Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I Know You Well Miss Clara - Chapter One (MoonJune, 2013)

The band I Know You Well Miss Clara may have an unusual name (named after an acquaintance of one of the band members) but they represent an interesting musical scene of progressive rock and jazz fusion from Indonesia. Citing influences ranging from Canterbury to Weather Report, the band which consists of Reza Ryan on guitar, Adi Wijaya on keyboards, Enriko Gultom on bass and Alfiah Akbar on drums. Nicholas Combe sits in on saxophone for the final two tracks, “Dangerous Kitchen” and “A Dancing Girl From Planet Marsavishnu Named After The Love.” These tracks are among the jazziest and most accessible on the album, conjuring thoughts or Return to Forever and like minded bands that used texture to meld a wide variety of influences into a coherent whole. Other tracks include the slow building “Open the Door, See the Ground” and “Reverie #2” which have King Crimson overtones in their dark and ominous structure of building up to powerful improvisational sections. I know it seems like I am name checking a lot of bands to put this group’s music in context, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I Know You Well Miss Clara covers quite a wide range of musical territory and are quite successful in integrating these strands into a cohesive sound. This bodes well for future chapters in their musical adventure. Chapter One - amazon.com

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Friday, December 27, 2013

DouBt - Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love (MoonJune, 2012)

DouBt is a band that combines jazz fusion and progressive rock in a well designed combination. The band consists of Alex Maguire on keyboards, Michel Delville on guitar and sampling and Tony Bianco on drums and sequencer. They have an interesting mix music along the lines of King Crimson and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The album opens in an interesting fashion as the band samples political diatribe about wealth inequity on "There Is a War Going On" with the music meshing with the oratory. They revisit the theme later, with a short instrumental snippet. The group blasts through Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" very nicely, giving Delville a fine opportunity to display his chops. There are a couple of lengthy tracks, like the title track "Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love" and the finale "Goodbye My Fellow Soldier" build slowly and patiently to really powerful conclusions which brought to mind the epic performance "Starless" by King Crimson. The liner notes say that Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love is a concept album deriving its inspiration as much from William Blake’s visionary poetry and engravings, and you can see that in the work. Moving from calm nearly hypnotic musical fantasies to slashing and hard hitting complex rock and roll, the band presents a wide dynamic range of music that keeps the music consistently interesting. Mercy, Pity, Peace & Love - amazon.com

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Records from the Bargain Bin

Blogging has been a little scarce during the holiday season, so here's a picture of some of the used vinyl I've picked up during various bargain hunting trips over the last few months. Send comments to Tim.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Keith Jarrett - No End (ECM, 2013)

Over the past 20 years or so, the innumerable amount of Keith Jarrett's music that has flowed out ECM as regular as the tide has been either solo piano or in the piano trio format. Not that there's anything wrong with that, Jarrett is an accepted master and a critical favorite. In the light of this deluge it's easy to forget that he was quite the experimenter for a while as well, leading a great quartet with Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian, and then releasing unrecognizable albums like the underrated Expectations. This set is endlessly interesting as it finds Jarrett as a one man band overdubbing himself on guitar, bass and percussion with not a piano to be seen. Jarrett states that "There was really, to my knowledge, no forethought or composition in the typical sense going on; just a feeling or a rhythmic idea or a bass line concept or melody. None of this was written down." But it works amazingly well. Far from the misanthropic musician he was to become, he is downright giddy on these sketches, setting up rhythmic percussion with guitar accents that are elusive and enigmatic. The music is downright hypnotic at times - the sketches have Roman Numerals I - XX and are most interesting, "V" for example has some chanting and bright guitar as does "XV" which has some of the background mumble/singing that people might be familiar from his solo recordings. "VII" even hints at boogie, while "XI" develops nearly a middle eastern vibe, with scat singing barely audible. It's to Jarrett's credit that despite the overdubbing, he sounds like a real band with guitar, bass and various percussion instruments. I was really happy with this, it goes against type, and is a blast to listen to. Hopefully there are some more surprises in store, like this unexpected gem. No End - amazon.com

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Interesting Links

Tom Hull has done yeoman's work in pulling together all of the information from this year's NPR/Francis Davis jazz poll for 2013.

DFSBP has interesting posts on both Hank's albums of the year and two of his favorite drummers.

Greenleaf Records presents the second installment of Dave Douglas's interview with John Zorn. In case you missed it, here's part one

Matt Lavelle has a very optimistic post about people really listening to his music.

Dangerous Minds marks the anniversary of Captain Beefheart's passing and comments on the furor surrounding the deluxe reissue of Van Morrison's Moondance.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Neil Young - Live at the Cellar Door (Reprise, 2013)

At this point in in his career, singer-songwriter Neil Young’s stock was soaring. After he broke with Buffalo Springfield, he hooked up with Crosby Stills and Nash, rocketing to stardom and beginning a fascinating solo career. Recorded as a solo acoustic show with Young playing guitar and piano and singing, this archival set from late 1970 features songs from the just issued After the Gold Rush LP and the Harvest LP which would be released shortly thereafter. Young is in fine form throughout, friendly to the crowd (perhaps a little too gregarious announcing the final song “Flying on the Ground is Wrong.”) Much of the music is meditative and medium temoped. It is interesting how he adapts his electric rock songs to the acoustic format. “Cinnamon Girl” drops that massive riff the original is built on and “Down By The River” is drastically shortened, focusing the attention on both songs from the electrified music to the lyrics. He takes to the piano quite a bit, playing the soon to be epochal “After the Gold Rush” and singing with a haunted, plaintive cry. “Old Man” which would become a number one hit for him the following year, and it is debuted here, balanced out by some relative obscurities like the beautiful “Expecting to Fly” and “See the Sky About To Rain.” Overall, this is a fine show and well worth a listen for dedicated fans. It took a few listens for me to get into it, but the hushed ambiance of the performance draws you in and the beauty of the songs makes you stay. Live At The Cellar Door - amazon.com

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Don Cherry - Live in Stockholm (Caprice, 2013)

Trumpeter, flautist and composer Don Cherry always maintained a nomadic sensibility, moving all over the world as a musical troubadour. He did make Sweden a base for quite a while and this album comes from that period. There are three lengthy performances, the "ABF Suite" parts One and Two and "Another Dome Session" recorded in an experimental geodesic dome. He was accompanied by a wide ranging cast of musicians, including Maffy Falay, Bernt Rosengren, Okay Temiz, Torbjörn Hultcrantz, Tommy Koverhult, Leif Wennerström, Rolf Olsson. Recorded in 1968 and 1971, many musicians and seekers were drawn to Cherry because of his his open hearted and accessible approach to music. The three tracks are wide open and thoughtful, moving through periods of beautiful melody as well as abstract improvisation. This album could be seen as something of a precursor to the Organic Music Society albums he did in the 1970s, drawing from a wide range of musical ideas (Turkish in this case as well as American and European) and melding them as only Don Cherry could into a cohesive, accessible musical document. This is a very interesting album as it shows Don Cherry shedding the "free jazz" label that he wore while working with Ornette Coleman and other outre musicians and demonstrating the true polymath he was becoming, embracing all forms of music and all people into a truly universal artistic form. Don Cherry Live in Stockholm - amazon.com

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Kinks - Muswell Hillbillies: Deluxe Edition (Sanctuary, 2013)

At this point in their career, the early seventies, The Kinks were all but forgotten in the midst of the emergence of hard rock and psychedelic rock. This is a shame, because although primary songwriter Ray Davies kept a somewhat conservative view of a long lost England of his imagination, he was nevertheless a sterling storyteller and the band’s musical arrangements fit his songs to a T. Many of the group’s best songs are about being a man out of time in modern post-war England. This album continued that trend with “20th Century Man” and “Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues” which both show the powerful whiplash effect in Britain of the early 1970’s between the search for the lost Albion and the fading empire. There are a couple of interesting character portraits as well, “Alcohol” about the ravages of drink and “Skin and Bone” a jaunty number about a woman fading away to anorexia. The flannel suit of the time gave way to a faded conformity of “Here Come the People in Grey” and “Complicated Life” sends a sly wink to the furor of modern life. The second disc of this expanded edition contains alternate takes of the album in addition to instrumental mixes and mono tracks recorded at the BBC studios in 1972. It could be argued that this is the last great Kinks album. After this, their ideas for larger form works began stretch beyond their means during the extended concept pieces like Preservation and Schoolboys in Disgrace showed their ambitions stretching beyond their means. But none of that can sully this album which remains an under-appreciated triumph. Muswell Hillbillies Deluxe Edition - amazon.com
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Friday, December 13, 2013

The Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat (3CD - 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition) (Polydor, 2013)

Coming on the heels of last years 45th anniversary epic six disc extravaganza for the classic Velvet Underground and Nico LP, comes the deluxe edition of their second album, White Light/White Heat. This album is expanded to three CD’s containing the stereo and mono versions of the LP along with bonus tracks and a disc of them performing live in 1967. The group lineup is Lou Reed on guitar and vocals, John Cale on bass, viola, vocals and organ, Sterling Morrison on guitar and Maureen Tucker on drums. The sound of the group is even more chaotic than on the first album, moving through themes of rampant drug use on the title track to violence and sheer madness on the album ending epic “Sister Ray.” For longtime fans, the extra material will fascinate-: early versions of “Stephenie Says” and “I’m Beginning to See the Light” which would appear on their third eponymously titled LP along with some early mixes and alternate takes. The mono disc keeps the original album intact, leading up to the epochal “Sister Ray” which would seem outrageous even in today's jaded climate. They add a couple of mono singles mixes along with vocal and instrumental mixes of “The Gift” which is the only Velvet Underground I routinely skip. Once you’ve heard this short story set to music it starts to drag. The liver performances from New York in 1967 are thrilling. Reed adds alternate lyrics to “Run Run Run” that make the song even more fascinating, while liver versions of “I’m Not A Young Man Any More” and a startling version of “Sister Ray” seals the deal. This isn’t the place for dabblers to begin in exploring the Velvet Underground, but longtime fans will consider money well spent for the curios that lay within.White Light/White Heat (3CD - 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition)

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thelonious Monk - Paris 1969 (Blue Note, 2013)

In 1969, Thelonious Monk was nearing the end of his playing career. He would make a couple of tours with The Giants of Jazz super-group, and then retire to spend the rest of days free from music and unwilling to talk about the old days. This album finds Monk at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, with his longtime cohort Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone, but with some relatively unknown musicians: Nate "Lloyd" Hygelund on bass and 17-year-old drummer Paris Wright. The do not take away from the proceedings, but he music does get a palpable boost when the great drummer Philly Joe Jones sits in on "Nutty" making for some great rhythmic exchanges between the drummer and the leader. Familiar Monk songs like "I Mean You" and "Straight No Chaser" are performed with a great deal of energy. Monk biographer Robin Kelly says in the liner notes that Monk and Rouse had begun to coast during this period, and perhaps it is true. Columbia had tried to market Monk some kind of counter-culter guru particularly with the Monk Underground album cover, but it didn't take and Monk's music began to recede under the onslaught of rock 'n' roll. This took a chunk out of him for sure, but he wasn't going down without a fight as evidenced on the two part "Bright Mississippi" and swinging "Epistroiphy." The DVD is interesting footage from French TV with a few fades because it was shown in two parts. There is an interview section which is a little uncomfortable, because Monk was unhappy in that situation. Any footage of Monk in concert is well worth it, and although his dancing on the stage days were over, you can tell how hard he is playing from the sweat running down his face. So while this isn't the penultimate live Monk recording (Live at the It Club is my favorite) it is well worthwhile and interesting document  of a jazz legend near the end of his career. Paris 1969 (CD/DVD) - amazon.com

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Monday, December 09, 2013

Erik Lamberth - Opportunity (CDBaby, 2013)

Philadelphia based guitarist Erik Lamberth leads a swinging quartet session with Thomas Wyatt on drums, Vince Ryan on piano, and Leif Dunn on bass. The highlight of the album is their version of the Miles Davis classic “So What”which develops with dark flavored piano slowly  hinting at the melody. They band gradually builds in with the guitar leading at a medium tempo, developing a nice swinging performance with solid loping bass and cool guitar accentuating over the top. They develop a meditative and hypnotic vibe on this performance that works very well. Wes Montgomery’s “West Coast Blues” shows Lamberth playing in a tone that hints at western swing and working well with the drummer leading up to a nice break for a piano solo. “The Party” has a more filled out arrangement where Lamberth moves into a bluesy tone reminiscent of B.B. King. This a solid and swinging album suitable for late night relaxing and the band plays in a congenial and accessible manner. Opportunity - CDBaby

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Saturday, December 07, 2013

The Argentinian jazz website El Intruso asked me to participate in their year end poll. Much like the polls in Downbeat or Jazz Times, the poll was broken down by instrument. Here were my submissions:

 Musician of the year: Ivo Perelman
Newcomer Musician: Matt Mitchell
Group of the year: The Thing
Newcomer group: Mary Halvorson Septet
Album of the year: Bill Frisell - Silent Movies
Composer: John Hollenbeck
Drums: Ches Smith
Acoustic Bass: Adam Lane
Electric Bass: Bill Laswell
Guitar: Mary Halvorson
Piano: Matthew Shipp
Keyboards/Synthesizer/Organ: Herbie Hancock
Tenor Saxophone: Odean Pope
Alto Saxophone: Darius Jones
Baritone Saxophone: Mats Gustafsson
Soprano Saxophone: Evan Parker
Trumpet/Cornet: Peter Evans
Clarinet/bass clarinet: Ben Goldberg
Trombone: Jacob Garchik
Violin/Viola: Jeff Gauthier
Cello: Fred Lonberg-Holm
Vibraphone: Jason Adasiewicz
Electronics: Rob Mazurek
Others instruments: David Murray, bass clarinet
Female Vocals: Leena Conquest
Male Vocals: Theo Bleckmann
Best Live Band: The Bad Plus 
Record Label: NoBusiness Records

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Friday, December 06, 2013

Rory Gallagher - Kickback City (Eagle Rock, 2013)

Being a big crime fiction fan myself (check out Ethan Iverson's epic list Crimes of the Century) is was very excited to learn that the great Irish blues-rock guitarist and singer Rory Gallagher was an avid fan as well, and in fact wrote several songs based on the books that he has read. This album takes a really interesting idea, it collects Gallagher's crime songs into a two disc collection and then puts it in a package with a print and audio novella from Ian Rankin, the author of the wonderful John Rebus series of police procedurals. The songs themselves are mini-stories, with two versions on the rocking title track about crime and greed and the big city and "Continental Op" based on Dashiell Hammett's fictional private detective of the same name. "Loanshark Blues" growls like a creature from a blues drenched city would birth, while some acoustic tracks even out the heavy blues rock. Disc two is particularly exciting because it gives you the songs from a live setting. Gallagher was always a dynamic live performer (check out Irish Tour 74) and this disc is no exception. He blasts through his own "Continental Op" and "Loanshark Blues" and even provides an excellent cover of Junior Wells' "Messin' With the Kid." Both blues fans and crime fiction fans will find a lot to enjoy on this package. Perhaps it can introduce fans of either genre to new books and music. Kickback City - amazon.com.

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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Joe Henderson - Barcelona (Enja, 1979)

Tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson had the benefit of recording for several major labels like Blue Note, Milestone and Verve. In between those tenures, he was a journeyman, recording for a number of labels, like this live album for Enja with Wayne Darling on bass and Ed Soph on drums. This album may have fallen through the cracks but it seems to be unique in Henderson’s catalog and definitely deserves to be heard. The high point of the album is “Barcelona” which was split into two parts on vinyl and equally split here on the compact disc version. Henderson’s tenor saxophone is caustic and rew, reminiscent of Sam Rivers. While the music may not be free in the strictly musical sense, it is certainly unfettered and many liberties are taken. Henderson uses raw swirls of rough sandpaper toned sound and runs it up against bowed bass and unpredictable drumming. In total, “Barcelona” is a towering 27 minute improvisation and a very arresting one at that. The shorter songs that round out the album mine the Mediterranean theme further with tracks like “Mediterranean Sun” and “Y Yo La Quiero (And I Love Her)” sounding like encores after the conclusion of the main event. The liner notes are very brief, offering little information about the recording itself, but presenting an interesting “blindfold test” with Henderson. Interestingly, he is asked about Sam Rivers, and he responds that he believes that Rivers’ biggest impact is as an enabler or catalyst for other musicians rather than a player himself. This album is a fine thing and well worth checking out, if nothing else for the showstopping title track. BTW, if you don't mind downloading an mp3 version, it can be had for the princely sum of $2.76! Barcelona - amazon.com

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