Wayne Shorter: Go

"Go" is another song off of Wayne Shorter's Schizophrenia that contains multiple ensemble movements that help build the character of the piece as each section progresses. Opening with a disjointed sounding melody by the brass section, the song quickly moves into a section where Hancock plays a two measure chord vamp as Shorter states the melody. Although this song has been revisited and explored in great depth by the Wayne Shorter Quartet with Brian Blade, John Patitucci and Danilo Perez, I still enjoy the original more because of the density of the brass section. Both versions are good, but the newest interpretation lacks the energy compared to the original.

On the original there's a feeling that you feel when you listen to the album in its entirety. There's a mood that was captured on that March 10th night in 1967. Overall, "Go" is another good example of the shining, compositional brilliance of Wayne Shorter. A man, when the final history books are written, will probably go down alongside Duke Ellington and others as one of the most prolific, accessible and underrated composers in the history of this thing we call jazz music.

September 14, 2009 · 0 comments

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Wayne Shorter: Kryptonite

I'm generally amazed at the amount of work Wayne Shorter has released in his fifty year career. His album output during the 1960s, though not the most of any jazz musician, arguably had more impact than most other musician's material. In 1967, Shorter assembled an all-star cast of musicians for his Blue Note recording Schizophrenia . Unlike previous efforts, this one didn't feature a trumpet player, instead Shorter brought on alto saxophonist James Spaulding and trombonist Curtis Fuller. The result? An album that featured not only unison melodies between the brass sections but also intricate counterpoints between them and Hancock.

This is the only song off of Schizophrenia that Mr. Shorter didn't compose but this piece by James Spaulding lives up to its title. Spaulding plays flute on this modal piece in Eb and he also has the first solo. His solo is solid, with Hancock comping sparingly if not all during most of his solo. I think James Spaulding was an extremely underrated soloist. His tone on both alto and on flute are rich and full. As always, Shorter plays a cool solo, complete with note bends, slurs and intricate phrasing. Shorter's solo is nice but I think Spaulding and Hancock are the winners on this track. Hancock dazzles over the drum and bass work of Chambers and Carter, with blistering fast melodic lines and dark interval choices.

Schizophrenia , is a key album in the discography of Wayne Shorter and although it's not held as in high regard as Speak No Evil or JuJu, it ranks up there with them just as equally in my opinion.

September 14, 2009 · 0 comments

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Jaki Byard: Dolphy #1

This is taken from the Last at Lennie's live recording. This is also a blues, but I think Jaki's solo is magnificent. He's shouting directions to the band. But the angularity and touch of his playing is rarely as expressive as this. This is totally new stuff, even by today's standards. Many of his ideas truly go against the grain of standard jazz practice, in the same way Monk did, and as Cecil Taylor still does. But what is never in question with Jaki is just how comfortable at the piano he is. This is something I know each musician hopes to attain. This recording documents one of his best groups.

September 14, 2009 · 0 comments

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Charles Mingus Sextet: Fables of Faubus

When Jaki played with Charles Mingus’ group in 1964, Mingus gave him a long, unaccompanied solo on “Fables of Faubus,”, and Jaki liked to interpolate James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (The Negro National Anthem) within it. Anyway, what is profound about Jaki's rendition of “Lift Evry Voice” here is that he was performing the song in the mid-sixties in Europe. Protest music. Jaki made a big deal about segregation, and for good reason. Once segregation was abolished, he was so happy that he could sit anywhere he pleased. We talked about this during our lessons. It was clear that Jaki was politically motivated to make statements through his music. My band, as do many other bands, performs that song as a statement of the future. It’s still needed—as was widely publicized recently, Professor Henry Louis Gates, the African-American Harvard professor, one of the most distinguished scholars in the United States, was arrested for "breaking into his own home.”

September 14, 2009 · 0 comments

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Eric Dolphy: Bird's Mother

“Far Cry” is from a special record, Far Cry, by Eric Dolphy and Booker Little. The first time I played this tune, I was in high school. I remember listening to Jaki's comping on the melody and realizing that there were so many ways to accompany someone. Jaki's solo moves so effortlessly and rumbles through the changes with more shocks of sound than actual phrases. I remember him saying that he and Eric Dolphy liked to talk in large intervals, like 22nds and 18ths, rather than 4ths and 3rds. They really had a special chemistry, and this is special music. Also, for a hip-hop head, a rapper, Del The Funky Homosapien, sampled a phrase in the bowed bass solo by Ron Carter.

September 14, 2009 · 0 comments

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Jaki Byard: Twelve

“Twelve” appears on the great live recording, Live at Lennie's on the Turnpike. Joe Farrell is amazing in this group. Here’s Jaki with his true rhythm section, especially with Alan Dawson on drums. This is a power track; they really muscle through this three-part blues. What Jaki plays during his solo is quintessential Jaki, full of enthusiasm, rhythm, virtuosity, etc. I love the large leaps he makes in his lines, jumping intervals as a frog jumps lily-pads. I love the yelling he does on this track.

September 14, 2009 · 0 comments

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Rahsaan Roland Kirk: From Bechet, Byas, and Fats

Jaki supplies strong comping throughout this record, Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s fantastic Rip, Rig and Panic. On this track, I think the most astonishing thing is the ending. The tempo begins to slow, and Jaki continues playing his stride piano phrases, altering it with the tempo. As if the record was slowing down, Jaki slowed down, and it feels like a time warp.

September 14, 2009 · 0 comments

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Jaki Byard: Garnerin' A Bit

This is Jaki giving tribute to one of his favorite pianists, Errol Garner. His other favorite was Earl Hines, as they have two amazing records together, as well as some great Youtube clips online. Anyway, back to “Garnerin”: Jaki uses that laid-back feel of Errol's on this track, even down to the quick, sparse block chords during the first chorus of his solo. It's so laid back. He even has the four-on-the-floor in the left hand, a trademark of Garner's. It's so authentic, and so genuine. And after that opening tribute chorus, Jaki gets back to what he does, big phrases and strong ideas that are here and there, but never where they "should" be. It's extremely "soulful ."

September 14, 2009 · 0 comments

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Jaki Byard: Giant Steps

I love this arrangement of “Giant Steps.” The pace is nice and easy. The thing to listen to is how Jaki animates his phrases with very quick crescendos and decrescendos. Also his ease with jumping into some very big block chords. Then in the last 30 seconds of the performance, he goes into double time, and his fingers are just flying through the melody. It's ridiculous. He taught me an arrangement of “Giant Steps” that is in 3/4, and extremely difficult, equivalent to a Brahms piano exercise.

September 14, 2009 · 0 comments

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Jaki Byard: Out Front

Out Front is one of my favorite Jaki Byard albums, though it doesn't really get to his wilder side. I love hearing him play with Bob Cranshaw and Walter Perkins on this track—they lay down some serious music. Jaki has a certain way of playing his bebop knowledge—he’s able to turn the phrases to make them feel just a bit off. That’s to say, he switches the phrase to the other side of the beat with such ease, and then switches it back. Also, I remember him telling me that he wrote this piece with Herbie Nichols' touch in mind. I thought that was such a great way to start a composition, with "touch" in mind.

September 14, 2009 · 0 comments

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Jaki Byard: European Episode

This piece appears on Out Front also, but this version is a killer solo performance on Blues for Smoke, Jaki’s first record date. It’s an excerpt from a lengthy piece by Jaki that goes through a lot of piano history. I know I've adopted that all-encompassing aspect of his playing. Jaki was comfortable in many styles, and was totally committed to all of them. Anyway, this piece is very quick and the listener gets to hear Jaki’s phenomenal agility. His hands weren't large, but he was able to play sounds that pianists with big hands cannot even attempt to grasp.

September 14, 2009 · 0 comments

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Eric Dolphy: Out There

For his second album for Prestige, Eric Dolphy added Ron Carter to his group. The instrumentation of the group was similar to the Chico Hamilton quintet, of which Dolphy had been a member. Carter was originally a cellist, but switched to bass as a teenager. His cello technique was still strong, as witnessed by his performance on the Dolphy album’s title tune.

Dolphy and Carter begin the song by performing the melody in unison. Carter’s bowing style gives his sound a primal quality, which complements Dolphy’s acidic tone. Carter holds the last note of the melody as he begins his solo, and he manipulates that note for nearly half a minute with a variety of classical bowing techniques. Dolphy provides an ear-stretching alto solo before Duvivier’s exploratory solo. “Out There” remains an essential recording1 in the catalog of Dolphy and modern jazz cello repertory.

September 09, 2009 · 0 comments

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Ray Brown: Ain't Misbehavin'

Ray Brown's 1960 album Jazz Cello was one of the first albums in mainstream jazz to be devoted entirely to the cello. Featuring a full horn and rhythm section, Brown treated the cello as a fully realized melodic instrument. On the standard “Ain’t Misbehavin,” he proved that the cello could be featured in a big band setting. After a brief introduction from the ensemble, Brown plays the melody pizzicato, and embellishes the melody with slight ornamentation. With Russ Garcia's delicate orchestration, the cello cuts through the large instrumentation. Brown plays a soulful solo leaving plenty of space for the band figures. A delightful track from a late lamented jazz master.

September 09, 2009 · 0 comments

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Junior Mance: Happy Time

Julian C. Mance, Jr., better known as Junior Mance, was the pianist in Cannonball Adderley's first quintet in 1956-57 before Cannon joined Miles Davis. By the time Adderley formed his second quintet in 1959, the saxophonist had established his reputation and would now have much greater success as a leader, but Mance--by then touring with Dizzy Gillespie--was no longer in the picture. One can say that Mance's bluesy style was the progenitor for both Bobby Timmons and Joe Zawinul in Adderley's groups. A long-time jazz educator focusing on the blues, and the author of How to Play Blues Piano, the still active Mance --like his contemporaries Ray Bryant and Gene Harris--has always had a naturally soulful grasp of the idiom. Mance's 1962 Happy Time album is an excellent example of his often underappreciated scope as a pianist, from the suave and caressing treatment of "Jitterbug Waltz" to the boisterous back-to-the-chicken-shack funk of the title tune.

The intoxicating, feel-good theme of "Happy Time" is expounded upon in Mance's jubilant solo. Between his active left hand and the tight accord of Ron Carter and Mickey Roker--particularly the drummer's persistent cymbal beat--an irresistible momentum is maintained for the full six minutes of the track. Mance's blues-inflected tone adds extra vitality to his adroit phrasing and repeated patterns, as he builds ever so quickly from peak to peak. You might notice a run or two here from Mance that will also appear intact in the playing of soul-jazz pianist Les McCann. Mance's closing call-and-response riffs and arpeggios precede the reprise, after which a hard-driving out chorus--driven by his seductive left-hand ostinato--serves as a final hallelujah and amen.

September 08, 2009 · 0 comments

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Johnny Smith: Some Of These Days

Starting with an introduction over a pedal point, Johnny Smith’s take-no-prisoners version of “Some Of These Days” is an excellent primer to the guitarist’s work. Smith could say a lot in a short time, and although this performance is here and gone in two-and-a-half minutes, it sounds complete and satisfying. Smith stays close to the melody for most of the opening chorus and then launches into a fleet-fingered solo comprised mostly of single lines. His opening phrases are simple 4-bar ideas, but starting in the second eight his phrases expand and motives from early in the phrase are developed later in the same thought. Pancoast takes over for a quick Peterson-esque chorus, and then Smith returns with the melody, this time played in chords, but not in parallel block chords. Indeed, the independent movement of the inner voices in chorded passages was one of the hallmarks of Smith’s style. It is also one of the many reasons why he is still considered a guitar giant more than a decade after he set the instrument down for the last time. The Mosaic set above has brought Smith’s playing to the attention of the jazz public, but for guitar players, Smith was always a master.

September 02, 2009 · 0 comments

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