Traveling Through Time with Jazz: Tommy Flanagan

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Fischman
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  • #231
  • Posted: 03/23/2020 16:17
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Dexter Gordon - Our Man in Paris
Year: 1963
Style or Subgenre: Hard Bop


Dexter Gordon - One Flight Up
Recording Date: 1964
Release Date: 1965
Style or Subgenre: Hard Bop, Modal Jazz


In 1962, Blue Note and Dexter Gordon released "Go," one of the most perfect jazz albums in history, which stands as the pinnacle of Gordon's output. Fortunately though, Gordon and Blue Note weren't done putting out great hard bop together as these two albums attest.

After relocating to Paris, Gordon teamed up with the great Bud Powell on piano, Kenny Clarke on drums, and Frenchman Pierre Michelot on bass to put together the wonderful "Our Man in Paris." Right from the opening "Scrapple for the Apple," Gordon and the quartet let us know what a freewheeling affair this is going to be as Gordon just lets it fly, but with feeling. He adds some (for the time) harmonic adventurousness on "Broadway," masterfully supported by his rhythm section, Mechelot's bass being particularly propulsive to the tune and its feel. I'm not going to claim Our Man In Paris to be a masterpiece, bit it is definitely a mighty fine hard bop album.

After relocating once again, this time to Scandinavia, Gordon teamed up with the all star group of Donald Byrd on trumpet, Kenny Drew on piano, Art Taylor on drums, and once again a local bassist, this time Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen. The resulting album, One Flight Up, would be unlike anything he'd done before. Freed from the 45-length format, this album has but three cuts, side one being comprised entirely of the 18+ minute "Tanya" composed by Byrd. Much like Lee Morgan's "Search for the New Land" of the same year, this extended cut reaches beyond standard hard bop, but in this case with significant modal flavor. Byrd and Henderson both ebb and flow in the newer, cooler, more atmospheric vein beautifully. With Drew's chording providing the rudder for the song, Taylor's unique drumming provides an impressive counterpoint to the soloists. And once again, the native bassist, this time Pederson, adds color and a slightly unique flavor to the song. I can't praise this song enough.

Side two begins with "Coppin' the Haven," a Kenny Drew composition which is also a fine, lengthy composition. In this one, Gordon brings out one of the sweetest solos of his career as we blends mood, atmosphere, melodicism, and harmony with swing. You can also hear Byrd start to evolve from the straight ahead hard bop of his earlier work toward the soul jazz of his future. Meanwhile Drew also gets the chance to share his unique voice. A delightful song through and through. The closing "Darn That Dream" is a sumptuous ballad that shows the group at their most tender and it plays exceptionally well as such.

One Flight Up is, for me, a genuine masterpiece with each and every note holding my rapt attention. It has it all; great composition, atmosphere and mood, top quality playing, and a unique place in the progression of jazz at the time (it is even cited as an influence on none other than John Coltrane). It may not get the ink of some of Gordon's other albums, but I'm putting it right up there with the best of 'em.

Scrapple from the Apple (from Our Man in Paris)

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Broadway (from Our Man in Paris)

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Tanya (from One Flight Up)

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Coppin' the Haven (from One Flight Up)

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Darn That Dream (from One Flight Up)

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Fischman
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  • #232
  • Posted: 03/23/2020 17:19
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Teddy Charles - The Teddy Charles Tentet
Year: 1956
Style or Subgenre: Cool Jazz, West Coast Jazz


Teddy Charles is a new discovery for me and one I'm really loving early on here. Although I hear lots of familiar elements here, I can't really think of anything that sounds anything like "The Teddy Charles Tenet" overall. The opening cut, "Vibrations," is a perfect example. It bops, it swings, it's got a bit of frenzied climatic movie scene soundtrack vibe, carries some "Ellington Uptown" style impressionism, and it even rolls in some almost baroque counterpoint! The crazy "The Emperor" hops around from instrument to instrument like a pinball trying to hit all the bumpers at once. In all that craziness, it flirts with modality years before Miles. That this doesn't all come across as a hopeless hodgepodge of disorganized ideas is phenomenal. Of course it helps when you've got the likes of Art Farmer, Gigi Gryce, Mal Waldron, and Jimmy Raney at your side. "Nature Boy" carries that craziness into a slower tempo without losing any of the fun or originality, bolstering it with more captivating melody. The Closing "Lydian M-1" is maybe the most straightforward song on the album, but it's also a killer jam session with Charles' vibraphone nicely showcased.

Lordy, what a fun album. Now sometimes I do get a little overexuberant about some new-to-me music, and I calm down after the initial excitement wears off. It's too soon to tell if that will be the case with this album, but I have high confidence this one will be with me for some time.

Vibrations

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The Emperor

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Nature Boy

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Lydian M-1

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Last edited by Fischman on 03/24/2020 03:17; edited 1 time in total
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Fischman
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Gender: Male
Location: Rocky Mountain High
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  • #233
  • Posted: 03/24/2020 00:34
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Ed Bickert and Don Thompson - At the Garden Party
Year: 1978
Style or Subgenre: Cool Jazz, Guitar Jazz


Ed Bickert first came to international recognition as sideman to Paul Desmond at the end of his career. He's also featured on late Rosemary Clooney albums. Despite siding some big names though, he remains largely unknown outside devotees of jazz guitar.

I can certainly see why this live album might not catch on. It's just not really dynamic; no monster hooks or in your face shredding. It is for the most part, quite delicate; rather understated throughout. Now none of means it's bad, and it certainly doesn't mean it's not chock full of riches for the attentive ear. In addition to impeccable jazz tone and precise technique, Bickert also chooses some very interesting chord voicings; there are times I wait with great anticipation to hear what beautiful chord he's going to drop next. At the same time, bassist Don Thompson is usually acting as an equal partner rather than just a supporter. Here's a great opportunity to hear some creative bass work that isn't buried in the mix.

Things do pick up a bit on a few cuts, notably "What Is This Thing Called Love" and "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" in which Thompson gets some especially tasty leads. At times the two blend and at times they take turns out front, but of particular interest is those times they play equally important but different melodies in clever counterpoint. The CD reissue adds four cuts from another session, but they are of equal quality and stylistically fit right in, so the CD version is easily recommended here.

At his best, Bickert may remind you of a slightly less dextrous solo Joe Pass or Jim Hall in a mellow mood, and there's nothing wrong with that. This is a nice addition to my guitar (and bass) collection for sure.


Alone Together

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A Face Like Yours

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What Is This Thing Called Love

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Walkin' My Baby Back Home

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One Morning in May (CD bonus track)

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Fischman
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  • #234
  • Posted: 03/24/2020 16:15
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Jeb Patton - New Strides
Year: 2009
Style or Subgenre: Post Bop, Piano Jazz


Here's a contemporary piano jazz album that reflects the best of contemporary music. Jeb Patton is versatile enough, and skilled enough, to play classical as well as jazz, and that technique makes its way into his jazz playing, but never jsut for techniques sake. The technical mastery is actually employed to make the music more buoyant, even joyful. From the hints at Monk-isms in the opener "Billy" to the catchy, hummable and swinging tunes in the follow on "My Idea," this album is chock full of great piano stylings, varied enough to hold interest. Mostly a piano trio album, the sax of Jimmy Heath makes some appearances, as in "Last Night When You Were Young," where his smoky melodicism takes over and Patton provides beautiful chord voicings and fills. Jimmy's brother, Albert "Tootie" heath shows equal skill in his drumming, especially on the bouncy "Cloak and Dagger." All songs are excellent, and most kick off with enough of a hook to draw you in. In addition to the aforementioned, I found "Street Song" to be a highlight.

Highly recommended for lovers of contemporary piano jazz.

Billy

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My Ideal

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Last Night When You Were Young

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Cloak and Dagger

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Street Song

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Fischman
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  • #235
  • Posted: 03/25/2020 12:54
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Herbie Hancock - Mwandishi
Year: 1971
Style or Subgenre: Fusion, Jazz Funk, Post Bop


Herbie Hancock - Crossings
Year: 1972
Style or Subgenre: Fusion, Jazz Funk, Post Bop


Herbie Hancock - Sextant
Recording Date: 1972
Release Date: 1973
Style or Subgenre: Fusion, Jazz Funk


As the 1960s flipped over to the 1970s, musical visionary Herbie Hancock went full on electric, and exploded the use of gadgetry in his instrumentation, creating a whole new subgenre of music. Was it still jazz? Traditionalists were not surprisingly keen, but those looking forward were excited.
“Nothing I have experienced since has had more of an effect on my life. To me, that band was the epitome of everything that jazz has ever promised to be. Collectively and individually, they brought together a sound that was so deeply in and of that moment in time that it became thus transcendent and timeless. They inspired me and a generation to aspire to their level of creativity and commitment.”
- Pat Metheny quoted from You’ll Know When You Get There: Herbie Hancock and the Mwandishi Band by Bob Gluck (2012).

This makes for an interesting trilogy as the three albums all have a similarity with regard to Hancock's employment of new sounds and the creation of an ultra-electronic vision of modern jazz. The immediately preceding album, "Fat Albert Rotunda" gave only a hint of what was to com and with Mwandishi, the plunge was taken in full. The following two albums then opened up the approach even further.

Also interesting is that each of the three albums has a total of three cuts, each containing a massive side long cut over which Hancock and his ensemble demonstrate an uncanny ability to be both free and funky at the same time. Funk relies on a groove; on the other hand, free jazz and exploration often deliberately or out of necessity abandon groove, so keeping the funk while ranging free in improvisational exploration is quite a trick.

As electric as these albums are, they wouldn't be what they are without the superb contributions of the wind players. Most often cited is multi-instrumentalist Bennie Maupin, but I find myself particularly drawn to Eddie Henderson, whose radiant tone helps the largely electric outing maintain an air of humanity.

Wandering Spirit Song (from Mwandishi)

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Sleeping Giant (from Crossings)

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Hornets (from Sextant)

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Fischman
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Gender: Male
Location: Rocky Mountain High
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  • #236
  • Posted: 03/26/2020 17:08
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Henri Texier - Chance
Year: 2020
Style or Subgenre: Modern Jazz, Fusion


My first look at jazz in 2020.... also my first look at a French jazz artist (as far as I can recall)

Despite this being my first encounter with M. Texier, he's certainly not new, having put out his first album in 1976 and dropping regular releases since, apparently covering the gamut of modern jazz styles along the way.

I don't know how Chance stands up against his other work, but I aim to find out, as I found this to be a very intriguing release. There's lots of very interesting music here for a variety of reasons. I like the compositions, and the musicians are all obviously quite skilled. The engineering and sound appear to be top notch as well. Instrumentation is limited and quite standard, but the soundscape created draws me in nicely. There's lots of momentous percussion from Gautier Garrigue which provides a strong thread through many of the songs. I really enjoyed some of the solos of guitarist Manu Codjia; imagine splicing the DNA of Bill Frisell and John Scofield, tossing in just a dash of Allan Holdsworth, and then making him French! In fact, most of this album sounds blatantly.... French. It's quite fascinating hearing music that is as intensely French as it is intensely jazz. The album is bookended by a couple of outstanding cuts, "Cinecitta," and the closing title cut. The middle is all great, but I really liked the inclusion of the two-minute "Standing Horse," a pure upright bass solo; something you don't hear very often and here is both excellent as a stand alone as well as a welcome interlude in the sequencing of album cuts.

There's nothing like the joy of discovery and Herri Trexier has definitely contributed to that joy on this day.

Cinecitta

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Simone et Robert

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Standing Horse

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Chance

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Fischman
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  • #237
  • Posted: 03/26/2020 21:26
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Al DiMeola - Tour de Force: Live
Year: 1982
Style or Subgenre: Fusion


John Scofield - EnRoute
Year: 2004
Style or Subgenre: Contemporary Jazz, Guitar Jazz, Fusion


Here's a couple live albums from a couple of fusion's most revered practitioners, separated by a couple decades between them. It earlier DiMeola album was one of my first jazz purchases, long before I began my jazz obsession. I didn't come across the Scofield until much later as I was learning that there was more to fusion guitar than just DiMeola and McLaughlin. I thought it might be interesting to listen to them back to back.

It had been some time since I last listened to the DiMeola, having reached a saturation point with it. I figured I had just "outgrown it." As anything under the broadest of definitions of jazz goes, this is highly accessible, very rock oriented fusion for the most part; a sort of hard rock version of smooth jazz if you will. Indeed, some of the compositions wouldn't have been out of place as an instrumental on any number of progressive rock albums. The cool thing was that now approaching it with fresh ears, I was really able to appreciate it for what it is. This is a great, hard rockin' fusion album with interesting multi-movement compositions and, of course, fretboard fireworks aplenty. The interaction between DiMeola and keyboardist Jan Hammer also elevates this album.

On the opening "Elegant Gypsy Suite," Al shows he already had the World Music bug long before it became his main muse. After a relatively uninspired "Nena," there's a couple hard rockers in "Advantage" and "Egyptian Danza," followed by the elongated, very cool "Race with Devil on Spanish Highway," which I could see fitting nicely on a Rush album of the same era. The album wraps up with "Cruisin'," which may have the catchiest tune and be the most accessible fusion tune ever. The album sits just over 39 minutes, which is pretty normal for an LP, but it feels short, like there had to be a way to put more music on there. With all songs running over 5 minutes, mostly more, I can see how nothing else made it on there.... I just feel like I'm getting shorted a bit. Nevertheless, this is still a fine live album and it may make its way back into my rotation, albeit on a limited basis.

While Scofield had made a name for himself as a great fusion guitarist, he has a much more traditional streak in him, and this album skinnies down to a basic trio format. There's still some distortion in Sco's guitar and the album still has a strong fusion vibe. Right from the beginning int the opener "Wee," Sco also lets us know he's not going to be settling into any of DiMeola's more accessible standard harmonies. His fingers land on unexpected frets with great frequency, and it all makes perfect sense. Drummer Bill Stewart also lets us know he's not going to be doing any standard rock beats; I wish I could have seen this concert live at New York's Blue Note Jazz Club just to witness how he gets all over that drum kit with just two arms. His interaction with Sco is also primo. Bassist Steve Swallow somehow proves his ability to keep up with these two musical maniacs.

"Name That Tune" must have been named with tongue in cheek because you'll be hard pressed to find a tune in all all those string picks. Sco's fingers must be triple jointed and injected with Road Runner DNA, because they dart all over the place in little more than a blur at times; but again, I love following the musical argument here. It may be a ridiculous display of virtuosity, but the music is anything but ridiculous. On the slower songs, Sco really displays his unique approach to harmony with chords that my not exist anywhere else, especially in relation to each other, and again, I'm enticed to follow, anxious to hear what's coming next. Mid-album, the trio gives us the rather straightforward "Bag," swinging nicely and even slipping in a little nod to Wes Montgomery. The following "It is Written" is a personal favorite, nicely bridging the accessible and challenging side of Scofield's playing.

EnRoute is one of those albums I rarely feel in the mood for going in, but once I put it on, I'm very glad I did.

Elegant Gypsy Suite (from Tour de Force: Live)

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Egyptian Danza (from Tour de Force: Live)

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Cruisin' (from Tour de Force: Live)

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Wee (from EnRoute)

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Name That Tune (from EnRoute)

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Bag (from EnRoute)

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It Is Written (from EnRoute)

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Fischman
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  • #238
  • Posted: 03/27/2020 15:42
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Lee Morgan - Live at the Lighthouse
Year: 1970
Style or Subgenre: Hard Bop, Modal Jazz


Lee Morgan - The Last Session
Recording Date:
1971
Release Date: 1972
Style or Subgenre: Post Bop, Modal Jazz


Having long considered Lee Morgan my favorite trumpeter, I though it was time I really got to know the closing chapter of his all too short career. These final recordings, one live and one studio, give us some insight into where this great jazz artist was headed before his all to early demise.

Live at the Lighthouse shows Morgan moving firmly into a Coltrane-style of modal jazz. Interestingly, the music also contains some outbursts and apparent bits of randomess a la Bitches Brew (released earlier that year), although not extreme. Needless to say, this is not the straightforward hard bop of Sidewinder or Cornbread.

The original 2LP set contained just four cuts, each taking an album side. The 3DC reissue upped the offering to 12 cuts, including some fallbacks to Morgan's earlier work. Sticking with the original version, the opening almost 20 minute "Absolutions" is a superb example of such a modal journey, held together nicely by Harold Mabern's piano, propelled by Jack DeJohnette's drumming, and punctuated by marvelous solos from Morgan and Bennie Maupin. Morgan's smooth, and sometimes even elegant tone makes an interesting contrast with the decidedly modern music being played. This is a very fine musical journey. In addition to being a really cool song, "The Beehive" makes for an excellent virtuosity vessel for all involved. The following "Neophilia," written by Maupin, is a fine composition, although Maupin's playing gets needlessly screechy at times. The finale, "Nommo," is easily the most straightforward of the original set, leaving you with some classic Lee Morgan hard bop, although at almost 18 minutes it could be a slog for some... personally, I love it.

The Last Session also originated as a double album, this time with five cuts (two cuts on side 3). This one leans a little more toward the fusion side. Some edginess is provided by Grachan Moncur III on trombone and on the other hand lies the fun and funky flute of Bobbi Humphrey. In the best of both worlds, Morgan here make that nudge toward fusion without any sort of commercial compromise. Tenor Billy Harper in particular gets challenging, and even a bit aggressive, but without sacrificing listenability. For being such a maverick, Moncur fits in seamlessly with the group and his contributions are no less than marvelous.

The opening "Capra Black" is quite modern and not altogether accessible, but it's a fine composition, well delivered. On the following "In What Direction are You Headed," the groop settles into a more accessible groove while Morgan migrates his tone back to that high register and sharp attack we remember from his earlier days, while Humphrey's flute helps keep things warm and inviting. This is one glorious piece of jazz funk fusion! The rest of the album deftly balances groove and challenge, funky fun and intricate intensity. As great as it is in giving Morgan the platform to move his musical vision forward, it still has a slightly transitional feel to it. It makes one wonder what wonders Morgan might have had in store had this not been 'The Last Session.'

Absolutions (from Live at the Lighthouse)

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The Beehive (from Live at the Lighthouse)

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Nommo (from Live at the Lighthouse)

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Capra Black (from The Last Session)
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmpznB6VMyY

In What Direction Are You Headed (from The Last Session)

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Angela (from The Last Session)

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Fischman
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  • #239
  • Posted: 5 days ago
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Alex Sipiagin - Hindsight
Year: 2001
Style or Subgenre: Post Bop


Alex Sipiagin - Destinations Unknown
Year: 2011
Style or Subgenre: Post Bop


Here's a couple enticing albums from Russian expatriot trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, veteran of Mingus Big Band and sideman to Gil Evans. His albums as leader are interesting in their own right, showing little resemblance to his mentors and sources of inspiration. This is, for the most part, fairly standard post bop delivered by premier modern jazz musicians. Hindsight is mostly original material and Destinations Unknown is all Sipiagin originals.

The ensembles show they can be both lyrical and technical. On Hindsight, saxophonist Chris Potter makes a nicely sympathetic front line partner to Sipiagin, and guitarist Adam Rogers adds some welcome stability. The bass work of fellow Russian Boris Koslov is particularly noteworthy.

Despite having some advanced harmonic structures, the latter Destinations Unknown generally has a slightly more mainstream feel to it. It's easy to get into a groove with some of the songs, especially the adventurous but flowy "Videlles." On "Fermata Scandola" pianist Craig Taborn switches to some very cool retro electric piano sound but with a modern lyrical and harmonic sense; very cool.

Two interesting albums with significant similarity, yet each with their its flavor. I liked both very much, but found the latter just a little tastier.

Hindsight (from Hindsight)

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Linear Passage (from Hindsight)

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Second Shot (from Hindsight)

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Next Stop - Tsukiji (from Destinations Unknown)

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Videlles (from Destinations Unknown)

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Fermata Scandola (from Destinations Unknown)

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Fischman
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Gender: Male
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  • #240
  • Posted: 4 days ago
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Horace Silver - The Tokyo Blues
Year: 1962
Style or Subgenre: Hard Bop, Soul Jazz


This was one of the albums in Horace Silver's catalog I had neglected. Then, last night while enjoying one of my jazz streaming stations, "Sayonara Blues" came on. I thought "That sounds like Silver tune" although I couldn't place it. So I checked the feed, and sure enough, It was Silver. By the time I looked it up, I was seriously enamored and sought to get a good listen to the whole album.

Other than the head on title cut, despite the album title and cover, the songs on this album are not overtly Japanese in sound. Rather, Silver settles back into his familiar blues and Latin based atmosphere for the most part. Junior Cook plays some nice tenor, being especially lush in tone and lyrical in phrasing on the opening "Too Much Sake." I give special props to Blue Mitchell for some truly gorgeous tone and lively soloing on four of the five cuts (the fourth cut, "Cherry Blossom is a delightful Silver solo). Silver is special, being at his lightest throughout.

I definitely shouldn't have neglected this album. Despite the nonsequiturs involved, it's a great album; a gem of soul-influenced hard bop with just a hint of Eastern influence for an interesting twist.

Too Much Sake

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Sayonara Blues

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The Tokyo Blues

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