Hilton Ruiz – El Camino (1987) (featuring Dick Griffin and Sam Rivers)

Hilton Ruiz
El Camino (The Road)
1988 Novus 3024-1-N

A1 West Side Blues 6:42
A2 Come Dance With Me 8:25
A3 Sometimes I 6:26
B1 El Camino (The Road) 6:19
B2 Message From The Chief 1:54
B3 Eastern Vibrations 14:55

Recorded At – Uptown Chelsea Sound

Bass – Andy Gonzalez
Congas, Percussion – Jerry Gonzalez
Drums, Guiro – Steve Berrios
Guitar – Rodney Jones
Percussion, Congas – Jose Alexis Diaz
Piano, arrangements – Hilton Ruiz
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Sam Rivers
Timbales – Endel Dueno
Trombone, arrangements on A2 & A3 – Dick Griffin
Trumpet – Lew Soloff

Engineer – Tony May
Producer – Ed Michel
Liner Notes – Leonard Feather

Recorded October 15, 1987, Uptown Chelsea Sound, New York City.

LINEAGE: Novus 3024-1-N vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; Audioquest King Cobra cables; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair on very light settings, manually auditioning the output; further clicks removed with Adobe Audition 3.0; dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename. Transferred Summer 2017.

The blog has been way too quietly these last few weeks, as “real life” suddenly got real busy.  But it’s all good stuff for once, so it seems like a good moment to post this album that’s been in the queue for a while.  Plus it has nice liner notes from the late Leonard Feather which means I can keep my trap shut and let him do most of the talking. This is a tremendous sophomore album by the late, great pianist Hilton Ruiz, who played in Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s band among many others.  He brings some heavy weight to this session, which was recorded live to 2-track DAT.  The presence of  Lew Soloff on trumpet, along with fellow Kirk alum Dick Griffin (who contributes two compositions) and the brilliant Sam Rivers, pretty much insure you’re in for a great listen.  As Feather writes, it grabs your right at the beginning and doesn’t let go.  The closing number, the fourteen-minute Eastern Vibrations, is in a modal spiritual jazz vibe, and Hilton’s solo is off the hook, pushing into Cecil Taylor territory but never straying too far from the driving pulse of the tune.   Here, have a look at the liner notes:


password: vibes

Hugh Masekela – The Lasting Impressions of Ooga Booga (1965/1968)

Hugh Masekela – The Lasting Impressions of Ooga Booga
1996 Verve 531 630-2

“The Americanization of Ooga Booga” (1965)

01 – Bajabula Bonke (8:05) (Miriam Makeba)
02 – Ozinorabiro (6:38) (Miriam Makeba)
03 – Unhlanhia (5:22) (Miriam Makeba)
04 – Cantelope Island (5:28) (Herbie Hancock)
05 – U-Owi (5:26) (Hugh Masekela)
06 – Masqueneda (7:43) (Jorge Ben)
07 – Abangoma (4:04) (Miriam Makeba)
08 – Mixolydia (6:59) (Hugh Masekela)

“The Lasting Impression of Hugh Masekela” (1968)

09 – Con Mucho Carino (4:41) (Larry Willis)
10 – Where Are You Going? (7:42) (Hugh Masekela)
11 – Morola (5:05) (Hugh Masekela)
12 – Bo Masekela (4:40) (Caliphus Semenya)
13 – Unohilo (6:49) (Alan Salenga) Continue reading

Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson – From South Africa To South Carolina (1975)

Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson
From South Africa to South Carolina
1975 Arista Records AL 4044

01 Johannesburg 4:47
02 A Toast To The People 5:45
03 The Summer Of ’42 4:38
04 Beginnings (The First Minute Of A New Day) 5:36
05 South Carolina (Barnwell) 4:33
06 Essex 9:19
07 Fell Together 4:26
08 A Lovely Day 3:25 Continue reading

Horace Silver – In Pursuit of the 27th Man (1972)

Horace Silver
In Pursuit Of The 27th Man
Original Blue Note release:
     1972 (Germany) BST 84 433 K
     1973 (USA) BN-LA054-F
This pressing, 2012 (Japan) TOCJ-50505

1     Liberated Brother     5:22
2     Kathy     4:16
3     Gregory Is Here     6:20
4     Summer In Central Park     4:39
5     Nothin’ Can Stop Me Now     5:14
6     In Pursuit Of The 27th Man     9:43
7     Strange Vibes     5:01

    Bass – Bob Cranshaw
    Drums – Mickey Roker
    Piano – Horace Silver    
    Tenor saxophone – Michael Brecker (tracks: 1,3,6)
    Trumpet, flugelhorn – Randy Brecker (tracks: 1,3,6)
    Vibraphone – David Friedman (tracks: 2,5,6,7)
   Producer – George Butler
   Recorded By – Rudy Van Gelder

Critics have often blasted Blue Note Records’ output during the 1970s, and not without reason, for inconsistency and an overeager desire to flirt with a more commercial sound than during their classic  50s and 60s heyday.  Horace Silver’s own wonderfully “far out,” genre-bending, and delightful three-part series of LPs from 1970-72, subtitled “The United States of Mind” , was probably a case in point for purist curmudgeons.  Although he was certainly no stranger to commercial success or soul-jazz crossovers (he did write the song “Doodlin'”, after all), the sprawling eclecticism of the three “phases” of the US of M project must have had some Blue Note fans worried that they’d lost old Horace for good.   So I can’t help hearing 1972’s “In Pursuit of the 27th Man” as a kind of deliberate return to form.  That’s not to imply that it was a reaction to critics:  perhaps Silver just felt like it was time to make a good solid hard bop album again after his recent experimentation.

And that’s what he did here, while retaining a lot of the same players from those other records.  The Latin jazz opener, Liberated Brother (written by Weldon Irvine), is of the same high caliber as anything on his Cape Verdean Blues from 1966.  Recorded during two sessions with slightly different lineups, half the tracks feature the Brecker Brothers on brass and the other half showcase David Friedman on vibes, which is a first for Silver’s bands.  On the titular track, we get both at the same time.  The interplay between Silver’s piano and the vibes on this song is marvelous, fabulous, and stupendous.  The album also features one tune (Kathy) by the great Moacir Santos, then living in the US and who – as Silver mentions in the notes – was just about to make his first Blue Note LP.

This is a very worthwhile offering in the vast discography of one of my favorite jazz pianists and composers, so do give it a listen.

The ambiance of the record as a whole is an adept mixture of taxi fumes and sunlight, as captured by the breezy “Summer in Central Park.”

Hey let’s take a look at Silver’s charming liner notes now.  They include lyrics to one track that are, in fact, not present anywhere on the actual recording.  So read them and memorize them to recite along at the proper moment.

Note: the remastering engineer is not named in the credits, as it oddly the case for many of these TOCJ Blue Note CDs from Japan, but like all the others I have heard, this sounds stellar.

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James Moody – The Blues And Other Colors (1969)

James Moody
Original release 1969 (Milestone MSP 9023)
OJC Reissue 1997

1. Main Stem
2. Everyone Needs It
3. Savannah Calling
4. A Statement
5. Gone Are The Days
6. Feeling Low
7. You Got To Pay
8. Old Folks


Tracks 1, 4, and 8

James Moody: flute, soprano sax
Johnny Coles: trumpet, flugelhorn
Tom McIntosh: trombone
Joe Farrel; alto flute, oboe, alto sax
Cecil Payne: baritone sax
Kenny Barron: piano
Ron Carter: bass
Freddy Waits: drums

Tracks 2 and 3
add Sam Brown – electric guitar, Ben Tucker (acoustic and electric bass) replaces Ron Carter

Tracks 5-7

James Moody: flute
Britt Woodman: trombone
Jim Buffington: french horn
Linda November: voice
Alfred Brown: viola
Charles McCracken: cello
Kermit Moore: cello
Dick Katz: piano
Ron Carter: bass
Connie Kay: drums

Recorded August 14, 1968; January 3, 1969, and February 11, 1969

Produced by Dick Katz and Orrin Keepnews. 
Recording engineer – George Sawtelle
Digitally remastered by Kirk Felton (1997, Fantasy Sound Studios, Berkeley, California).

Well this is an odd little record.  James Moody’s body of work is kind of all over the place but somewhere between Dizzy Gillespie, his Argo albums, and his Perception Records albums, he found time to make a handful of records for the Milestone label.  This one, recorded with two entirely different ensembles (except for Ron Carter, who is the common denominator of all jazz equations, apparently*).  It runs the gamut from modern jazz, hard bop, and toe-tapping soul jazz.  A lot of it is the sound of a small band playing big band arrangements courtesy of trombonist Tom McIntosh, who dropped out of jazz shortly after these sessions.  And the arrangements here are always interesting.  The dissonant soul treatment of Ellington’s “Main Stem” is a gem  The summer stroll through a city park that is “Everybody Needs It” is lovely.  The jazz combo + chamber ensemble idea works well on this record, better than his Moody With Strings album on Argo, for example.   And considering that the album is culled from two sessions separated by six months, it holds together as a long player.  About the only weak spot for me is “Gone Are The Days,” a deconstruction of Stephen Foster that was probably intended as sociomusical critique but ends up being just kind of forced.  (I was somewhat surprised to see that it scored so favorably on the liner notes, both of the reissue and the original release).  Maybe it doesn’t work for me  because it seems to be trying so hard to make a statement, and pales before the previous track, ironically titled “A Statement,” which is truly breathtaking.

The presence of frequent collaborator Johnny Coles is welcome here, as is Cecil Payne.  Kenny Baron plays capably.  Holding down the drum throne are future M’Boom member Freddie Waits and MJQ stalwart Connie Kay.

The last batch of compositions feature wordless vocals by one Linda November.  Her calendar-girl name sounded vaguely familiar but I couldn’t place it, so I looked her up.  Alongside her credits as a pop backup singer, she more famous as the anonymous voice of TV jingles like the Meow Mix song and the “I’d Like To Give The World A Coke” song.  I have no idea how she ended up on this record.  Even when it’s awkward it still works, though, like on the McIntosh composition “You Got To Pay,” which I happened to have played recently on one of my freeform radio hours. The one fact that might legitimately scare some people off is that Moody eschews alto and tenor sax for soprano for the first half and stays on flute for all of the second half.  I happen to love jazz flute but it drives some people crazy for reasons I refuse to comprehend so don’t even bother trying to explain it to me.

* There is an equation for predicting the probability of Ron Carter appearing on any given album.  Take the year of release, add the catalog number (substituting numerological values for any letters), divide by the number of tracks, and multiply by 100.


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Michael White – Spirit Dance / Pneuma (1972)

Michael White

Impulse! – AS-9215  1972

A1 Spirit Dance
A2 The Tenth Pyramid
A3 John Coltrane Was Here
A4 Ballad For Mother Frankie White
B1 Samba  
B2 Unlocking The Twelfth House
B3 Praise Innocence

   Bass – Ray Drummond
   Percussion, Flute [Bamboo], Vocals – Baba Omson
   Piano – Ed Kelly
   Producer, Photography – Ed Michel
   Violin, Vocals – Michael White
   Vocals – Makeda , Wanika King

   Engineers – Ken Hopkins, Rick Stanley
   Mixed By – Baker Bigsby  
   Artwork and Photography – Philip Melnick


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Impulse! AS-9221

Pneuma (Part 1) 5:16
Pneuma (Part 2) 4:57
Pneuma (Part 3) 4:11
Pneuma (Part 4) 4:13
Pneuma (Part 5) 1:52
Ebony Plaza 9:18
Journey Of The Black Star 2:53
The Blessing Song 6:25

   Bass – Ray Drummond
Engineer – Baker Bigsby
Percussion – Kenneth Nash
Piano – Edwin Kelly
Producer – Ed Michel
Violin – Michael White (2)
Vocals – D. Jean Skinner, Faye Kelly, Joyce Walker, Leola Sharp

If you are a person for whom jazz violin is an acquired taste, then the notion of “free jazz violin” will probably send you running or at least reaching for the earplugs.  I confess that I am personally still grappling with the finer nuances of Leroy Jenkins and occasionally undergo a self-imposed “music appreciation course” at my house featuring his recordings.  So you could say I appreciate the fact that Michael White’s music is not nearly as abrasive as Jenkins and in fact often crosses over into the downright accessible and melodic.  White has a lengthy resume that includes sideman gigs with people as diverse as John Handy and Sun Ra, but it was his electric proto-jazz-rock band The Fourth Way that led me to seek out these two albums.   Well neither “Spirit Dance” or “Pneuma” sound anything like The Fourth Way but if I felt any disappointment at that discovery, it didn’t last long.  These are both excellent records.

Initially the listener is likely to be struck by what the records lack as opposed to what they offer – the absence of any horns whatsoever, as well as a traditional trap drum kit.  The versatile percussionists  (Baba Omsun for “Spirit Dance,” Ken Nash for “Pneuma”) manage to let you hardly miss the drums, and as for lack of reed or brass instruments.. well you’ll just have to deal with it, because the tonal palette is a bit thin in the upper register at times.  The upside is that when he lost the horn charts, White gained not only a unique sound but also the flexibility that makes his avant-garde and free jazz flourishes more focused.  Considering the technical designation of the piano as a percussion instrument, Michael White is often the only voice here that isn’t in the rhythm section, which liberates him to switch between riffing on melodies and freaking out at will.  The stuff stays grounded, though – there are quite a few shortish compositions with audible roots in blues and gospel, and the group often leans more towards modal jazz than free jazz.  Note the very brief use of an overdubbed violin at the end of the first track “Spirit Dance” here, too.  The turgid tabla of The Tenth Pyramid reminds me of the few months that I took tabla lessons – is this in tintal? – but it only lasts for four minutes so if sloppy faux-Indian jazz annoys you then at least your suffering will be brief.  “John Coltrane Was Here,” besides having a great smile-inducing title for a tribute to the late deity, is a lovely modal piece with the almost requisite quotations from ‘A Love Supreme.’ It satisfies your nagging curiosity about what a violin-jazz invocation of Coltrane’s spiritual vision would sound like.  Now that you know, you can finally sleep at night.  Again there is judicious use of overdubbing – is this cheating?  I’m not keeping score so I’ll let it slide.  Another interesting piece here is the unimaginatively titled “Samba,” which may leave you scratching your head until you hear the congas and the electric bass guitar whose notes accent the downbeat where the surdo drum would be.  The abstract  sandbox of “Unlocking The Twelth House” is a great closer for the album.  Unfortunately it doesn’t actually end the record, but since I usually just skip over the last track, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it – this is a great way to end the record.   However if atonal wordless vocals sung by children are your thing, by all means crank up “Praise Innocence.”  After all you may have been hoping to annoy your neighbors with this album, and up until now you may have not succeeded.  This ought to do it.

I usually don’t listen to the two records included on this disc back to back, in order to “maximize their efficacy” or something like that.  While “Spirit Dance” manages to keep things fun, “Pneuma” actually ranks a bit higher for me.  It may be a bit more sombre but it also seems more fully-realized, like he went into the studio with a more single-minded approach to make a statement, as opposed to recording a collection of pieces.  The original first side of the LP is comprised entirely of the “Pneuma” suite.  For a spiritual jazz homage to the breath of life, it actually boasts a pretty traditional jazz arrangement, with each instrument getting equal time to lead the group after the primordial swells and slow, sustained crescendos of the opening. First White’s violin, then the bass (acoustic this time, which is a welcome choice), then piano, and finally percussion before wrapping the whole thing up.  It’s pretty brilliant and if you are only going to listen to one “side” of this two-on-one release, I would pick this one.  The second half of “Pneuma” is just as impressive, with the additional textures of vocal arrangements on “Journey of the Black Star” and “The Blessing Song.”  The latter is just downright catchy and merits a place on a compilation of that ill-defined ‘genre’ referred to as “spiritual jazz.”  It’s a beautiful and sweet resolution to the little musical journey Mr. White takes us on, which is one where his intensity is balanced by warmth that is often missing from these styles of jazz.  Solid stuff.  And check out The Fourth Way if you don’t know them.

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