Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Deep Jazz, hard and dark
Here it is, finally - my first attempt at compiling some of my favorite jazz pieces in a way that is both pleasant and coherent.
It starts with rather darker compositions, heavy on the baritone sax and low chords with some fine work from Charlie Mingus, Sahib Shihab, Roy Porter and Yusef Lateef, then lightens up a bit to some classic themes all executed in alternate versions, the moods speeds up a little bit with some great Bebop and finishes with some more soulful, mellow jazz.
The opening track is from the soundtrack of "A bout de Souffle" (Breathless), from French-Algerian pianist Martial Solal. Not only is Godard's movie one of my all time favorite, the score written for it fits the film so well, it almost tells the story...
Then the song "Moanin'", a frenzied tune by Charles Mingus and his big band, dark as the night and curiously so uplifting... It's followed by two Sahib Shihab tracks from the album Companionship. Shihab was an American saxophonist (baritone, alto and soprano) and flautist, who converted to Islam and then moved to Europe in the late 50s, tired with the racial tensions in the US. He lived in Danemark and recorded some of the best European modal jazz albums ever released. On these two dark, frantic and percussive tracks, he teams up with Francy Boland, Kenny Clarke, Jimmy Woode just to name a few... A desert Island record for any serious jazz lover.
Steve Reid comes next, with "Free Spirits" from his 1976 album Nova. This is spiritual jazz, much less conventional in form and structure, and it can take a few listens to fully appreciate. His music is dark and introvert, and the man has an atypical and fascinating story: He played in Sun Ra’s Arkestra, was a Motown session drummer and backed James Brown at the Apollo! He was imprisoned during the Vietnam war as a conscientious objector and lived in Africa in the early 1970s.
Roy Porter's "Jessica" is a great instrumental theme by this talented L.A. drummer, still very dark, but funky and mellow at the same time. Incredibly rare recording from 1984, and worth every penny of it if you manage to find a copy.
Then comes a mix of more standard jazz pieces, such as Charlie Parker's rendition of "A night in Tunisia", written by Dizzie Gillespie (with Miles Davis on trumpet and Roy Porter on Drums). This one piece is considered by many a defining moment in Jazz, and a turning point leading to the Bebop revolution...
It is followed by some more Big-Band work by Clarke & Boland (Speedy Reeds), the beautiful "Snafu" from Yusef Lateef's masterpiece album "Eastern Sounds", and an amazing rendition of Duke Ellington's standard "Caravan" by Thelonious Monk.
More Classic themes follow, "Poiniciana" by Ahmad Jamal, "Nica's Dream" by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (including pianist Horace Silver, who composed this gem), and "Giant Steps" by Coltrane. "Nica's Dream" is one of many Jazz standards dedicated to the baroness Pannonica "Nica" de Koenigswarter, who was a great jazz enthusiast and member of the prominent Rothschild family. Nica was a friend and patron of many of Jazz's greatest... Charlie Parker lived and died in her New York City Suite, and Thelonious Monk in her house in New Jersey.
Hank Mobley, Cannonball Adderley and Ramsey Lewis follow, and the list ends with two beautiful, soulful tracks: the short but mystic "Django" by Cal Tjader, and the melancholic "Life has it Trials", by harpist Dorothy Ashby, unfortunately the only woman to be featured in this selection.
01. Martial Solal - Duo (A Bout De Souffle), 1960
02. Charles Mingus - Moanin', 1959
03. Sahib Shihab - Om Mani Padme Um, 1960's
04. Sahib Shihab - Bohemia After Dark, 1960's
05. Steve Reid - Free Spirits, 1976
06. Roy Porter - Jessica (Instrumental), 1984
07. Charlie Parker - A night in Tunisia, 1946
08. Clarke-Boland Big Band - Speedy Reeds, 1963
09. Yusef Lateef - Snafu, 1961
10. Thelonious Monk - Caravan, 1955
11. Ahmad Jamal - Poinciana, 1958
12. Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers - Nica's Dream, 1956
13. John Coltrane - Giant Steps, 1959
14. Hank Mobley - Gayle's Groove, 1970
15. Cannonball Adderley - Hippodelphia, 1966
16. Ramsey Lewis Trio - Look-a-here, 1963
17. Cal Tjader - Django, 1967
18. Dorothy Ashby - Life has its trials, 1968
Download here and enjoy :)