|The Man With The Big
Yusef Lateef creates confounding listening situations. Hes a deeply passionate musician who, to this day, explores the gamut of musical experience (check out his recent, nearly two dozen diverse YAL releases). Additionally, hes a thoughtful, erudite thinker who, with emotional conviction, delves into multifaceted musical journeys. But he consistently challenges preconceptions; recording albums that mix jazz, blues, gospel, Eastern, funk, pop, free, classical, meditative and other styles as he sees fit. His music is never dictated by demographic limitations. Still, hes one of jazzs most individual tenor players and one of its finest flautists. But in deference to no one but his muse he engages all his faculties of expression: singing, proselytizing, playing percussion and often improvising on unusual instruments like the Indian Shannai, the oboe and exotic flutes.
That brings us to the estimable new compilation, The Man With The Big Front Yard, a premiere sampler of Lateefs far and wide-ranging talents. This value-priced three-disc set combines four of the nearly one dozen albums Lateef made for Atlantic Records between 1967 and 1976 (he returned to the label briefly in the mid-eighties before starting his own YAL Records): his Atlantic debut, The Complete Yusef Lateef (1967), Yusef Lateefs Detroit (1969), Hush N Thunder (1972) and The Doctor Is In . . . Out (1976).
Those familiar with Lateefs excellent Impulse dates, A Flat, G Flat & C (1966) and The Golden Flute (1966) (both deserve reissue), or The Blue Yusef Lateef (1968), pretty much know what to expect on The Complete Yusef Lateef. This one seems more traditionally "jazzed;" perhaps due to its blues-based compositions. Stand outs include the flute chant of the tribal-sounding "Rosalie," the after-hours oboe blues of "In the Evening", the rocking blues of "Kongsberg" (Lateef is glorious on tenor), the lovely flute-based balled of "Stay With Me" and (on alto, I think) "Brother." Hugh Lawson is elegant throughout on piano.
Yusef Lateefs Detroit adds a large cast of Altantic studio musicians and ends up in a late-sixties urban funk bag. Lateefs individuality gets a little lost here, but all eight tracks from this session are worthwhile. Guitarist Eric Gale, electric bassist Chuck Rainey and Bernard Purdie launch Lateef into a not altogether uninteresting groove. Highlights include "Livingston Playground," "Raymond Winchester" and (my all-time favorite Lateef gem), "Russell and Eliot." Long a personal favorite, Detroit begs to be paired with the similar Lateef record Suite 16 (1970), which is unfortunately not included here.
A big leap to 1973 reveals improvements in recorded sound and Lateef becoming more comfortable with elements of funk. Hush N Thunder is quite appropriately titled, mixing a nice combination of quieter elements (meditative/classical) with gospel and pure funk (its notable that five of the seven tracks here are Kenny Barron compositions). Overall, its interesting. But it is, perhaps, Lateefs least distinctive set in this collection.
The Doctor Is In . . . Out is noticeably more reliant on 76-style ostinatos and electronic keyboards. But its also one of Lateefs most consistent and enjoyable records in this collection. Highlights include the jungle-funk of "The Improvisors" (with Lateef on flute), Lateefs snake-charming oboe on "Hellbound," Kenny Barrons Headhunter funk-disco of "Mississippi Mud" (with Yusef sounding quite fine on electric sax!). Listen, too, to Lateefs stirringly beautiful interjections on tenor during the odd forties-style vocal of "In a Little Spanish Town."
The Man With The Big Front Yard offers a compelling, densely-textured (but hardly complete) textbook from Yusef Lateef; a great, creative reed player and musical thinker. It also offers plenty of interesting, enjoyable and worthwhile music that jazz listeners should hear.
Collective Personnel: Danny Moore, Snookie Young, Thad Jones, Leonard Goines, Joseph Wilder: trumpet; Jimmy Owens: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Jack Jeffers: trombone; Jack Jeffers: trombone; Jonathan Dorn: tuba; Jimmy Buffington: French horn; Yusef Lateef: flute, finger flute, bamboo flute, pneumatic flute, Shannai, oboe, tenor sax, alto sax, vocal; Hugh Lawson, Ray Bryant: piano; Kenny Barron: piano and electric piano; Al White: organ; Kenneth Barron: keyboards; Dana McCurdy: ARP 2600; Eric Gale, David Spinozza, Cornell Dupree, Keith Loving, Billy Butler: guitar; Eric Gale, David Spinozza, Cornell Dupree, Keith Loving, Billy Butler: guitar; Cecil McBee, Bob Cunningham, Gordon Edwards, Ron Carter, Anthony Jackson: bass; Bill Salter: bass, electric bass; Chuck Rainey; electric bass; Roy Brooks, Bernard Purdie, Kuumba "Tootie" Heath, Al Foster: drums; Sylvia Shemwell: tambourine; Norman Pride, Ray Baretto: conga; Albert "Tootie" Heath, Dom Um Romao: percussion; David Nadien: violin; Gene Orloff, Selwart Clarke, Emanuel Greene, Kermit Moore: strings; Monroe "Bones" Constantino, The J.C. White Singers, Cissy Houston, Judy Clay: vocals; Robert Cunningham: narration.
Tracks: Rosalie; In the Evening; Kongsberg; Stay With Me; See Line Woman; Brother; Youre Somewhere Thinking of Me; Bishop School; Livingston Playground; Eastern Market; Belle Isle; Russell and Eliot; Raymond Winchester; Woodward Avenue; That Lucky Old Sun; Come Sunday; The Hump; Opus Pt. 1; Opus Pt. II; This Old Building; Prayer; Sunset; His Eye Is On The Sparrow; Destination Paradise; The Improvisers; Hellbound; Mystique; Mississippi Mud; Mushmouth; Technological Homosapien; Street Musicians; In A Little Spanish Town (Twas On A Night Like This).
Live At The Lighthouse
This less-than-stellar collection of medium and uptempo groovers from 1972 was Grant Greens last record for Blue Note after a decade of many often stupendous records. He would record only intermittently hereafter until his death in 1979: live in 1973 with Houston Person and in disco-oriented studio sessions for Kudu in 1976 and CTI-clone Versatile in 1978. While the guitarist sounds as robust as ever here, the numbingly repetitive vamps are clearly beneath his abilities and hardly inspiring or memorable. The tunes drone on much longer than necessary and virtually nothing of substance or interest occurs over the discs 72 minutes. None of the players stands out either, despite the generous space allotted to saxman Claude Bartee (surprisingly, the keyboardist and vibesman are kept in the background). The recording quality is top notch, but only completists will want to hear it. (Formerly a double album on one CD).
Tracks: Introduction by Hank Stewart; Windjammer; Betcha By Golly Wow; Flood in Franklin Park; Jan Jan; Walk in the Night.
Players: Grant Green: guitar; Claude Bartee: soprano and tenor saxophones; Gary Coleman: vibes; Shelton Laster: organ; Wilton Felder: electric bass; Greg Williams: drums; Bobbye Porter Hall: congas, percussion.
The Last Session
The Last Session is the fascinating final chapter in the recording career of Lee Morgan (1938-1972). Formerly a double album set known simply as Lee Morgan, this September 1971 date captures the trumpeter in a most unusual octet setting with seemingly opposing personalities. Morgan and company tackle five long, modally-based songs here and while its not always satisfying, compelling sounds and styles are explored throughout (most memorably from tenor man Billy Harper). Harpers "Capra Black" opens the disc in a Coltrane-like modal/free context. Morgan, tenor man Billy Harper and trombonist Grachan Moncur III solo individually and collectively while pianist Harold Mabern lays down Tyneresque chordal vamps. Harper shines brightest here, but Morgan fans will welcome the familiarity of the trumpeters and pianists solos. Morgan returns to more familiar modal ground on Maberns 16-minute "In What Direction Are You Headed?," the albums best track. Flautist Bobbi Humphrey, sounding a little too much like Hubert Laws with less personality, is introduced here and Mabern does his thing appealingly on electric piano. Here, Morgan is in his element and plays well to prove it. Moncur and Harper also take long, worthwhile solos. The group trudges through less interesting titles like Jymie Merrits "Angela" and Billy Harpers modal waltz, "Croquet Ballet" (where Harpers impressive solo unfortunately highlights the awkwardness of Morgans spot). Freddie Waits "Inner Passions Out" is just too long and too ponderous, but, as elsewhere, interesting sounds come from Harper and Moncur. Such explorative (and mostly non-electric) sounds like this werent too common in jazz in 1972 and prompt one to consider which directions Morgan would have explored after The Last Session. But those who admire Billy Harper will be most satisfied by Morgans menu here.
Tracks: Capra Black; In What Direction Are You Headed?; Angela; Crquet Ballet; Inner Passions Out.
Players: Lee Morgan: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Grachan Moncur III: trombone; Bobbi Humphrey: flute; Billy Harper: tenor saxophone, alto flute; Harold Mabern: piano, electric piano; Jymie Merritt: electric bass; Reggie Workman: bass, percussion; Freddy Waits: drums, recorder.
Reuben Wilson (b. 1935) is best remembered as one of Blue Notes funkiest organists, making five albums for the label between 1968 and 1971 (only Love Bug and the excellent Blue Mode are currently available on CD). He went on to record three more records for Groove Merchant, then he whipped up some disco for smaller labels and by the end of the seventies, he was gigging with the Fatback Band. Wilson disappeared from the scene until groups like Us3, Nas and A Tribe Called Quest started sampling his funky old Blue Note grooves. Now hes part of that groove hierarchy of elder funkmen who tour with funk-jazz revivalists, jams it up with Guru and the Greyboy All Stars and records groove tribs like Organic Grooves (Hip Bop).
Organ Donor is a terrific slice of heavy-metal funk. Recorded in 1996 and just recently released the U.S., its a great introduction to Wilsons brand of grind. Hes got a spare style that belies his instruments reputation. But he manages to whip off one cool lick after another each packing a powerful wallop of a punch. Its as if his playing doesnt have to prove anything. He knows what grooves. All eight tracks here are newly recorded, but only two (by my count) are really new. Both "Nows the Time" and "Organ Donor," co-written by Wilson and producer/bassist Chris Parks, have a wildly funky groove. The rest will seem pretty familiar to funk fans, yet all are worth hearing in their new incarnation: "Ronnies Bonnie" (originally from 1968s On Broadway and, because of Us3, the launchpad for Wilsons revival), "Hot Rod" (from 1969s Love Bug, done up MMW-style here), "Orange Peel" (from 1969s Blue Mode) and the excellent disco-funk of "Got To Get Your Own" (from an old Cadet album of the same name).
Despite a lot of cooks in the kitchen, few players other than Wilson are featured. But all solo well and a few stand out: Bruce Flowers keyboards on "Hot Rod," Melvin Bulter on "Orange Peel" and either Bulter or Mcaslin on "Got To Get Your Own"and Robin Macatangays guitar on "Trouble Man" and "Organ Donor." This is a great disc for groove lovers and there aint a dud in the bunch.
Tracks: Hot Rod; Orange Peel; Nows The Time; Groovin; Trouble Man; Got To Get Your Own 98; Ronnies Bonnie; Organ Donor.
Players: Reuben Wilson: organ; Robin Macatangay: guitar; Bruce Flowers: keyboards; Melvin Butler: tenor, alto and soprano sax, flute; Chris Parks: bass; Ricardo Rodriquez: percussion; Adrian Harpham: drums; Donny Mcaslin: tenor sax, flute: Jason Forsythe: trombone; Kenny Rampton: trumpet; Saundra Williams Starr Adkins: background vocals on "Groovin" and "Got To Get Your Own 98".
Willis . . . With Pat
Willis With Pat collects eight tracks guitarist Pat Martino recorded as a sideman with gut-bucket tenor sax player Willis Jackson on Muse between 1974 and 1978. Martino got his start as Pat Azzaria playing on Jacksons 1963 Prestige LPs Grease and Gravy and The Good Life. Together, Prestige recorded the pair often through 1964. They reunited for Jacksons 1974 Muse LP Headed and Gutted and recorded together in three more situations, including Jacksons last LP, Nothing Butt (1980). Of the eight tracks here, five are from 1978s formerly-available six-track CD Single Action, one ("Blue Velvet") is from Headed and Gutted and two ("The Breeze and I" and "The Goose is Loose") are from the otherwise available Bar Wars (1978). Good playing, mostly in a blues vein, doesnt stop one from asking why they didnt include anything from Nothing Butt and why they just didnt release Single Action in its entirety.
Tracks: Bolita; Single Action; Blue Velvet; Miss Ann; Gator Whale; My One And Only Love; The Breeze And I; The Goose Is Loose.
Collective Personnel: Willis Jackson: tenor sax; Pat Martino: guitar; Mickey Tucker: piano, electric piano, organ; Carl Wilson, Charlie Earland: organ; Bob Cranshaw: electric bass; Jimmy Lewis: bass; Freddy Waits, Yusef Ali, Idris Muhammad: drums; Richard Landrum, Buddy Caldwell: congas; Ralph Dorsey, Sonny Morgan: percussion.
Major Jazz, Minor Blues
Major Jazz, Minor Blues is Larry Coryells handpicked, mostly standards-based collection of straight-ahead quartet performances made for Muse Records over four albums between 1984 and 1989. Coryell tends to sound Wes-like in a standards bag. But hes up to the task of stamping his otherwise indicative personality on the proceedings. "Yesterdays" and the captivating "My Shining Hour," for example, are exceptionally notable performances. But hes in his own quite enthralling element on his own terms -- "No More Blooze, Minor Blues" (a delectable piece of wise wizardry), the appropriately delicate "Tender Tears" (which manages to live up to its title) and Buster Williams great-for-jamming blues "Toku Do." Coryell is well-flanked by sterling support -- from pianists Kenny Barron, Albert Dailey and (especially) Stanley Cowell) to the intuitive, supple stylings of Buster Williams. Since we cant have the four original albums in their entirety on CD, Major Jazz, Minor Blues will do just fine as a nice sampler of Larry Coryells appealing traditional sides.
Tracks: Moments Notice; The Duke; Round Midnight; Joy Spring; Yesterdays; No More Blooze, Minor Blues; Tender Tears; My Shining Hour; Toku Do; Sophisticated Lady.
Collective Personnel: Larry Coryell: guitar; Stanley Cowell, Kenny Barron, Albert Dailey: piano; Buster Williams, George Mraz: bass; Beaver Harris, Marvin "Smitty" Smith, Billy Hart: drums.
Guitarist Kenny Burrell recorded six albums for Muse between 1978 and 1983; five trio settings and one duo with bassist Rufus Reid. Laid Back collects 12 of this periods most appealing performances. These tracks were recorded after the guitarist left the session-work grind and find him concentrating on pure musicality of small-group jazz. The program alternates between easy-swinging bop, sensitively handled standards and two of Burrells own gems. As can be expected, theres much thats appealing about this collection, with features leaning toward the Burrells gorgeous acoustic guitar work. Hes simply a master-craftsman who comes off with one brilliantly-executed passage after another. He soothes and surprises all at once and is consistently engaging without ever once relying on pet licks. The acoustic samba of the stirring "So Little Time," however, is exceptional (if not breathtaking) and may make Laid Back an essential purchase for any of the guitarists fans. Highly enjoyable.
Tracks: All Blues; Groovin High; Lament; You And The Night And The Music; Pent Up House; So Little Time; Listen To The Dawn; St. Thomas; Tenderly; In The Still Of The Night; My One And Only Love; In A Mellow Tone.
Collective Personnel: Kenny Burrell: guitar ; Reggie Johnson, Ben Riley, Larry Gales, Rufus Reid: bass; Sherman Ferguson, Larry Ridley: drums.
Those who write about Sonny Rollins often do jazz listeners a great injustice. There is an expectation for historical, precedent-setting music. When a new Rollins disc is issued, hopes are shattered and mighty swords of regret are drawn. Usually its because the music does not somehow measure up to the brilliant work this tenor giant did in the fifties and sixties. Or, the argument goes, Rollins recent recordings simply cant match the powerful creative intensity of his live performances. On Global Warming, Rollins himself actually sets the tone for history-in-the-making by associating this music with his strong views on current environmental crises and dubbing the disk a contemporary variation of his own ground-breaking Freedom Suite (Riverside -- 1958).
Happily, Global Warming offers plenty of great music and, more importantly, some of the finest sounds Rollins has recorded in the last thirty years. The tenor great is at his peak; surrounding himself with sensitive, acute and individual players. Hes also crafted some fine, memorable compositions here. Whats most striking, though, is the interaction of the players involved. Pianist Stephen Scott (returning from 1996s Sonny Rollins + 3) consistently stands out and seems to inspire Rollins to his own great playing. Rollins nephew, Clifton Anderson, has never sounded better on trombone, taking several winning features on his three appearances ("Island Lady," "Global Warming" and "Clear Cut Boogie"). Drummer Idris Muhammad, whose Keystone Trio recorded a fine Rollins tribute record last year, makes his debut with Rollins here and proves himself to be a soulful asset (hes featured on "Global Warming" and "Mother Natures Blues").
Highlights abound. Theres the sassy, soulful strut of "Island Lady," where Rollins sounds positively joyful and inspired; spurred on by Scotts chunky block chords and equally lively solo (the catchy head gets repeated a few too many times though). The slow waltz of the beautiful "Echo-Side Blue" is a stand out and worthy of further exploration by other jazz interpreters. "Global Warming" is Rollins obligatory calypso and the man positively sings; determined to speak out, saying plenty worth hearing. Rollins successfully revisits bop on "Mother Natures Blues" and winds up exploring the vamp-ish semi-modal cool of "Clear Cut Boogie."
Rollins remains a significant jazz voice after more than four decades in the music. And Global Warming proves to be as musically important and interesting as the social concerns which inspired it.
Tracks: Island Lady; Eco-Side Blue; Global Warming; Mother Natures Blues; Change Partners; Clear-Cut Boogie.
Players: Sonny Rollins: tenor sax; Stephen Scott: piano; Bob Cranshaw: bass; Idris Muhammad: drums. On "Island Lady," "Global Warming" and "Clear-Cut Boogie": Clifton Anderson: trombone; Sonny Rollins: tenor sax; Stephen Scott: piano; Bob Cranshaw: bass; Perry Wilson: drums; Victor See Yuen: percussion.