Friday, November 27, 2009

Myron Walden - Momentum

Opening moments from saxophonist Myron Walden’s new album sound as if trumpeter Darren Barrett (who has played with Roy Hargrove and Elvin Jones) is leading the band. Walden's writing has the horns crashing through the gates and hammering holes through the album’s first song, Of Three Worlds. Walden and drummer, Kendrick Scott, cruise fluently together around their universe with a quintet rounded-out by David Bryant on piano and Yasushi Nakamura on bass.
A Bitches Brew vibe is thick during track three, allowing for a spacey piano binge before returning to the main theme in, Pulse. The work of Miles Davis, as an inspiration, comes to a head in the fifth track, Miles. Walden, performing alongside Wynton Marsalis, Nat Adderly and Freddie Hubbard over the years, give Miles’ music another look – a deep, dramatic stare. It’s a scowl with a smirk. Call it a tip of the more modern, proverbial, fedora.
After a solid tribute, a quick tune that appears again later, When Time Stood Still, creates an opening in the album for a more exciting, daring and experimental route. What Goes Up Must Come Down continues the scientific string of pace with drums following Walden’s atomic attack. He bleeds and barks, yet again, he returns to the roots of his composition like a specialist.
Longing is perfectly titled and its’ searching, soundtrack flows into a sandwich of sprints and Carnage. The terrifying title remits a refusal to die near the end of the album’s eleventh song. Drummer Kendrick Scott keeps things alive during a pounding and alarm-style attack, closer to an assault.
Another version of When Time Stood Still polishes the 90-second (tracks 6, 9 and 12 are roughly a minute and a half) knock-out. Walden and the band slam on the brakes as an album of pushing jazz to the edge comes to a sudden halt – saving the thrust for last. Strategically stacked, Momentum uses a solid base of modern jazz motion to carry the record forth into a fantastic furry, featuring a fluid, hard-bop finale.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Larry McDonald - Drumquestra

With more than 40 years experience in the percussion game, Larry McDonald is finally releasing his first solo album. And playing with folks like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Taj Mahal and Bad Brains over the years, McDonald brings a whack of different sounds to the table.
In the first single, 'Head Over Heels' (featuring Dollarman) and especially in the second tune, 'Brother Man,' the album begins with a thumping of dance hall beats.
By the fifth track, 'Drums Say,' the sound becomes more stripped down - allowing the man behind the music to be heard properly.
Crazy bongo soloing and a mixture of percussive elements keeps things interesting behind of chants of "Go Larry, Go Larry" during 'World Party.'
Surprisingly, 'Save the Children,' featuring a guest appearance by Toots Hibbert continues with the heavy bass-driven, club vibe heard in this record's early moments. No old-time reggae tones here.
An impressive jazz flavour is sprinkled through the last quarter of this experimental recipe.
'Mento in 3' is a clear stand-out track on the album. McDonald plays on a rock during this recording made in a cave at Runaway Bay, Jamaica.
'Drumquestra' (Dawn Always Comes) moves with tribal feelings, complete with bird noises. Followed nicely by 'Backyard Business' - featuring Bongo Shem and the New Creators, McDonald nails what we hoped was coming. An out-there, try anything attitude involving jazz roots. The album concludes with a history lesson and encourages us to research the true history what we are always told is an American art form. 'Got Jazz?' gets going with a scat and references Thelonious Monk in the midst of a rant about the origins of jazz in Jamaica. 'Jamaican Jazz Roll Call' is a guide for those who may only be familiar with Ernest Ranglin and Monty Alexander.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Oscar Peterson - The Will to Swing

Gene Lees captures the life of this jazz legend through intimate, personal stories from the road as well as amazing accounts from Peterson's family in The Will to Swing.
A writer with real world jazz experience, Lees is a former editor of Downbeat magazine and he is also the author of biographies about Woody Herman and Artie Shaw.
Everything from Peterson's early days, when folks like Dizzy Gillespie were coming to Canada to see him perform, is out in the open in this book.
Oscar's long-time friend and manager Norman Granz is likely the most mentioned person throughout these pages and their relationship became crucial to his early recording and touring success. In 1961, Granz sold his Verve Records company to MGM. The deal included the contracts of many other jazz great he produced, including Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Krupa, Roy Eldridge, Dizzy and others.
Stories of racism seem to follow Oscar everywhere. From touring Russia to his own yard in Mississauga, he faced challenges and was not one to back down.
There is even a mention of a near controntation with Charles Mingus. Now, there's a heavyweight match-up.
This is a must-read for any fan of Peterson, as well as any true companion of jazz.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Bill Frisell w/ Dave Holland and Elvin Jones -

It is thanks to a 'Weird Nightmare' that I am aware of Bill Frisell. Appearing throughout a 1992 tribute to the greatest jazz artist of all-time, Mr. Charles Mingus (called Weird Nightmare: Meditations on Mingus, Columbia Records), Frisell pulls-off some great guitar tricks and experiments with artists like Charlie Watts, Henry Rollins, Chuck D, Keith Richards and Leonard Cohen.
Bill Frisell with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones, presents another opportunity for this forager of new paths in jazz guitar.
He uncovers a quieter, slow moving approach, involving electric and acoustic guitars (he gets credit for loops too) in this trio setting. Imagining a better rhythm section to fill out his band is tough. Holland came to fame with Miles in the Bitches Brew sessions, while Jones kept time behind names like John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and McCoy Tyner, besides leading his own bands.
This is a 2001 release on Nonesuch Records and carries some of that label's trend in sound. It is perhaps comparable to Ry Cooder's work with Manuel Galban in some ways. The twang is there and a beach in Hawaii does not seem to far away while the CD floats on by. Of course, only using a trio, a basic sound is expected, but this release keeps things interesting. The late Elvin Jones would have been roughly 64 years old on this recording and the crazy bop work of his early days is not found here. A menacing intro on a tune called "Again" is the only evidence of his utmost capabilities. He fills any space Frisell's compositions leave for improvising with the skill of subtlety, instead. Holland too, is kept relatively tame. It is a litte bit frustrating not to see any group compositions among the song credits.
"Tell Your Ma, Tell Your Pa" is a creepy, nine-minute adventure. The soundtrack to a scene taking place in the alley behind a blues bar in a thunderstorm sounds about right, to describe the highlight of this 12-track treasure.