11 June, 2015


Lee Morgan - The Sixth Sense (1969)

Lee Morgan - The Sixth Sense (1969)
jazz | 1cd | eac-flac-cue-log-covers | 420MB
Blue Note/EMI 7243 5 92423 2 3;  RVG 2004
From late 1967 through 1968, Lee Morgan fronted a fine sextet with alto saxophonist Jackie McLean and the less-heralded tenor saxophonist Frank Mitchell. The group recorded The Sixth Sense, but by September of 1968, Morgan, Mitchell, and drummer Billy Higgins remained, the band revamped and reduced to a quintet. Those later sessions were not released until 1999 with the issue of this CD, which includes three bonus tracks. Where McLean's contribution was very telling in terms of the combo's overall sound, the quintet was able to further display the quiet confidence and competence Mitchell held. Either Cedar Walton or Harold Mabern appear showcasing their distinctive qualities, so this transitional recording marks the end of Walton's association, and the beginning of Mabern's, who would last with Morgan right up to his tragic and senseless murder. The symmetry of McLean's sourdough alto, Morgan's on-top trumpet and the middle-ground tenor of Mitchell is more balanced on the straight-ahead calypso title track, sweet and light as Walton sets the pace and proportions the right seasonings. "Short Count" on the other hand displays a stubby melody spiked by Walton's piano accents and the drum fills of Higgins in a more off minor taste. Approaching boogaloo go-go, "Psychedelic" is not so much acidic as conga line, Morgan leading the group, then following. The most memorable piece is Walton's "Afreaka," a wonderful modal piece with an Afro-centric groove and great harmonic content. High drama identifies "Anti Climax" with a dark, closet film noir sound acceding to hard bop, while the great Cal Massey composition "The Cry of My People" is covered, a ballad dominated by Morgan's somber and deep muted trumpet, swinging lightly on the bridge. The three tracks sans McLean and Walton with Morgan, Mitchell, Mabern, Higgins, and bassist Mickey Bass replacing Victor Sproles from the fall of 1968 sound noticeably different from the others. There's a more soulful flavor in Mabern's Memphis-cum-N.Y.C. uptown approach, and Mitchell challenges himself to assert his individual, less-pronounced voicings. The tenorman's post-bop composition "Extemporaneous" displays tricky phrasings and a musical syncopation, Bass' "Mickey's Tune" uses a loping 5/4 to 6/8 rhythm change so modern it keeps your ears on their toes, so to speak, and while "Leebop" is fairly typical, the chord substitutions and brilliant playing of Mabern are hard to ignore as he digs in, far above average or timid. The more one listens to Mabern the more you understand why he was a favorite of Morgan's, and everyone else's. The appropriately title Sixth Sense presents a transition between one of the most intriguing sextets during the last years of post-bop and Morgan's final ensembles that saw him reaching higher and higher before, like Icarus, falling from grace.

01. The Sixth Sensev (6:46)
02. Short Count (6:03)
03. Psychedelic (6:32)
04. Afreaka (8:03)
05. Anti Climax (6:19)
06. The Cry Of My People (5:24)
07. xtemporaneous (5:09)
08. Mickey's Tune (6:36)
09. Leebop (5:38)

- Lee Morgan - trumpet
- Jackie McLean - alto saxophone
- Frank Mitchell - tenor saxophone
- Cedar Walton - piano
- Victor Sproles - bass
- Billy Higgins - drums
- Harold Mabern - piano
- Mickey Bass - bass

15 February, 2015


Mingus Big Band - Blues & Politics (1999)

Mingus Big Band - Blues & Politics (1999)
jazz | 1cd | eac-flac-cue-log-covers | 485MB
Dreyfus, FDM 36603-2
The MBB has become the most important and virile "ghost band" of them all. Their roaring, swinging spirit echoes the late bassist/composer/bandleader in ways that compare favorably to when Mingus was alive. The musicianship, rotating as it tends to, is consistently and outrageously outstanding, the new arrangements of classic Mingus tunes are fresh and vibrant as ever, and solos absolutely riveting. For this time around the band includes lead trumpeter Earl Gardner, lead alto/soprano saxophonist Alex Foster, and prominent soloists include tenor saxophonists Mark Shim, Seamus Blake, and John Stubblefield; trumpeters Randy Brecker and Alex Sipiagin; baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber; trombonist Conrad Herwig; alto saxophonists Bobby Watson and Vincent Herring; and arrangements by Michael Mossman, Sy Johnson, Howard Johnson, and Steve Slagle. Mingus himself speaks during the introductory "It Was a Lonely Day in Selma, Alabama," then the band chants and claps to "Freedom," certainly a prolific tone setter. "Haitian Fight Song" has bassist Boris Kozlov leading the angst-riddled charge, the piece played to perfection. The classic ode to Lester Young "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" is accented by tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake's patient, poignant solo and the band's pristine reading of Sy Johnson's new chart. "Don't Let It Happen Here," with its tango-flavored fanfare and son Eric Mingus' recitation, rivals the original. "Meditations for a Pair of Wire Cutters" has all the dynamic stop-start Mingus traits, "Pussycat Dues," is a pretty straight by comparison blues, "Oh Lord, Don't Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me" has Eric Mingus returning on the slow blues that still has relevance today as he shouts "don't let 'em drop it, stop it, be-bop it," and the 16-minute finale "Little Royal Suite" is so Ellingtonian in flavor, a full-bore swinger that lets the band, especially soloists Sipiagin, Stubblefield, and Herring running wild out of their cages. To interpret Mingus' music so faithfully and with such great authenticity and zeal is not an easy task. Another triumph for this ensemble, easily a Top Five jazz album of 1999, an essential purchase. Much more could be written or said, but Mingus and the band speak much louder than words.

01. It Was a Lonely Day In Selma, Alabama , Freedom (8:45)
02. Haitian Fight Song (8:22)
03. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (9:48)
04. Don't Let it Happen Here (5:15)
05. Meditations For A Pair of Wire-Cutters (11:39)
06. Pussycat Dues (6:37)
07. Oh Lord, Don't Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb On Me (8:57)
08. Little Royal Suite (15:59)

23 January, 2015


Bill Frisell - Rambler (1984)

Bill Frisell - Rambler (1984)
jazz | 1cd | eac-flac-cue-log-covers | 265MB
ECM 1987, released: 2008

This relatively early set from Bill Frisell is a fine showcase for the utterly unique guitarist. Frisell has the ability to play nearly any extroverted style of music and his humor (check out the date's "Music I Heard") is rarely far below the surface. This particular quintet (with trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, tuba player Bob Stewart, electric bassist Jerome Harris and drummer Paul Motian) is not exactly short of original personalities and their outing (featuring seven Frisell compositions) is one of the most lively of all the ones in the ECM catalog.

01. Tone (8:01)
02. Music I Heard (4:50)
03. Rambler (8:20)
04. When We Go (5:20)
05. Resistor (5:49)
06. Strange Meeting (7:06)
07. Wizard Of Odds (6:20)

- Bill Frisell – guitar, guitar synthesizer
- Kenny Wheeler – trumpet, cornet and fluegelhorn
- Bob Stewart – tuba
- Jerome Harris – electric bass
- Paul Motian – drums


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