by: Hobart Taylor
Hobart Taylor plays these and other selections on "The Crystal Egg" on KUCI Thursdays 6 to 8 PM
Billy Jones - 3's A Crowd - (Accoustical Concepts)
Records like this are why stations like ours exist. Mainstream radio never plays improvised music. Speciality non-commercial stations will play jazz and innovative music, but these selections require vetting by a cadre of critics and other programmers in order to be justified for airplay. KUCI plain old listens with no pre-judgement. Our only context is the music itself. Someone could be famous or not. Too famous, and we won't play them, there are enough outlets for that. Billy Jones is not famous. He is not underground famous. He is respected among musicians, but we all know that and a nickel will get you... maybe a stick of gum. WTF, he's just damn good.
Working with several also unfamous but extremely talented folks like fellow Philadelphian trumpeter John Vanore, vibraphonist Tony Micelli, pianist Mick Rossi (Phillip Glass), saxophonist Gary Meek (see Oct. 19th review on this website), and several other profound artists, Jones presents ten duet performances. They are all extraordinary explorations that use major 20th century improvisatory tropes as points of departure, but are all in real time, not imitations. Billy, we're here for you.
Alfredo Rodriguez - The Little Dream - (Mack Avenue)
"Q" (Quincy Jones) produced. That in itself could be an endorsement or not, but here the big bucks and Hollywood polish work. This trio explodes with tightly controlled verve, fireworks inside a crystal egg, brilliant, explosive, and safely contained.
Afro-Caribbean energy is ensconced in vocoder driven vocalese harmonies and Bachian mathmatical precision. Music like this, music that is hot and cold at once, has a special appeal to folks scoring films or driving along the Paciifc Coast Highway at dusk.
Chick Corea + Steve Gadd Band - Chinese Butterfly - (Concord)
(Appearing March 25th at Segrestrom Hall Costa Mesa with the Jazz @ Lincoln Center Orchestra)
Well here's a name known to your Aunt Betty. Pianist/synthmeister Corea who played with Miles Davis in the '60's, and is a founding father of jazz fusion joins with drummer Gadd, an original collaborator, and young lions guitarist Lionel Loueke, saxophonist Steve Wilson, bassist Carlitos Del Puerto, along with percussionist Luisito Quintero in order to meander down memory lane. This a pop jazz, smart pop jazz. On this two CD set, three tunes stand out as more substantive and enduring. They are "Serenity", featuring a vocalese harmony and Corea on acoustic piano, the title tune "Chinese Butterfly" which contains multiple time signatures and polyrythms and several stirring crescendos,and a tune named for Corea's most famous band,(a return to the Flora Purim/Airto Latin based feel that helped defined an era in jazz), "Return To Forever". This release, however, is more than just a nod to a glorious past, it is a mature exercise in retrospection.
Gwendolyn Dease (Paul Lansky: Composer) - Idle Fancies - (Bridge)
If you have read my reviews in the past, you may notice I have an extremely elastic definiton of jazz.
The tagline for my radio show is "Jazz is an attitude, not a catalog". Here Dease plays three compositions for Marimba by composer Paul Lanskyand some would call this "classical" music. However I posit that there is very little purity of genre in contemporary music, because musicians are not siloed and many i-pods seem to contain random mixes. Like mockingbirds, attentive composers snatch from whatever sounds good to them and spit it back out in their own accents.
Lansky's riffs and rills owe as much to synchopated rhythms and calculated elisons of modern jazz as they do the the classical canon. His 1998 composition "Three Moves", as an example, is imminently danceable and swinging. Dease plays gracefully, casually, and with just a hint of amusement.
Leslie Pintchik - You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl - (Pintch Hard)
Listening to pianist/composer Pintchik's tunes and performances is a lot like ordering those tiny Chinese snails from that joint with no name south of Houston Street in the '70's, adventurous on the surface but satisfying and addictive once you chow down. Her own tunes are full of vim and humor, but smart, smart, smart,
and her takes on the standards are intimate and personal, played as if they were written yesterday with no historical referents. Joining her are some superb musicians, saxophonist Steve (I'm on every great new record) Wilson, trumpeter Ron Horton, and her perfect underpinning, drummer Michael Sarin and the subtly amazing Scott Hardy on bass and guitar.