Miles Davis: Filles De Kilimanjaro (Columbia/Legacy)
Wayne Shorter-tenor saxophone
Herbie Hancock-electric piano
Ron Carter-electric bass
(on tracks 1&5)
Dave Holland- bass
Chick Corea-electric piano
There are many misconceptions about this album. It is neither as
great nor as terrible as people say.
It comes from two 1968 sessions that found Miles right on the
verge of drastically changing his approach to song composition, size and manner
of his ensemble and the actual mechanics of his playing. When this album is
discussed the fact that the sessions encompassed two bands is always mentioned.
This is a bit misleading. The amount and types on instruments on all tracks are
same only the substitution of two players actually occurs and even then, both
pianist are using electric piano. This would be bassist Ron Carters last album
with Miles and the only one in which he played electric bass.
Gil Evans was present for these sessions. His contributions have
been kept vague and this album should not be looked at as another Miles
Davis/Gil Evans collaboration (Porgy And Bess, Sketches Of Spain, Miles Ahead)
There is no symphonic coloring so beautifully realized on their other three
Style wise this album straddles the line between the work of
Miles second great group (1965-68 quintet :
Shorter/Carter/Hancock/Williams) and the very start of Miles electric phase. I
say the very start because the electric albums he made right before his
retirement of the 1970s are not as accessible as this one, although
ultimately they offer up more rewards to listener.
The album includes one bonus track and features 24-Bit
remastering. The sound is very impressive. There is a noticeable difference
from the version out on CD a few years ago. It clocks in at about 70 mins. Good
liner notes with an added update from 2002.
The whole band plays great. As matter of personal taste I think
the keyboards at certain points sound a little dated (not as bad as some stuff
found on progressive rock albums) but I personally would have preferred just
brief washes. Chick Corea does do some pulse like tones on Frelon Brun sowing
the seeds of techno ambient that Brian Eno would so successfully harvest. For
the most part though the keyboards are played/presented much the way an
acoustic piano would have been. In the coming years, for better or worse their
role and tone would change, becoming more prominent and not always to good
On Tout De Suite, witness the midsection where Tony
Williams frenzied hi-hat assault conjures up sound of rain.
The standout track (for me) is Mademoiselle Marby. Named for
Miles then new second wife. She was a singer/scenester who introduced Miles to
Jimi Hendrix. The song actually incorporates Jimis The Wind Cries Mary in
its melody. The use of space gives the illusion of time stopping which would be
perfected on the next album In A Silent Way, but here seems more effective for
lack of any discernible climax. In keeping with the dreamy aspect, Wayne
Shorter enters the piece like someone whispering something as you are drifting
off to sleep.
Throughout, Miles tone is an interesting mix. He switches from
tone/attack of 65 quintet to the reverbed/treated tone he would largely
use for albums immediately leading up to his retirement. The switching back and
fourth does make for good drama and tension which was sometimes lacking during
this period in his playing as far as tone went. Electric instruments aside, all
the players sound as they had both in tone and what they would play on the
previous, often brilliant albums.
This too would drastically change within the space of two
albums. For many long time Miles aficionados this was the last album worth
listening to. One of the albums strengths is that the album does have a unified
feel to it. It is not easy or simple music, but it does seem less
intellectual than the ones which had immediately preceded it
(65-68) yet it was not as unrecognizable to old fans as what was to come.
The accessibility seems to stem from the fact Miles was right about to switch
gears. Part of his genius had always been the ability to pick the best of the
litter to play with and to be inspired by. I think this is his first album
though to be inspired by and draw from many influences at once. There is still
the admiration which he had, had since the late fifties for pianist/composer
Ahmad Jahmal and his use of space in playing and composition, but now he was
drawing from the zeitgeist of jazz/funk/rock and such then obscure things as
composer/sonic collager Karlheinz Stockhausen.
The next two albums would sound drastically different, each one
growing in scope. Hard to get at first but well worth it. This
album is a direct link to those two (Bitches Brew and In A Silent Way) It hints
at what was to come without going there and loosing those unwilling or unable
to follow. I would recommend this album almost as an appetizer to the main meal
of Bitches Brew and In A Silent Way. A feast for the senses.
-Maxwell Chandler- Feb 05
Charles Mingus: Mingus Dynasty (Columbia/Legacy)
Richard Williams, Trumpet
Jimmy Knepper, Trombone
John Handy Alto, Saxophone
Booker Ervin Tenor, Saxophone
Benny Golson Tennor, Saxophone
Jerome Richardson, Baritone Saxophone
Roland Hanna, Piano
Charles Mingus, Bass
Danny Richmond, Drums
Teddy Charles, Vibes
This is one of my favorite Mingus albums. I got this when it
first came out on CD years ago. It has been remastered and the sound fidelity
is drastically improved. You hear Minguss cries, spurring the band on and
at one point conducting the horn section on their next lines with a falsetto
cry of dwee-do-dwee Also many of the tracks have restored solos.
These new unedited versions appearing for the first time.
It is currently available remastered as a single CD or as part
of a three disc set titled Charles Mingus The Complete 1959 Columbia
Recordings. The boxed set includes the other album Mingus Ah Um and Mingus
Alternate Takes. I recommend springing for the boxed set. The packaging is
nothing special. Nothing like the Columbia boxed Miles sets, these are just the
three CDs looking as they would if you bought them individually, but contained
in a cardboard slip case. Still, if you like either of these albums you will
like the others too. The alternate takes CD is a revelation of the level of
spontaneity Mingus kept, even in his more score like pieces.
Charles Mingus was a great musician, he also wrote songs. Of
more importance though is his reputation as a legitimate composer. A reputation
which is still burgeoning in America despite the constant popularity of The
Mingus Big Band (a Grammy winning ensemble which has worked for years directly
with Minguss widow Sue) This album is perfect example of Minguss
compositional skills. Much like Bela Bartok Mingus combined classical music
with the musical idioms of his environment and heritage. Bartok had the gypsy
Hungarian folk music, Mingus had blues and gospel. In my opinion some of
Minguss most compelling work were not his songs, but his
symphonic/orchestral pieces. He always strove for a classical complexity which
married the spontaneity of jazz. What is of interest too is no matter how large
an ensemble he played or wrote for this is not big band music nor was it third
The album is all originals with two covers. Mood Indigo by Duke
Ellington and Things Aint What They Used To Be by Mercer Ellington. The
start of Mercers song the pianist actually conjures up that cascading
water effect Duke was so found of employing when he himself played.
The stand out track is Song With Orange which starts with a nod
to Duke with its slow, lush flutter of instruments. It quickly switches gears
though becoming pure Mingus. The band here is top notch. Many of the musicians
had played with Mingus in various combinations over the years. Of interest is
the presence of Benny Golson. A fantastic musician, but also a writer of
several jazz standards. It was around this time too Benny Golson and Art Farmer
were creating some amazing albums with their own larger ensembles (sextet and
Four of the albums nine original tracks appear for the first
time unedited. Aside from that there is a bonus track Strollin featuring vocals
by Honey Gordon (the lyrics were written by her father Nat Gordon) and a
burning solo by Booker Ervin.
This is a composer, this should be known and treasured.
- Maxwell Chandler - Oct 2004
Joe Henderson: Mode For Joe (Blue Note) Rudy Van
Joe Henderson-tenor sax
There are widely varying opinions on the later recordings and
career of Joe Henderson. An undisputed fact though, in the 1960s he never
made a bad album. Whether under his own name or as a side man
everything he did during this time on Blue Note is worth having.
Joe Henderson has always been the double threat of top notch
player and composer. The now standard Recorda Me was written by him when he was
only fourteen. A generation before there was the holy jazz trinity of Coleman
Hawkins, Lester Young and Ben Webster. Jump up a generation then you had John
Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson. (before you send me e-mails of
complaints I see Sonny Rollins as link between two groups) For me the appeal of
Joes playing was what it encompassed. His playing never got as outside
pocket as Coltranes would, nor did he remain as clean and note perfect as
Wayne Shorter. He incorporated aspects of these two contemporaries along with
his very own distinctive artistic vision. His Blue Note years posses an
immediately identifiable sound and way of playing.
This album was the largest ensemble Joe had used; a septet and
his last record for Blue Note. All the musicians had worked together before in
different configurations. Style wise this has similar feel to Horace
Silvers The Cape Verdean Blues which had Joe on tenor but J.J Johnson on
trombone. Although Joe played on Lee Morgans famous Sidewinder album, he
was most often teamed up with tenor man Hank Mobley. It is always refreshing
hearing him in a different setting.
This album has no weak links as far as both players and songs
are concerned. On most of his Blue Note dates Joe had used either Elvin Jones
or Pete La Roca on drums. Here Joe Chambers takes up the sticks doing the
company he keeps proud. Lee Morgan as always is fantastic. His splatter school
style of playing always sounds extra compelling to me when he has a larger
ensemble under him. The combination of his horn with Bobby Hutcherson Vibes is
very distinctive and any albums in which they both appear is worth seeking out
(Lee Morgans The Procrastinator see my review)
As enjoyable as the entire album is the two stand out tracks for
me are Caribbean Fire Dance which feature what may be the only recorded
samba-bop trombone solo. Joe Chambers seems to be channeling Tony Williams on
this piece. Over all it has a fantastic tribal feel. Lee Morgans wailing
entrance to solo is most memorable. The Lee Morgan penned tune Free Wheelin is
also very good. It sounds similar to Ginger bread Man off of Miles Davis Miles
Smiles album. Ron Carter starts things off with a snaking bass line, only
appropriate since he played on both albums.
The sound quality is top notch being remastered RVG edition. The
CD comes with one bonus track
With Joe Henderson and his sixties Blue Note albums there is no
wrong place to start, get them all.
-Maxwell Chandler- Sept 2004
Gerry Mulligan: Night Lights (Mercury)
Gerry Mulligan: baritone saxophone, piano on 1
Art Farmer: trumpet and flugelhorn
Bob Brookmeyer: trombone
Jim Hall: guitar
Bill Crow: bass
Dave Baily: drums
I once again leave the familiar comfort of my hard-bop for this
CD. Gerry Mulligan was not only a great musician but a top notch composer and
arranger. With Miles Davis, Gil Evans and a handful of others he helped birth
both cool jazz and third stream music. Cool Jazz has become confused with
smooth jazz/soft jazz, the name in itself becoming a pejorative term.
This CD is perfect place for the Gerry Mulligan novice to start
as it is very much a safe blend of the two types of albums he made. Most of his
albums fall into either quartet dates which some people found too routine in
their conception, while his other dates were larger ensembles (his Village
Vanguard Orchestra whose recordings are hard to come by but highly recommended)
which some people find too big bandish The unifying factor is
always Gerrys Playing. He always managed to shift emotional gears so
rapidly and effortlessly that when you first start listening it is under
appreciated all the shifts being almost imperceptible. But a spectrum of moods
are always there. There, in each song a constant tone conveying a world weary
melancholy, an injection of humor and even an authentic romanticism all ebb and
floe underlined by an ever present swinging.
The sextet are all very good. Harder than people realize is for
a larger ensemble to maintain an organic feel. Nothing is ever sacrificed here
though, no loss of spontaneity or soul. Gerry Mulligans most famous horn
association was with Chet Baker and their ground breaking (and short lived)
pianoless quartet. Art Farmer is an even better foil for him. Art Farmer played
with Gerry in both larger ensembles and some quartet dates too. Unlike Chet
Baker, he varied both tone and attack. Art went on to gain even wider
recognition with the work he did with Benny Golson. Bob Brookmeyer is another
father of third stream and a great arranger in his own right. His playing here
is good and very much used to strengthen the back ground of each piece. Jim
Hall on guitar is tastefully understated sometimes adding more textural sounds
The CD clocks in at just over half an hour. It is a mix of
originals and a few unique covers.
What is surprising is that the album has
a unified feel to it, an almost unsaid emotional theme. The CD sounds like
night, late night, and manages to convey that sense of late night light.
The blurred lights of the city as you drive home from a club, the dim light
in the hall as you dump you change on the dresser and flop onto bed, the soft
red light of the clocks face as you wait for dawn to come. The stand out track
for me is Morning Of The Carnival from Marcel Camus (no relation to
Albert) Black Orpheus which is a retelling of the Orpheus myth in Brazil during
carnival. It is a sad samba which never once slips into parody, managing to
tell the tale in just five minutes.
The sound quality is good. There is one bonus track, the title
track redone two years later with an added ten piece string section and Gerry
on clarinet. Nice but not important. The liner notes are a little sparse, but I
think that is partially due to where this fell in Gerrys catalog.
Gerry Mulligan is not the first cat the younger or new jazz fans
will purchase, but this album is perfect. You get all the joy that comes from
Gerry's playing but are not required to be into big band/third stream.
buried treasure found.
-Maxwell Chandler August '04
Jimmy Smith: Cool Blues (Blue Note. Rudy Van Gelder
Lou Donaldson: alto sax
Tina Brooks: tenor Sax
Jimmy Smith: organ
Eddie McFadden: guitar
Art Blakey: drum (#1-3)
Donald Bailey: drums (#4-8)
I just got this album as a birthday gift. It is quite the
discovery for me. I would never have bought a CD with organ on it! To me organs
always dredged up thoughts of roller skating rinks, church and calliopes.
This album is a live recording from Smalls Paradise in
Harlem. Along with The Village Vanguard and Mintons, one of jazzes
legendary clubs. It was actually at this club that Jimmy was discovered by
Alfred Lion of Blue Note.
For me one of the surprises was that even though it was Jimmy
Smiths date the organ is kept way in the back ground unless it is doing a
solo. And even the solos are not bad or long. If you can deal with a Doors
song, then you can deal with this. Jimmy Smith possesses a far less abrasive
tone than The Doors (Ray Mazerek) and a far more intricate style of playing. He
was 28 before he actually started playing his instrument. Amazing to conceive
of when you think that he pretty much brought the organ into jazz and also was
the one who established how it should be played. He rented an organ to play for
one dollar a day until he could afford to buy one. Once he could, he housed it
in a empty warehouse where he spent entire days practicing. He didnt
release an album under his own name until he was twenty nine. Jimmy Smith is
one of those handful of musicians that spent all his free time woodshedding it.
Like Clifford Brown and (later) John Coltrane, he didnt let anything get
in his way of honing his craft.
The entire band is in top form. There is an extreme emphasis
placed on the long groove. This is often just one small aspect of an ensemble
hard bop date but here it is the main goal. There are plenty of fiery solos
from each player but they all seem to feed back into the theme of each piece
and back into the groove. The whole CD has a dance-e feel to it much in the
same way as the title cut of Horace Silvers Song For My Father.
This is essentially The Jimmy Smith trio with guest stars. There
is no weak link in this band. Tina Brooks on tenor is amazing. He died way too
early and left behind a small catalog. Only three albums under his own name
which were not released in his lifetime and some essential Blue Notes where he
served as a side man. (anything by Jackie McLean with him on it is worth
having) Lou Donaldson is another recent favorite of mine. He is more than
comfortable in this setting, going on to incorporate this greasy-soul sauce
sound on his own albums with organ chores taken up by John Patton or Lonnie
Smith. His alto makes for a nice contrast both in tone and style from Tina
Brooks horn. One thing I found interesting, no bass. I didnt even miss it
or realize it until I was looking at album notes to see who was doing what.
The song selection is interesting. They start off with a
traditional Russian song I have always liked called Dark Eyes. Hearing this
makes me wonder why this song has not become part of the jazz lexicon. There is
also one of the best versions of Dizzy Gillespies A Night In Tunisia I
have ever heard. It grooves, swings and smokes. Each song is long in length and
it is testament to how good they are at laying down the groove that not one
moment feels as if it goes on too long.
The album cover is a photo by Francis Wolf, who did all of Blue
Notes cover pictures. It is iconic in the same way as John Coltranes Blue Train
and Sonny Rollins Volume 2 .
The CD is remastered using the 20 Bit K mapping. The sound
quality is excellent only the chatter of the musicians being heard in-between
I have always liked sax player Stanley Turrentines tone
but most of his albums have organ on them, so I had always shied away from
them. I will now give it a try along with a few more by Jimmy Smith. Older,
wiser and obeying the groove.
John Coltrane Quartet: Crescent (Impulse!)
John Coltrane - tenor saxophone
McCoy Tyner - piano
Jimmy Garrison - bass
Elvin Jones - drums
Crescent is often overshadowed by its more famous sibling A Love
Supreme. Recorded around the same time, both offer up a sonic journey of
amazing emotional power.
I think A Love Supreme received more attention because there is
an almost tangible immediacy in tone and execution to the suite like piece.
Crescent is just as good, just different. Through out the album there is a
melancholy feel that is absolutely beautiful. Coltranes classic quartet
would recorded several more albums together, but an accelerated artistic
evolution on John Coltrane's part made it so that this album was almost a
summing up of where they had been. John Coltrane would continue to evolve
incorporating a more free jazz feel, discordance and additional musicians such
as Archie Shepp and Pharaoh Sanders.
The playing is top notch all around. Even though it was one of
the things that made them famous, the interplay between the members of this
quartet is always a marvel to hear never losing its power, even with repeated
The tunes all have a denseness that verges on symphonic, yet
because the pieces are not played at break neck speed never does it become
overwhelming. There are five pieces on the album, each of a generous length.
The whole album offering up about forty minutes of stimulation. The actual
sound quality of the recording is pristine. Impulse uses the 20 bit K super
For me, Gustav Mahler and John Coltrane are two of the only
people I can think of who managed to combine intellectualism and spirituality
in their music. Unlike some of his other Impulse! recordings this one is
perfect place for someone just getting into him to start, but will never lose
its power with the eventual familiarity.
Hank Mobley: Workout (Blue Note)
Hank Mobley - tenor Sax
Grant Green - guitar
Wynton Kelly - piano
Paul Chambers - bass
Philly Joe Jones - drums
If ever jazz had someone that could be called an underdog, it
was Hank Mobley. Aside from jazz enthusiasts, his rise, fall and body of work
just are not as well known as they should be.
He was in Art Blakeys Jazz messengers holding down the
front line at various times with Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan and many other
Blue Note luminaries.
During what many consider Blue Notes golden age he was a
side man on seminal albums by the likes of Horace Silver and his
frequent partner Lee Morgan. He released some classics under his own name
during this time at Blue Note too, such as The Turn Around, Roll
Call and No Room For Squares.
The proper lack of respect for his playing and body of work can
be traced to a few key factors. During his heyday there was also John Coltrane,
Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson, all in their prime. Although there was never
any outright competition (Hank actually playing with Coltrane, Zoot Sims and Al
Cohn on Tenor Conclave and then with Coltrane again, along with Johnny Griffin
on Johnny Griffins album A Blowing Session) Hank had not come up
with new things to do with his instrument (Coltrane) He did not pen countless
standards on his way to inventing a new genre of jazz (Shorter). Nor did he,
despite the leanings of a few later albums ever become extremely forward
thinking in his attack or the pieces he played (Henderson)
Miles Davis had made a few offhand disparaging remarks about
Hank, but what people forget is that he had done and would later (again) do the
same thing to Coltrane.
It was with pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers and
drummer Jimmy Cobb that Hank would join what would be known as Miles'
They cut the vastly underrated (March) 1961 album Someday My
Prince Will Come and also the Live In Person Friday And Saturday Night
at The Blackhawk (April 21-22)
The few good things written about Someday... usually
focus on the guest stars (Coltranes last ever with Miles for two songs
and Philly Joe Jones for one) but listen to the tracks with just the
regular band, they swing, they are tight and ripe with emotion. The
Blackhawk recordings, now remastered and available as a boxed set, are one of
the most compelling documentation of a live band. There is little logic in
slighting this band. By this point Miles could have played with anybody, he
choose these guys. Ultimately they did not get as outside pocket as he was
seeking, but that is irrelevant in context of talent.
The group would leave Miles enmasse shortly after this. Wynton
Kelly and Paul Chambers would appear on many of Hanks solo album and the
three of them would also appear on other 60s Blue Notes together too. The
rhythm section minus Hank would form a successful partnership with guitarist
From Miles' comments which were often taken as gospel were the
seeds of this attitude. Even in the linear notes for this, his own album, one
can sense it. The echo of the title middleweight champion. Ira Glitter uses
this term and while the term and linear notes are most likely not meant to be
pejorative they do come across as condescending. It would not be the first or
last time unfortunately. This would lead to anger and frustration which led to
various forms of self poisoning. It became a vicious cycle, one problem feeding
into the other.
Workout was recorded in 1961. Hank Mobley was in the
midst of a golden period. The album has not been remastered or give the Rudy
Van Gelder (RVG) treatment, but the sound quality is excellent. A lot of the
RVG series are albums people would buy, or know of, regardless. One can hope
that future releases will be titles that need that extra boost to catch the
novices attention. There is one added track and the original liner notes
are reproduced too.
Hank never drastically changed his playing style, but this
recording finds him playing with a mellow, legato like sustain not found on
earlier recordings. All of his solos are logical and to the point, showing an
old school approach to song construction and execution.
Wynton Kelly is, as always at his bluesy, minimalist best when
paired with like minded musician with whom he could have a rapport. Their
partnership should be mentioned as one of the better ones in jazz. Only lack of
song writing may have prevented this. His tone and playing show the clarity for
which he is instantly recognizable.
Spaced out over several years, Grant Green was only one of three
guitarist Hank would end up working with. (Eddie Diehl and Sonny Greenwhich
being the other two) He has a bell-like clarity reminiscent of Charlie
Christian. He would go on to far greater fame with his own recording which
found him in all kinds of various sized group settings. I have always felt that
he was at his best when appearing in an ensemble which contained a horn. It
allowed for more use of space in his playing and often added a different
dimension than that found in his small ensemble playing.
Paul Chambers tone and playing is spry. There is a definite
chemistry with the rest of the band which makes even his more intricate
passages appear deceptively effortless.
Philly Joe Jones had worked with all these musicians before. At
his best he was always able to provide that pop which could make a horn really
This recording in interesting because it is one of the few where
Hank is not solo or with other horns on front line. As far as his catalog goes,
it is one of the albums with a more interesting instrumental line up. The
others being the septet date Third Season which also featured Sonny
Greenwhich on guitar, The Flip which featured Dizzy Reece on trumpet and
Slide Hampton on trombone, Caddy For Daddy which featured Curtis Fuller
on trombone and McCoy Tyner on piano and the epic Thinking OF Home which
featured Eddie Diehl on guitar and an amazing suite-like title track.
The songs on this album are with the exception of two (of six)
tracks all original. They are all bluesy and in the same style as Jazz
Messengers. Uh Huh and Greasin Easy are my favorite two. They
share a dancey groove that would not sound out of place on a Horace silver
album. There are no wasted tracks or monotonous solos. This album will appeal
to anybody who likes straight ahead jazz.
In Hanks final years frustration turned to tragedy.
Problems with his gums, teeth, money and finally the removal of a lung. He
could not even turn his descent into stylized degradation ALA Dexter Gordon,
Chet Baker or Billy Holiday.
In the mid-eighties when Blue Note was relaunched, Hank, who had
been one of the most used stable artist was not invited to the Town Hall
concert. On his own accord he showed up, but did not play, admirers paying for
his train fare back to Philadelphia.
Sometimes reading too many reviews or criticisms can ruin a
thing for people. Art is, to a certain extent subjective. Too long did people
say what was in vogue in regards to one of jazzs tragic greats. His is a
catalog everybody should own and know some of.
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