|Trio de Flux
The Jazz Mandolin Project
This Burlington, Vermont trio sounds more like an accomplished guitar trio than the gimmick their name might suggest. Maybe thats what makes Trio de Flux, the groups second disc in their four-year history, an absolute knock-out.
Mandolin and banjo pyro-technician Jamie Masefield more or less leads the band. Hes a methodic, even erudite player that careens the group through fairly unique territory. But you can still recognize the geek wackiness of Bill Frisell, the funky sophistication of John Scofield, and sometimes even the romantic sensitivity of Pat Metheny. The brew gets potent jolts throughout from Chris Dahlgrens edgy, progressive bass (reminiscent of Richard Daviss best) and special guest Phish (!) drummer John Fishman, who, like Joey Baron is especially intuitive and ready to move on to new rhythms on a dime).
The groups seven originals, mostly by Masefield plus Gil Goldsteins "The Phoenicians," are often catchy and well conceived frameworks. But what youll remember about Trio de Flux (and why youll want to come back to it) is the groups attention-grabbing interplay. Theyve created a harmonious blend that crosses serious interaction with a hip sense of humor. It swings too.
Check out the way "Barbers Hint" suggests a weird mix of "Round Midnight" and the "Inspector Gadget" theme. Or the way the brooding and brilliant "Boodha" crosses new wave with the new thing (just imagine Gabor Szabo doing "Nobody Knows The Trouble Ive Seen"). Every other moment here is worth catching but other highlights include the David Grisman-meets-Charlie Byrd hoedown of "Flux" and the lovely Metheny/Mays melodicism of "Nimbus."
A revelation like the superb Trio de Flux happens far too infrequently these days in jazz. It wows the first time. Two dozen listens later it still wows. The Jazz Mandolin Project is the wow jazz has needed for some time. A genuine treat.
Songs: Flux; Chapeau; Good and Plenty; Barbers Hint; Boodha; Clip; Nimbus; The Phoenicians.
Players: Jamie Masefield: mandolin, tenor banjo; Chris Dahlgren: double bass, imbera, music box; Jon Fishman: drums, cuica.
The protean and prolific David Murray is a force of nature. Surely, no tenor sax or bass clarinetist in the last two decades has crafted as distinctive and commanding a tone as his. Nor have many explored much less mastered -- the many musical milieus hes investigated: free, bop, ballads, soul jazz , ska, world beat, even Theresa Brewer and the Grateful Dead.
Wherever hes heard, Murray is a fount of resourceful, intriguing musical ideas (though its surprising none of his crafty compositions have turned into standards). The essence of Ben Webster and, at times, Paul Gonsalves, floats through his idea, but never dominate. Even John Coltranes spirit seems to hover about him. But hes not obsessed with becoming one of the many Coltrane clones currently available to be heard. David Murray is a true jazz original.
Fortunately, hes also one of the most frequently recorded jazz musicians ever (Chet Baker must hold the title, even over Duke Ellington). Unfortunately at least for Americans, who are probably the least aware of their native treasures -- most of Murrays recordings have been issued on foreign labels, even though they are often recorded close to Murrays home in New York City.
Still, hes carved out substantial legacies on the Italian Black Saint label (from 1978 through 1991s exceptional A Sanctuary Within) and since 1986, his most notable releases have come from the Japanese DIW label. His too-few American releases were produced by the late Bob Thiele for Portrait (1988s Mings Samba) and Red Baron (the too-often disregarded joys of 1991s Black and Black, 1992s MX and Thieles Sunrise Sunset). All this while hes continued marking innovations as a charter member of the World Saxophone Quartet.
Creole, Murrays latest and his second for the Canadian Justin Time label, is a pure joy. Its a high mark in a career sparkling with exceptions and boundary pushing. Recorded in Guadeloupe in early 1998, Creole is a fiery, imaginative musical coalition of Murrays long-time American compatriots, James Newton (flute), D.D. Jackson (piano); Ray Drummond (bass) and Billy Hart (drums) and a group of Caribbean percussionists, vocalists and the outstanding guitar of Gérard Lockel. The near-perfect blend is accomplished with an emphasis on rhythm, something Murray has explored on a part-time basis since at least 1989s Golden Sea (Sound Aspects), with Kahil ElZabar.
Even when theres no percussion or rhythm section, rhythm is on Murrays mind here. Witness the two exceptional duets (Murrays "Guadeloupe Sunrise" and "Guadeloupe After Dark") with the star-worthy guitarist Lockel, who somehow suggests a surprising cross between James Blood Ulmer and Ray Lema. Murray snakes around the guitarist and plays in a dance that merely suggests percussion. Amazingly, he makes rhythm unnecessary.
But rhythm plays a significant, successful part in most of Creole. Theres the thundering intro of Klod Kiavues "Gété," an exotic piece that finds Murray, Jackson and Newton wandering freely (like home) over the ceremonial and rebellious Gwo-ka rhythms. The islands Spanish and French heritage are most apparent in the Latin-reggae fusion of "Savon de Toilette," featuring Francoise Landreseaus chant-like vocal and a spirited, sensual interjection from Murrays tenor.
Creole, like the less successful world-beat collage of last years Fo Deuk Revue, also on Justin Time, is a collection of spicy tastes, shifting colors and varying moods. But here, unlike Fo Deuk Revue, Murray neither belabors his exotica nor strives for a groove he cant feel. Creoles greatest moments are a result of the strong material found throughout and Murrays uncanny ability to immerse himself into the remarkable chemistry of the collective. Its apparent on the nearly straight bop of Murrays sweet "Mona" (one that lends itself to more coverage), the tribal dance of Kiavues "Gansavnn," and, on the two standout tracks, both by Teofilo Chantre: "Tonte Vontarde" and the lovely bossa waltz of "Flor Na Pual," the latter with a sensitive Nascimento-like vocal and an eloquent bass clarinet solo from Murray (recalling 1993s incisive DIW set, Ballads for Bass Clarinet).
Creole is full of surprises and offers much thats inviting, exciting and worth hearing again. David Murray has already moved on to other things (his orchestral tribute to Duke Ellington premiered in NewYork City last December and is scheduled to be recorded sometime this year). But Creole is one of Murrays most accessible recordings to date, one of the easiest to find and one that is superlative among his many 1990 recordings. Highly recommended.
Songs: Gété; Flor Na Paul; Guadeloupe Sunrise; Soma Tour; Savon de Toilette; Gansavnn; Mona; Guadaloupe After Dark; Tonte Vontarde.
Players: Ray Drummond: bass violin; Billy Jabali Hart: drums; Klod Kiavue: percussion, ka drum, voice; James Newton: flute; Max Cilla: flute des mornes; D.D. Jackson: piano; Gérard Lockel: guitar; Francois Landreseau: voice, ka drum; Michel Cilla: dibass drum, voice; David Murray: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet.
Something about John Coltranes brief but prodigious Atlantic period (1959-61) reminds me of my hometown, Pittsburgh even though none of these sessions were recorded there, nor were any of these brilliant musicians from the Steel town. Theres something honest, soulful, down-home and deeply touching in this music. Always takes me back; makes me miss Pittsburgh too. Spin Coltranes Sound and even non-jazz fans sense something. Its a warm, human sound that takes listeners somewhere they like to go.
Coltranes Sound was released in 1966, six years after it was recorded, and during a period when listeners were beginning to embrace the soaring freedoms of Ascension. The eight post-bop songs here were recorded during the same two sessions (October 24 and 26, 1960) that produced some of My Favorite Things and most of the essential Coltrane Plays The Blues.
It was only pianist McCoy Tyners third recording session with Coltrane and drummer Elvin Joness second occasion with sax legend. But both contribute exponentially to the success of Coltranes conceptions. However, its still the tenor sax which is most memorable throughout.
Coltranes originals, "Liberia," "Satellite" and, most especially the discs stand-out cuts, "Equinox" (featuring a marvelous solo from Tyner) and "Central Park West" (featuring Coltrane on soprano), are all worth hearing again and again. Coltrane also tears apart the standards "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes" and "Body and Soul" with an atypical fervor that invites even the most casual listener to stop and pay attention and want to hear again.
This new Rhino issue matches the previous Atlantic CD release, which also added two worthwhile bonus cuts not originally available on the LP (Coltranes "26-2" and a lively alternate take of "Body and Soul"). But the sound of the Rhino set is substantially improved and, course, the packaging on the new Rhino set is sumptuous: framing the music as it does as the art it truly is. Coltranes Sound makes for essential, enjoyable jazz listening. It might make you think of home too.
Songs: The Night Has A Thousand Eyes; Central Park West; Liberia; Body and Soul; Equinox; Satellite; 26-2; Body and Soul (alternate take).
Players: John Coltrane: tenor or soprano sax; McCoy Tyner: piano; Steve Davis: bass; Elvin Jones: drums.
A Week At The Blue Note
Like his former boss, Miles Davis, pianist Chick Corea isnt comfortable in one place for too long. Nor, thankfully, does he seem to want to retread his own past. After a lengthy run of his Elektric/Akoustic band (1986-1993), a solo record, several all-star projects and a reunion with Gary Burton (1997s Native Sense), Corea returns to the group concept with Origin, an interesting acoustic sextet fronted by two reed players (Bob Sheppard, Steve Wilson) and Steve Daviss trombone.
A Week At The Blue Note is a voluminous six-disc set that captures every minute this surprisingly tight unit blew at the famed New York nightspot during the first week of 1998. The first full disc has already been released as the single-disc, Origin. But the group really starts to catch fire at the start of the sets second disc. It is here where the listener really notices the groups effervescent cohesion and, in particular, Coreas strength as a memorable improviser.
The compositions seem structured as sketchpads, and not as memorable as the colorful and arty splashes of improvisation which enhance them. Most memorable, though, are each sets variations of "Hand Me Down," "Tempus Fugit," "Soul Mate" and "Sifu."
While there are generous portions of Coreas accomplished and commanding improvisational style here, theres probably a bit too much to really enjoy. And while Origin has a genuinely appealing and fascinating performance chemistry, the material is not strong enough to sustain six hours worth of interest.
Still, Chick Corea hasnt sounded this strong and worthy on record since 1989s Akoustic Band. In fact, he sounds better. Origin could lead to some exciting places for Corea to explore.
Players: Chick Corea: piano; Avishai Cohen: acoustic bass; Adam Cruz: drums; Steve Davis: trombone; Bob Sheppard: flute, soprano sax, tenor sax and bass clarinet; Steve Wilson - flute, soprano sax, alto sax and clarinet.
Songs: Say It Again (Part 1); Say It Again (Part 2); Double Image; Bewitched; Bird Feathers; Say It Again; Tempus Fugit; Hand Me Down; Soul Mates; Matrix; It Could Happen To You; Dreamless; Bewitched; Bird Feathers; Say It Again (Part 1); Say It Again (Part 2); Tempus Fugit; Hand Me Down; Molecules; Sifu; Matrix; Say It Again (Part 1); Say It Again (Part 2); Double Image; Blue Monk; Sifu; Molecules; Straight No Chaser; Say It Again (Part 1); Say It Again (Part 2); Bewitched; Hand Me Down; Four In One; Matrix; Double Image.
Payback is a well-crafted, stylish and way-too violent neo-noir update of John Boormans 1967 noir classic, Point Blank. For its equally crafty and stylish score, composer Chris Boardman provides a "throwback" to the in-again sound of 1970s cop shows and Blaxploitation pictures. Boardman, composer of Bordello of Blood, many TV films and orchestrator on a vast array of scores including The Game, Waterworld and Pochahontas, really nails the sound here. And his music contributes a great deal to the fun of watching the bloody film.
Unfortunately, the Payback soundtrack includes only four of Boardmans cues. These are preceded by ironic lounge-pop hits like Dean Martins "Aint That A Kick In The Head," Vic Damones "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," James Browns "Its A Mans, Mans Mans World" and Low Rawls "If I Had My Life To Live Over."
Much about Boardmans score is intentionally reminiscent of cinema and TV of the past (which suits the films revenge theme well). The "Main Title," recalls David Shires cunning theme to The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974). "Lynns Habit" suggests a Kojack moment or the possibility of what might happen if Ennio Morricone scored Dirty Harry instead of Lalo Schifrin. "Porter Croaks Carter" provides an Enter the Dragon variation (the way the James Taylor Quartet would consider it) and "Warehouse/Finale" offers a sort of horror-film alternative to the main theme, complete with wah-wah guitar.
Too many of Boardmans cooler cues are missing here (also missing are the Ramsey Lewis and James Brown songs used to promote the film in TV ads). Still, "that 70s style" of scoring which Boardman perfects here, deserves greater respect for the effective way electric instruments and percussion can work together to enhance the action on the screen. Maybe Payback is the start of the retribution.
Songs: Aint That A Kick In The Head (Dean Martin); Its A Mans, Mans Mans World (James Brown); The Thrill is Gone (B.B. King); Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (Vic Damone); If I Had My Life To Live Over (Lou Rawls); Luck Be A Lady (Michael Civisca); Youre Nobody Till Somebody Loves You (Dean Martin); Main Title; Lynns Habit; Porter Croaks Carter; Warehouse/Finale.