Tuesday, May 20, 2008

CD REVIEW? Sabetooth - Dr. Midnight-Live @ The Green Mill

CD - Review...Sabertooth - Dr. Midnight/Live at the Green Mill (Delmark)
What a fun group this is! Merriment abounds.
Sabertooth is a died-in-the-wool Chicago institution. Having been rooted in the hallowed halls of the Green Mill for over a decade
Sabertooth is comprised of joint saxists Pat Mallinger and Cameron Pfiffner; along with a wailing rhythm team of organist Pete Benson
and swing meister drummer Ted Sirota.
From the opening bell to the ending refrain the guys exude that refreshing buoyancy, washing every soul within earshot. Their repertoire is huge, whipping out a mixed bag of traditional ditties like, 'Mary Jane' where Mallinger Coltranes his way around to standard covers, "it's Surely Gonna Flop if it Ain't Got that Bop' based on the changes of Duke's 'It Don't Mean a Thing If it Ain't Got that Swing'. Beginning
with soul drenched 'Blues for C Piff' get things rip roaring. But the absolute 'killer' is their rendition of Cahn & Hefti's 'Odd Couple'. It a classic. Whenever in Chicago on a Saturday nite be sure to go by the Green Mill and catch these men in action. You won't be disappointed. Sabertooth is not your A-typical jazz organ combo and it is a danm mystery for all envolved that this is their first recording. And won't be their last!

CD REVIEW/ Jason Ajemian- The Art of Dying

Imagine a small group of friends getting together. All are musicians. They meet in someones front room, maybe the basement or perhaps in the garage. Its just an impersonal jam session. They share a few sodas, down some sandwiches, maybe even smoke a cigarette or two. Everyone is relaxed with no where to go but into the heavens of the music.
That's the unassuming calm that permeates this new recording by bassist Jason Ajemian. 'The Art of Dying (Delmark)' features Ajemian's group 'Smokeless Heat', a trio of Tim Haldeman, tenor sax and drummer Noritaka Tanaka (how cool is that name, especially for a drummer?!). And it is augmented by some more good buddies in Jaime Branch, trumpet; guitarist Matt Schneider and vibist Jason Adasiewicz (who incidentally is making quite a name for himself as well).
The disc begins with the somber 'With or Without the Universalator', where Branch's poignant but sour puss tone inflects a solid depth of feeling. The hippest thing about her playing is that she's not afraid of making mistakes or fracturing a note here and there. And that doesn't mean she plays 'wrong' notes. For it has been said by many that there are no "wrong" notes. She's the quite opposite of Haldeman who can be a whirlwind. He's no slouch and serves up a Dewey Redmanish workmanship through out. His waves of melodic candor make one wipe his brow-whew!
As a composer Ajemian pokes little vignettes of the title for us to nibble on. He does it thus....The...is 0:13; Art...is 0:17; Of is...0:13 and Dying is..0:22. He rounds out the entire title in one tune entitled '2,4,7,9' all titles that are numbered as 'The Art of Dying'. Clever eh? The title piece has an Ornette Coleman feel. His 'Peace' in particular. And the CD ends out with a 'live' session piece recorded on WMSE in Milwaukee, Wisc. It is here that the trio gets into the brass tacks of what they really can do once in full throttle. They carefully listen to one another. God! They've recalled the days of Henry Threadgill's AIR! This is thoughtful engaging music and Ajemian is a well rounded young master in the making.


For a man to declare unabashedly, 'I AM, I AM'! is a cry like none other! His humanity lays threadbare, naked to the world. Unequivocal, heart piercing. This bold new recording from saxophonist JD Allen reaches right to the core of our being. The mantle of our culture. The symbiotic basis of who we are as a society.
Allen has for the past decade or so been making a distinguishable name for himself. This writer became aware of Allen's musical universe through the recordings of drum master Winard Harper. Then came his debut disc "In Search Of..." on the Italian Red Records label. He also held down the sax chair on several Cindy Blackman's dates, acquitting himself valuably. The came Russell Gunn's 'Blue On The DL' and pianist Orrin Evans, 'The Band- Live at Widener University.' In the meantime he released, 'Pharoah's Children' his second date. This newest, 'I AM I AM' (Sunnyside), comes not a moment too soon. In fact I'd be willing to ask, 'where has JD Allen been all this time'?
In the trenches no doubt.
Allen is certainly equal to anyone of his generation. If not more than talented. For IAM IAM the saxist is joined by the protean bassist Gregg August, whose gut busting big chords strum and thunder. As for drummer Rudy Royston, he tips and trills, shuffling rhythms like a joyful kid on the street thumping a plastic paint pale. He floats and fills.
The over lay of each of the discs 10 tunes is actually an undercurrent of unmitigated melodic force. While his first disc, "In Search Of..."paid symbolic homage to Wayne Shorter in weight and measure, on IAM IAM Allen drinks from the fountain of Coltrane. And why not?!! We are not wont of thirst any more.
Each cut, such as 'The North Star' to 'Id' to 'Othello' imprint Allen's stark soulfulness. He is 'cutting up' as they say in the hood. And its high time we are entreated to more of his flair for urban interpretation of what's happening NOW! JD Allen is a baddd mother......! Now run and tell that!!!