On the fine all-round A Better Understanding session, Sonny Fortune is mostly in the spotlight. Although generally playing alto, Fortune is also heard on soprano and flute. In fact, the opening 6/4 romp, "Mind Games," has Fortune overdubbed on both soprano and flute. Some of the modal pieces (such as "Awakening") sound like they could have composed by McCoy Tyner although Fortune actually wrote all nine selections.
Nice combination of jazz legends Stanley Clarke (b), Wayne Shorter (sax), and L. White (d) on this debut recording that includes several standards.
This 1999 live set features the great drummer Elvin Jones leading an all-star group. The repertoire, comprised of three jazz standards (including John Coltrane's lesser-known "Wise One"), three originals and an adaptation of a folk song, generally featuring one or two soloists on each cut. The straight-ahead and basic "E.J.'s Blues" has spots for trumpeter Darren Barrett (who sounds a bit like Freddie Hubbard) and Jones, while "Straight No Chaser" puts the spotlight on trombonist Robin Eubanks (in a J.J. Johnson mood), pianist Carlos McKinney and the drummer.
The addition of Bobby McFerrin to drummer Jack DeJohnette's group should have been a definite plus; the singer can do so much with his voice, from substituting for a string bass to using his falsetto like a horn. This program of mostly originals, however, not only lacks more than one or two strong melodies, but also fails to have real development, particularly on the selections that include McFerrin. Performances often start in what could just as well be the middle and end inconclusively, with many of the pieces being little more than funky riffs for the rhythm section. Despite a few strong moments (mostly from pianist Michael Cain), only "Seventh D" and "Summertime" (both instrumentals) are worth hearing a second time.
This CD only has one fault, but it is a major one. It seems that no matter what he plays (whether it be an obscure song by Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, or Antonio Carlos Jobim, or one of his two originals), Javon Jackson sounds too close to comfort to Joe Henderson; in fact there are times when the tenor-saxophonist sounds identical.
A lost treasure from the legendary Thelonious Monk – a live date recorded in Paris at the end of the 60s – late in Monk's life, and every bit as wonderful as his famous 60s studio work with his quartet! Of that group, only Charlie Rouse remains on tenor sax – but Rouse is more than enough to make things great, and the interplay between his tenor and Monk's piano is completely sublime – full of angular movements, underscored with plenty of soul – and given support from Nate Hygelund on bass and either Paris Wright or Philly Joe Jones on drums. There's a rough edge to the music that's really great – that sharper, more sinister vibe that Monk could have in a live setting – and titles include "Light Blue", "Bright Mississippi", "I Mean You", "Ruby My Dear", "I Love You Sweetheart Of All My Dreams", "Crepuscule With Nellie", and "Nutty". Special package comes with a bonus DVD of the performance!