Drummer Terry Silverlight was first heard on brother Barry Miless White Heat album in 1971 when he was only 14 years old. The two have worked together steadily since. But Silverlight has also logged many miles as rhythm man on jazz dates (Mel Torme, Eric Kloss, Phil Woods), fusion records (George Benson, Jonathon Butler, Tom Grant), the Top 40 hits of Freddie Jackson and Billy Ocean as well as many commercials, TV shows and film scores too. Indeed, there are probably few, if any, styles the drummer hasnt already successfully tackled.
On his self-titled solo debut, Silverlight opts for an instrumental fusion sound that fondly recalls a style thats at least a decade old. Such groups as Weather Report, Steps Ahead, Pieces of a Dream and Special EFX patented these formulas. But this style which evolved from "jazz rock" in the 1970s has since degenerated into snoozy adult contemporary music thats purposely easy to listen to (or ignore). Clearly, Silverlight invests his passion in this music and is determined to bring back some of the fire to which fusion aspired.
This set finds Silverlight exploring a variety of often uptempo moods -- benefited mostly by the muscularity the drummer brings to his melodic originals. Theres little extraverted improvisation (with the nice exception of brother Barrys lovely solo on "Redwinged Sparrow"). But the musicians contribute a positive warmth to Silverlights glowing moods. Theres the celebratory Zawinul-like groove of "Someday Beneath The Sun" and "Soul Mate," the Tony Williams force-of-nature rock of "Taking Twos" and "Soul Mate," the snaky Jeff Lorber Fusion (old school) dance grind of "Planet Rhythm" and an Earl Klugh funk to "Let There Be Silverlight" (featuring guitarist Jeff Ciampa).
The two reed players (Bob Kenmotsu, Danny Wilensky) exchange leads, investing similar affinities for the Grover Washington sound (most apparent on slower tempos like "The Love of My Life" and "Peace on Earth"). Silverlights keen rhythmic sensibilities make it disappointing to hear the occasional drum machine. But the drummers imaginatively constructed compositions never leave the listener to linger long on such distractions.
Silverlight, whose variety of talents here will impress listeners in and out of the often-binding fusion genre, has crafted a fine debut. Whether he chooses to explore be-bop -- or even acid jazz next, hes got the chops (and the understanding) to carry it through with conviction. Terry Silverlight is proof.
Songs: Someday Beneath The Sun; The Love Of My Life; On Fire; Planet Rhythm; Magic Rainbow; Soul Mate; Taking Twos; Peace on Earth; Let There Be Silverlight; Redwinged Sparrow.
Players: Terry Silverlight: drums, synthesizers and synth programming; Barry Miles: piano on "On Fire" and "Redwinged Sparrow"; Bob Kenmotsu, Danny Wilensky: Soprano and tenor sax; Jeff Ciampa: acoustic guitar.
Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molværs solo debut is a technospheric curiosity that suitably brings together the melodic grooves of William Orbit and the evocative ambiance of Mark Isham. Molvær, a new name to me, has actually been around for nearly two decades as a member of the Scandinavian group Masqualero and in addition to working in both jazz and rock, hes played with singer/poet Sidsel Endresen, drummer Elvin Jones, bassist Gary Peacock and band leader George Russell.
With grunge guitars and industrial dance beats driving much of the music, its hard to think of Khmer as jazz. But it offers a surprising amount of creative, interesting, and, at times, notable music. Thats due mostly to Molværs earthy sensitivity on trumpet. You hear the air blowing through his horn (especially in the many long tones he takes) and you can feel what hes feeling.
To be sure, this is music that suggests atmospheres more than melodies. However, it seems to be Molværs gift to riff off moods and feelings and vary it enough to keep it quite absorbing. Hes also brilliant in respect of spaces and silences. So does this all suggest Trance or Ambient music? Maybe. But theres more. Khmer offers something of value to open-minded jazz listeners as much as open-eared rock listeners.
The middle-eastern figures suggested in "Khmer" and "Exit" are all the rage now (matching the Angkor Wat cover art thats similar to Orbits Strange Cargo series and, in this case, from last years breathtaking Angkor: Millennium of Glory exhibition that toured Washington DC, Paris, Tokyo and Osaka). But Molværs thoughtful, imprecise interjections on trumpet add a sadness that sounds sincere and heartfelt. "Tlon" (sampling Frankie "O" Generator) and "Platonic Years" (sampling Bill Laswell) are the obligatory dance tracks. But Khmers real highlights are "On Stream," a beautiful Pink Floyd (!) like ballad meditation, and "Song of Sand II, " which suggests what might happen if Bill Frisells Naked City guitar collided with Miles Davis in a techno version of Sketches of Spain.
Club goers might also be interested in the bonus dance remix disc -- featuring four of the other discs songs. Of note here are the darkly funky "Song of Sand II" and a more upbeat "Platonic Years," a variation on Miless Doo Bop groove. Grunge? Samples? Dance remixes? Yes, Virginia, this is an ECM record! Call it ambient techno jazz, whatever you want. But you can bet Miles Davis and Don Cherry would dig in deep on Khmer, maybe even envy Nils Petter Molværs music a bit. Listen in.
Songs: Khmer; Tlon; Access/Song of Sand I; On Stream; Platonic Years; Phum; Song of Sand II; Exit. Bonus disc: Song of Sand (Single Edit); Platonic Years (DJ Fjord Mix By The Herbaliser); Tlon (Dance Mix by Mental Overdrive); Song of Sand II (Coastal Warning Mix By Rockers Hi-Fi).
Players: Nils Petter Molvær: trumpet, guitar, bass guitar, percussion, samples; Eivind Aarset: guitars, treatments, talk box; Morten Molster: guitar; Roger Ludvigsen: guitar, percussion, dulcimer; Rune Arnesen: drums; Ulf W.O. Holand: samples; Reidar Skar: sound treatment.
With The George Shearing Quintet
One of the great combos in jazz, the George Shearing Quintet, returns to deck the halls with boughs of warm, swinging and imaginatively considered holiday music.
Christmas With The George Shearing Quintet is the pianists seventh Telarc CD, and the quintets first since 1994s excellent That Shearing Sound, itself the first Shearing quintet recording in nearly two decades. Mr. Shearings popular, long-lasting quintet (1947-78) was predicated on the warm, spirited sound he created by combining piano, vibes and guitar with swinging a bop bassist and drummer. Its a sound that suits the holiday season particularly well.
Many famous names have passed through Mr. Shearings quintet over the years: Cal Tjader, Armando Peraza, Willie Bobo, Mongo Santamaria, Gary Burton, Toots Thielemans and Emil Richards. But here, hes teamed with regulars Neil Swainson on bass and Dennis Mackrell on drums and added the warm, swinging guitar of Canadian Reg Schwager and the facile vibes of Don Thompson (who, in addition to being an adept pianist, is also Mr. Shearings most sympathetic partner on bass).
Theres a special, timeless quality to Christmas, most recently reminiscent of George Winstons December, that doesnt lock it into being heard only at Christmastime. Even Mr. Shearing, ever eloquent in his liner notes, says "I love Christmas Music. I can, and often do, play it all the year round. In Christmas music, there is always a smile somewhere."
On this record, smiles abound. Mr. Shearing and company invests such warmth and romance into this music that it doesnt need a holiday season to be heard. Theres also a winning variety in moods, tempos and even a wonderful departure from the standard holiday repertoire (how inspired to include Claude Thornhills classic "Snowfall" in a holiday collection!). The lightly Latin "Ding Dong! Merrily on High," the modal "Donkey Carol" and the bossa waltz of "The Christmas Waltz" are surely the sets highlights and inspire some of companys best soloing. Particularly notable are the agile interjections of the 79-year-old pianist, whose kid-in-a-candy-store excitement is quite infectious.
Mr. Shearing also notably overhauls the harmonics of several of these well-known tunes giving them a new, surprisingly modern twist. These include the lovely waltz of "White Christmas," the jaunty, Erroll Garner inspired "Let it Snow" and a Bill Evans-like jazz ballad treatment of "Away in a Manager." Like a kid, hes also playful with some of the melodies, giving "Having Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" a "Birdland" refrain and dressing up "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" in "Take Five" cool. Mr. Shearing becomes more introspective, almost classical, on the discs solo numbers: the 15th century hymn "Noel Nouvelet," the pretty Scottish carol, "Balulalow" and his vocal version of "Its Christmas Time."
The holidays dont often get many notable jazz interpretations. Christmas With The George Shearing Quintet is, however, ideal. Its warm, romantic, swinging and one of the best gifts a jazz listener can get this season and maybe enjoy throughout the year.
Songs: Ding Dong! Merrily on High; White Christmas; Winter Wonderland; The Christmas Waltz; Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas; Noel Nouvelet; Donkey Carol; Ill Be Home For Christmas; Snowfall; Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow; The Christmas Song; God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; Balulalow; Away In A Manger; Its Christmas Time.
Players: George Shearing: piano; Reg Schwager: guitar; Don Thompson: vibraphone; Neil Swainson: bass; Dennis Mackrel: drums.
Points of View
British bassist and jazz veteran Dave Holland (b. 1946) has refashioned his ever iconoclastic quintet to feature Steve Wilsons sax and Robin Eubanks trombone interacting with former Quintet partner Steve Nelsons pianistic vibes and Billy Kilsons aggressively sensitive drumming.
Holland cites the guiding influence of Duke Ellington in his Points of View. And while there is something starkly modern -- even unique -- in the bassist/composers conceptions, there really is evidence that the great Ellington has inspired Hollands approach here. Witness the melodic contours, the imaginative countermelody, the rhythmic variation and a high level of writing specifically tailored to the individual voices carrying the melodies. Its all there even though it sounds like nothing Ellingtonian.
This outstanding set features eight strong, diverse originals (five by Holland and one each by Eubanks, Wilson and Nelson), each departing from the too-often standard jazz vocabulary in unique ways. Consider the way Holland suggests the flights of freedom in West Coast cool on "Mr. B" (dedicated to fan Hollands early role model Ray Brown). Or the way he uses a "Round Midnight" pastiche to explore bop alternatives in "Bedouin Trail" (nicely spotlighting Eubanks classy trombone).
Also of note are the modally orchestrated "Herbaceous" (dedicated to Hollands former trio leader and Parallel Realities section mate, Herbie Hancock and featuring quite a workout by Holland behind the others challenging leads), the arched funk of Eubanks "Metamorphos, the swinging and serious lead off in "The Balance," and Nelsons appropriately set-closing Caribbean lullaby, "Serenade."
But such diversity should not suggest a random collection of styles thrown together to merely illustrate range. There is an engaging unity to the sounds heard throughout Points of View, primarily to the credit of Holland as a leader and his associates abilities as individual stylists. No one soloist shines greater than any other and each get a significant share of the spotlight for engaging commentary. In fact, in a blindfold test it would be difficult to tell which instrumentalist here is the leader.
Points of View is fine creative music, often revealing new shades of enjoyment upon each new hearing. And once again, one of jazzs finest bassists has assembled a tremendous ensemble offering plenty of fulfilling artistry. Recommended.
Songs: The Balance; Mr. B.; Bedouin Trail; Metamophos; Ario; Herbaceous; The Benevolent One; Serenade.
Players: Robin Eubanks: trombone; Steve Wilson: soprano and alto saxophones; Steve Nelson: vibraphone and marimba; Billy Kilson: drums; Dave Holland: double bass.
& Mini Skirts
Peter Thomas (b. 1925) is a German film and television composer who's known for his scores to Chariot of the Gods?, the 1965-68 series of Jerry Cotton films (German James Bond knock-offs, now available on a 2-CD set from Crippled Dick), 18 Edgar Wallace horror films and German TV hits like Raumpatroille (or Space Patrol, a German Star Trek series with a soundtrack out now on Caroline).
The German maestro has now retired on his forward-seeking laurels. But his brand of "Future music" explored on countless "Sound Orchestra" recordings -- is now receiving deserved worldwide recognition on the German compilations Filmmuzik (Polydor) and Easy Loungin (Polydor) and the even better and easier to find American collection, Futuremuzik (Scamp).
Thomas was always reaching for unusual sounds: exploring synthesizers well before everyone else; taking familiar jazz and rock formulas and bending them to his whim; and discovering talent that went on to make history in their own right: Klaus Doldinger, Jan Hammer and an array of vocalists including Donna Summer (who appears here on "Black Power," her 1969 vocal debut).
Moonflowers & Mini Skirts is the greatest and grooviest Peter Thomas collection yet. Taking 19 themes devised between the late 1960s and early 1970s, compilers Stefan Kassel (owner of Marina Records and designer of Moonflowers smart packaging) and Matthias Kunnecke (an exceptional production man at Germanys progressive Motor Records and a devout Thomas expert) have crafted a collection of unusual, exciting music that is cool, sometimes corny, sometimes jazzy, sometimes funky, sometimes kitschy and quite often brilliant.
Much of the music here is "library music," used as cues in films and television, and never before available on CD. Set highlights include the Thus Spoke Z funk of "Opium" (destined to be a dance classic), the loping disco of "Milky Way," the driving "Under Control," the colorful "Rockin Computer" and the Lalo Schifrin-esque "Beige Turtleneck." The remaining tracks are seasoned with the tasty variety found in more imaginative composers like Americas Henry Mancini or Lalo Schifrin, Britains Tony Hatch or Roy Budd or Italys Piero Umiliani or Pierro Picconi. But this is even wilder. Put it on...and take off.
Songs: Opium; Multi-Kolored Mini-Skirts; Black Power (vocal: Donna Summer); 11 Uhr 20 (Main Theme); Pozzolico; Milky Way; Under Control; Moonflower Q 70; Vergiss Mich, Wenn Du Kannst (vocal: Senta Berger); Rockin Computer; Power Boost; Spiral Angst; Meeting palermo; Flash Point; Mein Wochenende (vocal: Uschi Glas); Happening In White (main theme); Beige Turtleneck; Malaparte Sinus; Minoti on the Run.
Jazz Mass In Concert
Composer Lalo Schifrin revisits the brilliant Grammy winning jazz mass he composed for Paul Horn in 1964. Paul Horn's 1964 study, Jazz Suite on the Mass Texts (RCA) was a meditative reflection on Schifrin's intentionally liturgical themes. But Schifrin's production, recorded live three and a half decades later, is quite a bit more energetic -- ascending more toward what John Coltrane's music achieved. This is primarily due to the multi-varied and accomplished reedwork of former Coltrane disciple Tom Scott.
Schifrin revisits the same eight themes of the original piece and adds the New Orleans swagger of the traditional "Glory Glory Hallelujah," a celebration of Schifrin's piano interacting with Scott's bloozy sax. The Jazz Mass themes here also differ from the originals quite significantly. The music is scored for a slightly larger (and more warmly symphonic) orchestra, exploring longer passages and adding a substantial amount of solo space for the players, primarily Scott.
Several other soloists from the exceptional WDR Big Band, which also recently captured Schifrin's return to the landmark Gillespiana suite, make substantial statements as well: pianist Frank Chastenier (on "Kyrie" and "Gloria"), guitarist Markus Wienstroer on the provocative "Interludium" and vibist Christopher Dell (in Lynn Blessing's original role) on "Interludium" and "The Offertory." The live concert atmosphere truly inspires the players -- especially Scott -- to bring Schifrin's bold vision to life -- and a children's choir is a beautiful addition to five of the work's eight passages.
This is an unusual and commanding jazz statement that's deeply felt and marvelously executed. Well worth investigating.
Songs: Kyrie; Interludium; Gloria; Credo; Sanctus; Prayer; Offertory; Agnus Dei; Glory, Glory, Hallelujah.
Players: Andy Haderer, Rob Bruynen, Klaus Osterloh, Rick Kiefer, John Marshall: trumpet; Dave Horler, Ludwig Nuss, Bernt Laukamp: trombone; Achim Hartmann: bass trombone; Christine Chapman, Gustav Kedves, John Ratiu, Charles Putnam: French Horn; Ulli Haas: tuba; Tom Scott: alto flute, alto sax, clarinet, flute, bass flute; Olivier Peters, Rolf Romer: tenor sax; Heiner Wiberny, Harald Rosenstein: alto sax; Jens Neufang: baritone sax; Frank Chastenier: piano, organ; Lalo Schifrin: piano, composer, conductor, arranger; Markus Wienstroer: guitar, violin; John Goldsby: bass; Joe LaBarbera: drums; Christopher Dell: vibes, percussion; Marcio Doctor, Romanus Schottler, Egmont Kraus, Michael Schmidt: percussion; Ulla van Daelen, Sonja Jahn: harp; with the St. Stephan's Youth Choir of Cologne, Michael Kokott: choirmaster.
Rev And I
Heres an object lesson in compatible, rather than competitive, blowing. For The Rev and I, Phil Woods (b.1931) stacks his distinctive, sweet-toned alto against Johnny Griffins (b. 1928) recognizable, growling tenor. Even though these two have previously played together in Quincy Jones 1959-61 big band, Thelonius Monks 1967 nonet and on 1984s Ole Dude and the Fundance Kid (Uptown), theyre a heady pair that listens closely to one another and they work quite well together. Teamed with the always perfect Cedar Walton on piano, Peter Washington on bass and Ben Riley on drums, these two veterans breeze naturally through a lively set of swinging bop numbers.
Theres plenty of good blowing and solid musicianship to be heard throughout. The uptempo numbers rock with these two accomplished reed players at the helm. Included are Woods sprite title track, a lightly Latin tristeza that refers to a minister friend of the altoist, not Griffin (and features an overdubbed Woods comping tastefully on the Wurlitzer keyboard). Also of note are Waltons appropriately Bird-like "Hand in Glove," a natural feature for Woods fine Parkernomics, Woods heated "Before I Left" and Hal Galpers jumpy "Loose Change" (the discs best track).
The slower numbers show how expressive these two can be on their own and even together. Check out the Ben Webster hommage of Ellingtons "All too Soon" (wherein Griffin suggests Dexter Gordon more than Webster) and Woods pretty "Dutch Morning," wherein the altoist is at his Charlie Parker best, nicely offset by Griffins muscular tenor and Waltons pristine accompaniment.
Recorded in January 1998, The Rev and I catches these fine jazz veterans in a variety of interesting dialogs -- mostly because, even after all these years they have much left to say thats worth hearing.
Songs: The Rev and I; We Could Make Such Beautiful Music Together; Hand In Glove; All Too Soon; Red Top; Im So Scared of Girls When Theyre Good Looking; Loose Change; Dutch Morning; Before I Left.
Players: Phil Woods: alto sax (electric piano on "The Rev and I"); Johnny Griffin: tenor sax; Cedar Walton: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Ben Riley: drums; Bill Goodwin: percussion on "The Rev and I."