Quincy Jones: Soul Bossa Nova

Surprise! The opening theme song to the Austin Powers trilogy wasn't composed specifically for everybody's favorite hairy-chested, mojo-laden international man of mystery. It was actually a Quincy Jones Big Band tune recorded in 1962 and featuring the flutes of Roland Kirk and Jerome Richardson on the now instantly recognizable 5-note theme. Allow this track to serve as a gateway to some of Jones's seriously stylish big band music from the 1960s. Check out "Se E Tarde Me Pardoa" from the Big Band Bossa Nova album and "Days of Wine and Roses," "Dreamsville" and "Moon River" from Quincy Jones Explores the Music of Henry Mancini for more of the Jones Big Band featuring Roland Kirk.

October 17, 2008 · 0 comments

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Roland Kirk: A Quote From Clifford Brown

I Talk with the Spirits is Roland Kirk's only all-flute recording, aside from the occasional cuckoo clock or music box, of course. His flute playing throughout is at times delicate and beautiful, at other times passionately overblown, making for a compelling if not comprehensive case study of Kirk's dynamic instrumental skills. Although Horace Parlan, more than a fine player, seems somewhat unsure of how to comp under Kirk's intense improvisation on this track, he reels himself in and provides an excellent solo following Kirk's. So, Brownie fanatics: just what is the "Quote from Clifford Brown?"

October 17, 2008 · 0 comments

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Court Mast: Tam Junction

Herbie Mann: Push Push

I have a soft spot for the flute in a jazz context. It brings to mind things like watching old episodes of Peanuts, my first attempts at processing Rahsaan Roland Kirk albums, and (unfortunately) that icky Herbie Mann album cover.

Tam Junction has a sultry swing that hooked me immediately. Tim Wallace lays out the theme on flute before the horns follow on top of a rhythm section that's definitely in the pocket. When Scott Petersen takes that bluesy solo, he's just getting you ready for the slinky bass break that reintroduces the flute. At only 3 minutes in length, "Tam Junction" is just far too short. I bet it really smokes in a live setting.

September 04, 2008 · 0 comments

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Jamie Baum: Solace

With the brilliantly laid rhythmic foundation of Colligan's ostinato piano chording, Weidemeuller's throbbing bass and Hirshfield's feathery cymbal work, Alessi and Baum play a delightfully lyrical flugelhorn/flute duet that ascends along an undulating path. Baum's composition rides the breeze with the grace of a falling leaf. Tossed by the musical winds, its free fall is suspended for a time in a dance of immeasurable serenity and beauty. The twists taken by this complex melody line are both beautiful and poignant. Alessi solos with requisite tenderness, concentrating on tone with a reaching quality that demonstrates great sensitivity. The carefully arranged French horn, sax and trumpets, along with a complementary rhythm section, perfectly balance the soaring solos of Baum and Alessi. Despite being the composer, Baum plays an understated yet distinctive role, preferring to let the music take precedence over her own prominence. When she does solo, her notes glide as gently as a kiss blown across the room. Her fluidity and grace have classical undertones that enhance the composition's free-floating airiness. At the coda, the rhythm turns samba-like, with Alessi and Baum trading phrases in a playful back-and-forth ending. An uplifting piece of music.

June 01, 2008 · 0 comments

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Jamie Baum: In Passing

The beautifully synchronous playing of Baum and Endsley, on flute and trumpet respectively, is an unusual but potent front line for Baum's ethereal music, and the rhythm section's drone provides a perfect landscape onto which she applies her fluid musical pastels. Her tone is soft, and her delivery is languorous with a sensuous breathiness that never falters in pitch or direction. After Baum dances around with pianist Colligan's tasteful support, Weidemeuller takes his turn with an equally feathery bass solo backed by lightly applied piano chords and exquisitely subtle brushwork. Overall, this piece's atmospheric ensemble sound enables the composer to realize her vision. Baum has clearly assembled cooperative, likeminded musicians to help showcase her formidable compositional skills. A skillful offering that incorporates the flute as a poignant participant in an orchestral/chamber jazz setting.

May 30, 2008 · 0 comments

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Eric Dolphy: Glad to be Unhappy

On this Richard Rodgers song, Eric Dolphy's fiery brand of alto sax is replaced by his equally wistful virtuosity on flute. Accompanied by the delicate comping of the unheralded Jaki Byard, the suspended basslines of George Tucker, and the barely perceptible accents of the tasteful Roy Haynes, Dolphy starts his melodic intro with dreamily languishing gentleness. After lulling us into a cocoon of warmth and calm, he lets loose a crescendo of fluttering notes that could easily be part of a classical piece. He then leads into his rapidly developing and extremely creative solo where he demonstrates unquestioned instrumental mastery. His unerring ability to create harmonic interest on an instrument of limited possibilities is remarkable, as is his pure and uncompromised tonal quality. Here he is neither atonal nor free of melodic restraints, which would later become his mantle. Yet within the confines of this pretty, melancholic tune, Dolphy conveys the true pathos of its composer's intention. In my opinion, this is one of the finest representations of what can be achieved on jazz flute when played by a creative master.

May 23, 2008 · 0 comments

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Mark Weinstein: Straight, No Chaser

Fluter Mark Weinstein's Straight No Chaser is a collection of five originals and five covers. He and his band exhibit exceptional skill and taste as they interpret these compositions. Weinstein plays the classic "Straight No Chaser" on a bass flute. You hear his deep and forceful breaths almost as much as you do the frantic notes that result. This causes his playing on this piece to have almost a scat-singing effect. The clanging of the flute's keys is quite audible as Weinstein aggressively attacks them. This is also cool sounding. Who would have thought of playing a flute low and rough? The band attacks the tune from the start. Guitarist Stryker is particularly impressive during his solo, after which "Straight No Chaser" becomes a swinging affair. As I have mentioned in other reviews of flute players, they must work extra hard to get their instrument to be more versatile. Weinstein should be credited for his imagination and successful effort to put the flute across in a new light on this cut.

May 15, 2008 · 0 comments

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Mark Weinstein: Crianza

Guitarist Dave Stryker lends both tastefully restrained fretwork and this composition to flutist Mark Weinstein's latest album. On this lovely, minstrel-inspired ballad, each band member is allowed to stretch his harmonic concepts. Bassist Ed Howard puts in a flowing solo followed by Stryker's tender acoustic guitar rendering. The format of guitar, flute and bass has a somewhat medieval quality, and when Weinstein's airy flute enters the fray he extends the fairytale feel. Victor Lewis gently pushes the tune along with sparse but tasteful use of a subdued marching snare and shimmering cymbals work. When Lewis is set loose toward the close of the song, he responds with consummate taste and style. This almost-baroque composition is an unusual vehicle for these musicians, who can easily let fly on more up-tempo material. But it is a perfect showcase for Weinstein's pristine tone and the band's astute ability to adapt to the context of their material.

May 14, 2008 · 0 comments

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Joe Farrell: Molten Glass

The late reed player Joe Farrell was considered to be a jazz journeyman and a good studio musician, appearing on hundreds of sessions and known as a dependable performer. His technique grew to be strong and admired, though he had some detractors who claimed he could not be subtle. Opinions are opinions. My opinion, for what it is worth, is that on "Molten Glass," he is plenty subtle.

The Joe Farrell Quartet was Farrell's first album as leader. Those who own it are aware that it is one of the most important jazz albums of that time because it features upcoming jazz superstars Corea, Holland and DeJohnette. (John McLaughlin also appears on one cut). The album is a bit schizophrenic. Half the tunes are melodious. The other cuts are portions free jazz and sound effects.

"Molten Glass" is a lovely composition. It could easily be imagined as a movie soundtrack theme behind Audrey Hepburn. Corea, Holland and DeJohnette expertly clear the way for Farrell. He then maps out the route for this delicate ballad with his flighty and lyrical flute playing. The rhythm section expertly keeps time as Corea adds occasional shading chords. Corea's solo turn is quite pleasing as he continues along the trail Farrell had laid. "Molten Glass" is a fragile and delicate work that is based much upon the subtlety of Farrell's pen and flute.

May 07, 2008 · 0 comments

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Yusef Lateef: Transmutation

In the context of Yusef Lateef's African-American Epic Suite, "Transmutation" refers to the metamorphosis of blacks abducted to the New World. No longer Africans, never to be fully accepted as Americans, they become an uneasy hybrid: African Americans. Third Stream seems readymade for such drama, being neither European classical nor American jazz, but their amalgamation. Lateef emphasizes this cultural disparity by pitting "primitive" instruments, including drums, whistles and conch shells, against a more "sophisticated" German symphony orchestra, with stunning effect. Like the bowels of a slave ship, this music is not for the fainthearted. It is provocative, disquieting and powerfully moving.

November 30, 2007 · 0 comments

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Frank Wess: Low Life

Six months to the day after these same musicians (except Burrell and Thigpen) recorded "Low Life" with Count Basie's big band, they reconvened for this sextet version featuring Frank Wess's flute, which had become emblematic of Basie's New Testament band. Not surprisingly, Basie's busmen on holiday remain very much in Count's bag. After all, any track on which Freddie Green plays rhythm guitar is going to sound like Basie. Hell, if Freddie had recorded Beethoven's Ninth with the New York Philharmonic, we'd expect Leonard Bernstein to exclaim "One more time!" at the finale la Basie's "April in Paris."

November 30, 2007 · 0 comments

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Yusef Lateef: Playful Flute

"Mohammedan leanings are shown by many bebop musicians," Life magazine reported in 1948 at the height of a short-lived bop craze. Among the first-generation boppers who embraced Islam during that period was Yusef Lateef. We mention this because, far from being the evidence of kookiness that Life implied, Lateef's spirituality has thoroughly informed his music. Exotic modes and unusual instruments reflect Lateef's unquenchable cross-cultural curiosity. Here, from opening trills to climactic passages of simultaneous humming and playing, Lateef ranges from Africa to the Amazon by way of the Middle East. A fascinating 4-minute excursion by a unique musical explorer.

November 30, 2007 · 1 comment

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Herbie Mann & Buddy Collette: Give a Little Whistle

Disney's animated morality play Pinocchio (1940) depicts a puppet's quest to become human by resisting corruption. "And if you start to slide," he's advised, "Give a little whistle! And always let your conscience be your guide." Too bad the movie wasn't required childhood viewing for future Enron, Adelphia and WorldCom executives, who might've subsequently avoided having whistles blown on them. These five jazzmen, though, must've had front-row seats. Their integrity is impeccable. As for who's who, Buddy's on the left channel; Herbie's to the right; and that little whistle you hear is Collette's peeping piccolo. Jiminy Cricket, this swings!

November 30, 2007 · 0 comments

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Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Bright Moments (live)

Rahsaan Roland Kirk ranks among the finest soloists of his generation. But when you bought one of his records you never knew what you might get. First, there was that strange three-sided LP. What about those times he played three horns at once? And don't forget those bizarre instruments, the manzello and the stritch. And I loved it when he played the nose flute (but you wouldn't catch me sitting in the front row at the club when he blew it). If Kirk had just focused on tenor sax, he would have ranked with the finest, but that was just a sideline in his traveling one-man show. Where should the uninitiated start with this wide-ranging artist? The Bright Moments recording in San Francisco ranks first and foremost in my Kirk CD collection, and this wild title track is about as good as it gets. Kirk talks, sings, and grooves in high gear with his inimitable over-blowing technique on the flute. A bright moment all should enjoy.

November 24, 2007 · 0 comments

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Bud Shank & Bob Cooper: Sweet Georgia Brown

A longtime jazz favorite, "Sweet Georgia Brown" (1925) became beloved by millions after the Harlem Globetrotters made it their theme in 1952. Amazed crowds worldwide, watching the Globetrotters' comic basketball wizardry, whistled along with "Sweet Georgia Brown." Likewise bouncing with skill and surprise is this quintessential 1950s West Coast jazz track. Although classical composers had long paired flute and oboe, Shank & Cooper here demonstrate the tandem's superior jazz IQ. With Cooper's call-&-response arrangement coyly teasing the melody, "Sweet Georgia Brown" tips off tiptop players at the top of their game.

November 20, 2007 · 0 comments

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