Saturday, February 6, 2016

Airto Moreira - 1972 [2007] "Free"

Free is an album by Brazilian jazz drummer and percussionist Airto Moreira (who was credited simply as "Airto") featuring performances recorded in 1972 and released on the CTI label. The album reached number 30 in the Billboard Jazz albums charts.

Other than a couple of obscure efforts for Buddah in 1970, this was percussionist Airto's debut as a leader, and this is still his most famous record. A brass section arranged by Don Sebesky is heard on two tracks, and such all-stars as keyboardist Chick Corea, flutist Hubert Laws, the reeds of Joe Farrell, and even pianist Keith Jarrett and guitarist George Benson make worthwhile appearances. Flora Purim joins Airto in the one vocal piece ("Free"), and "Return to Forever" receives an early recording. The music combines together jazz, Brazilian music, and aspects of fusion and funk quite successfully.

Airto Moreira's first album for Creed Taylor's nascent jazz-fusion label CTI contributed magnificently to Taylor's modus operandi--expanding the boundaries of jazz to include elements of indigenous cultures, rock, and even classical modes. FREE is Airto in full, unencumbered flight.

His version of Chick Corea's own genre-defining classic "Return to Forever" sets the listener adrift in a choppy sea of vocal atmospheres, crests of electric piano, and Airto's simmering squall lines of percussion. The title track conjures the Brazilian rainforest with a thick underbrush of rhythm, tribal howls, and chatter. Airto and his cohorts play a wonderful array of ceremonial woodblocks, wood flutes, and other natural Brazilian noisemakers. Accompanying the percussionist are such stellar figures as Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Stanley Clarke, Ron Carter, and George Benson.


I have a lot of Airto's stuff, particularly the CTI and Arista recordings, but I never owned this one. Originally I thought "How different could this one be from the rest?", but one listening proved I was mistaken in that notion. Airto brings an all-star cast that includes his associates in the original Return to Forever (the album for ECM had just been recorded so this was captured at an amazing period for Airto's development) Chick Corea and the amazing Joe Farrell, as well as Keith Jarrett (a rare guest appearance for him) and the CTI stable of Ron "The Rock" Carter on bass, George Benson on guitar, Hubert Laws on flute and others. Airto plays ALL PERCUSSION heard, including drum kit -- something only rarely heard like on the original RTF ECM recording but something we should hear more of-- I saw Airto play standard kit in the 90s and his feel is amazing, particularly on the Brazilian-infused selections, of course (as a jazz drummer myself, I know a little bit about such things). There is lots of tasty flute on these cuts, giving an airy, light feel to the music. A great choice of material as well, better than the other CTIs of Airto because it really has an ensemble feel and the Sebesky arrangements lend a beautiful feel to the whole thing-- I hear a lot of the same approach on Jobim's masterwork from the same period "Stone Flower"... so, killer musicians + great tunes= one hell of an outing for the pioneering percussionist and grand master of all things struck with a stick. Salud Airto!  

Here is a jem of an album. Airto Moreira, or Airto, as he was known in the early days, was a fusion pioneer who participated in the most important projects, has recorded some superb albums under his own name. When you think Miles, Weather Report, Chick Corea - think Airto. This album is one of his very best, for its subtlety, depth of feeling and lush arrangements with flute, piano, guitar, electric piano, lots of percussion, voices as well. You get a superb rendition of Return To Forever, gorgeous Flora's Song, the wild, almost savage Free, the rest of the album some pretty elegant and hip Brazilian fusion with a variery of rythms. Dreamy, exotic music.

Track listing

    "Return to Forever" (Chick Corea) - 10:17
    "Flora's Song" (Flora Purim) - 8:30
    "Free" (Airto Moreira) - 11:50
    "Lucky Southern" (Keith Jarrett) - 2:36
    "Creek (Arroio)" (Victor Brazil) - 6:12
    "So Tender" (Jarrett) - 5:01
    "Jequié" (Moacir Santos) - 2:57
    "Creek" (Arroio) (Altenate Version) - 9:23 

    Recorded at Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on March 23 and April 12, 13 & 20, 1972

Personnel

    Airto - percussion, vocals
    Hubert Laws - flute
    Joe Farrell - soprano saxophone, flute alto flute, bass flute, piccolo
    Chick Corea - piano, electric piano
    Keith Jarrett - piano
    Nelson Ayres - electric piano
    George Benson - guitar
    Jay Berliner - guitar
    Ron Carter - bass
    Stanley Clarke - electric bass
    Flora Purim - vocals
    Burt Collins, Mel Davis, Alan Rubin - trumpet, flugelhorn
    Wayne Andre, Garnett Brown, Joe Wallace - trombone
    Don Sebesky - arranger

Miles Davis - 1969 [2001] "The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions" [3 CD Box]

The Complete In a Silent Way Sessions is a three-disc box set by trumpeter Miles Davis, featuring recordings from the sessions that would produce his 1969 album In a Silent Way, as well as transitional pieces from the era. Besides material previously released on the 1968 album Filles de Kilimanjaro, the trilogy of outtake compilations released by Columbia Records during Miles' 1975-81 recording hiatus, and the completed In A Silent Way, the box set features previously unreleased music, mostly from the In A Silent Way sessions proper. As well as the CDs, it includes essays by Michael Cuscuna and Bob Belden and details of the recording sessions. It is number five in the Legacy series of Miles Davis' Complete Sessions box-sets.

It is notable since it includes several previously unreleased tracks on CD, namely "Splashdown", "The Ghetto Walk" and "Early Minor", plus a longer and different version of "Shhh/Peaceful" and two "In a Silent Way" alternate takes.

    - "Mademoiselle Mabry" and "Frelon Brun" can be found on Filles de Kilimanjaro.
    - "Two Faced" and "Dual Mr. Anthony Tillmon Williams Process" on Water Babies, the first outtake compilation released by Columbia during Miles' hiatus.
    - "Splash" on Circle in the Round, the second Miles Davis outtake compilation released during his hiatus.
    - "Ascent", "Directions, I" and "Directions, II" on Directions, the third of the hiatus-era outtake compilations.
  
  Of all the recording sessions completed by Miles Davis with his various bands, the sessions surrounding In a Silent Way Sessions in 1968 and 1969 are easily the most mysterious and enigmatic. For starters, they signified the completion of his transformation from acoustic to electric sound, and secondly, they marked the complete dissolution of the "second" quintet of Davis, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, and Ron Carter that had begun on Filles de Kilimanjaro. The addition of Chick Corea as a second keyboard player and the replacement of Ron Carter with Dave Holland had changed the sound of the band's dynamic, textural, and rhythmic palettes. The final break with Davis' own previous musical sound happened when he added guitarist John McLaughlin and keyboardist/composer Joe Zawinul (for a temporary three-keyboard sound).

    The music on the In a Silent Way Sessions comes packaged three ways, all of it chronologically ordered: there is the material used to finish Filles de Kilimanjaro ("Mademoiselle Maby" and "Freon Brun"); material that has been, up until now, unissued in any form; session outtakes that appeared, in edited form, on Circle in the Round, Water Babies, and Directions; unissued and rejected takes; and finally, the music recorded for In a Silent Way itself as it was rehearsed, played, and finally, heavily edited into the released album, which also appears here.

    This was an ambitious undertaking, even if it only covered six months in the recording life of Davis (September 1968 through February 1969), whose musical inspirations and directions were crisscrossing as they were changing direction. With the exception of one tune, Davis or Zawinul composed everything here. Zawinul, though a jazz veteran, was discovering new ways to write -- particularly since the advent of the electric piano -- and proved to be a profound influence on his employer. The other heavy influence on Davis during this volatile, fertile period was Tony Williams, who was soaking up the pop music of the day, from the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's album (via a girlfriend's suggestion) to the in-his-prime James Brown, to Jimi Hendrix.

    On disc one the set begins with the missing tracks from the quintet box set: "Mademoiselle Mabry" and "Frelon Brun." Hearing them in this context, as the first complete expressions of Davis' new sound, is revelatory. For the first time the three-chord vamp in "Mademoiselle Mabry" comes across as the fitting tribute to Hendrix it should have been, echoing the turnaround tags in "The Wind Cries Mary." These tracks mark the entrance of Dave Holland into the band and the first marked absence of Hancock. The contrast in styles, from Hancock's chunky, groove-laden chords and single-note runs and Corea's deep, cerebral spaciousness, is remarkable; it's a wonder they were issued on the same record at all. The simple, slow jam riff the former tune evokes was, in some way, the cornerstone on which the material for these sessions would be built, while the latter provided the space and pace for its establishment.
    The elegantly spaced-out "Two Faced" and "Dual Mr. Anthony Tillmon Williams Process" were recorded as a sextet with Hancock. Both tunes are a showcase for the interplay between both keyboardists and Holland, whose near-mystical lyricism was exactly what Davis was looking for in a bass player -- one who could change the role of the instrument in an ensemble setting. The loose-jam feeling on these tunes could be heard by some as meandering, but it would be shortsighted to assume this for the entire picture. The various extrapolations on blues-feel and meter -- moving them into modal settings and then deconstructing these for a streamlined, open music that allowed for both improvisation and direct musical interplay between various members -- were integral, and created in Davis' music a space that changed jazz forever.

    Disc one ends with the full version of "Splash" that appeared on Circle in the Round. Here, all of its four interludes are included after the unedited version of the tune. All of the interludes were recorded as scripted fragments with no improvisation and featured Hancock playing electric harpsichord and Corea on organ. Lastly we get "Splashdown," the first Davis recording that features Zawinul and the three-keyboard lineup. Here, too, the track was unissued and one has to wonder why because the dialogue between the three principals, and Holland and Williams, is remarkable -- Davis is all but absent, but it hardly matters as Shorter covers his territory well. With two electric pianos and an organ, the tune is so psychedelic and fat; full of a kind of inherent funkiness brought by the rhythm section, and Shorter underscores the jazz element in his solo by taking two cues from Coltrane and turning them into modal paragraphs. Both interludes that follow the tune were also rejected.

    Disc two is where the In a Silent Way project begins in earnest. The next set is from the album issued in 1981 as Directions. The three tracks that comprise it reveal just how far Davis was willing to take the massive keyboard section. With slow, drifting, methodical improvisation concerned more with the development of sound and texture than riffs and intervals, the Davis group drifts through "Ascent," with Zawinul keeping the color hushed and silvery as Hancock improvises and Corea plays a series of modulated, though very subtle, changes. The most noticeable change is on the driving "Directions," both pieces one and two. Williams has been replaced, for this session at least, with Jack DeJohnette, and the driving, slippery force of DeJohnette's drumming with Shorter's precisely punctuated soprano solo is overwhelming in its glorious intensity. These are both unedited takes, recorded as they happened without studio trickery from Teo Macero. The second take is slower, more defined; the intimate speech that developed between Shorter and Zawinul here offers a first glimpse of the sound that would be the genesis of Weather Report a little over a year later. For the time being, largely due to the intuitive improvisation of DeJohnette's drumming, the sound of "Directions" was a rock sound with wild intervalic fanfare and slippery rhythms shifting under the explosive interplay between soloists and ensemble.

    From the middle to the end of disc two, the In a Silent Way project begins to take shape. The first version of "Shhh/Peaceful" rings with the presence of John McLaughlin's guitar. The first version is a bit faster from the jump than the one released later -- and heavily edited. There is no chord structure to the tune; there's just a small groove figure with solo vamps appearing all over it. The bassline is doubled by Corea's electric piano; Hancock's silky piano accompaniment fills in the shapes. The hi-hat and McLaughlin's guitar shimmer colors and nuances as Davis enters with the only solo he could play to such beautiful accompaniment. There is an accented chordal passageway from the middle to the end where Zawinul enters, creating a series of overtones with his organ that lend a spectral, eerie presence to the proceedings. It dissolves eventually, only to give way to the intro to Zawinul's gorgeous "In a Silent Way/It's About That Time." The rehearsal version has a ton of chords compared to the way it was written; they were added as coloration devices to involve the instrumentalists in a deeper way. First, there is the reductionism of McLaughlin playing the melody in just one chord, and then Davis and Shorter enter to play over the Rhodes and doubled bassline.
    When the early recorded versions are set in place, and McLaughlin opens the tune, you can feel how much the tune has developed from the rehearsal tape. The pace is tortoise-like; everything is gone from the mix, and there's just that guitar with Zawinul eventually adding his organ and Hancock slinking his piano into the intervals. When the band does enter, it's via Shorter's sweet, singing soprano rather than Davis' trumpet. It's reduced to essence as a melodic frame with no foundation to hook onto, as transitory and elegant as it is beautiful.

    The suspended vamp that begins "It's About That Time" is a floating one; it never anchors itself to either E-or F-sharp. Hancock offers the chords and Corea and Zawinul join him, playing shifting, ghostly fills before McLaughlin jumps in and doubles the keyboards sleepily with a bluesy graciousness. The piece was recorded in sections, so everything we hear has an illusory quality to it, because Macero edited it all into one tune. Solos and density structures mark the individual takes; Hancock and McLaughlin deconstruct tonalities in favor of sound, creating overtonal ambiences.

    The rest of the set offers finished, wonderfully remastered versions of both "In a Silent Way/It's About That Time" and "Shhh/Peaceful": those that appeared on the original LP. Bob Belden's revealing, insightful, and authoritative liner notes tell the fascinating story of how the recorded tracks were edited into final versions, so we won't go into it here. But the two other tracks recorded with the same band minus Tony Williams -- replaced by Joe Chambers, of all people -- are both unissued: "The Ghetto Walk" and "Early Minor." Both are deeply Hendrix-influenced, using his choice of keys and a series of sevenths around E-flat, B-flat, and A-flat, and finally shifting themselves, in transmuted form, to the big daddy of all rock keys, E. Both of these tracks, filled with space, blues, rock, and killer piano and organ fills, are rhythmically carried by Holland and danced through the pocket by Chambers, who, while not as muscular as either Williams or DeJohnette, was more nuanced as a blues player, which is what these two awesome numbers called for, as they turned out to be -- especially "Ghetto Walk" -- the precursors to the material that would be recorded for Jack Johnson a year later.

    There is nothing extra in this set in terms of fluff, viscera, or detritus. All of the material included from these sessions offers perhaps the most fascinating look to date into the musical mind of Miles Davis, who was undergoing a revolution of his own -- he looked to the younger players for inspiration and guidance in how to handle the new forms; the liner notes bear this atypical personification out. Each track is an audible step in that development, and a step toward the goal of what would be the first Miles Davis "groove" album -- not in the Blue Note sense of the vernacular -- one of atmosphere and ambience and texture and drift -- not of melodies and changes. The package is handsome and well-illustrated to be sure, but the music alone is worth the package price. In many ways -- far more so than the Bitches Brew sessions -- this is the long-sought key that unlocks the door to the room that has the answers as to why and how Davis made such a complete break with his own music on In a Silent Way -- a music which he never returned to -- at least on record. It's the first box set in a long time that's been worth playing from beginning to end.

Track listing:

Disc 1

    "Mademoiselle Mabry" - 16:37
    "Frelon Brun" (Brown Hornet) - 5:40
    "Two Faced" - 18:03
    "Dual Mr. Anthony Tillmon Williams Process" - 13:23
    "Splash: Interlude 1/Interlude 2/Interlude 3" [rejected] - 10:08
    "Splashdown: Interlude 1 (no horns)/Interlude 2" (no horns) - 8:03 unreleased track

Disc 2

    "Ascent" - 14:54
    "Directions, I" - 6:50
    "Directions, II" - 4:53
    "Shhh/Peaceful" - 19:17 unreleased
    "In a Silent Way" (Rehearsal) - 5:26 unreleased
    "In a Silent Way" - 4:18 released for the first time in unedited form
    "It's About That Time" - 11:27 released for the first time in unedited form

Disc 3

    "The Ghetto Walk" - 26:49 unreleased
    "Early Minor" - 6:58 unreleased
    "Shhh/Peaceful/Shhh" (LP Version) - 18:18
    "In a Silent Way/It's About That Time/In a Silent Way" (LP Version) - 19:52

Personnel:

    Miles Davis – trumpet
    Wayne Shorter – tenor saxophone (Disc 1: All), soprano saxophone
    John McLaughlin – electric guitar (Disc 2: Tracks 4-7; Disc 3: All)
    Chick Corea – electric piano
    Herbie Hancock – electric piano
    Joe Zawinul – organ (Disc 2; Disc 3)
    Dave Holland – double bass
    Tony Williams – drums
    Jack DeJohnette – drums (Disc 2: Tracks 1-3)
    Joe Chambers – drums (Disc 3: Tracks 1 and 2)

Dave Holland - 2013 "Prism"

Prism is a studio album by English jazz bassist Dave Holland. The record was released via the Dare2 label on September 2, 2013. This album is a milestone of Dave Holland’s career as a leader—the forty year anniversary of his debut, free jazz album Conference of the Birds released in 1973

For “Prism”, Dave’s latest recording, he’s assembled a quartet of outstanding players and composers who are also leaders in their own right, Kevin Eubanks on guitar, Craig Taborn on piano and Fender Rhodes, and Eric Harland on drums. The recording is representative of the wide range of musical references that these musicians incorporate into their music and it features compositions written by each of them for the group.
The album takes the listener through many musical landscapes starting with the infectious funky groove of the Eubanks’ composition “The Watcher” followed by one of Holland’s compositions, “The Empty Chair”, a soulful blues that hints at references to the music of Jimi Hendrix. Craig Taborn’s “Spirals” creates an intriguing setting for the group that moves through a series of dramatically changing musical developments and Eric Harland’s hauntingly beautiful composition “Breathe” provides a musical space that seems to suspend time.
The groups of Dave Holland have always reflected a collaborative spirit with the goal of creating a musical context that allows the musicians to express their creative individuality. “Prism” brings together four musicians who are each forging their own musical path and together have created a unique and contemporary musical statement on this recording.

It’s a great record. Part of what makes Prism sound specifically like “fusion” is the preponderance of tunes that do not “swing” in the usual sense but are instead built on tricky riffs that interlock with a groove that is heavy on backbeat. The opener, Eubanks’ “The Watcher”, begins with a funky line from the left hand of Taborn’s Fender Rhodes electric piano, and then Eubanks doubles it before he climbs on top with a distorted but very simple melody. The sound is thick with fuzz and buzz from both Eubanks and Taborn. All of it would make for a satisfying track, but then a tricky and precise bridge section comes along for pleasing relief. Taborn’s solo is the standout here: mathematical and intriguing as it moves and reverses, surges forward and doubles-back on itself.

Bassist Dave Holland first became a leader-on-record with Conference Of The Birds (ECM, 1973), a now-classic outré quartet session. That initial leader date portrayed Holland as a restless seeker, willing and eager to explore the inner workings of group dynamics and the outer reaches of convention, and he's done little to alter that perception of himself in the intervening years. Holland has, with band after band and album after album, continually broadened his outlook, creating a vast and enviable body of work along the way. Now, he celebrates four decades of leadership by introducing another potent foursome to the world.

On Prism, Holland reunites with three musical spark plugs from his past: guitarist Kevin Eubanks, who appeared on the bassist's Extensions (ECM, 1989), drummer Eric Harland, who worked side-by-side with Holland in The Monterey Quartet and then joined him for Pass It On (Dare2 Records, 2008), and pianist/Fender Rhodes man Craig Taborn, who's shared the stage with the bassist on a number of occasions over the past few years. As individuals, these gentlemen rank high on many a critic and fan's list of players; together, they form the most exciting and awe-inspiring quartet to debut on record this year.

The music this band delivers on Prism is like a vortex, sucking in everything within earshot. Interlocking patterns, excoriating lines, killer grooves and blazing solos are par for the course. Democracy prevails in all aspects, as each band member contributes music, muscle and more along the way. "The True Meaning Of Determination" is the perfect example of this one-for-all and all-for-one philosophy. Holland draws focus with his bass introduction, melodic delivery is a joint venture between two band mates, Eubanks' guitar singes everything in sight, Taborn takes the spotlight and has a blast chopping up the time with Harland, and everybody comes together to drive it home. It's nine-plus minutes of pure, heart-pounding bliss, and it doesn't even stand above the other tracks; nearly every performance here has a similar endorphin-producing effect. The band does operate in other areas, from the bluesy and soulful ("The Empty Chair (For Clare)") to the contemplative and free floating ("Breathe"), but they retain a group identity no matter where the music takes them. They sound best when they burn, but they still sound like the same unit when they simmer or stay put.

Prism isn't simply a great album by a great band; it's as good as jazz records come. Four months may separate this album's release and the close of 2013, but this one may have already sealed it up for "Album Of The Year" honors.  

Track Listing:

01   The Watcher [6:56]
02   The Empty Chair (For Clare) [8:31]
03   Spirals [8:46]
04   Choir [4:49]
05   The Color Of Iris [7:27]
06   A New Day [7:51]
07   The True Meaning Of Determination [9:19]
08   Evolution [10:24]
09   Breathe [5:40]

Personnel:

Dave Holland, bass;
Kevin Eubanks, guitar;
Craig Taborn, piano and Fender Rhodes;
Eric Harland, drums.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ron Carter - 1976 [1996] "Yellow & Green"

Yellow & Green is an album by bassist Ron Carter recorded at Rudy Van Gelder's Studio in New Jersey in 1976 and released on the CTI label.

 This often overlooked album in the canon of Ron Carter is a pure gem and not often found. With Rudy Van Gelder on the controls, the outright magic of this session was brilliantly captured.This is a spectacular recording with great depth,presecence and separation and sound stage.

Moody, moody stuff from Ron -- who's really opening up his scope on this album, one cut during his strong emergence as an arranger/composer with a bent for pushing the bass way past its traditional jazz role. The record features Ron Carter on a variety of basses, and features different groupings of players that include Billy Cobham, Ben Riley, Kenny Barron, Don Grolnick, and Dom Um Romao. Titles include "Epsistrophy", "Yellow & Green", "Tenaj", and "Receipt, Please".


Ron Carter (born May 4, 1937, Ferndale, Michigan) is an American jazz double-bassist. His unique sound and great swing have made him a long sought after studio man -- his appearances on over 3,500 albums make him one of the most-recorded bassists in jazz history, along with Milt Hinton, Ray Brown and Leroy Vineger. He also has a large body of classical recorded work as well

Carter started to play cello at the age of 10, but when his family moved to Detroit, he ran into difficulties regarding the racial stereotyping of classical musicians and instead moved to bass. Carter attended the historic Cass Technical High School. He played in the Eastman School of Music's Philharmonic Orchestra, and gained his bachelor's degree in 1959, and in 1961 a master's degree in double bass performance from the Manhattan School of Music. His first jobs as a jazz musician were with Jaki Byard and Chico Hamilton. His first records were made with Eric Dolphy (another former member of Hamilton's group) and Don Ellis, in 1960. Carter also worked during this time with Randy Weston, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, Bobby Timmons, Cannonball Adderley and Art Farmer. Carter is an acclaimed cellist who has performed on record numerous times with the cello, notably his own first date as leader, Where?, with Dolphy and Mal Waldron and a date also with Dolphy called Out There with Jaki Byard, George Duvivier and Roy Haynes and Carter on cello; its advanced harmonics and concepts for 1961 were reminiscent of the then current third stream movement on cello by Carter, for he is second probably only to Oscar Pettiford on the instrument in a jazz context.

Carter came to fame via the second great Miles Davis quintet in the early 1960s, which also included Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams. Carter joined Davis's group in 1963, appearing on the album Seven Steps to Heaven and the follow-up E.S.P.. The latter was the first album to feature the full quintet, and also featured three of Carter's compositions (the only time he contributed compositions to Davis's group). He stayed with Davis's regular group until 1968 (when he was replaced by Dave Holland), and participated in a couple of studio sessions with Davis in 1969 and 1970. Although he played electric bass occasionally during this period, he has subsequently eschewed that instrument entirely, and now plays only acoustic bass.

Carter also performed on some of Hancock, Williams and Shorter's recordings during the sixties for Blue Note Records. He was a sideman on many Blue Note recordings of the era, playing with Sam Rivers, Freddie Hubbard, Duke Pearson, Lee Morgan, McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill and many, many others.

After leaving Davis, Carter was for several years a mainstay of CTI Records, making albums under his own name and also appearing on many of the label's records with a diverse range of other musicians, including Wes Montgomery, Herbie Mann, Paul Desmond, George Benson, Jim Hall, Nat Adderley, Antonio Carlos Jobim, J. J. Johnson and Kai Winding, Eumir Deodato, Esther Phillips, Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, Kenny Burrell, Chet Baker, Johnny Frigo and many others.

Carter has also performed and recorded with Billy Cobham, Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins, Joe Henderson, Horace Silver,Stanley Turrentine, Shirley Scott,Helen Merrill, Houston Person, Red Garland, Antonio Carlos Jobim and many other important jazz artists, and has recorded over 25 albums as a bandleader.

Carter was Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the Music Department of The City College of New York, having taught there for twenty years, and received an honorary Doctorate from the Berklee College of Music, in Spring 2004.

Always one of the most in demand bassist and session men. He does not have a large body of work as a featured artist, but here you can catch him in a rare environment. This time he gets to lead and pick the tracks. A great find.

This needs to be added to a serious jazz library, as the important jazz figure he is.


Track listing

    All compositions by Ron Carter except as indicated

    "Tenaj" - 7:44
    "Receipt, Please" - 7:05
    "Willow Weep for Me" (Ann Ronell) - 2:40
    "Yellow and Green" - 6:13
    "Opus 15" - 6:55
    "Epistrophy" (Kenny Clarke, Thelonious Monk) - 6:07

        Recorded at Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on May 17, 18 and 20, 1976

Personnel

    Ron Carter - bass, piccolo bass, cowbell, tambourine
    Kenny Barron - piano (track 1, 5 & 6)
    Don Grolnick - piano, electric piano (track 2 & 4)
    Hugh McCracken - guitar, harmonica (tracks 1, 2, 4 & 5)
    Billy Cobham (tracks 1, 2, 4 & 5), Ben Riley (track 6) - drums
    Dom Um Romão - percussion (tracks 2 & 5)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

CAB - 2000 "CAB 2"

CAB 2 is the second studio album by the rock/jazz fusion band CAB, released on February 20, 2001 through Tone Center Records. The album was nominated for Best Contemporary Jazz Album at the 2002 Grammy Awards.

Unlike some Tone Center offerings, which can be thinly masked excuses for a fusion-blowing workout, Cab 2 succeeds on both compositional and soloing levels. With drummer Dennis Chambers, organist Brian Auger, and bassist Bunny Brunel (once of Chick Corea's '80s band), here joined by speed-king guitarist Tony MacAlpine, the album revels in the Holdsworth-Elektric Band-Vital Information format, retaining high levels of spontaneity throughout. The lineup is well balanced: Chambers is both incredibly funky and creative with his blazing drum romps, while Brunel is consummately lyrical and able to comment on Chambers's furious feet and finger explorations. Melodically, old-timer Auger keeps his head down with lush R&B stabs of B3 organ riffage--the perfect complement to MacAlpine's often hyperbolic, dazzling fretboard mayhem. Mostly, the quartet keeps it high, hard, and fast, running the voodoo down over Brunel and MacAlpine tracks such as "Decisions," "Top Spin," and "Song for My Friend," which employ brisk odd-meters and (what else) serpentine melodies. It's only when this fusion supergroup dwells on midtempo material ("Temperamental," "Sunday") that they run short on fuel, plodding where they should be pummeling, snoring on the job when fusion demands high-speed mental acuity. For its pure soloing prowess, often bittersweet melodies, and boiling arrangements, Cab 2 goes all the way.

All the arm chair critic snobs here who can't play, should just break out their old IOU and Stanley Clarke albums, have a Coke and a smile, and admit that they have become their parents. Yeah, you're old!
The whole band is amazing, the tones are rich, the playing stellar, and Tony MacAlpine is the God of Hell Fire. This is a nice move for Tony. From Neo-Classical to Planet X, (Have you seen him with Vai!!!) and now this. He's pushing the envelope and his guitar tone on Cab 2 is the best he's ever had. It's very refreshing to hear Tony play with more sense of funk, and with Dennis Chambers on board how could he not?
Dennis Chambers?! Oh my God! Brian Auger?! Oh Yeah! Bunny?! Boo-Ya!!!
If only Scofield could play more like this. Like he had some fire in his belly (Mustard in his soul!) and stopped playing tired, cerebral, scholastic, white bread, funk jazz.
MacAlpine comes from a whole other direction joining this band which makes it so fresh. I dig that he's not coming from a post bop clone school attempting to break free of it like so many others. MacAlpine brings the fire of Malmsteen and the jaw dropping facility of Holdsworth but sounds like neither. In context, the band in on a whole other level because of their different influences.
It's the mixing of genres that makes it special. Not a bunch of Miles Davis alumni being allstars with nothing to shake anyone up with.
Greg Howe's Extraction with Dennis Chambers and Victor Wooten wasn't even this successful. Howe wants to be so hip when he should just shred and let the rhythm section do their thing. It's the contrast in musical styles that makes projects like this special. Not everyone coming from the same place.
We need more unadulterated shredders doing projects with funk jazz guys. Enough with the bop clones trying to impress dead people.
I will definetly be buying more Cab releases.

I love this disc. I have owned it for nearly a year now and still enjoy listening to it. I feel sorry for the other reviewers that they can't seem to catch it. I have gotten alot of satisfaction out of listening to these guys. Dennis is one of my favorite players of all time.
Brian Auger (who I listened to alot in the late 60s and early 70s) also is a nice addition to the band. Great stuff, even just for listening.

You know,its so typical for a jazz/fusion player to diss people like Tony MacAlpine.Sorry but I find John Scofield (or whatever) as a drugged-out Pothead.. sorry his music just ain't got that grit.I imagin him as just child from the 60's still on narcotics trying' to record jazz/fusion or something like it.While Tony is straight up level headed and a well progressed musician who puts out good music.Look i bet half of the people that dissed this CD don't even play jazz/fusion,well I take that back cuz some of you people sound like jazz players;Arrogent,Obnocsious(parden the spelling),and down right close-minded(jazzbos..lol thats funny ^_^).Look this band doesn't have to sound like Chic Korea,or that addict John "whats his last name" or even freakin' Miles Davis to be a jazz/fusion band..Oh and to that guy that said about them not expressing the meaning of life (or something like that) dude.. these aren't Coldplay alright? (which fail big time at tryin' to explain "life" )..These guys are musicians that give out some slammin' time changin' maximum fusion that actually know how to play their instruments!Their music is what they're about.See musicians can express themselves through their instruments they don't have to whine,scream,or sing through a mic to get a point across..and if you ACTUALLY listen to the music you'll hear it.Tony MacAlpine came from the 80's : True. Tony MacAlpine can't play fusion: False!..I mean if this isn't fusion what is it?..Progressive? no..If that writer still thinks that about Tony.. then he/she should hear Planet X!The album Moonbabies has some pretty unique fusion songs as well as some hard hittin' Progressive songs (listen to track 3) hence the style the band has been branded with Prog Fusion.. wait oh yeah "there is no such thing as Prog Fusion! it has to sound like the fusion from the 70's/80's or jazz from the 40's to be cool and exist!" people listen,Musicians are creative people (well some of them anyway..)I mean this the 21st century and we can't keep putting the same stuff out and the CAB project isn't.. infact, their music is a step in a new direction.Sorry if some of you are too arrogent and close-minded to see it...Oh! and about the album..its really really REALLY good fusion(sorry i'm at a lost for words its that good ^_^)!I first heard the song "Southside" on the radio and man I fell in love with it!At the time,I didn't know it had people like Tony and Dennis but when i found that out i was even more amazed! :) 5 stars all the way!

Thanks to "Original Uploader"

Track listing

1.     "Decisions"       Bunny Brunel     9:12
2.     "Madeline"       Tony MacAlpine     8:29
3.     "Dennis"       Brunel     5:14
4.     "For Joe"       Brunel     7:11
5.     "South Side"       MacAlpine     7:25
6.     "Song for My Friend"       Brunel     4:41
7.     "Temperamental"       Brunel     9:40
8.     "Top Spin"       Brunel     8:06
9.     "Wah Wah"       Brunel     7:00
10.     "Sunday"       MacAlpine     5:12

Total length: 72:10

Personnel

    Tony MacAlpine – guitar, keyboard
    Brian Auger – keyboard, Hammond organ
    Bunny Brunel – keyboard, bass, engineering, production
    Dennis Chambers – drums

Herbie Mann - 1969 [2002] "Memphis Underground"

Memphis Underground is a 1969 album by jazz flautist Herbie Mann, that fuses the genres of Jazz and Rhythm & Blues (R&B). While Mann and the other principal soloists (Roy Ayers, Larry Coryell and Sonny Sharrock) were leading jazz musicians, the album was recorded in Chips Moman's American Studios in Memphis, a studio used by many well-known R&B and pop artists. The rhythm section was the house band at American Studios. The recording was engineered and produced by Tom Dowd.
Three of the five songs on the album were covers of songs originally released by Soul music artists. "Hold On, I'm Comin'" (by Sam & Dave), who recorded at Stax records (with the Stax rhythm section), and "Chain of Fools" (by Aretha Franklin) who recorded that song with the classic Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section at Atlantic Studios in New York.
Two members of the rhythm section on Franklin's recording (Gene Christman and Tommy Cogbill) perform on Memphis Underground.
A third song, "New Orleans", was also released by R&B artist (Gary U.S. Bonds), who recorded in Virginia.
So though the only one song was certifiably of Memphis vintage, the conglomeration of young New York jazz musicians with one of the most storied Southern rhythm sections proved to be the catalyst for creating strong, fresh music that sounds like neither Memphis Soul nor New York Jazz. This unique sound appealed to a large audience.

The record is one of the best-selling Jazz albums of all time. Rolling Stone said "Memphis Underground is a piece of musical alchemy, a marvelously intricate combination of the "Memphis sound" and jazz lyricism".
Memphis Underground was a favorite album of writer Hunter S. Thompson, who mentions it positively in several chapters of his book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. In the article The Battle of Aspen, Thompson states that his "Freak Power" campaign used Mann's recording of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" as the background music for their commercials.
Another writer, the British author Stewart Home, as a tribute to this Mann album, titled his 2007 novel (some call it an antinovel) Memphis Underground. In the novel, Home makes multiple references to soul, northern soul and jazz soul music.

OK, let's get the simple part out of way first--this is a well-made late '60's jazz-pop album played by solid musicians and the title track is infectious and bears repeated listening's. I think that Mann is not an all-time great flute player, but he is a very good one and he's at his best when he gets to work in an easy, lazy groove, like the title cut or "Chain of Fools": he has a nice languid style on those cuts that brings out the essence of the tunes. I'm not that wild about his "Battle Hymn of the Republic", which seems like a pretty corny concept, and the problem is that the album is only 35 minutes long to begin with, so cut out that tune and you're left with 28 minutes. Seems like Rhino could have reissued this on a disc with another of Mann's albums, like they've done with reissues of other Atlantic stuff like Charles Lloyd.

Anyway, that being said, there are some truly unusual things going on in this album. Mann used to get a bad rap for being too pop, too "commercial", and admittedly he can tend to play with a pretty light touch, at least when compared to, say, Roland Kirk. But when he wanted to do this jazz-rock album, he teamed up with a fairly gritty bunch of guys, i.e. the Stax studio hounds, rather than a line-up of the usual jazz studios wizards. This contrast would be unusual enough, but then Mann brought along Sonny Sharrock, one of the most aggressive, "out-there" guitarists around, and let him rip on "Hold On, I'm Comin'". (The song also has Miroslav Vitous, another avant-gardist who was soon playing with Weather Report, on bass.) The Stax guys, who started the song sounding so funky and gritty, wind up sounding like Boy Scouts when Sharrock starts his strafe-and-destroy feedback solo. All this arranged by a flute player who was thought of as "light" and "commercial". You start to wonder what darkness lurked in the heart of Mann. It's worth getting this album just for this outrageous musical moment.

I first got this on vinyl in the mid 70's and was blown away by the jazz rock sound the band put down. The title tune,Memphis Underground, is still on of my favorite songs and I have been listening to it for 25 years. Possibly the best driving song ever. The rest of the album is very good too. Lots of R&B feel and some wondrous jazz riffs. The guitar and vibe sound great with Manns flute, and the rhythm section is rock solid. I replaced the old vinyl album with a cd and if I lost it, I would buy another in a minute. A listening treat.

I love this album, especially side two with Chain of Fools and Battle Hymn. I first heard this on a $20 portable record player outside my barracks in Nam in 1969. We played side two over and over. Imagine hearing Battle Hymn in that setting. The record player was so bad that I thought all those Larry Coryell riffs from Chain of Fools were a Saxophone. I've still never heard a guitarist pull off those kinds of intelligent but driving arpeggios before; not your standard guitar playing. Herbie excels at grooves, not notes so he doesn't have to be some technical machine zombie. Not many jazz albums can boast such a funky groove and rhythm section. I can still get people excited about this album who don't listen to jazz and have never heard it. This for me will always be the penultimate Herbie Mann album and Chain of Fools will probably always remain my favorite Larry Coryell moment, although he's had some other good ones on his own.

Track listing

    "Memphis Underground" (Herbie Mann) — 7:07
    "New Orleans" (Frank Guida, Joseph Royster) — 2:07
    "Hold On, I'm Comin'" (Isaac Hayes, David Porter) — 8:52
    "Chain of Fools" (Don Covay) — 10:42
    "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (Traditional, arranged by Herbie Mann) — 7:12

Personnel

    Herbie Mann – flute
    Roy Ayers – vibes, conga on "Battle Hymn of the Republic"
    Larry Coryell – guitar
    Sonny Sharrock – guitar
    Miroslav Vitouš - "Fender bass" on "Hold On, I'm Comin'"

"The Memphis rhythm section"

    Reggie Young – guitar
    Bobby Emmons – organ
    Bobby Wood – electric and acoustic piano
    Gene Chrisman – drums
    Tommy Cogbill or Mike Leech - "Fender bass" (individual tracks not specified)

Pat Martino - 1987 [1994] "The Return"

The Return is a live album by guitarist Pat Martino which was recorded in 1987 and first released on the Muse label.

Pat Martino experienced a traumatic brain event in about 1980. When he awoke from surgery, he could not remember his parents. He no longer could play the guitar. He had to start over. All seemed lost. (For the details of this and more, see his autobiography, "In the Moment.")

And yet, and yet... After several years of therapy and practice (often listening to his own records) and receiving love from his parents (with whom he stayed), Pat Martino, one of the hottest jazz guitarist on the scene...returned to record this work.

He had performed under his birth name, Pat Assura, several times to warm up. But this time it was Pat Martino. I hear from knowledgeable friends that the venue was filled to overflowing, mostly with musicians (since Pat is a musician's musician, a guitar player's guitar player).

It was a return to undiminished greatness. The band (acoustic bass and drums) had not rehearsed, but knew how to weave it all together stunningly. Inspiration overflows in every tune. The numbers are not tightly structured pieces (as Pat would later return to), but, nevertheless, they all swing with a red hot intensity. There was no meandering, no hesitation, no compensation for a not-up-to par Pat Martino. Pat was back: the return.

Pat plays a flury of notes, chords, octaves--and never loses his way. And it was only up from here--as I observed in Chicago recently at The Jazz Showcase, when Pat performed with organ and drums. It was the best two jazz nights of my life.

The man is a maestro, a virtuoso, one-of-a-kind. Sadly, he is under-appreciated with respect to popularity. However, those in the know, know the genius of his miracle man. For that, I am thankful. There is beauty in the universe. Think on that. 

There's not much to add other than what the other reviewers have written, other than to say that this album is a unique one in Pat's ouevre because his playing is, to my ears at least, a lot more wild and raw here (in positive terms). It also features the unique drumming of Joey Baron. The interplay here is really exciting too.

Pat Martino is the man. This album is chop city from beginning to end. I can't believe the endurance. long, long, long....fast solos. buy it if you can find it. pretty sure it's been reissued on another disc. 

Pat Martino suffered a brain aneurysm in 1980, and after successful surgery, he was left with musical amnesia. He had to completely relearn how to play guitar, and the process of recovery took a long time. Finally, in 1987, he was ready to play in public and record. Showcased in a trio with bassist Steve LaSpina and drummer Joey Baron, Martino performs lengthy versions of four new originals during a live set from Fat Tuesdays, showing no mercy either for his sidemen or toward himself. Eighty percent back at the time (he would continue to get stronger record by record during the next few years), the guitarist's musical courage is admirable, and the music (which can only be classified as "modern jazz") is frequently exciting.

Track listing

All compositions by Pat Martino

    "Do You Have a Name?" - 12:33
    "Slipback" - 8:50
    "All That You Have" - 11:09
    "Turnpike" - 11:24

Personnel

    Pat Martino - guitar
    Steve LaSpina - bass
    Joey Baron - drums

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Moody Blues - 1974 [1989] "This Is The Moody Blues"

This Is The Moody Blues is a two LP (later two CDs) compilation album by The Moody Blues, released in late 1974 while the band was on a self-imposed sabbatical. Though all of the songs were previously released on albums (with the exception of "A Simple Game" which was a 1968 B-side), several of them are heard here in distinctly-different mixes.
This Is the Moody Blues was a commercial and critical success, reaching #14 in the United Kingdom and #11 in the United States before 1974 was out.

It might surprise those coming in late to their story that the original double-LP version of this album from 1974 was the first compilation devoted to the Moody Blues' work. That's seven years after their switch from R&B-based British Invasion rock & roll to psychedelic music, and ten years into their overall history, an awfully long time for a successful band to avoid the compilation route. That fact alone speaks volumes for how healthy their album sales were -- only the group's decision to take a hiatus seems to have prompted the assembling of this collection. The Moody Blues had actually had enough hits and charting singles between England and America since 1967 so that a good best-of could have been assembled, but the makers went far beyond that, encompassing LP tracks that had become favorites on FM radio between 1967 and 1973 and also ignoring the actual release order of anything here. So instead of a tour through their history, listeners get a kind of collage of most of their best work, the songs nicely representative of the various members' most important contributions to the group's work. That said, however, it should also be pointed out that so much of the band's music is connected, conceptually and thematically, with the surrounding songs on their albums that inevitably the listener will feel rushed through some of this history; additionally, there is one excellent number left off for every three that are included. The CD reissue was impressive sonically for its recompiled and remastered tape sources, and the new annotation by digital producer John Tracy was a good bonus feature. To some degree, this collection has been supplanted by the more fully programmed double-CD Gold collection from 2005. Unless all you're looking for is an overview of the group's classic years, in which case one can add a half-star to the rating of This Is the Moody Blues.

This album came out in 1974 during the band's hiatus and was put together by the band's producer Tony Clarke. He went back to the master tapes and put together this wonderful collection remixing and editing the release so that all the songs flow in and out of each other. The nice thing about this is that it doesn't seem like a standard "hits" collection thrown together by the record company to cash in on a band's fan base like most of these albums do, but rather carefully chosen and assembled to fit together well giving all the members room to shine. It's a shame given the fact that there are so many bogus rip-off Moody Blues "hits" collections out there and yet this one which is the best put together is the one that is currently out of print on cd. I should mention that this also was a big hit when it was released sending several songs back into heavy rotation on FM radio.

Tracks Listing

CD 1:
1. Question (5:39)
2. The actor (4:08)
3. The word (poem) (0:51)
4. Eyes of a child (2:35)
5. Dear diary (3:46)
6. Legend of a mind (6:35)
7. In the beginning (2:04)
8. Lovely to see you (2:34)
9. Never comes the day (4:39)
10. Isn't life strange (5:32)
11. The dream (poem) (0:51)
12. Have you heard? Part 1 (1:21)
13. The voyage (4:09)
14. Have you heard? Part 2 (2:09)

CD 2:
1. Ride my see-saw (3:32)
2. Tuesday afternoon (4:01)
3. And the tide rushes in (2:56)
4. New horizons (5:05)
5. A simple game (3:18)
6. Watching and waiting (4:16)
7. I'm just a singer (in a rock and roll band) (4:10)
8. For my lady (3:57)
9. The story in your eyes (2:44)
10. Melancholy man (5:05)
11. Nights in white satin (4:32)
12. Late lament (2:36)

Total Time: 93:19

Line-up / Musicians

- Justin Hayward / guitars, vocals
- John Lodge / bass guitar, vocals
- Michael Pinder / keyboards, vocals
- Ray Thomas / harmonica, flute, vocals
- Graeme Edge / drums, percussion

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Brecker Brothers - 1978 "Heavy Metal Be-Bop"

Heavy Metal Be-Bop is a live album by the American jazz fusion group, the Brecker Brothers that was released by Arista Records in 1978. The album also includes the studio track "East River", which reached number 34# in the UK singles chart in November 1978.

Recorded live in New York, this explosive set of jazz, funk, and rock material was without question ahead of its time. Michael and Randy's use of electronically altered saxophone and trumpet sounds is amazing. 

This is just an absolute JEWEL. Zappa fans will recognize Terry Bozzio in addition to the Brecker brothers themselves, and MAN, what a combo! Michael Brecker just shreds on every solo, and Randy finds nuances with the "electric trumpet" that have never been heard before or since. Some will want this for the novelty of the electric tenor sax and trumpet, but there are FINE examples of modern BeBop solos here, over a high-powered rhythm section that kicks and jumps all over everything the soloists lay down. This is the kind of rhythm section that can make ANYBODY sound good, but the Brecker brothers talent is unmatched; a combination that presents an order of magnitude. Bass players NEED to hear Neil Jason, and guitar players NEED to hear Barry Finnerty on this. Blistering tight unison lines will prove once again why Zappa saved his most intricate horn passages for these guys, and why you won't hear them at tempo with anybody else. I sincerely hope for more of this largely unexplored flavor of jazz. I haven't found anything else that quite measures up to this.

"Heavy Metal Be-Bop" is a land mark fusion recording. The first tune is from the studio and the rest are recorded from a smoking live set. "East River" is the studio tune and is vocal. The song has a funky bassline and is fun but compared to the rest of the disc it is out of place. The rest of the disc is unreal. The band consists of Neal Jason on bass, Barry Finnerty on guitar, Terry Bozzio on drums, Michael Brecker on Sax, and Randy Brecker on trumpet. "Inside Out" is a Randy Brecker tune and Randy, Michael and Barry all have some fun with it. The tune is basic (For the Brecker Brothers) and they all play over the groove set by Bozzio/Jason. "Some Skunk Funk" is another Randy Brecker composition and a classic. This is one of the funkiest tunes that I have ever heard and the brothers play some of the greatest horn lines that you will ever hear. There are also some unison lines and the power of the band is on par with metal. "Sponge" is another funky piece and it features the explosive drumming of Bozzio. The band trades fours throughout Bozzio's rhythmic wizardry. "Funky sea, Funky Dew' is a Michael Brecker extravaganza. He takes the studio version and improves on it. Not only is his playing during the song great but there is a solo at the end that is amazing and then he is joined by just the bass of Jason which elevates him to a level that is beyond words. "Squids" is the closer to this set and has the brothers ,once again, playing over some serious funk. This disc is one of the greatest I've ever heard and is the greatest Horn orientated fusion disc ever. I only wish that there were more than five live songs but those five are worth any price. As highly recommended as anything can be.

This is the most incredible music ever, no BB album has surpassed this. A live album with Terry Bozzio having just joined the band after leaving Frank Zappa. The version of Some Skunk Funk is worth the whole price. Phenomenal! Will leave you out of breath and panting for more. One studio track kind of ok, an attempt at top 40, but the rest is - wow! Line up is guitar, bass, drums and Breckers. Randy plays some organ and uses a harmonizer to add 5ths and 4ths to his trumpet, so it sounds like more than just 2 horn players. Just hard to imagine what this would have been like to see live. Too bad it wasn't a double album when it was released in the late 70's. I want more of this! 

Tracks Listing

1.East River (3:38)
2.Inside Out (9:32)
3.Some Skunk Funk (7:01 )
4.Sponge (6:24)
5.Funky Sea,Funky Dew (8:03)
6.Squids (7:57 )

Total Time 41:55

Personnel:

- Randy Brecker / electric trumpet, keyboards
- Michael Brecker / electric tenor sax
- Barry Finnerty / guitars, GuitarGanizer, background vocals
- Terry Bozzio / drums, background vocals
- Neil Jason / bass, lead vocals

Additional Musicians

- Sammy Figueroa / percussion
- Rafael Cruz / percussion
- Kask Monet / handclaps, percussion, background vocals
- Jeff Schoen / background vocals
- Roy Herring / background vocals
- Paul Schaeffer / fender rhodes
- Victoria / tambourine
- Alan Schwartzberg / drums
- Bob Clearmountain & friends / handclaps

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Larry Coryell & Steve Khan - 1977 [1990] "Two For The Road"

Two for the Road is a live album by the American guitarists Larry Coryell and Steve Khan, which was released by Arista Records in 1977.

Intermittently on the road as an acoustic duo between gaps in the schedules of their respective ultra-hip fusion bands, Larry Coryell and Steve Khan managed to record several shows and then panned the tape stream to find the nuggets for posterity. There are choices that might have been made out of the fashions of the day, such as the version of Chick Corea's "Spain" that opens the album's first side. Thankfully there are also selections that are here because both guitarists must have realized they were playing magnificently.
Coryell's flair for Wayne Shorter extends beyond simply mastering the tunes to conceptualizing unique guitar settings. Parts of "Juju"'s head are pronounced in simple, chiming harmonics, a delightful way of pointing out that these players understand the guitar in its totality, not just the parts of it that can be used to impress speedfreaks. The hot version of "Footprints" doesn't really express the mystery of Shorter's original mood, yet is terrifically in line with the Django Reinhardt approach to playing a tune, once again full of the kinds of activities fans of acoustic guitar music will find pleasurable.
"St. Gallen" is, in some ways, a remarkable performance. The long introduction sounds like a solo from Coryell, parts of which might be the missing link between him and Derek Bailey. An episode thick with minor seconds and low, throbbing dissonance is only one of many stops on a route that in some ways is as breathtaking as the "milk run" that leaves the St. Gallen station and heads into the Swiss Alps, stopping at farmhouses along the way to pick up fresh dairy shipments. Prior to evoking this image, the piece in its initial moments includes passages of purely show-off rapidity culminating in a lethal swipe at the bridge, the equivalent of a mad critic throwing a knife at a fusion guitarist mid-solo stream.
Khan's admiration for his partner is evident from the liner notes alone. His own style is edgy and observant, and while he doesn't sound simply like someone trying to keep up, he too easily agrees to participate in moments of pieces that come off as more or less typical jamming, such as "Son of Stiff Neck." As for the previously mentioned "Spain," it's too bad they went there -- although anybody performing on this scene during this era was expected to play this "In the Midnight Hour" of jazz standards. A chord emphasized much beyond its importance immediately sets the stage for a flat performance in which the main question listeners might ask themselves is why are there so many notes in the theme -- not the desired reaction when performing a head. The live recording quality is excellent, the tracks fading quickly when the applause begins.

Why this recording is not on CD is a mystery to me. I bought the original LP when it first came out and was astounded by the level of playing. Thankfully, I have some of the tracks from this record on tape, but will order the vinyl again at some point.

No offense to fans of Ovation guitars, but I love the fact that the instruments on this live recording are ASW (all solid wood, with the attendant sound). The recording quality is good, and though the playing is of a highly virtuosic level it does not suffer from technical sterility. "Footprints" is my favorite of the tracks. I remember when this album came out many electric players were floored to hear jazz played like this on acoustic guitars.

As the previous reviewer has noted, this was a remarkable album when released in the late 1970s. To this day, I am amazed at the technical AND musical accomplishments of Larry Coryell. A very rare individual indeed. Here he is astounding along with fine support from fellow fusion player Steve Khan. Guitar enthusiasts take note, if you can find a copy of this recording, by all means grab it. It holds up extremely well. By the way, I would like to know why the Arista records portion of Larry's catalogue is still in some kind of musical limbo. The artist and music fans alike deserve better. P.S. Nice cover artwork. 

Track listing

    "Spain" (Chick Corea, Joaquín Rodrigo) – 5:20
    "Bouquet" (Bobby Hutcherson) – 5:30
    "Son of Stiff Neck" (Larry Coryell, Steve Khan) – 5:35
    "JuJu" (Wayne Shorter) – 3:08
    "St Gallen" (Larry Coryell) – 7:10
    "Footprints" (Wayne Shorter) – 5:30
    "General Moto’s Well Laid Plan" (Steve Swallow) – 5:07
    "Toronto under the Sign of Capricorn" (Larry Coryell) – [Bonus Track] 8:38
    "For Philip and Django" (Larry Coryell) – [Bonus Track] 4:32
    "Rodrigo Reflections" (Larry Coryell) – [Bonus Track] 7:22

Personnel

    Larry Coryell – guitar
    Steve Khan – guitar

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mike Stern - 1992 "Standards (and other songs)"

Guitarist Mike Stern, best-known for playing rock-oriented fusion and in more commercial settings, surprised many listeners by recording an album dominated by standards. Actually, there are three originals included among the 11 pieces, but Stern also digs into such songs as "Like Someone in Love," "Moment's Notice," Chick Corea's "Windows," and "Straight No Chaser." Among Stern's sidemen on this fairly straight-ahead but adventurous set are trumpeter Randy Brecker, Bob Berg on tenor, and keyboardist Gil Goldstein. This little-known release is well-worth acquiring.

Mike Stern always has displayed a large be-bop influence in both his playing and compositions so this Cd was inevitable. What we end up hearing on this disc is the closest thing to seeing Mike Stern's band live until he actually releases a live disc. The playing is amazing and he adds new life to some standards. Although all of the covers were written for piano or saxophone, Mike shows that guitar is a great medium for Jazz. Among the highlights are "There is no greater Love" and "Straight No Chaser". There isn't a dissapointing moment on the entire disc. The one noticable difference between this one and the others is the sound of Mr. Stern's guitar. Unlike the other discs ,where he will incorporate a distorted tone during a part of a song, the whole Cd is played with a clean tone. However, this does not stop Mike from displaying non-jazz influences in his playing. Mike Stern doesn't play with the unbelievable speed of other guitarists (Holdsworth,Lane,Etc.) but he does have a unique style and nobody puts together phrases better than him. For anyone that would like to learn another way to approach the instrument this is a great place to start. Actually this Cd is great for any jazz/fusion lover because there are many lessons to be learned on this recording. 

Stern's 'Standards and Other Songs' originally came as a disappointment to me, though I'm ashamed to admit it. The issue, I think, was that I expected the same sort of 'balsy' distorted funk-bebop of, say, 'Play'--a great album in and of itself--yet, 'Standards' is much more subdued than any other Stern outings I can think of. No distortion. Quiet. Little audible harmonic accompanyment to many of the solos.
The great thing about this album, then, is the way Stern really comes through as the killer bebopper that he is. Close listeners will hear the harmonic movement imbedded in the lines and not miss another comping instrument (there is a keyboard on a few tracks, but it is quite subdued and quiet).
Though, I confess, I think 'Between the Lines' and 'Give and Take' are my favorites of Stern's, 'Standards' offers something that these don't. Much like Metheny's Trio outings, it gives one a different perspective and a different flavor--and a wonderful one at that. It's technically impressive, grooving, and it also helps to solidify Stern as one of the best bebop guitarists out there today.
A few other points
* For those who've seen Mike at the 55 Bar in NYC or wish to, 'Standards' is much more in line with that sort of playing than his other work, save perhaps 'Give and Take'.
* Those who are not well-versed in Bird, Trane, etc--ie, rock fans getting into jazz via Stern, Chick, etc (as I was when I first got the album at 16) will probably not "get it" first time out; conversely, close listening will speed that transition
* Again, it is a very quiet album--indeed, perhaps this is my biggest complaint; not only is the playing subdued (not a problem), but recording volume is not especially high.

Mike Stern - Standards and Other Songs
Stern is a fusion guitarist, but here turns his attention to jazz standards. This CD shows them played in a way I had never before heard them played on the guitar. His playing is fleet and his lines run nimbly ... there is an irrepressible momentum that makes every bar compelling and propels the music onward. There is great subtlety of dynamic control too, and beauty in the tracks 'Circles' and 'Peace'. (His tone is lightly chorussed, an effect that usually does not appeal to me, but in Stern's handsk it fits perfectly - he has made this sound his own.) It changed forever my way of thinking about jazz guitar: here are standards, played in a non-standard way, with virutosity and without cliche. A totally fresh and essential jazz guitar album.

Guitarist Mike Stern, who has earned accolades and awards for playing high-energy rock-oriented fusion on albums such as "Give And Take" and "Play", did an about-face in 1992 by releasing a CD of. jazz/bebop standards. Standards (And Other Songs) also includes three original numbers (the 'other songs'), but for the most part, Stern uses a lightly-chorused, clean guitar sound on such classics as Miles Davis' "Nardis" and "Jean Pierre", John Coltrane's "Moment's Notice", Chick Corea's "Windows" and Thelonius Monk's "Straight No Chaser". Stern recruited a number of more-than-able musicians to accompany him through the adventurous material, including trumpeter Randy Brecker, sax man Bob Berg, and keyboardist/producer Gil Goldstein. Standards (And Other Songs) may have received little fanfare upon its initial release, but it is a CD well worth acquiring for a fresh, virtuosic and guitaristic spin on these compositions.

Track listing:

06:37     Like Someone In Love   
01:49     Source   
09:12     There Is No Greater Love    
05:46     L Bird    
04:40     Moment's Notice   
06:47     Lost Time  
06:29     Windows   
05:26     Straight No Chaser   
05:17     Peace    
01:44     Jean Pierre   
07:37     Nardis    

Personnel:

Mike Stern      -      Guitar
Al Foster      -      Drums
Jay Anderson      -      Acoustic Bass
Ben Perowsky      -      Drums ("Lost Time" and "Nardis")
Larry Grenadier      -      Acoustic Bass ("Lost Time" and "Nardis")
Randy Brecker      -      Trumpet
Bob Berg      -      Saxophone
Gil Goldstein      -      Keyboards, Production

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tommy Bolin - 1974 [1996] "Live at Ebbets Field"

During his tragically short career, Tommy Bolin played with many different musicians and bands. In early June 1974, Bolin was still a member of the about-to-splinter James Gang, and decided to book a couple of nights at the Denver club Ebbets Field to try out some new material he'd written. He called upon his old band Energy to back him up, and the show (finally officially released on CD) is a guitar player's dream, especially for those into the classic sounds of Jeff Beck, Santana, and Hendrix. And even though the five songs that contain vocals (courtesy of Jeff Cook) are quite good, it's the other five instrumental tracks that make this disc a fine testament to the Tommy Bolin legacy. Bolin lends his touch to such raging rockers as the opening "You Know, You Know" and "Homeward Strut," while fans of the Allman Brothers should definitely check out "Shakin' All Night," with its fluid slide guitar work. Also included are nasty renditions of the blues-rock standards "Born Under a Bad Sign" and "Ain't No Sunshine," combined as a medley. Even though some of these tracks ("San Francisco River," "Stratus," etc.) have been issued on some of the other releases from the Tommy Bolin Archives record label, they are all versions from different recording dates. This is an excellent live document showing what Bolin could accomplish while jamming for fun, in the company of some good friends. All Music.

Live At Ebbets Field 1974 is simple amazing. Combining Tommy's virtuoso jazz/rock/fusion guitar playing with an incredible rhythm section, this CD simply blows me away. From the opening "You Know, You Know" to the heart-pounding "Crazed Fandago" to the closing "Stratus" this CD showcases Tommy at his best. A must-have not only for Tommy Bolin fans but for anyone interested in exploring the electric guitar world.

This has to be one of the best Tommy Bolin cds out as far as his guitar playing is concerned. Great solos straight ahead rock and roll. I like most of the stuff Tommy has out but this was him cutting loose if you like live cds by Rory Gallgher or Joe Bonamassa then you will love this. Thanks for reading.

When Tommy Bolin took a break from being in the James Gang, and returned home to Colorado 1974, he gathered up some of his closest musical buddies for two nights of performances at Denver's legendary tiny Ebbets Field. Both nights were broadcast on the radio, and the result is this CD. If you love technically charged, inventive passionate guitar music that flows from powerful rock to over the top fusion playing, this set is for you. In it, Bolin proves why he is one of the most loved and respected of guitar cult legends. The likes of Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Joe Perry, Vernon Reid, and David Hidalgo are all huge fans of Bolin. With the purchase of this CD, you will understand why.

Tommy Bolin was in the midst of a tour with the James Gang in 1974 when he returned to Colorado and broadcast two nights of performances on the radio with friends, luckily someone recorded it and that is what you have on this CD - this was when he was fairly straight and his playing had not started to deteriorate once heroin started taking over in late 75 and 76 - his playing is still strong, fiery, funky and outta site ---- there are previews of songs here that would make it onto the following years "Teaser" album but for the most part this is a jam album with covers of blues songs and jazz and fusion numbers by groups that Tommy admired, leaving plenty of room for him to solo --- and boy does he deliver on those goods - at the end of the CD someone yells out for him to do a song from Spectrum, the Billy Cobham album he appeared on the previous year and Tommy agrees, rounding out the album with an exploding version of "stratus" - the solo on that song alone as it builds up intensity, power and distortion is worth the price of this CD alone - if you are new to Tommy's music this CD and the above mentioned Spectrum CD are where you need to start - he did great work on James Gang "Bang" and DP's "Come Taste the Band" but Ebbets Field 74 and Spectrum are the Kentucky Derby/ Indy 500 checkered flag winners - by far - SMOKIN.....

Tommy Bolin as blues-rock guitar hero, unleashed in a way he never was on his studio recordings. The beefed-up triple percussion section propels him through his most aggressive playing; blues covers, jazz fusion, molten hard rock, and the first airing of “Homeward Strut.” Again, the Zebra Records version adds sonic quality. This CD is culled from the 2 nights of live performances at Ebbets Field in Denver that Tommy put together during the time he was in The James Gang. The band was basically the then defunct Energy, Jeff Cook, Stanley Sheldon, and Bobby Berge, and guests Archie Shelby and Russell Bizet. The format of these shows allowed Tommy to dominate with some of his most ferocious guitar work. Songs include “You Know You Know,” “San Francisco River,” “Shakin’ All Night,” “Walkin’ My Shadow,” “Born Under a Bad Sigh/Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Crazed Fandango,” “Honey Man,” and “Stratus.” 63 Minutes.

 Track Listings

  1. You Know, You Know
  2. San Francisco River
  3. Shakin' All Night
  4. Whiskey Headed Woman
  5. Walkin' My Shadow
  6. Born Under A Bad Sign/Ain't No Sunshine
  7. Crazed Fandango
  8. Ain't Nobody's Fool
  9. Homeward Strut
  10. Honey Man
  11. Stratus

Pesonnel:

    Tommy Bolin - Guitar
    Stanley Sheldon - Bass
    Bobby Berge, Russell Bizet - Drums
    Archie Shelby - Percussion
    Jeff Cook - voice

Billy Cobham - 1974 [2000] "Crosswinds"

Crosswinds is the second album of fusion drummer Billy Cobham. The album was released in 1974. It comprises four songs, all composed by Billy Cobham. It was used as the basis for the Souls of Mischief's hit song "93 'til Infinity". Wiki

Billy Cobham's second date as a leader was one of his better sessions. Four songs (all originals by the leader/drummer) comprise "Spanish Moss -- A Sound Portrait," and, in addition, Cobham contributed three other pieces. The selections team him with guitarist John Abercrombie, both of the Brecker Brothers, trombonist Garnett Brown, keyboardist George Duke, bassist John Williams, and Latin percussionist Lee Pastora. In general, the melodies and the vamps are reasonably memorable. Cobham also takes an unaccompanied drum solo on "Storm." Worth searching for by fusion collectors.  All Music

Billy Cobham made this album at a pivotal point. The original Mahavishnu Orchestra had disbanded, John McLaughlin was wallowing, and jazz purists were beginning to complain about the rock influence. Billy helped show a new direction. Crosswinds opening suite has lush and sophisticated horn arrangments, soothing a subtly intense rhythm. The effect is like night, tropical breezes, just as he wants to convey. You can almost hear the ocean, the music of the wild Caribbean (no steel drums of course, just cool). The rest of the album alternates between hot and cool, with some funky fusion and a beautiful extended piece, Heathers, near the end, featuring a trombone solo that sounds like the soundtrack to a loving and relaxing dream. The album is inspired, Billy at his creative best, showing the jazz world a new dimension that fusion had not shown before. At 35 minutes it is a little short, but we have quality here, not quantity. This album belongs in any jazz or fusion collection. By D. M. Paine

"Crosswinds" has been in my vinyl collection since 1974, when I first picked up a copy at King Karol Records on 42nd Street in Manhattan. Well, I recently became reacquainted with this recording after picking up a CD copy at a "oh so trendy" record store in Haight-Ashburry, San Francisco. As I did then, I played the new CD over and over again, completely enraptured by Cobham's "Ripley's Believe or Not" staccatto drumming and Lee Pastora's smoking Latin percussion. Joined by the Brecker Brothers, George Duke, John Abercrombie, Alex Blake, John Williams, Garnett Brown and other great luminaries of early jazz fusion, Cobham and his willing partners beat and shape a veritable masterpiece. Drive along Big Sur and take in the vast and dramatic California skies and scarred bluffs and you'll begin to undertand what hues of emotions this exquisite recording conjures. Crosswinds alternates between adrenaline musical rushes and absolute sublime chill, creating a perfectly balanced sinuous stream of sound. Simply exquisite!  By Hector Reyes-erazo.

I got this album as a gift in 1974 when I was 19 years old. My unsuspecting sister had heard the name Billy Cobham, but did not realize what a masterpiece she had placed in my hands. Although a virtuoso drummer with monstrous chops, Billy doesn't let his virtuosity run away with him. Although those looking for impressive drumming will not be disapointed. His use of time on the the Crosswinds suite, his climactic "Storm" solo the driving end movement will satisfy drummers, air-drummers and percussion fans. This album exhibits Billy Cobham, composer and arranger. With a dark hues on his palette and a wide brush, Billy paints us quite a seascape. The "Pleasant Pheasant",one of my favorites, is energetic, driving, exciting and just a little bit funky. This features an exceptional and rhythmic drum solo. "Heather", what can I say about "Heather", hypnotic, seductive, well paced. It starts as a whisper of a siren's song and builds to what to date might be one of Michael Breckers most beautiful and haunting solos. This one is for the headphones, folks. "Heather" is worth the price of this recording alone. A stellar cast of musicians on this album work in concert and in symbiosis to produce one of the underated recordings in the "fusion" era. No pyrothechnics for it's own sake here. Impressive solo's abound within the context of the pieces. John Abercrombie, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Garnett Brown, Lee Pastora ...etc., a dream team of musicians. This album should never have been gone this long from the CD shelves/racks/bins of music outlets. Few of Billy's recording measure up to this one in my opinion. By ND.NY 

Tracks Listing

1 Spanish Moss - "A Sound Portrait": Spanish Moss (4:11)
2 Spanish Moss - "A Sound Portrait": Savannah the Serene (5:14)
3 Spanish Moss - "A Sound Portrait": Storm (2:52)
4 Spanish Moss - "A Sound Portrait": Flash Flood (5:08)
5 Pleasant Pheasant (5:21)
6 Heather (8:40)
7 Crosswind (3:42)

Total Running Time: (35:08)

Line-up / Musicians

-Billy Cobham/ drums, percussion.
- John Williams/ guitar (acoustic), bass (acoustic), bass (electric).
- Randy Brecker/ trumpet.
- Garnett Brown/ trombone.
- John Abercrombie/ guitars.
- George Duke/ keyboards, vocals.
- Lee Pastora / percussions