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Makin' Whoopee: Tribute to the King Cole Trio
Hamiet Bluiett’s heartfelt tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio—by far the most original I’ve ever heard. Bluiett describes his inspiration: “I wanted to focus on Nat as a pianist, not as a vocalist. He was a formidable pianist, ‘anointed’ as they say in the church.
He could get to your soul like no other.” Hamiet’s joined here by contrabass giant Keter Betts blending warmly with Rodney Jones’ sweet acoustic guitar—or with Ed Cherry’s bluesy electric guitar. A perfect intro to Bluiett’s stunning, huge baritone sound.
The breathtaking balladry on “These Foolish Things” and “Sweet Lorraine” is leavened by foot-patting swingers like “Walkin’ My Baby Home” or “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You”. This is one of my two or three best-sounding studio recordings. A Fi SuperDisc. (#04832)
I think this is my favorite of the new issues from Mapleshade. Obviously, it is an homage to the Nat King Cole Trio. Tasty it is too. ...The disc is a pure joy from beginning to end. Sax, bass and guitar, intimately recorded. Great sax sound; meaty, big and bouncy, as it were. Sure there is comfort in the old songs, but there is also fresh life infused by this talented group. Nicely done..
You've got to hand it to Hamiet Bluiett for undertaking a jazz tribute to Nat King Cole without even inviting a piano player. Nevertheless, rather remarkably, the venerable Bluiett ends up offering a heartfelt tribute to Cole's trio, with his robust baritone sax taking the place of the entire 88 keys of the piano. The CD is superb overall, but one cut of particular and immediate note is the version of Route 66, reinterpreted as a cross-country journey set as a jazz poem. (Dig how when they get out west, the percussionist comes in with Indian tom-tom beats, or how Hamiet's sax impersonates car horns to represent the freeway). It's remarkable: The kind of unexpected cut that can make a good jazz show into a truly great one, and one of the main reasons whyMakin' Whoopee is a real keeper.
December 22, 1997
A skilled virtuoso who revels in outrageously flatulent tones, a balladeer of grace and poetic means whose uptempo flights court incoherence, an exacting formalist with a no less unruly musical temperament, a master of the cavernous tonalities of the baritone saxophone who routinely extracts piercing high-end notes more suited to the soprano saxophone, an avant-gardist with the heart of a traditionalist, Hamiet Bluiett has built a career fraught with contradiction.
Though Bluiett first drew serious attention working with Charles Mingus during the 1970s, he is probably best known for supplying the earthy tones that have rooted the World Saxophone Quartet over the past two decades. Recording prolifically with that trailblazing group, as well as maintaining a high profile as a solo artist, Bluiett has certainly earned his marks as the most acclaimed living baritone saxophonist in jazz. It's a notoriously demanding instrument that attracts few figures from any realm of jazz, traditionalist or free, let alone those who sip deeply from both streams.
Live at the Village Vanguard: Ballads and Blues [Soul Note] and Makin' Whoopee [Mapleshade] catch Bluiett wrapped in traditionalist garb, which in his case shouldn't be confused with formal wear. Both recordings feature well-crafted arrangements, intriguing selection of songs, and plenty of exceptional improvising. Yet both are also crammed with the leader's trademark eccentricities, stylistic quirks that trip you up and jostle your attention just when things are getting a mite too comfortable.
Makin' Whoopee, a tribute to Nat King Cole, may not rattle the rafters like the Vanguard recording, but it's no mellow make-out record, either. Flanked only by bassist Keeter Betts and guitarist Ed Cherry on most tracks, Bluiett gets to flaunt his mighty tone and walloping delivery. More apparent here than on Ballads and Blues, though, is Bluiett's assaultive sense of humor. It turns out our man is a card-carrying post-modernist, every ready to pop the illusionistic balloon of a romantic ballad with a bowel-clearing discharge of a note sure to break anybody's mood. In other words, Bluiett can forget about that invitation to join Natalie Cole on Unforgettable 2. Not that Bluiett's fooling around. It's just that virtuosity without levity is a no-win proposition for him.
There's gorgeous saxophone playing throughout Whoopee, but it's all charged with a knowing wink of the eye that reminds you that a living, breathing, rambunctious personality is behind the horn, making singular interpretive decisions that may not fit — or just plain dash — your tried and true notions. Reverence has its place, but for Bluiett, what's important is saying your piece.
The Mellow Side Of Clifford Jordan
An intimate glimpse at the Chicago tenor sax giant at the height of his earthy, blues-steeped sound. I recorded these historic duo and trio sessions during 1989 and 1990. They feature Clifford jamming with his closest musical friends, including Julian Priester, Larry Willis, Chris Anderson and Carter Jefferson. A warm mixture of instruments including trumpet, trombone, guitar and piano. Include memorable, quiet renditions of “Soul Eyes,” “Embraceable You,” “Daydream” and “Trees”. And this is Fi Magazine’s Best Sounding Jazz Disc of 1998. (#05032)
Clifford Jordan, soprano & tenor sax
All About Jazz:
The jazz world lost one of its great personalities when Clifford Jordan died in 1993. These informal, exceptionally intimate sessions, recorded at Mapleshade's Maryland studio between 1987 and 1991, capture Jordan's big, warm-toned tenor sax in a variety of settings ranging from sax / piano and sax / guitar duos to organ trios and four-horn jams. The album focuses mainly on slow blues and ballads, including Gershwin's “Embraceable You,” Mal Waldron's “Soul Eyes,” and a Jordan original, “Jug's Groove,” dedicated to fellow Chicago sax legend Gene Ammons.
Given that most of these tunes were called and arranged on the spot, including two freely improvised numbers, the performances here are extraordinarily well-developed. Among the talented cast joining Jordan, several of whom just happened to stop by the studio and were invited to sit in, are pianist Larry Willis, organist Mike LeDonne, guitarist Rudy Turner, trombonist Julian Priester, and saxophonist Carter Jefferson. Percussion is provided on a couple of tracks by Nasser Abadey, playing an assortment of pots and vases found around the studio. Of special note are the contributions of Kenny Reed, a little-known Baltimore-area trumpet player, and Chris Anderson, the reclusive pianist and former teacher of Herbie Hancock, who joins Jordan for a haunting take on Ellington and Strayhorn's “Daydream.”
Jordan's playing throughout these sessions is a joy. His rich, bluesy sound evokes a lifetime of jazz experience, yet always remains true to his Chicago roots. This beautifully recorded album is a fitting tribute to a departed master.
|NORRIS TURNEY QUARTET:
Big Sweet N' Blue
The Tracking Angle:
reviewed by Fred Kaplan
Mapleshade has garnered wide praise for its sonically pure recordings. Pierre Sprey records straight to two-track analogue with never more than a handful of mikes, minimal cable-lengths, no EQ, no echo plates, no mixing board. This disc stands as Sprey's most lifelike disc to date and that's saying a great deal. Norris Turney, who took over Johnny Hodges' seat in the last Duke Ellington band, has as big and sweet and rich a sound on the alto sax as you're likely to hear and, from the first blaring note, Sprey captures it with jaw-dropping fidelity. The traps slam, the cymbals shimmer; the bass plucks, the wood resonates; the piano hammers and glows. You have to go back to some of those Ellington/Hodges LPS, the original six-eye Columbias, to get such a warm, detailed sound.
Check out the rest of the band: pianist Larry Willis, a Mapleshade staple, who tosses off chords as if they were bouquets;Walter Booker, who's played bass for Cannonball Adderley, Sarah Vaughan and Pharaoh Sanders, to name a few; and Jimmy Cobb, the drummer on Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, At The Blackhawk and other gems. (You'll recognize the cymbal style.) They play standards, mainly from the Ellington book. Nothing adventurous but utterly authoritative. Music for that rainy day.
from QuarterNotes by Wes Phillips
Big, Sweet 'N Blue describes Norris Turney's alto sound perfectly. It's huge but sweetly expressive after all, he's the guy who replaced Johnny Hodges in the Ellington band! Hard to believe this is his first record as a leader, but it was worth the wait. Joined by veterans Jimmy Cobb (a member of Cannonball Adderly and Miles Davis's bands, and the only surviving player from Kind of Blue), Walter Booker (Adderly, Monk), and Larry Willis (Adderly, Jackie McLean, Stan Getz, Carmen McRae...), he turns in a masterful date, full of richly nuanced swagger.
I can't believe that Sprey has managed to capture sax sound this big and powerful, while making it sound absolutely real. Turney's tone is breath made flesh: round, warm, solid, and-yes!-sweet. Willis's piano serves as the sax's perfect foil: softer and more liquid, but just as present. The rhythm section is a force of nature; one can hear the wind and running water in Cobb's brush work, and Booker's bass is as deep and solid as bedrock. Don't miss this one.
Edited by Hi-Finthen - 3/2/13 at 7:49am
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As The Roots Undo by Circle Takes The Square. Discovered this band recently, and this album is pure genious. 5/5
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