Art Pepper, Unreleased Art, Vol V (Widow’s Taste). Laurie Pepper continues to bring forth CDs of previously unreleased works by her husband. An alto saxophonist who hurled himself into his music, Pepper’s astonishing energy did not flag in this concert recorded in Stuttgart, Germany in 1981, the year before his death. His formidable rhythm section was pianist Milcho Leviev, bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Carl Burnett. Opening with an exuberant “True Blues,” the two CDs include Pepper reprising his beloved “Over the Rainbow,” jousting at length with Leviev on “Make a List (Make a Wish),” enjoying himself on clarinet in “Avalon” and wrapping up fiercely with a jet-speed “Cherokee.”
Archives for June 2010
Gail Pettis, Here in the Moment (OA2). Pettis’s second album makes firm the promise of her first. To her deep contralto, clear diction and centered intonation she adds phrasing and tonal fillips that give her vocals identifiable personality. Among the indicators of her command, maturity and substantial jazz sensibility are the delight in her voice as she begins her bluesy take on “At Last,” a joyful whoop on the last word in “Day in Day Out,” her reflective treatment of the lyric of “The Very Thought of You,” and judicious but expert scatting on “Nature Boy.” As on 2007’s May I Come In, Mark Ivester is the drummer throughout, with Darin Clendenin and Randy Halberstadt alternating on piano and Clipper Anderson or Jeff Johnson on bass; superb accompaniment for a rising singer.
Coleman Hawkins, Live In ’62 & ’64 (Jazz Icons). Cameras caught the patriarch of the tenor saxophone (1904-1969) during a final period at the top of his game. The concert in Belgium suffers slightly at the hands, and sticks, of drummer Kansas Fields, who plays well but has difficulty containing his solos. Hawkins is magisterial, as he is two years later in London, where Harry “Sweets” Edison joins him on trumpet, along with Sir Charles Thompson on piano and Jo Jones on drums. Jimmy Woode is the bassist in both concerts. George Arvanitas is the pianist in Belgium. Video and audio quality are acceptable in Belgium, superb in the BBC broadcast. This is a rare opportunity to witness at length the master’s undiminished creative power late in his career.
Jack Fuller, What Is Happening To News (Chicago). Concerned about the fragmentation, dilution and manipulation news? So is Fuller. The veteran journalist worked his way up from reporter to CEO of a media conglomerate, then stepped out of the profession. Now he is using his Pulitzer Prize-winning skills to write about why, in a sophisticated media age, the primitive part of our brain lets trivia, opinion and emotion crowd out substance. Fuller believes that there are new ways to apply old values and restore the full, complex and balanced flow of information that citizens need to run a democracy. This is an important book.
The latest Doug’s Picks appear in the center column. They are:
â€¢ CDs by two fiery alto saxophonists and a satisfying singer
â€¢ A concert DVD by the man who first poured jazz into a tenor sax
â€¢ A book that considers the shallowness of so much of the news we watch, hear and readand what might be done about it
The Rifftides staff is feverishly preparing a new batch of Doug’s Picks. (Well, all right, langorously preparing.) In the meantime, part three of that 1972 Brubeck concert in Rotterdam has appeared. If you have missed the previous installments, it’s the Brubeck Trio with Jack Six, bass, and Alan Dawson, drums. Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond were guests on the Newport Jazz Festival tour. Here is “Take the ‘A’ Train,” with notably muscular solos by Mulligan and Brubeck and Desmond in contrast with floating long tones.
The YouTube contributor who posted the Dave Brubeck-Paul Desmond-Gerry Mulligan “All The Things You Are” video we brought you last month promised that there would be more. He is as good as his word. The piece that Brubeck announces seems likely to be from his 1972 oratorio Truth Is Fallen, or in preparation for it. The work was inspired by a passage from Isaiah:
“And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street and equity cannot enter.”Isaiah 59:14
The YouTube screen information says that the concert was in 1971. My Brubeck sources say that it was in 1972 in Holland as part of a Newport Jazz Festival tour. But why quibble? Whatever the year, it’s good to have this in such high quality. Jack Six is the bassist, Alan Dawson the drummer.
Manfred Eicher’s ECM label, still celebrating the 40th anniversary it observed late last year, has reissued some of its landmark recordings. Many of them are on CD for the first time. Over the decades, ECM has achieved nearly infallible sound reproduction of a broad and eclectic range of musicians including such disparate label mates as Arvo PÃ¤rt, Andres Schiff, Keith Jarrett, John Cage, Kim Kashkashian, Iva BittovÃ¡, Johann Sebastian Bach and the Art Ensemble of Chicago.
The label evolved with attention to core jazz and classical values side by side with a sonic expansiveness that led to an identifiable Northern European aspect of what was to become known as world music. Four of ECM’s reissue sets are by artists who personified changes that moved through jazz in the 1970s. All of the musicians but one remain active, and all have built on the stylistic and popular success they developed with ECM.
Steve Kuhn, Life’s Backward Glances (ECM). In his mid-thirties when Eicher persuaded him in 1974 to record the solo album Ecstasy, Kuhn had played piano for John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Art Farmer and Kenny Dorham. Eight years earlier, when he was the featured soloist in Gary McFarland’s October Suite, he demonstrated that he thought beyond bop harmonies, with romantic expansiveness. Kuhn employed his massive technique to achieve the tenderness epitomized by “Silver” in the Ecstacy album. He was just as convincing with his power and controlled wildness, as in “Oceans in the Sky” from the quartet album Motility (1977), which features the atmospherics of Steve Slagle’s soprano saxophone. Joining Ecstasy and Motility in the box is Playground (1979), the first recorded instance of Kuhn’s celebrated partnership with Sheila Jordan. Unexpected from ECM, the audio mix occasionally all but obscures the intelligibility, but not the passion, of Jordan’s singing in this collection of Kuhn’s songs. Ironically, her voice has the greatest clarity in the wordless vocalizing on “Deep Tango.”
Kuhn’s soloing and his interaction with bassist Harvie Swartz and drummer Bob Moses are exquisite in Playground. Kuhn has frequently recorded “Life’s Backward Glance,” which inspired the title of the box set. In Ecstasy, he introduces the song as a solo piano piece. In the quartet version with Jordan five years later, he gives it a lyric, and a home-key change. Kuhn’s originality as a composer is evident in that piece, “Tomorrow’s Thoughts,” “The Rain Forest,” “The Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers;” indeed, throughout all three CDs.
Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette, Setting Standards (ECM).
Twenty-seven years ago, jazz was reaching, even flailing, in all directions. Despite a retro movement headed by Wynton Marsalis, many jazz musicians were determined to detach from a past represented by the songs of their parents and grandparents. Freedom from formal restrictions and concentration on original composition brought a deluge of individual material. It also brought stultifying boredom created by album after album of tunes by youngsters inspired by the inventiveness of the Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Tom Harrell generation but who were composers only in the sense that they were putting notes on paper. It is unlikely that pianist Jarrett, bassist Peacock and drummer DeJohnette set out in 1983 to preserve anything other than their own sense of stability in a shifting jazz scene. Still, their first albums of standards and the flow of the trio’s concerts and CDs that followed emphasized what gifted players can do with the rich cache of great songs at the core of popular music.
Their success has encouraged jazz musicians everywhere to make the Great American song book a living part of their repertoires. That’s a public service. The Jarrett trio’s recordings are a legacy of passionate, involved andâ€”dare I use the word?â€”entertaining music. I haven’t had a better time in weeks than listening again to the extended down-home romp the three develop in “God Bless the Child.” Their interdependence, interaction and individuality seems to have formed spontanteously in these initial sessions in January of 1983. It has flourished ever since. After their interpretations of “Moon and Sand,” “All the Things You Are,” “If I Should Lose You” and eight other superior songs in Standards Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, the Changes album of original compositions follows logically in the same spirit. “Flying” and “Prism” remind us what a gifted composer Jarrett was. We may presume, if he decides to write again, that he still is.
Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Crystal Silence (ECM). The original 1972 LP Crystal Silence became a model and inspiration for duo performances in modern jazz. The album melding Burton’s vibraphone and Corea’s piano followed a spontaneous concert performance by the two. It may have been inspired in part by pianist Bill Evans and guitarist Jim Hall in their albums Undercurrent (1962) and Intermodulation (1966). Burton and Corea were extravagant admirers of Evans and Hall. In any case, the pairing was so successful, it established a partnership that has thrived for nearly four decades and produced a body of chamber music that is among the most rewarding andâ€”because of the virtuosity and ingenuity of the playersâ€”complex contemporary chamber music on record in any genre.
This box of four CDs brings Crystal Silence together with 1978’s Duet and two discs of In Concert, recorded in Zurich the following year but never released complete until now. Many of the pieces included here have become jazz standards, among them “Falling Grace,” “Arise, Her Eyes” and “I’m Your Pal,” all by Steve Swallow; Burton’s “SeÃ±or Mouse;” and “La Fiesta,” “Bud Powell” and several “Children’s Songs” by Corea. During the late 1960s and the ’70s both Corea and Burton led or were involved in bands fusing jazz with other styles. Most of those projects, however successful musically, tend to sound dated because of the electronic keyboards and stringed instruments they used. Granted, Burton’s vibes are electrified, but by the seventies their sound was an established element of the jazz landscape. Nearly forty years later, swirling, darting and jousting with Corea’s piano, their freshness is undiminished. The restored concert material allows us to hear for the first time on record stunning solo performances by both musicians, Corea on “Love Castle,” Burton in a medley of “I’m Your Pal’ and “Hullo Bolinas.”
Eberhard Weber, Colours (ECM). Perhaps more than any other ECM artist, the German bassist Weber set what in many minds came to be the label’s signature sound. The foundation was in the passionate and virtuosic way he played his electrified standup bass modified with an extra string, and in the sheer size of its amplified sound. In a way that created a sense of capaciousness, Eicher and his engineers mixed Weber’s bass and Rainer BrÃ¼ninghaus’s synthesized keyboards with John Marshall’s or John Christensen’s drums and Charlie Mariano’s soprano sax and assortment of flutes and exotic winds. At the same time, the recording technique etched the sound of each instrument to achieve crystalline definition. The music had intimacy but seemed to float in space. Weber’s hypnotic compositional style had much in common with minimalists like Steve Reich and Terry Riley. His music could be soporific, but at its frequent best, as in this set, it was compelling.
Weber’s breakthrough album, The Colours of ChloÃ«, is not included in this box, but it led him to form a working group and ultimately name his band Colours. The three albums in the set, Yellow Fields, Silent Feet and Little Movements, cover 1975 through 1980 and represent the ethos that intrigued such fellow musicians as Burton, Jaco Pastorius and John McLaughlin and endeared Weber to legions of listeners who might otherwise never have come near jazz. For dedicated jazz people, Mariano’s fiery soprano sax work on pieces like “Left Lane” and “Seriously Deep,” and the cymbal-splashed drumming of Marshall and Christensen, are likely to hold the most interest, but there is no denying the forceful pull of Weber’s music. In a solo like that on “The Last Stages of a Long Journey,” he makes clear that he was a formidable improviser. His 1980 “Little Movements” remains one of the most startling examples on record of humor wrapped into a serious piece of music. Weber is recovering from a 2008 stroke.
Steve Wilson, alto saxophone, and Lewis Nash, drums, playing Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma” at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania
With his permission, I occasionally steal from Bill Crow’s “Band Room” column of anecdotes in the American Federation of Musicians Union Local 802 newspaper Allegro. The latest theft is below.
First, a preamble for those who have been living in a box for several decades: Maynard Ferguson (1928-2006) was a trumpeter who played extremely high and extremely loud.
David Lucas, who now lives in Boca Raton, sent me this one. In the late 1960’s, Dave and Mike Abene went to the Metropole to hear Maynard Ferguson’s band. Mike had been in Maynard’s youth band. On the break, Dave and Mike went across the street to the Copper Rail, where many musicians hung out. A man was hunched over the bar who they recognized as Coleman Hawkins. They went over to say hello, and Mike asked, “Hawk, have you been across the street to hear Maynard?” Without looking up from his drink, Hawkins replied, “I don’t have to go across the street to hear Maynard.”
To see all of Mr. Crow’s June column, go here. The Rifftides staff thanks him for his generosity.
Bill Mays, on tour in Japan, sent a link to a Japanese web log called…
Rifftide:å¾Œè—¤ èª ã®JAZZ and other matters..
What a surprise. The blog seems to be operated by someone identified as Makotogotoh. If you go thereand if you know Japaneseyou can read a review of a Mays performance with the guitarist Yoshiaki Masuo.
The more blogs the merrier, I guess; and good names are so hard to come by.
When Roger Kellaway isn’t performing in a club or concert, or practicing and composing at home, chances are he’s out collecting honors. Recently, he picked up two in the city where he grew up, Boston. For one event, he and his friend Quincy Jones dressed in black gowns and medieval hats to receive honorary doctorates from Kellaway’s alma mater, the New England Conservatory of Music. For another, he heard his music played by the Boston Pops. The news may have been in all of the Boston papers, but we heard it by way of the semi-weekly newspaper in Ojai, Kellaway’s longtime mountain valley home in Southern California. To read the story, go here.
For a Rifftides review of a recent Kellaway album, see this Doug’s Pick.
And from out of Kellaway’s past, here he is accompanying Zoot Sims and soloing at the belated Donte’s club in Los Angeles in 1970. Chuck Berghofer is the bassist, Larry Bunker the drummer. The tune is Ferde Grofe’s “On The Trail.”
For those still thinking about Paul Desmond, Iola Brubeck sent a lovely comment with a poem. To read it, click here.
Devotees of jazz and poetry or of poetry about jazz will want to read Ed Leimbacher’s new entry on his I Witness blog. He wraps together several samples and a review of a poetry collection, and offers this:
Like any other art at its best, certain pieces about Jazz can make you “stop breathing” for a moment, reflecting emotion… thought… admiration… wonder.
The form is not going to revolutionize either jazz or poetry but it is going to stay with us, and both jazz and poetry are going to have one new way of expressing themselves, and so are going to be just a little richer.Kenneth Rexroth
I never drowned out one word of whatever Jack was reading or making up on the spot … and he never drowned out or stepped on a word or interrupted a thought that I or anyone else had … in these late night-early morning get-togethers.David Amram on collaborating with Jack Kerouac