Archive for the JAZZ Category

Horace PARLAN – Happy Frame of Mind 1963

Posted in Horace PARLAN, JAZZ on December 26, 2010 by whoisthemonk

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
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Clark TERRY & Bob BROOKMEYER – The Power of Positive Swinging 1965

Posted in Bob BROOKMEYER, Clark TERRY, JAZZ on December 26, 2010 by whoisthemonk

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
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Ahmad JAMAL – Chicago Revisited, Live At Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase 1993

Posted in Ahmad JAMAL, JAZZ on December 26, 2010 by whoisthemonk

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
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Alex SKOLNICK Trio – Last Day in Paradise 2007

Posted in Alex SKOLNICK, JAZZ on December 26, 2010 by whoisthemonk

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
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Kurt ELLING – Dedicated to You (Sings Music OF Coltrane & Hartman) 2009

Posted in JAZZ, Kurt ELLING on December 26, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Kurt ELLING – Dedicated to You (Sings Music OF Coltrane & Hartman) 2009
Recorded Live at The Lincoln Center’s Lavish Allen Room.


Dedicated To You is a tribute to one of the most beloved and beautiful recordings in jazz, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. On that six song album, John Coltrane introduces a relatively unknown singer named Johnny Hartman. The two musicians had only just met one another, however in a mere three hours, they produce a classic. Hartman unfortunately never gains much recognition beyond this one album. Coltrane obviously fares a bit better.
Kurt Elling is a standout choice to honor Hartman. He boasts a rich baritone with flawless intonation and an uncanny flair for storytelling, just like Hartman before him. They’re also both from Chicago, which may be related to Elling’s interest in this project (Elling was recently named “Chicagoan of the Year” and holds down a regular night at The Green Mill when not on tour).

The supporting voice on that classic album is, of course, Coltrane. Ernie Watts, a veteran of the LA studio scene, doesn’t jump out as the obvious pick for this role. Nonetheless, he doesn’t disappoint, though at times he sounds more like Lenny Pickett than John Coltrane. But while his tone may not match the expectations of purists, his solos compliment the vocal approach of Elling perfectly.

This is not meant to be a replica of the 1963 classic. In fact, many of the tracks are from Ballads (Impulse!, 1962), another seminal Coltrane album recorded around the same time. It also doesn’t have the spare quartet sound of the original. Elling’s pianist and arranger Laurence Hobgood enlists the ETHEL string quartet to fill-out the group. This provides opportunities for a fuller orchestral feel with a few chamber interludes too.

The CD’s lone instrumental “What’s New?” receives a bit too much care (and vibrato), which when combined with strings starts to drift into the realm of ’70s-style Muzak. The track is short and soon the band is back to business with one of the most memorable songs on the original LP, “Lush Life.”

Don’t be put off by the Ink Spots-style talking in the beginning of the second track, “It’s Easy To Remember.” Elling proceeds to tell the fascinating story of the Coltrane/Hartman session. For those don’t know the album’s history, it may be surprising to learn how loose and unstructured the session really was—Hobgood likely spent a bit more time preparing for this set. It’s also poignant to hear of Hartman’s struggle to achieve prominence as a vocalist, as his fame is mostly posthumous.

Dedicated to You is a live recording from the Lincoln Center’s lavish Allen Room. The sound quality is first-rate, and the audience enthusiastic. Elling has once again shown that he’s not only a lover of this music, but a big part of its future.
By Andrew Leinhard.
Many, myself included, hold the opinion that John Coltrane/Johnny Hartman’s 1963 eponymous album is the greatest vocal jazz c.d. ever recorded. Based on this recording, one person who certainly agrees with that assessment is Kurt Elling. This is a loving tribute, a loving re-creation.

Is it as good? As they say in the opera world, “Aria kidding me??” No modern jazz or cabaret singer has the full, rich bass-baritone range of Johnny Hartman; and nobody can produce gut-wrenching sheets of sound, past or present, like John Coltrane.

Yet, if there is one male jazz singer who could do the album justice, it is Kurt Elling. But interestingly, he doesn’t use the structure of the Coltrane/Hartman or the Coltrane Ballads albums (both of which he covers here, as the original Coltrane/Hartman album was only about 30 minutes long) as a springboard for his wild vocalese, like you might expect. Instead, with pianist Laurence Hobgood’s arrangements for the “Ethel” string quartet, the c.d. takes a “classical feel,” as though this is truly classical music that deserves such treatment; and the incredibly soulful Ernie Watts is on hand, to remind us all that this, after all, was Trane’s music.

All of that sounds like a 4-star review. The reason for 5 is: Elling sings beautifully. As I noted in my review of 2007’s wonderful “Nightmoves,” he is getting more like Sinatra all of the time. I was particularly impressed by how well he was able to jump vocal registers in “Lush Life”; not many singers can do what he did here. And Hobgood and Elling have done a marvelous job in producing this c.d. It sounds wonderful, throughout.

I’m glad Kurt Elling did this tribute. I look forward to his return to the approaches he has taken on tunes such as “Tanya Jean,” “Effendi,” and “Hold Tight.”
By Rick Cornell.
Kurt Elling graciously accepted his first GRAMMY yesterday for the exquisite, tasteful, and always swingin’ “Dedicated to You.” It’s the first time since 1993 a male vocalist has taken home the golden gramaphone for Best Vocal Jazz Album. This was Kurt’s ninth GRAMMY nomination and his first win — the first of many, we hope!

If you haven’t heard this album yet, you’re in for a real treat. Kurt and his musical director and collaborator, Laurence Hobgood, have creatively and lovingly “re-imagined” the jazz classic that John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman recorded in 1963. Laurence’s arrangements are inspired. They’re joined by the great Ernie Watts on tenor, bassist Clark Sommers, drummer Ulysses Owens, and the string quartet ETHEL. “Dedicated to You” was recorded live at New York’s Lincoln Center in front of a *very* appreciative audience.

We’ve listened to this album repeatedly since it was released last summer, and it never grows old. We keep hearing new things to delight us.

Highly recommended! Buy it for yourself. Buy it for Valentine’s Day. You’ll love every minute of it!
By  P+T Johnson-Lenz.
Kurt Elling- Voice
Laurence Hobgood- Piano
Clark Sommers- Bass
Ulysses Owens- Drums
Ernie Watts- Tenor Sax (1, 4-7, 10, 12)
Corenlius Dufalo- Violin
Mary Rowell- Violin.
Ralph Farris- Viola
Dorothy Lawson- Cello
01. All or Nothing at All 6:50
02. It’s Easy to Remember (A Jazz Story Memory) 4:05
03. Dedicated to You 6:35
04. What’s New (Instrumental) 2:40
05. Lush Life 4:39
06. Autumn Serenade 3:10
07. Say It (Over and Over Again) 6:40
08. They Say It’s Wonderful 3:59
09. My One and Only Love 3:26
10. Nancy with the Laughing Face 4:56
11. Acknowledgements 0:38
12. You Are Too Beautiful 8:10
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Steve LACY with Don CHERRY – Evidence 1961

Posted in Don CHERRY, JAZZ, Steve LACY on December 26, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Steve LACY with Don CHERRY – Evidence 1961
1990 Issue.


Steve Lacy continues to dissect the Thelonious Monk catalog, performing four more of his tunes (The Straight Horn of Steve Lacy had three Monk tunes and Reflections was entirely Monk). Joining Lacy are two members of Ornette Coleman’s quartet, drummer Billy Higgins and trumpeter Don Cherry, as well as bassist Carl Brown. Clearly inspired by Ornette’s shaping of jazz to come, this album has no piano/guitar and thus no discernible chord changes, making the relationship between the melodies and harmony ambiguous.

What’s interesting is that the Monk selections sound as melodic and logical as ever, even in this anti-harmony context. If it’s possible to be disappointed in a Monk composition, my choice would be “Let’s Cool One,” only because it’s a tad simple and lacks the large interval leaps and rhythmic challenges he’s known for. Still, Don Cherry saves it with some of his catchiest and bluesiest choruses. The other three Monks are all A pluses, even if they’re not the most well-known. “Evidence” especially, it probably has fewer notes than any other Monk tune but the choice of what notes to use and when they’re played is so incredibly on the money. When Don Cherry solos, Lacy can’t help but play some of the head underneath.

The other two tunes here are both Ellington compositions, and while “Something to Live For” is only average, “The Mystery Song” fully lives up to its name. Lacy’s soprano sax is phrased alongside Cherry’s trumpet and Higgins works his toms like magic. Starting the album off on such a dark, downbeat note is odd but it only works in the album’s favor. Aficionados of Monk and/or Ornette and/or soprano sax should check this out.
By Coolidge.
Really wonderful work from a pair we wish we could have heard more often together! Steve Lacy’s early records are all pretty darn great, but this album’s a really special gem – a rare pairing with trumpeter Don Cherry, and an album with an incredibly haunting sound! There’s almost a bit more warmth here than some of Lacy’s other early records – and more than Cherry’s too, for that matter – as the pair move together marvelously through space that might be dubbed modal, but which also has a somewhat airy and open sense of freedom. Lacy brings in some of his usual love of Thelonious Monk, but the rhythmic progressions often move away from standard Monk modes – partly from the absence of piano on the set. Drummer Billy Higgins is especially great – playing with an almost melodic approach to his kit at times – and the quartet’s completed by bassist Carl Brown, who’s really won our attention with his work on the date. Titles include an incredible reading of Duke Ellington’s “The Mystery Song” – plus the tracks “Something To Live For”, “Let’s Cool One”, “Who Knows”, “San Francisco Holiday”, and “Let’s Cool One”.
From Dusty Groove.
Soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy continued his early exploration of Thelonious Monk’s compositions on this 1961 Prestige date, Evidence. Lacy worked extensively with Monk, absorbing the pianist’s intricate music and adding his individualist soprano saxophone mark to it. On this date, he employs the equally impressive Don Cherry on trumpet, who was playing with the Ornette Coleman quartet at the time, drummer Billy Higgins, who played with both Coleman and Monk, and bassist Carl Brown. Cherry proved capable of playing outside the jagged lines he formulated with Coleman, being just as complimentary and exciting in Monk’s arena with Lacy. Out of the six tracks, four are Monk’s compositions while the remaining are lesser known Ellington numbers: “The Mystery Song” and “Something to Live For” (co-written with Billy Strayhorn).
By Al Campbell. AMG.
Steve Lacy- Soprano Sax
Don Cherry- Trumpet
Carl Brown- Bass
Billy Higgins- Drums
01. The Mystery Song Ellington, Mills 5:45
02. Evidence Monk 4:59
03. Let’s Cool One Monk 6:43
04. San Francisco Holiday Monk 4:28
05. Something to Live For Ellington, Strayhorn 5:50
06. Who Knows? Monk 5:25
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Volker KRIEGEL & Mild Maniac Orchestra – Octember Variations 1977

Posted in JAZZ, Volker KRIEGEL on December 26, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Volker KRIEGEL & Mild Maniac Orchestra – Octember Variations 1977
68.147, MPS 15495


Volker Kriegel (24 December 1943–14 June 2003) was a German jazz guitarist and composer born in Darmstadt, Germany, perhaps most noteworthy for his contributions to the European jazz rock genre and for his collaborations with the American vibraphonist Dave Pike. In 1975 he was a founding member of the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble.

A self-taught guitarist, Kriegel began playing when he was fifteen and formed a trio three years later that won an award at a 1963 amateur jazz festival. In 1973 he founded Spectrum, a quartet that included Eberhard Weber, among others. In 1975 Kriegel spent a month teaching for the Goethe Institute, an organization he had worked for at various points throughout his career. In 1976 Spectrum broke up, and Kriegel started another band called the Mild Maniac Orchestra which stayed together in to the 1980s.

In 1977 Kriegel became the partial owner of a label called Mood Records. He has also done sideman work for various musicians, including Klaus Doldinger. In addition to music, Kriegel was also a cartoonist who appeared in several German newspapers, a radio broadcaster, and a director of films and author of books related to music.
German guitarist Volker Kriegel released this LP in 1977 on the MPS label, personnel is Volker Kriegel on guitar, Thomas Bettermann on keyboards, Hans Peter Ströer on bass and Evert Fraterman on drums, plus guests Nippi Noya on percussion, Alan Skidmore on sax, Ack Van Rooyen on trumpet and Wolfgang Dauner on synthesizer.
Volker Kriegel- Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Sitar [Sitar-guitar],
Hans Peter Ströer- Bass
Evert Fraterman- Drums
Thomas Bettermann- Keyboards
Music By;
Hans Peter Ströer (tracks: A2, B4) ,
Thomas Bettermann (tracks: B1) ,
Volker Kriegel (tracks: A1 to A3, B2, B3)
Nippy Noya- Percussion
Alan Skidmore- Tenor Sax (on A1)
Ack van Rooyen- Trumpet (on A1)
Wolfgang Dauner- Synthesizer (solo on A3)
A1. Funk You Very Much 5:37
Saxophone – Alan Skidmore
Trumpet – Ack Van Rooyen
A2. Ballad Garden & Palm Dreams 6:02
A3. Octember Variation 6:30
Synthesizer – Wolfgang Dauner
B1. Und Schön Ist Die Fahrt 5:50
B2. Dora 6:30
B3. Flugsteig B 2:06
B4. Spiral Crackers 3:30
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