI/ BABY SWEETS; Eddie Henderson (t) Joe Henderson (ts) Stanley Cowell (p) Davis (b) Billy Cobham (d); Berkeley, CA, June 30 & July 1, 1977; ON THE TRAIL/ I'M OLD FASHIONED/ SONG OF GRATITUDE; 63:04)

- Stuart Kremsky

Stalwart bassist Sam Jones led a number of tasty medium size bands over the years for record dates on Riverside, Interplay, and Muse. Something In Common features a sextet on the first six tracks, with a Jazz Messengers feel, powered by Jones and his section mate, smilin' Billy Higgins on drums. They kick it off with a Jones' original, the modal "Seven Minds," featuring a hot piano solo from Cedar Walton. The pianist contributes two of his hip tunes to the proceedings, including his well-known "Bolivia," heard here in a cool finger-snapping tempo that makes for a fine demonstration of Jones' mighty sense of swing. A very solid and easily enjoyable date, as enjoyable now as it was when it came out in 1978 as Muse 5149. The CD is rounded out with three sparkling trio tunes from a live Cedar Walton session for the label (Firm Roots, Muse 5059). Easily recommended. (32 Jazz 32217; Blue Mitchell (t) Slide Hampton (tbn) Bob Berg (sax) Cedar Walton (p) Sam Jones (b) Billy Higgins (d); NYC, September 13, 1977; SEVEN MINDS/ BOLIVIA/ SOMETHING IN COMMON/ EVERY MAN IS A KING/ FOR ALL WE KNOW/ BLUE SILVER; Walton (p) Jones (b) Louis Hayes (d); Rochester, NY, April 1974; SHOULDERS/ ONE FOR AMOS/ YOU ARE THE SUNSHINE OF MY LIFE; 62:27)

- Stuart Kremsky

If you were never lucky enough to catch a performance by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, the "two--fer" Coast To Coast is definitely the next best thing. These documents of the post-Wynton Marsalis ensemble were done live in a New York club and then almost a year later at San Francisco with the same line-up. Trumpeter Terence Blanchard ,who went on to lead a quintet for a while with front-line partner alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, is a standout soloist on both sets. He's particularly effective on his East Coast feature, a long version of "Tenderly." Mr. Blakey is a powerhouse as always, and the hour and a half is a small education in how to power and guide a small group from the drum throne. Not essential Blakey, but nearly so. Too bad there's no extra material included from the club dates. (Concord Jazz CCD2-4926; Terence Blanchard (t) Jean Toussaint (ts) Donald Harrison (as) Mulgrew Miller (p) Lonnie Plaxico (b) Art Blakey (d); Disc 1 (New York Scene, 45:03): NYC, May 1984; OH, BY THE WAY/ BALLAD MEDLEY (MY ONE AND ONLY LOVE/ IT'S EASY TO REMEMBER/ WHO CARES)/ CONTROVERSY/ TENDERLY/ FALAFEL; Disc 2 (Live At Kimball's, 48:06): San Francisco, CA, April 1985; SECOND THOUGHTS/ I LOVE YOU/ JODY/ OLD FOLKS/ YOU AND THE NIGHT AND THE MUSIC/ POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS/ DR. JEKYL (sic). )

- Stuart Kremsky

 

Soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom has been making wonderful records for years, and Sometimes The Magic, her latest for Arabesque, is no exception. A lot of factors contribute to the string of successful projects. For one thing, there's her singularly gorgeous tone, heard here to marvelous effect on her solo renditions of the two standards on the date, "Bewitched" and "How Are Things In Glocca Morra." Her own tunes are excellent at creating moods and providing solid foundations for improvising. The languid "Without Words" and the jumping "Varo" are two fine examples here. Then there's the way she humanizes the live electronics that she uses to provide more colors to her music; check out the ironically titled "Truth In Timbre." And I don't want to forget the superb musicians that she surrounds herself with. Mark Dresser's earthiness and Bobby Previte's dynamism make for a dream bass and drums team. Vincent Bourgeyx, on piano, is a new name to me, but based on his tasty and sensitive work here, I suspect that we'll be hearing a lot from him. I could go on, but you get the idea. The playful and beautifully performed Sometimes The Magic is just that, magical. (Arabesque Jazz AJ0155; Jane Ira Bloom (ss, live elec) Vincent Bourgeyx (p) Mark Dresser (b) Bobby Previte (d); NYC, June 28-29 & July 21, 2000; DENVER SNAP/ NOW YOU SEE IT/ BEWITCHED/ BLUE POLES/ PACIFIC/ TRUTH IN TIMBRE/ WITHOUT WORDS/ IN EVERYTHING/ VARO/ MANY LANDSCAPES/ HOW ARE THINGS IN GLOCCA MORRA; 52:15)

- Stuart Kremsky

Gary Burton's latest, For Hamp, Red, Bags, And Cal, pays tribute to the eminent vibraharpists of jazz in an intelligently conceived and well-executed program. Kicking off with Mongo Santamaria's Latin jazz classic "Afro Blue," Burton evokes Cal Tjader's playful spirit with on-the-money support from Danilo Perez on piano, John Patitucci on bass, Horacio Hernandez on drums, and Luis Quintero on percussion, who also perform on "Body And Soul," played as a slow rhumba, and Clare Fischer's "João," written for Tjader back in 1964. A totally different ensemble (Mulgrew Miller, Christian McBride, and Lewis Nash) performs Milt Jackson's bop mainstay, "Bag's Groove." There's also a lovely version of his well-known "Django," first performed with the Modern Jazz Quartet. Burton clearly feels at home in the modern idiom, but he's evidently just as comfortable paying homage to the first jazz vibes man, Red Norvo, using Norvo's vibes/guitar/bass trio configuration with bassist McBride and guitarist Russell Malone on a pair of tracks from the "Birth Of The Cool" sessions that swing like mad. He also delves further back into Norvo's career with a version of the swing chestnut "Back Home Again In Indiana," as well as dusting off his xylophone for Norvo's old-fashioned "Hole In The Wall" and his marimba for "Dance Of The Octopus," a pair of duets with pianist Makoto Ozone. Hampton is represented by his two signature tunes, the romantic "Midnight Sun" and the big band flagwaver "Flying Home." In his comprehensive liner notes, Neil Tesser discusses Burton's relationships with this quartet of vibes stars, remarking that Burton knew them all, and in fact toured with both Norvo and Jackson. That personal connection gives the session a depth and resonance that's often lacking in tribute albums. The result is a distinctly satisfying collection; don't miss it. (Concord Jazz CCD-9491; Gary Burton (vbs, xylophone on 11, marimba on 12) Mulgrew Miller (p on 2, 4-6) Makoto Ozone (p on 11-12) Danilo Perez (p on 1, 8, 10) Russell Malone (g on 3, 7, 9) Christian McBride (b on 2-7, 9) John Patitucci (b on 1, 8, 10) Horacio Hernandez (d on 1, 8, 10) Lewis Nash (d on 2, 4-6) Luis Quintero (perc on 1, 8, 10); NYC, May 11, 23-24, 2000, and Boston, MA, June 3, 2000; 1. AFRO BLUE/ 2.BAGS' GROOVE/ 3.MOVE/ 4.MIDNIGHT SUN/ 5.FLYING HOME/ 6.DJANGO/ 7.BACK HOME IN INDIANA/ 8.BODY AND SOUL/ 9.GODCHILD/ 10.JOÃO/ 11.HOLE IN THE WALL/ 12.DANCE OF THE OCTOPUS; 67:33)

- Stuart Kremsky

 

Island Grooves combines the first two releases by Monty Alexander's Ivory And Steel band, which incorporates Caribbean rhythms and steel drums into a small jazz band context. An exceptionally wide range of material, from Milt Jackson's "S.K.J." and Nat Adderley's "Work Song" to Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" and Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi," shows the format's versatility. Getting famed steel drummer Len "Boogsie" Sharp into the group for 1988 session is a real plus. Only real minus is the self-indulgent singing on "Sly Mongoose" and "Linstead Market." The sunny jazz/reggae/pop fusion sound of these albums grows a tad predictable after a while, but this package is loads of fun nonetheless. (Concord Picante CCD2-4940; Disc 1 (Ivory & Steel, 45:07):Monty Alexander (p) Othello Molineaux (steel drums) Gerald Wiggins (b) Frank Gant (d) Robert Thomas, Jr. (perc); NYC, March 1980; HAPPY LYPSO/ CAVATINA/ MONTEVIDEO/ S.K.J./ THAT'S THE WAY IT IS/ WORK SONG/ MEDLEY: IMPRESSIONS, SO WHAT/ STELLA BY STARLIGHT/ STREET LIFE; Disc 2 (Jamboree, 49:07): Alexander (p) Molineaux, Len "Boogsie" Sharpe (steel drums) Marshall Wood (b) Bernard Montgomery (el b on *) Marvin "Smitty" Smith (d) Thomas, Jr. (perc); NYC, February & March 1988; SLY MONGOOSE*/ THINK TWICE/ NO WOMAN NO CRY/ LOOK UP/ ACCOMPONG/ YOU CAN SEE/ BIG YELLOW TAXI/ REGGAE LATER/ CRYING*/ LINSTEAD MARKET*.)

- Stuart Kremsky


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