July 2000


All of Hal's monthly reviews will be made available here in Hal's "Picks From the Past".

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Kenny Wheeler - "A Long Time Ago"

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Canadian-born trumpeter/composer Kenny Wheeler has, over the years, worked in traditional (e.g. Johnny Dankworth) and ultra-progressive (e.g. Globe Unity Orchestra) aggregations, dabbling in rock/fusion along the way. Now living in Britain, he has been a fixture with the ECM label (c1975), concentrating more and more on his compositional skills, often extensive works blending scored settings with improvisational passages. Such is the case here with his lengthy "The Long Time Ago Suite", a piece for 4 trumpets, 2 trombones, and 2 bass trombones (conducted by Tony Faulkner), with Wheeler carrying the melodic lines on flugelhorn, aided by pianist John Taylor and guitarist John Parricelli. Wheeler's clean, clear purity of sound and mellow tone give life to the instrumental colour and majestic atmosphere of the composition. Notable among the 6 shorter works are the mournfully impressionistic "Ballad for a Dead Child", the formalized exchanges of "Going for Baroque", or the more loosely structured patterns within the "Gnu Suite". Not to every jazz fan's taste, perhaps. JS

ECM 1691 To Order

Stan Getz - "Body and Soul"
Oscar Peterson - "Time and Again"
Nina Simone - "Night Song"
Sarah Vaughan - "Dreamsville"

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Recycling material from its vaults for release at budget prices seems to be a common trend now among major labels, and Verve's "Quiet Now" series is no exception. Thematically chosen to reflect the mood range implicit in the series title, the music affords a good cross-section of each artist's output, low key as it may be. Designed especially for those who are not concerned about recording dates or detailed personnel for each selection (both are lacking), the choices abound with the familiar - "Corcovado", "Alfie", "Sweet Rain" (Getz); "Summertime", "A Child is Born", "Ballad to the East" (Peterson); "Little Girl Blue", "I Love You Porgy", "Don't Explain" (Simone); "Misty", "Autumn in New York", "Lush Life" (Vaughan). These discs make excellent samplers for those who are content to dabble in laid back jazz by some of the giants of the idiom. JS

Verve 314 543 248-2. To Order

Verve 314 543 250-2. To Order

Verve 314 543 251-2. To Order

Verve 314 543 252-2. To Order

World Saxophone Quartet - "Requiem for Julius"

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A working aggregation since 1976, the WSQ still never fails to surprise. Paradoxically, the strength of the group lies in the uniqueness of each player. For example, the opener, Jack DeJohnette's "Ebony", begins with a collective thematic statement that soon evolves in contrastingly different textural and tonal excursions by four very distinctive voices. The fact that each of the players - John Purcell (soprano), Oliver Lake (alto), David Murray (tenor), Hamiet Bluiett (baritone) - is encouraged to innovatively pursue his own spacious freedom within a loose framework makes for some fresh, challenging, and often startling results. From the complex lyricism and harmonies of the brief "Free and Independent Thought" or the bluesy, subtle sax interaction with "All Praise", to the cascades of free-wheeling, gyrating rhythms in "Requim for Julius", and the scorchingly raw-edged spontaneity of "Hurricane Floyd", the foursome feed off one another in a wealth of creatviity and dynamic interplay. JS

Justin Time 137-2 To Order

Steve Lacy/Roswell Rudd - "Monk's Dream"

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Although saxophonist Steve Lacy and trombonist Roswell Rudd established a strong musical bond nearly four decades ago, evolving into a playing partnership that lasted briefly in the early 60's, their paths have crossed only intermittently since. Now, with Lacy's long-time working cohorts, Jean-Jacques Avenel - bass, and John Betsch - drums, they are re-united in this 1999 Paris, France, session with the "...possibility to create a certain spontaneous magic together" (liner). And, indeed, old musical ties are readily re-established as their sweet and sour pairing builds around the now classic structure of "Monk's Dream" or the moving "Pannonica", accords a pleasurable lilt to walking bass lines with "The Bath", grinds the familiar strains of Ellington's "Koko" into melodic motion, invokes an inconsolable mood of a lost friend in "Grey Blue". Soprano and trombone are joined by the rich, colourful voice of Irene Aebi on jazz settings for the poems "A Bright Pearl" and "Traces". Throughout, bass and drums set down a rhythmic pulse totally in sync with the shifting progressions of the duo. A formidable reunion! JS

Verve 543 090-2 To Order

Bill Watrous Quartet - "Live at the Blue Note"

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Trombonist Bill Watrous, whose playing borders mainstream/modern, has, over the years, figured prominently in the bands of Roy Eldridge, Quincy Jones, Woody Herman, Kai Winding, and in TV studio aggregations. This is his first quartet album in nearly a decade, and he is joined by the swinging trio of Derek Smith (piano), Russell George (bass), and Joe Ascione (drums) in a live performance from New York's Blue Note (1998). Five of the seven numbers are standards, geared to give ample space for Watrous's inventive sequences and smooth transitions on uptempo pieces "Smiles"/"Just in Time", while his mellow tones shade a balladic "Say It Isn't So", probe the depths of "Blue Monk". His textural sorties on the closer "I Want to be Happy" are outstanding. And the trio, collectively and individually, is superb. Catch Ascione with "Desifinado", George on "Always", or Smith in "Just in Time". Highly Recommended. JS

Half Note Records 4908 To Order

Mireille Proulx - "Infini Rendez-vous"

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French-Canadian violinist, Mireille Proulx, draws upon disparate sources in fashioning the eight numbers which make up this 1997 CD. Each is a personalized reflection of her experiences, expressed with consumate skill and care. Piano accompaniment by Francois Bourassa (1-6) and Guy Dubuc (7-8) is sensitive to the ever-shifting moods and rhythms of her compositions. One cannot but be impressed by the effortless flow of improvisational creativity she generates throughout, carefully balancing the sensous and contemplative with bold and passionate in such numbers as "Le Carrousel de Trocadero" with its melodic touchstones to a Parisian visit and L'Impresario" with the contrasting sounds of turbulent jazz issuing from "...Perugia's mediaeval fortifications...", or the balladic beauty inherent in a basilica bathed in sunlight "Lumiere dans la Coulee", matched by her lively portrait of "Ete". Here is a talent that melds the freedom of jazz to classical finesse. JS

Ars Musica 2 838 To Order

Ian Bargh - "Only Trust Your Heart"

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Despite his 40-year residence in Canada and his active role in supporting both Canadian and visiting American musicians (Al Cohn/Zoot Sims/Buddy Tate/Harry "Sweets" Edison, to name a few), this is the first recording under his own name for Scottish-born pianist, Ian Bargh. Though generally considered a swinging player by many, on this CD he selects a wide range of numbers that reveal a much broader scope to his playing capabilities and interests. He trips intricately and assuredly through such standards as "I've Never Been in Love Before", "Laura", or the medley of "Better Luck Next Time"/"The Second Time Around", draws passionately upon his roots with "Heather on the Hill"/"Skye Boat Song", injects fresh vitality into long forgotten pieces by Ellington "Serenade to Sweden", Paul Weston "When April Comes Again", and Benny Carter "Only Trust Your Heart". His own composition "The Price Was Right", a tribute to "...one of the great blues and boogie woogie players, Sammy Price, is charged with pulsating energy. The ease and casualness that mark the session perhaps stem from the fact that he was unaware he was being recorded. Highly Recommended. JS

Sackville 2-2053 To Order

Shirley Scott - "Soul Sister"
Bill Jenning/Jack McDuff - "Glide On"
Don Patterson/Booker Ervin/Houston Person - "Just Friends"

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With the rather strange subscription Legends of Acid Jazz, Prestige has released a series of CD's from LP's of the 50's and 60's showcasing organists Shirley Scott, Jack McDuff, and Don Patterson with a host of eminent players. In the cuts taken from 3 albums - "Travelin' Light" (1964), "Soul Sister"/"Now's the Time" (1960) - Shirley Scott shares the spotlight with guitarist Kenny Burrell (tracks 1-6) and vibraharpist Lem Winchester (tracks 7-13), illustrating the organ's compatibility to simmer and boil in unfamiliar company. The McDuff-Jennings sessions are undeniably features for the guitarist, extracted from his "Enough Said" (1959) and "Glide On" (1960) releases. Guitar and organ mesh well, swinging their way together through 12 numbers steeped in the feeling of soul and the blues. Patterson's lines are bebop generated, and his propulsive, dynamic drive reinforces the hard-swinging tenors of Booker Ervin and Houston Person on works excerpted from 4 different albums - "Four Dimensions (1967), "Hip Cake Walk"/"Patterson's People"/"Tune Up" (1964) - with guitarist Pat Martino sitting in on the first. Hence, the 3 CD's offer a diversity of contrasting elements that make them worthy reissues. JS

Prestige 24233-2 To Order

Prestige 24234-2 To Order

Prestige 24237-2 To Order

The Jazz Giants Play Duke Ellington - "Caravan"
The Jazz Giants Play Charlie Parker - "Yardbird Suite"
The Jazz Giants Play Rodgers & Hammerstein - My Favourite Things"

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This compilation by Prestige Records (American Song Classics), drawn from its historic collection of recordings (circa 1953-1990), opens the doors to a vast array of significant musical compositions interpreted by some of the most prominent jazz artists of the past half century. The Ellington selections need little introduction. They are, indeed, classics, restated over the years by hundreds of jazz players in a variety of contexts - a tribute undoubtedly to the greatest of all jazz composers. The scope of instrumentation here reflects that recognition: Art Tatum, Red Garland, Joe Zawinul (piano); Clark Terry, Miles Davis (trumpet); Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery (guitar); Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, Zoot Sims, Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges (saxes). The Parker songbook features 12 works (some his own) readily identifiable with the trend-setting altoist - "Scrapple from the Apple, "Donna Lee, "Yardbird Suite", or "Anthropology" - each given an unique interpretation by such paramount artists as Sonny Criss, Art Pepper, Clark Terry, or Hampton Hawes. The rich blend of melody and lyrics marked the lengthy partnership of the compositional duo Rodgers and Hammerstein. Their songs have become an integral part of American popular music. The 10 numbers here are treated to memorable performances by the likes of Oscar Peterson, Cannonball Adderley, Gene Ammons, and Bill Evans. Liner notes and recording specifications are excellent. Whether these discs sell at budget prices is not indicated. JS

Prestige 24227-2 To Order

Prestige 24224-2 To Order

Prestige 24223-2 To Order