Recent Listening: Rollins, Melvoin-Park, Harper, Gonzalez

The Rifftides staff is attempting to keep ahead of the CD tsunami described in this recent post. It’s an impossible assignment, but they’re a game bunch. Herewith, brief reviews of approximately 0.06% of the accumulated mass of discs.

Rollins Road Shows 1.jpg

Sonny Rollins, Road Shows, Vol. 1 (Doxy/Emarcy). In some of these previously unreleased concert performances, the tenor saxophonist reaches peaks of the intensity, drive, inventiveness and whimsy that have kept him inimitable for nearly six decades. His “Tenor Madness” solo from Japan in 2000 is one of Rollins’s most compelling recorded blues statements. There’s a remarkable “Easy Living” from Poland in 1980. “More Than You Know,” recorded in France in 2006, concludes with a ravishing extended cadenza that is a tour through the inner workings of a great melodist’s creative process. The most recent track, “Some Enchanted Evening,” from Rollins’s 2007 Carnegie Hall concert, is curiously tentative despite the presence of bassist Christian McBride and drummer Roy Haynes. The architectonic “Blossoms,” from Sweden in 1980, is anything but tentative. Full of risk-taking, it is twelve-and-a-half minutes of Rollins at his most penetrating and complex.

Mike Melvoin and Kim Park, The Art Of Conversation (City Light). Pianist Melvoin and alto saxophonist Park, veterans who deserve wider recognition, shine in this aptly-named duo collaboration. It grew out of Park’s sitting in on a Melvoin gig in Kansas City. Park makes  engaging personal use of inspiration from his KC predecessor Charlie Parker, notably so in


his visceral, blues-inflected soloing on “I Remember You,” a tune lastingly linked to Parker. The fleetness and harmonic richness of Melvoin’s improvisations are consistent throughout this collection of familiar standard songs. As for justification of that title, he and Park truly listen to and stimulate one another’s ideas, as good conversationalists will. This music is available as a download.

Harper.jpgBilly Harper
, Blueprints Of Jazz, Vol. 2 (Talking House). Harper was one of the most profound of the tenor saxophonists to emerge in the wake of John Coltrane. This CD, full of post-Coltrane muscle and mysticism, recalls the swirl of free jazz in the sixties and seventies, even unto Amiri Baraka reciting his jazz-history-lesson poetry and Harper on one track singing a little like Leon Thomas did on all those Impulse! LPs. Fronting a relentlessly energetic septet of like-minded seekers, Harper solos with his full range of formidable technical mastery and the power and conviction of a gifted preacher. This CD seems to be hard to get. Although it was released in October, Amazon is the only web site I can find that is offering it. Amazon claims to have just one copy–used–at $90.00 U.S. (!) It may be available as an MP3 download.

Jerry Gonzalez y Los Piratos Del Flamenco (Sunnyside). Since he moved to Madrid, the trumpeter, flugelhornist, conguero and co-leader of the Fort Apache Band has gone well beyond taking an interest in Spain’s flamenco tradition. He has absorbed its mystique and


 even begun to have an effect on its evolution. The closely held flamenco community has let him in and Gonzalez has managed to get them to accept the idea of jazz improvisation in the context of contemporary flamenco performance. In a cultural feedback loop, Gonzalez brings jazz sensibilities inspired by Miles Davis and Gil Evans into the milieu of Spanish music that helped to inspire the classic Davis-Evans album Sketches Of Spain. His venture is a work in progress. This CD demonstrates the results so far. “Monk’s Dream (Monk’s Soniquete)” with Gonzalez overdubbed on multiple horns to the accompaniment of flamenco hand-clapping rhythm is, as they say in Madrid, un viaje.c

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  1. Annie Anderson says

    All the Blueprints Of Jazz records release dates changed. Oct was the original release date for BOJ 2, however, it has moved to Feb 17th.
    Annie Anderson
    Talking House Records
    Director of Marketing and Distribution

  2. GordonSapsed says

    I was delighted to see that you found time for ‘The Art of Conversation” by Mike Melvoin and Kim Park. I found it accidentally last month when looking for a way to use up my monthly ‘download’ allocation and have been playing it almost continuously ever since.
    With the approach of the festive season it’s also worth mentioning (again) – the 2 CD set which Mike Melvoin produced following David Abell’s death. That surely is the kind of hard-to find rarity that jazz piano lovers should each own, but probably don’t – and it helps a good cause. You covered it here on Rifftides (La Davida Bella)

  3. says

    Thank you so much for bringing the Melvoin/Park date to my attention. It has not been out of my CD player since it arrived. Some wonderful playing by both gentlemen. Although I had been familar with Kim Park’s name, this is the first time I’ve heard him play — Wow!

  4. c. stanley says

    Glad to see some appreciation of the Piratos del Flamenco recording. I’ve been listening to it for four years and get deeper and deeper into it every time. Genre bridging AND deeply soulful…a great combination.