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"Last Albums" or appearances you can recommend

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Realizing Kenny Wheeler has an upcoming ECM release that was recorded not all that long ago (for which I'm fairly sure the results will be well worth while), I'm wondering what other "last albums" (i.e. leader-dates) or even last sideman appearances that you can really recommend as being of a high caliber, and a great note to have gone out on.

The first one that came to mind (in seeing that the upcoming Kenny Wheeler date is on ECM), I immediately thought of this title...

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Don Cherry - Dona Nostra (1993)

Which is among my favorite Don Cherry leader-dates. If I'm not mistaken, this may be Cherry's last appearance of any sort on a studio date as well (meaning no other sideman appearances after this one).

What other titles spring to mind as being really great "last releases" that, even if not perfect, really work for you.

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The live date Fats Navarro did with Bird two weeks before the trumpeter's death immediately springs to mind.

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Isn't "Sky Piece" Thomas Chapin's last studio recording?

If so, he saved the best until right before the end

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Ayler's final recordings are pretty striking to me--recognizing the fact that we simultaneously have the final studio works on Impulse! and the series of French live recordings that have each (respectively) been regarded as "final recordings" at various points. The quality of Ayler's live playing never seemed to diminish, and though he still seemed preoccupied with semi-awkward hybridizations at that late stage (I'm talking about both the odd psych and blues rock experiments on the Impulse! dates and the very explicit gospel and standard jazz overtones on the French live recordings), he seemed headed toward a sound that was neither overtly commercial nor completely, ecstatically free. The later Shepp and Marion Brown Impulses serve as an extant, fully-realized analog of where Ayler's music seemed to "be" at the end--fire music that had been digested and reintegrated into the tropes of mainstream, piano-centric jazz.

I'm also very fond of Andrew Hill's Timelines, which has this impressionistic, august flavor reminiscent of the Soul Note recordings. I saw Hill perform solo in his final years, and I don't think I really heard any diminishment of technical faculties until very late his life--and on Timelines, the melodic creativity, the uncanny rhythmic sense, it's all still there. Having Charles Tolliver onboard makes the album sound like a weird afterimage of the "later early" Blue Notes--the music stripped of its hard edge and left transcendent and ghostlike.

On a weirder note, Sonny Sharrock's soundtrack to Space Ghost Coast to Coast is one of the main reasons I play music at all, so that.

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I vote for Art Pepper's last performance, at the Kennedy Center with Roger Kellaway, which Laurie Pepper released on her Widow's Taste label.

Edited by GA Russell

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Kind of a morbid obsession with me, these things are...Sirius is perhaps the ultimate example. I'd not recommend it to anybody who didn't already have a pretty good grasp of what Coleman Hawkins had done in his life, but to hear where he was at when that life was coming to an end...wow. It's not pretty, hell, it's pretty damn sad, or at least sobering, but...that's life, ok?

Same thing with Pres' last date in Paris, and, I think, Bird's last studio date, the one where he was all broke up and played the Cole Porter songs, especially "My Heart Belongs To Daddy"...intense life experiences being breathed in those sounds, intense.

I could even include some cuts off of Lady In Satin...but not the whole album. But "I'm A Fool To Want You"...yes, definitely. But that's not her last, correct? Almost last, though.

Re: Ayler, there's some very brief snippets of late-ish color footage in the My Name Is Albert Ayler documentary that are mesmerizing both musically and visually.

If you're looking for "People Who Made Great Records Up Until The Day They Died", this will not be any help to you, I'm afraid. However, "When I'm Called Home", Stan Getz with Abbey Lincoln, yes, that.

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Stan Getz, PEOPLE TIME

John Coltrane, OLATUNJI CONCERT

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The last few recordings of Eric Dolphy - Out To Lunch, Last Date, Last Recordings - are quite a hodgepodge but of high caliber.

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This is a perfect example of going out on a high note:

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Another example of going out on a high note; one of my favorite albums of his:

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The last few recordings of Eric Dolphy - Out To Lunch, Last Date, Last Recordings - are quite a hodgepodge but of high caliber.

Hodgepodge to the max. We've had speculative conversations regarding these sorts of giants in the past, and Dolphy's case is really particular in that it was so evident that his journey had not reached a terminal point--not like Trane, for example, who was constantly striking very hard against these stylistic walls, breaking them down, and then slamming into new ones. To put it another way, Trane was such a diligent and unheralded voice that I can't conceive of a post-'67 Coltrane music, because only he would have been able to invent it--Dolphy, on the other hand, never really got to that point.

The stylistic breadth of those final albums is insane--you have this singular chamber jazz masterpiece with Out to Lunch--which, despite similar personnel on the Iron Man sessions, doesn't really have any antecedent or immediate follow-up--one of Dolphy's most virtuosic albums in a more straightforward post-bop idiom with Last Date, and then these rambling modal excursions on Last Recordings. They all sound totally different, and they all touch on different aspects of Dolphy's ethos.

Going back to armchair speculation--I really get the sense that Dolphy was headed toward a completely different kind of music. The pending collaboration with Ayler is indicative of this to a certain extent, but Dolphy's longstanding preoccupation with pre-existing jazz dialects, paired with his chamber music predilections, makes me think that his innovations would have been compositional and/or formal, ala Cecil. I think Out to Lunch was a tangent--it's simultaneously very open-ended and rigid, and I'd like to think that a more organic integration of odd meters, open harmony, extended techniques, and straightahead swing was on the horizon.

When I first heard Joe Maneri, my first thought was that it sounded like where Dolphy was getting to--Paniots Nine is neither as technically assured as late Dolphy nor as harmonically virtuosic as even the Dolphy of '60, but Maneri's early music is way more organic with regard to marrying straightforward swing, melodic freedom, and metric dynamism.

And of course there's the sheer rhythmic and intellectual power of the fully unleashed Roscoe Mitchell, who with Nonaah may have written a more earthy, ethereal version of the novel Dolphy never completed.

Edited by ep1str0phy

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Another example of going out on a high note; one of my favorite albums of his:

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That is a tremendous album - and I didn't realize until now that it was his last. 5-stars.

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One more: Rahsaan's Boogie-Woogie String Along for Real is a tough album, in part because the man's musical identity was so closely interwoven with with his mercurial virtuosity--it's almost an intellectual test--what is Rahsaan about if you take the Rahsaan-ness out of it?

That album gave me a greater appreciation of the fact that Rahsaan had a direct line to the creaky, maudlin heart of jazz. This sort of romanticism is all over Rahsaan's discography, especially when he performs in overt Ellingtonian modes, but Kirk's virtuosity sometimes renders the music with this sort of ironic sheen that I know makes it difficult for people to get close to the music. There's no way, though, that you can listen to Rahsaan fighting through the strings on the title track, or nearly whispering these extremely bruised versions of "I Loves You, Porgy" and "Summertime," without knowing that there was something very deep and very human about a musician who sometimes seemed like an entertainer first and foremost.

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well with Dolphy, at least I assume that the gaggle of "last recordings" at the time was really just a diverse bunch of albums he was making, without an eye to the "end." His departure was so sudden. Ayler seemed to have premonitions of departure, and the Shandars are definitely a step up from the frustrating final Impulse dates.

I often feel like Ken McIntyre's inclusion on Unit Structures was a nod to Dolphy vis-a-vis Cecil. I assume that's why he was brought in, but am not 100% sure, and of course, McIntyre was a strong player and had his own voice (those UA and New Jazz LPs are tight).

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There was one more recording session, on an album by arranger/pianist Hans Koller (not the saxophonist), but November was the last "Steve Lacy" album. It's a moving performance. Lacy is audibly weak and short-breathed. I don't know how much he knew or suspected about his prospects, but death seemed to be a theme of this concert; included are at least three pieces he wrote as memorials to friends and colleagues who had passed: "Tina's Tune" for clarinetist Tina Wrase, "Blues for Aida" for Japanese promoter Aquirax Aida, and "The Rent," for French critic Laurent Goddet.

I may play it later, now that I'm thinking about it. But it's a tough listen.

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I believe that Give It Up was Jimmy Lyons' last recording. Maybe not his best, but a good one.

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Okay, I'm cheating a little bit on this one. Miles Davis' July 10, 1991 Paris concert was his next-to-last recorded appearance, not his last; a concert from six days later was included in the Montreux boxset. But that July 10 concert, which has been bootlegged under the title Black Devil, is kind of remarkable. The Man Who Never Looked Back, well, looked back. About half the tunes are by his then-current funk/fusion band, but the other tunes feature guests from his past: Jackie McLean, Wayne Shorter, Steve Grossman, Dave Holland, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, John McLaughlin, Al Foster. He does "Out of the Blue," "Dig," "All Blues," "Footprints," "In a Silent Way," and "It's About That Time." (Okay, he doesn't solo on "Dig.") Not everything is great, but there's something very moving about hearing Miles blow over changes in 1991. My favorite track is "Footprints" - Miles, Shorter, Corea, Holland, and Foster; Miles plays a wonderful, short, three-chorus solo.

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Speaking of Joe Maneri, Going To Church​. Immense.

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Well, upon inspection Angles of Repose was recorded later (though released earlier, I think). Even so, it feels final, like a summation of everything.

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"Blessed" the duo with Joe & Mat was also recorded in that timeframe.

"Angles of Repose" is quite something. Mat's favorite of all the drummerless recordings of him and his dad.

"Going to Church" might be the greatest unheard album of the last 30 years. It is so emotionally charged and due to the larger ensemble, much different than the trio and classic quartet recordings.

Fwiw - a little story from Mat - once his father could no longer play, the last couple of years were just sitting in the chair just waiting for the end.

If one listens to Blessed (maybe like Jeff describes November - and Lacy to Jeff is like Papa Joe to me) it is not an easy listen. I was told the recording process was not easy as Joe was struggling with his health. But I am very glad we have that very human, very personal music available to us.

When the Ship Goes Down

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recorded within a week in late January/early February 2002, both recordings "One more Time" give ample opportunity to marvel about Mal Waldron`s playing...and the cover picture with Archie Shepp (the only artist of both forementioned sessions still being with us...) is all about saying goodbye.....

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Okay, I'm cheating a little bit on this one. Miles Davis' July 10, 1991 Paris concert was his next-to-last recorded appearance, not his last; a concert from six days later was included in the Montreux boxset. But that July 10 concert, which has been bootlegged under the title Black Devil, is kind of remarkable. The Man Who Never Looked Back, well, looked back. About half the tunes are by his then-current funk/fusion band, but the other tunes feature guests from his past: Jackie McLean, Wayne Shorter, Steve Grossman, Dave Holland, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, John McLaughlin, Al Foster. He does "Out of the Blue," "Dig," "All Blues," "Footprints," "In a Silent Way," and "It's About That Time." (Okay, he doesn't solo on "Dig.") Not everything is great, but there's something very moving about hearing Miles blow over changes in 1991. My favorite track is "Footprints" - Miles, Shorter, Corea, Holland, and Foster; Miles plays a wonderful, short, three-chorus solo.

That concert was on TV at least once. I saw it and maybe video-taped it. Maybe not, though.

But yeah, it's weird on several levels. Why it's not seen a legit commercial release is beyond me, must be some legality quirks underfoot or some such.

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Gene Ammons' Goodbye is I believe his last session.

And of course, those Charles Earland dates with Lee Morgan were recorded the week of the last Slugs' engagement.

Bertrand.

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