May 2002


Horace Silver - "In Pursuit of the 27th Man"

RealAudio Sample

"In Pursuit of the 27th Man" was recorded in 1972, and may not be the best recording Horace Silver has ever made, however it may be one of the most intriguing. Recently reissued in CD format for the first time as part of the Rudy Van Gelder Edition series, it was recorded during a period when Blue Note was experiencing some ownership and artistic changes. Alfred Lion had retired, and after assuming the role of producer Lion's partner, Francis Wolff had died. The new producer George Butler started working with Horace Silver looking for new ideas and directions. Together they created multiple album projects featuring new colours and themes. As a result such albums like the three volumes "United States of Mind", and "Silver N Series" were issued. "In Pursuit of the 27th Man" is an anomaly, being two separate projects in one. There are seven tracks on this CD; four employs a quartet setting featuring the classically trained percussionist David Friedman on vibes. The other features the Brecker Brothers, Randy and Michael on trumpet and tenor respectively, both displaying some forceful, melodic and spirited playing.

Although Silver had some success with the adoption of some fusion elements, I find this session to be all his. The traditional trumpet-tenor sound is ever present, also are the imaginative, soulful, sometimes bluesy Silver piano lines. Some excellent playing by drummer Mickey Roker and Bob Cranshaw on electric bass support all of this. The session opens with the very delightful samba flavoured "Liberated Brother" a tune Silver describes as the icing on the cake. Other tunes that deserve mentioning are "Summer in Central Park" (maybe a homage to Dr. John Lewis' "Skating in Central Park"), and the Silver composition "Gregory is Here", a tune dedicated to his son. Silver is a prolific pianist and composer, one of the few jazz musicians to record almost exclusively original material. This is another good product from him, granted the instrumentation may be different but his playing continues to be consistent, melodic and rhythmically sound. I highly recommend this CD; it is a must for Silver fans. CS

Blue Note 7243 5 35758 2 3

Sonny Greenwich - "Fragments of a Memory"

RealAudio Sample

Sonny Greenwich is a native of Hamilton, Ontario, who now resides in Montreal. He is a legend in the jazz circles and is known and admired around the world for his highly personal style. Sonny has worked with such greats as Hank Mobley, Charles Lloyd and Wayne Shorter. This latest release is his first on the Cornerstone label, and was recorded in Montreal for the CBC radio programme 'Jazz Beat'. The musicians appearing here represent some of the best of the Canadian jazz fraternity. Don Thompson - piano, Mike Allen - tenor sax, Charles Ellison - trumpet, Jim Vivian - bass and Barry Elmes - drums. The session runs from Sonny's originals to cover selections by Lionel Bart and Scott Joplin.

The opening track "Fontainebleau" is a depiction of a seven-foot waterfall on Sonny's front lawn. It starts off in a waltz tempo that is very quickly transformed into a pleasant swinging affair, with some long inspiring guitar lines from Sonny, aptly supported by the brilliant trumpet playing of Charles Ellison. Sonny has a style of his own, which can be best described as firm, direct and swinging at the same time, as heard on Lionel Bart's "Where is Love". His lines are fluid, consistent and always close to the melody. The piano artistry of Don Thompson is very much in evidence here with some well-constructed supporting lines.

I think the most interesting selection is the title track "Fragments of a Memory"; it is very intellectual in nature with a classical twist. Also it is the longest track on the CD, sixteen minutes in duration, which acts as a showcase for all the players with Barry Elmes displaying some wonderful Elvin Jones styled percussive drumming, and some very clever bass work by Jim Vivian. Mike Allen brings his saxophone prowess to the proceedings with an excellent solo on "Believe". While it is true that Sonny's playing is dominant throughout the session, there are not enough superlatives for the supporting crew. Together they stretch out and create one of the most pleasant works that I have ever had the opportunity to review. CS

Cornerstone CRST CD 116

Billy Bang - "Vietnam The Aftermath"

RealAudio Sample

In the minds of many, the violin is more closely identified with a concert at Carnegie Hall, than a gig at a local jazz club, yet for musician Billy Bang, it is an instrument of choice for which he possesses an extensive technique and plays with contemporary classical forms, sometimes with a powerful sense of swing. Born in Alabama, Billy moved with his mother to New York, there he started to play violin in Junior High, but later on, driven by his fascination for Afro-Cuban rhythms he switched to percussion and went to play drums in a band led by Folk Singer Arlo Guthrie.

Shortly thereafter Billy was drafted into service and was sent to Vietnam. This new release is a project that has been thirty years in the making and deals with Billy's war experience in Vietnam. It was a suggestion from Jean-Pierre Leduc of Justin Time that prompted Billy to address his demons personally and artistically. For this production, Billy assembled a stellar group of musicians, the likes of Sonny Fortune, Curtis Lundy, John Hicks and Michael Carvin. Together they successfully meld elements of South Eastern Asian music with Western melodies all cleverly conceived in a jazz mode.

There are eight evocative compositions on this CD, all originals by Billy; collectively they demonstrate the depth of his feelings and the seriousness of the project. Billy also enjoyed great support from his fellow musicians, six of whom are fellow Vietnam vets. Collectively and individually they are brilliant and were determined to document the fact they "shared the pain". Trumpeter Ted Daniels is outstanding through, especially his blistering solo on the swing-grooved "Tunnel Rat (Flashlight and a 45)", while veteran reedman Sonny Fortune's dynamic flute work is evident on "Mystery of the Mekong". Having experienced active service I can relate very closely to Billy's heart-wrenched violin solo on the mournful "Moments for the KIAMIA", an acronym for 'killed-in-action' and 'missing-in-action'. Although Billy does not shine on every track, this will remain a very steadfast commitment to a personal undertaking, and he should be applauded for what he has accomplished here. CS

JUST 165-2

Dexter Gordon - "L.T.D. Live at the Left Bank"

RealAudio Sample

In 1965 I was serving with the Royal Air Force in Singapore, when I had one of most pleasurable and unforgettable jazz experiences. My good friend and fellow jazz enthusiast Michael, introduced to the most amazing jazz album I have ever heard, "Go" by Dexter Gordon. I was totally captivated and enamoured by his ability to play the tenor saxophone, and continue to be even until this day. Dexter was one of the most remarkable free spirited and endearing tenor saxophone players of our time. He had a rich broad tone, a masterful expression of saxophone prowess, was a great bebop player and master of the blues. This recording is a 1969 concert performance that has never been previously released. The date consisted of four extended workouts, the shortest being less than nine minutes. Bobby Timmons -piano, Victor Gaskin - bass and Percy Brice - drums accompany Gordon. This is a unit that was hurriedly assembled in New York, and to my knowledge had never recorded with the leader before. This session represents all the elements of Gordon's repertoire; there is a standard, an original, a ballad, and the blues.

The concert opens with "Broadway", whose co-writer Teddy McRae played tenor alongside Gordon in the 1944 Louis Armstrong band. The tune is played at a bright mid-tempo that immediately sets the tone for what is to come. After playing the head, Gordon sails into one of many solos quickly building to intensity quoting from "Mona Lisa" and "Entrance of the Gladiator", sometimes digging into his R&B tenor bag for the occasional honking. Bobby Timmons on the other hand is well documented for some excellent percussive workout and a fine display of his trademark lightening left hand. Gordon, who makes every ballad sound as if it were written for him, gives Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" a sincere performance, demonstrating once again that when it comes to playing ballads, there is Dexter Gordon and then there is ??????

The concert ends with the old Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt battle axe "Blues Up and Down", which in my opinion is clearly the most successful tune of the set. Gordon's choruses are wonderfully executed, and the crowd's excitement and appreciation is quite audible. Finally the rhythm section woke from its slumber to light some long awaited fire of their own with Gaskin and Brice laying down some tight funky grooves.

It is interesting to note that this recording was made on one of Gordon's infrequent visits back to the U.S.A. after moving to Europe in the sixties. This is in my opinion the tenor man at his peak, rarely have I heard him playing or sounding better. CS

Prestige PRCD-11018-2

D.D. Jackson - "Sigame"

RealAudio Sample

Ottawa-born pianist D. D. Jackson, with bassist Uganda Okegwo and Cuban rhythmist Dafnis Prieto, decided on this essentially trio outing to "…explore the Latin tinge"…incorporating textures…." Not used before. The added presence of guitarist Freddie Bryant and Christian Howe's' acoustic violin on the rousing "Le Shuffle" and the balladic "Summer" respectively, and Prieto's brush work to the blues/gospel roots of "The Welcoming", help to foster the textural dynamics of Jackson's originals. The pianist gives credit to Justin Time: "I believe Justin Time has provided me with the environment to …explore different musical worlds here…". Recommended listening. JS

Justin Time JUST 177-2

Jan Jarczyk - "Fall Songs"

RealAudio Sample

Formally trained in the discipline of classical piano at the Warsaw Academy, Jan Jarczyk discovered in jazz"… a rush of personal freedom…" that contrasted strongly to his formal music experience. His interest in improvisation eventually led to his "composing while playing" so that total improvisation became a central commitment to his performances. Focus is given only to scale, hand movements, or particular elements of harmony or melody. All compositions become the "organization of sound" that is personally satisfying. Titles appear affixed arbitrarily: "Pendulum", "Square Dance", "Stroll", "and "Berceuse". The 17 works on this CD provide ample opportunity to savour the imaginative scope and virtuosity behind Jan Jarczyk's musical vision. JS

Justin Time JUST 159-2

Montreal Jubilation Choir - "Jubilation V111 - A Cappella Plus"

RealAudio Sample

For two decades now, director Trevor Payne has taken his choir around the world. Based on a reputation of "solid…innovative a cappella work…", its rhythmic treatment of the Negro spiritual especially has unfailingly captivated audiences everywhere. A new feature here is the occasional inclusion of "…a palette of instrumental colours": a New Orleans Street Band background to "Great Day", a propulsive double bass to the finger-snapping "Elijah Rock", or the call-response between choir and the soprano sax on "Mary had a Baby". Moreover, links to the classical world are established with Ernest Toch's "Geographical Fugue for Speaking Chorus" and an excerpt from Beethoven's "Pathetique Sonata" (Trevor Payne at the piano). The sheer joy in performance pervades throughout. JS

Justin Time JUST 167-2

Previous Picks