Three good CDs this month. My main complaint is that they are all too short.
Jaco Pastorius/Pat Metheny/Bruce Ditmas/Paul Bley -- Jaco (1974). Though I was feeling a bit unsure as I sampled this in CD Source, I went ahead and got it. The disc is on the free jazz side and though I have supposed expanded (or degenerated) my taste, I am sometimes cannot listen to such things. But this one is not wild and harsh going in a dozen directions at once. There is still a sense of harmony and each piece (many of them rather short) segues into the next, so there is a feel that the disc is one continuous piece. All but one of the songs was composed by Paul Bley (electric piano) or by his then wife Carla. It is difficult to hear where Metheny is playing, but when you do, the solos are pretty nice. Of course this disc also documents Pastorius in all his youth and energetic glory. I believe this was recorded around the same time as Pat Metheny's first solo record, Bright Size Life, on which Pastorius also shines.
I picked up The Jack DeJohnette Piano Album (1985) at the same time I found Jaco. Of course any fan of modern jazz knows that DeJohnette is one of the finest drummers in music, producing his own terrific CDs as well as his stellar work with the Keith Jarrett Trio. But many are not aware that he is also a mighty good pianist in his own right. This is, for the most part, an enjoyable trio project where Dejohnette gives up the drum chair to Freddie Watts who is ably supported by bassist Eddie Gomez. DeJohnette plays synthesizer on a couple of cuts. While the purist might complain, the only song the synthesizer really got in the way is on "Time After Time," the Cyndi Lauper song that seems to be a favorite among many jazz musicians. On this song, the synth sounds like one of those keyboards one bought for sing alongs at home. Otherwise this is pleasant cd, demonstrating DeJohnette's considerable skill on the piano and as a composer. Several of the songs are tributes to his wife and to other great musicians like Ahmad Jamal and Bill Evans. In the liner notes, DeJohnette is quoted as saying about playing the piano, "I actually deal with it pianistically, not percussively as some people might expect." One listening to this disc could hear DeJohnette's strong understanding of what makes good music and perhaps even understand how that sense makes him a superior drummer.
I found Toots Theilemans' Do Not Leave Me (1988) at a garage sale and paid 50 cents for it. This is a disc that is certainly worth more than that. Here the greatest harmonica player in the world (and not a bad guitarist) is documented in concert in his native Belgium performing with Fred Hersch (piano), Marc Johnson (bass) and Joey Baron (drums). This set (not really a whole concert it appears) opens with Jacques Brel's classic ballad "Ne Me Quitte Pas" ("Do Not Leave Me"). This seems an odd way to open a concert, but it works here, setting a good tone with Theilemans' expressive harmonica. Next comes medley of "Blue 'N Green" and "All Blues" that clocks in at over twenty minutes. This is probably the highlight of the disc each player getting a chance to solo and wind around two great jazz standards. Next comes "Stardust," and then "Autumn Leaves." On the last two songs, "Velas" and "Bluesette," we get to hear Theilemans on guitar, the latter where he accompanies his trademark whistling and the former in a tasty quartet piece. The disc ends with the last song and the audience fading out, leaving an unfinished feel to the project. I wanted/expected more. However, what we have is most satisfying.
Brief notes concerning last months discs: The B.B King disc Spotlight on Lucille was fine, highlighting the blues master's playing, though some cuts seem to be cut out of other pieces. The Lee Ritenour cd Alive in L.A. was much more like real jazz than I thought it was going to be. I got a kick out of his tribute to the great Wes Montgomery. New Age Bach by Joel Spielgelman was exactly what I thought it would be. It was probably worth the buck I paid for it.
In the future: I have preordered an upcoming album featuring my favorite guitar player and my second favorite piano player. I am so excited, I'm scared.
Another note: I was sad to see that Robby Steinhardt had left Kansas (by mutual consent), but happy to see David Ragsdale back to take his place. Click here for a good interview with drummer Phil Ehart at Classic Rock Revisited.