Saturday, June 22, 2019

Grant Green - 1965 [1990] "Matador"

Matador is an album by American jazz guitarist Grant Green featuring performances recorded in 1964 but not released on the Japanese Blue Note label until 1979. The album was finally reissued in the U.S. on CD in 1990 with one bonus track. It was also reissued on vinyl in 2010, with a different cover.

Grant Green recorded so much high-quality music for Blue Note during the first half of the '60s that a number of excellent sessions went unissued at the time. Even so, it's still hard to figure out why 1964's Matador was only released in Japan in 1979, prior to its U.S. CD reissue in 1990 -- it's a classic and easily one of Green's finest albums. In contrast to the soul-jazz and jazz-funk for which Green is chiefly remembered, Matador is a cool-toned, straight-ahead modal workout that features some of Green's most advanced improvisation, even more so than his sessions with Larry Young. Part of the reason for that is that Green is really pushed by his stellar backing unit: pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Bob Cranshaw, and drummer Elvin Jones. Not only is Green leading a group that features one-half of the classic Coltrane Quartet, but he even takes on Coltrane's groundbreaking arrangement of "My Favorite Things" -- and more than holds his own over ten-plus minutes. In fact, every track on the album is around that length; there are extended explorations of two Green originals ("Green Jeans" and the title track) and Duke Pearson's Middle Eastern-tinged "Bedouin," plus the bonus cut "Wives and Lovers," a swinging Bacharach pop tune not on the Japanese issue. The group interplay is consistently strong, but really the spotlight falls chiefly on Green, whose crystal-clear articulation flourishes in this setting. And, for all of Matador's advanced musicality, it ends up being surprisingly accessible. This sound may not be Green's claim to fame, but Matador remains one of his greatest achievements.

The record teams Green with two-thirds of saxophonist John Coltrane's rhythm section of the time—pianist McCoy Tyner and drummer Elvin Jones—plus bassist Bob Cranshaw. The result is nothing less than Green's best album.

The quartet kicks off with the Green original, "Matador," a tune of tempered momentum with Green spinning off his trademark crisp, biting lines over the easy swinging rhythm section. The warm, energetic yet controlled mood may have inspired the tune's title, although the repeated theme at open and close also rumbles with an impressionistic Spanish feel, recalling the bullfight's pasodoble. (Green seemed somewhat enthused with—or, at least, fascinated by—bullfighting at the time, penning the likewise exotic, though more heated, "Plaza de Toros" for organist Larry Young's Into Somethin' album, recorded in November 1964, which also features Green's playing.) Tyner sweeps the sands with his trademark dusting of keys on the number—fleet, supple high-end runs, punctuated by the shifting of deep chordal blocks—creating a fluid, calming effect. And, in spots, hinting at the melody to come on track 2.

If there's an aspect that pushes Matador toward the infamous, it's this second tune: a go at the Coltrane "theme," "My Favorite Things," with half of the saxophonist's band in tow. It took some chutzpah not only to attempt it, but for Green to make the tune his own in this setting without charging decidedly and awkwardly into some far off field of free-jazz experimentation. Green's tone is full, his feel relaxed, as he breezes through the melodic turns before attacking his solo with increased grit and chop, while never losing the comfortable rhythmic feel. His solo stretches out bar after bar, building its intensity unhurriedly through waves of repeatedly sketched chordal figures and bluesy, two-note hammering—a wholly satisfying, sustained and strong release of emotion that culminates naturally with a return to the melody. The Tyner solo that follows is more lively and fluid than his turn on the 1961 Coltrane recording, implying an active engagement with these favorite things rather than the heavy, harmonic clang felt from things lost or slipping away. Still, the tune is almost impossible to cover without relaying something of the anxiety that knits into the feelings we attach to that which we possess, or would like to.

"Green Jeans," another of the guitarist's originals, moves the record into lighter, more amiable fare. Both Green and Tyner solo more freely than on the previous two tracks—Green jangling even in a fit of joyous momentum—to stretch the playful melody to its fullest effect. Duke Pearson's "Bedouin," however, returns the mood to somberness for the close, invoking, as Michael Cuscuna indicates in the liner notes, the Asiatic feel of the nomadic Bedouins. Green's solo here reprises the repetition of arpeggiated figures used to such fine effect in "My Favorite Things." But the highlight is Jones' lone solo of the album, stepping directly from Tyner's sweeping fluidity to craft a wholly musical, polyrhythmic statement that follows an organic progression—or regression—into the most elemental of drumming's voices, ending in a tom-tom beat that wholly deconstructs the tune. When the group joins Jones to restate the theme the melody feels rejuvenated, recreated.

Track listing:

    "Matador" (Green) – 10:51
    "My Favorite Things" (Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers) – 10:23
    "Green Jeans" (Green) – 9:10
    "Bedouin" (Pearson) – 11:41
    "Wives and Lovers" (Bacharach, David) – 9:01 Bonus track on CD reissue

Recorded on May 20 (tracks 1-4) & June 12 (track 5), 1964.

Personnel:

    Grant Green - guitar
    McCoy Tyner - piano
    Bob Cranshaw - bass
    Elvin Jones - drums

Monday, May 20, 2019

Dave Holland - 1990 "Extensions"

Extensions is an album by jazz bassist Dave Holland released on the ECM label in 1990. The record is Dave Holland's eighth album to be released on the ECM label. It features two members of his previous quintet—Steve Coleman and Marvin "Smitty" Smith—alongside guitarist Kevin Eubanks, in his first appearance on a Dave Holland record. Holland reprised his tune "Processional", first recorded on this album, on his later sextet album Pass It On.

Dave Holland has commanded such respect at the very top levels of American jazz, thanks only in part to his work, beginning in the late 1960s, with Miles Davis and then Anthony Braxton, Chick Corea, and Sam Rivers. As that list suggests, the Englishman set out on his fascinating jazz voyage with some of the best, and he has managed, as a leader, always to gather instrumentalists who, while not necessarily the best-known names, have consistently been extraordinarily talented. That is sparklingly the case here. On such tracks as "Nemesis," which starts as a fairly straight-ahead, funk-vamp piece, both alto saxophonist Steve Coleman and electric guitarist Kevin Eubanks elevate the music with stunning performances. The imagination, vigor, and rhythmic variation of their work--not to mention just the sheer amount of music they generate moment to moment--at times beggars comprehension. The music seems to gush and tumble forth from the interior of such tunes. That effect is, perhaps, the Holland hallmark, and it is amply exemplified here.

For this tight and enjoyable quartet date, bassist Dave Holland spread the composing opportunities around, his sidemen accounting for four of the six pieces. Arguably, none of these musicians ever sounded better, or more adventurous, than when performing in Holland's bands. While the leader himself retreated a good deal from his more routinely avant-garde recordings of the '70s, he appeared unwilling to allow his younger compadres to simply coast, instead evoking probing and thoughtful playing from them. Altoist Steve Coleman derives particular benefit from Holland's supervision, sounding far more fluid and confident than own his own rather more stilted albums.

The pieces follow a general head-solos-head format, though with substantial elasticity and enough variation that no sense of sameness settles in. Holland, of course, is masterful throughout, and one can easily imagine simply listening exclusively to his basslines, the amazing imagination they convey, and being very satisfied. One of his better albums from this period, Extensions should please any Holland fan, and is an agreeable and non-threatening jumping in point for the curious.

Dave Holland's "Extensions" is a notable exception, delivering intelligent, upbeat, post bop jazz with real power, remaining close enough to the jazz tradition to have lasting relevance.

The band - Steve Coleman (alto sax), Kevin Eubanks (guitar), Dave Holland (bass) and Marvin "Smitty" Smith (drums) - delivers rock-inspired energy spiraling off Marvin "Smitty" Smith's upfront drumming and Kevin Eubanks' impressive guitar playing. Steve Coleman brings his deep-rooted jazz sensibility and intelligence to bear, blowing solos of real creativity. Dave Holland's base forms a solid yet agile centre around which the music can flow. Despite the ECM label, this is high octane, full-blooded jazz by any other name.

"Nemesis" and "Color Of Mind", the two Kevin Eubanks compositions, open and close the album. The Kevin Eubanks solo on "Nemesis" is worthy of special attention. "Color Of Mind" is uptempo and angular.

"Processional" and "The Oracle" are both compositions by Dave Holland. These are more introspective and provide clear space for Steve Coleman, Dave Holland and Kevin Eubanks to solo expressively. "The Oracle" makes the most concession to ECM taste with 'African-sounding' guitar effects and rhythms but this is a small price to pay for the excellence of the music throughout.

Meanwhile, Steve Coleman also provides two compositions, "Black Hole" and "101 Degrees Fahrenheit (Slow Meltdown)" that get down to the essence of jazz. "Black Hole" is bluesy, funky and lowdown while "101 Degrees Fahrenheit (Slow Meltdown)" is ballad-like and sinewy.

https://jazz-rock-fusion-guitar.blogspot.com/search?q=Dave+Holland

Track listing:

    "Nemesis" (Kevin Eubanks) - 11:31
    "Processional" (Dave Holland) - 7:16
    "Black Hole" (Steve Coleman) - 10:10
    "The Oracle" (Dave Holland) - 14:32
    "101° Fahrenheit (Slow Meltdown)" (Steve Coleman) - 4:50
    "Color of Mind" (Kevin Eubanks) - 10:11

Recorded September 1989, Power Station, New York

Personnel:

    Steve Coleman – alto saxophone
    Kevin Eubanks – electric guitar
    Dave Holland – double bass
    Marvin "Smitty" Smith – drums

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Michael Brecker - 1988 "Don't Try This At Home"

Don't Try This at Home is the second album by American jazz saxophonist Michael Brecker, that was released on Impulse! records in 1988. In 1989, the album won a Grammy Award for Best Improvised Jazz Solo.

Michael Brecker's second album as a leader is almost the equal of his first. Surprisingly, only one song ("Suspone") uses his working quintet of the period (which consists of guitarist Mike Stern, pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Jeff Andrews and drummer Adam Nussbaum) although those musicians also pop up on other selections with the likes of pianists Don Grolnick and Herbie Hancock, bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Jack DeJohnette and violinist Mark O'Connor. Brecker (on tenor and the EWI) is in superb form, really ripping into the eight pieces (mostly group originals). Recommended.

This is the album that made me want to play jazz. It's a fantastic album, but it's definitely a product of its time. All of the people complaining about the use of the EWI fail to take into account that this album was made in 1987, and the EWI was accepted as a good instrument for fusion playing. Yes, it sounds a bit dated now, but at the time, it was a revelation. And for all of you who think that the EWI sucks, go try and play one. It's very difficult, much more so than a standard tenor saxophone, so it makes the playing that much more remarkable.

Mr. Brecker's playing is absolutely mind-boggling on this CD. The opening track, "Itsbynne Reel" incorporates Irish folk music and an absolutely incredible solo. His use of the "super mixolydian" mode and phrasing put his playing a few levels above most of his contemporaries.

If you are one of those people that either subscribe to the Wynton Marsalis theory of jazz ("Swing+Blues=Jazz") or are only interested in the "head/solo/head/end" hard bop style of, say, Joe Lovano or Jerry Bergonzi, should probably look elsewhere. This is a Fusion album, and should be looked at as such.

From the first track, with the EWi instrument emulating bagpipes to the Monk like final track, this terrific album combines Brecker's incredibly creative, complex magnifcently skilled Coltrane like solos with a great ensemble that, often creates a big band sound, particularly on the seventh track, with its freedom song type basic lines combined with Brecker's magnificent solos. This album was an earlier demonstration of why the meaningful history of late modern jazz csn virtually start and stop with Micheal Brecker.

Track listing:

  1.  "Itsbynne Reel" (Michael Brecker, Don Grolnick) – 7:41
  2.  "Chime This" (Grolnick) – 7:50
  3.  "Scriabin" (Vince Mendoza) – 4:59
  4.  "Suspone" (Mike Stern) – 4:59
  5.  "Don't Try This at Home" (Brecker, Grolnick) – 9:30
  6.  "Everything Happens When You're Gone" (Brecker) – 7:11
  7.  "Talking to Myself" (Grolnick) – 5:10
  8.  "The Gentleman & Hizcaine" (Jim Beard) – 5:19

Personnel:

    Michael Brecker – tenor saxophone, EWI
    Herbie Hancock – piano
    Joey Calderazzo – piano
    Don Grolnick – piano
    Jim Beard – synthesizer, piano
    Judd Miller – synthesizer
    Mike Stern – guitar
    Mark O'Connor – violin
    Charlie Haden – bass
    Jeff Andrews – bass
    Jack DeJohnette – drums
    Peter Erskine – drums
    Adam Nussbaum – drums

Monday, April 29, 2019

Tommy Bolin - 1976 [1996] "Live At Northern Lights"

Recorded just two and a half months before Tommy Bolin's untimely drug-related death, the Tommy Bolin Band are heard playing in an intimate setting for an FM broadcast (after spending the summer of 1976 playing huge stadiums with the likes of Steve Miller, Peter Frampton, ZZ Top, and Rush). Surprisingly, the production is a lot more raw than the other live CDs issued through the Tommy Bolin Archives label, which is strange, since it was taped in a recording studio.

The playing is quite ragged, and although it does at times catch fire, the performance is not as inspired as past Tommy Bolin concert releases. Tommy's younger brother Johnny joined the band on drums a few months prior to the Live at Northern Lights taping, and he proves to be quite a solid drummer, especially during the improvisation of the sadly prophetic "Post Toastee," which warns about the dangers of drug burnout. Also of note are the sullen ballad "Wild Dogs," and the saxophone workout "You Told Me That You Loved Me" (which was rarely played live by the band). But like the version found on the From the Archives, Vol. 1 release, "Shake the Devil" is again off-key, which takes away from the powerful Zeppelin stomp of the studio take. Although it has its moments, Live at Northern Lights is not the best Tommy Bolin in-concert release of the bunch.

Tommy Bolin was truly a worldwide gift to rock music and guitar enthusiasts everywhere. There will never be another Tommy Bolin, a guitar genius who continues to enthrall generations of aspiring musicians and music lovers with the many fine recordings and concert performances he had made during his short time on Earth.
Tommy developed all types of rock, jazz, blues, folk, and progressive sounds from his guitar and in his writing with his all of his solo works as well as his hard driven artistry with his membership in bands like Deep Purple, James Gang, Zephyr and Energy.

As Tommy Bolin was really building himself and his new band The Tommy Bolin Band into new and exciting territory, Bolin was able to capture a lot of his live and studio workings into the rare collective known as The Tommy Bolin Archives, and this leads us to the long anticipated first time vinyl release of his amazing 1976 Boston concert Northern Lights.

Remastered impeccably by Joe Reagoso (Jeff Beck, Yes, Deep Purple) for the first time on audiophile vinyl, The Tommy Bolin Band s Northern Lights will truly become one of the most important and historical 180 Gram Audiophile Vinyl titles in quite some time.

Noted for his stellar guitar work, pretty much introducing new ways of using technique, distortion and effects to a whole new generation of guitar players, Northern Lights is truly a primer for a ton of rock and blues artists.

Check out his dynamic prowess on hits Teaser , Post Toastee and the hard rockin You Told Me That You Loved Me.

Never forgetting progressive roots, Tommy and the band exell on the Bolin classic Wild Dogs. Plus his rock and reggae classic People People show a glimpse of what this superstar was capable of and the promise that he truly had before his untimely loss in 1976.

Friday Music is no stranger to the music of the legendary Tommy Bolin, with his arsenal of fine recordings already on our label. That is why we are so very proud to announce our first installment in The Tommy Bolin/Friday Music 180 Gram Audiophile Vinyl Series with his legendary masterwork Northern Lights"

This CD was a pleasant suprize. Tommy is in good form, and I find it to be a great example of Tommy live.(I think it's better than the 2 Deep Purple recordings, and the live recordings on Vol.1 of From the Archives)It is essential for any Tommy Bolin fan. The band is on point too. I enjoyed every minute of this CD.

Tommy’s live concert recorded for WBCN Radio in September of 1976 at The Northern Lights Recording Studio in Maynard, Massachusetts. This performance is famous for it’s over the top, abandon filled rendition of “Post Toastee.” So now, enjoy the archives enhanced fidelity from this performance that is taken from the radio broadcast master that was given to the Archives by Carter Allan, Music Director of WBCN, and a huge Tommy fan.

Track listing:

1     Teaser     5:55
2     People People     7:55
3     You Told Me That You Loved Me     5:12
4     Wild Dogs     10:17
5     Shake The Devil     4:35
6     Post Toastee     13:30
7     Homeward Strut     10:06

    Recorded At – The Northern Lights Recording Studio

Personnel:

    Guitar, Vocals, Producer [Original Live Recording] – Tommy Bolin
    Bass – Jimmy Haslip
    Drums – Johnny Bolin*   
    Keyboards, Vocals – Mark Stein
    Saxophone, Vocals – Norma Jean Bell

John Scofield - 1994 "Hand Jive"

Guitarist John Scofield and tenor saxophonist Eddie Harris make a very complementary team on this upbeat set of funky jazz, for both have immediately identifiable sounds and adventurous spirits. Along with a fine rhythm section that includes Larry Goldings on piano and organ, Scofield and Harris interact joyfully on ten of the guitarist's originals.

This 1994 recording is one of John Scofield's best, with a band that adds the soul-jazz veteran Eddie Harris to a group of the guitarist's regular associates, Larry Goldings on keyboards, Dennis Irwin on bass, Bill Stewart on drums, and Don Alias on percussion. Perhaps it's the mix of the familiar rhythm section with the novelty of playing with Harris, a player with a similar penchant for inside funk, outside approaches, and altered sounds, but Scofield is unusually animated. He digs into the rhythmic grooves and develops extended ideas throughout, most notably on "I'll Take Les" and "Do Like Eddie," tributes to the onetime partnership of Harris and pianist McCann. Goldings is outstanding on piano as well as organ, and everyone involved contributes to making this a high point in contemporary soul jazz.

Absolutely my favorite Scofield album, and one of my favorite groovin' jazz albums of all time. I come back to this one often, and not only because it has one of my favorite drummers (Bill Stewart) and a high school friend of mine (Larry Goldings) playing on it. This is top-notch playing, Scofield at his best (imho), fantastic session guys, and while it keeps some of the Scofield "angularity," it's a lot more fluid and groove-oriented than some of his offerings. Most of this one feels as if it comes more from the gut than the head, and that's a good thing.

Having just seen Scofield with Mike Stern and the Hollowbody Band (also featuring Bill Stewart), I have a renewed appreciation for this gem - they closed the show with Do Like Eddie, my favorite track from the disc. You will have that head melody in your head for days, I all but guarantee!

Very funky recording, a soul-jazz throwback to the music of saxophonist Eddie Harris -- who as a guest star on the CD makes the connection even more obvious. The organ/guitar grooves are terrific!

Not just for jazz fans, I've had friends who don't like jazz say they like this CD. Even more accessible is the CD Scofield a la Go Go with Medeski Martin & Wood. This CD is funkier, that one more poppy.

Track listing:

All compositions written by John Scofield.

1. I'll Take Les (6:58)
2. Dark Blue (7:37)
3. Do Like Eddie (8:06)
4. She's So Lucky (5:50)
5. Checkered Past (5:28)
6. 77th Floor (4:45)
7. Golden Daze (7:33)
8. Don't Shoot The Messenger (6:10)
9. Whip The Mule (5:37)
10. Out Of The City (5:18)

Total time 63:22

Personnel:

    John Scofield - guitar
    Eddie Harris - tenor saxophone
    Larry Goldings - piano, organ
    Dennis Irwin - bass
    Bill Stewart - drums
    Don Alias - percussion

Friday, April 12, 2019

Stuart Hamm - 1991 "The Urge"

Stuart Hamm (born February 8, 1960) is an American bass guitar player, known for his session and live work with numerous artists as well as for his unconventional playing style and solo recordings.

The Urge is the third solo album released by bassist Stuart Hamm, released in 1991. It was the first of Hamm's solo albums to feature vocals, and included guest appearances by guitarist Eric Johnson and Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe. The song "Quahogs Anyone?" was recorded live at Santa Barbara on September 27, 1990.

Hamm's signature Fender bass guitar was also called "The Urge", and was followed by "The Urge II".

Music IS, after all a personal thing. I appreciate Hamm's virtuosity on electric bass (never thought I'd say that about a bass player, but there you go). I consider "Lone Star" one of the great rock guitar and bass instrumentals of all time. I give the album five stars based upon this song ALONE. FYI, I also consider Lone Star the best song Eric Johnson has ever recorded, and that's from someone who LOVEs "A Via Musicom", his Grammy Award Winning album.

This release of intrumental and vocal tracks features a mixture of rock, funk, and rap, with guest guitarist Eric Johnson.

Track listing:

    "Welcome to My World" – 1:36
    "The Hammer" – 4:53
    "Who Do You Want Me to Be Today?" – 6:07
    "If You're Scared, Stay Home!" – 5:32
    "Our Dreams" – 6:05
    "Lone Star" – 7:24
    "Quahogs Anyone? (119, 120 Whatever It Takes)" – 6:12
    "The Urge" – 7:09
    "As Children" – 6:01

Personnel:

Stuart Hamm - Bass guitar, Piccolo Bass, Vocals, Background Vocals and Keyboards
Eric Johnson - Electric Guitar on "Our Dreams and "Lone Star"
Harry K. Cody - Electric Guitar
Buzzy Feiten - Electric Guitar and Additional Vocals
Dawayne Bailey - Electric Guitar
Steve Recker - Electric Guitar
Micajah Ryan - Acoustic Guitar on "Our Dreams", Background Vocals, Mixing, Engineering
Jonathan Mover - Drums and Additional Vocals
Steve Smith - Drums
Tommy Mars - Background Vocals
Steve Madero Horns - Background Vocals, Additional Vocals
Tommy Lee - Additional Vocals
Tanya Papanicolas - Whisper
Shawn Berman - Vocals, Samples, Engineering Assistance
Bob Arkin - Additional Vocals
Bruce Hamm - Additional Vocals
Emily Ryan - Additional Vocals
Dan Goldberg - Additional Vocals
Jorge Bermudez - Additional Vocals, Percussion
Chris Hamm - Vocal Chant

Joe Satriani - 1989 "Flying In A Blue Dream"

Flying in a Blue Dream is the third studio album by guitarist Joe Satriani, released on October 30, 1989 through Relativity Records. It is one of Satriani's most popular albums and his second highest-charting release to date, reaching No. 23 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and remaining on that chart for 39 weeks, as well as reaching the top 40 in three other countries.

Four singles reached Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart: "I Believe" and "Back to Shalla-Bal" both at No. 17, "Big Bad Moon" at No. 31, and "One Big Rush" at No. 36. Flying in a Blue Dream was certified Gold on January 25, 1990 and received a nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance at the 1991 Grammy Awards; this being Satriani's third such nomination.

The title track has endured as one of Satriani's best-known songs and is a mainstay at his concerts, as well as "The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing". "Can't Slow Down", "Strange", "I Believe", "Big Bad Moon", "The Phone Call" and "Ride" feature him singing for the first time; the most on any of his albums to date. It also marks the first time he plays the Deering six-string banjo-style guitar—"The Feeling" is performed entirely using that instrument—and harmonica, the latter of which features prominently on "Headless", "Big Bad Moon" and "Ride".

"Headless" is a remake of "The Headless Horseman" from Not of This Earth (1986), but with added distorted vocals and harmonica along with a 'squawky' guitar tone making chicken-like sounds. "Day at the Beach (New Rays from an Ancient Sun)" and "The Forgotten (Part One)" are performed using a two-handed tapping technique.

"The Bells of Lal (Part One)" was featured in the 1996 film Sling Blade, during the scene where Karl Childers (Billy Bob Thornton) is sharpening a lawnmower blade to kill the menacing Doyle Hargraves (Dwight Yoakam).

Music videos for the ballad "I Believe" and hard rocker "Big Bad Moon" were included on The Satch Tapes, which was first released on VHS cassette in 1993 and reissued on DVD on November 18, 2003; it also includes excerpts from an MTV performance of "The Feeling". "One Big Rush" was featured in the 1989 film Say Anything...

"Back to Shalla-Bal" refers to Shalla-Bal from the Marvel Comics universe; it is the second reference Satriani has made to the Silver Surfer character, who was first featured on the cover art of Surfing with the Alien (1987). The track was later used as the menu music to the 1996 Sony PlayStation video game Formula 1, which also featured "Summer Song" from The Extremist (1992).

An hour-long disc filled with musical explorations and compositions that defy belief, Flying in a Blue Dream is unquestionably Joe Satriani at his absolute best. Breaking his all-instrumental tradition for the first time, he croons on six of the disc's 18 tracks, including the weird "Strange"; and the bluesy, hard-rocking "Big Bad Moon"; and the driving "Can't Slow Down.

"Satriani's voice isn't extraordinary, but it fits extremely well with the music he creates, especially on the acoustic-tinged, uplifting "I Believe." It's his playing that's the really impressive thing here, though; his unique tone and complex song structures are enhanced by his signature playing style and the incredible array of effects and tricks he wrestles out of his instrument. The disc closes with the high-flying, misty piece "Into the Light," leaving behind a feeling of real wonder. Soaring, powerful, and triumphant, this recording deserves a place in everyone's collection.

This was my first CD, before I had a CD player. I was at a small party, got bored with the conversation, no music playing so I stared glancing the thru the guys CD's (which was only about 20). I see this Joe and asked to play it, he asked if I liked it and gave it to me right there on the spot, then he chose another CD and played it. I'm assuming he didn't care for the Joe, lol.
Crimhead420.

Track listing

All tracks written by Joe Satriani.

01.    "Flying in a Blue Dream"    5:23
02.    "The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing"    5:09
03.    "Can't Slow Down"    4:49
04.    "Headless"    1:30
05.    "Strange"    5:02
06.    "I Believe"    5:54
07.    "One Big Rush"    3:25
08.    "Big Bad Moon"    5:15
09.    "The Feeling"    0:50
10.    "The Phone Call"    3:01
11.    "Day at the Beach (New Rays from an Ancient Sun)"    2:03
12.    "Back to Shalla-Bal"    3:14
13.    "Ride"    4:56
14.    "The Forgotten (Part One)"    1:12
15.    "The Forgotten (Part Two)"    5:08
16.    "The Bells of Lal (Part One)"    1:19
17.    "The Bells of Lal (Part Two)"    4:07
18.    "Into the Light"    2:30

Total length:    64:47

Personnel:

Joe Satriani – vocals (3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 13), guitar, banjo, keyboard, percussion, programming, pre-production programming, bass, harmonica, arrangement, production
John Cuniberti – sitar, percussion, engineering, production
Jeff Campitelli – drums, percussion, pre-production programming
Bongo Bob Smith – drums (tracks 5, 12, 13), percussion (tracks 5, 12, 13), pre-production programming
Simon Phillips – drums (track 6)
Stuart Hamm – bass (tracks 5, 17)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Various Artists - 1991 "Just Friends" - A Gathering In Tribute To Emily Remler Vol. 2

Emily Remler (September 18, 1957 – May 4, 1990) was an American jazz guitarist, active from the late 1970s until her death in 1990.

This was the second of two albums done by an all-star lineup assembled to record two tribute albums following guitarist Emily Remler's death in 1990, with all proceeds going to her Jazz For Kids fund in Pittsburgh. The roster included Herb Ellis, Bill O'Connell, Eddie Gomez, Marvin "Smitty" Smith, and David Benoit. They made a reverential, yet loving and energetically played tribute.

 Track listing:

1     Conversation Piece     6:12
2     Too Soon     5:40
3     I Hear A Rhapsody     5:35
4     Diaries     7:11
5     Kings Cross     4:16
6     Time After Time     5:04
7     Em In Mind     6:15
8     Blues For Herb     4:23
9     Happy Birthday     5:28

Personnel:

Guitar – Herb Ellis (tracks: 2, 6, 8), Kristen Buckley (tracks: 3), Leni Stern (tracks: 5, 7), Marty Ashby (tracks: 7), Steve Masakowski (tracks: 4), Terry Holmes (tracks: 6, 8)
Bass – Bobby Felder (tracks: 8), Eddie Gomez (tracks: 2, 6), Lincoln Goines (tracks: 3, 4, 5, 7), Steve Bailey (tracks: 1, 9)
Drums – David Derge (tracks: 8), Marvin "Smitty" Smith (tracks: 2, 3, 5, 6, 7), Ricky Sebastian (tracks: 1, 4, 9)
Piano – Bill O'Connell (tracks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9), David Benoit (tracks: 8)
    Saxophone – Nelson Rangell (tracks: 8)

Friday, April 5, 2019

King Crimson - 2016 "Collectors' Club" - Kokusai Theater, Tokyo Japan 12.14.1981

“Hello Tokyo!” says Belew on their last of four night run. A good quality audience recording and a more engaged band/crowd relationship is evident from the earliest moments of this gig. Perhaps this explains why it appears to have that elusive “something extra” about it?The set list is the same as on previous evenings, yet there’s something else in the air.

If you want tangible proof of this, then just take a listen to The Sheltering Sky: acerbic opening solo and then a beautiful dance between the guitar arpeggios, like moths fluttering around a flame, waiting for Levin’s slide down which usually ushers in Belew’s solo section. Except here they hold the moment, as though reluctant to break the spell the duo have created. Simple and beautiful. Then as Belew is soloing, Bruford moves to full kit and you have an extraordinary version of The Sheltering Sky with a grooving backbeat.

Manhattan has the band moving up a notch after an energetic Frame By Frame, played with a blistering urgency, as Belew and Fripp push the notion of guitar solo to extreme limits. Indiscipline maintains the ferocious momentum and comes with some additional Roland organ touches during Ade’s spoken sections, adding subtly to the slightly disconcerting air of the song itself.

It’s abundantly clear the team are flat-out having a great time - just listen to LTIA’s end-of-term-party atmosphere and extended ending. Brilliant stuff.

This gig marks the end the of what had been a truly incredible year in King Crimson’s history; the launch of a new band and the first album of brand new material bearing the Crimson moniker in seven years.

https://jazz-rock-fusion-guitar.blogspot.com/search?q=King+Crimson

 Track listing:

01     Frippertronics Walk On    
02     Discipline    
03     Thela Hun Ginjeet    
04     Red    
05     Matte Kudasai    
06     The Sheltering Sky    
07     Frame By Frame    
08     Neal And Jack And Me    
09     Manhattan    
10     Elephant Talk    
11     Indiscipline    
12     Sartori In Tangier

Personnel:

Robert Fripp - Guitar
Adrian Belew - Guitar, Vocal
Tony Levin - Bass, Chapman Stick
Bill Bruford - Drums

John Coltrane - 1958 [1987] "Soultrane"

Soultrane is the fourth studio album by jazz musician John Coltrane, released in 1958 on Prestige Records, catalogue 7142. It was recorded at the studio of Rudy Van Gelder in Hackensack, New Jersey, three days after a Columbia Records session for Miles Davis and the Milestones album.

The album is a showcase for Coltrane's late-1950s "sheets of sound" style, the term itself coined by critic Ira Gitler in the album's liner notes. Also featured is a long reading of Billy Eckstine's ballad standard "I Want to Talk About You", which Coltrane would revisit often during his career, most notably on the album Live at Birdland. Among the other tracks are popular theme "Good Bait" by Tadd Dameron, and Fred Lacey's elegiac "Theme for Ernie". "You Say You Care" is from the Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

The album closes with a frenetic version of Irving Berlin's "Russian Lullaby". Producer Bob Weinstock relates Coltrane's humorous interpretation:

    We were doing a session and we were hung for a tune and I said, "Trane, why don't you think up some old standard?" He said, "OK I got it....and they played "Russian Lullaby" at a real fast tempo. At the end I asked, "Trane, what was the name of that tune?" And he said, "Rushin' Lullaby". I cracked up.

Soultrane takes its title from a song on a 1956 album by Tadd Dameron featuring Coltrane, Mating Call. "Soultrane" does not appear on this Soultrane, and none of the five tunes on Soultrane is an original by Coltrane. The song "Theme for Ernie" was featured on the soundtrack for the 2005 film Hollywoodland.

In addition to being bandmates within Miles Davis' mid-'50s quintet, John Coltrane (tenor sax) and Red Garland (piano) head up a session featuring members from a concurrent version of the Red Garland Trio: Paul Chambers (bass) and Art Taylor (drums). This was the second date to feature the core of this band. A month earlier, several sides were cut that would end up on Coltrane's Lush Life album. Soultrane offers a sampling of performance styles and settings from Coltrane and crew.

As with a majority of his Prestige sessions, there is a breakneck-tempo bop cover (in this case an absolute reworking of Irving Berlin's "Russian Lullaby"), a few smoldering ballads (such as "I Want to Talk About You" and "Theme for Ernie"), as well as a mid-tempo romp ("Good Bait"). Each of these sonic textures displays a different facet of not only the musical kinship between Coltrane and Garland but in the relationship that Coltrane has with the music.

The bop-heavy solos that inform "Good Bait," as well as the "sheets of sound" technique that was named for the fury in Coltrane's solos on the rendition of "Russian Lullaby" found here, contain the same intensity as the more languid and considerate phrasings displayed particularly well on "I Want to Talk About You." As time will reveal, this sort of manic contrast would become a significant attribute of Coltrane's unpredictable performance style.

Not indicative of the quality of this set is the observation that, because of the astounding Coltrane solo works that both precede and follow Soultrane -- most notably Lush Life and Blue Train -- the album has perhaps not been given the exclusive attention it so deserves.

This February 7, 1958, session - which came to be known as Soultrane - was the tenor's seventh session as a leader, and the first LP that followed his one Blue Note session, the more historic Blue Trane. Soultrane , made right after the tenor player rejoined Miles Davis's group, features the trumpeter's rhythm section of Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Art Taylor. It has also has a noticeably looser, more felt vibe than the better known Blue Note session.

Coltrane and Garland are especially compatible, and while nothing magical happens (as Coltrane showed effortlessly elsewhere), this remains an especially strong session. The mode is still strongly bop-oriented, with none of Coltrane's originals and the introduction of a favorite Coltrane theme, Billy Eckstine's "I Want To Talk About You" (revisited throughout the remainder of Coltrane's career).

Also here are exceptionally good - but not necessarily definitive - takes of Tadd Dameron's "Good Bait," Irving Berlin's "Russian Lullaby," the lovely "Theme For Ernie" and Jules Styne's "You Say You Care." For a blowing date, though, it's hard to improve upon the appeal of this exceptionally fine session, alight as it is with some of the tenor's most assured and accessible playing. Highly enjoyable.

Track listing:

1.    "Good Bait"    Tadd Dameron    12:08
2.    "I Want to Talk About You"    Billy Eckstine    10:53
3.    "You Say You Care"    Leo Robin, Jule Styne    6:16
4.    "Theme for Ernie"    Fred Lacey    4:57
5.    "Russian Lullaby"    Irving Berlin    5:33

Personnel:

    John Coltrane – tenor saxophone
    Red Garland – piano
    Paul Chambers – bass
    Art Taylor – drums

John Coltrane - 1957 [1989] "Dakar"

Dakar is a Pepper Adams & Cecil Payne album credited in its reissue form to jazz musician John Coltrane, released in 1963 on Prestige Records, catalogue 7280. Dakar is a reissue of one side of a 16 rpm LP called Baritones and French Horns released in 1957, and originally credited to the "Prestige All Stars".

As Coltrane's profile grew during the 1960s, after his Prestige contract had ended, the record company assembled and reissued various recordings John Coltrane participated in with his name prominently displayed, though in many cases, as on Dakar, he had originally been a sideman.

Dakar (1957) presents half-a-dozen numbers recorded April 20, 1957 by an ensemble credited as the "Prestige All-Stars." On the bandstand for this date are John Coltrane (tenor sax), Cecil Payne (baritone sax), Pepper Adams (baritone sax), Mal Waldron (piano), Doug Watkins (bass), and Art Taylor (drums). Although at the time these were considered "leaderless" units, upon hearing the interaction of the participants, modern ears might desire to qualify that statement.

The Latin-flavored title track "Dakar" finds Coltrane adapting his solo to faultlessly conform to Payne and Adams' comparatively fuller-bodied involvement. The brooding chord progressions take on dark overtones with Coltrane joining Waldron as they burst forth fuelled by the soulful brass section. "Mary's Blues" is a treat for sax lovers as Adams -- who penned the number -- almost immediately raises the musical stakes for Coltrane. The differences in their respective presentations offer a contrast that complements the cool refinement of Adams and Pepper when juxtaposed with Coltrane's frenetic flurries. Particularly engaging are the sequence of four-bar blasts from the horn players, just prior to Coltrane pushing the combo through their paces.

On "Route Four" the strongest elements of each player surface, creating one of the platter's brightest moments. Right out of the box, Waldron unleashes line upon line of masterful lyricism. The driving tempo keeps the instrumentalists on their toes as Coltrane is sandwiched between the undeniably and equally inspired Payne and Adams. Here, the urgency of Coltrane's tenor sax clearly tests the boundaries of the Taylor/Watkins rhythm section. The moody and sublime ballad "Velvet Scene" is a Waldron composition containing some of the author's strongest individual involvement as he interjects his expressive keyboarding directly into the melody.

If the album is flawed, that may well be due to Coltrane's inability to deliver during "Witches' Pit." Perhaps because he is the first soloist, there seems to be no immediate direction to his playing. In a highly unusual move, he simply trails off rather than concluding his portion with his usual command and authority. "Cat Walk" restores Coltrane's sinuous leads during a couple of jaunty double-time excursions that tread gingerly around the catchy tune. Jazz enthusiasts -- especially lovers of Thelonious Monk -- should easily be able to discern Adams' nod to "'Round Midnight."

Often cited as saxophonist John Coltrane's first album as leader, Dakar—recorded on April 20, 1957—is a usurper. Originally credited to the Prestige All Stars (and released as part of a short-lived experiment with 16-rpm discs), it was only credited to Coltrane on its re-release in 1963, when the saxophonist's star was firmly in the ascendant. The Dakar session was one of several Coltrane appeared on as a sideman that week—on the 16th with pianist Thelonious Monk, on the 18th with the Prestige All Stars, and on the 19th with pianist Mal Waldron. He gets no more solo time than either of the other saxophonists, baritone players Cecil Payne and Pepper Adams. Another day, another dollar.

If it's anyone's baby, Dakar—here released as part of Prestige's Rudy Van Gelder Remasters series—belongs to Teddy Charles. The vibraphonist and bandleader produced the sessions, composed three of the six tunes, and—crucially—picked the line-up. Clearly, he didn't have a Coltrane album in mind, more a meeting between the elder statesman of bop baritone, Payne, and the younger hard bop stylist, Adams. Coltrane, his tenor already possessing the incisive sound which took wings on Giant Steps (Atlantic, 1959), works like spice amongst Payne's lighter, at times Lester Young-ish tone, and Adams' tougher, more abrasive one (not for nothing was Adams nicknamed The Knife).

It's rough and ready music, almost certainly rehearsed for the first time in the studio (with the clock ticking), but it sure is ready. The three saxophonists roar into the opening title track, Payne soloing first, then Coltrane, then Adams. There's a fierce, devil may care atmosphere, rolling around in the sound of the instruments, which establishes a mood sustained throughout the album. There's a telling moment towards the end of the closing "Cat Walk" when Payne's baritone emits a horrible squeak. Even in 1957, most producers would have asked for another take, or got busy with a razor blade. It's retention, for whatever reason (lack of money, lack of time, confidence in the fundamental quality of the music), on the finished album adds to the sense of reportage and the enjoyment.

There's just one ballad, Waldron's "Velvet One," on which Coltrane's tenor states the theme over soft riffing from Payne and Adams, and which gives a taste of the lyrical magic Coltrane would later weave on Ballads (Impulse!, 1962).

A minor chapter in the Coltrane canon it may be, but Dakar is a characterful set of propulsive, pre-codification hard bop and still a delight over half a century later.

Track listing:

 1.   "Dakar" (Teddy Charles) — 7:09
 2.   "Mary's Blues" (Pepper Adams) — 6:47
 3.   "Route 4" (Charles) — 6:55
 4.   "Velvet Scene" (Waldron) — 4:53
 5.   "Witches Pit" (Adams) — 6:42
 6.   "Catwalk" (Charles) — 7:11

Personnel:

    John Coltrane - tenor saxophone
    Cecil Payne - baritone saxophone
    Pepper Adams - baritone saxophone
    Mal Waldron - piano
    Doug Watkins - bass
    Art Taylor - drums

Monday, April 1, 2019

Various Artists - 1990 "Just Friends" - A Gathering In Tribute To Emily Remler

The first album of two all-star tributes to guitarist Emily Remler by her distinguished friends. They got together in 1989 and cut these sessions for the Austin, Texas Justic label, with all proceeds going to Remler's Jazz for Kids fund in Pittsburgh. There are no stars or supporting musicians here, just several great musicians saying goodbye to their friend.

 Track listing:

01     Brontosaurus Walk     3:35
02     Remily     5:43
03     Willow Weep For Me     6:43
04     Jazz Jam     1:47
05     Besame Mucho     7:08
06     Equinox     5:51
07     Hello & Goodbye     4:04
08     Nova Nice     5:43
09     Blues On The Spot     5:52
10     Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise     3:56

Personnel:

Steve Masakowski – Guitar/Composition
Lincoln Gaines – Bass
Ricky Sebastian – Drums
Bill O’Connell – Piano
Herb Ellis – Guitar/Composition
Terry Holmes – Guitar/Composition
Eddie Gomez – Bass
Marvin “Smitty” Smith – Drums
Ann Ronell – Composition
Bob Felder – Bass
David Deberg – Drums
David Benoit – Piano
Nelson Rangell – Saxophone
Marty Ashby – Guitar/Composition
Leni Stern – Guitar
Jay Ashby – Trombone

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Larry Coryell - 1975 [2018] "The Restful Mind"

The Restful Mind is an album by jazz guitarist Larry Coryell. The album was released in 1975 by Vanguard with Ralph Towner on guitar, Glen Moore on bass, and Collin Walcott on percussion. The album was produced by Daniel Weiss and engineered by David Baker. The album reached number 35 on the jazz albums chart.

Guitarist Larry Coryell recorded several sessions for the Vanguard label during the '70s with varying results. He did manage two classics, Spaces, and this one, The Restful Mind. It is no small coincidence that the better the personnel he surrounded himself with, the better he played. On Spaces, the presence of John McLaughlin and Chick Corea raised his playing to another level. Here, with the backing of the group Oregon (with the exception of Paul McCandless), who were also signed to Vanguard at this time), bring out a more reflective and relaxed Coryell. His tendency to fall back on his chops was always a weak spot in his playing, but it is thankfully absent here. Both of the "Improvisation" pieces are highlights in Coryell's career, which along with the other beaufitul selections, make this one of his best, and certainly most overlooked, recordings.

I had gotten into Larry Coryell through John McLaughlin and the first Coryell CD I bought was the fusion classic, "Spaces". This album is still known as Coryell's best, simply because of the musicians that played with him on the album - McLaughlin, Billy Cobham, Miroslav Vitous, Chick Corea (one track only) - each one a fusion giant. But it is "Restful Mind" that I find myself playing constantly, over and over again.

This album is more of an acoustic setting and features the great group Oregon - Collin Walcott, Ralph Towner, and Glen Moore (no Paul McCandless though)as Larry's backing musicians. They are a jazz band but with more of a world music flavor to them. Their playing along with Coryell's is exquisite to say the least.

All the tracks are excellent but it is "Ann Arbor" and "Song for Jim Webb" that really stand out. The album is very short at only 36 minutes but it is 36 minutes that will keep you enthralled.

I have read that Coryell has done many mediocre and forgettable stuff in his career, but when he was placed with talented musicians like John McLaughlin or the guys in Oregon, he always raised his playing to another level. This album is a perfect example of this statement.

If you like jazz whether acoustic or fusion (or both like me) or just great guitar, you will fall in love with this album like I did.

Larry Coryell's "Resful Mind" is a classic of the mid-70s that has recently been reissued on CD. I've returned to the recording at this point becuase it really exemplifies a new, broader, notion of fusion, almost exclusively ACOUSTIC. Larry is joined here by Oregon (Ralph Towner, Colin Walcott, and Glenn Moore). The music draws on everything from Classical to Country. Perhaps the most famous track to emerge from these sessions is "Julie La Belle" with its groovy stomp and rude twang. The coda to this tune as well as the concluding solo piece "Restful Mind" are mesmerizing. I'd also add that "The Restful Mind" has a coherence and SPIRIT that breathes throughout the record and that gives it a special identity. "Ann Arbor" and "Song for Jim Webb" are outstanding examples of Coryell's artistry.

I have waited years for the CD version of this old album. Now wonderfully remasterd, the playing is magical: incredibly soft passages followed by fire. Technically precise, but full of emotion. My favorite is perhaps Ravel's "Pavane for a Dead Princess," but all the numbers are terrific. And, despite its title, this CD rocks. For Coryell fans, a "must-have." For me, a desert-island disc. Really, really superb!

https://jazz-rock-fusion-guitar.blogspot.com/search?q=Larry+Coryell

Tracks Listing:

1. Improvisation On Robert De Visee's Menuet II (8:13)
2. Ann Arbor (5:01)
3. Pavane For A Dead Princess (5:40)
4. Improvisation On Robert De Visee's Sarabande (5:20)
5. Song For Jim Webb (3:15)
6. Julie La Belle (4:07)
7. Restful Mind (3:12)

Total Time: 36:22

Personnel:

    Larry Coryell – acoustic guitar, electric guitar
    Ralph Towner – guitar
    Glen Moore – double bass
    Collin Walcott – congas, tabla

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins - 1954 [1992] "Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins"

The album is culled from the results of three recording sessions over a span of close to twelve months featuring different personnel. Although Rollins is credited as a co-leader on the album cover, he appears on only three of the album's five tracks. It was the final Monk release on the label before he moved to a contract with Riverside Records.

The track "Friday the 13th" was recorded in November 1953 with a quintet of Monk, Rollins, Julius Watkins, Percy Heath, and Willie Jones; the September 1954 recordings are of a trio with Monk, Heath, and Art Blakey; and the October 1954 session Monk and Rollins again with bassist Tommy Potter and drummer Art Taylor. Of the three Monk originals, "Friday the 13th" was written in the studio during the recording session, released as a ten-minute jam to fill out the album's running time. Monk would return to "Nutty" again and again through his career, but this was his only recording of the composition "Work."

This disc contains an all-star cast headed up by Thelonious Monk (piano) and includes some collaborative efforts with Sonny Rollins (tenor sax) that go beyond simply inspired and into a realm of musical telepathy.
The five tunes included on Work are derived from three separate sessions held between November of 1953 and September of the following year. As is often the case, this likewise means that there are three distinct groups of musicians featured. Whether by design or happenstance, the tracks compiled for this EP present Monk in the favorable confines and settings of smaller combos, ranging from the intimacy of the Percy Heath (bass) and Art Blakey (drums) trio on "Nutty" as well as the equally grooving title track. Both utilize Monk's uncanny and distinct sense of melody and are conspicuous for Blakey's rollicking percussive contributions -- which, at times, become thrust between Monk's disjointed chord work.

The larger quartet and quintet settings are equally as inventive, retaining the highly inventive atmosphere. However, the undeniable highlight is the interaction between Monk and Rollins. Leading off the disc is a definitive and freewheeling reading of the pop standard "The Way You Look Tonight." Equally as scintillating is "I Want to Be Happy," both of which are also highlighted by Art Taylor (drums) and Tommy Potter (bass). They provide a supple and unencumbered framework for the soloists to weave their inimitable and often contrasting contributions.

The final track is the beautifully dissonant and extended "Friday the Thirteenth," which is ironically the first fortuitous collaboration between the two co-leads. Rollins is able to entwine a sinuous lead throughout Monk's contrasting chord counterpoint. Enthusiasts seeking additional tracks from these and the remainder of Monk's sessions during his brief residency with Prestige should consider the suitably titled four-CD Complete Prestige Recordings compilation.

To begin with, the title is deceptive. Rollins and Monk play together on three of the five tracks on the album, which comprises three separate sessions recorded between November 1953 and September 1954. On the opening "Way You Look Tonight Monk's solo is a mere half chorus—played in a fairly conventional bebop style. This leaves but two tunes, "I Want to Be Happy and "Friday the 13th, on which the two strong musical personalities seek to negotiate a happy result.

The individualist/pianist solos for three choruses, each discretely original in conception and execution. After a chorus of connected, seamless lines played in the middle register, he leaps to the upper register for the second chorus, jabbing dissonant chord clusters at irregular intervals in the unfilled space. The third chorus finds him relinquishing his left hand to its independent devices while maintaining an elliptical melody in the right. Always an authoritative solo voice, Rollins seems emboldened by Monk's example, playing with unmistakable conviction, especially compared to his work on an earlier session like Miles Davis' Diggin' (Prestige, 1951), where the tenorist clearly was aiming to make an impression.

Still, after hearing the Monk/Coltrane concert this encounter is inescapably anticlimactic. Rollins, whose playing anticipates some of the melodic/rhythmic characteristics of his successor Charlie Rouse, lacks the light articulations and responsive quickness of the less-renowned player. Compared to Rouse's sportive playfulness, the tenor colossus sounds somewhat heavy and ponderous in Monk country. On the other hand, Coltrane's intensity meshes with Monk's whimsy because the piano "grounds the rapturous, altissimo flights of the tenor saxophone, as though Monk's insistent harmonies and unyielding time are the falconer around which the falcon's gyres are free to expend themselves without spiraling out of control.

Track listing:

All compositions by Thelonious Monk except where noted.

  1. "The Way You Look Tonight" (Dorothy Fields, Jerome Kern) – 5:13
  2. "I Want to Be Happy" (Irving Caesar, Vincent Youmans) – 7:43
  3. "Work" – 5:18
  4. "Nutty" – 5:16
  5. "Friday the 13th" – 10:32

Personnel:

    Thelonious Monk – piano trio on "Work" and "Nutty"
    Sonny Rollins – tenor saxophone on "The Way You Look Tonight," "I Want to Be Happy," and "Friday the 13th"
    Julius Watkins – french horn on "Friday the 13th"
    Percy Heath – bass on "Work," "Nutty," and "Friday the 13th"
    Tommy Potter – bass on "The Way You Look Tonight" and "I Want to Be Happy
    Art Taylor – drums on "The Way You Look Tonight" and "I Want to Be Happy"
    Art Blakey – drums on "Work" and "Nutty"
    Willie Jones – drums on "Friday the 13th"

The Tonight Show Big Band with Doc Severinsen - 1987 "Volume II"

Doc and his gang (featuring Tommy Newsom; Snooky Young and Conte Candoli) revisit 12 more big band favorites on the 1987 album, including In the Mood; Airmail Special; Stardust; Jumpin' at the Woodside; The Jersey Bounce and more.

The second of two long-overdue recordings by the Tonight Show Band has its moments, but its reliance on swing-era warhorses and the generally predictable arrangements (Bill Holman's reworkings of "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise," "Take the 'A' Train," and "Serenade in Blue" are exceptions) are disappointments. However, there is some excellent solo space for trumpeters Doc Severinsen, Snooky Young, and Conte Candoli; tenors Pete Christlieb and Ernie Watts; and pianist Ross Tompkins. Since this legendary big band recorded so little (just three albums for Amherst), all are worth picking up.

Like so many people, I was greatly saddened to hear of the passing of the great Johnny Carson. In college, I bought the first Tonight Show Band album (well, I like all kinds of music, including jazz!! :)) and I was blown away by how great the band was. Wow. I never knew a follow-up album was released within a year.

Like the first album, this is swing music. However, for those that don't remember the Tonight Show, the band was made up of accomplished studio players who can really suuuuwwwwiiinnngggg. The band was a counterpoint in a way for the jazz generation, as was the NBC Orchestra of the 30's and 40's was for classical music. In fact, the point of the Tonight Show Orchestra was meant to be, I believe, an ironic comment on the sounds of the WWII generation.

At any rate, the Band on this show was very tight and the musicianship evident here and on the first album is outstanding.
The arrangements here are for the most part very good. Stand out tracks?...well, I believe the whole darn album is excellent. However, "In the Mood,' 'Georgia on My Mind,' 'April in Paris' 'Stardust' and 'Jumpin at the Woodside' are all great. Frankly, if you enjoy swing music and/jazz these albums are a great choice. Doc is one hell of a great trumpeter. Wow, he can cook. What else can you want? Great music and these musicians adds up to one great album.

In listening to this album, it isn't much of a stretch to say that the bands now such as the Late Show Orchestra with Paul Shaffer (GREAT rock studio musicians) and the current Tonight Show (actually, I don't really believe this band(and the current show) is all that great) are not as good. However, the TSO was just a great swing band at the height of their abilities. WOW. The Tonight Show was on TV with Carson for a reason - because the parts were better than we thought. Johnny (Sis-BOOM-Bah), Ed (Hi-oh) and Doc (I love these threads) we MISS you so much!

This was the best (creme de la creme) big band performing at the time. Doc was at his peak
and the band members were some of the top musicians in US. The jazz arrangements were innovative and today still sound fresh. This is one of my all-time favorite albums. It was a very special time for musicians and I miss this band. Doc's trumpet sound will always be an inspiration to trumpet players worldwide. If you are a big band 'afficionado', this is a must buy - you won't be disappointed!

 Track listing:

01     In The Mood     3:34
02     The Jersey Bounce     4:09
03     Georgia On My Mind     3:57
04     The World Is Waiting For Sunrise     2:56
05     Airmail Special     2:36
06     April In Paris     3:30
07     Stardust     5:19
08     Take The "A" Train     3:07
09     Do Nothing 'Till You Hear From Me     2:45
10     Serenade In Blue     2:38
11     Hamp's Boogie Woogie     3:38
12     Jumpin' At The Woodside     3:41

Personnel:

    Alto Saxophone [Lead], Flute, Clarinet – Tommy Newsom
    Alto Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet – Bill Perkins, John Bambridge
    Baritone Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet – Don Ashworth
    Bass – Joel DiBartolo
    Bass Trombone – Ernie Tack
    Drums – Ed Shaughnessy
    Guitar – Bob Bain, Peter Woodford
    Piano – Ross Tompkins
    Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet – Ernie Watts, Pete Christlieb
    Trombone – Bruce Paulson
    Trombone [Lead] – Gil Falco
    Trumpet [Lead], Flugelhorn – John Audino
    Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Allen Vizzutti, Conte Candoli, Snooky Young*, Maurey Harris
    Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Conductor – Doc Severinsen

Wynton Marsalis - 1997 "Blood On The Fields" [3 CD Set]

Blood on the Fields is a two-and-a-half-hour jazz oratorio, by Wynton Marsalis. It was commissioned by Lincoln Center and concerns a couple moving from slavery to freedom.

It received the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Music. However, Marsalis's victory was controversial because according to the Pulitzer guidelines, his work was not eligible. Although a winning work was supposed to have had its first performance during that year, Marsalis' piece premiered on April 1, 1994 and its recording, released on Columbia Records, was dated 1995. Yet, the piece won the 1997 prize. Marsalis' management had submitted a "revised version" of "Blood on the Fields" which was "premiered" at Yale University after the composer made seven small changes. When asked what would make a revised work eligible, the chairman of that year's music jury, Robert Ward, said: "Not a cut here and there...or a slight revision," but rather something that changed "the whole conception of the piece." After being read the list of revisions that were made to the piece, Ward acknowledged that the minor changes should not have qualified it as eligible, but he said that "the list you had here was not available to us, and we did not discuss it."

Risk exposing your ears to the first notes of BLOOD ON THE FIELDS, hear the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra wail through “Calling the Indians Out,” the opening invocation to the spirit of the first people whose blood soaked American soil in the long, painful birth of the American republic, and you’ll sit spellbound to the echo of the last note of Wynton Marsalis’s epic oratorio on slavery and freedom. Telling the story of two slaves, Jesse and Leona, it carries us along on their difficult journey to freedom, a journey in which they, and by implication all of us, must move beyond a preoccupation with personal power and learn that true freedom is, and must be, shared. BLOOD ON THE FIELDS premiered on April 1, 1994 in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall; in 1997 it became the first jazz composition to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Music.

The music on this three-CD set (released in 1997) won a Pulitzer Prize, but it's not without its faults. Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis tells the story of two Africans (singers Miles Griffith and Cassandra Wilson) who are captured, brought to the United States and sold as slaves. Because the male had formerly been a prince while the female had been a commoner, he considers himself to be her superior. He asks for but then ignores the advice of a wise man (Jon Hendricks), gets caught trying to escape, discovers what "soul" is, finally accepts the female as his equal and eventually escapes with her to freedom. Marsalis wrote a dramatic, episodic and generally thought-provoking three-hour work, utilizing the three singers plus 15 other musicians (all of whom have significant musical parts to play) in a massive 27-part suite. Hendricks is delightful (and the star of the catchiest piece, "Juba and a O'Brown Squaw"), Wilson has rarely sounded better, and Griffith keeps up with the better-known singers, while the musicians (particularly trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, baritonist James Carter, pianist Eric Reed and, near the work's conclusion, violinist Michael Ward in addition to Marsalis) are quite superb. It should, however, be mentioned that the use of group narration to tell parts of the story does not work that well, the music could have used a stronger and more complicated story (the last hour has very little action), and few of the themes are at all memorable; Marsalis in the mid-'90s was a more talented arranger than composer (despite Stanley Crouch's absurd raving in the liner notes). But as is true of all of Wynton Marsalis' recordings, this one deserves several close listenings.

Track listing:

Disc 1
    Calling the Indians Out
    Move Over
    You Don't Hear No Drums
    The Market Place
    Soul for Sale
    Plantation Coffle March
    Work Song (Blood on the Fields)

Disc 2
    Lady's Lament
    Flying High
    Oh We Have a Friend in Jesus
    God Don't Like Ugly
    Juba and a O'Brown Squaw
    Follow the Drinking Gourd
    My Soul Fell Down
    Forty Lashes
    What a Fool I've Been
    Back to Basics

Disc 3
    I Hold Out My Hand
    Look and See
    The Sun Is Gonna Shine
    Will the Sun Come Out?
    The Sun Is Gonna Shine
    Chant to Call the Indians Out
    Calling the Indians Out
    Follow the Drinking Gourd
    Freedom Is in the Trying
    Due North

Personnel:

    Wynton Marsalis – trumpet, oratory vocal
    Jon Hendricks – vocal
    Cassandra Wilson – vocal
    Miles Griffith – vocal
    Roger Ingram – lead trumpet, oratory vocal
    Marcus Printup – second trumpet, oratory vocal
    Russell Gunn – third trumpet, oratory vocal
    Ron Westray – lead trombone, oratory vocal
    Wayne Goodman – second trombone, oratory vocal
    Wycliffe Gordon – trombone and tuba, oratory vocal
    Walter Blanding – soprano saxophone, oratory vocal
    Wes Anderson – lead alto saxophone, oratory vocal
    Robert Stewart – lead tenor saxophone, oratory vocal
    Victor Goines – tenor, soprano saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet, oratory vocal
    James Carter – baritone saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet, oratory vocal
    Regina Carter – violin, oratory vcal
    Michael Ward – violin, oratory vocal
    Eric Reed – piano, oratory vocal
    Reginald Veal – bass, oratory vocal
    Herlin Riley – drums, tambourine, oratory vocal

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Charles Mingus - 1963 [1995] "Black Saint & the Sinner Lady"

The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is a studio album by American jazz musician Charles Mingus, released on Impulse! Records in 1963. The album consists of a single continuous composition—partially written as a ballet—divided into four tracks and six movements.

The album was recorded on January 20, 1963 by an eleven-piece band. Mingus has called the album's orchestral style "ethnic folk-dance music". Mingus's perfectionism led to extensive use of studio overdubbing techniques. The album features liner notes written by Mingus and his then-psychotherapist, Edmund Pollock. The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is often characterized by jazz and music critics as one of Mingus's two major masterworks (the other being Mingus Ah Um) and has frequently ranked highly on lists of the best albums of all time.

Bob Hammer was co-orchestrator and arranger for the album. In the book The Penguin Jazz Guide: The History of the Music in the 1000 Best Albums, Sue Mingus says: "In some fashion, Charles absorbed Bob Hammer's rehearsal band for a six-weeks gig he had at the Village Vanguard in 1963, which provided a unique opportunity to work out, night after night, one of his greatest compositions, The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady". In the book Mingus Speaks, arranger Sy Johnson recollects: "Bob Hammer was very successful at that. He's a piano player, who was around here, in 1962 or something like that, when he did Mingus's masterpiece, as far as I concerned, a brilliant piece of orchestration and brilliant performance of The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady".

The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is one of the greatest achievements in orchestration by any composer in jazz history. Charles Mingus consciously designed the six-part ballet as his magnum opus, and -- implied in his famous inclusion of liner notes by his psychologist -- it's as much an examination of his own tortured psyche as it is a conceptual piece about love and struggle. It veers between so many emotions that it defies easy encapsulation; for that matter, it can be difficult just to assimilate in the first place. Yet the work soon reveals itself as a masterpiece of rich, multi-layered texture and swirling tonal colors, manipulated with a painter's attention to detail.

There are a few stylistic reference points -- Ellington, the contemporary avant-garde, several flamenco guitar breaks -- but the totality is quite unlike what came before it. Mingus relies heavily on the timbral contrasts between expressively vocal-like muted brass, a rumbling mass of low voices (including tuba and baritone sax), and achingly lyrical upper woodwinds, highlighted by altoist Charlie Mariano. Within that framework, Mingus plays shifting rhythms, moaning dissonances, and multiple lines off one another in the most complex, interlaced fashion he'd ever attempted.

Mingus was sometimes pigeonholed as a firebrand, but the personal exorcism of Black Saint deserves the reputation -- one needn't be able to follow the story line to hear the suffering, mourning, frustration, and caged fury pouring out of the music. The 11-piece group rehearsed the original score during a Village Vanguard engagement, where Mingus allowed the players to mold the music further; in the studio, however, his exacting perfectionism made The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady the first jazz album to rely on overdubbing technology. The result is one of the high-water marks for avant-garde jazz in the '60s and arguably Mingus' most brilliant moment.

Arizona-born Mingus was one of jazz's greatest composers, a double-bass virtuoso, a challenger of racism inside and outside the white-run music business of his time, and a volatile individual with an incendiary temper. But though he creatively adapted the techniques of such 20th-century composers as Schoenberg, Bartók and Stravinsky, Mingus infused everything he wrote with the blues and gospel music of his childhood.

The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963) is one of his most enthralling works. The album (with liner notes shared between Mingus and his psychiatrist) modifies the traditional blues and folk materials of jazz by bold, rhythmic variations, stark contrasts between dense, low-end harmonies and Charlie Mariano's soaring alto sax, collective improvisation, and dissonances swept up into soulful resolutions.

This 1963 recording occupies a special place in Mingus's work, his most brilliantly realized extended composition. The six-part suite is a broad canvas for the bassist's tumultuous passions, ranging from islands of serenity for solo guitar and piano to waves of contrapuntal conflict and accelerating rhythms that pull the listener into the musical psychodrama. It seems to mingle and transform both the heights and clichés of jazz orchestration, from Mingus's master, Duke Ellington, to film noir soundtracks. The result is a masterpiece of sounds and textures, from the astonishing vocal effects of the plunger-muted trumpets and trombone (seeming to speak messages just beyond the range of understanding) to the soaring romantic alto of Charlie Mariano. Boiling beneath it all are the teeming, congested rhythms of Mingus and drummer Dannie Richmond and the deep morass of tuba and baritone saxophone. This is one of the greatest works in jazz composition, and it's remarkable that Mingus dredged this much emotional power from a group of just 11 musicians.

 Track listing:

1     Solo Dancer     6:20
2     Duet Solo Dancers     6:25
3     Group Dancers     7:00
4     Trio And Group Dancers / Single Solos And Group Dance / Group And Solo Dance     17:52

Personnel:

    Charles Mingus – double bass, piano, composer
    Jerome Richardson – soprano and baritone saxophone, flute
    Charlie Mariano – alto saxophone
    Dick Hafer – tenor saxophone, flute
    Rolf Ericson – trumpet
    Richard Williams – trumpet
    Quentin Jackson – trombone
    Don Butterfield – tuba, contrabass trombone
    Jaki Byard – piano
    Jay Berliner – Classical guitar
    Dannie Richmond – drums

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Jan Hammer - 1976 [2018] "Oh, Yeah?"

Oh Yeah? is an album recorded by jazz fusion musician Jan Hammer in 1976. This is an album of fusion at its best. "Magical Dog" and "Red & Orange" are definitive statements. This was the first exposure for violinist Steve Kindler. David Earle Johnson is on congas.

Mahavishnu Orchestra's first (and arguably most prolific) incarnation came to a painful end in 1973, as a sudden rise in popularity and a series of calamitous recording failures suddenly turned the great Mahavishnu into less of what they originally were into more or less the John McLaughlin Group. The band's original lineup, however, was so bursting-at-the-seams with talent and skill that it's members couldn't help but go on to form formidable solo careers -- Billy Cobham would traverse the jazz fusion path himself with Spectrum in 1973, and Jan Hammer, after collaborating with fellow musician Jerry Goodman, debuted his own solo material with The First Seven Days in 1975. The album was well-received, and showcased the excellent skill Hammer obviously had. He continued on with the jazz- fusion shtick until the 80's, where he found himself composing film and television scores for such programs as Miami Vice. For the time being however Hammer really got in the swing of things and, not but a year later, delivered the facetiously titled Oh, Yeah? in 1976.

It's common for musicians to take an album or two to really get going, and get going Hammer did. Oh, Yeah? is a romp through some of the most thought-provoking and challenging sides of the jazz rock genre, whether it be the thumping bass/timbale combination of 'Bambu Forest', the eclectic and insane callbacks to Mahavishnu on 'Twenty One', or the driving openers and closers, 'Magical Dog' and 'Red and Orange', respectively. Almost every single song has something different to say in their own right, such as the throwing in of drummer Tony Smith's soulful vocals on 'One To One'. Jan Hammer and his band utilize an almost proto-80s synth culture to design Oh, Yeah? to be a sort of generational bridge that sits on neither side of the waters. A culture clash it may be, but it's a good one. Jan Hammer himself is the main pioneer in this regard, and with his effective use of a gamut of different synthesizing and keyboard effects it's easy to see why his more progressive electronic leanings make a greater impact than the likes of new age artists like Jean Michel Jarre did.

Towering and powerful, Oh, Yeah? is a can't-miss album, not only of the jazz fusion genre but of 70's music in general. It is the definition of a passion-project and is justly the penultimate release of Hammer's career.

Track listing

    1. "Magical Dog" - (Hammer) (6:43)
    2. "One to One" - (Hammer, Tony Smith) (3:32)
    3. "Evolove" - (Rick Laird) (4:45)
    4. "Oh, Yeah?" - (Hammer, Fernando Saunders) (4:31)
    5. "Bambu Forest" - (Hammer, David Earle Johnson) (5:25)
    6. "Twenty One" - (Jerry Goodman, Hammer) (5:06)
    7. "Let the Children Grow" - (Hammer, Tony Smith) (4:50)
    8. "Red and Orange" - (Hammer) (6:43)

Personnel

    - Jerry Goodman - Composer
    - Jan Hammer / electric piano, Moog, Polymoog, Oberheim & Oberheim Voice synths, timbales, vocals,
    - Steven Kindler / acoustic & electric violins, rhythm guitar
    - Fernando Saunders / bass, piccolo bass, vocals
    - Tony Smith / drums, lead vocals

With:
- David Earle Johnson / congas & percussion (1-5,8)

Friday, February 22, 2019

Mike Stern - 1999 "Play"

Play is an album by Mike Stern, released in 1999 through Atlantic Records. The album reached a peak position of number twenty-one on Billboard's Top Jazz Albums chart.

Mike Stern is a preeminent guitarist for two key reasons: One, he can play all styles very well and with equal command; and two, he plays very well with all other players. He always shows great respect for those with whom he is playing and gives them each the time and space to develop their musical ideas. Stern displays these two qualities in abundance on Play. Several notable guests join Stern and his core band for this release. Guitarists John Scofield and Bill Frisell and drummer Dennis Chambers each team with Stern on several tracks.

If you enjoy straight-ahead jazz, listen to Stern and Scofield on the title track, or mix in Bob Malach's tenor sax on "Outta Town." If you like your guitar music slightly more spacious and lyrical, try Stern and Frisell on the hypnotic "Blue Tone" or the pensive "All Heart." Finally, if you want to turn up the heat and move into some rock/funk-influenced fusion, then check out the groovy "Tipatina's," the bold rocker "Link," or the intensely funky "Big Kids." It is no surprise, based on his other work, that Chambers, in particular, gives the band a kick in the musical pants inspiring bassist Lincoln Goines to enjoy the ride. Play is an outstanding guitar album from the highly accomplished and incredibly versatile Mike Stern. It is highly recommended.

If Mike Stern were a guitarist coming out of the 1960s, he'd be a hero today. Sure, there's always John McLaughlin. But not many other guitarists then - or now - could play rock guitar with the high degree of intimacy and the non-assaulting technical prowess that Mike Stern has always possessed.

Plus, if there was any kind of justice in jazz, Miles Davis's Star People (1983) would be regarded as one the great records of the Eighties it has always surely been. There, Mike Stern in commanding communiqué with John Scofield, laid the law for what jazz-rock had hoped and ceased long before to achieve. It's just that jazz listeners had stopped caring.

Which brings us effectively to Play, Mike Stern's ninth Atlantic disc over the last baker's dozen years. The question is - be honest — how many of us knew of or heard the preceding eight?

Well, the big news is that Play isn't really newsworthy. It's Stern doing his own thing - a catchy rock take on post-bop jazz — with a first-rate cast of musicians. Again. The guest seats, filled this time by guitarist Bill Frisell and John Scofied (but unfortunately not together), are all people will hear about. However, Stern displays a continuing ability here to hone his melodic craft and perfect his catchy compositional skill. That's what'll Play on after all the hype is gone.

All ten selections are Stern's own, while Scofield guests on three pieces and Frisell sits in on four. Like Scofield did for Medeski, Martin & Wood on last year's A Go Go, Stern here concocts melodies suggested by the much more distinct styles carved by his fellow plecterists.

Scofield goes to Scofieldland for the funky "Play" and catchy "Small World." But Stern breaks the mold a bit for the swingy bop romp, "Outta Town," which lets the reuniting guitarists show their chops a bit and shows how Stern's harshness has mellowed through the years without any loss of bite.

Frisell's tracks took Stern's group to Friztown (Seattle) for the disc's most interesting numbers. Of course, there's the Frisell country-folk-jazz-Americana of "Blue Tone" and "All Heart." But Stern also challenges Frisell to the electro-avant-bop duel of "Frizz" and the surprisingly funky "Big Kids" (which postulates the intriguing concept of a Frisell funk album).

The remaining three tracks - "Tipitina's," "Link" and "Goin' Under" - offer the more familiar Stern groove with his working band featuring keyboardist Jim Beard, the Breckeresque Bob Malach on tenor, bassist Lincoln Goines and (former Scofield) drummer Dennis Chambers.

Since neither Scofield nor Frisell set off any major fireworks, Play ultimately becomes a showcase for its star, Mike Stern. The composer and guitarist is totally in his element here. And if high-ticket guests like Scofield and Frisell bring him the attention he's long been due, then Play is Stern's own hero's welcome.

Mike Stern is doing things with jazz, he always gets hammered by the critics, for his rock edge, but this album along with the last, between the lines, break down musical barriers in a music (jazz) that should incourage new voices, but of course dosen't, and has become mundane,since the passing of Miles, Stern keeps the torch burning!and by the way mike doen't loose the rock edge ! its a uniquie voice in a day when everyone is encouraged to sound the same.

Track listing:

01 Play 7:15
02 Small World 5:23
03 Outta Town 6:09
04 Blue Tone 6:43
05 Tipatina's 6:35
06 All Heart 6:22
07 Frizz 5:41
08 Link 6:50
09 Goin' Under 4:10
10 Big Kids 7:29

Personnel:

Mike Stern – guitar (all tracks)
John Scofield – guitar (tracks 1, 2 & 3)
Bill Frisell – guitar (tracks 4, 6, 7 & 10)
Ben Perowsky – drums (tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 & 10)
Dennis Chambers – drums (tracks 5, 8 & 9)
Lincoln Goines – bass (all tracks)
Bob Malach – tenor saxophone (tracks 3, 5, 6, 8 & 9)
Jim Beard – keyboards (tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 & 9)

Monday, February 18, 2019

Horace Silver & The Jazz Messengers - 1955 [1987] "Horace Silver & The Jazz Messengers"

Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers is a 1956 studio album by jazz pianist Horace Silver with drummer Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. It was an important album in the establishment of the hard bop style, and was the first studio album released under the band name The Jazz Messengers, which Blakey would use for the rest of his career. Scott Yanow on Allmusic describes it as "a true classic". Originally released as an LP, the album has subsequently been reissued on CD several times.

Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers was the first 12" Blue Note album released under Silver’s name. The album is a reissue of two previous 10" LPs -- Horace Silver Quintet (BLP 5058) and Horace Silver Quintet, Vol. 2 (BLP 5062) -- and the first sessions in which he used the quintet format which he would largely use for the rest of his career. The music on the album mixes bebop influences with blues and gospel feels.

One of the most successful tunes from the album, "The Preacher", was almost rejected for recording by producer Alfred Lion, who thought it was "too old-timey", but reinstated at the insistence of Blakey and Silver, who threatened to cancel the session until he had written another tune to record in its place if it wasn’t included. According to Silver, the track showed that the band could "reach way back and get that old time, gutbucket barroom feeling with just a taste of the back-beat".

In 1954, pianist Horace Silver teamed with drummer Art Blakey to form a cooperative ensemble that would combine the dexterity and power of bebop with the midtempo, down-home grooves of blues and gospel music. The results are what would become known as hard bop, and the Jazz Messengers were one of the leading exponents of this significant era in jazz history. Before Silver's departure and Blakey's lifetime of leadership, this first major session by the original Jazz Messengers set the standard by which future incarnations of the group would be measured. The tunes here are all Silver's, save the bopping "Hankerin'" by tenor man Hank Mobley. Such cuts as the opening "Room 608," the bluesy "Creepin' In," and "Hippy" are excellent examples of both Silver's creative composing style and the Messengers' signature sound. Of course, the most remembered tunes from the session are the classic "The Preacher" and "Doodlin'," two quintessential hard bop standards. In all, this set is not only a stunning snapshot of one of the first groups of its kind, but the very definition of a style that dominated jazz in the 1950s and '60s.

A true classic, this CD found pianist Horace Silver and drummer Art Blakey co-leading the Jazz Messengers; Silver would leave a year later to form his own group. Also featuring trumpeter Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley on tenor, and bassist Doug Watkins, this set is most notable for the original versions of Silver's "The Preacher" and "Doodlin'," funky standards that helped launch hard bop and both the Jazz Messengers and Silver's quintet. Essential music.

Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers is a terrific record. You can put this in the car CD player, hit REPEAT and listen to it over and over again without getting too tired of it. (OK, maybe after 3 times you'll want to switch to the Ramones, or Willie Nelson, or Bach, just for a change of flavor.)

It is, at once, underrated and overrated. Underrated in the sense that Kenny Dorham and Hank Mobley aren't superstars, or even first-line stars, but should be. Overrated in the sense that the The Jazz Messengers, and especially this very first iteration of the band, are regarded as the founding fathers of hard bop who can do almost nothing wrong.

Yes, Art Blakey is here, though not as prominently as in later Messenger albums. Yes, Horace Silver is the leader and the guy who wrote 7 of the 8 wonderful tunes. (Hank Mobley contributed one, too, called "Hankerin.' ") But it is truly a group effort, the strength being not only the solos but the perfect unison themes and choruses.

The music, naturally, is all bop—or mostly bop. "The Preacher" is the standout tune, but also the anomaly. It's a real New Orleans-style gospel-ish number that sounds vaguely like "Down by the Riverside." (Somewhere in the TV show Treme, someone must have played this song—or should have. God, I miss that show!) "Creepin' In" is a slow burner, a smoky blues noir piece that would fit nicely in any number of Humphrey Bogart movies. And, of course, there is fast, fun, funky bop galore.

You know the history. Silver soon dropped out of the band, Blakey picked up the baton and turned the Jazz Messengers into the all-time greatest school of hard bop in history. More great musicians than you can count came from this band over the decades. But it started here—the first album released under the Jazz Messengers name—and arguably it never got better.

There are no bad Messengers albums. Every one is worth hearing and owning. But there are two or three albums at the absolute pinnacle, and this is one.

Track listing:

1. Room 608
2. Creepin' In
3. Stop Time
4. To Whom It May Concern
5. Hippy
6. The Preacher
7. Hankerin'
8. Doodlin'

Personnel:

Horace Silver - piano
Kenny Dorham - trumpet
Hank Mobley - tenor saxophone
Doug Watkins - bass
Art Blakey - drums