On the Turntable — January, 2019 edition

January 7th, 2019

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I am having time to listen to new music more regularly these days, and finding great pleasure in many of the “grooves.”  (Full disclosure…investing $10 per month in a Spotify account — while not the sensual experience of laying the needle on the vinyl — effortlessly gets your ears to just about every meaningful historic and new recording you will ever want to encounter.  It is like having the best “record service” I ever had while I was in the record business).

These are some of the recently released recordings that caught my ear in December.

(Some of the recordings are not available on Youtube.  A Spotify playlist of all these recordings can be accessed by clicking here)

 

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The Brad Goode Quintet, with Ernie Watts – “Regret” (from their album That’s Right).

Emotional blues ballad with Goode displaying lush virtuosity on trumpet, supported by the irresistible play of Ernie Watts on tenor.

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Muriel Grossman – “The Golden Rule” (from her album Golden Rule)

Like something out of the Impulse catalog, c. 1965. Grossman’s brilliantly relentless soprano saxophone builds over a constant layer of percussion and a solid guitar line that is eventually set free.  A “spiritual” experience?  Play it and find out!

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Muriel Grossman – “Core” (from her album Golden Rule)

Coltrane (think Impulse again)…At times, downright fascinating.  This one’s a keeper.

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Donny McCaslin – “Exactlyfourminutesofimprovisedmusic” (from his album Blow)

Non-jazz jazz by a saxophonist I most revere through his giant contribution to Maria Schneider’s aesthetic…His album Blow is “art rock” in the realm of Bowie-meets-Buggles-meets-Japan-meets-Radiohead, with McCaslin’s seering saxophone everywhere.   This is an album that really should be listened to in its entirety to fully evaluate (and possibly eventually appreciate).  If you come prepared to be open-minded much of it is imminently listenable and exciting – often blistering, soulful and magical.  Once you listen enough, songs eventually get skipped over (defeating the purpose of the “album” format, but at my age, one doesn’t have all day).  For pure spontaneity, fun and an example of the musical brilliance McCaslin’s ensemble displays throughout the album, I find myself stuck on  “Exactlyfourminutesofimprovisedmusic.”

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Josephine Davies’ Satori – “Wabi-Sabi” and “The Space Between Thoughts” – fromIn the Corners of Clouds

This is a striking recording, a piano-less trio led by Ms. Davies on saxophone, whose playing is often moody, brooding (but rarely dispiriting) and wonderfully sophisticated. “Wabi-Sabi” is especially noteworthy due to the elegant drumming of James Maddren, while “Space” is a platform for Davies’ artistry to especially shine. Highly recommended!

Click here to listen to “Wabi-Sabi” on Spotify

Click here to listen to “The Space Between Thoughts” on Spotify

This a filmed version of “Wabi-Sabi”

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Houston Person and Ron Carter — “Day Dream,” “Gentle Rain,” and “The Way You Look Tonight” from Remember Love.  

You get what you wish for from this collaboration — an hour of pleasant (if not essential) listening.  The Ellington/Strayhorn standard “Daydream” always draws me in and is where I recommend you start, as the song’s title best describes the state of mind you will be in throughout much of the album.    “Gentle Rain” is inspired collaboration that stands out (and fits the Northwest’s wintry season), as is “The Way You Look Tonight,” a showcase for their virtuosity and a fun tune.  (Carter really shines on this piece).

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Bobo Stenson Trio — “Oktoberhavet” — from Contra la indecision

So much to like about this trio…Stenson has been delivering excellence since the early 1970’s, and there are several recordings on this album to enjoy.  Start with this piece, a lovely melody featuring Stenson’s tender touch and wide range, and the inspiring brilliance of his rhythm section.  Warning…You may not play anything else for a while.

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Ok…here’s another one from Stenson.  This album is one whose music lies deep.  First listens don’t always get you into repeat mode.  After time, the music emerges and strikes home.  Like this one,”Elegie,” Stenson’s interpretation of Erik Satie’s piece.

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There are several moments during the experience of listening to Rudy Royston’s Flatbed Buggy where I catch myself saying, “My God this is a freaking great album!”  This has it all for me — virtuoso performers playing instruments not normally heard in a jazz ensemble (at least not in this particular combination), unique and original compositions (often dark and cinematic, more often exuberant and uplifting, and frequently taking you to interesting corners of the globe), all held together by Royston’s thrilling and reassuring  drumming.   This is a recording filled with character and color, one that you really ‘ought to commit to its entirety, but here are four tunes to give you some of its original flavor…(You may also enjoy watching Royston’s description of the album in the trailer).

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“Pier One Import,” “Kush” and “Sightseeing” from Christian McBride’s fine pianoless quartet recording New Jawn stand out as excellent examples of the music you’ll experience throughout this album — McBride’s thundering bass (“Pier One”, with great support on drums from Nasheet Waits); sterling bandmates (“Kush” is a vehicle for trumpeter Josh Evans); and blistering enthusiasm for bop (Wayne Shorter’s “Sightseeing” stars saxophonist Marcus Strickland).

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Medeski, Martin and Wood ….Omnisphere

It seems fitting to end this post with this entire album.  It is just impossible to slice this up in pieces.  This trio has been making interesting music for over 25 years, but this is over the top brilliant from start to finish.  Collaborating with the 18 piece ensemble Alarm Will Sound, the live recording feels at times like a meeting of Steve Reich, Maria Schneider and Phillip Glass, with an occasional Tower of Power groove thrown in. Be prepared for intensity, percussive wandering, lush orchestration, sophisticated composition, a joyous vocal chorus, and an endless appreciation for the vision of all the artists involved.  Enjoy!

 

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In This Issue

This issue features a roundtable discussion about how the world of religion may have impacted the creative lives of Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; three new podcasts from Bob Hecht; new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently released jazz recordings, and lots more.

Short Fiction

"The Wailing Wall" -- a short story by Justin Short

Interviews

Three prominent religious scholars -- Wallace Best, Tracy Fessenden and M. Cooper Harriss -- join us in a conversation about how the world of religion during the life and times of Langston Hughes (pictured), Billie Holiday and Ralph Ellison helps us better comprehend the meaning of their work.

Poetry

Nine poets contribute ten poems celebrating jazz in poems as unique as the music itself

Short Fiction

In celebration of our upcoming 50th Short Fiction Contest, previous contest winners (dating to 2002) reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

The Joys of Jazz

In this edition, award winning radio producer Bob Hecht tells three stories; 1) on Charlie Christian, the first superstar of jazz guitar; 2) the poet Langston Hughes’ love of jazz music, and 3) a profile of the song “Strange Fruit”

On the Turntable

25 recently released jazz tunes that are worth listening to…including Bobo Stenson; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Muriel Grossman and Rudy Royston

Features

Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Randy Brecker and Tom Piazza are among those responding to our question, "What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940's?"

Poetry

"Billie Holiday" -- a poem (with collage) by Steve Dalachinsky

Coming Soon

Thomas Brothers, Duke University professor of music and author of two essential biographies of Louis Armstrong, is interviewed about his new book, HELP! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration; also, Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell, author of An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden, in a conversation about the brilliant 20th Century artist

In the previous issue

This issue features an interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins; a collection of poetry devoted to the World War II era; and a new edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo,” in which the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940’s” is posed to Rickie Lee Jones, Chick Corea, Tom Piazza and others.

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