Friday, September 26, 2014

Ornette Coleman "Blindfold Test" and "Caught In The Act" Five Spot Review

Here are a few pages from the January 7, 1960 issue of Down Beat Magazine. First up, Ornette Coleman is the subject of Leonard Feather's "Blindfold Test." He comments on the likes of George Russell, Charles Mingus, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis and Yusef Lateef. Then his quartet (with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins) is "Caught In The Act" at the Five Spot Cafe by George Hoefer. Enjoy.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kenny Wheeler - Angel Song

It was sad news to hear of Kenny Wheeler's passing yesterday. Around 2000, when I was hunting out everything Lee Konitz, I discovered Wheeler's 1996 album Angel Song (ECM). Man, I listened to that album a lot that year or so (and later played "Onmo" in my final recital). It was the Konitz who initially grabbed my attention but I soon discovered that there was a lot more to this album than just his presence. Wheeler, Konitz, Dave Holland and Bill Frisell - four distinctive sounds combing as one made for compelling listening. Spacious, lyrical, wistful and powerful (in ways you don't normally associate that word being used), it seems odd that this was there only album together. My ear is drawn to a horn players tone first and from the start Wheeler had me - personal and expressive combined with lyrical phrasing. His tunes are a key ingredient to the album's overall feel. Listening to Angel Song yesterday afternoon and this morning has made me want to revisit these melodies. Although it had been a couple of years since I last gave it a spin it felt like returning home to old friends. Find some time to relax with this gem of an album.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Straight Horning: Lucky & Zoot

It’s been fun having a re-listen to a couple of albums from players better known for their tenor playing. If you are into the soprano both of these albums are worth a listen.

Lucky Thompson - Lucky Strikes (Prestige, 1964)

My friend Nick emailed me about this album (he has just discovered it) – I hadn’t listened to it for a couple of years and I’d forgotten how sweet Lucky’s soprano tone can be – focused but without too much brightness and with a lightness/fleetness I find attractive and it has made me want to check out more of his soprano work.

Thompson alternates between tenor and soprano sax (4 tunes on each) and the rhythm cooks throughout - as you would expect from Hank Jones (piano) Richard Davis (bass) and Connie Kay (drums). The soprano tunes are: “In A Sentimental Mood” (great ballad sound) and Thomposon’s “Mid-Nite Oil,” “Mumble Neua” and “Prey-Loot.” The stereo separation is pretty heavy with the sax panned well to the left channel – not necessarily a bad if you want to isolate the sax or rhythm section (another good one for this is the album Motion by Lee Konitz).

Don’t discount his tenor playing either. I feel Lucky is a somewhat overlooked/forgotten player.

Zoot Sims Soprano Sax (Pablo, 1976)

There are a few albums from the 70s where Zoot plays soprano on the occasional track or two. Here he’s on soprano throughout along with Ray Bryant (piano) George Mraz (bass) and Grady Tate (drums) in support.

There is an effortlessness and exuberance to Zoot’s playing that I dig – it sounds like he is having fun. The fuzzy tone transfers from his tenor but takes on a bit more edge on the small horn (which is more pronounced when he pushes the volume). He’s melodic and swinging (as always) playing standards and a couple of blues. This time around the ballads “Moonlight In Vermont” and “Ghost Of A Chance” stood out to me – lovely playing.

The bass is a bit rubber band sounding and for my tastes (more noticeable during the solos) and the bowed solo on "Baubles Bangles & Beads" could have been shelved.

Be sure to check out Zoot on alto – very nice too.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

We Thought We Could Change The World

Peter Brotzmann - We Thought We Could Change The World: Conversations with Gerard Rouy  (Wolke Verlag Hofheim, 2014)

While Brotzmann's music is not really my cup of tea (although the one time I've heard him live I was glad I attended), I have enjoyed reading interviews with him. A fascinating musician that I am somehow drawn to - it's bit of a mystery.

The first 110 pages of this book are a collection of conversations between Peter Brotzmann and Gerard Rouy that were left out of the of the documentary Solider Of The Road. They cover Brotzmann's career and talk about his discovery of music, his instruments, artwork, his collaborators and the future of the music. The remaining 80-odd pages contain 58 photographs (mostly black and white) from throughout his career (in performance, candid shots and at home in his studio), 18 artworks reproduced in colour (I'm a fan of his artwork and enjoyed the exhibition at Corbett vs Dempsey last year - in fact the book's cover is from a work - "Clarinet Bells" - from this exhibition) a discography and an epilogue from Brotzmann. I am yet to watch the documentary but having read this book I've added it to my list.

I thought I'd round things out with Brotzmann's final statement in the interview section: "When I go somewhere, I meet people, I work with them, so I'm right into their shit, I see their way of life, their kinds of problems and in the end I get to learn from all of it. What I've learnt so far is that people are the same everywhere; they have the same sorrows, the same fun, and the same blues. They may look and sound a little different but all human beings are more or less the same."

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Impact Records: Miles Davis - Birth of The Cool

It's been a while since added to this series of the blog. Here are the previous entries - Kings of Swing, Kind Of Blue, Charlie Parker, Billie and Pres, Out To Lunch.

I'm not sure what led me to this album. Perhaps someone mentioned it to me or I read about it somewhere. This was early in 1999 during my first year at music schools and hitting the library was almost part of the daily routine (I lived just a couple of blocks away). Sometimes I was there for something specific, other times I would just choose albums at random. Either way, I returned home from one of my many visits to the library with a stack of CDs to listen to and in amongst them was Miles Davis' Birth Of The Cool. The first track "Move," grabbed my attention - this was a different sound from the ensemble. But the thing that really made me pay attention was the alto saxophone solo. So this was Lee Konitz - a name I had come across but had yet to hear. A personal approach to the horn - tone, phrasing, time, the line. This album got a lot of air time that week/month and at times I would just loop Konitz's solos. Not long after hearing Birth Of The Cool (maybe the same week) I was exposed to him again during one of our Improvisation classes. Our teacher (Hi Nick!) talked about Konitz's 10-step method and played us "All The Things You Are" and "Too Marvelous For Words" from Konitz Meets Mulligan. I purchased this album not long after with money from playing on the street [This was how I funded most of my CD purchases during my time at music school… I enjoyed the expression on their faces as I handed over $20-$30 in change]. Not long after that was Lennie Tristano/Warne Marsh Intuition (the reissue of Tristano's Capitol Recordings and a Marsh session from the 50s) and Konitz's Subconscious-Lee, which I had to special order and it was expensive. I'll probably write a bit on those albums in the future.
During my first visit to NYC (April 2002) I heard concert by a college faculty band playing the Birth Of The Cool charts. I can't remember what school but John Faddis was on trumpet, I think Jim Snidero was on alto and John Riley on drums - I'm sure I have it written down in a notebook somewhere. I took me a little while to get the live recordings once they were issued. I haven't listened to them in a while so maybe I'll head there next.