December 2004

Each month we provide a series of CD reviews plus "Star Rated" items.

You can listen to clips of some of our picks. You'll need a RealAudio Player to do this, and you can download by clicking on the following icon:

Our reviewing staff members are:

John Sutherland: John has a keen interest in piano jazz and brings with him a wealth of knowledge in this area.

Robert Fogle: Rob is Director of Musical Services for Fogle Entertainment in Toronto, as well he hosts his own radio programme on CHRY-FM (105.5). His background as a fan, in jazz music is extensive, and he is a serious collector of all genres of the music.

Colin Smith: Colin began his interest in jazz in his native Jamaica, and since settling in Toronto has become more involved in the music he loves. He is the school programme director for the Markham Jazz Festival and hosts his own jazz show on CKLN-FM (88.1).

Bob Eckersley: Bob Eckersley emigrated from England in 1957 and settled in Owen Sound (Northern Ontario), where he worked as an inspector for the government on Highway construction. His interest in jazz started during the war years, and though he is not a trained musicologist, he listens from the heart and judges accordingly.

By way of identification, reviewer's initials are inserted at the end of each review.

Previous Picks

Paul Bley - "Nothing to Declare"

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Well into his 5th decade as a jazz pianist, this is Bley's 5th solo session for the Justin Time label. As well, he has performed with most of the avant-garde musicians over the past half century, Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Jimmy Giuffre, to name just a few. Despite the truth to the claim that he is a "….National Treasure in his native Canada…" along with Oscar Peterson and Glenn Gould, his contribution sadly remains unheralded. Stylistically unfettered, he steadfastly pursues eclectic and experimental avenues, innovative, spare, complex, that involve an inherent risk-taking in improvisation. Here, with 4 original compositions making up the almost hour-long coverage of the disc, the extra length for each affords Bley time to reveal a truly "mature artist at play", balancing beauty with intellect. Highly Recommended.

J. S.

Justin Time JUST 199-2

Cecil Taylor & Italian Instabile Orchestra - "The Owner of the River Bank"

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Unswervingly, Cecil Taylor has pursued new frontiers in jazz, abandoning the anticipated musical elements such as chord changes, tonal and rhythmic patterns, melodic structure, or traditions linked to classical conventions. Despite the seeming chaos that ensues for many listeners, there are definitive rewards to such informality of approach. Working here with an established orchestral group from a small Italian town (Ruva di Puglia), Taylor "…obliged the musicians to take a fresh look at themselves…", to "give space to the many beautiful ideas that are merging", to "let loose a music whose freedom and energy is …no mere superficial patina". The slow process of understanding and response is documented in this 7-part composition fashioned by musicians in concert, and is an energetic, inspired, personal tribute to both dedicated performers and their ever-persistent mentor.

J. S.

Enja/Justin Time JENJ 3317-2

Sonny Simmons - "Burning Spirits"

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I had never understood the concepts or nuances of "free form and avant-garde". Therefore in my quest for knowledge I availed myself the opportunity to listen to Sonny Simmons offering "Burning Spirits". After repeated listening my thirst for understanding has not been fully realized. I must say, however, that I do have the highest respect for those artists whose musical endeavours include the above-mentioned genre. Simmons has an original style, which is deeply rooted in the blues and is equally convincing on tenor and alto saxophones. He was one of the most promising avant-garde players of the sixties. Like Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane, his ability to explore new musical frontiers has never been in question.

"Burning Spirits" was originally released as a double LP in the seventies, now it is available for the first time in CD format. There are six rather lengthy tracks on this recording, all Simmons original compositions, and they all reflect the attitude of the times. The title track tells of those who are burning to be free, while "Healing Rays" expresses the need of healing the nation. Simmons is accompanied by bassists Cecil McBee (right channel) Richard Davis (left channel) with Clifford Jarvis - drums, Barbara Donald - trumpet, Michael White - violin, Lonnie Liston Smith - piano. Donald's trumpet playing is clear and straightforward, while White's violin adds extra colorations to the sound of the group. I have no doubt that this classic recording will be of great interest to those who love Simmon's music.

C. S.

Contemporary CCD-7625/26-2

Previous Picks