Experimental at the time, this is a difficult listen years later. Recorded live at the 1970 Montreux Jazz Festival, this album features some challenging compositions by pianist Mike Nock. Violinist Michael White shows why he was a potential star, but this heavily electrified jazz is too abstract for most. The Fourth Way was a pioneering jazz-rock fusion group formed in the late 60s, before the horizons of the genre narrowed, and fusion became a perjorative term. The group was formed in the heady days of the San Francisco music era, comprised of pianist Mike Nock and violinist Michael White (both from the John Handy group), with bassist Ron McLure (from the Charles Lloyd quartet) and drummer Eddie Marshall.
Phil Woods & His European Rhythm Machine was a brilliant though short-lived quartet that made a handful of albums between 1968 and 1973, though most of them are long out of print. Happily, this early studio effort, with pianist George Gruntz, bassist Henri Texier, and drummer Daniel Humair, has been reissued in Japan by Toshiba-EMI, all of whom provide first-rate rhythmic support and make the most of their solos. The leader's "And When We Are Young" was written in tribute to Senator Robert Kennedy, who was gunned down by a cowardly assassin in the spring of 1968 in the midst of Kennedy's celebration of his presidential primary victory in California. The piece begins with a mournful dirge before cutting loose with some wailing post-bop.
Sonny Stitt goes Latin – and the results are tremendous! The set's still got all the soulful feel of the best Stitt sessions for Roost, but it brings in some nice Latin rhythms too – inflecting things with that blend of soul jazz and congas you might find over at Prestige or Blue Note, yet also taking things further, too – given the Roost/Roulette connection to the New York Latin scene! Sonny plays both alto and tenor, and gets jazzy accompaniment from Thad Jones on trumpet – but the rhythm section is the real charmer here – and features a young Chick Corea on piano, Larry Gales on bass, and the trio of Willie Bobo, Patato Valdes, and Chihuaua Martinez on percussion! Most tunes are originals – a great change from the usual Latinized standards you might find on a set like this – and Stitt's got this nicely exotic tone in his reeds which is a further highlight of the record – almost a Yusef Lateef inflection at points.
A great Capitol moment from pianist Paul Smith – an artist who really cut some of his best material ever for the label ! The Smith sound is at the height of its powers here in the late 50s — kind of a blend of jazz and more easy-going pianistic modes — often stretched out with lots of flourishes by Smith on the keys, but never the too-flowery styles used by some of his contemporaries ! Instead, Paul keeps things nice and lean — always enough to be plenty swinging in all the right moments — with quartet help from Barney Kessel on guitar, Joe Mondragon on bass, and Stan Levey on drums.
Though labeled as a Cannonball Adderley Quintet session, this is actually a workout with a percussion section loaded with African drums, a big band, and in spots, voices – all unidentified. Nevertheless, this is one of the best and most overlooked of the Cannonball Adderley Capitols, a rumbling session that bursts with the joy of working in an unfamiliar yet vital rhythmic context. Cannonball turns in one of his swinging-est solos through a Varitone electronic attachment on Caiphus Semenya's "Gumba Gumba" and "Marabi" is a real hip-jiggler; you can't sit still through it. Other highlights include Cannon preaching blue smoke in his own Afro-Cuban-blues-flavored "Hamba Nami," a dignified trip through Wes Montgomery's "Up and At It," and Nat Adderley's commanding work on cornet at all times.
With the hit "Mercy Mercy Mercy" still reverberating on the sales charts, Capitol simply had the Quintet crank out one live club date after another at this point, hoping for another smash. They never really got one, but Cannonball and Nat Adderley, in league with pianist Joe Zawinul, bassist Victor Gaskin and drummer Roy McCurdy, left a strong legacy like this vigorous live Hollywood gig. One of Nat's best gospel-styled hip-shakers, "Do Do Do," opens the record, and Joe Zawinul comes up with another bluesy, catchy self-help tune in the vein of "Mercy" called "Walk Tall," prefaced by another of Cannonball's wryly inspirational talks.
One of our favorite albums by guitarist Joe Pass, rather spare, featuring Joe in a very intimate setting – guitar with little other backing, save for light percussion, and some occasional instrumentation, like vibes or organ. The mood is very gentle, which is perfect for Pass' light touch on the strings – and the selection of tracks makes for a lovely blend of modes that show Joe at his expressive best. Titles include "Luciana", "You & Me", "The Gentle Rain", "Some Time Ago", "Nobody Else But Me", and "Where Was I".
Cannonball Adderley with David Axelrod production – a combination that couldn't miss back in the 60s! In keeping with the success of the Mercy Mercy Mercy album done with Axelrod, Capitol did everything they could to catch Cannonball in a live setting – a great move, given the open, soulful energy his group had in the format – crowd-pleasing, but always plenty darn creative too! Added to the mix here is some nice production by David Axelrod, capturing all the right moments in all the right ways – especially when Joe Zawinul steps up to take some sweet solos on the keys – and the great Charles Lloyd serves up some mighty nice work on flute and tenor sax. Other players include Nat Adderley on cornet, Sam Jones on bass, and Louis Hayes on drums – and titles include "The Song My Lady Sings", "Little Boy With The Sad Eyes", "Work Song", and "Sweet Georgia Bright".
Movie themes, along with songs from Broadway, have long been fodder for jazz musicians. This United Artists LP features Jerome Richardson leading his working quintet during a live engagement, though the venue is unidentified. The extended workout of Duke Jordan's "No Problem" (from the film Les Liaisons Dangereuses) showcases Richardson's robust baritone sax and Les Spann on flute, with the leader adding a tag at the end on piccolo. Richardson switches to tenor sax and Spann to guitar for a rather brisk arrangement of "Moon River." "Tonight" (from West Side Story) is a bit unusual in that it features both musicians on flute.
A holy grail of jazz – Roy Ayers' first album as a leader, and a near-lost session that's simply sublime! The record was cut at the same time that Roy was working in LA with pianist Jack Wilson – and it's got an approach that's a bit similar to some of the Wilson/Ayers sessions for Atlantic, Blue Note, and Vault – but with a marked difference here in the presence of Curtis Amy, who plays some incredible tenor and soprano sax on the session – arcing out over the modal lines set up by the vibes and piano, and shading in the record with a much deeper sense of soul! Amy plays on about half the album's tracks – all of which are standout modal tunes that preface the MPS/Saba sound by a number of years, and which we'd easily rank as some of the greatest jazz recorded anywhere in the 60s.