Jazz has always had a soft spot for pop music. Icons like trumpeter Louis Armstrong blessed the masses with his positivity and raspy voice in 1967's "What a Wonderful World" and saxophonist John Coltrane transformed Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1960 musical smash "My Favorite Things" into a swinging affair. Fast forward to 2014 as singer, songwriter and producer Jose James continues the practice with a fine rendition of 1972's "Simply Beautiful" by the one-time prince of R&B, vocalist Al Green.
After the unqualified critical, chart, sales, and Grammy successes of the Robert Glasper Experiment's two Black Radio albums, remixes, and singles, the need to explore was requisite. ArtScience is a reflection of the qualities and musical interests that brought this band together. Their seamless meld of contemporary jazz, hip-hop, neo-soul, pop, and rock has influenced a host of artists following in their wake. This album marks a new modus operandi: it's the first time the band has written and produced collectively. (Even the two covers here were arranged by the unit.) It's also a first in that there are no guest vocal cameos. The set was recorded in New Orleans over two weeks apart from the endless touring and hustling solo careers of its members.
Mirroring his onetime boss and mentor Miles Davis' own protean output, Herbie Hancock has explored hard bop, soul-jazz, fusion, funk-rock, soundtracks, hip-hop-inflected pop ("Rockit"), and many permutations in between. His early work for Blue Note, though, offers the best entrée for newcomers. Compiled from five of his albums for the label and covering a period from 1962-1968, this fine sampler includes highlights from his debut, Takin' Off ("Watermelon Man"), the classic Maiden Voyage (the title track and "Dolphin Dance"), and the early electric album Speak Like a Child (the title track and "Riot"). Add to this more indelible cuts like "Cantaloupe Island" and "One Finger Snap," not to mention the presence of numerous '60s jazz luminaries (Dexter Gordon, Freddie Hubbard, Thad Jones, Hank Mobley, Billy Higgins, et al.), and you have perfect way to get a taste of some of the best modern jazz committed to wax.
Good Deal is a typically fine record from the Three Sounds, who were beginning to hit their stride when this session was recorded in May of 1959. Like most of their records, it's laidback – even when the group works a swinging tempo, there's a sense of ease that keeps the mood friendly, relaxed and mellow. Balancing standards like "Satin Doll," "Soft Winds" and "That's All" with bop ("Robbin's Nest"), calypso ("St. Thomas") and originals, the Three Sounds cover a lot of stylistic territory, putting their distinctive stamp on each song. It's very accessible, pleasant soul-jazz and mainstream hard bop, but Gene Harris' masterful technique means that Good Deal rewards close listening as well.
Joe Lovano is part of a select group of established musicians who have been around for so long, achieved so much, and have such an instantly recognizable sound, that a new release is more or less guaranteed to be good. And so it is with Classic! Live at Newport – everybody knows what to expect but that doesn't in any way diminish the enjoyment of listening to it.
Grant Green always brought out the best in Big John Patton. Almost any record that featured the guitarist and organist was dominated by their scintillating interplay, and it always sounded like they were trying to top each other's blistering, funky solos. Patton and Green rarely sounded better than they did on Got a Good Thing Goin', a 1966 session that functioned as a showcase for the pair's dynamic interaction and exciting, invigorating solos. In particular, the duo's mastery is evident because there are no horns to stand in the way – only drummer Hugh Walker and conga player Richard Landrum provide support, leaving plenty of room for Green and Patton to run wild.
Features the latest 24 bit remastering. Housed in one of Blue Note house graphic designer Reid Miles' most delightful covers – a powder-blue image featuring a nattily-dressed Freddie Roach receiving a heaping helping of the soul food in question – the outstanding Mo' Greens Please serves as a stepping stone between the more studied soul-jazz of the organist's label debut Down to Earth and the looser, deeper grooves of the following Good Move!