lunes, 24 de octubre de 2016

Oscar Peterson • The Oscar Peterson Trio Plays

Of all Oscar's Peterson's great recordings -- and there are many -- this has a special flavor. It is Oscar being intimate, as in a lounge setting, and commanding the material as if the world was listening. Imagine yourself having a night on the town in 1964, laughing and feeling good, and as luck would have it you and your friends have the rare privelege to be in a club where the young Oscar Peterson and his trio are playing and having a good time. That's the feeling, the mood, of the whole set. A party, with great music and good times. At once blazing with unrestrained, joyful energy an at the same time sensitive and filled with emotion, Oscar shows his oceans-wide range and Everest-high skill. The party starts with Oscar's piece The Strut, which does exactly that. Then he embellishes Let's Fall in Love and Satin Doll with the greatest of ease, taste and wit, followed by the toe-tapping Little Right Foot. He soars through the rest of the material in similar style, and ends with an infectiously rhythmic take on You Stepped Out of a Dream.

Herb Ellis • Three Guitars In Bossa Nova Time


Review by Michael G. Nastos
The title Three Guitars in Bossa Nova Time is misleading in that only two guitars in any instance play the material, while tenor saxophonist Bob Enevoldsen is more important to the overall sound of the music than any other performer. In the main, Herb Ellis and Laurindo Almeida take charge on most of the songs, certainly all bossa novas and light sambas, accompanied by the pianist Donn Trenner (who worked on television with Steve Allen), bassist Bob Bertaux, lesser-known percussionists Bob Neel or Chico Guerrero, the more famous Milt Holland, and guitarist Johnny Gray on three tracks in place of Almeida. All of these selections are familiar, whether as Brazilian songs or Latinized mainstream jazz, while Ellis is upfront in the mix and definitely the leader. While one guitar is initially off the beat on "You Stepped Out of a Dream," Ellis and Almeida are merged together with Enevoldsen in fuller proportions during the fine take of "But Beautiful" with some good solo step-outs, and play in harmonically inventive tones for the very nice "Bossa Nova Samba." Enevoldsen, a multi-instrumentalist known more for playing the trombone, is as cool and smooth as Stan Getz on the melody of the Carnival beat-driven "Leave It to Me," and the spare, careful "Bossa Nova #2." Gray joins Ellis for the more jazz-oriented pieces, including the simple, laid-back "Sweet Dreams," the more commanding "Low Society Blues," where things with the entire combo really come together, and the famous Ray Brown evergreen "Gravy Waltz," made richly harmonic and memorable unto itself. "Detour Ahead" is turned into a bossa and is well done here, but the swinging version might be preferable to those who know this classic song well. On the other hand, the outstanding "I Told Ya' I Love Ya', Now Get Out" is a better adaptation with call and response squawking between Enevoldsen and Ellis perfectly depicting a couple's spat. This interesting 1963 prelude session from Ellis and Almeida together marked the beginnings of a tuneful and spicy partnership, and is a worthwhile addition and longstanding buried treasure in the discography of all participants.

Red Garland • Red Garland's Piano

Red Garland's third session as a leader finds the distinctive pianist investigating eight standards (including "Please Send Me Someone to Love," "Stompin' at the Savoy," "If I Were a Bell," and "Almost Like Being in Love") with his distinctive chord voicings, melodic but creative ideas, and solid sense of swing. Joined by bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Art Taylor, Garland plays up to his usual consistent level, making this an easily recommended disc for straight-ahead fans.

The Guitar Choir • New Jazz Sound of Showboat

Review by Scott Yanow
Arranger Johnny Carisi (best known for composing and arranging "Israel" for the Miles Davis Birth of the Cool sessions) rarely recorded as a leader. Other than seven titles from 1956 reissued as part of a Bluebird CD, and a half-album for Impulse in 1961 that he shared with Cecil Taylor, this obscure LP was Carisi's only other recording project at the head of the group. Certainly the most unusual of his records, this out-of-print LP features five guitarists (including Barry Galbraith and Jimmy Raney), a bassist, and a drummer plus one horn soloist (either trumpeter Carisi, altoist Phil Woods or valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer) performing ten songs from Show Boat. Four of the melodies ("I Might Fall Back on You," "I Have the Room Above Her," "Life Upon the Wicked Stage" and "It Still Suits Me") are quite obscure and were actually added to later versions of the show (or to the movie). The other six numbers (which include "Make Believe," "Can't Help Lovin' That Man" and "Ol' Man River") are much more familiar. The interpretations are essentially cool jazz, respectful of the themes yet still creative in subtle ways. An interesting set, but this album (not yet reissued on CD) will be difficult to find.

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domingo, 23 de octubre de 2016

Grant Green • Live At The Lighthouse

Live album featuring a performance recorded at the Lighthouse Club in Hermosa Beach, California in 1972 and released on the Blue Note label.

Review by Steve Huey
Some of Grant Green's hottest moments as a jazz-funk bandleader came on his live records of the era, which were filled with extended, smoking grooves and gritty ensemble interplay. Live at the Lighthouse makes a fine companion piece to the excellent Alive!, though there are some subtle differences which give the album its own distinct flavor. For starters, the average track length is even greater, with four of the six jams clocking in at over 12 minutes. That makes it easy to get lost in the grooves as the musicians ride and work them over. What's more, the rhythmic foundation of the group is noticeably altered. Live at the Lighthouse is one of the few Green albums of the period not to feature loose-limbed funky drummer Idris Muhammad, and his spare, booming sound and direct James Brown inspiration give way to the busy, bubbling, frequently up-tempo polyrhythms of drummer Greg Williams and extra percussionist Bobbye Porter Hall. They push the rest of the group to cook up a storm on tracks like "Windjammer" (which is taken at a madly up-tempo pace compared to the version on Green Is Beautiful), Donald Byrd's modal piece "Fancy Free" (which features some of Green's best soloing of the date), and organist Shelton Laster's soulful original "Flood in Franklin Park." Laster winds up as probably the most impassioned soloist, breaking out of the pocket for some spiralling, hard-swinging flights. For his part, Green works the grooves with the ease of a soul-jazz veteran used to the concept. The results make Live at the Lighthouse one of his best, most organic jazz-funk outings.

Big Jay McNeely • Big J In 3D

Review by Stephen Cook
Tenor saxophonist Big Jay McNeely swings and honks his way through 12 classic Federal sides from 1952-1954. Joined by brother Robert on baritone, McNeely and his combo work a well-worn jump blues groove on gospel-imbued scorchers like "Hot Cinders" and "The Goof." Equally adept at torrid and moderate tempos, McNeely also shows off his Illinois Jacquet-inspired chops with a dizzying array of bleats, screeches, and guttural smears, even throwing in some svelte lines when appropriate. And while cuts like "Ice Water" presage the coming of rock & roll, classy swingers such as "Hardtack" offer a unique blend of R&B and jazz adorned with bongo accompaniment. And then there's "3-D," the centerpiece of the set and one of the most blistering of R&B instrumentals. Even amidst the almost pneumatic rhythm, McNeely masterfully wails above the band, not missing a beat during his irrepressible call-and-response workout with the other horn players. Whether blowing teenage brains out at LA's Shrine Auditorium or with classic records like this, Big Jay McNeely always backed up the hysteria with loads of good music.

Joe Venuti - Stephane Grappelli • The Best of the Jazz Violins

Review by Scott Yanow
This LRC budget release includes two unrelated sessions from a pair of the greatest jazz violinists: Joe Venuti and Stephane Grappelli. Venuti is heard in 1971 with pianist Lou Stein and a pair of Italian musicians (bassist Marco Ratti and drummer Gil Cuppini) performing "The Hot Canary" (a novelty piece) and six familiar standards including "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Tea for Two." Grappelli is caught in 1975 jamming his "Sysmo," Bud Powell's "Parisian Thoroughfare," and five older songs in a quartet with guitarist Jimmy Shirley, pianist Johnny Guarnieri, and bassist Slam Stewart. No real surprises occur, but the violinists are in fine form. These two sessions are a bit rare and worth searching for by fans of swing violinists.

Toots Thielemans • Toots

Review by Ken Dryden
Like all too many dates led by jazz musicians for Command, this Toots Thielemans record is handicapped by rather run of the mill uninspiring arrangements, on this occasion by Jack Andrews. Fortunately, the considerable talent on this session means that at least some of the solos by Thielemans and his associates (including Dick Hyman, Gene Bertoncini, Bucky Pizzarelli, and Herbie Hancock, among others) makes the session hold up better than most of those done for the label. Thielemans is particularly aggressive on harmonica on "I Can't Get Started" and switches to a country-flavored approach on guitar for the old folk tune "O Susannah." The tracks with organ, rather than piano, haven't held up as well, though Thielemans' consistently high level of playing make this hard to find LP worth acquiring.

sábado, 22 de octubre de 2016

J.B. Lenoir • Natural Man

Review by Cub Koda
This collection of J.B. Lenoir's mid-'50s tenure at the label -- originally issued in the '70s -- duplicates two songs from the Parrot collection (a label which Chess later acquired), but the rest of it is more than worth the effort to seek out. The rocking "Don't Touch My Head," the topical "Eisenhower Blues" and the sexually ambiguous, chaotic and cool title track are but a few of the magical highlights aboard. Either this or the Parrot sides will do in a pinch, but after hearing this, you won't be able to imagine being without either one.

Stephane Grappelli • Opportunity

This is very much, in ‘football-speak’, a disc of two halves. The first six tracks are Grappelli originals and all recorded in 1973. The remainder are compositions by pianist Gérard Gustin and were set down in Nice six years later. Grappelli was clearly in relaxed, semi-classical mood when writing his six; there’s a sense of coasting, to be frank, that his fruity vibrato (much wider than one normally hears) doesn’t do much to disguise. There’s a semi-demi quotation from You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me in his tune Emotion but apart from Sewing’s dependably swinging bass on Gerba there’s little to detain the enthusiast, much less the more casual listener.
The later date comes from a time when Grappelli was enjoying renewed celebrity with his international quintet. Gustin’s tunes and arrangements are more straight ahead with bop tinges. There’s a tighter sense of balance and the session sounds more keyed up altogether. Gustin has the time to stretch out and solo on Country Club in a way he couldn’t six years earlier and there’s bluesy swing to Kent where Cavallaro kicks the front line with his best playing of the date. Grappelli responds with utter sang froid and considerable wit.
In the end though neither date is sufficiently galvanizing or imaginative and at thirty five minutes this is pretty short measure. More for completists. Jonathan Woolf

Ansgar Specht ‎• Some Favourite Songs

viernes, 21 de octubre de 2016

Bill Evans Trio • Moon Beams

Moonbeams was the first recording Bill Evans made after the death of his musical right arm, bassist Scott LaFaro. Indeed, in LaFaro, Evans found a counterpart rather than a sideman, and the music they made together over four albums showed it. Bassist Chuck Israels from Cecil Taylor and Bud Powell's bands took his place in the band with Evans and drummer Paul Motian and Evans recorded the only possible response to the loss of LaFaro -- an album of ballads. The irony on this recording is that, despite material that was so natural for Evans to play, particularly with his trademark impressionistic sound collage style, is that other than as a sideman almost ten years before, he has never been more assertive than on Moonbeams. It is as if, with the death of LaFaro, Evans' safety net was gone and he had to lead the trio alone. And he does first and foremost by abandoning the impressionism in favor of a more rhythmic and muscular approach to harmony. The set opens with an Evans original, "RE: Person I Knew," a modal study that looks back to his days he spent with Miles Davis. There is perhaps the signature jazz rendition of "Stairway to the Stars," with its loping yet halting melody line and solo that is heightened by Motian's gorgeous brush accents in the bridge section. Other selections are so well paced and sequenced the record feels like a dream, with the lovely stuttering arpeggios that fall in "If You Could See Me Now," and the cascading interplay between Evan's chords and Israel's punctuation in "It Might As Well Be Spring," a tune Evans played for the rest of his life. The set concludes with a waltz in "Very Early," that is played at that proper tempo with great taste and delicate elegance throughout, there is no temptation by the rhythm section to charge it up or to elongate the harmonic architecture by means of juggling intervals. Moonbeams was a startling return to the recording sphere and a major advancement in his development as a leader.