Category Archives: Album Reviews

Desmond Dekker ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want’ Expanded CD (Doctor Bird) 4/5

As indicated in the authoritative inner sleeve notes, singer Desmond Dekker auditioned at Beverly’s in Jamaica while both Jimmy Cliff and Derek Morgan were in the studios. So impressed was Morgan by Dekker’s compositional talents and vocal delivery that the young vocalist was invited back, proving to be the beginning of a highly successful career. While this writer is especially fond of the early work (and watch out in these columns for a forthcoming anthology of that work), this present re-issues focuses attention on his singles between 1970 and 1975, when Dekker was gaining much wider attention beyond the shores of Jamaica and started making series inroads into the UK pop market. The title track became a massive pop hit, going all the way to the number two spot in the charts, and is characteristic of a period at the beginning of the 1970s when reggae seemingly ruled supreme, with a new generation of youth turned on to this intoxicating young sound.

Desmond Dekker was born in Kingston in 1941, but subsequently moved to the Parish of Seaford, St. Thomas. His early musical influences were those of American soul and jazz singers, most notably Nat ‘King’ Cole, Brook Benton, but also Jackie Wilson and The Platters. The fact of the matter is that in the newly independent Jamaica, barely five years old, young Jamaicans were tuning into American radio stations, being inspired by those sounds, but in the process, beginning to create a musical voice that was uniquely Jamaican. While nothing quite matched up to the title track of the album, and it is a de facto anthem for Dekker and early reggae music in general, the singer enjoyed further success with the excellent ‘Pickney Gal’, which also came out as a 45. Where this selection is particularly useful is with the bonus 45s that provide a wider overview of Dekker’s career as he became a household name in the UK charts. Among these additional singles, pride of place must go to ‘Beware’, which remains a firm favourite and was another, albeit lesser, chart success. Sadly, just as Desmond Dekker hit big in the UK, studio producer Leslie Kong suffered a fatal heart attack aged just thirty-seven in 1971. Not necessarily definitive Dekker, and with a greater emphasis on the crossover side to his career, but incredibly catchy music all the same. Informative sleeve notes are supplied by reggae historian Noel Hawke and with the usual attention to detail that has become a hallmark of these exemplary reggae re-issues, beautifully illustrated graphical illustrations that include a plethora of original 45 labels, concert flyers from the era and photos.

In 2017, Real Gone Music reissued the album on vinyl for the first time since its original release, featuring 12 tracks. This expanded CD from Doctor Bird take matters further in 2018 with a total of 23 songs, and for the very first time on CD.

Tim Stenhouse

The Maytals ‘Monkey Man’ / ‘From The Roots’ CD (Doctor Bird) 5/5

Toots Hibbert largely missed out on the Rock Steady era as a result of being incarcerated in 1966. However, upon release, his fortunes would change for the better and these two wonderful albums, that typify the early reggae sound, are evidence of the new sound that reached the UK via Trojan. Recorded by Leslie Kong for Beverley’s in Jamaica, the gospel-flavoured vocals immediately convey the soulful nature of the music, although the lyrics are secular in content. One of the key songs is the immortal ‘Pressure Drop’, and if one had to condense the history of reggae down to twenty songs, that one would surely feature on most aficionado’s lists – it is simply that compelling a number. Of course, the title track of ‘Monkey’ has become an enduring classic and one of several signature tunes for Toots in live performance, while a cover of John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace A Chance’, reveals that Hibbert was a keen listener of other singer-songwriters. He would later cover John Denver’s pop-country song, ‘Country Roads’. Other terrific compositions include ‘The Preacher’, ‘African Doctor (aka Doctor Lester)’ and ‘She’s My Scorcher’. Coupled with that 1970 album is ‘From The Roots’, which was released in 1973. While the songs are not quite as immediate as its predecessor, the music is still of a consistently high quality with Toot’s ability to tell a story to the fore. For fans of roots, ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, will appeal whilst ‘One Eye Enos’ has a classic story line. In this expanded edition, three bonus cuts include alternate takes on ‘Monkey Man’, ‘She’s My Scorcher’ and ‘African Doctor’.

Inner sleeve notes here are by the regular contributor to blues, gospel and soul re-issues on ACE records, Tony Rounce, who rightly indicates the universal appeal of the singer. It is probably true to say that had Toots Hibbert been born in the United States, he could have made a successful career as a soul singer, and later in his career, he did precisely that, cutting an album in Memphis that comes highly recommended. Excellent use of graphics with label covers of the 45s from Jamaica via Beverley’s and a variety of UK labels, with the original LPs now extremely rare. One of the all-time greats of Jamaican music, this is a fine pairing of albums from a figure who is like a fine wine in that he has just got better with time. The good news for reggae fans is that Toots and the Maytals are returning to Europe this summer for a whole series of live concerts so make sure you are tuned in. As a live musical experience, they are one of the very greatest exponents of reggae music and not to be missed.

Tim Stenhouse

Eliane Elias ‘Music from Man of La Mancha’ CD (Concord Jazz) 4/5

Brazilian pianist Eliane Elias returns with a piano trio concept album which has the compositions of a Broadway musical from 1964 as its creative genesis. She is accompanied by Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette on some of the tracks, and bassist and husband Marc Johnson and drummer Satoshi Takeishi on drums elsewhere, with Manolo Badrena on added percussion. The music itself was originally inspired by the masterpiece novel in the seventeenth century by Miguel de Cervantes, ‘Don Quixote’, and to this writer’s knowledge, this is the first time that any jazz musician has seen fit to translate this into a jazz idiom, at least as comprehensively as this. Needless to say, there is a strong and distinctive Spanish tinge to the music and that makes the album all the more interesting. The nearest thing Elias has previously attempted was her trio exploration of the Americas in the late 1990s, and that was a truly outstanding recording. This new project is more narrowly focused and this allows the music to be centre stage, with the intimacy of the trio prioritised and what a fine piece of work has resulted.A gently lifting, ‘What Does He Want Of Me?’, features some moody blues inflections, while the superb interplay between trio and some sensitive work from DeJohnette and subtle nuances of tone by Elias are a highlight of ‘It’s All The Same’. That subtlety extends to the use of percussion on, ‘The Barber’s Song’, which has a rich Spanish feel, though underneath is a gentle nod to Brazilian Baião rhythms. One of the strongest numbers has a terrific Latin vamp on, ‘I’m Only Thinking of Him’, which has an upbeat bossa drum beat, and Elias is at her most natural Brazilian best. Meanwhile, a samba-jazz reading of, ‘The Impossible Dream’, works a treat. Lovely bass soloing from Gomez on the gorgeous ballad, ‘Dulcinea’, rounds off a lovely trio outing. As ever, with any Eliane Elias album, the cover photos always aim to dazzle and impress. On this occasion, however, the look is more restrained and the pose almost flamenco dance-esque, with the pianist in Spanish señorita mode, complete with a red flower in her hair.

Tim Stenhouse

Mariza ‘Mariza’ CD (Warner Portugal) 4/5

Portuguese fado singer returns for her third album produced in Madrid by Javier Limón and adopting a more traditional take on fado that nonetheless adds new territory with excursions into Brazilian percussion, pop and classical sounds. This writer has always warmed to Mariza’s quirky mid-tempo numbers and on this occasion, ‘Amor Perfeito’, has an immediacy that catches one’s attention, with a shuffling drum beat and Afro-Brazilian influences in the use of percussion, and that joyful emotive delivery that Mariza has made her own is deployed to great effect also on, ‘Fado Errado (feat. Maria Da Fé)’. It is Mariza’s no-nonsense straight down to business approach that comes across on ‘É Mentira’, which is an uptempo song plus flute. In fact, those African influences extend elsewhere on ‘Oi Nha Mãe’, which is notable for the uplifting melody, while in stark contrast, the pared down guitar and voice accompaniment of ‘Oração’ still appeals with the prettiest of melodies. Musical horizons are widened with a spoken monologue to the Afro-Portuguese sounding ‘Verde Limão’. Cellist Jacques Morelenbaum guests and it his refined classical approach combined with fado that entices the listener on ‘Semente Viva (feat. Jaques Morelenbaum)’. That fado can deal with current socio-political issues is indicated on ‘Fado Refúgio’, in homage to those who may be suffering, but are certainly not forgotten. A strong return to form, then, and that Afro-Portuguese heritage is definitely one side of her music that Mariza would do well to explore in greater detail on subsequent albums.

Tim Stenhouse

Kassin ‘Relax’ LP/CD/DIG (Luaka Bop) 5/5

If the esoteric front cover with futuristic pose and photo of Kassin covered in ‘hundreds and thousands’ seems a tad confusing, then the music within is sublime and one of the best new Brazilian releases in many a year. First of all, a few details on the artist. Kassin is a singer-songwriter and keyboardist who is a close friend and collaborator of Moreno Veloso, son of Brazilian post-Tropicalia legend, Caetano Veloso. In fact, Kassin gained useful experience performing on tour with the elder Veloso, but this is very much his own album. As an arranger, Kassin was in charge of the Orchestra Imperial project and that has served him extremely well here where soul and funk-tinged grooves require tight rhythm sections with flute and brass.

The backdrop to the album as a whole is, surprisingly given the uptempo sound, the recent divorce that Kassin has gone through, and it seems once again that when an artist expresses in music the very act of suffering, that tends to make for an exhilarating musical experience as with Amy Winehouse. It has to be stated that, although the subject matter expressed in Portuguese is deeply serious, the music itself is actually joyous and uplifting, with a nod to the past in Brazilian music, echoing the keyboard prowess of Joao Donato and Walter Wanderley, but still very much couched in the present. Indeed, it is Kassin’s ability to move between past and present that creates the artistic tension that makes this album such a wonderful listen.

That atmosphere is created from the outset on the opener, ‘Compromidos Demais'(‘Overpriced pills’), with quirky keyboard notes, and the perfect accompaniment to a scorching hot summer’s day. That floating 1960s ambience with a strong cinematic feel permeates ‘O Anestesista’ (‘The anethesis’). It is true to say that in parts the music does adopt a slightly darker tone, as with ‘A Paisagem Morta’ (‘Dead landscape’), which is a bossa nova in character and conveys the initial moments of a break up. Furthermore, in the mid-tempo, ‘As Coisas Que Nos Não Fizemos’ (‘The things we do not do’), Kassin reflects no how with the divorce he and his former partner have failed each other. If that sounds off-putting, then only a good understanding of lyrics in Portuguese would make you aware of that. A real favourite is the party mood funk groove of ‘Momento de Clareza’ (‘Moment of clarity’), which contains the most subtle of riffs and is a grower of a song. Moody bass lines, Fender Rhodes and rhythm guitar are a consistent feature on this album. Just about the only aspect that does need rectifying is the impossible to decipher lyrics which are in a minute font size in red over a black background, though in fairness the lavish gatefold sleeve is a visual delight. Even with lyrics in both English and Portuguese they are near impossible to fathom without a magnifying glass. Otherwise, this is quite simply one of the albums of the year and by a clear distance the best new Brazilian recording that this writer has heard in some time. For that alone, Kassin deserves some newly found happiness in his life.

Tim Stenhouse

Gordon Beck ‘Jubilation! Trios, Quartets and Septets in Session 1964-1984’ 3CD Box Set (Turtle) 5/5

Older generation. Younger generation. As what is now being termed by some as the British jazz renaissance (as with other previous ones, one can seriously question the validity of the music ever dying away in the first place) gathers pace, it is important to take stock of the situation and examine some of the key figures of previous generations who have contributed in no small part to the richness and vitality of the current scene. One musician who has largely gone under the radar and yet who turns up on some of the seminal UK jazz recordings of the 1960s as a sideman is pianist Gordon Beck, who recorded on albums by Tubby Hayes as well as the stunning ‘Sound Venture’ album with the Harry South Big Band and vocalist Georgie Fame. While his own albums as a leader are near impossible to find on original vinyl, other than in inflated auction lists, this new box set has the considerable merit of grouping together just some of his output in a variety of settings from solo to trio and from quartet to septet. Moreover, it covers both studio and live, released and unissued and largely improvised material, and both acoustic and even electric piano formats and chronologically covers the period from the mid-1960s through to the mid-1980s, which in itself probably takes in at least two other ‘jazz renaissances’. This raises an immediate question for the reviewer: who exactly is Gordon Beck the musician and which of these hats does he most faithfully occupy? The reality is that Gordon Beck was someone who adapted to different musical environments, possibly because he was used to performing as a sideman to vocalists such as Helen Merrill, Mark Murphy and Jimmy Witherspoon. Indeed, Beck enjoyed a close musical relationship with tenorist Pete King, and a piano trio rapport with bassist Ron Matthewson and drummer Tony Oxley. While there are no examples here of his work with King, the piano trio performances are thankfully included.

The first CD focuses mainly on Beck’s trio work from the mid-1960s and his major piano influences were the soul-blues styles of Red Garland Wynton Kelly and Bobby Timmons, but above all else, Bill Evans. Indeed, he would much later record a tribute album, ‘Seven Steps to Evans’, and this writer for one would like to see that re-issued at some stage. As a composer, Beck impresses on ‘Suite Number One’ and, the aptly titled ‘Motifs’ (he would record several of these as illustrated on the rest of the box set under different titles), while his command of the standard repertoire is demonstrated on a lilting waltz-like, ‘Speak Low’ and a brisk and breezy reading of ‘Airegin’. By 1972, Beck was already exploring with an expanded septet and this opened up a new chapter of his work, with extended improvisations that invariably weave in famous compositions, such as Miles Davis’ ‘Blues In Green’, for example.

A second CD is noteworthy for his work on his own material and that includes solo electric piano work from the 1970s such as ‘Suite: Bits and Pieces’, which, had it been released by the likes of Herbie Hancock on a Japanese only album, would now be regarded as a mini masterpiece, but has simply been ignored. It is a delightful treasure and the delicate musings within are a major highlight, and reveal an artist who is well in tune with what is happening further afield in music and adept to evolve, with the example of a maturing Stevie Wonder in exploratory mood on keyboards just like Hancock was with the Headhunters. Another influence with the continued use of motifs is Chick Corea from his ECM period, and that becomes evident, not only on ‘Suite: Bits and Pieces’, but equally on the mammoth forty minute untitled improvisation that ends the second CD, and even some of the third CD, once again devoted to Beck’s own compositions and including a further two untitled pieces. Once again, it is his solo work on acoustic piano this time that impresses most with ‘Thoughts’, a typically reflective number.

An exemplary thirty-six page inner sleeve has been painstakingly compiled by Simon Spillett and Colin Harper, with numerous black and white photos of Beck in performance and with other musicians, flyers of concerts, and colour reproductions of the original albums, all in a top quality sleeve that is deserving of an award in itself. Gordon Beck occupies a tiny space in even the most comprehensive of books on post World War II British jazz, yet his canon of work is at once varied and of a consistently high quality. This outstanding box set should be seen as the first installment of a re-investigation of his largely neglected career by the jazz media and begin to set the history books right in their analysis of this much underrated musician.

Tim Stenhouse

Robert Nighthawk ‘The Robert Nighthawk Collection 1937-1952’ 2CD (Acrobat Music) 5/5

Sometimes in music, a singer comes along whose influence and output far outweighs any degree of commercial success that s/he has gained during their own lifetime and that can certainly be said of Robert Nighthawk. Born in 1909 in Helena, Arkansas, on the west bank of the Mississippi Delta and just one of the many millions of African-Americans who made the long-term migration from south to north, Nighthawk is a pivotal figure in the evolution of the blues. He occupies a key role, a bridge if you will between the rural Delta blues that he grew up with and the urban blues of both Memphis and Chicago, the latter of which he made his home. His influence on other musicians of his own generation and of subsequent generations is incalculable, but that distinctive slide guitar technique undoubtedly influenced the musicians of the calibre of Muddy Waters. As with the other musicians showcased in this ongoing series, Acrobat have grouped together a variety of labels and this is especially useful in the blues idiom where 78s tended to be recorded for a multitude of independent labels, and it goes without saying that the original shellac is near impossible to find and the timing is extremely generous with over seventy minutes per side, equating to forty-eight songs in total. These include; Aristocrat, Bluebird, Chess, Decca and United. While, Acrobat have cleaned up the originals and both the instruments and voice sound clear, they have been careful not to take away the integrity of the music. As for the music, it spans three decades and does a mighty fine job of piecing together his recording life. Even that, however, raises a few intriguing questions, not least of which the following: what exactly was he doing in the period 1940-1948? That is one of the mysteries to Nighthawk’s life that will probably remain unanswered and it is in part his mystique that is such an attraction in the first place.

Nighthawk went under a variety of aliases, and Nighthawk itself was not his real life name. He was born Robert McCollum. The first song on the collection, ‘Prowling Night’, provided the inspiration for the first invented surname, but such were his storytelling qualities that he recorded under a panoply of other names ranging from Robert McCoy to Ramblin’ Bob, and not forgetting the intriguing Peetie’s boy. Later in his career, the expanded collective of musicians were known as Robert Nighthawk and his Nighthawks Band. What this writer retains above all from this outstanding musician and fascinating human being is the quality and universality of the lyrics and storytelling. In, ‘Lonesome World’, the lyrics demonstrate some very basic awareness that elsewhere on the planet, someone else was experiencing a different climate. Most probably, his extensive travelling inspired and informed his songwriting choices, but equally they afforded him the most basic knowledge base that humanity differed from one locality to another, even if that bank of knowledge was in reality focused within the confines of the United States, a big enough entity in its own right. Everyday concerns are tackled on, ‘I Have Spent My Bonus’, ‘Next Door Neighbor’, and travelling instincts on, ‘Freight Train Blues’. Possible reasons for his early demise are hinted at on, ‘Good Gambling’, and forsaken friendship and love appear to underpin a good deal of his lyrics as illustrated on, ‘You’re All I’ve Got To Live For’, ‘My Sweet Lovin’ Woman’, and, ‘My Friends Have Forsaken Me’. It is equally quite conceivable that Robert Nighthawk was also a keen observer of other humans and adept at conveying human emotions in song form.

This was a musician who lived life to the full (and, ultimately, that may have been his Achilles heal that curtailed his all to brief lifespan), but one whose command of his guitar and cool and composed vocal delivery earned the esteem of his contemporaries. So much so, that when he began to record, not as a solo performer, but with an extended line up of musicians, he was able to count on some of the very best musicians to accompany him. Regulars included some of the piano greats in Curtis Jones, Pinetop Perkins, Speckeld Red, Roosevelt Sykes, while harmonica virtuoso Sonny Boy Williamson and bassist Willie Dixon performed on his records, and that fact considerably adds to the listening pleasure. Ethel Mae joined him on vocals on several songs for a period from the late 1940s.

Robert Nighthawk led, by any definition of the term, a bohemian lifestyle. The great pity is that he passed away aged just forty-seven, and this after recording in 1964 a highly esteemed live recording that is now regarded by aficionados as one of the greatest live blues albums of all-time, and that is available elsewhere. The music contained within this anthology is both of its time, and like the greatest of all music, will never date and continue eternally to appeal to curious individuals who are interested in learning more about the human condition. A splendid sixteen page booklet authored by Paul Watts sets the scene as well as anyone could possibly do, and it is little wonder that Robert Nighthawk entered into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1983. If any musician deserved that accolade, Nighthawk certainly did. For those wishing to discover more about Robert Nighthawk’s life and career, there is a website by Jeff Harris that can be unreservedly recommended at:

Tim Stenhouse

Al Lindsey ‘Versatility’ CD/DIG (Private Press) 4/5

It’s a tough time to be a person of colour over the pond at the minute, the current keeper of the big chair is the most overtly racist individual to rise to that seat of power in my lifetime, it appears he’s taking the USA back to the days of the Klan, his dismantling of Obama’s legacy is most concerning. I can’t remember another politician anywhere in the western world who has openly displayed such hatred and total disdain of non white folks. Increasingly, black singers are utilising their releases to protest and so listening to the spoken monologue ‘Versatility’ really does get you thinking. He addresses Hatred, Mass Shootings, Deportation, Racism, Immigration, imploring us all to get back to caring and sharing for one another and celebrating diversity; very powerful stuff faced with the backdrop of a man who refuses to protect the young and innocent from being washed in their own blood because guns have more rights than people. Moving effortlessly into the beauty of the music in the shape, ‘Versatility’, a song preaching harmony and love with stunning sax and an insidious head nodding groove, there are three songs on here that could grace any soul album and hold their own, ‘Heavenly Thoughts’ and ‘Midsummer Dream’ both meander along going no-where any time soon, his voice is in fine form. He’s a southern soul man but has not gone over the top on the southern feel, it’s all very radio friendly, in fact soul radio has already been plundering this, ‘Changed’ the third in the highlighted trio is a wonderful gospel drenched vehicle and sits on here perfectly. If you want to dance then get your ears and feet around ‘Cotton Candy’ which is destined to be one of the dancers of the year – I was really surprised not to see this on the recent Luxury Soul album, as it would sit in that compilation beautifully with its sing a long chorus and insistent rhythm. Now Prince never sat well in my world, he most certainly was never soulful so listening to the Prince like ‘Exponentially’ isn’t an easy listen but I must admit it’s not as bad as it could have been, just, however there is a throwaway track on here and again it may just be me having listened too and collected Reggae all my life I have ever felt at ease when soul-men have a go, ‘Don’t Worry About Me’ is cringe worthy when someone shouts “Shabba Shabba”, I’m sorry I’ve skipped it twice now, a complete waste really as he’s asking Mr President all manner of questions, set in different clothes this might well have been a great listen. The album finishes with a real wailer entitled ‘Home’, which reveals what some have known over a number of his previous albums, that he is blessed with a serious voice, and when allowed to, he can wail with the best of them, this is a cracking album and one I most definitely recommend. CD Baby for the physical folks.

Brian Goucher

Ornette Coleman ‘The Road To Free Jazz – The Early Years 1958-61’ 2CD (Acrobat Music) 4/5

While a mammoth multi-volume CD box set has recently surfaced that sheds new light on the Atlantic years of Ornette Coleman, this double CD set caters for those on a more modest budget, who nevertheless are curious what all the fuss is about and would like an informed overview of the early part of the alto saxophonist’s career. This just also coincidentally happens to be his most accessible period too. Where this compilation comes into its own is in reaching across labels to both Contemporary, for whom Coleman recorded two albums, and Atlantic. Indeed Acrobat seems to be making a virtue more generally in its wider series, of bringing together the music of a single artist and that endeavour, while not altogether pioneering, is to be applauded, and, crucially, provides the listener with a more detailed chronological insight into how the musician was rapidly evolving over a relatively short period in time, here just a four year span.

For this writer, the two earliest albums showcased, ‘Something Else’ and ‘Tomorrow is the Question’, both originally on Contemporary, reveal the umbilical cord link that exists between Coleman and, on the one hand, Charlie Parker, and more generally, with the blues on the other. The lineup on these first two featured established musicians such as drummer Shelly Manne or Billy Higgins and bassist Percy Heath or Red Mitchell, and pianist Walter Norris (on the first album only), which gives the two albums collectively a far more conventional sound in retrospect than one might expect. Among the key numbers on the first, ‘The Blessing’, has remained a favourites among fans and musicians alike, regularly covered by others, while ‘Jayne’ is a personal dedication to Coleman’s wife.

If anything, for many devotees, it is the second album, ‘Tomorrow is the Question’, that is the real debut insofar as it revealed for the first time on record Coleman’s preferred line up of alto, trumpet, bass and drums, dispensing altogether with the use of piano, and freeing up the sound for the use of harmonics, that was to prove to be both a major innovation and polemic, alienating some more mainstream jazz views, while thrilling those in search of something new. Now viewed with the benefit of sixty years or more hindsight, that progression appears both natural, logical and necessary for many of the progressive aspects of jazz that were to follow. Even hard bop practitioners such as Jackie McLean took on board the new approach of Coleman and incorporated it into their own work, thus freshening up their own sounds. In among the evolutionary, and some would say revolutionary sounds, there is music of great beauty and two of Coleman’s most endearing compositions are rightly included, ‘Lovely Woman’ and ‘A Muy Bonita’, the latter a real favourite of this writer.

Signing to Atlantic records under Nesuhi Ertegun, Coleman was joining a rapidly expanding roster of musicians on a label that had first made its name with pop and R&B flavoured artists. The Ertegun brothers were determined to include a larger number of jazz musicians both to promote the music which they genuinely believed in, and to provide intellectual credence to the label. That new line up would henceforth feature the long-term collaboration with bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Ed Blackwell (Billy Higgins would perform with them also), and of course Don Cherry. Even now this music still has the capacity to shock and invariably parallels have been made between this perceived more avant-garde form of jazz (and some have questioned whether it even constitutes jazz in the first place) and abstract painting, with Jackson Pollock summoned up as the comparable artist. Four Atlantic albums are showcased here including: ‘The Shape of Jazz to Come’; ‘Change of the Century’; ‘This is Our Music’; ‘Free Jazz’. The title track of the last album mentioned itself took up the whole side of the vinyl original and, as a whole, this is uncompromising music that stands the test of time and is profoundly modern in approach, though clearly to these ears still within the jazz tradition, but building new foundation blocks in the process. In sum the music here provides a useful introduction to the freer sounds that Coleman and associates would personalise on Atlantic and other labels such as Impulse and even Blue Note, and if any neophyte jazz fan wanted to start anyway to better understand the music of Ornette Coleman, then here would be an ideal starting point.

Tim Stenhouse

Lester Young ‘The Lester Young Collection 1936-47’ CD (Acrobat Music) 4/5

When smaller jazz formations emerged out of the swing big band era, two key leader saxophonists would dominate as soloists: Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. Both enjoyed their own set of fans and it is the latter who is the subject of an early career re-evaluation here. As with other musicians in the same series, Acrobat have seen fit to incorporate the work of Young on a variety of labels, with Aladdin, Brunswick, Savoy and Vocalon among the most prestigious, and consequently this enables the listener to better understand how the musician progressed over time. Lester Young is an interesting musicians to study, partly because of his bohemian lifestyle, like that of his close friend and collaborator, Billie Holiday, but also because his career has been viewed as inconsistent, with the early part of his career regarded as the most coherent. While this writer retains a great admiration for the latter work for the Verve label, it is true to state that Young was especially innovative and creative in his work from the mid-1930s and throughout the 1940s. Some of his strongest compositions date from this era and on this well served compilation, we hear near definitive versions of ‘Lester Leapin’ (1938) and ‘Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie’ (1939), and it is the smaller group combos, such as the Count Basie Kansas City Seven that we hear here, with the likes of Buck Clayton, Freddie Green and Jo Jones among others, all in their youthful prime, as well as some orchestral sides. Three songs feature the voice of Billie Holiday, with ‘The Very Thought of You’ and ‘When You’re Smiling’, the pick of the bunch. A fine introduction to the early years, but do not overlook the mature Lester Young sound of the 1950s on Verve.

Tim Stenhouse