The long-playing 33&1/3 RPM record is far from dead. Following up on the July 12 Rifftides review of Duck Baker’s LP of Thelonious Monk compositions, here are three other relatively recent vinyl albums worthy of your acquaintance.
Rudresh Mahanthappa Indo-Pak Coalition, Agrima (Mahanthappa)
Nine years following their first album, Apti,alto saxophonist Mahanthappa’s trio further expand on the possibilities in combining music from his double heritage, American and Pakistani. Accompanied by the formidably energetic drummer and tabla player Dan Weiss and Rez Abassi—a searching guitarist also of Pakistani heritage—Mahanthappa includes a canny use of electronics to paint brilliant, sometimes startling, colors across a shifting landscape that is rocked by Weiss’s tectonic rumblings when he is not being lyrical (yes, a drummer can be lyrical). In “Revati,” the album’s longest piece, the three develop compelling interaction. In “Alap,” the short track that introduces the double album, Mahanthappa establishes his alto saxophone mastery and individualism. He underlines those attributes throughout this stimulating collaboration.Mahanthappa produced the album and seems to be distributing it digitally and physically from his website at rudreshm.com
Gary Bartz NTU Troop, Harlem Bush Music Uhuru (Milestone)
Issued in 1971, this album captured Bartz during the period when he was with Miles Davis’s band as Davis was beginning
to experiment with rock music and electronics. Bartz eventually moved into those areas, but this reissue finds the saxophonist collaborating with vocalist Andy Bey on “Blue (A Folk Tale),” which ranges through the blues in a variety of stylistic approaches. “Vietcong” is a protest against US involvement in a war that was becoming increasingly unpopular. Bey’s vocals tend to dominate the second side of the LP, but Bartz’s alto solos provide welcome compensation, notably in his forthright blowing on the piece called “The Planets.” Bassist Ron Carter, percussionist Nat Bettis and drummer Harold White are a powerful rhythms section. Juni Booth substitutes for Carter on “Vietcong.”
Matthew Lux’s Communication Arts Quartet (Astral Spirits)
Lux is a Chicago bassist who has worked with a variety of musicians from the city’s mainstream to the avant garde, George Freeman to Rob Mazurek and beyond. His quartet includes the intriguing cornetist Ben Lama Gay and Jayve Montgomery, whose multiple instruments include something called the clarinumpet. The notes imply that Lux wrote all of the pieces except for one named “Gris/Bleu,” which is credited to tenor saxophonist Lester Young. It required three hearings of that short track at the end of the album for me to realize that the tune is a transcription of Young’s indelible solo on “Fine And Mellow” from Billie Holiday’s appearance on the 1957 CBS program The Sound Of Jazz. Why that fact is withheld from record buyers is a mystery. To the best of my knowledge, an improvised solo can’t be copyrighted and, in any case, Prez isn’t around to sue. Regardless of that, outcats seem to be thriving in Chicago, and this electronics- and rhythm-laden LP of Lux’s helps to prove it
PS: If it has been a while since you have seen and heard the Holiday-Young “Fine And Mellow,” let’s enjoy it together. Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Gerry Mulligan, Doc Cheatham, Roy Eldridge, Danny Barker, Milt Hinton, Mal Waldron and Osie Johnson are also involved.