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If you’ve been around the block a bit, you may know about the majesty that is Herman Poole Blount, or as he’s better known on this planet and others, Sun Ra. This year marks a century since he first landed on this planet from Saturn, and to commemorate such an occasion, Strut Records is releasing a compilation of 25 years of Sun Ra’s works, curated by 90-year-old alto-saxophonist Marshall Allen, the longest-living member and current bandleader of Sun Ra’s Arkestra. In the Orbit of Ra will be available on 2-CD sets, 2-LP set on vinyl sets, and digitally September 22. Check out a stream of “Plutonium Nights” from the upcoming In the Orbit of Ra after the jump; a mastered recording of the track is available now on iTunes.
Sun Ra & His Arkestra – Plutonian Nights (Original Tape Master)
“Plutonian Nights” was originally released on the El Saturn Records LP The Nubians Of Plutonia. Written and Arranged by Sun Ra. Recorded in Chicago, 1958-1959.
Sun Ra: Piano, Wurlitzer Electric Piano
Lucious Randolph: Trumpet
Marshall Allen: Alto Saxophone, Percussion
John Gilmore: Tenor Saxophone, Percussion
Pat Patrick: Baritone Saxophone
Ronnie Boykins: Bass
Robert Barry: Drums, Percussion
Photos by Val Wilmer
Marshall Allen presents Sun Ra & His Arkestra: ‘In The Orbit Of Ra’
Mastered from the original tapes, out Sept. 22 on Strut.
Pre-order and receive “Plutonian Nights” right away:http://geni.us/SunRa
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Recently, pianist/keyboardist Marco Benevento released his first single from his upcoming album, Swift, out September 16th on the Royal Potato Family label. The single, “At the Show”, marks the first time Marco’s recorded his vocals for all the word to hear. Now to put things on that next level, he put out a video for the song. Check it out after the jump.
Marco Benevento: Vocals & Keys
Dave Dreiwitz: Bass
Andrew Borger: Drums
“At the Show” is available for purchase iTunes and Amazon. Swift is out September 16th on the Royal Potato Family label.
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I’m steadily working through emails and have probably relegated a sizable chunk of my life to such a task for probably the next twenty years or so at least. Here’s one week of that process.
The Line-Up for 18 July 2014
Ginger Baker – Ginger Spice
I knew I had to hear the new album from 74-year-old drummer Ginger Baker, Why?, the moment I saw the cover. I saw it on the shelves this week and immediately gave a song the 1 spot. Space Ghost – Starship 2091 Ark Ovrutski – New Orleans
I think either someone mailed 44:33 to me directly and I just passed it along to the station’s shelves overall or it just got to KRTU and I’m just now playing something of it on the air. That’s just how these things go sometimes. Rebirth Brass Band – HBNs
I’m not always crazy about brass bands, maybe I’m just fighting the joy they bring to look cool. It may not be the best course of action. Nevertheless, these guys have a new album out, Move Your Body, and I felt I had to play something from it eventually. Butcher Brown – Forest Green
I just had to play this song again. Karriem Riggins – daooooh!! Alon Nechushtan – Pomegrenades
This is definitely a “I just got this in my email” play. Elio Villafranca & the Jazz Syncopators – Sunday Stomp at Congo Square
While hanging at the station, Kory was talking about new music that’s come in and talking up Caribbean Tinge: Live from Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, so I figured I’d give the pianist a shot on the show this week. Flying Lotus – Zodiac Shit Quentin Coaxum – Brown Bear
I really did take to Coaxum’s debut, Current. I wrote a pretty decent length review of the album and will likely be giving Current some play on the show for a while. It’s actually one of the most enjoyable albums someone has sent to me in a while. Marquis Hill – B-Tune
I wanted to pair Chicago trumpeters in a set since Coaxum seems to have been working out so well. Nicola Conte – Goddess of the Sea feat. José James
Kory was talking up the new Nicola Conte album this week, which I wasn’t expecting from him. Chris Galvan of Nu Standards, sure, Conte all day. Kory, though? That’s some eyebrow-raising talk that guarantees some attention. Gold Panda – We Work Nights Brad Mehldau & Mark Guiliana – Just Call Me Nige
I haven’t been playing songs from Mehliana: Taming the Dragon nearly as much as I’ve been enjoying the album on my own.
“Woody ‘n You” was written in 1943 by Dizzy Gillespie as an homage to Woody Herman (credit where it’sdue), a clarinet and sax player and band leader. “Woody ‘n You” was one of three tunes that Gillespie wrote for Herman, and Herman apparently played the tune live, but its first appearance on record was in 1944, on Coleman Hawkins’ recording date. That recording was later added to Hawkins’ Rainbow Mist album. This first recorded version of the tune has Hawkins on sax along with Vic Coulsen, Dizzy Gillespie, and Eddie Vanderveer on trumpets, Leonard Lowry, Leo Parker, Ray Abrams, Don Byas, and Budd Johnson on assorted saxophones, Clyde Hart on piano, Oscar Pettiford on bass, and Max Roach on drums. The tune starts with a bass and piano introduction, followed by a brief unaccompanied statement from the bass. A descending piano line brings the rest of the band back at about 0:11 for the horns to state the tune’s theme. It’s difficult and probably impossible in 2014 to hear this as it must have sounded in 1944, but for some context, go check a popular tune from Woody Herman, “Golden Wedding”… anyway, coming back to “Woody ‘N You” here… Hawkins’ distinctive sax playing takes the lead in front of the full harmony from the saxes and trumpets behind him here, getting some punchy brass behind him starting at about 0:55 or so. At about 1:30, a trumpet solo begins, likely from Gillespie. After a bright and brief trumpet solo that still sounds fresh 70 years later, the theme returns at about 2:10 or so, again with Hawkins taking the lead. At 2:45, they bring the tune to a close. Great solos from Hawkins and Gillespie – unfortunately shorter than we’ve become used to, presumably because of the recording limitations that kept tunes to about 3:00.
Gillespie kept “Woody ‘n You” in rotation as a leader of his own bands (occasionally calling the tune “Algo Bueno”), and so we’ll jump forward here to the Newport Jazz Festival in 1966. The band led by Gillespie on trumpet also included James Moody on sax, Milt Jackson on vibes, Thelonious Monk on piano, Percy Heath on bass, and Max Roach on drums (!). Here, they start the tune with a brief drum introduction before the melody comes in at about 0:10. The band sounds less tight than on the version above led by Hawkins, probably a result of them coming together for this festival concert. That said, Roach’s cymbals crash along through the head, with the vibes and trumpet playing the theme over Monk’s stabbing chords. At about 0:45, Moody takes the first solo on sax over emphatic drums from Roach, more stabbing chords from Monk, and a great walking bassline from Heath. Moody’s killing it in here and I have nothing else to add about that. At 1:50 or so, Jackson begins a vibes solo over some really cool comping from Monk’s piano, reharmonizing the introduction of the tune, with Monk’s piano playing the part that Jackson’s vibes played in the introduction, but then it sounds like Monk sort of steps on the solo and cuts in. By about 2:15, Jackson has dropped out and Monk continues on with a piano solo. It’s a fine Monk solo full of lots of little Monk-isms, and comes to a close around 3:30. Jackson returns on vibes, opening his solo with an echo of Monk’s last phrase and then continuing (noticeably without any piano comping this time around). It sounds like a very awkward edit on the tape at about 4:40, but I suppose it can be forgiven because it leads to a solo spot for Roach on the drums. Roach has been impressive behind the solos until now, and continues with a high-energy drum solo. Maybe the drum solo goes on a little long, but it’s never lacking fireworks and then the band returns around 6:05 to reprise the “Woody ‘n You” theme. They play through this much the same way as in the opening, with Gillespie’s trumpet taking the lead and adding some phrases on top of the chords in here from Monk and Jackson. At about 6:45, they bring this to a close – Gillespie plays an unaccompanied phrase on trumpet, and then the rest of the band re-joins to bring it to a close. This isn’t really the definitive version of the tune, but it’s plenty interesting – it would’ve been great to hear a solo from Gillespie, but he gets a chance to shine during the song’s theme. It’s too bad that what sounded like it was to be Jackson’s solo didn’t continue, as his interplay with Monk there sounded really great. That said, fine solos from Moody, Jackson, and Monk here and a really great drum and bass backing everybody up from Heath and Roach.
The list of musicians who have recorded versions of “Woody ‘n You” reads like a list of jazz royalty – Miles, Mingus, Rollins, Bill Evans, Red Garland, Stan Getz, Bud Powell, and Ahmad Jamal, to name a few (not to mention the incredible musicians on the versions above). This column won’t look at all of them, but we’ll hit quite a few of them.
We’ll start out with Bud Powell’s version of “Woody ‘n You” from 1953, recorded live with Powell on piano, Charles Mingus on bass, and Roy Haynes on drums. This version is from Birdland 1953 – The Complete Recordings (for what it’s worth, the YouTube clip here lists the musicians incorrectly – it’s indeed Mingus and Haynes on bass and drums). Powell opens the tune over what sounds to be Haynes’ hand-drumming. Mingus’ bass is unfortunately very low in the mix here, but the walking line is audible underneath the piano solo starting around 0:40 or so as Haynes moves over to his ride cymbal. Powell’s solo is absolutely killing. Starting somewhere around 2:00, he almost returns to the head, but only sort of plays around with it. Then around 2:15, they return to the head outright, with Haynes returning again to his hand drumming. They play through this here at the end and there’s a fadeout as the applause just becomes audible. The sound quality on this isn’t perfect, but yikes, Powell’s piano solo is indeed perfect.
Next up is Miles’ version of the tune, from his 1957 Relaxin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet album. The quintet here is Miles on trumpet, Coltrane on sax, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums. Garland’s piano opens this version before the trumpet and piano state the melody in unison. Miles adds some phrases from his perfect-sounding trumpet between the theme’s phrases, and then moves into a trumpet solo after the head (the solo starts around 0:35). Jones’ ride cymbal behind this sounds so good here… Garland plays pretty sparsely behind this solo, mostly letting Miles play over just the bass and drums, and there’s plenty of momentum to carry this through to Coltrane’s solo starting at about 2:10. Garland’s comping is still pretty minimal here, and it’s great to hear Coltrane’s sax before the full-on ‘sheets-of-sound’ approach he would develop later on – the sound he gets is still so distinctively Coltrane, there’s no mistaking it. He’s really getting in some great licks here, and then brings it to a close around 3:30. Miles’ trumpet comes back in then, playing around with the “Woody ‘n You” melody briefly, leading up to a drumbreak at about 3:55. After this brief drumbreak, the quintet returns to another composed part of the tune, moving back to the “Woody ‘n You” theme at about 4:30. They take this out with Jones’ insanely good ride cymbal/snare pattern over a bass pulse and Garland’s piano, just ridiculous – no one else could do that. It seems like whenever Miles touched a tune, he could make it his own, and this is no exception. Everyone sounds great on this, and the whole band sounds great together. Very recommended.
Red Garland revisited “Woody ‘N You” that same year as a leader of a quartet featuring Coltrane’s sax again, along with Donald Byrd on trumpet, George Joyner (aka Jamil Nasser) on bass, and Art Taylor on drums. They recorded “Woody ‘N You” for the 1957 album Soul Junction. The piano introduction to this version of the tune is almost an exact replica of the introduction to Miles’ version above, but then the horns come in to play the theme and they sound a bit distant, the tempo a little slower. Whereas Garland played fairly minimally on Miles’ version, though, here Garland takes the phrases in between the theme’s statements in the head. After the head, Byrd takes a trumpet solo in an arrangement that is so far very similar to Miles’. Byrd gets in some nice soloing and sounds very good around 1:20 or so, going back and forth a bit with Taylor’s snare drum before Garland’s piano chords come in behind the trumpet solo, a bit bigger than on the version above. Here, Garland and Taylor are perfectly locked in, with the drums reacting to every piano chord. The trumpet solo ends at about 2:15, moving into a sax solo from Coltrane, whose soloing again sounds fantastic again on this tune. Just as it was underneath the trumpet solo, Taylor and Garland add some punchy drum/piano combinations underneath Coltrane’s sax here. Coltrane hardly reacts, it seems, with his solo carrying more than enough momentum on its own without the rhythm section’s additions. At about 3:45, there’s a great transition from the sax solo to a piano solo from Garland, with the piano playing underneath the very end of the sax solo. Garland’s piano lines in here are fantastic, with minimal accompaniment from his left hand. At about 5:45, Byrd’s trumpet plays a bit before an open drumbreak, followed by Coltrane, then another open drumbreak. Byrd and Coltrane trade off one more time like this, leaving spaces for Taylor, and then the quintet returns to the tune’s head. At about 6:30, the space between the head’s phrases in this case is left open for the walking bassline. They play through the theme one more time and then bring it to a close – unlike Miles’ version, there’s no vamp at the end here. It’s tough not to compare this with Miles, given the reappearance of both Garland and Coltrane, and in that regard, Miles’ version has more going for it, but it’s great to hear Garland get in a solo spot on this tune, and Coltrane’s solo in particular was excellent on this version.
That same year, in 1957, Charles Mingus recorded “Woody ‘N You” for his A Modern Jazz Symposium of Music and Poetry (though it’s listed as “Wouldn’t You”). Mingus’ band here included Jimmy Knepper on trombone, Shafi Hadi on sax, Clarence Shaw on trumpet, Bob Hammer on piano, and Dannie Richmond on drums. Mingus’ unaccompanied bass opens the tune before some very cool drums join in and the horns state the theme. After they play through the head, Hadi takes a sax solo starting around 0:40. This bass-heavy recording puts Mingus’ walking bass up front in the mix, locked in with Richmond’s drums. This band is phenomenal, and Hadi’s sax solo is great as well. Around 2:00, he gets into a really nice little groove, then finishes his solo shortly afterwards and hands off the reins for a piano solo. Hammer’s piano playing is similarly excellent here – in the groove and high-energy without losing control at any point. It’s interesting to note that this is Hammer’s only appearance at the piano with Mingus, but he also worked as an arranger on several other Mingus albums – this band had a little bit of musical chairs going on at the piano, as they recorded with Bill Evans on East Coasting before this album, and with Bill Triglia on Tijuana Moods before that. Anyway… following Hammer’s piano solo is an excellent trombone solo from Jimmy Knepper, which leads to a bass solo from Mingus starting at about 5:30. The drums and piano continue behind Mingus here, at a much lower volume. Mingus’ finger fly over the strings on this always incredible bass solo from the man. The bass solo is followed by an open drum solo from Dannie Richmond, and then the horns return just after 6:30. There’s some nice back and forth between the sax and trombone in this section, and then they return to the “Woody ‘n You” head at about 8:10, again with this great drumming behind the head. Mingus’ bass takes the lead in between statements of the theme here, and after playing through the head, this comes to an abrupt halt. A cool version with great playing all around, an excellent bass solo from Mingus, and a nice added back-and-forth between the sax and trombone before returning to the head at the end of the song.
Like I said above, “Woody ‘N You” has been done by many, many different musicians. I won’t go through all of these here, but do check out versions from Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamal, and Sonny Rollins, Keith Jarrett, to name a few. In the meantime, we’ll jump ahead here to some recent versions of the tune.
Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s 1993 album Diz, with Rubalcaba on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Julio Barreto on drums, included his version of “Woody ‘n You.” They take this tune with a very Latin feel in the brief introduction before moving into a swinging piano trio version of the tune, with Barreto’s drums getting something of the feel from Mingus’ version above at about 0:30. After moving through the head, Barreto’s drums drop out briefly and Carter’s walking bassline moves to the front. This is a very cool transition into Rubalcaba’s piano solo here. Rubalcaba takes his time, and Barreto’s drumming is very understated here as Rubalcaba picks up some steam. It’s an interesting solo with lots of space – Rubalcaba will play a fast run, then punctuate that with a chord and some negative space. Throughout, Carter keeps the tune moving along on the strength of his walking bassline. At 2:30, Rubalcaba briefly touches back on the “Woody ‘n You” melody, which seems to energize him, as he moves from there into some fast runs from his right hand. A bit of dissonance starts to creep into this piano solo starting somewhere around 3:15, and continues in places, though the solo is hardly dissonant – Rubalcaba just plays with it a little bit in here. Wow – crazy stuff from the piano starting at about 4:30 – wild! At about 5:05, Rubalcaba starts to come back to the main theme. Then at 5:30, after a false ending, they move into a Latin vamp that touches back on “Woody ‘n You” (check around 6:20 or so). This continues, with Rubalcaba’s high-energy piano soloing, until this version of the tune fades out. Fifty years after its first appearance with Coleman Hawkins’ band, Rubalcaba gave “Woody ‘N You” a very interesting new feel here – lots of Latin jazz incorporated, but also generally a very modern feel to the tune. The move from the tune’s head into Rubalcaba’s piano solo was especially cool, and there was some pretty incredible piano playing in this.
The OAM Trio (Omer Avital on bass, Aaron Goldberg on piano, and Marc Miralta on drums) included their take on “Woody ‘N You” on their 1999 album Trilingual. The tune opens with a quick little drumroll before the piano and bass join in to play through the melody. They give this a cool sort of push-pull feel, with the rhythm seeming to slightly slow down and then speed back up. Goldberg’s piano plays through the head and then starts a solo at about 0:50. The rhythm on this stays very interesting throughout – Goldberg’s piano playing is smooth, lots of great runs up and down the keyboard, while Avital and Miralta keep the rhythm quite loose underneath, with a bit of a stop-start feel in parts. A little bit of a hint of some Latin jazz at about 2:45 from Goldberg’s piano, and then at about 3:15, he sets up a really nice arpeggio, ending his solo shortly afterward at about 3:30 and handing the reins to Avital for a bass solo. Omer Avital gives an always impressive, melodic bass solo here, backed by the drums and some light piano chords. At about 5:15, Avital returns to the “Woody ‘N You” melody, then some more Latin jazz chords from Goldberg before some open drum breaks for Miralta. Some very nice drums in here, and then the trio returns to the head at about 6:30, with some more of that push-pull feel from the opening. They end it with three big chords. Another cool piano trio version of this tune, with fine solos from Goldberg and Avital, some nice open drum breaks from Miralta, and a fresh take on the tune’s head.
Jumping ahead to 2012, Omer Avital also appeared on Triveni II, the album from Avishai Cohen’s trumpet trio also featuring Nasheet Waits on drums (full disclosure: I can’tgetenough of Triveni). Here, Avital and Waits introduce the tune with a drum-bass duet. Avital’s bass hints at the melody starting around 0:20, and then Cohen’s trumpet joins in to play through the melody at about 0:30, jumping between registers. Starting around 1:00, Cohen takes a trumpet solo. As on the OAM Trio version of this tune above, there’s a little bit of a push-pull feel to the rhythm here, courtesy of Omer Avital and Nasheet Waits, though Avital’s bass is more up-front in the mix here and he’s mostly sticking with a walking bassline behind Cohen’s excellent trumpet solo. Nasheet Waits’ drums really make this happen – he’s supporting and adding so much to the melody, complementing Cohen’s trumpet and also locking in with Avital’s bass perfectly. At about 2:30-2:45 or so, Cohen returns to the “Woody ‘N You” melody, and then at about 3:00, the trumpet drops out briefly for an open drum break from Waits. After that short drum break, they return to the “Woody ‘N You” melody, but this time through leave a long vamp after stating the theme. Then Cohen’s trumpet plays the final line of the tune and they bring it to a close. The chordless setup of this trio lets them deconstruct whatever tune they take on, and all three musicians here more than capably carry the melody, harmony, and rhythm – very recommended.
Also in 2012, Yotam Silberstein led a guitar trio through “Woody ‘N You” at Bar Next Door. The band here is Silberstein on guitar, Matt Penman on bass, and Jochen Rueckert on drums. Silberstein’s guitar tone here gives the tune a laid-back feel, but the tempo is fairly fast, moving through the head at a brisk pace and into a guitar solo at about 0:30 or so. Penman’s excellent walking bassline hooks up something lovely with Rueckert’s drums here, and Silberstein sounds great on top of this, taking a nice and relaxed solo. He’s playing relaxed, but that’s not to say there aren’t some pretty amazing runs in here – say, around 1:45. Rueckert moves from the brushes to drum sticks, which increases the volume and intensity a bit, with Silberstein continuing to reel off some great guitar lines, followed by some breathing room (similar in a way to Rubalcaba’s piano solo on the version above from Diz). At about 4:45, Silberstein’s guitar solo comes to an end and Penman moves from the walking bassline support to the melodic lead. He starts with the “Woody ‘N You” melody before moving into an improvisation on the melody, backed again by Rueckert’s brushes and some chords from Silberstein. At about 6:10, an open drum break for Rueckert, who stays with the brushes for this extended solo. Rueckert’s solo is nicely tied to the melody, which he re-states on the drums at about 7:30, moving back into the tune’s head, led by Silberstein’s guitar. They play through the head and then add a little tag onto the end to bring the tune to a close. Wow – I can’t say I was familiar with Yotam Silberstein, but this is an impressive version of “Woody ‘N You,” with great solos from everyone and a great trio sound.
George Colligan and Helen Sung got together at the 2014 PDX Jazz Festival in Portland, OR to do a piano duet version of “Woody ‘N You.” After playing through the tune’s head, Sung takes the first solo starting at about 0:40 here. Really nice line, a fast run at about 1:15… it’s not always clear who is playing which part in this recording as the two pianos mesh for one sound, but at about 1:45 or 1:50, there’s a smooth transition from Sung’s solo to Colligan taking the lead. Shortly after 2:30, Colligan is really digging in, enjoying himself with a big solo. At about 3:00, the lead is passed back to Sung, and then Colligan and Sung go back and forth, trading impressive phrases while keeping the chord structure going underneath all this. At about 4:15, they return to the head. They play through this much the same as in the opening, but at about 4:30, there’s a really cool section where they quiet down a little and play some really impressive stuff on top of that. Shortly afterward, they come to a close and the video comes to an abrupt end.
This could go on – there are many, many versions of “Woody ‘N You” out there. I’ll also just mention a few more recent versions of the tune here – versions led by John Scofield, Mike Moreno, Arturo Sandoval, and (reaching back to 1978 here) Hank Jones will keep your ears plenty busy. Now over seventy years since the tune was first recorded for what became Coleman Hawkins’ Rainbow Mist, “Woody ‘N You” has continued to fascinate jazz musicians and to evolve in exciting ways. I want so badly to make a terrible pun here about how today’s jazz musicians are adding the ‘next’ to this great bop tune from Dizzy Gillespie, and so this sentence will have to suffice. Keep listening.
Ben Gray is a listener with a lot of ideas about this music around in his head.
You know to check for what WBGO’s Radar is featuring by now, right? If not, now is as good a time as any to get hip to it. Sean Jones’ im.pro.vise – never before seen is up there for a limited time to preview. Jones’ trumpet has Orrin Evans’ piano, Lucques Curtis’ bass, and Obed Calvaire’s drums to accompany, and these four make the most of the material here. First and foremost: get yourself over there and listen to “I Don’t Give a Damn Blues” to hear this band dig in incredibly. Orrin Evans for president!
Ok, back already? If you’re not streaming the full album by now, a good next place to go might be their version of the standard “How High The Moon,” with Calvaire’s fantastic brushed drums and a great horn sound from Sean Jones. The album won’t be up there streaming forever, so now’s the time. Then go buy the album from Mack Avenue Records.
From July 17-19, the quartet will be playing live in NYC at the Jazz Standard.
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It’s not often one hears a debut album so clean, direct, smooth (but not smooth1), and focused. Young Chicago-based trumpeter Quentin Coaxum‘s Current is definitely one of those rare soulfully strong debuts.
There’s a “less is more” sense here, that if Coaxum’s songs were just songs — things you can listen to, nod your head to, hum along to (or figure out how to comp if you’re not feeling confident enough), and actually enjoy — that if you put a bunch of them together into an album it might just work. There’s no intellectual pretensions, no “playing for other musicians”, or any of that auditory mess. Yet these songs don’t lack for sophistication, either. The beats make little flips, the key changes here and there, the ballads beats juuust perfect enough for Chicago stepping. It’s all such a great listen.
Stu Mindeman on keys in every regard — piano, Rhodes, Wurlitzer organ, synths — has a clean, steady hand throughout, the kind of playing that seems ready to hold down the choir on a Sunday morning after playing a gig that Saturday night. There were many moments throughout the album that were shades of Enoch Smith, Jr. in all the right ways. The same could be said of drummer Marcus Evans, whose work on the kit cannot be ignored, even when just holding the beat. Christian Dillingham on upright bass for a good two-thirds of the album does a good job rounding out the rhythm section. He’s a pure bassist in the jazz regard and it’s the perfect mix in this wide-ranging group. Brian Doherty on electric bass stays perfectly in pocket for the other third of the album and gets things a little funkier on his selections without adding much bombast. Yet the pairing of Coaxum’s horn with tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi is really something. The two sound great together. Rounding out the personnel is Jeff Swanson on guitars who also seems to add the same clean tone to every song he’s on. He can sound like Benson on a breezy afternoon much of the time which in part brings much of the soul that runs throughout Current. These guys aren’t flashy, they’re talented but know just when to hold back and when to lean in.
“Brown Bear” is made for stepping. It’s pure Chicago. Feel free to spontaneously burst into your own version of two-stepping but this ballad is made for dancing and it will draw it out of you.
The synths on “2:00 AM” sound so reminiscent of Bilal’s “Love It”, or at least its spirit, that it’s hard to not smile at the vibe at the heart of this album. There’s a core sound flowing through it with tinges of hip-hop, gospel, soul, and plenty of R&B. Current is unapologetically but non confrontationally black. It’s not holding up a fist, but it’s definitely wearing its hair natural. By the time J. Arthur drops a verse on “Friends” (with Juan Pastor guesting on congas), it’s hardly a surprise; the track is just at home as everything else here.
Also, it must be said how great Justin “Justefan” Thomas’ guesting on vibraphone on “Lush” is, laying down a tone so fresh and smooth, it takes the ballad to new heights. It’s yet another great song on an album of great songs.
To hear such a collection of songs on a debut album really is a surprise that one would be sure to listen to on repeat all year long, or all the way up until the next time Quentin Coaxum drops some new work. If it’s as great as this, it’ll be something to look forward to.
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As per usual, Dave Douglas created an album that only he at only this point in his career could have made. All the killer Dave Douglas things are there: the excellent song choices that play to the strengths of the musicians, the soft but by no means weak tone, and the intelligence. I felt smarter after listening to Present Joys. Along with pianist Uri Caine, Douglas’ approach on this record sounds like Nas on Illmatic or the Grateful Dead at their live shows. He opens a channel into the middle of his musicianship and just lets it all flow out without anything superfluous or presumptuous.
With the spare instrumentation, having a great deal of variety can be a challenge. Douglas and Caine handle this masterfully throughout with “Seven Seas”, “End To End”, and “Zero Hour” being the best examples. Interestingly, Douglas never once puts in a mute, takes up a flugelhorn, or so much as puts his hand in the end of his trumpet, which requires him to spin all that variety from his own sound and mind. “Soar Away” displays variety in a different way that I’m quite partial to; a statement of a classical melody followed immediately by a jazz reinterpretation of it.
Of course, Uri Caine goes a long way towards creating variety, as well. He’s virtuosic without being flashy and provides the nourishment Douglas’ ideas need to continue to grow. The range of volume he elicits from the piano on the title track while still holding the established groove shows his connection to both instrument and bandmate. Douglas and Caine do right to shed the old jazz axiom of one instrument soloing while the other supports and vice versa. Instead, they both seem to constantly fluctuate between soloing and supporting. The lines get blurred. The definitions get messy. It’s fun.
Being just trumpet and piano, this album can at times feel very vulnerable; however, for every vulnerability exposed, there’s a section that fills the sonic space and pushes into an energy filled outburst. The obvious connection between these two musicians, they’ve played together in larger groups for years, and the music that they’re playing make Present Joys something intensely unique yet still quite relatable.
Present Joys is out July 22 on Greenleaf Music.
Alex Marianyi does weird music stuff sitting in his living room. You can follow him on Twitter, and he won’t even file a restraining order.
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Trumpeter Daniel Rosenboom‘s quintet’s debut album, Fire Keeper, marches forward with a certain kind of relentlessness. It’s definitely the kind of rambunctious, inventive kind of music that would describe a Steve Coleman composition or the latest David Binney album (by the way, Binney’s Anacapa is amazing and you should hear it if you haven’t already). The support from his group, particularly from Alexander Noice’s electric guitar, play up a rather common, but exciting direction jazz has been taking lately in the intermingling of rock sounds into the jazz canon, especially when touches of free jazz rear their heads. It’s rather challenging material, for the musicians involved and for the listener, but it’s worth a listen. Check it out streaming from Rosenboom’s new label’s, Orenda Records’, Bandcamp page after the jump.
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The ongoing work that is Radiclani Clytus and Gregg Conde’s documentary on Jason Moran, Grammar, is steadily moving forward. Today, the pair just released a ten-minute clip from the film, a look at the collaboration between Moran and conceptual artist Theaster Gates as the pair work on the premiere of “Looks of a Lot” at Chicago’s Symphony Orchestra Hall on May 30, 2014. Watch the video featuring The Bandwagon of Tarus Mateen & Nasheet Waits, Ken Vandermark, Katie Ernst, and the Kenwood Academy Jazz Band after the jump.
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I was actually live in the studio for this show as a kind of birthday celebration, so that was interesting. I don’t get the chance to do the show often so it was pretty fun coordinating pressing all the buttons at all the right times and only having one shot to get everything right. Mostly everything goes right this week.
The Line-Up for 11 July 2014
Medeski Martin & Wood + Nels Cline – Mescal
On the ride into the station this week, my friend Justin brought up Medeski, Martin, and Wood. I mentioned briefly that they have a mess of new albums out recently (and another one out this fall), so I tossed this song into the 1 spot as a shout out. Teebs – Yellow More New J.J. Wright – JTC II
JJ Wright is releasing his debut album, Inward Looking Outward, next month and I’m pretty sure this is an exclusive track release just now. Libstems – Daydream Sounds
I’ve been playing Daydream Sounds quite a bit over the last couple weeks so it’s natural that I’d play something on this week’s show. Chris Schlarb – Everybody Wants to Rule the World
I have to give a thousand thanks to Schlarb for such a great show on Thursday and for putting up with my being a step behind on stuff, particularly for my playing this secret 7″ that I’ll never mention again (so soak it up) at the wrong speed for the first few seconds Kris Bowers – Wonderlove feat. Chris Turner
In a show where I typically get to do whatever I want on a week where I’m indulging myself more than usual, I had to play one of my favorite songs of the year. Harvey Mason – Montara
I’m applying the same rationale for this song selection on top of my complete love of everything about Chameleon. Jonti – Twirligig Taylor Mcferrin / Robert Glasper / Thundercat / Marcus Gilmore – Already There
It’s insane how often I’ve been playing Early Riser since I’ve gotten it. Mark de Clive-Lowe – Sketch for Miguel
I really wanted to play this track, especially considering I hadn’t in a few weeks. It changed up the pace of the hour quite nicely. Menahan Street Band – Lights Out
I wanted to fill a little time and I felt suddenly compelled to play some Menahan Street Band. You can do that when you go live. Quentin Coaxum – Lush
I heard this album pretty quickly in my email and knew I wanted to play some of it on the air as soon as I could. Current is a very cool album. Makaya – Late Sex on Toast – How Do You Get There
I think there’s just enough time in the hour most of this whole song to play through, because the whole world needs to hear this amazingness in full, however the tail end did get cut off so you’ll have to hear it and cop it for yourself.
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