Jazz CDs - January 2003 - Pt. 1 of 2

A new disc from my favorite still-playing big band is always a treat and this time there is one, so I say we start with it. You might also like to check out our archives for the Jazz section exactly a year ago [DEC 01] and a major article on the Willem Breuker Kollektief.

Misery - Willem Breuker Kollektief - Bvhaast CD 0204:

No, this isn’t a video DVD - just an example of the iconoclastic approach of these Amsterdam musical crazies. (This is nothing - one of their previous CDs came in a round wooden container printed to look exactly like a Dutch Edam cheese.) Misery is the final part of a trilogy - I reviewed the earlier two CD as well; they are titled Hunger and Thirst. They’re also now available as a boxed set.

The eclecticism of the WBK is simply breathtaking. The ten-piece band might run thru the following in one evening’s performance: trad jazz, free jazz, swing, marching band, circus music, tangos, waltzes, vaudeville, pop tunes, lounge-lizard, classical (from early to avantgarde). Brueker is described as working thru instinct and association; he tries to “derail” the music on purpose. One selection on Misery grew out of a blooper in Dutch uttered by a local TV anchorman and appears to be a tribute to the firemen and police involved in the 911 tragedy in NYC. Thirties’ swing composer Reginald Foresythe has been represented on several recent WBK albums and this one is no exception (Angry Jungle). Breuker struggles with the Hoagy Carmichael vocal on My Resistance is Low, complaining that it was a tune he couldn’t get out of his head. The major vehicle on the CD is a quarter-hour-long I[’ll] Remember April, with solo stints by tenor sax, trombone, doublebass and harmonica. The closer is a little Musette by Baroque composer Rameau, chosen because of its mysterious mood. Another collection of amazing improvisatory brilliance. The only problem is where do I file these three tall discs on my shelf?
Tracks: Hap Sap, Wake Up!, Thirst IV, Angry Jungle, Hulpverkrabber 911, My Resistance Is Low, I Remember April, Musette en rondeau.

If you have trouble finding their discs - and you will - contact their North American distributor: North Country, in Redwood, New York, at 315-287 2852 or northcountry@cadencebuilding.com

- John Sunier

Gary Lucas & Jozef Van Wissem - Diplopia - Bvhaast CD 0103:

Van Wissem is the director of the Kollektief’s Amsterdam label and the unusual concept of this duo album is his. It appears to grow out of the sort of genre-busting that is normal with the WBK. He plays a ten-course Renaissance lute, plus percussion and electronics, and his cohort Lucas is a New York-based acoustic guitarist and dobro virtuoso who used to play with Captain Beefheart. Some of the tunes are versions of 17th century works, some are originals, and there are two versions of a Kraftwerk hit “Hall of Mirrors.” The unexpected meeting of the Elizabethan lute music and instrument with the Appalachian dobro sound and style is at first unnerving but after a couple tracks seems perfectly logical and not at all bizarre. It may remind some collectors of the “meeting of East and West” duos on Water Lily Acoustics. Tracks: If it doesn’t fit thou must acquit, For whom the bell tolls, Will o’ the Wisp, Diplopia, The Mirror Stage, Brethren of the Free Spirit, If it doesn’t fit (live), The Mirror Stage (live).

- John Sunier

Here’s two albums to bolster the spirit in these difficult times...
Darrell Grant, piano (and guests) - Spirit - Lair Hill Records 005:

Noted transplanted-from-New-York-to-Portland OR jazz pianist Grant has recorded solo piano and piano trio albums before, but this effort strives for a greater achievement. Music to sooth and enrich the spirit is the intent here. There are beautifully-realized classically-influenced variations on spirituals, several original tunes, some standards, even a Curtis Mayfield hit carrying a message of hope. Darrell’s guest performers include vocalist Lari White, guitarist David Hungate, bassist Craig Nelson, and drummer Paul Leim. Recorded both in Berkeley and Nashville, production and sonics are first rate. Tracks: A Child is Born, Invocation, People Get Ready, Morning Star/Evening Rose, Star Eyes, Balm in Gilead, Foresight, The Water Is Wide, Family, Lullaby, Shower the People, Another Time, Peace.

Charles Lloyd, tenor sax/flute/taragato - Lift Every Voice (with John Abercrombie, guitar; Geri Allen, piano; Marc Johnson or Larry Grenadier, bass; Billy Hart, drums) - ECM 1832/33 (2 CDs):

Lloyd’s latest in an extensive series for ECM is very similar in spirit to Darrell Grant’s “Spirit.” There are the spirituals, deeply felt pieces dealing with the challenges of life as well as its beauty, there is even Amazing Grace. As Grant turned to Curtis Mayfield, Lloyd turns to Marvin Gaye for “What’s Going On.” While like many ECMs the note booklet is mostly photos and no commentary on the music, Lloyd has chosen for an opening inscription a line from the Rig Veda: “Truth is One, sages call it by various names.” The occasional unison lines combining the sax or flute and guitar are especially nice. The track with Lloyd on solo taragato (Shattered Heart) is just gorgeous - this Roumanian folk instrument is a sort of bass clarinet with a very special timbre. I think just listing all the tracks will be the best picture of the mood and feel of this album: Hymn to the Mother, You Are So Beautiful, Amazing Grace, East Virginia West Memphis, What’s Going On, Angel Oak, Te Amare, I’m Afraid, Hafez - Shattered Heart, Rabo de Nube, Blood Count, Go Down Moses, Beyond Darkness, Nocturne, Wayfaring Stranger, Deep River, Lift Every Voice and Sing, Prayer - the Crossing.

- John Henry

The ‘bone features in both of these recent CDs ...
Duane Eubanks Quintet/Sextet - Second Take - TCB 20602:

Eubanks is one of the best young trumpet players in jazz today. In this lineup he is joined by brother Robin on trombone and the rest of the front line is JD Allen on tenor and the pianist is Orrin Evans. Antonio Hart is heard on alto on just one track. There are tunes by Bobby Hutcherson, Hank Mobley and Eubank’s favorite trumpeter Lee Morgan, plus Dave Brubeck’s In Your Own Sweet Way. All the rest are Eubanks originals. There’s a rich almost big band energy to this group - I think the trombone adds greatly to the fuller sound. Recorded at a New York studio, the sound is just right. Tracks: Two and One, Little B’s Poem, The Enemy Within, In Your Own Sweet Way, Too Late, Red Black and Green Blues, Stopstart, Ebony Slick, Slew Footed.

J.J. Johnson & Nat Adderley - Chain Reaction (Yokohama Concert, Vol. 2) - Pablo PACD-2620-121-2:

From previously unreleased recordings made in Japan in l977, this CD is a worthy followup to Volume 1 from the same tour. J.J. was the number one champion of the modern jazz trombone, and his duets with trumpeter Nat Adderley were classics which have never been quite equalled. Pianist Billy Childs plays mostly electric keyboards and synthesizers here, placing the music solidly in the 70s heavy fusion influence. Their special treatment of the nostalgic theme from MASH was so great I think next time that comes on while I’m channel-hopping I’ll stay and actually watch an episode again. The live concert situation adds a lot of pizazz to the proceedings, as it usually does to any music performance no matter the genre. Tracks; Blue n’ Boogie, Modaji, Song from MASH, Colors, Chain Reation, Mr. Clean, Walkin’, Mohawk.

- John Henry

Saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter, both new and old...

Wayne Shorter - Footprints Live! (With Danilo Perez, piano; John Patitucci, bass; Brian Blade, drums) - Verve 314 589 679-2:

An exciting compendium of recordings all made last year during the quartet’s appearances at three different European jazz festivals - in Spain, Marseilles, France and Perugia, Italy. Seven of the eight tracks are Shorter originals and the eighth is his gorgeous arrangement of the Valse Triste by Sibelius. Seems like it de rigueur for many jazz CDs lately to have one track that’s variations on a classical theme. Weather Report alum Shorter alternates between tenor and soprano sax, on two of the tracks switching during the tunes. As if that’s not enough, he also whistles on one of those tracks - the closing JuJu. There’s also a tribute tune to the Burmese fighter for human rights in her country, Aung San Suu Kyi. What’s to say? Shorter is superb, especially on soprano, and the quartet is burning - obviously working at their peak in the festival environment. Tracks: Sanctuary, Masquelero, Valse Triste, Go, Aung San Suu Kyi, Footprints, Atlantis, JuJu.

Wayne Shorter - Second Genesis (with Cedar Walton, piano; Art Blakey, drums; Bob Cranshaw, bass) - Collectables COL-CD-7174:

In this reissue of a Vee-Jay l974 LP, but were recorded originally in l959 and for some reason not issued at that time. Shorter had been working with Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Blakey assumed the sideman role for this session emphasizing Shorter’s distinctive tenor sax sound. Shorter was fairly straight ahead at this period, which was before he played with Miles Davis and turned more experimental. But he still penned all the tunes except for the final two standards by Richard Rodgers. With pros like Blakey and Walton aboard, you can’t lose. This is a great and swinging quartet outing for sure! Tracks: Ruby & The Pearl, Pay as You Go, Second Genesis, Mr. Chairman, Tenderfoot, The Albatross, Getting to Know You, I Didn’t Know What Time It Was.

- John Henry

Sax Summit - with Phil Dwyer, tenor & soprano sax and director of ensemble - CBC Records TRCD 3001:

Dwyer, who is also a jazz pianist and teacher, has assembled a ten-piece group comprising the various saxophone voices from baritone to soprano plus piano, bass and drums. The Canadian musician has won numerous awards in his country and paid his dues in New York where he also studied with David Liebman. These are wonderful arrangements and a swinging program of ten tracks. They don’t have the in-your-face impact of SuperSax (though in the final track they sound quite similar) but provide instead more variety and considerably more subtlety. I kept thinking how great this group would sound surrounding one in multichannel mode. Tracks: Blues Up and Down, Just You Just Me, Emily/Wendy, Body & Soul, Appearing Nightly, Oleo, Work Song, Warm Valley, My Favorite Things, Billie’s Bounce.

- John Henry

Guitars Galore on our next three discs...
Benny Green, piano & Russell Malone, guitar - Live at Jazz at the Bistro, St. Louis - Telarc Jazz CD-83560:

I wasn’t familiar with guitar Malone but had heard pianist Green in different aggregations on record. The two played as duo for the first time at a jazz festival in 2001 and decided to keep it up. They chose for their venue a St. Louis club at which they had played before and like the connection with the local audiences. Without a bass or drums both players are out in the open and exposed, so this form really shows whether the musicians have the cajones or not. They do. The CD is a major kick from start to finish. Tough to pick a favorite track; perhaps Strayhorn’s perfectly-titled The Intimacy of the Blues. They must think so too because the CD encores that tune. The accompanying photos give an idea of the duo’s kidding around with one another; they do that musically onstage as well, which is what adds a special lift to this disc.
Tracks: Ask Me Now, Tale of the Fingers, A Bientot, Sing, When Lights Are Low, Wabash, Killing me Softly, How Deep Is Your Love?, The Intimacy of the Blues, Moments Notice/Lazy Bird, Love Letters, Quiet Girl, Hand-Told Stories, alt. Take of The Intimacy of the Blues.

- John Henry

Jim Hall - Downbeat Critic’s Choice (collection of his best from Telarc) - Telarc Jazz CD-83557:

This compilation is taken from the previous five albums the pre-eminent guitarist has made for the label. The instrumentation ranges from solo stints to string section and even a vocal group. Among the instrument soloists who join him on some of the dozen tracks are Tom Harrell on flugelhorn, Gil Goldstein on accordion, Greg Osby on sax, and the acoustic bass duo of Scott Colley and George Mraz. Each of the five CD covers is accompanied by quotes from Downbeat Magazine on the impact that Hall has had on modern jazz. And he’s one of the nicest people in jazz - quiet and unassuming. There’s a fine video documentary on him out now. Tracks: Dream Steps, Stern Stuff, Snowbound, Fanfare, Quadrologue, Circus Dance, Pan-O-Rama, Furnished Flats, October Song, The Wind, Abstract 3, Tango Loco.

Joe Pass - Meditation - Live at Yoshi’s, Oakland CA - Pablo PACD-2310 974-2:

Guitar and piano alone might be exposing to the two performers, but how about solo electric guitar? Pass says the series of live solo recordings he has made over the years started with some booker asking him if he played solo and he was shocked. “You have a union card? You play solo. You play the guitar? Segovia plays solo.” Pass said "Yeah, but he’s classical." But next thing he knew he was noted for playing solo, and here’s one of the best live sessions from a decade ago, at the best jazz room in Northern California. These dozen treasures are here released for the first time: Meditation, Shadow Waltz, Mood Indigo, More Than You Know, When Your Lover Has Gone, Everything Happens to Me, It’s All Right With Me, I’ll Never Be the Same, You Stepped Out of a Dream, All the Things You Are, How Deep is the Ocean?, They Can’t Take That Away From Me.

- John Henry

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