Tag: Jazz

2017, Movies

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary (2016, John Scheinfeld)

This is a prestige documentary about John Coltrane featuring Denzel Washington of all people reading Coltrane’s own words, as well as a collection of interviews with Coltrane’s children (and step-daughter), critics, historians, biographers, fellow and later musicians and Bill Clinton. But if you are at all a fan of the man’s work, and you have …

1997, Music

Her Point of View (1997) by Olga Konkova

Konkova takes aim at a number of jazz standards and reinvents them and makes them her own. She makes them sound of a piece with her own compositions. And this is what I like about jazz: fresh interpretations of old music so that it sounds more modern, with plenty of improvisation to go around. (As …

1977, Music

The Lee Konitz Nonet (1977)

Perhaps it’s because I was just listening to Duets but this almost feels like a spiritual sequel to that album – Konitz’s band tackles a variety of jazz styles and performs them all very well. It’s compelling music and it’s easy for me to see why this is considered one of his better albums.

1968, Music

The Lee Konitz Duets (1968)

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 …

2009, Music

Improvisational Four: Piano Improvisations Inspired by Joni Mitchell (2009) by Olga Konkova

I was actually looking for a different Konkova album when I found this. Being a pretty big fan of Joni Mitchell and not remembering why I was looking for Konkova (but generally liking piano jazz), I thought: this should be right up my alley.

1949, 1950, 1955

Subconcious-Lee (1955) by Lee Konitz

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 …

2010, Music

Royal Toast (2010) by The Claudia Quintet

We’re at a time when all genres blend together and bleed into one another. This record is a perfect example of that: there’s music that could be jazz-influenced chamber music, there’s music that sounds freely improvised, there’s music that sounds like jazz, but also sounds like it was completely written in advance (and rehearsed a …

2016, Music

It’s Hard (2016) by The Bad Plus

This is the first Bad Plus record in a while to be all covers. On some level, maybe that’s a retreat to their “safer” (albeit polarizing) earlier sound, routed in familiar melodies. And yes, I think this could be considered “fan service” to long time fans who maybe miss the nearly complete exclusion of the …

1954, 1955, Music

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

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 …

1953, 2001

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

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 …

1972, Music

Facing You (1972) by Keith Jarrett

I don’t know if this is Jarrett’s first “spontaneously composed” solo piano record, but it sure sounds like it to my ears (even though it’s not live). Putting aside Jarrett’s claims about his process, I’ve always found his solo piano recordings of this type to be rather incredible. He manages to skirt between extremely inventive …

1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1998, Music

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

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 …

2015, Music

Break Stuff (2015) by Vijay Iyer

No, this is not a set of piano jazz covers of Nu Metal, yuk yuk yuk. Rather, it’s stuff about breaks in music, sudden breaks in playing, as it were. And it’s so refreshing to hear a pianist like Iyer who doesn’t sound like he’s stuck in the tradition. Sure, some of tracks sounds very …

2007

The Furniture Moves Underneath (2007) by Inhabitants

This is some solid 21st century jazz rock/fusion (whichever it is). It’s clear these guys like traditional jazz but don’t feel like they have to conform to the rules of the tradition, which is refreshing. The music gets edgy at times, too, which is also appealing. Don’t have much else to say: I like it …

1976, 1978, Music

Grupo Irakere (1978)

So much of what I’ve read about this band focuses on their Grammy-winning North American breakthrough, as if the first time North Americans heard this music was the first time it was really vital and worth listening to. And I do understand that distribution was a different beast in the ’70s, but still, it’s a …

1957, 1958, 1959, 1962, 2007, Music

Epitaph by Charles Mingus, conducted by Gunther Schuller, Live at Walt Disney Concert Hall, May 16, 2007

What the hell do we do with Epitaph? Epitaph is a “jazz symphony” Mingus assembled in the late ’50s and attempted (and failed) to perform in 1962. I say ‘assembled’ because it contains multiple other Mingus compositions that he recorded individually multiple times (and performed numerous times) and because it contains music inspired by and …

2004, Music

Friends Seen and Unseen (2004) by The Charlie Hunter Trio

This band plays pretty traditional jazz for the 21st century – sure, there hints of more radical stuff, including odd syncopation and some relatively out playing by Ellis. But, for the most part, this is pretty mainstream jazz., primarily rooted in the blues. What makes it more interesting is Hunter, who is a phenomenal player …

2012, Music

Kelan Philip Cohran and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

This is some great, funky progressive big band stuff is more about the groove than it is about doing anything radical. The horn writing is really solid and the music The band (who I’ve never heard before) is joined by their father (seriously, I’m pretty sure he’s the father of most of the guys here…think …

2015, Music

Meltframe (2015) by Mary Halvorson

Halvorson’s first solo guitar album is everything I could have wanted: radical re-interpretations of famous and not-so-famous tracks from jazz’s past – from all over that past, actually – played in her signature style which, in this case, at times borders on the volume of hard rock, and, at other times, can be quite peaceful. …

2015, Music

Synovial Joints (2015) by Steve Coleman and the Council of Balance

Though Coleman has been making music for my entire lifetime, I only came upon him about half a decade ago, thanks to one of his solo albums, the excellent Invisible Paths. And now, confronted by this strange amalgam of many different ideas from the jazz tradition, and which pairs supposedly spontaneously improvised sax lines (and …

1975, Music

Azimuth (1975) by Azymuth

I have a problem. For the last 18 years or so, I have been keeping track of what music I want to listen to. The list is now gigantic. But that’s not my problem. I know I will never listen to everything on the list. It’s an aspirational list not a practical one. The problem …

1979, 1984, Music

The Missing Link (1979, 1984) by Fred Anderson

Anderson apparently got lots of exposure in the ’60s as part of the AACM but never got an album as leader until this one, and then this wasn’t released for five years. Listening to this music, it’s hard to understand why that was. Anderson plays relatively straight-forward (and often slower) lines for a “free jazz” …

2015, Music

The Bad Plus Joshua Redman

I saw these guys just the other night and found them significantly more traditionally jazzy than a few years ago. With Redman, they appear to be forced into playing more conventionally. That’s not to say that this is all that conventional jazz, but they do seem to stay far more within tradition this time around. …

2015, Music

The Bad Plus Joshua Redman Live at the Wintergarden Theatre, Toronto, Occtober 15, 2015

The last time I saw the Bad Plus they blew me away. But with Joshua Redman they are significantly more jazzy. Far more within the tradition than I was expecting. It’s not that their old music wasn’t within the tradition – jazz musicians have been covering non-jazz songs since jazz began – but their older, …

2013, Music

Prism (2013) by Dave Holland

This is some pretty excellent jazz fusion. Before I get to the album, I must say that I am embarrassed to admit that, all this time, I just though Kevin Eubanks was Jay Leno’s band leader for 15 years or whatever, and that’s it. And here he is, shredding. Huh. Holland mostly stays out of …

1928, 1929, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1945, 1995, Music

Piano Man! His Greatest Recordings (1995) by Earl Hines

This is collection of 25 recordings featuring Earl Hines – solo, leading his orchestra, with Armstrong, Bechet and some other, less famous bandleaders.  It jumps around a little too much… The title track appears to be the 1939 “Piano Man” (there are four, confusingly) and it’s more of a celebration of Hines’ legend than anything …

1965, Music

Point of Departure (1965) by Andrew Hill

This is an aggressively “avant” post bop / hard bop (and modal!) album that skirts the edges of bop so much that you could almost mistake it for free (even though it is decidedly not). The compositions are ambitious, as is the band itself (substituting flute and bass clarinet for sax at types). And the …

2014, Movies

Whiplash (2014, Damien Chazelle)

I need to see hyped movies either right away or years later when I’ve forgotten about them. Inevitably, whenever I see a hyped movie after I’ve been inundated by hype but before I’ve forgotten the hype, I am disappointed. I understand that this film is not supposed to be realistic but something about this really …

2015, Music

RIP Ornette Coleman

I am not the man to write an obituary about Ornette Coleman, but what the hell, I’ll try to tell you what he meant to me anyway. If you don’t know him, Ornette Coleman ostensibly invented free jazz, that is the style of jazz that abandoned the previous rules of jazz and embraced free improvisation …

1992, Music

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

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, …