Tag Archives: Bill Dixon

A 2002 DownBeat Blindfold Test with Butch Morris (Happy Birthday, Butch)

For Butch Morris’ 65th birthday, here are the proceedings of a Downbeat Blindfold Test  that he did with me in November 2002.

Butch Morris Blindfold Test (11-21-02):

1.    Thad Jones, “One More” (from THAD JONES, Debut, 1991) (Thad Jones, tp; John Dennis, p; Charles Mingus, b; Max Roach, d) – (2 stars)

Is that Sweets?  Howard McGhee?  Is it a youngster?  Roy?  I mean, Roy Eldridge.  This is a modern crowd we’re speaking to; we don’t want them to misunderstand.  You kind of stumped me.  And then the drummer… Play it again.  The trumpet player’s velocity was amazing, especially the way he played those dynamics and his capacity for strength.  Amazing.  He’s probably a real good section cat, too, along with being a good improviser.  But somehow to me he sounds like he could have been a big influence, but also he’s been influenced by a lot of people.  I mean, all of those people I named, I think.  There was a lot of originality, because I think at the time everybody was pretty much original.  It could even have been late ’40s, for that matter, but I think the ’50s.  I hear a little Diz, I heard a little Sweets, I hear a little Fats, I hear a little Howard McGhee.  But at this point, I’m guessing.  Do I have to give it stars? 2 stars. [AFTER] That was Thad Jones?  What year?  2 stars only because he was quoting from so many sources.  Not to say Thad wasn’t original.  But he seemed to go from… I mean, there was some Fats in there, there was some Howard McGhee, there was some Roy Eldridge.  He was all over the map.  That’s probably what made him such a good arranger that he knew the terrain.  I probably put my foot in my mouth from saying he’s not original.  But I’d prefer to hear Thad in the late ’70s.

2.    Miles Davis, “White” (from AURA, Columbia, 1985/2000) (Miles Davis, tp; Palle Mikkelborg, comp.) (5 stars)

It sounds like Don Cherry.  Huh, that’s strange.  It sounds like Don Cherry, it sounds like Miles Davis, it sounds like Ron Miles a little bit.  It’s very nice music.  But the first few notes were very deceiving.  Immediately I thought of Don. Then I thought of Miles.  Miles Davis.  I’ve never heard this before.  Whoever it is, is all over Miles.  It’s probably Miles, some Miles I’ve never heard.  It sounds like the record could be around the “Siesta” thing.  I think the music is way up in Gil territory, too, for that matter, but I don’t know where it is or what period is from.  In a way, it sounds like a lot of stuff me and J.A. Deane and Wayne Horwitz used to do, too. I’d give it 10 stars.  Even though I hear more and more similarities between Don and Miles, it’s interesting the way Miles uses history to reevaluate his present.  Because you hear his quotes, you hear things he’s going around, you hear even maybe “Stella By Starlight,” you hear things that maybe preceded this recording by 20 years in there.  But the way they’re fragmented are very interesting.  And the more it goes on, the more you realize it is Miles, by the way he says things.  But I don’t know this recording.

3.    Jackie McLean, “A Fickle Sonance” (from A FICKLE SONANCE, Blue Note, 1961/2000) (McLean, as, comp; Tommy Turrentine, tp; Sonny Clark, p; Butch Warren, b; Billy Higgins, d) (5 stars)

[IMMEDIATELY] Tommy Turrentine.  That’s probably Tommy Turrentine at the height of his game — on record.  Oh, Jackie.  Is the drummer Pete LaRoca?  No?  Oh, that’s Billy Higgins.  Tommy is a motherfucker.  That is Tommy.  I know a lot of motherfuckers slept on Tommy, but I didn’t! [LAUGHS] I shouldn’t say Tommy makes me think of him, but there’s two cats I really like right in here — Richard Williams and Tommy.  They just kill.  They took care of some territory that a lot of people just didn’t.  Actually, Roy Hargrove reminds me a lot sometimes of Tommy and Richard Williams — a tiny bit. Is the pianist Cedar?  Herbie?  Wynton Kelly? Sonny Clark!  Oh, shit.  Goddammit.  I take my bebop very seriously.  I love that.  Especially in this period, I really like Jackie’s stuff, and I really like Tommy Turrentine.  What was that, “Fickle Sonance”?  Great track.  5 stars.

4.    Franz Koglmann, “Make Believe” (from MAKE BELIEVE, Between the Lines, 1999) (Koglmann, flugelhorn; Tom Varner, fr.horn; Tony Coe, cl; Brad Shepik, g; Peter Herbert, b)

Sun Ra?  Is that some of the Delmark stuff? [As in AACM?] As in AACM. [No.] I’m starting to hear what the tune is. [Kenny Dorham once recorded this.] It’s strange.  The guitar player is starting to sound more familiar to me than anybody else.  But I can’t say I know who it is.  The name of the tune is on the tip of my tongue. Is it “I Can’t Get Started”?  It’s in that vicinity.  I don’t know who this is, but let’s go on to the next one. I thought it was Sun Ra.  I think it’s a concept. [What do you think of the concept?] It’s all right.  It still reminds me of Sun Ra.  It reminds me of Fletcher Henderson, too.  It also reminds me of Gil. [FINAL SECTION] Is this from the same record?  Can I hear something else?  Is the bassist Martin Aaltena?  Whoever they are, they have good company.  So let’s go on to the next.  I don’t have to rate it as high or low.  Let’s put it like this.  They were in good company.  I don’t have to give it stars. I’ve been reading the Blindfold Test for thirty years!  I think throughout the process, until this record, I was very clear at least in stating my opinions about these.  I stated my opinion about this in the beginning, so I stated the kind of company I feel they’re in.  Now, if I have to give them stars, I’ll give them stars.  I give them stars.  Stars.  Stars.  Stars. [AFTER] Franz Koglmann.  The trumpet player.  Good company.

5.    Ryan Kisor, “Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love” (from POWER SOURCE, Criss-Cross, 1999) (1 star)

Is that a Mingus song?  Oh, yes.  “Ellington’s Sound of Love.”  It’s nice.  Can we go on to the next?  I think they’re giving a very nice rendition of this classic.  I think it’s nice.  That’s all.  It’s very nice.  It’s nice.  It’s very nice. [Can you be a little more substantive than that?] Than what? [Than “it’s very nice.] It’s very nice.  I think the expression was way over the top.  It was a modern rendition of something that was a modern rendition of something.  I mean, it was Mingus’ expression of Duke, and it’s their expression of Mingus. [Do you think they did justice to Mingus?] Oh yeah.  I think they did justice to Mingus.  I mean,they didn’t do him any harm.  Let’s put it like that.  It was nice. [Did the trumpet player catch your attention, for better or for worse?] Neither, for better or for worse.  I certainly don’t mean this in a negative way, but I’d like to hear somebody like Lonnie Hillyer play that.  But I thought it was good.  I think it was a little bit over the top in terms of expression.  It seemed to try too much to make it sound like sound-like, like “I can play in that groove” or “I can do that.” It was cool.  I can give it a star.  1 star.

6.    Leo Smith, “The Year Of The Elephant” (from GOLDEN QUARTET: THE YEAR OF THE ELEPHANT, Pi, 2002) (Smith, tp; Anthony Davis, p; Malachi Favors, b; Jack DeJohnette, d) (4 stars)

The drummer sounds like Philip Wilson.  Is that Leo Smith?   Oh, is that Jack?  [LAUGHS] Oh, God!  That’s Anthony and Malachi.  Well, it took me a minute to find out that was Leo, but the way he was putting that composition together with Tony, the way they were expressing it, it became clear it was Leo.  Actually compositionally more than… I mean, it came together at the same time compositionally and his sound.  The way he started to bring the piano into his lines, when he was playing.  Like, how the piano will go away from the line and then come back into the line was interesting.  And then I could hear it was Leo.  This is only an observation, but he still sounds like Philip to me! [LAUGHS] That’s by no means an insult.  I heard Philip immediately.  And I’m still hearing it, is what I’m saying. They played in Lisbon last year.  I didn’t hear the performance, but I saw them there, and I went to a rehearsal there. It’s a band of wonderful musicians.  A star for each person in the band.  4 stars.

7.    Ron Miles-Bill Frisell, “We See” (from HEAVEN, Sterling Circle, 2002) (Miles, tp; Frisell, g)

Monk.  Thelonious Monk is the composer.  Is this “We See”?  It should make me want to dance.  When I think Monk, I want to dance.  I think it’s a nice rendition, let’s put it that way.  I don’t want to guess here, because I could guess wrong.  I thought Tom Harrell at first.  But it’s not.  I can’t guess who it is.  Or the guitar player. He sounds out of Jim Hall somehow.  But I don’t know. 3 stars. [AFTER] Oh, I should have known that was Ron Miles. Actually, Ron is one of the few trumpet players I’ve heard in the last few years that I like a lot.  He’s got something I like.  And I like Frisell a lot.

8.    Johnny Coles, “Jano” (from LITTLE JOHNNY C, Blue Note, 1963/1996) (Johnny Coles, tp; Duke Pearson, p., comp; Joe Henderson, ts; Leo Wright, as; Bob Cranshaw, b; Walter Perkins, d) – (5 stars)

That sounded like Philly Joe at first.  Is it Philly Joe?  It’s not Billy again. The alto player’s got that hard Jackie thing again — that edge.  Almost like between Jackie and James Spaulding.  He’s got some kind of angular thing, like Braxton.  Did you play the head?  Did you start this tune at the beginning? [Yes.] This is strange, because the rhythm section almost sounds dated, like you could put them in one area of history, and then the horn players come on with this other, more modern thing.  I mean, the way the piano player is comping, the way the drummer is playing the time. [trumpet solo] Wow!  Sounds like K.D. now.  I’m on the warm side?  [tenor solo] When was this recorded? [Early ’60s.] Sam Rivers?  John Gilmore?  Wow, that’s familiar like a motherfucker!  I mean, that’s FAMILIAR. It’s not Billy?  Dennis Charles?  My God, I’m lost somewhere.  The pianist sounds like Cecil now. [Cedar?] No.  Cecil Taylor.  I mean, only… It’s very interesting, not only because I’m trying to think of who it is, but it’s a convolution of a lot of things to me.  That’s not Sonny Clark?  Can you play it again?  I don’t know who the alto player is at all.  Can you run the trumpet player one more time?  Strange, because it’s got this Kenny Dorham thing, and it’s got some Bobby Bradford stuff in there… That’s classic!  Listen, can we go on to something else and come back to this?

This appealed to me because…how can I say… It’s very attractive.  It’s a simple line.  It just happens to be 9 bars.  They could have made it 12 if they wanted to, and they could have made it 8 if they wanted to, and they could have made it 10 if they wanted to.  But it was very, very attractive, I think. I didn’t feel I was hearing it from the beginning… That’s why I said, “Did you play it from the top?”  It begins like it’s a continuation of something.  When you started it, and it began, it felt like a continuation.  It never felt like it was the beginning to me.  Which was appealing.  But I’d like to come back to it. There’s something there that I’d like to get my hands on.

The trumpet player reminds me of Wilbur Hardin.  But then there’s a couple of other players right in that period who had… The other cat’s surname is Young, but I can’t think of his surname.  The tune has challenging edge because it is 9 bars or so.  To turn around. So it’s not Wilbur Hardin.  It’s not Idris Sulieman. 10 stars. I’m sure I know everybody on this.  But I just can’t put them within my context right now. First tell me who the piano player was.  Duke Pearson?  Was that his tune?  Was it Donald Byrd?  Wait a minute.  Shit.  I would have got Joe Henderson on a good day.  I want to say Woody Shaw, but no… Actually, at this point I can’t identify. Johnny Coles!  Oh, God.  I love Johnny Coles, but I certainly wasn’t thinking in his direction.  I used to have this record.  Of course.

9.    Bob Brookmeyer, “Child At Play” (from WALTZING WITH ZOE, Challenge, 2001) (Brookmeyer, comp.) – (3 stars) (Bob Brookmeyer, composer, conductor, valve trombone; Marko Lackner, Oliver Leicht, alto, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Matthias Erlewein, tenor sax, clarinet; Nils van Hatten, tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; Edgar Herzog, baritone sax, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet; Thorsten Berkenstein, Torsten Maass, Sebastian Strempel, Eric Vloeimans, Angelo Verploegen, trumpet, flugelhorn; Adrian Mears, Jan Oosting, Bert Pfeiffer, trombone; Ed Partyka, bass trombone; Kris Goessens, piano; Achim Kaufmann, synthesizers; Ingmar Heller, bass; John Hollenbeck, drums.)

You’re out for blood today, Ted!  Right?  I’m out for blood.  Is that recent? [Yes.] It’s really great writing, I think.  Good writing and an interesting stream of thought in terms of what they’ve written.  Is that Marty Ehrlich on clarinet?  Definitely good writing.  I mean, they work that one motif to death, which is cool, that’s what you do.  It’s nice.  With this kind of band, it would be great to hear… They didn’t get a lot of chances to play through these charts.  And it would be great to hear this music after it had been played for a while, like for a year, by the same people.  It just sounds over-read to me.  Really over-read.  It’s trying to feel relaxed, but I don’t hear that.  Often, music, when it’s not read enough, it sounds too contrived.  Not to say this sounds contrived.  It’s pretty music.  It’s wonderful music.

10.    Bill Dixon, “Pellucity” (from VADE MECUM, Soul Note, 1993) (Dixon, tp., comp; Barry Guy, William Parker, b; Tony Oxley, d.) – (3 stars)

Is that Bill Dixon?  Bill’s interesting, because he gives you the impression that he’s wrapped up in every note, that he’s emotionally involved in every note, or every sound he makes, every phrase.  His flugelhorn work is really intimate, I think.  Highly personal.  Highly emotional.  I don’t know who the drummer is.  Certainly somehow out of Milford.  But I don’t know really know who it could be.  Oh, Tony Oxley?  It’s nice. 3 stars.  It’s a trio?  Two basses?

11.    George Russell, “The Outer View” (from THE OUTER VIEW, Riverside, 1962/1991) (Don Ellis, tp.; George Russell, p, comp; Paul Plummer, ts; Garnett Brown, tb; Steve Swallow, b; Pete LaRoca, d) – (4 stars)

I really don’t like this music.  The piano player keeps doing something that irritates me.  [trumpet solo] Is it Dave Douglas?   Is it Wynton?  [When do think this was recorded?] In the ’80s or early ’90s. [It was recorded in ’62.  Does that change your assessment?]  Yes, of course it changes things, because it makes it a predecessor to all this stuff that’s being played now like then.  I mean, it’s not Sam Rivers on piano. [No.  But I think the pianist is a Schillinger guy.] I’ve heard so much of the bad examples of this lately that my view of this… That it’s in the early ’60s certainly changes my view.  I’d have to listen to it in a new light now.  Could you play the trumpet player’s solo again?  Is that Bill again?  This was recorded in ’62?  Okay, who is it? [Don Ellis] Oh, of course!  Yeah, I can dig that.  He certainly was one of the predecessors to all this shit that’s going on now that sounds like that.  I’ll tell you probably why I thought it was so recent.  That is an excellent recording for 1962.  So again, yes, sure, the quality not only of the music, but the recording. [Any idea who the composer was?] Should I know by the tune?  [Not necessarily.  But you’ll feel bad if you don’t get him.] George Russell?  It sounds like George Russell.  But when you said the ’60s I was really confused, because I was trying to figure out who had control over that kind of recording in 1962.  Where was it recorded, and who recorded it? [Ray Fowler.] Really.  Wasn’t he recording a lot of singers back then? 4 stars.  4 stars for a lot of reasons.  Like I said, that’s been done over and over, especially in the ’80s and ’90s — that kind of arrangement, that kind of playing. I must admit, I was dumbfounded, because I was listening a lot to the sound of the recording, and the sound of the recording made me think of ’80s-’90s, and so I started to think in that area.  When you told me it was recorded in the ’60s, I couldn’t hear who was playing, because I was trying to figure out who made recordings that good in the ’60s, not in terms of the quality of the music but the quality of the recording.  I think this is interesting in itself.  I don’t think there’s too many records on your shelf where you can go to 1962 and find any record recorded as well as that record is recorded, unless it was done by a singer.  I like Don Ellis.  I liked him better with his electric recordings.

12.    Italian Instabile Orchestra, “Sequenze Fugue” (from LITANIA SIBILANTE, Enja, 2000) (Giancarlo Schiaffini, comp.; Enrico Rava, tp) – (5 stars)

Is this the beginning of the song?  Oh, they’re Italian!  It’s Enrico Rava.  Enrico’s covered a lot of ground better than a lot of people in terms of the trumpet thing.  He’s a motherfucker.  Motherfucker.  I’ve heard him kick butts on many, many nights in Paris in the ’70s and in Italy.  He’ll step on the gas, jack.  He’s a bad cat.  What can I say?  Is this the Instabile?  It’s interesting.  They seem to have covered a lot of ground that is non-European. It’s just their Italian thing that covers an area of jazz that is kind of clear.  This is their fresco, and it’s clearly theirs.  Really clearly theirs.  So it’s Enrico Rava with the Instabile.  It’s cool.  I think you hear Instabile one or two times, and you see the kind of… I’m not saying that’s all.  But they made a statement.  And certainly Enrico; Enrico has, too. 5 stars for Instabile and 5 for Enrico. The thing is, they’re Italian, and that’s Enrico, and this is their fresco.

13.    Fats Navarro, “The Tadd Walk” (from GOIN’ TO MINTON’S, Savoy Jazz, 1947/1999) (Navarro, tp; Charlie Rouse, ts; Tadd Dameron, p., comp; Ernie Henry, as; Curley Russell, b; Denzil Best, d) – (5 stars)

Fats Navarro.  I was trying to figure out who the piano player was first, and then the trumpet player.  Around this time, I’d think K.D. and Miles, in that range.  I was waiting for the trumpet player to go up a little higher to understand a little better where he was, and even some areas where Miles sounded a little like Dizzy, I thought it could be… I also thought Fats, but I was also thinking Dizzy and Fats would have gone up in terms of register by then.  But Fats.  Fats was such an articulate motherfucker.  Who was the piano player?  Tadd Dameron! 25 stars for everybody.

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Filed under Blindfold Test, Butch Morris, DownBeat

Randy Brecker’s Uncut DownBeat Blindfold Test

Went to the Blue Note last note to hear Randy Brecker and the “Brecker Brothers Reunion Band,” for a DownBeat caught piece. I won’t give away the goods on what transpired, except to say that no one is playing more trumpet than the elder Brecker brother, who unfailingly cuts to the chase with a fluent virtuosity that has the feel of Freddie Hubbard circa, say, 1972.

Seems like a good time to run the uncut version of the Blindfold Test we did in 2008.

Randy Brecker Blindfold Test (Raw):

1.   Marcus Printup, “Hot House” (from PEACE IN THE ABSTRACT, Steeplechase, 2006) (Printup, trumpet; Greg Tardy, tenor saxophone; Kengo Nakamura, bass; Shinnosuke Takahashi, drums; Tadd Dameron, composer)

Obviously, “Hot House,” which is no easy task to perform. No piano. Sounds like a contemporary take on it, which is interesting. Maybe something Russell Gunn might do. It’s a good solo, good feel. Russell would probably be my first guess. My second guess would be Roy, but it’s not quite Roy’s sound. Not Russell? Well, I like pianoless quartets. There’s a lot of open space in this, and they have a very nice feel. If it’s not Russell, it’s somebody who has what I call a really good jazz trumpet sound, and he’s listened to the tradition of the instrument. The tenor player sounds like somebody I know, but I can’t quite place it. Let’s see if I get it on the fours. No, you got me. The tenor had a little Lovano in there, but it’s not him, and I can’t quite place the trumpet player. But both were excellent soloists, both could utilize the full range of their instruments and play great within the bebop tradition with a hint of modernity with the arrangement, which is completely contemporary. For execution and musicality, 4 stars. There wasn’t anything I suppose amazingly original, but it was really well-done and swinging. I have no idea who the bass player or drummer was. It could have been Tain maybe.

2.   Enrico Rava, “Felipe” (from THE THIRD MAN, ECM, 2007) (Rava, trumpet; Stefano Bollani, piano; Moacir Santos, composer)

Nice trumpet sound. Maybe a little too much reverb on the trumpet, on the recording. It might be one of those audiophile recordings with one microphone in the church. The pianist has a very nice, light touch, which I like. Also a nice in-and-out harmonic sense. The trumpet player has a really nice, open trumpet sound, probably some classical training. But I’m finding it hard to nail down who it is or what the tune is either. Boy, you got me on that one, but once again, it was a very nice performance, for me kind of a strange recording, probably a really large, open room, or maybe they added a little too much reverb, but it was a really good performance and, whatever the tune is, very well-written—maybe it’s an original. Moacir Santos? Ah. I’d say 4 stars. I enjoyed both the solos, and the trumpet player’s tone. He constantly came up with ideas. Enrico? That’s interesting. I played with Enrico in the ‘60s, but I still know him more as a less harmonic, free player. We were both at the time heavily influenced by Don Cherry, and that’s how I remember him. I know his playing has changed a lot in the ensuing years, and he practices more. I remember hearing an interview where he… You can tell that he spends a lot of time on the instrument. His tone is completely different than it used to be. A very, very nice tone. ECM? For me, there’s still a little too much reverb on that one.

3.  Tom Harrell, “Va” (from LIGHT ON, High Note, 2007) (Harrell, trumpet, composer; Wayne Escoffery, tenor saxophone; Danny Grissett, piano; Ugonna Okegwo, bass; Jonathan Blake, drums)

Sounds like an original composition with difficult changes. The trumpet player is doing a good job of negotiating the changes, so maybe it’s his tune. Man, this tune just keeps going and going! I’m waiting for the changes to stop for a second. But they’re doing a good job with it. Conversely, recording-wise, for my taste, this is a little too dry-sounding. The trumpet player has a nice, light touch, really relaxed. I have no idea who it is yet. I’d probably like to hear this tune open up somewhere in the tune. It’s a lot of chords. All in all, I like the tune, the melody, but again, I feel harmonically there should have been some kind of open section, especially with the three solos. The solos were all good. The trumpet player was kind of influenced by Miles. It was a little too locked in for me to kind of tell who anybody was. 3½ stars. Tom Harrell? So that’s Wayne Escoffery. That’s pretty good. Once again, it didn’t sound like my conception of Tom. That was Tom’s tune, obviously. Good tune, but I wouldn’t want to play on it.

4.   Avishai Cohen, “Gigi et Amelie” (from Third World Love, NEW BLUES, Anzic, 2007) (Cohen, trumpet, composer; Yonathan Avishai, piano; Omer Avital, bass; Daniel Freedman, drums)

Nice tune. I wonder who this is. Maybe composed by somebody in the band. Doesn’t sound like American guys. Maybe South American. Charming comes to mind, the way they’re playing the tune. This is a charming rendition, heartfelt. Once again, it’s a nice, open trumpet sound. It’s hard to hear the sound with the Harmon mute before. I don’t think it’s him, but it has somewhat of a Kenny Wheeler vibe, though I don’t think it’s him. Another Italian guy? For some reason, I don’t even know why I say this, but I was thinking Argentina. Anyway, it was a really pretty tune and they played it well. 4 stars. Avishai? I was a little off geographically. I just heard Avishai at the Blue Note a couple of nights ago and he sounded really good. But it’s hard to make the connection. So far, everyone’s sound is very nice, but it’s hard to pick out individuals in general—but that’s a sign of the times. Now, I just heard the same group a couple of nights ago at the late night set at the Blue Note, and they sounded very good, so maybe I should have recognized it. Plus, they have the same name, so if they married each other it would be good.

5.  Graham Haynes, “Oshogbo” (from Adam Rudolph, DREAM GARDEN, Justin Time, 2008) (Rudolph, percussion; Haynes, cornet; Ned Rothenberg, alto saxophone; Hamid Drake, drumset, percussion; Kenny Wessel, electric guitar; Steve Gorn, bansuri bamboo flute; Shantir Blumenkrantz, acoustic bass; Adam Rudolph, hand drumset)

Interesting voicings, first of all. It’s an adventurous tune, adventurous voicings and conception. It’s very modern in conception in comparison to the other things I’ve heard. A trumpet player I’ve played with, whose name is Amir El-Saffar, has a group that might be similar in conception. But I need to hear it. It didn’t quite sound like him; he has a little more traditional trumpet technique. But I have no idea who it is. Conceptually it’s very interesting, taking it out on a limb. It was for the most part in 7, but it was broken up quite originally. Now it’s going to another place. It might be some guys who aren’t American again—not that it matters. Interesting writing. I liked it. 4 stars for the originality. It didn’t ever quite get to the next level for me, but it was quite interesting. It was nice to hear something different.

6.   Jim Rotondi, “Mamacita” (from THE PLEASURE DOME, SharpNine, 2004) (Rotondi, trumpet; David Hazeltine, piano; Ray Drummond, bass; Joe Farnsworth, drums)

I think that’s a flugelhorn. Somebody influenced by Freddie. Is this a Kenny Dorham tune? Oh, it’s a Joe Henderson-Kenny Dorham record, but I can’t think of the name. Ah, yes, “Mamacita.” They’re getting a good groove. My wild guess would be Jeremy Pelt playing flugelhorn. Not Jeremy? Somebody like that. A lot of chops, a lot of good ideas. That’s a nice reharmonization of the tune. Like I said earlier, they had a nice groove; the drummer has a nice sound, kind of Tony-ish. Well, somebody in there… It’s not Eddie Henderson. But somebody who listens to a lot of the same people I do. 4 stars. [AFTER] Those guys are all really consistent players, and they know how to lay it down. It threw me for a loop because I’m used to hearing Rotondi play trumpet with more of a Freddie sound. Strangely enough, for a second, on one phrase, I thought of Arturo Sandoval. I knew it wasn’t him. But Jim is an excellent and really consistent player. I always enjoy listening to him.

7.  Bill Dixon-Tony Oxley, “Sine Qua Non” (from PAPYRUS, VOL.1, Soul Note, 1999) (Bill Dixon, trumpet, composer; Tony Oxley, drums & percussion)

I’m not sure who this is. It’s an interesting piece. Trumpet and drums. It doesn’t quite sound like they’re listening to each other. The drummer has a lot of chops, but just kind of streamrolling over what the trumpet player’s doing. For me, this might make a nice intro, but for a whole piece it’s wearing a little thin. Wild guess. Bill Dixon. He’s another guy I came upon and played with a couple of times when I first came to New York. As I said, this might make a nice introduction, but it’s leaving me kind of cold. Ah, that’s a Bill Dixon there right there. It’s getting more intense. We’ll see how intense it gets. Slow build. The drummer’s arms must be getting tired by now? Who is it? Tony Oxley? Dixon also pioneered in the electronic sounds that he’s doing now. Now it sounds like they’re listening to each other. But maybe that was the point, that they not listen to each other. I might give it 2½ by the end. It just took too long to get into something for me, but that’s just my opinion. If I was playing, it might be a different story. It’s a whole other perspective when you’re actually playing like that. You actually lose time.

8.  Mike Rodriguez, “Guayaquil” (The Rodriguez Brothers, CONVERSATIONS, Savant, 2007) (Mike Rodriguez, trumpet; Robert Rodriguez, piano; Ricardo Rodriguez, bass; Antonio Sanchez, drums)

Nice tune. It’s nice how they’re using the piano almost as a second horn, and the right hand of the piano blended nicely with the trumpet melody. Nice harmony. The trumpet player is doing a really good job of negotiating the changes. Hard tune. Nice warm trumpet sound. It’s obviously contemporary guys. I like the chord progression. I like the tune. The performance is very good. I’ll just throw out George Cables for piano? I don’t know. I’m not sure who the trumpet player is yet. It’s coming out of that period we all grew up in. Got me again. I could hazard a few wild guesses. It sounds like somebody I should know, too. Something in the vibrato and the tone struck me, but I can’t place it, and I can’t tell if it’s a younger guy or maybe a slightly older guy, but I think it might be a slightly older guy. Something about the conception makes me think that—at least the piano player. But I can’t place it. I liked it. It didn’t really jump out at me. But 3½ stars. It was really well-done. Everybody had a lot of chops and performed it really well. If I had to make a wild guess, Nicholas Payton, a younger guy. But somebody of that ilk. [AFTER] I’ve heard a lot about Mike Rodriguez. I haven’t heard him yet. Antonio is a wonderful drummer and he was right in the pocket on that one. You’re getting me on all these guys, but everything I’ve heard I’ve enjoyed so far. It’s amazing, the amount of musicianship that goes into all these records. Trumpet is not an easy instrument, and everybody sounds great.

9.   Corey Wilkes, “Quintet Nine” (from Roscoe Mitchell, TURN, RogueArt, 2005) (Wilkes, trumpet; Mitchell, flute, percussion; Craig Taborn, piano; Jaribu Shahid, bass, percussion; Tani Tabbal, drums)

I’m trying to figure out what instrument that is—a high slide whistle or a piccolo. This is the second tune in 7, so that’s a real popular time signature these days. It’s an interesting, moody, kind of evocative arrangement, an evocative piece. Maybe somebody like Jack Walrath, but it’s probably not him. They were all coasting along together. It meandered a bit, I think. I like things happening quicker. This section is nice. I still can’t figure out if that’s a piccolo or a high slide whistle. It’s an interesting tune, though. There’s a little Eric Dolphy influence in general, but Jack Walrath is the only one who came to mind—it’s not him, I can tell. The composition is interesting. 3 stars. I’m not familiar with Corey Wilkes’ work, but it’s an interesting piece.

10.   Dave Ballou, “Tenderly” (from REGARDS, Steeplechase, 2004) (Ballou, trumpet; Frank Kimbrough, piano; John Hebert, bass; Randy Peterson, drums)

A nice, pure, unfettered trumpet sound. I like that. No vibrato. Nailing it. Except it’s probably a flugelhorn. Nice, floaty time, too, with regards to the rhythm section; nice and open, a lot of room for interpretation. This is interesting in the way they’re playing time but not playing time. An interesting conception. I like this in the respect that they’re all really listening to each other, and both harmonically and rhythmically it’s floating along. Really interesting. Kind of a Paul Bley influence on the piano, just the overall picture. There’s a record of Paul’s I used to love called Closer. It’s still interesting, because it doesn’t sound like they want to play the time. I hope there’s not supposed to be time during this section, but it’s still interesting. It’s really open. This is the way Paul Bley used to play with his trio when they first came to New York with Barry Altschul and Mark Levinson on bass—this kind of implied time. A really nice reinterpretation of the melody by the flugelhorn player. Really sensitive all around. Everybody really listened to each other. But I don’t have any idea who anyone is. He ended on a high-E, I think, on flugel—that’s no easy trick. Somebody I probably know, but probably not. 4 stars. It was a really original reading of the tune, and I’m impressed when people are that sensitive and really come up with something new on a standard that’s been played a million times. [AFTER] I played with Dave Ballou years ago on a Kenny Werner project, and I’ve always been impressed with his playing.

11.   Nicholas Payton, “Fela II” (from SONIC TRANCE, Warner, 2003) (Payton, trumpet; Kevin Hays, keyboards; Vicente Archer, bass; Adonis Rose, drums; Daniel Sadownick, percussion)

This has a nice, polyrhythmic quality to it, just from the getgo. Once again, a nice warm trumpet sound. Some of these guys I’m not familiar with, and it’s somewhat hard to differentiate one from the other, but everyone’s technique has been admirable today. The trumpet player has really good range and facility, good ideas. Generally, this piece reminds of Miles’ band, the Bitches Brew days, especially the sounds coming out of the keyboard. It’s a little more metrically modulated than were tunes in those days. But everyone’s listening and responding to each other really well. Really good facility on the trumpet. Clark exercises. But once again, I couldn’t even hazard a guess as to who it was. I don’t know if it’s someone I know, but he had a lot of facility on the instrument. Good sound. Interesting piece. 3½ stars. [AFTER] Oh, that’s from Sonic Trance. I should have guessed it. Nick is one of my favorite players. He has so much facility on the instrument. This was a radical shift from what he was doing before. I remember when he did it. I actually heard this live. Was Kevin Hays playing? Yes, he was there. I heard him in New Orleans at Snug Harbor. So I should have guessed.

12.   Ryan Kisor, “Deception” (from THE DREAM, Criss-Cross, 2001) (Kisor, trumpet; Peter Zak, piano; John Webber, bass; Willie Jones, III, drums)

Whoever it is has amazing technique. That’s a hard head. The changes to “Cherokee.” Amazing facility. Wow, that was very, very good. I’ll hazard a guess. Ryan Kisor maybe? Whoa! He’s too good. That was exceptional facility. I’ve also heard Wynton play this tune, like, 50 choruses, which is very impressive, so I figured if it wasn’t Wynton it might very well be Ryan. He’s an exceptional player in all realms—great lead player, great soloist, knows all the styles. He’s one of my favorites. I’ve played with him a lot in Mingus Big Band. Wow, that was great. 4½ stars. Well, 5 stars just on Ryan’s virtuosity, but maybe take a half-star away because I’ve heard the tune a million times, but never quite like that. He’s an incredible all-around player.

All these records were very good. It’s a reality these days that it is harder to tell guys apart trumpetistically, because we all study out of the same books, and there’s a certain trumpetistic artistry that’s prevalent these days. So it’s harder to pick people apart, but that’s overshadowed by the musicianship on all these records, which was really excellent. That’s always my answer to the problem these days, when guys say, “Ah, too many guys sound alike.” I say the musicianship is so high it doesn’t matter.

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