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Horace PARLAN – Happy Frame of Mind 1963
2000 Issue. TOCJ-9186
Happy Frame of Mind finds Horace Parlan breaking away from the soul-inflected hard bop that had become his trademark, moving his music into more adventurous, post-bop territory. Aided by a first-rate quintet — trumpeter Johnny Coles, tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin, guitarist Grant Green, bassist Butch Warren, drummer Billy Higgins — Parlan produces a provocative set that is grounded in soul and blues but stretches out into challenging improvisations. None of the musicians completely embrace the avant-garde, but there are shifting tonal textures and unpredictable turns in the solos which have been previously unheard in Parlan’s music. Perhaps that’s the reason why Happy Frame of Mind sat unissued in Blue Note’s vaults until 1976, when it was released as part of a double-record Booker Ervin set, but the fact of the matter is, it’s one of Parlan’s most successful efforts, finding the perfect middle ground between accessible, entertaining jazz and more adventurous music.
By Stephen Thomas Erlewine. AMG.
Wicked work by pianist Horace Parlan — and one of his most stunning Blue Note sessions ever! The album was first recorded in 1963, but then kept on the shelf for years — seeing only brief release as part of a Booker Ervin package in the late 70s, and finally coming out with the proper cover and lineup at some point in the 80s! Why Blue Note waited so long is a mystery, because the album’s a gem throughout — almost more important, and more starkly modern than any of Parlan’s other work for the label. Booker Ervin leads the frontline on tenor, alongside Johnny Coles on trumpet, Grant Green on guitar, and the rhythm section of Butch Warren and Billy Higgins. Parlan’s choice of material is fantastic — with a number of Africanist tracks that feature unique rhythmic patterns that really push the soloists! Titles include “A Tune For Richard”, “Dexi”, “Home Is Africa”, “Kucheza Blues”, and “Back From The Gig”.
From Dusty Groove.
The album title doesn’t lie. Right from the opening bass work by Butch Warren you’re happy. This is a good example of the kind of amazing jazz album that jumps in and out of print for no good reason whatsoever. Butch Warren(bass) and Billy Higgins(drums) are experienced in playing this kind of feel-good music from their work with trumpet player Lee Morgan and tenor sax giant Dexter Gordon. Next add Johnny Coles (trumpet) and Booker Ervin (tenor sax), two Charles Mingus disciples, to the mix. What can I say about Horace Parlan? He’re a guy who’s right hand is partially paralyzed and he still plays the piano better than 99% of people. Oh yeah, he played with Mingus as well, for about a decade as well. The icing on the cake is Grant Green. Once again, Green seems to crawl out of his shell when he plays in somebody elses band. His playing is fantastic. I’d recommend Blue and Sentimental by Ike Quebec for more of his unbelievable work as a sideman. If you own and love “The Sidewinder” by Lee Morgan, then you neeeeeeeeeeeed this. The feel of the album is very similar and there’s the bonus of guitar. There must have been something incredible in the water in 1963 because the list of incredible jazz from that year that I’ve discovered just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Hunt for this album.
Johnny Coles- (Trumpet)
Booker Ervin- (Tenor Sax)
Horace Parlan- (Piano)
Grant Green- (Guitar)
Butch Warren- (Bass)
Billy Higgins- (Drums)
01. Home Is Africa (Ronnie Boykins) 8:46
02. Tune for Richard (Booker Ervin) 6:06
03. Back from the Gig (Horace Parlan) 5:52
04. Dexi (Johnny Coles) 5:54
05. Kuchenza Blues (Randy Weston) 5:39
06. Happy Frame of Mind (Horace Parlan) 6:13
Clark TERRY & Bob BROOKMEYER – The Power of Positive Swinging 1965
Fontana TL 5290
In the mid-1960s, flugelhornist Clark Terry and valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer led a quintet whose rhythm section changed now and then. As expected, there was always plenty of interplay between the fluent horns and some sly examples of their humor. This CD reissue matches C.T. and Brookmeyer with pianist Roger Kellaway (a bit of a wild card who throws in a few adventurous flights here and there), bassist Bill Crow and drummer Dave Bailey. Except for Kellaway, all of the musicians had previously played with Gerry Mulligan, and there is some of the feel of his quartet during these performances. Highlights include “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Illinois Jacquet’s “The King” and the old Count Basie-associated riff tune “Just an Old Manuscript.”
By Scott Yanow. AMG.
Clark Terry- Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Bob Brookmeyer- Valve Trombone
Roger Kellaway- Piano
Bill Crow- Bass
Dave Bailey- Drums
A1. Dancing on the Grave
A2. Battle Hymn of the Republic
A3. The King
A4. Ode to a Flugelhorn
A5. Gal in Calico
B1. Green Stamps
B2. Hawg Jawz
B3. Simple Waltz
B4. Just an Old Manuscript
Ahmad JAMAL – Chicago Revisited, Live At Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase 1993
Although it had been more than 40 years since his debut recording, pianist Ahmad Jamal’s playing was as viable as ever in the 1990s. Teamed up with bassist John Heard and drummer Yoron Israel for this live Telarc CD, Jamal plays a particularly inspired repertoire that includes “All the Things You Are,” Clifford Brown’s “Daahoud,” John Handy’s “Dance to the Lady” and “Be My Love” among its nine selections. Jamal’s style had developed since his early days, but his basic approach was unchanged while still sounding quite fresh. This date is an excellent example of Ahmad Jamal’s unique sound and highly appealing music in the ’90s.
By Scott Yanow. AMG.
Ahmad Jamal- (Piano);
John Heard- (Bass);
Yoron Israel- (Drums).
01. All The Things You Are 7:37
02. Daahoud 3:58
03. Tater Pie 6:56
04. Bellows 12:35
05. Blue Gardenia 7:57
06. Dance To The Lady 6:15
07. Be My Love 5:20
08. Where Are You 4:11
09. Lullaby Of Birdland 4:52
Alex SKOLNICK Trio – Last Day in Paradise 2007
Alex Skolnick is a guitar player I remember marveling about back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Back in those days he was a bright shining star in the world of thrash metal, leading Testament to early success in the wake of Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer. He burst onto the scene in 1987 with The Legacy, but it was the pair of albums Practice What You Preach and Souls of Black, in 1989 and 1990 respectively, that caught my attention.
The guy was amazing, he was fast, technical, and precise. In 1993 he parted ways with the band, going on to play with Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, among others. During that time, he also got into jazz and formed the Alex Skolnick Trio, releasing their first album in 2002. Here we are, five years removed from that album, and I am getting my first taste of Skolnick’s jazz, Last Day in Paradise.
If you have read my music reviews in the past, you will know that I am a metal guy, through and through. I will make the occasional foray into other genres, but more often than not I am out of my element in writing about them, a fact that will not dissuade me from making the occasional attempt to expand my horizons. That said, I know very little about jazz and what makes some good and others bad, but I can say that I know what I like. What I like is this album.
What I find intriguing is the deftness with which Alex has shifted genres. I know that many players can play different styles, but never have I heard a guitarist leave one genre for another and create such great music in both. If I had been handed this cold, not knowin who Skolnick was, I would have liked it, probably as much as I do now, but knowing that this is a band led by a guitar player from a premiere thrash band from my youth? Well, that is a different story. This is a completely different Alex Skolnick than the one I listened to so long ago, or even the Alex Skolnick I saw during 2005’s Testament reunion tour.
Last Day in Paradise puts another facet to Skolnick’s ability, and I want to hear more! The album features seven original compositions with three jazz translations of rock tracks mixed in. The translated songs are Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” which is nearly unrecognizable during stretches before slipping into those familiar notes that we all know, next is a song the Alex co-wrote with his Testament bandmates, “Practica Lo Que Predicas (Practice What You Preach),” which is given the jazz by way of Latin treatment, finally there is the Ozzy/Randy Rhoads track “Revelation (Mother Earth).”
To steal a phrase, this album is “all killer and no filler.” It is an album that you can lay back and groove to, or listen close and listen to each of the band member’s considerable contribution. Skolnick’s playing is smooth, clean, and unlike anything I had heard of his before. He plays with an assured confidence that is not exactly flashy, but none the less fanastic to listen to. Bassist Nathan Peck lays down some great bass grooves, particularly on “The Lizard.” Finally there is drummer Matt Zebroski, who is solid and compliments each song delivering snappy hits that are considerably different than the metal drummers I am used to hearing.
Bottomline. This is an impressive album, the complete package of musicianship and songwriting. Skolnick continues to impress after all these years. If you want something to groove to and get some impressive fretwork at the same time, this is an album to check out. I, for one, was impressed.
By Chris Beaumont.
On March 15, 2007, Alex Skolnick Trio will unleash “Last Day In Paradise” on Magnatude Records. It consists of seven original compositions along with three arrangements of hard rock ‘standards,’ (a concept upon which the trio has built a strong reputation as an instrumental group that appeals to straight-ahead jazz fans and rock fans alike). Feeling the inspiration of European jazz and other influences, the group has now gone beyond the limitations of the traditional guitar trio format on many of the songs, incorporating electronic loops (‘Last Day In Paradise’), vocal melodies (‘Mercury Retrograde’) and slide guitar (‘Western Sabbath Stomp’). There are also special effects, bowed bass tracks and other studio embellishments, resulting in their most original and cutting edge album to date. The new album also includes a Latin version of the Testament song `Practice What You Preach’ (which Alex originally co-wrote) and a live electronica inspired version of Rush classic ‘Tom Sawyer.’
01. Mercury Retrograde 4:32
02. Last Day In Paradise 4:51
03. Tom Sawyer 6:34
04. Shades of Grey 6:23
05. Practica Lo Que Predicas (Practice What You Preach) 5:16
06. The Lizard 5:17
07. Channel 4 4:26
08. Revelation (Mother Earth) 7:19
09. Out There Somewhere 4:48
10. Western Sabbath Stomp 5:23
Willie DIXON and Memphis SLIM – Willie´s Blues 1959
These tunes were recorded in a New Jersey studio, when Willie and Memphis Slim were on a brief “lay-over” in New York between gigs. It only took a few hours to finish, the entire set was completely unrehearsed, they called in three session musicians, tuned-up, and the result was this wonderful 12 song recording of Chicago Blues done with an “After Hours” feel. Nervous is an enjoyable slow romp and Willie stammers and stutters like an anxious suitor would. Good Understanding in bit more up-tempo and features some excellent New Orleans style “walkin’ piano” by Memphis Slim. That’s My Baby is a straight ahead, easy going, number which features some good guitar work, but it’s Willie’s vocals which stand out. Slim’s Thing is the first of the two songs which were not penned by Dixon, and it is REALLY Slim’s Thing. It’s an up-tempo instrumental featuring Slim’s deft piano playing, all of the musicians get a chance to show their stuff, but Willie’s thumping and finger slapping bass is especially rewarding. That’s All I Want Baby is another slow tempo, no nonsense blues tune done well. Don’t You Tell Nobody has a quick tempo and Willie’s “Blues Shouting” style is the highlight on this song. Youth To You is the “stand out” cut on the first side of this recording, and although most people probably wouldn’t recognize this song by this title, well, that’s because it has been done so many times as I Just Want To Make Love To You by such artists as Foghat, etc. Hey, this is just one of WILLIE’S classic tunes, and he KNOWS how to do HIS OWN material!
Sittin’ And Cryin’ The Blues is a slow and soulful ballad with Willie lamenting, while the session sax player plays off of his vocals with some haunting jazzy-bluesy riffs. Built For Comfort is Willie’s “signiture tune,” it’s played without any excess, and then it’s over. Oh, it’ll leave a smile on your face! I Got A Razor is a slow and reflective narrative, and Willie just talks his way through the entire song. Before RAP, this is how talented Black Musicians(as well as talented musicians of other races) “expressed themselves,” and personally I find it much more effective! Go Easy is the second Memphis Slim tune. It’s another instrumental which has a nice, easy flow and features more of Slim’s accomplished “walkin’ piano,” along with some of Willie’s great “gut bucket” bass playing. Move Me is a variation of the Broonzy classic “Rock Me Baby,” and Willie turns this into a throbbing and raunchy affair, which has almost a “smokey strip club” type of aura about it. This is one of those records that they don’t make any longer, and it’s truly a shame that people don’t!
I’d like to say a few things about Willie Dixon. Of anybody, and I mean ANYBODY, in ANY field, I’ve never run across a person who was more real than Willie was! I went to see him in a small club around 1983, and although I virtually never ask for somebody’s autograph, well, I figured that I’d get a chance to speak with him briefly, so I took this LP with me to the show. It was about 100 degrees, his band’s bus was delayed, so he limped up to the stage with a cane in a very slow manner. Then he started talking to the audience about a foundation for all of the Blues artists who were shamelessly ripped off, and not only was his talk both insightful and informative, but that petition of his was signed by VIRTUALLY EVERY seminal musician. After he was done speaking I walked out into the hallway and said, “Mr. Dixon, would you please sign this for me?” It was funny, because he saw that I had an “official” LP of his, but he just kept on staring at me for a minute or two, then he shook his head, signed the LP, and walked away to get ready for the show. When the show started he limped up to the stage again, but when the music started, he tossed the cane down, and delivered the most INSPIRATIONAL live performance that I’ve ever seen, however, throughout the entire show he’d look over at me now and then to see how I was reacting to the performance? I’d say he knew that I KNEW music, and that I also UNDERSTOOD what he was about? As the show went along, virtually everybody in the audience had moved up to the stage, and they were TOTALLY transfixed by Willie’s persona and performance, however, I kept sitting in a small alcove nearby, but he kept looking at me and by now whenever he did, then he seemed to smile and nod as if he knew that he had gotten his message through to me? Yeah, Willie, I’ve always tried to give credit when credit was due, and I will ALWAYS have this record with: From Willie Dixon on the back of it; it might of said a bit more, but Willie was SO REAL, that I FORGOT to tell him WHAT MY NAME was? Actually, I’m glad that I forgot, because it means so much more to ONLY have “From Willie Dixon” without my name getting in the way! Nobody got in Willie’s way; and even Led Zeppelin ended up paying Willie for some tunes of his that they BORROWED, which they hadn’t given him credit for. Hey, Peter Grant got a taste of just how REAL and POWERFUL Willie Dixon was in person, and I think it’s the ONLY time that he and Zeppelin didn’t speak, and quietly PAID somebody what they were owed! Oh, Willie also hooked Chuck Berry up with Chess, and did a few other “things,” too! Yeah, Willie was THAT REAL, THAT AUTHENTIC, and had THAT kind of PRESENCE, and those qualities are very hard to fake! No, you have to EARN and DESERVE things like that, and anybody who met Willie, Knew that he surely had…and THEN SOME!!!
Willie Dixon- Bass Guitar, Vocals
Memphis Slim- Piano
Wally Richardson- Guitar
Al Ashby- Tenor Sax
Harold Ashby- Tenor Sax
Gus Johnson- Drums
01. Nervous 3:15
02. Good Understanding 2:15
03. That’s My Baby 3:23
04. Slim’s Thing 3:24
05. That’s All I Want Baby 2:16
06. Don’t You Tell Nobody 2:05
07. Youth To You 3:16
08. Sittin’ And Cryin’ The Blues 3:18
09. Built For Comfort 2:31
10. I Got A Razor 4:11
11. Go Easy 5:51
12. Move Me 3:20
Tom WAITS – Rain Dogs 1985
With its jarring rhythms and unusual instrumentation — marimba,
accordion, various percussion — as well as its frequently surreal
lyrics, Rain Dogs is very much a follow-up to Swordfishtrombones,
which is to say that it sounds for the most part like The Threepenny
Opera being sung by Howlin’ Wolf. The chief musical difference is the
introduction of guitarist Marc Ribot, who adds his noisy leads to the
general cacophony. But Rain Dogs is sprawling where its predecessor
had been focused Tom Waits’ lyrics here sometimes are imaginative to
the point of obscurity, seemingly chosen to fit the rhythms rather than
for sense. In the course of 19 tracks and 54 minutes, Waits sometimes
goes back to the more conventional music of his earlier records,
which seems like a retreat, though such tracks as the catchy Hang Down
Your Head, Time, and especially Downtown Train (frequently covered
and finally turned into a Top Ten hit by Rod Stewart five years later)
provide some relief as well as variety. Rain Dogs can’t surprise as
Swordfishtrombones had, and in his attempt to continue in the direction
suggested by that album, Waits occasionally borders on the chaotic
(which may only be to say that, like most of his records, this one is uneven).
But much of the music matches the earlier album, and there is so much of
it that that is enough to qualify Rain Dogs as one of Waits’ better albums.
By William Ruhlmann, AMG.
William Shimmel- Accordion (tracks: A3, A9, B1)
Robert Musso- Banjo (tracks: A7)
Tony Levine- Bass (tracks: B8)
Greg Cohen- Double Bass (tracks: A5, B3, B4) ,
Larry Taylor- Double Bass (tracks: A1, A3, A4, A6 to B2, B5 to B7) ,
Tony Garnier- Double Bass (tracks: A2)
Mickey Curry- Drums (tracks: B8) ,
Stephen Taylor Arvizu Hodges- Drums (tracks: A1 to A4, A6, B1, B2, B6, B7)
Chris Spedding- Guitar (tracks: A1) ,
G.E. Smith- Guitar (tracks: B8) ,
Keith Richards- Guitar (tracks: A6, B5, B6) ,
Marc Ribot- Guitar (tracks: A1 to A4, A7, A8, B1) ,
Robert Quine- Guitar (tracks: B6, B8)
Michael Blair- Percussion (tracks: A1 to A4, A7, A8, B1, B3 to B5, B8 to B10)
John Lurie- Alto Sax (tracks: B7)
Ralph Carney- Saxophone [Bass], Clarinet (tracks: A4, B2 to B5, B9)
Bob Funk- Trombone (tracks: A3, A5, B1)
A1. Singapore 2:43
A2. Clap Hands 3:45
A3. Cemetery Polka 1:47
A4. Jockey Full of Bourbon 2:45
A5. Tango Till They’re Sore 2:50
A6. Big Black Mariah 2:43
A7. Diamonds and Gold 2:32
A8. Hang Down Your Head 2:30
A9. Time 3:55
B1. Rain Dogs 2:53
B2. Midtown (Instrumental) 1:01
B3. 9th & Hennepin 1:57
B4. Gun Street Girl 4:37
B5. Union Square 2:23
B6. Blind Love 4:19
B7. Walking Spanish 3:05
B8. Downtown Train 3:50
B9. Bride of Rain Dogs (Instrumental) 1:07
B10. Anywhere I Lay My Head 2:47