Ornette Coleman: Beauty is a Rare Thing [disc 2]. 1993. Atlantic Recording Corp: 1-56826-275-2.
Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone
Don Cherry: pocket trumpet
Charlie Haden: bass
Billy Higgins: drums
Ed Blackwell: drums
One of the main things this box set gets right is the music. The electricity between these players still leaps out from the speakers through the decades providing more than enough substance to inspire the free improviser. Beyond the obvious chemistry is the incredible balance between individuals of remarkably equal force. Disc 2 opens with "The Face of the Bass" with its intoxicating exposure of Charlie Haden's brilliant bass work. Followed up by moments of awe for Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman. Billy Higgins remains a harmolodic obsession, hearing how he carves through the same loose grooves traveled by his musical conspirators.
As an additional dimension to this music (that continues to be "The Shape of Jazz to Come") are these Ornette Coleman heads. Compositions that have grown into familiar entities that have inspired other versions performed by various players in my personal collection. "Ramblin'" has taken on a life of its own and the reason for that is abundantly clear on this take. "I Heard It Over The Radio," a track previously unreleased before this complete Atlantic Recordings collection, has been given an inspired interpretation by Paul Plimley. And so many other tunes that have become companions in my head (I often hear "Kaleidoscope" or "The Tribes of New York" in my head while commuting to the day job). Beauty is no rare thing on any disc from this set, and today's disc is a jolt from a deeply creative period from one of Jazz's greats.
Thomas Chapin: Alive [disc 1] - Third Force. 1999. Knitting Factory Records: 35828 02482 2.
Thomas Chapin: saxophones
Mario Pavone: bass
Steve Johns: drums
The spark that catches and sets a sound aflame through Thomas Chapin's preferred medium of the trio is clearly audible on this set. The kinetic energy realized by a saxophonist with a deep grasp of jazz roots applying his trade to a deft balance of groove, jam and melodic inventiveness. The explosive quality of these live takes of pieces that would come to define the fleeting Knitting Factory scene of the 1990s. And not lost on these ears is the forceful quality of his flute playing. This cat could jam hard, rock out and still navigate his way through linear, melodic development. Being a multi-instrumentalist with this much talent is almost showing off.
Sadly, Chapin falls on the unfortunate list of jazzmen lost far too soon, leaving behind the agonizing questions about how much the course of improvised music would have been altered had his career followed along the trajectory left behind on recording such as these. There is also the real celebration of the vibrations captured for posterity. This is a music that retains so much of its edge and pieces like "Ahab's Leg" or "Iddly" are hard to forget when they've been experienced like this. Alive is a significant documentation of something significant that the ears seek to hold on to.
Wayne Horvitz Gravitas Quartet: One Dance Alone. 2008. Songlines: SA1571-2.
Wayne Horvitz: piano
Peggy Lee: cello
Ron Miles: cornet
Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon
This one is the second of two releases featuring the understated, detail-rich chamber jazz compositions of Wayne Horvitz. The brush strokes of these restrained gems colored both by the instrumentation and the improvisation-friendly personalities brought into this project. Making Gravitas Quartet one of the rare blends of jazz and classical traditions that soars without giving short shift to either side of the equation. One Dance Alone is held together by interspersing the three movements of "July" (in reverse order) between contrasting compositions. "July" being a deliciously abstract study in sparse textures that reveal the layer of Horvtiz pathos that exists at the core of his compositional output. The remaining tracks feature a waltz, a focus on melodic material and brilliant textures (particularly for Ron Miles to play over) that make a strong case for Wayne Horvitz's ability to realize compact, song-like forms by getting all the individual elements of his ideas polished to a pristine shine.