Beck: Guero. 2005. Interscope Records: B0003481-02.
Produced, recorded and mixed by Beck Hansen and The Dust Brothers
This one is a triumph of songwriting and musical ideas over bland production choices. Beck has an underrated sense of poetry that gets a little buried under the beats in a string of otherwise hook-heavy songs. His words capture a sense of place and attitude that rings of truth blended with surreal perspective. The Dust Brothers prove to be a bit of a misfit for my ears. In spite of them, this disc has enjoyed some healthy spins.
Ornette Coleman: Beauty is A Rare Thing [disc 5]. 1993. Atlantic Recordings/Rhino Records: RI-71410.
Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone
Don Cherry: pocket trumpet
Scott LaFaro: bass
Ed Blackwell: drums
The abundance that pours from this 6-disc box set is particularly evident when you reach disc five. A reminder that Scott LaFaro's tragically short life included this brush with Ornette Coleman at such an explosive period of creative growth. Also a sobering realization that Coleman is now the final surviving member of this timeless lineup. That this significant touchstone of jazz history is receding into an increasingly distant era. This is hard to comprehend given the vitality of the recordings that still leap out and take the ears by the imagination. "Check Up" in particular has taken up residence in my soul as the mind will play this sound back from memory in periods between sleep and wakefulness.
Thomas Chapin Trio: Menagerie Dreams. 1994. (Re-released as disc 4 from the Alive box set in 1999) Knitting Factory Records: 35828-02482-2.
Thomas Chapin: alto saxophone, flute, baritone saxophone, mezzo soprano saxophone
Mario Pavone: bass
Michael Sarin: drums, gongs
John Zorn: alto saxophone
Vernon Frazer: poetry
Thomas Chapin had a unique talent for channeling a spectrum of life and emotion through his playing. With his long standing trio with Mario Pavone and Michael Sarin that ability became electric. Menagerie Dreams captures a slice of Chapin's range. The brief wisp of the title track shows off Chapin's delicate flute work. While an animal madness abounds and tromps through much of the other works in "Bad Birdie," "A Drunken Monkey," "The Night Hog" and the creative setting of Frazer's poetry in "Put Your Quarter In And Watch The Chicken Dance." Chapin could soar, groove hard and even peel back at the drop of a hat (or a quarter). This document preserves the energy of this creative soul who has since soared to unknown realms and reminds the ears of an era when the Knitting Factory fostered an important and burgeoning scene.