Sunday, December 30, 2018

Frank Zappa - 1970 [1991] "Freaks & Motherfu#@%!"

Its hard to believe that Zappa is actually gone... The visionary genius, composer, satirist, performance artist...
As a new generation of listeners embraces his music, many people are probably forgetting about the whole Mothers scene - - It was a band you went to see (forget hearing them on the radio... in fact, many record stores didnt even carry their records !) For years, people like myself would do what we had to do to get our hands on those bootleg tapes. Zappas stage antics were legendary and fortunately they are captured for posterity and available in his catalogue, however, a true Zappa fan can never get enough. Therefore, I was elated when almost a decade back, Barking Pumpkin began cleaning up and issuing all those underground bootlegs.
This particular one is great... its a perfect cross between early Mothers and Flo & Eddie (200 Motels era) material and antic, and Zappas funky Jazz Rock. The band is tight (George Duke, Ian Underwood, Ansley Dunbar...) and the routines are great (Penis Dimension, Whino Man with a Dr. John take off...) some great soloing. The sound quality is also pretty good (ahhhhhhh... I used to hate the annoying hissing on those old tapes !)

This CD is currently the only way to hear `Wino Man' (aka `Wonderful Wino') in its original form - with Flo and Eddie (Mark and Howard) providing backup vocals behind Jeff Simmons's lead vocal. And what a singer he was! His performance makes this `Wino' arguably the best version ever.
The editing on this album is questionable - Sides 1 & 2 appear to be in reverse, `Concentration Moon' is lacking a verse (consult the PLAYGROUND PSYCHOTICS album to hear it done properly), we have `Happy Together' (and its introductory remark) but not the rest of the Groupie Opera...and `Call Any Vegetable' (which is terrific) has a fake ending.
The sound quality is particularly galling to those who know about the long-since-deleted `BEAT THE BOOTS VOLUME 2', which reprised some of this material in superior sound. But, one way or another, you need to hear the vocal version of `Holiday in Berlin', as much for Zappa's wonderful guitar solo (bookended by foretastes of `Inca Roads' and `Easy Meat') as Howard's equally wonderful lead vocal. That and the aforementioned `Wino Man' make this disc necessary for Zappa collectors.

"Recorded; New York, New York on May 11, 1970".

Track Listings

  1. Happy Together
  2. Wino Man-With Dr. John Routine
  3. Concentration Moon
  4. Pallidan Routine
  5. Call Any Vegetable
  6. Little House I Used To Live In
  7. Mudshark Variations
  8. Holiday In Berlin
  9. Sleeping In A Jar
  10. Cruising For Burgers


FZ—guitar, vocals
Mark Volman—vocals
Howard Kaylan—vocals
Jeff Simmons—bass, vocals
George Duke—keyboards, trombone
Ian Underwood—keyboards
Aynsley Dunbar—drums

Saturday, December 29, 2018

John Scofield - 1984 [2014] "Electric Outlet"

Guitarist John Scofield combines with Pete Levin on synthesizer to make this 1984 session both very electric and eclectic. With David Sanborn on alto, Ray Anderson on trombone, and Steve Jordan on drums adding acoustic voices to the mix, the results are as thought-provoking as Scofield's titles. The rock, funk, jazz, and techno elements proliferate and combine, putting populist and outside approaches in a new perspective. There are even touches of Ennio Morricone's film music in the wide-open spaces of "Best Western." While much fusion is about the easy mismatching of elements, Scofield manages to turn his different sources into distinctive and original music.

Guitarist John Scofield's music of the '80s (mostly recorded for Gramavision) blended together funk with post-bop improvising. Although not as timeless as much of his work of the '90s, there are always moments of interest on his many recordings. For Electric Outlet, Scofield performs eight originals (the best-known is "Pick Hits") with a notable quintet and also including altoist David Sanborn, trombonist Ray Anderson, Pete Levin on synthesizer and drummer Steve Jordan; there is no bassist, although the leader often plays basslines. Intriguing music.

John Scofield was an early favotite of mine from before he played with Miles. I picked up Shinola when it came out (looking for Steve Swallow stuff, actually). I really loved that. When he started playing with Miles, I was fortunate enough to see him a coulpe of times, and then later in solo form at a nice club. After that period, I have found his stuff 'hit or miss' ... but I was blown away by UberJam. However, Electric Outlet remains right at the top of my list of favorite Scofield work. It really lays out his style and preferences. Worth picking up!

This is a great Scofield disc. I like John's recent funk outings, but this disc from further back in his career really outlines his jazz playing in a more fusion-like setting.

Track listing:

All tracks by John Scofield

1. Just My Luck (5:21)
2. Big Break (5:15)
3. Best Western (5:41)
4. Pick Hits (6:03)
5. Filibuster (5:51)
6. Thanks Again (4:50)
7. King For A Day (2:28)
8. Phone Home (5:12)


John Scofield - electric guitar, bass
Peter Levin - synthesizers
David Sanborn - saxophone
Ray Anderson - trombone
Steve Jordan - drums

Ed Hamilton - 1996 "Planet Jazz"

Planet Jazz gives the impression that guitarist/keyboardist Ed Hamilton has sublimated more adventurous instincts to stay on target with his handlers' bid for mass appeal. Only occasionally does he hint at having a voice of his own: for example, when executing an unexpected turn of phrase in a high-speed run up the neck or in moments when his jazz, rock, and pop confections coalesce into glimmerings of a direction worthy of further exploration. Overall, though, the focus on this 1996 release is on sweet, hummable hooks rather than swinging improvisation. Still, on a couple of the 12 Hamilton originals here, the young Philadelphian impresses with some nice Wes Montgomery-inspired work. It's a pity there isn't more, because when he works in the fresh, mainstream vein of his "Life on the Edge" and "Curtis Blues," Hamilton is a credible and convincing jazz guitarist with fairly staggering chops. Hamilton's cohorts -- including bassists Charles Fambrough and Stanley Clarke, drummer Lenny White, and soprano saxophonist George Howard -- contribute crisp, professional, note-perfect parts. Trouble is they set up static, rather than organic, structures. As a result, Hamilton's impressively hook-laden writing simply becomes repetitious, rather than serving as the basis for the type of spontaneous development usually associated with the term "jazz." Hamilton has clearly come to the crossroads and picked (or had picked for him) the fork that points to potential commercial success (which may or may not come his way). If he later reconsiders, he won't be the first player to backtrack and pursue a more personal muse.

Track listing:

1 Planet Jazz 5:40
2 4 A. M. Blues 4:32
3 Better Days Ahead 4:37
4 Gray Day 4:46
5 What Time Is It Now? 5:06
6 South Of Monterey 4:56
7 Life On The Edge 5:30
8 Curtis Blues 4:19
9 Life Dreams 4:06
10 Race Against The Wind 4:29
11 Lullabye 4:45
12 Say What? 4:06


Producer, Guitar, Keyboards, Piano, Bass – Ed Hamilton
Bass – Stanley Clarke: (track 3)
Acoustic Bass – Charles Fambrough, Vince Fay
Drums – Lenny White, Pat Petrillo
Percussion – José Rossy*, Todd Schietroma
Piano – Dave Falciani
Soprano Saxophone – George Howard (tracks: 4, 6, 12)

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Uriah Heep - 1990 "Two Decades In Rock" [3 CD Set]

Uriah Heep are an English rock band formed in London in 1969. It has had the same lineup since 2013: lead and rhythm guitarist Mick Box, keyboardist Phil Lanzon, lead vocalist Bernie Shaw, drummer Russell Gilbrook and bassist Davey Rimmer. Of the current lineup, Box is the only remaining original member. Throughout many lineup changes, the band have included many notable musicians, such as vocalists David Byron, John Lawton, John Sloman, Peter Goalby and Steff Fontaine, bassists Gary Thain, Trevor Bolder, John Wetton, Bob Daisley and John Jowitt, drummers Nigel Olsson, Lee Kerslake and Chris Slade, and keyboardists Ken Hensley and John Sinclair.

Over the course of their 49-year career, Uriah Heep have released twenty-five studio albums, two albums composed of re-recorded material, eighteen live albums and thirty-nine compilation albums. Twelve of the band's studio albums have made it to the UK Albums Chart (Return to Fantasy reached No. 7 in 1975) while of the fifteen Billboard 200 Uriah Heep albums Demons and Wizards was the most successful (#23, 1972). In the late 1970s the band had massive success in Germany, where the "Lady in Black" single was a big hit.

The band maintains a significant following and performs at arena-sized venues in the Balkans, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia and Scandinavia. They have sold over 40 million albums worldwide with over 4 million sales in the U.S, where its best-known songs include "Easy Livin'", "The Wizard", "Sweet Lorraine", and "Stealin'".

Uriah Heep's music has predominantly been described by critics and journalists as progressive rock and heavy metal, with influences from acid rock, blues, and folk. Uriah Heep's distinctive features have always included a massive keyboard sound, strong vocal harmonies and (in the early years) David Byron's quasi-operatic vocals.

Tracks Listing:

CD 1
01 Gypsy
02 Come Away Melinda
03 I'll Keep On Trying
04 Lady In Black
05 Salisbury
06 The Park
07 Look At Yourself
08 July Morning
09 Tears In My Eyes
10 Love Machine
11 The Wizard
12 Traveller In Time
13 Easy Livin'

CD 2
01 The Magician's Birthday
02 Spider Woman
03 Rain
04 Sweet Lorraine
05 Sweet Freedom
06 Stealin'
07 Circus
08 Wonderworld
09 Suicidal Man
10 Something Or Nothing
11 Return To Fantasy
12 Shady Lady
13 Prima Donna
14 Weep In Silence
15 Can't Keep A Good Band Down
16 Who Needs Me
17 Wise Man

CD 3
01 Firefly
02 Free 'N' Easy
03 Free Me
04 The Dance
05 Fallen Angel
06 It Ain't Easy
07 Come Back To Me
08 Chasing Shadows
09 That's The Way That It Is
10 Stay On Top
11 The Other Side Of Midnight
12 Rockarama
13 Holding On
14 Poor Little Rich Girl
15 Blood Red Roses
16 Voice On My TV
17 More Fool You

Line-up / Musicians:

See Original Albums 1970-1990

Friday, December 21, 2018

Grant Green - 2018 "5 Original Albums"

Grant Green, who died at the age of 43 in 1979 placed himself alongside Wes Montgomery as a paragon of guitar technique in the twentieth century. These five original albums appear to have the best of his extensive back catalogue.

By the early sixties, Green was a force to be reckoned with for the visionary application of such technical knowledge of which he was deservedly proud.

Green rarely played chords, the organ or piano did all that background and of course, much more too, in the ensemble. He learned his distinctive style by studying horn players, rather than tracking the hand movements of other guitarists. Serious heroin addiction stultified the gift and the musician, who was born in St Louis, moved to Detroit after 1969 to rehabilitate himself. Further music followed in the seventies.

The five albums assembled here are a comprehensive anthology, and the slipcase includes Street of Dreams, which might just end up your favourite late-night, feet-up loungy choice. The album has four, lengthy tracks, opening with I Wish You Love, the Charles Trenet classic which you may know better by its original title in French, Que reste-t-il de nos amours.

Lazy Afternoon, credited to J Latouche and J Moross (search me) follows, one of the best-known Green pieces, wistful, moodily elusive and permanent in its subtle glow. The guitarist’s reading of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Corcovado features on the album I Want To Hold Your Hand, whose title track is, yes, you’ve guessed right, the Lennon/McCartney hit.  There is uptempo, swing-oriented material on Grant’s First Stand and gospel, bluesy approaches are essayed elsewhere. Alluring stuff, featuring an array of legends, aiding and abetting, including Bobby Hutcherson, Elvin Jones, Larry Young, Joe Henderson, Bob Cranshaw and others.

1961 Grant's First Stand:

Grant Green's debut album, Grant's First Stand, still ranks as one of his greatest pure soul-jazz outings, a set of killer grooves laid down by a hard-swinging organ trio. For having such a small lineup -- just organist Baby Face Willette and drummer Ben Dixon -- the group cooks up quite a bit of power, really sinking its teeth into the storming up-tempo numbers, and swinging loose and easy on the ballads. The influence of the blues on both Green and Willette is strong and, while that's far and away the dominant flavor of the session, Green also displays his unique bop phrasing (learned by studying horn players' lines, rather than other guitarists) to fine effect on his high-octane opener, "Miss Ann's Tempo," and Willette's "Baby's Minor Lope." Green's original blues "A Wee Bit O'Green" and "Blues for Willarene" are both memorable, particularly the former, and the two standards -- "Lullaby of the Leaves" and "'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do" -- are given smoky treatments soaked in bluesy, late-night atmosphere. Willette and Dixon both supply a tremendous rhythmic drive, and Willette's solos burn with gospel fervor. This same trio performed together on Willette's Stop and Listen album, with equally heated results. None of Green's contemporaries used the single-note style (Green rarely played chords, leaving that to the organ or piano) to quite the same degree, making him a unique voice on his instrument. And his terrific debut pegged him as an up-and-comer to watch closely.

Track listing:

All compositions by Grant Green except as indicated
"Miss Ann's Tempo" – 5:38
"Lullaby of the Leaves" (Bernice Petkere, Joe Young) – 7:41
"Blues for Willareen" – 7:08
"Baby's Minor Lope" (Baby Face Willette) – 7:19
"'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do" (Porter Grainger) – 4:26
"A Wee Bit O'Green" – 7:49


Grant Green – guitar
Baby Face Willette – organ
Ben Dixon – drums

1963 Idle Moments:

This languid, seductive gem may well be Grant Green's greatest moment on record. Right from the opening bars of the classic title cut, Idle Moments is immediately ingratiating and accessible, featuring some of Green's most stylish straight jazz playing. Whether he's running warm (pianist Duke Pearson's "Idle Moments"), cool (the Modern Jazz Quartet's "Django"), or a bit more up-tempo (Pearson's "Nomad," his own "Jean de Fleur"), Green treats the material with the graceful elegance that was the hallmark of his best hard bop sessions, and that quality achieves its fullest expression here. He's helped by an ensemble that, as a sextet, is slightly larger and fuller-sounding than usual, and there's plenty of room for solo explorations on the four extended pieces. Pearson's touch on the piano is typically warm, while two players best known on Blue Note for their modernist dates mellow out a bit -- the cool shimmer of Bobby Hutcherson's vibes is a marvelously effective addition to the atmosphere, while Joe Henderson plays with a husky, almost Ike Quebec-like breathiness. That cushion of support helps spur Green to some of the loveliest, most intimate performances of his career -- no matter what the tempo, it's as if his guitar is whispering secrets in your ear. It's especially true on the dreamy title track, though: a gorgeous, caressing, near-15-minute excursion that drifts softly along like a warm, starry summer night. Even more than the two-disc set The Complete Quartets With Sonny Clark, Idle Moments is the essential first Green purchase, and some of the finest guitar jazz of the hard bop era.

Track listing:

"Idle Moments" (Pearson) – 14:56
"Jean De Fleur" (Green) – 6:49
"Django" (John Lewis) – 8:44
"Nomad" (Pearson) – 12:16
Bonus tracks on CD reissue:

"Jean De Fleur" [Alternate Take] - 8:09
"Django" [Alternate Take] - 13:12
Recorded on November 4 (#1, 4-6)and November 15 (#2-3), 1963.


Grant Green - guitar
Joe Henderson - tenor saxophone
Duke Pearson - piano
Bobby Hutcherson - vibraphone
Bob Cranshaw - double bass
Al Harewood - drums

1963 The Latin Bit:

Grant Green, being known mainly as a soul jazz guitarist, eventually gravitated into the popular boogaloo sound. The Latin Bit is the natural bridge to that next phase, though a bit premature for most in 1961-1963, even relative to the subsequent bossa nova craze. Pianist Johnny Acea, long an underrated jazzman, is the nucleus of this session, grounding it with witty chops, chordal comping, and rhythmic meat. The Latino rhythm section of drummer Willie Bobo and conga player Carlos "Patato" Valdes personify authentic, seasoned spice, while at times the chekere sound of Garvin Masseaux makes the soup too thick. At its collective best, the group presents a steady, serene, and steamy "Besame Mucho" and the patient, slow, slinky, sultry "Tico Tico." Just a small step below is a classy take on Charlie Parker's "My Little Suede Shoes," a premier jazz bebop (emphasis) tune with a Latin undertow and Green's tiniest staccato phrases, slightly marred by the overbearing constant chekere, but still classic. "Mama Inez" ranks high for its calypso-infused happy feeling and wry stop-start lines. The straight-ahead hard bopper "Brazil" and lone soul-jazz tune, "Blues for Juanita," display the single-note acumen that made Green's style instantly recognizable. This date always yielded mixed results for staunch fans of Green, but it remains a credible effort, even if slightly flawed in part. [Some reissues add two selections with pianist Sonny Clark and tenor saxophonist Ike Quebec, the latter of whom plays hip secondary harmonies on the bossa nova-flavored "Granada," but is in the complete background and a non-factor on the pop tune "Hey There."]

Track listing:

All compositions by Grant Green except where noted

"Mambo Inn" (Bauzá, Sampson, Bobby Woodlen) – 5:52
"Bésame Mucho" (Consuelo Velázquez) – 7:12
"Mama Inez" (L. Wolfe Gilbert, Eliseo Grenet) – 6:42
"Brazil" (Barroso) – 5:01
"Tico Tico" (Zequinha de Abreu) – 7:46
"My Little Suede Shoes" (Parker) – 6:23
Bonus track on CD reissue:

"Blues for Juanita" – 7:06
"Granada" (Agustín Lara) – 6:27
"Hey There" (Adler, Ross) – 7:24
Recorded on April 26 (tracks 1-7) and September 7 (tracks 8-9), 1962.


Grant Green - guitar
Ike Quebec - tenor saxophone (tracks 8-9)
John Acea (tracks 1-7), Sonny Clark (tracks 8-9) - piano
Wendell Marshall - bass
Willie Bobo - drums
Carlos "Patato" Valdes - conga (tracks 1-6, 8-9)
Garvin Masseaux - chekere (tracks 1-6)

1964 Street Of Dreams:

Grant Green's second session with organist Larry Young, Street of Dreams brings back drummer Elvin Jones and adds Bobby Hutcherson on vibes for a mellow, dreamy album that lives up to its title. There are only four selections, all standards and all around eight to ten minutes long, and the musicians approach them as extended mood pieces, creating a marvelously light, cool atmosphere that's maintained throughout the record. Hutcherson is the perfect addition for this project, able to blend in with the modal advancement of the rest of the ensemble while adding his clear, shimmering tone to the overall texture of the album. All the musicians play with a delicate touch that's quite distinct from the modal soul-jazz on Talkin' About; it's not so much romantic as thoughtful and introspective, floating along as if buoyed by clouds. There aren't really any fireworks or funky grooves, as the music is all of a piece, which makes it difficult to choose the highlights from French songwriter Charles Trenet's "I Wish You Love," "Lazy Afternoon," the title track, or "Somewhere in the Night." It's another fine record in a discography filled with them, and yet another underrated Green session.

Track listing:

"I Wish You Love" (Chauliac, Trenet) – 8:46
"Lazy Afternoon" (Latouche, Moross) – 7:44
"Street of Dreams" (Young, Lewis) – 9:03
"Somewhere in the Night" (Billy May, Milt Raskin) – 8:01


Grant Green - guitar
Bobby Hutcherson - vibes
Larry Young - organ
Elvin Jones - drums

1966 I Want To Hold Your Hand:

The third of three sessions Grant Green co-led with modal organist Larry Young and Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones, I Want to Hold Your Hand continues in the soft, easy style of its predecessor, Street of Dreams. This time, however -- as one might guess from the title and cover photo -- the flavor is less reflective and more romantic and outwardly engaging. Part of the reason is tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, who takes Bobby Hutcherson's place accompanying the core trio. His breathy, sensuous warmth keeps the album simmering at a low boil, and some of the repertoire helps as well, mixing romantic ballad standards (often associated with vocalists) and gently undulating bossa novas. The title track -- yes, the Beatles tune -- is one of the latter, cleverly adapted and arranged into perfectly viable jazz that suits Green's elegant touch with pop standards; the other bossa nova, Jobim's "Corcovado," is given a wonderfully caressing treatment. Even with all the straightforward pop overtones of much of the material, the quartet's playing is still very subtly advanced, both in its rhythmic interaction and the soloists' harmonic choices. Whether augmented by an extra voice or sticking to the basic trio format, the Green/Young/Jones team produced some of the most sophisticated organ/guitar combo music ever waxed, and I Want to Hold Your Hand is the loveliest of the bunch.

Track listing:

"I Want to Hold Your Hand" (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) – 7:23
"Speak Low" (Ogden Nash, Kurt Weill) – 7:14
"Stella by Starlight" (Ned Washington, Victor Young) – 6:29
"Corcovado (Quiet Nights)" (Antonio Carlos Jobim) – 5:59
"This Could Be the Start of Something" (Steve Allen) – 7:08
"At Long Last Love" (Cole Porter) – 7:17


Grant Green - guitar
Hank Mobley - tenor saxophone (tracks 1-4 & 6)
Larry Young - organ
Elvin Jones - drums

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Herbie Hancock Wayne Shorter Ron Carter Wallace Roney & Tony Williams - 1994 "A Tribute To Miles"

A Tribute to Miles is a tribute album by four of the five members of the Miles Davis quintet: Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Ron Carter. Taking over for Davis was trumpeter Wallace Roney.

This Miles Davis tribute album brings back four-fifths of his second classic quintet with Wallace Roney the logical choice to fill in for the late trumpeter. Roney comes across as a sideman and is not as forceful here as one would have hoped. Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams had all grown with time and this reunion has Hancock and Williams taking on more prominent leadership roles than in the earlier days. With the exception of the drummer's "Elegy," all of the music "("So What," "RJ," "Little One," "Pinocchio," "Eighty One" and "All Blues") was regularly performed by the quintet back in the '60s. In general this reunion is a success even if it contains no new revelations. It is particularly nice to hear Wayne Shorter in this setting again.

This Grammy-winning jazz recording is as much a tribute to the trumpeter's greatest band as a testament to Miles Davis himself. But Miles was not given to sentimental gestures, and while he cherished the band's work during the revolutionary '60s, he rarely looked back after disbanding the unit.

But jazz fans could never let go, because Shorter, Hancock, Carter and Williams redefined the freedom principle of the late 1960s, and built daring new melodic structures upon a bedrock of sophisticated harmony and complex rhythmic interaction. As a result, in one form or another--usually billed as VSOP--the quintet would hit the road and recording studios with stunt doubles as notable as Freddie Hubbard and Wynton Marsalis occupying the director's chair.

However, on A TRIBUTE TO MILES the trumpeter is the young Philadelphian anointed by Miles himself after their triumphant 1991 performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival--Wallace Roney (Miles even presented him with his horn). And on the basis of the long harmonic elisions and Davis-like ornaments Roney displays on the live renditions of Davis standards "So What" and "All Blues," the elder's respect is more than justified. There are many highlights throughout this set, from Carter's "RJ," with its brisk tempo and roaring rhythmic exchanges, through Hancock's moody waltz "Little One" and the Spanish-tinged backbeats of "Eighty One." Roney particularly inspires Shorter who responds with a keening soprano solo on his classic tune "Pinnochio," abstracting the melody, fragmenting his line and moving up the scale until the drummer is ready to bust.

 Wallace was mentored by Miles Davis after Miles heard him in 1983 at his birthday gala performance in Carnegie Hall. Their association peaked when Miles chose Wallace to share the stage at his historic performance in Montreux in 1991. After Davis died, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams and Roney banded together and toured the world in tribute.

This is, quite possibly, the best jazz CD ever made. If I had to take only one jazz CD to a desert island, this would be it. Oh, the Miles purist might wince, but Herbie and his mega talented crew of some of the finest talent in the business, have done him an honorable justice in this nearly 60 or minutes of virtuosity and rendition. I love the upbeat tempo of "So What", and the rest, well, just get this one. if you haven't already. And buy more than one for gifting. Your friends will thank you many times over. Enjoy!

I have owned this album since shortly after it was released, and it has been in steady rotation in my collection ever since I purchased it. I have always been amazed that it is not more widely recognized and celebrated. The 5 studio tracks are very good, but by far the highlights of the album are the live versions of All Blues and So What. All five of the musicians on this album are legendary, and hearing them all together again is a treat.

Tony Williams' brilliant performance on All Blues is worth the price of admission alone, and when you add Herbie Hancock and the other musicians on this terrific CD, you've got the makings of a classic release. There are not many things that I can recommend wholeheartedly, but I guarantee you will not be disappointed if you pick up this hidden gem.

This album won all five men the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Individual or Group at the 37th Annual Grammy Awards. This was Hancock's third Grammy Award.

Track listing:

"So What" (Live) (Miles Davis) - 10:19
"RJ" (Carter) - 4:04
"Little One" (Hancock) - 7:20
"Pinocchio" (Shorter) - 5:45
"Elegy" (Williams) - 8:43
"Eighty One" (Davis, Carter) - 7:29
"All Blues" (Live) (Davis) - 15:17


Herbie Hancock – piano, calliope
Wayne Shorter – tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Wallace Roney – trumpet
Ron Carter – bass
Tony Williams – drums

Friday, December 14, 2018

Wes Montgomery - 1984 Verve "The Silver Collection"

One of the earliest Wes Montgomery collections to appear on CD (1984), this minimally (and at one point, misleadingly) annotated item concentrates mostly upon the guitarist's Verve small-group performances. Verve relies heavily upon the two albums Wes made with Wynton Kelly (Smokin' at the Half Note and Willow Weep for Me), adding a few tracks from the two he made with Jimmy Smith (Dynamic Duo and Further Adventures) and closing with a sole reminder of Wes' orchestral-backed work, Bumpin's glorious "Here's That Rainy Day." As such, we hear Montgomery stretching out with an eloquence and depth of tone that had actually deepened since his more critically celebrated Riverside period. Be warned: though the jewel box and disc claim that "Portrait of Jennie" is Track 9, the selection is actually "13 (Death March)" from the Dynamic Duo album -- a superior choice that gives you a nice Oliver Nelson big-band chart and more playing time as a bonus. Also, on "Misty," the Claus Ogerman arrangement for winds and brass that was overdubbed after Wes' death and stripped from the track later has been restored here.

If you are a guitarist or just a jazz lover, this is a must-have. This particular Wes recording is only small ensembles and truly showcases his virtuoso talent. If only he played rock and roll, he would have achieved a Hendrix status (no surprise that Jimi and Stevie Ray were Wes fans). I don't play jazz, but I love this album.

Track listing:

01. If You Could See Me Now (8:24)
02. Impressions (5:02)
03. Four on Six (6:45)
04. Unit 7 (6:46)
05. Mellow Mood (8:40)
06. James and Wes (8:09)
07. What's New (6:18)
08. Misty (6:45)
09. Portrait of Jenny (5:22)
10. Here's That Rainy Day (4:57)


Guitar – Wes Montgomery
Bass – Bob Cranshaw (tracks: 10), Paul Chambers (3) (tracks: 1 to 4, 7 to 9)
Drums – Grady Tate (tracks: 5, 6, 10), Helcio Milito* (tracks: 10), Jimmy Cobb (tracks: 1 to 4, 7 to 9)
Organ – Jimmy Smith (tracks: 5, 6)
Piano – Roger Kellaway (tracks: 10), Wynton Kelly (tracks: 1 to 4, 7 to 9)
Harp – Margaret Ross

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Sonny Rollins - 1962 [1996] "The Bridge"

The Bridge is a studio album by jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins, recorded in 1962. It was Rollins' first release following a three-year sabbatical and was his first album for RCA Victor. The saxophonist was joined by the musicians with whom he recorded for the next segment of his career: Jim Hall on guitar, Bob Cranshaw on double bass and Ben Riley on drums.

After a meteoric rise to fame in the 1950s, legendary tenor sax man Sonny Rollins had walked away from it all by the decade's end, embarking on an introspective, almost monastic three-year quest to improve his technique, during which time he would spend up to 16 hours a day playing his sax, alone, on New York City's Williamsburg bridge, and that solitary period of time spent practicing on the bridge is what gives this album its title. Although critical reception to the album was initially mixed, as many had hoped Rollins would have re-emerged from his sabbatical having developed some revolutionary new technique or with a markedly evolved style that differed more strongly from his earlier work, it was nonetheless a commercial success, and has since become regarded as one of his finest albums, even being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2015. Featuring Rollins in a new quartet that also included Jim Hall on guitar, Bob Cranshaw on bass and Ben Riley on the drums, the album has a spare, subdued sound, which might be why the ballads are generally more evocative and memorable than the uptempo numbers, with Rollins' haunting take on the standard "God Bless the Child" being my pick for the standout track, as well as the one that probably best reflects what it must have been like to spend all that time playing alone on that bridge.

Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins' first recording after ending a surprising three-year retirement found the great saxophonist sounding very similar to how he had played in 1959, although he would soon start investigating freer forms. In a pianoless quartet with guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Bob Cranshaw, and drummer Ben Riley, Rollins explores four standards (including "Without a Song" and "God Bless the Child") plus two fiery originals, highlighted by the title cut. The interplay between Rollins and Hall is consistently impressive, making this set a near-classic and a very successful comeback.

Sparse yet thoughful; carefree yet deliberate. Sonny's tone is in fine form: Typically powerful and muscular, and at the same time full of beauty and complexity. This album for me is a perfect example of why he ranks with Coltrane: The talent, the dedication, the forever-seeking, and the fearlessness are all on 'The Bridge'. Highly recommended for historical reference and listening pleasure.

So many times you hear about the "essential albums in jazz:" "Kind of Blue" "Blue Trane" "Time Out" "Giant Steps" ect. One absolute essential that you don't hear about very often is Bridge by Sonny Rollins. This is most unfortunate because not only is the musicianship on this recording incredible, but this album also made a leap forward in the history of jazz.

Make no mistake, Sonny Rollins is an incredible player. His tenor saxophone cuts through with that boomy, rich tone that all jazz adicts love. His solos are great, well-developed and exciting. His writing on some of the tunes on this album is quite innovative and groundbreaking. Everything that Sonny does on this disc is incredible and deeply satisfies the lovers of jazz who hear it. However, there are two words that can be used to describe what makes this album stick out from all the other jazz albums of this time period: "Jim Hall."

Jim Hall's Guitar work on this recording is very important to what makes this disc worthwhile and distinguished. He essentially fills the job description of a pianist on the guitar. The result: jazz guitar like never before. This was one of the first jazz quartets to use a guitar in place of a piano and the effects are quite satisfying. Every little nuance that Hall adds to the music complements Rollins' genius quite nicely. The chemistry is quite incredible. Each of the musicians are so into each other's heads that they produce music that is so exciting and so fresh to even the untrained ear. Basically this entire album is two geniuses collaborating to make unbelivable, quality jazz in the presence of a very solid bass player and drummer.

The album is a must have for any jazz completist. It's a nice mix of good old standards and fresh innovative originals from Sonny that makes for a very fun listening experience. Incredible musicianship is the product of the incredible chemistry on this album. Break off from the collective. Recognize the historical importance of Bridge. It will provide a pleasant listening experience time after time.

The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2015.

Track listing:

"Without a Song" (Edward Eliscu, Billy Rose, Vincent Youmans) – 7:26
"Where Are You?" (Harold Adamson, Jimmy McHugh) – 5:10
"John S." (Sonny Rollins) – 7:46
"The Bridge" (Sonny Rollins) – 5:59
"God Bless the Child" (Arthur Herzog Jr., Billie Holiday) – 7:27
"You Do Something to Me" (Cole Porter) – 6:51


Sonny Rollins – tenor saxophone
Jim Hall – guitar
Bob Cranshaw – bass
Ben Riley – drums
Harry "H.T." Saunders – drums (replaces Riley on "God Bless the Child")

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Michael Brecker - 2007 "Pilgrimage"

Pilgrimage is the final studio album, released in 2007, by the American jazz saxophonist Michael Brecker. In 2005, Brecker was diagnosed with myelogenous leukemia, and at the time of the recording in August 2006 he was already gravely ill. He recorded Pilgrimage with the knowledge that it would most likely be his last album; he died in January 2007. The album's personnel consists of Brecker, John Patitucci, Jack DeJohnette, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, and Brad Mehldau.

Despite his losing battle with leukemia, Brecker fully commands each track on the album. His sound is rich, powerful, and strong, and his tone and vigor do not suggest any illness or affliction. The other musicians on the album were all aware of Brecker's condition, and used that knowledge to encourage him and make the album a success. Herbie Hancock said of Brecker:

"Michael now has reached a new level as a composer and musician. Despite his disease, or actually because of it, he managed to climb higher mountains and to walk ahead. The best way to take a poison is to change it into a medicine. At the moment, Michael experiences something very destructive and changes it into something extremely constructive."

Brecker's compositions on the album are some of his most complex and thoroughly composed music. His positive attitude toward his disease seems to rub off in the music, especially "Tumbleweed" and "The Mean Time", as they are full of high energy and intense interaction among the personnel. The title of the ballad "When Can I Kiss You Again?" is allegedly a quote from Brecker's son, who asked him that question while Brecker was in critical care and isolation after his stem cell transplant. The album won Brecker two posthumous Grammy awards for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo (for his solo on "Anagram") and Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group.

The importance of saxophonist Michael Brecker's final recording, Pilgrimage, is densely multidimensional. The romantically inclined will attach significance to the fact that the nine compositions were conceived and recorded while Brecker was aware of the gravity of his final illness. Pilgrimage falls into an artistic/musical category that includes such disparate music as Mozart's Requiem, Puccini's Turandot, Billie Holiday's Lady In Satin and Johnny Cash's American Recordings, Volumes 5 & 6. All of these examples were conceived during the artists' autumnal periods and, in these cases, represent something of pinnacles in their outputs.

High art in the face of destiny is not always the case, however. June Carter Cash's final Wildwood Flower, while heartfelt, did the singer disfavor because she was obviously ill during the recording. Anita O'Day's final recording, Indestructible, similarly sincere, was recorded much too far past the singer's prime, and the aesthetic value of trumpeter Chet Baker's final recordings remains up for debate. So, what of Michael Brecker's final output?

In 2005, Brecker was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a diverse collection of hematologic disease all sharing in common the inappropriate production of blood cells and their propensities for transforming into acute myelogenous leukemia. Unable to find a suitable stem-cell donor, Brecker passed away on Saturday, January 13, 2007. While Brecker did remain active during the period of his illness, appearing on Beatle Jazz's With A Little Help From Our Friends and Leni Stern's Alu Maye (Have You Heard), he had been inactive a year before these recordings.

Thus, the artist's largest late effort was reserved for Pilgrimage. He is joined by pianists Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau, guitarist Pat Metheny, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Jack DeJohnette, all sacred to Brecker's generation of jazz musicians. The notable absence of Randy Brecker is acknowledged for the life-long collaboration he had with his brother in their various music endeavors (noting that Randy Brecker never appeared on his brother's solo projects). Save that, Brecker chose his group wisely as the results of the recording reveal.

Brecker's tenor tone is strong and muscular. His composing is the best of his career. His melodic head-lines are organic, approximating a flock of small birds flying scattered one second and then in unison the next. Brecker and Metheny share a Bill Evans-Scott LaFaro empathy throughout the recording, both buoyed by the impressionistic piano of Hancock and Mehldau. The heart of the disc exists in its center with the pieces "Tumbleweed and "When Can I Kiss You Again. On the former, Brecker sets up a fast rolling theme and harmonics over which the soloists take quick flight including an aggressively distorted Metheny solo that gives way to one by Brecker. The rhythm section of Patitucci and DeJohnette creates a funky tonk with powerful momentum. No matter what, Brecker is in complete command.

"When Can I Kiss You Again is Brecker's introspective lullaby to his children, whom he could not see while in medical isolation. Again, his superior composing provides a carefully complex melodic introduction with a modal concept over which to solo. Composition and improvisation weave in and out of one another; constructing a silken fabric over which Metheny gives one his most inspired and introverted solos. Hancock provides his trademark abstraction as solo, depicting anxiousness as music. Brecker's solo is middle to low register and impeccably structured (as are all of his solos). The disc's title cut is a moody, Coltrane-esque meditation over electric piano with bass and drums occupying all sonic spaces. The piece grows in density and freedom as an open improvisation develops over the barest harmonic structure. And that was just the extended introduction. Brecker pulls all involved into an extended obbligato that is serpentine and seamless.

How does history view Michael Brecker? Many consider him to be the most important tenor saxophonist since John Coltrane. This is at the expense of Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter, though Rollins and Shorter generationally overlap Coltrane. I would come closer to declaring John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter and Michael Brecker the quaternary apex of the tenor saxophone since the previous generation of Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and Wardell Gray. That excludes a lot and that exclusion is necessary. Brecker's importance specifically lies in his universality. When I listen to Oliver Nelson's The Blues And The Abstract Truth (Impulse, 1961), I think of that music as a jazz soundtrack of the 1960s. It had that sound that listeners would immediately identify as jazz: so with Pilgrimage and the opening of the 21st Century. Michael Brecker's final recording is a finely crafted jazz soundtrack for a new millennium, a hyperbright quazar, serving in honor of the late saxophonist and all of jazz.

Track listing:

All music composed by Michael Brecker.

1. "The Mean Time" 6:55
2. "Five Months from Midnight" 7:40
3. "Anagram" 10:09
4. "Tumbleweed" 9:36
5. "When Can I Kiss You Again?" 9:42
6. "Cardinal Rule" 7:31
7. "Half Moon Lane" 7:17
8. "Loose Threads" 8:34
9. "Pilgrimage" 10:02


Michael Brecker – tenor saxophone, EWI
Pat Metheny – guitars, guitar synthesizer
Herbie Hancock – piano (tracks 1, 5, 8, 9)
Brad Mehldau – piano (tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7)
John Patitucci – double bass
Jack DeJohnette – drums

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Yes - 1971 [1986] "The Yes Album"

The Yes Album is the third album by the English progressive rock band Yes, released on 19 February 1971 by Atlantic Records. It is their first album with guitarist Steve Howe, who replaced Peter Banks in 1970, and their last in the 1970s to feature keyboardist Tony Kaye.

On Yes' first two albums, Yes (1969) and Time and a Word (1970), the quintet was mostly searching for a sound on which they could build, losing one of their original members -- guitarist Peter Banks -- in the process. Their third time out proved the charm -- The Yes Album constituted a de facto second debut, introducing the sound that would carry them forward across the next decade or more.

 Gone are any covers of outside material, the group now working off of its own music from the ground up. A lot of the new material was actually simpler -- in linear structure, at least -- than some of what had appeared on their previous albums, but the internal dynamics of their playing had also altered radically, and much of the empty space that had been present in their earlier recordings was also filled up here -- suddenly, between new member Steve Howe's odd mix of country- and folk-based progressive guitar and the suddenly liberated bass work and drumming of Chris Squire and Bill Bruford, respectively, the group's music became extremely busy. And lead singer Jon Anderson, supported by Squire and Howe, filled whatever was left almost to overflowing.

Anderson's soaring falsetto and the accompanying harmonies, attached to haunting melodies drawn from folk tunes as often as rock, applied to words seemingly derived from science fiction, and all delivered with the bravura of an operatic performance -- by the band as well as the singer -- proved a compelling mix. What's more, despite the busy-ness of their new sound, the group wasn't afraid to prove that less could sometimes be more: three of the high points were the acoustic-driven "Your Move" and "The Clap" (a superb showcase for Howe on solo acoustic guitar), and the relatively low-key "A Venture" (oddly enough, the latter was the one cut here that didn't last in the group's repertory; most of the rest, despite the competition from their subsequent work, remained in their concert set for years to come).

 The Yes Album did what it had to do, outselling the group's first two long-players and making the group an established presence in America where, for the first time, they began getting regular exposure on FM radio. Sad to say, the only aspect of The Yes Album that didn't last much longer was Tony Kaye on keyboards: his Hammond organ holds its own in the group's newly energized sound, and is augmented by piano and other instruments when needed, but he resisted the idea of adding the Moog synthesizer, that hot instrument of the moment, to his repertory. The band was looking for a bolder sound than the Hammond could generate, and after some initial rehearsals of material that ended up on their next album, he was dropped from the lineup, to be replaced by Rick Wakeman.

Yes released two studio projects before The Yes Album came out in February 1971. But nobody but the band's most dedicated fans really know about or ever listen to those pair of records. As far as most rock 'n' roll fans are concerned, Yes started on The Yes Album.
It was the first group LP to include all original songs. More importantly, it was also the band's first album with new guitarist Steve Howe, who replaced Peter Banks the previous year. Both elements lifted the material and the way it was presented. The template for almost every great Yes song, and nearly every album they made from here on, begins on these six tracks.

A key component to this new era found the band exploring more corners and areas outside of its usual boundaries. On their first two albums, no song runs longer than six minutes; here, half of the LP's tracks reach the nine-minute mark. Keyboardist Tony Kaye, who joined the group not long after singer Jon Anderson and bassist Chris Squire formed it in 1968, expanded his role, powering the album with his mighty organ, piano and synth fills. (He'd be gone before Yes' next album, Fragile, which was released nine months later, replaced by Rick Wakeman.)

The most significant musical advancement was the addition of Howe, whose classical- and jazz-influenced playing gives The Yes Album a defining heft that was missing on the group's first two records. He's even given a solo acoustic showcase, "Clap," which is the album's shortest song and the only one recorded outside of the London studio where the rest of the LP was made. (It was recorded onstage at the Lyceum Theatre.)

Howe anchors the album's best songs -- opener "Yours Is No Disgrace," "Starship Trooper" and "I've Seen All Good People," whose first part (titled "Your Move") became Yes' first Top 40 single in the U.S. But, really, the whole group comes together here for the first time. There's a tighter sense of camaraderie among the musicians, as instruments weave in and out of each other, and Anderson glides alongside it all with some of his most graceful performances.

In a way, it's Yes' most cohesive album as a band. As the '70s dragged on, the records started to reflect the individual members', rather than the group's, aesthetics.The band also started experimenting more with its songs, developing deeper layers of harmonies and structures, and, notably at times, using the studio as a type of playground, working with backing tracks and tape loops at various points during the sessions.

It all paid off, as The Yes Album climbed to No. 4 in Yes' native U.K. and reached No. 40 in the U.S. (The first two Yes projects had failed to chart.) The bigger breakthrough would arrive within the next year, when Fragile soared into the Top 5. But The Yes Album paved the way, chipping away at a proto-prog sound that would expand, before eventually caving in under its own weight, in the years to come. But here the field is wide open.

Track Listing:

1. Yours Is No Disgrace (9:36)
2. Clap (Live) (3:07) *
3. Starship Trooper: Life Seeker / Disillusion / Wurm (9:23)
4. I've Seen All Good People: Your Move / All Good People (6:47)
5. A Venture (3:13)
6. Perpetual Change (8:50)

* Recorded Live at the Lyceum, London

Total Time: 41:56


- Jon Anderson / lead vocals, percussion
- Steve Howe / acoustic & electric guitars, Portuguese 12-string guitar (4), vocals
- Tony Kaye / Hammond organ, piano, Moog synthesizer
- Chris Squire / bass, vocals
- Bill Bruford / drums, percussion

- Colin Goldring / recorders (4)