Christian McBride: Theme for Kareem

At the annual bass players convention, the meeting divides into two camps. The melodic, play-bass-like-a-big-guitar contingent gathers under the portrait of Scott LaFaro, while the swing-it-with-a-big-sound advocates collect next to the statue of Ray Brown. Okay, I'm not sure if Christian McBride was announcing his affiliation when he named his new CD Kind of Brown, but if you have doubts where he is aligned, just listen to this track. I love his sense of propulsion, a greenhouse-gas-free source of energy that I hope never runs out. He takes a song written by the late, great Freddie Hubbard and convinces you it was really meant to be a bass feature. With all due respect to soloists Wolf and Wilson, the rhythm section here is the star of the show. You could put Jack Benny on violin in front of this churning, burning threesome, and he would start placing in the Downbeat poll. Notch up two sky hook points for the Brown team.

August 04, 2009 · 0 comments


Marshall Gilkes: The Crossover

The contrast between this track's introduction ("Crossover Intro") and body couldn't be more stark. For a little over two minutes, leader Marshall Gilkes explores various textures and wide-ranging melodies (I love solo trombone, with notes so low you can almost see them), with shadows of themes to come entering and leaving. When we slide into "The Crossover" proper, Gilkes cranks up the swing and we're off. The way the changes flow is very reminiscent of "Giant Steps." What sets the track apart from a Young Lions-type thing is the cool use of unison lines – this is done to introduce the first solo segment and then again after Jon Cowherd's piano solo, this time revisiting Gilkes's opening theme before the close. All told, a really well-constructed composition that makes great use of melodic contour, tension and unbridled swing.

September 04, 2008 · 1 comment


Jon Irabagon: Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley was not only a great basketball player, but a popular interview subject too -- mostly because of his tendency to spout off frank and surprising things in front of a microphone. The same is true of Jon Irabagon's ensemble on this track named in Sir Charles's honor. The sound palette shifts unexpectedly at several junctures during the course of a 12-minute track. Sometimes the separate musical voices play at cross purposes, and at other moments they join together for dramatic composed passages. For most of the track, the band members maintain their allegiance to the Free Jazz aesthetic, but toward the end they offer up the biggest surprise of all: cool, steady swing in 4/4 time. This track is not for the fainthearted, but check it out if you are in the mood for some ear-stretching experiences.

April 26, 2008 · 1 comment


Freddie Hubbard: Theme for Kareem

This track transports me right back to where I first heard it—my living room in 1978, the year it came out. I literally jumped to attention when I heard this track. It was kind of the culmination of everything Freddie Hubbard had done up to that point: improving his high register and smoothing out his sound (he’s playing flugelhorn on this one, I think, or a trumpet with a really dark sound), but also using all his devices—double time, single tonguing certain notes, just at the right moment, with great taste and to great effect. Freddie’s extended solo is so exciting and well thought out, right in there on top of the time—amazing. What a wonderful tune—a blues feel but ‘altered’ in true Freddie fashion. And, oh yeah, Jack DeJohnette swings his ass off!

April 11, 2008 · 0 comments


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


Joey Baron: Scottie Pippen

Does humor belong in music? Sure, in Frank Zappa's world, but what about jazz? When a unique trio of drums, tenor, and trombone is doing the talking, the answer is an enthusiastic “yes.” This high-spirited romp of tangled lines and jaunty rhythms starts out with Baron laying down an athletic Hawaii 5-0 groove over which Eskelin and Swell squawk at each other like two angry birds of prey. Loads of fun. Also, the perfect counterexample to the idea that free play must be overly serious and academic.

November 01, 2007 · 0 comments


Grover Washington, Jr.: Let it Flow (For "Dr. J")

The late Grover Washington, Jr. loved basketball, particularly the Philadelphia 76ers, and his album Winelight features a tribute to 76ers legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving that is, by turns, graceful and driving. Opening smoothly with a sweet melody and a gentle groove, the tune soon escalates into a furious jam, Washington’s rapid-flow sax work offset by Marcus Miller’s funky bass. An elegant tribute to a great player that’s well worth checking out.

October 24, 2007 · 1 comment


Previous Page | Next Page