The music of Miles Davis was changing dramatically in the late 1960s. Most fans of the legendary trumpeter know that in 1969 he recorded Bitches Brew, the hugely successful dawn of jazz-rock that was one of the best selling jazz records ever released. Lesser known is the working unit that Miles took with him on the road was one of the most artistically daring and visionary bands that Miles ever led. Recordings of that outfit have recently surfaced and have been released on a multi-disc set, Live In Europe 1969, The Complete Bootleg Sessions Vol. 2.
Guitarist Pat Metheny, whose artistry has been rewarded with multiple Grammys over the years, has won another award for his fine 2012 recording. Metheny won in the jazz instrumental category with the album Unity Band.
Patricia Barber has long been an important voice on the progressive jazz scene. Barber, an internationally acclaimed pianist, vocalist and composer, was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2003, the only songwriter ever to be so awarded. Her ability to craft sophisticated lyrics has been documented on a series of fine recordings, which continued until some years ago.
ALBUMS OF THE MONTH – January, 2013 (and some related comment)
The November, 2012 issue of The Atlantic contained a pitifully myopic article entitled “The End of Jazz”. Essentially, its author argued that since the traditional songbook has become passe and with nothing new coming into the jazz repertoire since 1960 the music has exhausted its relevancy. What we have here is a severe case of ignoratio elenchi.
Brian Bromberg’s latest recording is a superb salute to Jimi Hendrix, the legendary guitarist who influenced countless musicians, including jazz artists such as Bromberg. A first listen may lead one to believe the music presented includes a guitar, but that is not the case—Bromberg played all of the guitar sounding parts on the basses that he tuned an octave and a fourth above a standard bass. The effect is quite staggering, as Bromberg releases an arsenal of bass artistry on well known Hendrix numbers “Fire”, “Freedom”, “Purple Haze”, and other classics.
One of the finest recordings of 2012, The Vijay Iyer Trio's "Accelerando" has been recognized throughout the jazz world as an exceptional effort from one of the most compelling pianists on today's jazz scene. A major milestone for the pianist has been the winning of multiple categories in the 2012 Downbeat Critics Poll. Critics have voted Vijay Iyer as Jazz Artist Of The Year, Top Pianist and Rising Star Composer. The Vijay Iyer Trio was also voted the best jazz group of the year, and Accelerando won top Jazz Album.
Saxophonist Wayne Escoffery moves to the center stage with a personal musical statement. "The Only Son of One" is informed by a troubled childhood that is familiar to those with abusive parents. Escoffery's response to dark childhood memories is a spiritual statement of processing and release. It is a profound one. Aided and enhanced by keyboards played by Orrin Evans and Adam Holzman, bass either from Hans Glawischnig and Ricky Rodrigues and drums from Jason Brown, the date reminds the listener of the Herbie Hancock Mwandishi Band of the 1970s.
Immediately accessible and a pleasant listening experience, Radio Music Society is another career landmark for Grammy-winning vocalist and bassist Esperanza Spalding. While the disc is clearly geared towards a pop audience, this does not mean the music is without interest to jazz fans. With an all star cast including Joe Lovano, Jack DeJohnette, Terri Lyne Carrington and Gretchen Parlato, Spalding's disc has many bright moments, including "Radio Song", "Black Gold" & "I Can't Help It", all featuring the leaders beautiful, melodic voice and solid bass work. Fans of the dynamic young
Guitarist John Moulder, a long time presence on the Chicago music scene, is presented in a live session recorded with his quintet at the noted Green Mill Jazz Club in Chicago. In a set that oscillates between crescendos and quiet meditative passages, the John Moulder Quintet amazes the at home listener in many ways. Moulder's guitar mastery is on display in "Gateway", in "The Eleventh Hour" the band performs with the self-assurance of a Pat Metheny live set but with more edginess. "Creation" features the band in a meditative mood.
Frank Russell is a bassist deserving wider recognition. On his second CD, Circle Without End, Russell displays total mastery of the bass, something he refined while working with noted jazz guitarist Henry Johnson and the legendary South African singing group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. A Chicago native, Russell has worked as a musician for more than 25 years.The bassist has performed at many jazz festivals across the country including the Newport Jazz Festival, the Telluride Jazz Festival and the Chicago Jazz Festival.