Music Reviews

Jazz - Part 8 - June, 1999

Dennis Davis




"Birthday Party"

Illinois Jacquet

Groove Note; GRV-1003

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Groove Note is a record company started by Ying Tan, one of the two founders of Classic Records.  After that company was flying high from its reintroduction of the RCA Living Stereo series to vinyl, Ying split off and started his own company.  The philosophy of Groove Note is to avoid releasing the known quantity “greatest hits” that are guaranteed to appeal to a broad base of audiophiles.  Instead, Ying seeks out the rare gems that are not well known.  The records are released on both vinyl and CD, but vinyl clearly is where the emphasis is placed.  Instead of providing bonus tracks on the CD release, Groove Note puts the bonus tracks on the vinyl release.  It does so by packaging a bonus 45 rpm disc along with every LP!

Jacquet is one of the great tenor saxophone players.  He has been on the jazz scene since the early 1940s when he was a featured soloist with Lionel Hampton’s big band.  He has a big, rhythm and blues, sexy sound that is instantly recognizable.  In 1975, he was touring in Japan at the same time as the Dave Brubeck/Jerry Mulligan group was there.  A collection of musicians congregated in the studio and produced this outstanding album.  Jacquet is joined by Joe Newman (Trumpet), Art Farmer (Flugelhorn), Jimmie Smith (Piano), Kenny Burrell (Guitar), Jack Six (Bass), Roy Haynes (Drums), Jerry Mulligan (Baritone Sax), and James Moody (Tenor Sax and Flute).  All-star lineups do not always produce great records, but this is one rocking album.  Anyone who loves jazz, at any level, will appreciate this album.  It’s one of those records that will hold your interest throughout.  The liner notes do not indicate whether the album has been released before.  I have never heard of it and find no reference to it anywhere.  I suspect it was initially released only in Japan.

The quality of the sound reproduction is of the first rank.  On a good audio system, the instruments are extraordinarily well defined in space.  The horn sound, my benchmark for jazz recordings, is as good as it gets.  Pretty much everything else is on the same level.  I won’t repeat any of the audiophile clichés, but I could.  Instead, just get this record and listen for yourself.  It has my highest recommendation for both sound and music.

For Reference, Full Track Listing:

1. Ebb Tide
2. Birthday Party Blues
3. The Shadow Of Your Smile
4. On The Beach
5. Polka Dots & Moon Beams
6. Birthday Party Blues (45 rpm)
7. The Shadow Of Your Smile (45 rpm)

- Dennis Davis -


"The Montreal Tapes: Liberation Music Orchestra"

Charlie Hayden

Verve; 314-527-469-2

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In 1989, the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal organized a series of eight tribute concerts to Charlie Haden.  The eight concerts were held between June 30 and July 8.  All eight concerts were recorded, and a few years ago, Verve began releasing the programs on CD.  This is the fifth release in the series, and Verve indicates that a majority of the concerts will eventually be released.  In addition to Haden, the first four CDs featured (1) Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell; (2) Paul Bley and Paul Motian; (3) Geri Allen and Paul Motian; and (4) Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Paul Motian.

The Liberation Music Orchestra is whatever collection of musicians Haden puts together from time to time under that name as a big band.  Its first album, “Liberation Music Orchestra,” was released in 1970 by Impulse.  Its star-studded cast included Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, Roswell Rudd, Carla Bley and Paul Motian.  Haden has released a couple of other albums over the decades using the LMO name.  The LMO on this 1989 date includes Ernie Watts, Joe Lovano, Geri Allen, and Paul Motian, among others.

The album is composed of four pieces, two quite lengthy.  One is a traditional piece ("We Shall Overcome"), and the other three are Charlie Haden compositions.  "La Pasionaria" is a 24 minute free romp.  "Silence" is a relatively short piece that sounds like it could have fit in on Haden’s “Missouri Sky” albums.  "Sandino" is reminiscent of Miles’ “Sketches of Spain”. "‘We Shall Overcome" goes on for over 37 minutes of gospel-infused good fun.  It reminds me of Mingus’ “Oh Yeah.” 

This album is enjoyable throughout, and the variety never allows boredom to set in.  Like all the Montreal Tapes albums, it is very well recorded, and I highly recommend it.  Now when is Verve going to release the Pat Metheny and Jack Dejohnette Montreal session?

For Reference, Full Track Listing:

1. La Pasionarie
2. Silence
3. Sandino
4. We Shall Overcome

- Dennis Davis -


"Life Time"

Anthony Williams

Blue Note; 7243 4 99004 2 4

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This is another ‘Rudy Van Gelder Edition’ release by Blue Note.  While I have reservations about the remastering of this series, no one can deny our good fortune in having some of the absolute cream of the Blue Note catalog reissued.   This is one of the great Blue Notes, and one that is very difficult to find on vinyl.  In 1963, teenage Anthony Williams burst on the scene by joining Miles Davis after a very brief stint with Sam Rivers.  He stayed with Davis until 1969, and was part of the second classic Miles Davis Quintet, which also included Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Ron Carter.

“Life Time” was Williams’ first recording as a leader.  Recorded in 1964, he was joined by Sam Rivers on tenor saxophone, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes and marimba, Herbie Hancock on piano, and three different bass players -- Gary Peacock, Richard Davis, and Ron Carter.  This is rather avant-garde music, although not nearly as difficult as Williams’ next Blue Note album “Spring.”   Williams wrote all five compositions, and it sounds like he was listening to a lot of contemporary avant-garde classical music, especially in “Memory”.  During the first half of the 1960s, the side men in Miles Davis’ quintet released a series of great albums under their own names.  This is one of the best. 

As far as the sound goes, I find this less objectionable than the other RVG Edition Blue Note releases.  “Life Time” was not as well recorded as many of the earlier Blue Notes.  It’s not bad, but lacks the richness and three dimensional quality of many of the best Blue Note releases.  This remastering onto CD is a respectful reproduction of my original vinyl pressing.  I’ll give it four stars for sound, but it’s at the low end of the fourth star.

For Reference, Full Track Listing:

1. Two Pieces Of One: Red
2. Two Pieces Of One: Green
3. Tomorrow Afternoon
4. Memory
5. Barb’s Song To The Wizard

- Dennis Davis -

Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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