Jan 27, 2010

Kenny Barron - What If

barabara sounds sez:
Kenny Barron on enja, maybe not as outstanding as his earlier work on Muse, but still well worth the aural excursion. Not a bad line-up either: alongside Kenny Barron on piano there's John Stubblefield on tenor sax [NB what's cduniverse on about, he's not from UK shurely?], Wallace Roney on trumpet, Cecil McBee on bass, and Victor Lewis drums. 'Nuff said.

Pianist Kenny Barron leads a quintessential post-bop quintet on 1986's WHAT IF? with help from the contemporary jazz star trumpeter Wallace Roney, and the British tenor saxophonist John Stubblefield. Except for Thelonious Monk's "Trinkle, Tinkle," these compositions are all Barron originals, and what is most striking is how much these tracks — "Phantoms" and "Voyage" especially — sound like a typical Herbie Hancock or Hank Mobley Blue Note session of the late-'50s and early-'60s, just as the post-bop idiom was being defined. The prodigious pianist displays his Bud Powell-like virtuosity on the aptly titled "Dexterity," slowing down the tempo just enough for the intricate ballad "Close To You Alone." Veteran bassist Cecil McBee and the versatile drummer Victor Lewis provide supple support throughout the set.

Although Kenny Barron's always a heck of a great musician on his own or in a piano trio, we're especially partial to his work in groups with horn players -- and this album is a great example of that preference! Kenny first came to fame working with Dizzy Gillespie in the 60s, and since that point, he's always had a tremendous ear for the right tones and shadings from horns needed to augment his own soulful vision on the keys -- a way of setting up the other players in the group to build on the well-crafted Barron lines, and take them even further into the stratosphere. This set follows that format, and draws great energy from Wallace Roney on trumpet and John Stubblefield on tenor -- both at their younger best, and working alongside Kenny's piano with Cecil McBee on bass and Victor Lewis on drums. The lineup sparkles most on the 4 longer Barron numbers on the album -- "Phantoms", "What If", "Voyage", and "Lullabye" -- all of which take us back to the brilliance of Kenny's best Muse albums of the 70s. Other tracks feature smaller, more piano-centrist groupings -- on tracks that include "Dexterity", "Close To You Alone", and "Trinkle Trinkle".

Jan 22, 2010

Bheki Mseleku - Celebration

Bheki Mseleku piano, tenor sax, vocals; Eddie Parker flute (tracks: 3, 7); Courtney Pine soprano sax (track 10); Steve Williamson soprano sax (track 4); Jean Toussaint tenor sax (track 5); Michael Bowie bass; Marvin Smith drums; Thebe Lipere percussion (track 10)

barabara sounds sez:
Bheki was a self-taught piano prodigy; diabetic, bipolar and missing some fingers; Mercury Music Prize nominated; recorded with Courtney Pine, Joe Henderson, Abbey Lincoln, Elvin Jones and Pharoah Sanders. An exile, a world citizen. All-time great. Much respect.

Update: nobody seemed to notice when I posted this back in October but never put up a link...
This time round the link will be there :–)

wiki sez:
Bhekumuzi Hyacinth Mseleku, generally known as Bheki Mseleku (3 March 1955 – 9 September 2008) was a jazz musician from South Africa. He was a pianist, saxophonist, guitarist, composer and arranger who was entirely self taught.
Mseleku's father was a musician and teacher, and a Cambridge University music graduate, who had religious beliefs which prevented his children from ready access to the family's upright piano in case any of them should pursue something as "devilish" as music. His mother gave him the keys while his father was away, but the piano ended up as firewood one winters evening. During his childhood, Mseleku suffered the loss of the upper joints of two fingers in his right hand from a go-carting accident. He explained in a 1994 South Bank Show dedicated to him that this was wholly due to the restricted health care available to Black South Africans under Apartheid.

amazon sez:
Born in Durban, South Africa, Bheki Mseleku had worked with musicians such as Don Cherry and had collaborated on the Cry Freedom soundtrack, before he gave up music for several years. The retreat did him a world of good because on his return he recorded Celebration, his debut solo album. Playing piano, tenor sax and singing, Mseleku produced a marvellous mix of African and Western jazz music. Mseleku's piano playing owes a lot to McCoy Tyner and fellow South African, Abdullah Ibrahim, and in his vocals he possesses a decent impassioned rhythm. Many of his solos are outstanding and the length of the record gives him and his fellow musicians a chance to explore the textures of South African jazz. The musicians include British sax players Courtney Pine, Jean Toussant and Steve Williamson and Americans Marvin Smith (drums) and Michael Bowie (bass). The mix of the three continents works well and results in a groove spiritual but never sombre. A celebration indeed.

Jan 18, 2010

Music Revelation Ensemble - Knights of Power

barabara sounds sez:
The Music Revelation Ensemble make a righteous funky noise, propelled as ever by James Blood Ulmer who has a great line-up with him here: Amin Ali and Cornell Rochester as the rhythm section, with Arthur Blythe and Hamiet Bluiett sharing sax duties. The tracks that grab me are Noise And Clamor and Father Of Flame – but they're all kick-ass (as TJ says in his review). As far as I know this excellent album (1995) was only released in Japan and is well OOP.

On ebay I've seen this offered for substantial bucks: here it's yours for the price of a comment. [And remember no comment is in itself a comment :–)]

More info on the Music Revelation Ensemble here...

allmusic (Thom Jurek) sez:
James Blood Ulmer's sporadic and ever-evolving Music Revelation Ensemble has featured at one time or another everyone from David Murray and Roland Shannon Jackson to John Zorn and the late George Adams. The results have been spotty as well, but when Blood is on in this band, his true jamming unit, there's none better. This disc is one example of that power with a rhythm section consisting of Amin Ali on bass and Cornell W. Rochester on drums, and two guests saxophonists who go by the names Arthur Blythe (whose landmark Lennox Avenue Breakdown facilitated Ulmer getting a Columbia Records contract in the 1970s) and Hamiet Bluiett, splitting the eight tunes between them. Funk is the root key of everything here, slipped grooves and underhanded bass riffs kick the tunes off before a melody line gets stated played jointly usually by Ulmer and either Blythe or Bluiett, and then it's off to the stratosphere while never losing the groove. Ulmer's guitar work on this disc is truly astonishing as he plays lead and rhythm at the same time, chasing the train and keeping the groove. Standouts on the set are "The Day Of" and "Confusion," as well as "Father of Flame." On each of these selections, Ulmer and his rhythm section create wide spaces for the horn players to move around in. Once the saxists are established in their improvisations, Ulmer will stab through the mix with another idea of dimensional scale and either Blythe or Bluiett will be given the responsibility of opening that up. Blood eventually comes in for his solo and understates it while introducing yet another length of the harmolodic lyrical chain. In each case, it's amazing that the band finds its way back to the root, the groove never having been absent. Along with No Wave, this is the best of the Music Revelation Ensemble's recordings; it kicks ass.

Jan 16, 2010

Stéphan Oliva, Bruno Chevillon, Paul Motian - Intérieur Nuit

Stéphan Oliva (p), Bruno Chevillon (b), Paul Motian (d)

barabara sounds sez:

Brilliant French piano trio recorded live in 2001 and issued that same year. Paul Motian shouldn't need any introduction; the other two are right up there on the same level. I don't speak/read a lot of French, but here are a couple of reviews with bits I do understand...

citizenjazz sez:

Oliva est un immense pianiste... Un très grand disque.

amazon.fr sez :

À la fois très abstraite, très physique et très chantante, la musique de ce trio accorde une importance au geste qui préside à l'émergence du son... Par-delà l'Atlantique et le soi-disant fossé des générations, l'empathie et l'écoute mutuelle qui unissent les deux Français et le batteur américain (qui pourrait être leur père) est en effet une source de rare ravissement.

Jan 10, 2010

Black Jazz Chronicles - Future Juju

barabara sounds sez:
I used to listen to quite a bit of this kind of music back in the day, at least if it was half good. This wasn't half good, I thought at the time, though now obviously it doesn't have the same sort of impact. A period piece, let's call it, and not that easy to get hold of these days.

AMG sez:
The solo debut for Ashley Beedle is a fusion of Afrocentric jazz textures and tribal-disco rhythms with science-fiction mythology gained from equal parts Sun Ra and Juan Atkins. It's perhaps the least danceable album his name has been attached to, though much like the contemporary work of Kirk Degiorgio's As One (the vastly similar Planetary Folklore had been released two months earlier), Future Ju-Ju sees Beedle expanding his stylistic reference points so as to encompass the dancefloor, not leave it behind.

Cheeba has more Ashley Beedle/Black Science Orchestra over at his place: here and here

Jan 6, 2010

Kenny Wheeler - Gnu High

barabara sounds sez:

I only got to know this one quite recently (yes, it's gnu to me). That's my oversight... and my pleasure to discover it. There's some great playing here (including some top work by Jarrett). HIghly recommended.

ECM sez:

"Gnu High" was trumpeter/flugelhornist Kenny Wheeler's first for ECM, and Keith Jarrett's last session as a sideman: both deliver astonishing improvisations in a highly ineractive quartet with Holland and DeJohnette, and Wheeler's writing is captivating.

dusty sez:

A killer ECM debut from Kenny Wheeler -- a real standout in the label's classic 70s run, and a record that's overflowing with soul and feeling! Wheeler had already made a number of key recordings by the time of this ECM set, but the label's approach seems to unlock something new in his playing -- a deeper sensitivity, yet never in the slower, too-open way of other ECM players -- almost an Art Farmer sort of approach to the flugelhorn, which he uses exclusively on this set. The tracks are all quite long, but very focused and flowing -- with key rhythmic support from the trio of Keith Jarrett on piano, Dave Holland on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums -- all of whom are happy to put their own agendas aside, and let Wheeler's magnificent lines direct the album's sound.

an amazon reviewer sez:

It seemed as if Kenny Wheeler set this record up to provide his sidemen with a chance to boost their reputations enormously. Wheeler sets up the CD with his swooping solo over the changes and then Keith Jarrett produces some of the most lyrical piano playing on record. His solo transition on the first track is one of the high points of the album. Dave Holland seems to have ears the size of a house for everything that he picks up and responds to and sometimes seems like a rock in the middle of all the swirling music around him. Jack DeJohnette has a great solo where he stays on his cymbals for so long that when he finally plays one of his toms it feels like finally stepping on firm ground after an atmoshperic ride. Wheeler's writing is consistantly original and beautiful throughout.

Jan 2, 2010

Anthony Williams - Spring

barabara sounds sez:
What a drummer, what a line-up, what a way to introduce yourself to the world. Classic cover art too. Outstanding album all round.

Dusty sez:
Startling! This album is one of two that a young Tony Williams cut for Blue Note, back when he was just hitting the age of 20, and when he was already blowing the minds of masters like Jackie McLean (who first hired him) and Miles Davis (who stole him from Jackie for his own group!) with an approach to drumming that was freed from usual time constraints. Williams conception was so unique, other young modernists -- like the album's Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Sam Rivers -- quickly benefited from his presence, as you'll hear in this amazing session that sounds very little like any other Blue Note release. Williams wrote all of the tracks, but the style is much freer than any sense of composition might imply -- and the group is shaken up differently from track to track.

cduniverse sez:
Drummer Tony Williams played all over the kit, and though his tricky, unorthodox time-keeping might sometimes give the impression of wild unpredictability, he always managed to keep a tight rein over the momentum of any session in which he participated. His work on SPRING is only surpassed by his equally mesmerizing playing on Eric Dolphy's seminal OUT TO LUNCH, to which SPRING is often compared.

Wayne Shorter tenor sax
Sam Rivers tenor sax