Monday, March 21, 2005

Herbie Hancock: The Herbie Hancock Quartet '77

Album from Hancock, with Ron Carter and Tony Williams, released in Japan. Starts off with two long versions of Watch It and Speak Like A Child. They are played heavy with vamps and fusion-y and funky type attitutes for an acoustic trio. Ron Carter's bass has that elastic rubber-band type quailty like he's smearing the notes all up and down the fretboard. Closing out the album is Milestones. It's pretty good jazz sound at this point on the album.

This is the rhythm section that recorded the VSOP concerts with Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Roy Haynes: The Roy Haynes Trio

The full title is The Roy Haynes Trio Featuring Danilo Perez and John Patitucci. Recorded in 1999, Haynes was 74 when this was recorded, and sounds superb along with the rest of the trio. The opening to Monk's Green Chimneys is a long drum solo demonstrating what he can do in front of a live audience, keeping everyone enthralled for several minutes at a time, then moving smoothly into the syncopated intro statement (turning into a funky thing in the middle for the bass solo). The idea behind this album was paying tribute to several of the partners Haynes has played with in his fifty-year career: from Bud Powell to Sarah Vaughn to Monk, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny. Plenty of modern sensibilities are supplied from each of the strong players. Haynes doesn't disappoint... neither does this record. (For another great Haynes record in this vein, try his Fountain of Youth CD which also features Marcus Strickland on sax).

Peter Bernstein: Stranger in Paradise

Guitarist Peter Bernstein plays straight-ahead jazz with pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Larry Grenadier, and drummer Bill Stewart. A nice session with tasteful guitar - not too much, not too overbearing. And the rhythm section sounds great as well. From 2003, it is a Japanese import CD as far as I can tell.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Lee Konitz: Three Guys

Trio record with Steve Swallow (elec bass) and Paul Motion (drums) means you have to like sax/bass/drums with no supporting piano (or guitar) to fill out the rhythm section and harmonic progressions. It starts off with a brief statement by each member then they get into a 4/4 swing on It's You. The album is filled with mostly originals from the Three Guys. At least one is based on a standard jazz progression: Konitz's Thingin' being an interpretation of All The Things You Are. Konitz's alto, flying softly and melodically, reminds me at times of Paul Desmond, for the breathy, tender quality and the some of the melodic turns his improvisation takes.

As you would expect from this setup and players, there is room to play with the pallettes, the time, and there is a nice amount of space to weave around in the trio sound. Each member also takes unaccompanied turns here and there, which in Motion's case is extremely interesting to hear. Nice!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Wolfgang Muthspiel: Real Book Stories

Although I'm not immediately drawn to guitar-led trios, this album caught my interest almost immediately. It may be because of the sound of the trio - the space, the mix, the tastefulness used in the arrangements. Also, the idea to use tunes from the "Real Book" (the musician's collection of jazz sheet music for common tunes) is intruiging... These songs have been played thousands of times over in thousands of situations, so how do you make them exciting, different, worth listening to again?

This band does that. With bassist Marc Johnson (who once played in Bill Evans' trio) and drummer Brian Blade, the emphasis seems to be on mood, texture, dynamics, and relaxing. From 2001. Tracks include Lament, All The Things You Are, Solar, and even Peace.

Joe Lovano: Ten Tales

This is a sax-drums duet record with Aldo Romano. I have to admit at first listening, to the first couple of tracks, this isn't too interesting to my ears - because there is no bassist and no pianist or other chordal instrument. maybe I'm too traditional at this point, but to me it just sounds too far out there, with no foundation or roadmap or apparent song structure (maybe more careful listening would illuminate a structure?). All but the last song are what sounds like free improvisations by the drummer and saxophonist. Recorded in 1989.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Roy Haynes 80th Birthday Concert

Last night, March 13th, I saw an incredible live concert in San Francisco... probably the best big jazz concert I've been to. Normally I prefer to watch jazz in small, cozy jazz clubs (like the Elephant Room in Austin, Texas), but this large-auditorium event really was amazing.

Roy Haynes - drums
Chick Corea - piano
Gary Burton - vibes
Christian McBride - bass
Joshua Redman - tenor
Kenny Garrett - alto
Nicolas Payton - trumpet
Can you believe this line up????

The event was a concert for, and starring, Roy Haynes on his birthday. He told as at one point he was born on Friday the 13th, 1925. He's a living legend and one of the best jazz drummers alive today. Physically, he still plays like he's a young guy, although with the control, humor, and tastefulness of years and years of experience. He still takes chances and welcomes adventure - you can hear it in his playing.

At one point near the end of the concert, birthday cake was rolled out, and the audience and band sang and played Happy Birthday to Roy, who loved every minute of it. He got the microphone and talked to us for about 10 minutes, radiating joy and happiness the whole time. There was a lot of love in the room that night.

One mention must be made of McBride's double-bass playing - each time he took a solo break, he demonstrated that he is an absolute master of the instrument, playing it effortlessly and creatively with many beautiful melodic and rhythmic ideas. The crowd loved him as well.

Near the end of the night, there was also a superb improvisational conversation between Corea and Haynes - each would play a break, alone, of about 8 measures of pure improvisation over the song form, in call-and-response to the other. Solo piano, burning up the 8 measure, followed by solo drums for 8 measure, then back to the piano, and so on... This was a highly enjoyable part of the evening full of surprises, humor, and amazing talent from the two masters. The order of who was calling and who was responding shifted several times during the conversation, and a lot of the fun was keeping up with who was saying what, and how the other player responded to that.

Some of the songs played that night:
  • Chick Corea's Windows
  • Pat Metheney's Question and Answer
  • Monk's Round Midnight, featuring Nicolas Payton's creative and beautiful melodic interpretation
  • a couple of tunes from Haynes' Birds of a Feather Charlie Parker tribute album (note that McBride, Payton, and Garrett also played with Haynes on this record).
  • Monk's Green Chimneys was the encore (performed as on Haynes' really great Fountain of Youth CD)

This concert was part of the Spring 2005 San Francisco Jazz Fest. Check out This concert was held at Masonic Auditorium in SF.

Gary Burton Quintet: Dreams So Real

Another album full of Carla Bley originals (see Songs With Legs, below), this one is a record from 1975 with Burton on the vibes and this supporting group:

Pat Metheny: guitar
Mick Goodrick: guitar
Steve Swallow: bass
Bob Moses: drums

It's nontraditional progressions and strange other-worldy, but musical, offerings that you will find on this album. It's got a beat, and it moves around nicely, and those looking for some new adventures in jazz will probably appreciate this best.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Bud Powell: A Tribute to Cannonball Adderley

A co-led album from 1961 with Bud Powell and Don Byas, produced by Cannonball (who even sits in on one track). This a bebop album with strong playing from the two leaders. They play bebop standards such as Just One Of Those Things, All The Things You Are, and Cherokee. Also includes the Duke Pearson tune Jeannine, one of Cannonball's greatest hits. Kenny Clarke on drums.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Eric Alexander: Man With A Horn

This is the one album from Alexander that I've listened to that actually disappointed me at first. Maybe it's the recording mix (not as good as Nightlife In Tokyo, for instance) or maybe something else, but it feels like something is just not clicking. The album starts off slowly with a ballad, followed by a funk-jazz song, then a third song which starts like it's going to be another slow ballad. All this seems like perhaps a misstep for Alexander, who is often best when playing burning hard-bop tunes at brisk tempos. A nice version of My Shining Hour is found here where a little Coltrane is referenced.

Also has pianist Cedar Walton, trombonist Steve Davis, and Jim Rotundi on trumpet.

Friday, March 11, 2005

David Kikoski: Combinations

From 2001, with bassist Boris Kozlov, drummer Jeff 'Tain' Watts, and tenorist Seamus Blake, Combinations contains a variety of ensembles: some with sax, some with piano trio, some duos, and some solo - including a bass interlude. The solo piano does sound a bit classical in performance, but with an emotional, jazz feeling which works well. This is an excellent disc which I've really enjoyed. All compositions are by Kikowski, with Tamari being a particular highlight which marries classical feeling, drama, and jazz creativity all together. No low points here, and it makes me interesting in listening to Kikoski's other offerings.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Carla Bley: Songs With Legs

With Steve Swallow on electric bass, and Andy Shephard on sax, Bley plays piano in a live setting from 1994. All songs are originals (Bley's) except for one Monk tune. Interesting compositions, a little out, jazzy, and a bit of gospel blues. The writing style and the absence of a drummer makes it feel light and modern, like modern art party music. Some pretty moments, and some "leggy" moments.

Keith Jarrett Concert 3/9/2005

I saw Jarrett's trio with Peacock and DeJohnette last night at Zellerbach Hall on UC Berkeley campus. The hall is big, but not too big. I was in the very last row on the highest balcony (nosebleed seats), but still the view was not bad. The trio played well together, sounding pretty much just like one of their recent CDs. Songs they played included several blues, Countdown, and as many ballads as up-tempo songs. I appreciate that they did play a long concert - just over 2 hours, with a 20 minute intermission. I won't go into more details on the concert just to say that overall it was worth seeing, and enjoyable.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Steve Swallow: Swallow

A sextet record from 1991 with Gary Burton (vibes), John Scofield (guitar), Steve Kuhn, and others. All the compositions are by Swallow, and overall, they aren't very interesting. Mostly the album has a light, easy-listening jazz feel to it, with soft keyboards and an urban-living groove. Not much jazz content, in my opinion. Commercial music? One of the songs is titled Doin' It Slow, and that sums up a lot of the feeling of this record.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Steve Swallow: Damaged In Transit

A live recording of a trio with Chris Potter (tenor) and Adam Nussbaum (dr). The first track gets things going, although it can be strange to hear a sax flying all over the place, with an equally active bassist, and drummer too for that matter - but no chordal instrument such as a piano or guitar to provide harmonic foundations and extensions. But after getting into what this album is about, and hearing how the compositions support the theme, I found that I hardly missed the chordal instruments here (almost heresy for me to say...).

The theme behind this album is an exploration of counterpoint and union lines between Potter and Swallow. (Actually, Nussbaum provides rhythmic counterpoint, too.) The tracks are titled Item 1, Item 2, and so on. There is almost an alternative rock personality to some of these songs - just due to the ideas, repeating riffs, and some amount of playfulness you can hear in the music. Then again, some also sounds like chamber music or orchestral type ideas (must be the counterpoint). And, too, some good jazz, such as Item 5. Hard to classify, hard to describe at this point. Howabout this for now: Interesting. So far, I like it; it's different but interesting.

Bruce Ditmas: What If

Ditmas is a drummer who plays free jazz, on this album with guitarist John Abercrombie, pianist Paul Bley, saxophonist Sam Rivers, and bassist Dominic Richards. This is from 1995 on the Postcard label.

The album starts off with a noisy song which doesn't sound very arranged, as if the musicians just started playing in order to see if anything would happen. The next couple of songs sound like there is a more cohesive idea behind them, and the musicians agree on what they are doing. Although these are not jazz standards, it is different, original music that is also intruiging... but you are getting something pretty different here.

Oh, and some parts (especially the last song Don't Wake Me) sound a bit like a movie soundtrack - an eerie, mysterious movie.

Sam Rivers' Rivbea All-Star Orchestra: Inspiration

From 1999, RCA. Interesting take on modern-sounds for big band. Not atonal, not traditional, but interesting. Lots of creative compositions, but not much of a blowing session. Obviously the guy has talent and a nice group of players. Exciting songs.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Lee Konitz: Another Shade of Blue

A live trio date with Brad Mehldau and Charlie Haden (no drummer). Mostly slow- to mid-paced, relaxing strolls through some standards. Very nice sounding and obviously comfortable material for the players. Nice ideas are played throughout, with nice technique and what sounds like a good room and audience. From 1999, recorded at the Jazz Bakery in L.A.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Grant Green: Talkin' About

This is a pretty great Green album with Larry Young on organ, the great Elvin Jones on drums. 5 songs, 2 of which are ballads. If you like the jazz organ, or like hearing a organ/guitar/drums trio sound, you'll like this.

Geoffrey Keezer: Falling Up

Interesting recording. Lots of other-than-jazz type explorations on this one. I skipped right past the song with vocals... I don't think I will listen to this all the time, but it's interesting to see what sometime is trying to do to get away from just an 'all jazz' CD. From MaxJazz, 2003.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Hancock, Brecker, Hargrove: Directions in Music

Kind of interesting, but not really engaging. I will give it another listen sometime.

Gary Peacock & Bill Frisell: Just So Happens

Another duet record with guitar (elect) and bass. The guitar is Frisell's usual electric effects sound. The songs are free and don't follow regular progressions or rhythms. This isn't really too interesting to me as jazz music, more like experimental abstract art. From 1994. Nice cover.

At this point, I probably would keep this is the back of my musical collection and only reach for it in those rare moments where I want background music which makes me feel like I'm in the abstract branch of a museum of modern art. At least it's not too loud.

Gary Peacock & Ralph Towner: Oracle

A guitar/bass duet from ECM, 1993. Low-key, melodic ideas to create original song textures and repeated-phrase-based songs. Interesting stuff but less jazz than I would have liked. Reminds me a little of the DiMeola/DeLucia/McLaughlin guitar trio stuff.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Joey Calderazzo: Joey Calderazzo

This is an album from a relatively new post-bop pianist. I recently watched this guy play amazingly fast on the new Branford Marsalis quartet DVD performing John Coltrane's A Love Supreme. He not only plays fast, but he plays extremely well - creative, melodic ideas. Because of the material on the DVD, he was playing heavily like McCoy Tyner, but with his own characteristics too. The guy blew me away...

This album is a trio date from 1999 with John Pattitucci and Jeff Tain Watts (who is also on the DVD).

This is a really good example of modern-style (but not out-there) jazz piano, frequently exciting, and very melodic and nice compositions. Can be a bit too fast on one track, but other than that, very enjoyable.

Michel Petrucciani: Power of Three

Piano, guitar, saxophone. Petrucciani, Jim Hall, Wayne Shorter. A live recording in from the 1986 Montreux Jazz Festival, recorded when Pe...