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Track 01 - The Twister (Waldron), Mal Waldron Quartet, (1959) Music Minus One: The Blues Minus You Ed Xiques - tenor saxophone, Mal Waldron - piano, Wendell Marshall - bass, Charles Perry - drums The realization that Waldron was one of the pioneers of play-along was quite a discovery to me. The fact that these volumes (at least on CD) include the demo track with the horn is, for me, extremely interesting and helpful. Jamey Aebersold has put in a great amount of work to make his series what it is, but most of it lacks the feel. This does not. Mal Waldron is not about technique, but rather, pure soul. Track 02 - Nisha (Hayes), Louis Hayes Group, (1979) Variety Is The Spice Leon Thomas - vocals, Frank Strozier - alto saxophone, Harold Mabern - piano, Cecil McBee - bass, Louis Hayes - drums, Portinho - percusion, Titos Sompa - congas Bought this album for 99¢ at Looney Tunes in Boston back in the day. There’s a few fillter tracks, but some outstanding stuff, as well. I always enjoyed Leon, but this track, to my ear, is something completely different. Not going to push Kind of Blue out of the rotation, but still a worthy listen. Track 03 - Pithecanthropus Erectus, John Hicks/Boris Koslov/Tommy Campbell/Seamus Blake, (1999) Charles Mingus: More Than A Play-Along John Hicks - piano, Boris Kozlov - bass, Tommy Campbell - drums, Seamus Blake - tenor saxophone In the vein of the old Waldron sets for MMO, this one manages to capture the feel of a Mingus rhythm section. Best to play with real people, but if you HAVE to rely on a canned backing for practice, this is not a bad way to go. I’m not all that enamored of Blake’s playing, but I’d listen to John Hicks tie his shoes. Track 04 - Miyako (Shorter), Malachi Thompson, (1997) 47th Street Malachi Thompson - trumpet, Billy Harper - tenor saxophone, Steve Berry - trombone, Kirk Brown - piano, Harrison Bankhead - bass, Dana Hall - drums When I saw the personnel on this one, I bought it… just in time for BOTH of my CD players to die. I owned it for ages before having the chance to hear it (had put it into one of the cars and forgot it there). Anyway, it’s frankly NOT all I hoped it would be (Harper AND Carter J?!?!), but, as with most of Malachi’s stuff, worth a listen. Seemed to me a good Shorter tune is always a positive addition to a BFT. Track 05 - Seven-Toed Sloth (Cushner), The Jazz Aesthetic, Unreleased (c. 2004) Adam Cushner - tenor saxophone, Omar Butler - trumpet, Marc Sorel - piano, Silas Meredith - bass, Chris Paxton - drums This was a great discovery for me. Through the magic of a “post a clip of your playing here” thread on the saxontheweb forum, I came across this tune. I was blown away and contacted the guy (Cushner) privately because I had a radio show at the time on Maine Public Radio. He sent me five tunes from this set, all good, though this is the standout. He was a computer science major who also played saxophone (and life has taken him in that direction, as well). I have reached out to him via social media to inqure about the name of the trumpet player, but as yet have not heard back. Just consider how much music of this quality is happening that we are never getting the opportunity to hear. Moral of the story: Logout, turn off the tube, and go hear some live music from musicians you’ve never heard of — that’s how it starts. Track 06 - The Day After (Lupri), Matthias Lupri Group, (2004) Transition Sonic Matthias Lupri - vibes, Cuong Vu - trumpet, Mark Turner - tenor saxophone, Nate Radley - guitar, Thomas Kneeland - bass, Jordann Perlson - drums From the aforementioned DJ era, this was one of the few interesting recordings provided by the major distributors (yes, I am a cynic). Most of what they provided was cold, soulless music presented in beautiful, glossy packaging. Very little of it ever saw the air (my format trended towards avant garde), and though this is more towards the European feel for my tastes, it’s stayed in the collection because there is something interesting about the entire record. Not a big Turner fan, but he works well in this setting. Track 07 - Nisha, Louis Hayes Group, (1977) The Real Thing Woody Shaw - flugelhorn, Rene McLean - alto/tenor saxophones, Ronnie Mathews - piano, Stafford James - bass, Louis Hayes - drums Yes, a repeat band AND a repeat tune, but very different and very beautiful. There’s so much to love about this cut for me. It’s a nice tune and manages to be both a ballad and a grooving swinger at the same time. Woody is in top form here and the track is representative of the best stuff of the period IMHO. Track 08 - What’s Goin’ On (Benson/Cleveland/Gaye), Louis Hayes Group, (1979) Variety Is The Spice Frank Strozier - alto saxophone, Harold Mabern - piano, Cecil McBee - bass, Louis Hayes - drums, Portinho - percusion, Titos Sompa - congas Yup, Louis, again. Never really being a pop radio guy, this was the version of the song I was most familiar with. Oddly, it led me to my obsession with the music of Marvin Gaye. I have Strozier’s record of the same name from the same period, but to my ear, this is the definitive interpretation. This record was a dollar very well spent. Track 09 - Illusion of Grandeur (Willis), Junior Cook, (1981) Somethin’s Cookin’ Junior Cook - tenor sax, Cedar Walton - piano, Buster Williams - bass, Billy Higgins - drums This was one of my favorite records from my teen years. And on an album of really strong tracks, this was always the class of the bill to my ear. Cedar Walton is how I found my way to the record, but that turned me onto Junior Cook, a voice so unique even if you only focus on his dedication to NOT playing like Coltrane. This tune led me to the music of Larry Willis and I’m sure glad it did. Nothing but love for this track. Track 10 - First Mind, Corey Wilkes & Abstrakt Pulse, (2009) Cries From The Ghetto Corey Wilkes - trumpet, Kevin Nabors - tenor saxophone, Scott Hesse - guitar, Junius Paul - bass, Isaiah Spencer - drums I came to Wilkes through the Chicago scene (and Spencer the same way). This is one of those weird, modern albums. About half of it, I really like. About half of it, I abhor. Like many modern releases, it suffers from the need to fill up 60+ minutes of album space. Trim the fat, and this is a really good record. I find Nabors a bit math-jazzy, but overall, this is honest, creative music. Track 11 - Wisdom, Anthony Branker & Ascent, (2009) Blessings Steve Wilson - alto saxophone, Ralph Bowen - tenor saxophone, Clifford Adams, Jr. - trombone, Bryan Carrott - vibes, Johnny King - piano, Belden Bullock - bass, Wilby Fletcher - drums, Anthony Branker - musical director I know very little about Branker, accept that he doesn’t seem to actually play on his records. That made me curious and I found out the following: In 1999, medical problems stemming from two brain aneurysms and the discovery of an AVM (arteriovenous malformation) led him to yield his trumpet playing and forced him to take a leave of absence from teaching. And while I’d have to say, that sucks, I’m glad that he’s staying active in composing and presenting this music. This was another find through the DJ experience. Track 12 - Conversion Song (Hall), Dana Hall, (2009) Into The Light Terrell Stafford - trumpet, Tim Warfield - tenor saxophone, Bruce Barth - piano, Rodney Whitaker - bass, Dana Hall - drums I was originally going to go with the title cut, but it’s very heavy on the electronics. Additionally, the day after I programmed this BFT, I heard this cut and instantly regretted not choosing it. I know little about Hall beyond what appears in this test, but I will say, this is an interesting record. It’s not a great record, but there is some really hard listening in there.