[Dixielandjazz] JAZZ "Something For Everyone"

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sun Oct 31 08:24:51 PST 2004

Some new releases, among which you may find some of YKOM.

Steve Barbone

October 31, 2004 NY Times - By BEN RATLIFF
Faces of Jazz: Late Greats, Rare Gospel, Cool Caribbean


He was one of the most important jazz musicians of the last century, the
perfect mixture of high concept and earthy, able to imply a deep groove
without necessarily making it explicit, and to set loose one tumbling rhythm
on top of another. "Someday My Prince Will Come" (Eighty-Eights/Columbia),
with Hank Jones and Richard Davis - they were billed as the Great Jazz Trio
- was one of the last recordings the drummer Elvin Jones made before his
death last May. It is a set of standards, chosen by the album's produCer,
Yasohachi Itoh: durable tunes like "The Shadow of Your Smile" and "You'd Be
So Nice to Come Home To." The pianist Hank Jones, Elvin's brother, is a
neat, genial pragmatist in his music, not given to grandiosity. Elvin was
the opposite: any music he touched became darker and more profound. This
album, with Richard Davis on bowed and plucked bass, defines them both.
Unusual for a drummer, Elvin Jones is the best recorded of the bunch: you
hear his well-tuned tom-toms and bracing bass drum interacting with the
physical space around them.


Show your love, just for a minute, for unpopular movements in American
music. The year 1927 has been recognized as the supernova year of Armstrong,
Ellington, Beiderbecke, Morton, Jolson and Jimmie Rodgers. But it was also
the year that half a dozen sober-looking Alabamans with blazing eyes sang in
doleful five-part harmony for Gennett, a commercial record label. Sacred
Harp vocal music - named after a songbook called "The Sacred Harp,"
published in 1844 - was, and is, traditional white Southern gospel. But in
1927, that great year of musical fusions and the powerful viruses of swing
and hillbilly, it stayed outside of the popular sphere. These songs, on CD
for the first time with the release of the collection "Heaven's My Home," as
well as the various-groups sampler "Religion Is a Fortune" (both on County),
represent the moment when a closed-in tradition opened up to the public. It
is fatalistically sad and spookily beautiful.


This Cuban pianist used to make cold, fast and technical fusion records; by
the late 1990's, he had begun to make warmer, fascinatingly slow jazz
records; "Paseo," his new album on Blue Note, lands somewhere in between.
Happily, with what's billed as his "new Cuban quartet," he's playing mostly
piano here, not synthesizer. (When you hear his imperious control over touch
and tempo on the acoustic instrument, you don't want to hear him play
anything else.) There's a saxophonist, an electric bassist listening hard
and adding nuance, and a trap-set drummer. The music is by turns fussy and
elegant - in both tortoise and hare tempos - but Mr. Rubalcaba's improvised
single-note lines, with lots of built-in space, are like commands from a
great height. 


I haven't yet gotten through all of "The Complete Norman Granz Jam
Sessions," a five-CD reissue to be released Nov. 9 on Verve: it takes energy
to absorb five hours of music that's both so utterly fantastic and not a big
deal. But getting to know these studio-based jams from the early 1950's,
using the best players that could be roped in, has brought me back to
Illinois Jacquet, who died over the summer. He was an early star of Granz's
jam-session format concerts and records, and it was because he was a
saxophonist of great dimension: a hard-driving, uptempo player on "Blue
Lou"; a no-boundaries screamer on "Jam Blues"; and a sophisticated-harmony
ballad player on "Don't Blame Me." Most musicians have some range, but
Jacquet went all the way from delicate to gleefully vulgar.


The English jazz bassist Gary Crosby has brought together some of the better
British jazz musicians to render his version of Jamaican big-band jazz and
worked up an album of new arrangements on "Massive" (Dune). Over here,
reggae overshadows Jamaican jazz, but the latter has a long history, and
even the principal members of the Skatalites, the great ska band formed in
the early 1960's, started out as jazz musicians in Kingston hotels. Here are
the originals, covers of 60's jazz tunes (Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" and
Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance") and ska standards like Harry Johnson's
"Liquidator." It's all ska rhythm here, not swing rhythm, but the
arrangements are sharp, playful and Basie-esque; the soloists include the
blazing young alto player Soweto Kinch.


These two musicians - a Brazilian singer and an American jazz pianist - went
into the studio and made up a whole album, "Dreamtales" (Adventure Music),
from scratch. Many of the songs sound correct and sensible, which drives
home the lesson that improvisation is composition in real time. Channeling
the sweeping, spooky melodies of Milton Nascimento and Lo Borges, the record
is a mind-quieter: at times it's beautiful to the edge of mawkishness,
making you want to receive the music passively and disable your critical
engagement. But it's remarkable anyway - Ms. Villela turns her towering
voice into a cello, or skitters through percussive scatting against a fast,
rippling two-hand invention on the keyboard, or sings poems in Portuguese. 

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