Showing posts with label CDs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CDs. Show all posts

Monday, March 21, 2016

Better Get It In Your Soul

jazz vespers
Archie Thompson and The Archtone All Stars
Tenor saxophonist Archie Thompson leads a cracker jack ensemble called the ArchTones and with this record release, Jazz Vespers, Vol. 3, he and his troupe offer the latest volume of in an ongoing project to perform and record gospel—inspired jazz at the Chapel of the First Presbyterian Church in San Diego. This isn’t, rest assured, slow, plodding, and sinner–beware rants from a musical pulpit. This is in line with my own feelings of what the foremost goals of a spiritual life and art are, which is to create joy, that state when you are aware of the miracle of being alive and the power of kindness and creativity to rouse the downtrodden soul and lift a person up with an open heart.

The music made by Thompson and the ArchTones is intended to move the listener to have the willingness to live in the moment, senses fully alive, imagination active, to go into the world with the conviction that life needn’t be dour, sad, and tragic. It is testimony praising the Creator, couched in terms of the African–American Christian tradition, but it’s a liturgy that concerns itself with life here and now; one needn’t wait for life after death for reward or judgment. Now is the time to get the feeling, to feel pulse, to experience the love of one’s fellow man in a community that nurtures service and creativity. Thankfully, Thompson and his players use music, not a slew of over–heated words, to get the message across. This jazz of the old school values, showing an intimate relationship with black gospel and blues roots, jump swing and classic ballad work. It’s not just a session of hot licks, though, being an album whose title describes an evening prayer service; gospel songs are strongly represented, their message of deliverance and joy in pursuing the good in life made more emphatically swinging and alive by the vitality of the musicianship on hand.
Especially revealing in how the spirit can be moved by music and letting go of old ideas emerges as the band brings their talents to bear on the Jackie Wilson 1967 classic “Higher and Higher.” Wilson’s original version is a rhythm and blues masterpiece, a stirring melody that complements the singer’s magnificently ascendant vocal, one of those testaments of a man’s undying love for a woman. The ArchTones mix it up just a bit, make it a tad funkier with a New Orleans march beat, sweetly framing a sinner’s profession of love in his or her God, the force from which all that is worth living for flows. Tony Davis’ vocal is crisp and clear, testifying as it climbs the scale. This is an inspired transformation of a classic song. Thompson gets behind the piano and takes a turn at a vocal with “Old Blind Barnabas,” a rumbling, keyboard-charged performance, a fine, grizzled, graciously raspy vocal. With steadfast drumming from Danny Campbell, this is music that sways and rocks, rousing the soul to follow example and do better by our fellow citizens. Gospel receives equally rewarding treatments throughout the rhythmic uplift this album brings us, as in Whitney Shay’s clarion–like rendition of “Come Sunday,” a magnificent voice of a young singer who reveals skills and nuance of an older, subtler approach to a vocal. Spirituality in repose, there is a sense of ease when gratitude is expressed and the tonnage of woe is released.
The ArchTones and their guests have ample opportunity to strut their sense of what truly swings and moves the listener. A standout number is the standard “Sweet Georgia Brown,” a chestnut in lesser hands, but Thompson’s saxophone is sure and spry, chasing down the effectively propulsive rhythm of drummer Danny Campbell and the resonant bass underpinning provided by Jason Littlefield, stating the melody just slightly and causing a glimmer of recognition but then breaking off the iteration and moving ahead with swift and sweeping forays. It’s a performance that seems to me to dance on the edge of the band’s accents and rapidly modulated chord voicings, or perhaps more like Olympic gymnastics performed on a high wire.
Thompson has grace and instinctive sure–footedness when he offers up a brisk sortie, but he performs the deeper, moodier colors of ballads as well. His tone cuts deep and his manipulations of his pitch, stretching upward toward a breaking point but then easing off the stratospheric exploration to return again closer to the ground where he stands, burnishing his sound with a dark, gritty sound that contains the bark and back beat of classic rhythm and blues. His reading of “Comin’ Home Baby” makes this quality clear, his saxophone work nearly vocal in telling the tale of a man returning to his one and only by any means he can devise. It’s a tale without words, just notes shaped to the resonance of human emotion. There are quite a few memorable moments here—a lively combination of gospel, blues, and mainstream jazz. 

This is a sparkling jazz session that inspired me to plug in my microphone and play harmonica along with some of the tracks and inspired me further to walk along Mission Bay, no destination in mind, nothing but me, blue sky, the blue water, and hundreds San Diegans and visitors taking advantage of warm temperatures and sunshine. This is what Jazz Vespers Vol.3 can inspire you to do, perhaps: turn off the computer, arise, and explore the miracle of the world we’re blessed to live in.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A fine CD from Larry Coryell

It's been instructive to revisit jazz guitarist Larry Coryell after a decade or in other neighborhoods. A pioneer of jazz-fusion, this musician is, at his  best, wildly inventive, cranky, blistering and rapid fire, someone akin to Jeff Beck in ways of attacking an improvisation from unexpected angles of attack. Like Beck as well, his body of work is erratic, and one wonders if Coryell might have become stuck on the fence sometime in mid-career, performing an unsatisfying amalgam of mainstream bop standards, pop-jazz and thud worthy, unmotivated funk and rock blends. Fortunately, age and good sense has toughened the guitarist's technique; his album Tricycles and the more recent Earthquake at the Avalon, are both superlative examples of this man's ability to display a pristine delicacy on ballads, fleet-fingered flurries on the accelerated compositions, and a hard-nosed edge on the blues. Of the two albums, Tricycles gets the higher marks, as Coryell has a sweetly trio in bassist Mark Egan and drummer Paul Wertico bring off a varied set of styles with the ease of a unit that knows the strengths and nuances of each other's respective approaches. Coryell's guitar fairly bristles and sparkles through his rich chord voicings and pristine essays, with Egan and Wertico upping the rhythmic ante and lowering it again as the major and minor turns of the songs change the mood. There is a richness in the performance that suggests a larger group. Recommended.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

More from my record collection

I've been clearing out old music these days, giving discs away, selling them, and playing a few I haven't heard for awhile. Here some of the one's I've kept:

"Pursuance: The Music of John Coltrane" --Kenny Garrett

Kenny Garrett (alto saxophone), Pat Metheny (guitar), Rodney Whitaker (bass), Brian Blade (drums).

I guess I've been in a straight ahead mood lately, catching up with CDs I haven't played much since I bought them. Garrett acquits himself here on his alto, and allows himself to mess with Coltrane's' sacred phrases: a potent abstractionist when need be, but a man who's outgrown the old clothes and demonstrates an inspired re-tailoring of the material. "Giant Steps" has a swaggering waltz feel, with a sly, side long reading of the head, and Garrett's' improvisations come in deft, spiky explosions. Metheny remains a marvel of jazz guitar here, a continuing revelation since he more or less walked away from his fusion stance some years ago, and the bass and drum interplay between Whitaker and Blade tumbles and rolls nicely through out.

"Remembering Bud Powell" --Chick Corea and Friends

Roy Haynes (drums) Kenny Garrett (alto sax) Joshua Redman (tenor sax),Wallace Roney (trumpet) Christian Mc Bride (bass).

Yes, yes, I am playing a desperate game of catch up, and habits tend toward stellar tributes rather than primary sources, but this Corea Bud Powell collection is notable for, besides dense and cutting improvisations, is the quality of Powells' compositions. Corea resists the temptation to Latinise or fusionize the material and instead plays the charts straight--Powells' sense of harmonic build up and resolution is loopy, easing from sweetness to tart dissonance. All of which is the canvas for some good blowing. Corea reins in his extravaganzas and weaves around with a now untypical sense of swing. The efforts of Garrett and Redman are a reed lovers idea of heaven. Roney has a cool, crystalline tone , and his phrasing is meditative, reserved, nicely so, though one desires a Freddie Hubbardish scorch at odd times. Haynes and McBride are champs.

:Blues --Jimi Hendrix

A typical gathering of Hendrix loose threads, centered his outstanding blues guitar work: some tracks work better than others, the band is not always in tune , and sometimes drags terribly, but this is more than archival stuff for completest. "Red House" is included, always inspiring, and "Bleeding Heart", a truly mournful show blues work out that has only surfaced once or twice on some imports, has Hendrix digging deep into the frets. A live "Hear My Train A Comin'", originally on the "Rainbow Bridge" album, is a masterpiece of pure, blazing Hendrixism: Everything Hendrix could do right on the guitar is displayed here, the sonic flurries, the screaming ostinatos, the feedback waves that he turns into melodic textures with a snap of the whammy bar: this track ought to the one any Hendrix advocate plays as proof of the genius we speak about.

GO --Dexter Gordon

w/Gordon--tenor sax / Sonny Clark--piano / Butch Warren--bass / Billy Higgins--drums.

A 1961 gathering, a roll-up the sleeves where only the music mattered, from the sounds of things here. Gordon has such an easy gait on the slower, bluesier tunes, and an engulfing sense of swing on the faster tracks. And in between, any number of moods , his phrases whimsical, suggesting , perhaps, what Paul Desmond might have wished he sounded like if he would only dare step out of that glossy, modal style and burn a little. He might have garnered a bit of Gordon's humor. Billy Higgins is wonderful here, and Sonny Clark is a bright star through out: his chord work and harmonic turns brighten up the room.

Barbecue Dog --Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society

Cranky post-Miles fusion, highlighting the tone-dialing bass work of Jackson, and pre-Living Color guitar work from Vernon Reid. Lessons from everywhere--bop and Zappa, Miles and Ornette--some of this does not hang together as well as it might, but some tracks mesh to fantastic results: particularly "Harlem Opera". Quizzical and cubist.

Jazz at the Hi-Hat
--Sonny Stitt

w/Stitt--alto and tenor sax/Dean Earl--piano/Bernie Griggs--bass/Marquis Foster--drums.

Whether Stitt came up with this style on his own or did in fact cop from Charlie Parker is moot: this album, a 1954 live date with a strong band whose reputations are unknown to me, shows him playing as if he owned the style solely: the phrasing is fluid and ridiculously rapid, ebullient and melodic all through the melodies. Conventional fair, but pulsing bop, alive and kicking.

Ed Palermo Big Band Plays the Music of Frank Zappa

Superb selection of material--"Peaches and Regalia", "Twenty Small Cigars", "King Kong"--but you feel Palermo labored too hard to transcribe Zappa's music exactly. Still, the compositions stand tall, but the formalist air doesn't lighten. I kept wondering what it would have sounded like for Palermo to have a smaller band that substantially reworked Zappa's works, really messing with the moods, and extending. Maybe some one will see that through some day.

One of A Kind--Bill Bruford

w/Bruford--drums and percussion/ Allan Holdsworth--guitar / Dave Stewart --keyboards / Jeff Berlin-- bass

The King Crimson and sometime Yes drummer had occasional jazz-fusion sessions when he wasn't furnishing beats behind abstruse angst fantasies, and surprisingly, the music holds up well. There is not an amphetamine strain fuzz tone anywhere to be heard. What helps are good tunes, most by Bruford, that mix up funk, Zappa, and Prog-rock stylistics under unmannered conditions, allowing the instrumental work to mesh, mess around, and burn as needed. Holdsworth offers some impressive ultra legato lines, and Jeff Berlin is singular on the bass. Bruford, hardly a Tony Williams-like goliath, fusion monster, lacks some the swing you might like, or even the blunt Bonham-oid pow! to make this rock harder, but he's an able timekeeper who keeps the session forging ahead.

Zygote --John Popper

Curious to see if the Blues Traveller leader might extend his unique harmonica playing to some styles that might render his speedy riffing into something consistently resembling music, but NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Twice, I count, he lets us know that he's a terribly fast player whose blurring cascades overwhelm you, but even on these tracks he becomes directionless, wheezing, void of an inspiration except perhaps to think that if he plays real fast , all the time, he might live up to the offensive comparisons of to Coltrane that have been made by more than one nitwit reviewer. Sugar Blue is your man, if you need rapid fire harmonica work. The songs? They sound like a man ploughing a field without a horse. Cumbersome at worse. At best, tuneful, but not often enough.