[JPL] Vintage Jazz and Contemporary Keyboards

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 16 18:31:24 EDT 2006

October 15, 2006
Vintage Jazz and Contemporary Keyboards 
Art Blakey

YouTube and Google Video have already made this a good
year for scouting out jazz on film. Now there’s “Jazz
Icons,” a DVD series produced by Reelin’ in the Years
and culled from vintage European television
broadcasts. The first nine releases hold many delights
— a magnificent Ella Fitzgerald, a crisp Quincy Jones
big band — but none more thrilling than a concert by
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers in Brussels in
1958. It is the only known film of the short-lived
version of the band that was assembled by the tenor
saxophonist Benny Golson and included Mr. Golson’s
fellow Philadelphians Lee Morgan on trumpet, Bobby
Timmons on piano and Jymie Merritt on bass. A month
earlier, Blue Note Records had issued their landmark
album, “Moanin’,” and Morgan, playing the title track
in Belgium, begins and ends his solo with the same
tart phrases he used on the recording. He looks and
sounds brilliant, like everyone else in the band. From
start to finish, though, this is Blakey’s show;
somewhere in the climax of “A Night in Tunisia,” he
plays emphatically enough to collapse one of his
cymbal stands. There could hardly be a better capstone
to the concert, which furthers the case for the 1958
Jazz Messengers as one of the fiercest groups of the
hard-bop era.

120 Days

This Norwegian band has a new self-titled debut on
Vice Records, licensed from the Oslo label Smalltown
Supersound. But the sound of 120 Days will not be
especially foreign to anyone who can imagine a
contemporary gloss on Kraftwerk, or a keyboard-heavy
take on the dance-punk of DFA Records. The album’s
lyrics, sung in a straining voice by Adne Meisfjord,
are in English. They tend toward cliché, but that’s
beside the point. “Come Out (Come Down, Fade Out, Be
Gone),” the opening track, is much more noteworthy for
its nine-minute sonic odyssey than for its message,
which is fairly well articulated by the title. The
same could be said for the album, an exercise in deep
focus that achieves its aims through subtle

Ron Miles

The trumpeter Ron Miles is a shadow on the margins of
the jazz mainstream — outside his home base in Denver,
he’s best known as a sideman with the guitarist Bill
Frisell — but that doesn’t mean he lacks a clear
concept as a bandleader or composer. “Stone/Blossom”
is his third release for the Sterling Circle label
(available through sterlingcircle.com), and it’s
actually two good albums, each with a different band.
“Stone” features a standard rhythm section and seven
original songs that often unravel into calm, melodious
abstraction. “Blossom” is a good deal sunnier: it
opens with a guitar arpeggio that briefly suggests the
Mamas and the Papas. It so happens that the album
includes two pop covers from roughly the same era, “I
Woke Up in Love This Morning,” a Partridge Family hit,
and “I’ll Be There,” recorded by the Jackson 5, and
neither feels remotely like a gag. Mr. Miles plays
them with poise, and his seven-piece ensemble, rich
with keyboards and guitars, gives off a luminous haze.

Muhal Richard Abrams, George Lewis, Roscoe Mitchell

Conceived and centered in Chicago but well represented
in New York and elsewhere, the Association for the
Advancement of Creative Musicians has always
encompassed a wider breadth of styles than its de
facto flagship, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, could
ever manage alone. “Streaming,” a new album on Pi
Recordings, documents a three-way conversation between
the pianist Muhal Richard Abrams (the movement’s
patriarch), the multireedist Roscoe Mitchell (of Art
Ensemble renown) and the trombonist George Lewis (of
Columbia University tenure). Their interaction runs
deep, even in the plentiful stretches of the album
unattached to any tempo or key. There are jingling
bells, creaky drones, birdlike twitters, roomy pauses;
there are also moments of startling clarity. The full
effect registers only when the album is experienced


“Hello Everything,” the title of Squarepusher’s latest
effort for Warp Records, could be read to imply either
Zenlike openness or kitchen-sink clutter. Given the
track record of Squarepusher, the electronic auteur
also known as Tom Jenkinson, you’d have reason to
suspect the clutter. Thankfully the only track that
bears out that suspicion is “The Modern Bass Guitar,”
a hyperactive tangle of beats and bleeps. The rest of
the album is less twitchy, with crescendos that come
on gradually and melodies that threaten to stick.
Perhaps “Hello Everything” is not Mr. Jenkinson’s most
inventive work, but it’s among his most tuneful, and
the occasional splashes of jazz-funk offer a welcome
dose of organic imprecision. He even manages to rein
in his modern bass guitar technique, while dropping
hints that it’s there.


The producers of “Happy Feet,” an animated children’s
film that Warner Brothers is releasing in November,
wanted a scene in which two emperor penguins sing
“Kiss,” by Prince. (From the looks of the trailer, the
movie involves much singing and dancing, and an awful
lot of penguins.) The artist withheld permission but
puckered up with a new tune, “Song of the Heart,” that
began streaming earlier this month on music.aol.com.
“Step aside, little babies,” he chirps, perhaps
addressing any haters in his new demographic, “and
watch me do my thing.” He’s riding a lite-funk beat,
and there’s a likable horn interlude. But the track
begs the question: What do we need less in 2006,
another cute penguin movie or another glib, desultory
Prince song?


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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