Kinda Blu’s” Jazz Report
|Kinda Blu’s” Jazz Report|
|30 April 1999|
As you can see we switched labels, I mean websites. Since last time I’ve received some interesting e-mail regarding my column. One writer wants to me review music from the avant-garde in jazz. Back in the late fifties and early sixties it was clear what that meant – Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler to name a few. Nowadays, I can’t tell you what is avant-garde in the jazz realm. I believe that the free jazz that developed and evolved during that time period has become relatively mainstream. Its followers may still be small in number (?), but it does not evoke the same sense of adventurousness or newness that say, an Ornette displayed. However, I am not into free jazz recordings per se. O.K. some will say hey Blue get outside the box. Now don’t get me wrong I can listen an appreciate some “out” stuff, but don’t ask me to digest in one sitting what sounds like someone torturing a cat!
John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy grabbed me spiritually and musically. But, to be honest, Coltrane, in his later recordings, left me far behind.
There is a lot of wonderful new music hitting the scene and unfortunately I can only scratch the surface regarding what I believe is good.
I recommend Malachi Thompson’s “Freebop Now!” (Delmark DE-506) featuring Billy Harper (ts), Oliver Lake (as), Amiri Baraka (recitation), the late, Carter Jefferson (ts) and Joe Ford (ss) among others. The music, from two different dates, was recorded in 1993 and 1998. Thompson, and most of the Chicago crowd have a way of making the bop style sound so fresh. Their music is a blend of so many influences, blues, African, free jazz – you name it. Thompson and his crew put it together magically.
“Ralph Irizzary & Timbalaye” (Shanachie 66010) is the title of a solid latin-jazz session. Ralph and his band take this genre to another level.
You definitely need “The Antidote” (Arabesque Jazz – AJ0140) provided by pianist Marc Cary. No matter what ails you Cary has the cure in this exceptional release. Listen to Ron Blake who is overdue for his own recording as a leader.
Joe Chambers’ “Mirrors”(Blue Note) is an excellent album made so by the drummer’s writing and playing as well as the participation of Eddie Henderson and Vincent Herring on this date. Joe plays vibraphone on addition to the drums.
Papo Vasquez’ long awaited second album, entitled “At The Point, Volume 1” (CUBOP CBC015) was released a few weeks ago. Papo hasn’t been heard as a leader since his debut album “Breakout”(Timeless) was released in 1992. His new CD, recorded live at The Point in the Bronx, New York, includes Willie Williams (ts), Arturo O’Farrill (p), Andy Gonzalez (b), and Tony Batista (b), Phoenix Rivera (ds) and Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez (ds) and special guest Randy Brecker on “Coqui”. We look forward to Volume 2 – I believe it will be released in the summer of 1999.
Who is Chris Cheek and why are they saying great things about him? “A Girl Named Joe” (Fresh Sound New Talent – FSNT 032 CD) answers the questions. This young tenor saxophonist has impressed me after one hearing. The musicianship and writing are high quality. Chris shares tenor space with another reed sensation Mark Turner. The rest of the band consists of Jordi Rossi (ds), Dan Reiser (ds), Ben Monder (g), and Marc Johnson (b).
Steve Turre has done it again. He’s a masterful trombonist, shellist leader and writer. His music is a joy – always. “Lotus Flower” (Verve 314559787-2) is his latest release. Ably assisted by Regina Carter, her violin literally sings, Akua Dixon (cello, c), the indomitable Mulgrew Miller, Buster Williams (b), Lewis Nash (ds), Kimati Dinizulu (perc), and Don Conreaux (gong). They do more than justice to Rashan Roland Kirk”s “Inflated Tear”. Steve’s trombone is bright and brassy and we couldn’t ask for anything more.
I have been a fan of trumpeter and orchestra leader Gerald Wilson for years, and although he is getting up there in age, his music remains as fresh as ever. His recent release “Theme for Monterey” was commissioned by the MAMA foundation to salute the Monterey Jazz Festival on its 40th anniversary. Mr. Wilson’s music always swings, and this session is no exception. Great solo work is provided by Scott Mayo (ss), Anthony Wilson (g), Oscar Brashear (tp), George Bohanon (tb). I don’t know if this is his Orchestra of the Millenium, but if it isn’t I don’t know if I could take what comes next. The band is killing!
“Requiem” (Columbia CK 69655) is Branford Marsalis’ first quartet album since “Crazy People Music and it is great. He is in top form his horn. We get to hear Kenny Kirkland’s piano one more time. He died late last year. Eric Revis (b) and Jeff “Tain” Waits (ds) fill out the quartet.
Last, but clearly not the least, alto saxophonist Justin Robinson has a new CD out and its good to hear him as a leader again. Its called “The Challenge” (Arabesque Jazz – AJ0137) and brings him together with Ron Blake (ts), Stephen Scott (p), Dwayne Burno (b), and Dion Parson (ds). Check this one out. You can also catch Justin on some old Cecil Brooks (Muse label) and Harper Brothers (Verve label) CDs. Several years ago I caught the Roy Hargrove Quintet live at the South Street Seaport and the gig was o.k. until a late arriving Justin horned in and blew us all away. Go, Justin!
Blue Note was also busy in my absence as it released several old 10″ LPs on disc. “Howard McGhee”, the immortal bop trumpeter is joined by J.J. Johnson (tb), Brew Moore (ts), Kenny Drew (p), Curly Russel (b), and Max Roach (ds). “Introducing the Kenny Drew Trio” is on the same and Curly Russell (b) and Art Blakey (ds) fill out the trio. Also “Here Comes Frank Foster” (Blue Note 95750) featuring the great Count Basie soloist with Benny Powell (tb), Gildo Mahones (p), Percy Heath (b) and Kenny Clarke (ds). George Wallington’s “Showcase” is on the same disc and features Dave Burns an unheralded but awesome trumpeter with Frank Foster, and Jimmy Cleveland (tb) Danny Bank (bs), Oscar Pettiford (b), and Kenny Clarke (ds). Julius Watkins Vol. 1 & Vol.2 (Blue Note 95749) are also swinging dates with Watkins do wonders on the French horn – a rarity among jazz soloists.
I’ve been spending a lot of time and money in a used CD store on 18th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues in Manhattan. It is called Academy, and Sometimes, I promised myself that I would pick up a particular disc at a later date, and then the record company pulled it before I could. Sometimes a particular artist wouldn’t blow me away, so I wouldn’t purchase his subsequent discs. For example, I missed Antonio Hart’s first two CDs on the Novus label. I picked them both up within a week of each other at Academy. Both are good records. They are “For The First Time” (Novus 3120-2-N), and “Don’t You Know I Care” (Novus 63142-2). Marlon Jordan’s first album didn’t too much for me, so I skipped the next two; “Learson’s Return (Columbia CK 46930), and “The Undaunted” (Columbia 52409). They provided me with the opportunity to appreciate him better and to hear some great early Tim Warfield. Speaking of Warfield, I heard him as part of the Christian McBride Quartet in December 1998 at Flushing Town Hall and he was terrific.
The Chicago Scene
I was in Chi-town in September, and I really messed up bigtime! While there I checked out NO, I repeat NO , music. Do you believe that. Soon after my return to the Big Apple I started looking for some different sounds, and a friend hipped me to the Delmark label. I had a few Delmark discs; you know some old stuff by Donald, Byrd, Johnny Griffin, and Sonny Stitt. However, I had none of the real recent sides. Ari Brown’s first Delmark release “Ultimate Frontier” (Delmark DE-486) is definitely worth picking up, as is his more recent CD, “Venus” (DELMARK DE-000). Excuse ignorant me but there are really some very talented but not well known musicians in Chicago. And, Ari is one of them. On “Ultimate Frontier” he is joined by his brother Kirk Brown (p), Yosef Ben Israel (b), Avreeyal Ra (ds), and Dr. Cuz & Enoch (perc). Ari can also be heard on Kahil El Zabar’s Ritual Trio’s “Big Cliff” (Delmark DE 477). Percussionist and leader El Zabar put together this fine live date at the Underground Fest in 1994. Joining him and Ari Brown are Malachi Favors (b) and the incomparable Billy Bang on violin. Listen especially to “For The Love Of My Father” a tribute to El Zabar’s dad – Ari plays piano on this cut. It is a touching and beautiful piece of music.
Another recommended Delmark releases are Malachi Thompson’s “47th Street” (Delmark DE-497) with Billy Harper (ts), Steve Berry (tb), Kirk Brown(p) and a host of others), and Roy Campbell’s “La Tierra del Fuego” (Delmark DE-469)
We make requests This year Blue Note Records will celebrate its sixtieth anniversary. I hope The Note decides to put out some of its missing-in-action titles. Hello, Mr. Cuscuna – personally I am looking for Bobby Hutcherson’s, “A View From the Inside” with much too seldom heard reedman Manny Boyd playing his you know what off. Please, please Mr. Cuscuna reissue that one. Also there is an unnamed fall 1969 date (probably “The Stroker”) Lee Morgan with George Coleman (ts), Julian Priester (tb), Harold Mabern (p), Walter Booker (b), and Mickey Roker (ds). It was once part of the LP twofer entitled The Procrastinator. It includes the following tunes, “Free Flow,” a terrific rendition of “Stormy Weather,” “Mr. Johnson”, “The Stroker,” etc. There’s an Andrew Hill entitled “Grass Roots” (Blue Note 4303) with Booker Ervin and Lee Morgan that has got to be fantastic. Can you imagine those two soloists together on the same record? I drool at the thought! And speaking of Booker Ervin, don’t forget to bring back his Pacific Jazz recording “Structurally Sound.” I hope the people at The Note take this hint and get these recordings out soon!
Dave Brubeck’s “Jazz at Oberlin College” (Fantasy F-3245, OJCCD-046-2 is a must getz. Dave and his partner in time Paul Desmond (as) turn this one out. The group is rounded out with Ron Crotty (b), and Lloyd Davis (ds). Check out Desmond’s solo on “How High The Moon.”
You must getz Ahmad Jamal’s “Live At The Pershing.” This live date features Jamal at his best. His music is crystalline and swinging. Pay close attention to him on “But Not For Me” and “Poinciana.” Get it, you’ll hear what I mean – this is a classic!
A definite must getz is John Coltrane’s May 25, 1961 record date, “Ole” (Atlantic 1373-2). It is clearly one of the master’s best – no lie! Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and Eric Dolphy on flute and alto sax compliment forward moving Coltrane. The title cut is monstrous, but the entire album is great music. McCoy Tyner (p), Art Davis and Reggie Workman (b), and Elvin Jones (ds) complete the band.
Another must getz is Dexter Gordon’s “One Flight Up” (Blue Note BST 4176). Dex and Donald Byrd introduce us to sweet “Tanya” and then they follow up with “Coppin’ The Haven” which sounds like a different take on Tanya, but an appreciably different one. Dex’s and Donald Byrd’s solos are great. Kenny Drew (p), Niels-Henning Orsted (b), and Art Taylor (ds) ably assist them.
The final must getz for this outing is Charles Earland’s “Front Burner” (Milestone – MCD9165-2), but be careful not to burn yourself. Mr. Earland swings – the track entitled “Mom and Dad” is a smoker or as they used to say in Ohio – a barn burner. Charles’ crew consists of Virgil Jones (tp), Bill Easley (ts), Bobby Broom (g), Buddy Williams (ds), and Frank Colon (conga).
There’s a lot of music out there and if you have noticed I have not given any recordings a bad review. Some will assume that either I like everything I listen to or that I have not heard what I have not commented on. About a year ago a guy came up to me in J&R Records and said something like, “you’re always telling me ‘this is good and this is good’, I’ve never heard you say that a recording is fair or bad”. I explained to him that bank tellers are trained to spot counterfeit money. By studying and appreciating legitimate bills they come to recognize them. Conversely, when they see a phony it is so obvious. Similarly, I try to point out what I believe to be of quality. And, no I haven’t heard everything. See you next time.
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