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Miles Davis v. Wynton Marsalis: Jack Johnson in Jazz

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A director fascinated by the outsized life of the African-American boxer Jack Johnson sets out to make a documentary to tell the man's story. Given the centrality of race to Johnson's story and Johnson's own musical interests, a jazz soundtrack seems most appropriate, so he enlists the foremost jazz trumpeter of the day to provide a score. This certainly will sound familiar to those who've caught Ken Burns' latest PBS documentary, Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall ...


Condon's Mobs: Wild Bill Davison & Bud Freeman

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As an art form jazz has thrived in a number of different environments, and the school of the music that came to fruition under the ostensible stewardship of Eddie Condon, a man whose abilities as a raconteur were at least on a par with his abilities as a guitarist, amounted to a freewheeling brand of the music which thrived best before a receptive live audience. There was however a whole lot more to it than anything that might suggest, and ...


Allison Neale & Bruce Turner: Across The Years

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The alto sax has always been a horn that can accomodate a variety of approaches. The two players discussed here, as featured on albums recorded at completely different stages in their respective careers, have sounds and styles deeply rooted in the history of the music

For years Bruce Turner was a stalwart of Humphrey Lyttleton's band, and for a period in the late 1950s and early 1960s he led his own Jump Band, a small group which took its cues ...


Charlie Rouse: Hail The Individual

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Every significant development in jazz has been the work of trailblazers. In the case of bebop of course the two most readily associated with the development have always been Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and whilst there is no little substance in this, the determinism of such a view obscures the contributions of other musicians who were active in the midst of this musical revolution. Whilst this situation has arguably never caused irreparable damage to any musician's career, it might ...


Rendell-Carr & Keith Tippett: Ever Increasing Circles

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In the early 1960s things were happening. In that seminal decade, the allure of which remains so great that people not even born at the time can feel vicarious nostalgia for it, both British and European jazz produced instrumentalists with the ability and know-how to establish themselves as distinctive voices within an ever-widening continuum of jazz. Of the three musicians discussed here Don Rendell has the longest pedigree, having been a member of the band Stan Kenton employed on his ...


Marty Paich and Art Pepper: Moanin' vs + Eleven

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Marty Paich (1925-1995) was the West Coast Tadd Dameron. He had a perfect swing and be bop arranging temperament. Paich was a superb pianist and a better arranger, being called upon to orchestrate for Chet Baker, Ray Brown, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, and Art Pepper. It was with Art Pepper that Paich would forge a most creatively generous relationship, which would yield not one but two masterpieces in 1959.

Art Pepper (1925-1982) was the brilliant and beautiful alto ...


Ellen Christi: Diverse Materials

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All jazz singers worthy of the name have been able to draw upon a depth of interpretive power sufficient to make something out of frequently trite lyrics. The most extreme example of this, that is to say the example who could draw from the deepest well of such power, was of course Billie Holiday, and there is countless recorded evidence of this. Of vocalists who have moved outside of both the territory of the lyric and the voice's very function ...


Herbie Hancock: Vive La Difference

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The emphasis on Miles Davis's 1960s quintet as a role model for musicians in the present day has ensured perhaps that Herbie Hancock's move away from that band's style has been overlooked.

The two albums discussed here encapsulate how his musical outlook changed. The move from acoustic to predominantly electric instrumentation is profound enough in itself, but when -as in the cases discussed here- it;s accompanied by an equally significant shift in the very nature of the music then the ...


Nights At The Keyboard: Connie Crothers & Mal Waldron

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Solo jazz piano playing is an area of the music fraught with risks at the same time as the piano is the instrument best suited to solo music making. In the past, Bill Evans circumnavigated some of the problems inherent in the medium through overdubbing, a course which neither Connie Crothers nor Mal Waldron has opted for on the albums discussed here. Similarly, neither player occupies a stylistic area close to that of Art Tatum, whose solo piano recordings have ...


Oliver Lake: Upwards & Outwards

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Oliver Lake has always had an innate grasp of musical tradition that extends beyond jazz to encompass other areas of African American musical expression, and the effect of this on his music has always been beneficial. Allied to this have been two other virtues, namely his abiding fascination with the work of Eric Dolphy, perhaps unsurprisingly not a highly influential figure, and an instrumental conception deep enough to enable him to appreciate the diversity inherent in the alto sax, the ...