As John Coltrane moved from music rich in chordal complexity to a newer, freer form of modality–in which melodic and rhythmic freedom came to the fore–some critics couldn't make the imaginative leap. But no one could ever question Coltrane's superb musicianship. This all-star session isn't merely an aesthetic bone to these critics, but a superb example of two masters blowing relaxed and free over a tight, intuitive rhythm section. There's Jackson's Modern Jazz Quartet collaborator Connie Kay on drums, master of understated swing; the elegant, eternally tasteful Hank Jones on piano; and Mr. P.C., Paul Chambers, one of the fathers of modern bass playing.
The second volume of the Modern Jazz Quartet at the Music Inn was released in 1959, a year after its historic first volume with guest Jimmy Giuffre. The format on this set is similar, with pianist John Lewis, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, bassist Percy Heath, and drummer Connie Kay moving through a gorgeous medley of standards to open including "Stardust," "I Can't Get Started," and "Lover Man," with beautiful and clever counterpoint between Lewis and Jackson on the melody lines. There are two of Lewis' originals here as well.
Like Muddy Waters, whose final albums were among the best in his catalog, Streetcore by Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros (Martin Slattery, Tymon Dogg, Simon Stanford, and Scott Shields) sends Strummer into rock & roll heaven a roaring, laughing, snarling lion. Unlike the previous Mescaleros outings, which were rooted in various world and folk musics and tempered by rock, Streetcore anchors itself in rock & roll and deadly heavy reggae (and for anyone who needs a reminder, Strummer's former band, the Clash, played reggae in the late '70s and early '80s better than a lot of that genre's artists).
The fact that this is a final album for Strummer is beside the point; this is one of the best rock & roll albums of 2003, and truly the finest, most cohesive work he did after London Calling.
Despite the presence of classic tracks like Joe Zawinul's "Great Expectations," Big Fun feels like the compendium of sources it is. These tracks are all outtakes from other sessions, most notably Bitches Brew, On the Corner, and others. The other element is that many of these tracks appeared in different versions elsewhere. These were second takes, or the unedited takes before producer Teo Macero and Miles were able to edit them, cut and paste their parts into other things, or whatever. That is not to say the album should be dismissed. Despite the numerous lineups and uneven flow of the tracks, there does remain some outstanding playing and composing here. Most notably is "Great Expectations" from 1969, which opens the album.
Sandinista! is a stylistic and topical potpourri that anticipates the "world music" trend of the late '80s and early '90s. The rock music world hailed Sandinista! as a masterpiece. John Piccarella, in a review headlined "The Clash Drop The Big One" and giving the album the highest possible rating of five stars, argues that in effect, the band said "to hell with Clash style, there's a world out there."