Friday, January 30, 2015

Vinyl Revival?

Over the past year or so there have been plenty of "Vinyl is back!" articles. It's nothing new though, this article is from the May 1996 issue of Jazz Times (click on image to view full article - 4 pages). The likes of Michael Cuscuna and Bob Koester share their thoughts on jazz vinyl in the mid-90s. As for me, I only have a dozen or so LPs (albums that are yet to be reissued) that made the journey with me to Chicago. I left the turntable behind and haven't replaced it just yet. Even without a turntable I still fight the urge when I hit the record stores. It's probably for the best.... at least my bank balance thanks me for trying.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Benny Golson: Blindfold Test June 1959

For the June 11, 1959 issue of Down Beat, Leonard Feather blindfolds Benny Golson (b.January 25, 1929). The focus here was on composer/arrangers including Randy Weston, Thelonious Monk, Gil Evans and George Russell (Click image to view as PDF).
Here are more links to more vintage magazine articles.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

2014 Round Up

This is not a "best of" and it's far from a comprehensive overview of my listening over the past 12 months - just a taste of albums I enjoyed that were new to me during 2014 (I've not focussed on new releases). Aside from the 2014 releases being first, things are in no particular order.

Connie CrothersConcert In Paris (New Artists)

Perhaps I biased, but you'll find Connie's albums on any favourite's list of mine. Recorded in October 2011 (not long after I returned to NZ following a period studying with her) and released in August during Connie's residency at The Stone - another highlight from 2014. I'm always left wondering, "how does she do it?"
SlowfoxThe Wood (JazzwerkstattRoot 70 with Strings: Riomar (Nwog)
As with Crothers, I'm a big Hayden Chisholm fan. The Wood got plenty of spins this year and I hope this trio record more in the future. There are a few videos of concerts from them floating around YouTube too. I may be a little cheeky including the Root 70 album here as I got it in 2013 but listened to it more in 2014.

Lennie Tristano: Chicago, April 1951 (Uptown)

Two discs of previously unreleased live recordings, tells you this is essential for anyone interested in Tristano, Konitz and Marsh et al.. The sound quality is pretty descent and the music is excellent. Lets hope for more releases from the Tristano vaults. For whatever reason, this one didn't quite get the same media attention as the Guiffre release.

The Jimmy Giuffre 3 & 4: New York Concerts (Elemental Music)
Another important historical release of previously unissued concert recordings, filling a gap during the post-Free Fall years that went unrecorded. Giuffre (on tenor and clarinet) along with trio (b/d) and quartet (p/b/d), fascinating listening and excellent notes too.

Kazzrie Jaxen Quartet: Callicoon Sessions (New Artists) A Million Shimmering Fish (New Artists)
Kazzire's lush piano shines across both of these quite different releases.  The latter features Kazzrie's piano and the poetry of Mark Weber - mostly piano responding to the spoken word (as opposed to the piano accompanying the spoken words). The Quartet has just released a new album which I am yet to hear.

Lester Young: Lady Be Good (unreleased alternate take)

From the collection of George Avakian comes an alternate take from the 1936 "Jones-Smith Inc." session. I hope someone dives in to the collection and discovers more gems such as this. The find of the year?

Paul Bley: Homage To Carla (Owl)

I do enjoy hearing Bley play Bley and this solo disc was on heavy rotation for a while (along with a few other Paul Bley albums). I'll be keeping an eye out for his trio disc on Steeplechase that tackles Carla's songs. In general, I still feel Paul Bley is under appreciated by the jazz community.

Various: West Coast Soundings (EWR)

I got this from Frank Gratkowski after his gig at Constellation (which was excellent). This is two discs of compositions that I guess fall into the the "new music" category. There's a lot of minimalism and drones. My interest was sparked when Frank mentioned there were times during the recording that he felt every note he played was too loud - I think he did pretty well. This was a nice accompaniment as I worked on school stuff.

Steve Lacy: Spirit of Mingus (Freelance) Steve Lacy & Evan Parker: Chirps (FMP)

As usual I listened to my fair share of Lacy this year. It was great hearing the master play a full set of Mingus tunes and how could I resist the Lacy/Parker duo (Parkers debt to Lacy is evident).

Paul Plimley & Lislie Ellis: Kaleidoscopes (HatArt)

This was a surprise disc that I picked up purely because this duo (who I was unfamiliar with) was playing the music of Ornette Coleman. I thoroughly enjoyed this album and recommend it to anyone interested in Coleman's music.

Lol Coxhill: Ear of Beholder (Esoteric) Milwaukee 2002 (Emanem) Alone and Together (Emanem)

There has been a steady stream of Coxhill on throughout the year. His personal approach to the soprano has drawn me in - there's a vulnerability and a rambling quality that appeals to be - a very distinctive player. The opening (included here) and closing tracks on Behearer hit my funny bone.

Ran Blake: Plays Solo Piano (ESP) Free Standards (Fresh Sound)

The fidelity of the solo disc is far from ideal but that didn't stop me from enjoying the music. On the duo disc I found that the original compositions written by the producer didn't grab my attention the way the standard tunes (solo & duo) did.

Ornette Coleman: In All Languages (Harmolodic/Verve)

Around the middle of the year I revisited some album's of Ornette's I hadn't listened to for some time. Along the way I picked up this one which I hadn't heard. The disc splits Prime Time and a reunion of the original quartet and it's worthwhile checking out the two groups takes on the same songs.

Art Tatum: Exactly Like You
This comes from a mid-1940s live recording (sorry but I've misplaced the full info!). Lewis Porter played this to us in class early last year. Check out striking chorus of single note lines.

John SurmanFragments (ECMThimar (ECM) A Biography Of The Rev. Absalom Dawe (ECM)
Stranger Than Fiction (EMC)

I haven't listened to much John Surman over the years. For me, he's a player that has slipped through the cracks so this year I made bit of an effort to listen to some of his work. I focused on his soprano work but he is strong on baritone sax and bass clarinet too. It was enough for me to want some more.

Norman Winstone: Somewhere Called Home (ECM)

I went to the Jazz Record Mart on New Year's eve hoping to find Jay Clayton's Sound Songs. They didn't have it and I was in the mood for some vocals so on a whim I picked this up - a nice mellow way to take out 2014.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Warne Marsh: Atlantic Album Review Part 2 - Jazz Review 1959

This review of Warne Marsh's self-titled album (partially recorded on this day in 1958) appeared in The Jazz Review (February 1959). The reviewer, Mimi Clar, dedicates plenty of space (in what must have been the longest review of Marsh's work at that point) to discussing Marsh's tone and intonation. She found his tone "so distracting as to have a hard time concentrating on the linear development of the music." Personal and different - yes, but "unpracticed" - I have to disagree. The inflections are part of what drew me in to Marsh's music.

Link on the first image to open as a PDF file. Here is the review in Down Beat and there are links to more vintage magazine articles here.
Jazz Studies Online has scanned copies of The Jazz Review.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Max Roach: Down Beat Feature 1958

Max Roach is featured in the March 20, 1958 issue of Down Beat magazine. Roach shares his thoughts on Clifford Brown, Benny Carter, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, J.J. Johnson, Kenny Clarke among others. Roach mentions he has been playing vibes adding that he wants to record on them as well as "cultivating tympani in jazz."
Here's a list of links to previous vintage articles.
Be sure to tune in to WKCR's Max Roach Birthday Broadcast today!

Monday, January 05, 2015

Berklee College - Jazz In The Classroom, Down Beat 1958

With the JEN Conference approaching here's another jazz education article from the October 2, 1958 issue of Down Beat.
Last year fellow blogger David Valdez posted about the Jazz In The Classroom LP (mentioned at the end of the article). He uploaded audio and links to the scores for Volume III (Joe Viola Plays Manny Albam) - check it out.
Links to more vintage magazine articles can be found here.

Friday, January 02, 2015

"best of 2014" lists from around the web

Over the last week or so I have been checking out the various Best Of 2014 lists. I can't say I'm familiar with all the albums mentioned so I've been listening to the sound samples on the posts below as well as streaming them when available. It made me consider having a year in which I only buy new releases..... anyway here's a bunch of links in no particular order.

Francis Davis and the NPR Jazz Critics Poll: Each year Davis polls 140 critics for their top picks of the year. He then collects the results and creates a Top 50. Included are his notes on the top 10 along with sound samples. More from Davis on the results can be found here. And here are the full listings from each critic.

Jazz Journalists Association - No reviews just lists from the members of the JJA.

Lyn Horton keeps things simple.

S. Victor Aaron's picks for Something Else (in three parts).
Avant Garde
Jazz Fusion

Denver Post (includes some notes on the recordings).
The Big City Blog (includes sound samples).

The Wondering Sound (with short notes).

Stereophile -  I like that the author picks his favourite albums from the year and then re-orders them in accordance with their "sonic merits" (I would be keen to he see what his favourite sounding albums are from 2014). He elaborates on the albums here (with sound samples). 

Gapplegate Music Review - it's a short list but great to see Connie Crothers made the cut. Gapplegate's review of her latest release Concert In Paris is here.

The New Yorker – best reissues of 2014.
Howard Reich’s picks for The Chicago Tribune and his top live performances.

Here are a few lists from All About Jazz.
Kurt Gottschalk
Troy Collins 
John Sharpe
Phil Barnes
Jakob Baekgaard
Dan Bilawsky
John Kelman (Best Live Concerts) (Best Albums)
Bruce Lindsay
C. Michael Bailey
Dan McClenaghan

Tom Hull - It's a long list (the only top 66 I've come across so far!) includes new releases, reissues and honorable mentions.

Free Jazz Collective  - top picks from 16 writers on the blog and an overall Top 10.

Chris Barton's picks in the LA Times.

Chicago Reader - scroll down to read Bill Meyer's favourites of Chicago Contemporary Jazz.

A five-part countdown of their top 25 from 2014. Includes notes and lots of audio.

Bird Is The Worm Also used the countdown approach