Tag Archives: jazz

Jazz Guitar Maestro John Abercrombie Dies at 72

John Abercrombie

 

Acclaimed jazz guitarist John Abercrombie died on August 22, 2017 after a long illness.

John Laird Abercrombie was born on December 16, 1944 in Port Chester, New York. In a press release, ECM Records’ Tina Pelikan wrote: “He will be much missed, for his sensitive musicality, his good companionship, and his dry humor which enhanced many a session. He leaves behind an extensive discography which will be studied as long as people continue to play jazz guitar.

John made his first recording for ECM, the appropriately-titled “Timeless”, in the summer of 1974, with his lifelong friend Jack DeJohnette on the drums, and Jan Hammer on organ. Over the next four decades, he was active as leader, co-leader and sideman on dozens of ECM projects. A creative writer of jazz tunes, John also loved to play freely as much as he loved to play standards. Many of his albums combine all of these resources, unified by his fluid, silvery tone and improvisational eloquence. In conversation he would speak of his enduring fondness for Jim Hall and Wes Montgomery, primary influences, and also of the liberating examples of Ornette Coleman and Jimi Hendrix; Bill Evans’s sense of lyricism was also of crucial importance to him.

John Abercrombie

 

John Abercrombie led a number of very fine bands, and he was particularly proud of his last quartet with Marc Copland on piano, Drew Gress on double bass, and Joey Baron on drums. This quartet released two albums, “39 Steps” and “Up and Coming”, the latter just released in January 2017.

 

 

Highlights in his recording career were many and include the Gateway trio albums with Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette, the duo albums with Ralph Towner, the Special Editions albums (with DeJohnette, Lester Bowie and Eddie Gomez), Jan Garbarek’s “Eventyr”, Charles Lloyd’s “The Water Is Wide”, Collin Walcott’s “Grazing Dreams” (where John and Don Cherry play together), Enrico Rava’s “The Pilgrim and the Stars”, Kenny Wheeler’s “Deer Wan” … the list goes on.

John died peacefully at Hudson Valley Hospital outside of Peekskill, NY, in the presence of his family.”

 

Bill Frisell’s Harmony Project to Perform at Carboro ArtsCenter

Acclaimed jazz guitarist and innovator Bill Frisell is set to perform on Thursday, September 14th in Carrboro, North Carolina with his Harmony Project.

The ensemble put together by Frisell includes vocalist Petra Haden, cellist Hank Roberts, and multi-instrumentalist Luke Bergman. Harmony is described as an evocative trip through the landscape of American music of the last century.

More details at: artscenterlive.org/events.

Ancestor’s Tale

Ut Gret – Ancestor’s Tale (AltrOck Productions, 2014)

Ancestor’s Tale is the fourth album by American progressive music band Ut Gret. The ensemble’s sound is characterized by the combination of prog rock instrumentation and various wind instruments such as the bassoon and clarinet. It’s a mix of avant-garde jazz, free form improvisation, chamber music and Canterbury-style progressive rock.

Ut Gret intertwines structured musical works with unexpected experimental improvisation.

The lineup on Ancestor’s Tale includes Joee Conroy on electric guitar, acoustic 12-string guitar, fretless bass; Steve Roberts on organ, electric piano, mellotron, marimba, vibes, samples; Jackie Royce on bassoon, flute, contra-bassoon; Steve Good on clarinet, bass clarinet; Gary Pahler on drums; Sydney Simpson: double bass; Cheyenne Mize on vocals, violin; and Gregory Acker on flutes, percussion, digeridoo, baritone saxophone.

The CD booklet includes fascinating artwork and descriptions of the musical pieces.

Buy Ancestor’s Tale in the rest of the world

Buy Ancestor’s Tale in Europe

Artist Profiles: John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin

In a career that has spanned over 4 years John McLaughlin has been part of or led some of the most important movements in jazz and music. His compositions are now being treated with the reverence of classical music pieces and being interpreted the world over musicians of many varied genres.

John McLaughlin was born January 4 1942 in Doncaster, Yorkshire in England. The guitarist is well known for his eclectic taste in music. McLaughlin was a child when he first fell in love with jazz and the blues and he was just 11 years old when he began studying and playing the guitar.

The 1960s found him playing jazz rock and blues in his native England where he worked with Alexis Korner and Ginger Baker among others before moving to New York at the end of the decade.

McLaughlin had a busy year in 1969. He recorded his debut album Extrapolation and started working with two seminal voices in early fusion: Tony Williams (who employed McLaughlin and organist Larry Young in his trailblazing group Lifetime) and Miles Davis. Never afraid to forge ahead Davis had done a lot to popularize cool jazz and modal post-bop in the past and he continued to break new ground when he introduced fusion on his 1969 sessions In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew both of which feature McLaughlin’s playing. The guitarist was also featured on 1970’s A Tribute to Jack Johnson another Davis gem of the time.

Like bebop in the 1940s and modal jazz in the early 1960s fusion was controversial. Jazz purists felt that rock and funk rhythms had no place in jazz but thankfully McLaughlin disagreed and let his musical instincts guide him.

After participating in Davis’ and Williams’ groundbreaking fusion combos McLaughlin founded an influential group of his own in 1971: The Mahavishnu Orchestra fusion’s first super group. The Mahavishnu Orchestra created music that still has a unique influence today. The band included some of the finest contemporary jazz instrumentalists of the time: violinist Jerry Goodman (later Jean-Luc Ponty), keyboardist Jan Hammer (later Gayle Moran and Stu Goldberg), bassist Rick Laird (later Ralphe Armstrong) and drummer Billy Cobham (later Narada Michael Walden). The Mahavishnu Orchestra combined electric jazz and rock with Indian influences.

 

 

By the time Mahavishnu broke up in 1975 it had recorded several classic albums for Columbia (including Birds of Fire, Between Nothingness and Eternity, The Inner Mounting Flame, Apocalypse and Visions of the Emerald Beyond) and gone down in history as one of the 1970’s most influential fusion ensembles.

 

The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Birds of Fire

 

The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Between Nothingness and Eternity

 

The Mahavishnu Orchestra – The Inner Mounting Flame

 


The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Apocalypse

 

The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Visions of the Emerald Beyond

 

In 1973 collaborated with Carlos Santana on the album Love Devotion Surrender dedicated to their guru at the time Sri Chinmoy. They covered John Coltrane pieces including the classic “A Love Supreme” (with chanting) and several Mahavishnu compositions.

In 1975 McLaughlin did the unexpected by founding Shakti an acoustic group that employed traditional Indian musicians including tabla player Zakir Hussain violinist L. Shankar (Ravi Shankar’s nephew), T.H. Vikku Vinayakram (ghatam) and earlier Ramnad Raghavan (mridangam). The group released Shakti with John McLaughlin and A Handful of Beauty.

 

Shakti – Shakti with John McLaughlin

 

Shakti – A Handful of Beauty

 

Shakti underscored the guitarist’s interest in India’s music culture and religion. Shakti reminded listeners that McLaughlin was as appealing on the acoustic guitar as he was on its electric counterpart and proved that he wasn’t about to confine himself to playing any one style of music exclusively.

Indeed McLaughlin was heard in a variety of musical settings in the 1980s everything from a brief Mahavishnu Orchestra reunion in 1984 to an acoustic guitar summit with Al DiMeola and Flamenco legend Paco de Lucia in 1982 (The Guitar Trio) to a classical album with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1988. At the same time McLaughlin was also at the forefront of technology using the first guitar synthesizers.

McLaughlin was no less eclectic in the 1990s when his Verve projects ranged from 1993’s acoustic Time Remembered: John McLaughlin Plays Bill Evans (a tribute to the late pianist) to sessions featuring organist Joey DeFrancesco (1993’s Tokyo Live) and an acoustic McLaughlin/DiMeola/de Lucia reunion in 1996.

It was in 1997 that McLaughlin reunited with Zakir Hussain and a reconfigured version of Shakti for several U.K. concerts that were documented on Verve’s two-CD set Remember Shakti. In the subsequent years John has releasedAfter the Rain with Elvin Jones and a career retrospective titled The Promise as well as the live The Heart of Things and most recently Industrial Zen.

In 2005 he created a revolutionary guitar instructional DVD This is the Way I Do It that has met with universal praise. Today he continues on his musical journey by once again delving into yet another musical form that combines all of his past experience with as of yet unlearned knowledge.

I’m a guitar player that’s what I am primarily that’s what I’ll always be‘ McLaughlin has been quoted as saying. ‘(And) I’m an eternal learner. I don’t want to stop learning because I feel that no matter what I’ve done; I’m really just beginning again. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning.’

In 2010 he received the reputable German jazzahead! Award. The award honors the activities of artists in the vibrant and distinct musical language of jazz.

In 2015 McLaughlin released Black Light featuring 8 original McLaughlin compositions including a tribute to his departed colleague collaborator and friend Paco De Lucia, with whom McLaughlin had intended to compose an album’s worth of new material just before De Lucia’s untimely passing. McLaughlin returned to acoustic guitar for a tribute to his friend titled “El Hombre Que Sabia”.

The rest of Black Light is electric showcasing McLaughlin’s band the 4th Dimension, “my three favorite musicians,” said McLaughlin. The 4th Dimension is composed of multi-instrumentalist Gary Husband on keyboards and drums, Etienne Mbappe on electric bass and drummer Ranjit Barot.

website: www.johnmclaughlin.com

Masterful Final Act for 11th House

Larry Coryell’s 11th House – Seven Secrets (Savoy Jazz, 2017)

Seven Secrets brought together the seminal 11th House fusion band, one of the finest jazz-rock bands in the 1970s. Unfortunately, Larry Coryell died in February 2017 so it’s probably the last album Coryell made as band leader. Equally sad is the passing of Alphonse Mouzon, who died two months earlier, in December 2016.

The lineup is impressive, featuring the original 11th House musicians plus Larry’s son, guitarist Julian Coryell.

Fusion sounds great with guitars and keyboards. If you add a brass instrument, the trumpet works the best and this is what you get here. Along with superb solo and rhythm guitar, the album features masterful trumpet virtuosity. And the rhythm section is equally impressive, featuring creative drumming and bass lines.

The material ranges from cutting edge jazz-rock fusion to irresistible funk jazz pieces showcasing the talent of all the musicians.

The lineup on Seven Secrets includes Larry Coryell on electric and acoustic guitars; Julian Coryell on electric guitar; Randy Brecker on trumpet; John Lee on bass; Alphonse Mouzon on drums and keyboards. The only guest is Dennis Haklar on acoustic guitar on one piece.

Seven Secrets is an exceptionally good fusion album by two generations of remarkable musicians.

Buy Seven Secrets

Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan Announce Tour Dates

Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan

 

Guitar maverick Bill Frisell and virtuoso bassist Thomas Morgan will be touring North America in the next weeks to present their new album Small Town.

 

Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan – Small Town

 

 

Tour Dates

June 23 – Ottawa, ON at Ottawa Jazz Festival
June 24 – Toronto, ON at Toronto Jazz Festival
June 25 – Rochester, NY at Rochester Jazz Festival
June 27 – New Haven, CT at Firehouse 12
June 28 – Pawling, NY at Darryl’s Place
June 29 – Bay Shore, NY at Boulton Center for the Performing Arts
June 30 – Brooklyn, NY at Roulette
July 1 – Evanston, IL at SPACE
July 2 – Montreal, PQ at Montreal Jazz Festival

The Eighth Hour of Amduat through the Prism of Chamber Jazz

Dave Soldier – The Eighth Hour of Amduat

Dave Soldier – The Eighth Hour of Amduat (Mulatta 035, 2017)

Music experimentalist Dave Soldier has been composing and putting together music orchestras that explore and combine unexpected genres. This time he presents an avant-garde opera that mixes classical music with various forms of jazz. The Eighth Hour of Amduat is inspired by ancient pharaoh-era Egyptian mythology.

The Eighth Hour of Amduat mezzo-soprano Sahoko Sato Timpone, an orchestra, jazz musicians, including Marshall Allen (Sun Ra Arkestra), and a choir.

The lineup includes Dave Soldier on water bowls, electronics; Sahoko Sato Timpone on vocals; Marshall Allen on alto saxophone and electronic valve instrument (EVI); Rebecca Cherry, Akhmed Manedov, and Juana Pinilla Páez on violin; Olivia Gusmano on viola; Carolina Diazgranados on cello; Dani Bash on harp; Dan Blacksberg on trombone; Nick Millevoi on guitar; Michael Winograd on clarinet; Enrique Rivera-Matos on tuba; Anthony di Bartolo and Thomas Kolakowski on percussion; and a choir featuring Chace Simmonds-Frith, Natasha Thweatt, Sophie Laruelle, Xioming Tian, Eugene Sirotkine, Alicia Waller, and Melinda Learnard.

With The Eighth Hour of Amduat Dave Soldier continues to break musical boundaries disregarding trends.

Buy the digital version of The Eighth Hour of Amduat. The CD is available from www.mulatta.org.

The Endless Possibilities of Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan

Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan – Small Town (ECM Records, 2017)

The American guitarist, composer and arranger Bill Frisell has produced some extraordinarily fine music over the span of his career that’s been both interesting and engaging, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of us in the music reviewing business sigh a bored little sigh and muttered sullenly, ‘Oh, Bill has put out another recording.’ With colossal collaborations with composer John Zorn and drummer Paul Motian, Mr. Frisell has wowed audiences and music fans with recordings such as Rambler, Lookout for Hope, works, This Land, Good Dog, Happy Man, Nashville, Ghost Town, The Intercontinentals, Beautiful Dremers, Big Sur and When You Wish Upon a Star. He’s lured listeners in with his take on jazz, folk, country and Americana.

Well, Bill is back! Teaming up with bassist and composer Thomas Morgan, Mr. Frisell is set to hit the musical streets with his latest Small Town, set for release on May 26th on the ECM Records label, and hit the musical highways for June and July tour dates at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, the Toronto Jazz Festival, the Rochester Jazz Festival and the Montreal Jazz Festival, with a few extra performances in New Haven, Connecticut, Bay Shore, New York and Evanston, Illinois for good measure. So, you lucky folks within range of a venue you’ll need to hop in the car, grab the canoe and saddle up for some sweet jazz scenes this summer.

On the recording of Small Town it doesn’t take but a moment or two to pick up the vibe of this recording. Recorded live at New York’s Village Vanguard, Small Town positively sparkles with jazz goodness.

On playing at the Village Vanguard Mr. Frisell explains, “With all the notes that have been played there, the room is like a Gibson guitar from the 1940s – the history is in the molecules of the wood…We’re not pushing the walls back with volume, after all. You need to focus and get attention from the audience. You can get that at the Vanguard.”

With his own street creds that include collaborations with David Binney, Steve Coleman, Steve Cardenas, Gerald Cleaver, Jakob Bro, Masabumi Kikuchi and leading his own trio, Thomas Morgan has such recording to his name as Down Homeless with VNMG including Will Vinson, Peter Gabis and Steve Newcomb, Monsoon with Scott DuBois Quintet and David Liebman, Beauty Under Construction with Som Sum Sam, Pieces of Old Sky with the Samuel Blaser Quartet, To Fly to Steal with the Sylvie Courvoisier-Mark Feldman Quartet, Wislawa with the Tomasz Sanko New York Quartet and This Is The Day with the Giovanni Guidi Trio. On Small Town the pairing of Mr. Morgan’s bass and Mr. Frisell’s guitar seems easy, effortless and utterly enchanting.

“I asked Thomas to sit in with some of my groups,” says Mr. Frisell, “and we developed this rapport. Thomas has this way of almost time-traveling, as if he sees ahead of the music and sorts it all out before he plays a note. He never plays anything that isn’t a response to what I play, anticipating me in the moment. That sort of support makes me feel weightless, like I can really take off.”

He goes on to say, “Thomas and I are also similar in that we’re both quiet personalities. Whenever I play guitar, that’s my true voice. It’s not so dissimilar with Thomas, I think. Playing the bass is his natural way of expressing himself. And I’m going to steal a phrase from the saxophonist Charles Lloyd, who once said to me before a gig, ‘I’m really looking forward to singing with you.’ I think that way about playing with Thomas, too. He really plays the song, whether it’s a Fats Domino tune or something abstract – the energy comes from the same place.”

Small Town is going to hook listeners from opening track of Paul Motian’s “It Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago” through to the sleek version of Lee Konitz’s “Subconscious Lee” to the jaunty “Wildwood Flower” to the deep soulful sounds of Mr. Frisell’s composition and title track “Small Town” through to recording’s closing track “Goldfinger,” yeah, that “Goldfinger” from the Bond films. Fans get the goods with the Dave Bartholomew, Fats Somino and Pearl King composition “What a Party” and the Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan joint effort “Poet – Pearl.”

There’s no putting on airs, no impertinence and no rush to get anywhere on Small Town. Sleek lines turn elegant or edgy with a simple turn of phrase from these two masters. Impossibly rich and rewarding, Small Town is musical ride on the endless possibilities of guitar and bass and what shakes loose on that ride.

Buy Small Town

Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier’s Extraordinary Guitar Dialog

Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier – The Colours of Time (MGP Records MGPCD019, 2016)

Two of Europe’s finest eclectic jazz guitarists continue their series of collaborations with a double album titled The Colours of Time. The set is divided into two separate formats. The first album is a series of solo original works composed by either Pete Oxley or Nicolas Meier.

The material on disc 1 showcases the virtuosity of the two musicians along with their talent as composers, delivering a set of exquisite guitar duets. The two guitarists use a wide range of guitars and guitar-playing techniques. In addition to the usual solo and rhythm guitar styles, there is an ongoing guitar interchange throughout the album as well as beautiful moments where the guitarists use a beautiful plucking method that makes the guitar sound like a mesmerizing harp.

Although jazz is the foundation on disc 1, Oxley and Meier inject many other influences such as Gypsy jazz on “Waltz for Dilek”, Turkish influences on “Princes’ Island”, Pat Metheny-style guitar synth on “In Restless Repose”, North African/Middle Eastern sounds on “Sahara” and more Pat Metheny influences on “First Day of Spring,” although this time with Oxley on electric guitar.

On Disc 2, the original compositions become more rhythmic and electric with the addition of bassist Raph Mizraki and drummer Paul Cavaciuti. Pat Metheny’s influence continues on the opening track, “The Followers.” There is also a delicious ballad that perfectly crosses over into smooth jazz territory.

Some of the best tracks on this disc are the ones with a Middle Eastern flavor, such as “Riversides” and “Fethiye Crossroad.” Lastly, I need to mention a fabulous piece titled “Tales” that has instant classic appeal, with memorable bluesy solos.

 

 

The lineup on The Colours of Time includes Pete Oxley on nylon string, steel, electric, synth, jazz, and electric 12 string guitars; Nicolas Meier on nylon string, steel, acoustic 12-string, fretless nylon, glissentar, and jazz guitars; Paul Cavaciuti on drums; and Raph Mizraki on acoustic and electric basses.

The Colours of Time introduces the listener to a remarkable guitar dialog between two extraordinary guitarists.

Buy The Colours of Time