Jazz in Elsewhere

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PHILIP LARKIN ON JAZZ: The poet laureate of swing

23 Aug 2010

Because we listen to the jazz of the Thirties and Forties at such an emotional distance, it is almost impossible for the 21st century, iPod-carrying, cool post-modernist to feel something -- possibly even anything -- of what so affected those who heard it as fresh, exciting, innovative and daring at the time. It is hard to sell the idea, let alone the music, of Benny Goodman or even Louis... > Read more

Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra: St Louis Blues (1929)

Gabor Szabo: Jazz Raga (Light in the Attic)

16 Aug 2010

Originally released in 1967 -- the Beatles' Norwegian Wood which used sitar was on Rubber Soul, released late '65, and folk guitarist Davy Graham employed Indian tunings prior to that -- this album by Hungarian-born US-based jazz guitarist Szabo saw him pick up sitar for a series of short pieces which explored the sound and possibilities of the instrument, but not the long form of the raga as... > Read more

Gabor Szabo: Ravi

ALBERT AYLER: Opening the door to the future

16 Aug 2010

Albert Ayler -- the inspired, heroic, driven and sometimes difficult saxophonist who committed suicide in 1970 at age 34 -- still stands at a crossroads in jazz. By the late Nineties – when an exceptional, expanded edition of Ayler live surfaced -- even the music's most ardent advocates were having to concede that jazz was almost an historical artifact. “Contemporary... > Read more

Albert Ayler: Our Prayer

Various Artists: Message from the Tribe (Universal Sound/Southbound)

15 Aug 2010

On the surface this may look like one for those with selective taste: here is a 12 track collection of inner city jazz from Tribe Records out of Detroit between '72 and '76. The dates are important: Motown had all but gone from the city, many of the jazz musicians had been used as session players but were inspired by Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman and politicised free jazz, and the... > Read more

Doug Hammond: Wake Up Brothers

Roger Manins: Trio (Rattle Jazz)

12 Aug 2010

Taking the pulse of New Zealand jazz is difficult: just because there are festivals (which rely on imported drawcards) and the annual Tauranga event (a guaranteed core audience because of its youth band competitions, and overseas guests) doesn’t mean the music is healthy. Nor do wine’n’jazz events or vineyard concerts which are more about the occasion than the... > Read more

Roger Manins: Missing Wes

Andy Atwill: 3 Sides of the Same Coin (Ode)

9 Aug 2010    1

Bassist (electric and acoustic), composer and arranger Atwill pulls together the cream of New Zealand jazz players (including Ron Samsom, Carolina Moon, Kevin Field and Kim Paterson) for this calling card of diversity recorded in London (which explains the presence of Greg Heath), Sydney, the States, Germany and New Zealand over the past five years. From the self-explanatory titles on Bass... > Read more

Andy Atwill: Leaps and Bounds

MARCUS ROBERTS INTERVIEWED (1990): Keys and thought in black'n'white

9 Aug 2010

Recently a well known jazz writer, Pete Watrous - not known for his exaggeration - acclaimed Marcus Roberts’ new album Deep In The Shed as “the best jazz album for a decade.” Put that to 26-year-old pianist Roberts and he laughs (for the first and only time in an earnest half-hour conversation) and starts to sound like Elvis at his most awkwardly modest and... > Read more

Marcus Roberts: Spiritual Awakening

CECIL TAYLOR IN 1990: Florescent flights

9 Aug 2010

Genius is the word a lot of people use about Cecil Taylor – but words get pretty debased these days. (“Genius, that‘s like brilliant - but better, yeah?” ) So let’s just say Cecil Taylor is different and interesting. Way back in the Fifties they used to debate whether his abstract speedthrash piano playing was actually music at all and as... > Read more

Cecil Taylor: Saita

Zirkus: Sirius Music (iiii)

8 Aug 2010    1

Wellington certainly throws up some interesting, if not always convincing, improvising artists who edge towards the free jazz idiom but rather hit a default position of swing-cum-Dixie with some slightly self-conscious moments. This one -- recorded live in Happy and on the iiii label -- shows that the spirit of the old Braille label and artists like Six Volts still looms large as this big... > Read more

Zirkus: Swamp Song

ROY HARGROVE INTERVIEWED (1990): Young man with a horn

6 Aug 2010

Roy Hargrove’s youth is the reason he doesn’t have too much to say for himself. At 20, Hargrove simply may not have all that much to talk about. After all, what can he have done? Quite a lot, in fact. Three years ago while still in high school, this hot jazz trumpeter out of Texas was playing on stage at the famous Caravan of Dreams Theatre in Fort Worth alongside... > Read more

Roy Hargrove: The Nearness of You


2 Aug 2010

Movie director David Cronenberg was a gutsy guy, asking Ornette Coleman to play on the soundtrack for his inspired but ultimately flawed realisation of crusty old Bill Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. Ornette Coleman was the perfect choice, of course – eccentric and of Burroughs’ period, he'd spent time in those hills above Tangiers and had the musical accomplishment to... > Read more

Ornette Coleman: Intersong (from Naked Lunch, 1991)

Neil Cowley Trio: Radio Silence (HideInside/Southbound)

1 Aug 2010    1

British jazz pianist Cowley and his trio seem to blow hot and cold: their '06 album Displaced was terrific (see here), but on their Loud Louder Stop of last year (here) they resorted to repetitive rock-like riffery as if to distance themselves from the "jazz" world. There is more hard hammering riffery on parts of this new album but here at least Cowley stretches out to show those... > Read more

Neil Cowley Trio: Vice Skating

Scott LaFaro: Pieces of Jade (Resonance)

26 Jul 2010

The great jazz bassist Scott LaFaro didn't have a long time -- he was killed in a car accident in 1961 at age 25 -- but his impact on acoustic jazz was, and remains, significant for his work in the classic Fifties trio with pianist Bill Evans and drummer Paul Motian. His gentle, often high, singing tone allowed for great emotional dexterity and depth -- and appended to this short collection... > Read more

LaFaro, Friedman, LaRoca: Woody'n You

Orchestra of Spheres: Nonagonic Now (Sound Explorers)

19 Jul 2010

This rhythm-driven four-piece from Wellington is one part early Talking Heads (or the Feelies as a jazz ensemble), a slug of Sun Ra if he'd come from South East Asia and not Saturn, some seriously brain-bending guitar work (with one ear on mad Afro-juju as much as bent country jiggery and scattergun free playing), theremin, tape machines, chanty sections and Lord knows what else. It is an... > Read more

Orchestra of Spheres: Isness

SUN RA IN THE SEVENTIES (2010): Back from space

12 Jul 2010

In the late Eighties and early Nineties, Sun Ra was the hip name to drop into rock conversations: I think Sonic Youth and Henry Rollins started it, but frequently rock musicians who had paid scant attention to jazz of any kind were mentioning the great Sun Ra alongside Led Zeppelin as an influence. As with Tony Bennett being cool with the grunge generation, I kinda doubted it. Sun... > Read more

Sun Ra: Tenderly

JOE HENDERSON INTERVIEWED (1994): A star to guide them

11 Jul 2010

Joe Henderson is sitting at a press conference in Carnegie Hall, New York, patiently answering another dumb leading question. Someone among the contingent of journalists has just asked this legendary tenor saxophonist -- who turned 57 this week -- why it has taken so long for him to be recognised. Henderson smiles wanly and with the humility that has been his hallmark says maybe it was... > Read more

Joe Henderson: Lotus Blossom (from Lush Life, 1992)

Herbie Hancock: The Imagine Project (Sony)

11 Jul 2010

Regardless of what you think of John Lennon's song Imagine -- and opinion ranges from drippy sentimentality to inspirational -- most would agree the song succeeds with many people for its understated delivery. Lennon sang it without aching obviously through whatever emotion he might be bringing to it, which allowed the listener to fill in the gap. Wish we could say the same for the many... > Read more

Herbie Hancock: Tomorrow Never Knows


10 Jul 2010    1

In late November 1963, a 5000 word profile of Thelonious Monk was scheduled to appear in Time magazine. Monk was to be the cover. An interviewer and jazz aficionado Barry Farrell from Time had spent months with Monk watching him at work and relaxing at home with his family, and the Russian painter Boris Chaliapin had been commissioned to paint Monk's portrait. (Chaliapan complained that... > Read more

Thelonious Monk: Introspection (1947, with bassist Gene Ramey, drummer Art Blakey)

BESSIE SMITH: The Empress of the Blues -- and jazz? (1991)

7 Jul 2010

It wasn’t just because he discovered Bessie Smith that Columbia executive John Hammond sank money into recording her in 1933 when her money was all gone. Columbia was all but bankrupt and Hammond scuffling for bucks himself. But to the end of his life Hammond simply believed Bessie Smith to be “the greatest artist American jazz ever produced.” A "jazz" artist,... > Read more

Christian Scott: Yesterday You Said Tomorrow (Concord)

28 Jun 2010

From the opening bars - a slightly discordant guitar and unsettling drums and knocks -- this album announces itself as something delivering the unexpected by a young jazz trumpeter out of New Orleans. Scott, 27, and his smart young band here probe the edges of the avant-garde and free playing but always remain thoroughly grounded in the long tradition that reaches from Louis Armstrong and... > Read more

Christian Scott: American't