February 2007

Glenn Astarita BY

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John Carter/Bobby Bradford Quartet




Recorded in Los Angeles back in 1969, this reissue is good enough to be classified as desert-island fare. Originally part of the co-operative New Art Jazz Ensemble, the late multi-woodwind musician/composer John Carter and trumpeter Bobby Bradford present a hip and ultra-modern vision of West Coast jazz. It's timeless, progressive music that holds its weight in glistening, up-tempo style nearly four decades after the fact. The horn players engage in melodic and complex unison choruses atop the rhythm section's rigorous cadences. In spots, Carter's whispery flute lines counterbalance higher octane ingredients, and an ethereal mindset takes center stage. The unit's buoyancy and clear-sighted vision is on mic throughout. They construct a multi-part jazz vernacular—distinguished by rich lyricism, sturdy compositional frameworks and airy, loose-groove soloing spots. Essential listening.


Jazz Hits Volume I

Mel Bay


This guitar triad-led group, featuring master craftsmen Jimmy Bruno, Vic Juris and upstart Corey Christiansen, will confound some expectations. By properly understanding each other's styles and techniques, they achieve a singularity of purpose, re-engineering familiar favorites such as Miles Davis' "Solar, John Coltrane's "Impressions and eight other tunes. It's a shrewd production, with the musicians touching on jazz-fusion while quietly injecting Americana and other cross-stylizations. With the fluid support of two estimable vets in the rhythm section, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Danny Gottlieb, the guitarists are not content simply to provide technically facile readings. Harmonically provocative and teeming with masterful soloing, this is one of those occasions that prove that the tried and true can, in the right hands, be woven into a nouveau presentation.

Matthias Schubert Quartet


Red Toucan


This engaging modern jazz recording presents something of a paradox. With sinewy unison lines and crash/burn dialogues, tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert integrates classic New Orleans jazz in the quartet's broader overall canvas. Everyone's favorite session drummer, Tom Rainey, drives the ensemble with darting accents and fluently rendered beats. A down-home touch underscores the production, largely due to tuba player Carl Ludwig Hubsch's buoyant bottom-end, as he provides a foundation for Schubert and clarinetist Claudio Puntin. The group cover Jelly Roll Morton's "Shreveport Stomp" with vibrant aplomb, and on other tracks meld fierce dialogues with unusual linear progressions and odd-metered rhythm patterns. Nonetheless, it's a happening endeavor, where jazz's old school shares equal footing with its new outside edges.

Hugh Hopper

Hopper Tunity Box

Cuneiform Records


Re-mastered from the original analog tapes, this 1977 solo effort by Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper features a comprehensive cast of British modern jazz and progressive rock artists. An earlier CD release was cut from the LP itself, which had a skip in the middle of an Elton Dean saxophone solo. So this release is especially welcome. But whatever the format, the album is a minor jazz-rock classic. Hopper's expansive fuzz-bass lines provide a gargantuan yet limber undercurrent for Dave Stewart's lyrical organ lines and the jubilant brass section charts; and potent soloing abounds over the nine whimsically melodic compositions, firmed-up by a large wall of sound that throbs with optimism. Even if you're unfamiliar with Soft Machine's legacy or Hopper's wide-ranging solo career, this newly issued disc captures an emergent British jazz-rock movement revelling in its individuality.

Barry Romberg's Random Access

Live On Tour-Accidental Beef



Canadian drummer/bandleader Barry Romberg granted generous freedom of execution to his septet, where they'd hit upon a mood and run with it. This live effort, recorded at the Rex Hotel in Toronto, California, was made on the second day of a tour. Romberg lays out a pumping groove amid multicultural percussion accents and beats set down by Blair Mackay. Trumpeter Kevin Turcotte and guitarist Geoff Young generate a big musical space, in which sinuous and sometimes torrid soloing shines. The program recalls the spirit of late 1960s/early 1970s electric Miles Davis, yet there are none of the proverbial train wrecks. The soloists take their time developing motifs, along with nicely-placed dynamics and crashing crescendos. This isn't just another jazz-fusion date; Romberg and his band-mates cleverly produce a storyline or two during their high impact workouts.

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