Miroslav Vitous: Variations on W. Shorter

The forward-thinking bassist from Prague recreates the spirit of the original incarnation of Weather Report, if not the actual songs of that early era of the seminal jazz-rock band. A more accurate title for this tune might be “Variations On Nefertiti,” the Wayne Shorter song famously recorded by the Miles Davis Quintet in 1967. Quotes from the hypnotic, circular melody are interspersed throughout this performance by all musicians except Cleaver, but no one ever quite completes the circle.

As it was during WR’s 1970-72 period, this band tears down the walls separating the rhythm section and the front line, with each performer assuming equal parts in a musical democracy pioneered by that incarnation of WR. Cleaver never keeps time, instead using his kit to provide waves of percussion that melds into the tapestry of the tonal instruments. Vitous himself plays with randomized vigor, oscillating between plucked and bowed bass at multiple points throughout the track, and without causing any disruption.

The spare, murky sound produced by Vitous’ group is a far cry from what his old group later became, but what it lacked in structure and groove, it more than made up in freedom, direct communication between players and unpredictability. That holds true even when Vitous recycles an old song from his ex-bandmate that wasn’t originally conceived to be used in that way.

August 13, 2009 · 0 comments


Marcus Strickland: Oriental Folk Song

"Oriental Folk Song" is based on a Japanese folk melody but sheds its original skin for a more modern sound. Originally penned and performed by the legendary Wayne Shorter for his first Blue Note release, Night Dreamer, it is here interpreted by the rising saxophonist and composer Marcus Strickland.

Skipping the head, Marcus gets right to business and begins his solo over Vicente Archer's double-stop bassline. When the tenorist increases his intensity, his twin, E.J. Strickland, provides more crashes and patterns for Marcus to play over. It would be easy to let a tune like this go stale in a pianoless trio, but Marcus and E.J. complement each other perfectly. It seems as if E.J. always has a rhythmic retort for each of his brother's lines, giving him more fuel for improvisation. As Marcus carries his solo into the original melody of the tune, his rhythm section shares his intensity and provides a powerful conclusion, only to fade into silence as Marcus does the same.

March 31, 2009 · 0 comments


Harvie S: Miyako

As stated in the liner notes for Now Was The Time, playing the songs is never about dazzling technique for these two guys who have that in spades, but rather about “the music itself, letting the tunes be songs.” Thus, choosing songs with strong melodies enhances the performance, and using a classic Shorter composition like the beautifully intricate tone-poem “Miyako” is always going to be a wise choice.

S, a no-nonsense bassist in the tradition of Ray Brown, uses his sweetly benign playing style to gently coax out the long, elliptical melodic phrases of the composition. He blurs the line between performance and harmony so successfully, the listener is apt to not even notice he is hearing a bass solo, just the song being exquisitely rendered. Barron could hardly be any more sympathetic, releasing the chords thoughtfully as if they were valuable commodities.

Together, S and Barron make “Miyako” the fully realized aural Picasso that Shorter intended for it to be with just two instruments.

March 26, 2009 · 0 comments


Derek Trucks: Footprints

Derek Trucks's version of Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" provides ample proof of Trucks's designation as one of Rolling Stone's 100 Best Guitarists. The production is clear. The recording contains tasty jamming and group interplay that emphasizes the individual parts being played and the actual sound of the tracking room. There is no doubt as to whose showcase this is; Trucks is clearly up front as he slices and dices his way through several hot, dominating solos. He single-handedly drives the rest of the band into hysteria, as Todd Smallie and Yonrico Scott's rhythm section gradually heats up and Trucks's playing consistently burns. Both Smallie's animated bass and Scott's hard-hitting, fleet-footed percussion seem to solo alongside Trucks, yet they never shift the focus away from him. The musical subtlety and grace places all three of the players in the top tier of musicians, and while Trucks's fluid instrumental tangos dance around the bass and drums with a youthful ferocity yet to be challenged by anyone, he amazingly manages to transcend quite a few of his influences on the cut. Add in obvious reverence to the Shorter original, and the results of this progressive jazz track are definitely worth investigating.

January 14, 2009 · 0 comments


Javon Jackson: One by One

Wayne Shorter composed "One by One" back during his days with Art Blakey. Here Javon Jackson and company capture some of the sweet swinging ambiance of the Jazz Messengers. Nothing too "out" or faddish here, just solid solos over a grooving rhythm section. Jackson starts his improvisation with short, incisive phrases, and gradually stretches them out, and before long they are hurtling forward like a loco-motif Trane threatening to derail. Eric Reed, in contrast, scarcely takes a quarter-note rest during his first chorus—I never knew you could do circular breathing on the keyboard—in which his thematically constructed improvised line coils round and round like the longest serpent in the underbrush. Drummond and Holt are in perfect synch, contributing to the happy proceedings on this infectious track.

November 10, 2008 · 0 comments


Dan Cray: Hammer Head

Over Here Over Heard was recorded live in Chicago. The least straight-ahead piece on the album, Wayne Shorter's "Hammer Head," is given an interesting treatment by this talented trio. Pianist Cray reserves some of his loudest block chords for this performance. The closest Cray comes to really "showing off" his single-note chops on the entire album occurs during his solo turn. Sommers and Wyser-Pratte are a strong rhythm section and generate enough power and momentum to carry the composition's slightly off-kilter mood. On this and other more traditional songs on the album, the Dan Cray Trio proves they are more than capable of interpretations worth a listen.

August 20, 2008 · 0 comments


Madlib: Footprints

On this album, California-based producer Madlib opened up the Blue Note vaults and produced his most well-respected album to date. Along with Yesterday's New Quintet, they recorded Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" for an audience that otherwise might not have heard it. Ahmad Miller, one of Madlib's various aliases, showcases his diversity and skills on vibes, which are only matched by his skills behind the boards. A must-have for any fan of jazz and hip-hop.

August 08, 2008 · 0 comments


Bryan Beninghove: Adam's Apple

Count me in as one of those who likes to hear a dirty B-3. Anything that changes the purity of that instrument's sound is a plus in my book. On Wayne Shorter's "Adam's Apple," organist Kyle Koehler employs distortion to great effect. His sound, not style, harkens back to Larry Young circa 1970. Style-wise the trio, under the leadership of saxophonist Beninghove, rocks out the number à la Medeski Martin and Wood. The trio is more into the blues than MMW and has a broader melodic component because of its two lead instruments. But the vibe is the same. This is music that should resonate with the same audience. Beninghove is John Klemmer on steroids. He is a powerful and expressive player. Drummer Williams played with the great Jimmy Smith. He knows how to play behind and push an organ trio. This is high-octane music that will lift you out of any malaise. It sure got a raucous cheer from the crowd it was performed for.

July 22, 2008 · 0 comments


David Finck: Black Eyes

This is veteran sideman David Finck's first project as leader. Over his career, he has played with many important musicians, including André Previn, Dizzy Gillespie and Herbie Hancock. The rest of the band is quite accomplished at the jazz thing as well. Finck wanted to honor some of his influences over the years, so the band tackles both its own compositions and those that they consider of standard quality.

Ranier opens the Wayne Shorter tune "Black Eyes" with some minor block chords. Locke's vibes establish the melody and the fact he will be the dominant voice on the piece. He has the touch and the timing down. His runs are full of invention. Ranier is also a fine player as shown during his enjoyable interlude. La Barbera, an old pro who was in Bill Evans's last trio, plays just past subtle. Finck takes no solo turn but is well heard. This is pleasing, straight-ahead jazz, and Finck's arrangement is outstanding.

The album as a whole is an impressive leader debut for David Finck. I must also compliment recording engineer Darwin Best and master engineer Leon Zarvos. This is one of the better sounding recordings I have heard in quite some time.

April 13, 2008 · 0 comments


John Brown: Children of the Night

John Brown is head of the jazz program at Duke University, and a hard-swinging bassist, as demonstrated on his new CD Terms of Art. This project is a tribute to drummer Art Blakey, and effectively captures the ethos of Blakey's famous band, the Jazz Messengers. Brown and company tackle Wayne Shorter's "Children of the Night," a song recorded by the Jazz Messengers in 1961 and frequently featured on their set lists back in the day. This CD has been getting great airplay for an indie release - heck, there is not even the name of a record company on the disk, just a web site (www.jbjazz.com) - and I can understand why. This is solid hard-bop music, played with consummate skill. Blakey would be pleased.

March 13, 2008 · 0 comments


Karrin Allyson: Follow the Footprints (Footprints)

Buddha Shorter tossed this pebble into the pond and each ripple embraced a new set of lyrics. Its re- incarnations include African ancestry, ecology, musicians, and love, yet Chris Caswell’s lyric of loss and hope transforms “Footprints” into the ultimate theme. Combine the polished stone of Karrin’s earnest voice, muted trumpet, waterfall piano, and ethereal concord, and the effect dwells in the mind like a Zen question. While contemplating the greatest unknown, what better soundtrack than the Satori of jazz, and what better Nara-Narayana than Karrin to gracefully guide us to shores where losses are recovered and music might be exponential.

November 07, 2007 · 0 comments


Previous Page | Next Page