Nothing To Hide
Lenni-Kalle Taipale Trio
If there’s any new ground left for piano trios to explore, none of today’s jazz threesomes are finding it. But the familiar can always be a comforting place to come back to. And a player who excels on already oft-heard keyboard commentary is no less interesting to hear.
Such a player is twenty-something Finnish pianist Lenni-Kalle Taipale. Clearly trained in the classics (his flourishes display an intimate knowledge of Bach and Chopin), Taipale recalls the melodic insistence of Chick Corea mixed with the clearly patterned and well-articulated cadences of Ahmad Jamal.
Taipale’s true gift is the way he combines such classical cadenzas with a catchy sort of modal jazz that borders on out-and-out funk, sort of like Jacques Loussier. His like-minded trio, together for three years at the time of this September 1998 recording, includes other fellow Fins in electric bassist Timo Tupparainen and drummer Sami Jarvinen.
The trio’s debut is a mostly terrific collection of solid, mainstream piano jazz, despite it’s nagging familiarity. Taipale is a player of storyteller qualities; bringing rather too-conventional, too-catchy music a passion, suspense, surprise and resolution that truly grasps attention.
Most of the group’s songs dispense with over-heard standards and focus on unknown tunes by Taipale (in addition to a Finnish folk tune and several originals by group members). Highlights include the Jamal-like "Nothing to Hide," the second half of "First Peace," the Latin "Peppi" (a dancing Corea-like children’s song), the showy lounge funk of "Kohkaus," and the Bob James-ish Calypso-disco of "Namibia-Diapam" (featuring Taipale on electric piano). The mood is nearly shattered by a new-agey (but pretty) "Invisible Beauty Of My Flower" and the strict march of "Taivas on Sininen Ja Valkoinen." But neither drags the set down completely either.
Nothing To Hide is nothing innovative. But neither is Blue Note’s higher profile (and more Jarrett like) Prysm project. Both include worthy commentary delivered in familiar modes.
Songs: Nothing To Hide; First Peace; Sami-Imas; Haapari (wedding Couple); Peppi (Har Kommer Pippi Langstrump); Kohkaus; Namibia-Diapam; Like I Care; Fadin’ Storm; Taivas on Sininen Ja Valkoinen (The Sky Is Blue And White); Invisible Beauty Of My Flower.
Players: Lenni-Kalle Taipale: piano, keyboards; Sami Jarvinen: drums, percussion; Timo Tuppurainen: electric bass, double bass; Visa-Pekka Mertanen: clavinet ("Namibia-Diapam"), keyboard programming ("Kohkaus," "Namibia-Diapam"), keyboard/loop/sequence programming (Invisible Beauty of My Flower"); Toppo Isopuro on "Namibia-Diapam".
Proof, as if any was still necessary, that Reggae king Bob Marley wrote songs melodic enough for jazz. Grover Washington, Jr. was one of the first during the 1970s to do jazz covers of Marley’s music. Then guitarist Charlie Hunter put the definitive stamp on his 1997 cover of the Natty Dread album. Now comes Jamaican pianist Monty Alexander’s Stir It Up: The Music Of Bob Marley, a fine yet ultimately frustrating tribute.
Alexander’s been around since the mid 1960s. He made some of his best music for the German MPS label during the 1970s and he’s remained active on American labels ever since. So it’s sort of difficult to factor his rather low profile with the sheer volume of records he’s made over the years.
Stir It Up seems custom-made to change all that. That’s part of the problem. Virtually a "greatest hits" package, much of this set will be familiar even to non-Reggae listeners. But Alexander’s rather lackluster presentation of such otherwise lively material is far too pervasive. It suggests the house pianist of a Caribbean hotel lounge forced to cover Marley for the tourists, rather than play it because it means something to him.
Presented similarly to Joe Henderson’s Jobim tribute, Stir It Up alternates Alexander’s piano between a lively Jamaican "roots" septet and a more traditional American jazz quartet. Alexander gets particularly fired up on "I Shot The Sheriff" and So Ja Sah;" both significantly ignited and enlivened by trombonist Steve Turre’s presence.
The disc’s single best moment comes on the funky and righteous "Could You Be Loved" (presented straight and in a bonus, pumped-up Sly Dunbar dance remix for the club crowd), where the refined and compelling Alexander plays it like he means it.
Only tourists and the curious need apply.
Songs: Jammin’; Kaya; The Heathen; Could You Be Loved; Running Away; Stir It Up; Is This Love?; No Woman, No Cry; Crisis; I Shot The Sheriff; So Ja Sah; Nesta (He Touched The sky); Could You Be Loved (Extended Remix featuring Sly Dunbar).
Players: Monty Alexander: piano with Jamaican Reggae ‘Ridim’ Section The Gumption Band (Dwight Dawes: keyboards; Robert Angus: guitar; Trevor McKenzie: bass; Glen Brown: bass; Rolando Wilson: drums; Desmond Jones: percussion) and USA Jazz Rhythm Section (Derek DiCenzo: guitar; Hasan J.J. Wiggins: bass; Troy Davis: drums).
The two-disc set, Comin' & Goin', collects guitarist Pat Martino’s final Muse LP of the 1970s, Exit (1976), and his first Muse recording of the 1980s, The Return (1987). In between, Martino recorded two fine fusion albums for Warner Bros. (both documented on the 32 Jazz set, First Light), suffered a brain aneurysm, lost all his memory and completely taught himself to play the guitar all over again.
A story like that almost forces the listener to place unusual regard on the music, as so many critics have already done. Since the two albums are now together, disc two either suggests a display of awesome heroics or, unfortunately, the mere shadow of disc one. It is neither.
Pat Martino has always been a fluent, melodic player with a facility that borders on inhuman, so fleet yet logical are his musical journeys. Early on he developed a coherent sound of his own on guitar, often exploring his own long and exceedingly tricky lines. But despite the varieties of music he’s explored (and his jazz ragas are among his most accomplished), he always maintains a certain Martino style.
Surprisingly, the Martino style is very much in evidence throughout these two discs, despite the lapse of time and the occurrences in between. It’s a little shaky on disc two, but it’s there, especially as Martino warms up.
Other interesting differences are present too. The earlier date is unusually high in non-Martino fare (Ellington’s "Come Sunday," Mancini’s "Days Of Wine And Roses," Kenny Dorham’s "Blue Bossa" and Benny Golson’s "I Remember Clifford"). Martino heads an exceptional quartet here, with Gil Goldstein on piano, the outstanding Richard Davis on bass and Billy Hart on drums. The music leaps and lopes (best on Martino’s own nine-minute title cut and "Three Base Hit") and alternating players disappear for a while then return suddenly, still seamlessly. Davis and Goldstein are simply exceptional.
On the later disc, a live session, Martino leads his working trio of the time, featuring the Ron Carter-like Steve LaSpina on bass and Joey Baron on drums. Martino’s four long originals are rather undistinguished, but nevertheless contain some thrilling playing from the guitarist. He seems breathlessly willing to play and play (he’s also virtually the only soloist throughout). He can be as dazzling as he once was – even though he’s since become a more remarkable player – and he gets a little dirtier, a little more jangled than he’d proven to be in the past.
Comin' & Goin' is a fine collection and an essential companion to 32 Jazz’s encyclopedic releases of Pat Martino’s consistently impressive body of work. Throughout both of these discs, Martino displays a high degree of musical invention that will continue to appeal to longtime listeners and guitar aficionados alike.
Songs: Exit; Come Sunday; Three Base Hit; Days Of Wine And Roses; Blue Bossa; I Remember Clifford; Do You Have A Name?; Slipback; All That You have; Turnpike.
Players: Pat Martino: guitar; Gil Goldstein: piano; Richard Davis, Steve LaSpina: bass; Billy Hart, Joey Baron: drums.
Consummate relational jazz seems completely outdated. Groups are thrown together in studios to record music obviously calculated to sell. To guess, special-guest announcements for jazz records that include the names Wynton Marsalis or John Medeski must get cash registers to ring.
But such back-in-the-day collaborations as Duke Ellington and John Coltrane – designed to send alternative messages to the prevailing attitudes about each -- even made a certain sense. Certainly the master and master pupil interchange was challenging to consider, much less coordinate. But the musical result achieved something awesome -- even if the experiment had failed (it didn’t). Now we get pop-singer daughters crooning with their long-dead fathers. It sells. But is the effort to overcome the ghoulishness of the enterprise worth entertaining what is little more than a technological pairing?
An antidote to this current trend is what turns out to be an inspired pairing of the exceptional vibist Joe Locke with the supple, interactive piano of David Hazeltine. Two friends long on the New York scene, Locke (who has gigged with Cecil Taylor and recorded most memorably with Eddie Henderson) and Hazeltine (who has played with Louis Hayes and Slide Hampton) debut together on Mutual Admiration Society, a marvelous tour de force of relational jazz that should do much to advance the careers of both its leaders. The title, cliché though it may be, ultimately does seem appropriate to the relationship these two share, something which is evident in the deeply fascinating passages of exploration that merit – and reward -- repeated listening.
It may be unfair but not necessarily inaccurate to align this partnership with the one Bobby Hutcherson and Herbie Hancock shared on several outstanding Blue Note records in the 1960s. Locke and Hazeltine do not derive their overall sound from either Hancock or Hutcherson. But, certainly, they hint at their predecessor’s individuality organized into a most pleasing combination of sound and creativity, infinite in possibilities.
Such a compelling relationship is bound to brim with surprise. And this one does. The two play a modern sort of post-modal bop (if that’s possible) inspired, as they note, by the early records of Dave Pike and Bobby Hutcherson. Their rapport keeps them operating as a single unit, buffered by the most gossamer support of bassist Essiet Essiet and drummer Billy Drummond. Even more impressively, Locke’s difficult four-mallet delivery hints at – with melodious, deceptively simple whole tones -- a fifth player in the room. The effect commands a "what’s that?" or "where’s it coming from?" kind of attention and lurks hauntingly in memory.
The program mixes melodic originals from Locke (mostly unexceptional but for the slightly relentless "The K Crew") and Hazeltine with a ballad ("Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year) and two very odd covers (too-well-known pop fare, "I Say A Little Prayer" and "For All We Know"). It is actually the covers that stand out most. Slowed down to a low-burn, the vibist and the pianist cook all the corn out and reveal something startlingly fragile and emotionally considered here ("Prayer" in particular is a beauty). Even Hazeltine’s lightly funky "Can We Talk?" – another of the set’s highlights -- never gets above medium tempo. But the tunes are only exquisitely conceived set pieces for the connective musical dialogues of Locke and Hazeltine.
Mutual Admiration Society reminds what a true jazz collaboration can achieve. It is an interactive pleasure that ranks as one of the year’s finest, most elegant jazz statements.
Songs: K-Man's Crew; I Say A Little Prayer ; Can We Talk?; The Haze Factor ; Tears In Her Heart; Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year; Diamonds Remain; For All We Know
Players: Joe Locke: vibes; David Hazletine: piano; Essiet Essiet: bass; Billy Drummond: drums.
Trumpeter Eddie Henderson has recorded more consistently throughout the 1990s (for Steeplechase and Milestone) than he did during the previous decade, so this really isn’t a "reemergence" at all. It is, however, among one of his finest albums since what remains his very best – his first two kosimgroovy solo albums, cut for Capricorn in 1973 and inexcusably unavailable ever since.
On Reemergence, Henderson traverses a variety of interesting spaces with Milesian pronouncements that have certainly become his own, rich as they are in provocative emotional mysteries. He heads up an intuitive and resourceful quintet, solidified in sound and temperament over the course of several albums now, and spearheaded by the perceptive and guileless wonderment of Joe Locke’s ever-astonishing vibes work. Locked in as the vibist is (forgive the pun) to a simpatico tandem with Kevin Hays’s piano, it’s surprising how Henderson and Locke dominate the front line. The two reveal an especially appealing compatibility and, quite logically, suggest an exchanging of the rings.
The program itself consists of a 1998 date that resulted in Henderson’s Japanese release, Dreams of Gershwin (Keystone). Sharp Nine producer Marc Edleman shuffled the disc’s line up, dropped one of the Gershwin tunes and a lengthy intro to another and added the Henderson quintet’s unreleased takes on Wayne Shorter’s "This Is For Albert" and Woody Shaw’s "Sweet Love of Mine."
What’s presented here is a particularly well-designed line up featuring (but not dominated by) several takes on popular Gershwin fare (Henderson was also a guest at former boss Herbie Hancock’s recent Gershwin tribute on Verve). Stand outs here include the slow funk of "Summertime" and the eloquent, nearly regal "It Ain’t Necessarily So." Other highlights include Locke’s "Saturn’s Child," a haunting piece of moody refinement and both Henderson’s two originals: his oft-played "Dreams" (suggesting something Nefertiti-like, especially "Fall") and the brief, no-solos vibes and muted trumpet duet of "Natsuko-san," dedicated to his wife.
Lately, Henderson’s double life (he’s also a practicing psychiatrist) seems to be allowing more time for music. In between gigs, records and a frequently fascinating variety of recent sessions (including Kenny Barron, Joe Chambers, Roseanne Vitro and Trumpet Legacy), Henderson – now at nearly 60 -- is also growing into one of the finest, most enjoyable and increasingly distinctive trumpets sounds around. Reemergence is proof.
Songs: This Is For Albert; Dreams; The Man I Love; Summertime; It Ain’t Necessarily So; Embraceable You; Sweet Love Of Mine; Saturn’s Child; Natsuko-san.
Players: Eddie Henderson: trumpet; Joe Locke: vibes; Kevin Hays: piano; Ed Hward: bass; Billy Drummond: drums.
Before Boperation, trumpeter Ray Vega’s second Concord Picante disc as a leader, I knew nothing about the man or his music. But my inattention or inappropriate disregard shifted dramatically within the first few notes of this disc. Even if you’ve known all along about Ray’s previous self-titled disc – or his higher profile work with Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Joe Henderson’s big band or the Bronx Horns – Boperation grabs your ears and holds on.
Here, the 38-year-old South Bronx Puerto Rican has lovingly assembled a program in tribute to his trumpet forefathers. The result amounts to a collection of ‘trumpet hits’ of jazz. The names are familiar: Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Dorham, Fats Navarro, Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Woody Shaw, Art Farmer, Chet Baker, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd and Lee Morgan. Most of the titles are too: "Hub Tones," "Lotus Blossom," "Birk’s Works," "Blue In Green," "Whisper Not" and "Mr. Kenyatta."
Most remarkable, though, is the Latin-ized contexts Vega constructs for these gems. Reminiscent of the sound and style of Jerry Gonzalez’s superb Fort Apache Band, Vega delivers a true integration where the foundation is bop, the execution relies on any number of authentically Latin soundscapes (songo, Cuban, salsa) and the ultimate fusion of the two inspires the effervescent creativity of the players.
Vega’s own style on trumpet imparts the best in his forefather’s traits: the crisp, intelligent delivery of Freddie Hubbard, the passionate fortitude of Kenny Dorham, the clean, precision of Woody Shaw and the romantic depth of Chet Baker and Art Farmer. He interacts especially well with reedman Roger Byam as he alternates in sextets, septets and, in one case ("Dark Shadows"), an octet. But as a trumpeter in his own right, Vega deserves attention solely on the dynamic merits he brings to "Hub-Tones," "Daahoud," "Whisper Not" and the especially well-delivered "Mr. Kenyatta."
Guitarist Steve Khan is a notable bellwether of support throughout - most notably on Eddie Henderson’s "Dark Shadows" – and a soloist of consummate beauty and skill ("Whisper Not" and "Mr. Kenyatta"). On three tracks, the ever-ubiquitous and musically industrious Joe Locke, who sounds especially compatible with trumpet players (as he proves consistently with Eddie Henderson), is a perfect addition. Listen to the inspired energy he and Vega whip up on a attention-grabbing performance of Woody Shaw’s "Stepping Stones" and the loveliness he brings to both "Whisper Not" and "Dark Shadows." Additional kudos to Vega simply for pairing Khan and Locke together. The guitarist and the vibist make an incisive team – one, I hope, will pursue something more together in the future.
Perhaps, everything old does become new again. Ray Vega has fashioned a nearly perfect tribute here, (skipping Nat Adderley, though, seems unaccountable). Vega offers a thoroughly fresh Latin insight and an inspired and sincere perspective to the trumpet jazz legacy throughout. Boperation is a pleasure and a treasure.
Songs: Hub-Tones (for Freddy Hubbard); Lotus Blossom (for Kenny Dorham; Boperation (for Fats Navarro and Howard McGee); Birk’s Works (for Dizzy Gillespie); Dark Shadows (for Eddie Henderson; Daahoud (for Clifford Brown); Blue In Green/Four (for Miles Davis); Stepping Stone (for Woody Shaw); Tangerine (for Chet Baker); Whisper Not (for Art Farmer); Social Call (for Donald Byrd); Mr. Kenyatta (for Lee Morgan).
Players: Ray Vega: trumpet, muted trumpet, flugelhorn, chekre, agogo bells, percussion; Roger Byam: tenor sax, alto sax, soprano sax; Steve Khan: electric and acoustic guitar; Joe Locke: vibes; Igor Atalia: piano; Nick Phillips: keyboards; Bernie Minoso: bass; Vince Cherico: drums, percussion; Wilson "Chembo" Corniel: congas, guiro, chekere, guataca, quinto, wood block, percussion.
Paul Tobey is that rare pianist who doesn’t play so much as plot -- as a composer might. Well he should since seven of the eight tunes on the young Canadian’s debut, Wayward, are his own. And they’re well worth hearing. He is a masterfully musical player and a fascinating composer whose musical patterns – written and improvised – are fully fleshed points of logic that take story-like form.
Obviously schooled in the classics, Tobey’s swinging nature comes from an understanding of what Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea are sometimes capable of. His music – like his predecessors -- has a special voice that relays deeply complicated ideas in often appealing, simple ways. Oddly, though, Tobey often yields melody statements and lead solos to other voices: a sax, trumpet or guitar. But, as with Hancock’s Speak Like A Child or The Prisoner, Tobey’s authorship or ownership is never in doubt.
Even though Tobey could have gone one direction -- as he does on two upcoming projects: a solo outing and a marvelous quartet disc -- he opts for variety here. He heads a trio (appropriately on Bill Evans’s "Very Early"), a quartet (the hard-bop redux of "Don’t Resist It"), a quintet (the lovely "Acquiescence"), a sextet ("Time Share") and an 11-piece Latin orchestra (the standard-worthy title cut, "Ninth Hole-Par Four," "Indigo" and the effervescently funky "Son Montuno Blue"). The impression is not of a hodge-podge, but suggestive of a consistent vision in the leader’s artistry. Like the weaver of chapters, Tobey alternates tempos and objectives (primarily Latin with bebop, in this case) without dissuading the singular power of his one true voice.
Wayward’s lasting impression is ultimately not as distinctive as Tobey’s potential implies. But several moments here ("Wayward," "Acquiescence," "Son Montuno Blue" and "Don’t Resist It") reward repeated listening and suggest an open field for further consideration. Tobey is a special pianist and Wayward exposes a powerful talent.
Songs: Wayward, Acquiescence; Ninth Hole – Par Four; Indigo; Time Share; Very Early; Son Montuno Blue; Don’t Resist It.
Players: Paul Tobey: piano; Pat LaBarbera: tenor sax; Alex Dean: tenor and soprano sax; John Johnson: alto sax; John MacLeod: trumpet, flugelhorn; Sandy Barter: trumpet; Terry Promane, Rob Somerville: trombone; Ray Patterson: guitar; Roberto Occhipinti, Neil Swainson: bass; Mark McLean: drums; Armando Borg: percussion.
Consider how fate portions what it takes and what it gives. Cannonball Adderley’s death by stroke in August 1975 robbed music of one of the most distinctive, dynamic and delightful sounds ever known to jazz. But the big man built a considerable and hugely popular musical catalog over three decades and, on the very precipice of his own mortality, reflected upon it anew.
Phenix – from the Egyptian myth of the bird that rises from the flames anew – finds Adderley surveying many of his best known songs after an ambitious series of artistic experiments and the vantage point of electronic delivery. The overall effect is like visiting a cozy club, hearing a favored player dispense the music you most want to hear, with a group that sounds perfectly compatible to it all.
Adderley sounds superb throughout, working with two distinct, yet familiar sextets. The first group features players from a variety of Adderleys past: George Duke, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes. The other similar and equally stimulating group features Mike Wolff, Walter Booker and Roy McCurdy. Impressing on all 12 cuts are the always joyous and too consistently underrated brother Nat on coronet and percussionist Airto, who’s more pleasingly subtle here than usual. The material is rearranged, only slightly and refreshingly simply, to allow the keyboards to set a cushion of mood firing the horn players.
You might figure the fire would be gone, given how often these guys must have had to cover this program. If so, there’s no evidence of it here. Phenix offers up the bird and the fire he ascends from. Cannonball gets space to express the range of textures of his supple alto, as it glides effortlessly through the soulful changes. He’s even offers a mellifluous fire on soprano too.
Listen to how beautifully – and godlike – Cannon solos on "Sack o Woe" (the same melodic brilliance that continues to dazzle on 1958’s "Alison’s Uncle") and how magically he and brother Nat bodily lift the "Walk Tall/Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" medley. Also included is Cannon’s resonant and romantic straight jazz sensibility – fully in tact -- on ""Hi-Fly, "The Sidewalks of New York" and "Stars Fell On Alabama." Duke’s arsenal of synthesized solos (on moog, clavinet, etc.) is also surprisingly engaging, most notably on "Work Song," "Sack o Woe," "Jive Samba." And, for "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," bravo Mike Wolff.
There is no perfect anthology for a great artist. Phenix, pastiche though it may be, fills a far more necessary void than a merely contrived hits collection could. Cannonball benefited from a book abundant with much that was worthwhile. Who better to assemble such a tribute than the artist himself? Two decades later, the void left by Cannonball’s loss remains large. But Phenix does much to fill a little of the emptiness. Thank you, Cannonball Adderley.
Songs: Hi-Fly; Work Song; Sack O’Woe; Jive Samba; This here; The Sidewalks of New York; Hamba Nami; Domination; 74 Miles Away; 74 Miles Away; Country Preacher; Stars Fell On Alabama; Walk Tall/Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.
Players: Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: soprano sax, alto sax; Nat Adderley: cornet; George Duke: keyboards, synthesizers; Mike Wolff: keyboards; Sam Jones: bass; Walter Booker: bass and electric bass; Louis Hayes, Roy McCurdy: drums; Airto Moreira: percussion, conga drums.
Too many jazz listeners make the most intolerant music lovers. There is the likable fact that no two people ever define jazz -- or their tastes in it -- the same way. But jazz people too often disregard "other" music (whatever that is) and belittle what others find appealing in "other" music. Don’t think so? Consider where you fall on the issue of Kenny G. He’s never called what he does jazz. His legions of fans do. But his recent take on "Summertime" is a beaut -- something difficult to avoid in the consideration of jazz.
So what prompted the above diatribe? Your humble writer is willing to confess that he is hardly above the aforementioned snobbery he claims to repudiate. But then a disc like Raising The Rhythms comes along. Voila. It is an excellent reminder that good music transcends borders, limits, definitions and anything that reigns in what deserves to be heard. It’s just good music.
James Asher is a multi-talented percussionist best known as drummer on Pete Townsend’s Empty Glass (remember 1980’s "Let My Love Open The Door"?). He’s since recorded some half dozen world music explorations in the new-age mold known as "contemporary instrumental." With Raising The Rhythms, Asher offers a world-music tour as accessible and familiar as it is infectious and – gasp! – creative too.
Asher’s melodic compositions have the catchy – and memorable – sensibility that William Orbit usually brings to his conceptions. But where Orbit adds moods and atmospherics to his music, Asher layers percussive foundations with imaginative zeal.
Kicking off with the catchy Caribbean funk of "Tropical Zinge," Asher mans a terrific steel-drum riff lifted bodily by the long, marvelous guitar improvisation of Volker Grun. If you can sit still through this (I can’t), focus attention on the creative artistry Grun adds.
Asher journeys most successfully to Africa for the Highlife of "Grand Fiesta" and the Mbanqaga of "Zingwele," India for "Cobra Call" and to the in-vogue trance-regions of the Middle East for "Serpent of the Nile" and "Spice Souk." "Sunny Side Up" offers a Bill Frisell-inspired Pat Metheny groove most reminiscent of the Americana heard regularly these days in TV commercials. Whatever style it is, Thomas Blug’s rockish guitar and Kiran Thakar’s piano leave a most appealing impression. Less successful are Asher’s jazzier trips: the vaguely Afro-Asian "The Highland Wanderer" and the jazz raga of "Saxophagus." They’re no less fascinating than the rest of the musical collage, though, and actually work quite well as part of the whole.
Raising The Rhythms lives up to its own hype. It’s an exuberant world music expedition. Asher’s sense of spirit is contagious. He uses all his rhythmic tools and melodic imagination to hold and enrapt attention. His magic can add color to your gray cells. Raising The Rhythms is a journey well worth taking. It’s an easy pleasure to revisit too.
Songs: Tropical Zinge; Grand Fiesta; Serpent of the Nile; Exubera; Cobra Call; Spice Souk; Zingawele; The Highland Wanderer; Saxophagus; Sunny Side Up.
Players: James Asher: percussion, drums (uncredited); Sandeep Raval: Tabla, Dholak, Djembe, Olympic Drums, percussion; Kiran Thakar: keyboards; Volker Grun: guitar; Thomas Blug: guitar; Mile Bould: Congas, Bongos, Bata Drums, Shaker, Big Ed Drum; Sumeet Chopra: Harmonium; Johnn Kalsi: Dhol drums; Nigel Shaw: Native American Flute; Dave Lewis: sax; Suzanne Bramson: vocals; Ted Emmet: trumpet.
This period of Kenny Burrell’s career found the guitarist playing more -- and better -- than ever. But he had long before abandoned his high-profile role as house guitarist for Prestige and Blue Note (in the 1950s and 1960s) and as a studio guitarist on a staggering number of jazz, pop and film dates (during the 1960s). By the late 1970s, he was devoting more of his time to his role as an educator (at UCLA, where he still is today) and concentrating on his leadership duties as a solo artist and trio leader. Much of his music from this period – recorded primarily for the Muse label – remains unavailable.
But 12*15*78 reissues two of these Muse records, Live At The Village Vanguard and Kenny Burrell In New York, and collects them in one attractive package. The guitarist is heard in particularly excellent form with an especially compatible trio featuring Larry Gales on bass and the wonderful Sherman Ferguson on drums.
Throughout, he’s heard exclusively on his electric axe – though studio sessions at this time found him alternating with acoustic. On electric guitar, Burrell had early on achieved and proffered a signature sound, very much in evidence on the predominantly standards-based set heard here.
Burrell has always made New York’s Village Vanguard a regular stop in his travels. And it’s not hard to figure out why. There is an atmosphere that Max Gordon (who comes briefly to the mike, courtesy of Burrell) established that really inspires Burrell to some of his finest work. It is evident in how beautifully he phrases "Willow Weep For Me" and "In The Still Of The Night." It also shines through in his swinging renditions of such staples as "Bags Groove," "Makin’ Whoopee" and "Work Song." Burrell’s ever-loving acknowledgement of Ellington here provides beautiful takes of "Don’t You Know I Care" and "Love you Madly."
For those that have never had the luxury of hearing the ever-consummate Kenny Burrell in an intimate atmosphere like the Vanguard, 12*15*78 is nothing short of pure pleasure. It is jazz at its creative finest. What may surprise listeners familiar with so much of his other work, however, is how ideal a contribution 12*15*78 is to the legacy of Kenny Burrell, one of the finest and most natural guitarists to ever contribute to the beauty of jazz.
Songs: Second Balcony Jump; Willow Weep For me; Work Song; Woody n’ You; In The Still Of The Night; Medley: Don’t You Know I Care?/Love you Madly; It’s Getting Dark; Pent Up House; But Beautiful; Bags Groove; Makin’ Whoopee; Come Rain or Come Shine; Love Your Magic Spell Is Everywhere.
Players: Kenny Burrell: guitar; Larry Gales: bass; Sherman Ferguson: drums.
Unfortunately, Mimi Fox is one of only a few female guitarists in jazz. Only Leni Stern and the late, lamented Emily Remler seem to have broken through that male-dominated stranglehold. But Kicks, Fox’s latest disc and her third as a leader, places the guitarist in star-studded company to firmly announce that, yes, she too can play – and hold her own -- with the big boys.
Fox is an especially good player, giving Kicks an appeal that you’ll want to hear again. Her sound and style, derived mostly from bebop, owes much to the late Joe Pass. Pass was actually quite the Fox fan, boasting of her "technical prowess" and "extraordinary fire." Appropriately nicknamed "Fast Fingers," Ms. Fox seems more than capable of handling anything she wants. Here, she also displays an appealing attraction beyond bop to easily embrace soul jazz, the blues and pop concepts too.
On Kicks, Fox bides most of her time between a piano quartet (featuring Yellowjacket Russell Ferrante) and a Blue Note-like organ trio (highlighted by the ubiquitous Joey DeFrancesco). She also pulls out an acoustic guitar for a solo take of "A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square" and gets down with Charlie Hunter, whose eight-string guitar prowess provides a nice compliment to Ms. Fox and a funky bass line as well, on "Willow Weep For Me."
On the quartet numbers, highlighted by her own, quite lovely "Vita’s Lullaby," she most recalls the especially fleet fingering of Joe Pass crossed with the single-run fancy of Grant Green. On the organ pieces, of which "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" is the best, Fox resembles Pass filtered through the more soulful fire of McDuff-era George Benson (most obviously on the slowed-down blues of Paul Simon’s "Loves Me Like A Rock").
Despite differing instrumentation, Kicks offers strength of consistency purely due to Ms. Fox’s outstanding playing. She is an above average soloist, too, manning (pardon the pun) some especially meaningful and well-done interchanges, particularly on "In A Sentimental Mood" and her own "Mr. White’s Blues." Her deep sensitivity will probably provide her the eventual voice she is certainly capable of. Until then, Kicks stands as a diverse introduction to an especially fine jazz guitarist.
Songs: Cherokee; Loves Me Like A Rock; Poor Wayfarin’ Stranger’ Born To Be Blue; In A Sentimental Mood; A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square; Kicks; Willow Weep For Me; Vita’s Lullaby; Mr. White’s Blues.
Players: Mimi Fox: electric and acoustic guitar; Russell Ferrante: piano; Joey DeFrancesco: organ; Charlie Hunter: guitar; John Wiitala, Mark VanWageningen: bass; Will Kennedy: drums; Angel Bofill: vocal on "Born To Be Blue"; Marquinho Brasil: percussion.