|Like A Thief In The Night
Former Dizzy Gillespie pianist Mike Longo hasnt had a very high-profile career. But while his playing and writing is somewhat unexceptional, his proficiency and ability to keep it all interesting are never at fault. The ten tracks that comprise this solid 59-minute CD come from two 1975-era albums Longo cut for Sonny Lesters Groove Merchant label, 900 Shares Of The Blues and Funkia.
The players including Joe Farrell (reeds), Randy Brecker (trumpet/flugelhorn), Ron Carter (bass) and the versatile Mickey Roker (drums) -- are above reproach. And the sound (predictably) recalls that familiar, mellow CTI groove, with Longos post-modal thinking and playing adding an edge.
Longo, heard mostly on Fender Rhodes throughout, varies mood and tempo enough to hold attention (or not divert it when something else is going on). Theres the waka-waka groove of the title track, the churning "Funkia," the easy funk of "900 Shares Of The Blues," the slow blues of "Ocean Of His Might," the post-bop of the mostly acoustic "Magic Number" and the surprisingly invigorating Latin take on the otherwise sappy "Windmills Of Your Mind." Longo shines brightest at slower tempos, like the ballad "Summers Gone," where he unplugs and lets Farrell glide on soprano and Brecker takes a muscular turn on flugelhorn. Both Les McCanns "Samia" and Gillespies "Ole For The Gypsies," veer too closely to Chick Corea/Return To Forever formulas, but neither are they without their charm.
Like A Thief In The Night, newly available on a well-distributed low-budget label, has aged quite nicely and holds appeal for todays easy-groove crowd and jazz folk who like a little more meat in their diet
Tracks: 900 Shares Of The Blues, Like A Thief In The Night, Ocean Of His Might, Magic Number, Summers Gone, El Moode Grande, Ole For The Gypsies, Samia, Funkia, Windmills Of Your Mind.
Players: Mike Longo: piano and Fender Rhodes; George Davis: guitar; Joe Farrell: tenor sax, soprano sax, flute; Randy Brecker: trumpet and flugelhorn; Ron Carter: electric and acoustic bass; Mickey Roker: drums; Ralph MacDonald or Potato Valdez: percussion.
Down On The Deuce
Although Hank Crawfords second Milestone LP was made in 1984, its never been available on CD until this 1998 release. Its a welcome, enjoyable date that finds Hank digging into what he does best. Theres a bit a funk ("Survival"), a bit a blues ("Used To Be Love" and "Down Home Blues"), some ballads (the yucky Kenny Rogers hit "Through The Years") and a little boogaloo (the title track). With producer Bob Porter at the helm, a first-rate cast of notable players is on hand too. Jimmy Ponder and Melvin Sparks take turns on guitar, Bernard Purdie rocks on drums and the horn section includes bari-man Howard Johnson and Crawfords longtime partner, David "Fathead" Newman, on tenor and flute. Pianist Cedar Walton is on board too, but (surprisingly) hes not offered the same share of the spotlight the guitarists get and, as a result, sounds a little anonymous here. But that deep, rich, signature sound of Hank Crawfords alto saxophone is a reliable joy; heard to great effect on sessions like this.
As usual, his happy wailing works best at up-tempos or digging in on the blues. Crawford can even redeem the bland ballads he covers (his straight R&B approach to "When A Man Loves A Woman" offers considerable proof). But theres enough of that good Hank Crawford soul to keep Down on the Deuce interesting and worthwhile.
Tracks: Down on the Deuce; Used To Be Love; Down Home Blues; Through The Years; Survival; When a Man Loves a Woman.
Players: Hank Crawford: alto sax; Cedar Walton: piano, electric piano; Jimmy Ponder, Melvin Sparks: guitar: Wilbur Bascomb Jr.: bass; Bernard Purdie: drums; Danny Moore, Martin Banks: trumpets; David "Fathead" Newman: tenor sax, flute; Howard Johnson: baritone sax.
Producer Joel Dorn recently said "if musicians had to pay royalties for using someone elses sound, David (Newman) and Hank (Crawford) would be billionaires." If so, reed man Eric Allison would be paying dues. Hed also be paying the estates of Gene Ammons, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and King Curtis too. Does that leave After Hours without merit? Probably not. Allison sounds fine and his program is a well-played mix of jazz that swings with blues, gospel and juke-joint groove. Like fellow South Florida residents Jesse Jones, Turk Mauro (who both appear here) and Terry Myers, Allison can hardly irritate with originality. Its actually fun to guess the origins of the sounds hes making or name the tunes hes riffing on. Mostly he sticks to tenor, but hes also heard on alto, flute and clarinet. His all "originals" program relies on the familiar too. Theres a bit of "Parkers Mood" in the appropriately titled "After Hours, a lot of "The Sidewinder" on "Double Shot" and "Round About Dawn" (featuring pianist Lonnie Smiths only appearance on organ) is a sort of cross between "Round Midnight" and "You Dont Know What Love Is." Smith certainly stands out on piano and the rest of the crew supports Allison nicely. But, perhaps appropriately, After Hours is like those old jam-sessions its executive producer, Bob Weinstock, used to supervise in the fifties: rafter shaking and entertaining, but no tremors after dawn.
Tracks: Midnight Groove; After Hours; Double Shot; Round About Dawn; Sittin In; No Cover; Tip-Toein; Straight Up; Deanna; Delta Joy.
Players: Eric Allison: tenor sax, alto sax, flute, clarinet, tambourine; John Bailey: trumpet; Jesse Jones Jr: alt sax; Turk Mauro: baritone sax; Dr. Lonnie Smith: piano, organ; Danny Burger: drums.
Three Latin Adventures
The Clarke-Boland Big Band was Europes foremost jazz orchestra during its existence from 1960 to 1973. It started as a sextet led by American expatriate drummer Kenny Clarke (1914-1985) and expert arranger and French pianist Francy Boland (b. 1929), then grew to a large band comprised of expatriates like Johnny Griffin and Benny Bailey and talented Europeans like Ronnie Scott and Ake Persson. By the late 60s, its only real competition was New Yorks Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Big Band. But only occasionally did the C-BBB or its records -- make it over to the US.
The two albums featured on the superb Three Latin Adventures are1968s Latin Kaleidoscope (released on Prestige Records in the US) and Fellini 712 (also 1968). Latin Kaleidoscope is comprised of two suites that are more traditionally Latinate, with the band swinging on well-written parts to a panoply of well-used percussion elements (Boland recruited drummers Kenny Clare, Al "Tootie" Heath" and Sabu Martinez to add their percussion talents). "Fellini 712" may be based on Latin origins, but Boland transcends such humble beginnings to a more universal language.
Gary McFarlands six-part "Latin Kaleidoscope" is a joy to discover much as it was to first hear his creations for Stan Getz on 1962s Big Band Bossa Nova (to which this Latin suite bears some distinctive similarities). His trademark is simple, invigorating themes with a memorable, childlike quality. "Latin Kaleidoscope" offers much evidence of his gifts. Boland, who added his own touches to this suite, never takes a solo throughout and is occasionally heard on harpsichord; a sensitive touch to sensitively considered music. And excellent solos are taken by Sahib Shihab ("Duas Rosas"), Ronnie Scott ("Uma Fita de Tres Cores") and Aki Persson ("Othos Negrs").
Francy Bolands "Cuban Fever" is like a musical postcard of Cuba: powerful, colorful, exciting, where the unexpected is approached at every corner. The innate skill of Bolands craft is most apparent here. Like the great jazz arrangers, hes a scenarist, a master painter. Here the brasses cover more of the thematic canvas. But it is often the reeds that take solo honors (a nice contrast) with the exception of the beautiful finale, "Crepusculo y Aurora" that benefits by a resonant Benny Bailey trumpet solo (Clarkes clever shifting patterns are much in evidence here too).
Bolands "Fellini 712" suite is an ambitious, slightly more avant-garde take on Latin themes that is a testament to Bolands substantial abilities as a writer and arranger. This suite, named for Italian director Federico Fellini and a reference to Romes 712-kilometer distance from the French border, was the result of an invitation for the band to perform in Rome during 1968. Boland was inspired by the bands "dolce vita" Roman holiday and named his three movements after their hotel, the location of the studio where they performed and a café popular among musicians and artists. During this suite, its as if the band coalesces before your ears into one brilliant entity; each individual providing light and shadow to the collective whole. It is the magic Boland works in his pieces, but its brought alive by the enthusiastic playing of the band members. The extended time of each movement allows for more soloing too, with exceptional turns taken by Sahib Shihab on flute, Dusko Gojkovic on flügelhorn and Tony Coe and Johnny Griffin on tenor sax.
This is some of the best orchestral jazz that was made in the late 60s, wisely compiled for the CD age by original producer, Gigi Campi, in another one of MPSs well-designed packages with informative notes by Mike Hennessey. Recommended.
Tracks: Latin Kaleidoscope (Um Grao de Areia, Duas Rosas, A Rosa Negra, Uma Fita de Tres Cores, Olhos Negros, Ramo de Flores); Cuban Fever (Fiebre Cubana, Mambo de las Brujas, Extrano Sueno, Cara Bruja, Crepusculo y Aurra); Fellini 712 (Villa Radieuse, Tween Dusk and Dawn In Via Urbana, Rosati At Popolo Square).
Players: Francy Boland: piano; Kenny Clarke: drums; Benny Bailey, Idrees Sulieman, Milo Pavlovic, Jimmy Deuchar, Dusko Gojkovic: trumpet; Ake Persson, Nat Peck, Erik Van Lier: trombone; Derek Humble, Phil Woods, Johnny Griffin, Ronnie Scott, Tony Coe, Sahib Shihab: reeds; Jimmy Woode, Jean Warland: bass; Kenny Clare, Shake Keane, Al "Tootie" Heath, Tony Inzalaco, Sabu Martinez: percussion.
Memphis, Ray and a Touch
Hank Crawford, a solid baritone player and Ray Charless musical director from 1958-64, already had his own sound on alto sax by 1960 when he started his own Atlantic recording career (quite a feat in the wake of Bird and the dawn of Cannonball). During the next decade, he produced a consistent catalog of soulful sets for Atlantic, almost all well worth hearing.
This excellent two-disc set brings back four (!) of the best and earliest of Crawfords long out-of-print Atlantic LPs: his debut, More Soul (1960); his third, From the Heart (1961); his fourth, Soul of the Ballad (1963); and his sixth, Dig These Blues (1964). Its a remarkably cohesive, swinging set of first-rate soul jazz, blues and soulful ballads.
More Soul starts it all off with a straight-ahead, fun-filled set of seven solid swingers (even "Misty" swings here). Crawfords well-constructed septet features an alto/tenor/baritone/two trumpet frontline. David "Fathead" Newman shines on tenor, Leroy Cooper grinds on baritone and the trumpeters take several nice spots. But Crawford testifies: he jumps, soars, swoops and glides, never resorting to pretense or showiness. He means what he says and it sounds good.
The same group returns for the great From the Heart , a slowed-down, low-down set of nine blues. Guitarist Sonny Green turns out on three tracks, doing Crawfords sound up Basie style. Crawford, covering soulful standards like "Dat Dere" and "Sister Sadie" on his previous outing, explores more of his own blues here: "Sweet Cakes," "Sherri," "The Peeper" and "Stoney Lonesome."
Soul of the Ballad is a sax-and-strings affair that seems a little out of place here. Nevertheless, Crawford invests warm gusto in a set of too-familiar ballads, arranged by Marty Paich in the same country-soul style he was helping Ray Charles popularize at the time. The excellent Dig These Blues returns Crawford to more familiar ground, digging deep in on some good blues, and Crawford sitting in on piano for the noir blues of "Bluff City Blues" and "The Crazy Saloon."
Memphis, Ray and a Touch of Moody, despite its odd title (referring to Crawfords birthplace, his musical benefactor and, presumably, the saxists affinity for James Moody), offers a satisfying portrait of one of jazzs most soulful alto players and a heaping helping of delicious soul jazz at its best. Recommended.
Tracks: Boos Tune; Angel Eyes; Four Five Six; The Story; Dat Dere; Misty; Sister Sadie; Dont Cry Baby; Sweet Cakes; Youve Changed; Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand; Sherri; The Peeper; But On The Other Hand; Stoney Lonesome; What Will I Tell My Heart; Blueberry Hill; I Left My Heart In San Francisco; Stormy Weather; Sweet Slumber; If I Didnt Care; Stardust; Any Time; Whispering Grass; Time Out For Tears; Im Getting Sentimental Over You; There Goes My Heart; Have A Good Time; Dig These Blues; Dont Get Around Much Anymore; Banana Head; H. C. Blues; Its A Sin; Hollywood Blues; Baby Wont You Please Come Home; New Blues; Bluff City Blues.
Collective Personnel: Hank Crawford: alto sax, piano; David "Fathead" Newman, Abdul Baari, Wilbur Brown, Wendell Harrison: tenor sax; Leroy Cooper, Howard Johnson: baritone sax; Phillip Guilbeau, Oliver Beener, Marcus Belgrave, Julius Brooks, Jimmy Owens: trumpet; John Hunt: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Edgar Willis, Ali Mohammed, Charlie Green: bass; Milt Turner, Bruno Carr: drums; Sonny Forrest: guitar; The Marty Paich Orchestra.
This excellent collection couldnt have a better title. Its Mister Fathead accords Texas tenor David Newman with the respect he deserves, but inexplicably has not yet achieved. His muscular and likable tenor sound is readily identifiable and has worked its charms for listeners of Ray Charles (1954-64 and 1970-71), Herbie Mann (1972-74) and non-jazz personalities like Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Greg Allman and Natalie Cole. But this compilation focuses the spotlight on the tenor greats first four long out-of-print solo albums on Atlantic, recorded between 1958 and 1967. All are terrific, solid sets of swinging blues, after-hours jazz and soulful grooves.
Fathead is a classic 1958 sextet session featuring Ray Charles in a rare sideman role on piano with Hank Crawford on baritone sax and Marcus Belgrave on trumpet. Its one of those Ray Charles sets jazz listeners can easily admire. The group has a big band quality to it, and seems very much like a cohesive whole rather than a leader with a backup band. All solo meaningfully, invigorating a few standards, four Hank Crawford originals and two Newman numbers he still plays today ("Hard Times" and "Fathead," a.k.a. "Shana").
Straight Ahead, a winning quartet session from 1960, features Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Charlie Persip on drums. This sparkling quartet gels together perfectly, tackling four excellent Newman originals and two well-arranged standards. Newmans tenor (and, for, "Night of Nisan," his distinctive flute) confidently fills those wide open spaces and the rhythm section brews a spicy, soulful stew.
The 1961 album, Fathead Comes On, returns Newman to his familiar Ray Charles bandmates, but in smaller groups. Here, Newmans own brand of soul becomes much more apparent. The jazz is solid and Newman swings hard on tenor, alto and, on the excellent "Unchain My Heart," flute. But his own soulful groove has become much more distinct at this point. Four of these seven tracks are Newman originals, and are the best of the bunch.
Newman played with Ray Charles through 1964, but didnt record on his own again until 1967s House of David. Newman is heard here in an organ quartet, an ideal situation for his brawny, heartfelt tenor. Kossie Gardner isnt a memorable accompanist on organ, but the juke-joint thing works well for Newman. "Little Sister," "House of David" and "Miss Minnie" offer classic groove and this writers always had a soft spot for Newmans lullaby-like reading of Dylans "Just Like A Woman." Wish Newman recorded in more organ groups.
Its Mister Fathead is an exceptional collection of first-rate swinging, soulful jazz by an unfortunately underrated talent. Kudos to Joel Dorn and 32 Jazz for returning it to circulation, enhancing the original sound and wrapping it all up in a well-designed, full-color package with original cover art and notes. A very welcome reissue.
Tracks: Hard Times; Weird Beard; Willow Weep For Me; Bill For Bennie; Sweet eyes; Fathead; Mean To Me; Tin Tin Deo; Batistas Groove; Skylark; Night of Nisan; Cousin Slim; Summertime; Unchain My Heart; Cellar Groove; Alto Sauce; Hello There; Scufflin; Esthers Melody; Lady Day; I Wish You Love; One Room Paradise; Little Sister; Miss Minnie; Just Like A Woman; House of David; Blue New; The Holy Land.
Collective Personnel: David "Fathead" Newman: alto and tenor sax, flute; Bennie (Hank) Crawford: baritone sax; Marcus Belgrave: trumpet; Ray Charles, Wynton Kelly, Norris Austin: piano; Kossie Gardner: organ; Ted Dunbar: guitar; Edgar Willis, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Jefferson: bass; Milton Turner, Charlie Persip, Bruno Carr: drums.
Electropica is Rhode Islander Richard Bones avant-ambient tribute to the significant influence of Bossa Nova. Bone is a one-man keyboard arsenal that launches his lush cocktails from the inspiration of Creed Taylors Verve and CTI recordings of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luis Bonfa, Joao Gilberto and Walter Wanderley. While the result doesnt possess the rich complexities of samba or much of the improvisation of jazz (with the possible exception of "Waveland"), Bone constructs bright and witty percussion motifs that elevate the music several quality notches above your typical New Age wallpaper. Imagine what Martin Denny would have done with synthesizers and you have an idea of what to expect. Then scan titles like "Electropica" (the discs best track), "Afrouxe" and "Canguru" for evidence of the wit Bone brings to his inspiration. And while only rarely does Bone get referential "Ipanema 2000" quotes "The Girl From Ipanema" and "Pao, Baby!" offers a sample of Walter Wanderleys "Summer Samba" his music offers a considerable understanding of the mysterious twilight warmth of the most appealing samba. Electropica, Bones eighth QuirkWorks disc, is much deeper than Deep Forest and filled with the warm, effervescent feel of a classic samba production. For more details, contact QuirkWorks at 401-232-0210 or visit the BONEpage.
Tracks: The Andean Grays; Electropica; Waveland; Afrouxe; Little Orpheus; Ipanema 2000; Canguru; Puff; Amazona Adeus.