Selected reviews

         Subscribe for full reviews

CDs and DVDs for review can be sent to the Ashford address under Subscriptions.  Do not send any other type of review material (e.g., books) but email for advice.


Jazz Journal offers unrivalled coverage of recorded jazz old and new. We carry more than 20,000 words of expert comment and discography on recent jazz issues in every edition

Complete list of CDs reviewed in JJ June 2014 (see below for excerpts):
Akinmusire, Ambrose: The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier To Paint (Blue Note 602537635733)
Armstrong, Louis: Plays W.C. Handy Complete Edition (Essential Jazz Classics 55628)
Barbieri, Gato: The Third World (Beat Goes Public 272)
Barbieri, Gato: Gato… Para Los Amigos/Qué Pasa/Che Corazón (Beat Goes On 1127)
Basie, Count: Afrique (Beat Goes Public 271)
Bjørnstad, Ketil: Sunrise (ECM 374 5479)
Blake, Seamus/Chris Cheek: Reeds Ramble (Criss Cross 1364)
Bley, Paul: Play Blue (ECM 376 6190)
Blind Boys Of Alabama, The: I'll Find A Way (Sony Masterworks 88883740582)
Bonati, Roberto/Diana Torto: Heureux Comme Avec Une Femme (ParmaFrontiere 002)
Brown, Ari: Groove Awakening (Delmark 5011)
Burton, Gary: Who Is Gary Burton? (Essential Jazz Classics 55627)
Coltrane, John: Out Of This World (Properbox 181)
Coltrane, John: Olé Coltrane (Essential Jazz Classics 55631)
Culver, Ruthie: Look Stranger (Purring Records 004)
Davis, Miles: Manchester Concert - Complete 1960 Live At The Free Trade Hall (‘In’ Crowd 996692)
Edis, Paul: Not Like Me (Self-released download)
Edwards, Mark: In Deep (Quiet Money 0003)
Fame, Georgie: Singer (Proper 120)
Felder, Nir: Golden Age (Okeh 88883796292)
Gibbs, Gerry: Thrasher Dream Trio (Whaling City Sound 065)
Goodman, Benny: Live At Basin Street East (American Jazz Classics 99090)
Haque, Fareed: Trance Hypothesis (Delmark 5012)
Hart, Billy: One Is The Other (ECM 375 9733)
Ingham, Chris: Hoagy (Downhome 0001)
Jordan, Clifford: Complete Strata-East Sessions (Mosaic MD6-256)
Kikoski, Carpenter, Novak, Sheppard: From The Hip (BFM Jazz 77054)
Kirk, Roland: The Limelight/Verve Albums (Mosaic MRLP 3006 - vinyl)
Konitz, Lee: Standards Live - At The Village Vanguard (Enja 9609)
Led Bib: The People In Your Neighbourhood (Cuneiform Rune 378)
Levy Daniels, Barbara: Love Lost And Found (BLD Productions 884501997027)
London, Julie: Your Number, Please… + Julie… At Home (Fine and Mellow 609)
Manne, Shelly: Checkmate (American Jazz Classics 99084)
Mason, Harvey: Chameleon (Concord 341130)
McDuff, Brother Jack: Goodnight, It's Time To Go + The Honeydripper (Groove Hut 66717)
McDuff, Brother Jack: Nuther Fu'ther + Soul Shack (Groove Hut 66718)
Michelson Morley: Aether Drift (F-IRECD 66)
Monk, Thelonious: The Complete 1961 Amsterdam Concert (Solar 4569944)
Mraz, George/David Hazeltine: Your Story (Cube Metier 21351)
Ory, Kid: Storyville Nights (Upbeat 262)
Pepper, Art/Ted Brown: The Complete Free Wheeling Sessions (Phoenix 131599)
Phronesis: Life To Everything (Edition 1050)
Plymouth: Plymouth (Rare Noise 040)
Polar Bear: In Each And Every One (Leaf 12877)
Raney, Sue: Complete Capitol 1956-1960 (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 811)
Reid, Rufus: Quiet Pride (Motéma 114)
Riel, Alex/Stefan Pasborg: Drumfaces (Stunt 13122)
Roach, Max: Lausanne 1960 Part 1 (TCB 02352)
Sine Qua Non: Serge Gainsborough Reimagined (Coup Perdu 001, vinyl)
Six City Stompers: The Formula (Stunt 12172)
Smith, Tommy/Brian Kellock: Whispering Of The Stars (Spartacus 019)
Sportiello, Rossano: It's A Good Day (Arbors 19431)
Stigers, Curtis: Hooray For Love (Concord 888072344754)
Sung, Helen: Anthem For A New Day (Concord Jazz 34496)
Tsiganov, Misha: The Artistry Of The Standard (Criss Cross 1367)
Various: Atlantic Jazz Legends (Warner 8122796024)
Various: British Traditional Jazz At A Tangent Vol 5 (Lake 328)
Wakenius, Ulf: Momento Magico (ACT 9565)
Webster, Ben: The Warm Moods + BBB & Co (American Jazz Classics 99085)
Wess, Frank: Magic 201 (IPO 1025)
Wiley, Lee: Four Classic Albums Plus (Avid Jazz AMSC 1113)
Witherspoon, Jimmy: Four Classic Albums Plus (Avid Jazz AMSC 1114)

Excerpts from the 63 CD reviews in this issue (full print reviews run up to 300 words and include discography - subscribe here):

Akinmusire’s trumpet playing in these mostly rubato settings is vague, abstract and ambiguous, adding to the overall sense of bruised lament that characterises his music here and elsewhere. It’s interesting to hear him as a sideman in straightahead and funk settings (none here), eg, with the Yellowjackets, where perhaps his imagination and chops are thrown into sharper relief by the decisive rhythmic frameworks, even as the hard bop tramlines of his style are more apparent. Downbeat has referred to AA’s vision of jazz as “intellectually restless”. It’s that all right, if not much fun. (Mark Gilbert) ***

Sunrise is sub-titled “A cantata on texts by Edvard Munch”. Jazz and Munch might seem strange bedfellows. However, the Norwegian Bjørnstad – whose work is significantly informed by jazz, but also by aspects of an early classical background – has long been interested in the Expressionist painter who is by far his country’s most famous artist. The economically rendered yet atmospheric soundscapes seem appropriate for the life and work of an artist who – as the dual-language texts in the CD booklet reveal – struggled all his life to turn the elemental dualisms, or tensions, of life and death, love and hate, loss and belonging into something positive, even sacred. Maybe Munch and jazz are not such strange bedfellows after all. (Michael Tucker) *****

This is a really enjoyable straight-ahead, blues-tinged jazz album, featuring Ethan Iverson on piano, who seems the perfect contemporary Monk-like choice, accompanied by the excellent rhythm pairing of Penman and Rueckert. The extremely fluent Cheek and Blake offer an original composition each, namely Blue Moose and All About Me respectively, and the remaining seven tracks are interpretations of tunes by Eddie Harris, Jim Beard, Elmo Hope and Brian Wilson amongst others, and it’s a nicely balanced programme of material at different tempos in different grooves, played throughout with verve and more than a little humour. (Dave Jones) ****

This is a terrific solo concert from Bley. Music, he has opined, “is a substitute for sunlight. That’s why, the further north you go, the more intense the music is.” I wouldn’t want to quibble with one of the most intelligent musicians on the planet, but August in Oslo is often a time of plentiful light, even if the legendary white nights of the northern summer may have dimmed a touch or two from their mid-June majesty. Whatever: Play Blue finds Bley in magically intense form at the Oslo Jazz Festival. Playing a fine – and wonderfully recorded – piano, he offers just under an hour of simultaneously concentrated and expansive pianistic pleasure. (Michael Tucker) *****

GARY BURTON: WHO IS GARY BURTON? (Essential Jazz Classics 55627)
The first seven tracks on this disc comprise Gary Burton’s Who Is album, recorded in 1962; the greater part of the disc is welcome bonus material and consists of Joe Morello’s LP It’s About Time and Hank Garland’s album Subtle Swing. Gary Burton is well to the fore throughout, demonstrating his incredible facility with three or four mallets, his technique allied to his innate musical ability and sympathy. The rest of the star-studded personnel on the first 12 tracks are fully involved; just to pick two examples: Chris Swansen’s engaging solo on the ballad I’ve Just Seen Her and Phil Woods’s alto on Time After Time. Everything is of course underpinned by Joe Morello’s masterful drumming. (Brian Robinson) *****

I’ve always held Fame in high regard as one of our best jazz musicians and his work here is in character. Steve Gray is a name that I don’t know but should. Madeline Bell is a unique singer with great power and range. The composers decided to tell in a nutshell the life story of a female singer. The singing and composition is as you would expect, highly individual, with Gray’s character a strong influence on both. Born in Middlesborough, Gray was (he died in 2008) a very talented composer who was equally at home writing for a large orchestra or a swing band. The numbers are split between Fame and Bell in solo with the two coming together on Be True To Yourself and From Now On. Fame wrote the indispensible liner note (tucked far into the sleeve where you might miss it) with lucidity. (Steve Voce) ****

Haque’s new record is crammed full of incident, leaving barely a stylistic stone unturned as well as revealing him as a dues-paid hard-bop burner on the guitar – something that wasn’t obvious or even hinted at in the high-profile work with Joe Zawinul and Sting that brought him to wide notice years ago. There’s the best of the styles of Pat Martino and George Benson here, coloured with mostly subtle hints of Haque’s Pakistani roots via tabla, sitar and some subcontinental vocals. They work fine musically, without too much sense of contrivance. Highlights are everywhere, the whole lot leavened with a little humour in the titling. Chitlins ’N’ Chutney is almost pure Benson 1966, just adding a little possibly overstated electronic drumming, well integrated tabla, sitar, and a fleeting Dorian #4 tonality (making clear the chutney bit). (Mark Gilbert) *****

This is the second ECM album by this group, following on from a previous release in 2012. The fact that this is a working band is apparent throughout the programme in the rarefied, unbelievably subtle interplay – a mark of deep listening, intuition and so much more. This is one of the few working bands to have fully grasped the implications of the Miles Davis quintet with Shorter, Hancock, Carter and Williams from over half a century ago. In draping its music in veils, as it were, this group’s lent that band’s innovations a chamber-like solemnity, which is a lot more than can be said for those who do reasonably nicely out of approximately replicating the quintet’s work. (Nic Jones) *****

If allowed I would award this superb Mosaic release 10 stars to make absolutely sure nothing else topped it in JJ’s ratings. It collects on six CDs the Strata-East recordings made Chicagoan tenorist Jordan, whether as leader or producer, and an outstanding set of releases they are. The masterwork here is Jordan’s own Glass Bead Games, named after the Herman Hesse novel, and recorded in 1973. Many of the tracks are dedicated to figures that Jordan admires. From the opening Powerful Paul Robeson, the leader’s warm, rich and totally distinctive tenor playing is beautifully captured. The title track is a distinctive, Coltrane-inflected chord sequence, and Cal Massey is a highly unobvious blues theme. John Coltrane is another wonderfully melodic line, and all of these superb tracks are supported by the superb drumming of Billy Higgins. A classic album from an amazing Mosaic set. (Andy Hamilton) *****

This box set of quality vinyl discs from Mosaic is another real gem. As an expensive but value-for-money present for a jazz enthusiast it can have few equals in this year’s crop of releases. Three of Roland’s very best LPs are here remastered to Mosaic’s usual high standards along with LP3, Slightly Latin. The latter is not one of Kirk’s best sessions and might have reduced the rating slightly if the others had not been so ultra special. (Derek Ansell) *****

More bludgeoning “jazz-rock” ostinati from the quintet that over the past 10 years has turned leader Holub’s Middlesex University project into a day job in venues and media hungry for the impression if not the matter of innovation. “Jazz-rock” should be prefaced with “vintage” since this doesn’t go much beyond the 1970s lexicon. If it represents anything new it’s maybe the boom in jazz education. Do such institutions foster the idea that if a dissonance sounds good, repeating it ad nauseam without resolution must be better? (Mark Gilbert) **

This set turns to a wide selection of sources: Bill Evans, Barry Harris, popular songs, originals by Mraz and Hazeltine. Throughout, the three never lose touch with the melodic heartbeat of the music. The pianist is the principal soloist, although Mraz has several excellent solos, including on Your Story, I Didn’t Know What Time It Was and especially You Must Believe In Spring. The quality of the piano and bass solos is exemplary, every track containing moments to cherish; although in a supportive role, Jason Brown is subtly skilled, his contribution that of an equal partner. (Bruce Crowther) *****

A filmic mood is built on track one by organ, guitar with delay, and pattering snare fiddling about over an altered dominant tonality and rubato rhythm for two and half minutes. A similarly monochrome course is pursued for the rest of the album’s “purely improvised” 62 minutes. The PR has it as “audacious, wildly uncompromising” though it’s not clear what constraints are being imposed or broken. Unresolved, untargeted chromaticism – largely formless and without contour beyond varied dynamics and timbre – ensues. Aside from glimpses of technical facility, it sounds like teenagers with six months’ lessons letting their hair down, though they’d never concentrate this long, I suppose. (Mark Gilbert) **

The leader is a Russian who made it in the US. I make no apologies for finding his combination of Hancock and Corea approaches captivating whenever he solos. The arrangements are his too and distinguished mainly by captivating games with time on this set of standards. In some hands this approach could spawn contrivance, but here it flows perfectly. Anyone with a taste for imaginative hard bop should find this a pleasant, engaging and often thrilling set. Beautiful stuff, beautifully recorded and thanks to Criss Cross for continuing to hold this kind of musical line. The promise of the title is accomplished. (Mark Gilbert) *****

VARIOUS: ATLANTIC JAZZ LEGENDS (Warner/Rhino 8122796024)
Atlantic under the Erteguns was a brilliant meeting of art and commerce. Chris Connor sold records, enough to justify 12 Atlantic sessions in half as many years, so she’s every bit as much part of the history of Atlantic Jazz as the revolutionaries of the next decade. As Brian Priestley points out in a short but nicely pointed booklet essay, many of these musicians did go on to other things and to work in more adventurous, but also less politicised environments. I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to have this magnificent set, with its now familiarly miniaturised LP covers. I listened to all of these within a 24-hour period, an extended, nostalgic wallow that I recommend for aching limbs and tired ears. (Brian Morton) ****


post a comment