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Steve Lacy - "The Cry"

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During the course of a prolific recording career, saxophonist Steve Lacy has steadily directed his musical energies towards those topics that merit a spontaneity of response and a challenge to conventionality. The central issue on this 1998 two CD package, recorded at the Alhambra in Geneva, rests with the struggle for women's rights; in particular with Bangladesh writer Taslima Nasrin who became the target of fundamentalist groups, eventually to be subjected to a series of fatwas (death warrants). The text of this song cycle is offered by Irene Aebi (Lacy's wife) in conjunction with instrumental accompaniment which significantly includes female players Tina Wrase - soprano/sopranino/bass clarinet, Cathrin Pfeifer - accordion, and Patia Kaufman - harpsichord. Aebi "….plumbs the depths of the text with a striking mix of precision and passion" (liner), while Lacy's soprano and the mesmerizing (and dramatically effective) soloists weave a musical backdrop befitting the textual development. Liner notes provide excellent background. (J.S.)

Soul Note 121315-2 to order

Hugh Ragin - "An Afternoon in Harlem"

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Trumpeter Hugh Ragin has paid his dues over the past 15 years in the company of such notables as Anthony Braxton, David Murray, Roscoe Mitchell and Butch Morris. This is his debut as leader, fronting a quartet with Craig Taborn (piano), Jaribu Shahid (bass), and Bruce Cox (drums), with guests Andrew Cyrille, David Murray, as well as the voice of Amiri Baraka, featured on 2 of the 7 tracks. It's an impressive first outing, opening with a Blakey-like drive the title tune, showcasing Ragin's dexterity and control with a "fast blues" ("Not a Moment Too Soon"), playfully punching out "Braxton's Dues" with fire and energy. Ragin's sound is always clean and clear (at any tempo), and the supporting cast is in perfect sync throughout, most notably on such extended and challenging cuts as "The Moors of Spain" or "Wisdom and Understanding". The augmentation of Murray's bass clarinet adds a moody dimension to "The Light at the End of the Underground Railroad", while Baraka's poetry reading is instrumentally nurtured by all on "When Sun Ra Gets Blue". (J.S.)

Justin Time 127-2 to order

Abdullah Ibrahim - "African Suite"

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Much of the music on this 1997 release, recorded in Switzerland, has been available before, but in a very different context. The scoring for string orchestra (members of the Youth Orchestra of the European Community) and trio - Ibrahim (piano), Belden Bullock (bass), George Gray (drums) - gives a new perspective to the familiar blend of South African rhythms, traces of Arabic and jazz harmonies, church elements that one has come to associate with Ibrahim's compositions. The percussive, repetitively hypnotic characteristics are imbedded in a lush, warm sound, obviously designed for a more sophisticated audience. Strings will do that, as some jazz players of the past have discovered. All numbers are Ibrahim originals (arrangements by Daniel Schnyder), with orchestra only on "Blanton", and Ibrahim soloing with "Aspen". I'm afraid I prefer my Abdullah Ibrahim "straight up", though, if I hadn't heard what I know well from past recordings, this might seem remarkably appealing. (J.S.)

Justin Time 8472-2 to order

Borah Bergman/Oliver Lake - "A New Organization"

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Bergman and Lake have long championed what has been termed "avant-garde jazz", continually on the search for "…a new alloy…" (liner), open to any invasive influence that leads to a fresh articulation of ideas. As the title this 1997 CD (recorded live at the Knitting Factory) suggests, they have not wavered in that pursuit. The dialogues they fashion on five original pieces are definitely not "easy banter", sax and piano plumbing the depths of passion on the opening "I Kiss Your Eyes", determinedly intransigent with "I Won't Wash for Three Days", fuelling the fires around "The Blue Tree". If this truly presages "…a bridge to the 21st century…" the new millenium will be a hard-edged, abrasive, uncompromising time indeed. Not for the faint of heart! (J.S.)

Soul Note 121322-2 to order

Martial Solal - "Ballade du 10 Mars"

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Though Algerian pianist Martial Solal made a memorable appearance at the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival, he still has not received the deserved acclaim on this side of the Atlantic - an inexplicable puzzle to be sure. This 1998 Milan session, with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Paul Motian serves to reinforce his stature as a performer with "….dazzling technical ability"…" one who injects fresh perspectives into standards such as "Night and Day", " 'Round Midnight" or "Almost Like Being in Love" are imbued with insightful harmonic variations, a unique rhythmic sense, and a rococo-like embellishment (reminiscent of Tatum), while new ideas flow freely on "Gang of Five", "The Newest Old Waltz" and the title tune, reflecting, at times, an indebtedness to his classical roots (Ravel/Milhaud). Familiarity with his playing partners adds to the overall cohesiveness and consistency of the programme. (J.S.)

Soul Note 121340-2 to order

Assorted Artists - "Dinner by Candlelight" - "Jazz at Night's End"

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Concord's new "Jazz Moods" series, a budget-priced line compiled from its lengthy catalogue (circa 1978-1997), features "carefully selected tracks" (as the album title suggests) "…tailored to fit particular occasions". Artists include such well-known players as Scott Hamilton, Warren Vache, Kenny Burrell, Marian McPartland, Gene Harris, Cal Tjader, Monty Alexander, Mel Torme, Jimmy Rowles, Carol Sloane, Emily Remler, Gary Foster, et al. Further issues with thematic concepts are planned. It's an appealing marketing endeavour, affording the listener the opportunity to sample a good cross-section of instrumental and vocal stars, and to enjoy a range of music that befits personal mood swings. (J.S.)

Concord Specialty 5201-2 / 5202-2 to order

Bill McBirnie/Bruce Jones - "Extreme Flute"

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Mix a lot of Brazilian rhythms, afro-cuban, latin and traditional jazz improvisations, add soft dream like vocals, dynamic percussionists and a trombone to leader's Bill McBirnie on flute, alto flute and piccolo plus Bruce Jones on guitars, percussion, synth pads and vocals to produce one very lovely eclectic CD. Bruce Jones studied guitar in Brazil and plays like a native and Bill McBirnie is one of Canada's top flautists. Heavenly sounds abound throughout this fascinating journey from mid tempo, ballads to exciting rhythms mostly Brazilian with a touch of jazz or afro-cuban sounds. The appeal to listeners is extremely broad and of a relaxing nature. Highly recommended. (D.W.)

Desvio (independent) - to order contact 1-888-88-indie or

Freddy Cole - "To the Ends of the Earth"

Freddy Cole - one year earlier than the above recording, same warmth and phrasing in duo to big band settings. "In the Still of the Night" soars with eloquent vibes - Joe Locke, piano - Cyrus Chestnut and clarinet - Frank Perowsky, members of the tentet featured. Other chestnuts include "Candy", "For all we Know"; "Love Walked In" and "I'll be seeing You". Cole is a master of the changes; he makes it all seem so simple, so effortless. A jewel to treasure for the next 50 years or so. Very highly recommended. (D.W.)

Fantasy FCD 9675-2 to order

Angel Luis and Energia Latina - "Cantando Suave"

Hot salsa, son, mambo, samba and afro-Cuban jazz performed by an electrifying 15-piece band led by Angel Luis. A non-stop dance festival from beginning to the end theme. All sung is Spanish. English translations include "I am Salsa", "Too Much Heart", "Son of Son", "You are Loving" and "Pleasure of Love". Dazzling sound throughout from some of Cuba's finest musicians and singers. This band thrilled audiences at the 1998 Beaches Jazz Festival in Toronto, Canada. For serious salsa fans and those who want to explore the rhythms and sounds of Cuba. (D.W.)

Aril Entertainment 0001 to order

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

***** Excellent
**** Good




Label & Cat.No.


Gato Barbieri

Che Corazon

Columbia CK 69690



Jazz on the Half Note

Platinum 111


Roy Haynes


Dreyfus FDM 36598-2


Kevin Mahogany

My Romance

Warner Bros CDW 47025


Cassandra Wilson

Traveling Miles

Blue Note 7243 8 54123 2 5


Stanley Jordan

Live in New York

Blue Note 7243 4 97810 2 3


Guido Basso/Dave Turner

Midnight Martini

Justin Time JTR 8471-2


Kirk MacDonald

The Atlantic Sessions

Koch Jazz KOC-CD-8600


Joe Chambers


Blue Note 7243 4 96685 2 2-V


Jack McDuff

Bringin’ it Home

Concord CCD-4855


Keith Ingham

A Mellow Bit of Rhythm

Sackville SKCD2-3063


Bob Barnard/Jim Galloway

What’s New

Sackville SKCD2-3064




Cannonball Adderley

Somethin’ Else

Blue Note 7243 4 95329 2 2


Herbie Hancock

Empyrean Isles

Blue Note 7243 98796 2 1


Lennie Tristano

Live in Toronto 1952

Jazz Records JR-5CD


Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges

Side by Side

Verve 314 521 405-2



Digital 111 at Montreux

Pablo OJCCD-996-2



The Trio

Pablo OJCCD-992-2


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