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RECORD REVIEWS

Jazz Journal offers unrivalled coverage of recorded jazz old and new, with more than 20,000 words of expert comment and discography on recent jazz releases in every issue

Complete list of CDs reviewed in JJ September 2015 (see below for excerpts):
Bechet, Sidney: In Switzerland En Suisse (United Music Foundation)
Berne, Tim/Snakeoil: You've Been Watching Me (ECM 472 2298)
Big Screen: Take One (Linn 504)
Blakey, Art/The Jazz Messengers: At The Free Trade Hall 1961 (Solar 4569958)
Blakey, Art/The Jazz Messengers: Complete Recordings (Essential Jazz Classics 55674)
Brecker Brothers, The: The Bottom Line Archive (Bottom Line 011)
Brooks, Tina/Quintet: The Complete Recordings (Phono 870333)
Brown, Clifford/Max Roach Allstars: Best Coast Jazz (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 868)
Candido: Latin Fire/Indigo/The Volcanic/Featuring Al Cohn (Malanga Music 829)
Clark, Sonny: The Art Of The Trio (Phono 870334)
Clarke, Kenny: Plays Arr. Of André Hodeir (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 864)
Cohn, Al/Jimmy Rowles: Heavy Love (Xanadu Master Edition 906073)
Cohn, Al/Billy Mitchell/Dolo Coker/Leroy Vinnegar/Frank Butler: Night Flight To Dakar + Xanadu In Africa (Xanadu Master Edition 906075)
Davis, Miles: Miles Davis Bitches Brew 40th Anniversary (Columbia 88875079792)
Davison, Wild Bill: The Jazz Giants (Sackville 3002)
Desmond, Paul: Here I Am (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 873)
Diehl, Aaron: Space Time Continuum (Mack Avenue 1094)
Dørge, Pierre/Quartet: Blui (Steeplechase 31797)
Downes, Kit: Tricko (Coup Perdu 003)
Duni, Elina/Quartet: Dallëndyshe (ECM 470 9282)
Elling, Kurt: Passion World (Concord, number unknown)
Ellington, Duke: Treasury Shows Vol. 19 (D.E.T.S 903 9019)
Ellington, Duke: Swingin' Suites, Bal Masque, Midnight In Paris, The Count Meets The Duke (Avid Jazz 1158)
Ellington, Duke/His Orchestra: The Conny Plank Session (Grönland 140)
Fairweather, Digby: The Best Of Digby Fairweather's Half Dozen (Rose Cottage 007)
Getz, Stan/Chet Baker: Live At The Haig 1953 (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 870)
Gewelt, Terje: Spindrift (Resonant Music 24)
Gillespie, Dizzy/Big Band: Complete 1956 South American Tour Recordings (Solar 45569960)
Govin, Joachim: Elements (Fresh Sound FSNT 476)
Green, Urbie/Big Band & Sextet: The Complete Persuasive Trombone (Phono 870228)
Harris, Barry: Plays Tadd Dameron (Xanadu Master Edition 906071)
Heath, Albert: Kwanza (The First) (Xanadu Master Edition 906070)
Heath, Jimmy: Picture Of Heath (Xanadu Master Edition 906072)
Helias, Mark/Open Loose: The Signal Maker (Intakt 245/2015)
Henderson, Scott: Vibe Station (scotthenderson.net)
Herring, Vincent: Night And Day (Smoke Sessions 1504)
Hollenbeck, John: Songs We Like A Lot (Sunnyside 1339)
Holiday, Billie: Lady Day/The Master Takes And Singles (Columbia/Legacy 88875079602)
Jarrett, Keith: Creation (ECM 472 1225)
Jones, Carmell: Carmell Jones Qt (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 867)
Lateef, Yusef: Four Classic Albums Plus (Avid Jazz 1156)
Lateef, Yusef: The Dreamer & The Fabric Of Jazz (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 872)
Laurance, Bill: Swift (GroundUp Music 002)
Lemer, Pepi: Back2Front (Right Recordings 226)
Locke, Joe: Love Is A Pendulum (Motéma 173)
Lund, Lage: Idlewild (Criss 1376)
Lundgren, Jan: A Retrospective (Fresh Sound FSR 5055 CD)
Magris, Roberto: Enigmatix (Jmood 010)
McRae, Carmen: Book Of Ballads (Poll Winners 27340)
Mecca, Lou/Bill De Arango, Chuck Wayne: 3 Swinging Guitar Sessions (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 869)
Mills Brothers, The: Paper Doll (Retrospective 4263)
Morente, Enrique: Original Album Series (Parlophone 2564622511)
Most, Sam: From The Attic Of My Mind (Xanadu Master Edition 906074)
Noy, Oz: Asian Twistz (Abstract Logix 048)
Peplowski, Ken/Alan Barnes: At The Watermill (Woodville 143)
Rich, Buddy: Birdland (Lightyear/Lobitos Creek Ranch 536564223)
Schwintzer, Axel/Axel's Idiom: Anecdotal Evidence (Foxtones Music 1415)
Sinatra, Frank: Complete Studio Recordings With Tommy Dorsey (One Records 59802)
Sipiagin, Alex: Balance 38-58 (Criss Cross 1378)
Slagr: Short Stories (Ozella 059)
Third Reel: Many More Days (ECM 472 3813)
Various: Introducing M-Base Winter & Winter 910 222)
Washington, Dinah: Complete Recordings With Don Costa (Essential Jazz Classics 55670)
Weave, The: Knowledge Porridge (Rufusalbino, number unknown)
Wilber, Bob/Dave McKenna, Pug Horton: Live In London (Classic Jazz 36)
Williams, Johnny: Rhythm In Motion/So Nice! (Fresh Sound/Blue Moon 858)
Young, Larry: Testifying/Young Blues/Groove Street/Forrest Fire (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 871)


Excerpts from the 67 CD reviews in this issue (see a free sample of full print reviews; subscribe to see 12 months of Jazz Journal
including over 20,000 words of CD review each issue):

SIDNEY BECHET: IN SWITZERLAND (United Music Foundation)
So it’s not just watches and cuckoo clocks the Swiss are good at. This is the most sumptuous music album that I have ever seen. It is elegantly and robustly bound and then boxed with a 216-page 12” x 12” book on Sidney Bechet that includes 250 photographs and 140 documents, most of them published for the first time. If she were alive this transcendentally beautiful thing is the sort of treasure that Cleopatra would have wanted to be buried with her. The set has been produced to commemorate a UNESCO anniversary and if my conversion from Swiss francs is correct then this would set you back £122.75. The set is too elevated to have a catalogue number. The sound reclamation from various 78 dubbings and tapes used for radio broadcasts is excellent considering how comparatively primitive radio recordings and their preservation were handled at the time. (Steve Voce) *****

TIM BERNE’S SNAKEOIL: YOU’VE BEEN WATCHING ME (ECM)
Berne was taught by Julius Hemphill, and while that man’s influence happily doesn’t overwhelm his alto sax playing, it’s clear that Hemphill’s questing originality filters through. What’s also clear is that with ECM’s faith in the band (this being its third release on the label) its collective head of steam is now considerable. In times as enamoured with the superficial as these Berne’s music is likely to be too much for many, but for those willing to make the effort its rewards are far more ample than any lazy, and indeed reactionary, reiteration of past glories, and for that alone it warrants the full star count. (Nic Jones) *****

THE BRECKER BROTHERS: THE BOTTOM LINE ARCHIVE (Bottom Line 011)
This was a time (1975-6) when the brothers received a lot of flak for their pop ventures, especially the single, Sneakin’ Up Behind You, required by Clive Davis of Arista as a condition of release of the brothers’ debut album. But producer Gregg Bendian says of this set that both “the silly and sophisticated are warmly embraced” and this seems the right spirit in which to approach it. Even in its silliest moments a complexity that evinces the influence of the brothers’ former employer Horace Silver isn’t far off. The sound is sometimes a little coarse, but the compositions and playing are consistently stunning, still, even if the guitar (like almost all fusion guitar then) lags behind the horns in technique and vocabulary. (Mark Gilbert) ****

KENNY CLARKE: PLAYS HODEIR, CHEVALIER, MICHELOT & BOLAND (Fresh Sound)
Paris in the 1950s was awash with ex-pat American jazzers, and a bulwark of the scene was drummer Kenny Clarke, who, unlike many of his fellow countrymen, believed in whole-hearted integration with local players, while also deploying visitors from across the pond. In this series of recordings, Clarke also displayed his faith in the talented arrangers then active in Paris, notably André Hodeir and Christian Chevalier, also providing an opportunity for the orchestrations of bassist Pierre Michelot to be aired. Michelot and Clarke would, of course, become a super, long-standing rhythmic partnership. The charts are uniformly excellent, and Hodeir’s material unquestionably quite challenging. Nor is there any shortage of interesting soloists, given the presence of the likes of Martial Solal, Lucky Thompson, Billy Byers, Tony Scott and Roger Guerin. (Mark Gardner) *****

AL COHN & JIMMY ROWLES: HEAVY LOVE (Xanadu Master Edition)
Tenor saxophonist Don Schlitten founded the Xanadu label, from which this music comes. He describes Al Cohn as “one of the three most creative tenor saxophonists alive today” and Jimmy Rowles as “the world’s greatest accompanist”. Hyperbole, perhaps, but good hyperbole that was not far from the reality. Getz and Sims had more fame and Hank Jones was always in the right place at the right time, but the cognoscenti knew always about Cohn and Rowles. Both men were perfect jazz musicians. At a chance meeting Cohn remarked to Schlitten that he had Rowles staying at his home and mentioned what fun they’d had playing duets. Within hours Schlitten asked if they’d make a duo album for him. Thank God they agreed. Their duet album was always going to be a classic and it doesn’t disappoint in any way, with Cohn improvising at his aggressive and hard-swinging best with his friend providing tasteful mind-reading accompaniment. (Steve Voce) *****

KURT ELLING: PASSION WORLD (Concord)
As ever, Elling shows his skill in finding suitable material to sing. After The Door started life as a Pat Metheny song that Elling discovered through the work of Polish singer Anna Maria Jopek and then added his own lyrics, as well as commissioning a new and haunting introduction, The Verse. Pop songs like U2’s Where The Streets Have No Name and Bjork’s Who Is It are turned into highly usable vehicles for improvisation while Elling finds new depths in the traditional Scottish Loch Tay Boat Song, helped along by a poignant Tommy Smith and a cooperative Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. Compared to 2012’s slightly histrionic 1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project, this is a more measured, controlled set, a showcase for a voice passionate about a good song. His working band are excellent, his many guests more than supportive. Good times all round. (Simon Adams) ****

SCOTT HENDERSON: VIBE STATION (scotthenderson.net)
Scott Henderson came to prominence in the band Tribal Tech, formed in 1984 as jazz-rock guitar came of age. He was among the first, along with John Scofield, Allan Holdsworth and a few others to display a harmonic sophistication in modal situations hitherto only heard from bebop-to-Coltrane horn and keyboard players. Henderson says of this set, featuring Travis Carlton, son of 70s guitar pioneer Larry: “It’s still blues-based, but also has a lot of harmonic content.” That’s true, but at times the sound is cluttered, in contrast to the sleek, focused sound of 80s Henderson, the sonic overload compounded by liberal use of the vibrato arm. Highpoints, and best showings, are on Church Of Xotic Dance, Manic Carpet and Covered Head, the latter transmuting into a swinging blues that provides a good comparative entry point for the uninitiated. Chelsea Bridge has a similar benefit but in ballad mode, Henderson’s clean chord-melody style to the fore. Seductive as distortion is, more of the latter would be very welcome. (Mark Gilbert) ****

JOHN HOLLENBECK: SONGS WE LIKE A LOT (Sunnyside)
Moonlighting from the Claudia Quintet, John Hollenbeck has composed or arranged a set of seven songs he likes, a lot. Among his faves are Jimmy Webb’s Up, Up And Away, Bacharach and David’s Close To You, and the recent Daft Punk hit Get Lucky. He brings a quirky sense of adventure and occasion to each one, notably on his own composition Constant Conversation, with lyrics by the 13th-century Persian poet, Rumi, and rescues some of the more popular songs from cheesy repetition, turning the Carpenters’ hit Close To You into a real dramatic tour de force and Up, Up And Away into an odd-ball Bond theme tune. You should always expect the unexpected with Hollenbeck: he doesn’t disappoint here. (Simon Adams) ****

BILL LAURANCE: SWIFT (Groundup Music)
By no means the first musician to interrogate the real and imaginary barriers between genres, Laurance nevertheless does it more successfully than most. Whilst it would be a stretch to call Swift jazz per se, that is very much Laurance’s intention. Classical sensibilities, jazz-based improvisation and contemporary grooves merge in happy and unforced co-existence. A bonus DVD presents an absorbing 60-minute collage of material shot during the five days of recording last autumn, giving a real sense of just what a labour of love this project is for Laurance. More organic than its predecessor, Swift is a smart and beautifully crafted set of genre-bending post-jazz music which still only hints at the great spontaneity of the group’s exhilarating live sets. Laurance holds a world of possibilities in his hands, and it’ll be fascinating to see where he chooses to go next. (Fred Grand) ****

PEPI LEMER: BACK2FRONT (Right Recordings)
Incredibly, this is Pepi Lemer’s first album under her own name. Aside from being a vocal trainer to the stars including the Spice Girls, she is perhaps best known to the jazz world for Turning Point, the group she co-led with Jeff Clyne in the late 1970s. She also contributed to the Spontaneous Music Ensemble’s 1969 album Oliv and other recordings, so her vocal range is appreciably wide. The choice of compositions on this album of mainly Latinesque numbers was primarily inspired by her love of Pat Metheny’s music and she sought his permission to add her own lyrics to four of the five Metheny numbers included here. It’s tempting to compare Back2Front with Return To Forever’s first two albums featuring Flora Purim, particularly on tracks such as Returning and Golden Seal, but this is a lazy and inaccurate comparison. The music here is eclectic and spectacularly engaging throughout, the complex arrangements injecting new life into these pieces. (Roger Farbey) *****

JAN LUNDGREN: A RETROSPECTIVE (Fresh Sound)
Jan Lundgren’s All By Myself topped the JJ “New Issues” poll in 2014, and Mark Gardner had earlier awarded it a five-star rating. I bought a copy and was as impressed as were my fellow critics. Now, thanks to Fresh Sound and the enthusiasm of producer Dick Bank who compiled this anthology, I’m revelling in a mini cornucopia of Lundgren’s first 10 albums for the label. In the select company of such kindred spirits as Bill Perkins, Conte Candoli, Herb Geller, Arne Domnerus and Pete Jolly, Lundgren is both a sensitive accompanist and a commanding pianistic voice. Every track offers ample evidence of this claim. Lundgren thanks Dick Bank: “A producer known for his ultra high standards and total involvement, these recordings all originated with him”. (John White) *****

ENRIQUE MORENTE: ORIGINAL ALBUM SERIES (Parlophone)
None of these five albums is a jazz record even if sounds like Pat Metheny plays on Generalife, Carles Benavent on Bulerías De Bécquer and George Benson on Canciones De La Romeria (Tangos). However, if we allow Jelly Roll Morton’s “Spanish tinge” as a jazz essential then much of the flamenco puro here should connect with readers. It has enough syncopation and bent notes, and Morente (1942-2010) was a leading exponent. The albums Cante Flamenco and Homenaje Flamenco get closest to the duende of jazz, paradoxically leaving some of the later nominally jazzier experiments sounding lightweight. Given the keen price the interested listener can afford to experiment. (Mark Gilbert) ****

SAM MOST: FROM THE ATTIC OF MY MIND (Xanadu Master Edition)
Restored to prominence by this 1978 Xanadu release, Sam Most (1930-2013) had previously been hailed as the first bop flautist after his 1953 recording Undercurrent Blues. Prior to this, the clarinet had been the doubling instrument of choice for saxophonists, but during the 1950s the flute became the new doublers’ favourite while the clarinet-dominated swing era became passé. Indeed, in 1954 Sam Most had been awarded Downbeat’s New Star award. In his (2015) booklet notes Mark Gardner tells us that Frank Sinatra was so impressed by Most’s playing and support that he generously presented Most with a rare antique flute. No antique flute on this CD, but we do hear Most’s effective alto flute on the slow samba Breath Of Love. All of the titles are composed by Most, giving the CD its own personality, and in the process making excellent use of Most’s studies with the great Hungarian composition teacher and one-time apprentice of Bela Bartók, Tibor Serly. (John Robert Brown) *****

OZ NOY: ASIAN TWISTZ (Abstract Logix)
Israel-born Noy has been in New York since 1996, working with fusion players of the present (e.g., Etienne Mbappe) and previous generations (e.g., Will Lee, Dave Weckl) like something of a new messiah for the style. It’s not at all easy to generate variety and breadth of sound with six strings plus the five on the bass (though Mbappe plays almost entirely monophonically), but Noy’s ensemble sometimes sounds as full as a big band, such is his mastery of polyphonic guitar playing and his array of signal processors. Add to that accessible funk, boogaloo and swing rhythms and plenty of blues feeling and it becomes a mixture that’s likely appeal beyond the guitarists that likely comprise a typical Noy audience. Here, we hear tunes familiar from Noy’s two Twisted Blues albums, well recorded and enhanced by the live setting, a welcome reminder of his 2015 Ronnie Scott’s appearance. He’s on fire, finding much more than on his already compelling studio dates, suggesting he’s a club natural. (Mark Gilbert) *****

VARIOUS: INTRODUCING M-BASE (Winter & Winter)
This snapshot of the M-Base movement of Brooklyn is released to mark 30 years (1985-2015) of recordings by German producer Stefan Winter. It shows M-Base in its more mainstream manifestations, with rather jolly II-V-I cadences over Latin in Cassandra Wilson’s If You Only Know How, Monkish swing in Jean-Paul Bourelly’s Irate Blues, Gary Thomas playing a straight Chelsea Bridge and so on. The electrified, straight-eighth, angular modernity of Steve Coleman, Greg Osby and Wilson that was the movement’s strongest identity is not much apparent. Better to have had Thomas’s raging By Any Means Necessary, Wilson’s haunting Woman On The Edge and some of Coleman & Osby’s spiky mathematical machinations among the selections. (Mark Gilbert) ***

 


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