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Highway Rider
Highway Rider
Price: 13.44

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Yet another jazz-with-strings project, 3 Nov 2011
This review is from: Highway Rider (Audio CD)
I am a Brad Mehldau fan and although this album is largely inoffensive I don't find it nearly as interesting or exciting as his best work. As a composer, Mehldau is allright but not enormously arresting; composition plays an ambiguous role in Jazz anyway and emphasising the compositional elements of his work to the detriment of his improvising, as he does here (there are few sections that could really be called 'solos') hardly seems like playing to his strengths. The tracks titles and presentation seem to imply that this is some sort of preconceived suite, but nothing in terms of literature is offered to explain the thinking behind it. The music should stand on its own feet of course but in such cases some kind of explanation might have helped the appreciation. The production seems rather odd: the strings often sound synthesized, even though they're not; if you wanted to get that sound why not use a synth? It would have been cheaper.

As another reviewer suggested, it seems that almost every successful Jazz musician will, at some point in their career, record an album with strings. Perhaps I am prejudiced against this album because my opinion, they rarely work; and those that do generally do so despite, rather than because of, the orchestra. Perhaps it will grow on me - but I doubt it.


The Last European Concert, Bad Honningen 1980
The Last European Concert, Bad Honningen 1980
Price: 10.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bill Evans Near the End, 2 Nov 2011
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Most of this concert has already been released before (as Bill Evans - His Last Concert in Germany), hence the appelation "complete" to this edition, which includes three extra tracks from the end of the evening. By the time he recorded this concert, Evans was at death's door - he was to die a few weeks later - and was only able to release one studio album with this, his final trio (Marc Johnson on Bass and Joe LaBarbara on drums), so releases like this offer an invaluable glance into what Evans' playing was like in his final years. Evans' hallmark had always been consistency, and most of his albums since his early 60s masterpieces had been of consistently good quality even if they had probably never reached those heights again. This set though is that of a pianist in serious decline - the last few tracks in fact seem to me to show him literally breaking down towards the end of the evening; full of discordant bangs, stumblings, even a section where it sounds like he's playing in the wrong key: things so far from Evans' usual style - even that of this final trio, which is far harsher than previous outfits - that I cannot help but feel that the pianist is literally falling apart at the piano. The Penguin Guide says of "Theme From MASH" "one realises how deep he was having to go to bring water out of the well". "Five", the last track, is little over a minute long - unusual for Evans - and one gets a sense from the hesitant applause that the audience can sense that there is something wrong; perhaps this is why the previous edition omitted these tracks! It makes fascinating listening in a morbid sort of way, but it's uncomfortable and I doubt the pianist would have wanted such material to be released.

Paradoxically however, the opening 'Letter to Evan' is the best version of the song I've ever heard Evans (or indeed, anyone else) play and is a thing of fragile beauty; absolutely one of Evans' best performances and almost worth buying this CD for alone!

As well as including three extra tracks (Who Can I Turn To; Theme from MASH; Five) not on the previous edition, this edition seems to have sorted out some of the track skipping that was present on the older release - at least, on my copy, there was a problem where one of the tracks included a few seconds completely out of sequence (and from a totally different track); however there is still distortion and a few missing seconds at the start of some of the tracks. The sound is overall an improvement on the previous release, so there is no reason to purchase the previous disc over this one if you don't own either; yet I wouldn't say that this edition offers enough new material to justify an upgrade if you already own the older version, which already has the exquisite "Letter to Evan" and omits only the last tracks, which, as I've described, are far from his best performances.


Bill Evans: Turn Out The Stars/The Final Village Vanguard Recordings June 1980
Bill Evans: Turn Out The Stars/The Final Village Vanguard Recordings June 1980
Price: 40.25

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Evans' last bow, 26 Oct 2011
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Bill Evans is rightly acknowledged as one of the greatest Jazz pianists of all time. He mostly performed and recorded in the Piano trio format, going through many different trio lineups during his years. Although Evans played with literally dozens of different combinations of bassists and drummers, his most well-known trios were the early trio with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian (1959-61), his long-standing trio with Eddie Gomez and Marty Morell the late 60s and most of the 70s, and his final trio with Marc Johnson and Joe Labarbera, heard here. Evans' first trio with LaFaro and Motian is generally regarded as his best; if the second trio with Gomez and Morell was a stable and consistent group then the music Evans recorded with the final trio represents an unusual case of Evans embarking in a new direction, producing music of markedly different character to what he had produced before. If the earlier trios were characterised by a sense of calm beauty, then by comparison this trio is frenzied and busy. Many tunes, such as Nardis and Theme from MASH are played at much higher tempos than Evans had played them before; and although Evans is still incredibly agile and virtuosic there is a heavy-handedness to his later playing that is both surprising and troubling. While undeniably very exciting, the music here lacks much of the beauty that people associate with Evans' playing: this may be a turn-off for fans of his earlier music but conversely, if you are one of those who think of Evans as an excessively sentimental balladeer perhaps this music will change your mind and bring you an appreciation of the great man.

Evans had a relatively small and stable repertoire and consequently there is a lot of repetition of tunes here: six hours of music, but at least three versions each of Days of Wine and Roses, Nardis, My Romance and several others. If you are the kind of fan who likes to obsessively analyse every last performance of a tune (a kind of fan Evans seems to have in abundance) then you will love this; casual listeners however will get tired of the repetition and long for some change; especially in light of the frenzied, almost angry playing. You might also be put off listening to the whole because this much quantity is rather overwhelming. This is no criticism of the artist as he would never have intended to release this material in this form (the material here was recorded over several nights); in fact, there is a 1CD sampler of the artist's choices from this set out there (which would have formed his next album), which is a much better bet if you don't want such a great quantity of similar material. Alternatively, there are several other live albums that give a single-set idea of what the band would have sounded like in a concert.


Four Classic Albums: Sonny Rollins Plus 4 / Sonny Rollins Volume 1 / Sonny Rollins Volume 2 / Saxophone Colossus
Four Classic Albums: Sonny Rollins Plus 4 / Sonny Rollins Volume 1 / Sonny Rollins Volume 2 / Saxophone Colossus
Price: 5.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fine Rollins, but.., 19 Oct 2011
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This is a well-priced re-issue of some of Sonny Rollins' 50s material, considered by many to be the best period in his career. You get a lot of music for a low price; but these are not the best four albums from this period: Saxophone Colossus is a must of course, and Plus-4 has its merits (in particular the fine trumpet playing of Clifford Brown) but the two volumes of Sonny Rollins are merely average compared to some of the other great material Rollins was producing in the same period: the albums Tour De Force, Tenor Madness, Work Time, The Sound of Sonny and Newk's Time, which aren't here, are in my opinion all superior to Sonny Rollins Vol 1 and 2, which are included here; yet they're from the same period.

However, there is an 8-Album set (8 Classic Albums) that includes all four of the albums here, along with Tenor Madness, Tour De Force, Moving Out and Work Time; for less then twice the price of this four-album set, rendering this one rather superfluous.


Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Price: 13.04

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One of the worse membran sets, 10 Oct 2011
This review is from: Thelonious Monk (Audio CD)
Membran's 10cd boxed sets take advantage of expired EU copyright on recordings and provide a large quantity of music for a very low price. Although this set is no exception, and perhaps on its own merits it deserves a higher rating, I'm giving it a poor review because it pales in comparison with many of the other membran sets. Monk's earliest sessions as a leader date from 1947 and he only recorded sporadically, meaning that there is nowhere near enough expired-copyright material (this set contains no material from later than 1954, so I'm guessing it was compiled around 2005-6) to fill all 10cds. They could have compensated for this by making the set only 5CD, but instead they merely half-filled each CD (each contains only 30-40 minutes of music), as well as padding the set out with sessions on which Monk played but under other musicians' leadership (Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis), and including a CD consisting of Monk's music being played by other musicians. It's still relatively good value for the price but nowhere near as good as the other Membran sets; they should have waited a few more years so that they could issue the music Monk recorded in 1955-59, which is all very good.

As far as I can tell, between all the extraneous material the set contains four complete Monk albums:

Genius of Modern Music Vol 1
" " Vol 2
Thelonious Monk Trio
Thelonious Monk / Sonny Rollins

However, the material is arranged chronologically in order of recordings so the albums are not grouped together as they were released but instead mixed-up. This is not necessarily a bad thing but I imagine most people would have wanted the albums in the order they were released and as they were intended to be listened.


Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Price: 13.69

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Budget Jazz, 7 Oct 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Duke Ellington (Audio CD)
All of these 10-cd sets from Membran offer excellent value - the best in terms of minutes of music/ that I've ever found - on pre-1950s Jazz (all of which is out of copyright, which explains the low price). The catch is always the same - no booklet, no liner notes whatsoever, no disc/sessionography of any sort. You get track names, but not the dates on which they were performed. If you can look beyond this however you will find no more cost-effective a way to expand your Jazz library. I wouldn't really recommend any of these sets to jazz newcomers, because the overwhelming quantity of music (about 10 hours of music) can be rather off-putting, especially without any notes or supplementary material.

In each case, one also has to ask whether one really wants so much music by the same artist? In the case of Duke Ellington, most jazz enthusiasts should enthusiastically say yes! The Duke is one of the most important figures in Jazz, and although this set by no means covers the whole of his career, it pretty effectively showcases the best of the earlier part of his career (pre-1950). Despite the budget price, the sound on all these has been cleaned up and is as good as you can get for music from this period.

Although as noted there are no supplementary notes or information, the tracks do seem to be arranged chronologically, and a little searching in online discographies gives you an idea of what is exactly on offer here. Interestingly, although Ellington's recording career starts as early as the 1920s, the earliest recordings on here seem to date from 1938, which is just as well as this is when the music gets especially good.

All the music on the discs is Ellington with a big band, his preferred format. Back in those days bands didn't produce 'albums' as such so it's not possible to say what discs you get, but these discs seem to contain the master takes of pretty much everything the Duke Ellington Orchestra recorded in studios between 1938 and 1945, with a little material also from 1946-7. These include all the master takes of the so-called Blanton-Webster Band of 1940-42, often considered Ellington's musical peak; these takes are often released in sets together costing much more than this whole box.

Years for each track (might not be 100% accurrate)

CD1, CD2 Track 1-7: 1938
CD2 Track 8-21, CD3 Track 1-8: 1939
CD3 Track 9-20, CD4, CD5 Track 1-6 : 1940
CD5 Track 7-20, CD6 Track 1-11: 1941
CD6 Track 12-20, CD7 Track 1-3: 1942
CD7 Track 4-8: 1943
CD7 Track 9-18, CD8 Track 1-2: 1944
CD8 Track 3-18, CD9, CD10 Track 1-14: 1945
CD10 Track 15-19: 1946
CD10 Track 10: 1947


The Essential Collection  - Original Dixieland Jazz Band
The Essential Collection - Original Dixieland Jazz Band
Price: 4.91

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A piece of history, but..., 5 Oct 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The Original Dixieland Jazz (or sometimes, Jass) Band have the distinction of being the first jazz group to have been recorded, as far back as 1917. These first recordings are included here, in as good a sound as they'll ever be, along with a wide selection of the ODJB's recorded legacy, mostly during the years 1917-1921 but also including some material recorded much later, in 1936. There are two and a half hours of music here on these two CDs, for a very reasonable price; however, having listened through the whole set several times I personally cannot escape the feeling that there is little to recommend here beyond the obvious historical importance of these records. That these were the first Jazz musicians to be recorded says more about attitudes towards race in early-twentieth century America than anything about the actual standard of the music on show: compared to, say, early recordings by Louis Armstrong, these records lack a certain excitement that one perhaps expects from Jazz (although that perhaps at least in part due to Armstrong's own legacy). The tunes are lively enough but are similar to one another and so quickly get quite repetative, and listening at any length is difficult.

In light of this, two and a half hours seems rather a lot for what many people will be wanting to own merely as an essential historical part of a jazz collection, rather than for its own sake alone. The 1936 material in particular seems superfluous; inferior both to what many other jazz musicians were producing by 1936 and to the ODJB's own earlier material. Perhaps a better arrangement would have been a smaller set containing just a sampler, to give the listener an idea what this band would have sounded like, rather than such a great deal of material.

If this review seems harsh, then it is only so because I feel that the ODJB's historic status seems to have accorded them much higher prestige than they would otherwise have deserved. All this said, two and a half hours of music at this price is good value, even if only in terms of quantity rather than quality; and this is actually the cheapest ODJB CD widely available at the moment so even if you did want 'just a sampler' you'd be paying more for less total music. If you really like this music, there is likely to be as much here as anyone is ever likely to want.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 19, 2014 8:51 AM BST


HIllwalking in Wales: Festiniog - Tarrens v. 2
HIllwalking in Wales: Festiniog - Tarrens v. 2
by Peter Hermon
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.57

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still the most comprehensive guides of Welsh mountains., 27 Sep 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Peter Hermon's two-volume Hillwalking in Wales is easily the most comprehensive guide to Welsh mountains; walking guides being what they are these two are the only books you really need as far as mountain-walking in Wales goes. Even if you only want a guide for a specific part of Wales (e.g. Snowdonia) I would still recommend these as no other guides I have ever encountered come close to the level of detail on offer here.

Each mountain - 166 in total - has at least one dedicated route to the summit from start points at all of which car parking is possible. By describing the routes only as far as the summits, the reader can then make up his/her own walks by combining approaches, offering hundreds of possibilities where other mountain guides might offer only 20 or so walks. However, suggestions for combinations are also offered. The level of detail and dedication is astounding; even other guides that deal with only specific ranges or areas rarely approach the level of detail with which these books cover every 2,000'-ter in Wales. Summits below 2,000' are not included, meaning hill-walking areas such as the Preseli hills or Clwydian range are absent; however one has to have a cut-off point somewhere and the level of detail for the areas that are included easily makes up for that. Many of the routes described are absent from other guides but frequently these routes are excellent; one can only imagine the huge amount of time the author must have dedicated to exploring each nook and cranny of the Welsh mountains.

Hermon's prose is easy-going, pleasant to read and characterful and the glossy editions of these, with colour photos and maps of every route make these a pleasure for the mountain enthusiast to read for their own sake alone; even when you're not planning a walk!

A slight criticism is that the chapters on each range are organised alphabetically rather than geographically, meaning that areas adjacent to one another are quite frequently in different volumes (for example, the Carneddau are in volume 1 but the adjacent Glyderau are in volume 2) - so if you want a guide to all the hills in a given area you will need to buy both volumes. It would have made more sense to have the southern ranges in one volume and then the northern ones in another. That said, many people will probably want to buy both volumes anyway; Hermon has a way of inspiring visits to summits and ranges you'd never even heard of before!


Hillwalking in Wales: Arans - Dovey Hills v. 1
Hillwalking in Wales: Arans - Dovey Hills v. 1
by Peter Hermon
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.69

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still the most comprehensive guide of Welsh mountains., 27 Sep 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Peter Hermon's two-volume Hillwalking in Wales is easily the most comprehensive guide to Welsh mountains; walking guides being what they are these two are the only books you really need as far as mountain-walking in Wales goes. Even if you only want a guide for a specific part of Wales (e.g. Snowdonia) I would still recommend these as no other guides I have ever encountered come close to the level of detail on offer here.

Each mountain - 166 in total - has at least one dedicated route to the summit from start points at all of which car parking is possible. By describing the routes only as far as the summits, the reader can then make up his/her own walks by combining approaches, offering hundreds of possibilities where other mountain guides might offer only 20 or so walks. However, suggestions for combinations are also offered. The level of detail and dedication is astounding; even other guides that deal with only specific ranges or areas rarely approach the level of detail with which these books cover every 2,000'-ter in Wales. Summits below 2,000' are not included, meaning hill-walking areas such as the Preseli hills or Clwydian range are absent; however one has to have a cut-off point somewhere and the level of detail for the areas that are included easily makes up for that. Many of the routes described are absent from other guides but frequently these routes are excellent; one can only imagine the huge amount of time the author must have dedicated to exploring each nook and cranny of the Welsh mountains.

Hermon's prose is easy-going, pleasant to read and characterful and the glossy editions of these, with colour photos and maps of every route make these a pleasure for the mountain enthusiast to read for their own sake alone; even when you're not planning a walk!

A slight criticism is that the chapters on each range are organised alphabetically rather than geographically, meaning that areas adjacent to one another are quite frequently in different volumes (for example, the Carneddau are in volume 1 but the adjacent Glyderau are in volume 2) - so if you want a guide to all the hills in a given area you will need to buy both volumes. It would have made more sense to have the southern ranges in one volume and then the northern ones in another. That said, many people will probably want to buy both volumes anyway; Hermon has a way of inspiring visits to summits and ranges you'd never even heard of before!


Blues Vignette
Blues Vignette
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 10.27

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent modern jazz, 24 Mar 2011
This review is from: Blues Vignette (Audio CD)
My first experience of Gwilym Simcock was a live performance he gave about a year ago, shortly after the release of this album. It was absolutely phenomenal; on the back of his trio's fine performance this evening I snapped up this double-cd right away. In my view, Jazz is almost always better live; inevitably coming off the real thing onto this recording I much less excited, but in the time since I've found that I listen to it more and more and have come to appreciate its own merits a great deal.

The first CD is of solo performances, some of them Ketih Jarrett-esque improvisations, presumably without any pre-meditated planning or compositional element. Also included is a two-movement duo suite for piano and cello. The second CD features Simcock with his trio, Bassist Yuri Gobuley and Drummer James Madryn. In my view the second CD is superior to the first; excellent music throughout; mostly originals (I particularly enjoyed "Tundra") but a couple of standards which nevertheless are given a clearly idiosyncratic doing-over. Simcock's style is virtuosic without being difficult; inspired perhaps by a classical background; and his fellow-players are excellent accompanists, although I felt there was a bit much arco Bass for a jazz record. The first CD is less consistent; the Cello suite was nice but left me merely lukewarm, and the three free-improvisations will seem fairly unexciting to those used to Keith Jarrett's improvisations. The piano solo originals are excellent however, as is the improv. on the slow movement of Grieg's piano concerto (playing jazz with Classical tunes is nothing new of course but this is an excellent example of where it works).

Good stuff, we can only hope this is just the start of a long career of excellent music!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 30, 2011 6:13 PM BST


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