Frank Rosolino: I Love You

Frank Rosolino could burn through a jazz standard in a way that few other trombonists could. "I Love You", recorded in the Netherlands with a Dutch rhythm section five years before his death, stands as one of the most stunning documentations of Rosolino's prodigious talent.

Rosolino pulls no punches from the opening solo trombone intro; however, we soon discover that he's just getting started. His presentation of the melody sits perfectly within the tempo laid down by the rhythm section. Rosolino launches into a five-minute solo, implying the melody while engaging in nonstop trombone acrobatics. He spends most of the time in the upper register of the horn, creating an exciting effect that he sustains throughout the entire solo.

But it doesn't stop there: Rosolino takes the head out after short solos by van Dyke, Schols and Engels, but instead of stopping at the end of the form, he keeps blowing for another minute, just in case anyone thought he might be getting tired. As the track fades out to Rosolino's continuous burn, we're left wondering just how long he might have kept going were it not for the recording engineer's fade-out!

October 04, 2009 · 0 comments


Oliver Jones: I Love You

Oliver Jones, who turned 75 this month (9-11-09), has always played second fiddle to Oscar Peterson amongst mainstream Canadian jazz pianists, although he's widely admired by his countrymen, winning several Juno Awards and the 1990 Prix de Oscar Peterson, among other honors. Like Peterson, Jones was born in Montreal, and even studied piano with Oscar's sister Daisy, as did Oscar himself. Jones didn't begin focusing on jazz until the early '80's, having been the musical director for the Jamaican pop singer Ken Hamilton from 1962 until 1980. The Northern Summit album is one of his many for Canada's Justin Time label, and the instrumentation on it resembles that of Peterson's trio in the '50's, with Herb Ellis simulating his role with Oscar and Red Mitchell taking the place of Ray Brown.

The rapport between these three musicians on the opening track, "I Love You," is exceptional. Jones bouncily expounds upon the Cole Porter theme with Ellis breezing lightly through the bridge. The pianist's solo is backed at first by a percussively tapping Ellis in the manner of Tal Farlow, as Mitchell churns out deeply resonant bass lines. Jones' richly voiced chords and shimmering runs show little obvious sign of Peterson, his acknowledged greatest influence. Ellis solos with his customary twangy tone and agile bluesy runs, bending notes for added color. The clearly articulated formulations of Mitchell's compelling improv explode from his specially tuned (in fifths) bass, with never an instance of hesitation or murkiness. Jones and Ellis exchange passages and then engage in elaborate contrapuntal weavings, and finally, after completing another thematic reading, a tirelessly inventive and jubilant out chorus.

September 22, 2009 · 0 comments


Hampton Hawes: I Love You

If your concept of mid-50s California jazz is of unrelenting cool, take a good listen to Hampton Hawes’ album For Real for proof to the contrary. All four of the musicians heard here were part of a small but vibrant group of California hard-boppers, and on Cole Porter’s “I Love You” they offer a blindingly fast but musically coherent demonstration of state-of-the art improvising. Harold Land had plenty of experience in playing way up-tempo during his tenure with the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet, and he and Frank Butler had occasional opportunities for quick tempi in their new gig together in the Curtis Counce Group. LaFaro was new on the LA scene, but worked with Victor Feldman, Stan Getz and another Brown/Roach alumnus, Sonny Rollins, all of whom excelled at quick-speed features. From the introduction, Hawes shows that he’s no slouch at fast tempos, even when it involves a complex piano figure. In their solos, both Land and Hawes demonstrate that one of the secrets to surviving a breakneck tempo is to think of long phrases that will fit over several bars of chord changes (the faster the tempo, the longer the phrases). At this speed (liner essayist Leonard Feather clocked it at 22 seconds per chorus), it’s easy to play 8 bars or longer without taking a breath. This allows Land especially to create long flowing lines that could never be played in one breath at a slower tempo. Hawes didn’t need to breathe between phrases, of course, but his solo also includes several long phrases that extend over the 8-bar sections. LaFaro's single chorus is simply a walk through the changes, but Land and Butler are stunning in their set of exchanges. And speaking of Butler, I’m quite amazed at how he keeps the rhythmic groove solid without clicking his hi-hat on beats 2 and 4 throughout. Close listening shows that he keeps that essential heartbeat going for long sections of the recording, but the time stays solid even when he drops the hi-hat from his arsenal of sound.

September 03, 2009 · 0 comments


Art Farmer: I Love You

Art Farmer was perhaps the tastiest player in modern jazz. His exquisite note choices were accentuated by his use of mutes, which seemed to make his lines stand out. In the light of the often loud and discordant sounds of free jazz and fusion, he considered himself a traditionalist. But within the framework of modern jazz, Farmer was capable of great flexibility, subtly leading his listeners down paths they might not have expected. For example, the opening chorus of Cole Porter’s “I Love You” from the album Modern Art sounds like a trip into Miles Davis country, with Art playing a standard in a mute over a two-beat rhythm. All such fears evaporate at the opening of the second chorus as Bill Evans takes the spotlight. By this time, Evans was coming into his own and we can hear much of what became his style trademarks in this solo: the light touch, the nearly-inaudible comping and the careful sculpting of each line. Most of the solo is in single lines with parallel thirds, octaves and chords used sparingly but always to great effect. Benny Golson plays a note-gobbling solo that shows his roots in Lucky Thompson, while showing what John Coltrane learned from Golson. Farner, still in the cup mute, plays a flowing melodic solo, filled with long lines and, like Evans’ solo, featuring plenty of effective sequencing. It’s a little surprising when Golson returns for another 16 bars, but it turns out to be the beginning of a long set of exchanges which start at half-choruses and work their way down to 4-bar thoughts. Because of their different but complimentary solo styles, the two hornmen were fine collaborators and they continued to work together (most notably as co-leaders of the Jazztet) until Farmer’s passing in 1999.

September 03, 2009 · 0 comments


Taylor Eigsti: I Love You

You can't call Taylor Eigsti 'up-and-coming' or 'promising' any more. He has arrived, and demands our attention as one of the finest pianists of his generation. If you haven't heard this musician yet, don't wait any longer. I have been following his career since he was an adolescent, and there are no weak points in his arsenal at this point, only strengths. On this reworking of a Cole Porter standard, everything clicks. The harmonies, the phrasing, the dynamics, the interaction with the rhythm section, the sheer technical command of the instrument . . . they're all happening. And not in some dated, imitative way. This is the way the old standards should sound today, not like stuffy museum pieces, but as living, breathing music. I still meet jazz critics who haven't heard of this artist -- but, trust me, they soon will.

May 10, 2008 · 0 comments


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