An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, August 24, 2020
Music: Current count 33865  rated (+51), 225  unrated (+4).
Started off last week playing old albums by the late tenor saxophonist Steve Grossman. (I only had two in my database, fondly remembering 1991's In New York.) Turns out I had missed quite a bit. Consistently strong albums, especially in the 1990's, with the Quartet with Michel Petrucciani perhaps closest to the cusp.
Then I went after a long list of British jazz albums suggested by a recent Q&A query: Don Rendell, Ian Carr, and Michael Garrick. I had noticed but didn't pursue recent box sets of the 1965-69 Rendell-Carr Quintet and the Carr's 1970-75 Nucleus group, but as I had listened to everything on separate albums, I figured I could summarize the boxes and assign them a grade. I haven't seen the packaging, so no extra credit there, nor for the convenience of keeping everything together. Garrick, who played a lot with Rendell and/or Carr, is the more significant talent, and also the one I've missed most by. One not below I can heartily recommend is his For Love of Duke . . . and Ronnie (1995-97 , Jazz Academy).
These old jazz albums went fast, but by Friday, when I turned my attention to Weekend Roundup, I hadn't listened to a single new album. I promised to sort my input queue by release date and start picking off the oldest releases, but didn't get to that, and when I did pick out the most promising release I had seen reviewed, Matt Wilson's Hug!, I discovered it's not out until next week. I'll try again next week.
The only things in the Q&A queue are suggestions for artists to explore. One is Jimmy Heath (1926-2020). I only had two of his records in my database before adding his latest/final this week. I'm surprised I don't have his 1992 Little Man Big Band listed -- pretty sure I owned that, although I doubt I've played it since it was new. Heath didn't record as much as others I think of as his peers (Benny Golson, Johnny Griffin, Joe Henderson, Clifford Jordan, maybe Hank Mobley and/or Wayne Shorter), but my sampling -- even against my "shopping list" -- has been relatively sparse. Something to look into.
Another suggestion is Bilal's Love for Sale, recorded 2001-03 and unreleased but leaked in 2006, and evidently pretty easy to find. The guy who wrote up my Wikipedia page has written up an extremely detailed one on this album.
Looking through the week's deaths, I see several familiar musicians: Justin Townes Earle (38, singer-songwriter, son of Steve Earle), Peter King (80, English saxophonist), Charlie Persip (91, drummer), Hal Singer (100, saxophonist). I tracked down several of Singer's albums back in June. I belatedly played Earle's 2019 album, and it's pretty good (see below).
On a more personal note, my cousin Devoe Brown (89) died today -- the third cousin I've lost this year. He was a builder in Twin Falls, Idaho. He married Colleen in 1950, and they had four daughters and a son. For many years he would buy, live in, fix up, and resell old houses. He started building new ones, eventually whole subdivisions of them. His father was a blacksmith and railroad worker, William Clagge Brown (1907-74), who moved his family from Arkansas to Missouri to Pocatello in the early 1940s. Clagge rode in rodeos, and was the most credible outdoorsman in a family chock full of hunters. Some griddles he crafted are among my most prized possessions. We visited both ways in the 1950s and 1960s. I became reacquainted with Devoe in the 1990s, and we've remained close. I don't think I've known anyone who so much enjoyed to laugh. One couldn't ask for better company. About six months ago, when he was diagnosed with liver illness, he took it in stride, describing his decline as "the grand finale" of his life. The last few months haven't been so grande, but it's always been a pleasure to hear his voice.
New records reviewed this week:
Abraham Inc.: Together We Stand (2019, Table Pounding): Second group album: Klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer, funk trombonist Fred Wesley, and master sampler Socalled, with friends filling in guitar-bass-drums, horns (Eddie Allen trumpet and Jay Rodriguez sax), and adding raps (Taron Benson, Fat Tony, Sarah MK). About what you'd expect from the concept. B+(***) [bc]
Gregg August: Dialogues on Race: Volume One (2020, Iacuessa): Bassist, probably best known as part of JD Allen's trio, but fourth album as leader since 2003, a composition written in 2009, reflecting on the 1955 murder of Emmett Till after Barack Obama got elected president. Many murders later, he's revived the piece, with 10+ musicians (one track adds strings, a couple more have vocals and/or extra percussion. Really like most of the music (except the strings thing); don't care for the vocals, though the message matters here. B+(***)>
David Berkman: Plays Music by John Coltrane and Pete Seeger: Solo Piano (2020, Without): Pianist, from Cleveland, early albums (1998-2000) most impressive. "Music by" isn't restricted to their own compositions: Seeger covered the folk tradition, so you get extras like "Goodnight Irene" and "We Shall Overcome," and you get a "Body and Soul" too. The Seeger parts are more evocative, probably because they're the ones I recognize. B+(**) [cd]
Black Art Jazz Collective: Ascension (2020, HighNote): Sextet, third album, horns return -- Wayne Escoffery (tenor sax), Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), James Burton III (trombone) -- but with a new rhythm section: Victor Gould (piano), Rashaan Carter (bass), Mark Whitfield Jr. (drums). Title track is a Gould original. Could have stuck with hard bop, especially with Pelt's chops, but progressively leans into postbop, getting slicker and slicker. B+(*)
Charley Crockett: Welcome to Hard Times (2020, Son of Davy): Americana singer-songwriter from San Benito, Texas; grew up in Dallas, busked in New Orleans and New York, wound up in Austin, eighth album since 2015. More Western than country. B+(*)
Justin Townes Earle: The Saint of Lost Causes (2019, New West): Singer-songwriter, dead at 38, cause not disclosed. Father was Steve Earle, absent from 2 to 12, the age he got into drugs. Toured with his father, started writing his own songs, a mix of country and blues, although he never impressed me much. This his ninth and evidently last album -- one I skipped when it came out. Turns out it's pretty good. B+(***)
Paul Flaherty/Randall Colbourne/James Chumley Hunt/Mike Roberson: Borrowed From Children (2020, 577): Avant saxophonist, b. 1948, plays alto and tenor, has over three dozen albums since 1990 but this (somehow) is the first I've picked up. The others play drums, trumpet/cornet, and electric guitar. B+(**)
Bill Frisell: Valentine (2020, Blue Note): Guitarist, trio with Thomas Morgan (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums). Opens with a piece from Mali. Closes with "We Shall Overcome. Originals inside, aside from the pairing of "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing" and "What the World Needs Now Is Love." B+(**)
Jimmy Heath: Love Letter (2019 , Verve): Tenor saxophonist from Philadelphia, died at 93 in January, recorded with Kenny Dorham and Clifford Brown in 1953, led his first album in 1959, stood a mere 5 foot, 3 inches but called one of his best albums Really Big! With piano (Kenny Barron), guitar (Russell Malone), vibes, bass, and drums, a guest spot for Wynton Marsalis, also singers Cécile McLorin Salvant and Gregory Porter -- names fitting a legend, but it comes off rather dreamy, and the singers don't help. B+(*)
Eddie Henderson: Shuffle and Deal (2019 , Smoke Sessions): Trumpet player, I think of him as a hard bop guy but he started in fusion around 1973, has a lot of side credits but as he approaches 80, has more than two dozens albums under his own name. In his groove here with Donald Harrison (alto sax), Kenny Barron (piano), bass, and drums. B+(**)
Christoph Irniger Trio: Open City (2020, Intakt): Swiss tenor saxophonist, backed by Raffaele Bossard (bass) and Ziv Ravitz (drums), with guests Loren Stillman (alto sax) and Nils Wogram (trombone). B+(***)
Ingrid Laubrock + Kris Davis: Blood Moon (2019 , Intakt): Sax/piano duo, Laubrock playing tenor and soprano. Both well known, often in each other's company, at least since their Paradoxical Frog trio (2010). Feels a bit sketchy. B+(**)
Matt Wilson Quartet: Hug! (2019 , Palmetto): Drummer, many records, adventurous quartet with Jeff Lederer (saxes), Kirk Knuffke (cornet), and Chris Lightcap (bass). Interesting music, including covers from Abdullah Ibrahim and Roger Miller. One spoil moment samples Donald Trump announcing the Space Force, which segues into Sun Ra with the band singing "Interplanetary Music." B+(**) [cd] [08-28]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: Ancestral Echoes: The Covina Sessions, 1976 (1976 , Dark Tree): Pianist, a major figure in Los Angeles jazz, his large group here more a scene than a mere band. A- [cd]
Ian Carr With Nucleus: Solar Plexus (1971, UMC): Scottish trumpet player (1933-2009), best known for his quintet co-led by Don Rendell (1964-69) and his fusion group Nucleus (1969-89). Fairly large group with either Harry Beckett or Kenny Wheeler joining on trumpet, three saxes (Karl Jenkins also played oboe and keyboard, as did Keith Winter), guitar (Chris Spedding), two basses, drums (John Marshall), although many other folks passed through the band at some point. Third group album (first with Carr's name singled out). B+(**)
Nucleus: Elastic Rock (1970, Vertigo): Debut of Ian Carr's fusion band, a sextet, mostly players with long and distinguished careers in British jazz: leader played trumpet, Karl Jenkins (bari sax, oboe, keyboards), Brian Smith (tenor/soprano sax, flute), Chris Speeding (guitar), Jeff Clyne (electric bass), John Marshall (drums). Slightly exotic, nothing revolutionary. B+(*)
Nucleus: We'll Talk About It Later (1970 , Vertigo): Same group, Jenkins is the principal writer (4.5 songs), followed by Carr and Cline (2 co-credits) and Marshall (1 half). Both energy and chops advance. Last two songs have vocals. Don't see a credit, but both are Carr co-writes, and they're actually pretty good. B+(***)
Ian Carr With Nucleus Plus: Labyrinth (1973, Vertigo): Artist list after Plus: Kenny Wheeler, Brian Smith, Tony Levin, Roy Babbington, Clive Thacker, Tony Coe, Gordon Beck, Norma Winstone, Dave MacRae, Trevor Tomkins -- only one not in that list is Carr. The guests pull the band in various ways -- especially Winstone, to the atmospherics her voice usually dwells in. B+(*)
Ian Carr's Nucleus: Roots (1973, Vertigo): Band stripped back down to a sextet plus singer (Joy Yates), with only Carr and Brian Smith (reeds) returning from more than one album back. B+(*)
Nucleus: Under the Sun (1974, Vertigo): Sixth album, considerable churn in the lineup, with Bob Bertles on sax, Gordon Beck and Geoff Castle on keyboards, two guitars, the bassist and drummer writing one song each. Still Carr's band, and best when he takes charge. Starting to lose interest otherwise. B
Nucleus: Snakehips Etcetera (1975, Vertigo): Last of eight 1970-75 albums for Vertigo: band lasted a few more years, with various labels, and has regrouped for occasional live gigs. Playing out the string here, faithful to the core fusion verities of power and propulsion, with maybe a bit of outer space. B+(*)
Nucleus: Alleycat (1975, Vertigo): Cover image looks like a leopard. Ian Carr's band is back down to six: saxes (Bob Bertles), guitar (Ken Shaw), keyboards (Geoff Castle), bass guitar (Roger Sutton), drums (Roger Sellers), with Carr playing synthesizer as well as trumpet and flugelhorn. B+(*)
Nucleus & Ian Carr: Torrid Zone: The Vertigo Recordings 1970-1975 (1970-75 , Esoteric, 6CD): Having listened to all of this piecemeal (9 albums), I can pretend to having listened to the box. The mainstream jazz market collapsed in the late 1960s, and fusion (cf. Miles Davis and/or John McLaughlin) seemed like a way out, although few other artists really distinguished themselves. The early albums were most vital, with several musicians moving on to take over Soft Machine, while leader Ian Carr plugged on, producing records that weren't all that inspired, but no worse than what Weather Report in the US. A lot of important musicians passed through this band, but few did their best work here. Wish I could claim more historical value, but fusion repeatedly turned into a dead-end genre, even though the impulse is eternal, and occasionally shakes us up. B+(*)
Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band: No Roses (1971, Pegasus): English folksinger, perhaps the most famed of the age, introduces a large band which later sported leader Ashley Hutchings' moniker, and continued to record with Collins through 1980, when she retired (until her 2016 return). Band lists 25 names, including some like Lol Coxhill I know from jazz. Indeed, my favorite thing here is the horns, but then I've never been much of an English folk fan. B+(***)
Michael Garrick Trio: Moonscape (1964 , Trunk, EP): British pianist (1933-2011), first recorded in 1958, played with Ian Carr and Don Rendell in their 1965-69 quintet, occasionally recorded under his own name up to 1978, took a break, returned in 1994. Early trio with Dave Green on bass (John Taylor 1 cut) and Colin Barnes on drums. Short, six tracks, 23:28. Fine pianist, makes quite an impression. B+(***)
Michael Garrick Sextet With Don Rendell and Ian Carr: Prelude to Heart Is a Lotus (1968 , Gearbox): The Heart Is a Lotus is a 1970 Garrick album, on Vocalion. This precursor was cut for BBC Jazz, with four members of the Rendell/Carr Quintet, Coleridge Goode taking over bass, and Jim Philip on flute. Long on texture. B+(**) [bc]
Michael Garrick: The New Quartet (2001 , Jazz Academy): Garrick returned from a 15-year hiatus in 1993 with a trio, then produced a few big band records during the 1990s. Small group here with Martin Hathaway (soprano/alto sax), Paul Moylan (bass), and Alan Jackson (drums). Four originals, four more from the band, covers of Benny Golson, Joe Harriott, Duke Ellington, and Jaco Pastorius. A lot going on here. Surprised the saxophonist hasn't had a more of a career. A-
Garricks' Strings Quartet: Green and Pleasant Land (2003, Jazz Academy): The plural reflects two Garricks in the lineup, pianist Michael and his son Chris Garrick on violin, the group rounded out with guitar (Dominic Ashworth) and bass (Paul Moylan), so not your typical string quartet, but a right fair piece of chamber jazz. Closes with a nice Anita Wardell vocal. B+(*)
The Michael Garrick Trio: Gigs: Introducing Mick Garrett . . . (, Jazz Academy): No info on when this was recorded, but title and picture mark it as early. Trios with bass (Dave Green, Paul Moylan) and drums (Trevor Tomkins, Alan Jackson) -- Green and Tomkins played with him in the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet (1965-69), and they continued in his groups through 1973 (Green goes back at least to 1962); Jackson was in a 1978 quartet, and returned in the 2001 New Quartet, which is where Moylan finally appears. B+(*)
Johnny Griffin/Steve Grossman: Johnny Griffin & Steve Grossman Quintet (2000 , Dreyfus): Two tenor saxophonists, the elder a seasoned brawler in such contexts, backed by piano (Michael Weiss), bass (Pierre Michelot), and drums (Alvin Queen), selected from three nights in Paris. Title cut is one of three Grossman songs, matched by three from Griffin, with one from Weiss, two standards. Spirited jousts, nice ballad turns. [Napster has this as Take the "D" Train, but no evidence of that on cover. It is the lead song title.] B+(***)
Steve Grossman: Some Shapes to Come (1973 , PM): Tenor saxophonist, played for Miles Davis in his early 1970s fusion bands, so plays some soprano as well. With electric piano (Jan Hammer), electric bass (Gene Perla), and percussion (Don Alias), this builds on a fusion groove, but the saxophonist takes charge and delivers on his ambitious title. A-
Steve Grossman: Terra Firma (1975-76 , PM): Same quartet, bassist Gene Perla produces and wrote two pieces, vs. one for percussionist Don Alias, four for the tenor saxophonist, wailing strong over fusion beats. B+(***)
Steve Grossman: Way Out East, Volume 1 (1984, RED): Tenor sax trio with Juni Booth (bass) and Joe Chambers (drums). He's turned away from fusion and become a mainstream player, relying on his tone and dynamics, with one original, seven standards. B+(**)
Steve Grossman: Way Out East, Volume 2 (1984, RED): Continues with the second of two days at Studio 7 in Milan. More standards ("Body and Soul," "Trane's Slow Blues," "Soultrane," etc.). B+(**)
Steve Grossman: Love Is the Thing (1985 , RED): Quartet with Cedar Walton (piano), David Williams (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums). B+(***)
Steve Grossman Trio: Bouncing With Mr. A.T. (1989 , Dreyfus): Refers to drummer Art Taylor (1929-95), who's led albums with Mr. A.T. in the title, and who's bounced with everyone from Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk through Jackie McLean, John Coltrane, Gene Ammons, up to the tenor saxophonist here. With Tyler Mitchell on bass, A.T. brings out the saxophonist's uproarious best. A-
Steve Grossman: Live at Café Praga (1990 , Timeless): Quartet, recorded live in Bologna with piano (Fred Henke), bass, and drums. Five extended pieces. B+(***)
Steve Grossman: My Second Prime (1990 , RED): Discogs shows a steady stream of albums from his 1974 debut up to 1994, when he begins to slow down. Recorded at Spezia Jazz Festival on Dec. 17, probably why they picked "The Christmas Song"), with piano (Fred Henke), bass, and drums. Two originals, one from Henke, and three covers, ranging fast and slow, averaging 10 minutes. B+(*)
Steve Grossman: Do It (1991, Dreyfus): Tenor sax quartet with Barry Harris (piano), Reggie Johnson (bass), and Art Taylor (drums). Back to bebop roots (if not his, then A.T.'s), with three Powells, two Monks, one Dameron (a gorgeous "Soultrane"). Opens with "Cherokee," closes with Charlie Parker's "Chi Chi." B+(***)
Steve Grossman Quintet Featuring Harold Land: I'm Confessin' (1992 , Dreyfus): Two tenor saxophonists, each lay out one track. Backed by Fred Henke (piano), Reggie Johnson (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). B+(**)
Steve Grossman + Cedar Walton Trio: A Small Hotel (1993, Dreyfus): With Walton on piano, David Williams (bass) and Billy Higgins (drums). B+(***)
Steve Grossman/Michel Petrucciani: Quartet (1998 , Dreyfus): Tenor saxophonist in much larger type, followed by the French pianist, without listing Andy McKee (bass) and Joe Farnsworth (drums). One original each, rest standards, mostly ballads, often lovely. B+(***)
Don Rendell: Meet Don Rendell (1954-55 (2001), Jasmine): British tenor saxophonist (1926-2015), started in Johnny Dankworth's band, early recordings as leader: the title comes from a 10-inch LP released on Tempo in 1955, sandwiched here between seven earlier sextet tracks (a bit more trad-oriented) and four later quintet tracks. Nice cool tone, with some swing. B+(***) [yt]
Don Rendell/Bobby Jaspar: Rencontre A Paris (1955, Swing, EP): Two tenor saxophonists, from England and Belgium, in a septet, with French horn (Dave Amram), guitar, piano, bass, and drums, for a six track, 10-inch LP (27:12). [Reissued 2015 on Trunk as Don Rendell Meets Bobby Jasper.] B+(**)
Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet: Shades of Blue (1965, Columbia): Co-led this group with the trumpet player, first of five albums through 1969. With Colin Purbrook (piano), Dave Green (bass), and Trevor Tomkins (drums). Mainstream, shaded blue. B+(*)
Don Rendell/Ian Carr 5tet: Dusk Fire (1966, Columbia): Michael Garrick, a notable British jazz figure in his own right, takes over the piano slot, and writes three songs to Rendell's four (Carr has a co-credit with each). B
Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet: Phase III (1967 , Columbia): Garrick is settling in nicely here, adding energy and clarity, although as jazz goes this remains pretty atmospheric. B+(**)
Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet: Live (1968 , Columbia): Actually recorded in Lansdowne Recording Studios in London, presumably in "live" takes. Rendell plays a fair amount of flute and clarinet in addition to his tenor/soprano saxes, adding atmosphere to the persistent rhythm. B+(***)
Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet: Change Is (1969, Columbia): A final studio album, same group except for Jeff Clyne playing bass on one (of six) tracks. I haven't had much to say about Carr, but the fact that he plays flugelhorn as well as trumpet puts him in a line between Art Farmer and Kenny Wheeler -- perhaps too subtle for his own good, but he comes through nicely here. B+(***)
Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet: The Complete Lansdowne Recordings (1965-1969 , Jazzman): This is also available in box form, at least in vinyl (5-LP), only CD I can confirm is a single-disc sampler promo. Group got steadily better, especially as pianist Michael Garrick developed, but were so understated it took me a while, suggesting I've underrated the early albums. Lansdowne, by the way, was the studio they recorded in. The albums were originally released on Columbia [UK]. B+(**)
The Don Rendell Five Featuring Barbara Thompson: Just Music (1974 , Spotlite): Thompson's first record -- like Rendell, she plays tenor sax, soprano, and flute (Rendell also plays clarinet and alto flute). Backed by Peter Lemer (keyboards), bass, and drums. B+(**)
Don Rendell/Ian Carr/Michael Garrick: Reunion (2001 , Spotlite): One of the last things in Rendell's discography, although he wound up living longer than his younger colleagues. With trombone, bass, and drums. Eases into the traffic, but speeds up and before long they're enjoying themselves, ending with old standbys "How Deep Is the Ocean" and "Struttin' With Some Barbecue." B+(***)
Grade (or other) changes:
Steve Grossman: Time to Smile (1993 , Dreyfus): Quintet with Tom Harrell on trumpet, Willy Pickens on piano, Cecil McBee on bass, but drummer Elvin Jones gets the big print. Probably took exception to Harrell's harmonizing, but the sax is often great, and the rhythm swings. [was: B] B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: