December 2001


Carlos Santana - "Devine Light"

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When I think of Carlos Santana, names like "Black Magic Woman", "Evil Ways" and "Oye Coma Va" immediately come to mind. This Mexican-born American guitarist is best known as the leader of the band that bears his last name, which has toured and recorded successfully since the late 1960's. Santana is also known for his unorthodox mix of rock, jazz and salsa.

He has recorded a series of exploratory albums, two of which are "Love Devotion and Surrender" and "Illumination". This, his latest release is a reconstruction, and mix translation of both the aforementioned albums by Bill Laswell, one of the leading producers of today's contemporary music.

By taking segments from each recording, then alternating and remixing the tunes, Laswell has managed to create a now vista for us to examine. There are 9 tunes on this CD, two of which were composed by the late John Coltrane "Naima" and the very spiritual "A Love Supreme", which happens to be the highlight of this recording. It begins with organist Larry Young introducing the melody, followed by some excellent guitar playing by Santana.

The rest of the CD moves along rather ponderously, sounding very crowded at times, an example of this is on "Angel of Air" with its overly lush string arrangements by Alice Coltrane. Other musicians on the recording are John McLaughlin, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. Although there are some depths, pleasant moments and interesting pockets, I had some difficulties understanding its logic and direction. Despite my findings and opinions, die-hard Santana fans will, I'm sure, find this recording worthy of a place in their collection. CS

Columbia CK-61384

Lonnie Plaxico - "Melange"

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Although he was associated with the M-Base musicians, bassist Lonnie Plaxico has earned an impressive reputation throughout his career. His resume includes tenure with some of the greatest players in jazz, such as Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey and Wynton Marsalis. The word "Melange" means a mixture, and that's exactly what this CD is all about. A very versatile and clever musician, Lonnie has taken many moods and flavours and forged them into a musical tapestry. He utilizes various influences and styles to accomplish his means. There is funk, a bit of hip-hop, and for the most part, a great deal of fusion. As a composer, Lonnie's talent is very much in evidence, having written all eleven selections.

"Pamela", which happens to be the centre-piece of the recording has almost everything. There are Brazilian rhythms, intricate time changes, lucid trumpet playing by Tim Ries and the masterful piano playing of Helen Sung. Other tune titles are "Squib Cakes", "Darkness", "Beloved" and the title track "Melange". There is an aura of mystic about this CD that grows on you with every listening. This is Lonnie's fiftieth offering as a leader, the music is refreshing, energetic and sometimes difficult, but its masterful execution is a credit to all concerned. CS

Blue Note 7243 32356-2-9

Sonny Stitt/Don Patterson - "Brothers-4"

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For quite some time now, I have listened to and enjoyed the straight ahead playing of Sonny Stitt. Hearing him is always a treat, but to hear him in the company of such stalwarts as Don Patterson and Grant Green is so wonderful. This recording is a from a 1969 session, and reissued for the first time on Compact Disc. The musicians involved here are no strangers, as Sonny Stitt, Don Patterson and Billy James, all worked together for many years. The addition of Grant Green, famous for his blues drenched solos has made the group more notable. The title track "Brothers 4" gets off to a busy tempo-melody line, followed by Don Patterson on organ taking off on one his great swinging flights.

The sound is a groove from start to finish and the playing is just superb. Don swings very hard, and like most organ players does not hold the long notes forever. While Stitt's playing as at times intense, it remains consistent and also relaxing as heard on "Creepin' Home". I like the group's interpretation of the much recorded Hal David and Burt Bacharach's "Walk on By". The subtle intro by Sonny and Bill James' syncopated drum rhythms make this one of the finest versions I have ever heard. Grant Green continues to be ever present throughout, demonstrating once again why he belongs in this great company of jazz brothers. A great CD in all aspects. CS

Prestige PRCD-24261-1

Curtis Peagler - "Disciples Blues"

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Curtis Peagler is a fine swinging saxophonist, whose style and approach made him an asset to many groups over the years. His alto sound was influenced by Charlie Parker and to a lesser extent, Louis Jordan. On this reissue recording he leads a group of fine musicians called 'The Modern Jazz Disciples'. They did not stay together for very long, or make recordings, neither did they record much. This disc is a combination of their complete recordings altogether totaling 14 tracks. They include "My Funny Valentine", Gene Ammons "The Happy Blues" and two originals by Curtis Peagler "Right Down Front" and "Disciple Blues". This recording is a swinger, from the opening track "After You've Gone" which finds Peagler displaying a sustained and unrestricted blowing in a manner reminiscent of Charlie Parker.

William Kelly's brilliant playing on normaphone (a valve trombone shaped like an alto sax) and euphonium adds a rich texture and colour to the group's sound, as demonstrated on Charlie Parker's "Perhaps". Much deserved credit to a fine rhythm section led by pianist Bill Brown, whose light-hearted solo is heard on "The Happy Blues". The full-bodied lyrical playing of Peagler continues to dominate through the recording. The Modern Disciples were a competent group of musicians with the ability to shape their arrangements and solos in form, thus allowing each player enough space to tell their story. CS

Prestige PRCD-24263-2

Jazz in Paris series: "Modern Jazz at Saint-Germain-des-Pres"

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The Modern Jazz CD is a compilation of two 10" Lp's by Bernard Peiffer's Saint-Germain-des Pres Orchestra (Blue Star 6842) and Bernard Zacharias and his Soloists (Club Francais du Disque 39) respectively. Both were recorded in 1954 in Paris. The group fronted by Waller-inspired pianist Peiffer, sets an accelerated pace throughout, with the exception of a smoothly loose offering to "There's a Small Hotel". Zacharias' Octet, with its unique instrumentation, contrastingly presents a more restrained sequence of trombone-led numbers. Despite the brevity of most pieces, there are some wonderfully inspired solos, notably the playful exchanges between Peiffer/tenor "Frozen Feet", the trumpet of Roger Guerin "Paris je t'aime" or his flugelhorn "It Ain't Necessarily So", or Michel de Villers' bass clarinet "The Man I Love". Both leaders are dynamically active throughout. The sides recall "…the incredible melting-pot of ideas that presided over the destiny of modern jazz in post-war St.Germain".

Gitanes 4400130422

Jazz in Paris series: Dizzy Gillespie - "The Giant"

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Under the caption "Jazz in Paris", a collection of some 50 recordings, the Gitanes label is retracing "… the epic tale of the jazz musicians listened to, cherished, by the capital throughout the past seven decades". The Gillespie CD (1973) reunites the trumpeter with old friends, Humberto Canto - timbales and Kenny Clarke - drums, who had accompanied him on his first triumphant visit to the city in 1948 where he soon became "…a regular guest on the French jazz scene". This session, a rare studio appearance, linked him with relative newcomers - Johnny Griffin - tenor, Kenny Drew- piano, and Niles Henning Orsted Pedersen - bass - on five extended performances including two Gillespie originals: "I Waited for You"/"Fiesta Mojo". This is a reissue of an America LP 6133.

Gitanes 0121597342

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