Selected reviews


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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 August 2014 (see below for excerpts):
Alderton, Pete: Living On Love (Song Ways 512)
Aless, Tony: Long Island Suite (Fresh Sound FSR 1664)
Alexander, Monty: Harlem-Kingston Express Vol. 2 (Motéma 233828)
Allison, Mose: Swingin' Machine (Warner 8122795999)
Allison, Mose: Middle Class White Boy (Warner 8122796009)
Alpert, Trigger: Trigger Happy! (Fresh Sound FSR 1665)
Bechet, Daniel-Sidney: Avec Olivier Franc (Frémeaux 8502)
Blakey, Art: Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk (Warner 8122795985)
Blakey, Art: And The Jazz Messengers Complete Studio Recordings (Jazz Dynamics 009)
Cobham, Billy/George Duke: "Live" On Tour In Europe (Warner 8122795986)
Cole, Nat King: Live In Tokyo (‘In’ Crowd 996682)
Coleman, Ornette: To Whom Who Keeps A Record (Warner 8122796006)
Coleman, Ornette: This Is Our Music - The Complete Sessions (Essential Jazz Classics EJC55633)
Connor, Chris: Witchcraft (Warner 8122796008)
Coryell, Larry/Alphonse Mouzon: Back Together Again (Warner 8122796004)
Davis, Jeff: Dragon Father (Fresh Sound FSNT 444)
Davis, Miles: Live At The Fillmore (Columbia 88765433812)
Davis, Miles: Amandla (Warner 8122795981)
Davis, Miles: Doo-Bop (Warner 8122795977)
Davis, Miles: Tutu (Warner 8122795979)
Edison, Harry: Swings Buck Clayton (And Vice Versa) (American Jazz Classics 99098)
Ellington, Duke: Ellington 65 (Warner 8122796625)
Ellington, Duke: Treasury Shows Vol. 18 (Storyville 903 9018)
Ellis, Chris: The Digby Fairweather Archives (Rose Cottage 005)
Evans, Bill: Three Classic Albums Plus (Avid Jazz AMSC 1119)
Evans, Bill: The Complete Interplay Sessions (Essential Jazz Classics 55640)
Fitzgerald, Ella: Three Classic Albums Plus (Avid Jazz AMSC 1118)
Fitzgerald, Ella: Second Set Three Classic Albums Plus (Avid Jazz AMSC 1122)
Fitzgerald, Ella: Things Ain't What They Used To Be (Warner 8122796019)
Freeman, Chico: Tradition In Transition (Warner 8122795998)
Fresu, Paolo: Vinodentro (Tuk 118)
Gascoyne, Geoff/Dave O'Higgins: The Real Note Vol. 2 (Jazzizit 1461)
Getz, Stan: Round Midnight In Paris (American Jazz Classics 99099)
Getz, Stan: The Complete Roost Studio Sessions (American Jazz Classics 99091)
Goodwin, Gordon/Big Phat Band: Life In The Bubble (Telarc 35453)
Harley, Rufus: A Tribute To Courage (Warner 8122796890)
Harriott, Joe: Indo-Jazz Suite (Warner 8122796014)
Harris, Eddie: Silver Cycles (Warner 8122796000)
Harrow, Nancy: Wild Women Don't Have The Blues; You Never Know (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 832)
Hart, Jim/Barry Green: The MJQ Celebration (King's Gambit 001)
Jarrett, Keith/Charlie Haden: Last Dance (ECM 378 0524)
Jazz Couriers, The: England's Greatest Combo/The Message From Britain (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 831)
Jenkins, Marv: Hollywood's Little Giant Of Jazz (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 830)
King, Peter: Omo Lewa (Secret Stash 31)
Kitt, Eartha: Down To Eartha + St. Louis Blues (Jackpot 48743)
Kuroda, Takuya: Rising Son (Blue Note, no number)
Lateef, Yusef: The Gentle Giant (Warner 7567813802)
Lien, Helge: Badgers And Other Beings (Ozella 055)
Lore, Alex: Dream House (Inner Circle 034)
MacDonald, Raymond/Marilyn Crispell: Parallel Moments (Babel 13125)
Mann, Herbie: Today (Warner 8122795993)
Mann, Herbie: Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty (Warner 8122796013)
McFerrin, Bobby: Bobby McFerrin (Warner 8122795978)
McIntyre, Ken: Stone Blues/Looking Ahead/Honi Gordon Sings    (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 827)
Mingus, Charles: Let My Children Hear Music/Charles Mingus And Friends In Concert (Beat Goes On 1140)
Mingus, Charles: Mingus Moves (Warner 8122795984)
Miranda, Carmen: The Brazilian Bombshell (Retrospective 4246)
Molvær, Nils Petter: Switch (Okeh 88883747742)
Moreno, Javier: Marais Del Sueño (Fresh Sound FSNT 445)
Murphy, Mark: Sings (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 823)
Muthspiel, Wolfgang/Larry Grenadier/Brian Blade: Driftwood (ECM 375 6400)
Newman, David: House Of David (Warner 8122714522)
Odetta: Sings The Blues (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 829)
Riverside All Stars/Junior Mance: A Jazz Version Of Kean/Soul Of Hollywood (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 828)
Rogers, Shorty: Jazz Waltz (Warner 8122796010)
Saluzzi, Dino: El Valle De La Infancia (ECM 377 0032)
Sanborn, David: Sanborn (Warner 8122795973)
Sanford, JC/Orchestra: Views From The Inside (Whirlwind 4652)
Shearing, George: Jazz Moments (Essential Jazz Classics 55632)
Silver, Horace: Live In New York 1953 (Solar 4569945)
Young, Jacob: Forever Young (ECM 376 8896)

Excerpts from the 71 CD reviews in this issue (full print reviews run up to 300 words and include discography - subscribe here):

Most of us will remember Aless (he died in 1985) for his recordings with Herman in the mid 40s and with Getz in 1950. He was a Chubby Jackson regular and worked with Parker, Ventura and many of the names of the era. He’s an eloquent and ever-swinging pianist, who managed to pick a very strong line-up for the only album under his own name. Probably more than any others of the “modernist” pianists, Aless owed a debt to Basie, but one to Powell as well and Count’s and Bud’s fingerprints are everywhere. They make a surprisingly good combination. (Steve Voce) ****

Mose Allison’s Percy Mayfield-inspired vocals combined with his Nat Cole-influenced piano stylings create a potent combination. Just like Johnnie Mercer, Hoagy Carmichael and Dave Frishberg there is a rich vein of Americana woven into his lyrical narratives reflecting blues, folk, jazz and country influences. His evocative lyrics create pastoral images of life in the rural south. His Swingin’ Machine “is working like a charm. It keeps me from going back to the farm.” Stop The World has “too many pigs at the same trough” and If You’re Goin’ To The City “you better lock your door. They’ll take what you’ve got boy and then ask for more.” His early recordings usually featured an Ellington classic and I Ain’t Got Nothing But The Blues from 1944 is a perfect vehicle for his laid-back delivery. (Gordon Jack) ****

The showbiz gets in the way fairly often, not least in the long verbal joke of Space Lady, and the Return To Forever moments such as Almustafa The Beloved are moody but stolid. But the music is bright, transparent and engaging when it’s funky or swinging, with greatest jazz interest in the edgy, brimming inventions of John Scofield, on the threshold of finalising one of the most influential guitar voices of the 80s and 90s. His solo on Hip Pockets (at which point the rhythm section moves to swing) and that on Ivory Tattoo are worth the price alone. There are good ones from Duke too, though eclipsed by Scofield’s originality. (Mark Gilbert) ****

The 1986 Tutu album is rightly remarked for its originality in the Miles catalogue, adopting as it does the technology and sounds of the moment. The 1991 Doo-Bop is also a then-contemporary studio production yet has a lightness of mood and the suggestion, at least, of a spontaneity absent from Tutu. The backgrounds are largely the work of rapper Easy Mo Bee, and content aside the sound has a springiness that contrasts with the compressed, sepulchral shades of much of Tutu. Part of the lightness surely derives from the suppleness of the rhythms. Easy Mo Bee, as might be expected, adopted the hip-hop and dance rhythms of the day, and these have a loose, syncopated feel often not far from swing. The tempos and arrangements also vary widely and the jazz soloing aside, there’s an engaging range of colour in Easy Mo Bee’s own creations, whether rap is your thing or not. Although some of the solos were wrapped in backings posthumously, it seems certain Miles the soloist was inspired by the rhythmic environment and likely relaxed by his companions. He improvises at length and at leisure to positive effect - there’s hardly a melody statement here. The key track is Blow, a nice rap tribute to Miles with soloing from its dedicatee - technically secure and rich in feeling, cheek and variation - that he had hardly bettered in the preceding two decades. (Mark Gilbert) *****

Three of Bill’s very best here – two in the studio and the famous last session at the Vanguard before LaFaro’s tragic death. The Portrait session has some very fine lyrical piano, the leader’s fingers caressing the keys to produce those trademark, glittering, gleaming notes and bass and drums integrating the three musicians into one seamless whole. As to the Everybody Digs session I’m tempted to say that the Jones boys were the ideal rhythm partners for Evans; certainly they swing more here and Philly Joe’s extrovert sound and style makes a fine contrast with the pianist’s delicate filigrees on the ballads. The Vanguard sessions show a trio that had worked together for three years and could practically read each other’s musical minds. The level of integration between the three is complete and the give and take near perfection. This set is also valuable for the four alternate takes from the Vanguard and one from the Portrait album. Classic albums indeed! (Derek Ansell) *****

Another volume by this line up with, on this occasion, some new compositions based on old chord changes. Isn’t that what modern jazz musicians have been doing since about 1940? All the boys here are on good form with a top-rank rhythm section sparked by bassist Gascoyne and drummer Sebastiaan de Krom pushing saxophonist O’Higgins all the way. Pianist Graham Harvey functions as a first-rate second soloist and his work in the rhythm section is spot on. This is an attractive release by four masters doing what modern soloists have been doing ever since Charlie Parker amazed everyone with his higher intervals and rhythmic changes at the Chili House in 1939. (Derek Ansell) ****

These Roost sessions catch Getz at the tail-end of what I always think of as his “pale water-colour” period, the year following his departure from Woody Herman’s band, with the after-glow of Early Autumn still on him. Pieces such as On The Alamo and Gone With The Wind, with their wispy tone and feathery articulation, are perfect miniatures of a kind unique in jazz, using a tightly controlled technique and rigorously limited range of expression. Seven months later, a radical change was in process. Getz had come across Horace Silver, leading the house band at a club in Connecticut, and been inspired by the young pianist’s energy and high spirits. The January 1951 session confirms that this was not some passing whim but the beginning of a looser, freer, more open and inclusive style. For the final Roost session, Duke Jordan replaced Horace Silver, who now had an independent career. To appreciate the change that had taken place over two and a half years, compare You Go To My Head from the first session with Fools Rush In from this one. The latter is purposeful and builds its own structure around the song, whereas the former simply decorates it. (Dave Gelly) *****

Every few years since 1989 Gordon Goodwin has released a CD to show the big band genre is very much alive and kicking. His eclectic writing features a potent mix of jazz, rock and salsa elements with hints of the very best of Sammy Nestico, Bill Holman and Quincy Jones along the way. Why We Can’t Have Nice Things has a rhythmic motif passed around the sections before alto man Kevin Garren launches forth on his first recorded solo outing with the band. Years Of Therapy is book-ended with a stately bow to the baroque with Wayne Bergeron on piccolo trumpet creating a suitably Johann Sebastian-like mood. When he switches to the Bb instrument he makes it clear why he is one of the most in- demand players both on lead and as a soloist. (Gordon Jack) *****

Wild women may not have the blues but Nancy Harrow has them for sure. The old Basie blues, Take Me Back Baby finds her on really good form belting out the lyrics like an update on Jimmy Rushing’s version with the Count. Nancy‘s voice has just the right amount of gravel to mix with the sugar and spice and produce the authentic blues sound. She is helped considerably, of course, by a splendid Basie-style combo in which Clayton and Buddy Tate shine and the rhythm section give a passable modern version of the throbbing Basie, Page, Green, Jones unit. Harrow later sings I Don’t Know What Kind Of Blues I’ve Got – the answer is the authentic kind! (Derek Ansell) *****

In contrast to the orgasmic intensity he’s often associated with – the thrust and the passion were the things, however comical and testosteronic they sometimes appeared – Keith Jarrett has often enough evinced a post-coital dreaminess. In this session, typically on Every Time We Say Goodbye and Everything Happens To Me, quiet rapture replaces raunchiness. Whatever the assessment of his originality, Jarrett was ever the adventurer. Reservations aside, there are few musicians today who can make a jazz classic sound so freshly turned, so meaningful. The inside-out intricacy of ’Round Midnight, for example, recalls those games in which the tune has to be guessed as quickly as possible but is tantalisingly elusive, and Bud Powell’s Dance Of The Infidels proves that there’s vitality hiding in the reverie. The gist, though, is one of fire quenched and excitement on hold, at least for the time being. The listener in me loves it; the critic wants more. (Nigel Jarrett) ****

Marvin Jenkins (1932-2005) had formal music training in his native Ohio, moving to Los Angeles following military service to complete his education at Westlake College of Music. He was equally skilled on organ, flute and tenor sax, but forged a strong career as a robust pianist. The three trio sets included here are uniformly listenable; the band set is less interesting than it might have been due to the brevity of the performances, although it does indicate Marvin’s growing ability as a composer. The final cut is extracted from a single. By all accounts Jenkins had a tough life. His son died, aged 10, followed by his wife of 25 years. The pianist also developed severe arthritis, which forced him to abandon the keyboard. However, he continued teaching, composing and arranging. The messages imparted by Jenkins were ever cheerful and optimistic, to set toes tapping and heads nodding in approval. (Mark Gardner) ****

It takes something special to stand out in a crowded marketplace, and tech-savvy post-rock improvising piano trios are fast becoming synonymous with contemporary European jazz. It’s a trend largely attributable to Esbjörn Svensson, whose modernising slant on the format’s time-honoured traditions proved to be a ticket to global success. Scandinavia remains awash with exciting piano trios. Jacob Karlzon, Martin Tingvall, Splashgirl and In The Country each occupy a particular niche within this broad sub-set, but it is perhaps the trio of Helge Lien which gets closest to the original spirit of E.S.T. The snaking groove of Hoggormen stands out as the album’s killer track. The New Black is an intriguing study in tension and release, Folkmost and Calypso introduce a dash of global spice, and the free-floating Badger’s Lullaby and Hvalen are object lessons in the art of sustaining a barely implied mood. Lien emerges as a genuine contender, and every last detail is faithfully captured in another of JEK’s peerless Rainbow Studio productions. (Fred Grand) ****


Was it jazz? Hardly. For much of the period under review, however, demarcation lines were blurred. Filmgoers keen on musicals would have come across the “Brazilian Bombshell” Carmen Miranda – I certainly did as a child and even caught her stage appearance at the London Palladium. So, a welcome wallow in nostalgia. Her success in the USA led eventually to brickbats in Brazil and neighbouring countries, where purists claimed she distorted the region’s indigenous musics while presenting a lower-class (black) image. As a singer/interpreter, Miranda sails through the tricky-sounding stuff though you miss the visuals: India-rubber facial expressions, extravagant outfits and gyratory skill so much part of her act. Not only film buffs fluent in Portuguese might happily add one or two stars to the rating. (Ronald Atkins) ***


It’s hard to believe that almost two decades have passed since the mould-breaking Khmer (ECM, 1997). Molvaer’s music has subsequently grown ever more organic and refined, blending natural and synthetic sounds into a very personal voice. His choice of musicians for this project formulates a fascinating new equation, with Sundstøl’s pedal-steel and resonator guitars and the dusty sepia-tinged piano of Morten Qvenild (leader of up-and-coming trio In The Country) opening up fresh electro-acoustic vistas. This is an album which avoids the extreme polarities that characterise earlier works. Its flatter dynamics and delicately nuanced emotional balance demonstrate Molvaer’s complete mastery of the sub-genre he has made his own. Very different to the heavy fusion of last year’s Baboon Moon, this album seems to show Molvaer’s creative muse positively reinvigorated. A new high-water mark? I think so. (Fred Grand) *****


It’s gratifying that more location recordings by the late Horace Silver from the 1950s are reaching us at last, albeit over half a century later. This especially early set catches Horace and saxophonist Lou Donaldson finding their feet as newcomer artists. The pair were frequent playing companions in this period and their efforts melded beautifully. Accompanied by two obscure individuals (bassist Schenk appeared on a mere handful of recordings; drummer Turner on no other, according to the notes), Lou and Horace stretch out in unusually lengthy performances for that time. Despite the shortcomings of the amateurish recording, the vibrancy of the music shines through. Of the extended renditions (Lou’s Blues runs for over 18 minutes) an energised Rifftide and a juicy Billie’s Bounce take the palm. In little more than a year, Silver would be co-founding the Jazz Messengers, while Donaldson was making his mark as a young bandleader. Here they provide many clues as to what lay in store. It’s an intriguing preview of two successful careers. (Mark Gardner) ****


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