The Lee Konitz Duets (1968)

Categories: 1968 and Music.

Konitz presents a series of duets, plus some brief solo playing a one full band track, that explore a wide variety of jazz styles available in 1968. Konitz is excellent throughout and the guests are all great (even though not all of them are as famous). It works really well as a survey of jazz right at the dawn of fusion – the possibilities of what could be accomplished in the music before electrification (and with only a touch of editing) but with very few instruments. Really great stuff. 9/10 Read More

Subconcious-Lee (1955) by Lee Konitz

Categories: 1949, 1950, and 1955.

Because it was released half a decade after it was recorded, this album’s revolutionary status gets overlooked or ignored. Instead it’s Birth of the Cool this and Miles Davis’ Nonet that. And that praise is deserved. Those sides went a long way to establishing cool jazz, but this band was doing remarkably similar things at the same time. The one major difference is speed – Konitz and the other soloists play fast on a number of tracks, and that makes it sound more like bop (though if you listen to the rhythm section they sound significantly “cooler”) and so you Read More

The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson, Vol. 2 (1955)

Categories: 1954, 1955, and Music.

This is another excellent set of straight forward bop from the era, featuring perhaps the greatest jazz trombonist of all time, and an excellent supporting cast. The history of this recording is somewhat confusing – released first as a 10″, then a year later as an expanded 12″, then this disc which combines the two releases. Regardless, it’s an essential companion to the earlier releases of this band and, with that record, probably sets the standard for trombone playing in bop. Read More

Jay Jay Johnson with Clifford Brown (1953) aka The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson Volume 1

Categories: 1953 and 2001.

This is some extremely solid bop featuring all around great playing from a great trumpet player, a decent tenor (also plays baritone, which is cool) and the man some consider the greatest jazz trombonist ever. Johnson doesn’t get as much time as the reissue title (or his role as leader) would suggest, but his solos are still good and he’s ably assisted by the other horn players. Nothing to dislike here, for sure. 9/10 Read More

Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn (1992) by Joe Henderson

Categories: 1992 and Music.

People are weird. Apparently Henderson toiled in relative obscurity for decades and then one day, in the early ’90s, people lost their shit over him, though stylistically he is, you could argue, a pre-Trane player, or a least one who never followed Trane through the door when Trane finished removing the frames around it. So, the good: Here are some imaginative covers of Strayhorn’s work, many of which rethink the originals in new and exciting ways. The band clearly reinterpret the music; they are not content, like so many others, to replicate the tracks and just change up the solos. Read More

Colors of a Dream (2013) by Tom Harrell

Categories: 2013 and Music.

This is a surprisingly bold “modern jazz” recording, featuring two basses, three horns and plenty of competing influences – more progressive post bop, R&B via Hard Bop and Soul Jazz, and some other things. Though it is absolutely mainstream jazz, it has a lot going on, more than I was expecting. When I read about Harrell I was worried I was getting into something I wasn’t going to like. But I find myself pleasantly surprised. This is a unique record that manages to sound not that much like the mainstream which it is firmly part of. 7/10 Read More

Earfood (2008) by the Roy Hargrove Quintet

Categories: 2008 and Music.

Hargrove is significantly more confident – more his own man – and more “modern” (in the sense of “modern jazz” rather than in the sense of modern) on this set than he was in his early days. He certainly takes (relatively) more risks, his band is significantly more out there than in the past, and everything points to Hargrove having a better idea of what he wants to do within the bop tradition than when he first emerged. But that being said, this is still very much within the bop tradition. And it’s hard to really get what all the Read More

Habana (1997) by Roy Hargrove’s Crisol

Categories: 1997 and Music.

The man has a voice! Frankly I was starting to despair that this acclaimed trumpeter was going to spend his entire career living in the Young Lion world of ‘Everything old is wonderful, everything new is terrible’. That’s sure what it sounded like in his early years. Now, I cannot pretend to have a remotely thorough knowledge of Afro-Cuban / Latin jazz, and so I cannot attest to whether or not this is innovative in any way. (I have my doubts…) But I detect a passion and a willingness to be idiosyncratic that was wholly missing from Hargrove’s earlier recordings Read More

Emergence (2009) by Roy Hargrove Big Band

Categories: 2009 and Music.

So Hargrove tackles big band and the results aren’t that different from early in his career, when he was way too in love with tradition. (You might say he was drowning in it.) Well here we are again: Hargrove’s big band touches on numerous previous jazz big bands. And the whole thing is really conventional. And just when you think this is how it will play out, he throws in the Latin thing. And maybe you think “Aha!” something different, only Gillespie did this stuff 60 years ago…And obviously Hargrove is no Gillespie (though he does an okay Miles impersonation). Read More

Family (1995) by Roy Hargrove

Categories: 1995 and Music.

This albums starts out a lot cooler than what I’m familiar with from Hargrove. But by the third track it gets hot again, briefly, which is, for me, a good thing. On the plus side, Hargrove is writing all his own music now, instead of relying on standards and other tunes which have been done to death (and often done better). But he is still stuck in this worship of the very old which makes him so much less interesting than someone like Dave Douglas, at least to my ears. His band is arguably stronger at this stage than it Read More

Roy Hargrove Quintet with the Tenors of Our Time (1993)

Categories: 1993 and Music.

This record should really be called the Roy Hargrove Quintet with the Tenors of Another Time or the Roy Hargrove Quintet with the Tenors of Our Parents’ Time. I didn’t know Wynton had discovered Hargrove; had I, I wouldn’t have borrowed six of his cds from the library. Oops. At the time of this record’s release, Hargrove was 24. But his guests: Griffin was 65, Henderson was 56, Turrentine was 59; only Brandford and Redman are of Hargrove’s generation. And it’s notable that the elders here are all pretty much pre-Trane tenors. (Yes, they were his contemporaries but they never Read More

The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark (1997) by Grant Green

Categories: 1997 and Music.

This compiles the first three albums Grant recorded with pianist Sonny Clark before the band was expanded to a quintet later in 1962. Interestingly, none of these albums were released until 1980 (in Japan) which, given the quality of the music, it’s really hard to understand. First we have Gooden’s Corner, recorded in late 1961, with both Nigeria and Oleo from January of 1962. (Again, all released in 1980, in Japan.) Burt the set isn’t presented quite like that, as Nigeria leads off the collection with the other two following chronologically. Nigeria is outstanding stuff, despite being full of standards, and makes Read More

Birks Works: the Verve Big Band Sessions (1956, 1957, 1993) by Dizzy Gillespie

Categories: 1993 and Music.

I recently listened to this band’s performance at Newport and was underwhelmed. It just goes to show you the power of mood. I guess just wasn’t in the mood and I imagined the Newport show as some kind of semi-modernist response to Ellington’s Newport show of the year before. I think I was over-thinking. Here we get that music plus lots of other music. And in theory I should like the live concert better because, um, you know, it’s jazz. Live jazz is supposed to be better than recorded jazz. And I generally agree with that. But I find myself Read More

Bird and Diz (1949, 1950, 1952) by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie

Categories: 1952 and Music.

Somebody else said it best: this is like a better produced version of their earlier sides. (That being said, sometimes it’s hard to hear Monk.) These are the people most responsible for post-war mainstream jazz, but this compilation actually compiles some later sessions (’49 and ’50) and though it’s great to hear them together, it’s not as world-changing as their earlier music. Also, it’s short on whole songs. They have added a ton of demos to flesh it out. Still great stuff. 8/10 Read More

Dizzy Gillespie at Newport (1957)

Categories: 1957 and Music.

There is something in me that wants to see this as some kind of newish generation response to Ellington at Newport the year before but I guess that’s me just trying to impose some narrative on this. I wasn’t expecting to like this, as I am not a huge fan of ’50s big band arrangements that aren’t by Mingus (at least so far). But this is great stuff: Gillespie is awesome and his band does an excellent job of amazing you with their playing but also joking around, even though the music is pretty conventional (albeit a lot more Afro-Cuban Read More

The Complete RCA Victor Recordings 1937-1949 (1995) by Dizzy Gillespie

Categories: 1995 and Music.

Gillespie is probably the greatest trumpet player ever, but this is the first time I’ve really gotten into his discography, a major oversight on my part. These sides cover both Gillespie’s band and some session work he did over slightly more than a decade, when he was literally changing the nature of jazz. They don’t include the most revolutionary stuff he made in the early ’40s – that must have been for another label – but they do show off how he helped transition jazz from big band / swing to bop. Gillespie’s solos are like nothing else anyone had Read More

Concert by the Sea (1955, 1956) by Erroll Garner

Categories: 1955 and Music.

This is a pretty fantastic set by Garner, a player I had never heard before. His playing is pretty incredible – his command is fantastic and he has a clear sense of fun. The recording is pretty brutal – you can barely hear the bassist or drummer – but it doesn’t matter since Garner is such a busy player (and I don’t mean ‘busy’ in a pejorative sense). Frankly, I don’t know why he needed a trio setting. He sounds like he would be good enough on his own. The one thing keeping me from giving this full marks is Read More

Dig It! (1962) by the Red Garland Quintet with John Coltrane

Categories: 1962 and Music.

This is a 1962 rarities album posing as a genuine session, essentially. The recordings were cobbled together from three separate dates in the late ’50s, and those dates were led by different people (not always Garland, as the attribution claims). And it’s hard to get excited about 1957-8 Trane on a 1962 album. He had moved so far forwards by ’62 that he barely sounded like the same person, if he did at all. Hell, Coltrane doesn’t even appear on every track. The music is pretty straight ahead hard bop / bop and it’s more interesting as a historical record, Read More

I Have the Room Above Her (2005) by Paul Motian

Categories: 2005 and Music.

It must be an absolute thrill for musicians – even musicians as well-traveled as Frisell and Lovano – to play with a musical legend. I can imagine that a set like this is probably a personal highlight. But Motian seems stuck in another era. That makes sense, I mean Motian earned his fame from that era, but personally I don’t want to listen to 21st century jazz that makes me think it’s the ’60s. That may be slightly harsh – Frisell and occasionally Lovano sometimes remind me that I am not listening to an old jazz record with spectacular sound Read More

RIP Dave Brubeck

Categories: Music and RIP.

I can’t pretend I know all that much about Brubeck, the jazz pianist (for those of you who don’t know him). Like most jazz fans, I know Time Out well. And I only know the rest of his career from reading about him. I don’t think I have listened to a single other Brubeck album though I have heard the odd additional track on CJRT (J as in Jazz) Jazz FM 91 – Canada’s Premier Jazz Station – “dedicated to jazz and the jazz community at large”.  (Did I mention they play jazz?) Ahem. I’m sorry. A eulogy isn’t the place for inside Read More

Young Miles (1945-50, 2001) by Miles Davis et al. (1945-50, 2001)

Categories: 2001 and Music.

For die-hard fans of Miles, or for people really interested in how cool came out of bop, this is probably pretty near essential. For other people, I’m guessing it is totally inessential. What we have here are many – though hardly all – of the recordings Miles participated in from 1945 through 1950 – excluding those collected on albums like Birth of the Cool and Conception – with Bird, Diz, Illinois Jacquet, Coleman Hawkins, Tadd Dameron and Sarah Vaughan – among others – and of course with Miles as leader. Nothing here – beyond the Birth of the Cool alternates Read More

The Heavyweight Champion: the Complete Atlantic Recordings (1959-60, 1995) by John Coltrane

Categories: 1995 and Music.

If Coltrane had died before he moved to Impulse, I still think he would be ranked as one of the two greatest jazz saxophonists ever. His Impulse recordings may have moved him into first place, but his Atlantic recordings are still a marvel. One of the great things about jazz box sets is that you get to hear the process that goes into the final recordings. Here we hear Coltrane going from a great saxophonist / composer to someone who was the equal or perhaps more than the equal of Bird. All in a matter of months, which is all Read More

Nefertiti by Miles Davis (1968 Colbumbia)

Categories: 1968 and Music.

This is probably best known as Miles Davis’ last wholly “acoustic” album, before he began to embrace fusion and abandon bop. (What “acoustic” means in this context is twofold: the instruments are not amplified and also the studio editing is not obvious.) But that makes it sound like it is somehow more conservative than it actually is. Sure, it’s not free jazz, but this is still pretty out there. In fact, I detect at least a bit of an influence of free on the music (though it is very subtle) in addition to more obvious hard bop and modal strands. Read More

Women in Jazz (1998, Retro Music) by Various Artists

Categories: 1998 and Music.

The cheapie box set is an interesting phenomenon: Gather some recordings from major artists where the copyright has lapsed (or never existed), Put the recordings in any arbitrary order you choose, Use more discs than are necessary to convince the buyer they are getting a great bargain, Give it a catchy title. I have a Scott Joplin compilation with no credits (funnily enough, from a Quebec label, just like this set) but you can clearly hear differences in piano and recording quality. I have a Muddy Waters box set which is all demos, but nowhere on the outside does it Read More

At Carnegie Hall by the Thelonius Monk Quartet with John Coltrane (2005 release of 1957 concert, Blue Note)

Categories: 1957 and Music.

I would have given my left nut to attend this concert, especially for $2! This is fine stuff though I must say I like their studio performances a wee bit more. It’s great to hear a gig where you can see where Coltrane was headed maybe a little more than when he was working with Davis (that’s no criticism of Davis). It’s a bit of a match made in heaven, whereas when he was with Davis there was a distinct contrast in styles (which worked well as well). I guess that’s all I have to say really. 9/10 Read More

The Genius of the Electric Guitar (Lecagy Box Set 2002)

Categories: 2002 and Music.

Christian may not be the first electric guitarist, or the first jazz electric guitarist, but he was the first important one on both counts. Though ostensibly a swing player, his influence on bop guitarists is beyond profound. I mean I absolutely love Wes Montgomery, but wow does Wes ever owe a lot to this guy. The only drawback about this set is the sheer number of alternate takes. It is complete as far as I know, and that’s great, but the thing can get exhausting listening to it all at once. Christian reguarly preduces totally different solos and fills, but Read More

The Music Master by Benny Carter (Proper 2004)

Categories: 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1948, 1952, 2004, and Music.

First, a disclaimer: my library only has the last three discs so I am not reviewing the first disc. Though this music (at least the music on the second and third discs) is not really my thing, I find myself becoming a big admirer of Mr. Carter. He appears to have mastered three separate instruments as whether he is playing sax, trumpet or clarinet one beli3ves they are hearing a definitive soloist of his era. The music on the final disc is slightly more my style and here Carter is more middle of the road as there were so many Read More