Jazz Consumer Guide (3):
Updates, Not Throwbacks
Generic gypsies and California Jews, Afro-Cubans and avant-gardists, led by two smashing piano players
by Tom Hull
*Harmony and Abyss*
Shipp's early records were minimal affairs, often duos where he
would project long melodic lines like Bud Powell swept into the
avant '90s. Until he hooked up with Thirsty Ear he never showed
much interest in rhythm, but working for a rock label brought out
his inner David Bowie as he veiled his increasingly percussive play
behind horn leads. This one is the breakthrough he advertised on
*Nu Bop* and promoted on *Equilibrium*, because finally the masks
are gone: no horns, no vibes, just a piano trio plus programmer
Chris Flam. Shipp's piano (or synth) is always up front, the pieces
are all differentiated by rhythm, and the rhythms are as diverse as
Shipp's melodic lines once were.
*Mosaic Select* [1986-90]
Pullen had a gimmick: he would turn his hands over and smash out
huge clusters of notes with his knuckles. It was an astonishing
sound, and he could produce it long enough to take your breath
away. But it was less a gimmick than the ultimate example of his
unprecedentedly physical attack on the piano. He built up harmonies
with explosions of dissonant color and rhythmic complexity, as fast
as Art Tatum with his curlicues. But he died in 1995, at 51 neither
a shooting star nor a living legend, and his records have
vanished--especially the eight he cut for Blue Note from 1986 until
his death. This limited edition squeezes the first four onto three
CDs. The first two are quartet albums with r&b-flavored saxophonist
George Adams. Both are rousing, especially the first. The next two
were trios, where the focus is even more squarely on his piano. He
was also the most interesting organist to emerge since Larry Young,
and his later *Ode to Life* is poignant and moving. But this was
the pinnacle of his pianistic power.
The Lebanese oud master's albums shift as jazz collaborators come
and go. *Tarab* features Selim Kusur's nay flute and is in the
improvisational tradition of Arab music, while Charlie Mariano's
alto sax turns *Blue Camel* into his most cosmopolitan showcase.
This mostly Italian band showcases a new mix: with accordion, tuba,
and clarinet it sounds gypsy (meaning a genre, not the ethnic
Roma), while Gavino Murgia's traditional Sardinian vocal style can
be taken for doo-wop.
GERI ALLEN/DAVE HOLLAND/JACK DEJOHNETTE
*The Life of a Song*
The achievement here is sonic as well as musical. Holland's bass
line has rarely been rendered so clearly. It is the center of the
universe, the pulse all heavenly bodies orbit around--even the
Detroit horn players who crash the trio on the last cut, a serenade
for Mal Waldron.
What if the Jews who scored '40s Hollywood movies and the Jews who
chilled West Coast jazz in the '50s had reached deeper into their
ethnic legacy? That's the concept here: traditional pieces played
soundtrack-style not as social music but for atmospheric effect.
Special treat: X drummer D.J. Bonebrake on vibes.
*Souls Saved Hear*
Tom Rainey's perpetually broken time gives this trio a lurching
stutter step that Tim Berne's abstract sax only renders more
cartoonish. Marc Ducret's guitar provides the sinew that keeps the
works from flying apart, and fills in stretches of relative calm
when his cohorts take a breather. Berne's albums always hew close
to the edge. It's a pleasure to hear one that doesn't crash.
CHICAGO UNDERGROUND TRIO
The first cut is acoustic, with Rob Mazurek's cornet racing over a
fast beat. The second is electronic, a fractured beat with the
cornet providing a bare wash of color. The rest work between those
poles, with the electronics more prevalent, but the real kick
coming from the cornet soaring over Chad Taylor's drums. Synthesis
isn't the point; why be "underground" if not to experiment?
DENIS COLIN TRIO
*Something in Common*
An update, not a throwback to the black power jazz of the early
'70s. The trio is French; the instruments are bass clarinet, cello,
and zarb; the lead song is Wyclef Jean's "Diallo." But black power
is the spirit. Most songs have vocals: rappers, soul sisters, gospel
group. They play Hendrix ugly, Stevie Wonder sweet and sour; they
channel Coltrane, Rollins, Shepp, John Gilmore; they go pan-African
to Beaver Harris. If the years haven't blunted anger at injustice,
that's because they haven't blunted injustice.
SATOKO FUJII QUARTET
Her crashing entrance shows why she gets compared to Cecil Taylor.
Then she backs off and lets the band do some work. Propelled by
Takeharu Hayakawa's electric bass, the rhythm section was built for
speed. But husband and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura prefers to wax
lyrical even when surrounded by chaos--which gives this music a
touching voice on top of the finely drawn manga violence of Fujii's
*Jerry Gonzalez Y Los Piratas Del Flamenco*
In the flamenco that Gonzalez encountered when he moved from New
York to Madrid he found a third ingredient to add to his fusion of
rumba and Monk. The old world is evident in Nino Josele's guitar
and Diego El Cigala's vocals, but the beats sound Afro-Cuban. This
record came from a rehearsal tape, with most tracks limited to two
or three musicians. One is just conga and cajon; others muted
trumpet, guitar, and percussion. And, of course, Monk goes
flamenco, with hand claps.
The title translates as "stroll": a leisurely walk through pleasant
surroundings, but with a contemplative distance. For Rubalcaba this
means back in time to his Cuban roots, and sideways through the
maze of modern jazz. With his New Cuban Quartet the dominant voice
is saxophonist Luis Felipe Lamoglia, who owes more to Coltrane than
the Caribbean. But the pace and variety come from the rugged Afro-
Cuban terrain that keeps the stroll interesting.
*Baila! Gitano Baila!*
Roberto Juan Rodriguez learned klezmer as a Cuban expatriate in
Miami, working bar mitzvahs and Yiddish theatres. His synthesis of
Jewish melody and Cuban percussion dreams of roots that never were,
yet it is convincing enough that one can imagine generations of
*conversos* gathering in private to keep the ancient secrets of
their culture alive. This sequel to *El Danzon de Moises* is less
surprising but broader and happier, with touches of tango and gypsy
The delta from Spaceways Inc. to Tripleplay is the replacement of
Hamid Drake with Curt Newton, but switching bassist Nate McBride
from electric to acoustic shifts the feel from funk to blues. Both
moves make the band more intimate, and Ken Vandermark responds with
some of his most thoughtful chamber jazz. Even if it was made up on
the fly, which it largely was.
The difference between this and *2Gether*, the duo Vaché and Bill
Charlap cut for Nagel Heyer in 2000, is the difference between a
fine Danish-modernist antique and an overstuffed easy chair. With
bass and drums, Charlap eases back, and Vaché settles into his
comfort zone. Now that he's too old to be called a young fogey
anymore, maybe the notion that his genteel swing is retro should
also be retired.
Dud of the Month
CHICK COREA ELEKTRIC BAND
*To the Stars*
The problem with fusion wasn't that good jazz was cheapened by
crass rock and roll. The problem was that so many fusioneers were
suckers for bad rock. Here Corea reconvenes his 1986-93 Elektrik
Band to power through a suite of pieces based on the L. Ron Hubbard
sci-fi novel, and you can guess the rest: vintage space opera that
Pink Floyd or Hawkwind wouldn't have played on acid, soundtrack
melodramatics without visual cues, and a fresh coat of Jelly Roll's
Famous Latin Tinge.
Additional Consumer News
Free jazz as postmodern cool, an ether of saxes, bass, cello,
beats, voice, where all that is solid melts into air.
*Live at Glenn Miller Café*
Jon Lindblom's punk-jazz guitar, with horns piled on because
MATS GUSTAFSSON/SONIC YOUTH
*Hidros 3 (To Patti Smith)*
A real-time mix of guitar noise and Mats's bull elephant contrabass
sax, with Kim Gordon confessing her lack of fashion sense.
PAAL NILSSEN-LOVE/KEN VANDERMARK
*Dual Pleasure 2*
Leftovers from last year's *Dual Pleasure*--abstract clarinet,
Mats Gustafsson's heavier metal power trio undoes your new wave
faves, then plays Brötzmann to relax.
*In Praise of Dreams*
Sax with strings, only Garbarek's such an ascetic he allows himself
just one viola and a dash of percussion.
Less a throwback to the organ-guitar soul jazz of the '60s than an
update, ready to cross over but not to beg.
SATOKO FUJII TRIO
With Mark Dresser and Jim Black, one long and three short pieces
full of texture that escalates into energy.
Black rhythm's still happening, but these days Sun Ra gets filtered
through Afrika Bambaataa.
THE GREAT JAZZ TRIO
*Someday My Prince Will Come*
Last chance to hear something new from Elvin Jones.
BOB MINTZER BIG BAND
*Live at MCG With Special Guest Kurt Elling*
STEVE SWALLOW/OHAD TALMOR SEXTET
*L'Histoire du Clochard: The Bum's Tale*
*In the Name of Love*
- Arbors, 2189 Cleveland St., Suite 225, Clearwater, FL 33765,
- Ayler, Box 20, SE-610 40 Gusum, Sweden,
- Black Beauty,
c/o Runt Distribution, PO Box 2947, San Francisco, CA 94126,
- Blue Note, 150 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011,
- Clean Feed, Rua do Alecrim 21 A 1200-014, Lisboa, Portugal,
Universal Classics Group, 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019,
- Justin Time, 5455 Paré, Suite 101, Montreal, QC H4P 1P7, Canada,
- Mosaic, 35 Melrose Place, Stamford, CT 06902,
- Nagel Heyer, Rugenbarg 85, 22549 Hamburg, Germany,
- New Artists, P.O. Box 549, New York, NY 10018,
- PAO, c/o Qualiton Imports,
- Smalltown Supersound,
P.O. Box 2069, Grünerlřkka, N-0505 OSLO, Norway,
- Telarc, 23307 Commerce Park Road, Cleveland, OH 44122,
- Thirsty Ear, 22 Knight St., Norwalk, CT 06851,
- Thrill Jockey, PO Box 08038, Chicago, IL 60608,
- Tzadik, 200 East 10th Street, pmb 126, New York, NY 10003,