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N. Jones "Nic The Pen" (Oxford, Great Britain)

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Jumping The Creek
Jumping The Creek
Price: £15.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The valuable skill of knowing, 25 Jan 2011
This review is from: Jumping The Creek (Audio CD)
By the time of this 2005 release it was clear that Charles Lloyd's music had in fact become some kind of quest, whether it was for personal fulfilment or something less easily summed up.

His group on this occasion was made up of pianist Geri Allen, bass player Robert Hurst and Eric Harland on drums, but in a sense -and I must hasten to add not one that's detrimental to the music in any way- the individuals concerned are irrelevant. This was because Lloyd's musical personality had grown so self-contained -and by implication that of his group's music had done likewise. This accounts for why the quartet's reading of -of all things- Jacques Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas" (If You Go Away) has about it the air of a meeting of minds rather than any `mere' musical performance.

For all of the fire and nuance in his tenor sax playing it seems a pity that Lloyd doesn't pick up the alto more often. When he does on "Ken Katta Ma Om" there's such a depth to his work that it's clear he doesn't consider the smaller horn as a mere adjunct to his more familiar tenor sax. Indeed he reveals himself as one of those infrequent musicians respectful enough to know that the horns have separate identities and characteristics.

Through the course of the title track it becomes clear too that Lloyd's tenor sax `voice' has evolved to the point where he can make telling points with the minimum of effort. Such eloquence is of course understated in any rhetorical sense, but on a deeper level it also indicates that Lloyd is wise enough to realise the game is down to a whole lot more than technical facility, even though he has that in abundance.

He knows the value of a sound too, and projects that knowledge in his theme statement to Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday" before the music blossoms out into a thing of paradoxically robust reflection and the quartet once again gels in a manner that many might only envy.

So while there's nothing iconoclastic going down here it's clear that this is a group which knows its tradition inside out. It knows too that `the tradition' can only remain viable through depth of personal expression.

The Call
The Call
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £8.21

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The learned disciple, 25 Jan 2011
This review is from: The Call (Audio CD)
Charles Lloyd was a disciple of John Coltrane. In that respect he's far from alone. In fact it could be argued that so great are the legions of those disciples that separating them out is an achievement in itself. One of their identifying marks is the way in which they've focused on a particular aspect of the man's art, as opposed to trying to come to terms with the entirety of it, which given its depth and breadth is understandable. Lloyd is right in keeping with this trend, but thankfully with age he's forged his own identity even if there are moments when the influence still rears in no uncertain terms.

The other thing that underscores his work is a feeling of reflective neo-spiritualism, which might not be very surprising given the parlous state of the world we're living in. There's an open, kind of unrestricted air about his music too, manifested on this album in something like "Song" which features pianist Bobo Stenson's most telling solo and a turn by bass player Anders Jormin before Lloyd comes in at all. When he does it's in slyly allusive fashion, contributing his own drive to proceedings.

"Amarma" is no modest achievement either, given how it strikes a balance between the reflective and the impassioned that's enviably fine. The latter quality comes largely from Lloyd himself, playing like a man for whom every passing moment is precious. Stenson is the more reflective player, but it's the contrast between the two men as the principal soloists which makes such a positive difference.

Incidentally the drummer on this date is Billy Hart, whose work throughout is as apposite and colourful as anything the likes of Billy Higgins would have come up with. Drummers as alert to dynamics as these two are rare, and it's on "The Blessing" that Hart makes one of his most eloquent statements. The piece itself highlights how Lloyd's music was more rarefied than most all of eighteen years ago. In the intervening years he's kept on keeping on to increasingly telling effect.

Cheerful Insanity Of
Cheerful Insanity Of
Price: £11.98

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insane by comparison with what?, 15 Jan 2011
This review is from: Cheerful Insanity Of (Audio CD)
King Crimson, despite or maybe because of the frequent line-up changes, produced some truly progressive music. Not for those numerous boys was technical prowess an end in itself, and neither was `the pop song' the be all and end all for Giles, Giles & Fripp, the trio which, such was the way of things back in 1968, mutated into that band. Oh no, they were intent on being an eccentrically English `beat combo' who wrote and performed songs about well-adjusted middle-aged men and dodgy individuals intent on digging up lawns early on Sundays.

What fun they must have had. Being a fearsome guitarist who didn't sing it was only natural, what with it being the late 1960s and everything, that Robert Fripp responded once he heard that the Giles brothers were looking for a singing organist, and the outcome was this trio and one-off album, which is of course a collection of songs eccentric in nature and faultless in performance.

The first quality's only relative anyway. "How Do They Know?" musically flirts with all kinds of things as bands of that era were wont to do, but lyrically there's a strain that's entirely the trio's own.

"The Sun Is Shining" is a soundtrack for the metaphorical end-of-empire, if that end is to be encapsulated in dodgy sentimentality and slight overkill that is. It shows in any case how these boys knew a thing or two, and the lack of earnestness genuine or otherwise gives proceedings a lift, much like Peter Giles's delivery.

Given the climate of the times "She is Loaded" could refer to all sorts of things if it wasn't for the fact that the matter's cleared up more or less straight away. The female in question happens to have a lot of money, which might be appealing enough for Peter Giles even in face of her numerous shortcomings.

It makes no difference anyway, because when a band's so short-lived that it doesn't have the chance to cut more than one album it more or less guarantees cult status. There's a justifiable cult following for this title and if that gets bigger on the back of this comprehensive reissue then the world will be a slightly better place.

Open Spaces
Open Spaces
Price: £15.98

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big collections, 15 Jan 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Open Spaces (Audio CD)
For anyone whose life is so empty that they take an interest in such things CMU stood for Contemporary Music Unit, which despite being a bit pompous is actually not a bad summary of what this band was all about. The late 1960s / early 1970s was of course an era in which a lot more `went' than the present day, and in their own way CMU `went' as well an many another now desperately obscure British band. In Larraine Odell they had a singer far more persuasive than a lot of prog rock bellowers (and don't get me started on Jon Anderson even though he's anything but a bellower) and they had an instrumental prowess which while it reeked of technical accomplishment was never an end in itself. To top all this off it's clear too that their record collections stretched from the Kinks to John Coltrane, which is never a bad thing.

This would explain why they do a creditable rendition of Pharaoh Sanders's "Japan" and manage to make it sound completely natural, as opposed to a piece of cod exotica.

To this reviewer's ear the presence of a flute can have the effect of pinning something in time and this works with regards to "Mystical Sounds" which is a floating, vaguely ambient thing enhanced in no small measure by Odell's understated vocal.

"Henry" was written by Odell and her drummer husband Roger. Lyrically it's about as far from the hackneyed themes of the day as it was possible to be, being about a young man sinking into general dissipation and ultimately death, while instrumentally it's enhanced in no small measure by guitar solos informed in equal parts by Pat Martino and Britain's own Terry Smith.

The closing title track is effectively atmospheric and as much as anything here indicative of how far this band could reach, and effectively at that.

Passing time has of course had the effect of setting the seal on their catalogue, but no matter. Discovery is one of life's straightforward joys.

The Atomic Mr. Basie plus bonus tracks
The Atomic Mr. Basie plus bonus tracks
Offered by Disco100
Price: £12.76

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No assured destruction here, 15 Jan 2011
This is the one considered by many to be the best of the later Basie band's albums. While this reviewer has his own opinion that doesn't alter the fact that this was one hell of a band, and this is an album of the kind of thing you just somehow know they were capable of going out and putting over night after night.

What makes it interesting is that the result stems from collective effort as opposed to the input of certain individuals. "The Kid From Red Bank" - a reference to Basie himself incidentally, hence the reason why he's the featured soloist -lays this out in amiable but no uncertain terms. In less than three minutes Basie takes the chance to give us a lesson in the history of jazz piano in the way he evokes the spirits of both Earl Hines and Teddy Wilson even while his own distinct musical personality comes through with all the individuality of a thumb print.

Neal Hefti's "Flight Of The Foo Birds" could in lesser hands come over as an insubstantial piece of fluff, but this band, as perhaps was their habit, makes a tour de force of it, with the four-man rhythm section imparting both lightness and drive with the kind of brio that simply can't be taught.

"Teddy The Toad" opens with a contribution from Basie that might have some laughing out loud at its sheer audacity. Arguably not in the whole history of jazz has another piano player been able to make a handful of notes sound so profound, and in view of what follows in power terms the matter of dynamics comes up once again, as does the minor miracle that is the band's reconciling of precision and swing.

So it's all good, and unquestionably worth the asking price.

Chairman Of The Board
Chairman Of The Board

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A force of nature, 15 Jan 2011
This review is from: Chairman Of The Board (Audio CD)
It ought to go without saying that the Count Basie band of the 1950s was not the Count Basie band of the later 1930s. For one thing the former band possessed a different order of soloists, which was blessed indeed to have Lester Young in its ranks. But perhaps the most fundamental difference lay in the dynamics of the music that each band produced. By the later decade the tight-but-loose feeling of the band had been usurped by a kind of precision which was hardly regimented for all of its relative formality. Rhythmically however the holdovers of Basie himself on piano and rhythm guitarist Freddie Greene ensured continuity.

The album under discussion here dates from 1958 and it highlights just what a formidable force this band was. Frank Wess was a stalwart of it. His `Segue In C" is a kind of unassuming master class in dynamics, with the `heart' of Basie and Greene imparting momentum through extraordinarily minimal means. By way of celebrating the difference the piece also features a duo of flute and clarinet the like of which would have had no place in the earlier band.

Thad Jones not only sat in this band's trumpet section, he also composed for it. As arguably the logical end to a strand of big band writing traceable back to the pre-war work of Don Redman, Jones's work was ideally suited to the Basie aggregation, and by way of underlining the point his "Speaking Of Sounds" is a model of economy the like of which the band obviously relishes, as does Frank Foster in his tenor sax solo.

"Moten Swing" however takes us right back even while it highlights what a different order of dynamics this particular band dealt in. Basie the pianist is all over it, in so far as that's a reflection of the truth given how minimal his playing habitually was.

But in the end it's the business of dynamics that makes all the difference. This was a band forged in a mill the like of which just doesn't exist anymore and that's all there is to it.

Leningrad: State of Siege
Leningrad: State of Siege
by Michael K. Jones
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The sense of being alive, 15 Jan 2011
The common people of Leningrad -formerly St. Petersburg when the Germans and their allies commenced their invasion of the former Soviet Union on June 22, 1941- endured a 900 day siege in conditions of both enforced and willed deprivation before German forces were driven back and the course of the post-war world was indirectly formulated. As with so many things in life -and indeed death- the devil of that situation is in the detail, and Michael Jones, a military historian with a particular interest in battle psychology, is as effective a dealer in that detail as the reader could wish to encounter.

Quite rightly he largely ignores the propaganda surrounding the story -not for him are the stories of superhuman courage and the prevailing of collective will on the Soviet side to be taken at face value- and instead concentrates on the human aspect, which in view of how difficult it was for the besieged to retain any humanity at all reminds us of something deeply ingrained in all of us, indeed something which is indicative of a collectivity far greater than any that could be forged by means political or otherwise.

It's because of this that I've referred to deprivation both enforced and willed above. The enforced aspect stemmed of course from the German will for the city to be reduced by design, in a quasi-scientific fashion, the `art of war' swathed in a veil of cold calculation. The willed aspect came from the willingness of a city and Communist party hierarchy which was well provided for throughout the siege's duration. Mired in venality and corruption in both cases and probably only too appreciative of the fact that the old Tsarist elites had simply been replaced by themselves, it was to these favoured individuals that the task fell of portraying the siege and its lifting as a triumph of collective will the like of which they were unable to grasp. Thus the likes of Andrei Zhdanov, for whom there was no such thing as too many executions in the name of party loyalty, and Lidiya Tager, ballet school director and wife of the head of provisions for the entire Leningrad front, emerge as characters from a comic opera the blackness of which would have guaranteed that it never got past the censor.

But ultimately no heroes emerge at all, not in the widely understood sense of the term. Instead the reader encounters -and this is entirely down to Jones's skill at handling his material- a score or more of individuals who managed to cling to something human in face of the ravages of starvation, extreme material and spiritual deprivation, and cannibalism. Amongst their number are people who were no more than children at the time, which perhaps more than anything else is indicative of what it means to be human.

In our superficial, seemingly fame-obsessed world this book is thus on one level essential reading.

Do Not Disturb
Do Not Disturb
Price: £11.26

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A missing link?, 19 Dec 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Do Not Disturb (Audio CD)
Anyone with an uncommon interest in jazz piano looking for the missing link between Teddy Wilson and Al Haig need look no further than John Bunch. On this album Bunch fronts a trio of piano, guitar and bass recorded in the last months of 2009. This is a line-up not without precedents in jazz. Nat King Cole -before he started singing for a healthy living- and Ahmad Jamal are two names who worked with such a trio, but the line-up is still one that retains no little potential for potent music. Tt could however be argued that potent isn't the best choice of description in this case.

This is a trio which specializes in what this reviewer likes to refer to as stress-buster music. In other words everything they do is essentially infused with the pre-bebop vocabulary of jazz for all of the leader's ability to evoke players like Haig, and the relaxed but not saccharine way in which they go about their business is the kind of thing that can only spring from depth of mutual understanding.

Get an earful of their reading of "My Ideal" on some stagnant Sunday evening. Such is the effect of its musical therapy that the cares of the world are lessened considerably. With its barely there amplification Frank Vignola's guitar calls to mind players like George Barnes as opposed to anyone in the Charlie Christian lineage, but then as I've said any relation this music might have to bebop is not much more than tangential. That point in this case is emphasised by John Webber's bass. He anchors the music not by means of tone but rather by being acutely alert to everything that's going on around him. When Bunch is soloing however not just Webber but all three men fall right in with each other just as if their psychic powers were especially acute that day.

So the delights here are both musical and historical. So few people seem to be working this particular strand of the jazz tapestry with the mixture of care and creativity it so richly deserves these days so snap this one up, stick it on, pour a glass of something should you feel so inclined, sit back, and let the magic have its way with you.

Offered by woodgreenman
Price: £9.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The jamming didn't remain the same, 17 Dec 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Seven (Audio CD)
By the time this album originally came out in October of 1973 Soft Machine had settled down, settled down to personify the specs and facial hair look beloved of contemporary Open University tutors that is. They'd done the same musically too. Gone was the creative tension that seemed to fuel everything the quartet consisting of Elton Dean, Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper and Robert Wyatt did, to be replaced by a brand of jazz-rock in which brows were only infrequently furrowed and the odd gem rose to the surface to seduce the ears.

In this case the gem is "Carol Ann" a piece played exclusively on keyboards and Roy Babbington's six-string bass guitar. A thing sly of melody and irregular of interval, it is in the best sense music for staring out of the window and simply pondering to. It lasts for three minutes and forty four seconds, but if it lasted for forty four minutes and three seconds there's a good chance overkill would still be avoided. By comparison with it the rest of the set is.....all right.

Mike Ratledge's organ sound is as singular as it ever was on "Day's Eye" where the baritone sax of Karl Jenkins also makes its presence felt.

The slowly loping groove of "Penny Hitch" is quite persuasive, especially if the listener either has no knowledge of the earlier incarnations of the band's work or just takes it into no account. Drummer John Marshall, arguably the biggest asset this line up of the band had, demonstrates how without effort he could offset power with subtlety, but then he'd been doing that for years prior to the first release of this album and he continues doing it to this day.

So there's nothing to startle the horses here, but then neither is there any of the attributes of earlier incarnations of the band. By comparison with those this fare is both polite and restrained. But there's still a quality about it which distances it from the pack, even if it's not the stuff of innovation.

The Clarinet Of Archie Semple
The Clarinet Of Archie Semple
Price: £13.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unlikely disciple, 17 Dec 2010
Edinburgh probably isn't the first city that springs to mind when it comes to the origins of clarinet players after the style of the great Edmond Hall, but Archie Semple goes to show how some people can be wrong-footed. A product of that city's fertile traditional jazz scene as it stood in the late 1940s Semple had no small measure of Hall's sheer drive and an ability to transform unlikely material into something joyous enough to put a smile on the face of a corpse. We should be smiling too, firstly because Doug Dobell's 77 Records label had the savvy to put out the original LP this CD is based around, and secondly because only a label like Lake has got what it takes to put out this welcome update.

Semple shows a fair degree of his transformative powers on "Goody Goody" a piece of hokum likely to defeat the creative powers of a great many musicians, but not him. He's aided in the endeavour by pianist Fred Hunt, of whom it would not be stretching a point to say that he was to Earl Hines what Semple was to Hall.

Trumpeter Dickie Hawdon, a man far from being a musical reactionary in that he could play with fire in both a setting like this and the contemporary John Dankworth band, shouts in righteous fashion on "77 Blues" while with his slightly woozy phrasing Semple gets as close to the spirit of Pee Wee Russell as he ever did on record.

But as with a lot of jazz of this vintage -and it has to be said that the style on display here was decades old even back in the later 1950s when the music was captured for posterity- the discussion of individual tracks is a not particularly insightful chore. What's arguably of more importance is the fact that these guys were so far inside the style that their love of it rings out in everything. Listeners who know it and their efforts are going to buy this anyway, although every time they listen to the music they might wonder where the contemporary players keeping such relatively venerable styles alive are.

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