Category Album Reviews

Album Review: Solo Live by Edward Simon

It’s somewhat surprising that Solo Live is Venezualan pianist Edward Simon’s first unaccompanied recording, after a stellar 30-year career in the bands of Greg Osby, Kevin Eubanks, Bobby Watson and Terence Blanchard, and 15 albums as leader. It’s also a testament to the format’s challenges – not all pianists relish having to be the whole […]

Album Review: In His Own Sweet Time by Tommy Flanagan

  Pop/jazz keyboardist/producer/impresario David Foster recently remarked in a podcast that the best jazz players seem to have the ‘big picture’ in mind when they start a solo, with a natural sense of storytelling/structure. It rang a bell when listening to a recently rediscovered 1994 solo concert from piano master Tommy Flanagan, now released by […]

Bruford: One Of A Kind Revisited

In the late 1980s, some ‘long-lost’ cult tracks took on almost mythical status amongst my musician friends and I. There was Frank Zappa’s ‘The Black Page’, Rush’s ‘YYZ’ and ‘La Villa Strangiato’, UK’s ‘In The Dead Of Night’ and Bill Bruford’s ‘Five G’ and ‘Travels With Myself And Someone Else’. Guitarist Allan Holdsworth, who died […]

Album Review: Data Lords by Maria Schneider Orchestra

The ‘political’ jazz concept album has a rich history, taking in Max Roach’s We Insist! and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra through to Sonny Rollins’ more recent Global Warming and Darcy James Argue’s Real Enemies, amongst many more. But multi-award-winning composer/arranger Maria Schneider’s latest collection and critical smash Data Lords could hardly be more timely, […]

Album Review: Truth, Liberty & Soul by Jaco Pastorius

Even as the streaming revolution sweeps all before it, there are a few aspects of physical music that seem to be thriving: vinyl and the ‘historical discovery’. Bass superstar Jaco is now a worthy recipient of both, courtesy of Truth, Liberty & Soul, a complete gig recorded at the Avery Fisher Hall in New York […]

Album Review: Conspiracy by Terje Rypdal

Five seconds of silence and then a slowly-building synth, like the spiralling of winter ghosts, accompanied by a cello-like lead guitar and flat ride cymbal: it could only be the new album by Norwegian six-string pioneer Terje Rypdal. He has forged a unique chamber-jazz/rock sound, strong on atmosphere and melancholy, an instantly recognisable blend of […]

Interview: Bryan Ferry talks about ‘The Jazz Age’

When you think Bryan Ferry, you probably think white tuxedo, Jerry Hall, that beautifully fragile croon and pop/art gems such as ‘Love Is The Drug’ and ‘Let’s Stick Together’ – you probably don’t think jazz. But look deeper into his career and there are many hints of a latent jazzophilia, from Andy Mackay’s snaky soprano […]

Album Review: Is That So? by John McLaughlin/Shankar Mahadevan/Zakir Hussain

It’s taken this writer two months and countless listening sessions to put pen to paper on the subject of Is That So?. But, as the cliché goes, it’s a lot easier to write about something you hate than something you love. Six years in the making, this spellbinding album may just be the most cohesive musical […]

Album Review: Scott Henderson’s People Mover

Look up ‘uncompromising’ in the dictionary, and there’s a good chance you’ll see a photo of guitar great Scott Henderson. If he’d wanted to, he could have enjoyed a long, fruitful career as sideman to the stars – Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea and Jean-Luc Ponty were a pretty decent start – but in the early […]

Album Review: John McLaughlin & Jimmy Herring Live In San Francisco

If this is indeed McLaughlin’s final album, as some recent interviews have intimated, it’s a pretty remarkable one to go out on. There are various reasons for this; it’s the first bona fide full-scale return to Mahavishnu Orchestra material since the final incarnation of that band waved goodbye in 1975; it was recorded live on […]

Rescued From The Vaults: Jason Rebello’s A Clearer View (1990)

This is a fabulous Wayne Shorter-produced album by a London-based piano prodigy who I believe was just 20 when it came out. Rebello’s compositions are certainly influenced by the sax master – anyone who’s spent any time trying to decode the Atlantis album will relish hearing a slightly more accessible version here. But Jason’s touch […]

Album Review: Courtney Pine’s Black Notes From The Deep

A new Courtney album is always a cause for celebration. Since his big-selling debut, 1986’s Journey To The Urge Within, he’s relentlessly pursued sounds of the Black diaspora (jazz, reggae, calypso, drum’n’bass, ska, hip-hop, soca) and also become a respected educator and broadcaster. And yet the London saxophone legend is still somewhat of a divisive […]

Rescued From The Vaults: That’s The Way I Feel Now

Most jazz players don’t really seem to ‘get’ the music of Thelonious Monk. Decent cover versions are hard to come by, of course with some notable exceptions (Steve Khan, Kenny Kirkland, Lynne Arriale, Paul Motian and probably a few more). During the centenary of the genius’s birth, it seems as good a time as any to […]

Rescued From The Vaults: Johnny Guitar Watson’s Ain’t That A Bitch

As well as being a blues pioneer, Johnny Guitar Watson was steeped in bebop and swing; one listen to his version of ‘Witchcraft’ or brilliant guitar solo on ‘Telephone Bill’ should prove that. But there was a lot more to Watson, who died in 1996. Frank Zappa said that listening to ‘Three Hours Past Midnight’ […]

Album Review: Roscoe Mitchell’s Bells For The South Side

The trio is of course one of the staples of jazz. But legendary Art Ensemble Of Chicago/AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) co-founder, saxophonist and composer Roscoe Mitchell has come up with an ingenious concept on his new ECM double album: he leads four separate trios, then mixes and matches them. Sometimes he […]

Album Review: The Joe Harriott Story

Jamaica-born alto saxist Joe Harriott was one of the UK scene’s most original, inventive and under-appreciated jazzmen of the late-‘50s and ‘60s. Although he died almost penniless in 1973 at the age of just 44, his work is now being reappraised and he’s being cited as a major influence on today’s younger players. Young UK jazz […]

Rescued From The Vaults: Terje Rypdal’s Waves

Terje Rypdal has enjoyed a very long and varied career with ECM Records. His guitar style is an in-your-face mixture of Hank Marvin-influenced wang-bar melodicism and jagged, dramatic lines that would seem more likely to come from a cello or violin. And whilst probably too much of a mysterious presence to be described as a […]

Album Review: Richie Beirach/Gregor Huebner Live At Birdland New York

Fans of over-the-top piano playing: this album’s for you. Richie Beirach should probably be a far bigger name than he is. A classically trained virtuoso, he has worked with Stan Getz and Chet Baker and also enjoyed fruitful collaborations with guitarist John Abercrombie and saxophonist Dave Liebman, whilst also focusing his own deeply personal solo […]

Rescued From The Vaults: Yellowjackets’ Greenhouse

It’s always a treat when an established ‘jazz’ band makes its artistic and/or commercial breakthrough after years of service. Weather Report of course did it with Heavy Weather, and Yellowjackets did something similar with their 1991 release Greenhouse.  Greenhouse was their eighth studio album. After several lineup changes – though always sticking to core unit […]

Steve Khan returns with Backlog

Steve Khan is one of jazz’s most underrated and distinctive guitarists. His unique chord voicings, intriguing melodic sense and subtle use of effects have illuminated work by The Brecker Brothers, Steely Dan, Billy Cobham and Joe Zawinul. Khan’s many solo albums across a 40-year career showcase his enormous versatility, from overdubbed guitar tributes to Thelonious […]

Tony Williams: New Lifetime Revisited

I’ve just had the pleasure of writing the liner notes for a new Tony Williams 3-CD collection, focusing on the mid-to-late 1970s, a period when the jazz/rock drum legend made some of the most electrifying music of his career. The albums Believe It, Million Dollar Legs and The Joy Of Flying showcase some brilliant drum […]

Rescued From The Vaults: Bennie Maupin’s Moonscapes/Slow Traffic To The Right

Mention the name Bennie Maupin to a certain generation of jazz fans and you’re likely to get a raised eyebrow followed by a sharp intake of breath. He’s pure class. His baritone, soprano and tenor sax work on seminal Miles Davis albums Bitches Brew and Big Fun as well as Herbie Hancock‘s Head Hunters would be […]

Album Review: Andrew Cyrille’s Declaration Of Musical Independence

Drummer/percussionist Andrew Cyrille has been busy mapping out his own musical territory during an illustrious career spanning over 50 years. Across a dozen solo albums and in collaboration with Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, David Murray, Geri Allen and Charlie Haden, he has been one of several key players who freed the jazz drummer from the […]

Album Review: Derrick Hodge’s The Second

Going solo is never a clear-cut thing for a ‘jazz’ bassist. And if you play electric bass, the issue becomes even murkier. Do you go the chops-infused ‘fusion blowout’ route, or put composition first and place yourself in a variety of group environments a la Victor Bailey, John Patitucci, Jaco et al? By and large, […]

Album Review: Zoe Rahman’s Dreamland

The pianist has a whole orchestra at his or her fingertips – that’s the theory, anyway. And therefore the jazz pianist has the potential to make the unique sound of an orchestra in ‘spontaneous improvisation’ mode. Duke Ellington was famous for approaching the keyboard in this way, and now Zoe Rahman’s sixth solo album Dreamland […]