Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Out To Lunch!

I though it was fitting to write another instalment of Impact Records. Other posts in the series can be found by following these links - Kings of Swing, Billie Holiday & Lester Young, Charlie Parker and Kind Of Blue.

Eric Dolphy's Out To Lunch! (Blue Note Records) - Recorded 50 years ago today. I first heard this album in early 1999 during my first year at university. I’m not sure exactly what made me buy it – I must have read something about Eric Dolphy or maybe heard him via Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz (I heard it around the same time).

There was something about this album that grabbed me – a haunting, mysterious quality. In the months that followed I raided the library for more of Dolphy’s work (Far Cry, At the 5 Spot and Out There among others) and eventually he was the subject of my Jazz History essay.

Back then; it was all about Dolphy’s playing – and it’s still staggering. Having an anniversary listen this evening, it’s the ensemble has a whole that strikes me. Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Richard Davis and Tony Williams all contribute to the album, with the bass clarinet, flute and alto sax of Dolphy offering a variety of colors and textures.  There is plenty of communication between the players without things getting overly busy. In fact, there is a lot of space especially when compared to some playing from that era.

I feel with all the attention that fellow saxophonists Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane got at the time; Eric Dolphy has been somewhat overlooked by many.  Out To Lunch! is a great place to start and be sure to check out his playing on Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus. Enjoy!

Friday, February 21, 2014

More from Kazzrie Jaxen

As I mentioned earlier the music of Kazzrie Jaxen has been pumping out of the speakers of late.

Released in late 2013, A Million Shimmering Fish (New Artists Records NA1057) comes from a 2010 duo concert with writer Mark Weber at the Outpost Performance Space in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The album draws largely from the first set - the 10-part poem sequence "Undulations Water & Clouds." For the most part, the format has Mark speaking followed Kazzrie freely improvising with exceptions being parts 3 & 5, where Kazzrie improvises as Mark speaks. At first I was a little disappointed with the lack of concurrent playing, but I was soon drawn into it and the sense of space it gave the album as a whole. The breaks following the poems had me waiting in anticipation for the surprises Kazzrie had in store (her playing is breathtaking).
Part 3, "On Breathing Down The Spine" also appears on Live at The Stone/NYC (New Artists Records 1046) with Mark appearing alongside the Connie Crothers Quartet.
The last four pieces come from the concert's second set - one solo piano piece ("Catharsis"), two pieces that feature Kazzire's vocals (in addition to piano) along with text from Mark ("Timebounce" & "How Deep Is The Ocean") and a delightfully fun encore. An engaging duo.

Mark has posted about the concert and the album (including the text for "Undulations") along with photographs on his blog - I wonder if the 2nd set (Kazzrie solo) will get released?

My introduction to Kazzrie's music came via the New Artists Records sampler disc which contains "Shine The Warrior's Heart" from her 1998 solo piano album For The Beauty Of The Earth (New Artists Records NA1030). I picked up not too long after hearing the sampler disc.

Around that time (2003 & early 2004) some albums that had plenty of repeated listens included:
Richard Tabnik - In The Moment (NA1015) and Life At The Core (NA1016). The trio and quartet albums that I discovered by chance at Tower Records online (if you can imagine that!).
Connie CrothersPerception (SCCD31022)
Connie Crothers Quartet Ontology (New Artists NA1035)
These two albums of Connie's would accompany me on late night walks from Newtown over to Lyall Bay.
Lenny Popkin - Self-titled trio album on Lifeline Records (LR101) with Rich Califano (b) and Carol Tristano (d)
I was living in a flat with three other musicians and I remember them all being into trumpeter Terence Blanchard at the time. They had a live recording of his group that went on to record Bounce for Blue Note (I think it was from an IAJE performance that one of them went to). For whatever reason, it just didn't grab me. However, the half a dozen albums listed above did.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Kazzrie Jaxen

Due to a couple of recent releases of late, I have been listening to Kazzrie Jaxen (formerly known as Liz Gorrill). For those of you unfamiliar with her work, you're in for a treat.

First up…. Callicoon Sessions (Candence Jazz Records CJR1243, 2013) by the The Kazzrie Jaxen Quartet with Charley Krachy (ts) Don Messina (b) Bill Chatin (d).

During the second half of 2009, I started playing with Don and Bill (along with Carol Liebowitz & Will Jhun) and they mentioned that the quartet had started playing together. In fact, "My Melancholy Baby" comes from the quartets' very first session together. The individual histories are much longer. Bill & Kazzrie go back to the early 70s, Charley & Kazzrie the late 70s (first recording together is from 1989), while Don & Bill have been playing together for about 30 years.

I feel these long standing relationships play an important role underpinning the eight standard tunes and one free improvisation. There is a casual, playful feel throughout the album, very much akin to old friends catching up.

"Foolin' Myself" somehow got lost amongst the shuffle and is seldom played these days. If you are looking to add some underplayed tunes to your repertoire this one is a gem.

Having heard Charley play "My Foolish Heart" live, I was keen to hear the quartets' interpretation - it didn't disappoint. Nobody over plays their hand - timely fills are added in the bass, piano accompaniment is supportive yet creative, swirling brushes and cymbals create a subtle wash and the melody is presented quite "straight" but with plenty of feeling (with out resulting to milking it). During the saxophone solo, the melody is never far away.

Contrast follows in "You Stepped Out Of A Dream." It kicks off with a  piano/drum duet of blurring lines, dense chords and crisp ride & snare that is full steam ahead.

The free improvisation "Callicoon" is made up of two parts "The River" & "The Train." The quartet move out of flowing pulse that is a feature of the album and break things up with rubato/free time and hinting at a shifting pulse.

Don gets a pretty sweet recorded sound from a DAT recorder and a single stereo microphone. He has recorded a number albums this way (the three BMC Trio discs, Jimmy Halperin's Cycle Logical and an album he and Bill made with Jon Easton, probably others too). Sometimes it makes me wonder why there can be so much fuss over studios and such.

I got my copy from CD Baby. It only arrived a couple of days ago but has already had multiple spins.

Of her two duets with guitarist Andy Fite I have been listening to Cosmic Comedy (New Artists Records 1012) - from a September 1990 concert at Greenwich House. These duets are excellent examples of the unlimited nature of tunes from the Great American Songbook. The two albums are full of surprising twists and turns, it feels like the music could go anywhere at anytime. The music goes places.