Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The music that kept my spirits up in 2022

Albert Ayler proclaimed that Music is the healing force of the universe.

Some of the best medicine of 2022 came from these new releases: 

Patricia BrennanMore Touch (Pyroclastic)

Whit Dickey Quartet - Root Perspectives (TAO Forms)

Avram Fefer Quartet - Juba Lee (Clean Feed)

Tomas Fujiwara’s Triple Double - March (Firehouse 12)

Just Jones - Just Justice (ESP-Disk’)

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp - Fruition (ESP-Disk’)

Enrico Rava and Fred Hersch - The Song is You (ECM)

Matthew Shipp Trio - World Construct (ESP-Disk’)

Wadada Leo SmithEmerald Duets (TUM)

Tyshawn Sorey Trio - Mesmerism (Yeros7 Music)

Tyshawn Sorey Trio +1 - The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism (Pi Recordings)

Dan Weiss TrioDedication (Cygnus)

Megumi Yonezawa - Resonance (Sunnyside)

It was also another banner year for archival and historical projects:

Albert Ayler - Revelations (Complete ORTF Fondation Maeght Recordings) 
(Elemental Music)

Joe Henderson - The Complete Joe Henderson Blue Note Studio Sessions - (Mosaic)

Freddie Hubbard - The Complete Blue Note & Impulse ‘60s Studio Sessions - (Mosaic)

Ahmad Jamal - Emerald City Nights: Live At The Penthouse 1963-1964 and 1965-1966  (Jazz Detective)

Elvin Jones - Revival : Live At Pookie’s Pub (Blue Note)

Charles Mingus - The Lost Album from Ronnie Scott's (Resonance)

Mal Waldron - Searching in Grenoble : The 1978 Solo Piano Concert (Tompkins Square)

And many thanks to the publicists and record labels who keep my in-box full. 

Above all, grateful thanks to all the musicians!!

Monday, November 28, 2022

Bobby Broom: Keyed Up

  Guitarist Bobby Broom played with Sonny Rollins from 1981-1986 and again from 2006-2009. On record, he’s appeared with organist Charlie Earland, saxophonists David Murray and Eric Alexander, and New Orleans star Dr. John. Broom has also found the time to lead his own groups, mostly in a trio format. Since his 2001 session on Premonition Records, his bandmates have been Dennis Carroll on bass and Kobie Watkins on drums. For his latest project, Keyed Up, Justin Dillard joins the group on piano and organ, fitting in well and thickening the group sound. Broom’s pungent tone and quickly flowing single note runs full of surprising twists and turns are always a delight. For this date, he’s picked some fine material to showcase, with all but one of the tunes written by pianists. In his liner notes, Broom wrotes that the “occurrence of high-caliber pianists who saw something in my playing that caused them to want to support and collaborate with me is a recurring theme in my musical life.” He discusses the role of James Williams, who composed the relaxing ballad Soulful Bill. He was a mentor to Broom, and the reason he got an opportunity to perform with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1980. Curiously, though, aside from this mention in the liner notes, there are no composer credits on the package. Bud Powell’s Hallucinations (a/k/a Budo) leads things off with a potent dose of hard-driving swing. That’s just one of the high points of the set. Another is Horace Silver’s Quicksilver, with a pair of exuberant guitar solos sandwiched around a chorus from Dillard’s piano. One of everybody’s favorite tunes is Erroll Garner’s Misty, with nearly one thousand renditions listed in the online Jazz Discography. Keeping their emphasis on the attractive melody, Broom and crew take it nice and slow. The guitarist solos first before turning the spotlight over to Dillard on piano. Broom then plays a second, more exploratory solo to take the song out. A romp through Herbie Hancock’s Driftin’ has Dillard moving over to organ, with a sound closer to a Rhodes electric piano than a Hammond B-3. It’s great to hear the quartet get into a bluesy groove for Scoochie, a Booker Ervin composition, and the only song here not written by a pianist. McCoy Tyner’s Blues on the Corner, frequently revived since it first appeared on The Real McCoy (Blue Note, 1967), is heard in two takes. The second take finds the band digging into the groove with more authority and grit than on the first go-round, with Carroll and Watkins making the most of their solo spots both times around. Keyed Up is a real pleasure from start to finish. 

Steele Records SR 002/CSM 0119; Bobby Broom (g) Justin Dillard (p, Hammond SKX org) Dennis Carroll (b) Kobie Watkins (d); August 31-September 3, 2021; Hallucinations (a/k/a Budo)/ Second Thoughts/ Humpty Dumpty/ Soulful Bill/ Quicksilver/ Misty/ Driftin’/ Blues on the Corner (take 2)/ Scoochie/ Blues on the Corner (take 1); 57:05.

Mal Waldron: Searching In Grenoble: The 1978 Solo Piano Concert

  Mal Waldron is one of my favorite pianists. In the first part of his career, he was the “house pianist” for Prestige from 1956-1958 and accompanied Billie Holiday from April 1957 until her death in 1959. After a mental breakdown in 1963, Waldron slowly reacquainted himself with the piano, developing a different style with a more obsessive focus than he’d displayed in the Fifties. Perhaps making up for lost time, he proceeded to record prolifically starting in the late Sixties, as a solo pianist, as a bandleader, and frequently with soprano saxophone specialist Steve Lacy. I had the good fortune to be around Keystone Korner in the late Seventies, and one of my fondest memories of that time is a magnificently transfixing hour solo by Waldron as part of an evening of solo and trio performances by Waldron and Jaki Byard. To say that I’m thrilled to welcome Searching In Grenoble: The 1978 Solo Piano Concert into my record library is to state the obvious. Waldron is in top form, and the quality of the tapes, professionally recorded by the French INA (Institut national de l'audiovisuel). is superb. Waldron starts out with a vigorous 23-minute medley of his original compositions Mistral Breeze and Sieg Haile. For the rest of this beautifully paced program, Waldron performs a few standards and looks back to the Fifties with explorations of his well-known compositions like Fire Waltz, All Alone, and Soul Eyes. Also on offer are newer pieces like Snake Out (first recorded in 1973) and Russian Melody (1974), plus two other previously unrecorded originals, Here, There and Everywhere and Petite Gémeaux. This Tompkins Square release is yet another production of the apparently indefatigable Zev Feldman. The booklet, well-illustrated as usual with his projects, includes remarks from the pianist’s daughter Mala Waldron, Parisian journalist Pascal Rozat on the Grenoble jazz scene, and liner notes on the music by Adam Schatz. Best of all are the brief interviews Feldman conducted with two pianists of different generations, Ran Blake and Matthew Shipp. Blake first heard Waldron when he has “a waiter at the Jazz Gallery and every night for six weeks, [and] we heard Straight Ahead and the Freedom Now Suite” by Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln. Blake later studied briefly with him. What he wants the world to remember about Waldron is his “great kindness. And his brilliance.” Matthew Shipp, who says “I just love his overall sound world,” also makes note of the “very spiritual, full, Black sound in his playing.” Adam Shatz appraises this recording as “jazz, and art music, of the highest order.” I couldn’t agree more. Absolutely recommended. 

Tompkins Square TSQ5906 (cd, vinyl); Mal Waldron (p); Grenoble, France, March 23, 1978; Disc 1 (65:34): Medley: Mistral Breeze; Sieg Haile/ Here, There and Everywhere/ Russian Melody/ Petite Gémeaux/ Fire Waltz/ You Don’t Know What Love Is/ Soul Eyes. Disc 2 (37:50): It Could Happen to You/ Russian Melody/ I Thought About You/ Snake Out/ All Alone.

Elvin Jones: Revival: Live At Pookie’s Pub

  Drummer Elvin Jones was a true force of nature. One of the stupidest things I’ve ever done in my life was to leap out of my seat at Keystone Korner at the end of a set by the Jazz Machine in the late Seventies and shake the hand of Elvin Jones as he walked straight to the bar. I hadn’t reckoned with the sheer strength of the man right after he was done playing. I thought my hand would crumble into dust. A new Blue Note release, Revival: Live At Pookie’s Pub, is a potent reminder of the power and volcanic energy of Mr. Jones with just one tune: the opening 21-minute rendition of Keiko’s Birthday Song. After Joe Farrell on tenor and Billy Greene at the piano have their says, Elvin embarks on a fabulous long drum solo, one of the greatest displays of his poly-rhythmic and forceful style I’ve ever heard. The first track alone is a treasure, but there’s a whole lot more to enjoy on this compilation drawn from three nights at the small and obscure New York City venue. The origin of the tapes is a cool story, told by Bob Falesch, who met Jones one night while wandering into Pookie’s one night. While sitting a few feet away from the floor tom-tom, Falesch and Jones seemed to make some kind of unspoken connection. Falesch writes that “At the end of the set, he came right over, sat down next to me, and ordered another drink.” The pair proceeded to have a long chat, and after Falesch mentioned his job at Ampex Stereo Tapes, the drummer suggested coming back to the pub sometime to record the proceedings. Falesch took him up on his offer, and here we are, fifty-five years later and the music is finally out there. To put these performances into a key aspect of the historical context, it’s critical to note that John Coltrane had died earlier in the month, on July 17. Jones, of course, played in Coltrane’s group from 1960-early 1966, and ‘Trane’s death must have weighed heavily on him when these performances were recorded near the end of the month with Joe Farrell on tenor sax and flute, the obscure Billy Greene on piano, and Wilbur Little on bass. Revival is another Zev Feldman production, and he’s outdone himself for the documentation this time around. The centerpiece is a lengthy essay by Ashley Kahn on the background of Pookie’s Pub and the circumstances of Elvin Jones’ long residency there, from May 1967 through the end of the year. He also talked to musicians who dropped by to visit or sit in about their memories of the room and their feelings about Elvin Jones. Kahn’s long piece includes quotes about Elvin and the scene at Pookie’s from bassists Richard Davis and Gene Perla, saxophonist George Coleman, trumpeters Jimmy Owens and Randy Brecker and drummer Jimmy Madison. In his own series of interviews, Feldman has talked to drummers Alvin Queen and Michael Shrieve, who tells a great story about meeting Jones and bassist Jimmy Garrison in the Coltrane quartet by crashing through a skylight into their dressing room. There are also reminiscences by Elvin Jones alums Perla, Pat LaBarbera and Dave Liebman, as well as pianist Richie Beirach, who lived across the street from Pookie’s. Every story I’ve ever heard, and the recollections of these musicians, paints a picture of a caring and intelligent man who just happened to be one of the greatest drummers in jazz history. Give a listen to Revival: Live At Pookie’s Pub and you’ll surely agree. Absolutely recommended. 

Blue Note (cd, vinyl); Joe Farrell (ts, fl) Billy Greene or Larry Young* (p) Wilbur Little (b) Elvin Jones (d); NYC, July 28-30, 1967; Disc 1 (75:05): Keiko’s Birthday March/ Gingerbread Boy*/ 13 Avenue B/ My Funny Valentine/ M.E. Disc 2 (58:26): On the Trail/ Softly as in a Morning Sunrise/ Raunchy Rita/ Oleo.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Houston Person: Reminiscing At Rudy’s

  Judging by his deeply soulful sound on the tenor saxophone, octogenarian Houston Person sounds like a warm and friendly soul, the kind of guy you’d love to buy a coffee and hang with for a while. Reminiscing At Rudy’s is his latest HighNote effort, featuring his usual tasteful selection of tunes and a thoroughly compatible group to play them. Russell Malone is on guitar, Larry Fuller is on piano, Matthew Parrish is on bass, and Lewis Nash is on drums. Nash also contributes a vocal, on Nothing Ever Changes My Love For You, a 1956 hit for Nat “King” Cole. This was a pretty sappy song back then, and it has not improved with age. Person’s first album as a leader was the 1966 Prestige release Underground Soul. Like so many of his projects since that Lp, it was recorded in the same Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, studio run by the late Rudy Van Gelder. The studio is now under the guidance of Maureen Sickler, who assisted Van Gelder in his final years and who recorded and mixed Reminiscing At Rudy’s. The saxophonist has got quite a few memories of Rudy and the studio to call to mind when he starts to play in that familiar room. Perhaps in deference to Person’s elder status, the tempos here tend to be relaxed and laid-back, making a perfect setting for Person’s eloquence and melodic invention. Highlights include a snappy Moon River, an exquisitely tender version of Paul Anka’s Put Your Head On My Shoulder, a sweet stroll through Cedar Walton’s I’ll Let You Know, and the gut-bucket beat that the band applies to the Percy Mayfield classic Please Send Me Someone to Love, complete with a biting Malone guitar solo. The disc concludes with the title track, an upbeat original blues by Person that offers more fine blowing by the saxophonist. I’ve been trying hard to cut my music collection down to a manageable size, but this inspired date will surely make the cut. Recommended, for sure. 

HighNote HCD 7343; Houston Person (ts) Russell Malone (g) Larry Fuller (p) Matthew Parrish (b) Lewis Nash (d, vcl on *); Englewood Cliffs, NJ, July 19, 2022; At Long Last Love/ Again/ Moon River/ Put Your Head on My Shoulder/ Why Did I Choose You/Nothing Ever Changes My Love For You*/ My Romance/ I’ll Let You Know/ Please Send Me Someone to Love/ Reminiscing at Rudy’s; 57:26.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Ahmad Jamal: Emerald City Nights

  Piano stylist supreme Ahmad Jamal is the star of the first releases by the new Jazz Detective label. A pair of complementary double-CD sets, Emerald City Nights: Live At The Penthouse 1963-1964 and Emerald City Nights: Live At The Penthouse 1965-1966 document parts of his sets that were broadcast and recorded by the club. Over the past few years, the Penthouse tape collection has yielded a number of impressive releases, including such stars as Johnny Griffin & Eddie Lockjaw Davis in 1962, Cannonball Adderley in 1966 and 1967, Bill Evans in 1966 and Wynton Kelly with Wes Montgomery in 1966. Zev Feldman has been instrumental in bringing this material, and a lot more, out of the vaults and into the world. This new joint venture with Spain’s Elemental Music label takes its name from his nickname of the Jazz Detective. For this project, he consulted the 92-year old Jamal. The Ahmad Jamal trio stunned the music world with the massive success of the 1958 Argo album Live At The Pershing: But Not For Me. By 1994, this piano trio date had sold over a million copies. Jamal and his groups were quite popular at Seattle’s Penthouse nightspot, and this pair of releases presents music from seven different broadcasts from 1963-1965. (There’s another compilation of Jamal at The Penthouse in preparation.) Each set gets the usual Feldman treatment. The booklets each include period photos, an introduction by the producer, remarks by Jamal extracted from recent interviews, brief notes by Jim Wilke, the on-air host for KING-FM, and Charlie Puzzo, Jr., son of the club owner, and charming recollections by Marshall Chess of Chess Records. Argo was Chess Records’ jazz imprint, and Live At The Pershing was, he says “a viral hit” for the company when a 16-year old Marshall Chess first met Jamal. Eugene Holley, Jr. contributes liner notes for each volume, discussing both the songs and the backgrounds of the bassists (Richard Evans and Jamil Nasser) and drummers (Chuck Lampkin, Vernel Fournier, and Frank Gant). Finally, a batch of pianists weigh in on Jamal’s powerful influence. We hear from Jon Batiste, Kenny Barron, and Aaron Diehl in the 1963-1964 booklet. The 1965-1966 compilation features reminiscences by the late Ramsey Lewis and Hiromi Uehara. As both Uehara and Barron note, active participation in the music by the bass and drums make the band sound, in Uehara’s words, “like one cohesive unit.” Spending some time with these discs provides an opportunity to listen to how the music is ever so slightly altered with different bandmates. But the best thing about these broadcasts is the sheer pleasure of Jamal’s magnificent improvisations on (mostly) popular songs, and his unfailingly à propos rhythmic shadings. Absolutely recommended. I can’t wait to hear what else Jazz Detective has in store for the future. On a personal note, this former tape archivist really appreciates the photographs of tape boxes! 

Jazz Detective DJDD-004; Disc 1 (34:23) Ahmad Jamal (p) Richard Evans (b) Chuck Lampkin (d); Seattle, WA [all tracks], June 20, 1963; Johnny One Note/ Minor Adjustments/ All Of You/ Squatty Roo. Disc 2 (56:27) Ahmad Jamal (p) Jamil Nasser (b) Chuck Lampkin (d); March 26, 1964; Bogota/ Lollipops & Roses/ Tangerine. Same trio; April 2, 1964; Keep On Keeping On/ Minor Moods/ But Not For Me. 

Jazz Detective DJDD-005; Disc 1 (40:29) Ahmad Jamal (p) Jamil Nasser (b) Chuck Lampkin (d); March 18, 1965; I Didn’t Know What Time It Was/ Who Can I Turn To?. Same trio; March 25, 1965; My First Love Song/ Feeling Good. Disc 2 (37:42): Ahmad Jamal (p) Jamil Nasser (b) Vernel Fournier (d); October 28, 1965; Concern/ Like Someone In Love. Ahmad Jamal (p) Jamil Nasser (b) Frank Gant (d); September 22, 1966; Invitation/ Poinciana/ Whisper Not.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Whit Dickey Quartet: Root Perspectives

  Drummer Whit Dickey has said that he got into music “by accessing a vibration.” His latest effort, on his own TAO Forms imprint, is the constantly surprising and deeply intense Root Perspectives by the Whit Dickey Quartet. He notes that this album was conceived “off of a vibration” that he felt fully fifteen years ago, in a period when he was “obsessively listening” to the title track on John Coltrane’s Crescent album. That obsession has generated this bold and serious music that acts in part like a commentary on the Coltrane song but mainly as an imaginative extension. The opening track, Supernova, starts out in quietly angular fashion, rapidly growing in power over the course of eleven minutes. The piece clearly evokes the later work of the Coltrane quartet. It’s the first of four extended performances that ebb and flow in a sensually organic way. Tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby’s gruffly expressive and fluid playing is definitely influenced by ‘Trane, not in his sound so much, but more in his ever-searching and spiritually oriented attitude. Pianist Matthew Shipp has amassed many hours of playing with Dickey over the last thirty years in bands led by David S. Ware, Ivo Perelman, and Shipp’s own efforts, among others. Naturally enough, he sounds thoroughly at home here. His use of dynamics and waves of sound mirrors Dickey’s loose-limbed approach to the drum kit. Although the fourth member of the band, bassist Brandon Lopez, is a relative latecomer to the scene, his fidgety style and the complexity of his time sense make him a natural for this band. The pieces here fit together perfectly, with the individual proclivities of the musicians in uniform dedication to the exigencies of Dickey’s compositions. All told, Root Perspectives is a fascinating listen, strongly recommended. 

TAO Forms TAO 12; Tony Malaby (ts) Matthew Shipp (p) Brandon Lopez (b) Whit Dickey (d); Brooklyn, NY, May 7, 2022; Supernova/ Doomsday Equation/ Swamp Petals/ Starship Lotus; 50:34.