Wynton Marsalis - From The Plantation To The Penitentiary

Blue Note 09463 847 2421    ****

Marsalis (t, v), Jennifer Sanon (v), Walter Blanding (ts, ss), Dan Nimmer (p),
Carlos Henriquez (b) and Ali Jackson (d). Rec. 2006

Billy Cobham, Colin Towns and HR-Big Band - Meeting of the Spirits: A Celebration of the Mahavishnu

In + Out Records IOR CD 77086-2    ****
Billy Cobham (d) and Colin Towns (arr) with the HR Big Band. Rec. date not given

It’s fair to say that there has been no shortage of bad press for jazz-rock fusion over the last two decades in a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. As a result, the achievements of the Mahavishnu Orchestra have been diminished with the passage of time to the point it now seems like a footnote in the pages of history. Yet the Mahavishnu Orchestra was the next major step in jazz rock after Bitches Brew. OK, it may have triggered the guitar Olympics, where every guitarist wanted to play faster than McLaughlin, but here was the visceral marriage of Hendrix’ guitar sound and blistering jazz improvisation taken to a level of excellence that is now a benchmark in the music.

Trilok Gurtu-Arke String Quartet - Arkeology

Promo PM CD 006    ***
Gurtu (tabla, d, perc. fl, v), Carlo Cantini (v, dilruba, recorder, kalimba), Valentino Corvino (v) Sandro Di Paolo (vla) and Sefano Dall’Ora (b, ukelele). Rec. 2006

From his work with the African Divas to house producer Robert Miles, Gurtu has been nothing if not eclectic in the last few years, making a mockery of the Indo-jazz maestro epithet often lazily slapped on him. He can bring a great deal of rhythmic trickery and textural finesse to just about any situation and this meeting with the Arke String quartet is no exception to the rule. It’s not so much what Gurtu plays as what he doesn’t play that impresses here.

Sonny Rollins - Tenor Madness

Prestige/RVG Masters 088072300446    ****
Rollins (ts), Red Garland (p), Paul Chambers (b), Philly Joe Jones (d) and John Coltrane (ts). Rec. 1956

This latest resurfacing of Tenor Madness benefits from the Van Gelder clean-up on the sound front, of course, but otherwise is unchanged from the format of its original vinyl release. Coltrane appears on one track only, the 12-minute title track, and in a way it’s a shame the meeting of the two great didn’t happen a year later, for Coltrane would then have been as mature in his playing as Rollins and the contrasts would have been even more fascinating. Still, this is what we’ve got and no amount of willing it will change that fact.

Don Byron - Do The Boomerang

Blue Note 3410942 | ***
Byron (ts, cl, bcl), David Gilmore (g), George Colligan (org), Curtis Fowlkes (tb), Brad Jones (b), Rodney Holmes (d), Dean Bowman (v) and Chris Thomas King (v, g).
Rec. 2006

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