Jung on Jazz June 1999
KEN & HARRY WATTERS
Brother pairings are not uncommon in jazz. Cannonball and Nat Adderley, and more recently Wynton and Branford Marsalis have all teamed up to record. Now the Watters brothers, Ken and Harry, trumpeter and trombonist, respectively, are joined by drummer Scott Neumann, bassist Scott Colley, and pianist Kenny Werner, for their debut together on Summit Records, appropriately titled Brothers.
The recording commences with the first of two versions of “The Girls Back Home,” one of the trumpeter’s originals (the second version is a radio edit). The composition’s down home appeal can be traced back to the brothers’ southern roots and includes some charming licks from Werner. The melody is catchy enough to hum. The trumpeter’s bright sound sustains much of its majesty on a surprisingly upbeat run through “Body and Soul” and a mellow “In a Sentimental Mood.” The warm environment is only elaborated by Colley’s meditative commentary.
This session demonstrates the talents of the Watters siblings and forecasts a formative career for both.
Another unexposed talent steps out of the shadows by way of NAXOS Jazz, who for the past year has steadily been releasing some of this year’s most accessible music and doing so at mid-line prices. Dejan Terzic, a 28-year-old European drummer, would not be known from Adam here in the U.S., but with the advent of his new album, Four for One, a quartet date featuring saxophonist George Garzone, pianist Dietmar Fuhr, and pianist Roberto Di Gioia, Terzic may finally make some noise stateside.
Terzic has chops as a composer. The leader’s melodic sense coupled with Garzone’s mellifluous tone creates an ideal scenario for Terzic’s two most interesting originals, “Childish Things” and “Big Argument.” The young drummer also has well-developed ideas as evident by his brisk changes and his crisp comping on “Night’s Shadow.” Terzic’s fine treatment of “Spartacus Love Theme” is also quite impressive. Accompanying Garzone, who switches to soprano, Terzic draws the listener in with his sincere brush sentiments.
An intriguingly entertaining album, Four for One is a solid record on every count.
MALACHI FAVORS MAGHOSTUT
Bassist Malachi Favors has long been a champion of the let free jazz ring motto. After all, Favors has been a member of Chicago’s AACM since its inception. Teaming with Japanese bassist Tatsu Aoki, Favors unleashes 2 X 4.
It should be easy for people to agree on this-for a duo bass album to work, both players had better be masters of their domain, and even that may not be enough to hold the audience’s interest. In this case, both Aoki and Favors have interesting ideas, but they struggle to develop those ideas into anything more than one substantial bass line after another. A prime example of this is “Chop Stick Blues.” “The Keeper,” with its even-tempered interchanges between Favors and his Japanese counterpart, is arguably their best moment. The various percussion effects add color throughout the outing, but just aren’t enough to prevent the overall session from dragging.
The open-form experimentation of 2 X 4, two bassists alone, is a valiant endeavor, but one whose result does not match its noble originality.
A live recital recording done at the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, Hersch’s Let Yourself Go is the pianist letting go of any preconceived notions and candidly playing. Hersch leads off with a lush “Black is the Color/Love Theme from ‘Spartacus’.” The pianist pours his elegant romanticism over “Black is the Color,” then with effortless ease, logically connects the traditional’s last note with Bill Evan’s anthem, “Love Theme from ‘Spartacus’.” Hersch has a profound understanding of the late Evan’s work and his touching sympathy makes the tune the album’s curtain call in it of its self to a roar of applause. Other highlights include a gentle “I Loves You, Porgy” and a chromatic “Blue Monk.” The night concludes with a luminous rendition of “The Nearness of You,” a strong candidate for “Song of the Year.” It’s too much.
Originally, Hersch was not planning to even record his performance. Thankfully, he changed his mind. A must have, Let Yourself Go should be the first thing on everybody’s Christmas list this year.
The revolution that is happening in the avant-garde is not centralized to America. The movement has an equal footing in Europe and Japan and although the American form seems to be the basis of both these uprisings, they each have a distinctly individual vocabulary, blending elements within their own culture with that of free jazz. Pianist Satoko Fujii is one of Japan’s most unique voices, integrating often callous dissonance with more affable melodies. Heightening the tension are bassist Mark Dresser, drummer Jim Black, and soprano saxophonist Sachi Hayasaka.
From its opening “Sound of Stone” takes off on a dissonant path and remains contained in a cavern of discord for the composition’s duration. A solo improvisational piece, Fujii’s show of soliloquizing is compelling do in great part to her uncanny ability to finesse away from uncomfortable drones by adding some humor. “Past of Life,” with its abstract spaciousness and dark theme is draining for the listener, challenging and provoking thought. And on a much grander level, Kitsune-Bi does also.
Fujii manages to juggle the daunting task of juxtaposing traditional Japanese melodies with modern, creative improvisation and she does it all with a warrior-like bravada.
Mathews’s profound block chords and right hand flourishes serve as a catalyst for the rest of the quintet on the opening “Jean Marie.” Shaw’s resolute maneuvers are brief, graciously making room for more ensemble involvement, but still poignant. The leader’s contributions are more extended for “Sashianova,” which has some jaunty call and response moments between Shaw and Strozier. Check out the subtle romanticism of “Little Red’s Fantasy,” yet another example of Shaw’s downright diversity.
It’s 32 Jazz. It’s Shaw. It’s Shaw on 32, as one would expect, a no brainer.
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A laid back “Watermelon Man” features a dexterous Owens, one of the baddest tenors this side of the Mississippi. The raw delivery of Owens and the fast-paced trombone sequences of Smith, in front of a horde of percussive backbeats, brings the Latin jazz warhorse to a fever pitch. Dizzy Gillespie’s well-known “Manteca” is a showcase for Aquabella’s handiwork, which has not even slightly diminished. Look out below for a cranked up arrangement of “Milestones.” The ensemble pours it on, from an array of horn cries to a pulsating beat that is liable to tear down the walls.
Aquabella isn’t simply returning to the stage, he’s blowing people off it. Agua de Cuba is some serious Latin jazz and should establish the leader as a force to be reckoned with.
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If jazz had a utility player, Bill Frisell would fit the profile. Equally adept in avant-garde (his work with John Zorn’s Naked City), straight-ahead (his work with Paul Motian), as well as country, heavy metal, and bluegrass, Frisell is as diverse as this country’s ethnic collage and has become the standard to which all guitarists are now measured. The Denver guitarist’s expertise of Americana is unparalleled and his music crosses over so many lines, it’s almost a shame to call it jazz. Good Dog, Happy Man, Frisell’s latest, further explores those hybrids, touching on a little bit of folk, some honky tonk blues, and even looks in on a traditional number.
Frisell opens his eleventh Nonesuch album with “Rain, Rain,” a suggestive sonnet that invites images of the rugged majesty of the Great Plains. Frisell’s indiscretion in regards to his wide employment of switches and pedals, sampling and other forms of manipulation, as he does on “Cadillac 1959,” have brought unfair criticism. Frisell’s inventive chord sequences and the guitarist’s unfailing sense of the blues gives his melody all the creditability it needs. A sonorous “Poem for Eva” caps off the recording and further displays Frisell’s seemingly limitless harmonic vocabulary and mastery of the musical language.
Good Dog, Happy Man is an essential for any Frisell fan, but the music is so superb that everyone should grab this one.
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KAHIL EL’ ZABAR
In the wake of the passing of bassist Fred Hopkins earlier this year, drummer Kahil El’ Zabar returned to the studio with his Ritual Trio (saxophonist Ari Brown and bassist Malachi Favors) to record Conversations. Making this session even more notable is the unique appearance of tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp, who in recent years has largely been absent from the public eye.
For the majority of the outing, Brown sits in at the piano, holding his own quite admirably. The two most interesting pieces are the two “Conversations.” The first, “Conversations 1; The Introduction,” has Shepp as splendid as ever in moments of all-out aggression. The second part, “Conversations 2; The Dialogue,” is a heavy diet of Shepp, with even more vivid excitement being generated by the saxophonist. El’ Zabar unselfishly surrenders much of himself, allowing Shepp to take much of the fanfare during the long series. The result is an unintrusive one on three with a distinct balance reminiscent of Coltrane’s later recordings.
Conversations is a hearty tribute to the late Hopkins and is easily Shepp’s most enthusiastic presence in two decades.
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JOEL FUTTERMAN / ‘KIDD’ JORDAN
Southern Extreme is a powerful statement that is rousing to the senses and inspires the thinking mind. It will not disappoint. Southern Extreme can only be purchased off the Drimala Records’s.
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During eight summer nights in 1989 at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Charlie Haden played in diverse settings ranging from a duet with guitarist Egberto Gismonti to assorted trios, the majority of which have already been released by Verve. The eighth and final night played host to Haden with the Liberation Music Orchestra, featuring such heavies as Tom Harrell on trumpet, Joe Lovano on tenor saxophone, Ray Anderson on trombone, Geri Allen on piano, and Paul Motian on drums. “La Pasionaria” draws from various Latin elements, centered around the charismatic, high-flying wailing of Lovano and the collectively supported foundation of Allen, Motian, and Haden. It also includes a steaming solo from Allen and is the most effective performance on the album. Anderson’s patented slurs and crowd-pleasing multi-phonics take center stage for a roaring rendition of “We Shall Overcome.” Anderson’s extended romp has enough energy to light the skies of Montreal for a week. Guitarist Mick Goodrick also weighs in with some sterling material of his own.
Sound quality, as with any live recording, is a concern, but the latest volume of Haden’s Montreal Tapes, like its predecessors gets very high marks. A decade has passed and to Haden’s credit, the music stands up remarkably well. Spare this record a moment or two. It’s well worth the investment.
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BERT VAN DEN BRINK
Margitza has colossal range and is particularly impressive on the two Michel Legrand compositions, “You Must Believe in Spring” and “His Eyes, Her Eyes.” The young saxophonist refines his melodic ideas with a gracefulness that is reminiscent of his primary influence, Sonny Rollins, on a beautiful “You Must Believe in Spring.” “His Eyes, Her Eyes” has Margitza sharing the spotlight with the leader/pianist, whose playing is of the highest quality. The majestic “A Child is Born” is another elegant ballad with Margitza nudging against Van Den Brink’s tasteful touch.
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