Gerard W. O'Brien - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection - jazzreview.com - Your Jazz Music Connection http://jazzreview.com Tue, 23 May 2017 15:35:03 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb A Tale of God's Will by Terence Blanchard http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/various-jazz-styles-cd-reviews/a-tale-of-gods-will-by-terence-blanchard.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/various-jazz-styles-cd-reviews/a-tale-of-gods-will-by-terence-blanchard.html A Tale of God's Will by Terence Blanchard
Terrence Blanchard has charisma and the power to make sounds that are strong and entrapping, sound that roots itself in the soul. "Ghost of Congo Square" speaks to charisma but it is the charisma of African music and dance, African tongues, African rhythms and how they became American Creole. Terrence Blanchard said to Lolis Elie that "The Souls of Congo Square.... understand better than we do how a story such as this one unfolds in the end."

Terrence Blanchard has charisma and the power to make sounds that are strong and entrapping, sound that roots itself in the soul. "Ghost of Congo Square" speaks to charisma but it is the charisma of African music and dance, African tongues, African rhythms and how they became American Creole. Terrence Blanchard said to Lolis Elie that "The Souls of Congo Square.... understand better than we do how a story such as this one unfolds in the end."

"The Levees" which is Terrence’s second song on A Tale of God’s Will, has all the power of a Greek tragedy. Everybody knew they were the Achilles’ heal of the city and that their breach would be fatal. People who should of known they weren’t protected or up to job did nothing but as Terrence says to Lolis Elie in the liner notes, before a storm hits the weather cools, The winds gentle. New Orleans feels big and easy." This is known to the gulf coast to be a call to action, but it was treated as relief from the summer heat.

In "Wading Through," there is a nostalgic feeling, sadness mixed with memory in a way that is bittersweet, but it is early in the process and nostalgia is about to be replaced with foreboding, and the sense of abandonment. The President is not coming to rally the troops, A billion dollars of charity is not flooding in with the mud..."Ashé", track four, is the Yoruba word for "and so it shall be." It is acceptance, the state to be reached before the community can rebuild. It is the state in which optimism can begin to return, it is the place from where the determined can set the new cornerstone for the city.

Terence Blanchard A Tale of God’s Will is at times melancholy but never self pitying. Terence pays his respects to One of America’s five greatest cities, but he does so ignoring the rest and only eulogizing his home, this is just. America abandoned New Orleans, and only her sons and daughters have the right to speak about her death, their mourning and the city’s rebirth. The album is built like a piece of classical symphonic music music, it is layered and contextual. It is complex and while not at all stiff it does not have a jam session feel at any point. The album is played by six master musicians, with support from the Northwest Sinfonia conducted by Terence Blanchard. The nine songs that follow need to be listened to, not described. Describing them is boring, listening to them is something completely different. There are few albums in the cannon of America’s secular spiritual music that can compare to this one. It will define the way we hear New Orleans for years to come.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Gerard W. O'Brien) Various Jazz Styles - CD Reviews Sat, 28 Apr 2007 07:00:00 -0500
Blues From Mars by Elliott Caine Quintet http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/latin-jazz-/-latin-funk-cd-reviews/blues-from-mars-by-elliott-caine-quintet.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/latin-jazz-/-latin-funk-cd-reviews/blues-from-mars-by-elliott-caine-quintet.html Blues From Mars by Elliott Caine Quintet
Elliott Caine is batting one thousand with the release of his third CD. The first two, Orientation and Le Supercool received wide acclaim and Blues Fro…

Elliott Caine is batting one thousand with the release of his third CD. The first two, Orientation and Le Supercool received wide acclaim and Blues From Mars on Rhombus Records is going to do the same. Elliott has assembled a talented as well as large group of musicians all of whom contribute to this ensemble in significant ways. "Blues for the Revolution" the first track has an uncommon opening featuring baritone sax. The baritone is just the right setting for the hot trumpet solo that follows. Elliott chose to use a septet on "Blues for the Revolution", but he thins the ranks to as few as four players, using only the necessary instrumentation to communicate his musical meaning.

The CD has ten tracks nine of which are original pieces that Elliot Caine wrote. The songs show you just how sophisticated Mr. Caine's musical thought is and how versatile he is as a composer.

"I Thought About You" has not only the distinction of being the only piece of music not composed by Elliott Caine, it also is the smallest ensemble on the CD." I Thought About You" closes the album with a calm quiet sensibility that is the opposite of the opener. It demonstrates nicely the range that Mr. Caine and his ensemble are at home in.

The CD features many sounds from the inflections of the 1960's and 1970's through Afro-Cuban and lyrical ballads. Blues From Mars also features a wide instrumentation. In addition to the trumpet and flugelhorn there are two saxophones, a tenor and a baritone. There are electric and acoustic bass, piano, and vibraphone. There are congas. There are the rare and rarely well-used Theremin and Tannerin.

Add to the above musicians with distinct voices such as Elliott, Justo Almario, Carl Randall and John Rangel and you have over an hour of superb jazz conversation played in many of the dialects of the language that is jazz.

This album will also be special to Angelinos and fans of KKJZ 88.1 FM because of "Fields of Jazz," which is a tribute to the late Sam Fields, longtime disc jockey and jazz fan. Sam was a well loved air personality at KKJZ since 1990. Sam began his jazz radio career at KKGO in 1972. His soothing voice, knowledge of jazz and excellent programming set him apart from other announcers and makes him a missed and much honored friend.

It is necessary to mention that while this is a superb ensemble CD it is also a great album for the trumpet lover in all of us. Elliott can converse with any musician using his horn. Mr. Caine is a very fluent, nuanced player.

I believe that this album is worth the investment and will be a welcome addition to any jazz collection. I also think it could become one of those albums that gets frequent play in your regular jazz rotation.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Gerard W. O'Brien) Latin Jazz / Latin Funk - CD Reviews Mon, 27 Feb 2006 06:00:00 -0600
It's A Good Thing by Jamie Davis http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/it-s-a-good-thing-by-jamie-davis.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/it-s-a-good-thing-by-jamie-davis.html It's a Good Thing by Jamie Davis is much more than that. Perhaps it was modesty that caused Jamie and his collaborators to settle for It's a Good Thing…

It's a Good Thing by Jamie Davis is much more than that. Perhaps it was modesty that caused Jamie and his collaborators to settle for It's a Good Thing and not go for "It's a Great Thing." Anyway I certainly believe you will find it to be much more than just a good thing.

This is an album that from the listed tracks might seem ordinary even though most of us really dig the standards. But I think it might be closer to an oral examination of the type given in prestigious universities for candidates who seek the recognition that they have mastered their field. Here is why I feel this way.

Each of these songs can be sung and played any number of ways but there are performances of these pieces that we know and favor and so an album of standards is easily comparable to examples of these pieces that act as bench marks. It may be riskier for a singer to attack a song that has been taken to near perfection by generations of masters, then to give his take on an unknown or original piece. This is going up against the tradition and showing the audience how high your reach is, how firm your grasp.

Jamie attempts, masters and sets bench marks of his own with his performance of these songs. He sings in the range of the late Joe Williams and he has honed his chops under the influence of Mr. Williams among others but, he has observed, learned, internalized, and created his own techniques, phrasing and beat and as a result come up with a voice that is truly his own.

So while the inquisitors listen to the candidate, he creates fans, establishes new bench marks and ultimately on the level of vocalist demonstrates mastery.

But there is another level in these performances and that is collaboration. A wonderful singer, even with a great band, who is not a brilliant collaborator isn't really worth listening to. Jamie Davis has gone out of his way to select collaborators who are up to task in every respect. Calling upon musicians from his three years with the Count Bassie Orchestra Jamie plays here with what is virtually the orchestra's rhythm section. Calling again on the great Shelly Berg to conduct, contribute on the piano and as an arranger, Jamie demonstrates a collaborator’s genius.

Finally, the horns and percussion are drawn from generations of great musicians, well seasoned artists with decades of experience to talented youngsters just demonstrating their capabilities to the jazz world. The result is pure joy, great music a treat. Jamie sings to the music, which floats his voice, and the two become one. It's a good thing that this master vocalist has done.

But wait, while the music is a great listen, the half hour long DVD is a great watch. It takes you inside the process of making a studio recording with a big band and lets you meet the guys and gal who created the music. Also it allows you to get some insight into Shelly Berg, John Kelson, David Kiem and all the other artists who you may have heard and to whom you now can put a face.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Gerard W. O'Brien) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Sat, 25 Feb 2006 18:00:00 -0600
Killdozer by Robert Sabin http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/killdozer-by-robert-sabin.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/killdozer-by-robert-sabin.html Killdozer is a suite of program music based on the armored bulldozer rampage of a mechanic named Marvin Heemeyer through the town of Granby, Colorado on Friday Ju…

Killdozer is a suite of program music based on the armored bulldozer rampage of a mechanic named Marvin Heemeyer through the town of Granby, Colorado on Friday June 4, 2004. This Zappa-esque musical romp has a plethora of ancillary goodies located on Robert Sabin’s web site so that you have stuff to play with while you are listening to the six pieces of music that make up the CD. I would call this free, acid or avant garde jazz. Mr. Sabin calls it "avant goth electric neo jazz," quite a descriptive, if a bit long.

It seems that Robert Sabin is a born story teller, but being a bassist and not a lyricist he utilizes multimedia to tell his tales. I find the concept to be both interesting and entertaining and when it is done well it can be raised to the level of other fine arts. I am not sure what this particular outing would be analogous with. The story is very straight forward and given in the liner notes in the form of an AP press release. The headline raises a bit of an issue by stating that "Man surprised rampage plan wasn’t discovered," so I thought perhaps Robert Sabin was trying to get the listener thinking about social blindness or hiding in plain sight or the fact that we often underestimate the threats that life very readily shows us. Sort of "I’m building a tank to destroy your town because you destroyed my business," but I’m not sure. I will continue to think about these things while I listen to Robert’s music.

The band on this recording is Robert Sabin on bass; Brian Griffin on drums; Jason Rigby on saxophones and clarinet; and Mark Stanley on guitar. "Tourettes Guy," the first cut on the CD, starts off like a heavy metal composition but quickly settles into an acid jazz groove, using some very Zappa-esque riffs to carry the piece along. Which is to say that the music is complex, but not melodic; and it is driving, but hard to dance to. In "Notes from Underground," the music continues with interesting phrasing and a somewhat more melodic story line. By the time we get to the title composition, "Killdozer," we have a piece of program music with the drums ticking like a clock and the bass playing a line which seems almost like Marvin thinking before he revs up the Kamatsu D335A for his maniacal drive. The fourth piece on the CD, "Evil Bob Takes a Nap," is an interesting ensemble piece but I can’t figure out how it fits into the story. Maybe it should have been called "Evil Marv.... " "Red and Black" is perhaps the most structurally interesting piece of music on the album. It is episodic with the horns and strings alternating, however, again, how it fits into the story remains open to interpretation. Finally, "Nobody Does it Better" probably supports the stories of Marvin Heemeyer being considered a hero by some fringe elements of society. All in all, a strange and interesting album that holds up to repeat listening.

Robert Sabin has been on the New York jazz scene for over ten years and has twice won second place in the International Society of Bassist's Jazz Competitions. In 1998, he was a recipient of a fellowship from the Henry Mancini Institute. He plays bass in numerous musical genres including contemporary jazz, progressive rock, symphony orchestras, folk music, commercial recordings, and new music.

Mr. Sabin is also a music, and particularly jazz, educator. In this role he is the conductor/director of the Hunter College High School Jazz Ensembles. He is also on the faculty of Teachers College/Columbia University in New York City. Sabin is the Jazz coordinator for the New York Summer Music Festival and Institute.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Gerard W. O'Brien) Free Jazz / Avante Garde - CD Reviews Wed, 25 Jan 2006 00:00:00 -0600
Dues in Progress by keith Oxman http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/bebop-hard-bop-cd-reviews/dues-in-progress-by-keith-oxman.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/bebop-hard-bop-cd-reviews/dues-in-progress-by-keith-oxman.html When a CD arrives that is seventy two minutes long, as a reviewer, I can be a little apprehensive. I have to listen to the whole thing before I can say anything and that…

When a CD arrives that is seventy two minutes long, as a reviewer, I can be a little apprehensive. I have to listen to the whole thing before I can say anything and that’s more than an hour invested. So it helps if the CD has praise from someone like Benny Golson on the back of the jewel case.

This was the case when I received Dues in Progress by Keith Oxman, released in 2006 on The CAPRI Records label. Benny Golson said, "I’m quite impressed since I constantly hear music of all kinds. Dues in Progress is a great CD which speaks in a stentorian voice which is unmistakable. The music is a bit different which makes it readily stand out. It makes for a wonderful listening experience." You can’t buy that kind of review. So when I put the CD on for a spin and listen I expected something of a treat.

It was like my birthday used to be when I was a kid. Wait for the gift LP with bated breath; put it on; have a near out of body experience; and play it until the grooves were gone. This album cooks from the opening line of "I Hear a Rhapsody" until the final chord of "Thirty One for Strayhorn," which by the way, is one of the six original compositions Mr. Oxman wrote for this CD.

Dues in Progress has twelve tracks which means that six of the songs are by other composers but the arrangements make them all brand new. I have played the album from beginning to end six times already and I haven’t found anything to criticize about any aspect of the program. In fact I keep hearing new and exciting things that I missed in earlier listenings.

In addition to their duties on trombone and trumpet, respectively, Curtis Fuller and Marcus Hampton each contributed an original tune. Mr. Fuller’s "Cap’N Kid" is a jazzy piece of calypso that begs you to get up and dance. Marcus Hampton contributes "C.H.O.C.," which is a quintessential groove tune, listen to it and you will see what I mean.

Naturally the album soars because of the performances by the musicians who include, in addition to Keith Oxman on saxophone, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Chip Stephens on piano, Ken Walker on bass, Todd Reid on drums, Peter Cooper on oboe, Al Hood on trumpet, and Marcus Hampton on trumpet. While these may not be names that are familiar to all music lovers, once heard they will be sought out. Each one is a master musician and a brilliant ensemble player. The solos show how good each of these guys is and the ensemble work is flawless.

One player who I have found revealing more with each listen is Chip Stephens whose piano playing is nuanced, tasty and inspiring. He is a master at comping and that is the glue that holds performances together.

A special treat is that Benny Golson wrote the liner notes. In his notes he explains this album exactly as I would, if I had his talent, experience, ear for music, knowledge of technique, and deep insight into creating aural artistry. So rather than try to do what he has done magnificently I recommend that as soon as you buy this "absolute must have CD" you read what Benny Golson wrote. It will add to your listening experience which should be a pure joy.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Gerard W. O'Brien) BeBop / Hard Bop - CD Reviews Tue, 24 Jan 2006 06:00:00 -0600
Gypsy Soul by Royce Campbell http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/gypsy-jazz-cd-reviews/ http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/gypsy-jazz-cd-reviews/ Royce Campbell has had an impressive career with his guitar. He has toured the world and played with many of very best guitarists in jazz. He had a nineteen year gig as …

Royce Campbell has had an impressive career with his guitar. He has toured the world and played with many of very best guitarists in jazz. He had a nineteen year gig as a touring guitarist with Henry Mancini which ended when Mr. Mancini passed away in 1994. He has since 1990 released fourteen CDs, six of which have made it to the national airplay charts.

On Gypsy Soul, Royce Campbell's 2006 release on Moon Cycle Records, he brings his considerable talent to the formidable task of capturing the musical soul of a shunned and very private people. The Gypsy sound is easy enough to imitate and a person of Royce Campbell’s abilities could easily write a fake book of Gypsy riffs but that is not what he has done. While some of the songs seem to be familiar material played with a "Gypsy filter," Mr. Campbell is genuinely searching for the authentic. He wants the music of caravan much more than that of the carnival.

The ten compositions on Gypsy Soul are originals. All of the songs are very passable for the genre and as individual pieces of music some are interesting and all enjoyable. The first three songs seem to be almost a demonstration of what is expected of a person playing the music that Django made so widely loved. But they do seem exercises and under the guitar, the drums and the bass seem almost a metronome. Gypsy Soul is at least ninety percent a guitar showcase and not a CD by a Gypsy jazz band.

However, with the fourth song on the CD "Slow Down, Low Down," Royce has a composition that is more introspective, a little sad, and truer to the culture who’s soul he is trying to capture. Here I think he has come very close to touching that soul. My only complaint is that the song is a little long for the slightly morbid feeling. Minor problem only.

The next three songs, "The Happy Nomad," "Minor Episode," and "Gypsy Romance" are again virtuoso guitar playing in the genre. Royce varies the pace, demonstrates the many techniques of making a guitar sing the old language and the bass and drums have a little more involvement.

However, on "Bygones" he has created over five minutes with the actual spirit and at least to my ears authentic soul of the Romani. This song sounds so real you will want to play it again and again. Here the composer seems to be writing for himself and other insiders; there is something in the song that seems more culturally authentic then anything else on the CD. The tenor of the song is insolent, like the writer has taken off his entertaining public face and at this point doesn’t care to please anyone but himself. Here is where Royce is embraced by Gypsy Soul and gets it all perfect.

The fact that he has achieved this in one composition shows the strength of this project. "Bygones" makes the seven songs before it a musical journey. Royce Campbell has achieved what he set out to do, and that makes the whole album very enjoyable.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Gerard W. O'Brien) Gypsy Jazz - CD Reviews Tue, 24 Jan 2006 00:00:00 -0600
Nature Girl by Cynthia Speer http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/nature-girl-by-cynthia-speer.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/jazz-vocals-cd-reviews/nature-girl-by-cynthia-speer.html Ms. Speer has released her new CD Nature Girl, which is fifty minutes of beautiful, mostly mellow, not smooth, jazz. Cynthia has put together a great roster of …

Ms. Speer has released her new CD Nature Girl, which is fifty minutes of beautiful, mostly mellow, not smooth, jazz. Cynthia has put together a great roster of musicians and chosen some great songs to sing on what I believe is her first CD. Any musician launching a recording career would do well to follow Cynthia’s lead, surround yourself with the best musicians, choose excellent songs, and if you are going to use your own material make sure it is really that good.

The first thing about the CD that caught my attention is Cynthia’s voice. It is smooth, strong and very skillfully employed. Cynthia sings without gimmicks and with a naturalism that is very appealing. I think uncluttered may be one way to describe how she sings a song. I find enjoyment in listening to the story in a song and her vocal clarity makes this an easy pleasure to indulge.

There are eleven songs on the CD the majority are standards that have become part of the soundtrack of many jazz lovers’ lives. "I Fall in Love Too Easily," "Nature Boy," "Smile" and "Let There Be Love." Cynthia does justice to every one of them but of special note are two of her own compositions, the third track entitled "Sleep" and a very tasty bluesy number entitled "I Apologize."

"Sleep’s" lyrics remind me of Cryer and Ford and Cynthia’s vocals are reminiscent of Betty Buckley, who strictly speaking isn’t a jazz vocalist. But they share that intoxicating richness of voice and the ability to convey emotion without going over the top or becoming sentimental.

Cynthia sings "I Apologize" in the best Texas roadhouse tradition with a sultry longing in her voice that will either bring her man back or win her a new one. I can see this song becoming a juke box favorite. I know I like it a lot. Cynthia is joined on this tune by fellow Texan Preston Smith who lays down some really great harmonica and guitar

The musicians are ten extremely talented and fortunately now Los Angeles based musicians. These guys have played with everybody from Ahmad Jamal to Frank Zappa. They are Cynthia Speer - vocals, composition and arranging; Mike Hughes - piano, arranging and producing; Bill Markus - upright bass; Giovanni Nickens - drumming; Jesse Bradley - guitar; John Heard - bass; Elliott Caine - trumpet; David Sills - Flutist; Sal Marquez - Trumpet; Preston Smith - Sitar, guitar and harmonica.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Gerard W. O'Brien) Jazz Vocals - CD Reviews Mon, 02 Jan 2006 12:00:00 -0600
PSYCHE by Gabor Gado http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/psyche-by-gabor-gado.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/contemporary-jazz-cd-reviews/psyche-by-gabor-gado.html The Gábor Gadó Quartet CD entitled PSYCHE, released on the BMC label (www.bmcrecords.hu), is both a treat and a challenge. The music is very enjoyable but …

The Gábor Gadó Quartet CD entitled PSYCHE, released on the BMC label (www.bmcrecords.hu), is both a treat and a challenge. The music is very enjoyable but to get the most from it you have to listen with focused attention, otherwise the music can fade into the background and only during its most vigorous movements grab your attention.

Born in Hungary, Mr. Gadó began his musical career as a violinist before switching to the study of classical guitar. Now considered one of Europe’s premier contemporary jazz guitarists and composers, Gábor Gadó resides and frequently performs in Paris, France.

Gábor has with PSYCHE released his tenth album since 1990. His previous nine albums have all achieved much deserved critical acclaim in Europe. Gábor was awarded the Bobby Jaspar prize in 2003 by the French L’Academie du Jazz. The Bobby Jaspar prize is awarded to the European jazz musician of the year. Gabor has appeared on a total of 16 albums.

While the group on PSYCHE is a quartet made up of Gabor Gadó on guitar; Matthieu Donarier on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet; Sébastien Boisseau on double bass and Joe Quitzke on drums, the album includes seven additional musicians playing a large variety of supporting instruments on various tracks.

PSYCHE has a running time of 56’52" and is made up of seven original compositions by Mr. Gadó. The compositions have classical depth in orchestration with improvisational played by a group that is very tight. The music is atmospheric in a retro Eastern European way, which isn’t surprising considering the compositions, musicians and the facts that it was recorded at Tom-Tom Studio in Budapest Hungry, recorded and mixed by Attila Kölcsényi and produced by Lszló Göz.

Gábor begins PSYCHE with a composition entitled "Etad vai tat," which starts off very softly and has the feel of a suspense movie sound track. The music is very edgy. This is the primary mood of the album; it is almost "Noir" after the manner of Ran Blake, but the era and locale are different. PSYCHE seems to me to be set in Cold War Europe in the 1960s or 1970s, instead of California in the 1940s, but the setting really works for this soundscape. Mr. Gadó has a talent for using sounds that encourage visceral understanding of meaning; some of them can raise the hair on your neck and you will not be quite sure why. While the album maintains its ominous aura it does switch styles here and there. "Aléthia" has a feel that is very close to klezmer.

Instead of traditional liner notes, PSYCHE contains a booklet with a long free verse poem entitled "standing on the border on no-man’s land" by Barnabás Dukay. Standing on the border has been translated from the Hungarian into both English and French and all three versions are included for your enjoyment. The poem means - what? I haven’t a clue but it is fun to read while you listen to the music. After a focused listen this CD is great atmosphere music for reading John La Carre, Ken Follett or Robert Ludlow.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Gerard W. O'Brien) Contemporary Jazz - CD Reviews Fri, 09 Sep 2005 13:00:00 -0500
Indian Winter by Ran Blake and David Fabris http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/indian-winter-by-ran-blake-and-david-fabris.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/free-jazz-avante-garde-cd-reviews/indian-winter-by-ran-blake-and-david-fabris.html I enjoy music that subtly evokes a mood that allows me to feel a certain place and time. Sound is abstract and a particular note can be heard in various different settin…

I enjoy music that subtly evokes a mood that allows me to feel a certain place and time. Sound is abstract and a particular note can be heard in various different settings and never accrue any meaning. Ran Blake however, has created an aural vocabulary which while not universal is comprehensible to a large segment of the listening public. Ran has taken sounds and given them a clearly identifiable meaning.

Ran who has just retired as the chair of the New England Conservatory’s Improvised Music Department has recorded over thirty albums alone and with a wide variety of the most innovative and talented musicians of the late twentieth century. Ran is continuing in his retirement to create music that is true to the tradition he has set for himself.

Ran Blake and David "Knife" Fabris, with the release of Indian Winter have made an album that transports me to a world created by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler and has been kept alive by writers such as Walter Mosley. Yet, this world was uniquely brought to life in the cinema by directors like Otto Preminger and Fritz Lang.

Indian Winter expresses the spirit of film noir; it is not true winter just a bleak extension beyond its time. Like a pitiless winter the noir’s miasma will outlast the protagonists will. The noir in this way is like a dream, in which the bottom of the pit is never the bottom only the ceiling of a deeper pit.

The vocabulary used on this CD, while evocative of the 1930s through 1960s is also timeless. The sounds while appropriate to movies such the Fritz Lange 1933 classic "Dr. Mabuse" are familiar to us today. The images that are conjured by the sounds chosen are cinematic, alarming and seductive. They touch primal nerve that hisses there is real danger here.

Ran Blake is a life long devotee of film noir and has spent a career creating soundscapes that are meditations on this great cinematic genre. Ran in fact has a daily noir watching ritual so that he has learned the genre the way a devotee of Coltrane or Miles will study, analyze and incorporate into her soul every note and nuance of the master’s repertoire.

Indian Winter is tense and mysterious, yet it isn’t burdensome. There is a subtle menace in Ran and David’s playing, yet there is that "moth to the candle" attraction. This music will sweep you into the cinematic world of the "Spiral Staircase" and "Bunny Lane is Missing" with Ran’s unique piano and with David’s guitar riffs that will remind you of Jimi Hendrix.

It is interesting to me that while Ran Blake plays piano like no other pianist working today David has been able to comprehend Ran’s phrasing and vocabulary, in fact his musical language, and transpose them to the electric guitar. The symbiotic relationship in the playing is one of the elements that make this album so listenable.

Indian Winter was recorded toward the end of a tour that Ran Blake and David Fabris made of Europe in 1999. The concerts from which the tracks are taken were performed on November 29 and 30, 1999 in Milan. The CD however is not a live or concert CD as the music has been excerpted from the concerts and formatted as a traditional studio album.

Ran and "Knife" interpret works by a range of composers from Burt Bacharach to Frank Zappa, hitting on compositions by Hoagie Carmichael, Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington and Stevie Wonder among others. The album also has five original compositions by Ran Blake.

The album opens with "Spiral Staircase" by Ran Blake and R. Webb. "Spiral Staircase" first appeared on Ran’s classic Film Noir recording. This piece is paced so that the tension is on from the first notes sounded by the piano. The instruments seem to be hunting and fleeing from each other. The song builds from merely tense to a shivering climax. It is really something to hear.

The fifth track is "You and I" by Stevie Wonder. The song is spare filled with nostalgia and longing. It is rife with the fragility of life. Stevie Wonder accomplished this with his poetry; Ran does the same with his instrumental monologue.

Tracks ten and eleven "Incident at Atocha" (Blue Potato) and Madrid are written by Ran, but "Incident" has been reinvented by David Fabris. Together they speak about what was for Ran a very harrowing experience. Ran was robbed in Atocha, Spain during the tour and lost letters written by Dorothy Wallace the patron of the third stream and noir. David Fabris told me, "Actually ‘Incident’ is a very old piece of Ran’s originally titled "Blue Potato" which was a political rant against police. But I reinvented it in this case to portray the Madrid cops as being helpful after such a tough turn of events."

I am particularly fond of the interpretation of Frank Zappa’s "Marqueson’s Chicken." This is the real guitar piece on the album; David takes us on a tour of what he can do with the instrument, at points very melodic, with a Latin lilt and then some great, distorted riffs that assert this is piece written by Frank Zappa. I would buy Indian Winter for this piece alone. It has a vibe that was present in the best avant garde rock of the 1970s and 1980s.

Track twenty is an interpretation of Duke Ellington’s "Mood Indigo" again almost a guitar solo with a spare piano accenting the guitar. Very nicely done.

There are a great many other noteworthy pieces on this CD, but with twenty three tracks I only have the time and room to highlight some of them.

In summary If you are not familiar with Ran Blake’s music Indian Winter is an excellent introduction. Ran’s playing has never been better and he and David Fabris seem to have a real chemistry. This should be on your "must own" list.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Gerard W. O'Brien) Free Jazz / Avante Garde - CD Reviews Sat, 28 May 2005 19:00:00 -0500
A.M. in O.C. solo piano for the soul by Andrew Marks http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/a.m.-in-o.c.-solo-piano-for-the-soul-by-andrew-marks.html http://jazzreview.com/cd-reviews/straight-ahead-classic-cd-reviews/a.m.-in-o.c.-solo-piano-for-the-soul-by-andrew-marks.html I have heard Andrew Marks play solo gigs and play with his regular group, The Long Beach Trio, which includes acoustic bass and drums. I have heard him play straight-ahe…

I have heard Andrew Marks play solo gigs and play with his regular group, The Long Beach Trio, which includes acoustic bass and drums. I have heard him play straight-ahead jazz, classical and if the people want it, he will even play a pop tune. I have heard Andrew play at chamber events, in restaurants, at weddings, outdoor fairs, and private parties. I always dig his playing and his rapport with the audience.

Andrew often performs standards and flavors these jazz classics with his warm personal style. However, Andrew has over the years played his own original pieces which have often been the highlight of his performances. I have heard people ask him to record these compositions. This album fulfills that request in a grand manner. A.M. in O.C. is a collection of twelve original compositions played beautifully on a grand piano.

Andrew has a real affinity for the piano. The instrument seems to like him. Part of this may be that Andrew spends a lot of his time taking care of pianos. Andrew has perfect pitch, which demonstrates when he tunes your Steinway, Baldwin or Yamaha by ear. When he plays you hear this relationship in his touch. There is a certainty in his playing whether he is gently coaxing the softest sounds, or using his instrument’s full voice.

Andrew has an ear for discovering the musical and melodic, plus the vision as a composer to capture both. A.M. in O.C. features twelve short compositions, which are strongly melodic. His playing is nuanced and this results in an album that you will listen to time and again. This soulful music is appropriate for quite reflection, maybe even meditation and these tracks can certainly set the mood for a romantic candlelight dinner.

Andrew’s music, both his composing and his playing, has been influenced by traditional jazz and classical traditions, which he has fully integrated into his writing and playing. He gives credit to the musicians whose music has guided him on his liner notes. He does them honor with his performance.

As the name indicates this is music for your soul, as well as your ears.

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morrice.blackwell@gmail.com (Gerard W. O'Brien) Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews Tue, 12 Apr 2005 01:00:00 -0500