by: Hobart Taylor
3.5.7. Ensemble - Amongst the Smokestacks and Steeples - (Milk Factory Productions)
Out of Chicago comes this sometime trio, sometime quintet, some time septet, (and or)( more or less) (hence the name).
New York may be the capital of the Jazz Business, but I would argue that Chicago is the capital of new jazz. 3.5.7. like the AACM pioneers or the Delmark artists like Exploding Star Orchestra don't try to fit the idiom into the world of popular music,(a seriously lost cause), but instead listen to their hearts and the world around them. What emerges is a music of a certain purity, whether it comes from blues based influences, experimental sounds, rock, or twentieth century classical. This is the real stuff. All of it makes you a better person for having listened to it.
Roy McGrath - Martha - (JL Music)
While we are in Chicago let's check out Roy McGrath. Saxohonist McGrath with a killer band, Joaquin Garcia, Piano, Kitt Lyles, bass, and Gustavo Cortinas, Drums, plays straight ahead without undue elaboration, but like Art Blakey's classic bands the musicianship on this recording is so extraordinary and disciplined, tonal and stylistic shifts are seamless. Latin jazz riffs emerge from some standard like "Night and Day" and all of a sudden the listener is walking and chewing gum at the same time. The ballads suck you in ("Martha"), and the whole project appeals like the libations on the top shelf behind the bar. Check out McGrath's meditations on the long tone in sax playing, a cogent and wise analysis.
David Friesen & Glen Moore - Bactrian - (Origin)
Bassist Friesen is a marquee name and joined here by fellow bassist Glen Moore, they divvy up the channels, Friesen left, Moore right, and like the two humped camel of the title, (occasionally with piano ), they wend their way across musical landscapes. Bass is hard to play on the radio, the fidelity of the sound both as transmitted and received can be unpredictable, and these are basically bass duets. Having said that, these tunes are rich, jaunty, meditative, and and enveloping. Roll one medicinal up, or as I would, brew some herbal tea, breathe deeply, enjoy.
Clare Fischer - Out of the Blue - (Clavo Records)
Pianist Fischer was famous for arranging the music of the "Hi-Lo's", then working with Dizzy Gillespie and Cal Tjader before making a fortune doctoring songs for Michael Jackson, Prince, Paul McCartney,Celine Dion, and Robert Palmer. His piano playing is calmly authoritative, self assured and thus re-assuring. Even if the material is safe as milk, (some of this is just not melodically as interesting as his playing), he has a lot to say with his instrument. When the tunes are strong ("Love's Walk", "Starbright", "Cascade of the Seven Waterfalls" and his own composition the mind tickling "Novelho"), he is the master teaching us all.
Blue Muse - Live - (Dolphinium Records)
Straight ahead jazz jazz with super melodic touches...my faves, the Brazilian tinged improvisation "Bachionda", the funk filled "They Say", the sweet "Infant Dance", and a fresh and thoughtful cover of the Paul Winter classic "Icarus".