Friday, April 17, 2009

Bobby Hutcherson Montara

From 1975's "Montara", here's vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson with the smooth title track. Sampled later for The Roots' "Montara" and remade/remixed by Madlib.

For sure, this is the strangest Bobby Hutcherson disc in his fine catalog: Electric piano, Latin percussion, a definite psychedelic/Latin/jazz/fusion vibe. Originally recorded in August of 1975, it is just now available on CD in a digitally remastered edition.

Can you dig it? Hey, it's the seventies. What else would you expect? Bobby probably wore some righteous bell bottoms and a tight-fitting polyester shirt to these sessions.

Called Hutcherson's first all Latin session, it lives up to its billing, and actually contains some very fine playing, once you get over the seventies weirdness. Since Bobby H is hands down my favorite vibes/marimba player (and he esp. shines on the latter instrument), I'd probably pick up anything and everything by him. And although I'm experiencing a kind of jazz/fusion personal renaissance, I still struggle a bit with the sensibility here--too much dated electronics for my taste. Which raises the question: Will Dave Douglas, Brad Mehldau, Matthew Shipp, et. al. sound this dated 25 years from now? Hmmmm.

Comprising an almost equal amount of driving Latin-rhythms and gorgeous ballads, this session does have some very special moments like the gorgeous ballad "Love Song" and the medium-tempo "Little Angel."

Probably not for everyone, but certainly all those who agree with me that BH is the reigning vibes meistro, as well as those stuck in a seventies fusion time-warp, will want to have it.

..As I wait for WHOEVER has the rights to the Blue Note catalogue to reissue Bobby Hutcherson's finest (IMO) recording, the unheralded and lost in the shuffle "Knucklebean"(w/ George Cables (p), Freddie Hubbard(tpt, flgl),and unsung Manny Boyd (ts) and Eddie Marshall(drs) ,
I see Blue Notes' keepers have reissued MR Hutcherson's LA 70s Latin Jazz set, Montara!

Well,as for my dos centavos (and yours, pun intended), costing the "supersaver" budget price,
grab it, for the recording features 2 lovely compositions, worth to shell out the $12 US for these alone!

Ay madre ,
if you are a cigarette smoker, this cd is costing but 2 package US cigarettes,
money better spent to hear the lovely ballade "Montara" , and George Cables composition the slow cha-cha ,"Love Song" and keep your lungs carcinogen free and breath kissin' sweet, hehe.

As usual, Mr Hutcherson, who, IMO, eclipses the legendary Milt Jackson as the world's finest mallets master (vibes and marimba), a genius of the mallets.
~ The solo work of Bobby Hutcherson appears to have been underappreciated by even the "jazz mafia",
as intricate snaking 8th & 16 note runs NEVER deteriorate into scalework, but caress the melody and , as cliche dictates, "tells a musical story".
(ahhh, but ohhh, scalework~~Oliver Nelson's book, "Patterns for Jazz, abused!)

The "contribution" of modern musics schools to the new neoclassical , Marsalis -inspired BIG MAC assembly line musicians (who have gotten so many undeserved recording contracts in the last 20 years),scales and patterns replace lyrical melodic soloing too often in today's jazz"scene", but I fall away from my message)

No, no scalework, but lyrical and melodic lines, beautifully conceived.

So with the more workman like post Tito Puente items, here a listener is better served to listen to the incendiary 70s recordings of Eddie Palmieri, but there is nothing unlistenable on this cd.

KEEP a lookout for "Knucklebean", and "til then", enjoy and mine the catalogue of Bobby Hutcherson's cd catalogue !

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Robert Glasper

It goes like this: Bill Evans,Corea, Jarrett, Mehldau,Hiromi Uehara and Robert Glasper.
This guy WILL be remembered for all time. A true visionary.
In My Element is a captivating example of the rudely healthy shape of US ‘boutique’ jazz. The 27-year old pianist Robert Glasper has reached his third release already - his 2005 set Canvas was immediately critically acclaimed. The reason for the fuss is that unmistakable Glaser touch: neither enigmatically original nor faultlessly derivative but, rather, tuneful, warm and intelligent.

It’s easy to hear why the best jazz today comes in threes. Beyond the simple advantage of low overhead, the sparseness of the instrumentation allows the harder rhythms of pop to shine while still being capable of the complex sonic texture necessary to pull off the odd Radiohead cover. Mehldau popularized the jazz-guy-does-Radiohead, offering up a pensive, wistful rendition of “Exit Music (For a Film)”; Glasper does his own inspired riff on the concept on In My Element.

For Glasper, the trio enables him to heighten the drama and sense of surprise in his playing. With a bare minimum of bandmates, he has total freedom. “It’s an intimate setting,” he explains over lunch on Park Avenue South. “There aren’t too many people in the band to communicate with, and my guys [bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid] know the direction I’m going without me having to speak it.”

In My Element showcases the degree to which Glasper has developed and refined his pop sensibility. Crossing music boundaries comes naturally to him, the way it does to many young jazz musicians these days. When Branford Marsalis began gigging with the Grateful Dead in the late eighties, purists bugged out. At the time, jazz was vying for highbrow status, for inclusion in the performing-arts institutions and academies. Now that it’s succeeded, Glasper and his contemporaries don’t have the snobs on their backs, or at least not as many of them. Kitsch remains a danger, though. Glasper escapes it because he unfailingly gets the feeling right. His music is guided by an elegant evocation of the emotion in the song—then his formidable chops muscle into the picture.

Robert Glasper

Album: In My Element (2007) Robert Glasper: Piano Vicente Archer: Bass Damion Reid: Drums

hile some jazz labels invest heavily in the remix phenomenon, pumping up the beats and turbocharging the tempo to make dance music for the coffee-bar crowd (as if Billie Holiday’s music needs more impact), piano trios, jazz’s most pristine and discreet setting, have quietly taken over the music. Top practitioners like Brad Mehldau, Jason Moran, and the Bad Plus sell out midsize rock venues these days, and the next wave is arriving quickly, led by 28-year-old Texas native Robert Glasper. His third and latest album, In My Element, is the first significant jazz disc of the year; the music is direct, forceful, inventive, and accessible without pandering.

The Texan-born and gospel-raised Glasper is clearly indebted to contemporary jazz piano greats Keith Jarrett – for muscular, passionate flourishes – and Brad Mehldau, for narrative density and introspective complexity. Like Jarrett, Glasper tries his hand ably at repertoire standards, and, like Mehldau, has a habit of dashing away from melody, dangling percussive suggestions, before deftly returning to the safe ground of the lyric.

In My Element balances these themes finely, yet the most satisfying tunes are the more firmly emphatic ones. On the opener, "G And B", there is a noticeable hip-hop swing, and Glasper’s choppy playing is fast and insistent, yet not over-intense. On "FTB", a choppy percussive break-beat from his drummer, Damion Reid, sets up a funky counterpoint for a romantic piano melody.

It is left to two later tracks, "One For ‘Grew" and "Tribute" for expressions of other strands of African American culture. Voice samples from revered pianist Mulgrew Miller give the former a bebop, smoky jazz club feel and the latter - a tribute to Glasper’s greatest influence, his gospel singing mother, who has now passed on – is soaked in church inspiration, passion, love and deliverance.

In My Element is a strong, refined work in the classic jazz trio tradition. On repeated hearing, early tonal repetition clears to reveal a formidable lyrical voice.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ron Levy's Wild Kingdom

B-3 Blues and Grooves and Voodoo Boogaloo

Ron Levy's Wild Kingdom is an irrepressible group mixing jazz, blues, funk, Latin and soul music in a heady brew that really grooves. Multi-instrumentalist Levy, whose resume includes stints with Albert and BB King, Charles Brown, Roomful of Blues, ReBirth Brass Band, Lowell Fulsom, Ronnie Earl, Charles Earland, The Wild Magnolias and Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers, brings all his experience to the fore on Voodoo Boogaloo, playing Hammond B-3 organ, piano, vibes, basses, and a variety of electronic keyboards, in addition to composing and arranging all the music on the date. Joined by long-time Wild Kingdom regulars Melvin Sparks, the father of acid jazz, and jam band master saxist Karl Denson. Ron Levy's Wild Kingdom lets loose with some of the most soulful music on the planet today.

The opening “Organ Colossus” is a funky jungle strutting feature for Levy's B-3, clavinet and electric bass and “Sax” Gordon's tenor with the Wild Kingdom percussion section of Adrome “Acidman” MacHine's drums, Yahuba Garcia's congas, and Russ Lawton's bells cooking up a storm. The music is reminiscent of the classic R & B of Booker T and the MG's, the sixties soul of Stevie Wonder, the electrifying black rock of Sly and the Family Stone and the AfroPop of Manu Dibango all at the same time.

“Voodoo Boogaloo” showcases Levy's vibes on a Latin line in the Cal Tjader tradition that's jazzed up with a swinging Milestones-inspired bridge. Garcia's timbales and congas and Lawton's percussion spice up the mix with some salsa Picante, while Karl Denson soars on flute over Gordon's beefy baritone sax. Melvin Sparks lets fly with a classic guitar solo, quoting “Moanin'”, “Tequila”, and “Softly As A Morning Sunrise”, backed by Levy's relentlessly grooving B-3.

Drum and bass open up the soulful ballad “Love Retoined” with Jeff Lockhart's guitar sharing the spotlight with Levy's organ and electric piano. Shades of Isaac Hayes meets Lonnie Liston Smith and the Cosmic Echoes.

“Better Save Yo'seff” is jazzy New Orleans styled rhythm and blues with “Sax” Gordon blowing shotgun tenor over “Acidman” MacHine's funky beat, bolstered by Lawton's tambourine. Levy settles into a comfortable Big Easy groove and stays right there, allowing Lockhart to get down with some great guitar gumbo.

Levy's “Spy On The Fly” is his take off on sixties' Quincy Jones cop show soundtracks, complete with sirens, string synthesizers and smokin' Sax. The leader's busy hands stay full on this one, soloing on vibes and B-3 while wielding his full arsenal of keyboards in the background.

Garcia's congas and Lawton's tambourine set up Levy's organ and MacHine's traps for another Nawlins outing on the bluesy “Spank!” Denson and Gordon, on tenor and baritone, are one fierce horn section, riffing away the day, before Denson steps out front for a vicious solo. Levy mixes things up on organ, clavinet and the Korg MS-20 for a rockin' good time.

“Wes Side West” is a pretty jazz line executed with finesse by Denson on flute with Levy on bass and keys and Lawton's insistent tambourine pushing the percussion section. Sparks shows his stuff with a gutsy solo before Denson takes it to another level with an extended flute flight. Levy gets into the act with some jazzy organ licks before letting Sparks fade it out.

The date ends with “Memphis Mem'ries”. Levy puts his electric and acoustic pianos up front on this one with Denson backing him on alto and tenor in the sax section. Special guest Jerry Portnoy, veteran of the Muddy Waters Blues Band and sideman with guitar giant Eric Clapton blows some mean blues harmonica, at times sounding like a lazy Tennessee freight train, before Denson steps out front with some fat tenor. Levy winds the proceedings down with some mellow vibes and keyboards.

Voodoo Boogaloo is truly an exemplary excursion into Ron Levy's Wild Kingdom. It's a place where people can party on the timeless sounds of funky jazz and soulful blues as they groove into tomorrow.

If you're new to the B3 sound (and even if you're not) this is the album for you. From mellow to funky, Ron Levy puts the instrument through its paces in a sometimes playful and all-times soulful way. A little more to the acid side than some staunch B3 enthusiasts might like, because he doesn't keep it screamin' all the time, he actually plays it melodically. Check it out! Sweet.

1. Levtronic Blues - Ron Levy, Levy, Ron 2. Summertime - Ron Levy, Gershwin, George 3. Smoke N' Fire 4. Gimme a Break - Ron Levy, Levy, Ron 5. Prayin' the Blues, Pt. 1 6. Funk Finger 7. Eema's Song 8. 'Mo Chain Smokin' 9. Meter Made 10. Rooseveltin' 11. Prayin' the Blues, Pt. 2

blue note - herbie hancock - cantaloop island

A bright, powerful, timeless recording.,

Herbie Hancock is one of the most ingenious and excellent pianists of the twentieth century. He could compose entertaining, brightly done songs that would not only be a big hit on the charts but be great as well. All of the songs on Cantaloupe Island are filled with exotic, amazing solos and catchy compositions. Such tracks could only be done by Herbie Hancock; he creates a legendary album here. Most enjoyable to add are the great people in jazz who join him for this project: Freddie Hubbard, Dexter Gordon, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Donald Byrd, Hank Mobley, George Coleman, and many others.

The whole album is just spectacular. The instant classic "Cantaloupe Island" features a little piano loop played over and over for a jazzy feeling. Freddie Hubbard's trumpet solo is perfect for the song. The way the loop and Herbie's solo go together is the greatest. The next single, "Watermelon Man", has a different piano loop and works in the same fasion. This time, Dexter Gordon joins the mix and turns in an incredible solo. Freddie Hubbard's solo is excellent, and Herbie's is a little short, but it works out brilliantly with the rest of the song. The slower but always exciting tropical sounds of "Driftin'" feature Donald Byrd on an excellent tune. Hank Mobley's solo is swinging and solid as usual, and Herbie steals the show by playing terrifically. The bouncy "Blind Man, Blind Man" is classic Herbie, featuring great solos over a great beat. The similiar "And What If I Don't" bounces as well, and has great trumpet and guitar solos. The third single, "Maiden Voyage" is a fantastic ballad, with its dreamy sounds and solos from Freddie and Herbie.