HOT jazz CD of the week (2/10/2013) (Yusef Lateef – The Centaur and the Phoenix)

Yusef is one of the absolute COOLEST players I’ve heard on the planet… his flute work is beyond compare; consider yourself honored to be able to listen to his music (NOTE:  u better GRAB this one while it’s still up)!!!

There wasn’t a lot of narrative on this one – here’s what I found at WIKIPEDIA:  The Allmusic site awarded the album 4 stars with the review by Stacia Proefrock stating it “takes the risks and the innovations that Lateef was known for, and expands them in a number of different directions all at once, leading to an album that bursts with new ideas and textures, while remaining accessible, and above all, beautiful. Lateef seems eager here to take the next step musically by breaking the mold of his previous albums”.[2]

HOT rock CD of the week (2/2/2013) (Cosmic Farm – Cosmic Farm)

Ev’ry once in a while, I discover a “sleeper” in the world of rock/funk/fusion… this CD is absolutely KILLER… surprised I never heard them before… if you like HIGH-ENERGY music, you WILL dig down deep on this one!

Here’s a bit more information from ALLMUSIC:  This ad hoc instrumental quartet is a supergroup of sorts. Comprised of immensely talented jazz and jazz fusion veterans (bassist Rob Wasserman, drummer Jeff Sipe, and T Lavitz on keyboards) it is spearheaded by guitarist Craig Erickson. He writes all the material, takes the most solos, acts as producer, and put the project together. Although released in 2005, it’s a knowing throwback to the jazz-rock fusion of ’70s acts such as Jeff Beck, John Scofield, Return to Forever, Allan Holdsworth, Dixie Dregs (of which Lavitz was a member), and any number of similar acts that generally favored instrumental dexterity over the compositional and melodic. It’s a solid, incredibly well played album that suffers mostly from a lack of identity; basically, this could be music from any of the above artists or dozens of others. That’s not a terrible thing, and surely any fan of the genre would be thrilled with adding this tasty, always professional outing to their collection. These guys have amazing chops, yet the songs lack a strong melodic presence. It’s more than just a bunch of jamming, but not much, and there remains a sense that the foursome is simply working a groove without creating something unique. Guest Paul Hanson on bassoon twists the formula slightly on a few selections but his contributions are too subtle to make an impact. The driving funk of “Forecast” gives bassist Wasserman a chance to showboat — one of the few — on a song with a bit of a recurring motif. Erickson shreds with the best of them yet there is little distinguishable about his guitar playing and he takes the spotlight too often, leaving the others as talented backup to his fret dancing. There is something rather charming in the retro-ness of the concept since there aren’t many jazz fusion albums being released in the mid-’00s. Still, with musicians of this world-class caliber, the final product is run of the mill for the genre.

HOT jazz CD of the week (2/3/2013) (Miles Davis – ESP)

Miles is definitely a “hot ticket” for those who want to wrap their ears in “real jazz”… there’s nothing “phony” about his playing… this particular CD is the first recording by the “second great M.D. Quintet”.  EnJOY!

Here are the words from WIKIPEDIA:

Recorded in January 1965, E.S.P. is the first album by what is often referred to as Miles Davis‘s second great quintet. The quintet comprising Davis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams would be the most long-lived of all Davis’s groups, and this was their first studio recording together.

Unlike the majority of previous Davis albums, E.S.P. consisted entirely of new compositions written by members of the group. Despite the profusion of new material, only one tune (“Agitation”) is known to have appeared in the group’s live performances. Two versions of this tune appear on the Plugged Nickel recordings from December 1965; it was played live as late as the fall of 1969.

“Little One” might be best known for being revisited on Hancock’s landmark album, Maiden Voyage, recorded a few weeks later. This version is somewhat more embryonic; Carter’s bass is halting, and Davis and Shorter state the theme with winding, interlocking contrapuntal lines that evoke Davis and Coltrane‘s version of “Round Midnight”. Hancock’s solo on Carter’s composition, “Eighty-One”, also presages his work on that LP – particularly its title track. This is reflected in the liner notes of the 1999 reissue.

Shortly thereafter, Shorter’s compositions would begin to dominate the Quintet’s recordings, though here he contributes only two of the seven songs. The title track is reminiscent of Jackie McLean‘s “Little Melonae”, which Davis had recorded with John Coltrane in 1956. “Iris”, by contrast, is another Coltrane-like ballad, not too dissimilar to “Infant Eyes” on Shorter’s Speak No Evil album.

At over forty-eight minutes, E.S.P. is one of the longest jazz albums of its period. Subsequent Davis recordings would be even longer.

HOT blues CD of the week (1/26/2013) (Albert King – Born Under A Bad Sign)

Albert King’s been on the pop’ular blues circuit for a long, LONG time… I’ve been listening to him for most of that time, & I’m sure you have too if you follow blues artists; here’s a very cool album from him:

A few words from the WIKIPEDIA entry about the CD:

Born Under a Bad Sign was the first album by Albert King for Stax Records and his second album overall. It is composed of singles released by King recorded between March 3, 1966 and June 9, 1967, with additional studio tracks. Providing accompaniment to Albert King, who sang and played lead guitar, were the Stax in-house recording session band, Booker T. and the MGs, featuring The Memphis Horns.[3][4]

The release of Born Under a Bad Sign in 1967 “would change the face of American music, modernizing the blues”.[5] “‘It was the great divide of modern blues, the point at which the music was rescued from slipping into derivative obscurity'”.[5] Part of the album’s success has been attributed to Booker T. and the MGs who “gave his blues a sleek, soulful sound [which] gave King crossover appeal”.[2] Four of the album’s songs became modern blues classics: “Born Under a Bad Sign“, “Oh Pretty Woman”, “The Hunter“, and “Crosscut Saw” (although an older song, it was given a new treatment by King). Together with “Personal Manager” and “Laundromat Blues”,[6] they “form the very foundation of Albert King’s musical identity and legacy”.[1] The title track was one of the last songs by Stax to feature the imprint “Produced by Staff”; future songs were later attributed to the writers.[7]

Albert King’s guitar work on the album “directly influenced legions of guitar players who studied its every subtlety and nuance”[5] and was “profoundly influential, not just in blues, but in rock & roll”.[1] Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan have acknowledged King’s influence; indeed, some of their guitar solos are close approximations to those found on Born Under a Bad Sign

HOT jazz CD of the week (1/26/2013) (Jackie McLean Jackie’s Bag)

I hadn’t listened to a lot of Jackie’s work back in my early days of jazz… but now I’m realizing (thanks to YOUTUBE) that he contributed a LOT of very solid jazz to the scene… playing with favorites of mine like Lee Morgan, he is one HOT player:


Here are a few notes from WIKIPEDIA about this scorching player:

McLean was born in New York City.[1] His father, John Sr., played guitar in Tiny Bradshaw‘s orchestra. After his father’s death in 1939, Jackie’s musical education was continued by his godfather, his record-store-owning stepfather, and several noted teachers. He also received informal tutoring from neighbors Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, and Charlie Parker. During high school he played in a band with Kenny Drew, Sonny Rollins, and Andy Kirk Jr. (the tenor saxophonist son of Andy Kirk).

Along with Rollins, he played on Miles DavisDig album, when he was 19 years old. As a young man McLean also recorded with Gene Ammons, Charles Mingus on the seminal Pithecanthropus Erectus, George Wallington, and as a member of Art Blakey‘s Jazz Messengers. McLean joined Blakey after reportedly being punched by Mingus. Fearing for his life, McLean pulled out a knife and contemplated using it against Mingus in self-defense. He later stated that he was grateful that he had not stabbed the bassist.[2]

His early recordings as leader were in the hard bop school. He later became an exponent of modal jazz without abandoning his foundation in hard bop. Throughout his career he was known for a distinctive tone, akin to the tenor saxophone and often described with such adjectives as “bitter-sweet,” “piercing,” or “searing,” a slightly sharp pitch, and a strong foundation in the blues.

McLean was a heroin addict throughout his early career, and the resulting loss of his New York City cabaret card forced him to undertake a large number of recording dates; consequently, he produced an extensive body of recorded work in the 1950s and 1960s. He was under contract with Blue Note Records from 1959 to 1967, having previously recorded for Prestige. Blue Note offered better pay and more artistic control than other labels, and his work for this organization is highly regarded and includes leadership and sideman dates with a wide range of musicians, including Donald Byrd, Sonny Clark, Lee Morgan, Ornette Coleman, Dexter Gordon, Billy Higgins, Freddie Hubbard, Grachan Moncur III, Bobby Hutcherson, Mal Waldron, and many others.

In 1962 he recorded Let Freedom Ring for Blue Note. This album was the culmination of attempts he had made over the years to deal with harmonic problems in jazz, incorporating ideas from the free jazz developments of Ornette Coleman and the “new breed” which inspired his blending of hard bop with the ‘new thing’: “the search is on, Let Freedom Ring”. Emblematic of his stylistic growth is the solo on his piece “Quadrangle” as compared to the version of the same tune on BST 4051, Jackie’s Bag, recorded in 1959. Let Freedom Ring began a period in which he performed with avant-garde jazz musicians rather than the veteran hard bop performers he had been playing with previously. His adaptation of modal jazz and free jazz innovations to his vision of hard bop made his recordings from 1962 on distinctive.

McLean recorded with dozens of well-known musicians and had a gift for spotting talent. Saxophonist Tina Brooks, trumpeter Charles Tolliver, pianist Larry Willis, trumpeter Bill Hardman, and tubist Ray Draper were among those who benefited from McLean’s support in the 1950s and 1960s. Drummers such as Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette, Lenny White, Michael Carvin, and Carl Allen gained important early experience with McLean.

In 1967, his recording contract, like those of many other progressive musicians, was terminated by Blue Note’s new management. His opportunities to record promised so little pay that he abandoned recording as a way to earn a living, concentrating instead on touring. In 1968, he began teaching at The Hartt School of the University of Hartford. He later set up the university’s African American Music Department (now the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz) and its Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies program. His Steeplechase recording, “New York Calling” showed that by 1980 the assimilation of all influences was complete, in this outstanding recording made with his son, René McLean.

In 1970, he and his wife, Dollie McLean, founded the Artists Collective, Inc. of Hartford, an organization dedicated to preserving the art and culture of the African Diaspora. It provides educational programs and instruction in dance, theatre, music and visual arts. The membership of McLean’s later bands were drawn from his students in Hartford, including Steve Davis and his son René, who is a jazz saxophonist and flautist as well as a jazz educator. Also in McLean’s Hartford group was Mark Berman, the jazz pianist and broadway conductor of Smokey Joe’s Cafe and Rent. In 1979 he reached No. 53 in the UK Singles Chart with “Doctor Jackyll and Mister Funk”.[3]

He received an American Jazz Masters fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2001 and numerous other national and international awards. McLean was the only American jazz musician to found a department of studies at a University and a community based organization almost simultaneously. Each has existed for over three decades.

After a long illness, McLean died on March 31, 2006, in Hartford, Connecticut. In 2006, Jackie McLean was elected to the DownBeat Hall of Fame via the International Critics Poll.

Derek Ansell’s full-length biography of McLean, Sugar Free Saxophone (London: Northway Books, 2012), details the story of his career and provides a full analysis of his music on record.

HOT blues CD of the week (1/19/2013) (B.B. King and Eric Clapton – Riding with the King)

B.B. King is absolutely the “King” of ‘da blues, & he & Clapton prove it on this full album:

 

Here are the notes from WIKIPEDIA on the album:

Riding with the King was the first collaborative album by Eric Clapton and B.B. King.[1][2] They performed together for the first time at Cafe Au Go Go in New York City in 1967 when Clapton was 22 and a member of Cream, but did not record together until 1997 when King collaborated with Clapton on the song “Rock Me Baby” for his duets album, Deuces Wild.[3][4] Clapton looked up to King and had always wanted to make an album with him.[3] King said they had discussed the project often, and added: “I admire the man. I think he’s No. 1 in rock ‘n’ roll as a guitarist and No. 1 as a great person.”[3] At the time of recording Riding with the King, Clapton was 55 and King 74.

Clapton initiated the recording sessions for Riding with the King and included some of his regular session musicians on the album. He also chose the songs and co-produced the album with Simon Climie, who had previously worked on several of Clapton’s albums.[1] While this would appear to be a Clapton album recorded with King, Clapton gave King center-stage, who took the lead on many of the songs with his singing and his solos.[5]

HOT jazz CD of the week (1/19/2013) (Horace Silver Blowin' the Blues Away)

Horace Silver was one of my jazz heroes when I first started listening to jazz way back in the day, so to speak… this is a very early album that I just found a month or so ago… I’ve no doubt you’ll enjoy it:

 

Here’s what one of the reviewers on ALLMUSIC had to say about it:

Blowin’ the Blues Away is one of Horace Silver‘s all-time Blue Note classics, only upping the ante established on Finger Poppin’ for tightly constructed, joyfully infectious hard bop. This album marks the peak of Silver‘s classic quintet with trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, bassist Gene Taylor, and drummer Louis Hayes; it’s also one of the pianist’s strongest sets of original compositions, eclipsed only by Song for My Father and Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers. The pacing of the album is impeccable, offering up enough different feels and slight variations on Silver‘s signature style to captivate the listener throughout. Two songs — the warm, luminous ballad “Peace” and the gospel-based call-and-response swinger “Sister Sadie” — became oft-covered standards of Silver‘s repertoire, and the madly cooking title cut wasn’t far behind. And they embody what’s right with the album in a nutshell — the up-tempo tunes (“Break City”) are among the hardest-swinging Silver had ever cut, and the slower changes of pace (“Melancholy Mood”) are superbly lyrical, adding up to one of the best realizations of Silver‘s aesthetic. Also, two cuts (“Melancholy Mood” and the easy-swinging “The St. Vitus Dance”) give Silver a chance to show off his trio chops, and “Baghdad Blues” introduces his taste for exotic, foreign-tinged themes. Through it all, Silver remains continually conscious of the groove, playing off the basic rhythms to create funky new time patterns. The typical high-impact economy of his and the rest of the band’s statements is at its uppermost level, and everyone swings with exuberant commitment. In short, Blowin’ the Blues Away is one of Silver‘s finest albums, and it’s virtually impossible to dislike.

 

HOT rock CD of the week (1/11/2013) (Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band – Ice Cream For Crow)

This Beefheart character is one STRANGE rocker… I first really noted that on the CD featured here, & from that point on made sure I got EVERY ONE of his new releases.

Here are a few (more than a few, actually) words from WIKIPEDIA about this kra-zee CD:

While Ice Cream for Crow was being produced, Herb Cohen had settled his lawsuit with Frank Zappa over the latter withholding the master tapes to Captain Beefheart‘s unreleased Bat Chain Puller album.[5] Don Van Vliet proposed that half of the tracks from Bat Chain Puller be included on Ice Cream for Crow, but Zappa refused Vliet’s request, leading Vliet to compose new material for the album.[5]

“Skeleton Makes Good” was written in one evening. According to Vliet’s biographer Mike Barnes, “the most original and vital tracks [on the album] are the newer ones.” Thus, Ice Cream for Crow, while rooted in past musical ideas, points toward a new musical direction for Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. Indeed, Barnes writes that the album “feels like an hors-d’oeuvre for a main course that never came.”[6]

Release and promotion

The album cover features a painting by Van Vliet himself, as well as a portrait photo of him by Anton Corbijn. A music video was made to promote the title track, directed by Van Vliet and Ken Schreiber, with cinematography by Daniel Pearl, which was rejected by MTV for being “too weird”. However, the video was included in the Letterman broadcast on NBC-TV, and was accepted into the Museum of Modern Art, where it has been used in several of their programs related to music.[7][8] Van Vliet explained in a 1982 interview on Late Night with David Letterman that the album’s title represented the contrast between the black of a crow and the white of vanilla ice cream.[9]

 

Disc jockey John Peel, in his narration to the BBC documentary The Artist Formerly Known as Captain Beefheart, called Ice Cream for Crow one of Captain Beefheart’s best albums.[10]

Ned Raggett of Allmusic would positively call the album “a last entertaining blast of wigginess from one of the few truly independent artists in late 20th century pop music, with humor, skill, and style all still intact”, with The Magic Band “turning out more choppy rhythms, unexpected guitar lines, and outré arrangements, Captain Beefheart lets everything run wild as always, with successful results”. Raggett says that Beefheart’s “entertainingly outrageous” spoken word performances, are successfully cohered with The Magic Band’s “insanely great arrangement”.[1] Robert Christgau would give the album an A–, saying that “Ornette or no Ornette, the Captain’s sprung delta atonality still provides surprising and irreducible satisfactions, but his poetry repeats itself more than his ideas warrant. Any surrealist ecologist who preaches the same sermon every time out is sure to provoke hostile questions from us concrete-jungle types”.

Hot jazz CD of the week (1/11/2013) (Hank Mobley – Straight Ahead, No Filter)

My jazz pick for this week features one of the hottest sax players ever – Hank Mobley!  The material was (for the most part) recorded in 1963, but not released until 1985… thank Gourd for recording studios!

Here are a few words about the CD from “ALLMUSIC REVIEWS”….

Straight No Filter finds tenor Hank Mobley in several settings from the mid-’60s, each of them excellent. The overall roster is quite impressive, starting with the first set which features trumpeter Lee Morgan, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Bob Cranshaw, and drummer Billy Higgins. The upbeat title cut is given a loose, post-bop feel by Tyner‘s comping, but things are brought back to earth by Mobley‘s emotional playing. A number of exchanges between Morgan and Mobley‘s horns give the piece an effective ending. “Chain Reaction” gives this group nearly 11 minutes to stretch things out, while “Soft Impressions” features a heavy blues groove. A couple of other standouts on this album — “This Feelin’s Good” and “Yes Indeed” — feature trumpeter Donald Byrd, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Butch Warren, and drummer Philly Joe Jones. Hancock provides a distinctive backdrop for Mobley and Morgan‘s solos while turning in some fine work himself. Mobley shines on Sy Oliver‘s “Yes Indeed,” delivering a soulful solo, shot through with the blues. His playing throughout Straight No Filter is warm, accessible, and inventive, and it is instructive to have these sessions side by side, giving the listener a chance to compare Mobley‘s work in different settings. It should be mentioned that he penned eight out of the nine of these fine compositions. Bob Blumenthal‘s liner notes are helpful, breaking down the individual sessions and providing a good overview of Mobley‘s career. Straight No Filter will be welcomed by Mobley‘s fans and lovers of hard bop. It shouldn’t be missed

HOT rock CD of the week (1/5/2013) (Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills – Super Session)

Back in the ’70’s, I was way more into rockin’ bluesy stuff than I may be in these later years…. this album from Bloomfield, Kooper & Stills definitely hit the spot for me, & I don’t doubt you’ll remember it well if you were “in the same zones” as I was during those years – ENJOY!

Here are a few notes from the WIKIPEDIA entry on the album:

Kooper and Bloomfield had previously worked together on the sessions for the ground-breaking classic Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan, as well as playing in support of his controversial appearance at the Newport Folk Festival in July 1965. Kooper had recently left Blood, Sweat & Tears after recording their debut album with them, and was now working as an A&R man for Columbia. Bloomfield was about to leave Electric Flag, and at relative loose ends. Kooper telephoned Bloomfield to see if he was free to come down to the studio and jam; Bloomfield agreed, leaving Kooper to handle the arrangements.[3]

Kooper booked two days of studio time in May 1968, and recruited keyboardist Barry Goldberg and bassist Harvey Brooks, both members of the Electric Flag, along with well-known session drummer “Fast” Eddie Hoh. On the first day, the quintet recorded a group of mostly blues-based instrumental tracks, including a modal excursion “His Holy Modal Majesty” reminiscent of “East-West” from the second Butterfield Blues Band album. On the second day, with the tapes ready to roll, Bloomfield did not show up.[4]

Needing to have something to show for the second day of sessions, to sit in for Bloomfield Kooper hastily called upon Stephen Stills, also in the process of leaving his band Buffalo Springfield. Regrouping behind Stills, Kooper’s session men cut mostly vocal tracks, including “It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry” from Highway 61 and a lengthy and atmospheric take of “Season of the Witch” by Donovan.[5]

Some overdubbed horns were later added while the album was being mixed, and sales worth a gold record award were garnered from an album which cost just $13,000 to make. The success of this record opened the door for the “supergroup” concept of the late 1960s and 1970s — Blind Faith, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and the like. Kooper forgave Bloomfield, and the two of them made several concert appearances after the album was released. The results of one of those became the album The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper.[6]

On April 8, 2003, Legacy Records reissued the album for compact disc with four bonus tracks, including both an outtake and a live track with Bloomfield, and two with the horn overdubs mixed out.