[JPL] Dark, Quiet Bebop and Folkish Metal

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Mon Sep 24 16:03:03 EDT 2007

September 23, 2007
Dark, Quiet Bebop and Folkish Metal 
Miles Davis Quintet

Live recordings of the mid-’60s Miles Davis Quintet
are easy to find, even those made just within the
yearlong span when the saxophonist George Coleman was
in the band. But “Live at the 1963 Monterey Jazz
Festival” — one of a series of live recordings
released by the organization’s own label, Monterey
Jazz Festival Records, to commemorate its 50th
anniversary this year — is killer nonetheless,
familiar set list and all. (Anyone who knows even the
band’s officially released material has heard many
other versions of “Stella by Starlight,” “Walkin’ ”
and “Autumn Leaves.”) It’s still the beginning stages
here for this band, one of jazz’s prime catalysts. Yet
the musicians are cranking hard, changing tempos and
rearranging form as they go along, and doing it with
such musicality that their actions don’t feel
dislocating at all. You can scrutinize every member of
the band, which also includes Herbie Hancock on piano,
Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums. It’s a
brilliant performance, collaboratively and

Gil Coggins

The songs on “Better Late Than Never” (Smalls), by the
pianist Gil Coggins, are fairly bright and confident,
but the overwhelming feeling of the record is
beautifully dark. Mr. Coggins, who died in 2004, at
the age of 79, was a member of Harlem’s bebop
fraternity, playing with Miles Davis and Jackie McLean
and Sonny Rollins. This album, from his final
sessions, here and there has phrases and harmonies
particular to his time and the people he ran with, but
it is mostly slow, quiet and deliberate, the opposite
of glibness. It’s a special record, one that seems to
lay open that style of playing and make it more
transparent to the listener. 

Helen Sung

Ms. Sung, a New York pianist, was formed by a
classical background and matured by 10 years of
studying and playing jazz. On “Sungbird” (Sunnyside)
she has found a way to make those two sides produce a
beneficial tension. The line running through the
record is “España, Op. 16,” a beautiful six-part suite
for solo piano written in 1890 by the Spanish composer
Isaac Albéniz that draws on rhythms and phrases from
Andalusian folk music. She alternates parts of the
suite with adaptations of the same parts for jazz
quartet, varying hugely in their strategies. It’s a
little like a homework assignment, but her skill as a
pianist and the beauty of her source material make it

High on Fire 

High on Fire valorizes metal as pounding, medium-tempo
drones and trances. On “Death Is This Communion”
(Relapse), the riffs work their way through long-form
songs as the rhythms change underneath, and Matt Pike,
the guitarist and vocalist, sings in a scoured voice
that has grown more and more similar to that of Lemmy,
from Motorhead. The group has added some folkish
acoustic-guitar harmony to its sound and some
grandiose echo on the soloing, and the record’s audio
quality sounds less deep-fried than in the past,
making it seem at times as if the band’s rugged, dirty
simplicity is slipping away. It’s not over, though;
the deeper you go into the record, the more reassured
you become that these musicians know what they’re
great at.


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

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