February 2001


Miles Davis - "Bitches Brew" (C2K 65774)
Miles Davis - "On the Corner" (CK 63980)
Miles Davis - "Big Fun" (C2K 63973)
Miles Davis - "Get Up With It" (C2K 63970)

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The late sixties and early seventies was very much a rock era and not commercially friendly to jazz artists. Hendrix, Cream with Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, The Band, Chicago, Blood, Sweat and Tears etc, were selling out arenas, but established jazz artists were finding difficulty getting even club work. The jazz clubs were closing one by one and the new generation was listening to, and buying rock music. Miles wanted to not only change his direction musically but also saw a new potential audience, that of a young white record buying public. Whenever he would change musical direction, he always seemed to move forward, not in steps, but in leaps, embracing modern influences, yet making his own. He would then take it into a new realm, influencing the direction the music industry would take. He would take the initial spark and then turn it into a forest fire.

The music Miles painted in this period, before his short retirement, was heavily influenced by rock rhythms, and he experimented with various timbres, including using two drummers on the same song,or using a guitar player (the first time Miles would use guitar with the exception of the recording "Miles in the Sky", on which George Benson performed on one tune), with a jazz sensibility, but with a rock sound.

There would be an electric bass player as well as an acoustic bassist, and sometimes up to three keboardists plus organ. Miles even experimented with various percussionists and a sitar. He would spalsh colours on his musical canvas that had never been tried before. He would open concerts for the rock stars of the day and play for thousands of people at a time. He alienated a lot of his fans and critics along the way, but opened up as he had set out to do, to a brand new audience.

Miles, as in the past, had a knack for picking the right combination of players to flesh out his musical landscapes. Like before, these players would usually go on and become the pace setters for their respective instruments. Musicians like Dave Holland, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Al Foster, Billy Cobham, Dave Leibman and Joe Zawinul are a handful of the players who were a part of this rich musical happening.

This was a very important part of not only Miles' musical output, but music in general, opening the door for groups like Weather Report, Chick Corea and Return to Forever, John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Herbie Hancock's Head Hunters and later, the Brecker Brothers, I recommend checking out these recordings to get a full picture of what Miles contributed to the world of sound. SB

Columbia - See Catalogue Numbers Above

The Manhattan Transfer - "The Spirit of St. Louis"

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It is fitting that the Manhattan Transfer's latest offering is dedicated, and I quote, "to the enduring spirit of Louis Armstrong". August 4, 2001 being the centenary of Satchmo's birth, thus the CD title. In their over twenty-eight year existence, Tim Hauser, Janis Siegal, Alan Paul and Cheryl Bentyne of the Transfer, have never been afraid to move in new (or in this case "old") directions with their classic harmonies.

This moving release takes them back to a collection of Louis' hits and lesser known melodies that had their heyday between the 1920's and 1950's.

We travel from New Orleans with Spencer Williams' "Stompin at Mahogany Hall" and Lil Armstrong's "Nothing Could Be Hotter Than That", along the Mississippi through to Chicago, and end up in "Wonderland" with "When You Wish Upon A Star". Along the way is Louis' 1935 composition "Old Man Mose", "The Blues Are Brewin' ", "Sugar", "A Kiss To Build A Dream On", "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans", "Gone Fishin' " and "Blue Again". This is a winning creation from today's premier vocal group.

There is also a Canadian connection, the bassist, Toronto's Dave Piltch appears on all tracks. And special mention goes to Teddy Borowiecki, who can be heard on a quartet of instruments, accordian, pump organ, piano and organ.

This album is a logical pairing with the quartet's previous release, "Swing". RF

Atlantic CD 83394

Wynton Marsalis - "The Marciac Suite"

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This 13-piece composition by Wynton Marsalis, honouring a small, rural French town of some 1300 people, is the composer's response to the many events and personalities that have helped to create "...a world-class jazz festival in this unlikely rural setting". Beginning on a limited scale in 1978 (with Bill Coleman and Guy Lafitte), it has evolved into a 10-day event attracting 100,000 people, aided significantly by Marsalis' active involvement since 1991. A jazz museum, innovative jazz programmes in the school, - even a life-sized bronze of Wynton in the ancient cloister - attest to a devotion to the music. The septet, with trumpeter/leader Marsalis, unleashes musically a series of scenes and portraits from a free-spirited "Loose Duck", an exuberant "Marciac Fun", to the sensual "Mademoiselle D' Gascony", the hard-working founder/mayor "Jean-Louis is Everywhere", or the enthusistic "For My Kids at the College of Marciac". Marsalis has certainly fulfilled one main mission as an artist: to "leave a legacy" rooted in the jazz tradition. JS

Columbia CK 69877

Danilo Perez - "Motherland"

I wasn't that familiar with Danilo Perez, or his music before hearing this CD. I had heard his name in the company of great players, but upon having a lengthy listen to "Motherland", I was knocked out. This pianist is a fantastic player and equally talented composer. The Panamanian born pianist brings a lot of different influences to the keyboard, including those very infectious Latin rhythms. There are a lot of guests on this recording, all appearing in different configurations. Some of those guests include Brian Blade, John Patitucci, Chris Potter, Claudia Acuna, Richard Bona, Kurt Rosenwinkle and many others. A worth while purchase beckoning more than a few listenings. SB

Verve 314 543 904-2

Steve Swallow - "Always Pack Your Uniform On Top"

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This live recording from Ronnie Scott's Club in London takes off from where Steve Swallow's last studio effort "Deconstructed" left off. The band is the same with the exception of Barry Reis replacing Ryan Kisor on trumpet. Tenor player Chris Potter, guitarist Mick Goodrick and drumming power house Adam Nussbaum are all back again flushing out every possibility that Swallow's deceptively hard compositions offer. Potter again shines as he does in every situation I've heard him in. I don't know if there is anyone playing better on the instrument. This is a great recording. A little added bonus that Mr.Swallow throws in are the lead sheets in the CD insert. "Always Pack Your Uniform On Top" is certainly on my top ten list for 2000. SB

ECM 314 543 506-2

Sonny Rollins - "This is What I Do"

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Anyone wanting to know Sonny Rollins musical roots, only need to play the opening track from his new CD "This is What I Do". Rollins, a veteran saxophonist of over forty years, continues to captivate audiences through his brilliant recordings and superb concert performances.

A true giant of jazz, who always finds a way to surprise us with his interesting choice of tunes; this new offering on the Milestone label speaks directly to that fact. The selctions range from the superbly performed standard "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square", to the foot-stomping, finger-popping calypso-flavoured, Rollins original "Salvador", a reference to a Brazilian city.

There are also two selections that are dedicated to former musicians, the slow and somewhat bluesey "Charles M", a tribute to the late bassist, Charles Mingus, and the funky, soul jazz influenced "Did You See Harold Vick", a reference to his friend and saxophonist. The accompanying musicians are for the most part Sonny's regulars, with some of the brighter spots given to pianist Steve Scott, who next to Rollins was allowed the most solos. A chance for him to display his sometimes monkish phrasing and Wynton Kelly's influence.

One of the many high points of this CD, is that Rollins was able to stretch himself beyond the normal studio type short solos. The longer tracks allow him to display his masterly ability and authority. This tempers with some vintage Rollins playing, creates a sense and feel of being at a Rollin's concert.

This is without a doubt the best Rollins studio date for quite some time. A fine offering of vintage Rollins at his best. Proving once again, "This is What I Do", and it is precisely what he does best. CS

Milestone MCD-9310-2

Chase Sanborn - "Sweet & Low"

The musical King of the internet (www.brasstactics.net), has done it again with his second release "Sweet & Low". Recorded by the master engineer/musician Andre White.

A tasteful grouping of mainly well known , but in most cases, little recorded standards comprise the nine selections covering almost 70 minutes of music. The rhythm section throughout, Mark Eisenman - piano, Rob Piltch - guitar, Pat Collins - bass, with the addition of Barry Elmes - drums, on three selections, give a solid backing without crowding the horn man.

Guido Basso, who lent support to Chase's first CD, shows up on flugelhorn with Chase on the title tune. There is an added treat with the vivacious vocalist Carol McCartney, sounding wonderful on Benny Carter's "Only Trust Your Heart" and a tune that Clifford Brown recorded in the 50's "If I Love Again".

The album's title speaks well for Mr. Sanborn - it is "Sweet" without being syrupy and "Low", far from being over indulgent. Good taste, wins again!

P.S. Terrific cover featuring Mrs. Sanborn - photographer Diane Aubie. RF

Brass Tactics BTCD2-2

Joyce - "Tudo Bonita" featuring Joao Donato

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In North America there is Elvis, Engelbert and Madonna - all require only one name for instant recognition. In Brazil, Joyce is one of the country's great musical treasures.

She began her career over thirty years ago, and Antonio Carlos Jobim considered her "One of the greatest singers of all time".Joyce has written over 300 songs, many have been recorded by such greats as Gerry Mulligan, Jon Hendricks, Flora Purim and Wallace Roney.

I concur with Down Beat magazine who have called her one of the most impressive singers/composers from Brazil.

Joyce's vocals and acoustic guitar are wonderfully accompanied by pianist-vocalist Joao Donato and an assortment of other fine local musicians. Special mention to Paulo Moura - clarinet and Teco Cardoso on reeds.

A terrific mix of originals composed by Joyce ("Anos Trinta", "Adolescencia", "Tudo Donato") and Donato ("Bananeira", Falta de Ar""), with Baden Powell ("Yemanja"); Jobim and Emilio Grenet lend their musical pens to three of the twelve rhythmic compositions.

For further Joyce musical excitement check out her recording "Astronauta - Songs of Elis" with Joe Lovano, Mulgrew Miller, Renee Rosnes et al. RF

Columbia CK 91465

David Sanchez - "Melaza"

David Sanchez is another player I hadn't really heard until this recording, but I am impressed. This is a strong CD, with some inspired playing. Branford Marsalis produced this and also appears on one track adding to the heat that this recording gives off. Latin rhythms are the under-pinning in the rhythm section, with contemporary post-bop lines and harmony on top, making this a really good listen all the way through.

A very strong young tenor saxophonist with a bright future. Check him out. SB

Columbia CK 62085

Stephane Grappelli - "Live at the Cambridge Folk Festival"

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"Live at the Cambridge Folk Festival" is the latest musical offering to be released by virtuoso, Stephane Grappelli, who passed away in 1997 at the age of 89.

The live recording finds one of the pioneers of jazz violin in two settings at the Charles Wells Cambridge Folk Festival in England.

This, one of Europe's premier events, dates back to 1965. The first seven selections took place in 1983. Grappelli breezes through such standards as "Cheek to Cheek", "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Sweet Georgia Brown", with his working group of the day, Martin Taylor and Marc Forret - guitars, and Patrice Caratini - bass. The next four standards "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", "Pennies From Heaven", "After You've Gone" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love", take us back ten years earlier. Guitarist Diz Disley, who had an association with Stephane for more than a decade, Denny Wright - guitar and David Etheridge - bass give great support to "Mr.Violin". Unfotunately the sound on this earlier effort is not great, however, the quality of the music more than makes up for it. Forty-eight minutes of happy, swinging jazz. RF

True North TND 209

Ferenc Snetberger - "For My People"

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Let there be no doubt about the technical credentials nor the melodic inventiveness of guitarist Ferenc Snetberger. Hungarian by birth, he now lives in Berlin, a multicultural city that enables him "...to absorb the sounds and bring to fruition the cultural roots of different peoples." The central work, "In Memory of My People" (a concerto for guitar and orchestra), accompanied by the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, is a beautifully wrought though darkly-tinged 3-part composition marking the 50th anniversary of the liberation of concentration camps. His own guitar parts, encompassing a familiar lullaby and a climatic conclusion echoing the call for the end of human suffering, are improvised within the score.As well, there is the depiction of 3 "Landscapes", duos with the scintillating purity of trumpeter Markus Stockhausen, and several short pieces emphasizing the evocative, meticulous style of the guitarist. Not a jazz recording despite the improvisational elements deployed, though one could readily imagine his playing in a jazz context. JS

Enja ENJ-93872

Tomasz Stanko - "From the Green Hill"

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Producer Manfred Eicher has always encouraged musicians to pursue their own guidelines freely. Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, a veteran performer for over 3 decades (including stints with Krzysztof Komeda, Cecil Taylor, Michael Urbaniak, Edward Vesala), is supported here in sextet format that features bandoneon (Dino Saluzzi), violin Michelle Makarski), bass (Anders Jormin), reeds (John Surman), and drums (Jon Christensen). If instruments were voices, the 14-segment work might well possess all the ingredients of a Kurt Will opera - charged with atmospheric anguish, edged with sorrow, sprinkled liberally with moments of unsurpassed beauty. The careful integration of instrumentation (with Stanko sounding very Miles-like at times) develops the thematic lines in dramatic fashion (There are no notes to suggest a story line, however). Whatever the intent, the music speaks for itself - mesmerizing, rich in tonal colouration, subtle in its shifts of mood and tempo. JS

ECM 1680 547 336-2

Ken Stubbs - "Ballads"

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"Ballads" is Ken Stubbs latest recording and his first solo release since two previous efforts with the group "First House" featuring Django Bates and Mick Hutton for the ECM label.

The alto saxophonist has been on the music scene for over fifteen years. He was awarded the title "Young European Jazz Artist in 1984, along with Bates and Hutton. He is also the founder and project manager of "Sound Arts" in West London, a charity dedicated to the talent of young musicians.

"Ballads" is comprised of two quartets and a duo interpreting some of the leaders favourite standards. Gary Husband - drums and Mick Hutton - bass are on all tracks. Paul Edmonds shows his prowess on piano on eight selections and guitarist Phil Robson fills out the two aditional melodies admirably.

Stubbs believes in giving musical value. You'll hear some of the slowest versions imaginable of, among others, Johnny Mercer and Jimmy Van Heusen's "I Thought About You", The Gershwins "Someone to Watch Over Me", Raye and DePauls "You Don't Know What Love Is" and Burke and Van Heusen's "But Beautiful".

Stubbs has created interesting intros, interludes and codas on most of the ten selections on this recording. "Prelude", written by Alexander Scriabin, features the leader on the rarely heard tenor clarinet.

The closing track "That's All" has all the musicians suddenly drifting into a melodic slow Latin swing to end a most enjoyable session. RF

Note: This CD may not be available in stores in North America. Please visit the label web site at www.cherryk.co.uk or email at [email protected].

CherryK Records CKR001CD

Tananas - "Seed"

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Tananas' first recording released by Sony Music Canada is an eclectic mix of world music. Steve Newman - guitar with Gito Baloi - bass guitar, and Ian Herman - drums, are members of this number one South African world group.

They have won several awards in their native country, including best contemprary jazz, best engineer and best music video.

Baloi's voice lends an almost Brazilian flavour to several of the twelve mainly original selections. Sofia Dos Santos and Lucia Mthiyane offer some additional vocalizing, with Moses Ngwenya on organ and Joe Matseka on fender rhodes.

The various rhythms are an inspiring range of music from South American to Flamenco.

A critique is the lack of written information on this enjoyable CD. More information would have been helpful. There are actually twelve pages in the sleeve with some strange drawings, but only one third of one page with minimal background on this wonderful group of musicians, whose sound is new to most of North America's ears. RF

Columbia CK 91441

Valentino Orchestra - "Daybreak Express"

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Recorded in Montreal between January 1998 and May 1999, the Valentino Orchestra, a closely-knit collection of youthful and older musicians, pays tribute on this disc to "...the spark that lit up the music of the 20th century - Edward Kennedy ' Duke' Ellington". Inspiration is drawn from stock arrangements, once sold by publishers to local or professional dance bands of the period. Over 100 of Ellington's were published during his lifetime (many now rare), generally having little to do with his recorded versions, and allowing band arrangers a broad latitude for editorializing or rewriting scored parts. Many of the 18 Ellington compositions are familiar pieces from 1927 to 1954, but some are seldom heard treasures - "Showboat Shuffle", "Sump'n 'bout Rhythm", "Oh, Babe! Maybe Someday", "Jig Walk", "Gold Digger" (never officially recorded by Ellington). The music is exhilaratingly presented; detailed liner notes make excellent reading. JS

Just A Memory (JAM) 9143-2

Randy Weston - "Spirit! The Power of Music"

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Now in his 70's, pianist Randy Weston sets out here to "...show the spirituality of his people..." by "...using the best way to reach the people, through music, the universal language..." (liner). In an appropriately decorated Brooklyn Church, Weston's African Rhythms Quintet, including trombonist Benny Powell, reedman Talib Kibwe, bassist Alex Blake, and percussionsit Neil Clarke, are joined by two African groups, the Gnawa Musicians of Marrakech and Tanger respectively, representing a blend of 3 religions intermingled - Yoruba, Islam, and Christianity. The first two employ such traditional instruments as the hag'houge and karkaba, as well as performing in dance and song. From the mystical magic rising from piano, flute, and trombone "Receiving the Spirit", the music blossoms into rhythmic sorties by the African players, until everything culminates in a thunderous "...climatic extravaganza...". The work is, indeed, a moving emotional experience, offered with conviction and dedication. JS

Verve 543 256-2

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