October 1996


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Moe Koffman Quintet - "Devil's Brew":

The Swinging Shepard returns with a change in personnel and a change of material. This time he turns to a mix of standard tunes along with some new originals. The latter are penned by pianist Bernie Senensky and include "Blues for Clifford", "Who am I" and "Mango Mama". Moe has not lost any of the fire in his playing be it on alto of flute, soprano or alto flute, all of which get some action on this recording.

The new member of the band is Barry Romberg on drums, who knows how to compliment the front line or soloist and he swings like mad at all times. Bassist Patrick Collins is no longer with the band, this is his last recording with Moe, and he shines throughout. Listen to his intro on "Invitation" for sheer joy and energy.

What can one say about one of the greatest guitarists around today, that hasn't been said. Ed Bickert's playing on this recording is as always impeccable, those unflappable ethereal lines are gemstones he polishes again and again.

Senensky's playing, like his compositions is always exciting, and he proves himself in both areas here. I especially like "Blues for Clifford".

Duke Street label DSRSD 31100 To Order

Various Artists - "The Elders are Listening":

Recorded live at Humber College in Toronto on February 6th, 1996, this music is dedicated to the jazz artists of the Blue Note (label) era, and has that aura about it, but with some originality not a direct copy.

Playing compositions of Elmo Hope, Horace Silver, Donald Byrd, Jerome Richardson, Wayne Shorter, Jerome Kern, Billy Strayhorn and George Gershwin, the elders, as they call themselves, are Archie Alleyne - drums, Shelly Berger - bass, Stephen Crowe - trumpet, Alastair Kay - trombone, Pat LaBarbera - tenor, Brian Lillos - alto and Don Thompson - piano. Most of these musicians are on the teaching staff at the College and the idea was to embrace the students with some of the musical genius' from the past, and in particular those halcyon days of the 50's and 60's in the Blue Note Studios, and it appears to work with this session.

Well rehearsed arrangements, strong solo work by all and a general feeling of a road band are the features that stand out. Hope the band gets some gigs in local and cross country clubs.

Humber Label 19961 To Order

Jane Bunnett - "And the Cuban Piano Masters":

Another side of Cuban music is presented by Jane here in this drumless set of tunes. As she explains in the liner notes, it is very unusual for Cuban music not to have percussion instruments, but in this case it opens our minds and ears to a new challenge - that of concentrating more on the pianistic beauty of Cuban Music.

Recorded in Toronto in 1993 and only just released, it is worth the wait and it is rewarding in many ways. Each piece of music tells it's own story of the struggle the Cuban people have had and in particular the musicians. I am greatful for the courage shown by Jane in exposing these remarkably talented pianists to a world that has many different attitudes to anything Cuban. Her most recent tour was a success here in Canada, but the U.S. leg of it was cancelled. Push politics aside and enjoy the pianos of Jose Marie Vitier and Frank Emilio Flinn in settings that include the playing of Carlitos del Puerto - bass and Jane Bunnett - soprano saxophone and flute. Exciting music by some rather great musicians.

World Pacific label 7243 8 32695 2 5 To Order

Kit McClure Big Band - "Burning":

A 19 piece band led by Kit McClure on alto, tenor and flute burn their way out of New York City with some production assistance by Teo Macero (remember his association with Miles Davis). This is a contemporary unit (all female) that accepts the challenges of some very difficult chartsand will explode the myth that nothing new can be done to such chestnuts as "Autumn Leaves", "A Night in Tunisia", "Laura", "Night and Day", and "Summertime". Macero wrote a chart called "Mr. Davis" and "Bach up Jach" and you'll also find Charles Lloyd represented with his "Forest Flower". At times the sax section sounds just like Supersax, and all soloists perform with elan. Great vocal work by Gisele Jackson on "Tunisia" and "I'll take Manhattan", and a very humerous rendition of an original called "New York City Rap".

Miles Davis and Gil Evans - "The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings"

"In this century's American music, three partnerships have been most influential: Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn, Frank Sinatra/Nelson Riddle and Miles Davis/Gil Evans. Of these, the Davis/Evans relationship lasted the longest - from 1947 until Evans' death in 1988." This is a direct quote from the notes of a just released 6 CD box set of the Miles Davis/Gil Evans collaborations. Many Davis fans are going to say "At Last" we have everything by these two giants. That may be, but there are other things rumoured to be out there that have not seen the CD system yet. But this is a great way to celebrate the music of Miles and Gil and just in time for a gift for that special person this Christmas.

The CD's in question are: "Miles Ahead", "Porgy and Bess", "Sketches of Spain" and "Quiet Nights". "Miles + 19" and one CD devoted to the alternate and rehearsal takes. Apart from the superb music, the packaging is also quite unique, a gold plated spine, beautiful colour reprints of the original jackets and liner notes galore, one can easily spend an evening just digesting the notes alone and then be totally prepared to listen to each CD with a little more knowledge than one had originally thought one had of the music. And the wonderful candid photos of recording sessions are an extra added bonus.

For the really serious Miles fan the studio chatter in between takes is a revelation, just being there in the studio with Miles and Gil is magic. These are all very tough charts and the musicians had to work diligently to ensure that everything came off to the perfection demanded by Gil Evans.

Columbia have gone to great lengths to list the musicians that were in the studio for each of these sessions, and that must have been a tough task considering that so many takes were never completely registered initially.

Space does not allow me to review each individual CD, nor is it necessary, for the Miles fans who have purchased these recordings either as an LP or CD. To those who don't have much Miles in their collection, all I can say is break into the piggy bank, take out a bank loan, or cajole someone into purchasing this for you for your Birthday, Christmas or Anniversary, but whatever you do, purchase this. THIS IS A 'GOTTA' HAVE!

I just can't wait for the next reissue which will contain all the Miles Davis/John Coltrane collaborations.

For now I'll just go back to listening to the magic here in this set. An aesthetic masterpiece.

Columbia Records 6CD CXK 67397 To Order

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