Essential Jazz Classics EJC55704 2CD
Sonny Rollins (ts), with (collective personnel) Ray Brown, Oscar Pettiford, Henry Grimes, Paul Chambers, Bob Cranshaw (bs), Shelly Manne, Max Roach, Specs Wright, Roy Haynes (d) and Candido Camero (cga, bgo). Rec. 7 March 1957-14 May 1962
Talk about essential... This certainly makes the grade, being basically an excuse to reissue the albums Way Out West and Freedom Suite (done for different labels originally) in a single package, with their few available alternate takes – one of those for Way Out not having made it on to the original CD edition by OJC. These classics should require no further recommendation, and the bonus material (the trio side of Big Brass and the no-piano-no-guitar tracks from The Sound Of Sonny and What's New?) isn't shabby either. Those last two tracks, with Candido instead of a kit drummer, might seem out of context with the 1957-58 majority, but in fact Rollins merely sounds the same, only more so. Taken alongside 1956 material such as Saxophone Colossus and 1957's Night At The Village Vanguard (reviewed in Jazzwise 209), the two featured albums here represent the high-water mark(s) of Sonny's early career and, as such, need to be investigated by anyone who doesn't already know them backwards.
– Brian Priestley
Pictor Records Pic 001
Alex Munk (g), Matt Robinson (p, syn, Fender Rhodes), Conor Chaplin (b) and Dave Hamblett (d). Rec. August/October 2015
You might have noticed the name of Alex Munk cropping up on recent CDs by quite a few of the upcoming generation of young jazz artists. He's been the first choice guitar sideman for an impressive selection of recent British recordings by Trish Clowes, Ivo Neame, Reuben Fowler and Matt Anderson among others. His first recording as leader for his electric quartet Flying Machines that formed in 2014 shows great promise. He gets to flex his muscles both as improviser and composer drawing on the epic jazz-pop lyricism of Pat Metheny through to the more avant-rock of Wayne Krantz, the piano riffy Neil Cowley Trio and feverish rhythms that are occasionally reminiscent of the unique nu-prog outfit Troyka, if a less quirky alternative in this band. Munk's music is deceptively simple, assertive and direct with plenty of stimulating twists and turns. Things that make it well worth catching Flying Machines when they tour in February next year.
– Selwyn Harris
Tom Harrison (as), Cleveland Watkiss (v), Robert Mitchell (p), Daniel Casimir (b) and David Lyttle (d). Rec. 2016
These live recordings of compositions associated with Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn begin with 'Take the A Train' and while firmly in the spirit of the Duke, the players impose their own individuality on the material. Cleveland Watkiss, well-known for his wide range of vocal references and styles, introduces it with steam train noises before going into scat, although closer to Slim Gaillard than Betty Roche. Daniel Casimir's walking bass and pianist Robert Mitchell's firmly underpinned melody enable the others to stretch; David Lyttle's drums especially busy. Harrison's solos give a relaxed feel, hard edged at times.
The rest is a mixture of the familiar and lesser known. Watkiss' easy rapport with the audience comes over; on Sy Oliver's 'The Minor Goes Muggin'' a call and response interlude is interspersed with muted trumpet impersonation. Harrison's horn slips into a soul groove, Mitchell's vamps and runs on piano leading the rhythm section. Good straight ahead playing.
Lyttle's drums alternately give an urgency, fragmentation and lay down a solid rhythm. Casimir's bass a reliable bedrock with which the soloists can work, glimpses of virtuosity in his solos, especially on 'Intimacy of the Blues'; Harrison's forthright blowing is featured and Watkiss engages the audience in more Gaillardese vout. The band continues its varied approach through 'Solitude' and 'Things Ain't What They Used To Be' and recollections of the Duke/Coltrane session surface in 'My Little Brown Book'; Harrison an attentive accompanist then assuming command, pushing and probing, before Mitchell shows what an expressive player he is. The final track, 'Warm Valley', an unaccompanied solo by Harrison, underlines his Ducal appreciation.
– Matthew Wright
Herlin Riley (d, v), Bruce Harris (t), Goodwin Louis (as, ss), Emmett Cohen (p), Mark Whitfield (g), Russell Hall (b) and Pedrito Martinez (congas). Rec. date not stated
New Orleanian Riley is one of today’s premier jazz drummers. Aside from observing him at work over the years with Wynton Marsalis, it’s been a joy to see him fronting his hard-swinging quartets either in New Orleans or at Ascona with the late Tim Green or Victor Goines playing saxophone. So a new album under his name is to be welcomed, surely? Not so this time, for this is Riley looking for a softer landing, all 10 compositions written by him, slight affairs, their character and interest strictly limited for this listener, at least. The players are all young bar Harris, with veteran Whitfield confined to a single track. Admittedly Harris has fiery chops and he and the Haitian Louis do get to flourish on Riley’s ‘Connection to Congo Square’ complete with fade and Cohen can certainly play. Otherwise this album might best be filed under ’jazz-lite’. Much is made in the notes of Riley’s ‘new direction’ and he does feature himself rather more than was customary with Marsalis with mallet and snare excursions, yet manages to eschew swing, only ‘Harlem Shuffle’ giving a glimpse of real jazz quality. Look elsewhere for Riley at his best. Peter Vacher
East Green Records
Sam Eastmond (t), Ben Greenslade-Stanton (tb, ky, g, perc), Jon Gillies (ts), Matt Mcnaughton (bs), Tom Williams (g), Holley Gray (b), Dave Longman (d), Mark Claydon (perc), Sven Benton (org) Shawn Lee (g, melodica) and Jettricks, (ky, perc, b, g). Rec. 2016
Mix musicians and long-time collaborators Sam Eastmond and Ben Greenslade-Stanton with stellar musicians from The Mighty Mocambos, Spike Orchestra, The Snitch, The Get Up and you’re guaranteed something magical. This debut proves that from the off, beginning with the mesmeric, funky ‘The Slam Down’, a bevvy of brass over an underpinning baritone pattern boasting a horn solo introducing a secondary theme which drives the tune to soaring heights. Meanwhile, the title-track muscles its way through in orchestral style until a heavy riff breaks the spell, allowing sax and bass to develop a swinging theme, interrupted by an exorbitant trumpet solo.
Gray's deep-end propels throughout buoying a distinct latin feel. ‘Red Sea’ is gorgeous – a bewitching rhythmic exploration using horns, drums and some great sax and guitar work. ‘Kurzzig’ sets a crazy rhythm against the punctuated horn harmonies crashed by a soaring trumpet interlude. The rest of the album follows suit with swinging, grinding horn sections, through contrapuntal rhythm changes and intricate, devilish structural shifts to the web of variation which is ‘Ajebutter’. This is an absorbing album. Looking forward to the next one. Sammy Stein