Jazz

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Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
Clearly 2006 was a good year for the great accordionist. He’d just formed his brilliant Tangaria Quartet, and with mandolin player Hamilton De Holanda guesting, they wowed the audience at the Marciac jazz festival in August. September found the group in Sao Paulo and, again with stunning contributions from De Holanda, they recorded Luz Negra. It’s actually the contents of that album that you get here, plus ‘Tango Pour Claude’ and ‘New York Tango’, which opened and closed the Live In Marciac 2006 album.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
After all these decades, the classic quintet lineup endures. Graduating from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama as a classical pianist in 2002, Stapleton based his own group on two luminaries of the same college, bassist Paula Gardiner and drummer Elliott Bennett, adding trumpeter Jonny Bruce, a 2006 graduate. Saxophonist is Ben Waghorn, who’s been heard with Kasabian and Goldfrapp as well as in his own quartet. Stapleton often seems to be taking a back seat, but what holds this complex, disciplined music together is his ability as a composer, creating extended pieces that can move from bombast to lyricism with real structure and purpose.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
Pianist and bassist hadn’t worked together since the end of Jarrett’s American Quartet in 1976, but after meeting in 2007 during the making of a film about Haden, they spent four days recording in Jarrett’s home studio. ‘It has a very dry sound and we didn’t want to have the recording sound like anything but what we were hearing while we played. So it is direct and straightforward,’ writes Jarrett. A far cry from the glossy, groomed perfection of so many ECM issues, it is intimate, immediate and communicative.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
Between 1961 and 1971, Britain’s best-loved poet became Britain’s most hated jazz critic, at least by other critics. In his Telegraph reviews, Philip Larkin was to Coltrane, Ornette and Miles what Brian Sewell is to Hirst, Emin and Serota. Filling the first two discs here is a treasury of Armstrong, Bechet, Condon and so on, the 78s Larkin loved, if not necessarily the artists’ best works. The third and fourth CDs collate items he reviewed and actually liked, mainly reissues.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
Probably Europe’s most sought-after bassist, Jasper Høiby has an authority and impact that grabs your attention and holds it. Here his trio Phronesis are heard live at The Forge in London, but with a different drummer: regular Anton Eger couldn’t make the dates, so Høiby drafted in American Mark Guiliana, with spectacular results. From the start, in the opening ‘Blue Inspiration’, Guiliana and the very fine pianist Ivo Neame push each other to greater heights around the sonorous pivot of a simple repeated bass figure. Then, typically, Høiby opens out and the piece blossoms into new shapes.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
Never content to stand still, Clarke offers another new concept and striking new sonics. His is still the dominant voice, especially leading with his Alembic tenor bass, yet there’s an emphasis on group contributions, the tunes direct and even lyrical. Behind him is regular keyboardist Ruslan Sirota, but the main guest is Hiromi, whose pianism soars effortlessly over the electric soundbed on ‘No Mystery’ and three other tracks. You also hear singer Cheryl Bentine, guitarists Charles Altura and Rob Bacon, and saxist Bob Sheppard.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
Growing up in Oklahoma, Cassity got her first alto saxophone for Christmas at age nine. She moved to New York in 1999 and completed her masters’ at Juilliard in 2007. Her 2008 debut Just For You, on DW Records, was standards-based, but this time she brings her great energy and technique to originals which enliven their straightahead genre with dextrous metrical trickery. Guest horns swell the ranks on some tracks, but the core quintet includes long-time musical partner Michael Dease, a virtuoso trombonist still imbued with the melody and whimsy of an earlier era.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
Virtuoso trumpeter, bandleader and composer Don Ellis produced wild, noisy and innovative big band sounds and wrote the music for The French Connection. He recorded his seminal Electric Bath for Columbia, but in 1973 turned to the high-quality German jazz label MPS to release Soaring, following up with Haiku. Inspired by a set of ten Haiku poems, the music has a film-score lushness, with a string orchestra added to a core jazz group which included pianist Milcho Leviev and bassist Ray Brown. Lovingly remastered (using 24-bit/88.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
Still possibly best known for his work with the late Max Roach, here the muscular tenor player has assembled his own absolutely stellar octet. While Wynton Marsalis alumnus Walter Blanding brings in a wily, fluid tenor, James Carter adds a stirring and gutsy baritone sax, and the ebullient trumpets are David Weiss and Terell Stafford. Behind pianist George Burton and bassist Lee Smith is the drive of Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts. This line-up produces some wonderfully buoyant ensemble playing, not least on a stomping, pedal-point opener that sounds a bit like the start of Janáček’s Sinfonietta.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
A live album can be special, even if it’s not quite the complete concert you expect. This one takes four numbers cut in late 2004 at the Sunside club in Paris and artfully stirs in three 2009 tracks from London’s 606 Club. It was in ’87, after four years with Art Blakey, that an assignment at the Guildhall School brought Toussaint to the UK, and he never went back. His quartet here includes the distinctive British pianist Andrew McCormack, while guitarist Jerome Barde contributes nice solos to two of the Paris tracks.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
After long pursuit of their separate careers, the three Heath Brothers first played under that name in 1975. Percy Heath, the MJQ’s revered bass player, died in 2005, and so the younger brothers, saxophonist Jimmy and drummer Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath, dedicated Endurance to his memory. With the youthful Jeb Patton on piano and David Wong on bass they get things moving on the restless chords of ‘Changes’. Later, an evocative ‘Autumn In New York’ seems to waltz gently in 4/4, and then Jimmy is beautifully reflective in ‘Ballad From Leadership Suite’, which he wrote for the inauguration of a Howard University president in 1996.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 07, 2010
When Hamilton arrived, British saxist and Woodville label owner Barnes suggested using tunes that Johnny Hodges had recorded with his own band in the early 1950s. And according to Barnes, the American tenor master got all the themes and changes down after a single run-through. Neither of them attempts to sound like Hodges, though, and just as well. While Barnes’ bop-tinged alto skeeters around the chords, Hamilton carries right on with his beautiful, fluid and unhurried swing phrasing, effortlessly conjuring up the spirit of Lester Young.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 07, 2010
She’d recorded albums and won a following in France, but it was last year’s Voyage, her debut for the German ACT label, that put Korean-born singer Youn Sun Nah on the wider European map. Here she travels once again with her distinguished Nordic labelmates, guitarist Ulf Wakenius and bassist Lars Daniellson, who’ve proved ideal musical company. They reach the Middle East with a breathtaking piece of scat virtuosity called ‘Breakfast In Baghdad’. But Nah can also be beguiling when accompanied only by the quiet and gentle sounds of her own kalimba, as on ‘My Favourite Things’ and, much more successfully, on the stunning title track.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 07, 2010
You might not think of chamber music as ‘for the masses,’ as the PR blurb has it, but then, the brilliant bassist’s reference point is the Chamber Music Society of Oregon, the community orchestra that she joined as a five-year-old violin prodigy. Her Heads Up debut Esperanza traversed many genres, but this one brings classical sounds to the mix, with a string trio including supreme session cellist David Eggar, weaving music of rich complexity. Spalding’s vocal flights can seem too indulgent, though she’s helped out on two numbers by the ever-fascinating Gretchen Parlato and on one by a weary-sounding Milton Nascimento. But still, a fresh, inspiring album.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 07, 2010
With a large element of theatre, Kinch alternates raps and instrumental numbers, and the theme is the modern slavery of debt: ‘Today’s fetters are mostly invisible,’ he says. Guest vocalist Jason MacDougall is effective on ‘Help’, Eska Mtungwazi sings superbly on ‘Escape’, but it is Kinch who brilliantly leads a whole cast of speakers in ‘Paris Heights’, satirising the brutality of debt collection. But the other musicians are great too, Femi Temowo on guitar chording like a keyboard when he’s not soloing, and multi-reed player Shabaka Hutchings adding an arresting bass clarinet solo on ‘Trade’. In ‘On The Treadmill’ the mournful horn ensemble echoes early Ellington.

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