New Jazz Adds – 11/27/2023

Geri Allen / Kurt Rosenwinkel

This week we have paused our previews of newly recorded music, while still attending to new releases of music from the jazz past.  Important releases are out from the 60s with previously unheard live music from Cal Tjader, Ahmad Jamal and Wes Montgomery.  British multi-reedist Stan Sulzmann’s first release is now out after being unavailable for decades.  Also just released are newly discovered records of the only collaborations of Derek Bailey / Paul Motian (1990 / 1991) and Geri Allen / Kurt Rosenwinkel (2012).  Important recordings.

Geri Allen – Kurt Rosenwinkel – A Lovesome Thing(Motéma Music, Releases 11/24/2023).  Geri Allen – piano, Kurt Rosenwinkel – guitar.

Recorded in Paris in 2012, this disc is the only recorded meeting of the great pianist Geri Allen and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel.  These two world-class improvisers play with magic and majesty.  Jazz Desk wrote, “[Open Handed Reach] is beautiful. The two improvisers are very sympathetic to each other playing a romantic theme by Allen which they spin a harmonic kaleidoscope around. The music typically for Allen sounds both free and organized at the same time.”  In the hands of these masters on that night, Monk’s Ruby My Dear was deconstructed and reassembled while throwing off bales of beauty along the way.  Sometimes it just works. In the years to come, this is one of the releases from 2023 that will be considered essential in the jazz canon.  Dave Linn wrote on AllAboutJazz, “Allen and Rosenwinkel are two of the most influential musicians since the 1980s and 1990s respectively. [This] release comes 11 years after their one-time-only get-together. Both players were at the top of their game and had come together without the benefit of rehearsal, which allowed the music to simply flow through them and the results heard here are both exhilarating and spiritual. With Allen’s passing in 2017 of cancer, at least it can be said, “We’ll always have Paris.”  Essential.

Stan Sulzmann – On Loan With Gratitude (Jazz In Britain, released 08/14/2023).  Stan Sulzmann – saxophones / flutes, John Taylor – keyboards / synthesizer, Ron Mathewson – bass / bass guitar, Chris Laurence – bass, Tony Levin – drums / percussion.

This is the first reissue of British multi-reedest Stan Sulzmann’s long-lost first record.  After working with bassist / composer / bandleader Graham Collier, Sulzmann got the opportunity to record as a leader in 1977 when Collier started his own label.  The result, which has stood the test of time, sold poorly and basically disappeared for 45 years.  Roger Farley wrote on Jazz Journal, “Sulzmann’s choice of rhythm section for these recordings was impeccable, drawing on the cream of British jazz at that time. [Pianist John] Taylor was the go-to keyboardist of the era and remained a brilliant virtuoso throughout his career. [Drummer] Tony Levin was equally sought after and one of the finest drummers around.  It is no coincidence that [bassist Ron] Mathewson was recruited by Tubby Hayes and later Ronnie Scott. His inventive, visceral approach permeates all the tracks bar one where Chris Laurence is heard on the [bonus] concert version of On Loan With Gratitude.”  The original LP included the three-part title tune that showcases Sulzmann on both saxophone and flute long with a major contribution by Mathewson.  The re-release also features eight tracks from contemporary broadcasts including powerful tenor-driven tunes like the opener Good News and Flying Scots as well as equally powerful solo work by Taylor on When All Else Fails.  Sulzmann went on to make important contributions for further releases from Collier and landmark British jazz releases from John Taylor, John Surman, Kenny Wheeler and Mike Gibbs.  Filling in his history with the return of this remarkable disc and its bonus tracks is much welcomed.

Derek Bailey & Paul Motian – Duo in Concert (Frozen Reeds, released 11/17/2023).  Derek Bailey – guitar, Paul Motian – drums.

Freely improvising guitar great Derek Bailey and post-bop drumming legend Paul Motion intersected briefly in 1990 – 1991, finding middle ground without compromise.  This is among the most melodic playing that I know of from Derek Bailey, without his trademarked crankiness and aggression and this is the most free playing I know of from Motian, while still hinting at song structures and flavored by his characteristic precision.  The result is arresting.  From the Bookmat review, ”… we’re witness to a remarkably lissom, even melodic performance by Bailey, the grand master of contrarian shred, caught in devilish syncopation with drummer Paul Motian, an ECM regular and jazz legend renowned for his nanometric time keeping. On both counts the pair pull each other into a unique, idiosyncratic temporality that elegantly pinches, ruffles and stretches the fabric of space and time.”  The first two tracks from 1990 are issued on the vinyl release and the last two from 1991 (with diminished sound quality) are added to make up the digital package.

Cal Tjader – Catch The Groove: Live At The Penthouse, 1963 – 1967(Jazz Detective, releases 12/01/2023). Clare Fischer – piano, Lonnie Hewitt – piano, Al Zulaica – piano, Cal Tjader – vibraphone, Fred Schreiber – bass, Terry Hilliard – bass, Monk Montgomery – bass, Stan Gilbert – bass, Johnny Rae – drums / timbales, Carl Burnett – drums / timbales, Bill Fitch – congas / percussion, Armando Peraza – congas / bongos.

Vibraphonist Cal Trader jumped aboard the Mambo Craze in the early 1950s and became a devotee of a variety of Latin Jazz forms for the rest of his musical career, earning substantial credit for the popularization of this music.  By the time these unreleased recordings were made from six live sets in the mid-60s, Trader had fully embraced bossa nova as well as the primarily Cuban afro-Latin sounds in his repertoire.  Tony Dostert wrote on AllAboutJazz, “But although there are more than enough jazz standards here to demonstrate Tjader’s breadth, the Latin pieces are more reflective of his core impulses… Helped by percussionists Bill Fitch and Armando Peraza, the groups assembled here are most at home when they are finding a Latin groove—and the work of pianists Clare Fischer, Lonnie Hewitt and Al Zulaica are also essential in that regard. Hewitt’s bluesy licks are fundamental to the sinuous momentum of Pantano, and his punchy block chords help propel the feisty Maramoor Mambo… Zulaica’s own churning rhythms enliven Mambo Inn on the 1966 recording…These musicians have impeccable instincts for a range of Latin styles, and they do justice to all of them.“  This is an important record of a seminal artist at his peak.

Ahmad Jamal – Emerald City Lights: Live At The Penthouse 1966 – 1968(Jazz Detective, releases 12/01/2023).  Ahmad Jamal – piano, Jamil Nasser – bass, Frank Gant – drums.

Last year, the Jazz Detective label released two double CD sets from Ahmad Jamal and his trio Live at the Penthouse in Seattle (1963 – 1964 and 1965 – 1966).  This is the final release in the set.  Famously an influence on Miles Davis, Jamal overcame a misguided attempt to label his music “cocktail jazz” to become one of the most influential pianists of the sixties.  The trio is completed by bassist Jamal Nasser and drummer Grant Gant, with whom he would later record the great 1970 disc, The Awakening.  As with all the great Jamal trios, these players were not merely accompanists, but co-creators of a spare and sensuous trio sound.  Of Corcovado, Thierry De Clemensat wrote on Paris Move, “You know that tune popularized by Joao Gilberto and Stan Getz, which has seen countless, often mediocre, versions recorded by various artists over the years? Here, again, Ahmad Jamal’s brilliance and vision reinvent the song with passion, offering a fantastic variation.”  Jamal passed away on April 16, 2023 at 92.  Covering the fertile periods of 1963 – 1964, 1965 – 1966 and, now, 1966 – 1968, the three Emerald City Nights releases are exceptional and valued records of a great trio.

Wes Montgomery & Wynton Kelly Trio – Maximum Swing: The Unissued 1965 Half Note Recordings (Resonance Records, releases 12/01/2023).   Wynton Kelly – piano, Wes Montgomery – guitar, Paul Chambers – bass, Ron Carter – bass, Larry Ridley – bass, Herman Wright – bass, Jimmy Cobb – drums.

In the summer and fall of 1965, guitarist Wes Montgomery toured with pianist Wynton Kelly and his trio (completed by bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb), including a set at Newport in July.  Kelly, Chambers and Cobb had anchored Miles Davis’s quintet from 1958 – 1961.  Two tunes from the June residency at the Half Note in New York made up Side One of the LP Smokin’ At The Half Note (Side Two was a September studio recording at the Rudy Van Gelder studio by the same quartet.). Pat Metheny refers to the release as “the absolute greatest jazz-guitar album ever made. It is also the record that taught me how to play.”  Other 1965 Half Note recordings of this band from the club have been released piecemeal over the past, almost, 60 years, (sometimes “sweetened” with overdubbed strings) but this is the most comprehensive record yet published.  And it is located at a key juncture in Montgomery’s recording history, as Smokin’ isoften identified as his last jazz release.  His studio recordings increasing became vehicles for pop arrangements and strings.  Then, he passed away suddenly at 45 in 1968.  These seven live sets feature a range of bass players as Chambers seems to have been having health problems for the November residency.  The November 12th recording of Montgomery’s Four on Six is exemplary of the performances by this band with its strong solos and driving pulse, referred to in the release title Maximum Swing.  This is an important release at an important juncture in Montgomery’s brief career and should, from here on, be considered the leader’s final jazz recording.

These recordings should fill some gaps in our understanding of these important artists.

Russell Perry, Jazz at 100 Now!


Become a Sponsor

Underwriting WTJU is a way to broadly share information about your business. It’s also a way for your business or organization to gain community-wide recognition for your support of WTJU’s community mission.

Underwrite a Program


Your gift nourishes our community and helps bring people together through music.

Underwrite a Program