Category Album Reviews

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 […]

Album Review: Jason Rebello’s Held

For a great British musician, pianist Jason Rebello has had one of the more intriguing careers than most. A key figure in the late-’80s jazz revival with his blinding licks and clean-cut looks much to the fore, he released a superb Wayne Shorter-produced debut A Clearer View (much more on that soon) in 1990, then followed […]

David Murray/Geri Allen/Terri Lyne Carrington: Perfection

Either a new Geri Allen or David Murray album would be a cause for celebration, but now the pianist and saxophonist have got together and released Perfection with the very welcome addition of Terri Lyne Carrington on drums. And if that wasn’t enough, the title track is a previously-unrecorded composition by the late great Ornette Coleman. […]

Steve Khan: The Eyewitness Trilogy

I’ve just had the absolute pleasure of writing the liner notes for a brand new Steve Khan 2-CD reissue featuring his three classic albums of the early ’80s, Eyewitness, Modern Times and Casa Loco, just released on BGO Records. It was an honour to work with Steve on this project. He couldn’t have been more generous […]

Rescued From The Vaults: Jan Hammer’s The First Seven Days

Jan Hammer has had one of the strangest careers in music. A gifted jazz piano prodigy, he started out backing up Sarah Vaughan before tearing off the top of his Fender Rhodes and playing some brilliantly deranged stuff with John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. He then featured on some great jazz and fusion albums of […]

Album Review: John Abercrombie’s First Quartet Box Set

For some reason (could it be the name?) American guitarist John Abercrombie has never really received the same kind of attention as his contemporaries John Scofield, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell and Mike Stern. His career has been modest and craftsmanlike in comparison, starting out, in his words, as a ‘John McLaughlin rip-off’, playing on ‘some […]

Rescued From The Vaults: John Patitucci’s One More Angel

1997’s One More Angel was a stunning album in which Patitucci finally left behind the influences of his mentor Chick Corea and found a composing style all his own. A period of great upheaval and tragedy in Patitucci’s private life, outlined in detail in the CD’s liner notes, was transformed into some absolutely beautiful music. Featuring […]

Album Review: The James Taylor Quartet’s Rochester Mass

Here’s a real curveball that gives a new meaning to the word ‘fusion’. The James Taylor Quartet have always been known for their reliable brand of Brit jazz/funk but now they’ve come up with one of the most surprising and impressive releases of the year. Jazz has been fused with all kinds of music styles […]

Rescued From The Vaults: Vinnie Colaiuta (1994)

Most solo albums by sideman drummers are disappointments – not this one. It goes way beyond the call of duty. Vinnie’s obviously been a great listener during his time playing with Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell, Sting and Chick Corea because he’s assimilated their compositional styles, analysed what works for him and come up with his […]

Album Review: Christian McBride Trio’s Live At The Village Vanguard

When we think of ‘groove’, we probably think of funk or soul music. But jazz can groove too, and the new Christian McBride Trio live album grooves like a mother. 43-year-old bassist McBride is of course something of a prodigy, already a world-renowned bandleader and collaborator with Dr Billy Taylor, Sting, Pat Metheny, Wynton Marsalis, Chick […]

Working Week: Does Jazz Go Into Pop?

Excerpts taken from my liner notes for the new Working Week live album: Does jazz go into pop? Judging by the current music scene, the answer would appear to be an unequivocal ‘no’, but, for a golden period in the early-to-mid ’80s, it seemed as if the two styles could happily co-exist. Artists like David […]

Wayne Shorter’s Atlantis: 30 Years Old Today

It’s not easy to write about an album that’s so much part of your musical DNA that it haunts you in the middle of the night and yet reveals fresh nuances each time you listen to it. Wayne is one of my all-time musical heroes and has been since I was a teenager when his […]

Steve Khan On His Classic 1983 Album ‘Casa Loco’

  Drummers and bassists: this album’s for you. And it’s for guitarists/percussionists/fans of great music too. Put simply, Steve Khan’s hard-to-track-down Casa Loco has enthralled me and a whole generation of jazz and jazz/rock aficionados for over 30 years. The compositions and performances of guitarist/leader Khan, bassist Anthony Jackson, drummer Steve Jordan and ex-Weather Report […]

Rescued From The Vaults: Weather Report’s Mr Gone

Dateline 1977: After seven years of hard work with a serious album/tour itinerary and drummer issues to rival even Spinal Tap, Weather Report, the legendary jazz/rock band led by keyboardist Joe Zawinul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter, finally hit gold. They had a dynamite new bass player in Jaco Pastorius, a US FM radio community that […]

Rescued From The Vaults: Lewis Taylor’s Lewis II

Soul music has a pretty rich tradition of ‘one-man bands’, musicians who have chosen to play the lion’s share of the instruments themselves thanks to liberal use of studio multi-tracking (see Sly, Marvin, Stevie, Johnny Guitar Watson). Sometimes it’s a time-and-money-saving device, sometimes it’s a bid for creative freedom in the face of record company […]

Album Review: Jazz Soul Seven’s Impressions of Curtis Mayfield

Soul legend Curtis Mayfield may not seem like the most obvious candidate for the jazz tribute album. Though his music occasionally used swinging rhythms and horn sections, his ingenious, self-imposed harmonic strictures (he composed on an electric guitar tuned to an F# chord) didn’t readily embrace jazz and blues songforms, rather leaning on gospel, Latin […]

Album Review: Konitz/Mehldau/Haden/Motian’s Live At Birdland

The ECM label has always prided itself on the sonic detail of its recordings, but the Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau/Paul Motian/Charlie Haden Live At Birdland CD may be its most impressive technical achievement yet. Birdland is a very small jazz club in Midtown Manhattan, famous for its dry acoustics and intimate setting, yet a tantalising, almost […]

Album Review: Soweto Kinch’s The New Emancipation

Soweto Kinch’s The New Emancipation, released on his own Soweto Kinch Recordings label, is a stunning album which fulfills all the promise this Birmingham-based saxophonist, composer and rapper showed early in his career. It distills blues work songs, classical motifs, spoken word, gospel, challenging modern jazz and wonky hip-hop into a thrilling, kaleidoscopic and totally […]

Rescued From The Vaults: Johnny McLaughlin Electric Guitarist

  The 1970s were made for such an eclectic and open-eared musician as guitarist John McLaughlin. As blues, rock, free jazz, Eastern scales and psychedelia merged at the end of the previous decade, McLaughlin was perfectly placed to cash in with his distinctive brand of fusion and the world was ready to listen. Cutting his […]

Album Review: Gregory Porter’s Be Good

It’s been said before, but you wait years for a great male jazz vocalist and then several come along all at once. Gregory Porter stands out, though – not just because of his strong, deceptively-simple singing style via Donny Hathaway and Nat King Cole, but also because of his insistence on writing his own quality […]

Album Review: Nicholas Payton’s Bitches

Here’s one out of left field. Despite his occasional flirtations with fusion, Nicholas Payton has hitherto been known as somewhat of a traditionalist, one of New Orleans’ best young straight-ahead trumpet players of the last 20 years or so. But now he’s produced the uncompromising Bitches, essentially a one-man-band concept album with special guest vocalists including […]

Album Review: Courtney Pine’s Europa

Gifted saxophonist Courtney Pine‘s career is one of the great success stories in British jazz. Starting out in the early ‘80s as a sideman with reggae double act Clint Eastwood and General Saint and in various Britfunk bands, he became disillusioned with the outlawing of jazz as a respected, popular music in the climate of […]

Pamela Rose: Wild Women Of Song

Pamela Rose‘s new album Wild Women of Song: Great Gal Composers Of The Jazz Era makes a compelling case for the enduring contributions of women to America’s treasure trove of popular music. It features the music of women songwriters – particularly those of the Tin Pan Alley and Blues eras – whose contributions Rose was […]

Album Review: Corea, Clarke And White’s Forever

Return To Forever were one of the most popular bands to emerge from the post-Bitches Brew jazz/rock scene in the early-’70s, featuring two Miles sidemen in keyboardist Chick Corea and drummer Lenny White as well as bass innovator Stanley Clarke and guitarists Bill Connors and Al Di Meola. A successful reunion tour in 2008 featuring […]