Andrew Hill: Divine Revelation

"Divine Revelation" from Andrew Hill's A Beautiful Day, a live big band date recorded at Birdland in 2002, is an example of a big band revealing a whole new world of exciting possibilities for a bandleader who usually assembles only small groups. This track, originally recorded with a quartet on the 1975 SteepleChase date Divine Revelation, allows Hill to assign some of his complex piano layering to the brass section, freeing him to interact with the dueling saxophonists throughout the majority of this track. Near the tune's conclusion, the polyrhythmic lines, usually handled by Hill himself once again, develop into a Holland-esque polymetric dialogue in the hands of the big band. Marty Ehrlich and Greg Tardy stand out here, as well as the stylish stability of Scott Colley's bass.

October 30, 2008 · 0 comments

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Art Blakey: Wee-Dot

Art Blakey had led his own sessions from as early as 1947, when his collaboration with Kenny Dorham and Walter Bishop Jr., among others, was released as New Sounds (also released as The Thin Man and The Bop Alley). These February '54 performances, however, truly launched Blakey's solo career. It is out of this legendary lineup that the original, small-group Jazz Messengers would soon be formed. Note the classic performances by all band members here – the scorching Brown improvisation, the astoundingly Birdlike Donaldson offering, the soulful Silver comping, and the simple, sustained intensity of Blakey's groove. While no group may ever be able to swing as fast and with as much virtuosity as Diz/Bird/Roach, no group may ever be able to swing as physically hard and as deep as this bebop/hard-bop lineup. A classic introduction to the Blakey sound.

April 15, 2008 · 0 comments

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Dave Holland featuring Chris Potter: The Balance

Potter's soprano playing proves to be just as rich as his tenor playing. His extended solo on this live recording begins as Potter allows a motivic theme to unfold and build over the course of two minutes. There is much rhythmic interplay between Potter and Billy Kilson on drums. The band's intensity grows steadily, encouraging Potter to eventually unleash a fury of sixteenth-note runs and angry repeated riffs over driving backgrounds.

March 04, 2008 · 0 comments

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Pierre Dřrge: Lost in the Desert, I See A .../Caravan

Listen closely and you'll hear elements of Juan Tizol's "Caravan" right from the start of this iconoclastic reinterpretation by Danish guitarist Pierre Dřrge and his New Jungle Orchestra. Obviously, by its very name the band hints at Ellington's repertoire from its "jungle" period. Here, however, in addition to a trombone paying homage to Tizol, a rock-like beat and oriental horn riffs over a Zappa-ish lead guitar carry our lost caravan through a desert fantasy and deep into a sonic jungle. Still, isn't this is an appropriate way for a Danish band to assert its identity on American soil? With a playful version of a classic tune performed in the city where it was born six decades earlier?

February 18, 2008 · 0 comments

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Weather Report: Birdland

Birdland, the midtown Manhattan nightclub, opened in 1949 with namesake Charlie Parker as headliner. During its first five years, the self-styled Jazz Corner of the World tallied 1.4 million paid admissions, but by 1965 the nest was empty and Birdland flew the coop. Reopened in 1986, the club thrives to this day. In the midst of its 21-year hiatus, ex-Birdland musicians Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter led their pioneering fusion band Weather Report's eponymous tribute to the shuttered shrine. "Birdland" sounds like nothing formerly heard there, but so what? It's a boldly conceived, brilliantly executed monument to a monument.

November 09, 2007 · 0 comments

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Joe Williams: Alright, Okay, You Win

Blues shouter Joe Williams recorded his classic "Alright, Okay, You Win" with Count Basie in 1955. But Ring-a-Dings are born headliners, not bored second bananas, and Joe's break from Basie was as inevitable as Dean Martin's split from Jerry Lewis. Here, fitting as comfortably into Harry Edison's station wagon as in Basie's Greyhound bus, Joe finds room aplenty for his lusty baritone without trimming his style, including insistently pronouncing terminal g's (morning, going, etc.) when that was strictly outré. Plus there's his ever-so-adorable slight lisp—but if you think we're implying Joe Williams was unmanly, you're zanier than Jerry Lewis.

November 09, 2007 · 0 comments

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George Shearing: Lullaby of Birdland

In 1952, inspiration struck George Shearing just as he was biting into his char-broiled steak. "What's wrong?" asked his wife, afraid he didn't like her cooking. George dashed to the piano and, within 10 minutes, finished a theme song for midtown Manhattan's "Jazz Corner of the World." The royalties kept him in gravy for decades. His tasty tune was char-broiled >400 times by jazz artists, with countless warm-overs by non-jazz chefs from Pérez Prado and Bill Haley to The 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic and The Muppets. Early birds may get the worm, but latecomers can still enjoy steak.

November 09, 2007 · 0 comments

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John Coltrane: I Want to Talk About You


   John Coltrane, photo by Herb Snitzer

“I Want to Talk About You” is a pretty little Billy Eckstine ballad through which Coltrane weaves an increasingly daring solo, splashing a torrent of notes onto the backdrop provided by his nonpareil rhythm section, which was particularly hot on this night at the club Birdland. The real magic, though, begins five minutes into the tune, when the rhythm section drops out and Coltrane is left to blow unaccompanied. His lines are so fluid, so majestic, that it is easy to forget that a quartet was ever there. The drums and bass are gone, but the beat remains. The piano is gone, but the melody is right there behind Coltrane’s harmonizing. These three jaw-dropping minutes rank among the most blissful of Coltrane’s career.

November 06, 2007 · 0 comments

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