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R Jess "Raymond Jess" (Limerick, Ireland.)
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Ellington Complete At Newport
Ellington Complete At Newport
Price: £7.99

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Riotous Assembly, 17 Feb. 2005
'Ellington At Newport' turned out to be the best-selling album of the Duke's career largely due to the exceptional performances of the soloists on the album. But Ellington's compositions always gave great scope for improvisation by his band and it's his own enthusiasm and momentum that spurred the band on to great things that night.
On 'Black & Tan Fantasy' Cat Anderson's solo is a throwback to the era in which it was composed, while Willie Cook on 'Tea For Two' swings unstoppable. Ellington himself puts in some spirited piano playing at the beginning of 'Take The A Train' and 'Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue'. 'Festival Junction' is an inspired name for the opening part of the festival suite as it builds and builds in its thumping and sophisticated way, much like the rest of the concert. Then a slight respite with Russell Procopej's lilting clarinet on 'Blues To Be There', before back to the frenetic pace of the earlier part with 'Newport Up'. Here the notes and tempo seem to crash and burn against each other in a manner more reminscent of bepop than swing.
The there's the effortless, breezy solo of Harry Carney on 'Sophisticated Lady' and try as he might, poor Jimmy Grisham's vocal on 'Day In, Day Out' just doesn't match the power and sincerity of the backing instrumentation.
On Paul Gonsalves performance of his career, the rest of the band aren't slow in egging him on to greater and greater heights through enthusiastic shouts and claps. This appreciative support seems oddly lacking in the other soloists performances. After the riotous greeting of this number, Ellington seems to use Johnny Hodges laid-back playing on 'I Got It Bad' and 'Jeep's Blues' as a way of quietening the crowd. Ray Nance does slightly better than Grisham's earlier performance, with his satchmo-singing on 'Tulip or Turnip' before Sam Woodyard whips the crowd into a frenzy again with his remarkable drum soloing on 'Skin Deep'.
His riot control complete, Ellingtion slips away under the auspicies of 'Mood Indigo'.


The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter
The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter
Price: £5.02

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adorable., 11 Jan. 2005
They don't make them like this anymore! 'The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter' is a great 60's album filled with a creative openness, authentic feeling and an unrestrained experimentation.
The opening track 'Koeeoaddi There' encapsulates all of these qualities. Williamson tells an evocative tale of childhood, backed with melodic, inventive chord and tempo changes. 'The Minotour's Song' is a startling contrast of music hall and greek mtyhological lyrics, highlighting the ISB's influences. 'Witch's Hat' has a beautiful folk melody, again the song structure packed with incident. Mike Heron's 'A Very Cellular Song' begins as an old gospel hymn before it travels the world in its wonderful array of instruments, an early bridge between western music and world music in general. Heron's Dylanesque 'Mercy I Cry City' is a poetic rant against the unnatural prison of the urban landscape. 'Waltz Of The New Moon' harks back again to the Romantic poets in its ode to the wonders of the natural landscape. Here the harp sound is at once lilting and glorious. Like 'A Very Cellular Song', 'The Water Song' sings a hymn to the evolutionary power of the natural world using strange and unusual instruments to create the onomatopoeic sounds of water. The most Eastern-tinged of the tracks on the album is 'There Is A Green Crown' telling another tale of natural wonder that I can't help thinking would be frowned upon and scorned in today's irony-laden culture. On 'Swift As The Wind' Heron tells of how the grown-ups around him tried to make him give up his childhood imagination, something that has obviously remained with him throughout his musical career.
Williamson's 'Nightfall' closes this adorable album mixing Eastern sounds with the American south, prefiguring Ry Cooder by a number of years.


Speak No Evil
Speak No Evil
Price: £3.99

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A peak in jazz ensemble playing., 17 Dec. 2004
This review is from: Speak No Evil (Audio CD)
'Speak No Evil' was produced during one of the most innovative eras of jazz music, the early to mid-60's. 1964 was also the year John Coltrane produced 'A Love Supreme' and Eric Dolphy 'Out To Lunch'. Wayne Shorter managed to assemble some of the best players of that age to produce another jazz masterpiece. Ron Carter from Miles Davis's group, as well as Herbie Hancock on an upward slope to greatness. Elvin Jones fresh from his playing on 'A Love Supreme' and Freddie Hubbard who we heard on 'Out To Lunch' earlier in the year.
Shorter had been playing with Coltrane in the late 50's but his style ended up more melodic as can be heard on the opener 'Witch Hunt', which sounds like the basis of his work with Weather Report in the 70's. Hubbard plays an ode to the past as Hancock arrives with a mellow swing. By the end of the track Shorter and Hubbard are beginning to sound like a full orchestra. 'Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum' has all the smokey charm of a bluesy barroom band much like Hancock's piano on 'Dance Cadaverous'. A track with a smouldering melody, Hubbard and Shorter play in unison, each with an ear for it's seemingly spontaneous development as it builds to a mid-track crescendo. On the title track itself, Hancock's playing is infectious and infused with feeling. Jones lets loose on Shorter's first solo before Hubbard takes over with his energetic and melodic playing. More beautiful and airy sax on 'Infant Eyes' before we get Shorter's introverted solo on 'Wild Flower' followed by Hubbard's loud and engaging one. Hancock is again amazing against Jones's drumming.
Shorter was extraordinarily lucky to have these players at the peak of their powers.


Early Gold
Early Gold
Price: £6.18

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the purchase., 10 Dec. 2004
This review is from: Early Gold (Audio CD)
The story of Simple Minds is almost the mirror opposite of U2. Early Simple Minds were effortlessly experimental in contrast to the latter's dodgy rock sound. They both morphed and evolved into the same stadium rock band around 84/85 before U2 began their experimental rise and the Minds sailed off to stadium rock mediocrity. 'Early Gold' gives us a reminder of just how good and innovative the pre-stadium band was.
The first 2 tracks marry the simple guitar riff and simple keyboard melody that would become a Simple Minds trademark through the years. On their second album Simple Minds seem to have found their voice. 'The Changling' sounds very similiar to Gary Numan's 'Cars' with it's menacing keyboard and jangly guitar riff. On 'Factory' we again hear that wonderful interplay between guitar and synth (you can definitely hear the influence of early Simple Minds on bands like Killing Joke). Like a lot of great post-punk bands Simple Minds never lost sight of their pop sensibility. Perhaps the best track on this compilation is the brilliant 'I Travel', surely the best marriage of punk and disco ever heard. It's energy is relentless from its aggressive rhythm to its 'Chic-like' guitar riff. What also makes Simple Minds a great band is the power that Jim Kerr's voice commands, as can be heard on 'Celebrate'. '30 Frames A Second' shows the band's classic taste for pop construction, throwing in an uplifting keyboard sequence after downbeat verses. From the next album comes the hypnotic riff of 'The American', a track that doen't hide it's resentment at the world superpower. Another amazing track is 'Love Song' with its funky bass and a guitar technique that wouldn't be lost on The Edge. Again you can hear the funky influence on 'Sweat In Bullets' before we move into the apparrent peak of early Simple Minds, the New Gold Dream tracks. The production here is bright and breezy, especially on 'Promised You A Miracle' and 'Glittering Prize', but you can also hear the beginnings of their stadium rock sound on 'Someone, Somewhere...' The closing track 'New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) remains a peak they have failed to climb again since.


Out To Lunch (The Rudy Van Gelder Edition)
Out To Lunch (The Rudy Van Gelder Edition)
Price: £5.75

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playful playing., 9 Dec. 2004
I have to admit my jazz collection is quite slim and most of it predates the 1950's but I love the music on 'Out To Lunch'. Like others have contested, this is not free-jazz, much of the music opens with a melody line no matter how angular and dissonant before each member gets a chance to improvise. The opening 'Hat and Beard' (a tribute to Thelonious Monk) sets the tone for the rest of the album, the track roots itself in its synchopated beginning before leaping off into some interesting solos including a great one by vibist Bobby Hutcherson. Rhythm section Davis and Williams aren't so 'free' here maintaining an elegant groove. On 'Something Sweet, Something Tender', Hubbard sounds almost conservative, his playing evoking memories of 50's bop. There's some wonderful improvised bass by Richard Davis (also heard on Van Morrison's criticaly acclaimed 'Astral Weeks') and then Dolphy enters flouting all his exhuberance on clarinet. 'Gazzelloni' begins like the movie theme from an architypal 60's film, with a foot-tapping rhythm that again challenges the notion that this is a free-jazz album. There's some remarkable interplay between Hutcherson and Williams as they flow behind Dolphy's flute and Hubbard's trumpet. Hubbard comes to the fore again on 'Out To Lunch' where his trumpet runs like a bumble bee after Dolphy's bird-flying alto-sax solo. For a moment the rhythm breaks into a pounding monotone, then a bass flourish before the drums take us back to the original melody. Then comes the final drunken swagger of 'Straight Up And Down' where Hubbard's playing is almost conventional above the rhythm section indulging themselves, while Hutcherson goes on another flamboyant run, demonstrating what this album encapsulates most, an unrestrained sense of playfulness.


A Love Supreme
A Love Supreme
Offered by Amtrak123
Price: £7.99

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still supreme after all these years., 30 Nov. 2004
This review is from: A Love Supreme (Audio CD)
It's a testament to John Coltrane's artistic vision that a piece of uncomprimising music such as a 'A Love Supreme' can be heard for the universalism it stands for. Recorded in a studio in New Jersey in late 1964, Coltrane had spent a week alone in a room in his house away from his wife and children. During that time of contemplation and isolation, he put pen to paper to bare his soul to God and the essence of 'A Love Supreme' was born. I don't think it was a coincedence that at the time this album was recorded in the mid-60's, a new philosophy of spirituality and peace & love began to prevade popular music in general. The Church of St. John Coltrane still resides in that bastion of hippiedom San Francisco.
The music on the album itself is powerful not just for Coltrane's playing itself but also for the fanatical interplay of the quartet. 'Acknowledgement' opens with Garrison's passionate bass line, leading into Coltrane's dynamic and ingenious playing, the quartet's spirited performance like a fervant, untamed emotion that has gripped them all. 'Resolution' blazes from the record with Tyler burnishing the track with some brilliant playing of his own. Jones's frantic drumming comes to the fore on the opening of 'Pursuance', a track where the meaning of 'Chasin' The Trane' becomes self-evident as Garrison, Tyler and Jones follow in hot pursuit of their leader's furious joy. Tyler's playing is again compelling as the quartet trade notes with such alarming velocity before Garrison's bass tip-toes and leads us like the pied-piper to the concluding 'Psalm'.
It's refreshing in this day and age to hear an artist whose sincerity and integrity shines through his work.


A Love Supreme
A Love Supreme
Price: £16.62

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still supreme after all these years., 30 Nov. 2004
This review is from: A Love Supreme (Audio CD)
It's a testament to John Coltrane's artistic vision that a piece of uncomprimising music such as a 'A Love Supreme' can be heard for the universalism it stands for. Recorded in a studio in New Jersey in late 1964, Coltrane had spent a week alone in a room in his house away from his wife and children. During that time of contemplation and isolation, he put pen to paper to bare his soul to God and the essence of 'A Love Supreme' was born. I don't think it was a coincedence that at the time this album was recorded in the mid-60's, a new philosophy of spirituality and peace & love began to prevade popular music in general. The Church of St. John Coltrane still resides in that bastion of hippiedom San Francisco.
The music on the album itself is powerful not just for Coltrane's playing itself but also for the fanatical interplay of the quartet. 'Acknowledgement' opens with Garrison's passionate bass line, leading into Coltrane's dynamic and ingenious playing, the quartet's spirited performance like a fervant, untamed emotion that has gripped them all. 'Resolution' blazes from the record with Tyler burnishing the track with some brilliant playing of his own. Jones's frantic drumming comes to the fore on the opening of 'Pursuance', a track where the meaning of 'Chasin' The Trane' becomes self-evident as Garrison, Tyler and Jones follow in hot pursuit of their leader's furious joy. Tyler's playing is again compelling as the quartet trade notes with such alarming velocity before Garrison's bass tip-toes and leads us like the pied-piper to the concluding 'Psalm'.
It's refreshing in this day and age to hear an artist whose sincerity and integrity shines through his work.


Giant Steps
Giant Steps
Price: £2.99

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking, 25 Nov. 2004
This review is from: Giant Steps (Audio CD)
'Giant Steps' overturned many of the stereotypes I had about post-war (more specifically 1950's) jazz. From most of the movies I've seen from that era, jazz was wallpaper music, bland background to the cliches on the screen. Imagine how I felt when I first put on 'Giant Steps'. This is definitely not "easy-listening".
The energized melody of the title track bursts from the record in a relentless attack. The imagination of Coltrane's playing can best be heard on 'Cousin Mary' where he begins with swing before taking the melody on a world tour from the blues to the Far East. 'Countdown' sounds initially like uncomprimising free-jazz but there is a strong rhythm behind it that you can even snap your fingers to and there isn't a more delightful moment on the album than it's whistful ending. Coltrane's playing on the second version included here is even more astounding.
Coltrane takes us on another journey back and forth between jazz's past and future with 'Spiral', swaying between a swinging tempo and a halting, Eastern-thinged descent. It's emotional intensity is a staple of this remarkable album. On 'Syeeda's Song Flute' the master gives the other players a chance to shine with Tommy Flanagan's playing unthinkably cool and unrelenting at the same time. The track segues ponderously into 'Naima' where Flanagan again comes to the fore with some of his most personal playing, while the saxophone smoulders.
'Mr. PC' combines all the best of John Coltrane and the backing trio on this album. His heady mixture of old-time jazz, swing and his own intense improvisations conspire to deliver a hothouse performance with the other players driving hard behind him.
'Giant Steps' is an album that any serious music lover should have in their collection, artistic, cerebral and emotional all at the same time.


Porgy And Bess
Porgy And Bess
Offered by ALL-MY-MUSIC-GERMANY
Price: £6.95

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lilting and haunting, 24 Nov. 2004
This review is from: Porgy And Bess (Audio CD)
The great thing about Miles Davis was that his trumpet playing was so transcendent. He's probably the only jazz player whose albums frequently appear in top 100 rock lists. I fail to see how anyone could not take the lilting sentiments of 'Porgy & Bess' to heart no matter what your musical tastes.
The 'Buzzard Song' opens the album with a grooving bass line by Paul Chambers, cleverly imitated by a tuba that follows suit (how many albums have you heard with a grooving tuba?). Then the lyrical note changes of 'Bess, You Is My Woman', before one of the highlights of the album, 'Gone'. This is something of a departure from Gershwin's opera itself, but the backing players relish the opportunity for some pure jazz playing, topped off with Jones's ramshakle drum playing. The power of 'Summertime' has much to do with its basic composition, which is at once both strong and tender and lends itself to so many interpretations. On this version the musical backing acts as a counter to Davis's elegant soloing. 'Oh Bess, where's my Bess' proves to be the most uplifting of these tracks while 'Prayer (Oh Doctor Jesus)' contains character-filled contributions from all the players building to a monumental crescendo.
'Fisherman....' begins with the evocative alto flute of Danny Banks, floating above a slight air of menance in the backing arrangement. The straining lament of 'My Man's Gone Now' is followed by the great toe-tapping swing arrangement of 'It Ain't Necessarily So'. Gil Evans arrangements do much to colour Davis's trumpet playing as in 'Here Comes de Honey Man'.
The final highlight 'There's A Boat Leaving Soon For New York' sounds unstoppable and effusive, a clear joy for all involved. Each individual player becomes Miles Davis's equal in this explosive finale. Again I have to mention the universal appeal of Miles Davis's work, whether indulging in a simple, lazy melody or bringing subtle nuances to the fore, his playing is wonderfully haunting.


Nixon [VHS] [1996]
Nixon [VHS] [1996]
VHS
Offered by minipack
Price: £7.95

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Citizen Nixon, 27 Oct. 2004
This review is from: Nixon [VHS] [1996] (VHS Tape)
'Nixon' comes off as a greater success than Stone's 'JFK', in part due to the subject of the film itself. President Nixon always had an awareness of his place in history and did much to construct and protect his public image. Oliver Stone's mixture of drama and documentary footage allows the audience to disengage somewhat from the subject and contemplate the historical legacy of this much maligned president. Stone has been obvious in his references to two great fictional American icons, Citizen Kane and Willy Loman of Arthur Miller's 'Death Of A Salesman'. The story of the film is close to 'Kane' in its investigation of the trappings of power, but Nixon's personal character has all the eager despair and bewildered arkwardness of Willy Loman. Probably the last American President who best representated the American Dream through his rise from a lowly grocer's son, Nixon nevertheless remained paranoid about his position in the halls of the elite and like Loman felt the over bearing need to prove his abilties.
Unlike Stone's 'JFK' information and detail are not as important as mood and nuance. Shooting from the bottom up, Stone tries to artifically create the ambience of power but instead the low-lighting, sinister looks and b&w flashbacks creates a pseudo-narcotic atmosphere. An obvious allusion to Nixon's alleged pill-popping.
Time and time again Stone has been attacked for the historical inaccuracies of his movies. However most American historians contemptuous of the purported 'scientific' basis of history espoused by Marxist historians, would be the first to confirm that history isn't a minor fact obsessed 'science'.


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