lienny Matltleson reviews the latest jazz albums.
I Sonny Fortune: Four In line (Blue llote) Sonny Fortune is about due for promotion from the respected sideman echelon to recognition as a leader in his own right. It’s been a bit of a wait. but this collection of Thelonious Monk tunes is as confident and assured a performance as you are likely to bear. with the alto saxophonist in excellent voice over a top quality rhythm section of Kirk Lightsey. Buster Williams and the great Billy Hart. I Gary Bartz and Sonny Fortune: Alto Memories (Verve) All the favourable comments applying to Four In One are also pertinent here. and there is the added attraction of another undervalued alto man. the highly inventive Gary Bartz. as co-leader. Again. exploratory contemporary jazz in a bop-derived vein. with the twin alto horns keening over a top-notch rhythm team of pianist Kenny Barron. Buster Williams again. and Jack Delohnette. I Benny Green: The Place To Be (Blue Note) Pianist Benny Green continues to produce delightful albums which are never going to sell in huge numbers. but achieve a remarkable consistency of harmonic invention and swing in his favoured bop idiom. Three tunes in this set add a six-strong horn section to the basic trio but it is Green‘s aggressively tasteful pianism and McBride's superb bass playing which catch the ear. I leroy Jones: Mo’ Cream From The Crop (Columbia) I first heard the trumpeter in Harry Connick's big band. and there is a lot of their mutual New Orleans roots on this debut as leader of his own quintet. featuring the lively. rasping trombone gymnastics of Lucien Barbarin. Both men play some very tasty licks. while Leroi also weighs in with his dark. smoky. quietly appealing Singing. I John Sunnan: Stranger Than Fiction (ECM) The music explores spacious realms of abstraction and sound colour. trailing spirals of melody across a delicate weave of rhythmic patterns. sometimes with only an implicit pulse. sometimes with strongly stated time. There are no real surprises in the light of Surman’s recent work. but his playing on all four horns remains hauntingly beautiful. as does John Taylor's masterly piano.
me- Sextet revisited
When Tommy Smith parted company with Blue llote lntemational records at the end of 1992, it was with his best album for them, the sextet release ‘Paris’. The music for that album had been commissioned by the Scottish Arts Council and Assembly Direct, and the SAC have now joined forces with Ibis Productions in Aberdeen to fund a second album’s worth of sextet compositions.
The new music will be recorded this month for release on linn Records next year, but the Sextet will be giving a couple of live previews, at The lemon Tree in Aberdeen and Paisley Arts Centre. The front-line remains Tommy on tenor saxophone, Julian Arguelles on alto saxophone and Guy Barker on trumpet, with a rhythm section made up by his Forward Motion colleagues Terie Gewelt on bass and Ian Froman on drums, with pianist Steve Hamilton.
The music will take the form of an instrumental suite inspired by the poems of llorman MacCaig, and the album will go under the evocative title of ‘Misty Morning & llo Time’.
‘I had been reading Norman’s Collected Poems,’ Smith explains,
‘and I found I was responding very strongly to the images which came from them, and decided I would like to write some music inspired by them. As a composer, I find it easier to work in that way, where you have a title and an initial idea to build on.
‘It is a suite in the sense of a sequence of several small pieces linked together, but the poems are not connected to each other, other than by the fact that llorman wrote them. From a musical point of view, it’s more complex this time, and it’s going to be very difficult for them to play, but I think it will be an exciting piece for the audience.’ (Kenny Mathieson)
The Tommy Smith Sextet play Paisley Arts Centre on Sun 18.
nai- Mind games
Vintage funk loops and tranquillised breakbeats (am smoothly on Blackanized’s debut EP, ‘Music For Your Mind’. The Edinburgh duo - aka Calvin lluttall and Joseph Malik - are no newcomers to the school of abstract hip-hop: Calvin is one half of rap outfit Zulu Syndicate and Joseph has run a number of (azz- and funk- orientated clubs in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Earlier this year, they had a track licensed to Mo Wax Records (which later appeared on the ‘lleadz’ compilation) as Mo Flava Cuta llational and as a result were swiftly signed up by The Stereo MCs’ label llatural Response, in August.
‘Muslc For Your Mind’ is a varied and confident debut. ‘Vibe’ratlons’, the first track, floats an instantly memorable Curtis Mayfield brass outtake over slow-burn beats. “Slow Groove’ sounds like ll'llote in ambient mode with its melancholic piano sound, and ‘Steppln’ Into The light’ is a blues-tinged 90s rap urging optimism through struggle. ‘l’d say it’s educational as opposed to conceptual
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music,’ says Calvin. ‘Every track has got a theme, a story to tell, regardless of whether it’s instrumental or not.’
The duo are also keen to stress the collective aspect of the way they work. Freshly Squeezed members George McDonald and David Donelly provide live tenor sax and guitar sounds on the sample-free material, while Steve Christie (ex-Botany 5) plays keyboards. ‘llext year, we want to stress the live aspect,’ continues Calvin. ‘We’ve got an amazing demo from Jackie Jackson, who did “Walk On By” and has worked with Smith 8. Mighty, so we’re hoping to do more vocal stuff with her.’
In the meantime, they’re remixing llatural Response labelmate leena Conquest and predicting an Edinburgh hip hop/lan-funk renaissance. ‘There’s A-One (who also had a track on Mo Wax) and Coco and the Bean (currently talking with Mo Wax),’ Joseph explains. ‘You watch. llext year, this city’s gonna be as big as Manchester.’ (Bethan Cole)
smar- Maternal instincts
Moustache-lickin' good: Jimmy Carl Black
In a scene awash with tribute acts. it would be natural to assume that The Grandmothers were just a frcakier alternative to Bjorn Again. Not so. The core of The Grandmothers is three members of the original Mothers of Invention: keyboard wizard Don Preston. rccds-blmver Bunk Gardner and drummer Jimmy Carl Black. ‘the Indian of the group'. much given to guzzling beer and grumbling about his personal finances. Conceptual continuity fans will note that they've been joined on vocals and guitar by one Sandro ()liva. another extravagantly- moustachioed Sicilian (‘but he's much taller than Zappa.‘ Black insists).
Much of their live set. and the new Who Could Imagine." Cl). is devoted to early FZ compositions. and with all the acrimony that has simmered since Zappa disbanded the group it seems a little strange that the tour is dubbed ‘a tribute‘ to their late leader. So is all that behind them?
‘Yeah. pretty much. That doesn‘t really matter. because the way I look at it. that wasn’t Frank Zappa and The Mothers. it was The Mothers ()f Invention that played on all those records — the stuff that we‘re playing anyway. Frank was the guitar player in the band and just happened to be the songwriter. But he wasn‘t the band. He was one of the members of the band like the rest of us.‘
The Grandmothers started playing in I980. but fell by the wayside until I993. Between times. Black played blues around Texas. cut an album with Arthur (‘Fire’) Brown — Brown and Black had a painting and decorating firm fora while called Gentlemen of Color — and hit the road half a dozen times with the brilliant maverick country singer Eugene Chadboume. In the new year. he's hoping to rope in old friends like Mick Taylor and Jeff Beck to play on a solo album.
‘lt's gonna be mainly an R&B-type album. a little bit more commercial than The Grandmothers. I wanna get airplay. man!‘ he cries. ‘1 want a gold record on my wall!’ Plus (‘a change . . . (Alastair Mabbott)
'I'he Grandmothers play King Tut :T. Glasgow on Sun 18 and The Venue. Edinburgh on Mon 19.
48 The List 16 December 1994-12 January 1995