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Olukayode Balogun (Leeds, England)

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Blues and Ballads
Blues and Ballads
Price: £9.99

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, yes, yes!, 24 Jun. 2016
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This review is from: Blues and Ballads (Audio CD)
It took me a while to warm up to Brad Mehldau and I was pretty scathing about his 2012 CD "Ode" when I reviewed it a while back. It's not that he isn't a brilliant musician - I know that he is - it's just that usually I come away from his work feeling totally dissatisfied. The impression I tend to get from musicians like him is that they're so busy being technical and clever that they forget heart and warmth. It's like they are playing to amuse themselves or pass a college of music exam, rather than to move or excite an audience.

But Mehldau proved that he could get to me when he worked with Pat Metheny and I really enjoyed his 2010 CD "Highway Rider" with Joshua Redman and so I bought this, his first trio release since 2012 (as far as I'm aware), and I love it! It's everything I love about jazz piano trio music - warm, melodic and relaxing. Mehldau loses none of his excellent improvisational skill on the piano but with Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums, I finally hear what I've been yearning for from him. And whether it's because the songs are mainly from the 'American songbook' or because Mehldau has finally learned how to chill out and have fun playing the piano, I don't know and I don't care. All I know is that this is probably my favourite purchase of the year thus far and that I am now a 100% committed Brad Mehldau fan. I listen to this and I feel nothing but pure joy. I highly recommend it.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 26, 2016 8:46 PM BST


The Unity Sessions
The Unity Sessions
Price: £17.37

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Buyer beware., 28 May 2016
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This review is from: The Unity Sessions (Audio CD)
It pays to do a little research before shelling out hard-earned money on a CD. I wouldn't go as far as to say that I regret buying this one but if I'd known before making the purchase what I know now, I think I'd have given it a miss. And I consider myself a die-hard Metheny fan.

Why? Well, there's nothing new here, basically. The 2-CD set is mainly just a rehash of tunes we already got on the two previous 'Unity' albums; the one called "Unity Band" and the other one called "Kin <-->". The sessions are apparently played live (i.e. with no overdubs) but not before a live audience so there's none of the energy you get from a live album such as we get on "Travels" for example. It's a total stitch-up.

There's one tune I'm glad is here though; a medley of songs Pat is known to play during his concerts, songs from his solo and trio outings and from the brilliant PMG archives. And to be fair, there are a couple of others: "Police People" from the 20th anniversary edition of the Ornette Coleman collaboration, "Song X"; "Two Folk Songs" from "80/81" and "Go Get It" from "Trio 99 -> 00" but none of these were ever favourites of mine (I actually bought "Song X" and then took it back to the store as I considered it noise. I still think so to this day).

So, yes. Nothing new here. And to be honest, not one of the songs here is in any way better than its original version, which makes one wonder what the point of it all might be...

Oh, well. I may just buy the mp3 of that one tune ("Medley") and sell this album on to someone either just as unsuspecting as I was, or who is perhaps even more of a die-hard Metheny fan than I could ever claim to be.

Buyer beware, basically.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 21, 2016 2:16 AM GMT


Victim
Victim
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite songs of all time!, 12 Oct. 2015
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This review is from: Victim (MP3 Download)
This is one of my favourite songs of all time. I love it when the lyrics of a song tell a story, take me on a journey, and "Victim" doesn't disappoint. The fact that the music is great and Candi's vocals are second to none, just take this classic to another level. "Young Hearts Run Free" may be more popular, but this is the one for me!


Tragedy Of Today'S Gays
Tragedy Of Today'S Gays
by Larry Kramer
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A good book, a decent read, 19 Sept. 2015
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A good book, a decent read. Mr Kramer is known for being a polemicist and he doesn't disappoint. That said, he does tend to be a bit hysterical and hyperbolic in places, and is often wide off the mark; a good example of that would be the doom and gloom predictions he was making about equality for LGBT people in America, which of course, have not come to be.

He probably makes more enemies than friends and apparently, that suits him just fine. The problem though is that when he says things that are right on the mark, for instance the insanity of gay men having unprotected sex in this day and age, his target audience may well have already tuned him out.

Oh, well. I still laud his efforts and look forward to reading more of his work. I'd have given this five stars but I was expecting a real book and all I got was a very long speech sandwiched in between a foreword Naomi Wolf and an afterword by Rodger McFarlane. Probably serves me right for not reading any reviews before buying. I have no regrets though and highly recommend the book.


Surrounded By Sea
Surrounded By Sea
Price: £14.99

8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Totally dissatisfying, 19 Sept. 2015
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This review is from: Surrounded By Sea (Audio CD)
I just don't know what's going on with Andy Sheppard these days. His last three CDs on ECM have been a total disappointment for me and I've been a huge fan of his work from the very beginning. If this country has produced a better saxophonist I'm yet to learn who he or she is.

But for me this recording has none of the exuberance of his earlier work; his stuff with Steve Lodder or even his work with the brilliant Carla Bley - I wouldn't have known about her if it weren't for Andy. I find this CD onerous, plodding and totally dissatisfying. And it's not that I have anything against ballads or quiet music, quite the opposite in fact and there's one track; "Medication" that comes really close to what I love about Andy Sheppard's music. But the rest of the CD is a let-down, I'm sorry to say. I will give his next album a good listen before buying it and if things don't pick up, Mr Sheppard will have lost this fan forever.

I'll still be playing his old stuff though!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 13, 2016 3:38 PM BST


Landmarks
Landmarks
Price: £10.26

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great album, highly recommended., 11 May 2014
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This review is from: Landmarks (Audio CD)
Full disclosure: I'm a huge fan of Brian Blade; I adore the man and his musicality, so this review might be slightly biased. I just find his capacity for moving and soul-stirring melodies astounding. He's a brilliant songwriter. Oh, and he plays a mean set of drums too. Needless to say, I have all of his albums and most of the ones he's played on as a sideman.

This new release doesn't disappoint. I was initially dismayed to discover that neither guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel nor pedal steel guitarist David Easley are on here, both whom have made a significant impact on a couple of the Fellowship Band's earlier recordings. They add a certain colour to the proceedings that on first couple of listens, seems to be missing here.

That said, the rest of the band especially Melvin Butler (soprano and tenor saxophone), Myron Walden (alto saxophone and bass clarinet) and Jon Cowherd (piano, mellotron and pump organ) play some of their finest stuff on this album and after a while, I didn't even notice the difference.

But of course, this is all about Mr Blade. As a drummer/bandleader, he plays completely without ego and makes no attempt to stamp his presence all over the place. He simply sets the tempo, gives us a flash of flare here and there and lets the rest of the band get on with it. Brilliant stuff.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 18, 2016 11:07 AM BST


Kin (<-->)
Kin (<-->)
Price: £10.99

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I’m not so sure., 9 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Kin (<-->) (Audio CD)
I’d been looking forward to this release for some time. It’s been 9 years since we heard Pat Metheny with a full group alongside him and while comparisons of this new constellation with the erstwhile Pat Metheny Group may be a bit unfair they’re simply unavoidable.

On the whole I think it’s a decent album. I can definitely appreciate the artistry that went into it. I’m just not moved by it though, not in the way past Metheny group albums have moved me. I’m not so sure it merits all the hype and breathless praise that seems to be whirling around on social media about it.

The first thing I noticed about the album was the way it sounds (obvs). I’m not a musician and I’m no expert on sound engineering but I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s down to the way it was mixed, presumably to give the recording a more ‘live’ feel.

It works and on the plus side, there’s a feeling of immediacy to the album. It literally sounds like the group is playing in my living room. On the downside though, the luxuriance and diversity of the soundscapes provided to us by previous recordings are not present here. The sound also gets a bit messy in places. Unlike with the PMG where I would always get the sense that, even in improvised parts, every single note played was carefully placed where it was placed for a reason, I don’t always get that sense with this group.

Don’t get me wrong; these are all excellent musicians. Sanchez is literally jaw-dropping and I’m a huge fan of Chris Potter. But does the whole add up to more than the sum of its parts? Do they actually make a cohesive unit? Do they have real chemistry together? I’m not so sure. At times I can’t make out whether I’m listening to a Chris Potter album or a Pat Metheny one. With all due respect to Potter, is that good?

Overall though, for me, the crucial element of the main Metheny oeuvre that’s very conspicuous in its absence here is Lyle Mays. As another reviewer on Amazon put it: “In no small way Lyle made the Group what it was; he was the catalyst for what allowed PMG to be at once so accessible and yet so ethereal. Lyle was Pat's collaborator in chief, the heart that complemented Pat's heady arrangements, the purveyor of unexpected twists and turns, a gentle eloquent tour-de-force in his own right, and the lead sheet for Pat's best peregrinations as a soloist.”

I couldn't agree more.

I don’t know what the situation is between Metheny and Mays and I wouldn’t dare to speculate, but I hope with all my heart that it’s not terminal. Lyle is Pat's musical soul-mate. As great as Pat is on his own or with other musicians - and he is great indeed - in my humble opinion, he is at his greatest when he’s with Lyle. 2005's "The Way Up" is still one of my favourite albums ever.

I wasn’t particularly enchanted by the Unity Band when I first heard it. A ground-breaking idea, sure, but I found it too sonically threadbare and lacking of any heart. The Unity Group definitely takes things up a notch - vocalist & multi-instrumentalist Giulio Carmassi is a most welcome addition - but for me, it just doesn’t quite hit the spot. In my substantial catalogue of Metheny albums it rates nowhere near the top.

Three stars.

Favourite songs: "Sign Of The Season", an epic, hypnotic 10 min delight; the beautiful almost mournful ballad "Born" and "We Go On".
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 4, 2014 7:51 AM BST


Ode
Ode
Price: £15.29

11 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars All brains and no heart?, 16 Mar. 2012
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This review is from: Ode (Audio CD)
Once again I find myself writing a not-so favourable review for an artiste I have a tremendous amount of respect for. It's incontrovertible that Mr Mehldau knows his way round a piano and is an excellent songwriter. It's just that his recordings always tend to leave me feeling rather cold. It's like they're all brains and no heart, or all technique and no soul. They never really move me. In fact the only time I've really enjoyed his playing was when he collaborated with Pat Metheny a few years back, especially on Quartet. Then there have also been moments of sheer brilliance when he's performed on other people's albums: Charlie Haden's American Dreams springs to mind, as does Kurt Rosenwinkel's Deep Song and John Scofield's Works for Me.

Maybe I'm just not musically intellectual enough to 'get' him. I've had a similar issue with Keith Jarrett so he's in good company. All I know for sure is that unless he does something radically different like his recent amazing project with Kevin Hays, Modern Music, this is the last Brad Mehldau CD I will be buying. I'm not a rich man and I don't have money to throw away on CDs I'll rarely if ever play.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 18, 2013 2:44 PM GMT


Trio Libero
Trio Libero
Price: £13.49

20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No, not really..., 3 Feb. 2012
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This review is from: Trio Libero (Audio CD)
I have a lot of time for Andy Sheppard. I've been a huge fan for years and have practically all his CDs including the ones he did with Carla Bley. If we have a better jazz saxophonist in this country, I'm yet to hear him. Or her.

I was really looking forward to this release but I write this review - my first in ages - bitterly disappointed. I don't like it at all. Sax/drum/bass trios are tough to pull of at the best of times in my opinion and it's not as if Sheppard doesn't have the chops. But the songs are dull, there's no rythm or melody to them and the whole affair is boringly depressing. It's several steps down from his last release, 2009's appropriately titled Movements In Colour and if this album outsells that one I'm prepared to eat my hat.

ECM are a great label, Manfred Eicher is a phenomenal producer, a legend almost. But in my view, Andy Sheppard should go back to what he's best at. Bright, funky soulful jazz music - that involves at least four players.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 18, 2013 11:13 AM GMT


JD 1282 - DELETED
JD 1282 - DELETED

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Avoid unless a die-hard fan, 25 Jun. 2011
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This review is from: JD 1282 - DELETED (Audio CD)
This CD was a complete waste of money - and I waited three months for delivery!

The track listing on the CD cover is completely wrong and the sound quality is pathetic. The peformers each give it their all but what's the use if it hurts to listen to?

If you haven't already done so and are looking for a much warmer, smoother sound of Redman playing with Pat Metheny, I highly recommend Wish. It's a hundred times better, even the live tunes sound like they were recorded in the studio, thanks to producer Matt Pierson.

In my opinion, this CD is to be avoided at all costs - unless the buyer is a die-hard Redman/Metheny/McBride/Higgins fan.


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