Jazz CDs, Pt. 2 - April 2002

The guitar virtuoso Joe Pass, both newer and older..

Joe Pass, solo guitar - What Is There to Say - Fantasy PACD 2310-971-2:
The Joe Pass Trio - Live at Donte's - Pablo 2PACD-2620-114-2 (2 CDs):

Pass passed (sorry...) in l994 and the first of these CDs preserves a live appearance at the Vine Street Bar & Grill in Hollywood four years earlier. He was and is a jazz guitar legend and among other things probably played as a sideman on more recordings than any other guitarist. "I play tunes," Pass would repeat, meaning The Great American Songbook was his bible. It takes guts to do a solo guitar live stint like this; there are a couple of clams but there's also more excitement and air of the unexpected than on most guitar sessions. I once dubbed off a long tape of all the recorded versions of John Lewis' Django I could get my hands on - some ranging up to full orchestra. Pass' opening track here is one of the very best ever: Django, Old Folks, I Concentrate on You, I'll Be Around, They Can't Take That Away From Me, It's All in the Game/Yesterdays, Come Rain or Come Shine, On Green Dolphin Street, What is There to Say, Nobody Else But Me, Lush Life.

The 1974 setting of the second double-CD album was the first time Pass and his trio had recorded live. It was also the first time he had been asked to write his own liner notes. At their conclusion he said "I hope you enjoy this album as much as I enjoyed writing the liner notes." Norman Granz also contributes to the notes, and says the session was some of the finest Joe Pass he'd heard over the years. Pass' trio consisted of Jim Hughart on Fender bass and Frank Serverino on drums. Tunes: Look What They Done to My Song Ma, You Stepped Out of a Dream, A Time for Love, Donte's Inferno, You Are the Sunshine of my Life, Secret Love, Sweet Georgia Brown, Stompin' at the Savoy, Darn That Dream, Milestones, Lullaby of the Leaves, What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?, Blues for Pamela.

- John Henry


Two brand new ECM releases whisper rather than shout...

Invisible Nature - John Surman (sop. & bar. Sax, bass clar., synthesizers); Jack DeJohnette (drums, electronic percussion, piano) - ECM 1796:

Surman has one of the most highly individual sounds of any jazz reeds player today. He was breaking new ground with his improvisations on bass clarinet long before the New York New Music crowd jumped on the neglected instrument. These duo recordings, coming from live tapings at jazz festivals in 2000 in Tempere, Finland and Berlin, show how the modest and intelligent use of high-tech music electronics can enhance and enlarge the musical language of a minimum number of performers. When musically appropriate in their improvisations Surman and DeJohnette can instantly sound like a great deal more than an acoustic duo. The ability of DeJohnette's Roland electronic percussion to imitate an array of tuned drums and tympani gives the music more melodic interest than a typical array of noisemakers with non-specific pitch. This is still mainstream ECM-type music-making - not the sort of jazz you do your aerobics or treadmill to. But perhaps due to the presence of the live audiences it frequently comes out of the dark-studio-in-Oslo-at-3AM bag and sparkles like the unidentified photo of sparklers on the cover. Typically clean ECM sonics in spite of the live recording situation. Tracks: Mysterium, Rising Tide, Outback Spirits, Underground Movement, Ganges Groove, Fair Trade, Song for World Forgiveness.

John Abercrombie, guitar; Mark Feldman, violin; Joey Baron, drums; Marc Johnson, bass - Cat 'n' Mouse - ECM 1770:

Another duo effort from ECM, though back by a rhythm section and a studio recording rather than live session. An unusual duo of guitar and violin - not often found in either jazz or classical worlds - though in a way they are uniquely matched. They cover about the same range and one can sustain long lines of melody while the other is excellent at rhythmic figures. The origins of the eight tracks are not given but I assume they are primarily improvisations by the quartet. Mostly quiet, almost reticent stuff - this is not Grappelly and Django-style swinging. A couple tracks like Stop and Go pick things up a bit. Tracks: A Nice Idea, Convolution, String Thing, Soundtrack, Third Stream Samba, On the Loose, Stop and Go, Show of Hands.

- John Henry


Alphonse Mouzon Quintet - Live in Hollywood - Tenacious Records 9213-2:

Drummer Mouzon and his quintet have turned out over a dozen CDs on his own wonderfully-named label. He does just about everything on his own, included the very professional design of his covers and insert booklets. The CDs cover a variety of jazz approaches and several include top guest soloists such as Stanley Clarke, Herbie Hancock, Lee Ritenour, Hubert Laws and Ernie Watts. Trumpet, sax and piano are the front line of this quintet and all ten tunes are written and arranged by Mouzon. The CD doesn't tell us where it was recorded live - the audience is attentive except for cheers after some solos. It's good, relaxed straight-ahead jazz and worth noting. Miking, especially of the piano, is a bit distant. Since distribution is always a problem for self-labels such as this, check out the web site at www.tenaciousrecords.com

Bob Kindred with Larry Willis (piano) - Gentle Giant of the Tenor Sax - Mapleshade 09032:

Yet another duo playing in the clear with no rhythm section. Willis is the talented pianist and music director for Mapleshade; he found the gentle white giant of the tenor and that he wasn't being recorded. This quite amazing session is the result. The collaboration was super-effective - the two players egged one another on to exciting heights. Kindred has paid his dues over the years and has a tenor sound that at various times can be compared to such as Ben Webster, King Curtis, John Coltrane, Johnny Hodges and Stan Getz. Their Blue Moon is a kick of an atonal-Monk treatment, and the lengthy Warm Valley naturally brings Hodges to mind. This duo is perfect for the highly-present, in-the-room sonics Mapleshade achieves on their best CDs. The big peaks of Kindred's sax tone will knock you over with the proper equipment setup. This is what a sax really sounds like! Tracks: Juicy Lucy, Warm Valley, Ethiopia, We See, Blood Count, Blue Moon, The Things We Did Last Summer, Anouman.

- John Henry


Gypsy-jazz fans rejoice!...

Parisian Honeymoon Suite - Hot Club of Norway and guests - Refined Records RR 1004:
Mediterranean Blues - Robin Nolan Trio - Refined Records RR 100 3:

Two more entries in the rapidly growing catalog of recordings from devotees of the wonderfully swinging acoustic sounds of the original Django Reinhardt/Stephane Grappelly Quintet of the Hot Club of France. These two CDs come from a San Francisco-based label and feature musicians from Norway and Holland. The first is a sort of sampler derived from seven albums recorded by the Hot Club of Norway, a very popular group in Europe and promoters of the annual Django Reinhardt Festival. Their guest artists include Django's own son Babik, a pair of legendary guitarists - Angelo Debarre & Romane, and child prodigy guitarist Jimmy Rosenberg. There is also a trio of which two members are only 14 and 15 respectively - one of them yet another Reinhardt descendent. There's violin on a few tracks and even an harmonica, but the instrumental focus here is mostly on multiple swinging guitars. Tracks: Guitaresque, Time On My Hands, Moppin' the Bride, Nuages, Fatamorgana, Daphne, Exactly Like You, Fantasy, Je Suis Seul Ce Soir, Fido, Pascal.

The Robin Nolan Trio, now based in Amsterdam, was formed in l992 following the players attending the Django Reinhardt Festival in France. They are basically three guitarists - solo guitar and two rhythm guitars, but on this - their first full-length commercial CD - they have expanded to ilnclude acoustic bass, percussion and additional tables on one track. The trio was heard in the Joan Chen movie Autumn in New York and George Harrison frequently hired them for events at his home. More great gypsy jazz but moving out somewhat to other acoustic-guitar-based genres too.

Tracks: Mediterranean Blues, Friar Park, Song for Carolyn, And Then There Were Three, Luna Tango, Bar Del Pi, From the Banks of the Odra, Bolero Blue, El Puente, Trouble in Paradise, Where Do We Go From Here?

- John Henry


Two important jazz reissues missed by the major labels...

Eric Dolphy 1928-1964 - VeeJay/Collectables COL-CD-7154:

Dolphy was one of the finest jazz flutists ever, but also was known for his work on bass clarinet and alto sax. All three are represented in this Dolby sampler. His rise to jazz prominence in the New York avantgarde jazz scene happened in the early l960s, shortly before his death at age 36. The four tracks here are not advanced avant jazz but terrific tonal bop that seems to continue some of the ideas of Charlie Parker. At over 13 minutes, Alone Together is the perfect title for the unadorned duo of Dolby on bass clarinet with Richard Davis playing acoustic bass. It's the bare bones of jazz improvisation at its peak. The tracks are: Jitterbug Waltz, Music Matador, Alone Together, Love Me.

The Don Shirley Point of View - Atlantic/Collectables COL-CD 6195:

I remember jazz-loving friends making fun of my love of Don Shirley. All right, so he's not strictly a jazz pianist, but then neither is he a classical, pop, blues, or even gospel music pianist (he did record a couple entire albums of improvisations on spirituals). He is just highly creative - taking a more intellectual, classical-composition route with the basic tunes instead of the usual looser jazz improvisation. Purists may say Shirley is a bit over the top in some of his arrangements, but not moi. This album was new to me (I have all his Cadence LPs); the Atlantic label's support allowed for enhancements to his usual trio - he is heard on B3 organ on some tracks and his bassist is augmented by a pair of cellists! His famous quarter-hour-long Gershwin Medley is a Gershwin medley to end all Gershwin medlies - covering ten songs! Tracks: The Warning, Carry Me Back to Old Virginny, Bridge Over Troubled Water, The Shadow of Your Smile, Alfie, Gershwin Medley, By the Time I Get to Phoenix.

- John Henry

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