Rant ‘N’ Roll: Jazz

Rant ‘N’ Roll: Jazz

—by , October 22, 2014

Trilogy (Stretch Records/Concord Jazz), by Chick Corea, is a milestone recording in the piano legend’s 50-year career chronicling a world tour in trio format with master musicians (and leaders in their own right) bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade. Considering it was recorded in Washington DC, California, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Turkey and Japan, the sound is surprisingly studio-perfect.

Filled with reinventions of his own standards, previously unrecorded originals, Monk, Flamenco, Kurt Weill, the avant-garde, standards and classical (“Opus 11, No. 9” by Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin [1872-1915]). The Russian composer originally meant the piece—only 36 bars long—to be played in under two minutes. The trio is having none of that and jam on for 10:44. (There is no word if Scriabin is turning over in his grave.) And that’s hardly the longest track: Irving Berlin’s 1932 “How Deep Is The Ocean” weighs in at a hefty 13:48, but it’s hardly bloated. In fact, it’s lean, muscled, syncopated and surprising. Masters Blade and McBride are hardly “sidemen.” This is an equal-opportunity trio, and, man, does it swing! Corea began writing “Piano Sonata: Moon” years ago, never finishing it, and never recording it. Here is its debut: at an epic 29:59. “Spain” (arguably his most famous composition) is done, yeah, in Spain, with such Spanish superstars as multi-instrumentalist Jorge Pardo and guitarist Nino Josele, thus causing the crowd to go about as apoplectic as a serious jazz audience can possibly get.

One sour note. You can tell Chick Corea the same thing that has plagued the music of Paul McCartney, Hank Williams and John Lennon. Leave your wife home. Gayle Moran destroys “Someday My Prince Will Come” from Disney’s 1937 Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs. It’s a truly awful way to end a sterling triple-set.
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Lesser jazzbos would do themselves a favor by latching on to Field Notes (The Royal Potato Family) by Wil Blades. Wil, according to his mentor Dr. Lonnie Smith (a pioneer of jazz organ), is “the future of the B-3.” Written on the road as befits its title, the trio (with guitarist Jeff Parker and drummer Simon Lott), on nine funky originals, goes from the almost-psychedelic “Chrome” and almost-fusion “Dewey” to the almost-African “Addis” and almost-ballad “Forgetful.” That’s the thing about Blades. He’s a non-committal equal-opportunity genre hopper and, thus, easy to digest. This is perfect cool-ass funky party music that could be ingested through osmosis when you’re not concentrating. As such, it’s almost subliminal. It’s not new-age or any of that crap because it’s too kinetic to be wallpaper music. Blades skims the surface of each subgenre like when you throw a stone to skim atop the water of a lake. This makes Field Notes easy on the ears. You might call it jazz for people who don’t like jazz. “Addis” was inspired by a 2011 trip to Ethiopia where he jammed with the locals to give his total oeuvre a worldbeat perspective. Equally influenced by Jimmy Smith and Medeski Martin & Wood, Blades has been the go-to studio guy for 15 San Francisco years after coming out of Chicago. There ain’t nothin’ this guy can’t play.

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Saxophonist Javon Jackson is as easy to digest as Wil Blades but comes from a more traditional jazz sensibility where his mellifluous style breathes life into such distinguished fare as Wayne Shorter’s “One By One,” which opens the CD on a gorgeous note. He’s played it countless times when he was with Art Blakey but, amazing as it sounds, this is his first session as a leader in a 25-year career of performing with others. Recorded live as part of a series of live CDs from New York City’s esteemed Upper West Side room Smoke, it’s called Expression (Smoke Sessions), and it goes down easy, especially on Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing,” the 1972 Donnie Hathaway/Roberta Flack hit “Where Is The Love” and the 1952 Doris Day hit “When I Fall In Love.” Backed by bass, drums and piano, Jackson is one smooth dude. Put this one on when you invite that special someone over and hope to get lucky.


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