Friday, August 27, 2010

Sonore: A Journey Into Sound

Sonore (group; formed 2003)

Peter Brotzmann (tenor/baritone sax)
Ken Vandermark (tenor/baritone sax, clarinet)
Mats Gustafsson (alto/bass/tenor sax, clarinet)

On the scene for over 40 years, German born, Peter Brotzmann has led groups of varying sizes. But the one constant is the sheer devotion to exploring the outer reaches of jazz. He is an aggressive player and for some (even the die hard avant garde fan) it may be hard to find the structural element in the piece. This is usually the time in which you should just sit back and enjoy the musicianship and the structure will find you.

Brotzmann is responsible for some of the most important European free jazz albums in history (Machine Gun (1966), Nipples (1969), Die Like A Dog (1993) and Octet/Tentet (1997)). While those are massive statement records of Brotzmann's intent and talent, there is one more recent group that he leads with musicians that he has influenced that appeals to me even more---Sonore.

Led by the European free jazz godfather, Sonore is an adventurous, dangerous yet wonderful collaboration from three of the most renowned saxophonists on the avant garde scene. Each with their own groups which they lead to equal success (The Vandermark 5, Gustafsson with The Thing and Brotzmann with his Tentet and Die Like A Dog among others). Slightly similar to Brotzmann's work with Bill Laswell in Last Exit but completely without a rhythm section--on the agrression of saxophones to lead the emotion and structure.

It is staggering and joyful to hear and witness live the power and influence Peter Brotzmann has had on his two disciples in Vandermark and Gustafsson. The interplay and respect each musician has for one another makes their three albums (Call Before You Dig; Only The Devil Has No Dreams, and No One Ever Works Alone)highly enjoyable. There isn't really one album that is better than the other. I would say the newest album Call Before You Dig (Okka Disk) which is a live and studio double album is good way to get the two sides of the band an idea of the strength of this amazing improvising outfit.

Trust me, this is not music for the faint at heart. This is improvising at its best. Two generations of musicians who are the best at their craft meeting for a brief and fruitful conversation through sound. Highly Recommended for those not afraid of sound.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pharoah Sanders

Pharoah Sanders (sax; b. 1940)

Bold, expressive and distinctive are the best ways to describe the legendary Pharoah Sanders. For many jazz fans he is best known for his work in John Coltrane's latter groups on the Impulse label. Sanders boisterous and free flowing playing was the perfect counter to the introspective, spiritual tone Trane was exploring toward his final years. Coltrane's work during this period would directly impact Sanders own work early on.

Pharoah Sanders has recording career spans four decades and over 40 albums. It's is a daunting task even for the ardent jazz fan to venture into these recordings. If you have an understanding of John Coltrane's latter work (OM and Kulu Sa Ma) you will be able to digest Pharoah Sanders earliest work with some ease. His earliest recordings all demonstrate a great grasp of free jazz with a deep elegance and beauty that wouldn't be revisited until the late 90s and new century. His playing and career has gone up and down over the last two decades but he maintains energy and melodic structure that is highly distinctive and will continue to be part of his legacy and influence for decades and generations to follow.

I dont' there is a perfect statement album in Pharoah Sanders discography (please feel free to feedback) but I do think there are a series of compilations that really do illustrate Pharoah Sanders reach and depth. One compilation that I believe is definitely comprehensive, is Anthology: You've Got To Have Freedom (Universal UK; 2005).

Anthology covers a pretty good stretch time (1967 - 1996) and over 4 labels including his most prolific and important period with Impulse. This collection features some killer pieces including the classic "The Creator Has A Master Plan," "Thembi," "Upper Egypt And Lower Egypt" and my favourite "Summun Bukmun Umyun". These are recordings that still follow in the African and Far East spiritual transcendence that was explored in Coltrane's groups but with even more voracity and complexity.

Anthology: You've Got To Have Freedom is a perfect document for a musician that still revered but may not be a well regarded as the legend has work with and established himself with over 40 years prior but I think in due time many people will hold Pharoah Sander in the same stead. Highly Recommended.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Enrico Rava: Italian Style

Enrico Rava (trumpet; b. 1939)

Enrico Rava's career spans over four decades and almost ever continent. Highly influenced by Miles Davis and Chet Baker, Rava has played with a long list of luminaries including, Don Cherry, Carla Bley, Roswell Rudd, Steve Lacy, Archie Shepp among others. His thick tones are both lush and bold, allowing the listener to become fully engaged in the melody.

For me he is one of the few trumpeters who has consistently has recorded excellent material throughout his career. I'm not saying there isn't a bad record in his over 40 album discography but you will be had pressed to be disappointed by even his weakest album (which ever one that my be). Rava toured with Steve Lacy during the late sixties which began to shape his style and performance.

Rava's earlier recordings are more in the European Free Jazz mode. But these are not necessarily "Free Jazz" in the Ornette Coleman or Don Cherry sense. Rava's style is rhythmic, emotional and leveled, that even the newest person to jazz would find it inviting. He has unique way of balance space and structure in his recordings that has always been something I've gravitated to time and time again. Rava's work in the 80s become much more structured and he gave more freedom to his follow band members which is still true today although his recent albums are also much more intimate.

Most of Enrico Rava's albums are surprisingly readily available either online or your local record store. I would say that his most recent quintet recording New York Days (ECM; 2009) is definitely the best place to start for anyone just getting into Enrico Rava. New York Days is both an adventurous impressionist journey as well as a relaxed midtempo excursion into a highly gifted set of musicians.

The quintet included seasoned and future legends; Paul Motian (drums), Mark Turner (sax) Larry Grenadier (bass) and Stefano Bollani (piano), each in their own right have become enormously respected musicians around the globe. Bollani and Motian have worked with Rava on numerous occasions and their performances here demonstrate a deep understanding the men must have as apparent on the lengthy "Certi Angoli Sergerti" which has some rich beautiful lyricism throughout.

Mark Turner and Larry Grenadier show their versatility and emotional depth on "Lulu" and "Outsider" respectfully. Both musicians develop a dialog with Rava is delicate and highly functional for this to be the first meeting in a studio setting. New York Days is a composed yet free flowing work that illustrates a whole range of talent among the musicians. It is also the lyrical piece of genius that Rava has conjured into existence that I believe in enjoyable amongst his most devoted fans like me as well anyone hearing him for the first time.

Some other essential Enrico Rava:

Il giro del giorno in 80 Mondi (Black Saint)
The Pilgrim And The Stars (ECM)
Rava String Band (Soul Note)
Plays Miles Davis (Label Bleu)
Easy Living (ECM)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Intersection: A Guy Called Gerald

Gerald Simpson (aka A Guy Called Gerald) (turntables, electronics; b. 1967)

Over the last couple of months I've been listening to a lot of different things. I think I needed a small break from jazz and decided to go re-discover one of my previous loves of the last two decades--Gerald Simpson (aka A Guy Called Gerald).

I met Gerald a couple of times in the earlier nineties in Detroit. No - we are not good friends or even friends. It was just a casual meeting and me asking a couple silly "oh my god I'm you're biggest fan" type questions. But he was incredilbly humble and generous with the time he spent with this bloke your reading right now. And for that I am eternally grateful.

In the '80s and early '90s the dance scene in both the US and Europe was dominated by a group of DJ/Musicians from Detroit named, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins and Richard Davis (the latter two were part of the influential technofunk group Cybotron). Their unique blend of futuristic beats and bombastic bass lines had a profound effect on Gerald Simpson as an up and coming DJ/Musician. Simpson would later join forces with a few members from his hometown of Manchester, England to form the early incarnation of the techno band 808 State. Simpson was responsible for the band's first big hit "Pacific State." After creative differences forced Simpson from the band, he went on to perform under the name A Guy Called Gerald.

At this point Gerald had already developed the signature sound that has made him one of the most well known and revered DJ's in the world. His sound is rough, rugged and raw. It is techno at its primitive and embryonic, but yet most inventive. He is almost single-handily responsible for creating the Acid House scene in the UK during the 80s. In 1989 Gerald produced his highly influential single "Voodoo Ray", a house track that would reverberate around the globe. It was filled with the electro-funk vibe of Chicago and Detroit but had a distinct UK/European flavour.

Gerald would go on to record his first studio album Hot Lemonade (Rham Records; 1989) which embodied a street-wise, emotion filled love of Chicago/Detroit soul and electro. The clicks and blips and blinding speed all with a calculated rhythm made it one of the most unique and original albums of 1989 (along with fellow Manchester indie band The Stone Roses debut). Hot Lemonade would become and still is one of the benchmarks of UK/European dance music--a big shadow that even one of my other favourites The Orb can't overtake.

Filled with deep mechanical movements, rich in texture such as "Rhythm Of Life," "Radio Active" and "K9" Hot Lemonade moves up and dance scales like a massive club night out. And Hot Lemonade never really lets you go even at its closing interval of "Tranquility On Phobos." This is a landmark and must have record for definitely any fan of dance music but also a good lesson for fans of music history. It has since become extremely hard to find but it is worth every penny of what you might pay for it. Gerald does sell it on his own site for a reasonable price so check there first.

AGCG would go on to record his second album, Automanik (Sony; 1990) which had advanced his lyrical and technology scope. There were more tracks with guest vocals but it was still rich in the electronic vibe with deep bass syncopation. The title track was an updated version of an earlier demo done during his days with 808 State. Don't think because this album came out on a major label that Gerald succumbed to the pressure of becoming famous. By far the contrary. Automanik featured some soulful trance like tracks including "Electric Emotions," "FX," another haunting reminder of his influence on 808 State with "Subscape" and a funkier version of "Voodoo Ray" entitled "Voodoo Ray America".

After disagreements with the label on creative direction, Gerald left Sony and began to work on his own again. He established his own label, Juicebox, for remix material of other, as well as his own, stuff. In 1992, he released 28 Gun Bad Boy, which many now site as one of the original "jungle" (sub-genre of house music) albums. It contain a dazzling mixture of dark, dense hip hop beats and drum n' bass as evident of the title track. The album unfortunately was in limited quantity and now practically impossible to find but yet again showed how far advanced Gerald's thinking was in terms of dance music (update: Now available on iTunes). Jungle and Drum n' Bass were styles years from emerging from the underground.

Gerald returned in 1995 with an even more ambitious offering, Black Street Technology (Juicebox). Black Street Technology is built around sparse patterns and some great ethereal soundscapes and little swathes of drum n' bass. It's not as in your face as the previous albums but it stands out because of its slightly midtempo range. Don't get me wrong, there is still allot to dance to here but its much more subtle than previously mentioned albums. Tracks like "Finlay's Rainbow," "Dreaming Of You," and "So Many Dreams" make this a wonderful journey into sound.

In 2000 and 2004, Gerald released two terrific albums for Brooklyn based K7! Records, Essence and To All Things What They Need. Both albums contained Gerald's unique and quite recognizable vision. The difference here was a real emphasis on song structure and vocal accompaniment. Fans of Massive Attack might enjoy these two releases the best. They are probably the most accessible and closely related to some of the more chill out releases that most listeners would be familiar with. Tracks like "Humanity," and "Universal Spirit," with some beautiful and haunting lyrics from Louise Rhodes and Wendy Page respectively, highlight the incredibly lush and deconstructive Essence release. While To All Things... included the crystallised poetry of Philadelphia native Ursula Rucker and an almost unrecognizable Finley Quaye on "Strangest Changes". Both Essence and To All Things What They Need are also the most readily available AGCG albums but definitely the most accessible for the un-initiated.

At this point Gerald began to simultaneously work both online and offline. He began uploading unreleased material from his two decades plus recording career on his own site A Guy Called Gerald, meanwhile releasing two amazingly deep techno records for German label Laboratory Instinct, Proto Acid (2006) and Tronic Jazz (2010). These are much more underground than any of his albums to date and reflect a far reaching vision that many artists are nowhere near yet achieving. These albums and some of the material he is releasing on his site are hypnotic and turn ambient and electronica on its head. One of my favourite pieces from his site is "Relax Into Your Flight". It is exactly what it says, a 58 minute piece designed to make your flight a little more tolerable.

I've been a massive fan of Gerald Simpson for over 20 years and he is one of the few artists today that I don't hesitate to pick up an album. Now you may not be a big fan of dance music but in the history of the modern dance/electronic music almost every DJ/Musician owes everything to A Guy Called Gerald. Here's to re-discovery.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lloyd Miller & The Heliocentrics

Lloyd Miller & The Heliocentrics

Last night I attended a concert at Orchestra Hall in Detroit given by the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma. It was an awe-inspiring performance that blended musical traditions from around the world in a highly accessible manner. It reminded me of Lloyd Miller, an American musician and doctor of ethno-musicology who specializes in Persian sounds, blending them with American jazz tradition.

During the '50s and '60s, Miller played with top jazz artists in Europe such as Don Ellis, Eddie Harris and Jef Gilson, and recorded an interesting album called Oriental Jazz.

Miller's interest in Persian music began in his youth when his father got a job in Iran during the '50s. Miller learned to play many exotic instruments such as the oud.

Renewed interest in Miller's music in recent years led to a new collaboration with The Heliocentrics, a UK-based group. The album's free-form mix of Eastern arrangements, jazz and psychedelic production offers a transporting headphone experience. Highlights include the reflective "Spirit Jazz," the cinematic "Electricone" and a new version of the Miller classic "Massom."

Lose yourself in it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Byron Morris (sax; b. 1941)
Blow Your Mind (reissue on Soul Jazz Records, original release on EPI; 1974)
Vincent McEwan (trumpet) Milton Suggs (bass) Jay Clayton (vocals)
Tony Waters (percussion) Mike Kull (piano) Abdush Shahid (drums)

Well the term "soul jazz" doesn't always have to mean it's based around funky themes. The music of Virgina native, Byron Morris is something that encapsulates both funky, soul and more importantly spiritual themes. Byron Morris learned saxophone from his father, James, who was a saxophonist and band leader during '50s and '60s. Byron Morris later developed an early style with his first group Unity that resembled the more ethereal work of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Pharoah Sanders. Morris is expressive and entertaining and his group Unity while symbolising the energy and feelings of the black community during the 70s.

Unity's first album Blow Your Mind (EPI Records) was the result of a year long set of performances that helped evolve the bands communal style. The first track, "Kitty Bey" with a forceful and driving rhtyhm from Morris, Kull and McEwan and some great vocal improvisation by Clayton. Jay Clayton vocals are prominent throughout the proceedings and her poetic vocal delivers gives the session a lovely spiritual vibe.

Blow Your Mind isn't as psychedelic or eclectic as some of the other material of time period but it does hold your interest for the entire experience. The other centerpiece here is "Reunion" which see Morris and Suggs deliver some awesome solo work as well their own interplay. This is good piece of modality that anyone a fan of contemporary, free, or spiritual jazz would enjoy immensely. "Transcendental Lullaby" is a ballad that wonderfully and surprisingly ends the session with some delicate playing by Kull and beautifully evocative vocals from Clayton. A touching end to a journey that blow your mind.

Blow Your Mind is slightly hard to find nowadays but it is worth seeking out. If you can't find it, there is a compilation of Unity's three albums with its original members called Vibrations In Time that is still widely available and I highly recommend it. Byron Morris still records and teaches to this day (mostly in the Washington DC area). His playing is still big, vibrant and entertaining and the material may be more tempered and mature but his attitude isn't.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Soul Jazz Week: Marcus Belgrave

This week JazzWrap looks at a few rare and new soul jazz albums which helped shape the genre and moved them it forward.

Marcus Belgrave (trumpet; b. 1936)
Gemini (reissue on Universal Sound, originally release Tribe Records 1974)

Phil Ranelin (trombone) Wendel Harrison (sax)
Billy Turner (drums) Roy Brooks (drums)
Lorenzo Brown (bongos) Ed Pickens (bass)
Harold McKinney (electric piano) Daryl Dybka (moog)

Emerging from a Detroit psychedelic funk movement of Detroit in the '70s, Marcus Belgrave has turned into one of the elder statesman of jazz in Detroit. His talents have been instrumental to recordings by a myriad of artists including; Kenny Garrett, Charles Mingus, Gerri Allen and most significantly Ray Charles and pop/alternative funkmiesters Was Not Was. Marcus Belgrave also studied under one the great trumpeters ever, Clifford Brown. Belgrave's ability to move up and down the scales does have many to remark the similarity to his famous mentor. His more recent recordings still contain some groovy elements but nothing like his 1974 album, Gemini.

Gemini is an amazing and weird blend of swing and funky beats. The opening track "Space Odyssey" starts out with some great atmospherics from Daryl Dybka (moog) before diving into the slow funk groove of Harlod McKinney (electric piano) and lead by Belgrave and the rest of the horn section. This is heady stuff by worthy of a couple of glass of wine. The unison that Belgrave, Harrison and Ranelin have throughout "Space Odyssey" and the rest of the recording is superb.

Gemini shows Belgrave's versatility on the swinging "Marcia's Opal" which mixing the big band aspects with the some great noodling from McKinney. It's crazy to say this but its like a big band doing a swing version of Miles Davis fusion material. Weird, trippy but definitely cool. This ensemble while not a big band sure performs like one at times and it gives Gemini a great deal of depth.

The standout track for me is "Glue Fingers I & II" which is a fierce little number with interchanges across the band. This is definitely the highlight for Belgrave and Ranelin. It's a big, full bodied sound with great accompaniment from the percussion and drum section and again McKinney's electric piano.

Gemini is funky, head twisting stuff that not only demonstrates the expert skills of Marcus Belgrave, it signifies the marvelous talents of the band he surrounded himself with. They were mostly Detroiter's whom are still active today. Gemini is a stellar document of the Detroit jazz scene in the '70s (a scene which gets overshadow by the history of Motown) and an album which many may not know about you should definitely pick it up. Gemini has been distributed under two different covers but if you see "Space Odyssey" and "Glue Fingers" listed than you found yourself a little piece of history. Enjoy.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Soul Jazz Week: Harry Whitaker

This week JazzWrap looks at a few rare and new soul jazz albums which helped shape the genre and moved them it forward.

Harry Whitaker (piano; b. 1942)
Black Renaissance: Body, Mind and Spirit
(reissue: Luv N' Haight; originally released: 1976)
Woody Shaw (trumpet) Buster Williams (bass) Billy Hart (drums) Howard King (drums)
Mtume (percussion) Earl Bennett (percussion) David Schintter (sax) Azar Lawrence (sax)

As mentioned in the liner notes (written by DJ Giles Peterson), Harry Whitaker's Black Renaissance is the "holy grail of soul jazz records" for collectors. I originally heard the album at a neighbors house as a kid but never really paid any attention because I thought it was too out-there. Somehow I thought swirling grooves, a smokin' trumpet, funky bass and trippy vocals were not for me. Idiot.

Harry Whitaker, was born in Florida and spent time in the Detroit jazz scene before finally landing in New York. After a number of stints with successful jazz and R&B outfits (including Blood Sweat & Tears), Whitaker landed what would the gig that his most famous for with Roy Ayers Ubiquity. With Roy Ayers, Harry Whitaker was integral part of the success of the band. Whitaker also wrote and produced for Roberta Flack and produced and the soundtrack for the blaxploitation film Coffy. All this is the short pan of about five years.

Amazingly, it wouldn't be until 1976 that Whitaker would go into the studio and recorded his first album as leader. Black Renaissance consist of two very long tracks, "Black Renaissance" is a reflection of the times. It is funky and spiritual with some truly soulful playing from Whitaker. The performances from Woody Shaw, Azar Lawerence and David Schnitter are rich, dynamic and very fluid. Shaw really shows why he was a natural successor to Miles Davis.

The second track, "Magic Ritual" is a real journey into Afro-American psyche. With some wonderful interplay between Shaw, King, and Howard King, "Magic Ritual" takes on a real spiritual vibe reminiscent of the best Impulse records recording of a decade earlier. The bass solo from Buster Williams that takes this to the closing bars is simply fantastic is its emotion depth.

While Whitaker's playing is understated throughout this session its really the arrangements that you will undoubtedly focus in on. Most this session was improvised but you get a strong sense these musicians had great reading on each other which makes this all joy to listen to. Black Renaissance is not only an opening onto the Black Cultural movement of the 70s it's solid jazz album built on a lot rich ideas from a pianist and arranger with a serious and grossly under-rated reputation.

Whitaker has recorded three albums since (Thoughts Past and Present, The Sound Of Harry Whitaker, and One Who Sees All Things). All recorded in last eight years and are more straight ahead contemporary jazz albums which you should also seek out. But Black Renaissance is definitely an album monumental funk proportions that is worth it's tag as the "holy grail" of soul jazz.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Celebrating Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Rahsaan Roland Kirk (sax, b. 1936 - d. 1977)

Rahsaan Roland Kirk was born in Columbus, OH and developed the ability to play and compose music in various genres (jazz, classical and pop). But essentially he was a hard bop player with an extreme cutting edge. You could almost call it free jazz but I believe there was more structure in ideas than just mere adventure of thought.

He is famous among the jazz community to his unique performance style which he would play two or three instruments (mainly sax or flute) at once. For many the thought sounds like white noise but the harmonics Kirk would produce were unbelievably fascinating. All of this and Rahsaan Roland Kirk was blind (since the age of two).

Rahsaan Roland Kirk may not be a household name to many but the masses are very familiar with one tune in which he famously performers. "Soul Bossa Nova" recorded by Quincy Jones, Rahsaan Roland Kirk plays flute throughout. "Soul Bossa Nova" was already when it was originally released in 1962 and has been used ad-nauseam in film and commercials but 35 years later it became an international sensation thanks to Mike Myers Austin Powers films.

Kirk recorded mainly as leader (Quincy Jones, Tubby Hayes, Roy Haynes and a short stint with Charles Mingus the major exceptions) and his catalog is massive. His first release was in 1956, but my personal favourite is also the first Roland Kirk album I ever bought, Rip, Rig and Panic (Verve; 1965). This is a great hard bop date that really shouldn't be ignored. It features a stellear lineup of Elvin Jones (drums), Jaki Byard (piano) and Richard Davis (bass).

From the killer opening of "No Tonic Press" to the lovely free moving flute work of "Mystical Dreams" and bluesy avant garde foreshadowing of his later work on the closing number "Slippery, Hippery, Flippery", Roland Kirk puts himself in a whole different strata than his contemporaries of the period.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk's thinking and modal structure was definitely ahead of its time and many listeners had no idea what to think of the blind multi-reed playing musician. He would go on to record a series of really avant garde albums for Atlantic Records during the late 60s and early 70s. These albums are much more for the die-hard fan. There have been a whole batch of compilations in the last few years on both Kirk's Verve and Atlantic years and they are worth picking up if you don't want to acquire any of the individual albums. My suggestions would Finest Hour (Verve) and Introducing Rahsaan Roland Kirk (Warners UK).

Kirk suffered two strokes in late 70s and finally succumbed to the second stroke in 1975 but he continued to play up to that point. Rahsaan Roland Kirk's legacy as a true innovator and prognosticator of improvisation is without question and today we should celebrate one of the true originals of Jazz. Happy Birthday Mr. Kirk.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Roy Budd — Get Carter (1971)

Get Carter (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 1971)

Roy Budd (piano)
Chris Karan (drums, percussion, tablas)
Jeff Clyne (double bass, bass guitar)
Brian Daly (guitar)
Judd Proctor (guitar)

Anyone who knows me well is aware that I have a serious jones for crime jazz soundtracks of the '50s, '60s and '70s. That's a pretty broad range, covering everything from Henry Mancini's brassy music for Peter Gunn to Lalo Schifrin's propulsive jazz score for Bullitt to Quincy Jones' atmospheric funk for heist flicks like Dollar$ and The Split. More recently, I'd include David Holmes' groovy Ocean's Eleven/Twelve/Thirteen soundtracks.

Any discussion of crime jazz must also include Roy Budd, a former child prodigy who was an in-demand UK jazz pianist before he scored more than one dozen movies (his career was cut short when he died in 1993 from a brain hemorrhage). Most of Budd’s scores are in the crime thriller vein, and are characterized by the use of spacious string arrangements, passages of virtuoso piano and bottom-heavy modal grooves. Next to John Barry, Budd is the British thriller composer of the '70s.

Budd’s most stunning theme music came on his second feature in ’71 for the original Get Carter, the soundtrack for which is being reissued by Silva Screen on August 23. It’s one of the era’s most exotic and evocative of crime jazz themes, as it features tablas, a hypnotic double bass figure, Budd's electronically treated harpsichord, plus the sounds of locomotion and crashing waves. It's a stunner.

Unfortunately, Get Carter is one of those soundtracks that relies heavily on Budd-backed pop songs that offer little appeal for the crime jazz fan (on the other hand, if you're a fan of post-flower-power rock and soul, it has some pleasing nuggets such as ""Love is a Four Letter Word" and "Livin' Should Be That Way".)

Only Budd's fast and light instrumental "The Girl in the Car" is likely to excite with its shimmering piano chords and pitter-patter percussion. At the very least, Get Carter demonstrates Budd's tremendous range.

Another potentially annoying feature of Silva Screen's and previous editions of Get Carter is the heavy use of movie dialogue cuts in between every music track. For the most part the dialogue is forgettable and fails to engage repeated listener interest without the accompanying visuals. Better to just watch the movie, which is a hard-bitten classic of revenge and redemption that helped make Michael Caine a huge star.

Silva Screen intends to reissue some of Budd's later (and in my opinion more interesting soundtracks) as well, including the high octane Fear is the Key and truly dope The Stone Killer. Hopefully, they'll also reissue Diamonds, The Black Windmill and The Marseille Contract, among others, because Budd's deep and Get Carter only scratches the surface.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Plunge: Swedish Accesibility?

Plunge (group; formed 2001)
Andreas Andersson (sax)
Mattias Hjorth (bass)
Peter Nilsson (drums)

Swedish trio Plunge were a bit of a revelation for me. I was stumbling around in a used record with 12 USD (9 Euros) in my pocket. I had no idea what I wanted that day. I noticed a CD by a band name Plunge. The artwork wasn't very convincing but I had a strange feeling this was meant for me. I decided to picked up the album and had 2 USD left to spend (not much you can buy with two dollars).

I had a small apprehension because I felt my collection was overflowing with trio albums but once I got home and put their debut CD Plunge (Kopasetic) things change within minutes. Plunge present a very different element. While this may be considered free jazz or avant garde and there is definitely a improvisational aspect to the recording, there is a great deal on structure, melody and interplay that can make this appealing to the average jazz listener.

The opening piece "Exhibit A" is great statement of intent by this young band. "Exhibit A" builds slowly with some powerful counterpoint from Andersson and Nilsson and subtle undertones from Hjorth. This is precision at its best. Plunge don't sound like many of their Scandinavian counterparts. There is a real sense of accessibility within the experimental elements of their songs. This is evident of both "Solace" and "Bommen", both are loose ballads that have nice rhythmic beauty to them. Nilsson and Hjorth move freely next to Andersson's richly toned lyrics.

The album does have is serious free jazz moment with "Ebonology" which could almost be a David S. Ware or Ken Vandermark piece in its dynamic approach. "Ebonology" shifts from silence to catharsis and back again with effortless precision. Even the non-free jazz listener would be impressed.

Plunge have definitely set a marker for how harmonics, improvisation and accessibility can coexist. Their debut was a great find. And while their music is available for download I have forced myself into the always frustrating but rewarding journey of tracking down the physical CDs. For those of you out there interested in free jazz/avant garde but might be afraid because you might not "get it" or its too difficult to follow--Plunge might be the best offering and entry for you. Well worth your checking out. It was 10 dollars well spent for me...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hank Jones: A Distinguished Legend

Hank Jones (piano; b. 1918 - d. 2010)
The Complete Original Trio Recordings (Lone Hill Jazz)

It's always a big deal when someone tells, "Yea, he never made a bad record." Well in the case of Hank Jones that statement pretty much holds true. This past weekend would have be Hank Jones' 92nd birthday. He passed away in May of this year at the young age of 91. He was an incredibly versatile and beloved pianist. He had just finished recording what is intended to be the follow up to one of my favourite albums by Jones, a gospel inspired collaboration with Charlie Haden entitled Steal Away (Verve; 1995). It was said that Hank was in fine form and was might have recorded two additional albums during this session. That is a real treat for us all in the future.

Hank Jones was the eldest of three legendary jazz musicians (Thad Jones (trumpet) and Elvin Jones (drums)). The brothers did recorded together occasionally throughout their careers. Hank was performed with such greats as Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Williams, Jimmy Cobb, Lester Young and more. His style was beautiful and gentle. He could swing with the best and pour on the hard bop beat with the rest. Jones was unique in that he added a distinct voice to any setting he was as a session member. But as leader he was a real beacon of brilliance.

Probably the best way for anyone to experience Hank Jones is through a trio recording. One of my favourites is actually a compilation of trio material spans 1953 - 1955 entitled The Complete Original Trio Recordings (Lone Hill Jazz). It features a lovely upbeat rendition of "Have You Met Miss Jones?" The Complete Original Trio Recordings features various lineups including; Charles Mingus (bass), Max Roach (drums), Ray Brown (bass), Johnny Smith (guitar), Wendell Marshall (bass), Kenny Clarke (drums), Elvin Jones, Art Davis (bass) Aaron Bell (bass), Oscar Pettiford (bass), Charlie Smith (drums) and Ed Thigpin (drums). An impressive and exhaustive lineup but they are all important in mentioning.

The playing is superb. Hank stretches out and you really get a feel for his depth of talent and the musicians in each session also have an opportunity to shine. One of my favourite tracks doesn't happen until the end and its a lovely upbeat rendition of "Have You Met Miss ones?" which is actually a session led by drummer Charlie Smith but you get a great sense of friendship among the musicians and how much fun the recordings must have been.

The album actually starts "You Go To My Head" a wonderful mid-tempo ballad with legends Max Roach and Charles Mingus. "Odd Number" and "We're All Together" (two Jones penned originals) are sizzling pieces with some exceptional drumming from Kenny Clarke. Another beauty is "There's A Small Hotel" written by Richard Rogers gains a new identity under Jones leadership. Powerful and emotional stuff. Definitely the Marshall, Clarke and Jones session on this disc are worth the price of admission.

Hank Jones has left a legacy that is undeniable and incredible. Hank Jones is a musician that if you haven't heard him before, now is a great time to start your collection.