Recorded at the end of a string of engagements throughout the Scandinavian countries, Archie Shepp + The New York Contemporary Five, Vol. 2 captures a group of young musicians seeking new musical ground and having found a welcoming environment far from home. In November of 1963, The New York Contemporary Five were consolidating avant-garde jazz as pioneered by Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor in Copenhagen and Sweden, as New York clubs had yet to fully embrace the style The quintet had formed specifically for their engagement at Montmartre in Copenhagen and would disband for some time immediately after. Vol. 2 documents a quintet of experimental artists that had yet to gain the worldwide recognition that they enjoy today, more than 50 years later. In this early era of The New York Contemporary Five, Archie Shepp, who embodied his musical generations experimental nature, shows compelling technical prowess that runs alongside an early-stage knack for experimentation. From a modern perspective, the album sounds particularly indicative of the Archie Shepp that history has come to know as a central figure in the primary canon of avant-garde jazz.
Vinyl LP pressing in gatefold jacket. 1975 release, the third album from the influential funk/soul vocalist. Betty Davis was riding high in the ’70s. A new record label (Island), a series of high profile relationships, and intensely sexualized live performances made her a rising star. It seemed like everything was aligned to take the music world by storm. So Betty and band got back into the studio where she would act as writer, producer, and performer, creating what she thought would be her definitive release. Born Betty Mabry, the singer changed her last name when she married jazz legend Miles Davis.
THESE ARE MY ROOTS: CLIFFORD JORDAN PLAYS LEADBELLY
Clifford Jordan hailed from Chicago, hometown of hard-driving, so-called ?tough tenorists? like Gene Ammons and Eddie ?Lockjaw? Davis. While Jordan shared their unnerving bravado, his tone is different, an alluring tone, simultaneously rough around the edges and ephemeral. A sought-after sideman, Jordan recorded with stalwarts as Lee Morgan and Max Roach in the late fifties and early sixties, as well as a series of high standard solo albums. Like age matures wine, Jordan?s style ripened in the early seventies, his lines becoming fluent like ripples of lake water. Jordan kept recording and performing steadily until his death in 1993.Maybe this album, filled with interpretations of such classic tunes as Take This Hammer and Goodnight Irene, is not such a surprise act after all. The preceding year, Jordan had been part of Charles Mingus? outfit (appearing on the hi-voltage live album Right Now: Live At The Jazz Workshop) Musical gobbler Mingus? unfazed search for new vistas while retaining an all-embracing sense of the past?s relevance and blend of harmonic finesse with unbridled juke joint tumult surely rubbed off on Jordan.Da Gray Goose is one of the cases in point. Tasteful harmony over the stop-time theme kicks it into action, strongly plucked bass and fiery drums inspire the soloists, creating an atmosphere of abandon. Lusty shout choruses stoke up the fire as the tune progresses. There are also some, yes, virtuoso banjo parts.The gloomy folk blues music of Huddie ?Leadbelly? Ledbetter, whose life story reads like a combined effort of Shakespeare and James Baldwin, including oppression, hardship, addiction, treachery, murder and prison life, is excellently cast in a jazz frame. But not too jazzy, often the sound of Jordan?s top-notch group is as tough-as-nails as the sound of any one group that enlivened the back alley bars way back when. Jordan?s unpredictable phrasing overcomes the restrictions of the rigid folk blues form.Craftily uncrafted, These Are My Roots is a spirited album of earnest, raw and ebullient swing.
THE IN SOUND
This is one of Eddie Harris’ great records. The playing is inspired! What a band! Cedar Walton (piano) and Billy Higgins (drums), Lee Morgan’s favourite rhythm section. The underrated but popular tenor saxophonist introduces his “Freedom Jazz Dance,” which would become a jazz standard after featuring on Miles Davis’ album Miles Smiles. Plays one of the earlier versions of “The Shadow of Your Smile,” romps on “Love for Sale” and “‘S Wonderful,” and also performs “Born to Be Blue” and his own “Cryin’ Blues.” Harris is heard in prime form in a quartet/quintet with pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Billy Higgins, and part-time trumpeter Ray Codrington. A gem.
Little Stevie Wonder
THE 12 YEAR OLD GENIUS
At the end of 1962, when Wonder was 12 years old, he joined the Motortown Revue, touring the ‘chitlin’ circuit’ of theatres across America that accepted black artists. At the Regal Theater, Chicago, his performance was recorded and released in May 1963 as the album Recorded Live: The 12-Year-Old Genius. ‘Fingertips’ topped both the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the R&B Singles chart and Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius topped the Billboard 200, all of which happened in 1963. This is the last album to use the ‘Little’ in Stevie Wonder’s name. Starting with the next album, he goes by just ‘Stevie Wonder.’
1926-1968: THE ESSENTIAL WORKS (2XLP)
Louis Armstrong is one of the most important jazz musicians. He belongs to those who transformed the local music scene born in the Southern States of the United States – around New Orleans – into an international language. It was in the 1920s, in Chicago, that he recorded his first records with His Hot Five and His Hot Seven. His personality and his natural enthusiasm, combined with his talent as a trumpet player and singer, helped him pave his way to success. He traveled the United States with his orchestra throughout the 1930s and the 1940s, and appeared on television sets from all around the world throughout the 1950s and the 1960s. In five decades, Armstrong’s music had evolved into jazz music, then known as a familiar universal language, popular on five continents. The four sides of this double album revive the history of jazz, from ‘Muskrat Ramble’ to ‘Hello Dolly’.
LIVE IN EUROPE VOL. 1
Live In Europe Vol.1? is the second Altsax production. These live recordings capture a series of the artist and his quartet?s performances throughout Europe in 1975. These gigs reflect Howard?s peculiar musical identity on the Free Jazz scene of that era. An uncanny and heavy atmosphere unifies the different compositions which are constructed with improvisations on disturbing repetitions.
The landmark 1980 album, representing a period of consolidation for Patrice Rushen. Her studio reputation as a go-to pianist and arranger among other artists and musicians was well established and was growing exponentially. Although never originally planning a career as a solo artist, she had built this side of her work through three Prestige albums and two sophisticated soul and disco albums for Elektra, ‘Patrice’ and ‘Pizzazz’. ‘I was lucky to have a group of musicians that I knew well by the time of these recording sessions,’ remembers Patrice. ‘I had my pick of really incredible players because of all of the studio work I was doing. I also played with Lee Ritenour, Harvey Mason and others almost on a weekly basis at The Baked Potato club in L.A.’
JOURNEY TO THE ONE (2XLP)
By 1980 when this was originally released Pharoah Sanders was solidly entrenched with his own voice on tenor. The passing of John Coltrane and Sanders’s fruitful years of playing with the prolific saxophone genius resulted with an unmistakable influence on his sound and explorations of the instrument. Beginning with ‘Greetings to Idris’ the structure of the music is one that follows tradition yet opens up for the musicians to improvise within the arrangements. ‘Greetings to Idris’ is in reference to the featured drummer Idris Muhammad who also played with Coltrane during his late period. Naturally Sanders is featured as the main instrument and his horn can be bold and demanding of your full attention. Always interested in other instruments from other cultures, much like Trane, he incorporates the Japanese instrument the koto, a beautifully harmonic stringed instrument to counter his soft rich blowing on tenor with only wind chimes and a harmonium for a delicious peaceful bit of music on ‘Kazuko'(Peace Child) that has the qualities of a meditative offering. Most of the music, eight tracks, is composed and arranged by Sanders and demonstrates his leadership. There is one John Coltrane composition entitled ‘After The Rain’ that gets the Tranesque treatment by Sanders that makes it hard for even the most discerning listener to distinguish between the original version and Sanders impression. It is a bluesy duet featuring only sax and piano and leaves you wanting to hear it over and over again because of it’s simple and haunting melodies. Another song that Coltrane recorded entitled ‘Easy To Remember’ has a gentle swing to it built around a classic quartet (drums, bass, piano, sax) like that employed by Coltrane that results in a superb standard. Sanders incorporates the use of another ‘foreign’ instrument to jazz by working in a tabla and sitar on ‘Soledad ‘ that takes center stage before Sanders joins in on the music. The result is a thing of genius as the East and West merge and interface for composition that is peaceful. Sanders music on this LP fluctuates between the tranquil sounds of his mellow horn to the outer limits where he left off with the explorations of Trane’s late period. What separates this LP from others is that it is a group playing under his leadership where he gives all others close to equal billing. The uptempo, ‘You’ve Got To Have freedom’ is one such song where Sanders gets out there on some of his solos but works within the group structure as the other musicians, most notably Eddie Henderson on flugelhorn, bring the music back home. There is a chorus sung much of the time throughout where the the proclamation ‘Ya gotta have peace and love, ya gotta have freedom’ is presented in Manhattan Transfer style but with much more soul. The use of vocalists is done again on the track entitled ‘Think About The One.’ The chorus features vocalese specialist Bobby McFerrin. This LP shows the different sides of Pharoah Sanders, a man always willing to explore the music, explore his soul and share it with you. The closing track ‘Bedria’ is a mellow exploration of the various ranges of the tenor. It is a ten minute song that displays all the grace of his being, a gentle giant who can manipulate the horn to do extraordinary things, reverberating out and back in undulating waves of harmonic bliss. Sanders on this LP is next to perfect. One of his best recording from his post Impulse career. It belongs in your jazz collection right next to John Coltrane.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Re-mastering by: Ray Staff at Air Mastering, Lyndhurst Hall, LondonFrom it’s opening bars, with Bill Salter’s bass and Rahsaan’s flute passionately playing Bill Withers’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine,’ you know this isn’t an ordinary Kirk album (were any of them?). As the string section, electric piano, percussion, and Cornel Dupree’s guitar slip in the back door, one can feel the deep soul groove Kirk is bringing to the jazz fore here. As the tune fades just two and a half minutes later, the scream of Kirk’s tenor comes wailing through the intro of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Goin’ On,’ with a funk backdrop and no wink in the corner – he’s serious. With Richard Tee’s drums kicking it, the strings developing into a wall of tension in the backing mix, and Charles McGhee’s trumpet hurling the long line back at Kirk, all bets are off – especially when they medley the mother into ‘Mercy Mercy Me.’ By the time they reach the end of the Isleys’ ‘I Love You, Yes I Do,’ with the whistles, gongs, shouting, soul crooning, deep groove hustling, and greasy funk dripping from every sweet-assed note, the record could be over because the world has already turned over and surrendered – and the album is only ten minutes old! Blacknuss, like The Inflated Tear, Volunteered Slavery, Rip, Rig and Panic, and I Talk to the Spirits, is Kirk at his most visionary. He took the pop out of pop and made it Great Black Music. He took the jazz world down a peg to make it feel it’s roots in the people’s music, and consequently made great jazz from pop tunes in the same way his forbears did with Broadway show tunes. While the entire album shines like a big black sun, the other standouts include a deeply moving read of ‘My Girl’ and a version of ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ that takes it back forever from those white fundamentalists who took all the blood and sweat from it’s grain and replaced them with cheap tin and collection plates. On Kirk’s version, grace doesn’t come cheap, though you can certainly be a poor person to receive it. Ladies and gents, Blacknuss is as deep as a soul record can be and as hot as a jazz record has any right to call itself. A work of sheer blacknuss!
SLY BEFORE THE FAMILY STONE
Sly Stone’s earliest recordings and ultra-rare singles; ?Sly Before The Family Stone? will be released on limited edition blue vinyl. Featuring all his ultra-rare early doo-wop and gospel recordings with the Viscaynes, this release truly is Sly BEFORE the Family Stone.Just in case you didn’t know… Sly and the Family Stone was an American band from San Francisco. Active from 1966 to 1983, it was pivotal in the development of funk, soul, rock, and psychedelic music. It’s core line-up was led by singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Sly Stone, and included Stone’s brother and singer/guitarist Freddie Stone, sister and singer/keyboardist Rose Stone, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson, drummer Greg Errico, saxophonist Jerry Martini, and bassist Larry Graham. It was the first major American rock group to have a racially integrated, male and female lineup.
WIZARD OF THE HARMONICA
Ron Brown writes: Perhaps Sonny Terrys blindness has isolated him from the world to such an extent that hes been able to shrug off a cloak of sophistication more than would normally be expected of a man whos been in demand by blues audiences the world over for more than thirty years. His vocal delivery is as rough, uncompromising and exhilarating as ever it was, embodying the raw essence of the country blues. Hes inclined to pitch his voice a little on the sharp side, but hes retained over the years a passionate involvement in his music which he communicates to his audiences, who usually judge that musical niceties arent of much consequence in the work of an artist who puts so much feeling into his performances. Originally recorded in 1972, this release is a brilliant overview of a pivotal figure in blues harmonica.
Teddy Wilson Trio
REVISITS THE GOODMAN YEARS
Besides his reputation as the definitive swing pianist, Teddy Wilson is often remembered in terms of his collaborations. Having played on the records of names like Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald and Benny Goodman, Wilsons fingerprints are found on many of records that helped popularize and define swing in its glory years. In 1980, Wilson revisited the songs he had performed with Benny Goodman in the 1930s, delivering material that he had clearly mastered at this point and which gave a special look into the talents and sentiments of Teddy Wilson that played a primary role in the swing era. Teddy Wilson Trio Revisits the Goodman Years sees Teddy Wilson re-portray the Benny Goodman small-group repertoire that Wilson had played with Goodman many decades before this Copenhagen session in 1980. It is a return to material that had stood the test of time while Wilson had lived a long career since his time with Goodman himself. Of the many collaborators that Wilson enjoyed in his career, Goodman in particular developed a strong, long-lived musical relationship with Teddy Wilson, incorporating the aspects and strengths of Wilsons playing that are particularly apparent on this record. Relaxed and elegant, Wilsons mastery of the piano sounds as graceful as ever while maintaining a sense of intensity that comes through with renewed clarity in the present line-up. Wilson has not reinvented himself in returning to these songs, but his talent and infectious and exciting playing make it hard to argue that he should.
JAZZ DUOS: 1938-1957 ESSENTIAL WORKS (2XLP)
Meetings make music, especially songs. During the Forties and Fifties, artists were invited to perform ? onstage, in numerous radio shows and on television ? in a particular format that quickly attracted an immense audience: the duo. The success of these duets had producers in television, films and musicals scrambling to find personalities they could pair onstage. As for record companies, they sent a succession of their own artists into the studios two by two. Duets became a music genre all of it’s own, and the duo who made probably the greatest impression were, of course, ‘Ella & Louis’. Their performances together take up more than one side here, but they weren’t the only ones to sing duets. The genre had many specialists, not only American favourites like Nat King Cole, Dean Martin or Bing Crosby, but many others less well-known outside the U.S. (Johnny Mercer, Doris Day, Pearl Bailey, Hot Lips Page etc.) whose voices combined to produce the same result: they made miracles. So here are 25 magic moments chosen from literally hundreds of vocal duets handed down to us today. They are all evidence of a most extraordinary period in jazz.