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Healing Force
Healing Force
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £21.95

5.0 out of 5 stars A quiet masterpiece., 12 April 2013
This review is from: Healing Force (Audio CD)
Don Pullen is an underrated pianist; almost all his albums are worth seeking out, but this is one of the very best. Although there are some moments of intense frenzy, overall this is a quiet, beautiful record in which the sections of abstraction are framed with sweetly melodic themes which stick in the ear and the mind. The opening "Pain Inside" is a fine example, beginning with strange, dark sounds (Pullen reaches inside the piano to pluck the strings), moving through some highly abstract atonality before resolving with a some sweetly beautiful melodies. On "Tracey's Blues" Pullen moves in and out of a conventional Blues structure, working up an intense frenzy before falling effortlessly back again; yet Pullen does it all so effortlessly and brilliantly that it sounds entirely consistent and right.

Cecil Taylor was a considerable influence on Pullen and the two are often compared; those who find Taylor's music unfathomable however may find this far more accessible because the "difficult" elements are placed alongside accessible, melodic sections. It may even do well as a bridge between more conventional music and the more difficult Free Jazz that's out there - yet it stands perfectly well on its own terms. The pianist I'm actually reminded more of is Keith Jarrett - this record came out a year after Jarrett's Köln Concert, although this resembles more Jarrett's playing of the '90s and '00s - and fans of his will find a lot to enjoy here.

Deserves to be better known!


Head Hunters
Head Hunters
Price: £6.58

4.0 out of 5 stars Herbie's last great album, 9 April 2013
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This review is from: Head Hunters (Audio CD)
This album is hugely popular and widely loved for its joyful funkyness. It's one of the (if not "the") best selling jazz albums of all time. It's pretty accessible stuff - It's also more sophisticated than many critics have suggested - the solos are long and often quite melodically complex, although this is always obscured by the rock-solid grooves. Hancock was accused of selling out, but it's clear from both this album's immediate predecessors (Sextant, Crossings) and as far back as Watermelon Man on Takin' Off and Cantaloupe Island on Empyrean Isles that Herbie was working towards this from the start, and that there was always a commercial / accessible side to his playing and writing. Sure, it's not the most profound music Hancock ever consigned to record, based as it is mostly on simple, catchy grooves, but in terms of sheer joyfulness it's hard to beat, and it's also a much more successful fusion of jazz and funk than some of the other things emerging at this time (like Miles Davis's On the Corner).

It also represented the last truly innovative Hancock album. The follow-up, Thrust, was a carbon copy; ever after Hancock's albums were divided between bland, commercial product (Future Shock and its ilk), and explicit attempts to re-create his 1960s style (VSOP and the other acoustic albums) without ever moving on from it. Herbie is a great pianist but I feel that of all of Miles's surviving superstar ex-sidemen (Corea, McLaughlin, Shorter, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Keith Jarrett etc) he has been the least successful in really transcending the work he did with Miles.


Miles in the Sky
Miles in the Sky
Offered by ALL-MY-MUSIC-GERMANY
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Quintet's forgotten album, 4 April 2013
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This review is from: Miles in the Sky (Audio CD)
The "transitional" nature of this album has been exaggerated a little. Yes, it features the first appearence of amplified electric instruments in Miles Davis's groups, and the track on which they appear definitely points forward to Miles's next album (Filles de Kilimanjaro) which was much more of a departure - but here the electric instruments are only on the one track. George Benson plays electric guitar on a second track but is used as little more than an effects-man in this context and barely registers a presence. In retrospect you can see the seeds of what was to come next, but more in the principle that Miles was experimenting with new sounds/instrumentation than in much change in the actual music. Filles de Kilimanjaro, with electric instruments and new musical conceptions throughout, is more clearly the "transitional" album.

It makes most sense therefore to consider this album a continuation of the Second Great Quintet formula of Davis's previous few albums (E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Sorcerer and Nefertiti). Although the Second Great Quintet is rightly one of the most famous and influential bands in Jazz; for whatever reason this album has never been particularly well known nor critically successful. I'd say that this is largely because there's nothing here they didn't do as well or better on the previous albums, though there are some good bits and the album stands well enough when considered in isolation,. Taken with the electric track, one gets the impression of various things cobbled together to make a release rather than a coherent whole; the tunes are pretty forgettable and it's difficult to recommend this to anyone other than Miles completists (though it's much better than many of the albums of which one could say that). If it weren't for the fact that the Second Quintet produced so much great music (Miles Smiles and Nefertiti are my favourites) my rating for this might be higher, as it is it's more of a footnote.


John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman
John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman
Price: £8.38

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fine on its own terms., 27 Mar 2013
How you rate this album probably depends largely on whether you consider it as a Coltrane album or as a Johnny Hartman album. As a Coltrane album it's a bit of an aberration - the quartet (this the classic quartet who were to produce A Love Supreme a year later!) are little more than a framing device for the singer and hardly get much opportunity to play, particularly Coltrane himself who is pretty quiet for most of this short (31 minutes) album. The solos are short a lot more like the "lighter" Coltrane of 1956 than the Coltrane of 1963; no sheets of sound, no modal intensities. It was released (along with "Ballads" and "Duke Ellington & John Coltrane") to counter the growing accusations that Coltrane was playing "anti-jazz"; but at least on those (purely instrumental) albums Coltrane was playing on his own terms (for all that Coltrane is known as an extreme technician, he played ballads like "Naima" through his whole career) rather than as an accompanist. In this context it's hard not to feel that this is little more than a commercial exercise on Coltrane's part, rather than something to which he attributed any real importance.

That said, if you can overlook the fact that it's not at all representative of Coltrane's playing in this period, it might be the most sheerly pretty album Coltrane ever recorded. Hartman sings well and these are all lovely renditions of all the songs; Coltrane & pianist McCoy Tyner in particular play beautifully and there's little to fault in any of the playing when considered purely in its own terms. If you like the male crooners in jazz then you'll love this album, and if you find Coltrane's free-er playing to be inaccessible then you may well enjoy this a lot, though I wouldn't recommend it as an introduction to Coltrane because as noted it's very unrepresentative.

Some may feel 3 stars is too harsh a rating, but remember it's an "Average" rating, not really a negative or critical one (I'd give three-and-a-half if I were allowed). People are too eager to give out five-star reviews for everything.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 4, 2014 9:06 PM BST


8 Classics
8 Classics
Price: £13.08

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For completists only., 21 Mar 2013
This review is from: 8 Classics (Audio CD)
Reattributing recording sessions - when a sideman becomes more famous than the leaders under which he previously recorded, sometimes the latters' sessions are re-issued under the former's name - is rather common in jazz, but John Coltrane seems to be the musician to which this happens the most, largely because he A) has become so famous and B) recorded a lot in 1957-58.

All the recordings on this set date from this period, and although Coltrane plays throughout half of them aren't Coltrane albums; on many of them he was just a sideman or at best co-leader: the proper leaders for half the albums here being Kenny Burrell (...& John Coltrane), Johhny Griffin (A Blownin' Session), Red Garland (All Mornin' Long) and Elmo Hope (Informal Jazz). This doesn't make the music bad by any means (with the possible exception of Hope, these are all well-known and well-thought of jazz musicians), and some of these albums might actually be unavailable outside this set - but it's a real stretch to call these Coltrane Albums, and rather unfair and insulting to the musicians whose brainchild these sessions really were to attribute them to Coltrane for marketing purposes (for better or worse, the Coltrane name sells better than Red Garland!).

The other half of the albums here are Coltrane-led, but, with the exception of Traneing In, consist of miscellaneous sessions collected and released by Prestige after Coltrane left (in 1958) and released without his input or approval. "The Last Trane" is a particularly egrerious example of this, being a compilation of three unrelated recording sessions. Traneing In is the only "proper" Coltrane album here, the only one which Coltrane himself designed and approved.

Of course, neither this nor the fact that Coltrane wasn't even leader on half these sessions doesn't invalidate the music on these sessions. It's just that this are not important sessions in the Coltrane story, like Giant Steps, Africa/Brass, A Love Supreme etc... There's lots of good stuff here, but this set can hardly be considered an "essential" Coltrane collection: what it actually is is a collection of early and formative sideman work, fascinating and useful in its way, but of more interest to completists than to casual listeners or those approaching Coltrane for the first time. Perfectly good on its own terms, but there are higher-priority purchases. The Vol. 2 set from the same people contains far more of Coltrane's own, significant releases.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 25, 2013 1:15 PM BST


Miles Davis: 20 Classic Albums [10CD] [Audio CD] Miles Davis
Miles Davis: 20 Classic Albums [10CD] [Audio CD] Miles Davis
Price: £16.47

46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars There are tracks missing., 18 Feb 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I won't give too detailed a review because there are lots already, but I wanted to draw attention to something that (I don't think) anyone else has done. Sure, there's lots of great music here, at a very reasonable price. BUT, many albums have tracks missing, presumably to squeeze 2 onto each disc. With one exception, this isn't advertised in the liner notes (the exception is Porgy and Bess, which the liner notes rightly describe as "selections from"). There are definitely tracks missing from Bags Groove, 1958 Miles and Somethin' Else, and possibly other albums that I haven't noticed yet - and we're not talking alternate takes or bonus tracks normally included on CD releases here, but original tracks that were part of the original LP album (no "Oleo" on Bags' Groove, none of the live tracks from 1958 Miles). This is doubly frustrating because some of the 20 albums you're supposedly getting here DO have bonus tracks, which they could should have skipped in favour of the original LP content. It wouldn't have been too difficult to sacrifice a disc, or half a disc, to fit all the tracks they've skipped. As if to cap it off, the second set of Miles albums by the same producers, while not having any non-bonus tracks missing (that I can tell), fills up lots of CD space with peripheral bonus tracks under other leaders (Charlie Parker & Michel Legrand), as well as including the redundant "Blue Period" (all of the music from which is included in this set, as it was an early 10" LP that was later reissued on various 12" discs) as well as most of 1958 Miles for a second time (again with the live tracks missing) - pointless duplication, especially when there are missing tracks!

The total amount missing from this boxed set is quite small (probably less than half an hour of music), and there's nothing absolutely essential that's missed, but all the same it's misleading to claim that there are 20 full albums here when there are so many omissions. It's still probably the cheapest way to get this music but one can't help but feel cheated and mis-sold, which is frustrating because normally Real Gone Jazz are pretty good about not doing this sort of thing.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 28, 2013 10:32 AM GMT


Dingo
Dingo
Price: £7.32

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Underrated late straight-ahead jazz from Miles, 11 Jun 2012
This review is from: Dingo (Audio CD)
This is a now rather forgotten soundtrack project from the early nineties. The film itself is enjoyable if rather lightweight and cheesy (the main reason people probably watch it is because it stars Miles himself). Miles himself is absent from about half of the tracks, with trumpeter Chuck Findley ably assuming the role of lead horn on most;The music is, compared to what Miles was doing at the time, decidedly straight-ahead jazz and where Miles does feature the playing is typically strong, so this may well appeal to those who want some latter-day Miles but are turned off by the jazz-pop he was experinmenting with during the 1980s. Sure, it's not exactly representative of the music he was making at the time but what single Miles album is ever completely representative of the man?

This is soundtrack music and most of the tracks are too short to offer any real sense development. Nonetheless, while it would be absurd to compare this disc qualitatively with his masterpieces from the 50s and 60s, the best of the tracks here do strongly remind one of Miles's classic period - "concert on the runway" for example bares more than a passing resemblance to "Milestones" and the funky "Jam session" is great fun. The disc is filled out with some questionable inclusions, such as "the music room" which is basically a dialogue between Miles and the film's star (Colin Friels) while Miles toodles away at a synthesizer; but there is enough decent stuff here to make this a worthwhile purchase for Miles fans.


Salt Peanuts
Salt Peanuts
Price: £12.03

1.0 out of 5 stars Who would want a set arranged like this?!, 19 April 2012
This review is from: Salt Peanuts (Audio CD)
These 10cd membran sets are hit-and-miss. They're always cheap, and in some cases they offer an excellent and comprehensive collection for the musician in question - for example the two Billie Holiday sets between them contain pretty much everything she recorded; the Charlie Parker and Lester Young sessions are also very good - but many of the sets come with flaws. Some of them (e.g. the Charles Mingus and John Coltrane sets) include what is essentially a large quantity of juvenalia: early and forgettable sessions cut by a great-musician-to-be in his sideman years. Some contain large numbers of alternate takes, some contain none. Others offer a one-sided view of a musician (e.g. the Benny Goodman set contains only big-band recordings, none of his key small group sessions). They are generally not to be recommended to those new to jazz because 10cds (~10hrs of music) is overwhelming and no way to start listening to anyone; a fact compounded by the fact that all the sets lack any kind of sleeve notes, documentation or information of any kind beyond a basic track listing (and in some of the sets there are mistakes in these as well!).

While suffering from various of the above flaws, this Dizzy Gillespie set is probably the WORST of the Membran 10cd sets, suffering from 2 key problems over and above the usual ones. Firstly, as highlighted by another reviewer, each CD contains only about 45 minutes of music - the music would therefore easily have fit onto 6CDs if concentrated at the same level as the other membran sets, leading one to assume that they put them on 10CDs merely to make the set look bigger. A waste of space and time! Even worse, while most (all?) the other membran sets at least arrange their tracks in chronological order (more or less), the tracks on this set are arranged at RANDOM. Compounded with the lack of sleeve notes, there is almost no way of being able to tell what you are listening to. I could just about understand it if it were a one-disc sampler, but 10cds is not a sampler and should be appealing to those wanting a comprehensive collection of recordings - the puzzling thing is why anyone would think that anyone would want a set arranged like this; it's highly unlikely that any musician would want their work to be thus arranged, completely devoid of its context. If you were putting it into a computer I suppose you could rearrange the albums and sessions together, but with nothing more to work on than the track names it would take hours.

It's a real shame because as noted, sometimes these sets are really good.


Eight Classic Albums
Eight Classic Albums
Price: £12.72

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of these 8-cd sets., 12 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Eight Classic Albums (Audio CD)
It goes without saying that 8CDs for this price is good value; the principle problem with these re-releases (apart from the lack of liner notes or explanatory information) is that they often tend to pair up excellent albums with lesser material by the same artist. The albums are always all from the same period so they are strictly inadequate as a 'best of' so shouldn't be approached as such (by way of example, this set only includes albums Rollins made between 1954 and 1957 (four years out of a 60-year (and counting!) musical career).

That said, unlike most of these 8CD sets there is almost no 'ballast' here. This was certainly the greatest period in Rollins' career, featuring some of his greatest masterpieces: Saxophone Colossus, Tour de Force and Work Time are all essential Sonny Rollins. Moving Out, the earliest album here, offers a glimpse of a slightly earlier Rollins and if the saxophonist is less inspiring here than on the later records that is only a reflection of the dizzying heights he achieved in them. 'Plus Four' is an excellent set with legendary trumpeter Clifford Brown (an essential set of Brown fans too) and Tenor Madness features his only recording with John Coltrane (frustratingly, on the title track alone). Only the two self-titled albums are less than essential, but they still reach the standard of most other jazz musicians' best work in what was a golden age for the music, and for Rollins himself.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 20, 2013 8:06 PM GMT


3 Classic Albums [Audio CD] Dolphy, Eric
3 Classic Albums [Audio CD] Dolphy, Eric
Price: £11.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eric Dolphy starting out, 12 April 2012
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These three albums from 1959 and 1960 are among Alto Saxophonist/Bass Clarinetist/Flautist Eric Dolphy's first as leader... or rather, two of them are. "Hot & Cool Latin" is neither by Eric Dolphy, nor even an actual album, but rather a collection of tracks Dolphy recorded as part of Chico Hamilton's group in 1959, originally released I believe on the albums Gongs East, Three Faces of Chico and Truth: Featuring Eric Dolphy. I'm not sure whether it includes the entirety of these albums or merely a selection from them (perhaps someone who owns them could clarify this). This isn't necessarily a criticism - there's nothing wrong with the music here and given that Dolphy's career was so short (he would be dead within five years of these recordings) we should be greatful for everything that has survived; but as so often in these cases re-releasing material under another's name and devoid of their original context is frustrating for purists/collectors. That said, Dolphy features strongly on all these tracks (using all his instruments) and although far more conventional than his own recordings you can here hints of what was to come in his playing.

The other two albums, Out There! and Outward Bound are his first as leader and although not as unconventional as his later masterpiece, Out to Lunch, they are essential records for Dolphy fans - what is also interesting about them is how different his own approach was to his playing under the leadership of those perhaps better known musicians with whom he was working during the sixties (Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Charles Mingus). Eric Dolphy was an avante-garde player but one whose work remains more clearly related to the Jazz tradition than other players - he might well appeal to those who like the idea of Free Jazz but are turned off by the 'hardcore' nature of Ornette Coleman or of Coltrane's later records (like Ascension). Hell, he might even be the place to start; but if you don't like anything 'difficult' then he is probably not for you.


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