Selected reviews


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

Complete list of CDs reviewed in JJ October 2014 (see below for excerpts):
Albare: The Road Ahead (Enja 9598)
Armstrong, Louis: Columbia and RCA Recordings Of The All Stars (Mosaic MD9-257)
Assad, Clarice: Imaginarium (Adventure 1088)
Baker, Ginger: "Why?" (Motéma 233846)
Binney, David: Anacapa (Criss 1370)
Blakey, Art: Tokyo 1961, The Complete Concerts (Solar 4569951)
Bollani, Stefano: Joy In Spite Of Everything (ECM 378 4459)
Brubeck, Dave: Time Further Out (Essential Jazz Classics 55644)
Brubeck, Dave/Quartet With Paul Desmond: At Pennsylvania State University 1955 (Solar 4569948)
Cleveland, Jimmy: Septet/Octet, Complete Recordings (Essential Jazz Classics EJC55643
Cline, Nels/Singers: Macroscope (Mack Avenue/Cryptogramophone 299)
Clooney, Rosemary: CBS Radio Recordings 1955-61 (Mosaic MD5-258)
Cobb, Arnett: Funky Butt (Progressive 7054)
Coltrane, Alice: Eternity (Warner 8122795980)
Coltrane, John: Live At Temple University (Resonance B0019632)
Connor, Chris: This Is Chris (Bethlehem 20)
Corea, Chick: Solo Piano, Portaits (Concord 5603)
Cowley, Neil: Touch And Flee (Naim 206)
Crawford, Hank: Mr. Blues Plays Lady Soul (Warner 81227959951)
Crawford, Hank: Mr. Blues (Warner 81227959968)
Davis, Miles/Quincy Jones: Live At Montreux (Warner 81227959753)
Donegan, Dorothy: Strength. Energy. Imagination (Storyville 1038437)
Ellis, Don: The New Don Ellis Band Goes Underground/At Fillmore (Beat Goes On 1143)
Ellis, Herb: Meets Stan Getz, Roy Eldridge, Art Pepper & Jimmy Giuffre (Phoenix 131611)
Fitzgerald, Ella: Sings The Rodgers & Hart Song Book (Essential Jazz Classics 55641)
Gillespie, Dizzy/Stan Getz: Diz & Getz (American Jazz Classics 99097)
Green, Grant: Gooden's Corner (Essential Jazz Classics 55636)
Grossman, Steve: Perspective (Warner 81227959944)
Hancock, Herbie: The Warner Bros. Years (1969-1972) (Warner 8122795904)
Hubbard, Freddie: Red Clay/Straight Life/First Light (Beat Goes On 1154)
Jones, Jonah: Jumpin' With Jonah + Jonah Jumps Again (Blue Moon 847)
Jones, Jonah: Muted Jazz + Hit Me Again! (Blue Moon 845)
Jones, Jonah: Swingin' Round The World + Jumpin' With A Shuffle (Blue Moon 848)
Jones, Jonah: Swingin' At The Cinema + I Dig Chicks! (Blue Moon 846)
Jones, Jonah: A Touch Of Blue + Styled By Jonah Jones (Blue Moon 850)
Jones, Jonah: Jonah Jones/Glen Gray + That Righteous Feelin' (Blue Moon 851)
Jones, Jonah: Swingin' On Broadway + Broadway Swings Again (Blue Moon 849)
Jones, Robin: Latin Underground (SLAM 297)
Krupa, Gene: Four Classic Albums Second Set (Avid Jazz 1134)
Lateef, Yusef: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1128)
Lundgren, Jan: I Love Jan Lundgren Trio (Figaro 003, vinyl)
Lundgren, Jan: All By Myself     (Fresh Sound FSR 5053)
Mas, Roger: Ameba (Fresh Sound New Talent 449)
Modern Jazz Quartet: Concert In Japan Vol. 1 (Warner 81227960186)
Modern Jazz Quartet: Concert In Japan Vol. 2 (Warner 81227960209)
Monk, Thelonious: Three Classic Albums Plus (Avid Jazz 1130)
Monk, Thelonious/Sonny Rollins: Complete Recordings (Essential Jazz Classics 55648)
Montoliu, Tete: Interpreta A Serrat (Discmedi 5093)
New Cat (Andrea Motis, Joan Chamorro): Coses Que Es Diuen Peró Que No Es Fan (Discmedi 5106)
Nightingale, Mark/Alistair White: The Sound Of Jay & Kai (Woodville 142)
Noy, Oz: Twisted Blues Vol. 2 (Abstract Logix 043)
Paich, Marty: I Get A Boot Out Of You (Cheesecake 8242)
Parker, Charlie: The Complete - Just Friends (Frémeaux 1337)
Pass, Joe: Sounds Of Synanon (American Jazz Classics 99100)
Pavolka, Matt: The Horns Band (Fresh Sound New Talent 447)
Perkins, Bill: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1121)
Redman, Joshua: Trios Live (Nonesuch 541805)
Reed, Eric: The Adventurous Monk (Savant 2132)
Rollins, Sonny: The Contemporary Leader (Properbox 186)
Sanchez, Antonio: Three Times Three (CamJazz 7879)
Sivan, Rotem: For Emotional Use Only (Fresh Sound New Talent 451)
Skonberg, Bria: Into Your Own (Random Act 1013)
Southern, Jeri: The Complete Roulette & Capitol Recordings 1957-1959 (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 833)
Turner, Mark: Lathe Of Heaven (ECM 378 0663)
Weiss, David: When Words Fail (Motéma 233849)
Wess, Frank: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1124)

Excerpts from the 66 CD reviews in this issue (full print reviews run up to 300 words and include discography - subscribe here):


The All Stars were generally given a hard time in the jazz magazines – writers had apparently expected a band improvising nightly in the Condon mode. But the All Stars rapidly settled into a series of set routines, which while as popular as they could be with audiences, soon ensured that the band was dismissed by the critics. The latter were wrong for, as you can hear in any of the tunes duplicated in this programme, Louis’s reinterpretations produce endless miniature but potent variations to take one’s breath away. He was not at this point the young innovating genius, but genius he still was and remained to his death an instinctive jazz musician who received a level of adoration that almost amounted to a religion. Ricky Riccardi wrote the exemplary 36-page booklet, and in this labour of love has assembled a picture of Armstrong’s contemporary life within these nine CDs that shows relentless good humour, love for his fellow musicians and for his audiences – and that’s apart from the trumpet and the singing (Louis invented jazz singing). I need more space than I have available here, so let me sum up by saying that this box is typically top-class Mosaic stuff and if you can find an excuse for getting hold of it then you should most certainly do so. (Steve Voce) *****


Apart from the Cream reunion gigs of 2005, I hadn’t heard anything from the ex-Graham Bond Organisation man since the early-1990s Unseen Rain on Eight Records – a memorable date where the Swedes Jens Johansson (p) and Jonas Hellborg (elb) helped the fiery master of the two-bass-drum set-up conjure rock-driven music of often hypnotic ostinato intensity. His first release for many years, Why? finds Baker fronting Jazz Confusion, a fine band offering a more mellow and jazz-impregnated session, enhanced by judicious layers of world music texture and colouring. Why? is a refreshing document of the jazz credentials of a man who made his name in the rock/blues world, but whose deepest affinities have always lain with musicians like Max Roach and his contributions to the legendary 1953 Massey Hall concert. (Michael Tucker) ****


Binney is one of the few contemporary jazz practitioners properly addressing composition, arguably the way forward for jazz when few stones seem unturned in improvisational style. He says: “Any music I’ve loved . . . has been super-melodic” and in any Binney set I’ve heard he manages to reproduce that quality in abundance. Regardless of style, the melodic and harmonic narrative is so strong as to surely draw and hold any ear. The backbeat rhythms, restless harmonies and metric displacements often suggest a slowed-down version of Frank Zappa, but Binney adds his own distinctive compositional touches, notably the use of strings of shifting modal harmonies before reaching a final and always somehow unexpected repose, as on the opening She Loves, Introduction, as well as anthemic, peculiarly affecting vocals. Many man-hours must have gone into these pieces, no mere blowing vehicles. Anacapa appears to be Binney’s 20th CD as leader, recorded in his 53rd year. It seems odd to suggest anyone in their sixth decade is a breath of fresh air, but nothing else now sounds like this. (Mark Gilbert) *****


Bollani’s 2012 duo set with bandolim player Hamilton de Holanda was a most un-ECM affair, a joyous romp of a live set that just made you smile. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for its follow-up, an album of Bollani’s new compositions with his transatlantic quintet. The opening, lilting calypso starts promisingly, Mark Turner’s tenor in playful mood and Frisell playing just like Frisell does. Some of that buoyancy continues on Alobar and Teddy, and on the title track, but mostly the mood flattens. At almost 76 minutes, this set is too long and outstays its welcome. The playing is great, but the material lets it down. (Simon Adams) ***


I first heard the amazing Jimmy Cleveland on a 1956 album with Seldon Powell and was convinced he was playing a valve trombone, which of course he wasn’t. He had a technique that rivalled JJ Johnson and Frank Rosolino and like them had brilliantly overcome the difficulties of adapting the slide trombone to the intricacies of bebop. The instrument has seven positions but by judicious use of alternates he could keep slide movement to a minimum, seldom needing to move the slide beyond the bell of the instrument. Like JJ and Rosolino he was able to perform on an equal footing with his saxophone- and trumpet-playing colleagues while articulating the most complex of bebop passages through the use of triple-tonguing. (Gordon Jack) ****


Arnett Cobb, along with Illinois Jacquet and Buddy Tate, was one of the hard-swinging Texas Tenors and this reissue finds him at his extrovert best with the accent on happy, foot-tapping music. Cobb’s dynamic approach not only influenced generations of R&B tenor players but quite probably Scott Hamilton and Eddie Davis too. He is clearly inspired by a rhythm section generating an infectious sense of swing with London’s own Derek Smith and the admirable Ronnie Bedford who was Benny Carter’s drummer of choice at the time of this recording. He has Georgia all to himself for an emotionally charged sermon-like performance that is one of the CD highlights. His own Funky Butt opens with a series of staccato quarter notes before settling into a raunchy 12-bar that would probably have had the crowd yelling for more in any Houston honky-tonk. (Gordon Jack) ****


Despite Miles declaring he had no wish to return to his past glories, he was persuaded by Quincy Jones and Montreux supremo Claude Nobs to reprise at the 1991 festival some of his finest work recorded with Gil Evans. Expectations concerning the trumpeter were not very high as his health problems had started to take their toll, so sound-alike Wallace Roney had the task of filling in where Miles’s chops were not up to the job; as it turned out, the star man surprised everyone with his commitment. But the real hero is alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, whose work on Solea from Sketches Of Spain is a mixture of raw passion and modern sophistication, helping to bring the concert to a rousing climax. It’s not only a welcome reissue but a record of an historically significant event, for amazingly Miles and Quincy had never appeared on stage together before. (Peter Gamble) ****


The UK press release rightly claims that these three CDs “represent the emergence and unfolding of his [Hancock’s] Mwandishi Band”. This boxed set also has an informative 32-page booklet, which includes a recent essay by Bob Gluck contextualising the three albums, and provides more extensive information regarding the personnel than is available on the original cover notes. Also, there is a total of six bonus tracks, so this boxed set is more than the sum of its original parts. Fat Albert Rotunda (CD1) dates from 1969, and was occasioned by an invitation from Bill Cosby to compose the soundtrack for his Hey, Hey, Hey, It’s Fat Albert television pilot. It’s a very tastefully funky affair, like a lesson in how to play funk in the most sensitive, interactive and delicate way. CD2, Mwandishi, is quite different in both material and personnel, moving away from overtly funky James Brown territory into something more reminiscent of Miles’s Bitches Brew. This new band opens with the odd time signature (15/8) Ostinato, which builds from a freeish introduction into a bass ostinato, ultimately joined by unison trombone, with Hancock’s effected electric piano unfolding patiently amongst plenty of ensemble interaction. CD3, Crossings, has the same core band as Mwandishi, but with a more evolved Bitches Brew sensibility, and the addition of an array of vocalists plus Patrick Gleeson on Moog synthesiser, to whom Hancock was sent for advice on synthesizer playing. (Dave Jones) ****

The gem here is Straight Life. The title track of Red Clay is a classic with a memorable melody and shape, but a sense of showcasing and bravura dominates the album. However, Lennon’s Cold Turkey foreshadows the tough modal funk of Straight Life, showing what happens when Hubbard and Henderson have the space afforded by one (or two) chords and relaxed tempi to develop linear ideas and exploit timbre. The method is heard at length (17+ minutes) over the highlife vamp of Straight Life. For example, try Henderson’s quote from Freedom Jazz Dance and hair-raising sideslips from 2:12 to 2:21. More of the same ensues from 2:58. It illustrates a singular mastery of instrument and style, still underrated. Hubbard is cooled by the setting too, making more considered statements than he does in the bebop episodes of Red Clay. The rhythm section bubbles engagingly behind it all, Hancock eventually emerging with his own excellent lines; I wish he had a Rhodes though, rather than what sounds like a Wurlitzer, lacking in sustain and resonance. Benson is nice and bluesy but suggests he didn’t get the polytonal idea. First Light is relatively lightweight, Henderson and Hancock absent and Hubbard playing low intensity bossas and ballads over suave orchestrations. The whole package gets four stars for the outstanding Straight Life, the general value for money and the illumination of Hubbard’s 1970-71 activities. Generous photography and annotation accompany another thoroughgoing release from BGO. (Mark Gilbert) ****

This limited edition prime vinyl pressing carries a fine, beautifully recorded session. Most of the material is by Lundgren. Relish the multi-layered elegance of the ruminative yet flowing The Poet and the hushed lullaby that is Almas Vaggvisa, the subtle blues and folk accents in the latter stages of Magic Stroll, or the kicking, cooking work-out that is the concluding Jive Master M. What struck me with particular force is how well Lundgren is able to hold time in his hands, as it were. Practically every track evinces an enviable ability to be in the groove while simultaneously able now to lay off the beat, now to accelerate into it. The striking white sleeve of the album features a colour photograph of a young woman in an I Love JLT tee-shirt. In essence, however, this surpassing session offers music for grown-ups only. (Michael Tucker) *****

Solo jazz piano is a devilishly demanding art but Jan Lundgren, blessed with keen intelligence, a superior technique, respect and feeling for melodies, unfailing taste and, above all, a certainty about his own style, is a pianist equal to and undaunted by such an assignment. In this 2014 session he produces here a classic example of the genre, way up there with the very finest. Producer Dick Bank, lured out of retirement by an irresistible project, describes this CD as “the best recording I have ever produced, the best Jan Lundgren has ever done.” I must agree. I could pontificate on each and every one of these 14 performances, but far better to read Doug Ramsey’s 15-page essay – one of the most illuminating jazz descriptive pieces it’s been my pleasure to read. However, I cannot demur from mentioning Jan’s lingering inspection of Nobody Else But Me or his stunning account of ’Round Midnight, the perfect closer. Every facet of this production is peerless, and it will stand as a milestone in Lundgren’s career path. Three words of advice: Go get it! (Mark Gardner) *****

OZ NOY: TWISTED BLUES VOL. 2 (Abstract Logix)
Israeli guitarist Noy came to New York in 1996 and first became known for his jazz-rock work. His early listening included both Bud Powell and Jimi Hendrix, so it’s no surprise that here we get blues with a lot more added. It’s been a fashion since Stevie Ray Vaughan reinvented the Texas guitar blues in the 80s for a lot of fusion players to “rediscover” the blues, and Scott Henderson did it particularly well on Dog Party (1994) and other albums, pretty well setting the standard for what one might call the “altered” guitar blues. Noy, possibly unconsciously, follows in Henderson’s footsteps, similarly creating harmonically and structurally interesting variations on the electric blues sound. There’s an important earlier parallel in John Scofield, whose often dangerously overlooked 1984 Electric Outlet was an early manifestation of the blues plus chromatic harmony. Noy has a fat tone, a rich harmonic vocabulary and writes some ingenious variations on the blues form as well as surrounding himself with star appeal and quality in the persons of such as Chick Corea, Eric Johnson, Will Lee, Gregoire Maret, Allen Toussaint and Dave Weckl. The guitar dominates though on material mostly by Noy with one each by Stevie Wonder and Eddie Harris. The guitar and the blues move on. (Mark Gilbert) ****

JOE PASS: SOUNDS OF SYNANON (American Jazz Classics)

This issue presents the contents of the long unavailable Pacific Jazz LP Sounds Of Synanon (PJ-48). It appears the last (and possibly only previous) CD issue was from Japan in 2002, adding a bonus track, Blues, which is absent here. AJC have however added a contemporary Pass trio set from Pacific with Richard Holmes. Sounds Of Synanon is famous for being the product of the drug rehab centre of the title, of which all the musicians here were residents or former residents. You might disbelieve Charlie Parker’s warning that smack doesn’t make you play better on hearing the music here. It was Pass’s recording debut, but it sounds like the work of a well-seasoned player, full of confidence, fluency and invention. Some of the players were relative jazz novices but you’d hardly guess it. Aside from Pass, Arnold Ross (who had a pedigree going back to the 40s with Glenn Miller and Harry James) and trumpeter David Allan, the players were jazz freshmen. Greg Dyke, who solos with perfect conviction on baritone horn on Projections, had done very little jazz before, and the drummer and conga player had both been studying their instruments for only one year. Excellent packaging, including session pix, liner notes and new essay, completes an important acquisition for bebop guitar fans. (Mark Gilbert) ****


How does an instrumentalist with a limited pitch range produce an interesting jazz record? Short of being Max Roach, a master of timbre and tune, the approach here – leading three diverse trios – is a good bet. Sanchez is a musical drummer, aided by no doubt the most thoughtful miking and recording of the kit. The proof is in the detail – try for example the slack tom-tom tuning that prefaces Scofield’s solo on Nooks or the offbeat hi-hat fill that pops, perfectly judged, out of the left speaker a little way into his gloriously greasy outing. There are few drum solos; rather, the drums engage in colourful and never intrusive dialogue with the other instruments. The Mehldau set has a curiously pale quality but I suppose vagueness, nebulosity is a trademark of the style. It’s pleasant. There’s a more meaty, beaty tone to the Scofield set, partly because of Scofield’s grit, but also the muscular work of McBride. Swing gets in too on Sanchez’s Rooney, closing a stylistically comprehensive set from the most engaging trio here. Sanchez gets a good whack on the tumultuous Leviathan, with Lovano sounding more consid- ered, less voluble than in earlier years. That same restraint seems to give Sanchez a lot more space for embellishment on his own Firenze. Altogether, an engaging and diverse collection with the best Scofield I’ve heard in some while. (Mark Gilbert) ****

This album is very likely to be high on my list for the 2014 Critics’ Poll. There is the usual lack of information on the CD sleeve but the press release describes Ms Skonberg as a “Gritty, Witty Vocalist and Trumpeter” and this is certainly true. Of the 12 titles nine are originals by Ms Skonberg and they demonstrate her very excellent writing talents; the arrangements are very inventive too. Of the backing musicians, special mention should be made of the reed playing of Australian Adrian Cunningham, who shines throughout. NYC pianist Dalton Ridenhour is a new name to me but on the strength of his playing here I have just purchased his solo album Eccentricity. To sum up, this album is well worth its five-star rating and the triple-talented Ms Skonberg is certainly someone to watch in the future. She was profiled in September’s JJ. (Jerry Brown) *****

In the late summer of 1957, Jeri Southern ended a happy association with Milt Gabler at Decca and signed with the new and up and coming Roulette label. They had Joe Williams, Pearl Bailey and Count Basie on their list and she maybe thought that a fresh, lively new record company would help her career. This three-CD box set collects together all of the music she recorded for Roulette and later Capitol Records, comprising five LPs and six EPs. Helping to give good value are the singles and there are particularly good versions of Horace Silver’s Señor Blues and Take Me Back Again. A very slow It’s All Right With Me is unusual and unexpected but she manages to make it another personal triumph. A gentle, communicative singer with no histrionics but a very personal approach to good songs, she gave up recording and even stopped singing in public by 1962, concentrating on a career as a singing coach and writing a book about voice technique. She died of pneumonia in 1991 at the age of 64 and she leaves the impression that she could have gone from strength to strength, had she chosen to. This valuable set shows us just how good she was in her prime. (Derek Ansell) *****


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