Cannonball Adderley ‘Swingin’ In Seattle, Live At The Penthouse 1966-1967′ 2LP/CD (Reel to Real) 3/5

The first release on Real to Reel is a beautiful package. Full colour gatefold sleeve, a sumptuous 28-page booklet with rare photos, essays and interviews with sax man Vincent Herring, Cannonball’s long-time drummer Roy McCurdy and his widow Olga Adderley Chandler and all produced in cooperation with the Adderley Estate.

The music’s not bad either. Over two records we get the highlights of four live dates recorded in ’66 and ’67 by radio DJ, and the original engineer at the Penthouse, Jim Wilke for his broadcasts on KING-FM. He describes the Penthouse broadcasts as, “really old-school radio, live broadcasts on location. People heard great music played right as they listened in their cars and they’d come to the club to catch the second set.”

They might be “old school radio” but the tapes have cleaned up really well, sounding fresh and vibrant and capturing a stellar band at its peak. The quintet features brother Nat on Cornet and one of the very tightest rhythm sections around Roy McCurdy, Joe Zawinul and Victor Gaskin.

The first set begins with a heavy swinging cover of Jimmy Heath’s ‘Big P’ with the band led by Gaskins taut bass line, creating the perfect canvas for the brother’s fierce solos.

Nat and Cannonball keep up the pace on a rollicking version of ‘Sticks’ and ‘Back Home Blues’ and the band cut loose on a very funky take on Zawinul’s ’74 Miles Away’ and a straight-ahead reading of ‘Hippodelphia’.

Elsewhere there are plenty of show and film tunes. I could easily live without the bland but pretty version of Judy Garland’s ‘The Girl Next Door’, but ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story gives the band plenty of time to stretch out and even though you’ve heard it a million times before Joe Zawinul’s soulful playing reminds us all what a fantastic tune ‘Mahna De Carnival’ really is.

The only question that needs to be asked is do we really need another Live Cannonball record? Particularly with ’74 Miles Away’ and ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ both easily available and charting the same band at around the same time. Sadly, I’ve got to say no. The packaging is marvellous and so is a lot of the music but it’s really only one for The Cannonball completists.

Nick Schlittner

Read also:
Cannonball Adderley Quintet ‘You Got To Pay The Price To Be Free’ (Real Gone Music) 4/5
Cannonball Adderley ‘Complete Live in Tokyo 1963’ 2CD (Solar Records) 5/5
Cannonball Adderley ‘Music You All’ (Real Gone Music/Dusty Groove) 4/5

Rigmor Gustaffson ‘Come Home’ CD (ACT Music) 3/5

Swedish singer Rigmor Gustaffson is something of a halfway house between a singer-songwriter of folk and pop material and a jazz-tinged interpreter. Seven of the songs have been co-written by her with some of the lyrics composed by Andreas Mattsson. Backed by an organic sounding piano trio, the instrumentation has a strong jazz input, but the voice surely has a more global audience in mind. That is emphasized for example on Gustaffson’s take on the Kate Bush song, ‘Wuthering Heights’, which features the famous piano intro and even the high-pitched vocal delivery. Indeed, for these ears it is a bit too similar. Contrast that performance with the earthier jazz-blues immediacy of Joni Mitchell’s, ‘Big yellow taxi’, and one finally hears what the singer is truly capable of, with fine minor piano soloing throughout from Jonas Östholm. Another nod to the blues is where the bass line of Martin Höper combines with the piano for a groove-laden effort is, ‘Enjoy the day’, and here the high-pitched vocals recall Blossom Dearie. In a jazzier vein, ‘Lovely’, is notable for some delicate percussion work from drummer Chris Montgomery, and this is arguably the strongest performance on the entire album. Accordionist Lisa Långbacka guests on a cover of a Tanita Tikaram song, ‘Twist in my sobriety’. Unquestionably there are different sides to Rigmor Gustaffson and that versatility will itself serve her well, but the question nonetheless needs to be posed: What kind of singer does she want to be? Jazz vocalist, folk or pop singer, or all three?

Tim Stenhouse

Javier Girotto Trio ‘Tango Nuevo Revisited’ CD (ACT Music) 4/5

In the evolution of tango, one towering figure emerges who revolutionized the sound, thus creating a new hybrid called tango Nuevo, and that is bandoneon maestro Astor Piazzolla. One of his major innovations was to fuse traditional Argentine tango with modern jazz and a specific project from 1974, a duet album with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, serves as the inspiration for this new recording that revisits that album in an updated musical setting that includes electronica. Argentine saxophonist Javier Girotto discovered tango nuevo aged just ten, and was drawn to the album between Piazzolla and Mulligan that drew the two musical worlds together. Piazzolla received death threats for daring to modernize tango, traditionalists being in uproar at the every idea. In actual fact, the two genres blend effortlessly while retaining the very essence of tango. Fast forward to the present and ACT producer Siggi Loch has a direct connection between the two projects insofar as it was under his supervision that Atlantic records in Europe released the 1974 album a year later. Now resident in Italy, Javier Girotto formed his own trio to perform the music he so loves.

In fact, Girotto keeps to a pared down chamber jazz formation with Gianni Lorio on bandoneon and Alessandro Gwis on piano and electronics and it is the influence of minimalism that can be heard on the lengthy nine and a half minute, ‘Reminiscence’, where piano and bandoneon enter into a duet, before the piano goes up and down the scales to thrilling effect. All but two compositions are Piazzolla originals. This writer warmed to the interplay between the trio as exemplified on the opener, ‘Close your eyes and listen’, with Girotto caressing the baritone saxophone to create a sweetness of sound and it should be stated that in the right hands, the baritone saxophone can be made to reproduce the feel of an alto, far gentler than one might imagine. Back in the 1950s Serge Chaloff was a major practitioner capable of achieving wonderful results on that instrument, with, ‘Blue Serge’, a landmark recording. However, this is not a note for note recreation and the addition of electronica on, ‘Deus Xango’, does take a few listens, but the tango is still at the heart of the music. Of the two Mulligan compositions interpreted, the atmospheric and nocturnal, ‘Aire de Buenos Aires’, impresses most with piano and baritone in tandem. A fine fusion album, then, and, alongside the roots of more traditional tango, tango Nuevo deserves its own meritocratic place, and one moreover that merely enhances the image of the music worldwide.

Tim Stenhouse

Chris Potter ‘Circuits’ 2LP/CD (Edition) 4/5

Reedman Chris Potter is undoubtedly one of the most inventive and consistently brilliant musicians of his generation. Not only does he have the gift of composing his own incredible music, but he always excels at raising the bar when performing as a sideman or frontman in whatever group of musicians he works with. There’s such an incomparable grace and fluency to his playing that any recording featuring his talents is rarely anything less than inspiring.

Recent ECM releases have seen Potter move away from his earlier hard bop, funk-driven outings with his Underground band, to a more serene and subtle flow of reflection and compositional thoughtfulness. Less spontaneous, more studious. And then there’s the awesome partnership with Pat Metheny on the Unity Band sessions, truly remarkable performances from both musicians, Potter for his inspirational virtuosity, Metheny for what was perhaps a fresh reinvigoration to be working with a saxophonist once again (following his 80’s performances with Michael Brecker of course). And to further understand Potter’s true skill, it is worth going back to Paul Motian’s album “Lost In A Dream” to experience Potter’s mastery at work.

But for me, it’s hard to better some of those Underground recordings. Their raw edge and sustained improvisational magnificence will always stand the test of time. They still have that wow factor that few albums of any genre can boast.

“Circuits” is a kind of hybrid Underground back to the future thing. With Potter on saxes, clarinets, flutes, guitars, keys, percussion and samples, Eric Harland on drums, James Francies on keyboards and Linley Marthe on electric bass, the grooves are hard and the improv courageous. This foursome take no prisoners, their speed and fluency just jaw dropping at times. The quartet seem to gel perfectly, this being reflected in the apparent fervent joy of the music blasting out from my speakers.

If “Invocation” invites us in, with its beguiling promise of what may lie ahead, the anticipation quickly turns to a groove-laden dramatic fervour as “Hold It” bursts into life, like a confirmation that the prodigal son has returned. The energy and uplifting nature of the music continues with the melodically alluring “The Nerve”. There’s an African feel to “Koutome”, and the feverish title track is both futuristic and intelligent as the band pull out surprise after surprise in textures and breathless interplay. “Green Pastures” is one of my favourite pieces on the album, it’s like a Potter signature tune and has absolutely everything going for it. “Queens of Brooklyn” gives a little rest-bite as a more reflective, tranquil tune, before the two final killer tracks “Exclamation” and “Pressed For Time”. These two tunes sum up everything that is so good about this album, Potter and co at their funkiliciously groove-laden best.

Put succinctly, this is the album Chris Potter “Underground” fans have been waiting for. It doesn’t quite live up to the heady days of “Follow The Red Line”, and it isn’t quite that blindingly obvious 5 star album as a whole, but it’s pretty darn close on both counts.

Mike Gates

Read also:
Chris Potter’s Underground Orchestra ‘Imaginary Cities’ (ECM) 3/5
Chris Potter ‘The Dreamer Is The Dream’ (ECM) 4/5

Tensei ‘Constellate’ (Tokyo Dawn) 4/5

Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, the production duo of Tensei – consisting of Chris Kramer and Midas Wells – release their brand new project, ‘Constellate’, thus adding their names to the city’s rich musical tapestry established by icons including Curtis Mayfield, Louis Armstrong and Earth, Wind & Fire.

Spearheaded by the single ‘Liquid Tongues’ and its accompanying ethereal video, ‘Constellate’ suitably finds its home as part of the German label Tokyo Dawn Records, along with projects by label-mates Daz-I-Kue, OPOLOPO and Reggie B, carrying the torch for their “future funk and eclectic jazz” aesthetic.

‘Constellate’ serves as an exciting melting pot of musical styles with a sound rooted in hip-hop just as much as it is in jazz and the spectrum of styles in between, from soul to house and nu-soul. Thus far, Tensei have taken pride in never delivering the same project twice – each of the duo’s releases showcase an entirely new direction with Kramer and Wells seeming to relish the opportunities to navigate between genres and styles. In this case, Tensei’s vision is realised by an eclectic array of vocalists, rappers and musicians…

The sweet soul of ‘Amazing’ with multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter Sam Trump, and the afro-centric rhythms of ‘Ask Them’ (featuring Yaw and Najite Olokun Prophecy) are two standout tracks; former Prince collaborator and New Power Generation member Liv Warfield guests on another of the project’s strongest numbers ‘What If’, and A. Billi Free excels on the brilliant ‘Constellate’ opener mentioned at the top of this article, ‘Liquid Tongues’, which also boasts an appearance by Brandee Younger – harp in hand – adding a beautiful, dreamy texture to Tensei’s production.

While some tracks suggest the genesis of new relationships, others serve as continuations for long-term past collaborations like the aforementioned Younger, who can also be found as a part of Tensei projects as far back as their 2012 release, ‘Tensei One EP’. Dirty Science rapper, ADaD also falls into that category with his appearances on the same project as well as their joint January 2018 release ‘Danger Us’.

For a project clearly not short on ideas, a few more tracks than the seven presented here would have been more than welcome, but as mentioned, Tensei have an exciting online catalogue of music for fans to dig into – ‘Various Productions and Remixes’ from 2015 for example works as a further show-reel when discussing Wells and Kramer’s versatility as demonstrated through their reworkings of tracks by Anderson .Paak, Tall Black Guy and Bilal. While ‘Constellate’ may very well prove to be their most accomplished work yet, their relationship with Tokyo Dawn Records now whets the appetite for what may come next.

Imran Mirza

Jeff Ballard ‘Fairgrounds’ LP/CD (Edition) 3/5

It’s strange to think that this is only Jeff Ballard’s second album release as band leader. For well over a decade the US drummer has been one third of Brad Mehldau’s trio, and he has worked with numerous jazz luminaries such as Pat Metheny and Chick Corea. His first album, “Time’s Tales”, released five years ago, received excellent reviews worldwide and for many was one of the highlights of that year.

Ballard is one of those drummers that makes you sit up and listen. Whether he’s playing straight-ahead jazz or experimental soundscapes, he brings an energy to the proceedings that can excite through vivacious fervour, or hit you emotionally through subtlety and introspection. And so it was with much anticipation that I hit “play” on this one.

Having listened to “Fairgrounds” several times over for a few weeks now, my considered reaction is the same as my initial reaction… it’s a bit of an odd one. In a good way mostly, but also somewhat disappointingly in other ways. The band line-up is an enticingly intriguing one, with Lionel Loueke on guitar and vocals, Kevin Hays on keyboards, piano and vocals, Reid Anderson on electronics and Pete Rende on piano and Rhodes. There are guest appearances from saxophonists Chris Cheek and Mark Turner.

For me, there are individual moments of brilliance, but as a coherent whole, it is left lacking somewhat. Ballard’s desire for all the players to feel “an absolute freedom to play (or not) whatever they want at any given time” is a brave one. And there are times where this philosophy works beautifully. It’s the pay-off you get for this way of making music I suppose, you have to take the rough results with the smooth ones. The experimental approach can be richly rewarding, but also disappointing at times. I’ll take the excellent “Twelve8”, “Grounds Entrance”, “Cherokee Rose”, “Grungy Brew” and “Yeah Pete”, but I’ll leave the mediocre rest.

Summarising, I have really enjoyed listening to “Fairgrounds”. There are on some levels quite brilliant musicianship, perhaps as one might expect from the musicians involved, yet on other levels too many questions and contradictions, musically and otherwise. The Edition press release states that this album “sees the US drummer set on a new trajectory of increased recorded output, focus as a bandleader with a new home at British label, Edition Records.” And I certainly hope that’s the case as I relish the prospect of new music from Ballard and Edition in the near future. However, why is it that “Fairgrounds” is only being released now in 2019, when it was actually recorded in March 2015, nearly four years ago? Hardly “new” really. Surely Ballard himself has moved on musically since then, so what and when will we be hearing soon? Questions and contradictions… sounds like a good album title to me.

Mike Gates

Mark Lockheart ‘Days on Earth’ CD (Edition) 4/5

In the 1960s and 1970s British jazz made a major contribution to larger orchestral works and it seems that with this in mind, saxophonist Mark Lockheart has been inspired to compose his own work and one that marks his most ambitious project to date. The lush orchestral opening to ‘A View From Above’ certainly harks back to the 1950s, and, if anything, owes a debt of gratitude to the work of Gil Evans whose influences permeates proceedings. Lockheart operates on a soaring saxophone in the background while the epic sounds of strings are in the ascendancy. A personal favourite is the ballad, ‘Triana’, which would be ideal on a film soundtrack with gorgeous horns and strings straight out of the Debussy/Ravel school. Of interest equally is the pared down use of piano by Liam Noble and there is a gentle build up of tension with a Spanish tinge feel. On other pieces such as ‘Brave World’, the music has a strong film soundtrack quality and with this extended formation parallels are inevitable. Throughout proceedings, the warmth of the tenor solos by the leader shines through, and the originality and quirkiness of the orchestrations is illustrated by ‘This Much Is True’, performed to a quasi-bossa nova drum beat and with dissonant phrasings by the horns.

Of the uptempo numbers, the soul-jazz piano riff to ‘Party Animal’, is appealing with appropriate wailing from the woodwind section. With an inner core comprising John Parricelli on guitar, Tom Herbert on bass, Seb Rochford on drums and not forgetting Liam Noble on piano, this is a band capable of some fireworks. Factor in a welcome return of flautist Rowland Sutherland, a veteran of the UK jazz scene and leader in his own right, and you have one fine album.

Tim Stenhouse

Read also: Malija ‘The Day I Had Everything’ LP/CD (Edition) 4/5

Yiddish Glory ‘The Lost Songs Of World War II’ CD (Six Degrees) 4/5

Commemorating the Holocaust memorial is that most solemn of circumstances, but out of the very worst of the human condition comes something far more positive and that the label Six Degrees deserves credit for releasing via academic research in Canada, and more especially, as a result of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada grant. Three years in completion, this Soviet-based Yiddish music was kept for posterity thanks to the sterling efforts of ethnomusicologists from the former Soviet Union, and the major loss of human life in that nation should never be underestimated. None of the music composed has been performed since 1947 and thus this is the first time that the music has been heard by a wider public in over seventy years. Now part of modern-day Ukraine, the government in Kiev has created a Cabinet for Jewish Culture and the music within this CD chronicles a pivotal era in history for the Jewish diaspora. The primary aim was to publish an anthology of songs, but it was an ambition that was never realised at the time due to the arrest of a key figure, Moisei Beregovsky, who was captured during Stalin’s anti-Jewish purge. The music lay dormant and unheard until in the 1990s a librarian at the National Library of Ukraine discovered an unnamed box including documents. This is the first catalogue that has been created since the original one was destroyed during the 1940s. With the aid of translators, the songs lyrics are henceforth available in both English and Yiddish versions in the well illustrated inner sleeve and individual details on each of the song tell their own story. Of major historical interest, the songs constitute primary source testimonies of Nazi German atrocities, and provide detailed accounts in particular of how Red Army soldiers experienced life in the trenches. What is less well-known is that approximately 440,000 Jews enlisted in the army in World War II. Musical accompaniment has recreated the original feel with the sound of the piano and guitar, of accordion, clarinet and even trumpet and this adds an authentic slice of folk music and that can be enjoyed in its own right. Some of the songs challenge the established wisdom of how Soviet Jews made sense of the war. As a whole, what this project demonstrates is that music has the capacity to reveal the truth and, perhaps, that is the greatest accomplishment of this praiseworthy academic/musical project: the music within has opened the door to a wider understanding of what really happened with songs that Hitler and Stalin believed ought to be silenced and did everything in their power to try to suppress.

Tim Stenhouse

Read also: Talila ‘Le Temps Des Bonheurs’ CD (Naïve) 4/5

Ustad Saami ‘God Is Not a Terrorist’ LP/CD (Glitterbeat) 4/5

The fifth volume in the ‘Hidden Musics’ series and produced by Ian Brennan, devoted to world roots musicians, here is an album of devotional music from the Indian subcontinent which has both a contemporary and universal message. The origins of the music go back to the thirteenth century and are rooted in Karachi, the modern-day capital of the province of Sindh. Ustad Saaami is now a seventy-five year old polyglot, equally versatile in Farsi and Hindi as he is in Sanskrit. The music needs to be digested as a whole with pieces blending into one another and where the mind and soul of the listener are transported into an entirely different musical universe. That is achieved partly with the aid of a drone-like sounding instrument with chanted vocal harmonies, illustrated on the title track opener. What is important to bear in mind is that there is a logical development in the musical continuum and this the second number, ‘My Beloved Is On The Way. with tabla accompaniment, follows on directly from the first piece. On an evocative piece such as ‘Twilight’ – the sound of the drone is pervasive with wordless chants and tabla operating in unison and this captures that early morning feel when life is slowly starting up again. Added to the other instruments, the sound of the harmonium, a rough equivalent of the accordion, can be heard on ‘Hymn’, which is all too brief and the message self-evident. Three out of the six pieces on offer exceed the ten minute mark and this is the kind of music that has to be listened to in its entirety rather than sampled individually. Interestingly the surname of the singer Saami translates into English as ‘To Hear’. For those in a deeply contemplative mood, an ideal listening experience.

Tim Stenhouse

Cal Tjader ‘Four Classic Albums’ 2CD (Avid Jazz) 4/5

Amid the plethora of Cal Tjader re-issues and box sets now available, Avid still offer outstanding individual coverage with four albums that present contrasting images of the Tjader sound. The first CD focuses on the early period of Cal Tjader as a leader, developing his own individual style after working as vibraphonist as part of the George Shearing quartet. The album, ‘Tjader plays Tjazz’, features pared down quartet and quintet formats from 1954/5, including the likes of Eddie Duran on guitar, Al McKibbon and Eugene Wright on bass, and these were well received at the time, so much so that Tjader became the recipient of the Downbeat ‘New star of the vibes’, award in 1955. The first album is essentially of standard interpretations in a West Coast jazz setting and include a homage to Kansas City and the music of Count Basie on, ‘Moten swing’, while the Great American songbook is revisited on, ‘Imagination’, ‘I’ve never been in love before, and even, ‘Jeepers Creepers’. Fast forward three years and by the second album, ‘San Francisco Moods’ (1958), Tjader was now developing a talent as a composer and that is reflected in the large number of self-penned pieces. Of particular note is the inclusion of Latin Jazz number that would become a staple of the Tjader repertoire, ‘Viva Cepeda’. In fact, it would become a Latin Jazz standard of sorts and was reprised by Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apaché. With the recent death of Gonzalez in his adopted Spain, aged sixty-nine, this number takes on a deeper significance.

If percussionists Willie Bobo and Mongo Santamaria make only a fleeting presence on, ‘San Francisco Moods’, they are all over the double album that became a classic example of Afro-Cuban Jazz, ‘Concerts by the sea, parts one and two’. By then, the Cal Tjader Latin formation was maturing and comprised Paul Horn on flute, Lonnie Hewitt on piano, Al McKibbon on bass and the twin percussion discussion of Bobo and Santamaria. The fast-paced, ‘Tu crees que’, is here as are, ‘Afro Blue’ and ‘Doxy’, the latter a real favourite of the leader and a much later version surfaced on Concord Picante. A personal delight is the take on, ‘A night in Tunisia’, while for jazz balladeers, ‘Bess you is my woman’, ‘Love come back to me, and, ‘Round about midnight’, demonstrate that Tjader and his band could still perform in a straight ahead context. Full discographical details as one might expect from an Avid re-issue and with complete back cover notes which often shed new light on the recordings.

Tim Stenhouse

Read also: Stan Getz and Cal Tjader ‘Sextet’ (Original Jazz Classics/Universal) 4/5