Selected reviews


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

Complete list of CDs reviewed in JJ February 2016 (see below for excerpts):
Abercrombie, John: The First Quartet (ECM 473 2437)
Adderley, Cannonball/Quintet: Complete Recordings (Phoenix 131614)
Anderskov, Jacob: Habitable Exomusics Trilogy (ILK 244, 245 & 246)
Aurignac, Ernesto: Anunnakis (Fresh Sound FSNT 487)
Barnes/O'Higgins/The Sax Section: Oh Gee! (Woodville 146)
Barroso, Juanma: Pyro's Mood (Fresh Sound FSNT 484)
Bell, Lori: Brooklyn Dreaming (
Blakey, Art: Complete Columbia And RCA Albums Collection (Columbia Legacy LC 00162)
Brand, Dollar: Sphere Jazz/The Jazz Epistles (Phono 870235)
Dameron, Tadd: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1175)
Davis, Kris/Infrasound: Save Your Breath (Clean Feed 322)
DeFrancesco, Joey: Trip Mode (HighNote 7281)
Dennerlein, Barbara: Christmas Soul (MPS 0210561MS1)
Ellington, Duke: Columbia Studio Albums Collection 1959-1961 (Columbia Legacy 86979 38892)
Eriksen, Espen: Never Ending January (Rune Grammofon 2173)
Fame, Georgie: Swan Songs (Three Line Whip 010)
Felberbaum, Michael: Lego (Fresh Sound FSNT 485)
Fishwick, Steve/Osian Roberts/Frank Basile: In The Empire State (Hard Bop 33010)
Food: This Is Not A Miracle (ECM 473 9039)
Gewelt, Terje: Steppingstone (Resonant 25)
Goodman, Benny/And His Orchestra: Complete Benny In Brussels (Solar 4569965)
Gordon, Joe: Last Sessions (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 879)
Gray, Devin: Relative Resonance (Skirl 028)
Grusin, Dave: Piano, Strings And Moonlight (Blue Moon 868)
Hamilton, Scott/Jeff Hamilton: Live In Bern (Capri 74139)
Hawkins, Coleman/Ray Bryant: Complete Recordings (Solar 4569966)
Henriette, Mette: Mette Henriette (ECM 473 5212)
Hooper, Stix: Live In L.A. (Stix Hooper Enterprises 3006)
Hooper, Stix: We Went West (Stix Hooper Enterprises 3007)
Hooper, Stix: A Jazz Moment In Time (Stix Hooper Enterprises 3005)
Kaldestad, Steve: New York Afternoon (Cellar Live 032014)
Kent, Stacey: Tenderly (Okeh 88875156762)
Kora Band, The: New Cities (Whirlwind 4667)
Krivda, Ernie: Requiem For A Jazz Lady (Capri 74140)
Lee, Peggy: Latin Ala Lee! + Olé Ala Lee (Blue Moon 869)
Lenczowski, Krzysztof: Internal Melody (Allegro 031)
Let Spin: Let Go (Efpi 023)
Loueke, Lionel Gaïa Blue Note B0023545-02
Lovano, Joe/Dave Douglas: Sound Prints/Live At Monterey Jazz Festival (Blue Note 0602547109149)
Malija: The Day I Had Everything (Edition 1064)
Mancio, Georgia: Live At ReVoice! (Roomspin 1942)
McGann, Bernie: Australian Jazz Avant-Garde (Sarang Bang 028)
Mosca, Sal: The Talk Of The Town (Sunnyside 1317)
Mostly Other People Do The Killing: Mauch Chunk (Hot Cup 153)
National Jazz Youth Orchestra: NYJO Fifty (Whirlwind 4679)
Norby, Caecilie/Lars Danielsson: Just The Two Of Us (ACT 9732)
Olavi Trio: Oh, La Vie! (TUM 043)
Paich, Marty: Four Classic Albums Second Set (Avid Jazz 1173)
Paier, Klaus/Asja Valcic: Timeless Suite (ACT 9598)
Paris, Jackie: Sings Gershwin/Paris (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 878)
Parker, Charlie: My Little Suede Shoes 1950-1951 (Frémeaux & Associés 1339)
Perko, Jukka/Iiro Rantala: It Takes Two To Tango (ACT 9629)
Person, Houston: Something Personal (HighNote 7282)
Pérez/Patitucci/Blade: Children Of The Light (Mack Avenue 1104)
Rantala, Iiro: My Working Class Hero (ACT 9597)
Riley, Howard/Trio: Discussions (Dusk Fire 114)
Schweizer, Irène/Han Bennink: Welcome Back (Intakt 254/2015)
Slettahjell, Solveig/Knut Reiersrud: Trail Of Souls/With In The Country (ACT 9593)
Sonn, Larry: And His All Star Band (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 877)
Stevens, John/Away: John Stevens' Away/Somewhere In Between/Mazin Ennit (Beat Goes On 1198)
Stevens, Matthew: Woodwork (Whirlwind 4677)
Stockholm Jazz Orchestra: Today (DO Records 024)
Storaas, Vigleik/Tor Yttredal: Chamber (Inner Ear 21)
Strønen, Thomas: Time Is A Blind Guide (ECM 473 9039)
Taubenhouse, Yaniv: Moments In Trio. Vol 1 (Fresh Sound FSNT 483)
Vinding, Pilc, Mazur: Composing (Storyville 1014297)
Vistel, Jorge: Ossain (Fresh Sound FSNT 482)
Waxwing: A Bowl Of Sixty Taxidermists (Songlines 1611)
Weather Report: The Legendary Live Tapes 1978-1981 (Columbia/Legacy 88875141272)

Excerpts from the 71 CD reviews in this issue (see a free sample of full print reviews; subscribe to see 12 months of Jazz Journal
including over 20,000 words of CD review each issue):

Long out of print (with the exception of Arcade, fleetingly released on CD in Japan) these albums form a welcome first-time CD reissue. The title of this box set derives from the fact that these recordings presented the first group that John Abercrombie led. His career began in a jazz-rock idiom, playing in Dreams and on Billy Cobham’s early solo albums, Crosswinds, Total Eclipse and Shabazz. In common with fellow Berklee alumni Mike Stern, John Scofield and Bill Frisell, Abercrombie championed a recognisably new jazz-guitar style, less visceral and more cerebral. (Roger Farbey) ****

Barnes and O’Higgins here lead a band of five saxophones and rhythm, the front line scored in parallel block voicing after the manner of Jimmy Giuffre’s Four Brothers of 1947 or, from around 1972, Med Flory’s Supersax. The CD proffers exemplary playing of strong arrangements by a first-rate band, one that should earn festival bookings and an appreciative reception. Most of the material will be familiar to jazz aficionados. The one Barnes original, Orejas De Cerdos, translates as pigs’ ears. Make of that what you will. Is this a culinary delicacy, or an insult? Who knows? Oh Gee! is a convincing testimony to the health of the current British mainstream. (John Robert Brown) ****

Lori Bell is an exceptionally skilled instrumentalist, playing both C flute and alto flute. She has brought her skills to a wide audience through live performances and also with several own-name albums, the first of which was in 1983. On this album, her ninth, she has wholly admirable accompaniment from a first-rate trio. The spotlight is on Bell who brings inventive depth and subtle swing to the repertoire presented here. Although there were some fine players of the flute in jazz in earlier years (Wayman Carver and Frank Foster come readily to mind), the instrument has not always been unreservedly accepted. It remains a relatively rare instrument in jazz but in recent years a few players, like Lori Bell and Holly Hofman, have done much to change opinions. (Bruce Crowther) ****

This nicely produced eight-CD box with a fully informative booklet holds (as is increasingly common) miniaturised LP sleeves containing the original LP contents plus additional relevant material. The timespan covered, from April 1956 to November 1959, isn’t lengthy but Blakey was recording a great deal at the time. The first CD contains the only Messengers music with Donald Byrd and Hank Mobley together. They’re a very satisfying partnership and the incisive piano of Silver is an added bonus. The massed percussionists on CD3 may not appeal to all but there’s some good work from Bryant and Pettiford, particularly when the latter plays cello on Oscalypso. Also rewarding is the accompanying session which shows just how good Ira Sullivan was on both tenor and trumpet. The two CDs from Club St. Germain find Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons and Blakey in their element, responding to a lively audience, though Benny Golson sounds a little ill at ease. The last CD, a justly famous concert featuring the young Wayne Shorter beside the also young but relatively experienced Morgan provides an uplifting conclusion. A few final words must salute Blakey and his rhythm players. The latter men all do well enough but of course it’s Blakey’s guiding energy and resourcefulness which give this music the special stamp of his benign authority. I wish someone had filmed one of the Messengers’ rehearsals. (Graham Colombé) ****

DeFrancesco’s latest CD was recorded with his new touring band. It is certainly one of his finest, a heady mix of DeFrancesco original compositions covering many different genres within the classic jazz idiom: post-bop, blues, ballads and even a slice of James Brown-impregnated funk. The album includes some serious jamming and what amounts to a short history lesson on organ playing, with touches of many of his influences on view but without letting his own voice be overshadowed. His versatility and chops as a multi-instrumentalist – on four of the tracks he plays trumpet and piano – shimmer throughout. The young guitarist Dan Wilson and drummer Jason Brown are revelations, playing off each other as they push the groove with hard-driving solos. This is a guitarist imbued with the essence of Grant Green, Pat Martino and Wes Montgomery in his own individual style. Altogether, a fine, uplifting album. (Francis Graham-Dixon) *****

The Fishwick twins have been earning themselves a well deserved reputation for several years now and I gave their previous disc When Night Falls a five-star review (JJ 0414). The current disc is even better and was recorded in New York after Steve had played engagements at various clubs in the Big Apple. Steve contributed the opening Jymie, a demanding, fast hard-bop opus and Warne’s World, dedicated to the late Warne Marsh. Tenorist Osian Roberts contributed three of the titles including Enid, in waltz time and featuring him and Steve in very impressive style, as does How Deep Is The Ocean. Lullaby For Eira, a thoughtful ballad, was penned by Roberts as a dedication to his daughter. Throughout Steve Fishwick proves himself a world-class player but all the front-line participants take first-rate solos at various points during the programme. The rhythm team are far more than just support, enhancing the overall performance in no small measure. Wonderful, feel-good, uplifting jazz, not to be missed. (Brian Robinson) *****

Thomas Strønen is the primary shaping force behind this extraordinary new album. It evolved from a series of studio improvisations in 2013. Strønen subjected the sound files to almost six months of surgical post-production. Stripping the music to the bone, he wanted to create shorter and tighter forms with a more composed feel. As a result the group’s usually slow turnover of ideas markedly accelerates, making this Food’s most varied, nuanced and accessible album to date. Fennesz’s gnarly distortion storms on the moody First Sorrow recall another regular Food collaborator, Eivind Aarset. Where Dry Desert Ends offers a passing nod to Michael Nyman, its quasi-baroque melody set against Strønen’s subterranean pulse. Ballamy’s tenor introduces a sense of gravitas to the title track, a key programmatic moment perhaps as each subsequent piece now seems to bleed organically into the next. The cumulative effect of Strønen’s post-production is both intoxicating and liberating, and it’s utterly impossible to imagine these perfect soundworlds existing without Strønen’s wholehearted embrace of technology. State of the art jazz in every sense, and as such quite unmissable. (Fred Grand) *****

These were the last recordings made by Joe Gordon before he died, aged just 35, following a fire at his home in 1963. He was always a top trumpet man with considerable ability both technically on his instrument and as an improviser. These tracks were made for Contemporary Records and show him at the peak of his considerable powers. Gordon played in the trumpet section of Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band in 1956 and later worked in the LA area with Shelly Manne’s combo and various other groups. Mariana is the sort of funky, soul-type blues popular at the time and the quintet have a good time on it. Gordon’s brassy tone and bluesy lines motor along inventively and impressively. Altoist Jimmy Woods is also happy in the blues idiom although his lines are more outside, veering towards the new (at the time) avant-garde. Helen gives the trumpeter a chance to show his ballad-playing proficiency, which he does effectively. There is much variation in his tone and lyrical approach on the various different selections, showing a wide range and ability. Both sessions give the impression that much thought went into the arrangements. (Derek Ansell) ****

Scott Hamilton has a tenor sound to die for and a concept like Pete Christlieb, Harry Allen and a few others that stretches back to Lester Young, Ben Webster and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis – with some Al and Zoot along the way. It is a song-like approach eschewing excessive technical displays where each note is carefully selected to add the maximum amount of communication to a performance. In Scott’s hands one note less becomes more critical than one note more. Something else that sets him apart from his contemporaries is the way he lays back on the time, creating an unruffled sense of drive and momentum even on The Champ, which storms along at 60 bars to the minute. He has selected gems from the songbook repertoire here with some choice jazz standards to add a little spice. The tight and very together rhythm section marshalled by the superb Jeff Hamilton is all the leader could have asked for. (Gordon Jack) *****

This glorious album celebrates the meeting of contemporary jazz with West African Mandinka music and is an absolute joy right the way through. Each song borrows from a traditional piece of Mandinka music, takes it apart and then recycles it in a new composition. Influences include songs from the cultures of Ghana, Mali, Guinea and Gambia. The result is an infectious, feel-good listening experience, very much like Afro Celt Sound System meets Hugh Masekela. Andrew Oliver drives the music with his discreet, understated performance, but it is Mathis on kora and McCullough’s wonderful work on trumpet and flugelhorn that really gives New Cities its energy, voice and unique appeal. The kora, almost sounding like a blend of harp and harpsichord, is tonally just right for this highly energetic and fun-loving musical project, and Mathis – one of America’s leading kora players, puts in a superb, consistent performance throughout. Mighty enjoyable. (John Adcock) *****

Whenever an album comes along that sounds as effortlessly distinctive as this one does, it induces a lot of head scratching in your actual hack because he’s unable to figure out why something that comes so easily to certain musicians completely eludes a lot of those out there making jazz product. Of course it helps that the members of this trio have each got some pedigree. That this is a programme of original compositions underscores the point, as does the fact that influences seem to have been absorbed from all over the musical firmament, yet not one of them is to the detriment of this music’s individuality. On Jasper Høiby’s Wayne’s World Lockheart reminds us how he manages to get a personal sound out of the tenor sax, his timbre highlighted in turn by the economy of his lines. Noble’s Mr Wrack kind of hints at the free at first, but this initial impression is dispelled as the progress of the piece finds the trio-with-strings thinking with one collective mind; the result is thrilling. Lockheart’s One For Us is relatively straightahead, but the shades and nuances this trio summons up at will are another reason for the five-star rating. (Nic Jones) *****

This lost masterpiece brings back memories. In 1968, as Hon Sec of the British Institute of Jazz Studies, I was contacted by Riley about organising a gig for the trio. Unfortunately, our resources weren’t up to that, but we did arrange a recital at which Riley played and talked about Angle, his forthcoming album for CBS. I never owned the LP of Discussions (only 99 copies were pressed on Chris Wellard’s Opportunity label) but Riley lent me a copy, and I went on to write what I believe was the first published feature on him and his trio, “Conversation Pieces”, which appeared in the April 1969 issue of Jazz Monthly. Neither the recording quality nor the piano did any great favours to the trio, but the performances are so exceptional that you quickly forget any shortcomings. Today the personnel, then largely unknown, looks like an all-star assembly: soon Hiseman would join super-group Colosseum and forge a high-profile crossover career, Riley’s reputation would blossom with Angle and its successor, the superb The Day Will Come, whilst Guy would become one of the most remarkable players, improvisers, composers and facilitators. In 1967 they were a tight-knit unit with a glittering, slightly brittle but highly attractive group sound, transforming standards into something as personal as Riley’s originals, the roiling improvisations bubbling over with original ideas. The bonus tracks show the 17-year old pianist in full impressive Powellesque bebop flow. (Barry Witherden) *****

Larry Sonn’s prime objective was to provide smooth music for dancing, and I thought at first that this would inhibit the star rating. But the orchestrations are so brilliant and the soloists, though restrained, are so gifted that I was overcome by the fine quality of the music. The best jazz comes in the last three sessions where Charlie Shavers, Tony Scott, George Auld and Bob Brookmeyer break out. Al Cohn swing hardest here on Ain’t It The Truth, but then he’s the most constant swinger throughout all the sessions. The last four tracks are arranged by Brookmeyer and Katz does a lovely Basie. Bob breaks the rules by wailing on Levy’s Leap, surely a threat to the ankles of any dancer. The drummer here is Osie, but elsewhere Gus proves that he was one of the most consistently good drummers. Tony Scott dominates the session he’s on, whilst Charlie Shavers explodes into it with one typical solo. Georgie Auld is very good, too, playing fine mainstream tenor. There are nice trips for Phil Woods, but overall Al Cohn is the most prolific soloist, also contributing typically good charts. Sonn was a bit of a mystery man, spending most of his career by choice in Mexico. Jordi Pujol has accumulated all the known material in his booklet. Although he’s pretty anonymous in his influence, Sonn had the sense to put together amazing groups and then to keep out of their way. (Steve Voce) *****

The three albums and two singles which John Stevens’ Away recorded for the progressive Vertigo label rank alongside his best work, capturing an intriguing coalescence of free improvisation and jazz-rock. From the prophetically titled It Will Never Be The Same Again, effectively a jam around a simple, insistent, riff, Stevens’ jazz-rock incursion starts as it means to go on. By complete contrast Tumble is far more fragmented than the previous track and nearer to SME meets jazz-rock. Somewhere In Between and Mazin Ennit were dynamic affairs. The near 20-minute stately marathon Spirit Of Peace, a tribute to Elvin Jones, is undoubtedly the album’s showpiece, centred around Calvert’s soprano, David Cole’s lithe guitar work and a compelling solo from Stevens. Mazin Ennit opens with Away followed by Sunshine!! Sunshine, both immediately grabbing the listener’s attention with their comparatively tight structures. The collection is completed with four bonus tracks derived from two 7” singles released on the Vertigo label. These three albums plus the two singles have never before been issued on CD and are an essential component in the canon of British jazz from one of its true improvisational innovators. (Roger Farbey) *****

Prime live performances on three CDs, with excellent sound, from perhaps the greatest ever American small group – albeit a small group with a command of rhythm, voicings and dynamics which could conjure the power of a big band in full flight or the questing sonorities of a post-Stravinsky chamber ensemble. Much of this was down to Zawinul’s mastery of synthesizers. Weather Report was founded by musicians with a special awareness of – and contribution to – jazz history. It is not only Rockin’ In Rhythm which evinces Zawinul’s and Shorter’s cherishing of Ducal legacies: Duet is shot through with Ellingtonian tropes. The standard criticism of the group was that Zawinul’s gradual dominance meant a diminishing of Shorter as both improviser and composer. This consistently superb music gives the lie to that, offering a cornucopia of Shorter at his oblique yet melodic, tumultuous yet disciplined best. As Peter Erskine notes in his illuminating sleevenote, the band was distinguished by solo virtuosity and group empathy and by mixing the subtlety of jazz and the directness of rock. With or without that fine percussionist Robert Thomas Jr, was this the ultimate incarnation of Weather Report? The electrifying presence of Jaco Pastorius, inimitable master of melody and rhythm, song and sound, suggests but one answer. (Michael Tucker) *****


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