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

Cross Country Tour: 1958-1961 (1998) by Ahmad Jamal

Categories: 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1998, and Music.

This is an excellent survey of the live music of Ahmad Jamal and his trio in the late ’50s and very early ’60s. Jamal’s playing is so far from Monk – to my ears – that it’s rather incredible. His individuality in that sense is rather fantastic. Monk utterly changed piano playing and it must have been extremely tempting to play either in Monk’s shadow or to go back to pre-Monk playing. Jamal manages to do neither. And you can see the rather huge influence he’s had on other pianists, particularly cool jazz pianists. (And there’s an interesting chicken-or-egg question 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

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

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

Undercurrent (1962, 2002) by Bill Evans and Jim Hall

Categories: 1962 and Music.

This is an excellent duo outing which shows off both Evans’ sort of left field brilliance and Hall’s kind of safe, kind of conservative, but still very pleasant and exceptionally played lines. (I feel like I’m a little hard on Hall and I really shouldn’t be.) It’s a perfect example of how greatness can be subtle – it doesn’t always have to hit you over the head. And it’s a perfect example of how the right pairings can bring out the best in players. This is sort of a match made in heaven in my mind. They are ideally suited Read More

Jim Hall and Pat Metheny (1999)

Categories: 1999 and Music.

I am not a fan of Metheny, though I’ve never really given him a chance beyond his debut. But I like Hall, now that I know him. And the two fit really well. Someone made a point about how the improvisations sound as “organized” as the standards and originals, and its kind of true. And that’s very impressive. And I like that Metheny keeps switching up his instrument so it keeps things from getting too monotonous, but they do anyway. That’s the one criticism: despite their clearly distinct styles, the whole thing manages to sound rather blah over the course Read More

Live! (1976) by Jim Hall

Categories: 1976 and Music.

Jim Hall is an excellent guitarist. I had never heard him before, but he’s fantastic. And, on this date, he’s backed by a great band, again made up of two guys I don’t know. And they are excellent as well. And the whole thing is fantastic. But I can’t shake one feeling, and that is that this record was made in 1975 and this is absolutely, totally bop. (Well, if I’m being honest, I guess it’s post bop, but you get my meaning.) And it’s the mid seventies. And he’s doing his thing, and his thing is great, but it’s Read More

Idle Moments (1964) by Grant Green

Categories: 1964 and Music.

Sometimes great music happens by accident. Apparently that’s what happened with the title track – it was never supposed to be so insanely long but somebody messed up and the band played the melody too many times. The result is pretty wonderful, if you love your cool jazz.And you know I don’t really. But I can respect it. And it’s not all cool, they do get “hot” (so to speak) on one of original tracks. The band is pretty stellar, particularly Hutcherson. Henderson appears to be really going against the grain, especially on the title track.But Wes was my first Read More

Officium (1994) by Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble

Categories: 1994 and Music.

I often have a hard time with “ECM” jazz. On the whole I prefer my free jazz loud and intense, not quiet and not so “cool”. In fact, ECM often just sounds to me like second wave cool; a little freer but that’s about it. Frankly, I don’t enjoy it much of the time. That being said, I think one purpose of art is to shock us out of our comfort zones – to piss us off and make us think. And I appreciate records that do that even when I don’t like the style of music. This is a 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

Out of the Cool (1961) by the Gil Evans Orchestra

Categories: 1961 and Music.

I have this strange issue where I claim to absolute love jazz and the spirit of jazz – and therefore improvised music – and yet I can really get excited about orchestrated / arranged “jazz”, something that potentially can be the polar opposite of the “spirit” of the genre in the wrong hands. It’s really hard to know where to draw the line, especially on a track like “Where Flamingos Fly”; was that solo written completely by Evans? If so, is it still jazz??? But such concerns are silly and unnecessary. Regardless of how it was created, this is a Read More

Waltz for Debby (1961) by the Bill Evans Trio

Categories: 1961 and Music.

This is one of those albums that is perhaps too subtle for its own good. You put it on and you don’t really notice its radicalism because it’s piano jazz and because Evans’ out-of-the-box-ness has been absorbed so much into jazz that it is now cliche. And Evans himself never really grabs the spotlight or forces you to pay attention (LaFaro does). And if you don’t pay attention, you are left wondering what the big deal is. There is a healthy dose of Impressionism here and I think that helps explain this whole mood – which is almost too relaxed Read More

The 1960 Birdland Sessions (1992) by the Bill Evans Trio

Categories: 1992 and Music.

As much as this contains some pretty great music from one of the era’s greatest piano players, I have to think it is only worthwhile for devotees. The music is great but the sets are short – and there is a great deal of repetition between them – and there is an absolute ton of background noise. It doesn’t really take away from the pretty awesome music, but it is distracting. 8/10 Read More

Out Front! (1965, 1994) by Jaki Byard

Categories: 1965 and Music.

I must say I was at least a little interested to see what Byard would do on his own as I am a big fan of his work with Mingus. And so far I can’t say I’m all that impressed. This is, for the most part, very traditional stuff for 1965. The covers are pretty standard and most of the originals are attempts at reviving past jazz genres. There is a variety of those genres, which keeps things from getting boring, but it is still safe stuff. And the fact that he plays with different combinations – and even includes 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

‘Round About Midnight by Miles Davis (1957, Columbia)

Categories: 1957 and Music.

Convention has it that this is a hard bop landmark, but I still here a fair amount of cool on the record. That’s just nitpicking I guess; but I just find it odd that people discuss this in terms of one genre not the other. In terms of the hard bop, it’s easy to see why, in retrospect, this has become a classic (it wasn’t exactly widely loved at the time of its released). The cool that is on here isn’t exactly mind-blowing, but I guess it’s the idea that even the cool here has more emphasis on rhythm than Read More