Kurt Rosenwinkel: Conception I

Kurt Rosenwinkel's live performances and latest handful of albums are packed with densely arranged, 10-plus minute arrangements that have astonished his loads of fans and elevated him to the status of one of this generation's leading innovators. Intuit, his second session as a leader, shows us where much of this innovation came from, with a collection of hand-chosen bop standards. George Shearing's "Conception" is perhaps the most interesting choice because it hints at a possible hidden influence that has shaped Rosenwinkel's compositional aesthetic. While it's speculation on my part, digging a bit deeper reveals an interesting line of Shearing influence (Rosenwinkel's mentor, Gary Burton, toured with Shearing before joining forces with Stan Getz in the early 1960s). In any case, Rosenwinkel and all of his Smalls cohorts have established and maintained influential careers for themselves due to their combination of innate talent and wide-ranging knowledge of the jazz canon. The star guitarist's sympathetic take on Shearing's "Conception" is a historical must-listen.

September 16, 2008 · 0 comments

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George Shearing: Conception

The luminous Shearing Quintet of 1949-51 shone most brightly on refashioned standards taken at medium or slow tempos, but George's penchant for boppish originals such as "Conception" provided a welcome change of pace. This group was as remarkable demographically as musically. For one thing, it was racially integrated (40% black) in an era of few mixed groups. For another, its vibist was female, and no slouch; dig her swinging turn abetted by drummer Best, whose brushwork rivaled Caravaggio. Shearing, though, was his own star soloist, masterfully at ease with both single-note and block-chord techniques. Fans loved this group. Rightly so.

November 01, 2007 · 1 comment

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Bill Evans: Conception

Covering George Shearing’s original for his debut as a leader, Bill Evans incorporated the extended structure by which Miles Davis had disguised "Conception" (1949) for Birth of the Cool's "Deception" (1950), yielding an adroit composite that might've been called "Con/Deception." Evans would not win the Down Beat Jazz Critics New Star Award for another two years, but with this track alone blew past about 4,000 competitors on the jazz piano roster. Unfurling long, intricate contrails of single-note runs that turned abruptly to spiral off on alternate headings, Evans combined a deft touch, dazzling technique and vigorous swing. Essential Evans.

November 01, 2007 · 0 comments

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Miles Davis: Deception


           Miles Davis, Lee Konitz, Art Blakey and
      Bud Powell at Birdland
, photo by Marcel Fleiss

As its title hints, "Deception" (1950) is based on George Shearing's "Conception" (1949). Adding a 6-bar pedal point, Miles ingeniously extends Shearing's 44-bar structure to an equally unusual 50 bars. Gerry Mulligan's arrangement features a sea-change solo by J.J. Johnson, who modernized jazz trombone by subduing the instrument's traditional bluster while meticulously expanding its technique. Davis, though, was the linchpin of this band, validating Gil Evans's observation that Miles was ideal for Birth of the Cool because, alone among bebop's star soloists, Miles could sublimate ego and coalesce with the ensemble. "Deception" is legendary legerdemain by magicians of modern jazz.

October 25, 2007 · 0 comments

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Miles Davis: Conception

Smack in the middle of his self-described "four-year horror show" of heroin addiction, and a year after disguising George Shearing's "Conception" (1949) as "Deception" (1950) for Birth of the Cool, Miles restored its original title but retained the six bars he'd appended to Shearing's tune. George cheerfully quipped that Miles was "a master of playing the wrong bridge." But there was something more troubling here than the bridge. The 21-year-old Rollins's unfocused solo can be ascribed to growing pains, but Davis at 25 was an established star whose uncertain, aimless solo renders this track a cautionary portrait of heroin's debilitation.

October 25, 2007 · 0 comments

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