March 1999


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

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Gary Burton/Chick Corea/Pat Metheny/Roy Haynes/Dave Holland - "Like Minds"

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It's amazing that this all-star session started with an e-mail from Pat Metheny to Gary Burton suggesting that they, along with Chick Corea get together and record. When the three of them put their heads together to pick who would play bass and rums, Roy Haynes and Dave Holland were immediately sought out.

The recording has a certain relaxed feel to it because the players felt so comfortable with each other although the music definitely burns when needed. The material is all-original (three from Corea, four from Metheny and two from Burton) except Gershwin's "Soon". This is the first time Corea and Metheny have recorded together which I found surprising since the two of them have been major jazz innovators for years. The compositions really suit the instrumentation and have an incredible amount of space considering that there are three chordal players vying for a piece of the song. Dave Holland and Roy Haynes play so well together that this CD could be sold as a ten-song lesson for rhythm section with special guests. All of the players are on my short list of favourite musicians of all time and they certainly shine brightly on "Like Minds". (S.B.)

Concord CCD-4803-2 to order

Joe Ascione Trio - "Post No Bills"

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Drummer Joe Ascione, protégé of Buddy Rich, shows that he is very much his own stylist on this, his first release (officially) under his own mantle. Ascione is showcased in the company of pianist Dave LaLama and bassist Tim Givens, with guest appearances by tenorman Jerry Weldon and guitarist Ron Affif; "……playing with these musicians helps me define my own sound"….., states the leader. Trio rapport is impressive, the threesome sailing effortlessly along at high speed with "My Shining Hour", popping out the jaunty phrases of Monk's "Well, You Needn't", playfully exploring (with Latinized beat) Miles Davis' "All Blues", or gently pacing the delicate melody and mood of Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge". The extended complement of players features the robust tenor of Weldon with Bud Powell's "Bouncin' with Bud" and Sonny Stitt's "Eternal Triangle", and a fleet-fingered Affif on Rollins' "Pent Up House", though more romantically adaptive to the standard "All My Tomorrows". As well, the entire group punches out the rapid chordal changes to Coltrane's "Moment's Notice". A winning first-outing in every way! (J.S.)

Arbors Jazz ARCD 19174 to order

Stan Getz/Chet Baker - "Quintessence" (volume 1)

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The instantly recognizable quality of Getz's tenor playing (dubbed "The Sound") meets the cooler shades of Baker's trumpet (and vocals) on this hitherto unreleased 1983 session, recorded in Norway and preserved by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. Though compatibly at odds, the music belies their differences. Fluid, at ease, subtle, instantaneously responsive, the pair weave their magic supported by Getz's working trio at the time - pianist Jim McNeely, bassist George Mraz, drummer Victor Lewis - each emphatically attuned to the textures and nuances offered by the two jazz legends. The programme of standards, ranging from the balladic treatment of "I'm Old Fashioned" or "My Ideal", a Latin flavour of "Star Eyes", to lightly swinging renditions of "But Not For Me" and Benny Golson's "Stablemates", is not unanticipated. Not only for collector completists, but also for anyone who truly wishes to savour the joy and quintessence of jazz. (J.S.)

Concord CCD-4807-2 to order

Eric Person - "More Tales to Tell"

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Despite a host of early idols - Blakey, McLean, Coltrane, Bartz, Miles - the saxophonist seeks his own distinctive voice: "It's time to develop new jazz standards rather than recycling ones from past generations……". Eight of the ten compositions are Person originals with the basic quartet, including John Esposito - piano, Calvin Jones - bass and Gene Jackson - percussion, supplemented by contributions from Jim Finn - flute/bass clarinet, Cary DeNigris - guitar, Michael Rabinowitz - bassoon. Dave Holland - bass sits in on two numbers. The mix affords plenty of musical variety from the opening "Undercurrents" with Person's sweet-toned soprano riding over insistent percussive layers, soprano and piano playfully shaping the melodic lines of Miles Davis' "Little Church", a balladic synthesis of the blues with "On the Verge", the dexterous and energetic exploits of guitar, soprano and percussion to a pseudo-bossa beat on "Survival Instincts", to the gentle accord of the atmospheric "Friends Again". Person's search for identity becomes the listener's reward here. (J.S.)

Soul Note 121307-2 to order

Connie Crothers/Lenny Popkin - "Session"

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For almost a decade now, pianist Crothers has fronted her quartet for the New Artists label, basically unchanged with Lenny Popkin - tenor and Carol Tristano - drums though bassist Rich Califano is a new voice on this 1996 release. Six of the eight selections are Crothers/Popkin originals. The trademark of Lennie Tristano's seemingly off-centre lyricism is present with the warmly oblique approach (a la Warne Marsh) of tenorman Popkin well suited to the pianist's unique rhythmical explorations. From the floating swing of the opening "Starline" and the free-wheeling flow of ideas on "Bird's Word", to the balladic drifting in and out of melody on the aptly titled "East 9th Street Drift" or the buoyant reshaping of Ellington's A-train ("E Train"), the quartet fashions an appealing programme that is both challenging and meticulously focussed. (J.S.)

New Artists 1027 to order

Gonzalo Rubalcabo - "Antiguo"

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Recorded in a variety of settings - Germany, Cuba, NYC, Dominican Republic - this recent release from 1995-96 studio performances presents a large scale musical incursion into multicultural blends employing talents from Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Afro-Cuban choir, vocal soloists and an array of "electronic processes". Rubalcaba states that his intention is to unite "…past and present influences into a new language", and observes that "…music styles differ radically when national borders are crossed". The effect is almost overwhelming, moving dramatically (in a literal sense) from the opening prologue ("Circuito 111") with its powerfully rhythmic tempo changes, through the filtered energy of chorus, piano, drums and horns ("Ellioko"), an evocatively electronic desolation ("Desierto"), to the beautiful cathedral aura of "Coral Negro" with the gorgeous voice of diva Maridalia Hernandez; from this central core, the momentum rebuilds with sudden shifts of mood accompanying resplendent piano runs ("Circuito 1V"), a percussively rock "Oddi Lobbe", to a lively Calypso festival captured by percussion, keyboard and whistles ("Eshun Agwe"), culminating in the joyous mood of "Homenaje". These segments could readily enhance the right movie undertaking. I am not certain that would play this disc often in its entirety, but the parts are mesmerizing. (J.S.)

Blue Note 7243 8 37717 2 1 to order

Rick DellaRatta - "Live in Brazil & the Blue Note"

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NYC-based pianist/vocalist, internationally acclaimed though short on home front recognition as yet, shows his extensive musical interests and talents on this two-CD release, recorded (1996-97) in Brazilian and NYC settings. The trio of DellaRatta, Rene Hart - bass and Denis Charles - drums is impressive indeed, adapting readily to the blurring of musical styles from pop-inflected renditions of "Living Inside a Daydream" or "Say You'll be Mine" to the pulsating, Latin rhythms and sudden tempo shifts of "7th Heaven" and the tender, emotional lyricism of Luiz Bonfa's "Black Orpheus" (with guest Dustan Galas on guitar). However, it is the energetic interaction of the trio - piano noodling into and chasing the melody about to the punchy, solid drive of bass/drums ("Take It or Leave It"), flirting with the pulse and mood of "Autumn Leaves" in a fresh, innovative progression of ideas, swinging freely on "Little Song" - that especially caught my attention. The sad passing of drummer Charles (1998) will certainly be a vacancy difficult to fill. (J.S.)

Stella 64024-63212 (2XCD's) to order

Jan Harrington -" Christmas in New Orleans"

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As we struggle towards spring, the music on this CD appears somewhat belated; however, the overall sense of ebullience shared by the musicians and the audience at the Amerika Haus in Hamburg overrides such a shortcoming. Leader-vocalist Jan Harrington stirs her audience into hand-clapping renditions of "Go Tell It On The Mountain" and "Love Train", offers her rich contralto voice to salute (In German) "Oh Tannenbaum", elicits some rousing foot-tapping with "Put a Little Love in Your Heart", and joins vocalist Linda Fields in a playful duet on "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". Drummer Harold Smith gives us gravelly-throated treatments (a la Louis) of "Christmas in New Orleans" and "Is That You, Santa Claus?", while the rough-edged, sometimes raucous trombone of Werner Gurtler is appropriately featured throughout. And the highlights, for me, came with the extended, all-out treatment of "When the Saints Go Marching In" and the moving rapport between vocalists Harrington/Fields and the audience with "Stille Nacht". Great fun! The music transcends the datedness of its message. (J.S.)

Nagel Heyer SP 4 to order

The Jimmy Rogers All-Stars - "Blues Blues Blues"

Jimmy Rogers was born in the Delta - Ruleville, Mississippi in 1924. One of ten children, his early-recorded influences included Big Bill Broonzy and Memphis Minnie. By the late 30's his family moved to Minter City, Mississippi, where as a teenager his first gigs included Saturday night fish fries and raucous house parties in the Minter City area. Jimmy then began to play guitar and harmonica in the Juke Joints of Memphis with pianist Sunnyland Slim and harpist Sonny Boy Williamson. 1938 found him in Chicago playing local blues clubs with Sunnyland Slim and guitarist Claude "Blue Smitty" Smith. Ten years later, in 1948 he was a founding member of the original Muddy Waters Blues Band, where he remained until the mid 1950's.

"Blues Blues Blues" is Dynamite Dynamite Dynamite, with an all star cast of Eric Clapton, Lowell Fulson, Jeff Healey, Mick Jagger, Taj Mahal, Robert Plant and Stephen Stills each sharing vocals with Jimmy on 12 tracks; a total of 55 minutes and 53 seconds of Chicago and Delta style blues.

"Blow Wind Blow" features Jeff Healey sharing verses with Jimmy and sets the stage for the format of the project. This is truly a fine example of a generous artist willing to share vocals on five self penned songs, two Muddy Waters songs and popular favourites including "Blues All Day Long"/"That's All Right" (Eric Clapton), "Trouble No More" (Mick Jagger), "Ev'ry Day I Have The Blues" (Lowell Fulson), "Sweet Home Chicago" (Stephen Stills), "Ludella" (Taj Mahal) and John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" featuring Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and Eric Clapton. All tracks have Johnnie Johnson - piano, Jimmy D.Lang - guitar, Freddie Crawford - bass and Ted Harvey providing the solid back beat on drums. Jimmy Rogers provides a rock-solid vocal base throughout and gives equal time to each of his shared vocalists, who pay respect by remaining true to the "Chicago and Delta" style arrangements. This CD will appeal to a very broad audience indeed, including collectors, folks who like Chicago style or Delta style blues as well as those of us who enjoyed the early to mid 60's British Blues artists who started their careers in groups such as the Yardbirds, early Rolling Stones or John Mayall. Highly recommended. (D.W.)

Atlantic CD 83148 to order