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Jon W poses
Over the past week, thanks in part to some help, action has finally moved beyond inertia – at least when it comes to straightening out and organizing the work “stuff”.
Download Era or not, I count stacks of CDs – many of which are still unopened because I can’t find, make, or take the time to – as part of my “stuff”. Hidden among the hundred or so CDs were several that I remember seeing and receiving over the past 18 months, or maybe even earlier.
Thus, this edition is all about playing catch-up. Rather than wasting more of this precious space happy to be here, let’s go.
Dexter Gordon, “Espace Cardin 1977” (Elementary) As far as I’m concerned, “Long Tall Dex” ranks up there among the greatest saxophonists of the greatest saxophonists. Sonically, he is instantly recognizable. Here, Gordon’s quartet (pianist Al Haig, French bassist Pierre Michelot and drummer Kenny Clarke) is captured live in Paris 45 years ago. It’s vintage Dex, modal as possible. All simply magnificent. If you really want to get to know Gordon — and why he’s so special — try finding where you can stream ”Round Midnight,” the 1986 film which starred the saxophonist who became an Oscar nominee for his portrayal of a legendary expatriate saxophonist. living in France.
Benjamin Boone with the Ghana Jazz Collective, “Joy” (Origin) I’m glad I threw this one away. What else would a saxophonist playing Fulbright Scholar do while spending a year in Ghana? Obviously, if his name is Benjamin Boone, he would collaborate with a modern-sounding quintet based in Accra who, in addition to playing mainly his original compositions, put their own spin on pieces such as Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage”.
Caleb Wheeler Curtis, “Heat Map” (Imani) Delivered on participating pianist Orrin Evans’ Imani label, saxophonist Caleb Wheeler Curtis leads an outstanding quartet that also includes open-minded and fiery bassist Eric Revis, known primarily as a member of the Branford Marsalis Quartet, and percussionist/ equally free drummer Gerald Cleaver. Lots of improvisation here; lots of notes – good, though!
Steve Davis, “Bluesthetic” (Smoke Sessions) I don’t know how I missed this one. Led by trombonist Steve Davis – a Jazz Messenger, Chick Corea Origin and former One For All co-op – his 10 all-original entries here are delivered by a bunch of my favorite musicians: guitarist Peter Bernstein, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, the pianist Geoffrey Keezer, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Willie Jones III. Swingin’, of course.
NYO Jazz, “We’re Still Here” (Carnegie Hall) When I first looked at this recording and saw the name of the big ensemble, the title, and that Carnegie Hall had its imprint all over the packaging, I immediately thought that the namesake Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, founded in 1991 and inactive since 2002, had somehow been raised from the dead. You can see how I made such an honest mistake. In reality, this is the first album of the National Youth Orchestra.
Led by trumpeter-educator and artistic director Sean Jones, with special guests saxophonist Melissa Aldana and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, the orchestra staff is made up of musicians aged 16-19 from across the country who apply each summer to enter the highly competitive program run by the Weill Institute. The compositions here belong to the likes of Miguel Zenón, John Beasley, Neal Hefti, Ralph Peterson with the classic Duke Person “Bedouin”, among others, mixed together. Let’s just say there seems to be a lot of young, extremely talented jazz musicians out there in these United States. Good deal.
Sound House, “Forever On My Mind” (Easy Eye Sound) This is a solo guitar doc, with the collection housing eight previously unreleased tracks. Captured in front of, reportedly, an audience of no more than 50 on Nov. 23, 1964, at Wabash College in Indiana, the release is part of blues manager Dick Waterman’s extensive cache. He was the guy who produced a number of Bonnie Raitt’s early releases.
“Forever On My Mind” appears after 60 years, as part of a reel-to-reel collection. House, a Mississippian native whose career dates back to the Depression era, was rediscovered with others during the folk and blues revival of the mid-1960s. Truly representative of Delta Sound, the choice of guitars in House’s somewhat sparse steel has influenced everyone from Robert Johnson to Muddy Waters and, in some ways, represents the musical compass of the Taj Mahal.
Charles Mingus, “Mingus Three” (Jubilee/Rhino) and “Mingus, Ronnie Scott’s Lost Album” (Resonance) These tracks are included in part in memory of Sue Graham Mingus, the bassist’s last wife who almost single-handedly kept Mingus’ musical legacy in the public eye. Sue, who first met Mingus in 1964, died aged 92 on September 24.
It is therefore appropriate that the centenary of Mingus (he was born in 1922) continues. There are reissues, new versions that interpret Mingus’ compositions and unreleased titles – each unlocking the treasure that is Charles Mingus.
The first consists of one disc which is the original 1957 release on Jubilee Records, and a second consisting of previously unreleased material from the same session. The trio’s effort spotlights the iconic bassist, playing with pianist Hampton Hawes and drummer Dannie Richmond.
As for “Lost Album From Ronnie Scott’s”, it really is closer to multiple albums placing the most predominant Mingus ensemble size front and center. The three-disc set, which captures the band in 1972 at London’s first jazz club, is greatly enhanced with a detailed account of how these tapes were found as well as a series of interviews with those who knew and /or worked closely with Mingus. The selections here are deep and long – in some cases very deep and long. For example, “Orange was the color of her dress”/”Silk Blues” is 30 minutes long; “Fables Of Faubus”, Mingus’ epic “ode” to the former segregationist governor of Arkansas, reaches the 35-minute mark. Personally, I’m not sure we can have enough Mingus.