C. Andrew Hovan - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection http://www.jazzreview.com Wed, 24 May 2017 00:03:41 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings of Miles Davis 1963-1964 by Miles Davis http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/seven-steps-the-complete-columbia-recordings-of-miles-davis-1963-1964-by-miles-davis.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/seven-steps-the-complete-columbia-recordings-of-miles-davis-1963-1964-by-miles-davis.html Never one content to look back or revisit past glories, in his lifetime Miles Davis took jazz on a mind-bending journey that pushed the music into ever expanding vistas tha…
Never one content to look back or revisit past glories, in his lifetime Miles Davis took jazz on a mind-bending journey that pushed the music into ever expanding vistas that found jazz mixing liberally with elements of pop, blues and funk. This is not to say that there weren’t hurdles along the way, as drug problems, social inequalities, and personnel changes plagued Davis at various times in his career. As for the latter, Davis found himself in what would be the first of several major transitions that had begun back in the spring of 1961. Tenor saxophone master John Coltrane had left the trumpeter’s employ to lead his own band, thus closing an important chapter in jazz history and putting to an end Davis’ first celebrated quintet. Hank Mobley had come on board to take his place and while the new tenor man had his own style, it was less radical than Coltrane’s histrionics and Davis was not always pleased with the end results. Still, the trio of Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb had been together for some time and the chemistry that they shared was undeniably strong.

The lifespan of the aforementioned quintet would be short lived, as the end of 1962 brought with it a need for an entirely new line-up. The first two neophytes to sign up would be tenor saxophonist George Coleman and bassist Ron Carter and with Miles eager to get the sound of this fledgling unit down on tape, he would spend two days in a Los Angeles recording studio in April of 1963. Rounding out the ensemble would be West Coast artists Frank Butler on drums and Victor Feldman on piano. While the music they recorded those days, the results of which kick off Seven Steps: The Complete Columbia Recordings of Miles Davis 1963-1964, hinted that things were still very much in flux, a month later events came together, which would bring more stability to the line-up. Pianist Herbie Hancock and drummer Tony Williams would join the ranks and the three pieces they cut in New York with Coleman would help round out the album Seven Steps To Heaven.

At this point in time, it’s vital to understand that all was not well in terms of Davis’ relationship with Columbia Records and producer Teo Macero. Upset over Macero’s decision to release the album Quiet Nights without the trumpeter’s approval, Davis refused to do any studio recordings, a self-imposed ban that lasted three years. In an effort to fulfill contractual obligations nonetheless, Columbia released concert tapes of several of Davis’ live appearances, this material constituting the bulk of the set at hand.

Up first is the quintet’s June 1963 set at the Antibes jazz festival in France that was initially released as the LP Miles Davis In Europe. For the first time, the concert is being heard here in its entirety, with edited selections restored to their full length and sound quality of the mono masters being much improved over previous incarnations. Just listen to Tony Williams, a mere 17 years old at the time, and his extended solo on "Walkin’" to truly understand how important the new additions were to Davis’ overall conception and approach. Tempos have inched up to blistering speeds at times and each soloist has ample opportunity to stretch out at great length.

Seven months later came the legendary concert at New York’s Philharmonic Hall that would be broken up and presented piecemeal fashion on the albums My Funny Valentine and Four & More. Restored to original sequence order and length, this set’s vitality and power are said to have come from the fact that Davis would tell his band mates on the spot that he was waiving both his and the group’s fee for the benefit of the evening’s presenters- CORE, SNCC, and the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund.

Despite the gains that Davis’ new ensemble seemed to be making, Williams’ displeasure with Coleman’s style forced the tenor man to resign and before long the forward-thinking Sam Rivers would be brought into the fold by the drummer. Another concert recording, Miles In Tokyo, has never been available in this country domestically and while the growing pains are undeniably evident, there’s much to enjoy here and the stereo sound of this radio broadcast is quite good.

Although Rivers was more of a risk-taker than Coleman had been, Davis was still not entirely happy and so it would come as no surprise that the arrival of Wayne Shorter in the fall of 1964 would prove to be nothing short of a revelation for both Davis and his audience. Another remote recording, Miles In Berlin, rounds out this set and ushers in the arrival of the next great Davis rhythm section comprising Shorter, Hancock, Carter, and Williams.

Containing a total of eight previously unreleased tracks and three more presented in unedited form for the first time, this collection offers one the opportunity to go along for the ride as Davis forges ahead, every move carefully annotated by Bob Belden via a 92-page booklet. Over the course of seven discs, all remastered in sterling 24-bit fidelity, we have a front row seat to hear Davis in his natural environment, the concert stage, with a renewed appreciation of material that still gets somewhat lost in the shuffle of Davis’ more prominent works.

morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (C. Andrew Hovan) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Mon, 17 May 2004 23:06:01 -0500
Forever by Jimmy Greene http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/forever-by-jimmy-greene.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/forever-by-jimmy-greene.html Forever by Jimmy Greene
Some time has passed since saxophonist Jimmy Green made his debut record for Criss Cross. By comparison with the recently released Forever, Greene seems to ha…

Some time has passed since saxophonist Jimmy Green made his debut record for Criss Cross. By comparison with the recently released Forever, Greene seems to have made the most of the passage of time as his confidence has grown and his individuality has become much stronger in the intervening years. Like label mates Joel Weiskopf and Wycliffe Gordon, Greene has chosen to explore the more spiritual side of his personality and the end results are quite fine indeed. Supported by pianist Xavier Davis, bassist John Benitez, and drummer Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, Greene states his theme up front with a funky reworking of "The Old Rugged Cross" and closes with the original "He Is Lord."

Robust in tone and consistently strong across the full range of his instrument, Greene has full technical command of his horn. Just check out the opening dialogue with Watts on "In Many Tongues" and you’ll hear the saxophonist going through the permutations with that ardent upper register ‘cry’ that helps form the emotional foundation. On Ellington’s "Come Sunday" the familiar melody is almost undetectable as Greene strolls along accompanied simply by just bass and drums. His reworking of the pop tune "You Make Me Feel Brand New" is undeniably strong, with Watts providing a funk/bossa hybrid for the groove.

It’s obvious throughout this varied set that Greene has unfettered communication with his cohorts. They seem to breath as one, but at the same time give things a loose feel that allows the soloist to take chances without fear of falling. This is one of the strongest saxophone quartet records of the year and I wouldn’t be surprised to find it turn up on more than a few year-end top ten lists.

morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (C. Andrew Hovan) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Mon, 26 Apr 2004 03:04:56 -0500
The Contemporary Records Story by Various Artists http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/cool-jazz-cd-reviews/the-contemporary-records-story-by-various-artists.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/cool-jazz-cd-reviews/the-contemporary-records-story-by-various-artists.html Possibly because of its many stylistic variants and the large number of musicians involved in the music during its heydays, recorded jazz has been more closely tied to vari…
Possibly because of its many stylistic variants and the large number of musicians involved in the music during its heydays, recorded jazz has been more closely tied to various camps and independent record labels over the years than any other genre of music. So if the East Coast trendsetters were Blue Note, Prestige, and Riverside during the ‘50s and ‘60s, the West Coast equivalent was arguably the Contemporary label, founded in 1951 by screenwriter-cum-record producer Lester Koenig.

Not only did the label carve a niche with an idiosyncratic catalog that put quality music at a premium, but Contemporary was also a leader in production values by entering the stereo market as early as 1956. Recording engineers Roy DuNann and Howard Holzer set up shop in the back warehouse section of the Contemporary offices and by keeping things simple and straightforward they achieved a pure and lifelike reproduction of instruments that could arguably by rivaled only by Rudy Van Gelder. Even today, audiophiles revel in the honest and true fidelity of recordings from the Contemporary catalog, with many of the classics even surpassing today’s digital technology.

A great deal of the history of Contemporary is contained within the confines of this four-disc set, from archival photos to detailed information about the day-to-day operations of the label. From the first recordings of Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All-Stars in 1952 to Art Pepper’s 1977 comeback at the Village Vanguard, there are 57 tracks in all. The set gets underway with music from Howard Rumsey, Shelly Mann, and Hampton Hawes, three of the most important early contributors to the label. Interestingly enough, Koenig had an interest in contemporary classical music and so a piece like the "The Flip" hints at a third stream approach that finds Shelly Manne, Shorty Rogers, and Jimmy Giuffre intertwining their lines in collective fashion. Lyle Murphy also gets a lush orchestral sound out of his opening voicing for "Blue Moon." Certainly, the cooler approach that many associate with West Coast sounds is part and parcel of many of the tracks on this opening disc.

Things start to heat up a bit more as disc two kicks in with bop-inflected numbers from Art Pepper and Red Norvo. Sonny Rollins weighs in with the quintessential "I’m an Old Cowhand" from his Way Out West LP and hard swinging numbers from Leroy Vinnegar, Harold Land, and Victor Feldman eventually give way to "Invisible" from Ornette Coleman’s 1958 debut Something Else!. While not as radical as later Coleman recordings, Koenig was definitely going out on a limb with the two albums he produced for the saxophonist considering his preference for more mainstream productions. Disc three also stretches the boundaries with some early work by Cecil Taylor and the chamber jazz sensibilities of the Bill Smith Quartet performing "Greensleeves."

The heydays of Contemporary peaked in around 1962, with the early ‘60s being an especially productive period for the label. The fourth disc squeezes in many of the gems from Teddy Edwards, Howard McGhee, Phineas Newborn, and Shelly Manne, the latter giving us the inspired concept album My Son the Jazz Drummer which spotlighted sagacious updates of Jewish and Israeli folk songs. Unfortunately, none of the labels more adventurous albums from the middle to the end of the decade are sampled. Classics from Sonny Simmons (Rumasuma), Jimmy Woods (Conflict!), and Shelly Manne’s later ensembles (the intriguing Outside album comes to mind) are peculiar by their absence. In the last bit of concentrated activity from 1975 to 1977, Koenig cut albums by Art Farmer, Hampton Hawes, Chico Freeman, Ray Brown, and Art Pepper (all get features here), but by this time much of the excitement and creativity from a production standpoint were lacking in comparison with earlier glories.

Aside from the aforementioned exclusion of some of the label’s experiments with the avant garde movement of the ‘60s, it would be hard to imagine a better testament to one man’s artistic vision and a more concise introduction to a treasure trove of immortal jazz.

morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (C. Andrew Hovan) Cool Jazz - CD Reviews Thu, 04 Mar 2004 06:02:19 -0600
Wide Horizons by One For All http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/wide-horizons-by-one-for-all.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/wide-horizons-by-one-for-all.html The opening strains of Jim Rotondi’s "The Nomad" bring to mind a Cedar Walton line. You know, the kind that you’d find on those old Prestige records or possibly on an Art B…
The opening strains of Jim Rotondi’s "The Nomad" bring to mind a Cedar Walton line. You know, the kind that you’d find on those old Prestige records or possibly on an Art Blakey Blue Note set. Specifically, this jazz of the hard bop variety is the kind of music that is easy to listen to all day long without strain. On the surface there’s a catchy rhythm, but moving in deeper you’ll find solos of great interest and vitality. That’s what makes this reviewer always greet with much anticipation the latest endeavors of the band One For All, a crack team of dazzling instrumentalists who have made a commitment to getting together every once in awhile for a record date of no nonsense jazz of the swinging variety. Each one of these men has more than enough work to keep them busy on their own, so it’s a testament to how much joy they must get in working together that they all keep One For All high on their priority lists.

Wide Horizons could arguably be called the band’s best effort to date, chock full as it is with bristling music and ear catching solos. Just check out Eric Alexander’s strong showing on "Nemesis" to see why he’s become on the most celebrated tenor men of his generation. As for trumpeter Jim Rotondi, he’s a little dynamo who regularly eats up changes with all the tenacity of a young Freddie Hubbard. Trombonist Steve Davis, affectionately known as "Stevie D" among his friends, not only has a strong sense of the jazz trombone tradition but also remains one of the premier jazz composers of this era. As for David Hazeltine, Peter Washington, and Joe Farnsworth, words inadequately describe the kind of camaraderie and musical empathy that they have developed over countless gigs.

There’s much to enjoy here and no real need to provide a blow-by-blow for each track. Suffice it to say the originals are unique, the updates of a few standards are quite worthwhile, and everyone plays at the top of their game. What more could you ask of a record?

morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (C. Andrew Hovan) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Wed, 12 Nov 2003 18:00:00 -0600
Tests Of Time by Ralph Peterson http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/tests-of-time-by-ralph-peterson.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/tests-of-time-by-ralph-peterson.html Back in the ‘80s, drummer Ralph Peterson was a force to be reckoned with and his substantial string of Blue Note sides forged a track record that was nothing short of brill…
Back in the ‘80s, drummer Ralph Peterson was a force to be reckoned with and his substantial string of Blue Note sides forged a track record that was nothing short of brilliant. Then things went south and a good deal of time passed with little to be heard from the drummer. Just a few years back Peterson finally made the connection with Criss Cross and things have improved greatly for the drummer and his ability to document his music. Each one of his previous albums for the label has been critically lauded not only for the dazzling drum work of the leader, but for strong original compositions and the opportunity for many up and coming young musicians to get a chance to develop on the bandstand.

Peterson’s latest quintet includes trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, saxophonist Jimmy Greene, piano man Orrin Evans, and bassist Eric Revis. How much they have gelled as a unit over the past year or so is supremely evident on Tests of Time. Taking his cue from the hard bop period of the mid to late ‘60s, Peterson’s tunes here range from burnout numbers like Freddie Hubbard’s "Neo Terra" to the quietly reflective "Ballad For Queen Tiye." Pianist Evans continues to be a revelation as he builds on the legacy of pianists like Andrew Hill, Jaki Byard, and Geri Allen with his own advanced conception. Much the same can be said of both Pelt and Greene as each one had made great strides in consolidating their influences. As for Peterson, he’s as technically amazing as ever and his strong writing gives his music yet still an added dimension of individuality.

morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (C. Andrew Hovan) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Wed, 12 Nov 2003 12:00:00 -0600
Change In My Life by Joel Weiskopf http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/change-in-my-life-by-joel-weiskopf.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/change-in-my-life-by-joel-weiskopf.html At times living in the shadow of brother Walt, pianist Joel Weiskopf is a serious jazz pianist with an individualistic style that is an amalgam of a great number of influen…
At times living in the shadow of brother Walt, pianist Joel Weiskopf is a serious jazz pianist with an individualistic style that is an amalgam of a great number of influences from American jazz to Brazilian samba. His third date for Criss Cross finds him returning to the trio format of his debut set for the label a few years back. This time around he brings along for the ride two vital members of Wayne Shorter’s current quartet, namely bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade.

All of the pieces on the hour-long set are Weiskopf originals with titles that allude to the pianist’s strong sense of spirituality. Very much steeped in the McCoy Tyner tradition, Weiskopf speaks with a bell-like tone and a sense of clarity in his solos that is simply remarkable. Post bop sensibilities are at the heart of most of the pieces here, but particularly distinctive is "Righteousness, Peace, and Joy" with its funky beat and in-the-pocket feel. Patitucci lets loose with one of his best solos on this one and Blade keeps everything on the up and up. Other highlights include a heartfelt "Song For My Grandmother" and the shifting accents of "Day of Rejoicing." A mature and advanced player of considerable talents, Weiskopf is at his best here on this most rewarding trio effort. Hopefully it’s one that will bring him even more name recognition.

morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (C. Andrew Hovan) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Wed, 12 Nov 2003 06:00:00 -0600
The Saxman Cometh: New Verve LPR Reissues by Various Artists http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/the-saxman-cometh-new-verve-lpr-reissues-by-various-artists.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/the-saxman-cometh-new-verve-lpr-reissues-by-various-artists.html Still the leader of the pack when it comes to reissues, the Verve Music Group has had a banner year with a wealth of intriguing product that comes from a vast number of cat…
Still the leader of the pack when it comes to reissues, the Verve Music Group has had a banner year with a wealth of intriguing product that comes from a vast number of catalogs in their holdings including Verve, Mercury, Argo/Cadet, MGM, Smash, and Phillips. The LPR series, which stands for LP reproduction, attempts to package facsimile reissues with the same aesthetic values as the original 12" vinyl records. These cardboard digi-pak style sets are remastered with excellent sound to boot and are available at a modest and affordable price, an important factor when so many great ones are coming out and you just have to have them all! This time around, the latest set of LPR’s has a theme running through them, mainly that each album is led by a saxophonist. So in no particular order, here’s a look at them all.

Although he tended to record more than the market seemed to bear at times and not all that shined was pure gold, Sonny Stitt’s tenure with Verve did produce some fine recordings, like the 1956 set New York Jazz. In the company of pianist Jimmy Jones, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Jo Jones, Stitt wields his alto and tenor saxophones mightily over the course of ten selections, mostly standards and three basic Stitt originals. The quick pace of "Twelfth Street Rag" is typical of the brand of bebop that Stitt specialized in over the course of his career. He throws off phrase after phrase with obvious ease and in utilizing the tenor horn he sounds more like himself than his tendency to echo Charlie Parker when playing the alto. Long unavailable, this Stitt set ranks among his best and comes highly recommended.

As a high school music teacher in Florida, Cannonball Adderley’s impact on jazz was limited, but once he made his way to New York in the summer of 1955 things began to click and in no time he was recording material for both the Savoy and EmArcy labels. In August of that year he cut Julian "Cannonball" Adderley with his brother Nat and a six piece group arranged and conducted by Quincy Jones. The program is split almost evenly among standards and tunes from the pen of Jones. Sound quality is top notch even at this early date and there’s an admirable balance between Adderley’s alto and the rest of the ensemble that compliments the entire production without taking away from the leading man. Although his bop chops are well in evidence, it’s Adderley’s ballad work on gems like "Purple Shades" that most impresses, along with the handiwork of Jones.

Somewhat of an iconoclast, Jimmy Giuffre has been exploring some of the more cerebral elements of jazz since his first recordings for Capitol back in the mid ‘50s. In terms of his legacy, he will be most remembered for an outstanding series of albums he led for Atlantic in the late ‘50s and for his 1963 Columbia set Free Fall. In between however, there’s his great body of work cut for Verve which isn’t better known simply because it’s largely unavailable currently. Getting things on the right track is the reissue of the 1959 release The Easy Way, which features Giuffre on clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophones, Jim Hall on guitar, and Ray Brown on bass. During this time period Giuffre rarely worked with a drummer (although a live set with a quartet on Verve is out there; another album long overdue for reissue!), which may put some off. But there’s still a vibrant swing to be found in the performances that makes them quite accessible. Worth special notice is the debut of Hall’s classic piece "Careful" in what is surely a definitive performance.

Among the landscape of exemplary saxophone led dates, one must hold a special place for Motion, a rare trio outing for Lee Konitz in the company of bassist Sonny Dallas and drummer extraordinaire Elvin Jones. The 1961 sessions that produced the original album have been packaged prior in complete form on a now out-of-print three-disc set so what we have here is the album as it was originally released with five lengthy performances. That Jones, in particular, inspires Konitz to new heights should go without saying. What might be a surprise is how intense and fluid the saxophonist is in his improvisations, putting to an end any remaining myths about the ‘cool school’s’ inability to engage in heated bop solos. The recorded sound has always been problematic, yet this edition seems to get more things right than any previous one. That aside, this album is an undeniable keeper.

Over the course of his extremely fruitful tenure with Verve, Gerry Mulligan documented his terrific Concert Jazz Band (watch for a reissue of that material on a Mosaic boxed set coming soon!) and led a few sublime albums in tandem with other leading horn men of great stature, namely Bob Brookmeyer and Ben Webster. His 1959 set Gerry Mulligan Meets Johnny Hodges may not be as well known as the pairing with Webster, but it is no less engaging. Hodges sounds positively giddy and contributes three of his own catchy originals. "What’s the Rush" brings to the fore Hodges’ creamy ballad stylings and "18 Carrots for Rabbit" is a bop-inflected number that finds both sax men at the top of their game. Special mention should go to drummer Mel Lewis who puts things over the top with his infectious swing on a set where Hodges often steals the show.

For a large part of his career, Stan Getz recorded for Verve and many of his quintessential sides were cut for the label, often with producer Creed Taylor at the helm. This is the team that brought us the famous ‘sax and strings’ adventure Focus and ushered in the bossa nova craze with the Getz/Gilberto and Getz/Byrd sides. Overshadowed among these undeniable classics were several other minor gems that somehow got lost in the shuffle. Such was the case with 1963’s Reflections, a collection of short pieces arranged by Claus Ogerman and Lalo Schifrin for full orchestra. The mood is mainly of the late night variety, with Getz in a lusty ballad mode. Schifrin’s pieces typically feature a Latin bent that picks the tempo up on occasion for variety’s sake. Despite the dated sound of some of the numbers, there’s much to recommend here and Getz fans should positively not be disappointed.

Best remembered, if remembered at all, as a vital member of the Basie unit for a short spell, tenor saxophonist Billy Mitchell came from the budding Detroit jazz scene that also brought us the Jones Brothers. His own recording career as a leader was somewhat short lived, consisting of two 1962 sessions led for the Mercury subsidiary Smash. The first of these, This Is Billy Mitchell, could go down as one of the surprise reissues of the year, not necessarily because it’s a fantastic jazz record, but because of the exposure it gives Mitchell and the taste it gives us of a young and maturing vibist by the name of Bobby Hutcherson. Mitchell is heard in two settings, one with Sleepy Anderson on B3 organ and the other with Billy Wallace on bass. As for Mitchell, his sound can be very Getz-like on slower numbers like "Sophisticated Lady" or pointed and bristling as on the perky "Automation." Trumpeter Dave Burns also makes a fine showing on five numbers reminding us of his forgotten talents as well.

So prominent as a sideman and revered as a leader of his own fine quartet/quintet of the ‘80s, ‘90s, and beyond, there seems to be a whole period of work by Phil Woods that remains relatively unknown to all but the most astute devotees. Right before leaving the States at the end of the ‘60s to reside in Europe for a few years, Woods cut the albums Round Trip and the newly reissued Phil Woods at the Montreux Jazz Festival to very little fanfare. In hindsight these album should have been welcomed as substantial additions to the Woods oeuvre. A definitive statement, the four long jams taped at Montreux in 1969 feature what Woods called his European Rhythm Machine- namely pianist George Gruntz, bassist Henri Texier, and drummer Daniel Humair. The emotions are heated throughout and even gentler items such as "I Remember Bird" boot along on high octane. Herbie Hancock’s "Riot" lives up to its name with some of the most avant garde playing to be ever heard by Woods. This one will come as a surprise to most fans of Woods and will certainly be a welcomed addition to the collection.

Finally, we conclude with an item that might provide a revelation for many. An icon of what would eventually become the smooth jazz phenomenon, John Klemmer made a name for himself in the mid to late ‘70s with albums such as Touch and Hush, his breathy tenor work serving as romantic background music for mature audiences. Truth be told, he got his start first with the Chicago-based Argo/Cadet label and Involvement is among his first recorded efforts. Even at this early stage, the warmth and unique swagger that has always marked Klemmer’s approach is apparent. The best items here are his originals, performed by two different quartets, one featuring piano luminary Jodie Christian and both highlighting the work of drummer Wilbur Campbell. While nothing all that revolutionary occurs, this early glimpse at Klemmer in his formative years is still highly fascinating.

morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (C. Andrew Hovan) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Sun, 04 May 2003 19:00:00 -0500
Land of Giants by McCoy Tyner http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/land-of-giants-by-mccoy-tyner.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/land-of-giants-by-mccoy-tyner.html Success can be somewhat of a double-edged sword for artists, particularly when they peak to great heights somewhat early in terms of their chronological years. As such, few…
Success can be somewhat of a double-edged sword for artists, particularly when they peak to great heights somewhat early in terms of their chronological years. As such, few of the jazz artists who fall in this category have been able to reinvent themselves in the ways that both Miles Davis and Duke Ellington seemed to do over the course of their extended careers. Undeniably, McCoy Tyner will always have to compete somewhat with the stature of his early work with saxophone legend John Coltrane, not to mention the pianist’s own dramatic series of recordings cut for Blue Note Records in the late ‘60s.

Although Tyner’s recorded history of the past few decades has been checkered to say the least, Land of Giants stands out as a major accomplishment with Bobby Hutcherson again proving the perfect foil, a fact made obvious when the two first hooked up for 1969’s Time For Tyner. In both drummer Eric Harland and bassist Charnett Moffett we have two young, but seasoned pros that have no problem speaking the language of their elders. Over the course of ten tracks, mostly originals, the fire burns with a steady glow, Tyner never succumbs to histrionics, and everyone avoids the pitfalls that often come with these type of "all star" events. Even the vintage piece "Contemplation" sounds anew in the hands of these four giants.

morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (C. Andrew Hovan) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Sun, 09 Mar 2003 12:00:00 -0600
Walk On: The Final Ray Brown Recording by Ray Brown http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/walk-on-the-final-ray-brown-recording-by-ray-brown.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/walk-on-the-final-ray-brown-recording-by-ray-brown.html With the one year anniversary of the passing of bassist Ray Brown just around the corner, it’s not surprising to see this two-disc package of what amounts to the final stud…
With the one year anniversary of the passing of bassist Ray Brown just around the corner, it’s not surprising to see this two-disc package of what amounts to the final studio recordings of Brown’s trio, along with a whole other disc of previously unissued tracks recorded between 1994 and 2000. Not withstanding the leader’s obvious talents, the key to Brown’s trio work has always been a strong pianist and Geoff Keezer more than adequately fits the bill here, even if the over results are rather tepid. It’s the up tempo numbers that are the most memorable, particularly "Lined With a Groove" and "Fried Pies." A bowed "Hello Girls" seems an odd choice for a closer, not to mention a peculiar title for a rather melancholy number.

Benny Green packs a sizable punch as one of the bassist’s finest sidemen on the seconds disc’s live numbers. The romps through "F.S.R." and "This Is Always" are a delight and balanced nicely in terms of shared solo space. A few numbers that find Brown in tandem with fellow bassists John Clayton and Christian McBride are purely for bass fanatics only, and even the abundance of Brown’s own solo work might prove to be a distraction for some listeners. Best in small doses, Walk On adds relatively little to Brown’s already sizable recorded legacy, but will undoubtedly please his most ardent fans.

morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (C. Andrew Hovan) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Sun, 09 Mar 2003 06:00:00 -0600
Savoy at 60 - Deluxe Reissues Tap Early Years by Various Artists http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/bebop-hard-bop-cd-reviews/savoy-at-60-deluxe-reissues-tap-early-years-by-various-artists.html http://www.jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/bebop-hard-bop-cd-reviews/savoy-at-60-deluxe-reissues-tap-early-years-by-various-artists.html I can first remember being aware of the Savoy Records label when I discovered a two-record set of Charlie Parker sides that were issued at the time by Arista Records. I lit…
I can first remember being aware of the Savoy Records label when I discovered a two-record set of Charlie Parker sides that were issued at the time by Arista Records. I literally wore out those ‘master takes’ of Bird’s transcendent be-bop, later to discover that the label also had documented some of my other favorite artists such as Curtis Fuller and Yusef Lateef. Unfortunately, the history of Savoy in its many incarnations as a reissue label has been checkered at best. After the ‘70s tenure with Arista, the label was sold to Muse Records where availability became a hit or miss affair. Then in 1991, Denon took things over and in typical Japanese fashion we saw facsimile reissues true to the original, not to mention the most comprehensive exploration of the catalog’s entire range to date. Now a division of Nippon Columbia, the label is getting a new facelift yet again with a pronounced nod in the direction of Savoy’s earliest titles.

Taken as a sampler, Savoy’s 60th Anniversary: Timeless is a two-disc set that covers a wide range of material spanning the years 1944 to 1957. This 32-track survey largely focuses on jazz performances with artists such as Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Jimmy Scott, Milt Jackson, Lester Young, Fats Navarro, and Erroll Garner as part of the mix. An attractive black digi-pak format holds the discs and the accompanying booklet, which includes photos and annotation by producer Billy Vera. The sound quality is as good as is to be expected, considering the age of some of the tracks, and overall the presentation is quite nice.

With a name synonymous with the label itself, no Savoy reissue project would be complete without a Charlie Parker compilation or two. While the sum total of Parker’s Savoy and Dial sessions are already available as a hefty boxed set, in more manageable form for those with limited budgets or for neophytes are the master takes as assembled on Charlie Parker: The Complete Dial and Savoy Masters. This 3-CD set accurately conveys the power of Bird at his finest and without the extra alternate takes that often merely serve as curiosity for fanatics. Trumpet masters Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Howard McGhee are also well represented here. Of course, if three discs are even a little too much or not in your budget, you might want to sample the 20-tune compilation Charlie Parker: Best of the Complete Dial and Savoy Masters. Updated sound and a 19-page booklet supplement this disc which includes such obvious classics as "Parker’s Mood," "Au-Leu-Cha," "Ornithology," "Scrapple From the Apple", and "Koko."

For those who can’t get enough of Parker’s moods, you might want to add to the wish list Charlie Parker: Best of The Complete Live Performances on Savoy. This 3-CD set features performance material record at New York’s Royal Roost between 1948 and 1949 with Miles Davis and Kenny Dorham on hand to share the front line with Bird. Sound quality is quite good and the deluxe packaging and insightful liner notes help complete this most pleasing collection.

Documenting the rise to prominence of one of be-bop’s founding fathers is another Savoy package highlighting the work of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy Gillespie: Odyssey ’45-‘52 is a three disc set that for the first time accurately gathers all of the trumpeter’s most important early recordings. On disc one, we get sextets and quintets with Charlie Parker from 1945, along with more marginal material with the likes of Slim Gaillard. With disc two we’re on to large group sides with Ray Brown and Johnny Richards anda 1951 sextet recording that includes John Coltrane on alto sax ("We Love to Boogie", "Tin Tin Deo", "Birk’s Works’). Finally, disc three covers early ‘50s sextets and quintets with a wide variety of sidemen.

What some say was a hothouse for the development of be-bop during the mid ‘40s was the big band led by vocalist Billy Eckstine. Certainly many of the movement’s finest practitioners came through the ranks such as Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Gene Ammons, Miles Davis, and Art Blakey. Billy Eckstine: The Legendary Big Band brings together the ensemble’s finest moments spanning the years 1944 to 1947 on two discs. Sound quality is strong and Eckstine sounds in good voice; none of the later mannerisms that would turn off true jazz lovers later down the road to be heard here.

Tenor saxophonist Lester Young was somewhat of an anachronism during the golden era of be-bop. His sound was rather light, a contrast to the heavy swing-styled players such as Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. And yet, he was not considered a bop player, choosing a slower and breathier approach that was more in line with the ‘cool school.’ Lester Young: The Complete Savoy Recordings takes a look at the years 1944 to 1950 with 46 tracks spread over two discs. There are quintet and sextet cuts, along with some lighter performances as a front man to the Johnny Guarnieri and Earl Warren Orchestras. Nothing all that revolutionary really, but Young fans will be more than pleased with this new compilation.

Although his name doesn’t often come up when discussing be-bop circles, vibe man Red Norvo did have his hand in the movement for a time and had the advantage of working with Bird, Diz, and other giants of the genre. The Modern Red Norvo is a two-disc set which includes the famous 1950 trio with Tal Farlow and Charles Mingus performing "Swedish Pastry," "Time and Tide," and "Mood Indigo." If there’s but a wee problem with this set it is the inclusion of too many alternate takes and possibly one disc of the cream of the crop might have been a better idea.

morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (C. Andrew Hovan) BeBop / Hard Bop - CD Reviews Thu, 01 Aug 2002 13:00:00 -0500