Born February 27

Dexter Gordon (1923-1990) would have been 82 today.


What I'm Listening To - February 23rd

On Joshua Redman's 2000 release, Beyond (Warner Brothers), you can already hear the funk and rock inspiration that characterizes his current funk-jazz project, the Elastic Band. However, this band is completely acoustic (Aaron Goldberg on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Gregory Hutchinson on drums), while with Elastic, Redman employs Sam Yahel on organ and keyboards and Brian Blade on drums.

On "Belonging (Lopsided Lullaby)," the time signature is practically undescernable. (Is it in 7? Is it in 13?). Redman and Goldberg trade choruses, playing with ease as if it's in 4. Hutchinson thrashes the drums, propelling the music forward. On "Leap of Faith," Redman and band are joined by tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, who is often said to be influenced by Redman. (I bet the influence moves both ways.) The song starts with Redman and Turner performing a subdued duet, before the rhythm section joins in to play a melody that sounds similiar to "Still Pushin' That Rock" from Redman's electric Elastic. According to his website, Redman has his next CD coming some time this spring from Nonesuch Records.


Deep Song

As is the case at other major record labels, Verve's jazz roster is falling apart. Most of their recent releases are by smooth jazz musicians (David Sanborn) or mega-selling singers (Jamie Cullum), and then there are the never-ending reissues. However, on March 1, in a welcome exception to this trend, Verve will issue a new CD by a deserving player: guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel's Deep Song. I was lucky enough to recieve an advance copy.

Much of Deep Song focuses on intricate arrangements, rather than the usual head-solo-head format. On songs like "The Cloister" and "If I Should Lose You," Rosenwinkel and band (saxophonist Joshua Redman, pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Larry Genadier, and drummers Jeff Ballard and Ali Jackson, trading turns) spend more time exploring the melody than the solos. Rosenwinkel and Redman play winding, trance-like melodies over the rhythm section's quiet, intricate vamps. In this way, Deep Song is out of the Miles Davis "Nefertiti" tradition.

You can hear Rosenwinkel singing along with himself as he plays the melodies and solos. His voice is so pure, that I had assumed it had been overdubbed until cochise told me otherwise. His voice lends a meditative feeling to the music.

Occasionally, the band steps out to play in a more swinging style. On "Cake," A Rosenwinkel tune based on George Gershwin's "Let 'Em Eat Cake," the rhythm section masterfully changes the feeling under the soloists: from waltz, to march, to the pulse of a mid-1960's Wayne Shorter band.

Among Verve's new releases, Rosenwinkle's Deep Song is an anomaly in that it is actually interesting. Lets hope Verve keeps him on its roster.

Pat Metheny is Coming to Town

I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to be able to catch the Pat Metheny Group when it comes to the Kuumbwa Jazz Center on March 2, but Cassie of JazzWriter saw it in Illinois, and here's her review.


Musician's Musicians

I've been going on some transcriptions sites (saxsolos.com, Charle's McNeal's website, Pick's Place, etc.) and the modern saxophonists they transcribe are people like Jerry Bergonzi, Michael Brecker, and Bob Berg. Musicians who, with the obvious exception of Brecker, have never had a lot of mainstream popularity but have been highly respected by other musicians. Who are some other saxophonists like that? Also, I want to pick up some recordings with Bob Berg (I hear the work he did with Chick Corea was really good). Are there an particular CDs of his you would recommend?


Watson, Redman, Goldings, Villela, and McCoy

The following are the concerts and master classes that I can remember having attendeding since my last post (I might be missing some):

Bobby Watson Clinic: December 10 at Cabrillo College. Bobby emphasized practicing the way you improvise: only play patterns that you would play over a song, don't just practice for the sake of moving your fingers.

Joshua Redman Elastic Band with Sam Yahel and Brian Blade: I attended on December 28, both sets, and December 30, the late show. This was the first time I'd ever heard him lead his own band (I'd heard with the SFJazz Collective) and had never been that into him. At one point during the show onf the 30th he played a phrase in the high altisimo of his horn that was extremely melodic and powerful: most have trouble just getting the notes out. He has complete control over his instrument, as did the other members of the "Elastic" band. Sam Yahel managed to keep a funky base line going on one keyboard while soloing on another and applying sound affects with a third. My one complaint was that the music wasn't consistent enough -- I wish he had stuck more with the fusion rather than divide the time between that and the organ trio format.

Larry Goldings Trio: January 10, early show, at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center. He was with guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Bill Stewart. There was a really organic atmoshpere to it, like a jam session, as they played through their repertoire which consisted of standards, orginals, and Ray Charles songs. Also at the break Larry was busy hawking CDs for a certain Johnny "Bowtie" Barstow.

Claudia Villela with Kenny Warner: January 24 at the Kuumbwa. This was a show of two great performers who just didn't mesh. Claudia Villela was trying to be like Bobby Mcferrin with the vocal acrobatics, singing the bass line and drums. She's good at it, but it distracted from Kenny Warner's playing. I wish she'd just sing the song.

McCoy Tyner with Stanley Clarke and Billy Cobham: January 25, the late show, at Yoshi's. This was the best I've ever seen McCoy. The whole band was really into the music. Stanley Clarke took a bass solo that had the whole house roaring with his melodicism and virtuosity. They have played together before, and know eachother so well, that at points they changed into a latin or gospel feel withouth even exchanging a glance. Can't wait till next year.


CDs of '05

I've been looking at Jazzmatazz's list of upcoming CD releases. Here are the 2005 albums that look the most promising, with their release dates:

Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra - A Love Supreme (Palmetto): Jan. 11th. Strange that Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" hadn't been re-recorded by anyone for 40 years -- until November when a new version was released by Branford Marsalis and his quartet. Now, another is on its way from Wynton and his big band. Is there a little brotherly rivalry going on? I'm curious to see whether a piece originally performed so freely can be effectively played by a big band that thrives on structure.

Stefano Di Battista - Parker's Mood (Blue Note): Jan. 25th. I actually have this already. It is a tribute to Charlie Parker, on which Di Battista plays with conviction and an obvious love for Bird's music. Add to that an all-star rhythm section with Kenny Barron and you can't go wrong.

Dave Douglas & Nomad - Mountain Passages (Koch): Jan 25th. I'm unsure who is in the band, but Douglas's playing is explosive and incorporates jazz, classical, and pop. On his last record, he was able to break loose and create new music by playing in a style akin to 70's Miles Davis.

Sonny Rollins - Saxophone Collosus (Wellspring) - Jan. 25th. This is a documentary about Rollins that is being reissued. It includes "recent performances and interviews" as well as older clips.
Miguel Zenon - untitled (Marsalis Music): March 1st. Recently, Zenon has been taking the jazz world by storm. I saw him with the SFJazz Collective playing the music of Ornette Coleman. Despite his first CD on Marsalis Music, Ceremonial, being straight-ahead, he was able to attack Coleman's music with emotion and familiarity.

Albums with Unanounced Release Dates
Jacky Terrasson - Solo (Blue Note): I've been hooked on Terrason since I saw him co-lead a band with Stefon Harris a few years ago.

Dave Holland Big Band (Dare 2): The bassist's last big band album, What Goes Around, was incredibly swinging; his band members are all great performers in there own right (Chris Potter, Gary Smulyan, and Steve Nelson, oh my!). It will be exciting to see what Holland does with his first album on Dare 2, his new label.

Joe Lovano/Paul Motian/Bill Frisell (ECM): I'm not crazy about Frisell, but I just can't resist Joe Lovano's warm tone and his free-moving improvisational style.

Brian Blade (Marsalis Music): I've been waiting for Blade to record his Marsalis Music debut for a while now. I've seen everybody's favorite drummer with Wayne Shorter, the SFJazz Collective, Bill Frisell and lots of others. It's about time he takes center stage again -- Blue Note, stupidly, dropped him a couple years ago.

Sonny Rollins (Milestone): That's right, SONNY ROLLINS. The greatest saxophonist alive and perhaps the greatest one ever. It's too bad he doesn't play more of the straight-ahead music he perfected in the '50s and '60s. And it's too bad he doesn't play with a better band. But still, it's amazing the things he can do with a calypso.
Updated on December 10th.


Concerts in ‘05

It’s almost 2005, so I’ve decided to make a list of the shows I’m especially excited about in the coming year:

Joshua Redman Elastic Band with Sam Yahel and Brian Blade: Dec. 28th through Jan. 2nd at Yoshi's in Oakland. If it weren't for stupid Warner Brothers, which sat on Redman's latest disc, I’d have it by that time. As it is, the yet untitled record will come out in the spring on Nonesuch.

McCoy Tyner with Stanley Clarke and Billy Cobham: Jan. 25th through Jan. 30th, again at Yoshi's. This is Week One of Tyner's annual residency at the club.

Directions in Music (Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Michael Brecker): February 7th at the Civic Auditorium in Santa Cruz. I saw the band a couple of years ago when they were first touring. I think it was pretty good, but can’t totally remember. The record is exciting, although not quite at the level you would expect from three jazz titans. Michael Brecker’s solo sax tracks are bruising.

Kenny Garrett: March 31st through April 3rd at Yoshi's. There’s also a possibility that I will be able to attend a clinic with him around this time in San Francisco.

Dave Holland Big Band: April 6th through April 8th at Yoshi's. Maybe the band's new CD will be out by then too.

Saxophone Summit (Dave Liebman, Joe Lovano, Michael Brecker): June 13th at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz. I’ve seen Liebman and Brecker, but not Lovano. The
"Summit" CD is fantastic, the type of in-the-moment music that should be even better live.