Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Jason Stein - The Story This Time - Delmark

Bass clarinetist Jason Stein is no joke! Not only does he possess the chops of all jazz languages bop to beyond he can write some catchy tunes on which to improvise. Making his horn mate Keefe Jackson stand out as never before “The Story This Time” (Delmark), this debut recording certainly rates mention right under the radar as one of the best recordings ending out 2011.

For a debut Stein and his music messengers are most in sync sounding like a top notch, well heeled organism. Their breaths are unified and correspondent. They sing and shout. Groove and smoothly move. The disc begins with the spite Warne Marsh line, ‘Background Music’ proving their metal in bop based standard fare. Yet we are thrown right into the mix of Ornette-ish sensibilities with the very next cut, “Laced Case”, where Stein’s other worldly horn speak conjures Marshall Allen’s sphere of space influence and Jackson playing off him scopes moods that are eerie yet bright and full of hope.
Tenorist Keefe Jackson a fine leader and composer in his own right is in peak form - proving that both he and Stein are quite truly individual voices on their instruments. Jackson sonically aught be linked with Chicago’s Ed Wilkerson, himself a highly uncommon stylist but that’s about where comparisons end. One can tell/hear Jackson has worked hard over the years on achieving an style all his own.
Drummer Frank Rosaly has too gained a measure of authority as a distinguishable drummer for all occasions. He can be stunningly spare, tip the swing lightly and bust up some omni-directional rhythms in the blink of an eye. He can do it all. As can bassist Josh Abrams, always an anchor for any session.
This is an above the ordinary session that could prove to be ground breaking if given the proper airplay and media mention. Jason Stein is on the precipice of stardom. He can write humm-a-ble tunes and best of all play his bass clarinet-ass off!
Special mention to very fine liner notes by Bill Meyer. Detailed and exhaustive bio and historic perspectives are dead on.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Playlist for Oct.2, 2011

‎1. Christian McBride Big Band- The More I See You-The Good Feeling- Mack Avenue
2. Marc Pompe - The Touch of Your Lips - Everyone But Me - Self
3. Christian McBride - When I Fall in Love - The Good Feeling - Mack Avenue
4. Stanley Jordan - Capitol J - Friends - Mack Avenue
5.Sean Jones - No Need For Words - Mack Avenue
6. Maureen Choi - Caravan - Quartet - Self
7. Donal Fox -The Scarlatti Jazz Suite Project -Quartet Live- Leonellis Music
8. Yoko Miwa - Mr. B.G. - Live at Scullers Jazz Club - Self
9. Orlando Cachaito Lopez - Tumbao No. 5 (Para Charlie Mingus)- World Circuit/Nonsuch
10. Roger Humphries - Dear Lord - Keepin The Faith - Corona
11. Dwight Tribble - In The Beginning GOD- Cosmic- Katalyst
12. Tia Fuller - Decisive Steps - Mack Avenue

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Larry Smith Tribute: Chicago Jazz Memorial 2006
by Lofton A. Emenari, III

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006 proved to be a celebrated day in the annals of Chicago jazz history. It was an equally momentous occasion of note for long time radio personality Larry Smith, a man who’d indelibly stamp his imprint in the vaunted halls of Chicago’s jazz lore.

Several months after being unceremoniously ‘retired’ from his decades long tenure at Chicago’s public radio beacon, WBEZ Smith was now being feted by peers in the field. The place - the ‘East of The Ryan’ club/motel brimmed with well wishers, friends and musicians. Among them two famed Chicago jazz hallmarks, Geraldine deHaas, of Jazz Unites and Ezell Cooper, of Coop’s Records. In the crowd were DJ ‘Still Bill’ of the College of Du Page’s WDCB-FM and the well versed guitarist Toby Wallace coming out to pay respect. The Master saxophonist/teacher Jimmy Ellis’s band held down the jam session. Accompanying him were pianist Carl Johnson; the great bassist Eddie deHaas and drummer Walter Kindred. And adoring fans came as far away as Iowa to pay tribute to a true Chicago legend.


The Chicago Jazz Memorial was initiated that night. The brainchild of veteran media/promoter Al Carter-Bey the herald event was to recognize contributions of Chicago jazz pioneers - living and dead. In light of the recent passing of Malachi Thompson; John Watson; Clarence Wheeler and several others Carter-Bey’s vision was to acknowledge them accordingly. Along with a coordinating effort from the Jazz staff of radio station WHPK-FM, Larry Smith was at long last publiclically honored for his invaluable commitment and dedication to the furtherance of Jazz in Chicago.

Larry Smith launched his calling in radio after putting aside what would have been a lucrative career in music as an aspiring trumpeter. “The owner of WSBC thought I had a good pitch for selling things so he gave me a job”. This was after six months of doing gospel shows on a station out of Evanston, WEAW said Smith in an interview with the late drummer Charles Walton.

“I started out just doing announcements and spots and he gave me 15 minutes. This gave me time to play 4 records and if I sold products well on the radio program he would enlarge the time. Pretty soon I had one ½ hour program. After a while, I had so many sponsors, taverns, beauty shops etc., that I had to fade the records down and do the spots over them to get all of them in. From that, I moved into an hour slot. With that amount of time, I did 2 shows, one on AM and one on FM. The FM part is now known as WXRT. At that time it was WSBC-FM.”

But it wasn’t until Smith got a break emceeing shows at the acclaimed jazz haunt, The Sutherland Hotel that he charged headlong into what would become his lifelong ‘calling’ and role in the world of jazz. “The person who was doing the show could not handle it. Big names such as Lenny Bruce, Count Basie, etc., came by. One day, I was sent to fill in until they could get someone of Daddio or Sid McCoy stature. One month went by, then two, when someone finally said that the right man was doing the job. I lasted there for 2 ½ yrs”.

This in the late 50’s, a time and day that names such as Daddio Daylie, Sid McCoy and Al Benson dominated radio.

The Sutherland exposure was the springboard from which Smith shined meeting the biggest and brightest musical minds in jazz. “I had an opportunity to meet everyone that was anyone during that time because of the name acts that were booked in the lounge and the stars who came to see them. I was ordered not to interview three people who might come in, Red Foxx, Dinah Washington, and Miles Davis”.

Undaunted Smith carried on his task with verve. Not only did he come to interview many artists he in addition would go on to write album liner notes, becoming something of a ‘one-man’ publicity team in the name of jazz.
In a career that saw Smith work at stations such as WEAW, WXRT and at both WJOB and WWCA, out of Hammond, Indiana it was his years of service at Harvey, Illinois’s ‘all-jazz’ station, WBEE AM 1570 were Smith’s renown in the jazz world was solidified. Besides Marty Faye, Smith was perhaps the most notable personality on the air, hosting a popular jazz program for some years. Smith’s resourceful presence birthed a storied institution of jazz yore, ‘Larry Smith’s Jazz Party’, a floating jam session/showcase mining Chicago’s rich vein of talent synonymous with great jazz internationally.
Moving from site to site be it Roberts Motel Lounge, on east 63rd Street; the fashionable Chances R restaurant in Hyde Park, with it’s peanut shell strewn floor and 60ish atmosphere; and then he’d turn up out on south Stony Island at the Tropical Island lounge, known for its film noir ambience. All over the south side ‘Larry Smith’s Jazz Party’ featured a rotating venue of locals such as bebop specialists like Guido Sinclair; or the robust tenor sax sound of John Neely to the new avant sounds of the AACM’s Light Henry Huff. Not to mention world class jazz stars as the tried and true Miles Davis side man, George Coleman; trumpeter Frank Gordon; altoist Bunky Green and the skillful baritone sax man Nick Brignola.

Larry Smith would achieve even more prominent heights becoming the announcer and emcee ‘of choice’ for many jazz festivals and shows over the years. Earlier in the year upon learning of Smith’s impending retirement he was hailed as, “one of the most unique voices” in radio by the Illinois Entertainer. His ubiquitous and knowledgeable presence amongst WBEZs all-star roster of announcers down through the years was quite recognizable.
Heartily embraced as an ‘old friend’ by saxist Jimmy Ellis, toward the end of the evenings festivities Smith beamed with pride. Both in their 70s, Ellis steadfastly thanked him, as did the many in attendance. Larry Smith was enshrined as The Chicago Jazz Memorial’s inaugural recipient.

Ellis articulately recounted, “It was Larry Smith, since the late 40s who always promoted our music and paying honor to him now is long over due”.
Indeed it was and as said by many a jazz fan down thru the years, ‘now is the time’.


ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2007 and posted on Jazz Corner.com

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

David Weiss & Point of Departure - Snuck In / Snuck Out - Sunnyside

Trumpeter David Weiss is what in jazz parlance is called a, “musicians musician”. The group assembled for these performances are top notch. As Weiss duty bound is always in the ‘now’ and has with every new recording and performance a real sense of historic value. He values his role as arbiter of the advanced garde. This two volume set is culled from performances at the Jazz Standard, March 2008 and a studio date a year later.
Point of Departure’s palette is culled from a curious cabinet indeed. Selecting tunes from the dustbin of time Weiss gets plenty of life out of several Charles Moore compositions. A nod to the Detroit trumpeter’s timeless writing are the title cut, ‘Snuck In’, ‘Gravity Point’ and ‘Number Four’. Moore’s twin 60’s recordings of the vaunted but under recognized Contemporary Jazz Quintet are gems to be re-thought and this time by a new generation. Thanks to Weiss! Given an invigorating redress Point of Departure revels in such faire as Tony Williams’ “Black Comedy”; Shorter’s “Paraphernalia” and absolutely high charge Charles Tolliver’s “Revillot” to great effect.
J.D. Allen, already an established voice over the past decade is still making a case for one of the most exciting soloists of our time. His oblique Shorteresque dips and tilts are drama filled with attentive detail. Suffice it to say with the virtual glut of tenors jousting for attention these days Allen is heads & shoulders far above the fray. He’s a major cat! Juxtaposed with Weiss they make for a helluva up front team.
Weiss’s own tough cut, hard edge solos are mid-60ish Miles filled volleys of strength and purpose. Taking a back seat to no one he oft reminds of a Jack Walrath sans the mirth. Could Allen be Weiss’s Carter Jefferson? I’d dare wonder....
The wild card carrying member of the group is guitarist Nir Felder. By no stretch is Felder a ‘jazz’ guitarist. Not in the strictest sense of the word, lending this group an ethereal other world edginess. His subtle yet drifting riffs, fragmented chordal sequences are ‘rock centered’ often conflicting head-on with the harmonic nuance of the melodic content. This makes for an uneasy listen. Tension, yes. Unifying harmony, no. A Bobby Broom, Steve Cardenas or even a wild-ass David Fiuczynski might have lent more of a grounded flavor and bite. A tastiness and sequential appeal - cut to cut. Given time Felder may come into his own - that is if he doesn’t answer his calling in the ‘rock’ genre.
Drummer Jamire Williams is steady motion. A rhythm wealth of refreshing boldness of a free wheeling thunder. Whereas the steady bassist Matt Clohesy adhesively nails the bottom down.
Both recordings are a seamless unified whole and should be listened to as such. With all the music Point of Departure pumped out at the Jazz Standard that weekend there’s gotta be more to share...a clamoring audience awaits.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Charles Lloyd-Mirrors-ECM

What can or cannot be said of the storied musical career of Charles Lloyd? It has been 3 years since his prior release, Rabo de Nube. With that said The Seer Charles Lloyd needs to be recorded more than we are privy. We need his energy. We need his vistas of endless, bountiful, fruitful elegies. For this latest release, Mirrors is but a mini-epic of his music/life hymn. Just a sliver of a chapter we are hereby entreated on an august journey to nirvana. Yet it is like trying to catch a comet who’s tail we only capture in a glance.
Mirrors, does feature the oft herald signature riff we’ve come to expect. The scat-like melodic cadence I’ve come to call, “The Lloyd Flutter”. But then again too we are beholden to the unexpected as well. The late drum master Billy Higgins once remarked of Lloyd’s alto saxophone as his, “secret weapon” and the disc begins lovingly with the achingly tender muse, “I Fall in Love Too Easily”. Ahhhhhh....it is a lesson of the heart and the heart broken. Which segues into the lithe yet effectively poignant reprisal of ‘Go Down Moses’.
This group of pianist Jason Moran; bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland breathe and move as substantive organism. In Moran, The Seer Lloyd has a soul mate for Moran is head and shoulder above the perhaps more notable names bandied about in today’s jazz scene. In Moran, youth is not wasted on the young. He seems to have spend plenty quality time neath the charge of The Seer Lloyd plumbing the depths of The master’s penchant for Americana, the Negro spirituals, unearthed rich chestnuts and his own compositional laments and tributes. They share a mutual musical love and it is apparent here.
There are redresses of the aforementioned ‘Go Down Moses’; “The Water is Wide” and a perennial favorite, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. Plus 2 Monk offerings, “Ruby, My Dear” and “Monk’s Mood”.
The Seer Charles Lloyd is in a heavenly yet earth bound sanctuary all his own. And Mirror is testimony of his continued sanctification. I Bow to his Greatness!!!!

Eddie Mendenhall-Cosine Meets Tangent-Miles High Records

Just until a few minutes ago the name Eddie Mendenhall didn’t ring a bell. And then too who, I mean whom would give a mathematical title to a new CD release besides Anthony Braxton maybe?

Entitled “Cosine Meets Tangent” by itself is far above my head, let it be said at the outset. That’s where the dialectics end. Mendenhall, something of a mystery man to a national audience but evidently not to folks out on the west coast long familiar with his high powered brand of artistry is a’heavy’ kind of spirit. Math aside he’s made a name for himself in jazz circles and will certainly solidify it with this debut.

A long time educator “Cosine Meets Tangent” is far from the pallid halls of academia. Quite the contrary. From the very first notes and melodies of “Protocol”, the opening cut Mendenhall and his compatible quartet swing and sway. Those rhythm mates are by-the-way vibist Mark Sherman; bassist John Schifflett and the venerable drummer Akira Tana. Sherman, is a distinctive voice on vibes has been garnering a steady rep is a delight to hear. Doesn't sound like the ‘garden variety’ vibist and is highly attentive and melodic. Bassist Shifflett lays in the pocket and what can you say about the potent master strokes of Akira Tana. The thing I’ve always enjoyed about Tana is that he is never afraid to make mistakes and sometimes sounds down right sloppy. But that’s OK because he can be exciting in the fray making up for it with subtle moves and shifts. He’s a hell-of-a drummer. Always has been.

Mendenhall immediately grabs the attention with his memorable tunes - the aforementioned ‘Protocol’ and ‘Spring Waltz” which beckons a little Bill Evans. If I were hard pressed to make comparisons Mendenhall arch's Hancock/Cables frivolity and Mugrew Miller/James Williams’ passion. He is of their lineage. And like them can swing with the best of them.

Of the disc’s 10 tunes Mendenhall writes 8, Sherman contributing one and ‘Easy To Remember’ the lone standard on which Sherman plays beautifully. When all said and done this is an exceedingly fine program to be proud of from an exceptional group and its up-to-the-task leader Eddie Mendenhall. I’ll remember his name now!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jeff Palmer-Permutation- Rank Records

Having never comes across the name Jeff Palmer before I was somewhat taken aback at his resume and body of work. That’s OK though. There are many such artists who seem to hover just below the radar of the mainstream. On the other hand he’s recorded with some heavyweights along the way and this new offering, “Permutation” is further documentation of a seemingly ‘working’ band. Granted the music wherein is not my tastes as far organ trio sessions go. I love organ trios. Funky, down home, gut bucket, chicken shack organ trios. And some of the new space age avenues of a Sun Ra and progressives like Larry Young and Sam Yahel. And despite its alluring CD jacket tapestry of space ships descending upon not only the Egyptian pyramids but Aztec as well, this music is nowhere near other worldly. Altoist Devin Garramone is amped up and reeling out some patented Marshal Allen screams and riffs. However that where the comparisons end. The tunes are all a seamless stream of mechanically monotonous formulaic pablum. Repeated listening made me want to scream: ENOUGH ALREADY!!!