Jazz in Elsewhere

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AMIRI BARAKA/LE ROI JONES: A black critic in the black arts

AMIRI BARAKA/LE ROI JONES: A black critic in the black arts

Nobody talks about Amiri Baraka these days, despite the fact he’s still alive*, still writing and still irritating the hell out of people. That’s called doing God’s work. The last time he was sighted in the public domain was in that Warren Beatty movie, Bulworth. He had a bit-part playing a street bum-cum-guardian angel to Beatty’s flipping-out senator. It was good... > Read more

22 May 2010

THE FATE OF THE NU: Something old, new, borrowed and Blue Note

THE FATE OF THE NU: Something old, new, borrowed and Blue Note

Pity any movement that describes itself as “New . . .” or, worse, “the future”. By definition i is fated to an inevitable and humiliatingly early grave when the next “new” movement, or something else promising to be “the future”, arrives. Back in the late Sixties and early Seventies, new movements, promising to be the future of jazz,... > Read more

Come Together (DJ Kingsize remix, with Dianne Reeves, Bob Belden Project, Cassandra Wilson)

17 May 2010

SEB ROCHFORD OF POLAR BEAR INTERVIEWED (2010): Always give a job to a busy man

SEB ROCHFORD OF POLAR BEAR INTERVIEWED (2010): Always give a job to a busy man

For a man who can make a big noise and very often, drummer Seb Rochford of the innovative UK jazz quartet Polar Bear (and many other side-projects) is very quietly spoken. It is 10.30am and even fortified by a coffee he speaks slowly and at times almost inaudibly, yet throughout some dry self-effacing humour creeps in. Rochford -- the composer for Polar Bear -- comes from a large family... > Read more

Polar Bear: Happy For You

10 May 2010

RAY BROWN, SUPERBASS (1926-2002): A talent beyond words

RAY BROWN, SUPERBASS (1926-2002): A talent beyond words

Ray Brown great practical joker. Once, in Japan, Brown --- bassist in pianist Oscar Peterson’s famous drummerless group, the most highly paid trio in the jazz world in the 1950s -- went to a pachinko hall, one of those gambling parlours where you are blinded by blazing neon and deafened by the incessant roll of small steel balls. He won and, instead of cashing in his ballbearings,... > Read more

Brown, Alexander, Malone: One for Hamp (2002)

3 May 2010

CHARLES LLOYD INTERVIEWED (2010): A forest flower in full bloom

CHARLES LLOYD INTERVIEWED (2010): A forest flower in full bloom

For exceptional people, we make an exception. And saxophonist Charles Lloyd is certainly exceptional. Not just because he enjoyed that rarity in jazz, a hit album (Forest Flower in 66 which anticipated the free spirit of the hippie era), or because he played bills with Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane. And not because he moved in literary circles with Beat writers Jack... > Read more

Charles Lloyd, Zakir Hussain, Eric Harland: Little Peacerom Lift Every Voice, 2002)

3 May 2010    3

CHRIS BOWDEN (2002): His slightly askew career

CHRIS BOWDEN (2002): His slightly askew career

Sometimes reviewers find words lifted from their articles as a banner for promotion. Film companies seem the main offenders in this: l’ve sometimes written unfavourable reviews of a movie only to see a few judiciously selected words like “an emotional rollercoaster ride” lifted out of a sentence which in full read, “a dreary emotional rollercoaster ride you... > Read more

26 Apr 2010

Mulatu Astatke: Mulatu Steps Ahead (Strut)

Mulatu Astatke: Mulatu Steps Ahead (Strut)

This transplanted jazz musician from Ethiopia (vibes/keyboards) has been one of the major (re)discoveries of the past few years. His ascent continues on this album which drifts to life on the airy, almost ambient opener where muted trumpet pokes over long and languid horn lines to create a post-Kind of Blue dreamscape. Then it springs up a step or two with Green Africa with oddly repetitive... > Read more

Mulatu Astatke: Green Africa

26 Apr 2010

BILL EVANS' 1963 ALBUM MOON BEAMS: Art from the heart place

BILL EVANS' 1963 ALBUM MOON BEAMS: Art from the heart place

By the merest shift of the prism Moon Beams, the album by the jazz trio lead by pianist Bill Evans, could easily be under Essential Elsewhere. But that of course would deny the genius of his recordings with bassist Scott LaFaro in late Fifites (and drummer Paul Motian) with whom he developed an intuitive understanding. But 10 days after sessions in  June '61 which became the Waltz for... > Read more

Bill Evans Trio: Very Early

24 Apr 2010

LESTER BOWIE REMEMBERED (1941-1999): Does humour belong in music?

LESTER BOWIE REMEMBERED (1941-1999): Does humour belong in music?

Humour hasn’t had much place in jazz. Certainly Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong entertained by mugging things up. But mostly jazz is poker-faced music played to furrowed brow audiences which think it’s somehow more morally uplifting than other music. A couple of years ago Denis Dutton, the philosopher/academic from Canterbury University, wrote of an anti-capitalist... > Read more

Art Ensemble of Chicago: Suite for Lester

22 Apr 2010    1

KEITH JARRETT'S THE MELODY AT NIGHT, WITH YOU (1999). Distilling genius

KEITH JARRETT'S THE MELODY AT NIGHT, WITH YOU (1999). Distilling genius

These days, Keith Jarrett gets as much space, sometimes more, in jazz encyclopaedias as the great saxophonist John Coltrane.  That irritates some people, it would be like Van Morrison getting more than Sam Cooke in a dictionary of soul. But there’s a reason: they’ve lived longer, done more. When Coltrane died in 1967, he’d had an effective playing career... > Read more

18 Apr 2010    1

PIANIST JAY McSHANN: From Charlie Parker to Keith Richards . . .

PIANIST JAY McSHANN: From Charlie Parker to Keith Richards . . .

About 20 years ago I interviewed the legendary Kansas City pianist, Jay McShann, in an Auckland bar. He’d flown in late the previous afternoon, had a “talk-rehearsal” with the local rhythm section, and that night played two exceptional sets of good-humoured Kansas City boogie and blues, sometimes sounding like he was coming at you direct off an ancient 78rpm disc. McShann... > Read more

Jay McShann: 'Fore Day Rider

12 Apr 2010    1

Dave Holland Octet: Pathways (Red Eye/Southbound)

Dave Holland Octet: Pathways (Red Eye/Southbound)

Bassist Dave Holland has always had a much deserved reputation for his big band line-ups for which he writes interesting charts and gets in some of the finest (and often up-coming) jazz players. Here he has the benefit of some established names: sax and flute player Antonio Hart, trombone player Robin Eubanks and vibes player Steve Nelson among them. These seven tracks nod to the... > Read more

Dave Holland Octet: Sea of Marmara

5 Apr 2010

Mose Allison: The Way of the World (Anti)

Mose Allison: The Way of the World (Anti)

Mose Allison is one of those slightly obscure figures whose name is often heard in interviews with the likes of Van Morrison and Elvis Costello -- and he was also the subject of a song by the Pixies. Way back he also wrote Young Man Blues (covered famously by the Who) and Parchman Farm (covered notoriously by Blue Cheer), and the Clash did a version of his Look Here on Sandinista. But... > Read more

Mose Allison: My Brain

29 Mar 2010

Manu Katche: Third Round (ECM)

Manu Katche: Third Round (ECM)

This album under the name of mutli-culti French drummer Katche (who has worked with Pat Metheny, Jan Garbarek, Joe Zawinul, Al Di Meola,  Sting, Tori Amos, Tomasz Stanko,  Peter Gabriel et al) has to be counted a major disappointment for its sheer lack of bite. This is polite, spacious, mostly inoffensive if gently listenable jazz but very little here stretches out (nothing tops... > Read more

Manu Katche: Out Take No 9

29 Mar 2010

JONATHAN ZWARTZ: Bass player in debut album shock . . . 20 years on

JONATHAN ZWARTZ: Bass player in debut album shock . . . 20 years on

Even longtime jazz listeners would be forgiven for not recognising the name of New Zealand-born double bassist Jonathan Zwartz. He left this country for Australia in the early Eighties, studied in the US while playing alongside the likes of Rufus Reid, and returned to Sydney a couple of decades ago. He can tick off playing with Pharoah Sanders, Branford Marsalis, the Laine-Dankworth... > Read more

Jonathan Zwartz: The Sea

22 Mar 2010    1

AL DI MEOLA INTERVIEWED (2009): Guitarist from the loud to the listener

AL DI MEOLA INTERVIEWED (2009): Guitarist from the loud to the listener

At 55, Al Di Meola -- who still lives in New Jersey close to his musical roots -- has had a long and influential career, and was one of the great innovators on electric guitar. In the late Sixties and early Seventies he played small clubs in New York and around Boston while at Berklee, but was largely an unknown when he made his debut appearance with the jazz-fusion outfit Return To Forever... > Read more

Al Di Mela: Race With Devil on Spanish Highway

14 Mar 2010

MILES DAVIS, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (1990): Miles runs the voodoo down

MILES DAVIS, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (1990): Miles runs the voodoo down

When trumpeter Miles Davis turned 60 in 1986 the New York weekly Village Voice marked the occasion with a lavish 28-page supplement of essays and critical opinion. By way of introduction the editor, Gary Giddins, wrote words which seemed admirably bare and understated: “For four decades Davis has been in the forefront of American music – as a trendsetter and as a lightning rod... > Read more

22 Feb 2010    1

THELONIOUS MONK AND JOHN COLTRANE IN 1957: Genius loves company

THELONIOUS MONK AND JOHN COLTRANE IN 1957: Genius loves company

Thelonious Sphere Monk was one of the most gifted -- and eccentric -- of all jazz musicians. The memorably named pianist/composer, who died in 1982 aged 64, helped define the bebop movement and his quirky, angular compositions are among the most memorable in jazz. To drive them home he gave them titles such as Epistrophy, Humph, Crepuscle With Nellie and Well You Needn't. His... > Read more

Monk/Coltrane: Nutty (1957)

21 Feb 2010

Tord Gustavsen Ensemble: Restored, Returned (ECM/Ode)

Tord Gustavsen Ensemble: Restored, Returned (ECM/Ode)

The previous album by young ECM pianist Gustavsen at Elsewhere was his trio album Being There which was named a Best of Elsewhere 2007 album. Echoes of that group's delicate beauty and vibrant muscularity are evident in this quintet with vocalist Kristin Asbjornsen who here sings lyrics adapted from W H Auden's Another Time on four of the 11 pieces. Her slightly scuffed, blues-ballad voice... > Read more

Tord Gustavsen Ensemble: Spiral Song

14 Feb 2010    1

PIANIST VIJAY IYER PROFILED (2009): The jazzman has a master plan

PIANIST VIJAY IYER PROFILED (2009): The jazzman has a master plan

Among the many things Wynton Marsalis learned from Miles Davis was this: never undersell yourself. If you know you’re a genius just say so. If you know the past and future of jazz just tell people you do. Don’t hold back, put yourself in the lineage, come off arrogant if need be. What Wynton didn’t learn was to say “and fuck you all”. He went for the grand... > Read more

Vijay Iyer Trio: Big Brother

8 Feb 2010