Wes Montgomery & Wynton Kelly: Impressions

There's much to be said about the work of pianist Wynton Kelly. Yeah, everyone knows he played on Kind of Blue, but his contributions to hard bop and post bop during the late 1950s and 1960s make him one of the most active pianists, aside from Bobby Timmons, in jazz. And we all know the story of Wes Montgomery, the comeback kid. It's no surprise that this duo would pick John Coltrane's "Impressions" to glide over when they played the Half Note in New York City in 1965. Joined by bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb, the quartet set the D and Eb dorian changes of "Impressions" on fire. En fuego!! As the guy from ESPN used to say.

Montgomery's solo is chalked full of superior melodic expression. This was the first song I ever heard from him back in the late 1990s and upon listening again I know why I fell in love with his playing. He epitomizes power and assurance with his note selections. On the other hand, Kelly is no slouch either. He's kind of like the Vice President, you know he's there waiting and when it's his turn to take the drivers seat, he'll get the job done. His interaction with Montgomery during his solo shows just how close these two musical minds were. During several moments of Montgomery's solo, he and Kelly accent right on time with each other. This was by far one of Montgomery's tour de force songs.

This song is the very definition of what we know as swing. My advice to you? Pay the $0.99 for this download if you don't already have it in your collection or better yet, go buy the entire album. You can find this version of "Impressions" on most Verve compilation Montgomery discs.

September 16, 2009 · 0 comments


Gerry Gibbs & Ravi Coltrane: Impressions

If you are wondering how Gerry Gibbs and Ravi Coltrane came together on Gibbs' 1996 debut album, The Thrasher, it just happens that Gerry's father, vibraphonist Terry Gibbs, introduced John Coltrane to his wife-to-be Alice McLeod. Their son, Ravi, and Gerry became close friends and Ravi was a member of the drummer's working quartet at the time of this recording, after having spent three years with the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine earlier in the '90's. As can be heard here on Gibbs' fresh arrangement of John Coltrane's "Impressions," even early on in his career Ravi sounded very little like his father, who died when he was only two.

Uri Caine's sprightly piano intro sets the stage for Coltrane's playing of Gibbs' totally reworked--both harmonically and rhythmically--version of the "Impressions" theme, with violinist Mark Feldman joining the saxophonist on the replay. This is followed by a swaying montuno from Caine and vibist Joe Locke and a prickly vamp by Feldman (pizzicato) and Locke, just prior to Coltrane's tenor solo. Suspended time sections serve as launching pads for Ravi's convoluted, logically conceived, and unyieldingly inventive phrasings and runs. Caine's improv is buoyantly zestful and rhythmically diverse. Gibbs' well-executed, aggressively delivered drum solo is bolstered by the same vamp and montuno heard previously. The concluding well-written parts for the sextet as a whole seal the deal on one the most provocative and unique treatments of "Impressions" ever recorded.

September 15, 2009 · 0 comments


John Coltrane: Impressions

While I was on tour with McCoy Tyner in April 2008, I found this in a record shop in Basel, Switzerland. I’d never seen it before. This version of “Impressions” starts the concert. It’s at a slower tempo, almost like the tempo at which they played “So What” with Miles. It’s an amazing, short version of this tune with no solo by McCoy. I love the way they play the theme together and the way Eric answers and plays in the spaces of the melody. Coltrane plays around nine beautiful choruses, then Eric comes in and plays nine or ten choruses himself—some of the most beautiful Eric Dolphy with Coltrane on record. After Dolphy, Coltrane comes back in, and plays another two or three choruses before they take the theme out. You can feel that Coltrane was inspired just by having Dolphy on the scene. He hands it over to him in a way where he’s saying, “Okay, man, what have you got to say?” Then when Dolphy ends his chorus, Coltrane has to come in and play again because it’s at this beautiful place in the whole structure of the piece.

Coltrane came up in an era where you played in bands with other saxophone players a lot, and he recorded with a lot of different saxophone players. Some of it was documented—there was a great record with Johnny Griffin and Hank Mobley; he recorded with Al Cohn and Zoot Sims and Hank Mobley as a quartet; did a record on alto with Paul Quinichette, Pepper Adams, and Gene Ammons; and of course the sextet with Miles and Cannonball and the quintet with Cannonball—but I’m sure through the years he was in tons of bands, and many jam sessions and situations where you shape the music together spontaneously right at the moment with other saxophone players. Later, his collaborations with Pharaoh Sanders, Archie Shepp, and others really stand out as some really beautiful collaborative group explorations. Throughout his career, I think he enjoyed, as I do, feeding off other people, especially if they have a strong personality and ideas and have their own statement. So it was great to hear him with Dolphy and have Eric’s voice, not only on alto, but bass clarinet and flute.

June 25, 2008 · 0 comments


Adrien Moignard: Impressions

Those unfamiliar with Django Reinhardt, "jazz Manouche" and its growing legion of Hot Club swing revivalists may want to play a little catch-up. The Django jazz movement has caught fire across the globe, with fans flocking to clubs, concert venues and Django festivals for their Gypsy jazz fix. Far from being a preservationist movement, the music is evolving with the times, as evidenced by the Selmer 607 project.

Five of the genre's top guitarists were chosen to record three tunes apiece on a 1946 Selmer petite bouche acoustic, model #607 (of the same linage as Selmer #503, Django's favorite guitar). Backed by the standard la pompe rhythm section of bass and two guitars, the five soloists ply their muscular chops over a range of material from traditional Django tunes to more contemporary modal jazz. Reactions to these sessions have run the gamut from whoops of astonishment to the deafening silence of amazement.

Adrien Moignard, a relatively unknown young French guitarist, clearly demonstrates what the powerful Gypsy technique can bring to a contemporary jazz jam staple, Coltrane's "Impressions." After a 4-bar rhythm intro, Adrien lays down the familiar head over the rhythm section's solid pompe before launching into a take-no-prisoners solo educing the fabled instrument's characteristic crunch and bark. With tantalizing sweeps, blistering chromatic runs and signature Gypsy enclosures, his ideas sound fresh, substantive and inspired. This kid ain't phoning it in.

May 11, 2008 · 4 comments


Joey DeFrancesco: Impressions

To celebrate the reopening of Manhattan's 5 Spot nightclub, Joey DeFrancesco's band featured an alternating all-star tenor sax lineup to showcase that instrument's great tradition in Hammond B-3 organ ensembles. On "Impressions," the B-3 maven was joined by tenorman Kirk Whalum. (On other tracks, Illinois Jacquet, Grover Washington Jr., and Houston Person appear.) Whalum starts right out of the gate with some fine blowing on this straight-ahead swinging number, more than justifying DeFrancesco's concept for this live recording.

DeFrancesco, playing basslines, and drummer Landham make a fantastic rhythm section. Guitarist Bollenback handles the speedy changes with style and aplomb. And of course DeFrancesco, the most renowned B-3 organ master of the day, does his thing. The band cleverly avoids clichés and plays the familiar melody only at the very last minute. These are pros at work. Their version of "Impressions" leaves a good one.

April 17, 2008 · 0 comments


McCoy Tyner: Impressions

McCoy Tyner had not made a trio recording since 1964, when he walked into Fantasy Records studio in Berkeley to join bassist Ron Carter and drummer Elvin Jones for the two days of impassioned music-making that resulted in Trident. But during the intervening decade, the pianist had expanded his harmonic and melodic vocabulary, and also raised the intensity of his playing several notches. "Impressions" is a carryover from Tyner's days with John Coltrane -- just as "Impressions" was Coltrane's reinvention of "So What" from Trane's stint with Miles Davis. This is some of the finest modal piano work on record, and a reminder of why so many up-and-coming from that era were borrowing from Tyner's bag, imitating his trademark runs and howitzer keyboard voicings. A major work from a preeminent artist.

November 21, 2007 · 0 comments


Herbie Hancock: So What / Impressions

Listeners expecting stylistic imitation (as in many past tributes) will be disappointed, but those who welcome a fresh interpretation of the Davis and Coltrane concepts will love this record. “So What / Impressions” is more introspective and melancholic than 1960s performances by the respective composers, allowing each improviser to reference the styles of their masters, but not be bound by them. Hargrove’s solo is astounding—contemplative and brilliantly paced, eventually reaching a rousing climax. Hancock’s comping is busy and detached at times, but more often faultlessly complementary. Blade adds powerful rhythmic dialogue throughout, especially at the end of Brecker’s inspired chorus. Spectacular playing all around.

November 03, 2007 · 0 comments


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