The Caribbean Tinge

Thoughtful, passionate jazz musicians feel around a big world, and an old one as well

Pick Hits

DAVID MURRAY & THE GWO-KA MASTERS
Gwotet
Justin Time

As with Murray's two previous Guadeloupe albums, a foray into pan-African cosmopolitanism is built around the gwo-ka drums and chant vocals of Klod Kiavue, and François Ladrezeau. But the rest of the cast is new, including Guadeloupean guitarist Christian Laviso and Vietnamese-Senegalese hybrid Hervé Samb, extra brass from Murray's Latin Big Band, and featured saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. Where Creole achieved lush exoticism, and Yonn-Dé strove for modest authenticity, this one is a nonstop riot of rhythm and horns. A

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SONIC LIBERATION FRONT
Ashé a Go-Go
High Two

As in David Murray's gwo-ka, drummer Kevin Diehl finds his inspiration in the relict rhythms that kept Africa alive in the Caribbean. But the Sunny Murray student does more than build post-bop jazz around Cuban bata drums. He messes with the classic rhythms, at times losing the pulse and wandering free. Same for the tenor sax—like Ayler, Terry Lawson starts with simple folk melodies and pushes them into frenzy. But three tracks feature vocals, and these reconnect the free jazz to its Lukumi roots. The most striking is the simplest, with Chuckie Joseph singing over nothing but his own strummed guitar—which pays dividends on the '60s avant-garde's fascination with pan-Africana by finally getting under its skin. A

FRED ANDERSON/HAMID DRAKE
Back Together Again
Thrill Jockey

Anderson grew up around the AACM in the '70s, recorded a bit, then settled into life as a club owner. Sometimes he would play his tenor sax in the club, and when he hit 65 he resumed recording—just in time for the Chicago jazz renaissance. This duo album came out on his 75th birthday, and it feels like he's finally found his way. Master drummer Drake, who learned to play alongside Anderson's son when his family moved to Chicago, keeps the rhythms bubbling, getting a robust but subdued sound from his frame drums that keeps Anderson relaxed and generous. A MINUS

JAMES BROWN
Soul on Top[1969]
Verve

This extends Ray Charles's omnivorous big-band soul, with Brown reinventing standards—"That's My Desire," "September Song," "Every Day I Have the Blues," "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag"—in front of Louie Bellson's orchestra, which arranger-conductor Oliver Nelson barely manages to discipline, so caught up is the band in the singer's excitement. In Brown's discography, just a curio. But in the whole history of big band jazz, there's never been a singer like him. A

MARILYN CRISPELL TRIO
Storyteller
ECM

After two decades of comparisons to Cecil Taylor, her third ECM record is deliberate, cautious, almost pretty. Paul Motian could take credit for taming the shrew, but more likely it was her own growing interest in Bill Evans that led her to Motian. He wrote most of the pieces, but exerts little control. Indeed, his subtle drumming is almost untethered to Crispell's piano. But at this slow pace, the logic of her playing, her knack for surprising sequences that make perfect sense once you've heard them, is as dazzling as her speed ever was. A MINUS

MARTY EHRLICH
Line on Love
Palmetto

Stanley Dance invented the category "mainstream jazz" to account for older musicians who had assimilated bebop without losing their swing, but mainstreaming never ended: The avant-garde of the '60s is older now than bebop was then, so old that youngsters channel Ornette and Braxton and Hemphill as naturally as Bird and Prez and Hawk. The mainstream du jour is the old new thing shorn of its desire to shock and dismay. These days albums that venture well beyond neocon blues-swing dogma while remaining merely smart and polite are the norm. Yet though this one rarely gets out of ballad gear, it remains fresh and unpredictable, retaining the spirit of innovation, not just the form. A MINUS

EL-P/THE BLUE SERIES CONTINUUM
High Water
Thirsty Ear

The third album in less than a year for the Blue Series Continuum, a band that shares its name with Thirsty Ear's avant-jazz series, both of which have wandered deep into DJ territory. Each release is staffed by artistic director Matthew Shipp and his usual crew, and each has a different guest producer. The Good and Evil Sessions was an upbeat groove album. The relatively abstract Sorcerer Sessionsindulged Shipp's avant-classical tendencies. This one shows more meat, probably because El-P carves what the band gives him rather than smothering it in sauce. A MINUS

PERCY HEATH
A Love Song
Daddy Jazz

The ultimate team player worked on 300 albums before finally cutting one under his own name. But at 79, the sole survivor of the Modern Jazz Quartet is entitled. He's got some songs—old like "Watergate Blues" and new like the title number, which he played at Milt Hinton's funeral. He's got some ideas, like playing the melody to "Django" on bass and playing cello over Peter Washington's bass. He's got his brother Tootie on drums. And he's got a young pianist he wants to show off, so he lets Jeb Patton take the spotlight for two pieces, one by and the other for Sir Roland Hanna. A MINUS

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