Jazz CDs, Pt. 1 of 2
July-August 2003

Marcus Miller Live – The Ozell Tapes (the official bootleg); Telarc CD-83582:

I’ve never been a huge Marcus Miller fan, but that is all different now. This live album is a tour de force of funk and jazz—it’s fresh and full of life. Some of the songs are originals, while others are from Jazz greats like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and even The Talking Heads(!) Miller has had a long-term love of music and even at the ripe age of 13 was proficient on the clarinet, the piano, and the bass guitar. He’s played bass and written music for Bobbi Humphrey and Lonnie Liston Smith. For years he was a highly sought after studio bass player and worked with a number of high-profile artists and appeared on over 400 records. Later he worked with Miles Davis and grew as an artist. His strong connection with other musicians prompted a change to being a producer of note and he worked with Davis, Al Jarreau, The Crusaders, Wayne Shorter, Chaka Khan, David Sanborn (who’s album was the 2000 Grammy winner), and others. I could go on and on about each tune and how vibrant, inventive, seductive, funky, and full of soul they are, but I won’t. All you need to know is this album is fantastic, recorded extremely well, highly recommended musically, and you should run out to get it.

Songs included are: Disc 1: Power, So What, Lonnie’s Lament, Cousin John, Scoop, I Loves You orgy, Panther; Disc 2: 3 Deuces, Your Amazing Grace, Nikki’s Groove, When Your Life Was Low, Burning Down The House, People Make The World Go ‘Round, Killing Me Softly, Miles/Marcus Medley (Hannibal, Amandla, Tutu). Performers are: Marcus Miller, Poogie Bell, Dean Brown, Roger Byam, Bruce Flowers, Lalah Hathaway, Michael “Patches” Stewart, Leroy “Scooter” Taylor. Purchase Here

-Brian Bloom

Greg Osby - St. Louis Shoes (Osby, alto sax; Nicholas Payton, trumpet & Flugelhorn; Harold O’Neal, piano; Robert Hurst, bass; Rodney Green, drums) - Blue Note 7243 5 81699-8:

One of the most inventive saxists today takes here the tried and true format of old standards and favorite songs and turns it into a fresh and exciting musical journey. It is the saxist’s own journey from his hometown of St. Louis to New York and back. He says this one is O.P.M. - Other People’s Music - with not one track an Osby original but all the nine arrangements by Osby. Ellington’s wonderful early East St. Louis Toodle-Oo opens the set and a new take on the St. Louis Blues closes the CD. With other tunes from Gershwin, Monk, Dizzy and Jack DeJohnette Osby scores some terrific programming.

His band is new here too. Young Harold O’Neal replaces the amazing Jason Moran who got his start with Osby, and he sounds just as promising as Moran did. Trumpeter Payton is a generation ahead of Osby and his more conservative approach (with gorgeous, rich sound) seems to tame some of Osby’s wilder excursions. Even though he often completely changes the internal properties of a tune in his arrangements with alternate keys, tempos and other variables, Osby stays close to the melody, which makes his excursions much more palatable than most avant-leaning jazz. The funk influence is thankfully minimal, as far as my ears are concerned. Tracks: East St. Louis Toodle-Oo, Shaw Nuff, Light Blue, Whirlwind Soldier; Summertime; Milton On Ebony, The Single Petal of a Rose, Bernie’s Tune, St. Louis Blues. Purchase Here

- John Henry

Emmanuel Pahud (flute) & Jacky Terrasson (piano & Fender Rhodes) - Into the Blue (with Sean Smith, bass; Ali Jackson, drums) - Blue Note/EMI Classics 572572:

This is another co-labeled crossover release shared by Blue Note and EMI Classics. Successfully bridging the gap between classical conventions and jazz freedom, it matches up classical flutist Pahud with innovative jazz pianist Terrasson and a rhythm section for 13 short selections by familiar classical composers and one by the versatile French composer/band leader/pianist Claude Bolling. Terrasson is responsible for the tasteful arrangements of the classics which are way more sophisticated than the “swingin’ the classics” numbers often done by big bands in the 30s and 40s. This sort of thing has been offered before - in fact on this same label. And the type of classical/jazz mix has been more popular in Europe than in the U.S. In fact, these classical gems were first brought “Into the Blue” during a music festival in Montpellier, France. (Both performers are French-born.)

The collaboration was challenging for each performer, coming from different musical camps, but they found it fun and hip to create a workable natural blend of the two styles in one. It works not just because of Terrasson fine arrangements and playing, but equally because Pahud (who records straight classical flute albums for EMI Classics) understands how to swing - which most symphony musicians don’t. (One grouse: if they really want to appeal to a non classical audience, EMI shouldn’t list all the selections in the original French and Italian. - Vol du bourdon by Rimsky-Korsakov? C’mon youse guys! - I’ve translated:)

Tracks: Aviary (St.-Saens); Pavane, Bolero (Ravel); After a Dream (Faure); The Four Seasons (Vivaldi); Jimbo’s Lullaby (Debussy); Turkish March (Mozart); Distant Country (Schumann); Perpetual Motion (Paganini); Flight of the Bumblebee (Rimsky-Korsakov); Swiftly (Claude Bolling). Purchase Here

- John Sunier

Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette - Up For It (Live in Juan-les-Pins, France, July 2002 - ECM 1860:

Jarrett and his Trio return to mostly the standards again for an album recorded in the rain (on an alleged “waterlogged piano” yet) at the Antibes Jazz Festival and in celebration of the trio’s 20th anniversary. (And perhaps also Jarrett’s winning of the Polar Music Prize 2003 from the Royal Swedish Music Academy.) The multitudinous ideas just flow forth like water from Jarrett’s brain as the trio explores all the unexpected nooks and crannies of these old standards, and few dust bunnies are stirred up in the process. The title tune is not a standard of course but another Jarrett original, and some may not consider John Lewis’ classic Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West to be a standard but I do. Jarrett notes that standards are underestimated because people don’t understand how hard it is to write melody. There’s plenty of it here in spite of the imaginative ornamentation, and Jarrett’s usual vocal sounds of pain are a bit more soto voce here than on many of his recordings. (And certainly less annoying than when combined with the bizarre physical postures on his many DVDs and laserdiscs. Why can’t he just get up and dance around the piano during the drum solo as Monk used to do?) Purchase Here

- John Henry

A pair of albums from a woman Dave Brubeck called “one of the greatest jazz pianists I have ever heard”...

Jessica Williams - This Side Up (with Ray Drummond and Victor Lewis) - MaxJazz piano series MXJ203:
Jessica Williams - All Alone - MaxJazz piano series MXJ206:

Williams found the piano fascinating as a child of only four because when she hit the various notes she saw different colors - synesthesia is the proper name for this phenomenon that Denny Zeitlin and a few other pianists also have. She was on her way to becoming a concert pianist when her teacher played the “Time Out” LP for her. Wham! Instant jazz pianist. Williams was house ivory tickler for years at San Francisco’s famed Keystone Corner but later pulled away from the urban jazz life to a more isolated location on the California coast where she could concentrate on composing. She did over two dozen albums, many on her own label, and these two are her first for MaxJazz.

Eight of the ten tracks on the trio CD are by Williams. Rashaan Roland Kirk’s Theme for the Eulipians is one of the two exceptions. Her compositions are all fresh-sounding and accessible, with plenty of variety between them. It would be difficult to beat the combination of Drummond and Lewis for a rhythm section, and the resultant trio sounds like they’ve been playing together for decades. The Solo Piano second CD puts both William’s playing and her own compositions (4 of the 12 tracks) in the aural spotlight. She has a skilled touch and her instrument’s rich tone is perfectly captured on the recording. The final two tracks are completely and delightfully unexpected: Mingus’ Orange Was the Color... and the pop song Too Young To Go Steady. Both receive unexpectedly creative interpretations too.

Trio tracks: The Judge, Blue Tuesday, Black Diamonds, Little Bird Song, Serenata, Miles To Go, Theme for the Eulipians, I Remember Dexter, Innocence, Off Blue Purchase Here
Solo Piano tracks: As Time Goes By, In a Sentimental Mood, Warm Valley, All Alone, They Say It’s Wonderful, Don’t Explain, Toshiko, The Sheikh, Bill’s Beauty, The Quilt, Orange Was the Color of Her Dress Then Blue Silk, Too Young to Go Steady Purchase Here

- John Henry

Monty Alexander Trio (with Hassan Shakur, bass; Mark Taylor, drums) - Impressions in Blue - Telarc Jazz CD-83578:

I’ll level with ‘ya right way: this was my fav rave of this month’s batch. No Spirituals or steel drums (though I loved that one two) as on some of Alexander’s past discs, but a straight-ahead piano trio. The tunes are grouped in creative ways into five sections. The first unnamed section could be called classical since it pairs a Readers Digest version of Rhapsody in Blue with a ten-minute excursion thru a movement of Rodridgo’s famed Concierto de Aranjuez - previously done by so many jazzmen, including Miles and Jim Hall. Next is “Reflections on Duke,” with a lovely medley of Come Sunday and David Danced Before the Lord - from Ellington’s Sacred Service. “Where the Trade Winds Blow” is a trio of compositions by inspired by Alexander’s birthplace of Jamaica as well as nearby Bahamas and Guadeloupe, and “King Cole Reflections” presents three tunes popularized by the great jazz pianist/singer. Guitarist/singer John Pizzarelli joins in for this section. [Jumpin’ at Capitol, It’s Only a Paper Moon, Body and Soul.] Monty closes out the disc with the section titled “Way Out West,” which is actually the tune with which Sony Rollins also had a lot of fun some time ago - I’m An Old Cowhand.
Purchase Here

- John Henry

Continue to Part 2 of Jazz

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