Category Archives: Album Reviews

Chick Corea/John McLaughlin ‘Five Peace Band Live’ (Concord) 4/5

chick-corea-john-mclaughlinThis all-star album recorded at a variety of live venues in Europe is a veritable feast of jazz fusion and in many respects a reunion of former Miles Davis alumni. Alongside the two headliners, saxophonist Kenny Garrett is a group member as well as a guest appearance from Herbie Hancock. Completing the band are bassist Christian McBride and drummer Vinnie Colanta. Compositions are roughly even divided between Corea and McLoughlin, but it is actually the other tracks that catch one’s eyes and ears. The piece de resistance of proceedings is a delicious lengthy reworking of part two of ‘In a Silent Way’, with Hancock exchanging keyboard licks with Corea. Even more surprising is a the Jackie McLean hard bop classic, ‘Dr. Jackle’, which finds the group in acoustic mode and McBride undertaking a sensitive solo. Perhaps some of the tracks are a little over long, especially the twenty-seven minute plus ‘Hymn to Andromeda’. However, this would be to underestimate the virtuosity of the musicianship on offer. Nonetheless, it would be nice to hear Corea and McLoughlin in a more intimate and acoustic setting together.

Tim Stenhouse

Joe Lovano ‘Folk Art’ (Blue Note) 4/5

joe-lovanoOver a fifteen year period Joe Lovano has established himself as the premier Blue Note saxophonist of the new era since the label was relaunched in 1985. Indeed this new album is his twenty-second and he has recorded in ever conceivable format over this period. For this latest offering Lovano has surrounded himself by a new, dynamic band, but one that has cemented its relationship via a week In general this album has a markedly freer feel than on previous albums (such as the pairing with Hank Jones or the quartet with Michel Petrucciani from the mid-1990s). However, it is always freedom within a coherent and clear structure and it is Joe’s omnipresent lyricism displayed on a variety of reed instruments that shines through. Perhaps the most striking composition (all pieces were self-penned by Lovano)is ‘Page Four’ on which Lovano plays alto clarinet and upcoming and immensely talented bassist Esperenza Spaulding excels on intimate bass solos. The catchy title track brings into focus the young pianist James Weidman and his piano licks here are reminiscent of the early McCoy Tyner sides. Two ballads are featured including a tribute to Joe’s wife on ‘Song for Judi’, but it is the improvisational character of pieces like ‘Us Five’ and ‘Drum Song’ where the band are able individually and collectively to stretch out. For a little variety, Lovano devotes one tune ‘Dibango’ to the legendary Cameroonian saxophonist and this is played in a funk groove. Overall a well-rounded album and one the proves beyond doubt that Joe Lovano is one of the premier saxophonists of his generation, and one of the few remaining with a firm grounding in the experiences of the fifties and sixties masters.

Tim Stenhouse

Rail Band ‘Bella Epoque –Vol 3 Dioba’ (Sterns Africa)

This is just the best, a classic band with 19 tracks spread over two CDs , this as the title suggests is the third part of a story covering 1970 to 1983. All I really need to say is this is the band that first brought us the talents that are Salif Keita, Mory kante, Sekou Kouyate, Lanfia Diabate and Makan Ganessy, listen to them here and revel in divine, pure music.

Graham Radley

Blick Bassy ‘Leman’ (World Connection)

First solo CD from cameroon’s rising star who is part of the Bassa ethnic group (originally nomads from Egypt). He grew up surrounded by music, not only Bassa musical traditions but his familys collection of music from Western soul greats like Marvin Gaye. He then moved to Paris in 2005 where he worked with many top African musicians like Manu Dibango. Those influences now unite on ‘Leman’ with the soulfulness of Gaye enriching his African traditional heritage. Great debut.

Graham Radley

Mulatu Astatke/The Heliocentrics ‘Inspiration Information’ (Strut)

Third in Strut’s ‘Inspiration Information’ series, this one teams Ethiopian veteran jazzer Mulatu Astatke (star of Ethiopiques series) with UK funky jazzers Heliocentrics. Got a nice feel this one with the Ethiopian jazz groove being embellished by Heliocentrics as it flows along sometimes going off at heavier tangents then others hitting the chilled feel of ‘Blue Nile’ . My pick is the funky percussion driven ‘Live From Tigre Lounge’ . Excellent.

Graham Radley

Sonny Rollins ‘Road Shows Vol. 1’ (Emarcy/Universal) 4/5

Anyone who has witnessed Sonny Rollins in a live context will testify to his continued charisma and prowess and this collection of live perofrmances spanning almost thirty years is an excellent resume of an artist still in top form in the twilight period of his career. The variety of formats ranges from pared down trio to sextet including guitar, percussion and trombone. Rollins cut some of the definitive statements on the tenor saxophnoe during the mid-late 1950s, several of which were trio outings. A highlight of this set is 2007 concert at the Carnegie Hall on the Rodgers and Hammerstein old chestnut ‘Some enchanted evening’, most ably accompanied by the great Roy Haynes on drums and Christian McBride on bass. An entire concert of this line up would be a treat. Calypsos have long been a favourite of the Rollins repertoire and and integral part of his heritage and the self-penned ‘Nice lady is not dissimilar to the seminal ‘St. Thomas’ from his classic ‘Saxophone Colossus’ album in 1956. Latin tinges surface on performances of the sextet in Sweden from 1980, notably on ‘Blossom’. The historical context to the live recordings is provided by excellent sleeve notes from renowned jazz writer Gary Giddens. An excellent place for Rollins neophytes to start discovering the immense legacy the tenorist has left on record and on this evidence he has still has more to give to the ever appreciative jazz public.

Tim Stenhouse

JJ Cale ‘Roll On’ (Because)

Now 70 and back with his first collection of new tracks since 2004’s To Tulsa and Back. Roll On has 12 tracks including the previously unreleased title track recorded with Eric Clapton. The style of course is the same & we wouldn’t want it any other way great music played and sung in that laid back style but with great integrity and style. Magic.

Graham Radley

Lau ‘Arc Light’ (Navigator)

Their debut, also on the superb Navigator Records, quite rightly received rave reviews, this follow up fittingly sees the trio of Kris Drever, Martin Green and Aidan O’Rourke continue their adventurous approach to traditional folk music bringing to it the vibrancy of their brilliant live shows and a euphoria of song presentation that builds the passion with great musicianship and spirit, they were very good, they keep getting better.

Graham Radley

Sidestepper ‘The Buena Vibra Sound System’ (Palm)

A CD that came about after Richard Blair aka Sidestepper went to Colombia to meet up with Toto La Momposina, he was soon recording local Afro-Colombian artists which in turn developed into this pumping dance floor mix of Colombian, Nigerian and Jamaican styles. Great tracks with my pick probably the 12” mix of La Paloma. Brilliant

Graham Radley

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers ‘Soul Finger’ (Limelight/Universal) 3/5

This 1965 recording data is notable in in the long Jazz Messenger’s history for the pairing of two trumpeters who epitomised the band’s hard bop sound in the early-mid 1960s: Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that in the same year the pair had recorded in a live setting together for Blue Note on ‘Live at the Cookers’ and their playing is inspired on the studio date contained herein. More surprising is the inclusion of tenorist Lucky Thompson who had played with Blakey in the 1940s. Pianist John Hicks and bassist Victor Sproles complete the line up which does not feature trombonist Curtis Fuller as on the previous ‘’S Make It’ and ‘Indestrutible’ albums from 1964. By far the most immediate track is ‘Buh’s Bossa’, a long time favourite on dancefloors of the jazzdance scene with Blakey providing his own take on the then Brazilian drum beat. A Hubbard composition, ‘The Hub’, is in the classic Messenger’s groove with both trumpeter’s excelling. Hard bop is to the fore on ‘Freedom monday’, an underrated Blakey composition while blues-inflected hues predominate on the title track. While not quite on a par with the fiery playing and universal excellence of the Blue Note albums of the period, ‘Soul Finger’ fills in a useful gap in the Messengers chronology. Moreover, it was the second album for the label after ‘’S Make it’ which included Morgan and Hicks and Sproles, but omitted Thompson in favour of Sun Ra saxophonist John Gilmore. It is a pity these two line ups did not record more frequently together for there was undoubted empathy between them as amply demonstrated here. Messengers devotees will want this album for a key transitional period in the group’s history.

Tim Stenhouse