Jung on Jazz May 1999
In the nineties, everything in jazz seems to be relative. For every Joshua Redman and Nicholas Payton, there are the Brian Lynchs and the Gary Thomases who are not getting nearly as much love from the mega-merged labels and the often highly partial members of the media. Thankfully, European labels like Winter & Winter continue to give an opportunity for significant voices like Thomas to be heard. Thomas’s Pariah’s Pariah features fellow Howard University classmate, alto saxophonist Greg Osby, bassist Michael Formanek, and drummer John Arnold.
The music, which ranges from fiery group interplay to meditative solo interludes, is compelling throughout. Starting with the open-form “Who’s in Control?” to the more conventional, yet skillfully articulate “Only Hearsay,” the two horns paired alongside one another work in unison and complement each other with no assembly required. “Vanishing Time” is the album’s obvious standout. Osby’s stunning solo work and Arnold’s supportive cymbal crashes makes the Thomas composition an instant classic.
There is plenty of music here and not surprisingly, it’s all excellent. Pariah’s Pariah will hopefully put Thomas back on the A-list where he belongs and shed some much deserved luster on his music, which has been neglected for too long.
Bearing in mind that most of the music played on the radio these days will probably have the longevity of the macarena, the re-release of Clifford Jordan’s Night of the Mark VII should be a long drink of water for jazz enthusiasts wandering the desert of mediocrity. Another long lost Muse title unearthed by Joel Dorn and his 32 Jazz team, Night of the Mark VII is one of the tenor saxophonist’s best. With a close-knit crew of Cedar Walton; piano, Sam Jones; bass, and Billy Higgins, drums, Jordan’s Night of the Mark VII is as close as one can get to a sure thing.
The straight-ahead set has one highlight after another. The muscular tenor is in prime form on “John Coltrane.” Walton’s cohesiveness and the interaction between the quartet is particularly impressive. Jordan’s meaty tenor solos continue on “Highest Mountain.” The musicians push one another to the challenging music.
Night of the Mark VII is a killer record and is must for any serious collector of fine music.
STUART LIEBEG/VINNY GOLIA/BILLY MINTZ
Who would expect to find a legitimate avant-garde scene brewing in Los Angeles? After all, Los Angeles is a city based upon Tinseltown’s glitz and glamour and free jazz is definitely not swank. There is no real sex appeal to complex improvisations and free formed compositions. But amid the palm trees and Southern California sun, improvisers like Vinny Golia, Wadada Leo Smith, and Alex Cline have found avenues to present their art. Golia, whose 9Winds label has been releasing free jazz albums for the past two decades, plays both curved soprano and baritone saxophones with fellow Angelenos, Steuart Liebig on bass and Billy Mintz on drums.
No Train is an album composed of six extended improvisations from the trio. Interesting moments include an emotional “Improvisation #1/Trioism #11,” presenting multi-instrumentalist Golia on the baritone saxophone blowing a torrential downpour of notes and an audio menage-a-trois of furious solos entitled “Trioism #4.”
Be a part of Los Angeles’s growing avant-garde scene and buy or borrow a copy of No Train. To purchase a copy, contact www.cadencebuilding.com.
The tenor saxophonist introduces “God Give Me Strength” with Coltrane intensity. Lloyd’s delivery is deliberate and hints of melancholy. Abercrombie’s fine fingerpicking and ringing twangs are convincing on an enthralling “Dorotea’s Studio.” Lloyd’s expressive voice floats over the guitarist’s canvas with the ever pleasant Higgins supporting all. A crackling “Homage” features a swinging Higgins accompanying the tenorman whose long, stretched-out improvisations are highly crafted.
The majesty of Charles Lloyd is becoming clearer and clearer and his discography on ECM is growing more and more potent. By far the most loyal and well received graduates of the Coltrane school, Lloyd’s contributions to the continuum far outweigh that of his peers. Voice in the Night is sure to be one of the year’s best.
When one starts to get tired of making the bitter jazz face, yet still wants something with a little swing, baritone saxophonist Claire Daly’s KOCH debut, Swing Low, may be the perfect companion. Largely a quartet release with Eli Yamin on piano, Dave Hofstra on bass, and Peter Grant on drums, Daly adds tenor saxophonist George Garzone for several tracks.
Daly has tremendous chops and her full-bodied playing on “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face” works well with front-line partner, Garzone, who negotiates his solos with a remarkable simplicity. Daly’s melodic awareness on “You Make Me Feel So Young” is outstanding. Her inviting tone throughout the familiar melody is a treat for sore ears. The leader isn’t the only one that shines. Check out Yamin’s bounciful solo on a particularly enjoyable “I Thought About You.”
There’s the guitar driven, acoustic “Right Here, Right Now” with Wilson wrapping her husky vocals around the music and that’s followed by her unpretentious version of Cyndi Lauper’s ’80s anthem “Time After Time,” as only Wilson can reinvent it. No vocalist has a better feel of Miles Davis’s classics than Wilson. Her captivating “Seven Steps” accompanied by charming vibraphone and violin riffs from Stefon Harris and Regina Carter respectively. And who can forget the moody rendition of “Someday My Prince Will Come.” Brava!
In this age of mass media consumption, who can argue with overindulging with Cassandra Wilson, a universe unto herself.
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For the wimpy listener, this is definitely not a walk in the park. It is a marathon, Eco-Challenge like grueling exercise in progressive music and if one isn’t dedicated, it is best to not even venture into this vastly uncharted territory. Waterloo 1985 is so epic that it takes repeated listens to just comprehend all that is going on. The foursome probe the boundaries of silence and sound, building one vivid, energetic montage after another. Parker and Rutherford, both go medieval, with the trombonist going through his entire bag of tricks, warping growls and slurs with heart-stopping inventiveness. Parker, alternating between soprano and tenor saxophones, takes the whole entourage to another level with some heated monologues and exploration of his own.
Waterloo 1985 is so advanced that to get through it earns a masters in creative improvisation. For further information contact http://members.aol.com/EmanemDisc/.
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The grass-roots popularity of the avant-garde on low budget public radio stations and over the college radio waves has created an underground groundswell for the music. It has unveiled a small but loyal market that seems to be growing in numbers, prompting homegrown indie labels to spring up, giving some much needed color to a dulling jazz landscape. One of the longest running non-traditional music labels has been Knitting Factory Records, who has been releasing material in direct correlation to the artists gracing its stages night after night. And one of those artists is bassist Mark Dresser, whose new trio release, Eye’ll Be Seeing You, features saxophonist Chris Speed and pianist Anthony Coleman exploring original, adventurous compositions by the leader.
The music is complex and challenging from the outset of “Un Chien Andalou,” a six part suite. From the eerie, modernistic drama presented by Coleman to the inventive sadism of Speed, “Un Chien Andalou” is not for the faint of heart. “A Propos De Nice,” another extended series, with its unconventional, liberal use of space and employment of angular themes is in direct contrast to its predecessor.
Eye’ll Be Seeing You marks another fine performance from Dresser, who is fastly becoming the bassist for the new millennium. It is demanding music that ought to come with a warning label saying, “Profound music that may cause profound thinking.”
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70s JAZZ PIONEERS
What do trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Buster Williams, pianist Joanne Brackeen, saxophonist Dave Liebman, guitarist Pat Martino, and drummer Al Foster have in common? They are all on this live recording called 70s Jazz Pioneers: Live at The Town Hall – NYC. Recorded on March 20, 1998 at New York’s Town Hall on 123 West 43rd Street, this is a rare opportunity to capture these six demigods of their domain.
The sextet starts in with a lively version of Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island.” Brecker really shines with bright, scalar progressions that at times dwarfs the other all-stars. Brackeen’s harmonic embellishments and clever chords are captured by an inspired “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise.” Liebman, on soprano, plays just the right balance of attention grabbing punctuation and liquid, melodic phrases.
Worthy of investigation, simply for the quality of players, 70s Jazz Pioneers: Live at The Town Hall – NYC is well worth the time. An encore is definitely in order.
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A very logical improviser, Tinkler forms his solos on an engaging “Subject to Non-Refundable Confiscation” with a deep thoughtfulness that is mature beyond his years. Tinkler’s trumpet melody soars over Barker’s beefy patterns. “A Moment in the Garage” features Tinkler blowing a series of abstract runs, trading off with Barker’s timely snare raps. Armstrong begins “Serendipity” with a compelling bass line. Joined by both Tinkler and Barker, the trio makes some effective inventions.
Jump on the Scott Tinkler bandwagon fast before all the seats are taken and the audible overexposure makes everyone deaf.
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In the interest of fairness, as boring as the String Trio of New York is, guitarist James Emery (one of the founding members of the STNY) has found a winning recipe with the addition of drummer Gerry Hemingway and saxophonist Marty Ehrlich (both appear on his Standing on a Whale Fishing for Minnows release on ENJA). Contemporaries, violinist Mark Feldman, bassist Michael Formanek, saxophonist Chris Speed, and vibraphonist Kevin Norton, all lend a helping hand for Emery’s second ENJA outing, Spectral Domains.
Although the septet pieces have their moments, Mingus’s “Far Wells, Mill Valley” is an attention grabber – the most interesting sequences occur during the more intimate settings. Emery’s profound twangs and articulate craftiness on a solo piece entitled “Cosmology” would certainly make proponents of swing turn a deaf ear, but for those who like a little avant-garde with their coffee in the morning, it’s a keeper. A quartet rendering of Monk’s “Trinkle Tinkle,” and the duet “Kathelin Gray” with Speed playing clarinet are the kinds of provocative statements that is lacking on most of the STNY recordings.
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LIVE AT BIRDLAND!
The most intriguing of the five groups is the Dave Douglas Quartet and Ralph Irizarry and Timbalaye. Irizarry’s brand of Latin jazz leaves the listener drooling. Having possibly the finest young saxophonist in New York, timbalero Irizarry’s ensemble fuses percussive romps with high flying horn solos to rousing ovations from the crowd on a grooving “Rampa Arriba (Up Ramp) and a flashy “Piesotes (Giant Feet).” Of course, there are other gems like “The Frisell Dream” from Douglas. With Potter on tenor along with bassist James Genus and drummer Ben Perowsky, Douglas investigates his original, penned after a dream in which guitarist Bill Frisell was playing the tune, hence the title. It is a melody-rich piece with engaging polyphonic passages from the trumpeter/composer.
Live at Birdland! is an interesting release that could have been oh, so much more.
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Mitchell’s method of employing space to add to the weight of his compositions has been revolutionary and he applies the same techniques here. The odd-metered “Off Shore” is a dense exchange between Mitchell and Christian. A more traditional “In Walked Buckner” has Mitchell, on tenor, producing angular phrases to Heath’s flowing pulse. There are many sides to a story and on “Three Sides of a Story” there is the Mitchell side, brash and spontaneous, the Christian side, ponderous and radical, and the Heath side, impressionistic and lean.
By Mitchell standards, In Walked Buckner is a viable outing, so by normal standards, it’s an extravaganza.
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BORAH BERGMAN / OLIVER LAKE
It is always a daunting challenge to transfer the same energy of a live show to that of a recording. Something gets lost in the process and the emotion and spontaneity of the live session is not even close to being reproduced. Recorded live at the Knitting Factory, A New Organization comes pretty darn close. A duo collaboration between pianist Borah Bergman, who has recorded duets with other saxophonists, namely Roscoe Mitchell and Evan Parker, and World Saxophone Quartet member, saxophonist Oliver Lake, this Soul Note release is a master class on advanced forms of creative improvisation in its most primal setting.
A New Organization is five extensive compositions penned by Lake and Bergman starting with “I kiss your eyes.” Made up of thought-provoking solos and unconventionally turbulent accents from Bergman, the opening tune also features Lake as the other half of this two-headed monster, brutally wailing away. Both masters of their universe brilliantly utilize silence, allowing for the listener to digest the furious action properly. The dynamic unity continues to the closing “Forever fervent,” a sonic punch that doesn’t simply push the envelope, but tears a gapping hole in it.
A New Organization is an important documentation of free jazz and is a key representation of two quintessential voices of the avant-garde.
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(Sharp Nine Records)
Eddie Henderson is yet another of many artists in this music who have been shamefully underexposed. A regular member of Billy Harper’s quintet, Henderson has a couple of albums available on Milestone, but unfortunately, has not put anything out since, until now. It has been four very long years from Dark Shadows to Reemergence, his highly anticipated debut on Sharp Nine Records. Dr. Henderson, who has more degrees than most record executives have cars, valiantly returns with his quintet of vibraphonist Joe Locke, who appears on the before mentioned Milestone releases, pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Ed Howard, and drummer Billy Drummond.
Henderson comfortably straddles the line on “Dreams,” embracing the basic core of the song’s theme while venturing out with dexterous explosions. “Sweet Love of Mine” offers a swinging melody with a steady tempo. Both Howard with his inspired support and Locke with his witty improvisations, make considerable contributions. A muted Henderson evokes lingering images of Miles Davis on a subdued “Saturn’s Child.” All the tunes, including four labeled “The Gershwin Suite,” are solid.
Henderson makes a triumphant return with Reemergence, which is a treat to no one’s surprise.
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It is not odd, considering how much interest John Coltrane had in Middle Eastern music, that members of “Generation Next” would follow in the same vein and seek the same spiritual and musical journey. Saxophonist Jay Collins has been one of the bright tenors on the New York underground scene for years. His two releases on the Reservoir label gave validity to the notion that the Portland native did indeed belong with the big boys in the Big Apple. Collins’s debut effort for Loose Leaf Records is a logical extension of the thirty-one-year-old tenor’s progression and puts him ahead of the rest because while most reedmen seem mesmerized with what Coltrane has already defined, Collins takes up where Coltrane left off, finishing the chapter for his fallen hero. Joined by Amos Hoffman, of Avishai Cohen fame, on oud and guitar, Johannes Weidenmueller on bass, and Michael Mazor on drums, Collins switches from tenor to soprano to flute to bansuri, in a diverse and entertaining set. Hoffman opens “Meshosh” on the oud and is joined by Collins, who assaults the Hoffman original on all fronts. Collins brings all of Coltrane’s intense precision and advanced lyricism to the table, egging on both Mazor and Weidenmueller to turn it up a notch and they do not disappoint. Collins also shows his remarkable depth, playing a beautiful flute melody on a haunting “Cross Culture” and blowing a series of angular, soprano lines on a heated “Zukra.” Like his mentor, J. C., Collins manages to bring the music of the East and West together with considerable ease. Cross Culture is Collins’s most significant release thus far and suggests one heck of a career ahead. Cross Culture can be purchased at all fine Tower Records locations or by email at Bluesleaf@aol.com.
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