Charlie Hunter: Charlie Hunter. 2000. Blue Note Records: 7243 5 25450 2 5.
Charlie Hunter: 8-string guitar
Peter Apfelbaum: tenor saxophone
Josh Roseman: trombone
Leon Parker: drums, percussion
Stephen Chopek: percussion
Robert Perkins: percussion
Right from the first notes of "Rendezvous Avec La Verite" this music cooks with a feel more than worthy of its Blue Note pedigree. And then it never lets up as the groove transforms itself through these nine short tracks - including a devastating take on Thelonius Monk's "Epistrophy." Josh Roseman offers up some excellent solos, particularly on "Flau Flau," that mine the same "in the pocket" feel that gives this recording so much life. Charlie Hunter's chops and musicianship border upon sounding like a graduate of the Berkeley jazz factory - but with a lot more heart. The effortlessness of his double duty of bass and guitar on the 8-strings are both terrifying and beautiful to behold. Truly an artist who has wood shedded his way into the tradition while adding something intoxicating and groove ready to the sound.
Andrew Hill: Point of Departure. 1964 (Rudy Van Gelder Edition released in 1999). Blue Note Records: 7243 4 99007 2 1.
Andrew Hill: piano
Kenny Dorham: trumpet
Eric Dolphy: alto saxophone, flute, bass clarinet
Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone
Richard Davis: bass
Tony Williams: drums
Each spin of Point of Departure reveals more layers of the many qualities that make this recording so enduring. So many things lined up exactly right to make this one of the great recordings of Blue Note's golden era. Each one of these Andrew Hill original compositions is an absolute gem. And then there's the ensemble that got together to realize this music and send it into a completely different aural dimension. There are moments when Eric Dolphy's role as an absolute innovator couldn't be any clearer. Balanced against Joe Henderson's steady sense of melody on the tenor saxophone. There's also enough Kenny Dorham on here to feed my obsession with his sound and sensibility. And all of this is on top of so many outstanding moments featuring Andrew Hill's improvisation and role as band leader. Possibly the very definition of a "must have" for any serious jazz collector.
3081: Baltimore 2008. 2008. Limited run, independently released.
Dave Ballou: trumpet
John Dierker: reeds
Mike Formanek: bass
Will Redman: drums
This is one of the things I miss about Baltimore. These four musicians are plugged deep into the free jazz tradition and they consistently bring something engaging to every incarnation they put on a stage. As 3081, this quartet quickly taps into an electricity between these players. Dave Ballou's playing in particular is reason enough to focus on this sound. Interplay that crackles and arcs at creative angles. Well worth seeking this group out.