Monday, March 26, 2018

Digitizing the CD Collection

I'm not sure why it has taken me this long, but I'm finally getting around to digitizing my CDs. A work in progress, but well on the way. I'm using Fre:ac which seems to be doing the job, although plenty of discs don't register in the database so there is the slightly painful process of adding artist, album and song info. If anything it has been a nice way to survey the library and listen to a few things that caught my eye or haven't had airtime for a while.

Some of last week's listening featured tracks from John Surman - Westering Home (mostly the soprano tracks), Gil Evans - Complete Pacific Jazz Sessions (for the Steve Lacy tracks, but there's plenty for Cannonball fans too), Sonny Rollins - Complete Live at the Village Gate 1963 (I still feel his 60s work is overlooked), and Frank Gratkowski - Artikulationen (although known for his use of "extended" techniques, I really enjoy his clean tone and line playing).

On Saturday I had these three keeping me company - the youthful exuberance of Nils Wogram's Root 70, Max Roach's ever-relevant  We Insist! and Ornette Coleman's Virgin Beauty, which I hadn't listened to in about a year when I was considering playing the title-track in a solo performance (I went with "Beauty is a Rare Thing" instead).

I'm not sure how many I have left to go (nor how many I have done... or how many I have in total) but the end is now in sight.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

NZ Jazz: Mark de Clive-Lowe – First Thoughts

My search for replacing my long-lost copy of Mark de Clive-Lowe's Vision is ongoing, but along the way I have managed to pick up a couple of albums from the short-lived Tap Records - most recently Kiwi Jazz Tracks (via England), and prior to that, First Thoughts (via China), which has been accompanying me this past month.
NZ Jazz Tap Records
Perhaps I'm a stick-in-the-mud, but I'm not much of a fan of the groove/dance/nu-jazz/hip hop/house/jazz thing. That's what de Clive-Lowe is best known for and as result I really haven't kept that close an ear on his career. But I am keen to acquaint myself with his acoustic work.

Recorded in 1997, I guess you could place First Thoughts somewhere in the post-Herbie/Bill/McCoy etc. contemporary piano trio tradition. Not music I listen to all that often, so the ears have had a re-fresh this month (and in many ways that one of the things I wanted to get from this listening project). The trio of Mark de Clive-Lowe (p) Cameron Undy (b) Nicholas McBride (d) have a really well-balanced, unified sound.

His arrangement of the Japanese traditional song “Sakura Sakura” bookends the album – opening with solo piano and closing with the trio. It's a nice touch that rounds outs the album. There's also an arrangement of “O-Edo Nihonbashi” which features a particularly enjoyable dialogue between the bass and piano. The two combine melody and drama quite nicely.

The slinky swing of “Dialogue” almost acts as a mid-album interlude. It's attributed to all three performers and brought to mind Herbie Hancock's album Inventions and Dimensions (I'm not sure why!). It's a short piece that left me wanting more.

A couple of things always seemed to catch my ear. The “hook” played in unison by the bass and piano in the melody of the title-tune - I caught myself humming this phrase on more than one occasion this past month. Another was the use of octaves at the end of Sting's “When Angels Fall.” I'm not that familiar with Sting's work so I listened to his recording to give me a little more perspective. I can see the appeal of taking this tune and improvising on it. The trio raise the tempo a little but it works.

If I had to single out a favourite track, I'd probably go with “The Walking.” Collective improvisation leads into the melody with plenty of energy and interaction throughout.

First Thoughts is nicely put together with enough variety to things keeps the 45 minutes moving along. I haven't picked an album for March just yet, but stay tuned for more.

You can read more on Tap Records over at Audio Culture.