Joe Lovano is part of a select group of established musicians who have been around for so long, achieved so much, and have such an instantly recognizable sound, that a new release is more or less guaranteed to be good. And so it is with Classic! Live at Newport – everybody knows what to expect but that doesn't in any way diminish the enjoyment of listening to it.
Dave Brubeck's defining masterpiece, Time Out is one of the most rhythmically innovative albums in jazz history, the first to consciously explore time signatures outside of the standard 4/4 beat or 3/4 waltz time. It was a risky move – Brubeck's record company wasn't keen on releasing such an arty project, and many critics initially roasted him for tampering with jazz's rhythmic foundation…
Dave Holland's debut as a leader, Conference of the Birds, doesn't seem to get its proper due outside of avant-garde circles; perhaps, when discussing the greats, Holland's name simply doesn't spring to mind as immediately. Whatever the case, Conference of the Birds is one of the all-time avant-garde jazz classics, incorporating a wide spectrum of '60s innovations. Part of the reason it works so well is the one-time-only team-up of two avant-garde legends: the fiery, passionate Sam Rivers and the cerebral Anthony Braxton; they complement and contrast one another in energizing fashion throughout.
Joe Lovano's recorded debut as a leader features the tenor in a quartet with pianist Ken Werner, bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Mel Lewis. Together, they perform three originals apiece by the leader and Werner. None of the tunes are simple or based on the chords of standards, but although they did not catch on, the interplay by the musicians, the excellent pacing of tempos and moods, and the consistently satisfying solos make this a set worth searching for.
Stylewise, the music on this CD sounds much closer to a mid-'60s Blue Note release than what one might expect from ECM. Although the general sound of the ensembles is light, the music is often filled with inner heat, a little reminiscent of a Wayne Shorter record. Altoist Eric Person and vibraphonist Steve Nelson work well together, bassist Dave Holland takes plenty of solo space, drummer Gene Jackson keeps the momentum flowing and guest vocalist Cassandra Wilson does a fine job on Maya Angelou's poem "Equality." Holland's originals have plenty of variety in moods while close attention is paid to dynamics. A satisfying and thought-provoking session.
Maneri's ECM debut Three Men Walking was an album-of-the-year selection in England's The Guardian, France's Jazz Magazine and Germany's Jazzthetik. On In Full Cry, the 70-year-old clarinettist/saxophonist/pianist, one of American music's great originals, leads his quartet through a programme of free improvisations, jazz standards, and spirituals that hark back to his days as a street preacher in Brooklyn. The musical exchanges between Joe and his son Mat (on electric 6-string violin) - employing the grammar of Father Maneri's 72-notes-per-octave microtonal system - are like nothing else in jazz.
A great album recorded in 1963 for Atlantic – one of our favorite ever! Jack Wilson's one of our favorite piano players, and we rave about him all the time on these pages – and one of the reasons why we love him so much is that he was often accompanied by Roy Ayers, who started out his career playing vibes in his group! The pair together are a dream, and this album is arguably their best effort – filled with moody modal cuts, and lots of lyrical interplay that hits these beautiful high points, then dives into pits of darkness. Titles include "Harbor Freeway", "De Critifeux", "Corcovado", "Jackleg", and "Nirvana & Dana".