Milt Jackson/The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
In a recording career thats spanned more than half a century, the masterful vibist Milt Jackson has seldom been less than flawless. For Explosive!, his fifth disc on Quincy Joness well-distributed Qwest label, Jackson is suitably teamed with the well-populated Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. It too, is no exception; offering a sterling collection of Jacksons pleasing blend of blues and ballads.
Jackson has only recorded with big bands on a surprisingly infrequent basis (his Verve recordings with Ray Brown, two dates from the early 1960s on Riverside and some work in the late 70s with Count Basies band come to mind). But he has plenty of connections to this music. Helmsman arranger/bassist John Clayton studied with Jacksons soul mate and frequent musical sparring partner, Ray Brown. Clayton has also served a rewarding apprenticeship in Basies band and his tasteful, swinging arrangements recall the brassy soulfulness Quincy Jones offered to many a Basie session (and plenty others like Ray Charles too).
So Milts at home here -- still swinging like he did back in the Forties (consider how he enlivens Monks "Evidence" here and recall the vibist was heard on the original all those years ago). If theres any gripe and its a true quibble its that Jackson seems like a guest on his own session. He swings in between the more dominating orchestra (with exceptional offerings from reedman Jeff Clayton, trumpeter Snooky Young and trombonist George Bohanon) and even sits out of "Deed I Do" and "The Nearness of You" altogether. But, as expected, hes above reproach and completely in charge of "Major Deegan," the inevitable "Bags Groove," and the newer originals, "Revibal Meeting" and "Recovery."
Explosive! could have been recorded in the late Fifties, at a time when jazz orchestras like this flourished. Today, its positively out of the ordinary to hear a big star front a (real) big band. But it shows how ageless and timeless the concept is when its done right as it is here.
Songs: Bags' Groove; Since I Fell For You; Evidence; Back Home Again In Indiana; 'Deed I Do; The Nearness Of You; Major Deagan (Blues For Dan); Emily; Along Came Betty; Revibal Meeting; Recovery.
Players: Milt Jackson: vibes; John Clayton, Jr.: arco bass; Jeff Hamilton: drums; Jeff Clayton: alto sax, flute, clarinet; Byron Stripling, Eugene "Snooky" Young, Oscar Brasher, Clay Jenkins, Bobby Rodriguez: trumpet; Ira Nepus, George Bohanon, Isaac Smith: trombone; Maurice Spears: bass trombone; Keith Fiddmont: alto sax, flute, clarinet; Ricky Woodward, Charles Owens: tenor sax, clarinet; Lee Callet: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Bill Cunliffe: piano; Christoph Luty: bass; Jim Hershman: guitar.
Voice in the Night is a welcome homecoming for reedman Charles Lloyd. He hasnt recorded in a guitar-based group since his two tremendously underrated (and rockish) albums for A&M in 1972-73. Here, he also pleasingly revisits a good deal of his earlier (and still his most personable) material: "Forest Flower," from the famed quartet days of the late 60s, "Voice in the Night" and in the "Pocket Full of Blues" medley, "Island Blues" and "Little Sisters Dance."
With the advantage of hindsight, Lloyd seems to sound warmer, somewhat romantic and a touch more inspired than usual -- with a guitar. Pianists seem to bring out Lloyds more aggressive Coltrane-ish side and often permit him to easily dabble in longer, spacier themes with exotic instrumentation. Even though he sticks to tenor throughout here (his exceptional flute playing is sorely missed coupled with John Abercrombies sensistive accompaniment), Lloyd sounds just right here: swinging and having fun too.
This all-star aggregate, featuring Abercrombie on guitar, Dave Holland on bass and Billy Higgins on drums, recalls the other supergroup Lloyd captured on 1965s superb Of Course, Of Course (Columbia, not on CD). The earlier date featured iconoclastic guitarist Gabor Szabo, an excellent foil for any of Lloyds moods (Szabo came to the Chico Hamilton group Lloyd directed at Lloyds insistence in the early 1960s), with bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams. Lloyd, Abercrombie and Holland bring a far different, mellowed perspective to this music.
Voice in the Night suffers none of the austerity that rules much of ECMs recordings and a few of Lloyds previous five ECM releases. Aside from toe-tapping interplay on the familiar songs, Lloyd and company offer lovely covers of Strayhorns "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing" and, surprisingly, last years Burt Bachrach/Elvis Costello hit, "God Give Me Strength." Quite often, though, the most interesting moments come on Lloyds newest material: the off-kilter calypso of "Doroteas Studio," "Homage" (a sterling Abercrombie showpiece) and "Requiem." However, anyone familiar with Lloyds magisterial "Forest Flower" from the Chico Hamilton days, or, more likely from the famed quartet days, will certainly want to hear the beautiful version Lloyd, Abercrombie, Holland and Higgins offer here. Its worth the price of admission.
Heres hoping the somewhat reclusive Lloyd is planning a sequel to Voice in the Night. This is a quartet that offers much to explore.
Songs: Voice In The Night; God Give Me Strength; Dorotheas Studio; Requiem; Pocket Full of Blues; Homage; Forest Flower: Sunrise/Sunset; A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing.
Players: Charles Lloyd: tenor sax; John Abercrombie: guitar; Dave Holland: double bass; Billy Higgins: drums, percussion.
Catalyst is one of those groups more talked about than heard. But most jazz listeners have heard the mighty tenor of Odean Pope as an integral part of Max Roachs great 1980s bands (Catalyst bassist Tyrone Brown eventually joined him there too) and through his recent and well-regarded Saxophone Choir. The underrated and under-recorded keyboardist Eddie Green has played with Pat Martino as well as Philly once-toppers, MSFB and Three Degrees. And redoubtable drummer Sherman Ferguson has since been heard to great advantage with Bud Shank, Kenny Burrell and Pharoah Sanders, among others too.
The Funkiest Band You Never Heard collects all four of Catalysts 1972-75 Muse recordings (the entirety of its output) on this very well-packaged double-disc package on 32 Groove.
However, the funk and groove misnomers give short shrift to the high level of energy, interaction and creativity among these four. This two-disc set offers superior "electric jazz" from a period awash in fusion, fuzak and speed jazz. The collective, much like early versions of Weather Report, does not acknowledge any individual as group leader (though Pope tends to dominate); choosing, instead, to rely on each others differing inspirations and temperaments to fuel the group chemistry.
The six tunes that form the bands debut, Catalyst (1972), offer an exceptional sort of electric post-bop jazz that consistently recalls John Coltranes Atlantic quartets of the early 1960s. Thats largely due to Pope, who surprisingly composed none of the tunes here. Brown contributes one tune, but no bass to this session. Highlights include the Pope-less melodic funk of Eddie Greens "Aint It The Truth" and "New-Found Truths" (a certified dancehall favorite).
The five tunes that make up the bands second release, Perception, offer, perhaps, the best viewpoint of this interesting group. Overall, the music here is a bit quieter, certainly not funky. But using familiar modal and r & b motifs, the quartet breaks from riffs and vamps to freely explore from within sort of suggesting an electric avant-gardism. Popes nine minute "Celestial Bodies" and "Greens 15-minute "Perception" are highlights, equally sptolighting each of the four quartet members.
The more kosmigroovy Unity (1974) follows and adds Weather Report bassist Alphonso Johnson and Mwandishi drummer Billy Hart to the mix. Both signal what can be expected from this spacier (but still very boppish) session. Its also reminiscent of producer Skip Drinkwaters other production gig with Eddie Henderson at the time. Again, it is Greens playing and compositions ("Little Miss Lady," "Maze," and "Shorter Street") that capture attention here.
The bands final outing, A Tear And A Smile (1975), enhances the quartet with synthesizers, Charles Ellerbees guitar, vocals ("The Demon Pt. 2," "A Prayer Dance") and strings/woodwinds for Browns superb "Suite for Albeniz" (Catalysts "Olé"). Drummer Ferguson has a large hand in most of the seven tunes here and his "A Tear and A Smile" and "Bahia," both sterling features for Popes flute, offer its best moments.
Dont be misled by the gimmicky title. This excellent, well-packaged and reasonably priced set is a tribute to these fine musicians (all still active today) during a lost period when they were recording notable sounds.
Songs: Aint It The Truth; East; Catalyst is Coming; Jabali; New-Found Truths; Salaam; A Country Song; Little Miss Lady; Maze; Athene; Mail Order; Shorter Street; The Demon Pt. 1; The Demon Pt. 2; A Tear And A Smile; Fifty Second Street Boogie Down; Suite For Albeniz; A Prayer Dance; Bahia; Perception; Uzuri; Celestial Bodies; Ile Ife; Got To Be There.
Players: Eddie Green: piano, Fender Rhodes, electric piano, keyboards, percussion; Odean Pope: tenor sax, flute, alto flute, glute, oboe; Tyrone Brown: acoustic bass, electric bass; Sherman Ferguson: drums, marimba, percussion; Pat Gleason: ARP synthesizer; Skip Drinkwater: poppy pod; Norman Harris: guitar; Farel Johnson: chant, conga, misc. percussion; Billy Hart: misc. percussion; Larry Washington: conga; Anthony Jackson, Alphonso Johnson, Ron Baker: bass; Charles Ellerbee, Norman Harris: electric guitar; Morris Bailey, Sharon Scott: vocals; George Taylor: clarinet, flute; Steve Tanzer: alto flute, flute, piccolo; Connie Hamilton, Shirley Byrne Brown: flute; Aliza Appel: viola; Michael Peebles: cello; John Blake, Gail Murdaugh: violin.
Little in 44-year-old trumpeter Tim Hagans lengthy, mostly post-bop career prepares you for the intensely pleasurable shock of Animation * Imagination. Without giving too much away, Hagans (whos billed for the first time here by his surname only) serves up a drum n bass masterpiece that has as much to offer a dedicated jazz listener as a young, casual clubgoer.
Surprisingly, he set out to make himself a "heavy metal" album in the tradition of his youthful heroes -- Jeff Beck, the James Gang and Grand Funk Railroad. The result captures more the spirit than the sound of those 70s rock warhorses. In essence, Hagans has achieved something grander. Hes broken out of the right-wing jazz conservatism which the Marsalis mob (and fellow clones) forced upon the world. Hagans bold step into clubland, like Nils Petter Molvars Khmer (ECM - 1998), is a substantially more original and noteworthy jazz innovation (forget all the wasted, awful attempts to marry jazz with hip hop).
Its tempting to think of Animation * Imagination as Hagans Bitches Brew, or even his Dancing In Your Head or Tone Dialing. Its a turning point, a starting point or, quite simply, a good point.
Haganss record also recalls Miless and Ornettes landmarks in the genuinely new soundscapes he brings to jazz. Thats due in large part to the considerable contribution of producer Bob Belden -- who, significantly, is supervising the reissue of Miless electric sides and, like, Teo Macero, a most ambidextrously talented musician himself. The creative effort, only merely enhanced by Hagans tremendous facility as a trumpeter (especially notable when hes not muted, as on "Trumpet Sandwich"), is invested in the perplexing and often deep-groove soundscapes he and Belden conjure.
Starting, as well it should, with the straight trio swing of "The Original Drum and Bass," Hagans offers a blistering 79-second workout blazing over Billy Kilsons acoustic drums and Ira Colemans acoustic bass. This launches into the more startling ambient electronica of the title cut, a Prime Time groove featuring the scorching guitar of Kurt Rosenwinkel and Scott Kinseys tasty "reverse piano" solo (however thats accomplished). From thereon, dont look back.
Hagan serves up more meat than fat in these grooves. Sample the clip rhythm of "Snakes Kin," the trendy Indian grind of "Far West" or the Milesian exploration of "Hud Doyle." Only rarely does he lapse into the needlessly sustained repetition that befalls most drum n bass ("I Heard You Were Dropped"). He even manages to mesh Miles and Ornette ("Hud Doyle," "Are You Threatening Me") with such simple, sampleable success that Herb Alpert (and fans) would approve. But Hagans finest moments are also the discs least representative and most melodic: the lovely, ethereal "French Girl" and the ironic, inspired funk of the spontaneous "What They Dont Tell You About Jazz" (spotting Kevin Hayss masterful Rhodes machinations).
So is it jazz? I think so. Good jazz? No question about it. Sure, Animation * Imagination, like "Chameleon," or "Rockit," merely-is-as-merely-does offer a creative perspective on music of the moment. But it proves that drum n bass might have something fresh to offer to jazz. Fad or not, it does reward with repeated listens and somewhere along the line, Animation * Imagination may prove to be a true achievement.
Songs: The Original Drum and Bass; Animation/Imagination; Slo Mo; 28 If; Snakes Kin; Far West; Hud Doyle; Loves Lullaby; I Heard You Were Dropped; Are You Threatening Me?; French Girl; Trumpet Sandwich; What They Dont Tell You About Jazz.
Players: Tim Hagans: trumpet; Ira Coleman: bass; Billy Kilson: drums; Scott Kinsey: synthesizers and programming; DJ Smash: synthesizers and programming; DJ Kingsize: drum and bass programming; Matthew Backer: sounds; Kurt Rosenwinkel: guitar; David Dyson: electric bass; Bob Belden: reversed acoustic piano, soprano sax; Kevin Hayes: Fender Rhodes electric piano and programming; Alfred Lion: narration.
Guitarist Larry Coryell has successfully explored a surprisingly wide variety of creative music since he hit the scene in 1965. But the four albums he made for Muse Records between 1984 and 1989 were notable as some of the first full recordings of his straight-ahead jazz playing. In each case, Coryells superb, seamless playing is featured in a piano quartet. The fourth and final of Coryells Muse releases, 1989s Shining Hour, is reissued here by 32 Jazz with a bonus reflection on "All The Things You Are" and features a sterling set of warm, relaxed post-bop classics. The program is mostly a collection of standards ("Yesterdays," "My Shining Hour") and popular jazz explorations (Wayne Shorters "Nefertiti," Herbie Hancocks "The Sorcerer" and Dave Brubecks "The Duke"), highlighted by Brian Torffs "Apathy Rains and Coryells typically light-hearted "Floyd Gets A Gig." Its all served up by a perfectly simpatico quartet featuring the always-perfect Kenny Barron on piano, the always succinct bassist, Buster Williams, and the then in-demand time keeping of drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith. As always, Coryell shines in this context.
Songs: Nefertiti; Apathy Rains; Yesterdays; Floyd Gets A Gig; The Duke; My Shining Hour; The Sorcerer; All The Things You Are.
Players: Larry Coryell: guitar; Kenny Barron: piano; Buster Williams; Marvin "Smitty" Smith: drums.
Bassist John Patitucci ascended to deserved prominence as a significant catalyst in Chick Coreas Elektrik/Akoustic bands (1986-93). But despite consistently excellent work elsewhere since then, Patituccis solo career (which began with his eponymous 1987 debut on GRP) has not yet produced much thats memorable until Now. Here, the bassist shares a perfect telepathy with his rhythm section, featuring drummer Bill Stewart and the instantly identifiable and dominant presence of guitarist John Scofield. Chris Potter and the surprisingly understated Mike Brecker, both featured on Patituccis previous One More Angel, alternate on seven of the discs ten tunes. Now stands apart on the Scofield-Patitucci matrix. But the bassists program, a result of Patituccis reflections on Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane ("Giant Steps" and McCoy Tyners "Search for Peace" are the only non-originals) is stronger than usual too. Patitucci is still not as memorable a composer as he is a player. Here, however, his compositions offer the spunky flair Scofield usually brings to his own catchy tunes (especially "Now," "Out of the Mouth of Babes" and "Forgotten But Not Gone"). And interestingly, the bassist picks up his electric axe for the discss quietest tunes: the bass-drum duo of "Giant Steps" and the solo "Miya."
Songs: Now; Grace; Out of the Mouth of Babes; Hope; Labor Day; Espresso; Forgotten But Not Gone; Search For Peace; Giant Steps; Miya.
Players: John Patitucci: acoustic and electric bass; Chirs Potter, Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone; John Scofield: guitar; Bill Stewart: drums.
The multitalented and multi-textual keyboardist Richard Bone continues his ambient reflections on mid-1960s jazz with Coxa, his tenth disc as a leader and a sequel of sorts to 1998s bossa-oriented Electropica. Coxa, an anatomical term meaning hip bone (clever, huh?), is again inspired by producer Creed Taylors galvanizing Verve productions of the mid-1960s. Here, though, Bone spices his jazz impressions with the work of vibesmen Cal Tjader and Dave Pike as well as Rudy Van Gelder, who single-handedly engineered the bulk of sixties jazz that appeared on Verve, Blue Note, Prestige and Impulse.
Evocative is probably the best way to describe what Bone, a one-man orchestra, accomplishes here. While his tunes are all engagingly melodic, he concentrates more on setting or conveying a mood than exploring lines or melodies. Therefore, a jazz listener with a given set of expectations might feel as lost at sea in Bones brew as someone expecting a new-age cocktail. But Bone, as usual, captures and holds attention by delivering imaginatively conceived rhythms and subtly shifting rhythmic patterns.
Whether Bone knows it or not, Coxa most clearly recalls the interesting and unfortunately forgotten music Kenyon Hopkins made in the 50s and 60s under Creed Taylors auspices (especially 1963s Yellow Canary and 1965s Mister Buddwing, both on Verve and out of print). Hopkins was a music supervisor on many film and TV projects through the 1970s. But he always brought a colorful jazz vocabulary to his music and engaged top talents in the jazz field to bring his memorable sketches to life.
Bone comes close to achieving the same thing here (albeit with less overt improvisation) on the intriguingly titled "Dragneta, My Love" (the discs best track), "Outside The Incrimination Field" (a smoldering soundtrack number suggesting something from Alphaville) and the swinging "Amorita Dive" (working the organ groove of Jimmy Smith). The discs opening and closing numbers ("Garden," "47 Youth Street") are both ballads out of the Bob James bag. And while Im not sure what the Pike references are here, the spirit of Cal Tjader rocks through Bones "Playa Six" as if the vibist himself was dancing through a Brazilian rain forest (a mood which also prevails on the discs unnamed ninth track).
Something tells me that Bone hasnt finished musing upon this fine period of jazz (finally and only recently acknowledged as worthwhile). "Dragneta, My Love" suggests an exploration of jazz-funk. But who knows. Bone could go anywhere next.
Songs: Garden; Playa Siz; Outside the Incrimination Field; Amorita Dive; Dido; What If (If What?); Dragneta, My Love; 47 Youth Street.
Players: Richard Bone: all instruments.