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Bobby Shew - "Playing with Fire"

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The title here is most appropriate, the band cooks, burns and sizzles. Fasten your seat belt when you put this one in your CD player, it never lets up. Two trumpets/flugelhorns, almost moulding into one sound, Shew and Tom Harrell with a blazing rhythm section – John Pattiucci – bass, Kei Akagi – keyboards, Roy McCurdy – drums. From the opening track "Prelude and Blues" you know you are in for an exciting musical journey, as Shew and Harrell trade solo space and squeeze every ounce of breath into their horns. The melodic "April Mist" and the beautiful ballad "Cloud Dance" are written by Harrell and glow with repeated playing. Patitucci’s and Akagi’ solos on "Cloud Dance" are outstanding. (H.H.)

Mama Foundation MMF 1017 to order

The Bob Florence Limited Edition - "Earth"

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West Coast (California) big band leader Bob Florence doesn’t record, or tour for that matter, as much as he should. Like Rob McConnell (Boss Brass), Florence is a great composer/arranger and also like Rob he loves melody. On all of the recordings by Florence – "Here and Now" (an old Liberty recording, circa 1965), "Pet Project" World Pacific, 1968, "Live at Concerts by the Sea" Trend, 1979, "Westlake" Discovery, 1981, "Soaring" Bosco, 1982, "Magic Time", Discovery, 1983, "State of the Art", USA Music Group, 1988, and two previous recordings for the Mama Foundation "With all the Bells and Whistles" and "Funupmanship" he has surrounded himself with the crème de la crème of musicians who obviously have fun with the charts. Considered by some as being the modern day Ellington, Florence uses the orchestra (like Duke did) as his instrument. This is a superb example of state-of-the-art big band jazz with exciting charts and equally exciting soloists. Thrill to Steve Huffsteter (trumpet) on "Willis" (a tribute to Bill Holman, another swinging big band leader), Carl Saunders (trumpet) – "Monday Nights"/ "Emily", Kim Richmond (alto) – "Straight, No Chaser", Terry Harrington (tenor) – "New York Injection", Trey Henry (bass) – "The Creepy Crawlies", George Graham (trumpet) – "Black and Tan Fantasy". Listen closely to the sections, interacting with each other, always fluid and swinging. Highly recommended for all jazz fans, especially lovers of the big bands. (H.H.)

Mama Foundation MMF 1016 to order

Gerald Wilson Orchestra - "Theme for Monterey"

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For over a half century Gerald Wilson has been leading a band that plays infectious, soulful melodies composed by Wilson. This wonderful latest edition is still in the same groove, this time with a suite taking up most of the CD. The suite was commissioned for the Monterey Jazz Festival’s 40th anniversary (1997), and it justifiably and …"deftly conjures the sites and spirit of Monterey"…(liner). My personal memories of travelling 17 Mile Drive, seeing the Lone Cypress tree on the cliff overlooking the ocean, spending some time on Pebble Beach, visiting Cannery Row are all brought back quite vividly as I listen to Mr.Wilson’s interpretations. There is a very positive feeling listening to each track, the full band blows hard on each chart and the soloists generate electricity – Scott Mayo (alto/soprano) – "Romance"/ "The Lone Cypress"/ "Spanish Bay", Randall Willis (trumpet) – "Lyon’s Roar" (dedicated to the late Jimmy Lyons), / "Cookin’ on Cannery Row", Anthony Wilson (guitar), Gerald’s son, "Lyon’s Roar"/ "The Lone Cypress"/ "Cookin’ on Cannery Row".

There are additional tracks not connected to the Suite; both commissioned by the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Foundation in 1996 and made their debut with Wilson at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, D.C. at a special gala performance sponsored by the Library of Congress, in honour of the library’s archiving of Gerald Wilson’s life’s work. "Summertime" which has some eight part harmony and overlays of other Porgy and Bess themes (i.e.: It Ain’t Necessarily So" – under the guitar solo). The other tune is "Anthropology" which is actually based on the chord changes of Gershwin’s "I Got Rhythm". If you don’t have any Gerald Wilson recordings in your collection - shame on you, buy this one and see if you don’t get hooked. For those fans of the Wilson sound, you must add this to your library. (H.H.)

Mama Foundation MMF 1021 to order

NOTE: The MAMA Foundation is funded by private contributions and it’s officers serve voluntarily. The artists have a great deal of freedom, thereby playing the music the way it was meant to be played. The recordings are produced with the state-of-the art digital equipment, and furnished free of charge to qualified school libraries nationwide (U.S.). All of the recordings are available to the general public, but in almost all cases, project costs exceed sales income. All revenues go directly back into funding other worthy artists.

To order a catalogue of MAMA Foundation product and/or to purchase the CD’s reviewed here, please contact (818) 985-6565, email: [email protected] or visit them on the web at:

Zoot Sims/Al Cohn/Phil Woods - "Jazz Alive: A Night at the Half Note"

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Originally released on the United Artists label (LP format), the tenors of Zoot Sims and Al Cohn are joined by altoist Phil Woods with a rhythm section of Mose Allison – piano, Paul Motian – drums and Nabil Totah – bass at NYC’s Half Note club in a programme of 4 extended numbers (1959). The opening "Lover Come Back to Me" is a "… free-styled, highly spirited…." Piece with Al and Zoot exchanges, while each solos in a lightly swinging "It had to be you". With the addition of Woods on "Wee Dot" and "After You’ve Gone", the pace is supercharged, "…inspired jazz, captured in its free state on the nightclub bandstand" of the 50’s. It’s a memorable step into the past indeed. (J.S.)

Blue Note 7243 4 94105 2 7 to order

Chuck Redd - "Stomp, Look and Listen"

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Often featured as drummer with Charlie Byrd’s aggregations of the 80’s, the Washington, D.C. jazzman, Chuck Redd, chooses the vibes to launch his 1996 debut album. With Byrd – guitar, Ken Peplowski – clarinet/tenor, Paul Langosch – bass, Victor Lewis – drums, and brother Robert sharing the piano chair with Tommy Flanagan, Redd shows that he is quite comfortable in this role – authoritatively aggressive with Ellington’s "Stomp, Look and Listen" or paired with a fleet Flanagan on "All God’s Chillun’ Got Rhythm"; kicking up an Afro-Cuban introduction with Robert’s piano "West Coast Blues" and romping with Byrd through "Sweet and Slow"; emulating an MJQ mode on "I Didn’t Know What Time It Was". Noteworthy, too, is his own tender treatment of "Poem for My Son". (J.S.)

Exclusive Arts 12102 To order please contact: Exclusive Arts at: (703) 556-8923 or fax: (703) 556-9894

James Moody - "Moody’s Mood for Love"

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One of the earliest boppers on tenor in the mid-forties, reedman James Moody is featured almost exclusively on flute (alto sax on "Mean to Me") with this 1956-57 reissue of an Argo LP. There are 3 Moody originals, including a solidly swinging "Foolin’ the Blues" with pianist Jimmy Boyd on an unorthodox-sounding peck-horn, while Benny Golson plays a rare piano accompaniment. "Plus Eight" derived from Moody’s brief 8-bar bridge, and a loosely-structured "Phil Up". Standards comprise Moody’s flute over a baritone background with "You Go to my Head", as well as Eddie Jefferson’s unique boppish lyrics on Parker’s "Billie’s Bounce" and the 50’s hit "I’m in the Mood for Love". At 30 minutes duration, this should definitely have a "price that’s right" sticker. (J.S.)

GRP 823 (Chessmate series) to order

"Swingsation Series" (from GRP Records)

Though not for the completists, the series, drawn from Decca vaults, provides significant opportunities for those who simply wish to sample the swing, jazz, and dance era of the 30’s and 40’s. Ticketed with "Incredible Value" stickers and quite selective of some of the best music of the period (if my 5 CD’s are any indication), the discs seem ideal for that purpose. Sound quality is good, notes are helpful, and timing is quantitatively acceptable at 55 minutes on average. Here is a brief breakdown that may entice you:

  1. Lionel Hampton (GRBD 9922) – music from 1942-47; featuring an all-star cast including Milt Buckner, Arnett Cobb, Charlie Mingus, etc.; numbers such as "Flying Home"/ "Hamp’s Boogie Woogie"/ "Midnight Sun", and 13 others.
  2. Jimmy Lunceford (GRBD 9923) – music from 1934-37; featuring Sy Oliver, Eddie Durham, Willie Smith, Eddie Wilcox, and others; numbers such as "My Blue Heaven"/ "For Dancers Only"/ "Four or Five Times", and 15 others.
  3. Ella Fitzgerald (with Chick Webb) (GRBD 9921) - music from 1934-39; featuring Edgar Sampson, Louis Jordan, Elmer Williams, etc; numbers such as "Organ Grinder’s Swing"/ "A-Tisket, A-Tasket"/ "Undecided", and 15 others.
  4. Count Basie (GRBD 9920) – music from 1937-39; featuring Lester Young, Herschel Evans, Freddie Green, Jimmy Rushing, etc.; numbers such as "One O’clock Jump"/ "Swingin’ the Blues"/ "Jumpin’ at the Woodside", and 15 others.
  5. Sampler (GRBD 9924) – 12 selections from the above CD’s, and 4 bonus tracks including 3 from the 50’s (still Decca originals), respectfully by Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, as well as a hard-to-find 1937 Glenn Miller release ("Peg O’ my Heart").

"The Swingsation series was designed to give contemporary listeners a well-rounded perspective on the music that drove dancers into a frenzy a half-century ago" (liner). It does that. (J.S.)

Priceless Jazz Collection (from GRP Records)

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A similar ongoing series dedicated to "important jazz artists" over a broader time frame, and reissued from the catalogue of Commodore, Decca, Chess, Impulse, GRP labels is available with a "special low price" tag. The criteria (above) apply here. I have 5 examples:

  1. (More) Louis Armstrong (GRBD 9918) – not the ground-breaking Hot 5 and 7’s of the 20’s , but wonderful swinging/ballad sides from the 30’s ("I Double Dare You"/ "Swing That Music"/ "I’m in the Mood for Love") plus 4 numbers from the 50’s ("Blueberry Hill"/ "That Lucky Old Sun"/ "Lazy River") including a 1950 All-Star cut ("I Surrender Dear") with a marvelous Barney Bigard feature. All 16 are former Decca releases.
  2. (More) Billie Holiday (GRBD 9917) - drawn from Commodore/Decca charts (1939-49) with a few interesting alternate takes and some jazz stalwarts as accompanists (Eddie Heywood/Doc Cheatham/Bobby Hackett/Vic Dickenson), Holiday shines, especially on "Yesterdays", "Solitude", "I Cover the Waterfront" and her own "Billie’s Blues". Sixteen numbers in all.
  3. (More) Ella Fitzgerald (GRBD 9916) - Decca issues from 1947-55 (17 total) with diverse orchestral support by Ben Carter, Sy Oliver, Toots Camerata, Ray Brown, Gordon Jenkins, Bob Haggart, Andre Previn, as well as instrumentalists Ellis Larkins, Louis Jordan, and a pairing on "I Gotta Have my Baby Back" with the Mills Brothers. Memorable is Ella’s handling of "Hard Hearted Hanna", a boppish vocalise on "Airmail Special", and a delightful Louis imitation with "Basin Street Blues".
  4. (More) John Coltrane (GRBD 9915) - released on the Impulse label (1961-65), the 9 numbers here showcase Trane as "… established artist with a resolute vision and global reputation" (liner), and they reveal both his power and lyricism. With such colleagues as McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison, he conjures up a blend of the "obsessive, lithe, combustible, tender" with his unique interpretations of "The Inch Worm", "Soul Eyes", and "Afro Blue".
  5. Alice Coltrane (GRBD 9914) - also Impulse originals presenting the artist on harp, piano, and organ (1968-71) as she pursued her late husband’s quest to extend musical boundaries into an absorption of eastern cultures and spirituality. With reedman Pharoah Sanders, percussionist Rashied-Ali, and bassist Ron Carter, her music evoked fresh images and moods, evident in works such as "Shiva-Loka", "Via Sivanandagar", and "Sita Ram".


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Five of the most important recordings of the Miles Davis quintet (1965-68), leading into the next level of evolvement ("In a Silent Way" /"Bitches Brew" – 1969), have now become available on single CD’s in 20-bit digitally remixed and remastered format.

  1. "E.S.P." Columbia/Legacy CK 65683, January 1965 and featuring Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. (Actually the first studio recording of this outstanding quintet).
  2. "Miles Smiles" Columbia/Legacy CK 65682, October 1966.
  3. "Sorcerer" Columbia/Legacy CK 65680, May 1967. This edition of "Sorcerer" comes with some alternate takes of "Limbo" and "Masqualero", giving the listener an insight of how a tune gets changed to the satisfaction of leader and sidemen. Interesting to note on this particular CD we get a very brief extra cut, featuring vocalist, cult-figure Bob Dorough – ("Nothing Like You").
  4. "Nefertitti" Columbia/Legacy CK 65681, June 1967, has four bonus tracks, two of "Hand Jive" and one each of "Madness" and "Pinocchio".
  5. "Miles in the Sky" Columbia/Legacy CK 65684, January and May 1968. Two additional tracks on this: alternate takes on "Black Comedy" and "Country Son".

In Jack Chambers book "Milestones 11" Miles is quoted, in an interview with Don DeMichael "It’s quality that makes the music good, if you get the right guys to play the right thing at the right time, you get everything you need". Surrounded by these young sidemen, Miles produced some extraordinary, exploratory small band jazz music. No other period in Miles Davis’s music presents so orderly an appearance as these key documents. It changed the face of jazz permanently. (H.H.)

Highly recommended CD's without reviews, star rated as follows:

***** Excellent
**** Good

New Releases

Rating Artist Title Label & Cat. No.

***** Cindy Blackman In the Now High Note HCD 7024
***** Pat Belliveau La Zona Blanca Pabco Music 6 23667 20107 0
***** Jacqueline Johnson Blue Jazz it Up AP-197
***** Primal Therapy Primal Therapy Independent PTCD1001
***** Ranee Lee Seasons of Love Justin Time JUST 103-2
***** Virginia Mayhew Nini Green Chiaroscuro CR(D)351
***** Joey DeFrancesco & "Papa" John DeFrancesco All in the Family HighNote HCD 7021
**** Yellowjackets Club Nocturne Warner Bros 9 47031-2
***** Count Basie Straight Ahead GRP GRD-822
**** Mahavishnu Orchestra The Inner Mounting Flame Columbia CK 65523