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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 December 2015 (see below for excerpts):
Adams, Pepper: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1164)
Alexander, Eric: The Real Thing (HighNote 7278)
Allyson, Karrin: Many A New Day (Motéma 234083)
Amazing Keystone Big Band: Peter And The Wolf And Jazz! (Le Chant Du Monde 274 2378)
Anderson, Ernestine: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1170)
Barker, Warren: Pop And TV Themes Go Jazz (Fresh Sound/Blue Moon 862)
Barron, Kenny: At The Piano (Elemental Music 906076)
Basie, Count/Orchestra: Kurhaus Concert 1954, The Hague Netherlands (Doctor Jazz 015)
Blair, Sallie: Complete Albums And Singles 1957-1962 (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 875)
Blakey, Art/The Jazz Messengers: Holland 1958/Newport 1959 (Solar 4569962)
Brookmeyer, Bob: The Blues Hot And Cold + 7x Wilder (Phoenix 131613)
Cobham, Billy: The Atlantic Years 1973-1978 (Atlantic/Rhino 0081227952433)
Coleman, Ornette: The Love Revolution (Solar 4569963)
Coltrane, John: Last Performance At Newport (Domino 891234)
Condon, Eddie/Bud Freeman: Complete Commodore & Decca Sessions (Mosaic MD8-259)
Davis, Miles: Kind Of Blue (DreamCovers 6097)
Dingman, Chris: The Subliminal And The Sublime (Inner Arts Initiative 8 88295 26023 7)
Drifter: Flow (Edition 059)
Echoes Of Swing: Dancing (ACT 9103)
Edwards, Teddy: Feelin's (Elemental Music 906077)
Evans, Bill/Trio: Complete February 1972 Paris ORTF Performance (Domino 891229)
Farrell, Joe: Skate Board Park (Elemental Music 906078)
Ferguson, Maynard: Chameleon/Conquistador/Hot (Beat Goes On 1199)
Freeman, Chico/Heiri Känzig: The Arrival (Intakt 251)
Get The Blessing: Astronautilus (Naim 221)
Ghost Train Orchestra: Hot Town (Accurate 5070)
Gordon, David/Trio: Alexander Scriabin's Ragtime Band (Mister Sam Records)
Green, Urbie/Big Band: Complete 1956-1959 Recordings (Phono 870231)
Hackett, Bobby/& Zoot Sims: Complete Recordings (Solar 4569961)
Hancock, Herbie: Box (Columbia Legacy 88875132502)
Hayes, Tubby/And the Downbeat Big Band: Blues At The Manor 1959-60 (Acrobat 4385)
Hekselman, Gilad: Homes (Jazz Village 570058)
Hendrix, Jimi/Experience: Freedom/Atlanta Pop Festival (Sony 88875109222)
Janisch, Michael: Paradigm Shift (Whirlwind 4676)
Jazz Passengers: April 1990/The Livelove Series Volume 4 (Promising Music 441232)
Johnson, Ellen; Form & Formless (Vocal Visions 3000)
Kellso, Jon-Erik/And The EarRegulars: In The Land Of Beginning Again (Jazzology 404)
Kilgore, Becky/Nicki Parrott: Two Songbirds Of A Feather (Arbors 19447)
Kirk, Rahsaan Roland: Original Album Series (Warner 0081227952013)
Krog, Karin: Don't Just Sing: An Anthology 1963-1999 (Light In The Attic 129)
Lage, Julian: World's Fair (Modern Lore 7 37534 39976 7)
Lincoln, Abbey: Sophisticated Abbey (HighNote 728)
London/Meader/Pramuk/& Ross: The Royal Bopsters Project (Motéma 182)
McBride, Christian/Trio: Live At The Village Vanguard (Mack Avenue 1099)
McCallum, Stuart; City (Naim 219)
McCann, Peter: Range (Whirlwind 4675)
McLaughlin, John: Black Light (Abstract Logix 050)
Medina, Bobby/The Cosmopolitan Pops Orchestra: Between Worlds: Symphonic Latin Jazz (bobbymedina.com)
Mehldau, Brad: 10 Years Solo Live (Nonesuch 0075597950755)
Miller, Brian: Whatever Next? (Inversion 001)
Monk, Thelonious; The Complete 1947-56 Trios (Essential Jazz Classics EJC55677)
Paich, Marty: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1168)
Parker, Charlie: The Complete Dial Masters (Essential Jazz Classics 55675)
Patton, Jeb: Shades And Tones (Cellar Live 010515)
Perez, Evaristo: Cajón Jazz Trio Vol. II (Fresh Sound FSNT 481)
Rava, Enrico: Wild Dance (ECM 473 2228)
Richards, Tim/Hextet: Telegraph Hill (Track 0215)
Rifflet, Sylvain: Mechanics (Jazz Village 570089)
Ritenour, Lee: A Twist Of Rit (Concord 0888072372436)
Robson, Phil: The Cut Off Point (Whirlwind 4672)
Scofield, John: Past Present (Impulse! 4738415)
Sears, Richard: Skyline (Fresh Sound FSNT 479)
Shew, Bobby: Live 1983 (University of Florida - art.ufl.edu/music)
Sons Of Kemet: Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do (Naim CD 217)
Stafford, Terell: BrotherLee Love (Capri 74138)
Sun Ra And His Arkestra: To Those Of Earth…And Other Worlds (Strut125)
Symphonic Jazz Orchestra: Looking Forward/Looking Back (Mack Avenue 1102)
Taylor, John: 2081 (Cam Jazz 7889)
Tjader, Cal: Demasiado Caliente (Cheese Cake 8245)
Various: Queens Of Vocal Jazz (One Records 59804)
Vaughan, Sarah: Live In Tokyo (Domino 891236)


Excerpts from the 71 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):

KARRIN ALLYSON: MANY A NEW DAY - SINGS RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN (Motéma)
Among my self-imposed rules when writing reviews is to be very cautious about handing out five stars and to avoid showbiz words like “great”. I must say that this wonderful set of songs has severely tested my resolve. Over the years I have heard and admired Karrin Allyson’s all-too-few albums, which have always been good, sometimes excellent. This might well be the best of them all. Allyson’s gorgeous singing voice is true, mature, and a delight from start to finish. She interprets the lyrics superbly, delving to the heart of the songs, and sometimes finding depths that might come as a surprise given their original context (I Cain’t Say No for example). Here and there she takes a few apt liberties, not so much that she harms the songs she so clearly loves, but just enough to turn a show-tune recital into a true jazz performance. (Bruce Crowther) *****

KENNY BARRON: AT THE PIANO (Elemental Music 906076)
At The Piano was originally released in 1982 and was Kenny Barron’s first solo piano album, even though his career had started well over 20 years previously. By this point he’d developed a reputation as a sideman, playing with Dizzy Gillespie, Yusef Lateef and Ron Carter. Producer Don Schlitten had known Barron since 1967 and had recorded him on numerous occasions in his sideman role. In 1981 Schlitten booked Barron into RCA’s Studio C, with engineer Paul Goodman and a Steinway grand piano, all of which had been used to record sessions by Arthur Rubenstein and Van Cliburn. The result was worth the probably high cost: the sound quality does justice to Barron’s excellent playing. (Bruce Lindsay) ****

SALLIE BLAIR: COMPLETE ALBUMS AND SINGLES 1957-1962 (Fresh Sound)
Dramatic, capricious and with enough vocal talent to match her ostensibly sometimes overwhelming stage presence, Baltimore-born Sallie Blair shone brightly in the late 50s/early 60s. This set presents her entire recording career, a total of two LPs and 10 singles, all wrapped up by 1962 after which she got married and gradually dropped out of the public eye. When Blair was on form she was mesmerising and highly accomplished. Her rich, melodic voice holds nothing back, with a pleasingly husky, flowery vibrato and a knack for altering the phrasing of a familiar song to make it sound new. The tracks where Blair can exploit the dramatic sense of a song are the most successful, with the expressive, languid Whatever Lola Wants and Squeeze Me being prime examples. (Sally Evans-Darby) ****

BILLY COBHAM: THE ATLANTIC YEARS 1973-1978 (Atlantic/Rhino)
In the face of the plodding efforts of many rock-influenced British jazz bands of recent years, what a delight to renew acquaintance with the sounds of this eight-CD set. There are no doubt those who will say Cobham’s four years in the US Army lent his drumming a restrictive, martial exactitude, but have no fear, this is creative playing: examine the subtle embroidery of the pulse on Stratus and elsewhere, using techniques well evinced in the musical liner note by Rhythm mag’s Pete Riley. With A Funky Thide Of Sings (1975), John Scofield introduced to the Cobham band and the world a startling, polytonal guitar vocabulary to match, for the first time on the instrument, the Coltrane-Shorter-Henderson language of the Brecker brothers. He’s even better on CD7’s coolly swinging Hip Pockets. This smart box adds many worthwhile outtakes and singles to the original albums. It’s a must-have for the cognoscenti and the perfect corrective for those who persist in the curious belief the 1970s were a jazz wasteland. (Mark Gilbert) *****

DAVID GORDON TRIO: ALEXANDER SCRIABIN’S RAGTIME BAND (Mister Sam)
Despite this being a very ambitious project in terms of its musical breadth (something few musicians could entertain), Gordon successfully brings together numerous elements of a century of music from the year of Scriabin’s death (1915) to the present, producing an unmistakably contemporary and distinctive album. In spirit rather than instrumentation it’s reminiscent of the Satie Project albums by Dan Willis and Velvet Gentlemen, which also come highly recommended for those interested in imaginative jazz interpretations of western classical works. (Dave Jones) ****

HERBIE HANCOCK: HERBIE HANCOCK BOX (Sony Legacy)
These are all performances from Hancock’s years with Columbia/CBS. The first two discs feature recordings mainly previously only available in Japan, and mainly by VSOP. VSOP is generally considered as the Miles Davis Quintet with Freddie Hubbard substituting on trumpet, but its approach is quite different from, though informed by, Davis’s. Hubbard’s playing, even by his own standards, is incisive and electrifying. On The Sorcerer, Marsalis is captured aged only 20, still an impudently talented prodigy, not yet ossified into the sincere but overly prescriptive custodian of the tradition. Shorter is close to the height of his powers. The last discs cover the era of the Head Hunters and Mwandishi bands and Hancock’s collaborations with genre-spanning luminaries like Laswell and Nicky Skopelitis. The tracks are well wrought, but the complicated surfaces decorate a somewhat less interesting approach to improvisation. (Barry Witherden) ****

TUBBY HAYES & THE DOWNBEAT BIG BAND: BLUES AT THE MANOR 1959-60 (Acrobat)
Tubby Hayes shared with Dizzy Gillespie an abiding enthusiasm for both small-group and big-band work. The workaholic Tubby always managed to find time to form, compose and arrange for a succession of large ensembles of which the Downbeat Big Band was the earliest. Remembered affectionately now by a dwindling group of listeners in the 70-plus age bracket, the band was thought to be a fading mirage that went unrecorded. However these two sessions were captured and lay virtually unheard until now. These are important – and quite well recorded – finds, featuring a series of fine arrangements by Deuchar, Hayes and pianist Harry South. Significantly, there is excellent playing by Tubby, Branscombe, Ronnie Scott and the superb Terry Shannon (the English equivalent of Sonny Clark). With typically detailed and erudite notes by Simon Spillett, this essential compilation fills a gap in the discography of British jazz and the ever adventurous career of Tubby Hayes at the top of his game. (Mark Gardner) ****

MICHAEL JANISCH: PARADIGM SHIFT (Whirlwind)
Michael Janisch doesn’t make music to please critics and is as suspicious of the unthinking rave review as he is of thoughtless cavil and dismissal. A rave’s what he’s getting, though. Paradigm Shift is as exciting a jazz record as any from the last 10 years. At least one venerable British reviewer has pronounced the live version of this band as being too full of ideas, if you please, a quibble that suggests hardening of the categories may have set in. True, some of it comes across at first hearing like rush and crunch, and the bass technique is still faulty in terms of orthodox technique, still very much derived from the Marcus Miller manner of electric playing, but Janisch has brought a gale of fresh creativity – not for nothing is his label called Whirlwind – to British music and we ought to damn well sit up and listen. I’d say that Rage (Interlude) comes close to being the heart of the whole endeavour. It isn’t Jaco. It’s actually a lot more deeply felt than that. (Brian Morton) *****

JON-ERIK KELLSO AND THE EARREGULARS: IN THE LAND OF BEGINNING AGAIN (Jazzology)
Jon-Erik Kellso and Matt Munisteri formed the EarRegulars in 2007. The band’s weekly residency at New York’s Ear Inn has continued ever since, the trumpeter and guitarist working with an ever-changing roster of players. For this album, the band’s second, clarinettist Evan Christopher and bassist Kerry Lewis join in the fun. The musical interplay is complementary rather than combative: epitomised by Kellso and Christopher’s interaction on S’posin. The mid-tempo jollity of Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans Stomp opens proceedings, Benny Carter and Irving Mills’ Blues In My Heart showcases the EarRegulars’ fragile and tender side, and Kissing My Baby Goodnight and Once In A While give Kellso a chance to play with a little more attack as his colleagues maintain a more relaxed style. Connoisseurs of cover design might like to note that the artwork is by rising-star vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant. Next time round, if the EarRegulars could persuade her to pick up a microphone as well as a paint brush there could be a classic album in the making. (Bruce Lindsay) ****

RAHSAAN ROLAND KIRK: ORIGINAL ALBUM SERIES (Warner/Rhino)
Rahsaan would have been 80 on 7 August 2015. He lived just over half that span, but left behind a body of bewilderingly beautiful work that is by turns dark, joyous, intensely playful, almost clownish in its circular breathing virtuosity, avant-garde and deeply rooted, church ritual (as on Volunteered Slavery) and raunchy club act. The combination of Kirk and producer Joel Dorn was almost guaranteed to yield something special and this Atlantic sequence, which for some reason skips the live 1970 Rahsaan Rahsaan, is irresistible and endlessly creative. What’s still to come from the Atlantic years? Blacknuss pre-eminently, but also the bizarrely wonderful Meeting Of The Times with Al Hibbler and the less fortunate attempt to bring Kirk to the notice of a rock audience, The Case Of The 3 Sided Dream In Audio Color; a few pop songs like Ma Cherie Amour pepper the earlier records, but they seem to fit in naturally, the way Miles Davis’s pop pickings always seemed to fit his purpose rather than an A&R strategy. This is pretty much the best of the run, then, and an important revival from jazz’s Theatre of the Absurd. (Brian Morton) *****

LONDON, MEADER, PRAMUK & ROSS: ROYAL BOPSTERS PROJECT (Motéma)
That this recently formed vocal group harks back to the heydays of vocalese is underlined by “the others” appearing here as guests. These are a hugely talented foursome from yesteryear: Mark Murphy, featured on Señor Blues, Bird Chasin’, Red Clay and Bebop Lives; Sheila Jordan on Peace, accompanied by bassist Cameron Brown; and former collaborators Jon Hendricks and Annie Ross on Music In The Air and Music Is Forever respectively. Vital and driving, as has been so much of the vocalese repertoire, this is an always interesting album and if it does not quite measure up to the singers and songs to which it pays tribute it is good that this form is far from dead. (Bruce Crowther) ***

CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE TRIO: LIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD (Mack Avenue)
Put on a blindfold to listen to this live set, and you’d be hard pressed to name which in the past four decades or so it was recorded. With a classic line-up, three strong, straight-ahead performers, and a fine selection of standards and modern pop songs, this is timeless music. At first, pianist Christian Sands grabs your attention the most, his fluid, Peterson-like approach to driving the melody forward producing some exuberant solos. But then you pick up on drummer Ulysses Owens’s all-encompassing support, busy without being too intrusive. And then of course you focus on the leader, unfortunately only properly heard when soloing. His is the more measured line, exploiting the deeper tones of his instrument to good effect, notably when using arco on the slow burn of Good Morning Heartache and on Rod Temperton’s The Lady In My Life from Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The trio’s collective virtuosity does get a tad relentless, but then any group that can retune Norman Whitfield’s classic funky movie theme Car Wash and make it work as a jazz vehicle gets my vote. (Simon Adams) ****

BRAD MEHLDAU: 10 YEARS SOLO LIVE (Nonesuch)
It is difficult to think of another performer who sounds so at home with such a broad range of music as Brad Mehldau does on this major collection of his solo piano work. Culled from 19 live recordings made over a decade of Brad’s European solo concerts, and totalling some 300 minutes of music, this is an unmissable, rich and diverse treasure trove to explore and enjoy. It is the ease with which Mehldau moves around a vast catalogue of styles and genres that impresses; there simply is nothing included here that doesn’t pull its weight or engage the listener from beginning to end. (John Adcock) *****

PHIL ROBSON: THE CUT OFF POINT (Whirlwind)
The organ/guitar/drums trio has gone through a kind of renaissance in recent years. This trio’s most pertinent antecedent is the trio of Abercrombie, Wall and Nussbaum. Both groups are clearly intent on moving away from the era when Blue Note 45s spun repeatedly on American jukeboxes, and with that move comes a different strain of creativity. Thief serves as a marker in this respect as the group lays down its credentials. Robson is fleet and incisive, and while his work resonates with the likes of Pat Martino and Terry Smith he is still, to resort to something of a cliché, his own man, and while Stanley lacks Larry Young’s fire he’s appreciative of how things need to move on. In acknowledging the tradition even while they supplement it this band’s pulled off a trick evidently too difficult for many of their contemporaries, so more power to them for doing so. (Nic Jones) ****

SONS OF KEMET: LEST WE FORGET WHAT WE CAME HERE TO DO (Naim Jazz)
Sons of Kemet specialise in lengthy improvisations on slender material typically consisting of 16-bar, one-chord vamps in the minor key. The opening In Memory, for example, offers some eight minutes of Hutchings’ rather gawky, staccato phrasing on an unaltered C minor scale over a clave-like beat from two drum kits. There are moments of colour, including the high-register bass clarinet laughter on Tiger, the two chords of Breadfruit and the rubato passages and modal key changes of The Hour but these offer only relative relief in a largely flat soundscape. The limited range might be a product of knowing primitivism but the music remains itself. (Mark Gilbert) **

 


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