March 2000


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

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Andrew Homzy Ensemble - "Jelly Roll Morton"

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Recorded live in Montreal's Chapelle Historique du Bon-Pasteur (1998), Homzy's twelve-piece ensemble offers a modern interpretation of the music of the man who was the self-proclaimed inventor of jazz. It's a daunting task, indeed, to separate the music from the legend, but, on the premise that Morton's music was "…both formal and flexible…" it works quite well. Homzy, professor of jazz studies at Concordia University, utilizes many of the staff members in his aggregation, substituting or adding such instrumentation from Morton's original lineup as flute, oboe, French horn, or bassoon. Strangely, there is no piano, though flute and guitar seem to take on its duties at times. However, it was obviously not Homzey's intention to merely recreate the Morton sound of pre-1930's jazz. Such numbers as Homzy's original "Madame Lamotte" or Morton's "Shreveport Stomp" do approximate that 20's feeling with their steady ragtime pulse, while "Wolverine Blues" captures the punchy rhythm with its solo breaks so characteristic of Morton's style. (J.S.)

DSM 3030 to order

Various - "Feeling Sentimental"
Various - "Groovin' the Blues"

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Concord records continue to release compilations drawn from its catalogue for the popular Jazz Moods series, each disc designed to gratify the emotional needs of listeners. The above contrast sharply in mood, the former a "…pensive collection of songs…from the romantic to the bitter-sweet…" the latter, an offering of "…soulful, finger poppin', hip-shakin' blues…". Featured are Concord artists (1978-1999) such as Scott Hamilton, George Shearing, Ray Brown, Marian McPartland, Gene Harris, Stefan Scaggiari, and vocals from Ernerstine Anderson, Dennis Rowland, Mel Torme, and Carol Sloane, among others. Apart from satisfying mood swings, the series also serves to introduce the listener to a broad perspective of new names in jazz. (J.C.)

Concord 5211-2 to order
Concord 5210-2 to order

Lee Konitz - "Spirits"

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The tandem of Lee Konitz (alto) and Sal Mosca (piano) team up to pay tribute to their mentor, pianist Lennie Tristano on this 1971 re-release, joined by bassist Ron Carter and drummer Mousey Alexander on four of the nine tracks. Konitz and Mosca bring "…an in-the-moment attitude to every playing situation…", the former's reedy, discursive, free-flowing lines matched by the latter's sparse, angular, punctuated left hand sorties on duet pairings of such Tristano originals as "Baby", "Dreams", and "Wow". Despite the sense of freedom and independence each player generates, they always mange to sound inordinately together. The quartet tracks - "Two Not One", "Lennie-Bird", "Another 'Nother" - present a more unified, propulsive backdrop for the twosome, with Konitz's own "Hugo's Head" perhaps the most lyrical piece with its slower pace and varying tempi. Whatever the format, the disc offers a spirit of unpredictability and self-discovery so that "…what is heard here cannot sound either dated or avant-garde…" (J.S.)

Milestone (OJC) 1024-2 to order

Michael Marcus Trio - "In the Center of it All"

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For saxophonist Michael Marcus (saxello, sopranino, stritch), who has been recording since the early 90's, this is his fourth release for the Justin Time label. With the passing of his co-player, Jaki Byard, Marcus set out to pursue a dream of making an organ trio disc, and what better confluence of two musicians than Marcus (a devotee of Roland Kirk) and Rahn Burton (who has worked with Kirk) on Hammond B-3 organ. Joined by drummer Nasheet Waits, the trio artfully balances selections, from a multi-rhythmic "Visiting Moments", a soulfully sublime "Pannonica", a slow blues with "Badwater", to a gospel-tinged title tune. Rashaan elements surface on the invigorating "Walking on Fire", and "Violet Petals", the latter with Marcus employing two horns simultaneously. Guests Gary Strauss (trumpet) and Clark Gayton (trombone) are present on two tracks, notably "Goodbye to the Smile", a poignant closing tribute to Jaki Byard. " Marcus's contention that players must bring"… a spiritual vibe to the music…It's more than just a technical display" seems applicable here. (J.S.)

Justin Time 130-2 to order

Various - "Impulsively Ellington"

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This is an irresistible package from the vaults of Impulse records (circa 1961-1966), an Ellington tribute offering featuring many of the duke's former sidemen as well as musicians only too willing to play his music. There are 28 numbers in all, many on CD for the first time. There's a wide sampling of familiar Ellingtonia - a warm, breathy Ben Webster on "In a Mellow Tone", a jumped-up Hampton vocal to "Ring Dem Bells", Milt Jackson's chamber-like quartet rendition of "Paris Blues", Gabor Szabo's eastern-flavoured trek to "Caravan", and 3 burning takes of "Cotton Tail" by Benny Carter, Louie Bellson and Earl Hines. Included in addition, are the less well-known works - "Blue Piano" (Shirley Scott), "Action in Alexandria" (Paul Gonsalves), "Warm Fire" (Yusef Lateef), "Fantazm" (Elvin Jones), "Island Virgin" (Oliver Nelson). This is music that will endure long after millennial celebrations are remembered only as a faded memory. (J.S.)

Impulse 314 547 963-2 (2XCD) to order

Paul Bley/Gary Peacock/Paul Motian - "Not Two, Not One"

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Montreal-born pianist, Paul Bley, has been affiliated with experimental music for over four decades, yet for many jazz fans he remains one of Canada's best kept secrets, despite associations with the likes of Mingus, Giuffre, Rollins, Blakey, and Haden. Capable of adjusting to any playing style, his preference for improvisatory freedom remains his avenue of choice. Reunited with compatriots Gary Peacock (bass) and Paul Motian (drums), abandoning traditional rhythmic precepts, the musicians explore "…parallel, improvised parts…" as they negotiate a new musical landscape, "…its waves, its spaces, its silences." Roles are interchangeable, incorporating Fragments of sheer lyricism, shifting tempo with unquestionable ease, feeding upon one another as musical patterns evolve. The trio blends a programme of originals - Bley's "Fig Foot", "Now", Peacock's "Intente", or co-composed selections "Not Zero: In Three Parts" - into a diverse rendering based on a premise that "There is nothing…that says we have to play together, at the same time." The results are challenging, but immensely rewarding. (J.C.)

ECM 1670 to order

Greg Osby - "Banned in New York"

Altoist Greg Osby emerged onto the jazz scene in the mid-80's, working with such notable musicians as Jack DeJohnette, Steve Coleman, and Andrew Hill. His sorties into the areas of funk, rap, and electrified sounds gained him the reputation of a player seeking his own voice yet stifled by an eclecticism that often hindered that development. Joined here by the trio of Jason Moran (piano), Atsushi Osada (bass), and Rodney Green (drums), Obsess fashions a programme which admirably reveals the multiplicity of his talents, - an amazing technical control "Big Foot", his easy shift of mood from an outpouring of nervous energy to lyrical delicacy "13th Floor", a sinuous and effortless complexity of delivery "Pent Up House". The trio proves an ideal match for his demanding unpredictability, distinctive on its own, especially with the gently discursive "I Didn't Know About You". The cover art or liner notes will never win awards, but the music certainly excels. (J.S.)

Various - "Jazz Vancouver"

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Following Justin Time's earlier releases of Jazz Montreal and Jazz Toronto, this disc seemed inevitable. The West Coast offers its own distinctive brand of jazz, fostered in the clubs, theatres and festivals - instrumentalists, vocalists, and experimentalists displaying "…a combination of different and even conflicting styles." Like its other Canadian counterparts, Vancouver is at the exciting centre of that ongoing development, melding the classic sounds of Fraser McPherson, Oliver Gannon, Ian McDougall, the voices of Diana Krall, Kenny Colman, Christine Duncan, and the new talents of Brad Turner, Ingrid Jensen, Miles Black into a truly representative sampling of the jazz scene. Justin Time has once again drawn upon its catalogue of artists to give us a timely view, both back and to the future, of another facet of Canadian jazz. (J.S.)

Justin Time 6652-2 to order