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  • CJ Shearn wrote on June 19, 2012 report

    Thank you John. Great review as always. This set is a birthday present for me I think. I knew they performed "Dayride" on this tour, but shame its not included on the discs. Also "Returns" as this are on the Eagle Rock label, not Concord.

  • John Kelman wrote on June 19, 2012 report

    Your welcome, CJ....and happy birthday! I know, some of Dayride is in the Inside the Music video, but I sure wish they'd included on the concert CDs...there was enough space. re Returns? Oops!! Thanks for the catch, I've now corrected it.
    Best!
    John

  • Joseph Barbarotta wrote on June 19, 2012 report

    If only a tape would surface of that 2008 Hollywood Bowl show with Chaka Khan on vocals and a guest appearance by Stevie Wonder!

  • CJ Shearn wrote on June 19, 2012 report

    Thank you John for the birthday wishes. A user over at Organissimo is rating this highly. It's on Spotify but not gonna spoil it, will wait for it to arrive. It's risky in this age to put out 2 disc and 3 disc sets as Chick is consistently doing but he knows his audience.

  • Laurence Stevenson wrote on June 30, 2012 report

    John,
    Normally I LOVE your reviews but this one REALLY rubbed me the wrong way. Yes, it's a great album. Better then 'Returns' for sure. But NOT because Frank Gambale is replacing Al di Meola! Everything but, in fact.
    1/ White and Clarke are MONSTEROUS here. They ooze a funk that was missing in 'Returns. They really 'play as one'.
    2/ The addition of Jean Luc Ponty is masterful. He really adds a whole new dimension to the music.
    3/ I'm sure Frank G. is a great guy and is, obviously, a fine guitar player. But he really does not add to the proceedings in any outstanding way. Well, considering who he's on stage with, that's a steep challenge for anyone. And to claim that his ability to 'play over changes' is what makes things better is, for some of us, a major red flag. 'Playing over changes' has been the cause of more dull music than I can believe. Yes, there have been masters who risen above the form but it was in spite of it not because of it. Thanks be to Miles for 'moving on'. If 'playing over changes' was where it's at musically, we'd never enjoy people like Paco de Lucia;-). Rhythm and dynamics say a lot more to me than 'changes'.
    OK, rant over. Now get back to doing your normal stellar job!

  • John Kelman wrote on June 30, 2012 report

    Hey Laurence,

    Rant away! Always happy to hear from folks..even if it's not always positive... :)

    To respond:
    With respect to Frank, my point about "playing over changes" was to clarify that, unlike Di Meola, Frank has very, very credible jazz chops, and whether that's a "red flag" for you or not, it's what prepares him to navigate tunes like "Spain," to create lines that weave in, out, around and through the changes; something Di Meola was incapable of doing. Like it or not, it's a significant difference between two guitarists who can play almost at the speed of light, but only one who can properly navigate a change-heavy tune.

    I'm not saying it's essential in all cases, not by any means - otherwise we'd be dismissing, amongst other things, great modal players (though most of them, like Coltrane - and Miles, let's not forget - can do it.

    My point being that, for my ears, Gambale was far better suited for this gig because he has the tools to do it. This ain't retro either, because of you listen to guys like Wayne Krantz, Dave Binney, The Fellowship Band, the ability to play changes is essential, even if it's not necessarily definitive in all their music. It's about having the proper tools to do the job, and in this case, Gambale has 'em.

    Now whether or not you like him is another story, and I'm in absolute agreement with you that the key components are Corea, Clarke and White - RTF would not be RTF were any one of them absent. But that's a given, at least imo; when reviewing Mothership, I wanted to discusswhy another RTF tour, so soon after the last one - and especially because, like the last one, there was no new music. And, having seen the last tour, and the clear tension with Di Meola, I felt it important to talk about the contributions of the new members. But I do point out the original members' contributions, from the last para on page 1 forward I do think I made sure everyone else in the band got plenty of virtual ink. Maybe it was because I spent so much time setting that stuff up with the history of how the group happened, and how Gambale differs from both Di Meola and Connors, who was (as you probably know) originally set to do this tour.

    But please don't get hung up on discussions about playing changes, as it implies nothing more than having a certain skill in a musician's toolkit. It suggests an understanding of harmonic relationships that make it possible to work with more complex forms, and we're not talking just about the mainstream stuff. But look at any credible jazz musician, and you'll more often than not find that, even if their music doesn't demand playing changes, they absolutely know how to. Take MMW, for example - groove stuff where such knowledge really isn't essential. But check out Medeski in other contexts, and it's clear he has it.

    Hope this clarifies. You'll know, since you read my stuff, that I am not locked into any definition of what makes a jazz musician. But when you talk about Chick Corea's music, at least some of it (like "Spain"), you are talking about change-driven music. And someone who has those specific chops will be able to play a song like that with far greater credibility (even if not, necessarily, cranking your Evinrude) than someone who doesn't. And as for "rising above the form," that still falls into the area of "if you want to break the rules, it's a pretty good idea to know what those rules are." Guys like Stian Westerhus and Eivind Aarset, for example, absolutely do - when I interviewed Eivind a couple years back, I loved, when we talked about his background, his reply was "I can play [John Coltrane's] 'Giant Steps'but at a very slow tempo." :)

    Thanks for taking the time to write, Laurence, and for reading my articles here at AAJ.

    Best!
    John

  • Laurence Stevenson wrote on July 02, 2012 report

    On this small point, we can agree to disagree. By past performance,we seem to agree on just about everything else;-.
    However, this time out, I think we have a case of multiple-focus.
    We agree that this is a great album. All members contribute wonderful things.
    One point of disagreement seem to be Al's abilities. I find him musical but a poster boy for the problems of Asberger's. Nobody has to put up with that forever. It's OK;-). The fact that there was no new material on the last tour didn't bother me. If you're going to revive a band, it's a good idea to play a little safe while dipping your toe in the water. I believe it was more a case of logistics than musical abilities.
    We can hardly accuse di Meola of not being prolific with new material. He knocks them out, good or bad with fearsome regularity in a variety of styles.
    For me, technical ability is, as you say, a helpful skill. However, as we know from dealing with classical musicians, as opposed to..John Lee Hooker, Keith Richards, etc...it's not the essential thing.
    However,. this is a HUGE topic;-)and I only get into it becasue, as I said, we agree on SOOOOO much else!
    Keep 'em coming!

  • John Kelman wrote on July 03, 2012 report

    Hey Laurence,
    Of course, of course!But to be clear on a couple things:
    1. I have/had no issue with there not being new material on either tour - partly, for reasons you ascribe, but also because some of the arrangements were certainly going places the originals did not. But with two consecutive tours that had no new material, from a writer's perspective, I felt it a worthwhile subject to discuss. But if it appeared that I was being critical of that fact, then I was clearly not being clear about it, and that's my bad;
    2. Since I went to the National Arts Center in 1974, to find no Bill Connors and, instead, this young Al Di Meola, I've never particularly liked him...but not because he's not Bill, but because I find him to be a lot of flash but not a lot of substance. A master of scales of a myriad kind, to be sure; but all too often he feels like he's just regurgitating scales, and that's where that taboo subject of being able to play changes comes in. (sorry!).
    3. Yes, Al's technical skills are hard to know - and yes, as you so put it, he does pump 'em out. But beyond his World Sinfonia records, which I do quite like (if not love), he just seems to be doing a more advanced version of what he's been doing all along. Has he gotten better over the years? Gee, I hope so!

    But you also hit the nail on the head in your last statements. I'd rather hear a substandard (technically, I mean) guitarist who felt great, rather than a tremendously accomplished one who doesn't. Not that there's not a place for technical acumen, of course; but for me, as it seems for you, the first thing the music - any music - has to do is reach me on some emotional level.

    Al doesn't. Bill did. Frank does....sometimes :)

    Chick, Stanley and Lenny always seem to....and as for Ponty, I've gone from loving him to being less enthused and back across the years, but with RTF IV I really felt he shone splendidly.

    Nice chatting with you..greetings from Kongsberg!
    john