This 1982 recording features saxophonist Sonny Simmons and drummer Billy Higgins and a smokin' pickup band that included bassist Herbie Lewis and pianist Joe Bonner, and a horn section that added Michael Marcus on baritone, Al Thomas on trombone, and Joe Hardin on trumpet. The opener is "Sparrow's Last Jump," a stomping hard bop workout that features Simmons in top lyrical form and Lewis bowing the entire tune, despite the fact that it's based on hard bop – hell, post-hard bop – changes and is played in 6/8 Mingus tempo! Of course, Higgins is dancing all over the kit and it's obvious that, in his solo, Simmons is reading that frenetic yet seamless dance because he goes over the time signature with his legato phrasing and cascades his arpeggios right through the middle of the intervals. It settles a bit on the title track, where the horns are left out so Simmons is sitting in only the rhythm section. Here, Higgins plays out a double-time rhythm on the ride cymbal before slowing it to four.
The four-disc box set called the Acoustic Collection: 1999-2002 assembles the three albums Dolly Parton cut for the independent Sugar Hill label, and a hodgepodge bonus DVD. The albums – The Grass Is Blue, Little Sparrow, Halos & Horns – were all critically acclaimed as they signified a return by Parton to her bluegrass and backwoods country roots. That said, there are cover versions here of many songs, including one of Led Zeppelin's infamous, ubiquitous hit, "Stairway to Heaven." The enclosed DVD features five new song mixes for "Seven Bridges Road," "Travelin' Prayer," "Train, Train," "Shine," and "I'm Gone." There are two non-Parton performances recorded at the Dolly Parton Tribute by Kasey Chambers and Sinéad O'Connor, three videos for songs from this collection, and a duet performance between Parton and Norah Jones singing "The Grass Is Blue."
Tom Waits grew steadily less prolific after redefining himself as a junkyard noise poet with Swordfishtrombones, but the five-year wait between The Black Rider and 1999's Mule Variations was the longest yet. Given the fact that Waits decided to abandon major labels for the California indie Epitaph, Mule Variations would seem like a golden opportunity to redefine himself and begin a new phase of his career. However, it plays like a revue of highlights from every album he's made since Swordfishtrombones. Of course, that's hardly a criticism; the album uses the ragged cacophony of Bone Machine as a starting point, and proceeds to bring in the songwriterly aspects of Rain Dogs, along with its affection for backstreet and backwoods blues, plus a hint of the beatnik qualities of Swordfish.
This is the one that started it: Mosaic, recorded in 1961, was the first recording of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers as a sextet, a setting he kept from 1961-1964. The band's front line was trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, trombonist Curtis Fuller, and tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter; Cedar Walton played piano and Jymie Merritt (a criminally underappreciated talent) was the bassist. Everything on this set was written by the musicians in the band. Walton wrote the burning title track; its blazing tempo and Eastern modes were uncharacteristic of the Jazz Messengers sound, but it swings like mad. Hubbard contributed two pieces to the album, the first of which is the groover "Down Under," with its blues gospel feel…