Jung on Jazz June 1998
“Love for Sale” is masterfully understated and brims with class. Jones’ right hand initiates the melody with long, sustained lines, compelled by nonchalant left-hand chords. The Winds Jazz Orchestra serves Jones faithfully on a courtly reading of “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)” and sustains that through the charming “How High the Moon.” Jones’ warm melodies and delicate remarks drift effortlessly above the harmonics of the strings and brass.
Favors is an inviting album with superior sound quality for a live recording. Jones is a master at his craft and deserves wider acclaim. It is a shame he has to get it overseas.
Personnel: Hank Jones, piano; George Mraz, bass; Dennis Mackrel, bass; Winds Jazz Orchestra Osaka College of Music (O.C.M.)
Tracks: Love for Sale, Favors, Passing Time, Comin’ Home Baby, Interface, Speak Low, On Green Dolphin Street, I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good), How High the Moon, A Child Is Born, Armageddon
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John Coltrane has given birth to more imitators and influenced more musicians than any figure in jazz. Robert Stewart was not even born when Coltrane passed away on July 17, 1967, but Coltrane’s influence on the 28-year-old tenor saxophonist is remarkable. Stewart has developed his skills largely from performing in the Bay Area and with Wynton Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner and Billy Higgins. Stewart’s second album on Quincy Jones’ Qwest Records is accurately titled The Force and his quartet and his quartet includes fellow Bay Area musician Ed Kelly on piano (Stewart was a former student of Kelly) and fellow Marsalis alumnus Reginald Veal on bass and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums.
A prayer “Al-Fatihah,” with its Eastern tonalities opens the session. Stewart plays the syllables of an Islamic prayer over the drone of the synthesizer. The meditative title track “The Force” often alternates between hypnotic drones and turbulent chaos. Stewart fires off a cleanly constructed combination of moans and screams with his platter of dissonant passages a la John Coltrane. Watts lays into his drum kit, aggressively assaulting an awe- inspiring solo. Stewart buries his rhythm section for an emotionally-charged “Revelations.” The saxophonist sinks his teeth into the melody and the energy he generates is overwhelming.
The Force is only Stewart’s third album and his residence in the Bay Area has not helped his visibility, but this is a voice that, if developed correctly, cries out with potential. Stewart is still forming his own sound, but until then John Coltrane is a fine example.
Personnel: Robert Stewart, tenor saxophone, flute, synthesizer; Ed Kelly, piano; Reginald Veal, bass; Jeff “Tain” Watts, drums
Tracks: Al-Fatihah, The Force, Resurrection, Peace Within, Sanctuary, Blackness, The Black Stone, Dion, Ripple, Revelations, Love of Life
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All the Seasons of George Winston
Montana must have the most vividly extraordinary seasons in all the world, at least according to the music of pianist/composer George Winston. Although Winston plays a variation of styles ranging from folk, to stride, to rhythm and blues, and credits his influences as Henry Butler and Professor Longhair, Winston is more of a painter than a piano player.
All The Seasons of George Winston is a collection of piano solos from Winston’s highly successful seasons series, Autumn, Winter Into Spring, Summer, December, Forest, and Linus and Lucy – The Music Of Vince Guaraldi.
“Colors/Dance” from Autumn evokes images of falling leaves and the gentle breeze of coming winter. The summer months are represented by “Hummingbird,” a lively, floating melody that could hover over fields of daisies. His thematic piano solos continue with “Thanksgiving,” a pensive reflection of family and the warmth and comfort of holidays.
Contemporary instrumental music, a.k.a. New Age Music, has been disparaged recently with perceptions of Yanni and John Test at an outdoor arena comically directing symphony orchestras, but Winston is not in that category. All The Seasons of George Winston is an intriguing look into his 25-year career and is much more than mere elevator music.
Personnel: George Winston, piano
Tracks: Colors/Dance, The Venice Dreamer (Part 2), Living In The Country, The Cradle, Joy, Treat Street, Variations On The Canon By Pachelbel, Thanksgiving, Miles City Train, Corrina Corrina, Hummingbird, Longing/Love, Cast Your Fate To The Wind, Sandman, The Snowman’s Music Box Dance, Northern Plains, Sleep Baby Mine
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The Midnight Blues: Standard Time Volume 5
Recently, Wynton Marsalis has received just as much criticism as he has praise. Marsalis’ Blood on the Fields may have been awarded the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for music, but in jazz circles he is better known for his much- publicized feud with Keith Jarrett and his often-maligned relationship with Stanley Crouch. As much as he has done to bridge the gap between classical music and jazz, Marsalis is also vilified for spawning a movement of younger musicians to acquaint themselves with the roots of jazz music. These double standards have taken away from Marsalis’ music. That is a shame, considering Marsalis has arguably done more to promote jazz music, than any other musician in history.
Marsalis’ first installment of his Standard Time series was released in 1986 and featured drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, pianist Marcus Roberts, and bassist Robert Hurst. The Midnight Blues: Standard Time Volume 5 also incorporates the quartet format and unites Marsalis with the seasoned Lewis Nash on drums and long-time band members Eric Red on piano and Reginald Veal on bass.
Marsalis is in excellent form throughout the recording. Some of the highlights include an exquisite treatment of “You’re Blase,” with Marsalis’ radiant tone and flawless pitch in complete control, backed by Reed, Veal, Nash and a string orchestra and Veal’s majestic bowed solo introducing a sumptuous “It Never Entered My Mind,” which finds Marsalis’ heartbreaking melancholy drifting between Reed’s gentle advance. Other highlights involve a delightful “Ballad Of The Sad Young Men” and a somber “The Midnight Blues.”
The energy and emotion Marsalis is able to generate is mesmerizing. The fifth installment of the Standard Time volumes serves as a capable bookend and dismisses the unnecessary criticisms.
Personnel: Wynton Marsalis, trumpet; Eric Reed, piano; Reginald Veal, bass; Lewis Nash, drums
Tracks: The Party’s Over, You’re Blase, After You’ve Gone, Glad to Be Unhappy, It Never Entered My Mind, Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home, I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry, I Got Lost In Her Arms, Ballad of The Sad Young Men, Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year, My Man’s Gone Now, The Midnight Blues
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Manassas High School in Memphis, Tennessee was a breeding ground for jazz heavyweights. Pianist Harold Mabern, trumpeter Booker Little, and saxophonists Frank Strozier, Charles Lloyd, Hank Crawford and George Coleman were all classmates during the early fifties. Coleman, who got his start serving time with B.B. King in 1955, subsequently went on to work with Max Roach, Charles Mingus, Chet Baker and Lee Morgan. But, Coleman’s most visible stint was with Miles Davis, between 1963 and 1964, playing with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams (Wayne Shorter replaced Coleman). For this quartet session, Coleman plays the music of famed composer Richard Rodgers and he reunites with pianist Harold Mabern, bassist Jamil Nasser and drummer Billy Higgins.
Coleman picks up the soprano for the familiar “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” The saxophonist breezes through his changes and lingers above the chord voicings of Mabern. Mabern begins a lightly swinging performance of “My Favorite Things.” Coleman’s soprano is acute and he offers entertaining variations, while being wary not to emulate the Coltrane classic. Coleman’s cunning wit and familiar boppish style are featured on an up-tempo “I Could Write A Book.” The lengthy reworking of the standard is thoroughly enjoyable.
Coleman approaches the music of Richard Rodgers with a light-hearted spring in his step and the results speak for themselves.
Personnel: George Coleman, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Harold Mabern, piano; Jamil Nasser, bass; Billy Higgins, drums
Tracks: Falling in Love with Love, My Funny Valentine, Lover, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, I didn’t Know What Time It Was, My Favorite Things, Have You Met Miss Jones, People Will Say We’re In Love, I Could Write a Book, Medley – There’s a Small Hotel/Where or When/The Sweetest Sounds, Thou Swell
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Gregory Tardy credits John Coltrane with sending him down his musical path, “I’ll never forget the day I first heard Coltrane, my world was turned around.” Tardy, who has garnered high praise from famed Coltrane drummers Elvin Jones and Rasheed Ali, has been honing his tenor saxophone chops at New York’s Smalls. His Impulse debut, Serendipity, is a launching pad for his musical career and features the superb playing of trumpeters Tom Harrell and Russell Gunn, pianists Mulgrew Miller and Aaron Goldberg, and bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Eric Harland.
“Ah-ite” has an appearance by Gunn, who has been associated with the young saxophonist for the past four years. Tardy’s call and response interplay with Gunn is reminiscent of the glory days of Old and New Dreams with Tardy playing the role of Dewey Redman and Gunn playing Don Cherry.
“The Fractar Question” (Tardy’s nickname is Fractar) links the tenor with the admirable Harrell. The two harmonize in unison and take turns, offering and listening to one another’s ideas. Tardy plays superbly on the twelve-bar blues and his oratorical phrasing is advanced for such a young musician. Tardy makes his foremost impression on “Ask Me Now,” backed only by a subdued Veal.
Tardy may refer to his musical journey, thus far, as being serendipitous but this young man has earned his recognition. A fine player with solid fundamentals and a strong character, Tardy will be entertaining audiences for years to come.Personnel: Gregory Tardy, tenor saxophone; Tom Harrell, trumpet; Russell Gunn, trumpet; Mulgrew Miller, piano; Aaron Goldberg, piano; Reginald Veal, bass; Eric Harland, drums
Tracks: Forgiveness, Blues to Professor Pickens, JL’s Wish, Ah-ite, Prisoner of Love, The Fractar Question, Whenever, Wherever, Whatever, Serendipity, Ask Me Now
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Michael Marcus / Jaki Byard
Joe Lovano helped develop and first premiered the straight tenor saxophone to rave reviews. Multi-reedman Michael Marcus is the second prominent player to pick up the modified tenor made by LA Sax and includes the instrument on his third Justin Time recording Involution. Marcus also operates the saxello or manzello, a reconfigured soprano saxophone and stritch, a straight alto, which Rahsaan Roland Kirk frequently employed. Marcus, who has played with Sonny Simmons, Billy Higgins, and Frank Lowe’s Saxemble, is joined by the Jaki Byard trio with Byard on the piano, Ralph Hamperian on the bass, and Richard Allen on the drums. Inspired by Gil Melle’s “Quadrama,” “Quadraphonics” is advanced avant-garde.
Working with a straight tenor, Marcus warps a version of scales, then transforms into an all out shower of bleats, whines, and squawks. Marcus’s grainy tenor sax engages in spiritual exchanges with Byard on an ethereal John Coltrane’s “Dear Lord.” Byard is a jazz encyclopedia and his knowledge of various styles lends well to his chameleon-like adaptability and creditable versatility as a sideman, as shades of Monk, Garner, Hines, and even an intermittent splash of Waller are audible. On the title cut “Involution,” Marcus plays the saxello and stritch simultaneously, a nod to the venerable Roland Kirk. Marcus merits wider recognition and acclaim. The fact that he is wallowing in the mire of jazz triviality is a discredit to the industry. Involution is not merely the title of Marcus’s album, but what he has received from an unreceptive, commercially watered-down business.
Personnel: Michael Marcus, straight tenor saxophone, stritch, saxello; Jaki Byard, piano; Ralph Hamperian, bass; Richard Allen, drums
Tracks: Israel, Quardraphonics, The Legend of Hale-Bop, Soultrane, Man From Lovejoy, Off Minor, Sacred Law, Dear Lord, Surfer Girl, Involution
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