At the end of 1980, the late Steve Lacy expanded his group to a sextet with the addition of pianist Bobby Few. His first recording with this new configuration was Songs, a 1981 collaboration with poet/painter Brion Gysin, best known for his work with William Burroughs.
Lacy and Gysin had worked together as far back as '69, and their rapport is evident here. Lacy states in an interview with Jason Weiss (from Duke University Press' forthcoming anthology Conversations) before the album's release that all the music comes out of the words. So the tunes act as a support for Gysin's ...read more
In late 1971, after Diana Ross completed filming the Billie Holiday bio-pic Lady Sings the Blues, Motown put her in the studio to record an album of jazz standards to coincide with the movie's release. The material was shelved after the producers decided to keep Ross on the pop-star track, which soon produced the #1 hit Touch Me in the Morning."This summer Motown is releasing that long-lost album, entitled Blue. A welcome attempt to cash in on the recent standards successes of Rod Stewart, Carly Simon, Queen Latifah and others, it's a tastefully recorded piece of jazz-lite. Produced ...read more
Dafnis Prieto's latest release on the upstart Zoho label is The Absolute Quintet, a startlingly eclectic and occasionally maddening album. He creates strange shapes and shifting moods, which are handled adroitly by his bandmates in a unique bass-less setup. Violin and cello scrape against sax and organ, with Prieto's all-over drumming attempting to forge some unity. Prieto traces his influences back from Cuban culture to European chamber music and African percussion, and he seems to have assimilated them whole. These are no mere regurgitations, but freewheeling mash-ups that create entirely new species.The Coolest" is one such strange bird. ...read more
Cowboy Justice sticks to the basics. Each tune opens with a repeated riff that is then accented by the other instruments, heavy on layered harmonies. Ben Allison is one of the founding members of the non-profit Jazz Composers Collective, a hub for young, forward-thinking talent, and Cowboy Justice has the feel of a workshop the Collective might put on, a testing ground for basic melodic ideas yet to be fully fleshed out.The first tune, Tricky Dick," begins with a strummed electric guitar riff, which Ron Horton's trumpet then circles around with brief, round-toned stabs, until he introduces the ...read more
Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. Take, for example, Anita O'Day's new album. The 86 year-old, who made her name as the lead vocalist for the Gene Krupa Orchestra, hasn't released an album for thirteen years, and the results on Indestructible! are a clear indication why. Her voice has been ravaged by decades of hard living, and her attempts at singing behind the beat show the strain of effort. The shadow of her talent is there, but it's not enough to sustain an album. Also, the recording has her mic'd much louder than the band, ruining any possibility ...read more
The SF Jazz Collective is a younger, more stylistically adventurous version of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, a repertory-minded super-group with a defined home base that tours at upscale theaters instead of clubs, aiming at middle-class pocketbooks. Both intend to educate as much as entertain, but SF Jazz, with Joshua Redman at the helm, manages to sound contemporary by emphasizing individual composition as much as repertory, while the LCJO routinely gets bogged down getting misty eyed about the past.
Each year SF Jazz selects a list of works by a pantheon composer to perform, while each member composes an original ...read more
Chris PotterUndergroundSunnyside Records2006 Consensus is always the sought-after ideal in criticism. When writers can line up behind an artist and declare his or her greatness, the health of an art form is reinforced. We need to ordain geniuses to be reassured that this love of ours is still valid, and that our scribblings, you know, mean something. Jazz hasn't had a young mobilizing figure like this for quite some time, which motivates all the moaning about the death of the form. Many critics have placed moderate bets on ...read more
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