domingo, 15 de maio de 2022

Procol Harum - Procol Harum Live In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra 1972

This whole album was an afterthought -- Procol Harum had been invited to play a concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Da Camera Singers in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in August of 1971, at the tail-end of their last tour with Robin Trower in the lineup. Amid all of the preparation -- including the writing of new orchestral arrangements by Gary Brooker and with a new lead guitarist, Dave Ball, just joining the lineup -- Brooker decided that it might be a good idea to preserve a professionally made tape of the show and suggested that A&M Records, to which they were signed, might want to record the performance; the label agreed with just a week to go until the concert. Even "Conquistador," the song on which the resulting album's commercial success was built, was added at the last minute, with no time for the orchestra to rehearse the arrangement that Brooker wrote on the flight from England. They did it coldly, opening the concert, and the eventual album featured a performance -- highlighted by the orchestra's brass in a Spanish mode, running scales on the strings, and B.J. Wilson's powerful drumming -- helped loft the single to number 16 in America. The group's second-biggest hit record (after "A Whiter Shade of Pale"), in turn, helped lift the album into the American Top Five. Ironically, the success of the LP also left Procol Harum's image slightly askew, with the presence of the orchestra and choir and the selection of songs, from the most ambitious part of the band's repertory, all combining to present the group as more of a progressive rock act than they actually were. "Conquistador" was the most accessible song on the album, and nothing else here matches it for sheer, bracing excitement, but the rest -- especially "Whaling Stories", "A Salty Dog" and the multi-part "In Held 'Twas I" -- were all opened up by the vast canvas provided by the orchestra, and the group didn't wimp out in their own performance; Wilson, Ball, Brooker, and company all played hard and heavy where the songs required it. AMG.

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Mungo Jerry - In The Summertime 1970

The title-track is still one of the most beguiling (if casually sexist) hits of its era, but the other 14 songs are even more interesting: Jesse Fuller-influenced jug band ("San Francisco Bay Blues," "See Me") and Tampa Red-style kazoo blues ("Maggie"), as well as the influence of Piano Red ("Mighty Man") and credible instrumental blues-rock ("Mother Fucker Boogie"). The hit "Johnny B. Badde" is here, and the band also covers rock & roll standards like "Baby Let's Play House," done in a surprisingly authentic manner for 1970. One of the CD reissue's two bonus tracks, "Tramp," busts up the mood a bit, with its fiddle accompaniment and a decidedly mournful tone, but the other, the hard-driving Howlin' Wolf-style "Mungo's Blues," which offers a tastefully lean Hubert Sumlin-influenced guitar solo, fits in perfectly with the existing album. The transfers are clean and bright, and the annotation is extensive. AMG.

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Richard Davis - Dealin' 1972

A superb bass technician who doesn't have as extensive a recorded legacy as expected, Richard Davis has a wonderful tone, is excellent with either the bow or fingers and stands out in any situation. He has been a remarkable free, bebop, and hard bop player who served in world-class symphony orchestras backed vocalists and engaged in stunning duets with fellow bassists. He does any and everything well in terms of bass playing: accompaniment, soloing, working with others in the rhythm section, responding to soloists, or playing unison passages. He combines upper-register notes with low sounds coaxed through the use of open strings.

Davis studied privately for nearly ten years in the '40s and '50s, while also playing with Chicago orchestras. He played with Ahmad Jamal, Charlie Ventura, and Don Shirley in the early and mid-'50s then worked with Sarah Vaughan in the late '50s and early '60s, as well as Kenny Burrell. Davis divided his duties in the '60s between recording and performing sessions with jazz musicians and freelance work with symphony orchestras conducted by Leonard Bernstein and Igor Stravinsky. He recorded often with Eric Dolphy, including the unforgettable dates at the Five Spot. He also worked with Booker Ervin, Andrew Hill, Ben Webster, Stan Getz, Earl Hines, and the Creative Construction Company. Davis teamed with Jaki Byard and Alan Dawson on sessions with Ervin, and others like Rahsaan Roland Kirk. He also played with Van Morrison. During the '70s Davis worked with Hank Jones and Billy Cobham, and he was a member of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra in the '60s and '70s. Davis left New York in 1977 to teach at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he has remained as a professor into the 21st century. Concurrent with his life as an educator, he continued making intermittent appearances as a performer, including at the Aurex Jazz Festival in Tokyo in 1982, playing in a jam session led by trombonists J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding, and at the 1984 Chicago Jazz Festival. Davis was featured in the 1982 film Jazz in Exile. He's done relatively few recordings as a leader, though three Muse sessions are available on CD. The superb The Philosophy of the Spiritual, which matched Davis and fellow bassist Bill Lee, is not in print or on CD. Notable Richard Davis recordings during the 21st century include The Bassist: Homage to Diversity (a duo recording with John Hicks) issued by Palmetto in 2001, as well as two Japanese releases on the King label, So in Love in 2001 and Blue Monk (with pianist Junior Mance) in 2008. AMG.

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Southwind - Ready To Ride 1970

Country-rock unit Southwind comprised singer/guitarist John Martin, singer/bassist Jim Pulte, organist Phil Hope and drummer Eric Dalton. Originally formed at the University of Oklahoma as a rockabilly combo called the Disciples, in 1967 the group relocated to Los Angeles at the suggestion of musician friend Fontaine Brown, adopting the more contemporary moniker Southwind and significantly expanding their sound to incorporate elements of British Invasion-inspired pop, psychedelic rock, and traditional country. Signing to the tiny Venture label, in 1968 Southwind issued their self-titled debut; Brown soon replaced Hope as a full-time member of the band, with a move to Blue Thumb preceding their 1970 follow-up Ready to Ride, in part recorded live at the Fillmore West. 1971's What a Strange Place to Land, meanwhile, spotlighted a more pronounced blues influence than past efforts. Southwind disbanded soon after the record's release; swapping his birth name for his nickname "Moon," Martin went on to back Linda Ronstadt, later recording a series of solo albums and writing the Robert Palmer smash "Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)." Pulte also cut a pair of 1972 solo LPs for United Artists before disappearing from the music scene. AMG.

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terça-feira, 10 de maio de 2022

Miles Davis - Sorcerer 1967

Sorcerer, the third album by the second Miles Davis Quintet, is in a sense a transitional album, a quiet, subdued affair that rarely blows hot, choosing to explore cerebral tonal colorings. Even when the tempo picks up, as it does on the title track, there's little of the dense, manic energy on Miles Smiles -- this is about subtle shadings, even when the compositions are as memorable as Tony Williams' "Pee Wee" or Herbie Hancock's "Sorcerer." As such, it's a little elusive, since it represents the deepening of the band's music as they choose to explore different territory. The emphasis is as much on complex, interweaving chords and a coolly relaxed sound as it is on sheer improvisation, though each member tears off thoroughly compelling solos. Still, the individual flights aren't placed at the forefront the way they were on the two predecessors -- it all merges together, pointing toward the dense soundscapes of Miles' later '60s work. It's such a layered, intriguing work that the final cut, recorded in 1962 with Bob Dorough on vocals, is an utterly jarring, inappropriate way to end the record, even if it's intended as a tribute to Miles' then-girlfriend (later, his wife), Cicely Tyson (whose image graces the cover). AMG.

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King Crimson - Lizard 1970

Released in December 1970, King Crimson's third studio album, Lizard, is often viewed as an outlier in the pioneering British prog outfit's nearly half-century discography. It's not easily grouped with 1969's stunning In the Court of the Crimson King debut and 1970 follow-up In the Wake of Poseidon, and along with 1971's Islands, it's considered a transitional release on the band's path toward the relative stability of the Larks' Tongues in Aspic (1973), Starless and Bible Black (1974), and Red (1974) trilogy. Plus, the Lizard sessions were difficult and the core group lineup acrimoniously collapsed immediately afterward, as bandleader/guitarist Robert Fripp, with lyricist Peter Sinfield, continued brave efforts to save King Crimson from disintegrating as the group's lengthy history was just getting underway. Even Fripp himself wasn't a big Lizard fan until he reportedly "heard the Music in the music" when listening to Steven Wilson's 2009 40th anniversary remix. Yet there are plenty of Crimson followers who place Lizard at the very apex of the group's recorded legacy -- and with good reason. Seamlessly blending rock, jazz, and classical in a way that few albums have successfully achieved, Lizard is epic, intimate, cacophonic, and subtle by turn -- and infused with the dark moods first heard when "21st Century Schizoid Man" and "Epitaph" reached listeners' ears the previous year. AMG.

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Brute Force - Brute Force 1970

Brute Force was a soul-jazz band (slanted toward the soul end) that released a single self-titled album in 1970, produced by Herbie Mann. The band had a solid soul sound, which could head into the slightly more out territory, as well. The band and Mann had a stroke of genius when they decided to recruit the band's childhood friend and Mann bandmate Sonny Sharrock (who had also played with Pharoah Sanders at that point) to add some extra spice to the sessions. The results are so righteous and groovy, that you'll wonder where this album has been for the last 30 years. Imagine the Black Panthers recording Memphis Underground and you're somewhere in the ballpark. Strong vocals on about half the tunes, great horn playing, dirty electric piano, killer two-bass grooves, and Sharrock's ultra-aggressive soul playing make this album a solid winner. Sharrock fans will flip at this forgotten session, and DJs and crate-diggers everywhere would be well-served by picking this up. Right on, Brother! AMG.

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Joe Farrell - Outback 1971

Outback is the second and finest of Joe Farrell's dates for Creed Taylor's CTI label. Recorded in a quartet setting in 1970, with Elvin JonesChick Corea, and Brazilian percussionist Airto MoreiraFarrell pushes the envelope not only of his own previous jazz conceptualism but CTI's envelope, as well. Outback is not a commercially oriented funk or fusion date, but an adventurous, spacy, tightrope-walking exercise between open-ended composition and improvisation. That said, there is plenty of soul in the playing. Four compositions, all arranged by Farrell, make up the album. The mysterious title track by John Scott opens the set. Staged in a series of minor-key signatures, Farrell primarily uses winds -- flutes and piccolos -- to weave a spellbinding series of ascending melodies over the extended, contrasting chord voicings by CoreaJones skitters on his cymbals while playing the snare and tom-toms far more softly than his signature style usually attests. Airto rubs and shimmers on hand drums, going through the beat, climbing on top of it, and playing accents in tandem with Farrell in the solo sections. "Sound Down" is a bit more uptempo and features Farrell playing wonderfully on the soprano. Buster Williams lays down a short staccato bassline that keeps Jones' bass drum pumping. As Farrell moves from theme/variation/melody to improvisation, he brings in Corea, who vamps off the melody before offering a series of ostinati responses. Corea's "Bleeding Orchid" is a ballad played with augmented modes and continually shifting intervals, mapped beautifully by Williams' adherence to the changes, with a series of contrasting pizzicato fills. Farrell's trills and arpeggiating exercises combine both jazz classicism and Middle Eastern folk music. On Farrell's "November 68th," he invokes John Coltrane's version of "My Favorite Things" as he digs deep into the tenor's middle register for a song-like voicing, played with a gorgeously bluesy sophistication. The other players rally around him and push his sonic flight to near manic intensity. Outback is a stunner, as inspired as anything -- and perhaps more so -- that Farrell ever recorded. AMG.

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Stan Levey - This Time the Drum's on Me 1956

Bebop is spoken throughout this swinging set (a reissue CD), which emphasizes jazz tunes written since 1945, including George Handy's "Diggin' for Diz," "Tune Up," and Oscar Pettiford's "This Time the Drum's on Me." Drummer Stan Levey is the leader and he is properly forceful behind soloists, but the main significance of this set is the playing of the great tenor Dexter Gordon, who was otherwise almost totally absent from records during 1953-1959. Gordon is heard in prime form, joining a top-notch sextet also including Levy, trumpeter Conte Candoli, trombonist Frank Rosolino, pianist Lou Levy, and bassist Leroy Vinnegar. Excellent bop-based music. AMG.

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Hatfield and the North - Hatfield and the North 1973

One of the Canterbury scene's most revered bands, Hatfield and the North made up for the brevity of their career with some fascinating music. Always adventurous, the quartet had the keen sense to realize that only the most hardened jazz fans respond to numerous key changes and exceedingly complex time signatures, and thus enlivened their live set with the odd gnome smashing, suggestive lyrics, and jokey song titles. It worked a charm, with the band quickly amassing a large, loyal following at home in Britain and across the continent. On their eponymous debut, Hatfield stunningly succeeded in translating both their sense of fun and their musical brilliance onto the disc. After a bit of light humor, the band slides into "Going Up to People and Tinkling," which glides gloriously across the keys and rhythm shifts. Both "Calyx" and "Aigrette" experiment with vocals as an instrument, while the exuberant "Rifferama" is a master class on the use of riffs. However, it's the expansive "Son of 'There's No Place like Homerton'" that forms the album's centerpiece, a propulsive, keyboard-driven piece that still awaits a modern dance troop's attention. AMG.

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Michel Polnareff - Love Me, Please Love Me 1966

Known for his eccentric nature, French pop songwriter Michel Polnareff created a buzz for himself in the early to mid-'60s when his debut single, "La Poupée Qui Fait Non," rocketed to the top of the French charts, but it was his early-'70s release, Polnareff's, that cemented him a place as a legend in French pop. Polnareff was raised in Paris somewhat like a child of the arts, his mother, Simone Lane, was a dancer, and his father, Leib Polnareff, a musician who played sideman under the name Léo Poll for many artists, including Edith Piaf. The two immersed young Polnareff in music, shaping his ambitions, so it is no surprise that he learned piano by the age of five and was writing music at 11.

After a short stint in the French Army and a few menial jobs, Polnareff embraced his passions and busked the city streets with his guitar to moderate success. In 1965, he refused a recording contract with Barclay, a prize that he won in a songwriting contest, in one of the earliest displays of his now-famous aversion to conformity, but eventually signed to AZ under the direction of his new manager and Radio 1 musical director Lucien Morisse. "La Poupée Qui Fait Non" was released in the summer of 1966 and rocketed him up the charts not only in France, but in Germany, Britain, and Spain. The song was the first of a string of hits for Polnareff, but before long, the French press focused almost entirely on his garish stage presence. Being under the scrutiny of the conservative press didn't seem to stop the hits, however, and Polnareff garnered praise from celebrities such as Charles Trenet, but the persistent criticisms weighed heavily on him. By 1970, his stage costumes had become more flamboyant. The French press began questioning his sexuality, and the constant controversy around the singer came to a head when he was physically assaulted while performing. Not surprisingly, Polnareff canceled the rest of his tour and shortly afterward checked into a hospital for depression when he learned that Morisse, his manager, had committed suicide. After five months of treatment, Polnareff bounced back and resumed his hectic recording and touring schedule, but scandal soon followed when he ended up in court due to a campaign for his 1972 tour that was centered around publicity posters bearing Polnareff's naked behind. Polnareff was found guilty of gross indecency and charged 60,000 francs.

His touring continued through mid-1973 with stops in Polynesia and North America, but upon his return to France, Polnareff found his bank account had been drained by his financial advisor. Polnareff's owed the French government was over one million francs in unpaid taxes, and with little money to his name, he fled to the United States. Unknown in a new country, he was safely out of the limelight and within the reach of the French authorities. He spent more than a decade in the U.S. before he cleared up his monetary issues with the French government, and in the meantime, he recorded for Atlantic and composed movie scores. Despite his absence from France, Polnareff's new music remained present in French popular culture and continued to chart through the mid-'80s, until he removed himself entirely from the public eye and quietly returned to France to work on a new album. Kama Sutra finally appeared in the summer of 1990, and the album garnered three French hits. Polnareff remained in France for five more years before returning to the U.S. to perform at the Roxy in Los Angeles. Musical director and guitarist Dick Smith (Hampton Grease BandEarth, Wind & Fire) executive-produced the ambitious Live at the Roxy, which achieved platinum certification in France. To mark this occasion, television channel Canal + ran a special, À la Recherche de Polnareff ("In Search of Polnareff"), in which he appeared in military uniform (thus resulting in the nickname "The Admiral"); he was interviewed in the California desert by Michel Denisot, and performed an acoustic mini-concert. Upon returning to France, he didn't release another album for 20 years, instead choosing to spend his time becoming a father, and in relative seclusion working on various other projects. In 2004 and 2005, state television station France 3 broadcast a 90-minute documentary entitled Michel Polnareff Dévoilé. During those years, the artist's music got a boost from unexpected sources. His tune "Voyages" was sampled for Necro's single "Light My Fire," as well as the Shortwave Set's "Is It Any Wonder?" In addition, Masher (L)SD sampled "Sous Quelle Etoile Suis Je Ne?" for the tune "Howards' Thinking Clearly." In 2014, he was the subject of another film documentary, Quand l'écran s'allume, that made the rounds of European cinemas. In December 2015, Polnareff announced that a new studio album would be forthcoming in the summer of 2016. To that end, he issued the single "L'Homme en Rouge" as a pre-release. By the time the deadline date rolled around, Polnareff admitted the album was not yet completed. Instead, he released the concert offering, A L'Oympia 2016, followed by the compilation Polnabest. While the unfinished album continued to languish in 2017, Universal Music France issued the 23-disc Pop Rock en Stock, which contained his entire studio output balanced by a wealth of live material and rarities as a celebration of Polnareff's 50th anniversary in music. AMG.

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The Lloyd McNeill Quartet - Washington Suite 1970

Lloyd McNeill is a composer, flutist, poet, photographer, teacher, and globally celebrated visual artist. He is regarded by jazz musicians as an innovator in his chosen instrument. Between 1969 and 1978, he self-released several albums --including 1969's Asha, 1970's Washington Suite, 1976's Treasures, and 1978's Tori -- that are considered classics by improvising musicians as well as critics for their innovative meld of vanguard and spiritual jazz, folk, blues, free improv, and modernist classical technique. They are considered classics by musicians and many critics for their innovative meld of vanguard and spiritual jazz, folk, blues, free improv, and modernist classical technique. McNeill's last recorded outing was 1998's X.Tem.Por.E, in collaboration with pianist Richard KimballMcNeill is also a prolific, internationally renowned painter and visual artist; his work has been exhibited from Paris and New York to Tokyo, Madrid, and Rio. His first five recordings have been remastered and reissued by the U.K.'s Soul Jazz/Universal Sound label. McNeill was born in Washington, D.C., in 1935. He studied music at Dunbar High School before joining the U.S Navy, where he served as a hospital corpsman. Upon discharge, he attended Morehouse College in Atlanta and majored in art. He also played music there -- conga drum, notably, though he was already a proficient flutist. He worked with the Lloyd Terry Band, Nina Simone, and Lionel HamptonMcNeill graduated from Morehouse in 1961, and his senior exhibit drew the attention of James A. Porter, chairman of the art department at Howard University. Porter offered him a full-tuition scholarship, and McNeill became the school's first MFA student. While at Howard, he studied everything from fresco painting and line drawing to easel painting. In addition to visual art, he undertook advanced flute studies with Eric Dolphy in 1963 during a year at Dartmouth as an artist in residence.

McNeill moved to Paris in 1964 with saxophonist Andrew White, a Howard classmate, and close friend. He played flute in a variety of settings and studied at Paris' L'École Nationale des Beaux-Arts. While living there, he met and became close with Pablo Picasso and his wife Jacqueline until their respective deaths. He also found time to play music, though mostly in Cannes, collaborating with Guatemalan guitarist and singer/songwriter Julio Arenas Menas.

McNeill returned to the U.S. in 1965, when he accepted the position of the artist in residence at Spelman College from 1965 to 1966. He taught part-time at Howard in 1969 and began playing with jazz groups around town. That year, Asha, billed to the Lloyd McNeill Quartet, appeared from his own Asha Records label. It was followed by the duo offering Tanner Suite with bassist Marshall Hawkins.

In 1970, McNeill began a three-plus-decade teaching association with Rutgers University and moved to New York City. He not only taught art but also Afro-American history, and was instrumental in the development of the school's jazz studies program. McNeill did advanced flute studies with Harold Jones and issued his second quartet offering, Washington Suite, the same year. It featured White as an added guest. Though he played on albums by Brazilians Thiago de Mello and Dom Um RomaoMcNeill didn't record again as a leader until 1976. In the interim, he traveled to West Africa on a State Department grant and visited and studied in Senegal, Benin (then Dahomey), the Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Nigeria, where he met Fela Kuti, stayed at his home, and played at his club in Lagos. While in Africa, McNeill gave lectures, painted, drew, and exhibited his art.

In 1976, he formed the Baobab Sounds label to release Treasures. His sextet included McBeeRay ArmandoDom SalvadorBrian Brake, and Porthino. He was also recruited by organist Charles Earland to play on his 1976 album The Great Pyramid and Brazilian saxophonist Paulo Moura's Confusão Urbana, Suburbana E Rural. Busy teaching and working in the African-American art and music communities, McNeill didn't record again until 1978, when he released Tori on Baobab. While Armando was once again part of the group, the rest of the band included guitarist John La Barbera, bassist Buster Williams, tubist Howard Johnson, drummer Victor Lewis, and percussionists Romao and Nana Vasconcelos. 1980s Elegia was the final recording from Baobab and McNeill's last release for another 18 years. Its lineup included McBeePorthinoVasconcelosDom Salvador, guitarist Claudio Celso, and vocalist Susan Osborn. The set was conducted and produced by Andrew White.

From 1980 to 1998, McNeill taught, painted, wrote, published poetry and essays, and exhibited internationally. When he returned to recording, he cut the duet album Ex.Tem.Por. E with pianist Richard Kimball on New Milford Records. McNeill retired from Rutgers in 2003 but remained professor emeritus. In 2007, he was chosen by the United States Postal Service to design a postage stamp for the celebration of Kwanza. It was circulated in 2009. In 2010, Universal Sound re-mastered and reissued Asha, and followed it in 2011 with a new version of Washington Suite. A remastered Tanner Suite appeared on the label in 2015. It was followed by new editions of Elegia and Treasures in 2019, and Tori in 2021. AMG.

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