|Miles Davis Live
This fairly well-recorded concert captures the very electric Miles Davis octet live in the South of France sometime during the summer of 1988. Its hard to say if this is a legitimate release. But the quality of the recording and the performance places it above any of Miles post-Pangaea "live" releases (pending Warner Brothers choice to release any of its tapes from concerts Miles did in France during July 1986).
This fifty-minute, five-song program, like most of Miless post-The Man With The Horn (1981) work, is heavily keyboard and guitar driven. But, here, the unequal mix favors harsh prominence to synthesist Robert Irving III (and guitarist Foley on the Prince/Davis collaboration "The Senate Me and You"), practically burying Miles himself (whos barely playing anyway). Alto/flute man Kenny Garrett doesnt get the solo space he deserves, but his brief, infrequent appearances ("One Phone Call Street Scenes") are very satisfying.
Fans may also want to check out the first and second volumes of LaserLights recent Birth of the Cool Funk for even better Mile live performances not included here (that should have been): "Waynes Tune" and "Splatch." While there is little sustained improvisation here, this is surprisingly creative electric jazz superior to much of the fusion-y stuff coming out of the 80s and it truly captured Miles the way he presented himself in concert during this period. Best of all, its on a budget label, so its cheap, and is certainly worth a few listens.
Personnel: Miles Davis: trumpet; Kenny Garrett: alto sax, flute; Foley McCreary: guitar; Robert Irving III: keyboards; Adam Holzman: keyboards; Darryl Jones: bass; Ricky Wellman: drums; Rudy Bird: percussion.
Tracks: Intruders; New Blues; One Phone Call Street Scenes; Perfect Way; The Senate Me And You.
How's Your Mother?
This intriguing, previously unreleased set captures Les McCanns working trio with bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Frank Severino live at the Village Vanguard on July 16, 1967. Its an exceptionally well recorded fifty-minute set that mixes four group originals with two Cole Porter tunes and two unfortunate pop staples of McCanns ("Goin Out of My Head," "Sunny"). McCann was at a career high at this point, as his artistically satisfying Limelight years were ending and his successful eight-year run on Atlantic was about to begin (the same group recorded Live at Bohemian Caverns for Limelight the following month).
The trio is McCanns ideal unit and he shows off all his best tricks here. And anyone whos ever seen the big man live knows how much drama he can pack into a song (something very few of todays reboppers and modal copycats would even consider). Hes got showmanship to spare. The only grudge is McCanns off-mike growling as he gets going. But thats a minor quibble when you hear what his fingers are doing.
Highlights are plenty: the moody "Love For Sale," the rollicking gospel cocktail of Porters "I Am In Love," Leroy Vinnegars blues, "Doin That Thing" (chock full of McCann quotes from "Wade in the Water," "Caravan" and even "Goin Out of my Head"), a beautiful "Sunny" and McCanns jaunty "Blues." Even "Goin Out Of My Head" is taken a bit more seriously by McCann here than on the Bohemian Caverns date.
Despite the discs odd title and bizarre cover art (McCann with Hubert Humphrey!), this is a terrific set, at a bargain price, very much worth exploring.
Tracks: Love For Sale; I Can Dig It; Doin that Thing; I Am In Love; Goin Out Of My Head; Sunny; Blues; The Shampoo.
Personnel: Les McCann: piano; Frank Severino: drums; Leroy Vinnegar: bass.
Peruvian Blue is Kenny Barrons second solo outing, coming right after 1973s marvelous Sunset To Dawn (released by 32 Jazz last year as part of the two-disc set Soft Spoken Here). Originally released by Muse Records in 1974, this six-song program finds Barron shifting between electric and acoustic pianos in a variety of groupings, from solo to duo and trio to sextet.
Barron solos with grand passion on acoustic piano for the standard, "Heres That Rainy Day," then duets with recently-deceased guitarist Ted Dunbar on the stylistic "Blue Monk." He then shows off his well-known trio interplay style with basist David Williams and drummer Albert Heath on the elegant Barron original "The Procession."
Finally, the leader switches to electric piano and adds percussionists Richard Landrum and Sonny Morgan for three of Barrons electric originals: "Peruvian Blue," "Two Areas" and the appealingly funky "In the Meantime." While the 10-minute "Peruvian Blue" is stifled by too much percussion and its Chick Corea/Return To Forever influence, "Two Areas" reveals Barrons compositional abilities, his nice touch on electric piano and, especially, Dunbars electric sensitivity.
Peruvian Blue has much to offer casual jazz listeners and "Two Areas," "The Procession" and "Blue Monk," especially, provide required listening for fans of both Kenny Barron and Ted Dunbar.
But it would have been more satisfying to hear any one of these different groupings tackle the whole program, rather than get sectioned off for a performance or two. Still, Kenny Barron who has recorded nearly dozen times as a leader since the early 80s always makes music worth hearing. Peruvian Blue is no exception.
Tracks: Peruvian Blue; Blue Monk; The Procession; Two Area; Heres That Rainy Day; In The Meantime.
Personnel: Kenny Barron: piano, electric piano, clavinet; Ted Dunbar: guitar; David Williams: bass, electric bass; Richard Landrum: congas, percussion; Sonny Morgan: percussion; Albert Heath: drums.
Bassist Buster Williams (b. 1942) is well featured here on this pretty, interesting set from 1976, his second disc as a leader. Crystal Reflections concentrates on explorative duets with keyboardist Kenny Barron (the exceptional Barron original, "The Enchanted Flower"), pianist Jimmy Rowles (two versions of "I Dream Too Much") and vibist Roy Ayers ("My Funny Valentine").
Elsewhere, Williams combines with Barron, Ayers and drummer Billy Hart for three impressionistic pieces: Williams sensitive "Prism," Cole Porters "I Love You" and Roy Ayerss Spyro Gyra-like "Vibrations." Even when Williams overdubs synthesizer and female voices overtop "Prism" or when Roy Ayers doubles up on sythn for "Virgo," the effect is sensitively considered and the result is quite a positive contribution to the success of each piece.
This set is much more likely to appeal to fans of Kenny Barron, Jimmy Rowles or Roy Ayers. But bassist Williams proves himself a worthy leader here. Hes a sympathetic, melodic player whose perceptive and intuitive string work is often simple and effective, never showy and very much a beneficial part of the whole. Like the title suggests, this is music that is as pretty as it is intelligent. Recommended.
Tracks: Prism; The Enchanted Flower; I Love You; I Dream Too Much; Vibrations; My Funny Valentine; I Dream Too Much.
Personnel: Buster Williams: bass, synthesizer; Kenny Barron: piano, electric piano; Jimmy Rowles: piano; Roy Ayers: vibes, synthesizer; Billy Hart: drums; Nobu Urushiyama: percussion; Suzanne Klewan: voice.
Combustication is neither as good nor as bad as promised. Now that the trio of keyboardist John Medeski, drummer/percussionist Billy Martin and bassist Chris Wood have become the equivalent of jazz superstars and their concerts are increasingly attended like Grateful Dead shows, they probably can do little wrong and even less right.
But as is often the case, Combustication goes for broke trying to please both divisions of old fans (groovers and freedom-seekers) and aiming to win over new fans. Heck, Blue Note sure spent a fortune on Combustications kewl cut-out, fold-out cover art. So you know theyre betting heavily on these guys.
First of all, so you know where Im coming from, Combustication is an improvement on the groups 1996 Gramavision breakthrough, Shackman and the dreadfully annoying club hit, "Bubbleman." But, unfortunately, not enough of Combustication reaches the heights the trio scaled with John Scofield on this years earlier A Go Go (Verve).
Obviously, that puts me in the grooveyard, cutting the grass with "Sugar Craft," (the brief but great) "Hey-Hee-Hi-Ho," "Coconut Boogaloo" (featuring Medeski on the retro-fave Wurlitzer) and "Church of Logic"
Other highlights include the unusual bebop meditation/rap "Whatever Happened To Gus," the moody "Nocturne," the rather indescribable "Hypnotized" (which continues for seven minutes after the packaging indicates) and the nice, slowed-down gospel groove of the Toyota (er, ah Sly and the Family Stone) song, "Everyday People."
Theres less of the out-and-out here, which may dismay fans of MMWs totally free, private-label release, Farmers Reserve. But to keep things interesting and possibly salesworthy, someone named D.J. Logic adds unnecessary turntable effects on "Sugar Craft, "Church of Logic" and, most annoyingly, on the insanity-prompting "Start-Stop."
What leaves the greatest impression, though, is not the stylistic map these guys cover (and it is topographical), but John Medeskis fascinating work on piano ("Just Like I Pictured It" and especially "Latin Shuffle") a wild mix of Cecil, Monk, Brubeck, Danilo Perez and probably another few dozen who havent occurred to me yet. Medeski has an incredible right-left facility and his flights up and down the keys never lose you, always sustaining a logical interest. A MMW piano trio record would sure be interesting.
A Go Go points out what might have made Combustication better, though. MMW is a brilliant, highly creative rhythm team that probably needs a good leader to provide the focus and direction to produce a cohesive whole, worthy of their individual talents. Whichever groove they opt for (and who should limit them?) is irrelevant. They can do anything.
With MMW, its easy to wish for dream pairs. But that would require the return of Miles, Bird or Coltrane. Can you picture the sound? After Scofield, whos left alive thats up to the challenge? Whos worthy of MMW? Combustication only scratches the surface.
Personnel: John Medeski: keyboards; Billy Martin: drums, percussion; Chris Wood: basses, bass drum; D.J. Logic: turntables; Steve Cannon: spoken word ("Whatever Happened To Gus").
Tracks: Sugar Craft; Just Like I Pictured It; Start-Stop; Nocturne; Hey-Hee-Hi-Ho; Whatever Happened To Gus; Latin Shuffle; Everyday People; Coconut Boogaloo; Church of Logic; No Ke Ano Ahaihi; Hypnotized.