Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Two-Sentence Jazz Reviews, May-June 2017—Part II

Here's the second installment of the brief two-sentence reviews of jazz records that I heard during my recent European trip and that I originally published in my Facebook page.

The Modern Jazz Quartet at Music Inn, Vol. 2 (Atlantic, 1959)

Recorded live in Lenox, MA, in the summer of 1958, this date showcases the usual elegance of the forward-thinking Modern Jazz Quartet along with tenorist Sonny Rollins on two tracks (on Vol. 1, recorded two years earlier at the same place, it's Jimmy Giuffre that guests). The carefully chosen set list works perfectly, mixing standards with tunes by John Lewis, Milt Jackson, and Charlie Parker, and the two tracks with Rollins ("Bags' Groove" and "Night in Tunisia") are the highlights of an album that is superb all around.

Oscar Peterson Trio + One (Mercury, 1964 / Verve, 2007)

Cut for Mercury in 1964, this is one of Oscar Peterson's most relaxed, bluesiest dates of the 1960s, featuring a special guest in trumpeter Clark Terry, who plays both flugelhorn and trumpet. Peterson's piano playing is characteristically dazzling, as usual, and the comfortable interplay between his trio (Ray Brown on bass and Ed Thigpen on drums) and Terry is a joy to hear, making this an essential entry in Peterson's vast, rich discography.

Jan Lundgren Trio—Svenska Landskap (Sittel, 2003 / Fog Arts, 2017)

This 2003 gem now available for digital download and streaming finds Jan Lundgren and his trio (Mattias Svensson on bass and Morten Lund on drums) on a musical journey around Sweden via jazz versions of traditional tunes and a couple of very appropriate Lundgren originals. The playing is swift and fresh on the uptempo tracks and lyrical and introspective on the ballads, and the album as a whole won't disappoint anyone who takes a chance on it. [You may read a more detailed Jazz Flashes review about this album here.]

Freddie Hubbard—Born to Be Blue (Pablo, 1982)

This is a lovely, very recommendable late-career album by trumpeter Freddie Hubbard in a percussion-laden sextet that also features the great Harold Land on tenor sax and flute. It features some very engaging uptempo numbers (like "Joy Spring," for instance) and some typically sensitive, lyrical ballad playing such as the beautiful title track.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Two-Sentence Jazz Reviews, May-June 2017—Part I

Due to a recent trip to Europe, I haven't had the chance to publish anything in Jazz Flashes, but I did write some very brief reviews of jazz albums I heard and/or purchased while overseas on my Facebook page. Now that I am back, I have compiled these two-sentence reviews on this post. I hope you find something to your liking among these outstanding records—and stay tuned for the forthcoming second part!

Buddy Tate and His Buddies (Chiaroscuro, 1994)

Saxophonist Buddy Tate's buddies—trumpeter Roy Eldridge, saxist Illinois Jacquet, pianist Mary Lou Williams, guitarist Steve Jordan, bassist Milt Hinton, and drummer Gus Johnson—are mostly jazz royalty, musicians who feel at ease in each other's company and enjoy playing together. This powerful, blues-drenched 1973 New York City date is truly a masterclass in first-rate small-group swing and blues, five selections that give all participants plenty of room to shine and surprise the listener with their inventiveness and exciting knack for improvisation.

Emil Viklicky—Live at the Box (Petr Bielicky, 2014 / Fog Arts, 2017)

Always the experimentalist, Czech jazz pianist Emil Viklicky feels at home distilling a mixture of jazz, classical, and Moravian folk music, as he does in Live at the Box, recently reissued for digital download and streaming by the Stockholm based Fog Arts label. This 2011 live date finds Viklicky in a trio setting, with Frantisek Uhlir on bass and Josef Vejvoda on drums, running through a varied selection of his highly personal compositions, the kind of eclectic jazz that surprises and grows on the listener with each play, with the highlight being bassist Uhlir's "Father's Blues."

Gerry Mulligan & Scott Hamilton—Soft Lights and Sweet Music (Concord, 1986)

Though perhaps not as well known as it deserves to be, this is a memorable tenor-baritone saxophone meeting between Scott Hamilton and Gerry Mulligan, cut in the mid-1980s for Concord in a quintet setting with Mike Renzi on piano, Jay Leonhart on bass, and Grady Tate on drums. It's a mostly uptempo affair with a fair share of Mulligan originals, and the mutual understanding between both saxophonists makes for some extremely satisfying listening.

Howard McGhee—Maggie's Back in Town (Contemporary, 1961)

After quite a spell away from the studios due to drug-related problems, trumpeter Howard McGhee came back on the jazz scene with this amazing album that showcases his bop-inflected playing in the company of fantastic musicians like pianist Phineas Newborn, Jr., bassist Leroy Vinnegar, and drummer Shelly Manne. The result is one of the best bop records of the early 1960s, an inventive, exciting run through a few standards, an original composition by McGhee, and two Teddy Edwards tunes, all of which makes it clear that Maggie (as McGhee was known to his friends) was definitely back!