Thursday, December 31, 2009

THE BIG TEN

Choosing my ten favorite jazz albums of 2009 was tough. Almost every jazz album I listened to last year was worthwhile. There were many deserving albums that didn't make my list such as Hank Jones' "Pleased to Meet You", Wynton Marsalis' "He and She", Pamela Rose's "Wild Women of Song", Chris Potter's "Ultrahang" and Norah Jones' "The Fall". I replay those recordings often, and they still make the hairs on my neck dance. Although they did not make my final cut, I want to congratulate those musicians. Each album was wonderful, and I said so when I reviewed them.

Making a best of list, I have a sense of what a baseball manager experiences when he has to make final cuts. It's a heartbreaking task. I bet a manager hates informing a prospect who worked hard during spring training he did not make the team. Of the many albums I listened to, choosing my ten favorite wasn’t easy. I managed to do it. If you haven't already experienced these albums, you should buy them immediately. You won't regret it. I guarantee that.

By the way, the Metrotimes, a weekly newspaper based in Detroit, Mi, published my list Wednesday in the music section of www.metrotimes.com. Without further ado, here are my ten jazz albums of 2009.

1) James Carter, Heaven on Earth (HalfNote Record): This is the third stellar live recording from saxophonist Carter. Organist John Medeski and the saxophonist are musical soul mates.

2) Dave Holland, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Chris Potter and Eric Harland, The Monterey Quartet: Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival (Monterey Jazz Festival Record): The definitive all-star jazz quartet is captured live on this disc, and I've already ruined a pair of by best Sunday shoes because I couldn't stop dancing!

3) Gerald Wilson, Detroit (Mack Avenue Records): This accomplished big band leader and composer is 91 years old, but he still has the energy and enthusiasm of a young lion.

4) Jeff "Tain" Watts, Watts (Dark Key Music): I was once convinced that a jazz band couldn't swing without a piano player. Well, I was on my third serving of Wattsbefore I realized the piano player was absent!

5) Matt Wilson, That's Gonna Leave a Mark (Palmetto Records): True to its title, this album left me with many marks — emotional, psychological, all good — and drummer Wilson's thunderous rim shots are still ringing in my ears.

6) Kenn Cox and Donald Walden, Duet at Kerrytown (N/A): They were jazz royalty, and they bequeathed this gem-recorded to their fans in 1994, though it didn't see release until this year.

7) Scott Gwinnell Jazz Orchestra, Brush Fire (WSG Records): This is Gwinnell's first big-band offering. And such inspirations as Duke Ellington and Oliver Nelson would've probably loved this recording.

8) Eric Alexander, Revival of the Fittest (High Note Records): The tenor saxophonist consistently makes great albums, but the ballads on this year's terrific offering is enough to make your soul cry.

9) Dana Hall, Into the Light (Origin Records): The drummer has built a reputation as top-notch sideman, and his first album as a leader feels something like a coming-out party

10) Ryan Enderle, Triosphere (Self-released): The jazz bassist created a trio date here that's on par with jazz great Roy Haynes Trio's We Three.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

LEE-WAY

Tuesday night, Scott Gwinnell honored you. Are you familiar with his reputation? . Mr. Morgan, Gwinnell is the best jazz piano player in Michigan that I’ve listened to so far. That’s my opinion. I’m sure they’re others who concur. Let me tell you a little bit about him. He's a tall white fellow. He lives in Harper Woods, a small community near Detroit. We’re neighbors. He gigs mostly around Detroit. He supplements his income by giving piano lessons in his home. His peers only have good things to say about him. He's a self-less bandleader, and he writes amazing charts for the Scott Gwinnell Orchestra, which he formed ten years ago. The orchestra is outstanding. Gwinnell loaded it with some fine jazz musicians.

This summer, the orchestra headlined the 2009 Detroit International Jazz Festival. The capacity crowd cheered, and begged for an encore. The performance was a hit. It was the orchestra's first international exposure. They handled the pressure like pros. Gwinnell is also known for writing challenging charts. His album “Brush Fire” is his best work yet. That's some of Gwinnell's biography. Now, I'll tell you how Gwinnell honored you at the

Cadieux Café Tuesday night. The place was packed. Gwinnell scaled his orchestra down to a ten-piece ensemble. The ensemble played some of your obscure compositions such as "Our Man Higgins", "Totem Pole" and "Desert Moonlight". Trumpeters Paul Finkbeiner and Justin Walter solos were memorable. Neither trumpeter tried to copy your style. They played your music their way. Finkbeiner was the more seasoned. There're traces of trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw's DNA in Finkbeiner solos.

Sax men Keith Kaminski, and Steve Woods were brilliant. Kaminiski arranged "Our Man Higgins", and he wrote the juiciest parts for himself and drummer Scott Kretzer. They passed musicalnotes back and forward like cheat sheets. Steve Woods amazed the crowd. Woods is an old school tenor player. His phrasing is conversational, and his tone is big as an economical recession. Gwinnell's ensemble had a blast playing his arrangements. Finkbeiner told me after the first set that playing in Gwinnell's ensemble is like bowling night for musicians.

Mr. Morgan, I set next to three white teenagers. During the intermission, I eavesdropped on their conversation. They were knowledgeable. They knew about your tenure with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, They sounded scholarly discussing albums you made for Blue Note Records such as “The Sidewinder", ”Cornbread" and "Candy”. They recited facts about your career like a baseball fan reciting
his favorite players stats. The teens probably knew the color socks you wore when you first met Blue Note founder Alfred Lion. Most African-American teenagers probably never heard of you, which is shameful.

I wonder why others appreciate jazz geniuses such as you, and most blacks don’t. When I think about how blacks take black artists, writers, and musicians for granted I get upset. Years ago, a friend told me if weren't for hip whites black culture would've died along time ago. Maybe my friend was right. Most of the critics, historians, and scholars who write about black culture are white. Many of my friends who love jazz are white. To them jazz is just as essential as food, clothing, and shelter. Mr. Morgan that's enough preaching. I'll finish telling your about the performance.

Gwinnell didn't solo much. Which was okay because the club doesn't have a piano. Gwinnell played a Casio keyboard. He introduced the compositions and the soloists. This year, I've experienced him as a bandleader and as a sideman. He never hogged the spotlight. Anyway, Gwinnell's ensemble handled your music like family heirlooms. He put the spotlight on his band-mates, and they didn't let him down.

Monday, December 14, 2009

HIGH STANDARDS

Kurt, I have to level with you. “Reflections”, your new album, is the only Kurt Rosenwinkel album I own. Some may consider that admission shameful because I'm an experienced jazz journalist and blogger. Jazz has been around over a hundred years, and it not humanly possible to listen to every jazz album made in one live time. I will always be playing catch up. I'm fine with that. I will be constantly discovering old and new jazz album to listen to and that excites me. I've had “Reflections” for a month, and I finally played it last night.

The folks at DL Media, the company that handles publicity for the album, reminded me I promised to review it. Around 8:30am Sunday, I played it. It's 8:00pm Monday and I'm still listening to it. I woke up this morning humming the melody to "Falls, and "As Me Know" two of the eight songs on this album. I'm not familiar with your other recordings yet. "Reflections" made me curious.

I plan to track down some of your other albums, and others you've appeared on as a hired gun. I want to experience you in a larger context. I'm anxious to know how you handle yourself as a sideman. You have a impressive background. You attended Berklee School of Music. You toured with the late tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson. You’re a member of the Brian Blade Fellowship. To date, you've played on roughly 53 albums. "Reflections" is your tenth as a leader.

Throughout the album, your soloing was delicious as holiday desserts. I'm sure you have a wild side, but you controlled it. You didn’t mess up the standards you performed. You treated each tenderly and respectfully. "Ana Maria", and obscure Wayne Shorter tune totally relaxed me. Your original "East Coast Love Affair" made me feel cozy all over.

For years, I've listened to bassist Eric Revis swing like a jackhammer with the Branford Marsalis Quartet, but this was the first instance I heard him play so melodically. On Thelonious Monk's ditty "Ask Me Now", Revis fingers dripped down the strings like melted chocolate. Drummer Eric Harland flourishes in any situation he's put in. He was marvelous throughout. Kurt, “Reflection” satisfied my sweet tooth.

Monday, December 7, 2009

LOVE STORY

Monk, have you watched the HBO documentary Jazz Baroness? Hannah Rothschild, Pannonica's(Nica) niece made it. HBO air it last week. Did you ever meet Hannah? I wondered if Nica ever talked about her. Most of the documentary I enjoyed. The interviews with Chico Hamilton, Roy Haynes, Quincy Jones and Archie Shepp were not insightful. Your son TS Monk was candid. He appeared to know more about Nica than the other musicians. Maybe it came across that way because of how Hannah edited it. TS felt that Nica loved you the first time she listened to the album 'Round Midnight". As the story goes, pianist Teddy Wilson played the recording for her. Nica made Wilson play the recording over and over. I'm sure she told you how much she adored it when she finally met you. I've always wondered what made Nica tick. Hannah explored that. TS mentioned Nica helped many jazz musicians just because, and she never asked for anything in return.

Monk, your BFF (best friend forever) was eccentric, tooling around New York in a Bentley, sharing her home with nearly 200 cats. (She knew each cat name.). She did not do drugs, but Nica was a drinker. Of course, her family disapproved of her behavior. After all, she was royalty. Royalty was supposed to be dignified. Nica never bought into that. Jules de Koenigswarter, her husband was a civil engineer, a French diplomat, and a bore. He hated jazz. He didn’t understand why she liked it. Whenever, Nica showed up late for dinner, Jules would punish her by breaking her jazz albums. Monk, I would've filed for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty after he smashed just one of my albums, but Nica endured the foolishness. They had three girls and two boys. Jules and Nica eventually divorced. The eldest daughter stayed with Nica. Hannah did not say if the daughter liked jazz. Nica's kids wouldn't participate in the documentary. Hannah didn't explain why. Maybe Nica's kids did not trust Hannah telling their moms story. Maybe they were ashamed of how Nica chose to live her life.

The documentary was a love story proving a woman and a man mutually attracted can be pals . The friendship was unconditional. Monk, did you and Nica ever considered crossing the line. George Wein, the founder of the Newport Jazz Festival, said not a chance. You’re committed to Nellie, your wife, 100%. Fooling around with Nica would've screwed up the friendship. Both women were concerned foremost about your well-being. I wondered if being so close to Nica bothered Nellie.

When the New York state police busted you for drugs, Nica took the rap. Some would say that was stupid. Such a self-less act proved her devotion. Nica couldn't fathom her BFF caged up like a zoo animal. Monk, I have a friends who I love dearly, but I wouldn't do jail time for them. I'm certain the feeling is mutual. That's a lot to expect from a friend, but Nica didn't think twice about it. Hannah's film was a nice homage. Nica was dedicated patron of jazz, and she was tough as an overcooked steak. She was unfazed by what people thought about her. Hannah did a fine job capturing what made Nica tick, her commitment to you, and her benevolence.

Friday, December 4, 2009

DADDY LIVED THE BLUES

Mrs. Holiday. I interviewed Sonny Rollins two years ago. I asked about his influences. He talked about Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. I asked him about the saxophonists excessive drinking, The question irritated him, but he answered:"everybody has to do something to get through live". I think about his adage often. I used to believe addicts were weaklings, but I don't anymore. Mrs. Holiday, I read your autobiography Lady Sings the Blues.It took me awhile to finish it. There was so much pain in it. I couldn't read it in one sitting. The racism you endured trying to earn a living with you're God given talent would've pushed most strong willed people over the edge. When you talked about the time the Southern sheriff called you a black bitch, I wanted to jump inside the book to defend you. There were other stories equally appalling and dehumanizing. You had a hard life. Reading your book helped me to understand what Mr. Rollins meant. I know a thing or two about addiction. I've never been hooked on drugs or alcohol, but my father was a big drinker. He died at age 51 because of it. Sober dad was a sweetheart. On the other, hand he was meaner than a Pit-bull with a toothache when he was drunk. He never abuse his family, but I heard him a few times verbally abuse his girlfriend, who was also an addict.

Dad was 6'5" tall. He weighed 275 pounds when healthy, but cancer ate away 100 of those pounds. My parents divorced when I was a toddler. Mom never talked about him, but grandma did, especially When I criticized him. Although my parents split up, dad and grandma remained friends. She wanted me to love him unconditionally, which I eventually did. His drinking got worse. His binges lasted longer. Dad always knew that he needed help. Midway through a binge, he'd check into a detoxification facility. When he'd sobered up, he would call me. I'd give him a ride home. He would never talk about the binging.Not even on his deathbed. He never lectured me.

Last month, I asked my mother about his drinking. She wanted to know why. I said I'd been reading your autobiography, and it made me think about him. Mom hates reminiscing. She said your life was much harder than my dad. I kept pushing, and she opened up. In the mid-60's they're students at Northern High School. Back then, for some drinking was a pastime. Dad was a basketball player and smart. Four colleges offered him full athletic scholarships. After school, my father and his friends would get hammered. One day, he showed up to school wasted, and he threatened a teacher. Security searched his locker and found several bottles of cheap wine. Dad was expelled. The incident was a big deal. It made both daily newspapers. The colleges withdrew their offers. His drinking led to a series of mental breakdowns. He lived in halfway houses until he got his act together

He got a job at the United States Postal Service sorting mail. He moved to a studio apartment, and he joined Alcoholics Anonymous, My older sister and I talked to him often. We offered to go with him to some AA meetings. He declined. Attending the meetings didn’t help him much. He kept relapsing, and the binging increased. I was fed up, and severed our relationship. I excepted he was going to drink himself to death. My aunt kept in touch with him. She'd called me periodically to update me on his condition. One day she call to tell me he needed my help. Dad was living in a rundown Hotel and he was in bad shape. I hadn't seen or talked to him for months. The chambermaid convinced him to go to the hospital. She took me to his room to gather his belongings, two black baseball caps, a large plastic comb with some of the teeth missing, a portable radio without batteries,a pair of navy blue slippers, and a 3.75oz tube of Vaseline. I stuffed the items into a black 30.oz garbage bag, and drove to the hospital.

Dad had cancer. When I saw him stretched out in the hospital bed, a oxygen mask covering his mouth and nose. His size 15 feet dangled over the hospital bed. He was skin and bones. He was so thin I could see his heart beat. It looked as if it wanted to jump out his chest. The cancer had spread throughout his body. A doctor told me he couldn't pinpoint where the cancer began. I broke down. I asked dad why was he living in that crappy hotel. He said God told him to go there to die. I whimpered. He asked me to leave, noting that my crying wouldn't make things better. Mrs. Holiday, I was so upset it took me nearly an hour to get out the hospital's parking structure. The next day, his doctor took me into a conference room and gave me the bad news. Dad's condition was terminal. I had to put him in hospice. His days were number.

My father was the youngest patient at Northwest Nursing Home. A hospice social worker helped me find the nursing home, and make dad's funeral arrangements. She told me what stages he would go through. I forgot the name of the cancer he had. The name was long and seemed to contain every letter in the alphabet. The social worker said my father would pick up weight. He gained 20 pounds, A few times he called me at 11:00pm. He wanted me to bring him some hamburgers from White Castle. She said my father would appear to be recovering. Then he would experience dementia. One day, he woke up talking crazy. He was convinced someone had come into his room while he slept and stole his mattress. That was the final stage. Two days later, he died.

He was in hospice two months. I was with him everyday. I wondered if he thought about his life, and wish he had made better choices. I wondered if he regretted allowing the drinking to get out of hand. I wondered if he felt relieved knowing his troubled life would end soon. I didn't have the nerve to ask. Oddly, Mrs. Holiday, I learned more about myself in those two month than about him. Friends tell me I'm sarcastic. He was that way. He was generous. So am I. Mrs. Holiday, you're probably wondering why I told you about dad's life. Your autobiography made me think about my dad's drinking problem. At 19, my parents married. They had two kids three years later. Trying to support a family at that young age probably made him drink more. Mrs. Holiday, Sonny Rollins adage helped me understand why some people need drugs and alcohol to cope.

Monday, November 30, 2009

BROTHERLY LOVE

Phil HalePhil, your big brother, Milton Hale, is a superb drummer. At the Cadieux Cafe's Soul Jazz Sunday jam session, Milton swung non-stop like a traffic signal on a windy day. I always enjoy hearing him. He never showboats like some of his peers. Last night, was the first time I heard him in awhile. I wondered if he had moved. After the first set, drummer RJ Spangler, who put together the jam session, told me Milton performs around town. I didn’t talk Milton afterwards. He was surrounded. I'm glad his chops are still up. He plays best backing singers. Listening to him play behind the special guest vocalist-I didn't catch her name-who performed "In a Sentimental Mood" last night, reminds me of the first time I heard Milton nearly a decade ago.

He played with vocalist Rene' Marie. He knew when to push Marie, and when to back off. Months later, I saw another side of Milton, playing with the late saxophone player David "Fathead" Newman. Milton raised hell. Phil, excuse me if I’m annoying you by boasting about Milton. I know it was your gig, but you didn't seem to mind your brother commanded the stage. You could've turned the performance into a sibling rivalry, but instead you pushed him, bassist Ibrahim Jones and your special guest guitarist Paul Carey to do their thing.

The trio was marvelous, covering staples such as "So What", and "In a Sentimental Mood", On "Caravan", the band woke up the neighborhood. Jones was excellent as well. I wondered if Jones had a spare bass in his car. He gave the bass a workout. I doubted if it would last through another set. Phil you're a wonderful piano player. I’m used to you as a sideman, but Sunday you showed good leadership skills, encouraging your brother and the others.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

OLD SCHOOL

Don Mayberry, Steve Woods and Bert MyrickSunday at drummer RJ Spangler's Soul Jazz jam session,at the Cadieux Cafe,I watched you in amazement. Steve, I'm not trying to flatter you. You're just as good as Dexter Gordon was. I'm sure there're many jazz fans in Michigan who feel the same. You are old school tenor player. You’re rooted in the blues, and you like playing bop classics. I only planned to hear one set, but I stayed until 1:30am. When you soloed on "Society Red", Donna Lee", and "Central Park West", I consumed every note like pieces of chocolate.

I've heard you in different settings. Sunday was the first time with just a trio. How long have you played with drummer Nate Winn, and organist Duncan McMillan? You should record the trio. Winn has grown. I also enjoyed meeting your friends. Trumpeter James O’Donnell, drummer RJ Spangler and I chatted about missing the late trumpeter Russell Green. And how interesting was that conversation we had with keyboard player Phil Hale? Do you remember his hypothetical question?

If Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, and Ornette Coleman played the same day at different clubs, and we could only attend one concert, which would we go to? I was surprised we chose Charlie Parker. I figured his band would give the best performance. However, If the show were sold-out, Coleman's concert would've been my backup. When Coleman created buzz in the late 50's he sounded a lot like Parker and Don Cherry like Dizzy. Hale disagreed, pointing out Cherry had a wild streak, and Dizzy did not.

I suggested Hale listen closely to Cherry on Coleman's 1958 album Something Else. I had a similar disagreement with a close friend. With that album, he believed Coleman broke new ground. I argued Something Else was a be bop album with a heavy emphasis on harmony and little attention to melody. Before Hale and I could discuss the matter further, Spangler started the second set, dedicating it to Russell Green. The drummer is a sweetheart. I was thrilled to meet him. The jam session was different from other. At the other sessions, I felt like another face in the crowd. Spanglers' session was like being at a family reunion.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

DEFENDING NORAH

Norah, some jazz fans have been hard on you. Quick to point out your music is not jazz, and you’re not a real jazz singer. I’m a big jazz fan, and I like your music a lot, particularly your new album The Fall, which I purchased Friday for half price. Before I comment on the album, I want to talk about why jazz fans put you down. Your contribution to Blue Note Records--which has just as many pop musicians as jazz musicians--has been remarkable, but under valued by your critics. Blue Note Records is no longer a boutique jazz label. Too many jazz fans have a hard time accepting that reality.

Blue Note was smart to sign you. (The move might've saved the company.) Your album Come Away with Me, for example, sold over 8 million copies. The follow up Feels Like Home was also successful. Profits from those recordings, I will bet, helped bankroll your label-mates Wynton Marsalis, Gary Bartz, Jaaon Moran, and Stefon Harris projects. Neither is platiumn selling recording artists. Norah, your success should be applauded. Jazz fans shouldn’t dislike you because you don’t fit their definition of what a real jazz musician is. Defending you is going to get me in hot water with my jazz purist friends, but somebody has to acknowledge your contribution to Blue Note Records.

Let me stop carrying on. Now I want to comment on your latest offering The Fall. It is a blues album. You spill your guts on throughout. Some of the songs such as Even Though, You've Ruined Me, and I Wouldn't Need You makes me sad, but that's a good thing. labeling you a blue woman or budding blues singer isn’t off base. Writing touching and sad songs is your specialty. At times, you can also be quirky. Not many songwriters could write a love song for their pet. You did that on Man of The Hour. You make it appear that you’re talking about a beau. I played the song twice before realizing you are singing about your dog. I loved Man of the Hour the most regardless. That was an unusual twist on a love song. Good job, Norah. You are a worthy musician. Maybe jazz fans will stop dogging you, and realize you’re a good singer and a great songwriter.

Friday, November 20, 2009

BE BOP FOREVER

I've always wanted to interview you, Mr. Harris. There're so many questions I would ask you. For example, which do you love more playing be bop or teaching it? What be bop album changed your life? Who exposed you to the music? Was your teacher a taskmaster like saxophonist Donald Walden, and pianist Teddy Harris said you were? I heard you were a stickler. Walden told me that you gave be bop lessons to musicians who wanted to learn, but you would not allow any foolishness. Once you gave him a practice exercise. At the next lesson,the following day, you chewed him out because Walden did not have the assignment mastered. You dogged him so badly the saxophonist nearly cried, but after that he became a model pupil.

Before I go any further, I should tell you about myself. I'm Charles L. Latimer, a jazz journalist. I’ve written stories for the Metrotimes, a weekly newspaper in Detroit, about some of the Detroit born jazz musicians you taught. Mr. Harris, I don't own all your albums, but I do have three classics "Preminado", "Chasin' the Bird" and "Listen to Barry Harris...Solo". The latter I purchased Friday. I also have some recordings you graced. Do you remember making the album? It was your first solo album. You recorded it on December 7, 1960, and jazz critic Ira Gitler wrote the liner notes. Nowadays, few musicians and bands albums have liner notes.

Back in the day, liner notes were important. I used to read them while I listened to albums. I considered it part of the overall listening experience. Jazz critics such as Nat Hentoff, Ira Gitler, and Leonard Feather wrote informative liner notes. I felt as though I knew the musicians they wrote about personally. Today, Mr. Harris, all you get with an album is a bunch of photos. If you want information about a musician or a band, you have to consult myspace.com.

I enjoyed "Listen to Barry Harris...Solo". Your chops were on display. Pianists Art Tatum and Bud Powell, your boyhood idols, would have loved this album. I heard their influence when you played on "Louise", "Teenie", and "Anachronism". Like Tatum, you have an adventurous left hand, and you have Powell's sophistication. Listening to this album, I wondered if you locked yourself up in your practice room on a gloomy day and played the compositions on this album over and over. It appeared as if you had a special relationship with each song you selected.

Mr. Harris, I admire you a great deal. You love be bop unconditionally, and you haven’t stopped playing it. When hard-bop, free jazz, and fusion were fashionable,and many of your colleagues jump ship, you held tight to your be bop roots. The next time you are in Detroit, maybe we could have coffee, and talk about your career.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

GROW TOGETHER

Scotty, I've had “Pieces of Jade” for two month now. I planned to review the album sooner, but I got sidetracked. Lately, I received many great new albums and. I try to listen to them shortly after receiving them, but sometimes, that is difficult to do, and I fall behind. Growing another set of ears would help. I could listen to more music. Anyway, today I spent two hours with your album, which is a part of Resonance Records Heirloom Series. Scotty, after I got a haircut I went Christmas shopping at Tanger outlet mall in Howell, MI. From my house, the mall is an hour away. I was alone. I didn't have any distractions. "Pieces of Jade" captured what an exceptional jazz bassist you were. You have a huge tone that filled up my ears and my SUV. Jazz critic and historian Joe Goldberg was correct when he stated you handle the double bass like a big guitar.

The trio you assemble was tight knit. Pianist Don Friedman and drummer Pete LaRoca complemented you. You guy performed mostly familiar standards such as "I Hear a Rhapsody", "Green Dolphin St" and "My Foolish Heart". The chemistry you all had was immediately noticeable. The trio had fun playing together.

Neither of you, treated this session as just another day at the office. It would've been great to experience this trio after LaRoca, Friedman and you had performed steadily for a few years, and had worked out the kinks, but that wasn't meant to be. That awful car crash ended your life. You made an indelible mark on the jazz world, performing with greats such as saxophonist Ornette Coleman, bandleader Benny Goodman, trumpeter Chet Baker and pianist Bill Evans.

My favorite tracks on the albums were the 1960 rehearsal session with Evans, and radio personality George Klabin’s 1966 interview with the pianist. Listening to you and Evans rehearse "My Foolish Heart" was a treat. I felt as if I attended the rehearsal, and watched Evans coach you. I wish more musicians would include behind the scene moments on their recordings. It would give listeners a glimpse of what it takes to make a fine jazz album. In the interview, Evans talked candidly about his relationship with you.

Klabin asked Evans about your work ethic. Evans said you were meticulous, enthusiastic and committed. He discussed your shortcoming as well, noting you had so music you wanted to say on your instrument that sometimes to you overplayed, and it was a challenge harnessing you. The pianist said you sought out experienced musicians that you could grow with. Always pushing yourself was the quality he admired most about you. You didn't show up to a gig or a recording session to just to collect a paycheck.

I got the impression Evan's superb albums "Sunday at the Village Vanguard" and "Waltz with Debby" would've been different--maybe even less successful--without your participation. For me, the icing on the cake was pianist Don Friedman's "Memories for Scotty". The composition was an ode to you. It was emotional. I wondered how Friedman got through it without breaking down. He had his piano weeping. Scotty, like trumpeters Booker Little, Clifford Brown, and Fats Navarro you died too soon. Alive you made some wonderful music, and some of that is documented on “Pieces of Jade”.

Friday, November 13, 2009

THE TRUTH ABOUT BRAD

I have to be honest, Brad. After I heard your band last night, and listened to your new album "First Call" this afternoon, I'm convinced The Brad Felt Nu Quartet Plus is the best regional jazz band working. More fans of the group should’ve come to the album release gig Thursday night at Cliff Bell's. Nu Quartet Plus which has four banner swingers saxophonist Steve Woods, drummer Bill Higgins, pianist Gary Schunk, and bassist Nick Calandro put on a great show. On this album, you somehow maintained the same high swinging level as in the band's live show. Nu Quartet Plus cannot be pigeonholed.

"First Call" will appeal most to jazz fans that crave variety. As a composer, you took risks. "If You Came to Me for Love" was a free jazz ballad, surprisingly. Not many composers could've pulled that off. As a bandleader, you gave your employees freedom, but you did not allow them to run amok. You have two proven veterans Woods and Schunk. On "The Truth About You" and "Empathic", Woods sounded much like his idol the great tenor saxophonist Yusef Lateef. (I hope Woods take that as a compliment.) And Schunk has a creative left hand. That's enough about them. Brad, you made the ugly looking euphonium sound so handsome. This is a hot album, and your Nu Quartet Plus--I'm willing to wager--if the bands stays together will build a bigger following. More people should’ve come to the release party. They missed out,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

MIXING IT UP

I told my friend, William, Justin Time, the label you're signed to, released your new album "The Devil Tried to Kill Me" November 3rd. William joked you've made more albums than any jazz saxophonists dead or alive. I wanted to know how many recordings you’ve made as a leader. So I searched the web. In three decades, you've made over a hundred albums. That number ballooned when I included your work with the World Saxophone Quartet. The "Dave Murray Octet Plays Trane" and “Sacred Ground" are my favorites. William said he planned to buy your new album. I gave him my take of it. "The Devil Tried to Kill Me" is a mix of jazz, poetry, hip-hop, the blues and world music. Mixing different music forms has become your thing. Sometimes mixing things up work, this time it did not. Making this recording an ode to Africa was thoughtful, but on "Africa" TAJ Mahal comparing the continent to a hospice patient, and wishing he had the means to nurse it back to good health sounded silly. David, including rapper Sista Kee on "Southern Skies" messed up the magic you and Mahal had. "The Devil Tried to Kill Me", David, needed some heavy editing. William dismissed my comments about “The Devil Tried to Kill Me”, saying I was being too mean, and he’s still going to buy your album.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

DANA'S COMING OUT PARTY

Drummer Dana HallDana, you've logged many man-hours as a sideman, working for jazz greats such as the late tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, vocalist Maria Schneider, and pianist Kenny Barron. With the soon to be released, "Into the Light", your debut album, you'll show a wider audience what you're made of. Your resume' is too enormous too talk about so I'll just comment on "Into the Light", which will be on my favorite album of 2009 list.

Do you value jazz bloggers and critics take on your work? I hope you will take my comments to heart. "Into the Light" is a fun coming out party. I bet your band-mates trumpeter Terell Stafford, tenor sax player Tim Warfield, bassist Rodney Whitaker and piano player Bruce Barth would've done the gig for free if you had ask them. You know the quality of talent needed to make a good jazz album. Neither musician had to change the way they play. Their styles blended with yours, and you engaged and challenged them from start to finish.

On the opener, "I Have a Dream", Tim Warfield ate the changes like a home cooked meal. When Stafford soloed, he made my car speakers smoke. Whitaker, and Barth, both noted swingers, did not make a fuss. They kept time and guided the band through the course that you mapped out.

Whitaker played a lovely solo on "For Rockelle", which he wrote. (It appeared the bassist borrowed heavily from the structure of "My Funny Valentine.) The title cut "Into the Light" was a free jazz field trip. I got lost in the various tempo changes, and it was the most reckless I ever heard Warfield blow. You slugged it out with Warfield on "Jabali". You and Barth had an heated improvisational debate on "Tin Soldier". Whenever you soloed, Dana, I heard drummers Joe Chambers, Art Blakey, and Jeff "Tain" Watts influence on you. You ought to be proud of this debut album. It is almost flawless.

Origin Records will release "Into the Light Tuesday November 17, 2009.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

SWEET VOICE

Friday night is date night. I take my wife to dinner or to a movie. Sometimes I do both. Yesterday, driving to the Thai Bistro in Grosse Pointe, we listened to your album "Dream Dancing". The album had us in a trance. At dinner, my wife asked about you, and the rhythm section, which she really liked. I told her I heard you for the first time at Baker's Keyboard Lounge a few weeks ago, singing with the vocal jazz quartet Metro Jazz Voices. The wife said your voice is lovely, and your strength is singing love songs. On "Darn That Dream" and Sweet Dreams" you voice is satisfying as comfort food.

Meri, I think the wife is trying to replace me as the family jazz critic. My wife pats her hand on her knee when she is really into a piece of music, but while your album was on, she also did a little slow dance in the car seat, which meant she loved your album. Before we reached the restaurant, she had me replay "All Night Long" twice. Of the eleven songs on the album, that's her absolute favorite. I like the entire album. Tenor saxophonist Carl Cafagna and pianist Scott Gwinnell are good in their supporting roles. They are powerful players, but they don't overpower you.

This year, I've received many album my female jazz vocalists. Some were noteworthy, and others not so. "Dream Dancing" is one of the best I have experienced. I disliked the other vocalists albums because of the arrangements. They had string accompaniment, which overwhelm them. That's not the case on your album.

On "Close Your Eyes" and Corcovado (Quiet Nights), for example, your voice blends nicely with the string instruments like butter melting on a stack of pancakes. The eleven songs you chose for this album fit your voice perfectly. My wife asked if I had written about "Dream Dancing" yet. I said I had not because the album is three years old. I only review current releases. She said I should post a review anyway. This is a great album no matter when it came out. Then she gave be a short lecture, saying I should use my jazz blog to help local jazz musicians, and I should encourage my readers to buy “Dream Dancing.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

CARL IN CHARGE

At 10:00am, I played "carl cafagna & northstar jazz Live at the detroit jazz festival”. It is 11:05pm now, Carl, and I’m still listening to it. I carried the album with me while I ran a few errands. Driving to Mississippi Muscle Gym in St. Clair Shore for my Tuesday afternoon workout, I played it. I pretended I subbed for you on “Waxwing”, while showering after my workout. In my mind, I sped through the chord changes, and the crowd went nuts. Shopping for a bookcase at Pier 1 I strolled about humming the melody to “Liberty (Elvin’s joint)”.

As I write this post, I’m playing the album yet again. I’m hooked. Carl, Northstar Jazz is a fantastic sextet. For nearly a decade, post-bop bands such as Bop Culture, Urban Transport, Sean Dobbins and the New Jazz Messengers, and the Hot Club of Detroit have surfaced on the Detroit jazz landscape.

This year, I've seen you in various roles. I heard you for the first time with the Scott Gwinnell Orchestra and the Hot Club of Detroit this summer. Last week, I heard you sing with the Metro Jazz Voices at Baker’s. On “carl cafagna & northstar Live at the detroit jazz festival”, which I bought at that night, I’m experiencing you as a boss.

You are a self-less bandleader. Did you form this band as a showcase for your band-mates trumpeter Dr. Scott Cowan, saxophonist James Hughes, bassist Shannon Wade, drummer Scott Kretzer, and pianist Scott Gwinnell? It appeared so. Gwinnell really stood out. On the "Soulful Mr. Timmons", written by pianist James Williams for the late pianist Bobby Timmons, Gwinnell played as if Timmons' spirit was standing over Gwinnell's shoulder encouraging him.

Carl, I was hard on you in my review of the Metro Jazz Voices performance last week. I wondered why some saxophone players want to sing. Are you all frustrated singers? I said your singing was rough. On “Live at the Detroit jazz festival”, I enjoyed when you sang “Just a Close Walk with Thee". I liked spending time with your album today. It’s close to mid-night. Time for me to finally put the album away, and go to bed.

Friday, October 30, 2009

JAM BAND

Dear Jeff Lavenson,

The new James Carter album "Heaven on Earth" recorded live at the Blue Note jazz club in New York came out in late August unbeknownst to many of Carter’s hometown fans. Why wasn’t there a media blitz? As a jazz journalist and as a James Carter fan, I was disappointed. By the way, I'm Charles L. Latimer I write about jazz for the Metrotimes, a weekly newspaper in Detroit. Folks around town were in the dark about “Heaven on Earth”.

I discovered the album on Amazon.com months after it hit the streets. Why didn't I buy it from Amazon? I don't care to order music online. I support neighborhood record stores, which nowadays are an endangered species. Car City Records and Melodies and Memories, record stores near Detroit that sale jazz music didn’t stock the album. They didn’t know it existed. Jeff, why didn't Half Note Records have an aggressive marketing campaign? The people who handle publicity for the label dropped the ball.

Detroit is a jazz town with a rich jazz history, and most Detroit jazz fans consider Carter royalty. We should’ve known about this new album months in advance. For weeks, I search locally for the album. I finally tracked it down over the weekend at Street Corner Music, a record store in Southfield, MI. "Heaven on Earth" is Carter’s best live album.

Live is the best context to experience him. In his live performances, he holds nothing back. Carter is like a ventriloquist, making his sax talk. The liner notes said you put together this album, handpicking Carter's sidemen. Bassist Christian McBride, organist John Medeski, drummer Joey Baron, and guitarist Adams Rogers are Carter's equals. I replayed "Blue Leo" and the title cut many times. Organist John Medeski had me spell bounded. It was the first time I heard him. He has a churchy sound on the organ like a gospel choir lives inside it. Medeski could’ve been easily mistaking as the leader. He scrambled through the tunes like a college quarterback.

"Heaven on Earth" is an excellent jam band record without the egos. Each player had his moment in the spotlight, and they didn't disappoint. McBride, for example, handled his bass like a debutante on "Diminishing". Rogers had the six stings on his guitar groaning on "Blue Leo". The players never tried to outfox Carter. Carter is a middle-aged saxophonist now. The past five years his playing has matured. He’s no longer unnecessarily rambunctious. He’s learned how to edit himself, especially when improvising. His maturity is evident on “Slam’s Mishap” and “Street of Dreams”. His soloing and improvising is pointed.

Jeff, what's next for this band? Will they tour? Are you planning to do a studio recording with them? If you are, give us James Carter fan some advance notice.

Best,
Charles

Thursday, October 29, 2009

MEET THE JONES

Pianist Oliver Jones and Hank Jones
Twice a month, Hank I take my mother out on the town. Sometimes we catch a movie. Sometimes we go shopping. Sometimes we have lunch, and talk for hours. My mother name is Ernestine. She turns 62 next month, but she looks decades younger. She likes being flattered. Five years ago, Hank, she retired from Chrysler. Thirty-two years she toiled at their gear and axle plant on Van Dyke and Lynch Rd, in a dilapidated neighborhood. Mom is generous, cynical, and strong. I attended her retirement party that her co-workers organized it.

That was the first time I stepped foot in the plant. The plant was noisy. The floors were greasy. The workers moved like zombies. I don't know how mom survived working there all those years. She had some great co-workers she treated like family. Be bop, mom’s main running-buddy. She retired two years after mom. Her friends nicknamed her Be bop because she talks fast than Charlie Parker played the changes to "Confirmation".

-At Thanksgivings dinner last year, for example, Be bop yapped for two hours straight. Listening to her carry on, I thought about how John Coltrane could solo for hours. Mom and Be bop travel often because they’re retired. I love to spend time with mom. My brother and sister live in North Carolina. Mom doesn’t get to visit them often. They call her weekly, and mom will spend Christmas with them.

-Hank, you’re probably wondering why I’m sharing this with you. Sunday, we went to the AMC Star Gratiot theater to see comic Chris Rock’s new movie "Good Hair", a documentary about African-American women obsession with their hair. The movie was good. You should check it out. Driving to the AMC Star, we listened to your new album “Pleased to Mee You”, which you co-led with pianist Oliver Jones. Is Oliver a relative? The liner notes didn’t say. DL Media sent me the album, but not a press release. Mom isn’t a jazz buff, but she loves music. She thinks smooth jazz saxophonist Boney James and Najee are jazz musicians. Currently, she loves Keyshia Cole, an R&B singer.

-Mom adored “Pleased to Meet You”. She was curious about your background. I told her you’re from a prestigious jazz family. Your brother’s trumpeter Thad and drummer Elvin accomplished a lot musically. You all grew up in Pontiac, Michigan. Looking at the “Pleased to Meet You” album cover, she couldn't believe you're 92. I took her about your hot performance at the Detroit International Jazz Festival last month.

-Mom patted her right foot and bobbed her head from track one "What Am I Here for" to track 11 "Lonely Woman". She also enjoyed Oliver Jones playing, but I couldn’t give her any information about him. It was the first time I'd experienced Oliver. He’s a fine piano player with a sophisticated left hand, and a right hand that gallops across the piano keys.

On the standard "Making Whoopee", it appeared you and Oliver played one piano at the same time. Mom’s favorite tracks were "Blues for Big Scotia" and "Monk's Mood". At some point, I thought I'd have to stop my car, let her out so she could dance. You and Oliver had her in a trance. I'm going to buy her a copy of "Pleased to Meet You". I’ve noticed; as she’s gotten older, her musical taste has changed. From Keyshia Cole to a budding Hank Jones fan that’s a big leap. I might turn mom onto Thad and Elvin’s music next.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

ON THE BRINK

Carl Cafagna, Jeremy St. Martin, Nicci Der-Stepanian, and Meri SlavenAfter the Metro Jazz Voices second performance, Meri you asked me for feedback. Normally, Baker’s features straight ahead acoustic jazz. I like the idea of having a jazz quartet comprised of vocalists in the tradition of Lambert, Kendricks, and Ross, and the Manhattan Transfer with a strong presence on the Detroit jazz scene. At Baker’s Keyboard Lounge last night, the MVJ show promised, performing songs such as Frank Sintra’s “Look of Love”, Oscar Peterson’s “Hymn of Freedom” and Stanley Turrentine’s “Sugar”. MVJ has some strengths and noticeable weaknesses that should be addressed.

Of the four singers, you and Nicci Der-Stepanian were more polished. On "Over the Rainbow”, Der-Stepanian was divine, and you stayed poised when the microphone kept fading in an out while you sang of "Pennies from Heaven". Meri, your voice is sweet. You are the more polished singer. I believe you know that, but you never tried to upstage your band-mates.

Founder Jeremy St. Martin and Carl Cafagna were the loose links. Cafagna-the front man of Carl Cafagna & Northstar Jazz, and a key member of the Hot Club of Detroit--is a wonderful tenor saxophonist, but he’s not a natural singer. His attempt to riff like vocalist John Hendricks was brave, but Cafagna flopped. MJV’s founder, Jeremy St. Martin, was shy. I would've never guessed the quartet is his brainchild. Cafagna behaved like the ringleader. Maybe St. Martin dislikes the spotlight. Maybe from day one he decided to delegate the workload.

Hiring the Scott Gwinnell trio was smart. They know how to back vocalists. Gwinnell is multi-faceted. This summer, he released the album “Brush Fire” His orchestra rocked the Detroit International Jazz Festival last month. The album, I bet, will make many jazz critics best of 2009 list. It’ll be on mine. Meri MJV has promise. With more rehearsing, and a year or two of gigging steadily, the quartet will be tighter. Conventional jazz bands have overpopulated the Detroit jazz scene. It needs more diversity. The MJ V has a sturdy foundation to build on

Saturday, October 24, 2009

CLARINETIST SINGS AND SWINGS

Wendell, when did you start singing? I planned to question you after your opening set at the jazz club Cliff Bell's Saturday night. I couldn’t because some fans had you cornered. Wendell, I know some saxophonists past and present liked to sing. Several years ago, for example, I heard Archie Shepp sing. It was an ugly site. Recently, I watched video footage of the late saxophonist George Adams singing. He was a remarkable free-jazz saxophonist, but Adams singing was underwhelming. Skeeter Shelton, another gifted free-jazz sax-man, sang during his gig in 2007 at the Bohemian National Home. It was embarrassing.

The crowd at Cliff Bells was noisy. I could barely hear you. So I cannot say how you fared. You seemed confident. Your knack for sashaying through chord changes with the clarinet was comparable to Pee Wee Russell and Benny Goodman, clarinetists I'm sure influenced you. If they were alive, Russell and Goodman would consider you a peer. I couldn't hear your singing voice, but I could hear your rhythm section They were like enthusiastic disciples setting at the feet of a jazz sage. In fact, I set at a table on the stage, close enough to bassist Jef Reynolds I could see the notes floating away from his bass strings, and melting in the crowd ears.

During the intermission, I chatted with guitarists Bourassa and Niko Pittman. He shared the ensemble's history, saying you formed the Detroit Swing Ensemble five years ago, mixing big band era swing and be bop, which explained why your sets included material by Louis Jordan and Charlie Parker.

Wendell you sounded complete like on your solo album "The Eight House Riding with Pluto". I overheard you tell someone you've been touring in London and Japan with a band called "Tribe". Doing so keeps you alive. Pittman said closed his law practice to play music full-time. Bourassa gives guitar lessons online. He has students overseas. They gushed about your generosity. Reynolds retired to the dressing room before I had a chance to question him.

The rhythm section was tight knit like firefighters. On the Charlie Parker selections the ensemble performed, Reynolds walked the upright bass around the club as if the bass was a show pony. On a ballad, tears streamed down guitarist Rob Bourassa's guitar strings. Pittman's guitar spoke fluent 1930-ish swings and be bop. The group switched from swing to bop quicker than a couch potato changing television channels. I hate the audience chatter muffled your voice. Maybe the next time the Detroit Swing Ensemble performs in Detroit it'll be at a club where the audience is there is experience great jazz music.



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

COLTRANE FOR HIRE

Jordy-

The John Coltrane box set "Side Steps" arrived last week. I hope things are going well for you at DL Media, and the company is keeping you busy. I appreciate you getting me the box set soon after I requested it. Yesterday, I finally had a chance to give it my undivided attention. The five-disc set shows Coltrane from 1956 to 1958 as a reliable hired gun for established jazz marksmen pianists Red Garland, and saxophonist Gene Ammons, for example,

"Side Steps" will not excite many long time John Coltrane enthusiasts. Chances are, they have “Informal Jazz”, "Tenor Madness, "Mating Call", “All Alone The Red Garland Quintet”, "Mal/2", "The Big Sound", "Soul Junction" "Groove Blues", classic albums Prestige Records released in the late 50’s that make up this box set.

However, the set is a good starting point for individuals new to Coltrane legacy and music. Those individuals will experience Coltrane as a valued employee. Years before the saxophonist became an innovator, a revered improviser, and a jazz spiritualist. On tenor saxophonist Gene Ammon's date "The Big Sound", which Prestige released in 1958, shows the saxophonists were, pardon the pun, from the same gene Pool. Then on pianist Red Garland's "Soul Junction"-which was the first jazz album I loved unconditionally- the Coltrane and pianist have a kinetic bond.

Jordy, diehard Coltrane fans probably will not have this box set on their Christmas list. However, newcomers to Coltrane music will have a chance to hear the saxophonist during his formative years honing his technique and developing his sound.

Stay hip,
Charles

Sunday, October 18, 2009

SOUL MAN

Eric, at Border’s Book and Music last week, my friend Ron recommended I buy your new album “Revival of the Fittest”. Yesterday, I bought the album at Car City Records in St. Clair Shores, MI, and I listened to it this evening. Ron said this was a great album. I agree with his assessment. He knew I would like the album. I like tenor saxophonists who have a knack for playing ballads.

“The Island” is a prettiest song on the album. You know how to expose the soul of a ballad like tenor saxophonists such as Ike Quebec, and Dexter Gordon did. Like them, you play ballads with a puppy love kind of innocence. You wrapped your arms around the waist of the ballads “My Grown-Up Christmas List” and “Love-Wise and slow dragged with the chord changes. Pianist Harold Mabern was the right accompanists. His playing was tight knit, but he cut loose a few times. Mabern jumped into the blues number “Blues for Phineas” with both feet.

“Revival of the Fittest” is only the second album I have of yours. The other is the live album you co-led with alto saxophonist Vincent Herring four years ago “The Battle” Live at Smokes”. It is an exciting album, but the title is misleading.You guys didn’t really battle. Both of you played your butts off. Your styles are different. Herring is an alto player with a sturdy chin, but matching him against you would’ve been unfair like pitting a welterweight against a heavyweight.

Eric, I almost decided aganist going to the bookstore last Friday. I’m glad I went, and saw my friend Ron. If I decided to stay home, Ron could not have recommended “Revival of the Fittest”.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

JOYRIDE

Jon Irabagon welcome to my blog. Come in. Let me take your coat. Make yourself comfortable. Would you care for anything to drink? The wife went shopping yesterday so I have soda, fruit juice, soymilk and spring water. Would you mind if I played your new album “The Observer” while we talk? I invited you to my blog because I’ve listened to “The Observer” off and on for three weeks, and I want my readers to meet you. I want to tell you face-to-face how much I like this new album. It’s old school acoustic jazz indeed. Moreover, you are a charismatic alto saxophonist in the tradition of Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges. Your playing is unpretentious, clean, and you have put out an album that can be to listened daily.

On your website I read that last year you won the Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition. You have been playing the sax since age 4. You graduated from DePaul University, and in 2001 one you moved to New York to continue your music studies at the Manhattan School of Music.
You’re, indeed, a dedicated jazz musician. You got pianist Kenny Barron, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer VictorLewis to perform on “The Observer”. I'm sure if you weren't dedicated those cats would have declined your invitation to play on this project. You have a knack for ballads. Your blowing on the ballad “Bar Fly” was pretty and as lovely as a prom dress.

Jon, on selections such as “Joy Secret”, “Cup Bearers” and “Big Jim’s Twins” you are a thirsty improviser. When you improvise, you aren’t carried away, blowing as if you’re having a fit. Your improvising is thrilling. You take your listeners on a musical joyride. You governed this album with an iron fist not allowing any meaningless horseplay.You didn't encourage the musicians to try to outfox each other. You doled out the assignments, and the band stuck to the script. Their soloing was poignant not flashy.

Jon thanks for making time to visit this blog. I will make it a priority to tell as many of my readers about “The Observer”. The doors of this blog are always open, and you’re welcome to visit whenever you have a new project.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

91

Mr. Wilson, if I ask to see your birth certificate would it offend you. It may seem like an unusual request, and I understand if you deem it inappropriate. I caught part of your performance at this year’s Detroit International Jazz Festival, and I’ve listened to your new album “Detroit" for two weeks now. I’m having a tough time believing you’re 91.

Where do you find the energy to craft such highly charged swing music? You’ve made music over six decades, and I figured your best work was behind you. You have to right to rest on your considerable accomplishments, but you're too proud a musician to do so. “Detroit” proved you have a lot more to offer the world musically. Maybe the prospect of creating more great music keeps you going and youthful.

You run your orchestra like a man 50 years younger. Have you been lying about your age, or do you have the key to the fountain of youth? I told a friend during the jazz fest that each year your performance gets better, and you always seem to get younger. The musicians on “Detroit”, which is an homage to your home town, are different from the cats you played with at the Detroit jazz fest. However, the energy and swing levels were identical.

It was thoughtful you named five of the tunes on “Detroit” after some popular Detroit landmarks such as “Blues on Belle Isle” (the park where many Detroiters congregate during the summer) “Cass Tech”(The high school you attended and one of the finest schools in the country.)

“Detroit” has the earmarks of the great big band albums produced during the swing era by Duke Ellington and Count Basie, for example. Any of the eight compositions on “Detroit” could be some listener's favorite. “Detroit” sung from top to bottom. This album will not fix any of Detroit’s woes.

The last few years the media has beat up Detroit’s image. Mr. Wilson Detroit needed this album, and I hope you will continue to celebrate this wonderful city by composing great jazz music in its honor.

Monday, September 28, 2009

WILD WOMEN


I normally wait until an album’s release date to post my comments, but I wanted my readers to know about your new album “Wild Women of Song”, in advance. Pamela I must confess when I received your album last week I figured it was another uninspired vocal jazz album. This year I have received many albums by vocalists. To be honest, they all sound alike, and I figured your album would be the same, and I reluctantly played it.

Pamela, I was wrong. I owe you an apology because I dismissed “Wild Women of Song” before spending quality time with it. I try to be impartial, but sometimes I become frustrated. I’m often inundated with bad recordings. Anyway, you made a solid album. I recommend my readers purchase two copies.If they wear out the first. They will have a back up copy. By the third song I was hooked.

You’re smart not adding an orchestra to the mix. Most of the vocal jazz albums I listened to this year the vocalists were accompanied by orchestras, and they seemed to be jockeying for the listeners attention. I am glad you trusted your voice.

Your choice of instrumentation is worth noting as well. You performed with an organist and a guitarist, putting them together with a small horn section on the title selection “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues”.I also liked your approach. Listening to “Bruised Around the Heart” and “I’m Not Missing You”, I wondered
if you grew up around storytellers. Your style of singing is conversational. It sounded as if you are singing short stories. You remind me of Sheila Jordan. .

Your decision to perform songs written by women such as such “I Didn’t Know About You” by Peggy Lee, “A Fine Romance” by Dorothy Fields, and “Down Hearted Blues” by Alberta Hunter thrilled me.

I felt as if I attended a history course on forgotten women songwriters. I bet Peggy Lee would have adored your interpretation of her song. Pamela, you’re I fine jazz and blues vocalist. “Wild Women of Song” was part romantic and part blues. You’re able to it both to coexist nicely.

Monday, September 21, 2009

DUET

Dear Kenn,

I saw the ad for “Kenn Cox and Donald Walden Duet at Kerrytown”, a live album you and the saxophonist cutback in 1994, in the Metrotimes. The ad announced therecording would be available at the DetroitInternational Jazz Festival. I planned to purchase the date at Street Corner Records booth, but opening night of the jazz festival Bruce Hutchinson, one of the album’s producers gave me a copy. I’ve listened toit repeatedly since. The album feels as if you and Donald allowed a select group of fans to listen in on a rehearsal.Theplaying on "Duet" is equal to the two fine albums by saxophonist Archie Shepp and pianist Horace Parlan"Goin' Home" and "Trouble in MInd"

Kenn you and Donald were two of Detroit best musicians. Kenn I miss you so much. I listen to your solo on “Low Flame” on saxophonist James Carter’s album “Live at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge” daily. That solo epitomizes your style. You never rushed a solo. You you’re your divided adherence to each note, and you treated the piano with the utmost respect not banging and abusing it as if you despised it. Your fingersmade love to the black and white keys. That attention to detail and reverence showed on “Duet”, especiallywhen you soloed on “Misterioso”.

Walden was the perfect counterpart. In my eye’s, Walden was always a preserver of be bop. Walden was alsoa gatekeeper of Thelonious Monk’s music, understanding the the nuts and bolts of the Monk's music. Thesaxophonist proved the On the two of three Monk’s classics selected for this album “Ask Me Now” and“Worry Later”.

If someone asked me to recommend a Walden composition that shows him at his best, I would point to“Portrait of You”, the ballad he wrote for his wife Marsha Walden. “This Goodbye Could Last a Long, LongTime” would be my contingency recommendation.

I told Walden playing ballads was his hallmark. I always cited Walden's treatment of Monks ballad “RubyMy Dear” on Walden’s sophomore album “A Monk and A Mingus AmongUs” as proof of the saxophonist affinityfor ballads. Walden was a modest musician.

Kenn on “Worry Later” you played as if you figured out how to channel Monk’s spirit. I am sure now you andWalden have settled in heaven. The Detroit and Ann Arbor jazz community miss you guys something awful. Fortunately, people in Detroit such as Bruce Hutchinson, and bassist Marion Hayden who wrote the album liner notes are keeping your music and Donald’s alive.

Monday, September 14, 2009

PRACTICE SESSION

Pianist Gerald Clayton Dear Bud Powell,

I’m Charles L. Latimer. I published this jazz blog. I won’t consume much of your time. You’re probably busy practicing or composing. I want to tell you about this fantastic young piano player. His name is Gerald Clayton. He’s a native Californian. He’s 25-year-old, and his dad is the renowned bassist John Clayton of the Clayton-Hamilton orchestra.

I had the opportunity to hear the pianist last Tuesday evening in an intimate setting. Gerald performed two solo sets in the living room of Andrew and Diane Rothman’s home in West Bloomfield, Michigan. The Rothman’s run an organization call the Detroit Groove Society. They host home concerts. Some notable jazz musicians such as pianists George Cables and Bill Mays have performed in the Rothman’s home.

Andy is a lawyer, pianist and avid jazz enthusiast. Andy is a decent piano player. A few years ago, I interviewed him for an article about his organization afterwards he played a piece of music he was studying.

During the interview he joked that he only pursued law after realizing he did not have the chop to make it as a professional musician. I concluded after listening to him that he would’ve been a good pianist had he stuck with it. I’ve only attended two of their concerts. I must admit the concerts were a classy affair. The attendees thoroughly enjoy the music, and the Rothman’s seem to have a grand time hosting.

Gerald quipped it was the first time he’d practiced in front of an audience. He was
kidding, of course, but I felt he was serious. Mr. Powell, both sets were exceptional. Gerald played as if he’d mapped out the performance months beforehand, performing selections from his new album “Two-Shade” and a handful of jazz standards.

Mr. Powell you should buy Gerald’s album. His influences are obvious. When plays in this dad’s quintet, I recognized traces of Gene Harris’ DNA in Gerald’s soloing. At the solo concert, I felt your spirit in the room coaching Gerald on what lines to play. Like you Gerald's play are sophisticated.

That evening Gerald played, he some ragtime, swing, bebop, and the blues. I heard Gerald twice before. I first heard him on trumpeter’s Roy Hargrove’s album “Ear Food”. Gerald floored me. He never got in Hargrove’s way. Gerald was gracious and treated the piano with respect. He did not beat on it as if he was angry at it. His soloing was concise yet memorable. I’ve been turning friends on to Gerald since at last year Detroit International Jazz Festival.

Mr. Powell if you have some free time check out some of Gerald’s performances on YouTube, track down the Hargrove’s date and listen to “Brother to Brother”. On the latter album, Gerald plays with his dad and uncle. You get an adequate sampling of Gerald’s diversity.

I hate to make predictions. However, when discussing Gerald I can’t help it. Someday he’ll be just as accomplished as his dad who has won a Grammy arranged from the likes of vocalists Nancy Wilson and Whitney Houston. Mr. Powell thanks for giving me a minute of your time. I hope I inspired you to investigate Gerald. I’m sure you’ll discover you influenced him plenty.

Best wishes,
Charles

Monday, August 24, 2009

RIM SHOTS


Kobie,

I promised Terri Hinte, the publicist who handled getting your album to the various media outlets, I’d listen to your new album “Involved” after receiving it months after the official released date. I try to review albums within days of their release dates. However, sometime things don’t happen as I plan. Anyway, I liked your album, and I think you’re a solid young drummer. I heard bits and pieces of the late great Max Roach in your playing. Did Roach influence you? ?

It’s obvious you invested many man-hours listening to the great jazz drummers. Although “Involved” is your album and you had the right to behave in any manner you deemed fit you opted to be an accompanist instead of a taskmaster. You gave the spotlight to your band-mates. I could count the number of solos you took on one hand. I want to commend you for being a selfless leader.

However, Kobie, I have a few issues about the overall feel of the album that I want to bring to your attention. I felt as if the album did not have a defined destination or theme, and you couldn’t decide what kind of jazz album you wanted to make.

In spots, “Involved” felt like a down home acoustic recording. There was times when the it felt too commercial. The album came across as if you wanted to please everybody. "involved"could have been nearly flawless if you had done some editing and pruning here and there.

I must note the album’s shortcomings weren't enough of a distraction for me to dismiss the album. There was more impressive playing than mishaps. For example, saxophonists Geof Bradfield and Jarrard Harris were strong. As they soloed, I thought about how swinger era saxophonists such as Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges sound could fill up a river.

As for your playing, you could've gone hog-wild with meaning and protracted solos,and behaving as if you had something to prove, but you are definitely to mature and refined a drummer and bandleader for such foolishness.You did not make a flawless album,which I am sure you're capable of, but you did make a listenable one.

MY FAVORITE ALBUM


Normally, I wait until the end of the year to reveal my favorite jazz recording. We have less than four month left in this year, and I am confident this album will be number one on my list. I know three months earlier I announced drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts' album would be my favorite for ‘09.After I experienced “The Monterey Quartet: Live a the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival, I had a change of heart, and Watts’ excellent album got bumped to number two, which is still pretty good given the album was released earlier this year, and I have listened two a ton of recordings
since.

“The Monterey Quartet: Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival could have been a disaster. Most all-star collaborations are, but bassist Dave Holland, saxophonist Chris Potter, drummer Eric Harland, and pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba sounded as if they have been performing as a quartet for decades. They clicked on every level imaginable

I wondered if they had a pre-performance pep talk. There was no designated leader on this live session. Each musician contributed equally, and shared the same amount of soloing space. Any of the nine compositions could have been the crowd favorite. Mine was the Rubalcaba original “50”.
His solo was also my favorite, and I believe I set some official record for the number time I replayed the track. He embedded each chord he played into my conscious, and I found myself humming the song's melody at the oddest moment, once during my nightly meditation, and the following day at work during an important staff meeting.

This year saxophonist Chris Potter grabbed my attention, and I currently rank him as one of my favorite players. He possess the ability to sooth the musicians around him. Eric Harland carries himself like a world class accompanist concerned only with making his band-mates look good, which was Harland's biggest contribution. He swings at a medium volume, and you will never catch him grandstanding.

Dave Holland was the most experienced member of the quartet. However, he never once exerted his influence or attempted to baby his band-mates. He made sure they remained on track throughout, and he gave them the necessary support when needed.

One of the things that made “The Monterey Quartet: Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival such a good live album was the band was able to avoid the many pitfalls of an all-star session, treating the date like a free-for-all jam session. Henceforth,this album should serve as a template of how an all-star session such be.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

ROOT MUSIC

I still yearn for the old days, Cyrus, although I admire your new solo album “Spirit”. I admit I grew accustom to you as a swinger. I’ve expressed to you before how much I love your earlier albums you made for Atlantic Records years before they closed their jazz division. After experiencing “Revelation” and the “The Dark before the Dawn”, I became a devout fan, and I introduce my friends to your work. Musically you could do no wrong.

Two years ago, however, I did something I never imagine I would do. I trashed your albums “Genuine Chestnut” and “Cyrus Chestnut Plays Elvis”. The latter recording I genuinely hated. I wondered why you bothered to make such an album. Did you set out to establish a connection between jazz and the kind of pop music Presley made? I consulted some friends, but they could not help. They enjoyed the album.

With your new album, it appears you are trying to find your way back to the Cyrus Chestnut of old. Honestly, although “Spirit” is a sound date, which I would recommend, it doesn’t compare to some of your other albums.I wondered if “Spirit” would have been a great album instead of just a good one if you’d written more original gospel songs such as “Gospel Improv #1”, which is the best selection on the album.

“Spirit” show is you’re still a virtuoso jazz pianist, especially on selections such as “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “Oh How I Love Jesus”. Although I occasionally questioned your motives, I never thought your skills were slipping.

I like your improvisation on “I Surrender All” and “Old Time Religion”. You strayed from the manner in which these staples were intended to be performed, but you didn’t get too carried away. It was creative how you literally transformed “Come Sunday” into a blues tune. No pun intended, on this album, you played as if the spirit hit you throughout this the album.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

REINVENTING THE WHEEL

I've spent more time with your latest album “A Gentle Man” than I’ve with any album I’ve received this year perhaps for all the wrong reasons. I’ve admired your work since experiencing your debut album “Preacher Man”. You sound begged comparison to trumpeters Lester Bowie and Harry “Sweets” Edison.

After I listened to “Preacher Man”, I lost track of your career. I figured you were booted from the record label like other jazz musicians during the early 2000's when record companies closed their jazz divisions, leaving many jazz musicians established and up-and-coming in the lurches.

I received “A Gentle Man” last month I listened to it right away. Lately, I received a ton of mediocre album by trumpeters, and I hoped your album would offer a welcomed change. I have to level with you. I dislike “A Gentle Man”. I listened to it repeatedly for weeks because I wanted to like it. Last week I gave up, deciding to go with my initial feelings.
Rob, honestly, I even contemplated not commenting on “A Gentle Man” because it’s always painful for me to trash the work of jazz musicians I admire. Ignoring the album, however, would’ve been unfair and unprofessional. The publicists that send me albums to review on this blog trust I will do so without bias.

I enjoyed “Honeysuckle Rose”, “A Gentle Man” and the “Look of Love”. The other selections were okay at best. The entire album was placid. Maybe “A Gentle Man” would have been a better offering if you had included some original material. I’ve heard standards you included such as “When I Fall in Love” and “Sunny Side of the Street” more time than I’d care to remember. You did not do anything interesting with the standards, which happened to be your most discernible offense.
Frankly, Rod, you made an album I heard many times. Given your talent, you underperformed big time. Not putting your best foot forward, in my book, is an unforgivable offense. Rod, I hope that you take my comments to heart, and on your next album, you will be more original, and challenge yourself by composing original music, relying less on standards that have been played and reworked over and over

Saturday, July 18, 2009

GET TOGETHER

Flutist Alexander Zonjic
Dear Alexander-

Thank you for inviting me to your album release party Tuesday evening at the jazz and supper club Seldom Blue. I had a ball. I decided to attend an hour before the party commenced. I was skeptical. I didn’t know if I’d be comfortable around diehard smooth jazz fans. As I mentioned during our conversation a few months back, at heart I’m a jazz-purist, but unlike some of my peers, I’m receptive to smooth jazz music.

Of course, you know, at times, purists are snobs and judgmental. Most feel that you guys aren't real jazz artists. For years, I felt that way, and I never defended smooth jazz artists when my peers criticized your peers.

After talking with accomplished smooth jazz artists and hearing others perform live, I now understand you guys are just as serious and passionate about your music as Coltrane, Davis and Monk were. I am no longer reluctant to defend smooth jazz music. Enough about the legitimacy of smooth jazz. Back to my comments on the wonderful album release party.

Most of the musicians that contributed to your album came to Detroit (the D) to support you as well as to play selections from “Doin’ the D”. Alexander it was the first time in my career as a jazz journalist I’ve been in the company of so many smooth jazz all-stars. I hate I didn’t get a chance to talk with you. You’re surrounded by well-wishers before you took the stage.

Alexander, I set in the front row within arm reach of the Motor City Horns. . You probably didn’t see me because your eyes were shut while you performed. Here’s what I enjoyed most about the party. It was definitely your night, but you gave your guest-stars the spotlight. Honestly, the party felt like a showcase for them. I have to acknowledge your selflessness. What an appropriate way to convey your appreciation to those musicians for their participation. I had several favorite moments.

First, was Dwight Sills, the keyboardist for Pieces of a Dream. Dude was the most animated guest soloist. He was hopping about as if he was walking on hot cold. He was a seasoned show-boater for sure, and his antics worked right down to the outlandish military inspired custom-made suit he wore. Next, was guitarist Ken Navarro who stole the show. Jeff Lomber was good too, but he wasn’t nearly as animated as Sills was or absorbed into his soloist like Navarro was. Lomber deserve a gold star for the production work on “Doin’ the D”.

Vocalist Maysa was the crowd favorite. She looked delicious in that green wrap blouse with her amble tits looking as if they would pop out at any given moment, but they behaved, and she wailed. Billie, Dinah, and Sarah would’ve envied her performance. If Maysa keeps her chops strong soon she will be in the same league as jazz most celebrated vocalists. You can bank on that.

Alexander, your flute work was memorable. I never imagined the flute could be played so rapidly. Whenever you heard a solo you liked, you’d yelled oh yeah! You behaved like a cheerleader. I should mention Kenny Brooks, the drummer. He kicked butt too. If Roy Haynes were a smooth jazz drummer, he’d sound like Brooks lick for lick.

Your party was a hit. Next you an album release concert I could convince some of my jazz-purist peers to accompany me. It’s a long shot, but worthwhile I feel. I believe you could convert them.

Continue to swing,
Charles

Friday, July 10, 2009

TEAM SPIRIT

I’m no sure which of your performances I have enjoyed most. Your work on the upcoming release “Monterey Quartet: Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival album , which has an all-star rhythm section bassist Dave Holland, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and drummer Eric Harland. I predict this album will be at the top of many jazz journalists best albums of 2009 list. I guarantee it will be on mine.

The other date that’s monopolized my attention is “UltraHang”, your lateness album as a leader. I admire the team spirit on this outing. Chris, the album could be a template for how a jazz fusion album ought to sound.

There’re praiseworthy solos throughout. On “Boot” and “Facing East”, drummer Nate Smith made his drum kit float, and throughout the recording pianist Craig Taborn culled a soft and comfortable sound on the Fender Rhodes, which is one of the most annoying instruments ever invented.

I have to consult with a few musicologists. I'm almost sure that “It Ain’t Me, Babe” is the first jazz fusion ballad known to man. The only discernible eyesore, Chris, on “Ultrahung” was “Interstellar Signals”. It’s too esoteric for my taste, and I couldn't comprehend your intent.

This album could have been a disaster in the wrong hands. You assembled guys that are jazz musicians by trade. They also aren’t afraid to tackle other forms of music. Pianist Craig Taborn, guitarist Adam Rogers, and drummer Nate Smith adhered to the course you mapped out. You created enough elbowroom for the guys to be creative. When they improvised, neither never got carried away.

Taborn, for example, is a creative dude, but he has a rambunctious streak. At times, he bangs on the piano keys as if he working out some aggression. On this album, however, Taborn soloing was straight-to-the-point. You're colorful and daring in the space you carved out for youself.

Your blowing on “Monterey Quartet: Live at the 2007 Jazz Festival” and “Ultrahang” were chunks of Sam Rivers and Booker Ervin’s style spliced together. I wonder if either saxophonist influenced you. Chris, I may never determine which I'm more attracted to you as a sideman or you as a bandleader.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

THIS ALBUM WILL MAKE YOU DANCE


Matt, today I had a chance to listen to your new album “That’s Gonna Leave A Mark”. After I listened to it, I felt compelled to play my favorite Eric Dolphy albums “Far Cry with Booker Little” (New Jazz 1960) and “Out to Lunch” (Blue Note
1964). Your album reminded me of those classics.

Your quartet matched the level of musicianship Dolphy and his band-mates achieved. I honestly wondered if Dolphy’s spirit was present during the making of “That’s Gonna Leave A Mark”. On “Shooshabuster” and “Rear Control” alto saxophonists and bass clarinetist Andrew D’ Angelo has the heavy tone like Dolphy Your band also cleared up the any doubt I had about a band ability to swing convincingly with a piano player.

For years, Matt, I’ve believed any band or ensemble needed a piano player. The band couldn’t survive without a pianist in the mix. My attitude changed slightly when I heard drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts’ latest album “Watts”. Watts excluded the piano, and the album still swung from top to bottom.

I was so preoccupied dancing to your album I didn’t notice the piano was missing. I noticed after I listened to your album four times. Now I’m convinced a piano-free group can swing. “That’s Gonna Leave A Mark” could be loosely classified as a free jazz album. Your original “Getting Friendly” was the first free jazz love song I’ve heard since I started listening to jazz.

“Area Man”, another of your original, was also the first free jazz composition that had me dancing Of the 11 compositions on this album; “Area Man” was the one I kept rewinding. Matt, truthfully I have to be in a certain frame of mind to listen to most free jazz. I cannot listen to it everyday like some of my friends can, but I could listen to “That’s Gonna Leave A Mark” daily.

You made a free jazz album that’s digestible. It did not come off like a four musicians in the studio making a bunch of noise, or playing the first things that pop up in their heads. Every inch of the music was thought-out and flawlessly executed.

You have a kindred connection with your employees saxophonist Jeff Lederer, bassist Chris Lightcap, alto saxophonist and Andrew D’ Angelo. Although you are the leader, you encouraged their participation. Each musician contributed a composition. “That’s Gonna Leave a Mark” is a fitting title, because it'll be impossible to rub this album off my ears.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

BAIT AND SWITCH

Trumpeter Dwight Adams Dear Dwight,

I was disappointed Saturday night. I went to Baker’s Keyboard Lounge to hear you, but you were not there. I heard you last at the 2008 Detroit International Jazz Festival. A year is too long to go without hearing you live. I also wanted to catch up with you. Are signed to a record deal yet? You're definitely a Detroit cat who should be on a major label. that my opinion for what it's worth. I bet if you poll your fans they'd agree with me. Just keep blowing man. You'll get a deal someday.

I arrived at the club at 11:00pm. The first set had just wrapped up. The guy at the front door refused to explain why you were a no-show. I wanted to demand an explanation, but I refrained. I did not want to make a scene. I felt as if I had been the victim of a bait and switch con. During the intermission, I asked pianist Rick Roe what happened.

Roe said you’re touring. He did not say who you're touring with. Mark Stryker, the jazz critic for the Detroit Free Press, announced your gig in his Thursday column, and I wondered why nobody notified Stryker of the cancellation.

A young trumpeter named Curtis Taylor subbed for you. I heard trumpeter Derrick Gardner of the MSU Professor of Jazz was supposed to sub, but he sprang his ankle and he couldn’t make the gig. Saturday, was the first time I heard Taylor. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him. However, Roe told me Taylor graduated from Michigan State University, and he’s played with pianist Cyrus Chestnut.

Taylor did a good job. He was backed by two up and coming player’s drummer Nate Winn and bassist Noah Jackson. Winn is going to be a star. He’s a sensitive drummer. He doesn’t overplay his band-mates or beat the drums like he hate them. Jackson understands one of his chief responsibilities is to keep the band on course.

Taylor was not afraid to tackle compositions by John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk. Taylor was competent on Coltrane “A Moments Notice”. Although Roe has way more experience than his band-mates, he didn’t have to hold their hands on any of the compositions.

I’m anxious to witness Taylor, Winn, and Jackson developed. Dwight I understand the choice you made. You have a family. When a more lucrative gig surfaces you, have to jump on it. Saturday night wasn’t a total bust. At least I got a chance to experience Taylor, Winn and Jackson, three future stars.

Continue to swing,

Charles

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

KIND OF DULL


This is the only music that I listened to today, Christian. I have to be honest with you. I’m not keen on “Kind of Brown”, your debut offering for Mack Avenue Records. You enlisted a stellar cast of marquee jazz musicians such as drummer Carl Allen, pianist Eric Reed, saxophonist Steve Wilson, and vibe-man Warren Wilson Jr.

In theory, this album should’ve been ironclad given the sidemen talent an experience. This time around, you set out to make a straight ahead acoustic jazz album, which honestly is worlds apart from the fusion driven music you’ve championed the last five years of your recording career.

“Kind of Brown” proved—it pains me to say this because you are a sincere dude—assembling an all star date does not necessarily guarantee a blockbuster album, or for that matter an interesting one. I can’t endorse this album, and I’ll tell you why. The biggest issue I have with “Kind of Brown”--which I assumed the title was a play on the Miles Davis classic album “Kind of Blue”, and is dedicated in part to your mentor late bassist Ray Brown--is a have heard this album before. I’m sure most of my readers have as well.

"Live at Tunic” was a more ambitious and adventurous album. You reach the zenith of your creativity on the album, and the jazz at the 2008 Detroit International Jazz Festival got a chance to experience that first hand. With this new released, it is obvious you played it safe.

What’s the point of making an album like-minded jazz musicians have made generation after generation? I had grandiose hopes for your Mack Avenue debut. Frankly, you disappointed me. However, there’re a handful of noteworthy aspects that got my attention.

The most noteworthy aspect was the soloing of pianist Eric Reed. On “Theme for Kareem” and “Stick & Move”, Reed played every square inch of the piano. Like Bud Powell, Reed can drag race across the keys, making it appear as though he played with twenty fingers instead of ten. His soloing rescued the album from being a complete bust.

You stayed true-to-form by not hogging the session even though you’re the leader. The band did not deviate much from the course that you mapped out. Maybe that was the problem. Wilson and Allen were apprehensive about being themselves. Wolf Jr. played as if he’d been recruited from the minor leagues. His playing was careful and rather dull. The press release did not reveal what your long term ambitions are for this quintet. If you plan to keep the band running, my I suggest—let me know if I am out of line—you have a pep talk with the guys, and encourage them to loosen up a bit.