Friday, December 31, 2004

White Stripes - Under Blackpool Lights DVD (V2, 2004)

This is The White Stripes first officially released concert DVD, and it captures the entirety of a concert in England from the 2003 Elephant tour. The cinematography is a little self-consciously "indie" and the the film is left with a grainy and raw quality, much like the band's music.There are a couple of different cameras used on stage and then few shots from handheld cameras in the audience.

The music itself is excellent, Jack and Meg have really hit their stride performing live. Whereas some of their earlier performances had a jumply hyperactive quality, they have now learned to pace their material for dramatic effect without losing any of the raw energy that makes them so exciting. Highlights are many, but of particular note are Jack's slide guitar playing on Son House's immortal "Death Letter Blues" which also works in the House classic "Grinnin' in Your Face" as well. Leadbells really inspires the band and they take great pleasure in performing "Boll Wevil Blues" as the set ender. Original material shines as well, from the bluesy grind of "Ball and Biscuit" to the relative tranquility of "Apple Blossom." All in all, a superb performance and highly recommended to fans of garage rock.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

More year-end lists

Newsday has a list of Gene Seymour's favorite jazz CDs in addition to some pop and rock lists:

Lots more women on my list this year than usual. And they're not all singers, either. What to make of it? Just say for now that it's a very good thing to see. In any case, it's nowhere near as surprising as the fact that Keith Jarrett (my jazz musician of 2004, by the way) made this list for the first time and that I actually have a Marsalis brother to single out for special praise this year.

Also, the venerable New York Times has it's best jazz list, which is coming under heavy fire at the Jazzcorner Speakeasy for their conservative choices. A much more interesting list comes from the Village Voice.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Top Ten Non - Jazz

Mission of Burma – On Off On: A punk band comes back from a 20 year layoff and makes music equal to or better that the music of their youth – are you kidding me?

Libertines – (self titled): Pete Doherty’s drug problems had the band on the edge of extinction the whole way, but they still manage to hold together for another excellent album.

Franz Ferdinand – (self titled): Punk goes pop, and this is my guilty pleasure of the year.

Elvis Costello – Delivery Man: I originally wrote this off as another one of Elvis’ genre experiments, but happily it’s a blasting country rock album. A couple of dead spots on the ballads, but overall it’s a winner.

Joe Louis Walker – New Direction: Joe Louis Walker may just be the most consistently great bluesman of his generation. While this album may be titled New Direction, the music remains a mix of gutbucket blues and deep soul - the patented Joe Louis Walker sound.

Jody Williams – You Kept Me In the Dark: Ever since coming out of retirement a few years ago this former Howlin’ Wolf sideman has become a force on the blues scene.

The Blasters – Live (Going Home): Traditional rock and roll at its finest, a couple of guitars, bass, drums and a horn section… what more do you need?

Wilco – A Ghost is Born: I think the unexpected addition of experimental guitar hero Nels Cline was the real difference in improving the band’s reach over the overrated Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

The Black Keys – Rubber Factory: Scalding blues rock from this great duo. Greasy, stripped to the bone and raw.

Futureheads – (self titled): Another punk-pop band out of England, riding in Franz Ferdinand’s wake, but possibly even more talented.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, December 27, 2004

Top 10 Jazz 2004

10. Albert Ayler - Holy Ghost

Too big with dodgy sound and superfluous material, it's still a fascinating artifact of Ayler's development in a live setting. From warped bebopper to free jazz Messiah to gospel r&b this is quite a package.

9. The Bad Plus - Give

A moldy fig's worst nightmare, The Bad Plus continue their mix of jazz and pop, creating an acoustic fusion all their own.

8. Dead Cat Bounce - Home Speaks to the Wandering

An out of left field disc, this creative group from Boston keeps alive the swinging bluesy jazz that Charles Mingus' groups made famous.

7. Sam Rivers - Celebration

Recorded just prior to his 80th (!) birthday, Rivers switches effortlessly between tenor and soprano sax, flute and piano. The ageless one.

6. Fred Hersch - Fred Hersch Trio + 2

After years of playing solo or trio formats Hersch hooks up with a couple of horns and proves that his lyrical, thoughtful style of piano is comfortable in any setting.

5. Dave Douglas - Strange Liberation

Dave Douglas and Bill Frisell seemed like a match made in heaven and the music bore this out. Not a polite meeting of leaders, this disc had a true group feel to it.

4. Chris Potter - Lift

Chris Potter adds his name to an impressive array of musicians who have made their mark at the Village Vanguard.

3. Marilyn Crispell Trio - Storyteller

Beautiful, haunting piano music. Crispell and her colleagues play music that is crystalline and elegiac but never maudlin or sentimental.

2. Don Braden - The New Hang

Braden's New Hang is pretty close to his old hang. If there was any saxophonist today who was meant to play with a groovin' organ trio, he is it. At any tempo from cooker to ballad, the group just nails it.

1. Susie Ibarra - Folkloriko

When I saw Susie Ibarra's trio in concert a few years ago I know they were on the verge of something great and this proves it. Portraying the day of a Filipono laborer in music, the music is exploratory and deeply moving.

Honorable mention:

Jenny Scheinman - Shalagaster
Branford Marsalis - The Steep Anthology
Cecil Taylor & the Italian Instabile Orchestra - The Owner of the Riverbank
Spaceways Inc. VS. Zü - Radiale
Vincent Herring - Mr. Wizzard
John Scofield Trio - EnRoute: Live
Greg Osby - Public
David Murray - Gwotet
Vandermark 5 - Elements Of Style, Exercises In Surprise
Myra Melford's The Tent - Where the Two Worlds Touch
Andrew Hill Jazzpar Octet + 1 - The Day the World Stood Still
Charles Mingus - The Great Concert Of Charles Mingus
Tim Berne's Big Satan - Souls Saved Hear
Thelonious Monk - Monk 'Round The World
Geri Allen - Life of a Song
Grachan Moncour III - Exploration
Charlie Hunter & Bobby Previte's Groundtruther - Latitude
Bill Frisell - Unspeakable
Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts - Wake Up! (to what's happening)
Sam Rivers/Adam Rudolph/Harris Eisenstadt - Vista
Alice Coltrane - Translinear Light
Larry Young - Of Love and Peace
Jimmy Smith - Retrospective
Peter Brotzmann - Medicina
Nels Cline Singers - The Giant Pin

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Son House - The Original Delta Blues (Columbia 1965, 1998)

This was part of Columbia/Legacy's endless recycling of their back catalog. Actually, it's pretty slick marketing (before the so-called "year of the blues," no less) to bring together pithy one disc collections of the best known blues musicians on their roster and then put them out for a bargain price. Son House was one of the most famous of the original bluesmen, the one who had a young Robert Johnson sitting at his feet to learn from the best.

Young white scholars and musicians like John Fahey traveled through the south in the early 1960's searching for the music of the pre-war blues and the men and women that made it and one of the musicians that they helped to prominence on the folk blues circuit was Son House. House hadn't recorded for more than 25 years when this music was committed to tape in 1965, but you would hardly know it. Of all the "rediscovered" musicians, Son House was the one who kept the most passion of his earlier music, whether it be the a capella of "Grinnin' in Your Face" or "John the Revelator" or the intense slide guitar of "Death Letter" and his own epic "Preachin' the Blues."

While these may be a touch behind the epochal recordings House made in the 30's and 40's, they have their own special magic. It's ironic that although Johnson gets all the print, his mentor has had the last laugh with one of those rare "second acts" in American music.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Interesting Articles

The New York Times has an interesting article where they sent a reporter to listen to some CD's with Wayne Shorter:

Mr. Shorter, 71, may get oracular in his everyday conversations, but jazz musicians are often this way, to one degree or another. And while there is no better way to find out what's going on in their music than to ask, you have to find the right way in. Talking about music objectively, while not listening to it, is to superimpose one form over another: it pits the literary or critical endeavor against the musical. Asking a creative musician pointed questions about his discography can be dull, and asking him about the implications of an interval that he has written, or a solo he has improvised, can be nearly rude: he didn't make it to talk about it, he made it to play it.

And Fred Kaplan of Slate Magazine lists his favorite jazz records of the past year:

It was a good year for jazz recordings. Yes, sales continued to slip, a few more labels shut their doors, and the next John Coltrane or Charlie Parker—some genius-messiah who transcends all boundaries and pushes jazz to a startling new level—failed, once again, to materialize. Still, young musicians scaled new heights, elders renewed their spirits, and, in the reissue bins, forgotten masterworks returned to astonish us.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, December 24, 2004


Recent bittorret downloads have included a White Stripes concert from Chicago from 2002. It’s a typically solid set of garage rock from Meg and Jack, who will hopefully have a new album out in 2005. There is a new concert DVD that was just (officially) released. I was very excited to find a Chris Potter video CD for downloading. It looks pretty good although I’ve been saving it for when I have time to watch it straight through. It features a very interesting band including CraigTaborn and Wayne Krantz. Finally, a rare show from blues legend Mississippi John Hurt – this was a real find, I’ve never seen any of his material available for trading or downloading before. It’s a wonderful concert of is intricate finger-picked guitar and gentle vocals.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, December 23, 2004

NPR on Fat Possum

NPR ran a story over the weekend about the Fat Possum blues and roots record label:

Fat Possum Records, based in Oxford, Miss., is an independent label founded as a platform for gritty bluesmakers R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. But as the label's artists have grown old and some have died, NPR's Jesse Baker reports on a shift to a new generation of blues-oriented alternative rock.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Sad Blues News

Chicago blues musician Son Seals has passed away:

Blues singer-guitarist Son Seals, one of the most distinctive voices to emerge in the genre during the 1970s, died Monday in Chicago of complications from diabetes. He was 62.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Otis Rush – Ain’t Enough Comin’ In (This Way Up, 1994)

This was my album of the year for 1994, so revisiting it brought back fond memories. Otis Rush hadn’t recorded in nearly ten years when this album was cut, and there were whispers that he was past his prime. Not so by a long shot – Rush, who had cut classic upon classic in the mid to late 1950’s had put together a checkered record of albums since then, but this brought it all together for this project – scalding guitar work, soulful vocals and a tight band with a killer horn section.

The album itself is a finely produced mix of up-tempo burners and mournful ballads. On the up-tempo front, there is the swaggering re-make of Rush’s classic “Homework” featuring some killer horn work and the swinging “She’s a Good’un” while the slow tempoed songs allow him to really stretch out with some beautiful single-line guitar playing and deeply emotional singing on songs like “My Jug and I” and the heartbreakingly intense “As the Years Go Passing By.”

This is one not to miss if you can find it, since I’m not sure if it’s still in print. Rush’s epochal 1950’s sides stand as some of the finest electric blues ever made, but these don’t stand too far behind, as an example of an older and wiser musician who still has a lot to say.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, December 20, 2004

Albert Ayler Holy Ghost Review

I found the review of the Holy Ghost boxed set in the New York Times by Ben Ratliff that I alluded to yesterday, here's the full text:

JAZZ musicians are often mythologized, but in the case of the tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler, the effect is so extreme that he has become an abstraction, swathed in Baptist-church language, the revolutionary rhetoric of the mid-60's Black Arts movement, and hot-palmed record-collector desire. ''Holy Ghost,'' a new boxed set of his work put out by the Revenant label, is his worshipful monument.

It is a black plastic box containing nine discs, a partial facsimile edition of an issue of ''The Cricket,'' the magazine of which Amiri Baraka was one of the editors, and an oblong, hardcover, 208-page book of essays and data, tracking Ayler's life up, down and sideways. There are copies of a snapshot depicting the prepubescent Albert with saxophone and of a flyer from the nightclub Slug's along with a real pressed flower in a plastic sleeve. It feels funereal, like something that should be buried with the body. Or mutely symbolic, like some totem in a dream.

Ayler himself seems like dream material. In 1970, at 34, he was found drowned in New York's East River -- it's still unknown whether it was suicide -- after practicing eight years of a kind of jazz stripped of all its niceties, its complex rules of harmony and rhythm. As much as he loved Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker, he apparently had no desire to learn how to improvise through chord changes, the most basic obligation of a jazz saxophonist.
So his songs, and his improvisations, finally tended to use basic, major-triad harmony. Anthems, hymns and marches often use major triads, too, and thereby he cracked a secret: he figured out a way to make music that sounded ancient and somehow inevitable.
The box set's accompanying book repeats one story, over and over again, with different names and places. It is about Ayler, in his early performing years, eagerly sitting in on a bandstand, following along for a few bars of the standard material the band is playing. (It's ''Moanin''' in one anecdote, ''How High the Moon,'' in another, ''Billie's Bounce'' in a third -- but it doesn't matter.) And then Ayler explodes, in some mixture of rapture, one-upmanship and free-tonality improvisational zeal. He shrieks and cries through his instrument, and uses his one professional refinement -- a big tone and vibrato learned from playing in R&B bands. The other musicians, or the promoter, or the fans drop their drinks, or stalk off stage, or drag Ayler away.

It sounds like an exaggeration, an idealization, some kind of special pleading. Or, again, like a dream: stepping up to a practiced bandstand and offering primitivism instead of professionalism is a little like the one about showing up to school with no clothes on. But Ayler probably knew why he was there; both his ruckus and his melodies make historical sense. He was under the trance of Ornette Coleman's first records, sensing the possibilities in jazz of looser tonal relationships, stronger folk elements, and wilder playing. He had been playing marches for three years, with the 76th United States Army band in Orleans, France. And he was -- perhaps -- starting to come undone with religious visions.

Ayler's acquaintances report that he talked a great deal about ''the truth'' and ''holiness.'' He insisted that the music is out there, and musicians are just vessels. ''You think it's about you?'' he once asked Amiri Baraka, after reading his appraisal of someone-or-other's jazz. He spoke about visions, and once wrote them down in a letter to Mr. Baraka: ''The Devil angel thrives off of uncleanliness, curse words, blasphemy and discord.''

Ayler wasn't naive. He was creating some crossing-point of gospel and shock, art-brut flung up to God; his technical ability may have been rudimentary, but he had a killer sense of how to spook jazz bohemians of the early 1960's down to the core. Even in jazz, there can be something beyond technique -- some intuitive form of style -- and Ayler had it.
The producers of ''Holy Ghost'' have prowled the margins of Ayleriana to put out material that isn't well-known and protected by license. The best of Albert Ayler? To me it is ''Spiritual Unity'' (1964, ESP); ''The Hilversum Session'' (1964, Coppens); ''Albert Ayler Live in Greenwich Village'' (1965-67, Impulse). What they've found isn't all good; with such slender technique, there are no guarantees. Let's say you are a Type-B Ayler appreciator, someone who doesn't actually feel that he was the Holy Ghost. How do you work through it?
There's some instructive juvenilia here: on a bonus disc, rehearsals of his Army band in 1960, with Ayler soloing ineptly during the big band standard ''Leap Frog.'' There's a chilling recording of the concentrated little set Ayler played at Coltrane's memorial. And there are two entire discs of Ayler being interviewed. He's all sweetly credulous enthusiasm: his speaking voice exposes him. The conversations provide more details -- his parents' illnesses, his pay scale ($10,000 for his final Impulse contract), endless homilies about the challenge to the avant-garde artist in society. But if you can get through them, someone should devote a nine-disk box set to you.

This Type-B Ayler appreciator really only wants to hear the best of the 1965-1967 period, when Ayler moved from a free, liquid concept of group improvisation toward the sound of a band repeating his national-anthem-like melodies, over and over and over, in a kind of fractured unison. There's a surfeit of it here, much of it with muffled sound.

And please, save me from the original demos behind the album ''New Grass,'' his 1968 album of spiritual R&B cut with reputable session players -- a record ultimately compromised by Impulse Records, which hired singers and musicians against Ayler's plan. But the demos here show that the album didn't start promisingly, either.

Here's the good news. At the end of disc one, and for nearly all of disc two, we get a sense of how Albert Ayler spent 1964. This is the music that approaches a state of grace. It is his trio with the bassist Gary Peacock and the drummer Sunny Murray, and they play the most extraordinary music: it begins with and returns to little motifs, but is essentially free jazz, a very early example of the real thing -- long, exploratory solos of shapes and texture with no determined key, players moving in and out of a running stream.

And here's where I will join the mythmakers: these three musicians are in a trance. They make light, dancing music -- Sunny Murray, in particular, made his cymbals sound like running water. (Around this time, he was seen onstage using knitting needles for sticks.) Mr. Peacock played all over his instrument in almost random patterns, coming down on a fat, resonant low E once in a while. But there is space in the music: if free jazz often suffers from an oppressive density, don't blame these father-figures.

Here, there's nothing gratuitous about Ayler's saxophone language. As he demonstrates in ''Saints,'' he believed that there could be such a thing as a free-improvisation ballad. He doesn't clonk you over the head with what would become his sure tactics: volume, repetition, or the hint of old-time religion. That he played music on such a high level, then hardened it into a routine and finally lost his way, seems the saddest and most real story; much of the rest of the book of Ayler feels like apocrypha.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A couple more articles...

The first is from the New York Times, about the boxed sets that have been realeased for the holiday season. I don't remember seeing their review of the Ayler set, I'll have to search the archives:

Throughout the CD era, record labels have delved into their archives to create boxed sets for musicians well known and obscure. Now they're digging deeper, not just for hits and album tracks, but for outtakes, concert recordings, rehearsal tapes and hotel-room demos. Where a boxed set used to sum up a career, now it's just as likely to be an alternative history of musicians' second thoughts and might-have-beens. Here, the pop and jazz critics of The New York Times review notable boxed sets of three CD's or more. Other major boxed sets, including collections of Nirvana and Albert Ayler, were reviewed earlier this year.

Here is an interview with Esbjörn Svensson, leader of the Swedish jazz trio E.S.T. by Josh Weiner of

Pianist Esbjörn Svensson leads the Swedish group EST, one of the most exciting and original piano trios in jazz today. They've been playing together for over 10 years, an extraordinary length of time for a jazz lineup, and have known each other much longer than that.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Thanks to John for sending me this cool picture of Albert Ayler - this is also featured in the book that comes with the Holy Ghost boxed set.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Pharoah Sanders Article

There's in interesting article about Pharoah Sanders by Jennifer Odell on, here's an excerpt:

But with Sanders, it's not quite that black and white. His improvisation is based on a carefully learned language, and academia is in his blood. Growing up in Little Rock, Ark., both of his parents taught music for a living. After high school, Ferrell (his given name) studied art and music at Oakland Junior High. When he came on the New York scene in the early '60s - known as “Little Rock” after his hometown - Sun Ra took an interest in his style and took him under his wing, where another kind of education ensued.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Velvet Underground - Live at Max's Kansas City (Rhino 1972, 2004)

This was recorded during Lou Reed's final stand with the group, a residency at the famous New York club in the summer of 1970. At this point only Reed and Sterling Morrison were left from the original band, with John Cale leaving a few years before and then Maureen Tucker leaving to raise a family, Doug and Billy Yule took over on bass and drums respectively. This was originally released as a single record from bootleg quality audience recordings and the re-release adds another disc of music and cleans up the audio a little, although the barfly chatter still overwhelms the group at points.

The first disc is the strongest of the two, holding most of the uptempo proto-punk songs that made the band famous (and infamous.) Opening with raucous versions of "I'm Waiting for the Man" and "White Light/White Heat" the band still shows a lot of energy even though Reed was clearly looking toward a solo career at this point. Three songs from thier final studio album Loaded appear on the first disc, notably the rock anthem to be "Sweet Jane."

Disc two slows things down a little bit with some of the ballad material the band recorded over their brief history. Reed and the band were capable of some beautiful ballads but sequencing five in row does tend to bog down the proceedings a little bit. That said, it's interesting to hear Reed try to wrap his New York croak around two Nico ballads, "I'll be Your Mirror" and "Femme Fatale." Things pick up at the end and the group rides off into the sunset appropiately enough with a second version of "Lonesome Cowboy Bill."

It's interesting to hear a cleaned up and expanded version of this record, and the liner notes are quite interesting too, setting the early 70's New York scene quite well. This set is really aimed at fans and rock historians however, and newcomers looking for a slice of the band at it's peek are advised to seek out the excellent two disc "1969 Live" recorded at verious venues on a tour the previous year.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Ken Vandermark Tour Diary

Ken Vandermark has posted the most recent entry in his tour diary. It's a wonder this guy ever gets a chance to rest given all of the touring and recording he does. Here's an excerpt from the diary:

London. Days off- reading, walking, writing, checking out the Tate. Trying to remember all that's happened since the end of October FME sessions... The fall has been an amazing recording period. In September SONORE live on tour, and the newest version of the TERRITORY BAND documented in Chicago. In October the last three concerts by Paul Lytton, Philipp Waschmann, and myself during our European tour were recorded- hoping the tapes sound good enough for a release, the music was incredible. Then Oslo for the FME "cave sessions," new material for a new album.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, December 13, 2004

Jazz in the Times

There have been a couple of interesting articles about jazz in the New York Times recently. First, a review of a Jenny Scheinman concert from the Tonic. I really liked her most recent CD and it's in the running for my top 10 which I am feverishly trying to compile. The second is a quick round-up for some jazz DVD's recently released, including Branford Marsalis' "A Love Supreme Live in Amsterdam" which I blogged about a while back.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Keith Jarrett – Impulse Recordings 1973-74 (Impulse, 1997)

These Keith Jarrett recordings are in the form of a five disc collection released by Impulse in the late 1990’s. This is Jarrett’s so-called “American” quartet with Dewey Redman on tenor saxophone and musette, Charlie Haden (a veteran of the classic Ornette Coleman quartet) on bass and Paul Motian on drums. With the success of Jarrett’s “Standard’s Trio” in the 1990’s and beyond, people may not realize that he was a prolific composer and bandleader in the 1970’s with a large number of excellent records for the Impulse label writing for this explosive group, that mixed the intensity of free jazz with the structure of modern compositional techniques.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, December 10, 2004

Albert Ayler – Holy Ghost Disc 6 (Revenant, 2004)

Disc six kicks off with the Ayler band recorded at the 1967 Newport Jazz Festival. The announcer introducing the band clearly doesn’t know what to make of the group, but they are well represented here with this pristine recording. A medley of “The Truth is Marching In” and “Omega” introduces the Newport crowd to some of Ayler’s familiar folk themes and the crowd takes it pretty well. “Japan” is a very interesting track – where the group has previously mined American folk and gospel, this branches out into an oriental theme which has a great delicate sound. “Our Prayer” ends their performance with a more typical blowout, mixing the free improvisation the band was known for with the spiritual music they were exploring.

Albert Ayler sits in with Pharoah Sanders’ group on “Venus” which is very interesting because it is one of the 20-minute spiritual dirges that Sanders was doing during this period. Their interplay is fascinating since they were considered two of the more “out” saxophonists of the period it’s interesting to compare the two in a live performance. A poorly recorded but poignant medley of “Love Cry” and “The Truth is Marching In” is included from John Coltrane’s funeral.

Finally we move into the truly bizarre, unreleased recordings from Ayler’s final period, where he was experimenting with vocals and pop song formats. The first recording of an untitled blues is OK, Ayler’s deep tone works well in an R&B context. But when he starts preaching on “Untitled Sermon” and singing on the mind-bendingly awful “Thank God for Women” things really go bad. I’m usually a staunch defender of late-period Ayler, but this is too much! When he’s not singing, things are OK, he’s playing the blues… but the lyrics are doggerel. Then end is a scatted version of one of his classic themes entitled “New Ghosts” which showed some promise for his vocals, but not much.

Send comments to: Tim
New issue of Downbeat

The new Downbeat is a bit of a strange proposition. It’s a “collector’s edition” in which they reprise some of their most famous (and infamous) articles and reviews of the past – I guess it beats paying writers for new copy! But seriously, there’s a real Ken Burns-ian sense of “jazz as a museum piece” with an issue like this.

Yes, they do have their best of 2004 CDs in this issue, a list of the four to five star reviews from the previous 11 months, but it seems like a missed opportunity to be celebrating the 1950’s and 60’s when 2004 saw its own share of excellent recordings. It is important to honor the noble dead for their achievements, but I think it is event more important to write about the living musicians who are working to further the music and keep it a progressive, forward thinking artform.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Albert Ayler - Holy Ghost Disc 5 (Revenant, 2004)

Disc five has a couple of explosive live performances from Europe in 1966. The band on this tour was Ayler tenor and soprano saxophones, Donald Ayler trumpet, Michael Smason violin, Bill Folwell bass and Beaver Harris drums. First from the Berlin Philharmonic we get a medley of "Ghosts" and "Bells" that stays pretty close to the original folk themes. "The Truth is Marching In" struts in with its fanfare theme before blasting into an improvisation. "Omega" is fascinating, nearly all melody, it’s a near-classical composition with a soft beauty that the band wasn’t really known for. It wouldn’t last - Don Ayler’s "Our Prayer" is one of the most violent improvisations in the entire box, or in the canon of jazz for that matter.

We move to a concert in Holland for the remainder of the disc with the same group. "Truth" gets another go-round with an intense violin solo leading into frenetic group improvisation. Ayler and Harris lock into an almost Coltrane/Jones mind-meld before the rest of the group comes barging back in. "Bells" enters with a shrieking cacophony led by Donald Ayler’s fire-spitting trumpet followed by a scraping violin solo, drum solo and then the horns re-enter for a full-speed run to... nowhere. They have a complete meltdown and the music grinds inexplicably to a halt.

Undaunted, the martial theme of "Spirits Rejoice" begins linking bowed bass and violin to nearly classical horn lines. There is some beautiful melodic interplay here between the horns and violin as Samson had become an integral part of the group by this point. What is fascinating about this performance is how the band is able to hold it’s fire and milk the most out of the melodic material that is available with quite a bit of restraint. The heavy lifting kicks in with the final track of the performance where fast group improvisation is built around a swirling violin solo.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Odds and Ends

There's a nice article in the Newark Star-Ledger in praise of Clark Terry, and for what it's worth, the Grammy nominations are in. You have to scroll way down for the Jazz and Blues nominations.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, December 06, 2004

The blog of the British Magazine Jazzwise has a short article about Wynton Marsalis' soundtrack to an upcoming documentary film by Ken Burns about the life and career of boxer Jack Johnson. Yes, that's the same Jack Johnson that inspired Miles Davis to make one of his finest fusion albums as... the soundtrack to a documentary film! The world is indeed filled with strange coincidences, however, I don't expect Marsalis to use loud electric guitar and Fender Rhodes piano on his soundtrack. Wouldn't it be something if he did... naah!

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Charles Mingus – The Great Concert of Charles Mingus (Verve 1964, 2004)

This concert from 1964 in Paris has been released many times both legitimately and as a bootleg. It’s a classic performance that actually lives up to its billing with one of the greatest Mingus ensembles: Eric Dolphy and Clifforn Jordon on saxophones, Jaki Byard on piano and Dannie Richmond on drums. Trumpeter Johnny Coles was a member of this band, but fell ill before this performance and is not included here.

“ATFW” short for Art Tatum – Fats Waller begins the concert with an example of Jaki Byard’s piano artistry as he moves through stride, swing, bop and everything in-between. “So Long Eric” brings out the entire band for a tribute to Dolphy who was preparing to leave the band to embark on a solo career in Europe. Starting with the fanfare like theme, Clifford Jordon gets a deep burning tenor saxophone solo followed by piano. Dolphy enters with an ebullient solo of his own and after that Richmond and Mingus trade fours at the end of the tune. “Orange was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk” gets a very Ellingtonian feel with swinging solos from Jordan and Byard before Dolphy loops in with a solo that instantly modernizes everything.

“Fables of Faubus” begins with the great mocking theme followed by a long tenor saxophone solo – after that the whole band kicks back in with a burning group improvisation. The Duke Ellington composition “Sophisticated Lady” is a bass feature for Mingus who improvises deeply on Duke’s beautiful melody. “Parkeriana” is a medly of Charlie Parker songs and sets Eric Dolphy loose on an amazing improvisational flight, and Jordon not to be out done, digs deep into his bebop bag on a lengthy solo. The horn players lay out for Byard’s solo which starts out with fleet bop before breaking into a stride interlude to the delight of the audience. Dolphy re-enters and solos again, really showing that his music was the logical extension of Parker’s music of the 40’s and 50’s.

The concert ends with a long performance of Mingus’ “Meditations (On Integration)” prefaced by a spoken introduction by the leader before the sad melody begins. Beautiful solos abound from Dolphy’s bass clarinet to Mingus’ deeply felt bowed bass solo. This was really a landmark performance and it’s good to see it widely available. The whole tour was widely bootlegged, so hopefully some more of this amazing music will be rescued and officially released.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, December 03, 2004

A New Look at New Grass

Here's an interesting article by Trevor MacLaren from AAJ taking a look at Albert Ayler's controversial Impulse! release New Grass. MacLaren also told me in an e-mail that he is trying to put together a petition to send to Verve to get them to release the remaining out of print Ayler albums of which this is one. It's a worthy cause, so keep an eye out for it. Here's an excerpt from the article:

If there is one word that is poison in the minds of jazz fans and critics, it's sellout. If any musician, for whatever reason, decides to change their sound in a way that could be considered commercial, they have committed the deadliest of sins. So many debate and whine over whether an artist is a sellout, but really, what the hell difference does it make? None. If a record is great, it's great.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Bittorrent Boogie

Still more shows becoming available for downloading on’s bittorrent site. There’s been a lot of Miles Davis posted recently and I downloaded a couple of them. First off is a concert from Belgium in 1967 which has the classic lineup of Davis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. The sound quality is a little sketchy in spots because this concert has been cobbled together from several sources, but it’s still a reminder of how potent this band was and how far they had progressed since even the Plugged Nickel concerts of a few years before. The band is even more aggressive with Miles spitting fire and Wayne Shorter swirling in an elliptical fashion around the melodies. It’s interesting to hear the band leave behind a lot of the popular songbook that they had relied upon in the past for material in favor of the compositions that they had been recording on records like ESP and Miles Smiles. So, in this concert, were treated to versions of the Shorter classic "Footprints," and "Agitation" among others.

The other Miles concert I downloaded was also from Belgium, but from 1971 and hence a whole different animal than the previous one. This is full out electric Miles with Gary Bartz, Keith Jarrett (!), Michael Henderson, Mtume and Jack DeJohnette. The sound quality is pretty rough with over amplified electric bass drowning out a lot of the subtleties of the music, but still what comes through is a reinvigorated Davis playing step-for-step with his younger sidemen over a blistering electric funk groove. Bartz’s pinched, bluesy alto fits right in with the wall of percussion created by DeJohnette and Mtume. If anyone it a little out it’s Jarrett whose organ and electric piano never seem to be comfortable in the mix. Shortly, Jarrett would leave and swear off electronics forever and Miles would drop the keyboards (except for his own organ playing) in favor of another guitarist. This doesn’t pack the punch of the recordings form the Cellar Door on Washington, DC that would make up the majority of the Live-Evil release, but it’s still a great archaeological discovery.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Alice Coltrane - Huntington Ashram Monastary (Impulse, 1969)

This was Alice Coltrane's second album for the Impulse and featured Ron Carter on bass and Rashied Ali on drums in additionto the leader's harp, piano and compositions. Many of the titles and compositions have spiritual themes reflecting the arena of Indian spirituality that she was moving to and would eventually lead her away from public performance for over 20 years in the 1980's and 90's.

The title track leads off the record with some sparkling harp over full bodied bass and light percussion. The harp over percussion has the gentle feeling of water falling softly over a waterfall. "Turiya" also features harp, a rare insturment in jazz, over bass and drums with a soft, peaceful, almost new-age feel. "Paramahansa Lake" gives the harp a little darker sound and ends the first side of the record.

The second side of the record finds the group exploring piano based compositions and improvisations. "Via Sivanandagar" puts Ali back on sticks and as does "IHS" which is a very dark piano piece (the title stands for I Have Suffered) with bowed bass adding to the tension. Alice Coltrane plays the piano in a cascading fashion almost like the harp. "Jaga Jaga Rama" ends the album on another strong note with the full trio of piano, bass and drums. It's too bad there's no organ on this record as well, because I think it's the instrument where she has the most unique style, but nonetheless this is an interesting record and is overdue for a CD version.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, November 29, 2004

Herbie Hancock - Speak Like a Child (Blue Note, 1966)

This was Hancock's follow up to his much-praised Maiden Voyage LP. He adds trombone, flugelhorn and flute to his trio to flesh out the sound of the compositions a little bit, but they really only seem to serve as bookends to the trio - it's a shame the horns couldn't have been more well integrated into the music and given some solo space as well.

Hancock's "Riot" starts out with a unison statement from the horns and flute and then moves into a graceful trio improvisation. This sets the mold for the remainder of the album, as the horns and flute are used to state the melody and then bow out in favor of the piano, bass and drums. The title track starts with slower tapping drums and mellow horns giving the music something of a light latin feel as Hancock improvises over bass and drums. Horns and flute come back at the end to bookend the composition. "First Trip" ends the first side of the record with some spritely uptempo piano over bass and drums.

"Toys" continues the swing onto the second side with another up-tempo improvisation. "Goodbye to Childhood" breaks up the happy mood a little bit with a melancholy feel befitting the composition's title. The horns and flute state the melody with a darker and more ominous feel, and the composition is much more open and uncluttered. "The Sorcerer" ends the album on a fast note with a speedy trio improvisation. Despite my reservation about the uses of the horns and flute in this record, the music is still very well played and introduced some durable and intersteing compositions. This is definately recomended to fans of 1960's Blue Note recordings or of Herbie Hancock's acoustic performances.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Bittorrent Bliss

There have been some excellent concerts coming down the bittorrent pike recently. I finally got chance to listen to the Groundtruther concert I downloaded a while back. Unfortunately, Greg Osby isn't on this concert, but Charlie Hunter, Bobby Previte and DJ Logic are in fine form mixing up jazz, electronica and a little hip-hop. There are a few dead spots, but on the whole, this succeeds live much better than you would expect. Hunter gets a more piercing rock/blues tone in this setting too, which is nice. A recent Chris Potter concert finds him in the venerable Bimhaus in Amsterdam with Kevin Hays and Scott Colley. Potter sounds great and as this and his officially released live album Lift show, he's really coming into his own as a bandleader - with this string of successes, I wonder how long he'll stick with Dave Holland's band. I recently downloaded concerts by the Brad Mehldau Trio and Gianluigi Trovesi Octet, which I look forward to listening to. On the non-jazz front, I downloaded a Black Keys concert from yesterday(!) in London. Amazing that a concert can take place halfway around the word and then less than a day later I can be listening to it in suburban wasteland of New Jersey. There's so much available from bittorrenting that it's almost impossible to keep up with the interesting stuff.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, November 26, 2004

An early holiday present for me today at the Princeton Record Exchange - finding a copy for Alice Coltrane's Huntington Ashram Monastery, a record cut for the Impulse label cut in 1969. I think this is the only AC Impulse record I don't have and I think that justifies the princely sum of $24 that I paid for it. In some ways it's probably good that I've chosen to go into a notoriously low paying profession - $24 is probably the most I could ever pay for a record. Watch - now after the release of Translinear Light, Verve will probably put out a special budget edition of that record for $10... although I doubt it.

Reading some of the Gary Giddins book it's interesting to re-visit his reviews of the JVC jazz festivals in the early to mid 90's. The section of the book covering the 90's is called "The Beige Decade" and this is probably part of the reason. There's an almost numbing uniformity on behalf of the festival producers, piling on tribute after tribute to the noble dead. Ellington and Monk compositions are a cornerstone of jazz, but there's also something to be said for giving younger musicians a chance to show off fresh material. No wonder the festivals are in trouble. It will be interesting to see if he covers the Vision Festival later on in the book and whether or not these meet with his approval.

I've been slumming with ebay a little bit, which is a dangerous way to combat boredom. Somebody was practically giving away Keith Jarrett's entry into the ECM rarum series of best of's and in retrospect I can see why. It's a truly odd collection of solo harmonioum, classical music, errie organ and a few pieces of his European quartet with Jan Garbek and a few pieces from the standards trio. Really strange - I like Jarrett's 70's American quartet with Dewey Redman, so this was a bit of a shock.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Art Blakey - The Jazz Messengers (Columbia, 1956)

This group was setting the Ur-text for hard bop in the mid-50's. As a response to the over-virtuosity of bebop and the perceived non-swing of west cost jazz, hard bop brought jazz back to it’s bluesy swinging roots. This is a record of the original Jazz Messengers, an all star band made up of Donald Byrd on trumpet, Hank Mobley on tenor saxophone, Horace Silver on piano, Doug Watkins on bass and Blakey on drums.

"Nica’s Dream" has some great percussive piano from Silver prodded from the rear by Blakey before the horns return to state the state the theme and conclude the song. "It’s You Or No One Else" is propelled along in a swift fashion by a loping bass groove - classic hard bop playing which would become a template for generations of musicians to come. "Ecaroh" has Donald Byrd leading a string of solos from the other musicians over Blakey’s sturdy beat. "Carol’s Interlude" features an upbeat piano solo followed by a storming and confident tenor solo from Mobley. Blakey steps out from his support role to throw a couple of Zeus like thunderbolt drum rolls. He also steps forward on "Hank’s Symphony" to take a lengthy and percussive drum solo.

It’s hard to do much better then this one if you are a fan of hard bop. I have this as a vinyl reissue, so if you go for the compact disc version, you’ll get some alternate tracks and new liner notes and photographs. However you get it, if you’re a fan of hard bop this is a must buy.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I picked up a copy of the new Gary Giddins book Weatherbird, which is a continuation of the work he started the collection Visions of Jazz, written a couple of years ago. We’re still under construction in my library and haven’t been ordering new books in a while, so I just broke down and bought it. More about this as I get into it, but it looks really good with many of his essays from the Village Voice reprinted within.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, November 22, 2004

Don Byron - Ivey-Divey (Blue Note, 2004)

I went back and forth a hundred times about whether to buy this or not - I’m a big fan of Jason Moran but wasn’t sure how he would sound with Byron - pretty good as it turns out, it’s a tight disc with Jack DeJohnette making up the last member of the core trio and Lonnie Plaxico on bass and Ralph Alessi on trumpet joining in on a few tracks. Moran’s left hand and Byron’s reedy sounding clarinet make up for the lack of bass on most of the tracks. "I Want to be Happy" opens the disc at a very fast pace, with Jason Moran laying down darkly flavored chords for Byron to improvise over while DeJohnette keeps a boiling pace beneath. Two takes of Gershwin’s "Somebody Loves Me" are included, the first being a more spacious and traditionally swinging tune while the second version picks up the pace a little bit with Byron taking a more intense run through of the song.

A couple of Miles Davis pieces are included, "Freddie Freeloader" from Kind of Blue, and the title track to In a Silent Way. The familiar melodies sound good in this format, especially Moran feeding the dark chords behind Byron’s higher pitched clarinet on "Freddie Freeloader." It would have been great for Moran to have a chance at the Fender Rhodes on IASW but it’s not to be as he sticks to the acoustic piano... still sounds good. Interesting though, that they have a trumpet player sit in on a couple of tunes but not the ones associated with a famous trumpet player! Alessi and Plaxico sit in on the swinging "The Good Drag" where Byron switches from his usual clarinet to tenor saxophone and Moran drops in a nice swinging solo.

All in all this is a nice solid mainstream jazz record. Byron and Moran sound comfortable together and of course Jack DeJohnette could make anyone sound good. Now we just need to get Jason Moran back in the studio for another record of his own!

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, November 20, 2004

David Muray mp3

David Murray is one of my favorite musicians and over the last several years he has taken to exploring the music of different Caribbean cultures and melding it to his own music to great success. This is a 12" remix of the title track from his latest album Gwotet.

Go to my Yahoo Briefcase, right click on the track(s), choose "save target as" and then select where you would like to place the file on your computer and click OK. It should (fingers crossed) download. Send me an an e-mail and let me know what happened. The tracks from Geri Allen, Sonny Criss and The Bad Plus are still there, but get them if you are interested because they're coming down soon.

Any music posted on this blog is for sampling purposes - please support the artists or bands by purchasing their CD's and going to their live concerts.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Traffic – Smiling Phases (Island, 1991)

Traffic had a good run from 1967-74 as one of the premier psychedelic rock bands that England produced. Mixing up jazz, r&b, and rock and roll, they kept their music fresh and still managed to score some hits in the process despite being a fairly experimental group for their time. Although their original albums are all valuable for the most part, this collection is an excellent two-disc set of both radio hits and key album tracks and make for the definitive overview of the group.

Some of their early pop hits like “Paper Sun” and the top ten hit “Dear Mr. Fantasy” are represented on the first disc. Then after Dave Mason left the group, they took a more experimental bent, which is documented on the second disc of the collection. Some of the longer, more improvisational songs allowed the band, one of the most instrumentally talented in rock music, to really stretch out and explore the songs. Examples of this are the lengthy “John Barleycorn Must Die” and the jazzy “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.”

This collection is well designed and flows well and the liner notes are adequate, providing a basic history of the band and a few pictures. This collection fits in well with some of the excellent two CD collections that Rhino has made over the past decade and is recommended to psychedelic rock and jazz-fusion fans.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Sonny Criss mp3

Here's a track called "Blue Friday" from the Complete Imperial Sessions of Sonny Criss. I took a chance out of this two disc collection in the used section of the Princeton Record Exchange and it was well worth it. Criss recorded blues, bop and ballads from the '50s to the '70s.

Go to my Yahoo Briefcase, right click on the track(s), choose "save target as" and then select where you would like to place the file on your computer and click OK. It should (fingers crossed) download. Send me an an e-mail and let me know what happened.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

John Zorn w/Susie Ibarra & Wadada Leo Smith - 50th Birthday Party Vol. 8 (Tzadik, 2004)

The latest installment of the John Zorn birthday party series finds the birthday boy in duets and a couple of trio pieces with drummer Susie Ibarra and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. This disc is pretty intense with Zorn employing all manner of squeaks, squeals and overblowing as well as using the alto saxophone as a percussion instrument. Susie Ibarra uses the regular drum kit plus an assorted number of bells and other percussion instruments.

The disc begins with Zorn’s free squeak and squeal over a loose drumbeat. "Rising Sun" features Zorn turning the alto saxophone into a percussion instrument by playing on the pads of the instrument, before evolving into a torrid improvisation culminating with high-pitched extended playing and holding a high note while Ibarra improvises under it. "Spirit Writing" calms things down a little bit with cymbal washes opening, and then Zorn taking a deep, dark nearly Middle Eastern tone. As if to dispense with the meditative stuff, "By the Mark, Eight" goes hardcore, with saxophone squeals punctuated by bursts of drums and brushes. Zorn takes things way out there, but she’s with him every step of the way. An article in The Squid's Ear said Ibarra was "going soft" in some of her recent performances, but it’s sure hard to see it here. I think what they meant was that her recent projects have emphasized a different aspect of her percussion skills than she may have used while playing with David S. Ware and others.

"Visitation" brings the music back down (no choice really - couldn’t have gone any further out!) With a near percussion duet of slap-tongued saxophone and bells. "Ipsissimi" brings up W.L. Smith while Susie Ibarra sits out. Their duet works really well, there is a sense of mutual respect and of leaving uncluttered space for the other musician to create in. This collective improvisation becomes suite-like with pauses in the music as each musician offers something for the other to comment upon and then build into a conversation. The disc ends with Ibarra rejoining the group which then embarks on a charging trio improvisation and a more abstract piece of music to end the disc.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, November 15, 2004

Dance of the Infidels mp3

I have been enjoying the new Geri Allen album Life of a Song quite a bit, here is an mp3 from that record - her version of Bud Powell's famous song "Dance of the Infidels"

Go to my Yahoo Briefcase, right click on the track(s), choose "save target as" and then select where you would like to place the file on your computer and click OK. It should (fingers crossed) download. Send me an an e-mail and let me know what happened. The tracks from a Bad Plus show (in WMA format) recorded at the South Street Seaport earlier this year are still there, but get them if you are interested because they're coming down soon.

Any music posted on this blog is for sampling purposes - please support the artist or band by purchasing their CD's and going to their live concerts.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Yardbirds - Ultimate (Rhino, 2000)

There’s about a million a different collection on just as many labels covering this seminal English blues-rock band. Rhino cuts through the clutter to do their usual excellent job of putting together easily digested although thorough collection of a bands work. With the Yardbirds, it’s a particular challenge - the band went through three main phases earmarked by their three famous lead guitarists of each period, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. Each brought something different to the table and took the band in a different direction. The early Yardbirds were worshipful of the American blues tradition, so much so that they backed Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) on his final tour of Europe and recorded with him. The early classics from the band are represented here with covers of Chuck Berry, John Lee Hooker and many more blues perennials. Some of the more blistering performances come from the Five Live Yardbirds LP, which stands up in its own right as one of the finest live rock and roll albums ever made. After Eric Clapton left the band, the group began to experiment with psychedelic rock, which had taken the country by storm in the wake of The Beatles and groups like Traffic and Soft Machine who experimented with melding jazz and blues with the electricity of rock and roll. The highpoint of the later recording was the LP Roger the Engineer which is also represented on this collection. This is a very well done collection covering the high points of a famous band and is recommended to both fans of blues and classic rock.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, November 12, 2004

"New" Blues Blog

While scavenging for mp3's on The Tofu Hut I stumbled across a wonderful blog of pre-war blues and mp3's called Honey, Where You Been So Long. Lots of great downloads and information here, do check it out.

Happy Birthday to Mose Allison, who turned 77 yesterday. I'll try to post a couple of my favorite Allison tracks for downloading when I get home from work.

Finally, there's an excellent new release of a DVD & CD of the Branford Marsalis Quartet performing John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" from the Bimhaus in Amsterdam. So far, I've only listened to the CD, but the music is just burning and it's twice as long as the 20 minute version cut on Marsalis' Footsteps CD released a few years ago. If that's still not enough BM, he's the cover interview in the new Jazz Times - no earth shattering revelations in the interview, but it's still interesting.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A couple of new releases:

Nguyen Le - Bakida (High Note, 2004) Prog-fusion jazz guitarist Le's new compact disc is an interesting melange of progressive rock, jazz fusion with some post bop burning thrown in for good measure. It's interesting that I had this queued up just after Soft Machine's 5 on my mp3 player and it took me a few minutes to notice the transition. Interesting in the sense that a "rock" band from 1972 and a "jazz" band from 2004 can both blur the lines of improvisation to a degree that makes labels meaningless. A couple of acoustic tracks and a ripe guest appearance from saxophonist Chris Potter keep the disc from blasting too far into the cosmos - recommended to fusion fans.

Little Axe - Champange and Grits (Real World, 2004) The unusual title is most accurate because Little Axe remixes slick electronics and hip-hop with the earthiness of electric blues. Of all of the blues remix projects (Pig in a Can, R.L. Burnside) Little Axe is the most successful in blending the two different types of music. The smooth R&B of "Living in a Dangerous Time" makes an interesting statement as does "Mean Things" which updates pro-labor working class blues for the 21st century. There are some interesting ideas at work here and the mix of modern technology with the timelessness of the blues yields an thought provoking and occasionally potent brew. Adventurous blues and R&B fans should check this out.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, November 08, 2004

New Downbeat:

The new Downbeat had some interesting stories in it – the Reader’s Poll inducted McCoy Tyner into the Hall of Fame by just a few votes (and no recount!) over Ray Charles. Dave Holland won a slew of well-deserved awards for his great band including Album of the Year for last years Extended Play: Live at Birdland. I wish they would release another disc. A couple of short articles of note: one asking musicians what was on their iPods – Charlie Hunter has a nice diverse range of music on his. A couple of interesting reviews round out the issue – Revolutionary Ensemble’s new one and the new disc by Steven Bernstein. Well worth a visit to you local library or bookstore to flip through.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Mp3 (actually WMA) Blogging Redux

(Sigh) Lets try it this way. Go to my Yahoo Briefcase, right click on the track(s), choose "save target as" and then select where you would like to place the file on your computer and click OK. It should (fingers crossed) download. Send me an an e-mail and let me know what happened.

I'm using WMA instead of mp3 because there's a 5 mb limit for each file on Yahoo, and WMA will theoretically keep better sound quality at higher compression levels.

The tracks are from a Bad Plus show recorded at the South Street Seaport earlier this year. Any music posted on this blog is for sampling purposes - please support the band by purchasing their CD's and going to their live concerts.
A Big Dud

OK, so posting mp3's on my blog didn't work... back to the drawing board, and back tomorrow with another review.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Elvis Costello – Delivery Man (Lost Highway, 2004)

When I heard that Elvis Costello was going to record a “country” record, I cringed a little bit, remembering that his genre experiments were notoriously uneven. Like Neil Young, he makes his best records when he comes in from the cold and plays to his strength – straight ahead rock and roll. Which (thank goodness) is exactly what this is for the most part.

Blasting off with the howling rocker “Bite My Lip” which sounds like it could have been something he cut with the Attractions back in the late ‘70’s, you get the sense that he’s not going to let this opportunity slip away. Another uptempo tune is “Monkey to Man,” sounding great with pounding drums and snarling guitar. This couldn’t be a “country-ish” record without a couple of cry-in-your-beer weeping ballads. Normally this is Costello’s weakest link – he really enjoys lovelorn ballads, but the problem is that he has a maudlin streak a mile wide. “Heart-Shaped Bruise” and “Nothing Clings Like Ivy” do slow the pace of the record a little bit toward the middle, but overall they work pretty well, and he avoids bringing things to a screeching halt.

Everything picks back up with “The Judgment,” a Costello tune recorded by soul legend Solomon Burke on his comeback album. This really has no right to work – don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing song, but he’s taking a huge risk with this track. Burke ate the song alive with his huge soul/blues/gospel voice and Costello damn near scales the same heights, turning in a powerful, emotional performance of the song. All in all, this album works very well and stands as one of his best works of the last several years.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, November 05, 2004

Frank Black – Frank Black Francis (Frank Black, 2004)

Frank Black has been back with the re-united Pixies for about a year now, playing to sold out clubs to great success. Still, this is something of a surprise – a “solo” Frank Black set, two CD’s no less, and all Pixies material. Sure, Frank wrote it all the first time around, but still… Surprisingly, it all work pretty well.

Disc one has Black’s original demos for the Pixies, stripped down and raw with his vital energy making up for the lack of the full band. The second disc has his collaborations with The Two Pale Boys, re-mixing and looping the music and lyrics with an ominous effect. For a musician who once said he would never look back, he’s become pretty comfortable with it. Don’t look for him on the nostalgia circuit with Tom Jones any time soon though.

If you’re new to Frank Black’s uniquely fractured outlook on the world, you may be better served by investigating some of the older Pixies albums and then working your way forward. But if you are a Frank Black fan and don’t mind his eccentricity, this is well worth taking a chance on.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Nels Cline - The Giant Pin (Cryptogramophone, 2004)

Now that this album is finally out in the stores, I feel comfortable posting about it. Emusic jumped the gun by listing this disc in their catalog for a few days over the summer before postponing its release for a while. It's nice to see Cline getting a little higher profile now both through his association with Wilco and his solo projects - this album has even been reviewed in in mainstream bastions of Rolling Stone and Billboard!

Sell out isn't even an option, though. Cline's music is as ferocious and uncompromised as ever. The disc begins with "Blues, Too" a mellow, almost Wes Montgomery like jazz piece that establishes his straight-jazz bonifieds if they were ever in question. "Fly, Fly" is aptly named as they band blasts off into a storm of squealing feedback, rampaging drums and bowed bass. "Touch For Her" continues the uptempo feel, nearly moving into prog-rock territory. I half expect them to break into "21st Century Schizoid Man" at this point!

"Ballad of Devin Hoff" slows thins down a bit in the beginning with acoustic bass and guitar playing with a mild and spacious feel. "The Friar" adds some subtle electronic manipulation giving the music a late night - dark streets feel before turning up the intensity. It reminds me of some of the electronic manipulation that Bill Frisell has done, particularly on his excellent solo album Ghost Town.

It will be interesting to see if any Wilco fans cross over to check this one out. It is another typically challenging album from Cline, and I would recommend it to guitar fans both on the jazz and rock sides of the spectrum.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Sun Ra - Live in Paris at the Gibus (Universe 1973, 2003)

After staying up all night watching the election returns, I think I deserved a trip to Saturn (I might want to move there for the next four years, in fact.) I had been eyeballing this on record or CD for a while now, but the import price was a little too high. The Princeton Record Exchange finally realized that no one was going to buy it at the import price, so they dropped the price of the LP to a more reasonable level. Many live Ra concerts have popped up on many labels and like the majority of them this one has slightly dodgy sound, but it's not enough to detract from the music.

The music opens with "Spontaneous Smiplicity" with some mellow vibe like electric piano and synth from Ra, setting an almost swanky-bachelor pad like vibe. Of course, you know this can never last, and when the man from Saturn takes to the organ, you'd have to be one ambitious bachelor to keep this in the pad. Ra's "Lights on a Satellite" comes next with an interesting organ and bowed bass introduction. Mellow horns and flute make this a surprisingly touching piece. Side one of the LP ends with the dark and ominous "Ombre Mode #2" which opens with dark percussion backing an intense free tenor solo from John Gilmore. Not to be outdone, Ra takes to the organ again for a trippy and freaked out solo backed by the tribal-sounding percussion.

Side Two begins with a preview of the swing music Ra would begin to explore once again in the 1980's. "King Porter Stomp" is played straight, the band treats the music with reverence and respect. "Salutations From the Universe" brings us back to familiar Ra territory with the man pontificating his cosmic greeting while the horns improvise collectively. He then blasts the band off into the cosmos with an overdriven synth and organ solo, moving us into a science fiction freakout of organ-driven free-jazz. The record ends with Ra's foil June Tyson leading then band in their chant/plea "Calling Planet Earth." An interesting piece of the Ra puzzle to be sure, if he's your man, keep an eye out for this one.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, November 01, 2004

Music Bloggers For Democracy

(Snipped from Largeheartedboy)

Hey!! Stop what you're doing! You're not going to find that Arcade Fire live bootleg today, nor will you be stumbling across the b-side to "Hand In Glove", and there's no way you'll be finding that unreleased Pixies album. What you need to do is get ready to vote in the most important election of our lives. Figure out where your nearest polling place is, and tell your friends to do the same, tell your enemies for that matter. But just vote.

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Champion Jack Dupree - The Tricks (GNP, 1974)

Boxer, gambler and piano playing bluesman extraordinare Champion Jack Dupree was just past the halfway point of his epic 50 + year career when this set was cut. Dupree was equally able to sing a deeply felt tribute to Martin Luther King in which he chastises white people for their safety and security (he wonders if he'll be the next to be shot) as he is blasting out good time hokum. It's not all serious social commentary by a long shot though, the title track is about the ladies of the evening in Dupree's hometown of New Orleans and throughout the whole album he keeps up a running commentary with his accampanying guitarist, trading wry jabs at one another.

He thinks of "Going to Paris" where he'll confer with Charles de Gaul about the weighty issues of the world and then slips into "I Had a Dream" in which he fantasizes the demise of his mother in law only to awaken with her standing right over him. In other words this is typically excellent Jack Dupree blues. It may miss the blasting saxophone and guitar of his masterpiece, Blues in the Gutter, but it cuts its own groove with an easygoing informal setting.

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Sunday, October 31, 2004

My computer is finally on the mend and back at home, so I celebrated by downloading a concert from It’s a really nice set of two concerts from the Dave Holland Quintet back when they were just starting their run as one of the best bands on the planet. It’s great stuff, here’s the details:

Dave Holland Quintet - Live at the Bimhuis Amsterdam, October 1999 and at the Northsea Jazz Festival, The Hague, June 1998

Dave Holland - bass
Chris Potter - sax
Robin Eubanks - trombone
Steve Nelson - vibes
Billy Kelson – drums

cd 1:
setlist Bim:

1. Balance 12:38
2. Cosmosis 13:18
3. Make Believe 7:23
4. Metamorphosis 14:33
5. Jugglers Parade 18:01

total time : 65:55


6. High Wire 15:34
7. Bedouin Trail 13:12
8. Prime Directive 9:36

North Sea concert:

9. Unknown One 10:03
10. Obitious 16:03
11. Unknown Two 12:10

total time: 76:46

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Thursday, October 28, 2004

Jimmy Smith Retrospective

This four disc mini-box came out on Blue Note last week. I'm a big fan, but most of my Blue Notes are on used vinyl of the "pop and crackle" variety so this was a worthwhile investment for me. It's a pretty nice set touching on the high points of his Blue Note output, like "The Champ" and "The Sermon." I particularly like the recordings which hook him up with Lou Donaldson, they could really lock into a groove.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Computer Problems

Yuk, my computer is back in the shop – refusing to even boot the operating system and emitting a tantalizing aroma of burnt plastic. I Can’t wait for the call from the repairman whose eyes must just be lighting up with dollar signs. Before the meltdown, I’d been experimenting with the Russian web site (hopefully this wasn’t the cause of the problem) which works something like Itunes, except that songs are approximately $ .04 instead of $ .99. It’s mostly pop and rock but I found some things I was interested in such as new Elvis Costello (excellent!) and the new Bjork (strange!) There’s a disclaimer on the web site stating that it meets all Russian Federation Internet laws, so maybe this vague statement will keep the RIAA from knocking on my door in the middle of the night. If anyone has a thought pro or con on this web site, please send me an e-mail.

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Sunday, October 24, 2004

Alice Coltrane Interview

NPR has an interview with Alice Coltrane online.

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Friday, October 22, 2004

Junior Wells – Calling All Blues (Fuel 2000, 2000)

This disc collects the forty-fives that Junior Wells cut for the Clef label in the 1950’s before he signed to Delmark and recorded his seminal records South Side Blues Jam and Hoodo Man Blues. Although this finds Wells at the beginning of his career, his singing, harmonica playing and braggadocio were completely formed and in full effect.

Wells runs through a number of compositions that would become his basic repertoire in the future – Elmore James’ “It Hurts Me Too,” along with several Willie Dixon compositions and his own classic-to-be “Messin’ With the Kid.” It’s interesting to see an R&B influence in these records, the Delmark music would be primarily gutbucket Chicago blues. Wells vocals really shine on the R&B flavored tunes, smooth and supple, with almost a Bobby Bland feeling.

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Thursday, October 21, 2004

My new baby...

A Music Hall MMF 2.1 turntable. Yup, I am now officially a "record geek."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Larry Young - Of Love and Peace (Blue Note 1966, 2004)

Larry Young may be the hottest organist in jazz right now, so it's shame that he's been dead for nearly 20 years. Last years re-release of Lawrence of Newark (great title!) was greeted with considerable buzz and this year Blue Note has done Young proud by re-releasing two of his records, Mother Ship and Of Love and Peace.

"Pavanne" opens the record with a fairly free collective improvisation of organ, drums, trumpet and tenor saxophone. Deep throated tenor saxophone and trumpet solos arc over grinding organ and drums that keep the tension high. James Spaulding gets a swirling alto solo and then Young takes center stage for a full-flight organ solo - bubbling and grooving but very much in control. Things come back to an intense full band crescendo before fading out - an intense opening.

"Of Love and Peace" begins in a lower-key fashion with trumpet and flute. The trumpet takes a stark solo against the organ backdrop. Young's solo keeps the dark feel, backed by an ominous drumbeat. "Seven Steps to Heaven" livens the mood a little bit with the sprightly organ laying down a grooving carpet for the horns to improvise over. The trumpet jumps out of the pack with storming upbeat solo and then Spaulding get the opportunity to take another deep and well thought out solo - why didn't Blue Note sign him in the 60's? The full band gets back together to restate the theme before the track fades out. The final track “Falag” keeps a medium level groove with the full band cooking. Kudos to Blue Note for bringing this one back (17.99 is a little too much to pay for the honor, however.) Regardless, it is an excellent album and well worth listening to.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Alice Coltrane – Translinear Light (Verve, 2004)

It’s great to see Alice Coltrane recording again, she’s been on an extended sabbatical since the late 1970’s when she retreated into Eastern Spirituality. I’ve spent the last couple of years tracking down her old Impulse releases, many of which are out of print. This brings together some heavy hitters like Jack DeJohnette and Charlie Haden and also Alice’s sons Ravi and Oran.

“Sita Ram” opens the disc with her distinctive sound on the Whurlitzer organ. Alice Coltrance was always a unique organ player throughout her career. There’s a really nice Eastern sounding groove here over light percussion. “Walk With Me” has Alice playing dark piano chords on a gospelish theme, a very dark and meditative performance. The title track “Translinear Light” has a piano opening playing yearning chords, Ravi Coltrane enters on tenor saxophone with a deep and mournful tone. This then moves into a full band improvisation, with Ravi sounding excellent over his mother’s carpet of piano. “Jagadishwar” has a mellow synth opening followed by gentle and meditative saxophone – ballad playing, a very deep and well hewn tone. “This Train” has Alice back on the organ – she’s capable of grooving as she does on this performance but her style is never beholden to anyone – she has her own unique sound.

“The Hymn” slows things back down to a ballad tempo with soprano saxophone and gentle chords from the piano, while “Blue Nile” has tenor saxophone improvising over a more urgent theme and Charlie Haden takes a nice bass solo. “Crescent” brings back the classic John Coltrane composition with Ravi taking a tenor solo. “Leo” is a surprise, originally released on John Coltrane’s “Interstellar Space” LP. It’s a killer track, with Alice’s swirling organ and Jack DeJohnette’s dynamic drumming. There’s some great storming improve on organ before Ravi Coltrane comes back in with a complex and deeply felt solo. The record ends on a mellow note with the piano and bass duet Triloka and the vocal chant “Satya Sai Isha.” Overall, it’s an excellent return to form from a fascinating musician who has been off the scene for far too long.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, October 18, 2004

Nils Peter Molvaer - Steamer (Live)

Nils Peter Molvaer is one of the leading lights of the Scandinavian "jazztronica" scene, he possesses a laconic trumpet sound, heavily indebted to Miles Davis and a has penchant for improvising over shimmering frosty electronic grooves. His work for the German ECM label was quite interesting, and this new record finds him in live setting.

The appropriately titled "Frozen" starts out slowly with icy electronics and then Molvaer's Miles-like trumpet. Samples vocals and live beats bubble under and around the trumpet soloing. "Marrow" finds him soloing over beats and samples while "Little Indian" brings forth a slow groove and more sampled vocals. This would make a good track for a "chill out" electronica mix.

"Kahonita" continues the slow groove with some unaccompanied trumpet. The fact that Molvaer gets some of his best playing out of an a cappella setting begs the question of just how spontaneous this music can be when it relies on the rigidity of sampled beats rather than a human that can improvise in real time. Regardless, Molvaer sneaks in some well played gentle trumpet over light electronics. It's pretty delicate - another "chill out" track. "Simply So" finally picks up the pace as the trumpet plays over a slinky electronic groove. "Solid Ether" combines jazz and electronica well and ends the record on a solid note. Things pick up with a snarling guitar solo - the music finally shows some signs of life! This shows potential for this type of music in a live setting; it's the mix that matters, as any DJ will tell you.

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Sunday, October 17, 2004

Albert Ayler - Holy Ghost, Disc 3 (Revenant, 2004)

Disc 3 finds Ayler at the height of his powers in various live settings in New York City. The disc leads off with prime Ayler on "Spirits Rejoice" a folk like theme that he would revisit many times over the course of his career. This is a particularly raw version with a marching band feel and some nice textures from the violin. "DC" has everybody charging into raucous free interplay. The violin's solo is undermiked and hard to hear. This is followed by a tearing Ayler solo, where he is all over the high register of the horn. There's a 'quiet' interlude with Ayler and the violin dueting before another tenor blastoff and a return to the theme - a truly hair-raising performance.

"Untitled #1" is a duet between Ayler and violin which is quite spacious - Ayler plays in a burly but not overblown fashion. "Our Prayer" brings back the full band on a gospelish theme. The leader improvises over trumpet and swirling violin. "Ghosts" is a familiar Ayler theme and this version is taken at a much faster pace and is more full-bodied with the larger group than the well known version on the Spiritual Unity LP. The pace picks up and settles and then picks back up again to an impossibly ferocious level with heavy drums underpinning intense squalls from the horns.

"Untitled #2" is a full band performance where swirling violin ushers in a free improvisation at a fast pace. Trumpet soars over the cacophony followed by a violin solo and a return to the theme, where Ayler takes a high register solo over the martial theme. "Medley" takes off at full blast hitting on Ayler's familiar folk-gospel compositional themes along the way and tying them together with sections of torrid free improv. "Our Prayer" ends the disc with the full band playing together and Ayler ripping another solo with fire-breathing trumpet and pounding drums in support.

This was a very impressive disc - a little exhausting considering the length of it (79 min.) and the ferocity of the playing. Ayler was leading one of his finest groups and was clearly heading toward the triumphant live performances this would be chronicled in the Impulse release The Village Concerts.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Pharoah Sanders – Save Our Children (Verve, 1999)

Today is Pharoah Sanders’ 66th birthday, and I celebrated by playing the only album of his that is on my mp3 player. Save Our Children isn’t Pharoah’s best album, but it’s an example of the music he made with Bill Laswell in the 1990’s tapping into Laswell’s motif of new-age/ethnic music. The title track kicks off the disc with sleek pop-rap vocals and heavy electronics – Sanders almost comes off as a sideman on his own record here!

“Berkeley Square” is a ballad performance of the well-known standard with synth strings and a very smooth performance. Fans of Sanders’ hair-raising 1960’s music may not take to this too kindly, because the strings are just too much. On the upside, Pharoah does play ballads well, proving that he is much more than just a one-dimensional musician. “Jewels of Love” brings back some of the Pharoah sound of the old Impulse recordings with Indian instruments adding texture to the sound. Electric keyboards kick in around the 3:20 mark and Sanders comes in with a mellow, peaceful sound on soprano sax. “Kazuko” has a synthesized opening as befits a Laswell production, with Sanders improvising over it in a spare and mournful fashion. There’s a very “new-age” quality to the performance – kind of dull, truth be told. Sanders goes back on the tenor improvising over the synth to take the tune out.

“The Ancient Sounds” has the Indian instruments again, with Sanders taking a very eastern tone, possibly processed through electronics. Percussion kicks in at the 3:20 mark to give things a needed boost. Things really start to cook with the percussion and electronics and then Pharoah comes in to improvise strongly over this base, including some of his trademark overblowing – this is a highpoint of the album. “Far Off Sand” ends the disc with another middle eastern sounding with call-to-prayer type vocals.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Dexter Gordon – Dexter Calling (Blue Note, 1961)

Dexter Gordon was at the highpoint of his memorable career while signed to Blue Note Records during the early and mid 60’s. This record features Gordon with Kenny Drew on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums. Much of the material keeps a pretty brisk pace and shows Gordon stretching out and soloing at length.

“Soul Sister” opens the record with a mice mid-tempo feel, both Gordon and Kenny Drew get the opportunity for excellent solos. “Modal Mood” is a very interesting performance in which Gordon shows off a surprising John Coltrane influence. A burning, up-tempo performance but not in Gordon’s usual bebop based up-tempo way, but taking things pretty way out as if he’d been spending time listening to “Chasin’ the Trane.” “I Want More” brings things back to the hard bop arena where Dexter is more comfortable. This is classic Gordon playing with a medium-fast speed with a stentorian tone. Kenny Drew also gets an excellent solo spot.

“End of a Love Affair” is played as a swinging flag waver with Dexter’s deep dark tone soling over the rest of the band. Dexter plays with fluid grace, always in control. “Ernie’s Tune” finally slows things down to a ballad tempo, with the leader getting a lush and unhurried Lester Young like tone. The final tunes, “Smile” and “Landslide” turn the heat back up the mid-fast tempos and swing ferociously. This album is a fine example of Gordon at the height of his powers in the mid-60’s, and all are well worth tracking down.

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Monday, October 11, 2004

Ahmad Jamal - Re-Evaluations: The Impulse Years (Impulse, 1974)

Ahmad Jamal only spent a few years with the Impulse label, from 1968 - 1971, but they were important ones in the pianist's career and development. Jamal burst onto the jazz scene in the 1950's heralded by Miles Davis and others for his unique piano trio style and for the use of spaces and pauses during performances to let the music breathe. After the breakup of that original trio during the 1960's, Jamal's music took on other characteristics - those of soft to loud dynamics that would increasingly become a part of his performing style.

This out of print two record set shows how Jamal and his new group were in a transitional stage during this period but were still creating excellent music. There are a couple of compositions by Antonia Carlos Jobim, along with a couple of compositions by the leader himself. Some standout performances on this album include a beautiful reading of the haunting Oliver Nelson standard "Stolen Moments” and a pulsating, urgent Jamal original entitled "Manhattan Reflections" where stabbing piano notes are juxtaposed against insistent bass playing to an excellent effect.

Another interesting performance is "Bogotá", taking up the entire third side of the record and allowing the band to stretch out in live performance. This piece also has Jamal on electric Fender Rhodes piano for some portions of the improvisation, showing that he was well aware of what was going on in the jazz scene around him and was willing to experiment.

While not as well thought of as his early popular records on the Chess label or his recent elder-statesman records on Verve, Jamal's Impulse recordings left some music of true value. If you have a turntable and an interest in Ahmad Jamal, this record is well worth searching for.

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Sunday, October 10, 2004

Groundtruther - Latitude (Thirsty Ear, 2004)

This disc really seemed to have "train wreck" written all over it, and it's a tribute to the musicians involved that it actually turned out so well. The group is a duo of soul-jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter, downtown percussionist Bobby Previte and on several tunes they are joined by alto saxophonist Greg Osby. All of the tunes are electronically manipulated, something akin to the manipulations that FLAM does on the Matthew Shipp Thirsty Ear releases.

The disc as a whole works very well, in fact it is probably one of the most unique and interesting CDs to come out in 2004. Although Osby now has a reputation for being a straight-laced acoustic musician, he began his career with hip-hop jazz in the M-Base collective, so this isn't quite as big a leap into the unknown as you might think. The electronic beats and manipulation of the source music is quite prevalent throughout the album, but it adds texture rather than detracting from the music. This is an adventurous disc, and another winning entry from Thirsty Ear.

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Friday, October 08, 2004

A couple of interesting articles:

The New York Times has an article by Ben Ratliff from a few days ago, going over some new releases including the new Alice Coltrane disc.

An article from the Newark Star Leger about the history of our humble little jazz radio station, WBGO.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Albert Ayler – Holy Ghost Discs One & Two (Revenant, 2004)

Holy Ghost is the long-awaited boxed set with ten discs worth of previously unreleased material by the legendary avant-garde saxophonist and composer Albert Ayler. Packed in a large plastic replica “spirit box” with a hard cover 200 page book and some other ephemera, it’s quite an artifact. It’s interesting that I can buy a ten disc boxed set with all this stuff for around $80, but the new Miles Davis set with less music and “stuff” costs over $100!

The music is in chronological order, so it kicks off with Ayler in Europe in 1962 playing with a very conventional group of musicians who were clearly not ready for the journey that he was starting to embark upon. It’s interesting to hear Ayler play with this relatively straight-ahead backing group on some standards, notably “Sonnymoon For Two” and “Summertime” during which he starts to hint at the dark wide tone he would use in future recordings. Disc one then moves on to a fascinating find, Ayler sitting in with Cecil Taylor’s group in Copenhagen. This was around the time Taylor recorded his famous album Nefertiti and Ayler fits right in with the group improvising well and truly holding his own.

Disc Two documents Ayler back in the U.S. with sympathetic backing form Gary Peacock and Sunny Murray and it marks the first appearance in this set of some of the themes that Ayler would play for the rest of his life. “Ghosts,” “The Wizard” and “Spirits” would all hearken back to an earlier time in African-American music when brass funeral bands and field-hollers were common throughout the south. Despite the relative simplicity of the themes, Ayler and company make the most of them, staying rooted in the gospel/spiritual ground, but using volume and texture to explore the length and breadth of the musical possibilities that these compositions allow. The sound quality is surprisingly good for these recordings, the subtlety of Murray’s rhythms and Peacock’s bass come through clearly, and the leader’s saxophone comes through like an air-raid siren.

Send comments to: Tim