Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Gary Burton Quartet - In Concert (1968)

This album is a live recording of Burton and his quartet at Carnegie Hall. The performance mixes elements of hard-bop, modal jazz, rock and even country, creating an requiem of the post-bop era. The interplay between Burton and guitarist Larry Coryell is something worth checking out. Coryell's compositions make their way onto the album (Lines, Wrong is Right), as well as the Dylan tune I Want You. Together they offer a nice respite from the free-jazz mentality of Burton. The song One, Two, 1-2-3-4 showcases their complimentary styles as well as a killer drum solo by Bob Moses.

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Sunday, 15 April 2012

Bill Evans - Symbiosis (1974)

When Harold Rhodes invented the Rhodes piano in 1942 as a therapeutic device for wounded soldiers, there is little chance he could have imagined it being featured on an album as it is on Symbiosis. Symbiosis was Evans's third orchestral release with arranger and conductor Claus Ogerman and it showcases Evans's work on the Steinway and Rhodes with a classical/jazz backing. Under the direction of Ogeman, the orchestra effortlessly shifts between driving latin rhythms, swinging jazz, and space-like grooves to create a wholly unique listening experience. Also, Eddie Gomez plays bass and Marty Morell plays drums - bonus!

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Leon Thomas - Gold Sunrise on Magic Mountain (1971)

Even before his tenure with Pharoah Sanders, Santana and Archie Shepp, avant garde jazz vocalist Leon Thomas was a force to be reckoned with. Recorded live on June 18, 1971 at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, this performance showcases Tomas's ability to wow and amaze.

Occupying a precarious position between jazz and the occult, Thomas's performance is both pithy and wild. This probably has to do with the environment it was recorded in. When Thomas sings, "It's five o'clock in the morning," he isn't just reciting the standard blues lyrics - it actually was five o'clock in the morning. Regardless, the audience that had been crowded into the smoke filled casino since eight the previous evening was still eager for more only to be stopped by festival officials who had to pull the plug.

The band was comprised an all-star lineup. It features, Cornell Dupree on guitar, Oliver Nelson on alto sax, Neal Creque on piano, Victor Gaskin on bass, Sonny Morgan on congas, David Lee, Jr. on drums, and Nana Vasconcelos on percussion and berimbau (the instrument that opens the track Na Na).

The album is tour-de-force and will probably leave you wondering the same thing as the Swiss yodellers up the hill from Montreaux - how did this guy get so good?

Vinyl ripped @ 320 kbps

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Saturday, 14 April 2012

V/A - New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (1976)

Once a year, during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, some of the greatest artists the Crescent City has to offer get together to revel in their colourful past and give fans a sample of what's in store for the future. The 1976 Jazz & Heritage Festival was no exception to this tradition. The music contained within is not only indicative of the time it was recorded but also transcends time by affecting the popular music being produced today by bands like Galactic.

Most of the tracks on this album were recorded on April 9, 10, and 11 at the R&B segment of the festival. The album contains performances by jazz progenitors and New Orleans greats such as, Professor ('Fess) Longhair, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Doe, Robert Parker, Earl King, and Lightnin' Hopkins.

This is some of the most heartfelt and feel-good music I've heard in a while and it's bound to make you feel the same way.

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Friday, 13 April 2012

The Blackbyrds - The Blackbyrds (1973)

The Blackbyrds were a ground-breaking jazz/fusion group who produced seven albums on Fantasy Records from 1973-1980. Their eponymous debut album is arguably their most raw and funky release.

The group was formed in 1973 in Washington DC by Jazz legend Donald Byrd. Byrd was teaching at Howard University and selected six promising pupils to record an album. With the help of production genius Larry Mizell, they cut this album at Fantasy's studios.

The album is famous for it's fusion of complex and melodic horn lines with straight ahead funk rhythms - finding a solid balance between jazz and funk. It's also great sample material (The Beastie Boys shout out the Blackbyrds on their song Do It)! Songs to check out include Do It Fluid, Runaway and Life Styles.

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Thursday, 12 April 2012

Kashmere Stage Band - Texas Thunder Soul (1968-1974)

Conrad O. Johnson
As a follow up to the last post, here's another great group of student musicians, this time hailing from Kashmere Gardens in North Texas. Under the leadership of Conrad O. Johnson, the band grew from being imitators of funk greats like the J.B's to actually having the chops to rival them. Listen to their rendition of Shaft and you'll agree.

Kashmere High School c. 1972
The program began when Conrad O. Johnson (known as 'Prof) decided to follow the principle (and fellow jazz drummer) George Haines, from Booker T. High School to Kashmere High. Once at Kashmere, Haines gave Conrad carte blanche with the program: "Listen, I want everybody to know what you're doing here. So I'm going to let you take off and do jobs with the stage band, whether it's school hours or not."Thus a legacy was born.

Fashioned after the big-band's (i. Benny Goodman) that came before them, the Kashmere Stage Band used this structure as the foundation from which they would venture into the realm of funk. Conrad took advantage of local independent and user friendly record production companies such as the California based Century Records to produce a total of 12 releases - each one rarer than the next. This album was compiled by Now-Again records serves as a compilation of the group's rare and highly sought-after collection of records in a uniquely tight and funky package.

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Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Southern University Jazz Ensemble - Live at the 1971 American College Jazz Festival (1971)

It's truly amazing what can happen when you harness the power of students. Led by the legendary Alvin Batiste, the Jaguar Jazz Ensemble from Southern University in Baton Rouge (the first University level Jazz program in the country) work their way through a series of originals and covers - sustaining the intensity with each track - an amazing feat for musicians of such a young age. Some of the members of the band showcased on this album include bassist Julius Farmer (check out his killer solo on So What), drummer Herman Jackson (who went on to work with Stevie Wonder), sax player Reggie Houston, as well as pianist Henry Butler.

It's quite something to hear these guys playing together under the tutelage of a jazz master such as Batiste. Their grooves exhibit a complexity and depth that is not only hard to achieve at a young age but also hard to reach in the form of a live performance - as presented here. This is a copy of one of 500 re-issues put out by Family Groove/Jazzstronauts Records, a rare gem definitely worth checking out.

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