VOICES Notes and news on Jazz releases
13 JUN 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI
That's Right! (Original Jazz Classics, 1993), from Concord's digital catalog, presents composer and cornet player Nat Adderley fronting one of the largest ensembles he ever played with: The Big Sax Section, which glides along a rhythm machine that includes pianist Wynton Kelly (and, sometimes, guitarist Jim Hall) and features saxophonists Yusef Lateef (also on flute and oboe), Monk favorite Charlie Rouse, Nat's big brother Cannonball Adderley and Jimmy Heath, who arranged all the music.
After warming up in "The Old Country," Adderley blows through "Chordnation" as brisk and bright as cornet master Clark Terry. Lateef's oboe mysteriously opens "Night After Night," a brief but thoroughly evocative soundscape of oboe and cornet. Adderley and Lateef sing bright but somber songs of "The Folks on the Hill" that clearly show why they are among the best cornet and flute players in modern jazz history.
The title opus begins with Nat's cornet creeping out softly upon piano and drums while the horn section purrs sleepy support, a purr that becomes a more forceful growl as the sax soloists step out and swing. Although Hall appears only twice, his guitar keeps Wayne Shorter's shimmering "E.S.P" vibrant and dynamic, and pours a sophisticated new flavor into "Tadd."
That's Right! may not completely match Nat's most famous and enduring Riverside title, Work Song (Keepnews Collection, 2008) with its "Sack O' Woe" and industrious title track. But it comes admirably close -- closer than somebody who's merely "someone else's little brother" could ever come.
05 JUN 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI
The instrumental and oral voice of Max Roach was often heard among the most politically outspoken voices of the turbulent 1960s. But, this bebop and modern jazz drum legend foreshadowed such activism at a quintet date he recorded in 1958 which promised a future of Deeds, Not Words (Original Jazz Classics, 2009), recently re-released on vinyl.
Deeds teams Max Roach with rhythm ace bassist Art Davis plus soloists George Coleman (tenor sax), Booker Little (trumpet) and Ray Draper (tuba). The absence of any “chord instrument” such as piano or guitar, and tuba alongside bass in the lower register, creates a unique sound that takes some getting used to.
Drums and cymbals tumble and slide like silk in and out of the groove to maintain melodic and rhythmic variety in Roach’s solo “Conversation” with himself. Oscar Pettiford steps in for Davis on the bass/drum duet “There Will Be Another You,” two musical giants going toe to toe for nearly six minutes on their respective instruments. Little sounds like he’s playing part trumpet, part flamethrower, to lead “Jodi’s Cha-Cha” and “Larry-Larue.”
The Debut Records Story (Debut, 1996) recaps the best recordings of the label that Roach co-founded with Charles Mingus, including highlights from The Quintet: Jazz At Massey Hall (OJC Remasters, 2012), also known as “The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever,” where they held down the rhythm for Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Bud Powell; and Bud Powell Trio's Jazz At Massey Hall Volume 2, without Bird and Diz.
24 MAY 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI
Pianist Elmo Hope grew up playing, sharing ideas and otherwise running with two of New York City's most famous piano compadres, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. Though he never achieved their historic fame, he proves their equal in sound and vision on Hope-Full (Original Jazz Classics, 1995).
Hope packs this set, subtitled Solo Piano & Duo Piano With Bertha Hope (his wife lends her hands to three pieces), full of the sound of joy, especially his original tunes. The duo "Blues Left And Right" doesn't maintain standard eight- or twelve-bar blues structure, but swirls in and around the blues -- blues as a feeling or an approach, not a mere form. "Most Beautiful" reflects the classic "But Beautiful" in gorgeous new and different directions. Strains of Fats Waller, and laughing echoes of Powell and Monk, bounce through Hope's rhythmic left hand in the fun not frivolous "Underneath."
"When Johnny Comes Marching Home" is a surprising selection in more ways than one: Hope opens up a middle passage of improvisation and exploration that constructs a fantastic voyage from the original piece; and it seems surprising that he mines so much joy from a song written to commemorate the bloodiest war in U.S. history.
Other Hope-filled titles include an all-star Homecoming (OJC, 1992) featuring brothers Percy and Jimmy Heath, Blue Mitchell and Philly Joe Jones; several of those tunes, plus tracks featuring Donald Byrd, Hank Mobley and John Coltrane as soloists, also appear on The All-Star Sessions (Milestone, 1989).
21 MAY 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI
New Jazz Frontiers From Washington (Original Jazz Classics, 1999) presents The JFK Quintet, which was discovered playing in the U.S. capital by Cannonball Adderley. Upon Adderley's recommendation, the Quintet recorded this 1961 debut (which he also produced) for Riverside Records, Cannonball's longtime musical home.
Although named to honor President Kennedy, this Quintet makes no political statements. Their energetic and enthusiastic hard bop says it all. Andrew White's alto sax and Ray Codrington's trumpet burn deep into the classic alto/trumpet bebop front line sound while bassist Walter Booker Jr. nails the rhythm section down tight.
White flutters a bit like Bird through "Cici's Delight" and the ballad "Dancing in the Dark." Codrington sounds inspired by Miles Davis' stark, smoldering sound on the swinging blues "Nairod" and ballad "Polka Dots And Moonbeams." And you'd swear that the rollicking "Aw-Ite" and thick, hot "Hominy Grits" boiled over from Adderley's overflowing pot of soulful, bluesy jazz, spooned out by hot trumpet and stirred by crisp alto.
Washington seems like one town where good ideas go to die, and this Quintet proved no exception -- it released only one more album. But soon thereafter Booker jumped in as bassist for Adderley's band, where he played on such landmarks as Inside Straight (OJC, '95) and the all-star career retrospective Phenix (Fantasy, '99) and remained until Cannonball's fatal 1975 stroke. Codrington played for years with Eddie Harris and more recently with Nnenna Freelon on Homefree (Concord Jazz, 2010).
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