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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.  



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Great stuff, thanks.  Have owned both the Hayes albums for decades in various configurations.   Love the one with Shaw, find much of interest in the other.  Funny, I am not familar at all with that Junior Cook album.  I was in a buying hiatus when it came out, and apparently missed it in the flood of early 90's CD reissues.  Sounds like that Dana Hall raises an age-old questions of what to do about jazz albums that have like one attractive cut.  Are they worth the purchase price?  Are they worth the shelf space?  What will ever make one think to go play them?  But that is a fine cut, for sure.  Never heard of Hall, though I know of every other player on the album (Stafford is a Philly fixture @ Temple University).  I actually like Blake's playing quite a bit on the MIngus cut.  Many decades ago, I worked with a woman who had attended Sumner High School in St. Louis with John Hicks (and Annie Mae Bullock - aka Tina Turner).  She told me that Hicks had planned to settle into being a studio musician after studying at Berklee, but that his parents pushed him to use his talents to a more public degree.  We can be greatful to them, as he was a great jazz pianist!   Saw him live twice - once with Bobby Hutcherson Quartet at Penn's Landing in 1988, and once with Mingus Dynasty at the Painted Bride Art Center a few years later.  He was wonderful both times. I've heard other stuff by Lupri that has also caught my ear, need to explore him further!   Thom, thanks for the excellent BFT.  Is that Mingus set a CD?  Cover looks like a DVD.

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Wow, that's an interesting reveal! Somehow I didn't catch that Nisha was on there twice, nor did was I able to identify tracks from two albums that I have (the Malachi Thompson and the Corey Wilkes)! Oy. Good stuff. Very clever throwing in a couple of play alongs too.

I really like Dana Hall's drumming a lot... have seen him play a couple of times in Chicago, once as a sideman with a group I didn't really care for overall, but he stood out as a great player. I should check that album out.

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Thom, I'm interested in picking up that Mingus play along set.  I see several different versions of it, in different keys.  I'm not a musician, so don't know how to interpret that.  Any suggestions on what to get/what to avoid for pure listening purposes?

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Glad for a reminder to go into the stacks for some Junior Cook solo work! I've listened to the Steeplechases much more than the other labels

(and in the end you've convinced me that the Louis Hayes LP, which I've pondered before on discogs, is not worth it even if available for a buck. I prefer Strozier of an earlier era, and Thomas only on his blues CD with Houston Person. YMMV.)

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11 hours ago, tkeith said:

Ironically, I love Strozier of the 70s (particularly Remember Me), but also love the earlier work, particularly with McCoy and John Gilmore.

For sure on both counts.  This is the Tyner album.  Thad Jones also on it.  Quite an unexpected front line.

Image result for mccoy tyner today and tomorrow

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