Sunday, December 25, 2016

Wayne Shorter's Blue Notes

Earlier in the year I picked up a collection of Wayne Shorter's recordings for Blue Note and I have been working my way through them ever since. Note: for those that want the liner notes, this set isn't for you.... you can probably pick up all the individual reissues used for about the same price as this set.

JuJu and Speak No Evil got some heavy rotation in the early 2000s and I have returned to them on fairly regular intervals over the years. My knowledge of Night Dreamer, The Soothsayer, The All Seeing Eye, Adam's Apple and Schizophrenia came from listening sessions at the public and university library (along the way I must have missed Etcetera). Spending more time with them this year has been time well spent.

I was surprised by how many of the tunes from Night Dreamer seemed familiar to me. Either I must have listened to that album more than I realized or perhaps in the years following I've heard others playing songs like "Black Nile," "Virgo" and the title track. Or maybe the stickability of the tunes is testament to Shorter's ability as a composer. Of these, I was least familiar with The All Seeing Eye. It's an interesting work and I can think of a couple of friends who may enjoy the writing for five or six horns and rhythm (a line-up I don't really associate with Blue Note or music of this era). I remember thinking to myself, "I thought the pianist was Herbie?," then double checking the liner notes and being pleasantly surprised as I couldn't recall him playing like he does on "Chaos."

While I know some people who don't really care for Shorter's tone, I find it quite appealing (although I do prefer his Shorter's more recent soprano tone to his early years on the straight horn). There is something about his tonal inflections that remind me of the way Warne Marsh colored individual notes and I think this contributed to my initial attraction to his playing. In fact, this may even be my favorite element of his playing.

Purchasing this set was an in-the-moment decision and the motivating factor was the last three albums - Super NovaMoto Grosso Fein and Odyssey of Iska. First, because they are early examples of his soprano work and, secondly, because when people speak of Shorter's Blue Note era these albums don't get a mention (no doubt due to anti-fusion sentiments that are part of the jazz world) and this makes me curious. Someone leant Super Nova to me a while back and I had forgotten the dense quality and intensity of some of the tracks. He sticks solely to soprano here and I need to get around to comparing the tunes he recorded with Miles that also appear here. I had heard one track from Moto a few years back (thanks Paul) and I remember it sparked my attention but I never followed through checking out the album. Both Moto and Odyssey have a similar vibe with the music slowly unfolding. The unhurried, wandering, exploratory quality appeals to me. I don't listen to a lot of music of this ilk, so these last three albums have made a refreshing change of pace. For those after some adventurous and exploratory music or fans of early(ish) fusion, make sure you check out these albums.

All this talk and I haven't mentioned any of the sideman, and lets face it, they're not light-weights. Joe Chambers, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter make regular appearances (on 4, 5 and 6 albums respectively), Freddie Hubbard is on form, Elvin Jones is superb (Joe Chambers also caught my ears) and James Spaulding contributed some fiery playing. Aside from a smattering of sideman appearances in the 60s, I've never really checked out his work.

This set is a reminder of just how much contemporary jazz (as soloists, accompanists, compositionally and the approach to ensemble playing) owes to the music from this era. I'm looking for to delving into more from Shorter when I tackle the Plugged Nickel box set in the new year.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Straight Horning - Evan Parker: As the Wind

In addition to his solo saxophone recordings, I'm a fan of Evan Parker's quieter outings such as his duo with Richard Nuns, Rangirua, and the two trio albums with Paul Bley and Barre Phillips, Time Will Tell and Sankt Gerold Variations. The recently released As the Wind, fits the bill nicely and has been getting a fair bit of airtime. [As an aside: I have never been able to get into his work with long-time collaborators Barry Guy and Paul Lytton or as part of Alexander von Schlippenbach's trio].
Toma Gouband Mark Nauseef
Evan ParkerAs the Wind (PSI Records)

I'm very happy to have stumbled upon this while browsing the shelves at Dusty Groove. It was the line-up that raised my curiosity levels -  Parker sticks to the soprano throughout nine free improvisations with Toma Gouband (Lithophones) and Mark Nauseef (Percussion). 

The music is never too busy with space playing an important role in the album. It is music that is not in a rush and has an open and airy presence. Flurries of notes punctuate periods of sustained sounds. Surges of sound retreat as quickly as they appear. At times I couldn't help but think of Gagaku or the Shakuhachi. It's a marvelous feeling to be immersed in a recording to the point, no longer aware of the specific instruments being played, you just bask in the sound.

The air sounds, microtones and multiphonics are not just played for show and flash. And lets not forget clean notes... Parker has a great clean soprano tone but it's something that is not often mentioned. I'm really enjoying the sound of this album. Not only does it showcase the many subtleties of the individuals but also the wonderful blend of the trio is beautifully captured. 

I don't get the feeling the trio is trying to do something new. In fact, it feels like they tap into something quite ancient, perhaps even primitive. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but it makes for compelling listening as another year rolls around.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Cannonball Adderley: Two Blindfold Tests from 1965

Cannonball Adderley takes Leonard Feather's Blindfold Test for Down Beat magazine. This one was split over two issues (December 16 & 23, 1965) with tracks from Lucky Thompson, Paul Desmond, Marshall Allen, Wayne Shorter, Johnny Hodges, Sonny Rollins and more. Click on the image to view PDF of both articles. View more vintage magazine articles here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

cough cough

The last couple of days have been spent recovering from a cold/bug/whatever. While it's not the best timing (I have a busy week planned), it has given me the chance to listen to some music.

After trying (and failing) to work my way through the 2-disc sampler, "Critic's Choices & Other Voices," that came with Jazziz magazine, I listened to a selection of artists from the 1920s and 30s - Jabbo Smith, Tiny Parham, Mills Blue Rhythm Band, Lovie Austin, Mezz Mezzrow, Eddie South and Jimmy Lunceford among others. I've just wrapped up reading Allen Lowe's That Devilin' Tune which no doubt helped nudge me to revisit the 1920s and 30s. As I've made my way through the book I've been listening to some of the tracks mentioned and on Monday I created a few random playlists and hit play. A few years ago I spent a lot of time listening to jazz from the first 20 years of its recorded history but since then it has been a sporadic effort at best and it made for a refreshing change.

And while the 20s and 30s are on my mind....Charley Patton also has been getting some airtime. I picked up a 3-disc set a short while ago and I'm finally getting around to giving it a listen. The focus was on the first disc but I will make sure I get to the other two before the year is out. There will more acoustic blues added to my listening in the near future. Patton made a nice contrast to Evan Parker's As the Wind (which I'll write more on that later but I'm liking what I hear so far).

Christian Weidner's Every Hour of the Light and Dark arrived in the mail yesterday so I gave it a cursory listen this morning and again this afternoon. I'm not sure if brooding is an apt description, reflective maybe, but not overly introspective.

No blowing the horn, but I have been tapping out of various 8th notes and triplets groupings from Ed Saindon's Exploration in Rhythm. 

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Lambic Jazz Vol.11

Here we are again. Tonight was the final class of the semester, so I'm celebrating with a beer and a couple of albums of been listening to this past week.

Wayne Shorter: Odyssey of Iska (Blue Note)
Shorter (ss/ts) Dave Friedman (vibes/marimba) Gene Bertoncini (g) Ron Carter, Cecil McBee (b) Billy Hart, Al Mouton (d) Frank Cuomo (d/prec.) .... is it just me or but I think I hear some harmonica in there too?
I've enjoyed making my way through Wayne Shorter's Blue Note albums this year. This was one of the albums that was new to me and I'll post more on it soon. But for now I'll keep things brief - I enjoy Shorter's sense of economy and the way he can float over dense accompaniment yet still be rhythmically interesting.

Christian Weidner: Dream Boogie (Pirouet) 2012
Weidner (as) Achim Kaufmann (p) Henning Sieverts (b) Samuel Rohrer (d)
Back in Vol. 6 I mentioned that I was planning on picking up his last couple of quartet albums. Well, the first of those has arrived and the other is on the way. Although I've give it a couple of spins this week I'm yet to really give it a solid listen. As is the case with many European (or non-American) musicians, I don't hear Christian mentioned much here in the U.S. Like Choral, the tracks are concise with 10 of 11 tunes between 3-5 minutes and even the "long" track (the opener "Windchoral") is a reasonable 7 and half minutes. It keeps things moving - moods, feeling, tempos and textures shift at a nice rate of change while maintaining unity across the album. All involved make strong contributions. Kaufmann replacing Colin Vallon is the only change in personnel from The Inward Song and I feel it had a positive effect. This album will be in for many more listens and I'm looking forward to spinning it back to back with Every Hour of the Light and Dark when it arrives.

Tonight's music was accompanied by Lambickx (Wambeek, De Troch). And now it must be about time to tune in to the fourth test - India vs England. India are up 2-0 in the series (of 5) and it looks like England won the toss and will bat.

The Lambic Jazz Series: Vol.10 - Vol.9 - Vol.8 - Vol.7 - Vol.6 - Vol.5 - Vol.4 - Vol.3 - Vol.2 - Vol.1

Monday, December 05, 2016

The Plugged Nickel

Miles Davis Chicago History Museum
The Plugged Nickel circa late 1960s 
(excuse the glare on my photo).
The Sigmund J. Osty collection - Chicago History Museum 
One of my fellow interns at the Chicago History Museum is working on processing a collection photographs of buildings from across Chicago. As she was working her way through them I spotted this jazz-related gem taken sometime in the late 60s/early 70s - the Plugged Nickel at 1321 N. Wells Street (a short walk from the Museum).

I've been keeping my eye out for the Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965 box set. Used copies are so expensive that sometimes I almost succumbed to getting the digital version, but I managed to hold out until I found it reasonably priced last week (although it has been put aside for a Christmas present). Many consider the recordings Miles' quintet made at the Plugged Nickel to  be classics and an essential part of any jazz collection, and it would be nice to see the box set available again in a physical format (seems more likely it will be as vinyl).
old town chicago
As it appears in September 2016

While hunting online for articles regarding the club, I came across the article below from the Chicago Tribune (May 17, 1981) in which Larry Kart ponders why Columbia haven't reissued the Plugged Nickel LP in the U.S....I know the feeling.

Larry Kart Chicago TribuneLarry Kart Chicago Tribune

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Lambic Jazz Vol.10

With Thanksgiving done and dusted classes resume as does the 10th edition of Lambic Jazz. I have a number of recordings of Third Stream - that curios blend of jazz and classical - it manages to draw me in even though not much of it really appeals to me. So following a short practice, here I am relaxing after class with a glass of Boon Ode Geuze while listening to The Modern Jazz Society Presents a Concert of Contemporary Music (Verve).

Lambic beer Chord Scale Theory
The recording dates from March 14, 1955 and of the six pieces, J.J Johnson’s “Turnpike” (which is a rehearsal take only) is the lone composition not from the pen of John Lewis with the arranging duties split between Gunther Schuller and Lewis for the remaining pieces. 

The ensemble size varies from 9-10 players consisting of J.J. Johnson (trb) Gunther Schuller (f.horn/arranger) James Politis (f) Aaron Sachs/Tony Scott (cl) Lucky Thompson/Stan Getz (ts) Manuel Zegler (bassoon) Janet Putnam (harp) John Lewis (p/arranger) Percy Heath (b) Connie Kay (d) with Thompson, Getz, Scott, Sachs and Johnson being the featured soloists. I was pleasantly surprised how nicely Lucky Thompson's tenor playing slotted in to the overall sound. 

Although I have enjoyed listening to this album this week (and tonight), it's not really my cup of tea. Overall it's a pretty mellow album and perhaps at times it's a little samey mood wise, but I wouldn't hesitate recommending it to fans of John Lewis, Gunther Schuller or the Third Stream. 

"Turnpike" (a variation on Monk's "Thelonious"?) gets things moving along. Strangely, the false start take of this song kicks off on the same track as the preceding "Sun Dance." That's not the only oddity. The original notes from John Lewis are printed on the back cover and the booklet contains notes from Gunther Schuller. However, Schuller's notes suffer from some poor copy editing - how didn't they notice that the middle third of the notes are missing only to have the first page repeated?!

While we're on the subjects of edits..... courtesy of a free subscription, a copy of Jazziz arrived in the mail yesterday. It's the first copy I have picked up in ages. Someone managed to miss that the Donny McCaslin article had a page missing.....oops. While it's pretty mainstream stuff it was refreshing to flick through a jazz magazine and not be bombarded with jazz education related articles and advertising.

And while we are on that subject...... jazz education, in a similar way to third stream music, also draws me in. Not because I'm sold by what it has become (far from it) but because I'm curious to find out what people have to say on the topic. I was exposed to the "chord scale" method during my undergraduate studies (actually, now that I think about things, it would have been slightly prior to that via some Aebersold play-alongs) and it never really agreed with me. The pervasiveness of the "chord scale" method in education is unsurprising due to it's black and white nature. And while I don't subscribe to it as a method for improvising, I picked up these two books - The Chord Scale Method & Jazz Harmony by Barrie Nettles and Richard Graf (Advance Music) and The Berklee Book of Jazz Harmony by Joe Mulholland and Tom Hojnacki (Berklee Press) - for some light entertainment and comparison. So far the newer of the two (the Berklee publication) seems a little more direct and to the point but I'm only about 20 pages into each - lets see if I can stick with them.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Witty Paul Desmond - Down Beat 1965

From the September 9, 1965 issue of Down Beat, here is Dan Morgenstern's feature on Paul Desmond. Click on the image to view PDF of the full article. More vintage magazine articles are available here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Lambic Jazz Vol.9

Allen Lowe That Devilin' TuneFrank Gratkowski Trio: Quicksand (Meniscus)
I reorganized my CDs last week and maybe Quicksand lodged somewhere in my mind as I’m not sure what made me reach for this album tonight. Pianist Georg Graewe and percussionist Paul Lovens join Frank’s alto sax, clarinet and bass clarinet for a set of four free improvisations recorded live at Stadtgarten in 1999. At times it's an intense 44 minutes and I'm pretty sure my wife would have preferred something else, but it suited me just fine (even with the volume down low).

I tend to go through periods of listening to Frank's music and it had been a while since I had one of his albums on. Last week I picked up his first solo recording, Artikulationen, but I'm yet to give it a spin so it (along with tonight's listening) might just get me revisiting a few of his albums.

I’ve been lucky to hear Frank in concert on a three occasions (with three different groups). Although his music sometimes moves away from my aesthetic preferences, there is always plenty to take away from the performance (or recording). Without question he is one of the best saxophone players I have heard in the flesh (he's ain't half bad on clarinets either!). One piece in particular by his trio with Achim Kaufmann and Wilbert de Joode from a gig at Roulette in 2009 featured some jaw-dropping alto playing I would love to hear again. Who knows, maybe it would disappoint on the second time around. Listening to recordings of gigs you attended is similar to listening recordings of your own playing - things get accented that you missed in the moment, other memories are lost on the recording. That in itself is interesting.

Even though I'm still finishing off the Mike Nock biography, I have started on Allen Lowe's That Devilin' Tune: A jazz history, 1900-1950. I started reading it a while back but got distracted and put it down and now I'm finally getting back in to it. Lowe spends a nice amount of time on pre-jazz without limiting himself self to the usual Africa-blues-ragtime-jazz timeline. It's an interesting read and recommended for those of you interested in the roots of the music.

Tonight's listening was accompanied by a dry Hanssens Artisanaal Oude Gueuze. And now it's time to tune into the second test between India and England (the first day of New Zealand v Pakistan was washed out).

Friday, November 11, 2016

Lambic Jazz Vol.8

Paul Motian Songbook Lambic BoonConnie Crothers and Roger Mancuso: Deep Into the Center (New Artists)
This seemed like the perfect choice last night, as I am using this disc for one of my school assignments. However, plans changed and I ended up going out after class so here I am this afternoon catching up. The added bonus was that today I had more time to listen and gave the album three spins.

At the time of the recording (circa 1994) Connie and Roger had been playing together for 30 years but I think this was their first recording together since Connie's 1974 debut, Perception. As I listen today, two words leap out - unity and flow. The connection between the drums and piano is deep, creating a seamless series of duets. Many times I have turned to this album for calm and floated away on a magic carpet of improvisation.

While it can be exciting to hear people playing together for the first time, as relationships develop the music takes on a different quality that only comes with time. And it can, perhaps counter-intuitively, even heighten the surprise factor in the music. There were many long-standing collaborations in Connie's music - the quartet she co-led with Lenny Popkin and the more recent Connie Crothers Quartet (that along with Roger also another included long-time collaborator, saxophonist Richard Tabnik) immediately come to mind. And then there are some other favorite groups of such as the Steve Lacy Quintet, the ICP Orchestra and Root 70 (new album due in May 2017). There's something to be said for groups that maintain stable personnel.

If you are in the NYC area on Sunday come on down to Roulette for Connie's memorial concert - Love and Music: Celebrating Connie Crothers

The Compositions of Paul Motian Vol. 1 arrived in the mail the other day. It covers his works from 1973-1989 (over 60 tunes). I had a quick browse through before class last night and a flick-through today. Printing it as a facsimile of the original handwritten lead sheets is a nice touch.

This post was accompanied by Boon Geuze Marriage Parfait.

Previous editions of Lambic Jazz: Vol.1 -- Vol.2 -- Vol.3 -- Vol.4 -- Vol.5 -- Vol.6 -- Vol.7

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Dave Brubeck - Time Magazine 1954

The Dave Brubeck cover story from the November 8, 1954 issue of Time magazine (it even includes a glossary of "Far-out words for cats"). Click the cover image to view PDF of the article. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Lambic Jazz Vol.7

Jazz Duo De Troch Oude GueuzeNo class last week, but there was tonight so I'm back for the Wednesday night post-class hang.

A couple of days ago two discs arrived via CD Baby. On Monday and Tuesday I listened to Virgo Dzurinko (p) & Ryan Messina (trpt) Undertow (New Artists) and tonight Carol Liebowitz (p) & Nick Lyons (as) First Set (Line Art Records) is getting it's first spin. Nick was the first person Connie Crothers introduced me to when I came to NYC to study with her and a couple of days later I met Carol at a session with Nick (at which they played duo). Over the years it's been great to hear them play together and now a moment of that relationship (in concert during 2012) has now been captured.

I've heard Carol and Nick improvise - freely and on standard forms -  many, many times and there are always surprises. The bonus here is that they play two lines written by Connie ("Carol's Dream" and "Roy's Joy"). Of interest to me is the final track - "Another Time." Even though it was recorded five years earlier (2007) and the energy is a bit different (studio vs live perhaps?) it doesn't distract from the flow of the album. This was recorded before I had met Carol and Nick (although I did have a couple of Carol's albums) and I'm curious to see if I pick up on anything I hadn't noticed before. Duos are a favorite format of mine so I expect these two albums will be getting plenty more airtime. Tonight's music was accompanied by De Troch Oude Gueuze.

I'm looking forward to hearing them play (Virg & Ryan too) as part of the Connie Crothers celebration concert on November 13th. If you're in the NYC area get on down to Roulette and check it out. The full line-up is here.

Yesterday Norman Meehan's Serious Fun: The life and music of Mike Nock came off the shelf and I started re-reading it this afternoon. This will be the third (I think) time reading it in full, although I do read a few pages or a chapter on a semi-regular basis. Norman has another book due out in December - New Zealand Jazz Life (Victoria University Press). I'm looking forward to it.

Now I'm going to keep an eye on the first few hours of the first test between Australia and South Africa (looks like I've already missed a bunch of the action!) as game 7 in the World Series goes right down to the wire.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The New Illinois Jacquet..... on bassoon

As I scrolled through the microfilm, this article leapt out at me - I never knew Jacquet played bassoon. He discusses it in the April 7, 1966 feature from Down Beat. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.

Down Beat Magazine

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Afternoon listening: Mike Nock Piano Solos

Mike Nock's 1978 album Piano Solos (Timeless) has been keeping me company this afternoon. I've been listening to this one on a fairly regular basis since I picked it up at the start of the year (or was it the end of last year?). There are some reflective moments, but it general this album has a dynamic, up-beat feel with the eight tunes from Nock and Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance" providing plenty of variety. Well worth checking out.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sonny Rollins in Melody Maker 1961

Listening to a bit of Rollins lately made me dive into my files to see what articles on him I had collected. This article from the December 23, 1961 issue of Melody Maker gives a little detail on his 1959-61 sabbatical. I can't recall hearing that he studied classical piano during his time away form the scene and I like that after some experimentation he realized that "essentially conventional fingering and blowing might be best after all." More vintage magazine articles can be found here.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Lambic Jazz Vol. 6

Gueuze Girardin
Tonight's listening was Christian Weidner's Choral (Pirouet). Alongside Weidner's alto sax are Antonio Palesano (p) and Daniel Schroteler (d). This album dates back to 2004 but it didn't land in my ears until a few years later (I guess it was sometime between 2008 & 2009 I think) - it escapes me now, but I may have been introduced to his playing by James Wylie. I was fortunate to spend some time with Christian (and James!) back in 2009 at Music Village. Not only was it fantastic to hear him in person but he also was very helpful and encouraging. I remember being blown away by how good his ears were.

Christian's alto tone is one of my favorites and it is melded with a wonderful melodic and lyrical conception which yields a very distinctive sound. Notes aren't thrown away - they all count. Weidner's improvisations make great use of the song's melody, why this approach isn't more widespread baffles me (you gotta play your chord scales and hip licks..... so killing!).

The album is very spacious and open, yet the individual pieces are no longer than 5 and half minutes and over half of the tracks clocking in at under 3 minutes. There is a flow and continuity throughout that feels almost suite-like. Even when the density increases the overall focus of the album remains. As I listen tonight a word that comes to mind is clarity. The clarity of the three individual's roles/lines/accompaniment and how it fits into the group and album overall. It is a recording I can return to again and again. Highly recommended.

Considering how much I enjoy his music I have been slack in not getting the last two quartet albums (it's on the cards!).

Accompanying the music tonight was Gueuze Girardin and up next is Sam Newsome's interview from the October 2016 issue of the NYC Jazz Record. Usually I read the online edition but I picked up the print version from Constellation last week.

I'll be back with more next week, here are the previous editions if you're interested: Vol.1 - Vol.2 - Vol.3 - Vol.4 - Vol.5 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Lambic Jazz Vol.5

Oud Beersel Geuze LambicI'm running a little behind schedule, last night I did get to some lambic and jazz but I'm only just getting to write about it now.

Steve Coleman & the Council of Balance: Synovial Joints (PI). A few years back I used to listen Coleman's albums on a fairly regular basis at the library, but I haven't really heard anything after his solo saxophone album Invisible Paths. The factor that swayed my choice this time around was the ensemble size. I don't associate Coleman's music with a large ensemble (approximately 19 or 20 piece) and there were some surprises for me. It was not nearly as dense I imagined and led to quite a light feel at times with a floaty buoyancy.  A contributing factor may have been that the drums were less busy than on some of his other projects. I like the way that he managed the weight and balance of the ensemble sound and texture well balanced ensemble, although the album is a little static and same-y dynamic-wise. (a criticism that can be lobbed at a lot of music... mine included).

In general the writing grabbed me more than the soloists - of whom Coleman is the dominant voice throughout (other contributors include Jonathan Finlayson, David Bryant, Miles Okazaki and Maria Grand). Maybe it's not the place to start if you are new to Steve Coleman (check out some of his small group work), but definitely recommended for those interested in large ensembles and jazz composition.

Last night's listening was accompanied by Oud Beersel's Oude Geuze Ale. I may need to grab a couple more Lambics to carry this series through to the end of the semester.

Also pictured is Robert E. Sweet's Music Universe, Music Mind: Revisiting the Creative Music Studio, that I started reading this morning. Earlier in the year I noticed that there were a couple of 3 disc sets that had been released from the Creative Music Studio workshops. I wouldn't mind checking them out some time.

I picked up Synovial Joints on Monday night at Constellation at the Steve Coleman and Five Elements gig. This had been on the calendar for a while and I enjoyed getting out to some live music (I've been pretty slack this year) and of the venues I've been to in Chicago, Constellation is my favorite. This edition of Five Elements is comprised of  Steve Coleman (as, perc, vocal), Jonathan Finlayson (trpt, per), Kokayi (vocals), Anthony Tidd (bass), Sean Rickman (drums), and I have to say I enjoyed this gig more than the last time I heard the Five Elements (albeit with a slightly different line-up) a couple of years ago. I'm still not convinced by Finlayson. I'm not sure what it is exactly... intent maybe. The others in the group are very much, "here it is!" but sometimes I feel Finlayson is more, "is it here?" He seems like the odd one out at times. In saying that, I though he played much better than when I heard him with Coleman at the Chicago Cultural Center mentioned above. I enjoyed the effortlessness of Tidd on bass and Kokayi's vocals were the surprise package for me -great energy and he fit into the group sound well. It should be noted that they played one 2 hour set plus an encore - not bad!

Constellation Chicago October 2016
Constellation Chicago October 2016

Previous Lambic Jazz entries can be found here: Vol.1 -- Vol.2 -- Vol.3 -- Vol. 4

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Lambic Jazz Vol. 4

saxophone trio
On the cards tonight is the 3 disc set - Sonny Rollins Trio: Live in Europe 1959
Sonny Rollins (ts) Henry Grimes (b) Pete LaRoca, Joe Harris, Kenny Clarke (d)

I have fond memories of this recording. I hadn't been keeping an eye out for it and was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon it last week. A little background.....During my mid teens, if I was in town for a saxophone lesson or just hanging out in the city, often I would head to the Wellington City Library to listen to albums in the jazz collection. Not long after picking up a copy of Saxophone Colossus, one of these library visits led me to a vinyl copy of St. Thomas: The Sonny Rollins Trio Live in Stockholm 1959. It grabbed me, and on subsequent visits it was, more often than not, on the playlist.

The first seven tracks of disc 1 (my focus tonight) were on St Thomas but the rest of the set is new to me. I really can't remember the last time I heard these recordings. I was shocked at how much I remembered from those library listening sessions many moons ago. I remember copying the way Sonny plays the melody on "How High the Moon" and lifting his semi-tone shift on "There Will Never Be Another You" and using it a few years later in a big band arrangement I wrote for an arranging class. Back then my attention was firmly on Rollins but this time around my ears gravitated towards the bass playing of Henry Grimes. Although Sonny is out front (the star of the show), Grimes still gets plenty room to move. Plus his walking lines and hook up with Pete LaRoca make a great contribution to the music here. I will say that something I have noticed about my more recent listening vs when I was younger - these days I pay more attention to each of the individuals and the ensemble as a whole rather than exclusively focussing on the saxophone player.

I'm looking forward to the second and third disc. And based off the first disc, this set is a must-have for fans of the saxophone trio and Rollins in particular.

As it turns out, Wellington City Library has started stocking vinyl again (more info Here and Here). I have fond memories of grabbing a stack of recordings, donning the headphones and delving into something new.

Pre-class reading was the article on Spontaneous Music Ensemble from the latest issue of Wire and tonight's listening was accompanied by De Troch Winter Gueuze.

Previous weeks: Vol.1 -- Vol.2 -- Vol.3

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Santy Runyon Saxophone Journal

Reading this feature on Santy Runyon in Saxophone Journal (May/June 1989) made me wonder....Has anyone else out there made a reed from the hard rubber panel of a radio? (and his first reed to boot!). Click on the image to view PDF of the full article. More vintage magazine articles can be found here.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Lambic Jazz Vol. 3

Charlie Haden Dewey Redman Paul Motian
It's Wednesday night after class and that means beer and jazz time. Only one disc tonight as there are dishes waiting to be done - Kieth Jarrett's The Survivor's Suite (ECM) from 1976 with Jarrett (piano, soprano sax, bass recorder, celeste, osi drum) Dewey Redman (tenor sax, percussion) Charlie Haden (bass) Paul Motian (drums, percussion)

The album is comprised of two tracks, each running over 20 minutes with fluctuations in feel and density that keep things moving along and engaging, which makes for a really well-paced album.

While many listeners are probably more interested in Jarrett's piano playing, I'm curious about his work on soprano saxophone. His playing doesn't sound like other players of the straight horn or that era (or since really). It's a stripped-back approach, kind of raw and unpolished with an emphasis on melody, sound and texture rather than flashy chops. Sam Newsome describes Jarrett's approach to the soprano as "organic" - it's definitely not genetically modified. Well worth checking out (as is Sam's playing!).

Haden's bass playing is a wonderful lesson in economy that is seldom heard. As and accompanist and soloist, he has the rare quality of being able to use the minimum amount of notes to maximum effect - with a great sound to boot. His partnership with Motian is one of my favorite rhythm sections. For that reason alone I don't know why I haven't checked out more from this group (aside from some listen sessions at the library some years ago). Add it to the list I guess! I'll get around to it, but before I do, The Survivor's Suite will get a few more listens. The 48 minutes fly by (hence this being a rather quick post). Highly recommended. And now it's time to do the dishes.

More Lambic Jazz: Volume 1 - Volume 2

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A bit of recent listening

In addition to the albums mentioned in other posts, here's a taste of what else has been having a spin over the past couple of months.

photo credit: my wife (thank you!)
Herbie Hancock: Inventions and Dimensions (Blue Note)
It's not nearly as well known as the albums that proceeded it (Empyrean Isles and Maiden Voyage) but I'm not too sure why because it's a fine, fine album. Maybe it's because the latter albums featured tunes, whereas the music on Inventions is largely improvised.

Marilyn Crispell: Nothing Ever Was, Anyway: Music of Annette Peacock (ECM)
This is one of my go-to albums when I'm after something with a great sense of space. Even when things get a bit busier, the trio still maintains a vastness to the sound. The last listen through I focussed on Paul Motian's very conversational playing.

Roland Kirk: Domino (Verve)
Regardless of the instrument(s) he's playing, I love the infectious energy that Rahsaan Roland Kirk brings to the music. I've said it before and I'll say it again - a lot of people sleep on Rahsaan, don't let him pass you by.

Mat Maneri: Trinity (ECM)
I picked up this solo violin/viola album on a whim as I have been meaning to listen to his work (I heard him at the Hungry Brain a couple of years ago and really enjoyed his playing). Maybe it will strike me when the mood is right, but so far I haven't been able to get into the flow of this one.

Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now (Reprise)
Sometimes (not always) I feel the arrangements are a little bit overblown, but regardless of that, the vocals always hit the spot. Added bonus are some nice Wayne Shorter solos scattered throughout. His short soprano feature on "Answer Me, My Love" has a speaking quality that appeals to me.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Lambic Jazz Vol. 2

St. Louis Fond Traditional Gueuze Van Honsebrouck
The post-class hang continues and I'm going to try and keep these going for the rest of the semester.

The night started off with Paul Motian: Time and Time Again (ECM) Paul Motian (d) Joe Lovano (ts) Bill Frisell (g)
I was introduced to the Motian by way of Lee Konitz (and come to think of it, that's how I first heard Frisell too) and I was taken by his playing, both as a soloist and as an accompanist. This album is a great feature of the latter. I enjoy the way he doesn't play time the way you might expect, breaking things up, creating dialogue with the rest of the trio, seamlessly moving between different pulses and textures so naturally and utilizing space in ways few drummers do. Lately, I'm enjoying Motian the composer and there are some really nice tunes here - "Wednesday," "Whirlpool" and "K.T." They have a uncluttered, folk-song or nursery rhyme simpleness that appeals to me.

This trio is a great showcase three very identifiable musical personalities and while I 'm not a huge fan of Joe Lovano, this is the setting in which I prefer to listen to his music. As opposed to degenerating into an all-star hit out, these personalities come together as one to form a true ensemble sound, although at times they provide the illusion of moving independently of one another - perhaps a side-effect of playing together for 20+ years.

Next up was Liz Gorrill (these days known as Kazzrie Jaxen) and Andy Fite: Cosmic Comedy (New Artists Records) - a live set of nine piano and guitar duets to round the night out. There are a couple of things that stand out to me listening to these two - Karrie's rhythmic nature and drive and Andy's articulation and tone with an emphasis on the acoustic side of his instrument (which seems to be a rarity). There are plenty of surprises as they take some familiar forms to new places, it's a wild ride but a lot of fun. I'm not sure I can really put this into words but I feel it's rare to hear jazz like this - spontaneous improvisation at its finest. The music feels as if it could go anywhere and often, at the blink of an eye, it takes off on another plane. The way Andy's lines slide over the piano dirge on "Blues for the Child" always gives me a kick, and then there's the counterpoint throughout the album. It's hard to play favorites but the quiet surge of "A Dream of April" snuck up on me tonight.

Accompanying the music tonight was St. Louis Fond Traditional Gueuze by Van Honsebrouck. And now it's time to tune in to the cricket (1st test NZ vs India). Yes that's right, I'm combining three of my favorite things tonight.... make that four as I played some sax before dinner!

Vol.1 can be found here.