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)

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James Moody
THE BLUES AND OTHER COLORS
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
—————–





Lineup


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)

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Michael White

SPIRIT DANCE
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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PNEUMA
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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Paulinho da Costa – Agora (1977)

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Paulinho da Costa
AGORA
Released 1977 on Pablo (2310-785)
OJC Reissue 1991

A1         Simbora     8:44    
A2         Terra     4:23    
A3         Toledo Bagel     5:50    
B1         Berimbau Variations     3:50    
B2         Belisco     6:54    
B3         Ritmo Number One 8:27

Digitally remastered by Phil De Lancie (1991, Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California).

Recorded at Kendun Studios, Burbank, California (August 6 through 16, 1976). Includes liner notes by David Griffin and Paulinho Da Costa.

Recording information: Kendun Studios, Burbank, CA (08/06/1976-08/16/1976).
Arrangers: Erich Bulling; Claudio Slon ; Paulinho Da Costa; Steve Huffsteter .

Personnel:
Paulinho da Costa (vocals, whistling, berimbau, tamboura, ocarina, congas, bongos, cuica, guiro, pandeiro, reco-reco, shaker, surdo, triangle, wood block, percussion, waterphone);
Octavio Bailly, Jr. (vocals, bass);
Claudio Slon (vocals, synthesizer, drums, water drum, timabales, percussion);
Larry Williams (saxophone, flute);
Steve Huffsteter,
Gene Goe (trumpet, flugelhorn);
Mike Julian, Frank Rosolino (trombone);
Greg Phillinganes (acoustic and electric pianos); Lee Ritenour (guitar).

——————–

Nothing mind-blowing here but this is a solid record from a guy with a lot more album credits than he has records as a bandleader.  Having played with Brazilian greats like Elza Soares and Martinha da Vila, by this time Paulinho da Costa was well entrenched in the slick LA jazz studio-musician scene.  That slickness threatens to over saturate this entry on the Pablo label but Paulinho’s energy on percussion manages to pull it back from the brink more often than not.  The opening “S’imbora” may not hook you immediately with its crystalline jazz-funk fusion but by the end of it you would be hard-pressed not to admit they are cooking something savory.  “Terra” is one of two percussion-centric cuts here, this one consisting of a dinner-party Santeria or Candomblé groove; the other, “Ritmo Number One” is a samba freakout and easily the most energetic thing on the album.  “Toledo Bagel” lets Paulinho prove his mettle as a salsero.  “Berimbau Variations” is more than what its title implies. It opens up with an otherworldly swell of notes and features an interesting flute riff in a pretty tightly-composed piece clocking in a three and a half minutes.  The band here are all more than capable but somewhat lifeless and restrained for the material, perhaps due to their California studio habitus they just can’t manage to break out.  Keys player Greg Phillinganes (who has some sweet credits with Roy Ayers, Syreeta, Harvey Mason and others) gets some good runs on the electric piano but doesn’t really cut it playing salsa on the acoustic piano.  Larry Williams (Seawind, Shiela E., Michael Jackson) has a nice solo on “Belisco” but elsewhere his playing tends towards nondescript. Steve Huffsteter (Willie Bobo, Shorty Rogers, Moacir Santos and many more) is under-utilized here in my opinion although he gets to employ his arranging skills to great effect on “Belisco.”  Lee Ritanour is still Lee Ritanour.  Drummer Cláudio Slon is a fine drummer and also played with Paulinho in Sergio Mendes’ Brasil ’77 group, so it is kind of surprising that they don’t sound more ‘in the pocket’ here.  I think the issue is the mix:  Cláudio’s drum kit is tucked away under the other instruments, foregrounding Paulinho – it is his session, after all – but I think if they had pushed him forward a few decibels it would have given the tracks more impact.  

All in all this is a strong record.  His Pablo release “Muito Bem!” with Joe Pass gets a “pass” from me in spite of seeming like it might be a promising record.  His second record as a bandleader, “Happy People” (not to be confused with the Brazilian-themed Cannonball Adderley album) is also pretty good.

Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker – The Carnegie Hall Concert Vol. 1 (1975)

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Gerry Mulligan & Chet Baker
The Carnegie Hall Concert – Volume 1
CTI Records 1975 (6054 S1)

A1         Line For Lyons     8:17    
A2         (Song) For An Unfinished Woman     8:53    
B1         My Funny Valentine        8:38    
B2         Song For Strayhorn    9:35    

    Recorded At – Carnegie Hall
    Distributed By – Motown Record Corporation
    Design – Bob Ciano
    Liner Notes – Doug Ramsey
    Producer – Creed Taylor
    Remix – Rudy Van Gelder
    Photography  – Carl Roodman

    Bass – Ron Carter (tracks: A1 to B2)
    Drums – Harvey Mason (tracks: A1 to B2)
    Electric Piano – Bob James (tracks: A1, A2, B2)
    Engineer – Dave Hewitt, John Venable
    Guitar – John Scofield (tracks: A1 to B1)   
    Percussion – Dave Samuels (tracks: A2 to B2)   
    Piano – Bob James (tracks: B1)   
    Saxophone – Gerry Mulligan (tracks: A1 to B2)
    Trumpet – Chet Baker (tracks: A1, B1)
    Vibraphone – Dave Samuels (tracks: A1, A2)
    Written-By – Gerry Mulligan (tracks: A1, A2, B2), Rodgers & Hart (tracks: B1)

Vinyl -> Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply, cork ringmat); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 2496 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 96khz; Click Repair light settings; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced (for 16-bit). Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

Two of the giants of West Coast jazz were brought together again for the high profile concert documented here.  While ostensibly given equal billing on the marquee, this is really Mulligan’s show, who wrote all the material here except for My Funny Valentine and whose playing is top-notch throughout.  Gerry Mulligan went through a career comeback of sorts in the early 70s, putting out fantastic records like Age of Steam, while Chet Baker on the other hand, well… was pretty into smack at this point.  He is barely even there on most of this record.  He plays well enough I guess, when he plays at all, but mostly he’s just phoning it in.   Mulligan more than picks up the slack, however, and these guys in the CTI stable are no slouches.  While the band still has the shimmering gloss common to all CTI material, it is refreshing to hear these guys outside of the funk-lite context of majority of those records and know they can play “straight” bop and cool jazz when needed.  Harvey Mason plays with a subtlety I didn’t think he had in him, while Bob James lays down the velvet carpet of electric piano texture you would expect from him.  John Scofield’s performance depends on what you think of John Scofield: he’s never done much for me personally but his presence here is innocuous.  This ‘new’ batch of West Coast session vets may not lend the same immediacy to Mulligan and Baker that they had in their Pacific Jazz heyday, but it’s a satisfying listen nonetheless.  Oddly enough after years and years of owning this LP, I only recently picked up Volume 2 at a local shop, dirt cheap.  It needs to be cleaned and hasn’t even been listened to yet, so I’m not sure if it is in good enough shape to justify a blog post.  But stumbling on it reminded me that I did this needledrop last year, at least.

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Shirley Scott – Blue Seven (1961)

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Shirley Scott
BLUE SEVEN
with Oliver Nelson and Joe Newman
1961 Prestige  PR 7376
OJC Reissue OJCCD 1050-2, 2001

1. Blue Seven
2. How Sweet
3. Don’t Worry ‘Bout It Baby, Here I Am
4. Nancy (With The Laughing Face)
5. Wagon Wheels
6. Give Me The Simple Life

Recorded at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on August 22, 1961.

Joe Newman (tp) Oliver Nelson (ts) Shirley Scott (org) George Tucker (b) Roy Brooks (d)

So I was listening to one of James Brown’s early instrumental records from the 60s a few days ago, and it left me wanting to listen to somebody who could actually play the organ.  I ended up reaching for this record, a mellow little number from Shirley Scott.  Usually she played with a leaner ensemble, and this has a nice, fleshed-out sound to it with warm trumpet and sax work from Joe Newman and Oliver Nelson.  Newman’s long muted trumpet solo on Wagon Wheels is an excellent companion on a rainy day like I am having today.  The title track, a Sonny Rollins tune, sets the relaxed blues tone for the rest of the set.  I like Roy Brooks but on this session his touch seems a little indelicate at times: even his hi-hat somehow sounds “heavy” and plodding, even on the ballad Nancy (With The Laughing Face).  On this tune Shirley’s organ sounds so wonderful I feel like I am sitting right next to it watching the tubes glow; it’s redundant to compliment Van Gelder on his recording prowess, but there it is.

A short and sweet blog post for a short and sweet album.

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