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Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
Even given the prodigious talents and open-minded approach of the Hessischer Rundfunk orchestra, you’d think it would be impossible to arrange whole tracks from Miles Davis’ 1970s/80s electric music for big band. But that’s really not what heavy-metal guru turned film composer Colin Towns set out to do. Instead, he pulled out suitable themes and fragments and developed them for the band to work with, though you do hear more complete interpretations of ‘In A Silent Way’ and ‘Tutu’. And, against the expected backdrops of heavy rock beat, funky bass and period wah-wah guitar, he really gives the stellar HR soloists something to run with.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
After all these decades, the classic quintet lineup endures. Graduating from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama as a classical pianist in 2002, Stapleton based his own group on two luminaries of the same college, bassist Paula Gardiner and drummer Elliott Bennett, adding trumpeter Jonny Bruce, a 2006 graduate. Saxophonist is Ben Waghorn, who’s been heard with Kasabian and Goldfrapp as well as in his own quartet. Stapleton often seems to be taking a back seat, but what holds this complex, disciplined music together is his ability as a composer, creating extended pieces that can move from bombast to lyricism with real structure and purpose.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
Composer, pianist, leader and educator Django Bates has done just about everything, but in his 50th year he’s filled a gap by offering this tribute to his earliest inspiration, Charlie Parker. The idea, though, dates back to 2005, the 50th anniversary of Parker’s death, when Bates arranged tunes associated with Bird for a celebration event in Copenhagen. On this trio album he doesn’t play a bop style but lets loose his own piano pyrotechnics in ‘Scrapple From The Apple’ and other be-bop anthems. A final piece of contemplative musing creates its own space from a fragment of ‘Ah-Leu-Cha’, and if this is the least frenetic track, it’s also one of the most successful.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
Virtuoso trumpeter, bandleader and composer Don Ellis produced wild, noisy and innovative big band sounds and wrote the music for The French Connection. He recorded his seminal Electric Bath for Columbia, but in 1973 turned to the high-quality German jazz label MPS to release Soaring, following up with Haiku. Inspired by a set of ten Haiku poems, the music has a film-score lushness, with a string orchestra added to a core jazz group which included pianist Milcho Leviev and bassist Ray Brown. Lovingly remastered (using 24-bit/88.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
Few would claim that Duke’s 1960s Reprise albums contained his finest work, but four of them add up to lot of music. His great soloists wallow in the catchy melodies of Mary Poppins while Ellington ’65 and ’66 cover the hits of the day, sounding fresher now than the new takes of other leaders’ swing classics that make up Will The Big Bands Ever Come Back?. The fifth disc has Ellington’s tunes but not his whole band, on a 1963 small-group album for Atlantic with violinists Stephane Grappelly, Ray Nance and Svend Asmussen. Travelling the world and recording his own music on RCA, Ellington did so much in the 1960s that these recordings seem little more than a sidelight on his genius, but they’re still wonderful.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 07, 2010
You might not think of chamber music as ‘for the masses,’ as the PR blurb has it, but then, the brilliant bassist’s reference point is the Chamber Music Society of Oregon, the community orchestra that she joined as a five-year-old violin prodigy. Her Heads Up debut Esperanza traversed many genres, but this one brings classical sounds to the mix, with a string trio including supreme session cellist David Eggar, weaving music of rich complexity. Spalding’s vocal flights can seem too indulgent, though she’s helped out on two numbers by the ever-fascinating Gretchen Parlato and on one by a weary-sounding Milton Nascimento. But still, a fresh, inspiring album.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
No matter how deeply it’s been mined before, the Blue Note vault is still a rich source of reissue gold. In what amounts to a relaunch of the XRCD audiophile format, Audio Wave has begun with a clutch of soul jazz classics. Soul Station has Mobley’s old Jazz Messengers boss Art Blakey on drums, with Paul Chambers on bass and bluesy pianist Wynton Kelly. This seemingly carefree album marked a turning-point for the light-toned tenor player, as 1961 would see him briefly and not very happily joining Miles Davis.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
After long pursuit of their separate careers, the three Heath Brothers first played under that name in 1975. Percy Heath, the MJQ’s revered bass player, died in 2005, and so the younger brothers, saxophonist Jimmy and drummer Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath, dedicated Endurance to his memory. With the youthful Jeb Patton on piano and David Wong on bass they get things moving on the restless chords of ‘Changes’. Later, an evocative ‘Autumn In New York’ seems to waltz gently in 4/4, and then Jimmy is beautifully reflective in ‘Ballad From Leadership Suite’, which he wrote for the inauguration of a Howard University president in 1996.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 01, 2018
This month we review: Wayne Shorter, Camilla George, All About That Basie, and Omar Sosa & Yilian Cañizares
Steve Harris  |  Mar 06, 2019
This month we review: Christian Sands, Lionel Loueke, Shai Maestro, & Massimiliano Coclite 4tet
Steve Harris  |  Nov 01, 2018
This month we review: Soft Machine, Bansangu Orchestra, Tony Kofi and The Organisation, and New York All-Stars.
Steve Harris  |  Oct 01, 2018
This month we review: John Coltrane, Tony Kofi and The Organisation, Bansangu Orchestra, and Mark Kavuma.
Steve Harris  |  Sep 01, 2018
This month we review: Stefano Bollani, Timo Lassy, Renee Rosnes, and Andreas Varady
Steve Harris  |  Jun 20, 2019
This month we review: Karin Krog & Georgie Fame, Jeff Ballard, Randy Brecker & NDR Bigband and Christian Mcbride
Steve Harris  |  May 18, 2020
This month we review: Viktoria Tolstoy, Pablo Held, Sergio Mendes and Jim Rattigan's Pavillon.