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RECORD REVIEWS

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 January 2015 (see below for excerpts):
Allen, Harry: Flying Over Rio (Arbors 19425)
Baker, Chet: Sextet & Quartet (DreamCovers 6086)
Baker, Kenny/Dozen: Live At The BBC 1957 (Acrobat 3111)
Bergonzi, Jerry: Intersecting Lines (Savant 2137)
Bija: Bija (SLAM 556)
Blue-Eyed Hawk: Under The Moon (Edition 1054)
Brand New Heavies: The Sound Of Acid Jazz (Not Bad 013)
Brubeck, Dave: Brandenburg Gate: Revisited (American Jazz Classics 99111)
Byrd, Charlie: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1123)
Clarke, Stanley Up (Mack Avenue 1083)
Cohen, Avishai: Dark Nights (Anzic 0045)
Colyer, Ken/Jazzmen: New Orleans To London/Back To The Delta (Lake 209)
Condon, Eddie: The Eddie Condon Collection 1927-61 (Acrobat 2045)
Curson, Ted: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1139)
Davis, Miles: Miles Ahead (DreamCovers 6087)
Davis, Miles: Round About Midnight (DreamCovers 6085)
Deep Schrott: The Dark Side Of Deep Schott Vol. 1 (Poise 23)
Eckstine, Billy: The Fabulous Mister B (Retrospective 4252)
Ellington, Duke: My People (Boplicity 027)
European Jazz Sextet: Live At The International Jazzfest In Viersen (Konnex 5309)
Farmer, Art: Listen To Art Farmer + Brass Shout (Poll Winners 27319)
Frisell, Bill: Guitar In The Space Age (Okeh 88843074612)
Gordon, Dexter: Three Classic Albums Plus (Avid Jazz 1138)
Green, Grant: Nigeria (Essential Jazz Classics 55649)
Halvorson, Mary/Michael Formanek/Tomas Fujiwara: Thumbscrew (Cuneiform Rune 365)
Hawkins, Coleman: The Coleman Hawkins Collection 1927-56 (Acrobat 2044)
Hayes, Louis: Return Of The Jazz Communicators (Smoke Sessions 1406)
Hayes, Tubby: Without A Song Rare Live Recordings 1954-73 (Acrobat 9042)
Haynes, Roy: Hip Ensemble (Boplicity 028)
Hazeltine, David: For All We Know (Smoke Sessions 1405)
Herring, Vincent: The Uptown Shuffle (Smoke Sessions 1403)
Ideal Bread: Ideal Bread (Cuneiform Rune 386/387)
Jackson, Paul: Groove Or Die (Whirlwind 4656)
James Farm: City Folk (Nonesuch 545186)
Jazz Crusaders: Complete Live At The Lighthouse ’62 (American Jazz Classics 99112)
Johnson, Eric/Mike SternL Eclectic (Heads Up 3576802)
Katché, Manu: Live In Concert (ACT 9577)
Khan, Steve: Subtext (ESC 03752)
Konitz, Lee/Bill Evans: You And Lee + Lee Konitz Meets Jimmy Giuffre (American Jazz Classics 99110)
Krantz, Wayne: Good Piranha Bad Piranha (Abstract Logix 047)
L.A.6: Frame Of Mind (Jazzed Media 1066)
Lark, Bob/And His Alumni Big Band: Sweet Return (Jazzed Media 1068)
Lê, Nguyên: Celebrating The Dark Side Of The Moon (ACT 9574)
Levin, Tony/Pete Levin: Levin Brothers (Lazy Bones 2053)
London Swing Orchestra: The The Birth Of Swing 1935-1945 (Upbeat 263)
Luthert, Max: Orbital (Whirlwind 4659)
Mabern, Harold: Right On Time (Smoke Sessions 1402)
Mahavishnu Orchestra: Between Nothingness & Eternity/Visions Of The Emerald Beyond (Beat Goes On 1161)
Mance, Junior: Junior's Blues/Happy Time/Big Chief! (American Jazz Classics 99113)
Martin, Claire: Time And Place (Linn 423)
Mingus, Charles: Mingus Moods (Properbox 188)
Moholo-Moholo, Louis:  For The Blue Notes (Ogun 042)
Moran, Jason: All Rise (Blue Note 00602537534296)
Moskus: Mestertyven (Hubro 2535)
Muthspiel, Christian/Steve Swallow: Simple Songs (In + Out 77120)
New Century Ragtime Orchestra: "Singin' In The Bathtub" (Lake 336)
Nucleus/Leon Thomas: Live 1970 (Gearbox 1529)
Partisans: Swamp (Whirlwind 4657)
Phillips, Simon: Protocol II (Inakustik 9131)
Porter, Gregory: Issues Of Life - Features And Remixes (Membran 233873)
Postma, Tineke/Greg Osby: Sonic Halo (Challenge 73370)
Pullen, Don: Richard's Tune (Sackville 3008)
Purcell, Simon: Red Circle (Whirlwind 4651)
Reed, Eric: Groovewise (Smoke Sessions 1410)
Ross, Annie: To Lady With Love (Red Anchor 1047)
Rueckert, Jochen: We Make The Rules (Whirlwind 4658)
Silver, Horace: The Best Of The Early Years 1953-60 (Documents 600187)
Skelton Skinner Allstars: Play Ellington & Basie (Diving Duck 022)
Supersilent 12: Supersilent 12 (Rune Grammofon 2162)
Sutton, Tierney: Paris Sessions (BFM Jazz 24272)
Thompson, Eddie/Dave Lee: London Piano (Acrobat 4378)
Turner, Joe: Two Classic Albums Plus (Avid Jazz 1142)
Various: British Traditional Jazz At A Tangent Vol. 6 (Lake 335)
VerPlanck, Marlene: I Give Up, I'm In Love (Audiophile 347)
Wasilewski, Marcin Trio/Joakim Milder: Spark Of Life (ECM 379 2957)
Wellins, Bobby/SNJO: Culloden Moor Suite (Spartacus 020)
Wollny, Michael: Weltentraum Live - Philharmonie Berlin (ACT 9579)


Excerpts from the 77 CD reviews in this issue (full print reviews run up to 300 words and include discography - subscribe here):


STANLEY CLARKE: UP (Mack Avenue)

It may only be 45 minutes long but it’s packed with more incident than half a dozen longer albums I can think of combined. It’s an absolutely professional, focused product with nary a moment wasted, and every musical point made clearly and concisely. The 63-year-old bassist, who played hard bop with Horace Silver et al before joining the jazz-rocking Return To Forever, has long trodden a critically precarious tightrope between electric bass and the (physically and for some morally) upright variety. It’s clear from this record that he plies both with equal enthusiasm, facility and authenticity. You can’t see the pecuniary crack between them that more sanctimonious observers might want to. He’s an all-round great musician. (Mark Gilbert) ****

LOUIS HAYES: RETURN OF THE JAZZ COMMUNICATORS (Smoke Sessions)

Louis Hayes, walking down Broadway in 1967, entered a club and told the owner he’d like to bring in a jazz combo and play through the summer. “Who’s in this group?” asked the club man warily. “Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Kenny Barron, Herbie Lewis on bass.” “Oh well, then, you have it,” the man said. Louis lived in the same NYC block as Hubbard and close to the others but no group had been set up. He talked to the trumpeter who said “Let’s do it,” and the Jazz Communicators were born. Sadly they never recorded. This new version of the band has though, and swings brightly for 76 minutes. Nelson is a top soloist on vibes and his playing welds the ensembles together neatly. (Derek Ansell) ****

TUBBY HAYES: WITHOUT A SONG (Acrobat)

There’s a great deal of brilliant and exciting improvising here. I couldn’t find any music that didn’t have instant appeal, and indeed there are a couple of real classics. But this is an album for dedicated Hayes collectors only, for the poor sound and distortion makes it like wading through treacle for a lot of the time. The subtitle of the album is Rare Live Recordings 1954-73 and therein lies the rub. These are “private” recordings. I don’t think most of them can have been very good to start with but, by this stage of the game, the sound quality is barely acceptable. Fortunately, one of the finest tracks, a 19-minute tenor battle between Tommy Whittle and Tubby on Miss Jones, has the best sound quality. (Steve Voce) ***

ERIC JOHNSON & MIKE STERN: ECLECTIC (Heads Up)

This summit meeting between two modern guitar masters was recorded at Johnson’s studio in Austin, Texas, but it turned into a live session. According to Stern the object was spontaneity, and he feels that was achieved with “a lot of energy and musicality”. It is hard to disagree. What makes the set compelling is its refreshingly broad compositional palette. Jazz, blues and rock (fusion in its traditional guise it is not) comfortably co-exist without the album ever losing a sense of musical cohesion and compass. Most of the tunes are relatively simple originals providing a platform for the soloists to shine, but the set ends with Red House, an exhilarating homage to Hendrix. This is a consistently excellent CD. (Francis Graham-Dixon) *****

STEVE KHAN: SUBTEXT (ESC)

According to Steve Khan he was never sure his father Sammy Cahn appreciated his work, but salvation came one day when Miles Davis was introduced to Cahn and said: “Sammy, you tell your son for me that he’s a motherfucker!” Even if Steve moved in a world – guitars, NY session work and jazz-rock – far from that of his songwriter father (of whom Steve said he “was never really crazy about instrumental music”) he had among his peers developed an enviable reputation. His work on his own Tightrope (1977) and with the Brecker Brothers and Steely Dan might say jazz-rock, but his early heroes included Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Grant Green and Jim Hall (he later wrote a book on Wes’s style) and it’s as if in his trio-based work on numerous records since the early 80s he’s been trying to realise those early aspirations. This latest sustains the pursuit, with Khan sporting a muted, chorused, hollow-bodied sound. (Mark Gilbert) ****

LEE KONITZ & BILL EVANS: YOU AND LEE + LEE KONITZ MEETS JIMMY GIUFFRE (American Jazz Classics)

Produced by Norman Granz and originally issued on Verve (later on Lone Hill), this welcome reissue of two sparkling Lee Konitz studio sessions also features Bill Evans with Jimmy Giuffre as arranger and instrumentalist. Recorded well over 50 years ago, both dates sound as if they were just freshly coined. On You And Lee, Konitz is placed in the sympathetic and gentle company of three stellar trumpeters and three equally distinguished trombonists. Bill Evans and Jim Hall deftly divide the roles of accompanists. Konitz (at times reminding the listener of an angular Paul Desmond) soars through and above Giuffre’s delicate arrangements of standards from the American Songbook. Particularly brilliant gems are You Don’t Know What Love Is (with a moving solo by Evans) and I’m Getting Sentimental Over You, but every title has its individual lustre. (John White) *****

WAYNE KRANTZ: GOOD PIRANHA, BAD PIRANHA (Abstract Logix)

Krantz says on the cover: “Did some cover nights a while ago at the 55 Bar. Realized it didn’t matter what songs we play, we still do our thing.” The truth of Krantz’s observation is underlined by the fact that this set contains two trios playing the same four numbers. In other words, variety in interpretation can trump variety in material. The most dynamic and melodic original is probably MC Hammer’s classic U Can’t, which provokes plenty of edgy jazz-funk jamming from both trios. In all cases, Krantz’s unique, gritty guitar sound and inimitable solo style, often coloured by wah-wah or ring modulator, engages. Trio has been Krantz’s most fruitful medium since the landmark Long To Be Loose of 1993 and the double outing here proves it. (Mark Gilbert) ****

NGUYÊN LÊ, MICHAEL GIBBS, NDR BIGBAND: CELEBRATING THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON (ACT)

It’s hard to be original on electric guitar half a century after it became widespread, but Nguyên Lê stands out for giving the instrument an unmistakable oriental signature, the twang of his guitar’s single coils and his glissando pentatonic phrasing being strong elements in the impression. Born in Paris in 1959 of Vietnamese parents, Lê probably grew up with Pink Floyd and it’s a good if obvious idea to cover the group’s famous 1973 album, although Floyd tunes such as Time, The Great Gig and Us And Them can get cloying, even with arranger Gibbs’s kicks and fillips. The most jazz-filled moment here is probably the stunning trio sprint of Lê’s own Inspire, reminiscent of one of Jaco Pastorius’s uptempo straight-eighth rampages. It has outstanding soprano sax from Christof Lauer, and Jürgen Attig perfectly replicates Jaco’s bubbling pizzicato style. It’s a shame about that lazy PR catchall “celebrating” that props up so many arts enterprises these days. (Mark Gilbert) ***

THE LONDON SWING ORCHESTRA: THE BIRTH OF SWING 1935-1945 (Upbeat)

Originally known as the Grahamophones, The London Swing Orchestra, directed by vocalist Graham Dalby, celebrated its 25th anniversary with this album of big band swing era hits. Full detailed arrangements closely replicate the famous original versions. The musicianship all-round is first class, and the full, glossy arrangements are faultlessly executed. Where space allows, e.g in Who? there are admirable solo contributions from unidentified trumpet and trombone. Leader Graham Dalby sings confidently in appropriate style for the era on half of the tracks. The music in its day was intended for dancing, and some tracks are indeed, straight dance band in style, with little notable jazz input. All in all, this enjoyable and very well performed album will appeal mainly perhaps to nostalgia buffs and lovers of classic, vintage big band music. (Hugh Rainey) ****

LOUIS MOHOLO-MOHOLO: FOR THE BLUE NOTES (Ogun)

This release celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Ogun label, which has constantly championed the music of South Africa. The Blue Notes were the quintet of SA musicians who arrived in the UK in the mid 1960s, amalgamating their African roots with contemporary jazz. The only living member of the original band is drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo, who continues to spread the word some 50 years on and is still very much a vibrant figure in his mid-70s. This live concert recording contains a lot of music familiar to those of us who followed such bands as The Brotherhood Of Breath. This is music of the moment but with a very clear nod to the not-so-distant past, which your reviewer and hopefully a number of readers hold in great affection. (Peter Gamble) ****

JASON MORAN: ALL RISE: A JOYFUL ELEGY FOR FATS WALLER (Blue Note)

For the first few tracks of this joyous, warm-hearted tribute to Fats Waller, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was a tribute to a quite different Waller than the popular pianist of old. For here we have a modern Waller, a hip-hop party animal of the 21st century lifted on high by Moran’s electric piano, the soulful vocals of mainly Meshell Ndegeocello, and some driving rhythms. It is only with Moran’s entrance on Lulu on what one fondly hopes is an old black upright that are we back in traditional tribute territory. At times, the jump between the two styles is too wide for comfort, but all is forgiven when one listens to Moran’s grooving solo on This Joint Is Jumpin’ or his glorious exhibition on both Handful Of Keys and the concluding medley. All rise, and party! (Simon Adams) ****

PARTISANS: SWAMP (Whirlwind)

One normally thinks of partisans as hill-dwellers bent on romantic causes, but these guys are as urban(e) as they come, taut, hip, hot, partisans of a brand of jazz writing that doesn’t feel awkward away from the blues or a hard bop 4/4. Robson’s one of the best writers we’ve got, and Siegel doesn’t lag behind. Bass and drums are in more than competent hands. It’s a great formula, and all the better for being so completely unformulaic. From the Latinish bounce and sway of Flip The Sneck to the semi-abstract landscape of the title track, Partisans use relatively modest resources – the group occasionally sounds like it must have another member – to create a big, room-filling sound. (Brian Morton) ****

SIMON PURCELL: RED CIRCLE (Whirlwind)

The press release’s “highly anticipated debut album” might strike at first as the usual hyperbole, most people probably having assumed that Simon’s performing ambitions were long ago submerged under by the burden of his day job as Head of Jazz at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire in Greenwich, but when you hear the terrific music contained here you may well wonder why he hasn’t led a date before. It’s a set of thoroughly convincing post-bop originals, seemingly grounded in the principles set out by the late 1960s Miles Davis quintet. “Anticipate” might also imply novelty. There isn’t much of that here, but there doesn’t need to be when music in this beautiful, evergreen style is so attractively executed. That’s the bigger picture and not to say there aren’t many enjoyable moments of personal revelation here for the soloists, leader included. (Mark Gilbert) ****

HORACE SILVER: THE BEST OF THE EARLY YEARS, 1953-60 (Documents)

Here’s where hard bop really started! You can’t beat early Silver, and this huge chunk fortunately doesn’t reach as far as the period when his genius began to disintegrate. The music is marvellous and restores to us several exquisite albums that haven’t been available for a long time and some, like the early Clark Terry, that as far as I know haven’t been issued in this country before (I think it came out on Lone Hill, though). Apart from early virtuoso Clark, there’s fine trombone from Cleveland as well as good Silver and Blakey. Apart from the family Silver we get bonus albums from Miles Davis, Art Farmer (with a nice set of Quincy Jones charts), Kenny Dorham and Milt Jackson, which contain plenty of good, if familiar stuff. Blakey rules, OK? Some of his best early work is here and it’s good to be reminded of what a power he was in the land. (Steve Voce) *****

BOBBY WELLINS/SNJO: CULLODEN MOOR SUITE (Spartacus)

Murray Pearson began his sleevenote for Jubilation, the June 1978 recording by Wellins’ quartet at Brighton’s Hanbury Arms, with the ringing declaration, “There is no British tenor saxophonist more distinguished, more imaginatively possessed of a mature and authentic style than Bobby Wellins.” If Murray were writing now, he could leave out “British” – for today, there surely is no tenor saxophonist in the world more distinguished and distinctive than Wellins in full flow, as he is throughout this now arrestingly poetic, now rhythmically vibrant album. Featuring the excellent SNJO under the leadership of fellow Scot Tommy Smith and with five strikingly intelligent and variegated charts by Florian Ross, Culloden Moor Suite is one of Wellins’ finest achievements. (Michael Tucker) *****

 


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