May 19, 2014

Chick Corea Complete Is Sessions on Vinyl: Is and Sundance on Solid State and Groove Merchant

Both of these albums from Chick Corea that comprise the Complete "Is" Sessions are treated barely as an afterthought in the All Music Guide.

The review site does at least give favorable marks for the Blue Note compilation. Though, one wonders what happened between the original vinyl releases and the compiling of the 2002 reissue, why now do they like this?

I will tell you right now, both of these sessions from 1969 "Is" and Sundance are both absolute must haves if you are an avid post bop fan.

I marvel at the freshness of the 45 year old music, just 4 years after the second great quintet of Miles Davis presided over the Plugged Nickel, and only 4 years after the Coltrane quartet disbanded, this music was created. Again, 45 years old is this music!

Chick Corea brings together a very interesting melange of free jazz, modal jazz, and electronic jazz to the preceding, just a hint of jazz rock only.

I love Corea's use of Fender Rhodes electric piano on both albums, especially the free stuff, I don't remember electric piano on too many free jazz albums, has Cecil Taylor ever went that route? Oh Man I would have to hear that!

The track "Song of the Wind" on Sundance reminds me of a Benny Golson tune, maybe Killer Joe would be a good way to describe it. 

You have Hubert Laws playing his flute and Horace Arnold on skins, and the massively underrated Woody Shaw on trumpet, can't believe All Music give this a star and 1/2, crazy!

The Solid State Records release Is is much freer and pushes things out to the Andrew Hill Grachan Moncur III side of the spectrum.  Definitely a notch further OUT than say for example the typical Blue Note release at the time.

"Jamala" from Is will surely wake you up to the fact we have some serious free jazz going on here, lots of over blowing atonal stuff, perfect! Benny Maupin is insane on this release, "you do realize Maupin is insanely underrated right?"

How could someone play on this track "Jamala" and sound convincing on tenor, then play on albums like his own Slow Traffic to the Right?

Can't say enough about Bennie, bass clarinet on Miles' Bitches Brew, and more Tenor on Lee Morgan's Live at the Lighthouse, just a player when I see his name, it's gonna be good.

Complete Is Sessions

Dave Holland provides his usual solid bass on both sessions, again these guys could do it all, think about it, they were recording groundbreaking stuff with Miles like Bitches Brew and In A silent Way, then wood shedding this stuff?

 An amazing time to have lived, I wonder if Chick thinks back with a big smile thinking about that? There sure as hell doesn't seem to be any Miles' around right now in jazz.

The bully pulpit seems to be filled with neo-conservatives who like the safety of what they're familiar with.

Seems like all the music to be discovered has already been played, I know that's not true, actually European bands like Jaga Jazzist keep me on my toes, when I think no one has anything fresh to say.

I went ahead and included both of these vinyl copy LP covers for Is and Sundance for this post, but I am listening to the Complete "Is" Sessions CD's through my iPod as I write this. Truthfully I can't complain with the sound, sound is on par with the vinyl.

 You can get the download pretty cheap on Amazon, but if you need physical copies, the vinyl might actually be cheaper than this double CD.

Like I mentioned above, if you are a post bop/free jazz nut you need this, also fans of Woody Shaw, Bennie Maupin, and Horace Arnold should really have this music one way or another. If you are iffy on the free jazz stuff, stick with Sundance, and let Is go by for another day.

May 13, 2014

Swingin' Latin Style With Stan Kenton's Orchestra

One of the Early complaints about Stan's first forays into Latin Music was it wasn't authentic enough.

Stan say in the Artistry in Rhythm DVD, something was always missing. Time signatures, or rhythm styles would be just enough of kilter to disappoint those who expected more.

Miles Davis once said: "You couldn't play black music if you weren't black." I suspect Latin music would be much the same. The authenticity is what you need, the deep down in the heart of it folk music, what drives and inspires you side of it.

For example I can only think of a few white blues guitarists that played like the great black players, Stevie Ray Vaughan is one, and another is Johnny Winter. I have grown to really dig Winter over the years, pretty authentic sounding blues guitar.

 I always thought the British guitarists were missing something on that side of it, great guitarists no doubt, but Vaughan and Winter were closer to the source I think, their vibrato and phrasing is more authentic, maybe I am splitting hairs?

Sort of like they are able to tap into a feeling, the emotion that is so elusive for the British players "IS" within them.  So I get it, the need for the real deal feeling when playing any folk music, Kenton's Cuban music was no different.

I also realized Miles was talking about the life experiences of the Black man. Jim Crow in full swing, and civil rights just a hope in the hearts of those concerned. Miles meant those white guys couldn't play black music authentically because they didn't experience the same things blacks did. I suppose Stan was having the same issues with Cuban music?

I think over the years, as other races inter mingled and gained empathy for one another, along with respecting each others musically, they were able to at least put on the shoes of the other guy to some extent.

Stan Kenton certainly did not share much in common with the Latin musicians in and around New York City Circa 1950, but Stan was wise enough to listen to those people who always complained that his first attempts at Cuban infused orchestra music weren't authentic.

The best thing that ever happened to Stan Kenton in my opinion was when arranger Johnny Richards teamed up with Stan. Richards, a Mexican immigrant and influenced by Duke Ellington, was asked by Stan to create an authentic Latin suite that would satisfy those Latin musicians in New York.

Cuban Fire (1956) might be the greatest Kenton album, and may just be the most important and influential Latin big band album ever made. Cuban Fire was so well received, that Richards was offered and accepted a contract to lead his own band and record for Bethlehem Records.

Richards went on to record some of his own classics, like Wide Range and Rites of Diablo, Johnny is one of the real underrated band leaders of all time.

Kenton nearly matched the success of Cuban Fire with Viva Kenton in 1959, and Artistry in Bossa Nova from 1963, both expanding on the authentic world music vibe that Kenton discovered.

Funny isn't it, how Kenton has the reputation of not swinging? I don't know about you, but you can't swing too much harder than Cuban Fire in my mind, I guess swinging is in the ear of the hearer.

I can't think of much after 1956 that I have heard from Kenton that didn't swing,  sure he wasn't swingin' like a mother, like Buddy Rich was in the 60's..... But his music has always been enjoyable to me.

These pictured vinyl copies can be found on eBay in near mint condition for 10 dollars a piece if you shop around, you can always find nice playing Kenton LP lots for sale at good prices.

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