Category Archives: Album Reviews

Stan Getz ‘The Bossa Nova Years’ 5CD (Verve) 5/5

With the fiftieth anniversary of the advent of the bossa nova sound, we have a timely reminder in this five-CD box set of Stan Getz’s contribution to the genre. Bossa nova mania hit the US in the mid-1960s as both and musical and dance craze, and every conceivable artist from pop to easy listening music recorded their fair share. Within the jazz sphere, the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and the Paul Winter sextet were more successful than most. However, the unquestioned master interpreter was Stan Getz. Over a series of five albums, he explored its various forms and in so doing showcased some of the new and classic composers of Brazilian music, notably the creative genius that was Antonio Carlos (more affectionately known by Brazilians as Tom)Jobim. Bossa nova and Getz were made for each other and the music fitted like a glove into his expanding repertoire. When re-assessing the albums as a whole, the vastness of the enterprise readily becomes apparent. Getz recorded all five LPs within a two year period before setting off on lengthy tours around the globe to popularise the sound. Of the earliest recordings, the debut, ‘Jazz Samba’ has a special place. From the opening bass solo on ‘Desafinado’, it heralded a new wave of sound that would have an unprecedented impact on music.

Thereafter Brazilian music would be primarily associated with this fusion of jazz and samba. The collaboration with guitarist Charlie Byrd was very much a vision of bossa nova from an American perspective, but one in which the reflective musings of Byrd and the contemplative wailing of Getz were visionary on pieces such as ‘Samba Triste’. In contrast the big-band outing ‘Big Band Bossa Nova’ served as an introduction to the orchestral skills of Gary McFarland who delivered here on his early promise and included the additional talent of guitarist Jim Hall and pianist Hank Jones. Getz and Mc Farland were possibly inspired by the Gil Evans and Miles Davis collaboration on ‘Sketches of Spain’ and Getz is on top form on the original bossa tune ‘Chega de Saudade’ and the delightful ‘Bim Bom’. For sheer unadulterated pleasure, however, the album recorded with guitarist Laurindo Almeida, comprising lesser-known tunes is a revelation to this writer’s ears. This was a magical collaboration helped in no small measure by the outstanding Brazilian percussionist including Edison Machado on drums. This sound might now be termed hard bossa and it was ironic that it took a native of Sao Paulo (Rio being the home of bossa nova) to unlock the genie from the bottle. Tracks such as ‘Outra Vez’ and ‘Maracatu-too’ are testimony to this superlative duo in action. Of the remaining two albums, ‘Getz/Gilberto’ is, of course, a well-loved old chestnut and one that includes the vocal genius that is Joao Gilberto. Nobody typified the voice of bossa nova better. Curiously, though, it was his then wife Astrid who scored a worldwide hit with Getz on the unforgettable ‘Girl from Ipanema’. A final album, following up on the earlier success of the Getz/Byrd album, ‘Jazz Samba Encore’, this time with the collaboration of guitarist Luis Bonfa, met with more critical acclaim. The 5 CD set is attractively packaged in case with separate digipak gatefold sleeves, original notes and graphics. No extra tracks.

Tim Stenhouse

Adriano Adewale Group – Sementes (Segue Records SEGCD0801)

Adriano Adewale might have been born into one of the world’s biggest urban sprawls (Sao Paulo) but his music is deeply rooted in a rural Africa and its offshoots around the world. The name of this debut album “Sementes” (meaning ‘seeds’ in Portuguese) is both apt and evocative. For me, the overwhelming feeling is a sense of organicness (the album feels like it has been nurtured rather than composed) and also a very natural acoustic quality to the recording. You can feel the hands of the musicians, not the producer or the technology. Nothing feels forced or out of place. It really is a beautiful, sumptuous, sound. The album’s artwork by Claire Curtis really sets the scene too using woodcuts and subtle natural painting. When Adriano selects his instruments for each track it’s with the surety of knowing the exact sound required. In our minds the interplay of wood, skin and seeds paints rippling landscapes of sound; I hear (or is it see?) stands of dry grass, bubbling rills, clattering rushes, dusty plains broken by smooth hills, distant forests washing up against purple-tinged mountains, diamond -crusted indigo skies, thick water-storing trees, cattle, villages, birds, rocks, paths that disappear into hollows, bleached bones, vibrant green shoots in red soil, men, women and children, generations of peoples, endless stories rooted in the earth.

Add the unmistakeable springs of musical water that burst forth from Kadialy Kouyate’s kora, Marcelo Andrade’s sometimes playful, sometimes mournful flute and saxes and Nathan Thomson’s fluid double bass and all these stories come to life. This is music that each can listen to and take something personal away from: each person their own landscapes, their own stories. This is just my overriding experience of this album. However, there are other voices here too. Virtuoso guitarist Antonio Forcione adds his talent to one track and the album’s producer, Gilad Atzmon adds his accordion and clarinet to various tracks also.

Adriano says that the album is a reflection of his surroundings, his experience of living in London, his childhood in Brazil, his friends. However, it also addresses his wider environmental concerns, issues of faith and also African-Brazilian and European identity. It is well known that after spending time in Africa he rid himself of his previous surname – Pinto – and decided to choose for himself something that better reflected who he was, who he wanted to be and so the two new surnames: Adewale (from the Yoruba culture of West Africa) and Ituana (from the indigenous language and cultures of Tupi-Guarani in central South America). Without interviewing him personally, I can’t tell how he approached each individual track, what the tunes mean to him personally, what his story is, but I can try and give my impressions; ultimately you must come up with your own.

The album starts off with the sprightly Sempre, featuring Adewale’s smile-inducing vocals (I’ve no idea what he’s saying, but it sounds uplifting!). Throughout the track (and the whole album) his drumming never dominates the whole sound of the band, even when he’s crashing around a whole variety of percussion instruments. It’s always the band and the album that come first, never “Look at me: I’m a Drummer”. Sign of a good bandleader in my book. Next is the serene, timeless Domingo featuring Kadialy Kouyate’s stately kora playing and, later, Marcelo Andrade’s flute (loving the subtle accordion and clarinet lines from Gilad Atzmon also) over an understated percussive figure and repeated bassline. Quite hypnotic.

Comboio has a more obvious Brazilian start with its bouncing surdo 2/4 beat, busy tarol (a rattly Brazilian snare drum) and martial reeds but then descends into something darker, Atzmon’s clarinet being particularly unsettling; maybe that’s city-life, I don’t know, but it ain’t for me! Family Album starts with the sound of Adewale calling out, as if to family, friends – nobody seems to answer. Has everyone gone away? Slowly kalimba, kora and flute start to speak into the space as other voices, whispers, ghosts maybe, appear from the thin air. Listen, make up your own story…
Assim is another of those musical soundscapes that makes you want to lay back in the shimmering heat, close your eyes and drift off down the river created by the crystalline kora and thick, pulsating double bass, whilst Adriano’s udu (clay drum) nudges at you like a huge fish and the zephyrs of Gilad’s clarinet spin you in circles, round and round, down the river, toward the horizon…

Passa Por Mim cracks along, driven by the peculiarly dry quality of the pandeiro (Brazilian tambourine played on the skin) over a jaunty flute melody. Telefone, in my ears, is a midnight jazz-tango – if not in rhythm, then in emotional tone; with Andrade’s soprano sax rising up into the air like a voice lifted in both love and lament – gorgeous! Beautifully underpinned by the rest of the band and with extra accompaniment from Atzmon’s lush, romantic accordion, as close as the warm, dark, pressing night. Encanto – has one of the catchiest melodies on the album, alto sax and clarinet uniting as one over Thomson’s throbbing bass-line and Kouyate’s kora. Adriano’s ‘old boss’, Antonio Forcione, contributes some wonderful guitar solos on this track which makes you wonder what they’d come up with if the guitar and kora were allowed to spar directly against each other. Sementes closes with a short track called Together, featuring Adewale on pipes (I think they are long bamboo tubes hit at the ends with a flat paddle to produce a percussive but quite eery sound almost like a giant guitar being plucked) and also Kadialy Kouyate’s vocalisations over soprano sax and Maasai flute from Thomson.

I’ve mentioned Thomson’s double bass which infuses the album with a warmth and presence similar to that found in the work of someone like Danny Thompson. But if you read the credits carefully you’ll notice that he also contributes standard flute, an alto flute and a Maasai Flute to the album, as well as Kalimba (thumb piano). At first the album felt ‘friendly’ to my ears, but didn’t leap out; with each fresh listening, I hear more and more layers and see more details in the landscape. Fresh horizons open up, I elaborate my stories. It gets deeper, richer. My recommendation? Buy the album, stay at home, go on a journey. Glyn Phillips

Putumayo presents Acoustic Arabia Put 282-2

Great mix of artists on this collection with Jamal Porto and Rasha from the Sudan, Les Orientales, Souad Massi and Maurice El Medioni from Algeria, Zaman from Palestine, Zein Al-Jundi from Syria, Charbel Rouhana and Hani Siblini from Lebanon, Mousto Largo from Morocco and Tiris from Western Sahara. Superb traditional music, highly recommended. Graham Radley

No Ritmo Da Bossa Nova -Various Warner 2564695253

A celebration of 50 years of bossa nova, this 14 track compilation has a well rounded selection with Elis Regina, Carlos Lyra and Joao Donato among the artists helping to flex those limbs. Nostalgia for all the right reasons. Graham Radley

Mike Whellans ‘Fired Up & Ready’ Temple COMD 2101

Terrific one man blues band who is a fine singer, guitarist and blues harpist. He’s not against inviting some classy friends to join him either including David Bromberg and Mike Katz with my pick going to to his take on Rory Gallagher’s ‘Going To My Home town’ joined by Brian Miller on mandolin. Great stuff. Graham Radley

Elite Squad ‘Tropa de Elite original soundtrack’ Milan 399236-2

Soundtrack to the film Tropa De Elite (Elite Squad) composed by Pedro Bromfman. The film tells the story of two childhood friends who decide to join Rio de Janeiro’s Military Police Department and in turn they then try out for a Special Operations Squad whose mission is to take down the drug-lords that plague the city. The music reflects this urban scenario with a mix that features MC Junior, MC Leonardo, Bateria da Rocinha, Barbatuques and styles that range from ambient to thrash punk. Excellent. Graham Radley

Kris Drever, John McCusker & Roddy Womble ‘Before the Ruin’ Navigator

Love this, there’s a nice raw feel to the production so the music and songs can shine centre stage and they do superbly. The feel is folk meets singer songwriter meets subtle rock but it’s the songs and their delivery (Roddy Womble takes most lead vocals) that make this enchanting and moreish. Guests include Norman Blake and Francis MacDonald of Teenage Fanclub, Philip Selway of Radiohead, Heidi Talbot, Donald Shaw of Capercaille, Andy Cutting (BBC folk musician of the year) and Michael McGoldrick. Have a listen to ‘Into The Blue’ or ‘Moments Last Forever’ – magic. Graham Radley

Amplified presents Dirty Soul Electric (BBE Music)

Great album of seriously heavy music. The album flows beautifully and showcases some great music makers from more exposed names like Benny Sings, Tiombe Lockhart and Heavy through to relatively unknowns like Flako & Shaunise, Sandie Black and Oliver Day Soul. Deep joy comes from the Japanese god that is Mitsu The Beats with dabbling by Dwele and the monster track here courtesy of Coultrain with ‘Girl of my Dreams’ – a killer jazz groove. All in all, the albums just proves that in today’s financial climate there can still be great music made and great music released. Top marks start to finish.

Steve Williams

Sonny Clark ‘Leapin’ and Lopin’ (Blue Note) 5/5

Sonny Clark was a pianist who recorded almost exclusively for Blue Note and typified the superior late 1950s bop on the classic ‘Cool Struttin’ as well as performing as sideman on Jackie McLean’s ‘A Fickle Sonance’, Dexter Gordon’s ‘Go’ and Stanley Turrentine’s ‘Jubilee Shout’. By the early 1960s he was fighting a drug addiction that would take his life in January 1963. In 1961, however, when this album was made, Sonny was on top form and surrounded by an enviable line up of the cream of Blue Note studio musicians including Billy Higgins on drums, Charlie Rouse on tenor and Tommy Turrentine (brother of Stanley) on trumpet. The opener ‘Somethin’ special’ is a blues-inflected piece with melodic solo from Rouse and the clear lyricism of Turrentine. Miles Davis’ and John Coltrane’s modal explorations were in the early 1960s being digested by the jazz community and ‘Melody for C’ is a fine example of this.
In contrast ‘Midnight Mambo’ pays homage to the big band Latin sound of Machito and Tito Puente and illustrates how easily jazz could incorporate Afro-Cuban rhythms. Ike Quebec guests on the ballad ‘Deep in a dream’ and as ever it is the economy of style that impresses one with the tenor’s playing. Sonny Clark was an underrated pianist whose main influences were Bud Powell and Horace Silver in the evolution of bop and the soulful licks of the blues, but who by the early 1960s had a clearly individual style. It is a tragedy that he was unable to experience some of the innovations that took place in jazz from the mid-1960s onwards. 
Tim Stenhouse

Stanley Turrentine ‘Dearly Beloved’ (Blue Note) 4/5

Whether as a member of the classic Jimmy Smith combo on seminal albums such as ‘Midnight Special’ and ‘Back at the Chicken Shack’, or as a leader in his own right, Stanley Turrentine recorded his very best sides for Blue Note. In this 1961 recording, the group is pared down to a trio with then wife Shirley Scott on hammond organ and the excellent Roy Brooks on drums fresh from explorations in the Horace Silver band. It is a testimony to the ensemble playing that there is a depth to the overall sound and Scott would return to the trio format in the early-mid 1970s on albums for Cadet and Strata East respectively. The opener ‘Baia’, a Brazilian tune penned by Ary Barraso, was covered by John Coltrane and here Turrentine only plays a latin theme at the beginning and ending of the piece. He clearly knew how to play with the melody and extract the maximum from it. A trio of US songbook tunes including ‘My Shining Hour’ and ‘Yesterdays’ displays Turrentine’s ability to stretch out on a tune. Larry Young would in the mid-late 1960s take a leaf out of Shirley Scott’s dramatic style of playing. An all round effort from Stanley Turrentine who would continue to record the tenor-organ format for another few years.

Tim Stenhouse