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  1. #1 / David T. Walker, “My Flowers” (Walker) The Sidewalk (Revue, 1968) David T. Walker (g), Tracy Wright (b), Mel Brown (d) I owe my knowledge of this record to the blogosphere, but I couldn’t tell you where or how I tracked down a copy. At the time, I knew nothing of Walker or this label (which seems to have specialized in slightly poppier forms of what we now call soul jazz). This is the first track on side 1 of the original LP, and it is a bold statement of purpose. Sure, Walker gets to show off his chops, but, more than anything, this is about vibe. Several of you noted the psychedelic touches here (evocative of Gabor Szabo), and they are applied very tastefully IMO. Definitely one of those tracks that sparks a desire to hunt down everything else the principals recorded. Walker made several more leader dates after this. I’ve not heard them, but I get the impression that they become steadily more commercial as the Summer of Love mutates into the Me Decade. During that same decade, though, Walker continued doing session work. Get ready for a who’s who: Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Quincy Jones, The Jackson 5, Joe Sample, Stanley Turrentine, Cannonball… it’s a long list. He’s highly regarded in Japan, as his discography demonstrates. But if you want more of him immediately, I recommend checking out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74IHXQSWn1A. #2 / Reid Anderson, Dave King and Craig Taborn, “Solar Barges” (King) Golden Valley Is Now (Intakt Records, 2019) Composed by King Reid Anderson (b), Dave King (d), Craig Taborn (keyboards) I’m not that surprised this didn’t capture the attention (or win the affection) of many of you who auditioned this BFT. If the Walker track represents an improviser pushing against pop music’s constraints (musical, structural, emotional), then this track — and LP — represents improvisers leaning into the same. I find King to be a bit too obtrusive, TBH, but I picked this track because of Craig Taborn’s contributions. He might be my favorite contemporary pianist. What he does here with color and timbre sounds simple enough… but it’s not. It shows that he has an orchestral imagination. As noted, I also like to think that it’s something of an homage to the Hammond B3 players of an earlier era. That instrument was a kind of “primitive” (better, proto-)synthesizer, and someone like Shirley Scott really knew how to exploit the range of sounds it was capable of producing. Anyway, an interesting experiment and attempt to do something different with how so much modern music is conceived, created, produced, disseminated, and heard. #3 / Buddy Terry, “The Revealing Time” (Terry) Natural Woman / Natural Soul (Prestige, 1967) Buddy Terry (ts), Woody Shaw (tp), Larry Young (org), Eddie Gladden (d) What can I say that hasn’t already been said better by others? It’s Terry’s date, so he takes the longest solo. I kind of wish he’d opened up a bit more space for Shaw and Young. But that’s a quibble. What really stands out to me here is Eddie Gladden’s performance. It’s Elvin-like, sure, but it’s also as funky as Idris Muhammed. It’s downright heroic, in fact. Yet I can’t help but think it’s the kind of thing you probably could have witnessed pretty regularly if you followed these guys from Newark gig to Newark gig back in the day. So, yes, great playing that’s also of high historical and anthropological interest. #4 / Martial Solal, “Cinerama” (Solal) Réunion à Paris (Vogue, 1956) Martial Solal (p), Billy Byers (tb), Jimmy Deuchar (tp), Allen Eager (ts), Benoit Quersin (b), Kenny Clarke (d) Jimmy Deuchar — “the Scottish Kenny Dorham” — is always a musician I want to hear more of and from. He absolutely lives up to the high standards I’ve set for him here. 1) Check out the contrapuntal lines he’s playing under the trombone during the head. 2) Check out the beautiful brassy-but-not-too-brassy tone on his solo, which is also incredibly melodic. And Solal… well, this is not straight/conventional bebop. He speaks that vocabulary quite fluently, but he’s a polyglot. E.g., those runs he makes near the end of his solo. Hints there, too, of the freer playing that would shortly become his métier. Maybe more pleasant than exciting per se, this is state-of-the-art stuff for its time that still intrigues. (Bonus: the shadowy Allen Eager sounding vaguely Warne Marsh-like.) #5 / Frank Kimbrough, “Question’s The Answer” (Kimbrough) Solstice (Pirouet, 2016) Frank Kimbrough (p), Jay Anderson (b), Jeff Hirshfield (d) A pianist who left us too soon. I appreciate what big ears he had. As many of you pointed out, this performance shows a strong Paul Bley influence. But I also hear Andrew Hill and Herbie Nichols filtered through Kimbrough’s own sense of pacing and motivic development. I particularly like how this performance teases the listener with resolution. It’s self-interrogatory, and the interrogative was one of Nichols’ pet moods. Plus, what a wonderful touch Kimbrough had! This is not as “outside” as he could be (check out Noumena on Soul Note if you’re so inclined), but this is a fine example of jazz that’s both post-modern and recognizably swinging. #6 / The Ed Blackwell Project, “Grandma’s Shoes” (Ward) What It Be Like? (Enja, 1994; Recorded, 1992) Ed Blackwell (d), Mark Helias (b), Graham Haynes (cor), Carlos Ward (as) I’ve always enjoyed the heck out of this record and its companion volume (What It Is?), but I’ve struggled to explain why. The energy level here is not high. In fact, I want to say Blackwell sounds rather feeble. But I don’t think his powers really are all that diminished. He’s just rerouted them; they’re coursing through different circuits. He certainly hasn’t lost the pulse or rare ability to accent what the horn soloists are doing (most on display turning Ward’s turn). But I think Haynes plays the most provocative and satisfying music here. A bit of shame that his profile has fallen as low as it has. Relistening to these records has definitely jumpstarted my reassessment of him. #7 / Keith Jarrett, “Take Me Back” (Jarrett) Hamburg ’72 (ECM, 2014; Recorded, 1972) Keith Jarrett (p), Charlie Haden (b), Paul Motian (d) Polarizing? Prone to cheesiness? Often grandstanding? Yes, yes, yes. When Jarrett is on his worst behavior, he’s nigh intolerable. But when he’s good, he can and does show greatness. Enough: let’s talk about the rest of the trio. Is that not one of the most Charlie Haden-like things Haden could have played to lead the bad into the tune? And I did not know Paul Motian could be this… demonstrative? Flashy? I’m not sure I can find the right word for the odd way he keeps this performance both rollicking (like a wave) and propulsive (like a train chugging up the side of a mountain). Of its era? Unrepentantly so, and all the more admirable for it, IMO. Whatever; these three sound like they’re having a good time playing together, and the film footage of this performance bears this out. Watch Motian in particular. Those whoops and hollers aren’t entirely jive. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDvO0Cl3PmM. #8 / Herbie Hancock & Wayne Shorter, “Diane” (Shorter) 1 + 1 (Verve, 1997) Herbie Hancock (p), Wayne Shorter (ss) I don’t think I was capable of appreciating this record when it was first released. There are nuances upon nuances upon nuances here, probably as a consequence of this being music that could only have grown out of the many affinities and experiences these two men shared. The results are chamber music in that sense, but also beyond category. If you’re not ready to accept this music’s terms, it’s going to disappoint you. But if you allow yourself to be the third (silent) instrument Hancock and Shorter are playing, it rewards repeated engagement. And it takes that level of engagement, not consumption. (Although you can treat the entire record like a very long drink of cool water.) #9 / Paul Jeffrey, “Ina” (Jeffrey) Family (Mainstream, 1972) Paul Jeffrey (ts), Hamiet Bluiett (bs, fl), J. C. Williams (b cl), Joe Gardner (tp, flgh), Stuart Butterfield (frh), Bob Stewart (tuba), George Cables (p), Stanley Clarke (b), Wilbur Ware (b), Thelonious Monk, Jr. (d) I’m tempted to say that, if Paul Jeffrey had waited a few years, he could have been Ricky Ford. That’s not fair, and I mean that mostly in terms of Jeffrey’s reputation. The Mingus is strong with this one, but you can hear the lessons Jeffrey learned from Monk, too. Commanding is what I want to call it. If it didn’t connect with you emotionally, I understand why; there is a cerebral quality to it, and it very much a showcase for the leader’s tenor. (No complaints from me there.) But I encourage you to go back and listen to the dialogue between Stanley Clarke and Wilbur Ware. Deep. From Valerie Wilmer’s liner notes: “Wilbur Ware (...) supplies accents on some of the tracks while Stanley Clarke (...) does most of the straightforward ‘walking’.” #10 / Oliver Lake, “I Would Like To” (Lake) Impala (Gramavision, 1987) Oliver Lake (as), Geri Allen (p), Santi Debriano (b), Pheeroan ak Laff (d) Has Oliver Lake gotten lost in the shuffle of musicians of his generation? Maybe. This performance dates from the period of his greatest visibility. He’s made better music since, I think, but I very much appreciate what these Gramavision records (Gallery, Other Side, Again and Again) set out to accomplish: to chart a path forward that wasn’t beholden to any particular jazz orthodoxy. This isn’t his duets with Julius Hemphill, and it’s not a David Sanborn record, either. But it glances in those directions along with many others. Lots of angles, let’s say. Geri Allen gets it. Complex playing that somehow lends even more clarity to the vision being articualted. (Maybe it’s a M-Base thing…) #11 / Hozan Yamamoto & Karl Berger, “Passing Rain” (Yamamoto) Again and Again (Victor Japan, 1985) Hozan Yamamoto (shakuhachi), Karl Berger (p) I’m trying to remember how I learned about Yamamoto and this record. For me, he and it are one of the more pleasant discoveries I’ve made in the last year. I mean, he recorded with Tony Scott on Music For Zen Meditation, so I should have known who he was. But I did not make the connection. In any event, this is some serious virtuosity. Just all of the expressive stuff he’s doing… lovely, and not showy. Everything he does serves the piece of music he and Berger, who offers the incredibly sensitive support you’d expect, are building. Yamamoto made another record with Yosuke Yamashita and Masahiko Togashi I’d very much like to hear. It’s in my YouTube queue, and you can add it to yours, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSOrCeJMyR0. #12 / Frank Rehak, “Insomnia” (Liston) Jazzville Vol. 2 (Dawn, 1957) Frank Rehak (tb), Melba Liston (tb, arr), Marty Flax (bs), Walter Davis Jr. (p), Nelson Boyd (b), Carlie Persip (d) Bass! How low can you go? The Afro-Cuban-esque (Diz connections abound here) head does sound like it could have spring from Sun Ra’s imagination, but the hard swing that follows is very East Coast. A fascinating mix of the fuzzy and the precise (Persip was always such a crisp player), and a fine reminder not to sleep on the talents of one Melba Liston. I believe she takes the second trombone solo, but I can’t confirm that. Maybe someone else can. #13 / Rob Schneiderman, “Deacceleration” (Eddie Harris) Keeping’ In The Groove (Reservoir, 1996) Rob Schneiderman (p), Rufus Reid (b), Akira Tana (d) OK, this sounds conventionally hard-boppish enough… until you hear the source material. (Which you can here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CatcJcVeaBI). I mean, as an act of translation, it’s impressive, even if Schneiderman and company are straightening out some of the more interesting kinks in Harris’s original. Maybe the whole thing is clever, but I don’t find it merely facile. Schneiderman is too smart for that. He reminds me a bit of Dick Katz here. Technically capable, of course, but not a “burner” so much as a prober of harmonic nooks and crannies. Do I also hear a Cedar Walton influence? I think I do, as much as others do Barry Harris (or Bud filtered through Barry Harris). Schneiderman’s run of Reservoir records from the 1990s and into the early 2000s continue in this vein if you don’t know them but like what you hear here. I remember Dark Blue, a quintet date with Ralph Moore and Brian Lynch, standing out. Thanks again for listening and discussing these 13 tracks!
  2. https://thomkeith.net/index.php/blindfold-tests/ Enjoy! I don't really have a preamble for these 13 tracks. Let's call it a miscellany.
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