July 1998


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

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Richard Parris Quintet - "Body and Soul"

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Not a late bloomer, but rather an unheralded Montreal perennial, tenorman Richard Parris blows up a storm on this debut quintet offering of seven favourite standards plus a rousing collective excursion into Sonny Stitt's "Stitt's It". Plenty of propulsive drive is shared by trumpeter Joe Sullivan, guitarist Greg Clayton and Parris on "Witchcraft", "Time on my Hands", or "On Green Dolphin Street", while the sublime nuances demanded of such numbers as "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" and "Ghost of a Chance" are tastefully rendered. Parris' delivery on the title tune is inventive and evocative. All this before an appreciative audience. (J.S.)

DSM 3020 to order

Steve Hall Quartet - "Hall Things"

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Yet another unsung performer is Montreal saxophonist Steve Hall whose lengthy sojourn in NYC (c1979) has provided him with opportunities to work with the likes of Gil Evans, Lionel Hampton, Art Blakey and pianist Kevin Hays who joins him on this 1997 session recorded live in Montreal. Hall and Hays work well together; the former, Warne Marsh-like in tone, preferring the upper register of his instrument with infrequent brusque descents - the latter, introspective yet innovative working from within a carefully chosen framework. The programme is suited to their mutually responsive interplay, both on free flowing up-tempo numbers (" House is Not a Home"/"Midnight Sun"/"Insatiablue") and the more ballad oriented selections ("Lonely House"/"It Never Entered my Mind"/"My Reverie"). The highlight is the contrastingly rhythmic segue of Monk's "Ugly Beauty" into Hall's own "Hall Things Hall". (J.S.)

DSM 3019 to order

Frederic Alarie Trio - "Motion"

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The trio of Alarie (bass), Kelly Jefferson (tenor/soprano), and Michael Lambert (drums) is an impressive aggregation indeed. Here, recorded live, presumably at La Maison de la Culture Frontenac in Montreal, they prove to be an interactive and interdependent group, feeding off one another in constantly shifting rhythmic and harmonic patterns. Though numbers are "composed" (5 of the 6 are originals), there is a free-flowing, improvisatory feeling about it all. Certainly Jefferson's Rollins-roots are evident, but he stirs the musical pot both on soprano ("Turbulence"/"Innocence") and tenor, fashioning melodic fragments against dynamic variations on "Patience", or loosely structured lines with "Third Step" and "Quinze". Integral to the mix is the hard working rhythm duo, stepping front and centre in extended solos on "Run In"/"Patience"/"Quinze". (J.S.)

DSM 3023 to order

Jesse Davis - "First Insight"

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Though still a young man, New Orleans-born alto saxophonist Jesse Davis has done a lot of playing since his debut in the late 80's - Nicholas Payton, Terence Blanchard, Illinois Jacquet, Milt Jackson to name a few with whom he has shared the spotlight. This 1997 release with pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Kenny Washington, and (on 6 cuts) guitarist Peter Bernstein shows the wide variation both in planning and delivery that he's capable of. With the rhythmic pulse of Carter/Washington and the amazing adaptability of Miller, Davis touches on Adderley/Parker roots with his sprightly march tempo tribute to New Orleans ("Nola"), is melodically relaxed and warm on "A Little R&R", runs smooth, controlled and blues-oriented ("First Insight"), or lean, bright and raw-edged ("Midnight Blue"). He matches his compositions to his mood swings, hanging an appropriate title on each (e.g. "Jetlagged"/"Donkey Stomp"). Highly recommended. (J.S.)

Concord 4796-2 to order

Susannah McCorkle - "Someone to Watch over Me"

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It is only fitting that one of the premier interpreters of American popular song should pay tribute to one of America's foremost composers of that medium, George Gershwin on the occasion of his 100th birthday. McCorkle, whose voice encompasses all that I admire in a composite of Peggy Lee, Lee Wiley, and Julie London (and more), treats each number with consummate care, probing the lyrics to capture the essence of each in her delivery - sultry, husky and earthy when it serves her purpose ("It ain't Necessarily So"/"Love Walked In"), rhythmically and temporally explorative ("Summertime"/"I Was Doing All Right"), swinging like crazy if so moved ("Who Cares?"/"I Got Rhythm"). These are timeless songs, with a few rescued from near oblivion ("Will You Remember Me?"/"Drifting Along with the Tide"). The supportive octet under the direction of pianist Allen Farnham (with kudos to reedman Jerry Dodgion and bassist Dick Sarpola) is also a winner. (J.S.)

Concord 4798-2 to order

Michael Marcus/Jaki Byard Trio - "Involution"

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Byard, whose playing credentials include stints with Earl Bostic, Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin, Roland Kirk and Charles Mingus, was once quoted as saying, "I can't play one way all night¼and wouldn't want to." With reedman Michael Marcus, who explores the straight tenor, stritch (straight alto), and saxello ( a redesigned soprano), pianist Byard, with bassist Ralph Hemperian and drummer Richard Allen, has many opportunities to display his vast musical scope. From the opening "Israel" to the closing title tune, the quartet functions both collectively and individually, with Marcus biting off notes on the aptly titled "Quadraphonics", faithfully capturing "Soultrane" by that master melodist, Tadd Dameron, playfully plying the stritch with "Surfer Girl", or recapturing some of the experimental fervour of the late 60's and 70's on his dual saxello/stritch rendition of "Involution". The pianoless "Off Minor" features some excellent solo work by bass and drums, with Marcus sounding Griffin/Rouse-like at times, even on straight tenor. (J.S.)

Justin Time 116-2 to order

John Coltrane - "Live at the Village Vanguard: Master Takes (1961)"
Pharoah Sanders - "Thembi (1970-71)"
Pharoah Sanders - "Jewels of Thought (1969)"
Archie Shepp - "Mama Too Tight (1966)"
Sun Ra - Space is the Place (1972)"

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That period from the early 60's to the early 70's heralded a vibrant, experimental "new wave" of jazz characterized by the search for extended instrumental capabilities need to produce new tonalities, harmonics and tempi, the inclusion of cross-cultural musical patterns, the development of a technology that permitted performers to select chosen releases from many taped versions, a performer-centric focus that emphasized both the dramatic, theatrical and the rebellious, iconoclastic. The Impulse record label was one of the leading advocates and repositories of this challenging pursuit of musical freedom. The exuberance and sheer inventiveness - a kind of ugly beauty, rhythmically hypnotic and rooted in the blues even at its wildest - is perhaps best captured in the music of John Coltrane (#251). A more abrasive, self-indulgent, perverse figure was that of Pharoah Sanders (#253/#247), a kind of studied turbulence, intricately percussive, deliberately antagonistic yet capable of great lyric beauty as well. For Archie Shepp (#248), the music was an expression more of inner rage, an intense and unrelenting quest for social justice and the urgency to communicate this to a world constantly in flux. But the most eclectic and unpredictable was the uncompromising Sun Ra (#249), whose"Arkestral" sorties - impressionistic, electronically experimental, collectively improvisational - retained strong roots in swing and bop despite the fanciful flights of rambling free form in space-oriented guises. It's all here (and more) on these five selected CD's, a facet of that label's output featuring the music that set out to redefine the jazz idiom. (J.S.)

Coltrane "Live" Impulse IMPD-251 to order
Sanders "Thembi" Impulse IMPD-253 to order
Sanders "Jewels" Impulse IMPD-247 to order
Shepp "Mama" Impulse IMPD-248 to order
Ra "Space" Impulse IMPD-249 to order

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

***** Excellent
**** Good

New Releases

Rating Artist Title Label & Cat. No.

***** Fred Hersch plays Monk Nonesuch 79456-2
***** Marian McPartland Just Friends Concord CCD-4805-2
**** Trudy Desmond My One and Only JustinTime JTR 8468-2
**** Preservation Hall Jazz Band Because of You Columbia SK 60327
***** Jubilant Sykes Jubilant Columbia SK 63294
**** Ernest Ranglin Memories of Barber Mack Island 314-524 339
**** Bob Belden Tapestry Blue Note 72 4385789120
***** Ranee Lee Seasons of Love JustinTime Just 103-2
***** Kenny Barron Things Unseen Verve 314 537 315-2
**** Matt Catingub Gershwin 100 Concord CCD-4797-2
***** Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen This is all I Ask Verve 539 695-2
**** Ramsey Lewis Dance of the Soul GRP GRD-9904