October 2001


Chris Potter - "Gratitude"

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This is Chris Potter's debut CD for the Verve label. He entitled the CD "Gratitude" to give thanks to some of the great saxophonists who have made an impact, not only on him by but an impact on jazz as a whole. Chris Potter has been an incredibly busy and in-demand saxophonist for the last ten years or so, and he has played and recorded with the biggest names in jazz including Jim Hall, Dave Holland, John Patitucci, Rene Rosnes, Paul Motian, Steve Swallow and many others too numerous to mention. He has also performed on the platinum selling, multiple Grammy winning Steely Dan's "Two Against Nature".

"Gratitude" is a tribute to the great saxophonists of jazz without losing any of Chris Potter's voice. He composed all of the songs except "Body and Soul", "Star Eyes" and "What's New". He dedicates a song each to John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, Eddie Harris, Wayne Shorter, Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman. He also dedicates a song each to the past and current generation of masters.

The writing is fantastic, as is the playing from all four musicians on the recording, Kevin Hays - piano and Fender Rhodes electric piano, Scott Colley - bass, Brian Blade - drums. Chris Potter plays tenor sax on most of the tracks, but can also be heard on alto sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet, alto flute and Chinese wood flute. He closes the CD with a tenor sax solo version of "What's New?" dedicated to all of his saxophone playing contemporaries and to the young saxophonists coming up.

I don't normally like tribute recordings, although there are some excellent releases; Joe Henderson's "So Near, So Far" for Miles Davis comes to mind, but "Gratitude" falls under the "ones that work" category. Chris Potter is an amazing talent who has not only listened to, and studied all of these masterful saxophonists, but has been able to walk away his own man. SB

Verve 314 549 533 2

Charlie Haden - "Nocturne"

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This is a beautiful collaboration by bassist Charlie Haden and pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, exploring the rich rhythmical world of the bolero. This popular Cuban song rhythm which emigrated to Mexico and Puerto Rico at the beginning of the twentieth century and later spread Colombia and the rest of South America is embraced and romanced on this 11 song tribute to the bolero which has for centuries called Havana it's home. Charlie Haden contributed two songs and Gonzalo Rubalcaba one. Five of the songs are boleros by Cuban composers and four by Mexican composers. The pieces flow beautifully into one another and the playing is emotive and subdued while still intelligent and spontaneous. The rhythm section is made up of Haden, Rubalcaba and drummer Ignacio Berroa. Special guests include Joe Lovano on four tracks, Pat Metheny on one, David Sanchez on two and violinist Federico Britos Ruiz on three.

Certainly this is a project of love and respect for the beautiful musical contributions that Central America has bestowed upon the world. Whether it's an original composition by Haden, who is an American or one by the Mexican composer Maria Teresa Lara with Pat Metheny reproducing the sound of the Requinto (the guitar that solos in Mexican trios) with his acoustic guitar, the care and handling of this music and it's rhythm makes for a fantastically interesting recording. SB

Verve 4400136112

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown - "Back to Bogalusa"

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Louisiana born, Texas-raised Septuagenarian Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown has been serving up this unique blend of R&B, Country, Jazz and Cajun for more than 50 years. Although he has been very instrumental in the development of Texas blues, this blues man extraordinaire would rather be known as the multi-instrumentalist whose musical ability encompasses virtually every musical genre.

A native of Orange, Texas, Brown learned the value and versatility of musical styles from his father, who was a popular musician in the field of Country, Cajun and Blue Grass. This is evident and very much reflected in this, his latest release. This compact disc is everything from Jazz to Country; it is listeneable, pleasurable and danceable. There is a strong representation of Louisiana with tunes like "Going Back to Louisiana", "Bogalusa Boogie Man", "It All Comes Back" and "Why Are People Like That". I quite enjoyed listening to "Same Old Blues" a track whose introduction has some similarities to Oscar Peterson's "Hymn to Freedom".

In this session, his regular band of Harold Floyd - bass, David Peters -drums, Joe Brown - keyboards and the funky sax of Eric Drummer, accompanies Brown.

From the up-beat guitar playing on the opening track "Folks Back Home", the haunting Cajun result, a well made, well balanced compact disc having something for everyone regardless of Accordion on "Breaux Bridge" to the funky, jazzy "Grape Jelly" this recording is all good. The musical taste and preferences. This is a must for all blues lovers. CS


John Coltrane - "The Very Best Of"

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This year marks the 75th birthday of John Coltrane, hailed by many as the greatest tenor saxophonist in jazz history. To honour the occasion, Impulse is releasing a number of compilations to celebrate the work of this groundbreaking artist. "The Very Best of John Coltrane" features some of his most historic recordings on the Impulse label.

This is a special collection that represents a mirror into Coltrane's musical legacy, reflecting the wide range and rich depth of his peak years. There are a marvelous variety of tunes on the CD, enough to satisfy anyone's musical inclination. The opening track "Acknowledgement" is the first movement of Coltrane's most powerful, celebrated and deeply spiritual "A Love Supreme", which is an awakening of sorts that trails beautifully into the serene and classic Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" with Coltrane displaying his mastery and ability to reinvent the familiar. Also among the highlights of the CD is a true rarity - the first ever studio recording of the famous "Impression" previously only available on live recordings.

This is not just another compilation, but rather a recording that shows the many sides of this genius. There are the classic quartet tracks, his collaboration with singer Johnny Hartman, and his partnership with fellow reedman Eric Dolphy.

Coltrane was always driven to extend himself to explore all the elements to push the jazz envelope. His works continually speak to us long after his passing. It is almost impossible to think about jazz without John Coltrane, and equally impossible to imagine one's jazz collection without "The Very Best of John Coltrane". CS

Impulse 3145499132

George Benson - "It's Uptown"

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"It's Uptown" happens to be the quintessential Jazz Guitar album. Maybe a good reason why Columbia sees fit to release this 1966 classic. There are five bonus tracks added to the original 11-track programme. George Benson is a consummate musician whose versatility on this recording takes him in many directions including rhythm and blues singer, guitar player and composer. He is certainly one of the best guitarists, who is very supportive to soloists and possesses the unique unquestionable urge to swing.

He sings in a lush soulful tenor, as shown on the three vocal tracks "Summertime", "A Foggy Day" and "Stormy Weather", sometimes mannerisms of Stevie Wonder. The opening track "Clockwise" came out of a taped audition turned recording session, Benson's first on the Columbia label. Bonus tracks include the previously unreleased "J.H.Bossa Nova", alternatives to "Clockwise" and "Eternally".

Benson's guitar combined with Lonnie Smith's funky organ playing provides an unmistakable sound, whilst the baritone sax of Ronnie Cuber creates an additional bottom to the ensemble. "It's Uptown" is a fascinating recording with some tracks having more immediate appeal than others, yet it swings continually. Once again, Benson continues to remind us that there are no limitations to his artistry. This is another one of those reissues that should not be missed. CS

Columbia / Legacy CK 66052

Chet Baker - "My Old Flame"

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Recorded shortly after Chet's 6-week opening at the Tiffany Club, "….one of Los Angeles' top jazz venues during the early years of the 1950's", this 1954 session was not released in full until the Mosaic label issued all of the live Pacific Jazz recordings in 1986.

Two of the numbers had been made available in 1955 and 1964 respectively -"Zing went the Strings of my Heart"/"Russ Job" - but only in edited versions. Considering the calibre of the performances, it is difficult to determine why they were shelved for so long. The Quartet of Baker - trumpet, Russ Freeman - piano, Carson Smith - bass and Bob Neel - drums is in fine form, particularly on the playful energetic opener, "My Little Suede Shoes", with Chet on trumpet and boo-bam ( a set of small drums), the lyrically beautiful "Everything Happens to Me", and the surprisingly Latin-tinged "Frenesi". Note: four additional selections that obviously would not fit onto a single CD are available on the Mosaic sets. JS

Pacific Jazz 31573

Kenny Barron & Regina Carter - "Freefall"

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The music on this CD appears to have resulted from the serendipitous meeting of two fine musicians who obviously are well matched in purpose and design. The balance of smooth harmonic changes with contrapuntal improvisation pervades this programme of standards/originals with piano and violin intuitively synchronized. The ballad numbers, Sting's "Fragile", Barron's "Phantoms", and Carter's "Shades of Gray" share an atmospheric, lyrical beauty, with the first two treated to a tender, tango-like rhythm. The pair's rhythmical playfulness and fanciful inventiveness are captured with Monk's "Misterioso" and Barron's "What If", while Hodges' "Squatty Roo" is given propulsive, foot-tapping impetus, and Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" calls for almost minimalistic insights. The title tune, a Barron/Carter original, is a multi-rhythmic excursion, full of glittering patterns and evocative instrumental gyrations. Technical perfection, ease of delivery, and a strong sense of musical magnetism between the players make this a winning disc in every way. JS

Verve 3145497062

Bluiett / Jackson / El'Zabar - "The Calling"

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The trio of Hamiet Bluiett (baritone sax, wooden flute, contra-alto clarinet), D.D.Jackson (piano, organ, bass synth, keys), and Kahil El'Zabar (percussion, vocals) share a common vision in their musical endeavours, "spun through a whirlwind of impressions uniting African origins, to blues roots, to world music…and beyond". The huge baritone sound and organ backdrop are set to powerfully rhythmic congas and vocal with the opening "Open My Eyes", while Bluiett's baritone and Jackson's piano shape the beautifully lyrical "Sai-Wah", the first two numbers of a programme of originals by the group members. The elements of textural variation, rich tonal colouration, and instrumental surprise are freely explored - the meld of kalimba/contr-alto clarinet on "When the Elephant Walks", the intricacies of organ, percussion and baritone on the energized "Wake Up and Dream", or the spikey mix of baritone, keyboards to the conga generated rhythms of "Odd Pocket". One comes to expect the unexpected with this trio. JS

Justin Time JUST 162-2

Louis Sclavis Quintet - "L'affrontment des pretendants"

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Over the past 15 years, reedman Louis Sclavis (clarinet/bass clarinet/soprano sax) has established himself as one of the leading exponents of contemporary music in France and continental Europe. Though early influences are cited as Sun Ra, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Monk and Mingus, he is as likely to employ traditional and folk elements, or classical references in his compositions. The group here is his "new quintet", and they seem well attuned to the challenging roles demanded of them. Trumpeter Jean-Luc Cappozzo and Sclavis (bass clarinet) set a torrid pace on the dynamic title piece, and are matched again (Sclavis on soprano) on the raw, gritty "Possibles". Bassist Bruno Chevillon offers a solo of inexhaustible creativity with "Hors les Murs", while Vincent Courtois (cello) injects a virtuosic, textural solo into the sinewy rhythms of "Contre Contre". Drummer Francois Merville uses "broken time" to feed the "interval-leaping" bass clarinet on "Maputo". The lengthiest work, "Hommage a Lounes Matoub", dedicated to an Algerian protest singer who was murdered in 1998, progresses from a mood of great sorrow to one of spirited triumph, in a 17-minute suite to which all of the musicians contribute. It would be interesting to hear this group in a programme of standard material. JS

ECM 1705

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