Thursday, June 24, 2004

bits 'n' bots 'n' swing

I'm a jazz fan
It might seem like a weird thing to say, but recently I've been surprising myself: the urge to balance my listening diet is dissolving, my enthusiasm for jazz is increasing. It's a happy surprise, somehow similar to perpetually re-discovering just how much I love the woman I've been with for 8 years. All the more so when she can, as she did last night, suddenly say that she doesn't like Keith Jarrett's vocalisations. Bless her, I need to subject her to some more Jarrett soon.

Down in the Cellar
Listening to this as it downloads leads me to one conclusion. Miles, Gary, Keith, Michael, Jack and Airto, mid-December 1970, in Washington D.C.'s Cellar Door: the funkiest band in the world, surely? Just because Keith renounced electricity, doesn't mean we have to: he was awesome on keyboards, bursting out of sputtering clouds of notes with gloriously radiant funk. David had expressed some reserve at Jack's jazz-rock playing but (granted, he's playing funk here) he sounds great to me. And is there really any need to discuss Miles's supremacy as a player of funk? Apparently a Complete at the Cellar Door box is in the works. An alternate, funkier Live-Evil drawn from the nights without John could, I'm sure, turn around many (if not all) of the post-Bitches naysayers.

Re-listening to some of his early quartet albums to verify ressemblances with Dennis Gonzalez's NY Midnight Suite (Clean Feed, a shoo-in for my year's best list, highly recommended!). Ended up opining that an album like The Shape of Jazz to Come did as much to liberate/redefine improvised melody as Kind of Blue. Just listening to Mingus's Ah Um and thinking about how Mingus created the impression of free jazz through superposition (his mid-size bands could sound chaotic, taken as a whole, but can always be broken down into coherent, interlocking segments), while Ornette achieved his goal more directly. And how the best description of Mingus I've ever read is still "It's like putting on a tuxedo and rolling in the mud." I'm annoyed I can't remember the source.

...and Don
Rightly or wrongly, some people consider Ornette's albums to be the saxophonist's best work, but I don't think that Cherry's best playing is to be found there, far from it. Not that I have much of it, but Complete Communion and El Corazon seem *so* much better to me, as representatives of Cherry's work.

At the mid-way point
The year's half done, here are some hot albums in no qualitative order:

Ben Allison & Medecine Wheel - Buzz (Palmetto)
Bruno E - Lovely Arthur (Trama)
Dennis Gonzalez - NY Midnight Suite (Clean Feed)
Frank Hewitt We Loved You (Smalls)
Joel Frahm - Don't Explain (Palmetto)
Josh Roseman Unit - Treats for the Nightwalker (Enja)
Louis Sclavis - Napoli's Walls (ECM) (okay, it's 2003)
Maak's Spirit - Al Majamaa (Igloo)
Pascal Schumacher Quartet - Change of the Moon (Igloo)
Rêve d'Eléphant Orchestra - Lobster Caravan (De Werf)
Stefano Bollani - Smat Smat (Label Bleu)
Steve Coleman - Lucidarium (Label Bleu)
The Claudia Quintet - I, Claudia (Cuneiform)
Tomasz Stanko - Suspended Night (ECM)

Reviews of (almost) all of these are either online (see the article index) or forthcoming.

Some sound-good-but-not-listened-to-enough-yet

Chris Potter - Lift (Sunnyside)
Frank Kimbrough - Lullabluebye (Palmetto)
Fred Hersch Trio - +2 (Palmetto)
Jacob Young - Evening Falls (ECM)
Youngblood Brass Band - center:level:roar (Ozone) another 2003 entry, but I just heard it


Brad Mehldau - Anything Goes (Warner) because it's too comfortable a record
Magic Malik - 13 XP's Songs (Label Bleu) because it's incredibly weaker than his previous two, which were fabulous. While I'm at it, the hidden track at the end of disc 1 of 00-237 is hilarious.