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"Hang the expense! How could you better spend your money? A car will only get you from one place to another. This box will transport you to ecstasy!"

LOUIS ARMSTRONG
SATCHMO: LOUIS ARMSTRONG, THE AMBASSADOR OF JAZZ

Universal 5333655

This isn't an album, it's an experience. Or, if it is an album, then it is the most beautifully presented one that I have ever seen. It arrives in a robust facsimile battered suitcase. Unlike the usual gimmicky aberrations of the designer's mind, this box serves as a useful and sensibly-shaped container for its contents. What's inside are the 10 CDs in nicely designed card cases, one of the best hardback books (200pp – 8" x 101⁄2") on Louis that you'll ever see, a catalogue of what's on the CDs and the sheet music for five of Louis's best known performances. The whole has obviously been thought out to present the buyer with the highest possible quality regardless of cost.

I have heard one or two quibbles about the selection of tracks. I can't agree. They are very well chosen. The excellent sound quality (have the Olivers taken yet another leg up from the Retrieval set?) means that all the magnificent music leaps out at you with the unbounded joy and exuberance of the perpetrator.

How nice to rediscover gems like That's For Me and to wonder again why Tight Like This isn't called Tight Like That. All the obvious ones, West End Blues, Rockin' Chair, Blueberry Hill, are inevitably included, but it's great to have such a complete illustration of the workaday (but always inspired) career of the great man. CD10 includes out-takes and fragments that, like the concert on CD8 haven't been issued before. Dan Morgenstern's long interview gives us more insights to add to the recently released home tapes.

The beautifully bound hardback, written and compiled by Richard Havers, is a joy. It's full of mainly large photographs of Louis and his musicians, most of which I have not seen before. Its pages are decked out with pungent quotes from the master: "I don’t give a damn. Hines and his ego, ego, ego! If he wanted to go, the hell with him. He's good, sure, but we don't need him," and like that.

Everything fits together in the well-plotted interior of the box and the proper leather handle means that it's an ideal way to transport the set to show off to your friends.

This is one to sit beside and to complement your two Armstrong Mosaic boxes. Hang the expense! How could you better spend your money? A car will only get you from one place to another. This box will transport you to ecstasy!
Steve Voce

 


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"It would be wrong to categorise Clark as simply a modernist all-rounder. By the time of his death at 32, he was established as a lucid and highly individual bebop master. This revisitation is a bountiful reminder."

SONNY CLARK
SONNY'S CONCEPTION

CD1: (1) Improvisation No 1; All God's Chillun Got Rhythm; Body And Soul/Jeepers Creepers; Improvisation No 2/Over The Rainbow; Move; (2) Oslo; After You’ve Gone; (3) Once In While; (4) Dial 'S' For Sonny; Bootin' It; It Could Happen To You; Sonny's Mood (78.30)
CD2: (4) Shoutin' On A Riff; Love Walked In (trio version); (5) News For Lulu; Sonny's Crib; Speak Low; With A Song In My Heart; Come Rain Or Come Shine; (6) I Didn't Know What Time It Was; Two Bass Hit (71.02)
CD3: (6) Bebop; Tadd's Delight; Softly As In A Morning Sunrise; I'll Remember April (p solo); (7) Cool Struttin'; Blue Minor; Sippin' At Bells; Deep Night; (8) Black Velvet (68.25)
CD4: (8) I'm Just A Lucky So And So; Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You?; Ain't No Use; The Breeze And I; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; (9) Minor Meeting; Nica; Sonny's Crib; Blues Mambo; Blues Blue; Junka; My Conception (p solo); Sonja (61.51)
(1) Clark (p). Oslo, Norway, 15 January, 1954. (2) Clark; Ivor Borsum (b); Bobby White (d). Oslo, 15/16 January 1954. (3) Clark; Red Mitchell (b); White (d). Paris, 6 February 1954. (4) Clark; Art Farmer (t); Curtis Fuller (tb); Hank Mobley (ts); Wilbur Ware (b); Louis Hayes (d). Hackensack, New Jersey, 21 July 1957. (5) Clark; Donald Byrd (t); Fuller (tb); John Coltrane (ts); Paul Chambers (b); Art Taylor (d). Hackensack, 9 October 1957. (6) Clark; Chambers (b); Philly Joe Jones (d). Hackensack. 13 November 1957. (7) Clark; Farmer (t); Jackie McLean (as); Chambers (b); Jones (d). Hackensack, 5 January 1958. (8) Clark; Jymie Merritt (b); Wes Landers (d); Hackensack, 16 November 1958. (9) Clark; George Duvivier (b); Max Roach (d). New York, 23 March 1960.
Properbox 161

The fact that five of these sessions were recorded in Hackensack, New Jersey, indicates that Sonny Clark was the house pianist at the Blue Note studios towards the end of his tragically short life. That, in itself, tells us plenty about his competence and adaptability and this invaluable 4-CD reissue finds him in the company of some fellow stars of his heyday.

But we are introduced to him informally: the first five solo tracks were recorded at a late-night party while Clark was on a European tour with the Buddy DeFranco quartet. As the very informative notes point out, the sound quality is far from perfect – reverb with some audible party gabble. But what Sonny had to say through the keyboard is clear enough and the two tracks named Improvisation lay down his style on the line: blues-drenched ornamentation balanced with boppish acidity and a liking for sly quotes. It's the kind of relaxed yet inventive piano you could listen to endlessly, played for fun and very fortunately preserved.

The 1957 sextet gigs, featuring markedly different stylists on trumpet and tenor, demonstrate Clark's ability to generate an urgent sense of swing in diverse company. The fact that Art Farmer was one of Duke's favourites illus- trates that his bebop credentials were underpinned by a glowing tone and a melodious mind: Donald Byrd by contrast was at the cutting edge of hard bop at this time, biting and aggressive.

Coltrane's solo in Sonny’s Crib shows his earlier, bustling style which I much prefer to his later, fashionable torrents. Throughout both sessions Curtis Fuller solos with his signature fierceness and Sonny's contributions (particularly in his original Bootin' It) continue to impart that axis of bluesiness to the mix.

It's an entertaining touch to note that even when Clark is improvising on pepped-up ballads such as With A Song In My Heart and in the delicious, slow trio version of Morning Sunrise he is essentially injecting them with strong dosages of blue sound through diminished harmonies.

Little can be said about Paul Chambers' bass playing through many of these titles apart from the fact that it is truly, solidly magnificent. But as for the piano player, it would be wrong to categorise him as simply a modernist all-rounder. By the time of his death at 32, he was established as a lucid and highly individual bebop master. This revisitation is a bountiful reminder.
Anthony Troon

 


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"So many female jazz singers and still new ones popping up all over the place. It sounds unlikely given the numbers but Dena is quite special and will bear serious investigation by all jazz aficionados."

DENA DEROSE
LIVE AT JAZZ STANDARD VOL 2

The Ruby And The Pearl; When Lights Are Low; Detour Ahead; I Fall In Love Too Easily; In Your Own Sweet Way; I Can't Escape From You; Laughing At Life; We'll Be Together Again (62.25)
Dena DeRose (p, v); Martin Wind (b); Matt Wilson (d). The Jazz Standard, NYC, 1 & 2 March 2007.
Maxjazz MX1 505

So many female jazz singers and still new ones popping up all over the place. It sounds unlikely given the numbers but Dena is quite special and will bear serious investigation by all jazz aficionados. Dena has it all, she sings with emotive warmth and clarity of expression, has great phrasing, can sing and scat up a storm and as if that's not enough she is a very good modern jazz pianist. This live set in NYC catches her at something close to her best with solid, highly sympathetic and driving support from bassist Wind and drummer Wilson.

Dena lives a full and satisfying life as a professor of jazz vocal studies at the University of Graz in Austria although they give her plenty of time to tour and play gigs in the USA and all over Europe. She is busy as an educator but never happier than when performing in studio or live.

This set is live and with a responsive audience. She delivers a warm, soulful reading on The Ruby And The Pearl, and Wild furnishes complex but complementary bass support on I Fall In Love Too Easily, Dena harmonising effective piano lines.

Live sets like this thrive on the atmosphere in the club and you can feel it palpably on these tracks. Detour Ahead, When Lights Are Low and the rarely heard Ruby And The Pearl are standout tracks but overall this is an exceptionally good piano trio jazz album. Very good sound balance is a welcome bonus.
Derek Ansell

 


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"The Black Eyed Peas, the American hip-hop group, were apparently paid an estimated £1.5 million for their gig at the big wedding of the year. Well, so far this is my record of the year."

EMPIRICAL
ELEMENTS OF TRUTH

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say; Yin & Yang; In The Grill; Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind – Pt. 1; Cosmos (For Carl Sagan); Simple Things; An Ambiguous State Of Mind; The Element Of Truth; Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind – Pt. 2 (52.47)
Nathaniel Facey (as); Lewis Wright (vib, gspl); George Fogel (p); Tom Farmer (b); Shaney Forbes (d). Curtis Schwartz Studio, England, April 2011.
Naim 168

Empirical is an award-winning British-based group with a youthful outlook. This, their third album, has newcomer pianist Fogel included as guest and he fits in well. They aim, or claim to aim, to expand on the fine traditions of jazz. They reference in passing such past masters as Clifford Brown, Elvin Jones, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams and Eric Dolphy. Of the living, singer Bjork partly inspires Tom Farmer's Simple Things. It's perhaps not as successful as his opener Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say, which is mesmerising.

This title begs an honest critique. So I will state this music is new, ethereal and shimmering and deserving of the highest praise. Yin & Yang has lovely vibraphone from Lewis Wright and on the title track Elements Of Truth (although listed as The Element Of Truth) he employs the glockenspiel. An Ambiguous State Of Mind has fine solos from Fogel and the quite incredible Nathaniel Facey, who plays a lot of notes. Lack of sleeve information leaves me with just the fresh contemporary music to comment upon, music that is tomorrow, new, raw, exciting and crying for recognition.

Given that, it's interesting to compare Empirical with The Black Eyed Peas, the American hip-hop group, who were apparently paid an estimated £1.5 million for their gig at the big wedding of the year. Well, so far this is my record of the year.
Alan Luff

 


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"What we hear on this disc is something that jazz is supposed to offer but seldom does these days – a spontaneous interpretation of compositions freely improvised on."

ALEX GARNETT
SERPENT

Lydia; Three For A Moor; Blueprint; Dracula’s Lullaby; Saluda Hakim; The Pimp; Serpent; Atonement (52.16)
Alex Garnett (as, ts); Anthony Wonsey (p); Michael Janisch (b); Willie Jones III (d). NYC, 2009.
Whirlwind Records WR 4615

Garnett's 2009 trip to NYC paid off with this session at Systems Two Studios with long-term bassist/collaborator Janisch along with Wonsey and Jones. The leader selected eight compositions of his own that seemed suitable and went into the studio to record with no prior rehearsal. So what we hear on this disc is something that jazz is supposed to offer but seldom does these days – a spontaneous interpretation of compositions freely improvised on.

Garnett's muscular tenor is heard to very good effect on the opening Lydia, his lines flowing effortlessly against the backdrop of a first-rate rhythm section. Wonsey is particularly important here with his sensitive but full-blooded accompaniment and challenging solos that are easily the equal of Garnett’s contributions. Solid bass and drum work complete the circle. Janisch has a smooth arco solo on Blueprint, his articulation spot on and he and Jones support unselfishly throughout the entire programme.

Garnett cites his influences as Hank Mobley, Dexter Gordon and Joe Henderson among others and something of the first two can be heard in his driving yet always laid-back lines on all the uptempo tracks here. Three For A Moor is a ballad, unsentimental and strong but lyrical and with strong solos by Garnett and his pianist. Dracula's Lullaby turns out to be a gentle, reflective ballad with a soft caress rather than a blood-thirsty bite, Wonsey's crystalline solo taking the honours.
Derek Ansell

 


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"Filled with great moments and offers the listener a fascinating opportunity to hear one of jazz's best small ensembles in a new context and tackling material from a completely different culture."

CHARLES LLOYD/MARIA FARANTOURI
ATHENS CONCERT

CD1: Kratissa ti zoi mou; Dream Weaver; Blow Wind; Requiem; Greek Suite, Part I – Hymnos stin Ayia Triada; Epano sto xero homa; Messa stous paradissious kipous; Taxidi sta Kythera (41.59)
CD 2: Prayer; Greek Suite, Part II – Velfaro mou; Margaritarenia; Thalassaki mou; Greek Suite, Part III – Epirotiko meroloi; Kægomæ kæ sigoliono; Mori kontoula lemonia; Alismono kæ hæromæ; Tou hel'to kastron; Yanni mou (45.05)

Charles Lloyd (ts, fl, tarogato); Maria Farantouri (v); Jason Moran (p); Reuben Rogers (b); Eric Harland (d); Socratis Sinopoulos (lyra); Takis Farazis (p, arr). Athens, June 2010.
ECM 276 7833

Charles Lloyd is joined here by Maria Farantouri, singer, political activist and long time friend of the great saxophonist, for a double album of old and new Greek songs and Lloyd originals. Recorded live in concert, Lloyd's all-star quartet is joined by a couple of local musicians on a few tracks, Takis Farazis and Socratis Sinopoulos on additional piano and lrya (a bowed string instrument) respectively.

Farantouri, with her clipped syllables and operatic vibrato, is by no means a jazz singer, but her measured, somewhat otherworldly interpretation brings a subtle power to these melodies and suits this group perfectly. The relaxed minor swing of Requiem is about as overtly jazzy as things get on The Athens Concert and, indeed, a fair amount of time is spent on brooding vamps, rubato melodies and swirling harmonic freedom elsewhere, but it never becomes at all stale or boring in the hands of Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers, Eric Harland and the evergreen Lloyd.

Moran is in particularly fine form with sensitive comping throughout and an endlessly inventive and multi-layered solo on Dream Weaver, a Lloyd classic from the 1960s. Things reach a climax with the more heavily arranged (by Farazis) Greek material on the second disc.

In typical ECM fashion, Athens Concert is beautifully recorded and presented with a lovely booklet containing photos, lyrics and liner notes from Lloyd and Farantouri with the saxophonist rather grandiosely describing the singer as "Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter, Gaia, Phemonoe, – Mother of the Universe". And while this album may not be quite as memorable as its predecessor, 2010's Mirror, it is filled with great moments and offers the listener a fascinating opportunity to hear one of jazz's best small ensembles in a new context and tackling material from a completely different culture.
Sam Braysher

 


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"Ornette Coleman's lovely Lonely Woman is the best track, working very effectively as a duet."

BRAD MEHLDAU & KEVIN HAYS
MODERN MUSIC

Crazy Quilt; Unrequited; Generatrix; Celtic Folk Melody; Music For 18 Musicians; Lonely Woman; Modern Music; Elegia; String Quartet No. 5 (47.50)
Brad Mehldau (p) and Kevin Hayes (p). Mechanics Hall, Worcester, MA, possibly 2011.
Nonesuch 528371

I'm not a major fan of piano duets but I well remember sitting open-mouthed at Drury Lane one Sunday evening relishing the superb duo of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. Other times I remember that great TV programme with Oscar and Basie; then there's Fats Waller and Bennie Paine, Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson...

Brad Mehldau is a star, premier-division pianist and one of the small minority whose talent fills halls the world over, in the manner of Keith Jarrett. Finally shorn of the Bill Evans influences he demonstrated earlier in favour of a wider style, he is favourite now for many. Here he's with his good friend and colleague from the late 80s, Kevin Hays, recently dropped from Blue Note, and the duo tackle some lovely, fresh, contemporary pieces arranged and sometimes composed by Patrick Zimmerli.

Ornette Coleman's lovely Lonely Woman is the best track, working very effectively as a duet. I also enjoyed Zimmerli's Modern Music although he perhaps leans a little heavily on Steve Reich. Zimmerli suggested Steve Reich's Music For 18 Musicians, and it's a constant delight, well-suited to this format. The Philip Glass String Quartet No. 5, here suitably double-glazed, didn't excite over much but Hays's Elegia was for me another highlight. This fine contemporary music, as arranged here, would eminently suit the Wigmore Hall, with which Mehldau has a close association.
Alan Luff

 


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