Jazz Consumer Guide (2):
The Caribbean Tinge
by Tom Hull
DAVID MURRAY & THE GWO-KA MASTERS
As with Murray's two previous Guadeloupe albums, a foray into
pan-African cosmopolitanism is built around the gwo-ka drums and
chant vocals of Klod Kiavué and François Ladrezeau. But the rest of
the cast is new, including Guadaloupean guitarist Christian Laviso
and Vietnamese/Senegalese hybrid Hervé Samb, extra brass from
Murray's Latin Big Band, and featured saxophonist Pharoah Sanders.
Where *Creole* settled for lush exoticism, and *Yonn-Dé* strove for
modest authenticity, this one is a nonstop riot of rhythm and horns.
SONIC LIBERATION FRONT
*Ashé a Go-Go*
As in David Murray's gwo-ka, drummer Kevin Diehl finds his
inspiration in the relict rhythms that kept Africa alive in the
Caribbean. But the Sunny Murray student does more than build
postbop jazz around Cuban bata drums: he messes with the classic
rhythms, at times losing the pulse and wandering free. Same for the
tenor sax--like Ayler, Terry Lawson starts with simple folk
melodies and pushes them into frenzy. But three tracks feature
vocals, and these reconnect the free jazz to its Lukumi roots. The
most striking is the simplest, with Chuckie Joseph singing over
nothing but his own strummed guitar--which pays dividends on the
'60s avant-garde's fascination with pan-Africana by finally getting
under its skin.
FRED ANDERSON/HAMID DRAKE
*Back Together Again*
Anderson grew up around the AACM in the '70s, recorded a bit, then
settled into life as a club owner. Sometimes he would play his
tenor sax in the club, and when he hit 65 he resumed recording--
just in time for the Chicago jazz renaissance. This duo album came
out on his 75th birthday, and it feels like he's finally found his
way. Master drummer Drake, who learned to play alongside Anderson's
son when his family moved to Chicago, keeps the rhythms bubbling,
getting a robust but subdued sound from his frame drums that keeps
Anderson relaxed and generous.
*Soul on Top* 
This extends Ray Charles's omnivorous big band soul, with Brown
reinventing standards--"That's My Desire," "September Song," "Every
Day I Have the Blues," "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag"--in front of
Louie Bellson's orchestra, which arranger-conductor Oliver Nelson
barely manages to discipline, so caught up is the band in the
singer's excitement. In Brown's discography, just a curio. But in
the whole history of big band jazz, there's never been a singer
MARILYN CRISPELL TRIO
After two decades of comparisons to Cecil Taylor, her third ECM
record is deliberate, cautious, almost pretty. Paul Motian could
take credit for taming the shrew, but more likely it was her own
growing interest in Bill Evans that led her to Motian. He wrote
most of the pieces, but exerts little control. Indeed, his subtle
drumming is almost untethered to Crispell's piano. But at this slow
pace, the logic of her playing, her knack for surprising sequences
that make perfect sense once you've heard them, is as dazzling as
her speed ever was.
*Line on Love*
Stanley Dance invented the category "mainstream jazz" to account
for older musicians who had assimilated bebop without losing their
swing, but mainstreaming never ended: the avant-garde of the '60s
is older now than bebop was then, so old that youngsters channel
Ornette and Braxton and Hemphill as naturally as Bird and Prez and
Hawk. The mainstream du jour is the old new thing shorn of its
desire to shock and dismay. These days albums that venture well
beyond neocon blues/swing dogma while remaining merely smart and
polite are the norm. Yet though this one rarely gets out of ballad
gear, it remains fresh and unpredictable, retaining the spirit of
innovation, not just the form.
EL-P/THE BLUE SERIES CONTINUUM
The third album in less than a year for the Blue Series Continuum,
a band that shares its name with Thirsty Ear's avant-jazz series,
both of which have wandered deep into DJ territory. Each release is
staffed by artistic director Matthew Shipp and his usual crew and
each has a different guest producer. *The Good and Evil Sessions*
was an upbeat groove album. The relatively abstract *Sorcerer
Sessions* indulged Shipp's avant-classical tendencies. This one
shows more meat, probably because El-P carves what the band gives
him rather than smothering it in sauce.
*A Love Song*
The ultimate team player worked on 300 albums before finally
cutting one under his own name. But at 79, the sole survivor of the
Modern Jazz Quartet is entitled. He's got some songs--old like
"Watergate Blues" and new like the title number, which he played at
Milt Hinton's funeral. He's got some ideas, like playing the melody
to "Django" on bass, and playing cello with Peter Washington's
bass. He's got his brother Tootie on drums. And he's got a young
pianist he wants to show off, so he lets Jeb Patton take the
spotlight for two pieces, one by and the other for Sir Roland
*Up in Smoke!*
A mainstream sax date like they cut all the time in the late '50s:
start with a swinging "The Best Things in Life Are Free," slip in
an old ballad, a discreet original, a little bebop, some blues.
Nothing ambitious -- just an echo of the days when Coleman Hawkins
and Dexter Gordon walked the earth.
MICHEL PORTAL/STEPHEN KENT/MINO CINELU
Kent's didgeridoo provides the varying hums that place this record
at the outer reaches of exotica. Cinelu's percussion and occasional
yelp or bark drive it rhythmically. Portal's soprano sax is pitched
high and eerie, while his bass clarinet is low and down to earth.
The African nation that contributed the title accounts for nothing
else, except perhaps a world big enough to inspire such
TED SIROTA'S REBEL SOULS
As with Mingus, there's more to Sirota's music than his titles. By
all means read the booklet. Remember Fred Hampton? Ken Saro-Wiwa?
How about Don Cherry? Still, when you get to the music it doesn't
matter that the stately "For Martyrs" is programmatic while the
lovely "Elegy" is personal. Oppression breeds resistance, but
neither make music. Thoughtful, passionate musicians do.
THE VANDERMARK FIVE
*Elements of Style . . . Exercises in Surprise*
Most of Ken Vandermark's groups are forums where musicians get
together and kick shit around, but his flagship group exists just
for him. With Jeb Bishop on trombone and Dave Rempis adding a
second saxophone--often the lead with Vandermark switching off to
big or small clarinet--the Five has has one of the most potent horn
sections in jazz. Indeed, what's most striking here is how smoothly
they play in unison, how smartly they play in contrast, and how
sharply they stop and spin on a dime. Each of the first six pieces
pursues a distinct idea, and the other--the 20:10 "Six of One"--
marshalls at least as many more. For once, the risks and daring of
free jazz are arranged as precisely as in a crack big band.
Dud of the Month
MICHAEL BRECKER/JOE LOVANO/DAVE LIEBMAN
*Saxophone Summit: Gathering of Spirits*
These three eminent saxophonists should work and play well with
others by now, but on this evidence need to repeat kindergarten.
They state the heads simultaneously rather than together, then go
off and trade lines from different books. They start out thinking
blowing session, then lapse into their beloved ballad repertoires,
and wind up playing free--in their case the aural equivalent of a
food fight. The nadir comes when they switch off to play with their
favorite old world flutes.
Additional Consumer News
*Back at the Velvet Lounge*
On his home court, with a full band behind him, he feels
comfortable enough to toss us a soft one.
JOE LOCKE & 4 WALLS OF FREEDOM
Replacing the late Bob Berg with the great Tommy Smith, the vibes
master pauses, ponders, and carries on.
DAVE BURRELL FULL-BLOWN TRIO
Avant-ragtime, skeletal Berlin, Andrew Cyrille marches on, William
Parker delights on kora.
*The Music According to Lafayette Gilchrist*
Go-go beats and funky bass--free your ass and the pianist will
jump, jive, and wail.
HENRY KAISER & WADADA LEO SMITH
*Yo Miles! Sky Garden*
More dividends from Miles's electric period, the change of
trumpeters food for thought.
Smartly nuanced, delicately balanced trio with pianist Vassilis
Tsabropoulos, who got star billing last time.
Piano trio plus three horns do her bidding without clutter or show.
KEN VANDERMARK/BRIAN DIBBLEE
A whole album of Vandermark bass clarinet, wrapped around the
bassist's lovely melodies.
IGNASI TERRAZA TRIO
Mainstream piano, the bass mixed up to make it a real trio,
remarkable for its balance and warmth.
BILL BRUFORD'S EARTHWORKS
*Random Acts of Happiness*
Latin-tinged rhythms, lush piano, Tim Garland's bright sax--the
Eclectic postmodern piano trio, more or less, with a penchant for
gadgets and kung fu.
*Fountain of Youth*
His secret is that he keeps his bands young, but they only want to
play what Haynes played with the Monk and Coltrane when *they* were
*All We Need*
KEITH ROWE/AXEL DÖRNER/FRANZ HAUTZINGER
*A View From the Window*
*The Deep End*