Sunday, February 19, 2023

Music Week

February archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 39638 [39593] rated (+45), 42 [42] unrated (-0: 14 new, 28 old).

I wrote quite a bit of Speaking of Which yesterday. When I got up today, I noticed I still had a tab open to an especially deluded Washington Post op-ed called How to break the stalemate in Ukraine, so I added a couple paragraphs on it. By "breaking the stalemate" they basically mean blowing it up and risking WWIII. Of course, they assume that won't happen. Even though they start from characterizing Putin as a psychotic tyrant set on empire expansion, they assume he is still sane enough to accept the humiliation of defeat (and that he doesn't dare offend China).

Wichita Eagle had an article today denying that Biden would visit Kyiv after Warsaw. Of course, he did land in Kyiv, on his way to Warsaw. I don't mind the security-directed deception. I won't even mind the sabre rattling if it's followed up with serious attempt to settle the war. I understand the logic, but I'm still skeptical that the hot air helps in any way.

Apologies for not relegating the politics to the bottom of this post, after the notes on the music. But no notes this week. I need to get this out of the way so I can get to dinner tonight, and don't have much to say anyway.

Playing The Best of Ace Records Volume 2: The R&B Hits as I post this. Five songs there by the late Huey "Piano" Smith.

New records reviewed this week:

Anthony Branker & Imagine: What Place Can Be for Us? A Suite in Ten Movements (2022 [2023], Origin): Composer and arranger, originally a trumpet player (on a 1980 album), but has only directed nine albums since 2005. Seven piece group here, all familiar names (Walter Smith III, Philip Dizack, Remy Le Boeuf, Pete McCann, Fabian Almazan, Linda May Han Oh, Donald Edwards), with a bit of spoken word (Alison Crickett) to set the direction, from which everything flows organically. A- [cd]

Scott Hamilton: Talk to Me, Baby (2022, Blau): Tenor saxophonist, retro-swing, many albums since 1977, this a quartet with Dena DeRose (piano), Ignasi González (bass), and Jo Krause (drums), a group he's recorded five previous albums with (from 2015). B+(***) [sp]

Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project: A Thousand Pebbles (2023, One Trick Dog): Pianist, also plays accordion, has a couple previous albums, including one by this group: a septet with trumpet, two saxes, guitar, bass, and drums. Originals, aside from a Jobim. B+(*) [cd]

Markus Rutz: Storybook (2023, Jmarq): Trumpet player, based in Chicago, sixth album, mostly original pieces (covers of Kenny Dorham, Joe Henderson, Lil Hardin, and Mal Waldron). Quintet with Sharel Cassity (sax), piano, bass, and drums, with guitar on three tracks. B+(**) [cd]

Greg Ward's Rogue Parade: Dion's Quest (2021 [2023], Sugah Hoof): Alto saxophonist, based in New York but early connections were in Chicago. Second group album, thickly layered with bass (Matt Ulery), drums (Quin Kirchner), two guitars (Matt Gold and Dave Miller), with the sax soaring above. Such layering is common in rock, stifling here. All original pieces by Ward. Title significance unknown. B- [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:


Old music:

Walter Blanding: The Olive Tree (1999, Criss Cross): Tenor saxophonist, was one of five who recorded as Tough Young Tenors in 1991, after which he joined the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (as did Herb Harris and Todd Williams -- not a great career move for any of them). He's an impressive player every time out, but only has this one album under his name, ably supported by Ryan Kisor (trumpet), Farid Barron (piano), Rodney Whitaker (bass), and Rodney Green (drums). Four originals, five standards (including Monk, Waller, and a nice "The Nearness of You"). B+(**) [sp]

Free Jazz Quartet: Premonitions (1989, Matchless): One-shot British group (although a second 1992 tape finally appeared in 2009), with Harrison Smith (tenor/soprano sax, bass clarinet), Paul Rutherford (trombone), Tony Moore (cello), and Eddie Prévost (drums). B+(***) [yt]

Chico Freeman: Chico (1977, India Navigation): Tenor saxophonist from Chicago, as was his father Von Freeman, who started out with Horace Henderson in the 1940s, had a band with two brothers that backed visiting acts including Charlie Parker, played with Sun Ra, but didn't really get much attention until after his son broke out. Second album, with Muhal Richard Abrams (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), Steve McCall (drums), and Tito Sampa (percussion). B+(***) [sp]

Chico Freeman: Kings of Mali (1977 [1978], India Navigation): Reaches back to the Mali Empire (c. 1230-1672) for inspiration. Freeman plays some flute in addition to his tenor and soprano sax, riding on piano (Anthony Davis) and bass (Cecil McBee), with vibraphone (Jay Hoggard) and all manner of percussion (Famadou Don Moye). B+(**) [yt]

Chico Freeman: The Outside Within (1978 [1981], India Navigation): Tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, with a really superb rhythm section of John Hicks (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), and Jack DeJohnette (drums). Liner notes by Amiri Baraka. [NB: This appears to be the same album I had listed as Chico Freeman Quartet, a Penguin Guide **** from 1978.] A- [yt]

Chico Freeman Quartet: No Time Left (1979, Black Saint): Recorded in Milano, with Jay Hoggard (vibes), Rick Rozie (bass), and Famadou Don Moye (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Chico Freeman/Von Freeman: Freeman & Freeman (1981 [1989], India Navigation): Tenor saxophone duo, son and father, recorded live at the New York Shakespeare Festival, with piano (Kenny Barron, spelled by Muhal Richard Abrams on the 20:38 second cut), bass (Cecil McBee), and drums (Jack DeJohnette). Starts with a joust and there's plenty more (ending with one called "Jug Aint Gone" -- the elder certainly knew Gene Ammons), but they also slip in "Lover Man" and "I Remember You." B+(***) [sp]

Chico Freeman: You'll Know When You Get There (1988 [1989], Black Saint): With his father Von Freeman also on tenor sax ("Feat." credit on cover, allows the son to diversify with alto and soprano sax, bass clarinet, and synths). With Eddie Allen (trumpet), Geri Allen (keyboards), bass, and drums. Choice cover of "Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)." B+(***) [sp]

Don Friedman: My Romance: Solo Piano (1996 [1997], SteepleChase): Pianist (1935-2016), originally from San Francisco, moved to New York in 1958 and started recording for Riverside about the same time as Bill Evans (they shared bassists Scott LaFaro and Chuck Israels). This is solo, well-known standards, smartly done. B+(***) [sp]

Richard Galliano: Concerts Inédits (1996-98 [1999], Dreyfus, 3CD): French accordion player, father from Italy, grew up in Nice, debut 1982, draws on forms like tango (he has recorded a couple albums with Astor Piazzolla). This collects three concerts: a solo from the Umbria Jazz Winter Festival, a duo with Michel Portal from NDR in Germany, and a trio with Jean-François Jenny-Clark and Daniel Humair from Montreux, each on its own disc. The accordion in his hands is surprisingly sufficient, probably thanks to the rhythmic intensity. Portal's clarinet adds a bit of harmony, the bass and drums accents. A- [r]

Vincent Gardner Quintet: Elbow Room (2005, SteepleChase): Trombonist, Penguin Guide likes the first of his three The Good Book volumes, each steeped in the bebop/hard bop era, but hard to find. This is slightly earlier, with four originals, a couple standards, a Monk, and Parker and Coltrane to close. With Walter Blanding (tenor/soprano sax), piano (Aaron Goldberg), bass, and drums. B+(**) [r]

Charles Gayle Quartet: More Live at the Knitting Factory: February, 1993 (1993, Knitting Factory Works, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist from Buffalo, also plays bass clarinet and violin here (and piano, quite impressively, elsewhere). In a nutshell, he's the second coming of Albert Ayler, but after a rocky start has proven much more durable. Quartet with two bassists (Vattel Cherry and William Parker, the latter also on cello and violin) and drums (Marc Edwards on the first disc, Michael Wimberly on the second -- the recording spans three dates). B+(***) [r]

Michael Gibbs: Michael Gibbs (1970, Deram): Born in colonial Rhodesia in 1937, moved to Boston in 1959 to study music, and thence to England, where he was one of several composers who broke radical new ground in the late 1960s. This was his first album, a big band extravaganza, with 38 credits, ranging from Cream bassist Jack Bruce to the avant-fringe, in a record that's too big to fit into anyhone's pigeonhole. A- [yt]

The Mike Gibbs Orchestra: Big Music (1988-90 [1996], ACT): Another big band extravaganza, originally released in 1988, the reissue adding a later bonus track. I'm counting 22 musician credits, plus a lot of engineering support -- I won't try to list them all, but the guitar roster is: Bill Frisell, John Scofield, and Kevin Eubanks. B+(***) [yt]

Jon Gordon: The Things You Are (2005 [2007], ArtistShare): Alto saxophonist (also soprano), born in New York, albums from 1989. With Ben Monder (guitar), Joe Martin (bass), and Billy Drummond and/or Bill Campbell (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Stéphane Grappelli/Michel Petrucciani: Flamingo (1995 [1996], Dreyfus): Two French musicians with Italian names: the violinist (1908-97) nearing the end of a long career that goes back to the 1930s with Django Reinhardt in the Hot Club de Paris, and the diminuitive pianist who only lasted a couple more years (1962-99). Also named, in smaller print, on the front cover: George Mraz (bass), and Roy Haynes (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Benny Green/Russell Malone: Jazz at the Bistro (2002 [2003], Telarc): Piano and guitar duo, picking their way through jazz and pop standards, with one (relatively short) original by each. B+(**) [sp]

Bobby Hackett and His Jazz Band: Coast Concert (1955 [1956], Capitol): Cornet player (1915-76), started in big bands of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, was featured on Jackie Gleason's 1950s albums, but mostly stuck with Dixieland, as is the case here. Band includes trombonist Jack Teagarden, who sings "Basin Street Blues." B+(**) [r]

Bobby Hackett/Jack Teagarden: Jazz Ultimate (1957 [1958], Capitol): Trumpet and trombone, still rooted in the trad jazz of New Orleans but smoothes out the polyphony, with Ernie Caceres and Peanuts Hucko on sax and clarinet, plus guitar (Billy Bauer), piano (Gene Schroeder), bass, and drums. B+(**) [r]

Bobby Hackett: Hello Louis: Bobby Hackett Plays the Music of Louis Armstrong (1964, Epic): It's tempting to say that every album Hackett records is a tribute to Armstrong, but this one goes a step further in its focus on Armstrong writing credits, as opposed to the standards that have been part of both's sets forever. Discogs doesn't offer musician credits, but here's what I've gleaned from the back cover: Steve Lacy (soprano sax), Sonny Russo (trombone), Harvey Phillips (tuba), Roger Kellaway (piano), Al Chernet (banjo), Ronny Bedford (drums). Even though it's more explicitly connected, this is also subtler, sounding less like second-tier Armstrong than Coast Concert above. B+(***) [r]

The Bobby Hackett Quartet Plus Vic Dickenson: This Is My Bag (1968 [1969], Project 3): Starts out sounding like one of the trombonist's typically fine albums, then goes soft on the back side. Hackett, you may recall, had a side line adding romantic solos to Jackie Gleason albums, and he slips all too easily into that here. Picks up a bit when Dickenson figures out the game. B+(**) [r]

Charlie Haden/Egberto Gismonti: In Montreal (1989 [2001], ECM): Bassist (1937-2014), started in Ornette Coleman's legendary quartet, branched out enough so broadly that he wound up hosting an "Invitation" series of concerts in 1989 at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Six appeared as The Montreal Tapes 1994-2003. This duo with the Brazilian guitarist/pianist looks a bit different, but belongs in the same series. B+(**) [r]

Charlie Haden/Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonti: Magico (1979 [1980], ECM): American bassist, Norwegian saxophonist (tenor and soprano), and Brazilian guitarist/pianist, met in Oslo for five songs (two by Gismonti, one each by the others, a Brazilian cover to open). B+(*) [sp]

Charlie Haden/Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonti: Folk Songs (1979 [1981], ECM): A second session, five months later, also in Oslo. Only one song ("Folk Song") was actually traditional. Gismonti wrote three songs, the others one each. B+(**) [sp]

Charlie Haden/Billy Higgins/Enrico Pieranunzi: First Song (1990 [1992], Soul Note): Title and two more songs written by the bassist, with pianist Pieranunzi contributing two songs, and covers from Charlie Parker, Lennie Tristano, and Jimmy Van Heusen ("Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and "All the Way"). B+(***) [sp]

Jim Hall: Jazz Guitar (1957, Pacific Jazz): Guitarist (1930-2013), was part of the generation that moved jazz guitar from swing to bebop. First album, trio with piano (Carl Perkins) and bass (Red Mitchell). Still draws more heavily on swing, with pieces by Ellington and Goodman, standards like "Stella by Starlight" and "Stomping at the Savoy." B+(**) [sp]

Jim Hall: Dialogues (1995, Telarc): Guitar duets, two each with Bill Frisell (guitar), Gil Goldstein (accordian), Tom Harrell (trumpet), Joe Lovano (tenor sax), and Mike Stern (guitar), most with bassist Scott Colley (6) and/or drummer Andy Watson (8). All original pieces, except for "Skylark." B+(***) [sp]

Bengt Hallberg: Time on My Hands (1994-95 [1995], Improkomp, 2CD): Swedish pianist (1932-2013), alone with Arne Domnérus and Lars Gullin one of the first important jazz musicians to emerge in Sweden in the 1950s. Swedish intros. Solo, bright takes on many standards. [Note: Digital split into two volumes.] B+(***) [sp]

Scott Hamilton: From the Beginning (1977-78 [2002], Concord, 2CD): Retro swing tenor saxophonist, originally from Rhode Island, quickly found a home at Concord and recorded regulary for them up to 2008. This collects his first two albums, the marvelous Scott Hamilton Is a Good Wind Who Is Blowing Us No Ill and the somewhat less imaginative 2. The only lineup difference is the addition of Scott Berry (trumpet) on the first disc. Both have the rhythm section of Nat Pierce (piano), Cal Collins (guitar), Monty Budwig (bass), and Jack Hanna (drums). A- [sp]

Scott Hamilton: Tenorshoes (1979 [1980], Concord): Third album, quartet with Dave McKenna (piano), Phil Flanagan (bass), and Jeff Hamilton (drums; no relation, but famous in his own right). B+(***) [sp]

Albert King: The Very Best of Albert King [Blues Masters: The Essential Blues Collection] (1960-73 [1999], Rhino): Got this as a birthday present: always a risky proposition, but I didn't happen to own it, although I had an overlapping comp -- Rhino's The Ultimate Collection (2CD, A-) -- as well as two of his best-regarded albums (both A-): Born Under a Bad Sign (1967) and King of the Blues Guitar (1969). It occurs to me that I should note the series along with the title, given how generic the title is, and how valuable the series was. A- [cd]

Return to Forever: The Anthology (1973-76 [2008], Concord, 2CD): Chick Corea's mid-1970s fusion group, named for his actually-pretty-good 1972 album (with saxophonist Joe Farrell, bass guitarist Stanley Clarke, drummer Airto Moreira, with Flora Purim singing). Only Clarke returned for this period, along with Bill Connors (later Al Di Meola) on guitar, and Lenny White on drums. This picks up most of four albums: Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (1973), Where Have I Known You Before (1974), No Mystery (1975), and Romantic Warrior (1976). I could credit their energy and drive, but their only knack is to make speed even more oppressive than tedium. C [cd]

Return to Forever Featuring Chick Corea: Hymn to the Seventh Galaxy (1973, Polydor): Complete in The Anthology, so let's assign it a grade. (Also complete is Romantic Warrior, previously graded at C+, which I don't care about enough to lower. By the way, Robert Christgau's grade was D+; this one, citing its "spirit energy," Christgau graded B). C [cd]

Return to Forever Featuring Chick Corea: Where Have I Known You Before (1974, Polydor): Four short pieces were omitted from The Anthology, so pretty much as expected (although the 2:09 title piece is rather nice). Al Di Meolo takes over on guitar, with Corea on keyboards, Stanley Clarke on bass and organ, and White drums and percussion (including congas and bongos). C [sp]

Return to Forever Featuring Chick Corea: No Mystery (1975, Polydor): Same group, Corea claims most of the songs but everyone chips in, and Lenny White's "Sofistifunk" is entertaining while it lasts (3:20). Still the combination of heavy riffs and relentless drumming wears down fast. C- [sp]

Return to Forever: Musicmagic (1977, Columbia): After Romantic Warrior (1976), the lineup broke in half, with Corea (keyboards) and Clarke (bass) staying, Di Meola and White split. Joe Farrell (flute/sax) returned, leading a horn section, Gerry Brown took over at drums, and Corea's wife Gayle Moran sang and played keyboards. It's different, but no better. C- [sp]

Tough Young Tenors: Alone Together (1991, Antilles): Group name, which probably refers back to a 1960 album by Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Harris, has stuck with me as a catch all for all the mainstream tenor saxophonists who emerged in the 1990s, but here it refers to just five -- Walter Blanding (age 20), James Carter (22), Herb Harris (23), Tim Warfield (26), and Todd Williams (24) -- backed by piano (Marcus Roberts), bass (Reginald Veal), and drums (Ben Riley), on this one album. Not much of a joust: they're well behaved, and a highlight is a lovely "You Go to My Head" by just one of them. I don't know who. Carter is by far the best remembered now, but he was still three years shy of his debut (JC on the Set, 1994). B+(***) [r]

Junior Wells & the Aces: Live in Boston 1966 (1966 [2010], Delmark): Chicago bluesman, up from Memphis, sang and played harmonica, first recordings 1953 but breakthrough was with Hoodoo Man Blues in 1965, the first of many pairings with Buddy Guy. The Aces were a Chicago blues band -- Louis Myers (guitar), Dave Myers (bass), Fred Below (drums) -- that recorded with various guests, notably Robert Jr. Lockwood. This appeared well after Wells' death in 1998. Takes a bit to get going, but eventually gets that mojo working. B+(**) [r]

Junior Wells: Live at Theresa's 1975 (1975 [2006], Delmark): Eleven tracks from January 13, with Byther Smith and Phil Guy on guitar, plus nine more from three days earlier, with Guy and Sammy Lawhorn. B+(***) [r]

Limited Sampling: Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

Simon H. Fell: Composition No. 12.5: Compilation II for Improvisers, Jazz Ensemble and Electronics (1990 [1999], Bruce's Fingers): British bassist (1959-2020), three dozen albums starting in 1984. This was originally released in 1990 as Compilation II and on cassette as Composition II. Ten-piece group, including violin and cello, Fell also playing keyboards and electronics. [3/9 tracks] ++ [bc]

Simon H. Fell: Composition No. 30: Compilation III: For Improvisers, Big Band and Chamber Ensemble (1998, Bruce's Fingers): Massive piece, with 42 musicians playing for 125 minutes. [3/15 tracks] + [bc]

Paul Hession/Alan Wilkinson/Simon H. Fell: Foom! Foom! (1992, Bruce's Fingers): Penguin Guide filed this under the bassist, but the cover order (last names only) starts with drums then sax (soprano/alto/baritone). [2/6 tracks] + [bc]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Dave Askren/Jeff Benedict: Denver Sessions (Tapestry) [03-17]
  • Sarah Bernadette: Sad Poems on My Phone (Blujazz, EP) [02-13]
  • Javier Red's Imaginary Converter: Life & Umbrella (Desafio Candente) [05-12]
  • Ingrid Laubrock: The Last Quiet Place (Pyroclastic) [03-31]

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