Music Review

Joel Dorn April 7, 1942 - December 17, 2007

joel_dornEven before I met Joel Dorn, I felt like I knew him. The CDs his label 32Jazz issued almost always included his thoughts about and/or experiences with the musicians and music contained therein, sometimes reverent and more often witty. He could’ve had as great a career as a writer as he had as a producer. When I did meet him, it was to interview him for a now-defunct website. Alas, my tape recorder malfunctioned and I was unable to transcribe from it and thus wrote no article. I felt doubly guilty because he had been so warm and friendly. He had been in person exactly the man I had extrapolated from his writing. Read more »

A Rarely Heard Bird

tony_birdTony Bird: Tony Bird (CBS, 1976)
Bird of Paradise (CBS, 1978)

Born in 1945 and growing up in Malawi, Tony Bird might be expected to have absorbed some unusual influences, and indeed he did. Long before Paul Simon’s Graceland brought quirky African vibes to bear on Western folk, Bird created music of wonderful fusion and vibrancy. Read more »

He Shall Be Levon: Then and Now

rco_allstars.jpgLevon Helm and the RCO All Stars
Live at the Palladium NYC New Year's Eve 1977 (Levon Helm Studios)
Levon Helm Dirt Farmer (Vanguard)

Arguably one of the finest popular music groups in recent decades, The Band officially disbanded in 1976, its members having been on the road for almost twenty years commencing in the late '50s as Ronnie Hawkins’s band, on to notoriety as Bob Dylan’s backup and collaborators, then stardom on their own as The Band. Read more »

Matthew Shipp Trio: Piano Vortex (Thirsty Ear)

shipp_vortex.jpgWith this latest trio effort by pianist Matthew Shipp, we are led deeper into his dark, lyrical maelstrom. Slight touches of Tristano can be felt as Shipp caresses and brushes the keys in his usually offensive (as opposed to defensive) manner, as in the title piece, where he creates an inviting rather than threatening whirlwind, always on the attack, in his brutal love affair with his instrument. Here we are taken on short, sometimes bumpy rides, as with the Herbie Nichols-esque, off-kilter rollercoastering of "Key Swing." Read more »

Hank Thompson: 3 September 1925 - 6 November 2007

hank_thompson.jpgOne of the greats of country music is gone. Henry William "Hank" Thompson died at the age of 82 on Tuesday night at his home in the Fort Worth suburb of Keller after a short bout with aggressive lung cancer. With 29 Top 10 Country hits from 1948 through 1975, and over sixty million records sold, he earned induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and into the Nashville Songwriters HOF in 1997.

As a youngster, Thompson won radio station WACO's talent show so often that after awhile he was banned from competing, though they kept him around, first as a guest singer and then as a weekly show host (for which position he was dubbed Hank the Hired Hand). Read more »

John Abercrombie: The Third Quartet (ECM)

abercrombie.jpgAbercrombie ascends and transcends on this disc, released earlier this year. The Third Quartet achieves a level of sublimity this ensemble flirted with on their previous two superb outings, Cat 'n Mouse (2002) and Class Trip (2003). Abercrombie, in pursuit of “a more acoustic” sounding band relative to his earlier units (he seems to re-invent his bands about every five years or three to four recordings) has evolved a spatial ambience inclusive of his quietest acoustic musings and the energy of his most bombastic electric playing with a stunning subtlety, with violinist Mark Feldman’s additional intuitive intertwining and creative violin contributing to the overall chamber jazz atmosphere. Read more »

ANNIVERSARIES: Thelonious Monk Born 90 Years Ago

monk-fezBorn October 10, 1917 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Monk was raised in New York City from 1922 on. He started playing piano at age nine and eventually applied his keyboard skills to playing in church and going on tour with an evangelist. His first studio recordings came with Coleman Hawkins in 1944, while his first recordings as a leader came for Blue Note in 1947. By that point Monk had already had a major influence on the development of bebop as the house pianist at Minton's Playhouse. Read more »

Rainbow Sighting

in_rainbows.jpgRadiohead: In Rainbows (online edition)

Expectation can make you crazy. And with the release of their latest effort, via a unique pay-as-you-wish internet scheme, Radiohead announced in more ways than one that they know the stakes. In Rainbows popped into my inbox at 2:22 AM New York time (I had opted for the fixed price deluxe set, which will be delivered in December, including vinyl albums!, but still got my download access) and as soon as I unzipped it I was pulled in by a magnet of sound. Read more »

Charlie Hunter Trio: Mistico (Fantasy)

charlie_hunter.jpgThe guitarist with two brains and four hands is back. Hunter is prolific and a restless advocate of changing things and mixing it up with a humor and skill that’s attracted a diverse fan base including the jam band crowd, jazz guitar buffs, and more. On Mistico, Hunter puts the twang back in the thang with energetic audiokinetics for nine original tracks. The loose, often jangling, borderline psychedelic-dream instrumentals tend to have a strong ’60s throwback vibe via effects and the stripped-down analog recording technique employed. Read more »

Joe Zawinul: A Musical Journey Through His Life (July 7, 1932 - Sept. 11, 2007)

joe_zawinul.jpgJosef Erich Zawinul, who died on Tuesday of skin cancer, was a major pioneer of jazz fusion. His best epitaph was written by Miles Davis in 1970 for the sleeve of the LP Zawinul: "In order to write this type of music you have to be free inside of yourself and be Josef Zawinul with two beige kids, a black wife, two pianos, from Vienna, a Cancer and Cliche-Free."

Born in Vienna, raised playing accordion, Zawinul was classically trained but came to love jazz and moved to the United States in 1959, working with trumpeter Maynard Ferguson (where he met saxophonist Wayne Shorter) and then singer Dinah Washington. Read more »

All-Ages Soul

home_schooledHome Schooled: The ABCs of Kid Soul (Numero)

The soul aficionados at Numero have dug deep into the crates for this one – only experts will recognize any of these artists – and handily matched the glories of their Eccentric Soul series. “Children should be seen and not heard” definitely doesn’t apply to the kiddie acts featured here – more like “you’ve got to hear this to believe it.” Yes, Michael Jackson wasn’t the only prepubescent popster making the scene in the Seventies. Read more »

Chubby-Less

electric_chubbylandPopa Chubby: Electric Chubbyland, vols 1&2 (Blind Pig)

Let me continue the tradition of virtually every reviewer feeling compelled to mention that Popa Chubby began life as one Ted Horowitz in The Bronx, in the neighborhood, as the promo material points out, “immortalized in Robert DiNiro’s film A Bronx Tale. So, Popa and I actually share the same childhood neighborhood, except I was born almost 20 years earlier than him and actually in the time the movie was set in. Read more »

Max Roach January 10, 1924 – August 15, 2007

max_roach1.jpgWith the death of Max Roach, we have lost the last of the first generation of bebop innovators from the circle of players who cohered around the core of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk in New York in 1941-45. Roach started playing in jam sessions with Parker in Harlem in 1942, joined Gillespie's band in 1944, and was the drummer on Parker's first recording session as a leader (November 26, 1945 for Savoy), taking a solo on "KoKo," Parker's brilliant and challenging extrapolation from the standard "Cherokee." Even if Roach had never done a session as a leader, his '40s-'50s work in the bands of Gillespie, Parker, Monk, Bud Powell, Miles Davis (including the Birth of the Cool sessions), Dexter Gordon, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins (Saxophone Colossus and Freedom Suite), and many more would ensure his reputation. Read more »

Max Roach, R.I.P.

max_roach.jpgIf music is the pulse of life, drums are the lifeforce. And with the passing of Max Roach, the earth will be spinning a little slower. Explore everything he made -- his dazzling cymbal work, the bombs he dropped with his bass pedal, the snap of his snare, the way he wove a tapestry that enticed everyone from Bird to Diz to Monk to Clifford Brown and kept musicians of all stripes on their toes practically right up to the end.

Max Lives!

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