Japanese drummer George Otsuka is always one hell of a hip cat – one of those players whose name on a record always means that we'll pick it up – and never fail to hear something wonderful! And while Otsuka first got his start working with a piano trio at the end of the 60s, this sweet set from the mid 70s really has him stretching out nicely – working with a freewheeling group that has plenty of spiritual elements – but in that gentler avant mode you'd find in the Japanese scene of the time. The set's got some especially great Fender Rhodes and piano from Fumio Karashima, plus tenor and soprano sax from Shozo Sasaki – and all tracks are nice and long, and really let the instrumentation build up in this flowing, organic sort of way. Mitsuaki Furuno plays bass, and Norio Ohno adds in a bit of extra percussion too – and titles include a nice reading of "Naima", with lots of fast-moving congas – plus "Physical Structure", "Mustard Pot", and "Little Island".
The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is one of the greatest achievements in orchestration by any composer in jazz history. Charles Mingus consciously designed the six-part ballet as his magnum opus, and – implied in his famous inclusion of liner notes by his psychologist – it's as much an examination of his own tortured psyche as it is a conceptual piece about love and struggle. It veers between so many emotions that it defies easy encapsulation; for that matter, it can be difficult just to assimilate in the first place. Yet the work soon reveals itself as a masterpiece of rich, multi-layered texture and swirling tonal colors, manipulated with a painter's attention to detail. There are a few stylistic reference points – Ellington, the contemporary avant-garde, several flamenco guitar breaks – but the totality is quite unlike what came before it. Mingus relies heavily on the timbral contrasts between expressively vocal-like muted brass, a rumbling mass of low voices (including tuba and baritone sax), and achingly lyrical upper woodwinds, highlighted by altoist Charlie Mariano.
The Real… Ray Conniff is an exhaustive three-disc collection from Columbia Records celebrating the smooth and joyful sounds of the king of 1960s easy listening. Ray Conniff debuted as a trombonist for several prominent big bands before becoming a staff arranger at Columbia in the '50s.
Having released two albums in a nine month period between October 1981 and July 1982, “Three of a Perfect Pair” is the final part of the recorded trilogy begun with “Discipline” and “Beat”. Originally released in April 1984, from the pointillist minimalism of the title track through to the urgent rush of ‘Sleepless’ and the album’s closer ‘Larks’ Tongues in Aspic III’ - the only reference to the 1970s incarnations of the band – Crimson’s distinctive mixture of rock, electronica, funk and pure pop songs, ensured the group’s status as one of the most interesting and innovative bands of the decade.
Extensive lineup changes have caused some metal bands to fall apart creatively, while others have a way of bouncing back; it's safe to say that Exodus falls into the second category. The Bay Area thrash veterans have had their share of lineup changes over the years, but thankfully, Exodus have demonstrated that even when they stumble, one should never count them out…