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Columns > Dan Alford - Audio Files

Published: 2008/04/30
by Dan Alford


Quick Picks:
Blue Floyd, Begins – I forgot how much fun this band was
GD, Winterland 1973- These full run box sets are exceptional
WSP, 4/12/08- E: Drivin > Disco > Drivin- ‘nuff said
PAF, 11/6/07- A stellar Tom Thumb > Dixie Down in set I
Wayne Shorter Quartet, 3/28/08- The greatest jazz band on the planet
A quick note that Im dishing out tunes for Stormy Mondays in the Hidden Tracks section of Come check it out.
McCoy Tyner Quartet, McCoy Tyner Quartet
McCoy Tyner is remarkable for any number of reasons, but the one that immediately jumped to mind on even the first listen to 2007s McCoy Tyner Quartet is that hes essentially never changed his tone or approach in 50 years as a premier jazz pianist, and his music is still every bit as vital and enthralling as it was on the first loping stride played alongside John Coltrane. The opening Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit starts with a mesmerizing line from Tyner himself that launches the band into a heady, swirl of sound, bassist extraordinaire Christian McBride thumping out a heavy rumble to pin it down. Joe Lovano, quickly becoming an elder statesman of the saxophone, just flies across the ridges and bounds over gullies, and as the tune winds down, there is Tyner quietly strolling alongside McBride, like hes been there all along. One of the highlights of the disc, which was taken from a New Tears Eve performance at Yoshis in 2006 (parts were broadcast live on NPR), is Sama Layuca, a wild, open-ended Spanish mood piece. The whole band is spot on through the intro, from Jeff Watts high hat to Tyners flourishes, but its when McBride works his way loose to tumble down and scramble back up, finding his own groove, that the group crosses over to what a jam fan would recognize as second set space. The band hints at wrapping itself around the low-end, but shows restraint instead, allowing Lovano to lurk into the misty recesses. This is intense stuff, and there are definite nods to Trane in the half repetitious phrasing and squonking, but again, they hold it back, this time for Tyner, who is in perfect form, equal parts drama and fanciful flights, so that when the quartet finally does makes its way back to the coda, it is glorious.
The rest of the disc includes a wide range of styles, including the joyful Passion Dance complete with a super-cool drum intro, and the long, meditative Search for Peace. It closes with an old, boogie-woogie style Blues on the Corner, and its clear that this band, not unlike jazzs supreme ensemble, the Wayne Shorter Quartet, does not have any single voice, but an equal measure of all four musicians- all are distinct but dynamically balanced; they are individuals and a chorus and something greater than that too. The final track is the lone solo piece, a bit of a change of pace as many Tyner live albums are actually weighted toward individual pieces (such as the stellar Live Under the Sky records), For All We Know. Its gorgeous.
Jay Rodriguez, _Jay Rodriguez _
Jay Rodriguez, an extraordinary woodwind player and musical director, is probably best known for his role in Groove Collective and the NYC groove and jazz scenes, but hes worked with many musical giants from just about every genre, not the least of which is Miles. His self titled album from Kufala Recordings is a live show from Fez in NYC from March of 2003. His backing band is the incredibly hot, entirely overly talented duo of Marco Benevento and Joe Russo (aka The Duo), and in fact the album is as much a Duo release as it is a Jay Rodriguez release as it includes as number of older Duo tunes, such as Darts and Abduction Pose.
The first disc is exceedingly grooved out and tight, with Jay favoring sax over flute. The interaction between the three musicians is fast and furious, and the attention to detail, to starts and stops, to the vibe and the one, is stupendous. Every song is performed expertly, but Abduction Pose is the literal and figurative centerpiece, a dramatically explosive rendition that begs to be heard over and over. The second set is a different beast. While the opening Children of the Light is still heavy and draped with Jays wonderful, creative fluting, the rest of the set includes a massive, 19-minute Raindrops Whisper Words (amazing drumming here) and a closing suite of Electric Bodega Man > The Emperors New Mind > Pure Imagination (Yes, the Willy Wonka song). The music is extreme in its exploration, even self indulgent, loaded with extended jams and solos, not to mention first rate comping from all three performers. It surges and swells, moves in waves and then tsunamis- not hundred foot towers of sound, but true tidal movements that suddenly, simultaneously overwhelm and subvert what was before. Simply put, Jay Rodriguez is still one of the most engaging, groundbreaking and deeply satisfying groove albums yet released.
Charles Lloyd, Sangam
This 2006 release from one of jazzs great experimentalists is a largely free form concert recorded in May of 2004 and features drummer Eric Harland and tabla master and emissary of world music Zakir Hussain- now if that line-up alone doesnt draw your interest The opening Dancing On One Foot begins with Zakir pumping out an up beat rhythm for Lloyd to stretch out over with long streams of plaintive, mid range notes- its like a narrow trail to the interior, to places that are hidden and waiting to be revealed. The music is entirely organic and conversational, Harland rolling and jabbing at his kit in Zakirs poly-rhythms and Zakir teasing classical music riffs- you can jut about see him raise his eyebrows and cock his head to the side, smiling mischievously. The trio winds seamlessly into Tales of Rumi- you can help feel that the songs were largely named and tracked after the fact- which ends with a stunning display of Zakirs lightning fast fingers to make you howl.
The title track rolls and lurches with percussion under Lloyds brawny but gentle saxophone, like three circles spinning separately around the same core, overlapping and shining alone and overlapping again, although it climaxes in another wicked bit of tabla and drums. Nataraj is a piano intro from Lloyd that eases the tone down into a still space for Guman with Zakir on vocals, a delicate, sad voice in a sparse environment. Lloyd echoes the vocals with a wonderfully airy flute. Its all a perfect evocation of mood and brings to mind John McLaughlins mellow Remember Shakti live double disc. In both cases, the recording needs to be addressed in a single sitting in order to access the real scope and sequence of just whats going on.

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