Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ok Nok...Kongo - Moonstone Journey (1999)

On Moonstone Journey, the fine Danish avant-gardists of OK Nok...Kongo play compositions by an American expatriate and Coltrane/Shepp alum, saxophonist John Tchicai. The Danish expression "OK Nok" roughly translates to "A-OK," and "Kongo" is the African nation from which Tchicai’s father hailed. Joined by Tchicai himself, the group sets out to explore the elliptic space between comfort and unfamiliarity, between the known and the unknown.

Tchicai’s pieces range from the bright, Ornette/Don Cherry-style swing of "Moonstone Journey" and "Climbing the Mountain" to the abstraction of "The Frog and the Snake" and "Finding the Path." Somewhere in between falls the relatively relaxed, quasi-latin groove that animates "A Chaos With Some Kind of Order" and "Holy Coordinator." "Spirals of Ruby" reveals yet another of Tchicai’s facets: funk that could almost be classified as M-BASE. The final track, "Monk Me," is the only one not written by Tchicai, but rather by saxophonist Thomas Agergaard.

The soloists change from track to track, ensuring sonic variety throughout the album. Tchicai and Agergaard play dueling sopranos on "A Chaos...." Altoist Peter Fuglsang growls and swings on the title cut, while trombonist Mads Hyhne and tenorist Tchicai take turns "Climbing the Mountain." Guitarist Niclas Knudsen dons his Sonny Sharrock hat for "Finding the Path" and provides tasteful, Rosenwinkel-like comping on "Moonstone Journey" "Holy Coordinator," and "Monk Me." "The Frog and the Snake" features cornetist Kasper Tranberg, who solos unaccompanied until joined by Knudsen on guitar. (Bassist Nils Davidsen is erroneously given solo credit on this track.) "Hypothesis" is a showcase for Fuglsang on clarinet, Tchicai on tenor, and Davidsen on bass. And "At the Lotus Lake" finds Fuglsang again on clarinet weaving a slightly ominous web with Agergaard on flute.

Aside from a curiously long space in between tracks, there’s little with which to find fault. This music swings, grooves, and goes "out" in just the right proportion. The players can handle anything that’s thrown at them. And there’s humor, too, although hopefully not unintentional. Throughout "A Chaos...," several band members deliver carefully timed, cryptic spoken-word passages: "Footprints going east, some west/ Giant steps going south, nine million prints going north/ A chaos with some kind of order/ patterns in the sand made by you, by me, by dogs, cats, birds and other... creatures/ a chaos with some kind of order." Those wacky Danes. David Adler ~ AAJ

Thomas Agergaard; Soprano Sax, Tenor Sax, Flute: 
Martin Andersen; Drums: 
Niclas Knudsen; Guitar: 
Kasper Tranberg; Cornet: 
Nils Davidsen; Bass: 
Mads Hyhne; Trombone: 
Peter Fuglsang; Alto Sax, Clarinet: 
John Tchicai; Soprano Sax, Tenor Sax.

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Ok Nok Kongo - Ok Nok Kongo + 3 Jokers - Plays Thomas Agergard and John Tchicai (1995-97)

Staffan Svenson Trumpet, vocal
Kasper Tranberg Trumpet, vocal
Mads Hyhne Trombone
Jakob Dinesen Tenor Saxophone
Peter Fuglsang alto Saxophone
Thomas Agergaard Tenor Saxophone, Flute
John Tchicai Tenor Saxophone
Magriet Naber piano
Niclas Knudsen Guitar
Mark Oi Guitar
Martin Andersen drums
Nils Davidsen double bass

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bheki Mseleku - Star Seeding (1995)

South African multi-instrumentalist Bheki Mseleku has picked bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins for this session, and they really lift the music to new heights for the leader. Known primarily as a pianist, Mseleku plays a lot of overdubbed tenor sax on the date, ranging from breezy Stan Getz romanticism to Joe Henderson-like lyrical bluesiness, both styles are quite attractive. Mseleku's piano playing is world class, elegant, mostly understated, dancing, lyrical, and very bluesy. The music is mainstream jazz-oriented as opposed to township influenced. Of the ten originals from Mseleku's pen, two reflect the Stan Getz bossa construct: "The Love of the Gods" and "The Sun Race Arise" have that breathy quality typical of this subgenre. More bluesy and less legato and animated is the easy swinger for sax teacher Joe Allard titled "Mister Allard," with its sax and piano unison lines, and the clearly "Nardis"-like phrasings used on the good swinging romp "L.A. Soul Train Blues." The title track has a quirkier melody than the rest, and more Bud Powell-like bebop phrasings within an easy swinging framework, and Mseleku overdubs tenor sax, guitar, and vocal over his piano for the 7/4 modal "Thula Mtwana," a deeply spiritual near Yoruban chant. The piano-bass-drums trio selections have him paraphrasing "Naima" during a brighter, more upbeat "Ballad for the Saints," using a ballad-to-waltz, slow-to-quicker pacing on "The Age of the Divine Mother," and evoking straight-ahead jazz-based, downhearted blues inflections on the steady ballad "Melancholy in Cologne." There's also a solo piano piece, the cascading, tumbling lyricism on "Echoes of the Winds of Truth." With smaller ensembles Mseleku has made some bold music, but stripped to a trio and adding his personal touch, Mseleku has struck a chord with his muse on this truly beautiful recording. ~ Michael G. Nastos.

Cedar Walton Quartet - Third Set (1978)

1978, Steeplechase

Cedar Walton Quartet - Second Set (1978)

1978, Steeplechase

Cedar Walton Quartet - First Set (1978)

1978, Steeplechase

Art Farmer Quintet featuring Clifford Jordan - Live at Sweet Basil (1992)

Lee Konitz Quartet - Jazz Nocturne (1992)

Ricky Ford – American-African Blues (1991)

Bass – Milt Hinton
Drums – Ben Riley
Piano – Jaki Byard
Tenor Saxophone – Ricky Ford

1. American-African Blue (1st Version)  10:56
2. Environ  7:01
3. Of  8:14
4. Complex Harmony  6:41
5. Descent  8:36
6. Mostly Arco  5:52
7. Encore  8:54
8. American-African Blues (2nd Version)  7:22

Recorded live at Birdland, New York City, September 16, 1991.

Cedar Walton Trio - Manhattan Afternoon (1992)

Ricky Ford - Manhattan Blues (1989)

Ricky Ford - Saxotic Stomp (1987)

Bheki Mseleku - Timelessness (1993)

On Bheki Mseleku's American label debut, jazz greats Joe Henderson, Abbey Lincoln, Pharoah Sanders, and Elvin Jones, plus up-and-comers Kent Jordan and Rodney Kendrick, join the South African-born London resident and his trio mates Michael Bowie and Marvin "Smitty" Smith for a diverse program of Mseleku originals. And the stars make their presence felt. The uptempo title track has one of the best Henderson solos heard anywhere. The beautiful "Through the Years" features Lincoln's lyrics and a heartfelt vocal. Sanders contributes some forceful tenor sax on the joyous "Yanini," while the bouncy "Homeboyz" puts the percussive piano vamp of Kendrick under Mseleku's alto sax. As for Jones, the drum legend proves he is also a master of brushes and soft bass drum on the introspective "My Passion." Mseleku primarily plays McCoy Tyner-influenced piano on this recording, but his tenor and alto sax work are more than adequate. Timelessness is an impressive American label debut for this talented artist. ~ Greg Turner. 

Ricky Ford - Future's Gold (1983)

Bass – Ray Drummond
Drums – Jimmy Cobb
Electric Guitar – Larry Coryell
Piano – Albert Dailey
Saxophone – Ricky Ford

1.  A-Flat Now        4:39
2.  You Don't Know What Love Is        5:56
3.  Samba De Caribe        4:30
4.  Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat        3:15
5.  Future's Gold        3:55
6.  Knowledge        6:11
7.  Centenarian Waltz        4:45

Recorded at Van Gelder Studio, February 9, 1983.

Saxemble - Saxemble (1995)

James Carter-asx, tsx, bsx
Cassius Richmond-asx
Frank Lowe-tsx
Bobby LaVell-tsx
Michael Marcus-manzello, bass saxophone
Alex Harding-bsx
Cindy Blackman-d

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David Liebman - Setting The Standard (1992)