JohnnyoftheWell
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Last Active 01-01-70 12:00 am
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05.17.24 GHOST folk 05.11.24 what's good sputnik
05.10.24 Aquemini ranked04.25.24 REC me glitch/downtempo/IDM
04.16.24 All Blonde Redhead songs RANKED 03.28.24 OED Japanese imports RANKED (Q1 2024)
03.22.24 Sputnik's Sacred Cows03.14.24 POP ALIGNMENT
03.09.24 Discogs that peak on song #103.07.24 new staff + contribs RANKED
03.03.24 MARCH of JAZŽŻ 02.16.24 G L I T C H genre tag
02.01.24 FEBRUARY of ambi2ent (REC me) 01.01.24 well_2023: "YES" albums (2/2)
12.31.23 well_2023: "NO" albums (1/2)12.27.23 (be)rate my LP 'collection'
12.03.23 2023 BNM: cringedex 12.01.23 New users :: REVIEWED
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MARCH of JAZŽŻ

SEE FIRST COMMENT or first list entry um okay lfg
1Mulatu Astatke
Mulatu of Ethiopia


Unlike previous lists, this is a *targetted discovery* list expanding a specific journey I'm already on, and as such about 1/3rd of the list will be self-recs so that I don't feel bingeing and inevitably falling behind on a load of other jazz records is (on a bad-rec-day) obstructing what I'm ultimately looking for here, *but* I still have a bunch of time for your hopefully based submissions to dynamite my horizons. COOL.
2Naked City
Naked City


tl;dr on what I want from jazz NOW

・have been cramming classic bop and hard bop HARD since last year - more bop recs are based and welcome and a comfort zone, so don't give me too many but actually please do
・old school (or new school?!) big band stuff uh yeah sure!!
・free jazz uhhh okay sure, tread carefully
・avant jank ummm choose your fighters carefully
・spiritual/New Age stuff is welcome, but nothing off-piste please -- haven't explored this much at all and would rather have more reference points atm (same for free jazz tbh)
・ECM is welcome if - and only if - it brings heavy exotic shimmery (maybe-)romantic mystique -- any of the beige gruellingly consonant NPC muzak nonsense that like 70% of the artists i've heard pack in spades, and I will end both you and jazz forever
・third stream is a label I really do not care for, *but* I do enjoy some 'third stream' albums do with this information what you will
・ethio-jazz (yes bossa yes samba no salsa), latin jazz, gypsy jazz all definitely welcome.
・anyone recing jazz fusion must find something 11/10 off-the-wall or probably keep hushed on this one

will be very lightly vetting these recs (though still going first-come-first-served) show me what you got
3The Quintet
Jazz at Massey Hall


March 3rd
self-rec
1956 (1953)

Alright alright Jazz at Massey Hall: legendary concert featuring five (technically four sssh) bop titans at the top of their game: Charlie Parker (sax), Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Bud Powell (piano), Charles Mingus (bass), Max Roach (drums). All legendary names, highly renowned disc, stuff of legend easy bop classic, no questions asked?

Well, uh, not quite. I had a lot of fun reading up on this, and here's just a short list of a few preconceptions that were very swiftly cleared up in doing so:

・That this was a bespoke, carefully organised showcase of the absolute peak of bebop at its most prestigious: lol the organisation for this concert was a total shitshow. A poor promotional campaign meant that Massey Hall was 2/3rds empty, Parker and Gillespie were both tardy because the organisers hadn't booked enough plane tickets and they'd had to catch a later flight, none of the musicians were paid properly, the recording quality was so poor on the low end that Mingus ended up overdubbing his entire part (though the original has been restored on some later released editions - ngl I have no idea which mix I downloaded, so no comment there).
・That Parker and Gillespie were the stable foundation for this lineup: true insofar as they had previously recorded together (on the GREAT record Bird and Diz!) and were the two most senior figures in the jazz world, but already frayed tensions between the two exploded immediately before the concert and it seems they never played together again afterwards. Parker had pawned his sax to finance his heroin addiction and had to play the show on a plastic horn. Gillespie was reportedly more interested in a concurrent boxing match than the concert itself.
・That Mingus at the time was punching above his weight in this lineup, stature-wise: technically true insofar as he was the only member without much pedigree as a band leader (though Roach was in his early years too), but the rest of the lineup only came together in the first place because he was a mutual acquaintance. However, since he took the initiative to release the concert recording on his own label, it is fair to say he gained the most from his participation.
・That Powell was playing in peak form to begin with. Poor guy was incarcerated in a mental institution and had to be discharged specifically to play this show, apparently he was barely able to walk to the piano on his own two feet. Was loosely familiar with the tragic and unjust circumstances of his life, but didn't realise this concert coincided with them in such a way. Of all the performers' solo discogs, I find his the most melodious and full of easygoing charm - absolutely heartbreaking viewing it on top of his biography
・That the concert itself was all that premeditated. From what I gather, there was no rehearsal whatsoever and the first track "Perdido" was the first time all five actually played together (though Roach/Powell/Mingus had been killing it as a trio in an earlier bill to keep the audience in their seats while Parker and Gillespie made it to the venue)

...all of which sounds like an absolute recipe for disaster, but jazz legends being made of the stuff they apparently are, raw talent and keen ears took the lead and those performances speak for themselves. "Perdido" is probably the least engaging thing here - all performers sound reined in, finding their feet and getting the measure of one another. Gillespie's long solo is pleasant but a little perfunctory, and Roach and Powell's occasionally flourishes barely hint at things to come.

Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts" sees things thaw out quicksharp - this fundamentally goofy track proves a launchpad for my dynamic performances across the board. Maybe it's Gillespie's vocal line that finally breaks the ice, but Roach and Mingus are laying it down and Parker is blazing. Powell kicks off for a fantastic solo, only to be upstaged by Roach, and from there the stage is set, the ball is rolling, an absurdly talented collective are switched on and playing in miraculous sync while pushing one other to bring their best whenever the spotlight is up for grabs, a great show pans out and bebop is cemented as The Good Jazz.

I won't thresh out a full t/b/t (beyond repping the middle tracks as my favourites). I'm glad I waited to hear this -- hearing at least 2-3 albums from each performer's individual discography was very helpful when it came to focusing on individual performances/solos/chemistry etc. (which I'm still v much honing an ear for as a jazz casul - a boi can't live on vibes alone), and so this felt like enough of a step in close listening and contextual appreciation to fit the shoes of a milestone listen as I'd hoped it would. Praise be to bop, the be all and end all of healthy comfort zones.

Gonna slap down a cautious 4 for now - appreciate the lore a little too much rn compared to The Music, and am sure that the latter will demand a higher score of me in its own time
4Max Roach
It's Time


March 4th
Dewi rec
1962

Hahaha this record is a whole load of fun - I'd already gathered from his Freedom Now Suite that Max Roach basically left bop in the '50s, but this album is something else. It abandons all the Freedom Now Suite's acerbic and (as far as I can tell) political dimensions, pivoting to an off-the-wall blend of circuitous grooves and spiritual choirs. This isn't remotely my comfort zone, but this suite is so momentous and damn full of beans from the moment it kicks off that there is no room for inhibitions! I cracked a grin at multiple points across multiple listens at the sunnyday show of vim here, and hey, the obligatory drum solo is a good time too.

3.9 will probably bump
5Max Roach, Charles Mingus, and Duke Ellington
Money Jungle


March 5th
Butkuiss rec
1963 (1962)

Unsurprisingly, this lineup translated to an almost intimidatingly cool record - Ellington lays the groundwork with a slinky set of piano motifs, over which he struts his stuff like some mythical too-rare-for-life peacock, Roach's brisk drumwork encloses him with all the sturdy infrastructure of a zoo cage, and Mingus' rollicking basslines rattle those damn bars as though just daring Ellington to break his composure. The contrast between the two is what sustains this (though apparently reflects a volatile studio dynamic irl) and makes for a highly distinctive album, which boasts a strong set of earworms to boot ("Very Special" is an immediate favourite) - I do find the level of energy and inner tension a little draining across a full listen, but this is a badass record by anyone's standards

3.8
6Sonny Rollins
Saxophone Colossus


March 5th
self-rec
1957 (1956)

Somewhat underwhelmed by this - I got into Sonny through Plus 4 and loved how vibrant and democratic that record was! It was never outright raucous, but it brought a ton of energy and personality from a really balanced lineup, and while Sonny's solos *were* great (as were the late, great Clifford Brown's), they were just another facet of the warmth, dynamism and melodic strength that sustained the whole album.

This falls flat to me by comparison. The tunes themselves are anchored around less engaging core motifs (tentative early take - may well end up retracting), the energy levels are worn dangerously thin, and true to the album title, the 'band' is less a group of spirited equals and more a gang of enablers for Sonny's spotlight performances (with the exception of Max Roach, whose occasional fills and longer drum solos play out as like lethargic acts of overcompensation imo). Yes, it's a musicianship spotlight piece, yes it's closer to cool jazz, but Sonny's improv is less appealing as a core attraction and the pacing falls foul of laidback and sinks all the way to >listless< for me. Can't get too wound up - it's 'good', technically impressive, melodically tasteful etcetc, but it also drags its damn feet.

3.5
7Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt and Sonny Rollins
Sonny Side Up


March 6th
Havey rec
1959 (1957)

...now this is more like it. Lovely sauntering opener breaks the ice with a charming vocal from Diz, but that was just the warmup! THere's the killer change of pace between the blistering "Eternal Triangle" and the loungier "After Hours" and absolutely absurd concentration of striking melodies on that powerhouse closer (jfc that opening solo), and between that satisfying album-structure and the way it enables pep and restraint from all involved to the appropriate measures, and the individual strength of each piece + powerhouse solos across the whole thing, this is pretty much bop perfection. Might bump. Perfectly timed rec and a whole lot of joy!

4.2
8Charles Mingus
Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus


March 6th
self-rec
1964 (1963)

Based on its premise, I was a little worried that this album would come off as redundant or overly precious (tl;dr Mingus revisited a handful of songs he'd previously recorded with two different (though overlapping) bigass bands) -- but no, no, no!

Almost all the pieces here are welcome and meaningful revisions (excepting ""I X Love", which I hadn't heard in any form before, and "Theme for Lester Young", which doesn't stand out to me that much against the og "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"), and more importantly, these bands were fecking cooking. Easily one of the best Mingus albums for hard slamming blues bangers (up with Blues and Roots and ahead of Oh Yeah!), though "I X Love", "Mood Indigo" and "Theme for Lester Young" all make for crafty moments of introspection where needed. I call that a stacked tracklist!

Highlights:

・"II B.S." takes "Haitian Fight Song" from the Clown, which I'd always thought was badass though a little belaboured, and kicks it off with exactly the kind of incendiary spark that it was reaching for and *almost* found to begin with. Shorter runtime makes for arguably greater impact, but the energy is here is a big raise. Huge banger
・"Celia" is great! I enjoy the whole of its parent album (East Coasting), but similarly to the above, the version is snappier and lands each of its beats with a little more flair. This tracklist is much less homogenous than East Coasting's, where it was fairly indistinct for a soft 'highlight' track
・I'm not huge on Mingus Ah Um as a whole (great compositions, somewhat stuffy album), but the opener was a solid mission statement that tied together most of the positives for me. But damn, "Better Get Hit in Yo' Soul" is a raise across the board - much perkier, love the buzz that a larger band and faster pace lend it.
・"Mood Indigo" is a much more faithful rendition of the Ellington standard than the contorted swagger Mingus + co. mutated it into on Mingus Dynasty. Don't quite prefer this version, but it does great work bringing out a more whimsical side of the piece.

Really satisfying record to hear having followed a curated discog run chronologically to get to it -- Mingus at the top of his game here, great record for second-timers unsure of where to go following Black Saint.

4.1
9Thelonious Monk
Genius of Modern Music: Volume 1


March 7th
Asleep rec
1951 (1947-48)

Spun this one enough times looking for a take. I don't have a take. Monk is the man and I am very precisely whelmed by him here, as I have been before. He doubtless has a je-ne-sais-quoi, but these pieces are indistinct enough to me that I (fuck) literally don't know what it is. Not sure if this record benefits or suffers from a relative lack of prankish antics à la "Little Rootie Tootie". It is fine I am entry bop.

3.5
10Laufey
Bewitched


March 8th
self-rec
2023

It's a day off from jazz-jazz, which means a day on for contemp jazz-pop! Had no idea how optimistic to be for this, but overall Laufey's velvet tones and concertedly drowsy supporting palette (which is equal parts big plus and big minus across a full listen - this is not a short album!) walk the walk and make for the no-questions-asked no-explanation-needed Pleasant Experience that a revivalist pop record this deliberately out of step with anything approaching a contemporary trend very much needs. It's not edgy, it doesn't buck the mainstream for optics, it's just *nice* sentimentalist mooch from a singer whose heart is apparently in the right place. Fine.

I'm not feeling it on more than a superficial level though -- Laufey gives Carly Rae Jepsen a run for her money on one-note lyricism across the whole album, and with none of the sense of burrowing further into a poignant theme (plus the writing feels thoroughly Gen-Z coded in a way I tried to jive with, but which ultimately rubs me the wrong way given the record's otherwise spotless anachronism). Look forward to hearing her in public at points I neither asked for nor necessarily needed.

3.4
11Bill Evans
Sunday at the Village Vanguard


March 9th
Trif rec
1961 (1961)

Verrrrry glad I sat on this a while - first thoughts would have been lukewarm coffee music, but this has warmed up to *exactly the right degree of hot* coffee music! This thing's lackadaisical qualities have more staying power than I realised, and although I still have virtually no thoughts on this on a song-level after 5 or so listens (I think?), it has brought increasing comfort to my days. Yay! Love how pronounced the bass is too -- those solos are a lovely, earthy counterpart to Bill's slinkier style. Very tasteful stuff wow I have no opinion

3.7
12Herbie Hancock
Sextant


March 10th
cylinder rec
1973 (1973)

Lmfao royally set myself up for this one by assuming it had been released immediately after Maiden Voyage (per title similarities) and that it would begin to wrap up bop for Herbie in the same way that I'm trying to wrap it up for this part of the list.

This was not what I signed up for, and ngl I was really not in the mood for three girthy tracks of iconoclastic jazz-funk insanity when I threw it on.

But now a second jam is underway and everything is changing brb

EDIT: yeah this is cracked lol. Hated "Rain Dance" on first spin (tl;dr this is a garbage study album, don't try it) but lapped my wasted sweat right up off the filter second time around. Grooves are absolutely cooking across the board and the tones are ear sex. Whole thing feels addled and profane and earned my broadest shiteating grin at various points. "Hornets" has a few truly insane flourishes, but perhaps bites off more than it (I) can chew as a whole - first two tracks are perfect though maybe. Will probably rescind that take and bump this at some point -- so much more character here than in Herbie's bop phase, am excited to explore more of this stretch of his discog later on

3.9
13Sun Ra
Sleeping Beauty


March 11th
porc rec
1979 (1979)

gimme that bliss i'm sleepy

Ed. Awww, yes! I think wanted to like this more than I did - love what these expansive pieces, dreamy tones, plethora of lovely melodies, smart use of spiritual mantras (even if these were my least favourite part) to anchor otherwise diffuse structures promise, but didn't find myself swooning over it as much as my ears were telling me it deserved to be. Not so much a criticism as a very modest disappointment (in myself?) - this is a lovely record and I'll be revisiting it + peeping more Sun Ra for sure

3.8
14Fela Kuti
Roforofo Fight


March 12th
Milo rec

Why is this not the best album ever? What is 'holding it back'? Is anything? The t/t is a hysterically savage banger (WHO ARE YOU GO AND DIE FUCK AWAY oh yes), "Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am" is gorgeous soulful magic and maybe my favourite here, and if it ain't, "Go Slow" is obviously supremely cool funk perfection for every one of its 1065 seconds. "Question Jam Answer" is too far above water to be the weak link I might otherwise have painted it as, and the two 'bonus' tracks were fun the one time I jammed them, even though they make this album way too long.

So why will I not devour it eat it breathe it love it 4 it? Why is the vast amount of spirit in this record not also my spirit? HUH? Is Fela Kuti the boi to finally make me admit the boundaries of my own pastiness? Should this list have been March of Africa after all? Don't you dare answer any of this questions this episode isn't over (but ignore everything in the Zombie blurb)

3.999
15Fela Kuti
Zombie


March 13th
neek rec

Not as warm on this as Roforofo Fight, and learning about the violent context surrounding its release has made me acutely aware of how wide the gap is between how much I respect it as a statement/provocation and how much personal connection I actually have to the music (which is still mighty gratifying). Bops, spits and swaggers for sure, but it didn't have the resonance I feel it should have. Girlfriend vibed it a lot though!

3.7
16Mulatu Astatke
Ethiopiques 4: Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale


March 14th
Pots rec
1998 (1969-1974)

so how we got here to begin with is that Mulatu of Ethiopia blew me away a few weeks - absolutely drank up everything about that record, loved its arrangement, loved how the inviting side of its funky overtones rubbed against its ominous motifs. That album tied together a wide range of disparate qualties that I love in everything from klezmer to downtempo and felt like something I'd needed to hear for years, from John Zorn to Amon Tobin to Secret Chiefs 3 to Bohren und der Club of Gore and Twin Peaks -- and its 26-minute runtime felt feverishly concentrated around that one specific fix. In we go with Ethio-Jazz, yes fucking please

Ethiopiques 4 isn't quite the same level of WOW for me, and I don't think this is all that surprising: it offers a much more versatile showcase of Mulatu Astatke's sound that song-by-song is arguably stronger than Mulatu of Ethiopia, yet doesn't double down in quite the same way on what drew me to begin with. "Yèkèrmo sèw" (#1) made this obvious from the get-go, as it's practically interchangeable with the earlier record composition-wise (as are many others, besides those that appear on both records), but the performance is slicker and the recording crisper in a way I respect but don't feel the same visceral response to (in part because the man's deliciously squelched-out keyboard tone is not quite as focal :[).

The Songs Themselves are all killer though (obviously!), and while it doesn't top Mulatu of Ethiopia at its own game, it does excel for me when it explores different territory. "Tezeta" is a sublime piece, much less foreboding and a good deal more mellow than I was expecting -- I lack a better reference point for it, but it makes me think of the exoticsm and mystique I've enjoyed from the good side of ECM jazz. "Munayé" has a great saunter to it and is just dying for a killer soul vocal cover, while "Nètsanèt" tones up the funk for mellow standout. I've made my peace with this being a comp-of-great-tunes rather than a keynote album-statement, and very much look forward to digesting the full spectrum of thelotofem at the leisurely rate that they seem to demand. Great record.

4.1
17Stan Kenton
City of Glass


March 15th
park rec
1951

Going with the shorter, original version of this as I very much need to catch up... and was this that helpful a decision? Possibly? Not going to quibble technicalities or definitions, but this doesn't really register as jazz to me - sounds much more like an experimental modern classical recording (Messiaen reference on the wiki page makes a lot of sense) that straddles the line between big band and orchestra, and while this is conceptually plenty cool, I'm not going to pretend I got a lot out of it. Don't have strong enough thoughts to add a rating.
18Grachan Moncur III
Evolution


March 16th
GiaNXGX
1964 (1963)

Wish I had something more refined to say about this one, but my thoughts on the strength of any given piece are ultimately going to be trumped at every turn by the fact that Bobby Hutcherson's vibraphone straight-up rubs me the wrong way in this kind of jazz -- no disrespect to the man, but if there is one instrument that I feel demands a prevailingly consonant backdrop, that's the one. This does not bode well for revisiting Out to Lunch! Onwards!

3.5
19Anthony Braxton
For Alto


March 17th
Ryus rec
1971 (1969)

Aight thoughts hot off the plate: have done zero research for this and listened exactly once so will be interested to see how this take ages. This was at points wild and astounding and bracing and primal yet incredibly dextrous (John Cage + Murray De Pillars + to a lesser degree Cecil Taylor and Kenny McKenny) and at points excruciatingly dull (Ann and Peter Allen (though I did love how he played 'dead' notes just to emphasise the force of his breath earlier on), Leroy Jenkins). Am presuming the entire thing was improvised, and the interplay between those two sets of extremities reminded above all of Fushitsusha II, though this is less of an endurance test and obviously a very different style -- I think Braxton's knack for NO LAWS bursts of intuitive rapture is quite similar to Keiji Haino's, as are the liberties both extract from this re. how much patience they demand at points, and how wildly they are prepared to claw at their instruments (even if Braxton tends towards dexterity where Haino goes for debasement). Which is to say I 'enjoyed' this modestly, was absolutely riveted by it at points (mostly earlier on), questioned a lot of its downtime, found it frustrating in a manner that I also quite admired. Unlike Fushitsusha II, where the murky atmosphere and sheer abrasion of the band performances sustain my intrigue even when Nothing Is Emphatically Happening, I think the singularity of Braxton's solo performances works against him as much as it does for him -- hearing those sounds emerging from one man is just awe-inspiring when this is *on*, but then it's *off* there's nothing for him to fall back on.

For now it gets a square 3.5, but I'm curious to see how my view on it shifts. Powerful album by anyone's standards

although this

"Jazz? Kekw go listen to Anthony Braxton please
I definitely think bossa nova is the worst thing to happen to the "jazz" movement as a whole. Thankfully there isn't much in here. That being said, this isn't all that bad. Just never tell me again this is jazz, because this is pop. Elaborately arranged pop, but still pop. Decent listening overall, a bit samey to my ears (but that isnt a bad thing per se). Just the songs seem to melt one into the other."

remains one of the worst things i've seen on rym this year
20Kazumi Watanabe
Jazz Impression


March 18th
someone rec
2009

Having begged for BIG BANG STUFF only on my jazz-fusion, I backtracked wildly and tried to approach someone's bombast-noodle album as coffee music. The results were surprisingly smooth / the jazzwank guitar was surprisingly lit / the large number of minutes spent doing a large number of large fucking things has put a dampener on repeat spins unfort

3.5
21Andrew Hill
Point of Departure


March 19th
Vlac/milliondead rec
1965 (1964)

After being very acutely whelmed by Black Fire last year, I was a little reluctant to throw this on at all - a mistake! I found it much more forthcoming than that album, partially for a range of striking solos, partially because the rather thorny chord progressions sat better for whatever reason, partially because the emphatically hi-hat -heavy percussion (like, what even is this mix lol) gives it a rather jagged feeling of spaciousness that I think rather complements the album's acerbic melodic side. A load of distinctive harmonies throughout this, lends itself to close listening just as much as background bopping, good stuff.

4.0
22John Coltrane
Crescent


March 20th
self-rec
1964

In the run-up to A Love Supreme at the end of the month, I figured I'd peep some more early-mid 60s Trane (think Impressions was the only thing I'd heard from '63-64). Very glad I settled on this one - opening numbers in particular are effortlessly enjoyable in a way I wasn't necessarily expecting (probably given how close this was to Impressions chronologically, and how underwhelmed I was by Lush Life when I sought it out for precisely that reason). Only gripe is that the final tracks are thin on their feet outside of their respective bass and drum solos (though both are still plenty cool) - album is too top-heavy to rate as high as I was initially tempted, but still a winner and one of the easier Coltrane albums in my wheelhouse to just throw on whenever

3.9
23Pharoah Sanders
Karma


March 21st
self-rec

Technically another classic reappraisal day as I'd already heard this a couple of times, but I was hazy on the details and so -

Yep this still a bewildering, wondrous journey through more breathtaking extremes than I care to count. The development of this thing is so smooth it's hard not to see it as dreamlike, and it balances larger-than-life epicness with umpteen gorgeous flourishes in a way I don't have a full grasp on - and I'm happy to keep it that way. Thoroughly transportive record that makes me relish my own inability to articulate it, can only see it going up from here. Glad for the revisit.

4.1
24Nils Petter Molvaer
Khmer


March 22nd
self-rec
1998

Felt like a break 'today' (yesterday), and so we are going nu-jazz

edit: yup this was a break alright 3.3
25Sonny Sharrock
Black Woman


March 23rd
tec rec
1970 (1969)

I'd put off Sonny Sharrock, thinking for whatever reason that he would be much more demanding or cerebral than this is remotely fair to this BALLER album. Damn! Can see this as a 'challenging' record, but practically every one of its *kickass* spread of ideas is so rich/intuitive/expressive that I hardly had an issue with this, whether in Sonny's innovative range of guitar stylings (the man covers just about everything from jagged amplified face-melters ("Peanut") to pastoral acoustic downtime ("Blind Willy" here), or the vocal performances his wife lays down in the title role (could not believe the banshee terror she dishes out here comes from the same throat as the gorgeous melodic turn of "Bialero"). These pieces tap into such strong anchoring melodies that it never feels entirely like a Guitar or even Vocal record, just amazing alchemical goodness across the board. Feel it has its roots in Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite, but (politics aside), I think this offers a much more striking and concentrated balance of similar aesthetics in a fraction of the time. Very cool album, will be exploring further.

4.0
26Mahavishnu Orchestra
The Inner Mounting Flame


March 24th
Manatea rec
1971

Had quite a bit of hype going into this, but the upshot was much less what I love about jazz and much more what I really don't love on prog. "Meeting of the Spirits" conjured some great mystique and had me convinced I was just listening to a particularly flamboyant warm-up, but the rest of this leans way hard into overblown guitar solos of limited melodic breadth played over tracks that offer little more than a crutch of their benefit. Some of the foundations are individually pleasant ("Dawn"), but not enough to mitigate the wearisome shred factor. "A Lotus on Irish Streams" is a beautiful piece built on a far more democratic arrangement, and saves this from a slightly lower rating. Bleh.

3.0
27Hizuru
飛鶴 -Hizuru


March 25th
self-rec
2017

Needed something to wash my ears out from the '70s exotica-cheese-shred fest above, and found this Japanese folk/chamber jazz on an unrelated related rabbithole and figured why the hell, uh, not.

This is a really cool record that was probably a poor choice for this list, as its overwhelming focus is zen folkscapes (with the occasional sweeping build ("Ushiwakamaru")) and the jazz progressions that do arise feel a lot more like a means to that end than the Central Deal - it reminds me a bit of Park Jiha's early stuff in its combination of jazz vocabulary with ethnic instruments, but with very little of her minimalist composition tendencies (and a different heritage, obviously). The arrangements and tones are exquisite -- YES to the shakuhachi (Japanese flute) on "Utsusemi" (jazziness of the bass part vs trad folk stylings of practically everything else is a great example of how this record operates, though the g o r g e o u s "Misty Forest" has the best standalone jazz licks) and to the koto across the whole thing -- and the compositions have a really deft way of slipping between foreground and background: there's a constant sense of development, so much so that individual motifs are rather hard to grasp at points, but this pays off in a myriad contours and flourishes, and each piece follows a rather mercurial set of dynamics - these songs are constantly shifting in unexpected directions, often to outright bold extents, and there's a ton to pick apart here.

Rec me anything in this vein, even if it was a cheat jazz pick.

4.0
28Wayne Shorter
Juju


March 26th
Sharenge rec
1965 (1964)

Whoops I forgot to blurb this on time despite giving it a heap of breezy and uniformly enjoyable spins? Excellent post-bop record, my thoughts on this are overall quite similar to Point of Departure, though while the weird drum mix was a point of distinction on that, here it's that the title-track in particular is rhythmically diffuse and holds itself together like a thick swirl of fumes that never quite touch the ground -- it's got the classic bop swing feel but none of the steady, strolling basslines to it (though "Deluge" restores these in good time and "Yes or No" is rife with it). Quite a varied tracklist, appreciate how "House Of Jade" rounds it out with a slower, more melodious cut and how the whole thing dips in and out of ye classic bop tropes without ever abandoning them entirely. Lot of time for Wayne Shorter as a saxophonist too, his solos and the faintly plaintive tone of his refrains do a lot for me, very expressive player. Great record, not surprised I had such easy mileage with it.

4.0
29Tony Williams Lifetime
Emergency!


March 26th
sona rec
1969 (1969)

Though less palatable than Mahavishnu Orchestra, I found this a fair bit more engaging -- the chemistry between Williams' revelation of a drum performance and John McLaughlin's guitar clattering is much less indulgent than the naval gazing solos on The Inner Mounting Flame, and that combined with the comparatively spartan production value makes this worthwhile as a primal spectator sport. It is still a million years too long, structurally diffuse ("Beyond Games" has an killer central instrumental this utterly wasted on the vapid swagger of the start and end phases) and I could live without the vocals entirely. Can see how this was groundbreaking, but it hasn't exactly turned me around on fusion and all its indulgent bs. Interesting as a minute-to-minute record for sure, but the ongoing impression that these 3 bois are setting each other up to take turns clawing at smoke in the studio is a lot less satisfying over a full spin.

3.3
30Keith Jarrett
The Köln Concert


March 27th
[classic reappraisal day #1]
1975

Wow I am so glad this was the first reappraisal I lined up, as I have a filthy headache today and either of the following two would have melted me. Keith Jarrett's world-beating, listener-friendly improvised solo piano concert was definitely the one for the moment

For context, my first and only two spins of this had landed quite differently -- spin #1 had me convinced that Part I was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever heard and then dissipated after the steady rockin' gospel chords of II a rubbed me the wrong way, while spin #2 found the melodies innocuous and the flow of improv overly background-ready. Well?

I feel I've got a much better grip on this now, probably from having a fairer sense of what to expect. When I approached it having warmed up to the far more complex Survivor's Suite, I found its melodically simplicity overbearing and its progression vague. Such a different fix! The joy in this thing is in how Jarrett strings one moment to next with his impeccable ear for clear-as-crystal melodies. Excepting his blue note accents, most of this record is so consonant I was briefly tempted to high-nose it for not being jazzy enough (eww), but I'm much more comfortable with its purity and simplicity being The Main Deal, and find enough joy in its apparently ceaseless flow from one pristine phrase to the next.

That said, the flip side of this is that the development of these pieces is often shapeless (though full of possibilities! Part I seems like it's about to hit a major stride at 7:30 and 21:30, but the momentum of these points dissipates quickly! this piece really is about flow and development, and the simplistic chords are more a means to that end than a true substitute for overriding structure) -- and that same simplicity of the chord progressions at play is inevitably homogenous at times - I think the most challenging part of the concert is its demand for the audience to fixate on the foundation to the same degree as Jarrett, such that those central chords become a voiceless mantra of sorts (not to repeat 19, but Keiji Haino's Koko comes to mind here). Not so background viable after all then, though I doubt anyone would complain.

My prevailing impression now is just how humane and generous this piece is. I've seen a few comments about the appeal here being How Well He Can Play The Piano, which is just silly to me -- this concert sounds thoroughly intuitive to me and actively unpretentious in its virtuosity (especially compared to the jazz fusion records from recent days, Jarrett has a very refined sense of economical playing). Amazing reading up on the context and realising what an absolutely filthy mood he must have been in when it started - this concert hardly sounds like a vent, but I cannot imagine a more cleansing way to air the frustrations Jarrett had with the circumstances of its organisation and his short-term health problems

4.0
31Eric Dolphy
Out to Lunch!


March 28th
[classic reappraisal day #2]
1964

After having this rub me mildly the wrong way on last year's March of 1960s, I suppose a timely second chance was very much in order. I enjoyed my latest spins considerably more than my first, and was interested to see that the disproportionate number of jazz records I've since swept up had quite little bearing here (insofar as I was aware, anyway -- hearing Dolphy across a bunch of Coltrane and Mingus records probably helped). I felt much more in-step with this thing's screwball flair and gawky dissonance, and a ratty sense of paranoia beneath the zillion striking turns of phrase these musos throw out -- easy to conceive this as the tone for some hardboiled sleuth narrative where all the ends suddenly come loose and everything is up in the air, really jagged sense of chemistry between the players (and surprisingly democratic for a project from a bandleader as idiosyncratic and spotlight-prone as Dolphy).

As per 18, Bobby Hutcherson and his vibraphone are the sinker here for me - not gonna analyse or dissect this for shit, that tone across that mesh of notes just rubs me the wrong way. Love the vibraphone a lot for near-luminous quality it affords simple melodies, half of this is just frustratingly resonate clutter to me. A more positive counter-example that has since occurred to me is Kenny Wollesen (especially on John Zorn's Interzone), who can hit the same kind of note spam when the moment calls for it, but has a much more satisfying sense for when to rein it in and stick to a solid motif. Might check a Hutcherson solo joint, just to see what he does on his own terms. Meanwhile, Dolphy gets a pass in my book ig.

3.5
32Albert Ayler
Spiritual Unity


March 29th
[classic reappraisal day #3]

Hahaha so having taken some extensive time out from this one, I think I'd compartmentalised as far more impenetrable, crusty and snob-coded than it really is (kinda like all my reservations on Braxton distilled into one impression) -- this is a hoot! It put a proper shiteater on my face to hear that refrain in both "Ghosts" trotted out like a gift horse, brutally tossed aside in favour of howling mania, and then picked up again without skipping a beat. Obviously Ayler's sax demonics need little explanation, but so much of the chaos here revolves around Gary Peacock's bass for me -- it's not just that he 'clashes' with Ayler, it's that level of flagrant disregard each telegraphs for what the other is playing is almost hysterical, yet hearing the ease with which they pivot from async to sync makes me feel that there's some kinda sorcery in the air. Mad album: if I think of The Shape of Jazz to Come, I think of buncha dudes playing straight tunes that just happen to have fucked harmonies, but this record is all-out war lol -- and even then, it turns warfare into a sensational consumer sport.

Bumping it back up to a 4.0, can see it rising with periodic relistens.
33Charles Mingus
Let My Children Hear Music


March 30th
[classic reappraisal day #4]
1973

Alright, short backstory for this one is that I spun it a couple of times when I was first getting into Mingus (iirc before I backtracked to Pith Erec and ran an abridged chronological run), at which stage I found it maudlin and overorchestrated and generally not a patch on Black Saint or even Blues and Roots (but about on par with Ah Um). Would probably have 3.5'd at the time.

Coming back now with a clearer sense of exactly what 'orchestrated' means with Mingus to begin with has definitely helped me lend a more appreciative ear to it. The scale and intricacy of these pieces definitely feels like an evolution from his '50s/'60s output and I (mostly) enjoy how democratic and saturated-as-all-fuck these arrangements are -- every other second, a different instrument jumps into the foreground, but every piece develops seamlessly, the whole thing runs like clockwork, the architecture of this album is definitely the most impressive of any Mingus I've heard other than (probably) Black Saint. Not sure where I got 'maudlin' from either - this is certainly melodious and at points nostalgic, but there's far too much at play for it to get a chance to wallow in those aspects.

That said, a *steep* proportion of the appeal of Mingus-the-orchestrator for me was that his compositional ambitions so often seemed at odds with the a) practical limitations of the handful of musicians he had to work with and b) the gritty, tactile nature of the blues/swing/bop traditions that underpinned their performance -- and the friction between these was what made the likes of "Reincarnation of a Lovebird", "Mood Indigo" (Mingus Dynasty ver) and the whole of Black Saint so remarkable (see 8 for more on why earthy no-nonsense blues Mingus is a big win for me even when the pieces in question are a proper handful): hearing the guy punching above his weight was almost as powerful as the blows he landed.

This album being recorded by a literal jazz orchestra changes things for me, and while it's dazzling on a compositional level, it misses the grit and oomph I feel I need for a full Mingus experience -- 'frictionless' is a good word for it, but I don't want this thing to run like clockwork - I want it to kick up a storm! Tracks 2-4 and "The I of Hurricane Sue" suffer from this particular ("Adagio ma non troppo" do be pretty though). However, I LOVE how it blows any suggestion of stuffiness with the absolute baller chaos hoedown blowout that is "Hobo Ho". This is exactly what I was hoping for more of -- that orchestra sounds like it's tearing itself apart, forget the meekness and proficiency that weigh so much of this thing down, the visceral demands of this piece trample everything. Fun! Also enjoy how "The Chill of Death" offers more sombre, coherent reprisal of the movie-narration he tried out on "The Clown". This one earns its sweeping orchestration cred. And the opener goes, but y'all knew that already.

tl;dr great music, but upscales Mingus' vision beyond the capacity it best shines in. I undervalued it at first (definitely prefer this to Ah Um by a wide margin) and can accept it as one of his better albums, but not one of his best

3.9
34John Coltrane
A Love Supreme


March 31st
[classic reappraisal day #5]
1965

Not sure exactly how this ended up here -- heard it once a few years ago, shrugged it off, got into Coltrane through My Favourite Things and Blue Train shortly after, have since been exploring his pre-'65 discog and never looked back. I expected this listen to involve some measure of identifying and wrestling with whatever it was that initially put me off, similar to 31 and 33, but? It quite simply isn't there anymore? Loved almost everything about this and felt that it had the most satisfying album-arc of any Coltrane I've heard by a significant margin (even if Giant Steps is still king)? Only minor gripe is that "Part III - Pursuance" didn't land as quite the peak I feel was demanded by the otherwise parabolic structure despite being an excellent piece in and of itself. Otherwise, absolutely marvellous solos over the whole thing, outstanding drums, yada yada great album

4.2 and probably due to rise
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