A documentary that explores the life and career of one of modern jazz’s best kept secrets – Kahil El’ Zabar. From El’ Zabar’s complicated personal life, and his path from celebrity in Paris to relative obscurity in Chicago and everywhere in between.
Director: Dwayne Johnson-Cochran
Writer: Dwayne Johnson-Cochran
Stars: Kahil El Zabar, Ernest Dawkins, Corey Wilkes
Release Date: 4th April 2014 (USA)
Now resident for the most part in continental Europe where he lectures in Germany, Manchester born pianist John Taylor returns with a sumptuous solo outing which above all else showcases a beautifully evocative suite devoted to the Lake District. Indeed, the album opens with the virtually twenty minute ‘Ambleside Suite’ which is divided up into three parts. The first, ‘Coniston’, in the intro features playing of Bach-esque refinement and this gives way to a joyful piece. Part two, ‘Dry Stone’, has a more Satie-esque tone and is arguably the finest performance on the CD. The final part, ‘Ambleside’, is by far the most expansive and there are shades of McCoy Tyner in the phrasing here. Two standards are included on the set including a gorgeous rendition of the reflective Duke Ellington ballad, ‘Reflections in D’ and the influence of Duke is certainly heard in some of the inserted phrasings on Taylor’s own composition, ‘Phrase the second’. For those not already familiar with Taylor’s impressive CV, his collaborative work has included playing with the Mike Gibbs orchestra, Stan Sulzmann and Kenny Wheeler, not to mention long-time collaborator John Surman. Full marks to Cam Jazz for the luxurious quality of the photos in the inner sleeve. In general there is a delicacy of touch and lyricism that is the hallmark of an immensely gifted and individualistic voice on the piano. John Taylor is presently is in a new and richly creative period of performing. Tim Stenhouse
Here is an interesting concept form the latest incarnation of the French national jazz orchestra, otherwise known as ONJ. Take a series of classic pop songs/instrumentals, rework them in a big band setting and then present them within the inner sleeve conceived as a collection of singles with art cover to compliment them in the vein of a mythical session from the Studio Vogue. In actual fact, the album was recorded in two sessions, partly in New York under the leadership of Michael Leonhardt who, among others, has worked with David Byrne and Brian Eno, the Dap Kings and Dr. John and Donald Fagen and Caetano Veloso.
A typically creative and stylish French effort, then, and equally with some surprising musical covers. These include from a French perspective an excellent instrumental take on Jean-Claude Vannier’s (he of Serge Gainsbourg collaborations and early 1970s soundtrack compositions and arrangements) ‘Je m’appelle Géraldine’, a lovely version of the main soundtrack music to François Truffaut’s ‘400 Coups’ (400 Blows). The eclecticism of the repertoire is exemplified by the inclusion of two 1980s pop classics ‘Everybody’s got to learn sometime’ and Talking Heads ‘Once in a lifetime’, both of which have new life breathed into them. For a left-field winner, the interpretation of cult singer Shuggie Otis’ ‘Rainy day/Strawberry letter’ will be a favourite. Of course no French-based formation could ignore the early work of Serge Gainsbourg himself and the album begins with a take on ‘Requiem pour un con’.
Trumpeter Booker Little belongs to that small elite of jazz musicians who died young while still in their prime (in Little’s case, the age of twenty-three), Clifford Brown and Farts Navarro, being notable others, and this two CD set does a wonderful job of bringing together the various sessions that were recorded between 1958 and 1961. Little in fact managed to cram an awful lot of top quality recordings into his precocious, yet brief life, and readers should also search out his sideman duties on seminal albums with John Coltrane (‘Africa Brass Sessions’), Eric Dolphy (‘Far Out’/’Live at the Five Spot’) and Max Roach (‘Percussion Bitter Sweet’/’We Insist! Freedom Now’) as well as with vocalist of the calibre of Bill Henderson and Abbey Lincoln. Possibly the best known of the albums featured on this anthology is ‘The Legendary Quartet’ album with Wynton Kelly and Tommy Flanagan alternating on piano, Scott La Faro on bass (another tragic victim who would die young) and Roy Haynes on drums and there is some sumptuous playing on this session. What a pity this quartet would not perform on record again. An earlier session from 1958 came about largely thanks to the help and support of Sonny Rollins and featured Max Roach on drums, Art Davis on bass and Tommy Flanagan on piano with George Coleman sharing horn duties on tenor saxophone.
Included here is the excellent 1961 session on Nat Hentoff’s Candid label ‘Out Front’ which for many is regarded by many (this writer included) as Little’s finest achievement as a leader and with a dynamite line up of Roach, Art Davis and Ron carter sharing bas duties, Eric Dolphy and trombonist Julian Priester, this is a fine example of how Little was already progressing to post-bop territory as well as highlighting what a fine composer he was. Of the slower material ‘Strength and Sanity’ is an excellent composition while in a more uptempo vein, both ‘Hazy Hues’ and ‘A New day’ fits the bill admirably. From roughly the same period, ‘Booker Little and Friends’ repeats the formula with Priester remaining and drummer Pete La Roca, bassist Reggie Workman and tenorist George Coleman ably assisting.
A beautifully illustrated booklet features the original album covers in their full splendour, original liner notes and a general and informative biography which makes for rewarding reading. Terrific value fro money at just over seventy-five minutes per CD. If anyone wishes to discover what post-bop hues sounded like on the trumpet in the late 1950s and early 1960s, this would be as good a place to start as any alongside the revolutionary musical works of Miles Davis.
DAZED presents a film by Jamie Roberts
A journey into the incredible archive of Dick Jewell, a visual artist obsessed with movement – both physical and cultural. Dick’s exotic subjects include Vivienne Westwood, Neneh Cherry, Grandmaster Flash, skinheads, B-boys, drag queens and rave dancers – to name just a few.
Read ukvibe’s interview with Dick Jewell here