Of course, members of the distinguished avant-garde sax quartet Rova and the raucous avant jazz trio Nels Cline Singers (in which nobody sings, in case you wonder) have intermingled before on a few occasions – the Ascension project being one. Still, to bring the two together (and their audiences) and to write a repertoire especially for this short-lived septet had to require some guts and determination. And it was effort well invested, since The Celestial Septet is a thrilling record, and one of Rova's most artistically successful collaborations. Recorded in 2008 on two separate occasions, the CD features five works ranging between two and 25 minutes in duration. Strangely, both the shortest and longest piece are Larry Ochs compositions.
Veteran mainstream jazz purveyors Sandy Mosse and Cy Touff from the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago played together on several occasions. Mosse passed away in 1981 shortly after this date was recorded. He was born in Detroit and lived in Amsterdam, Holland, for a number of years. Touff pretty much stayed in Chicago until his death in 2003, and these sessions lay dormant for decades, surrounded in legal and contractual issues. The paperwork was finally resolved, and listeners can now hear the wonderfully smooth Stan Getz cum Lester Young tenor saxophone style of Mosse and the burnished bass trumpet tones of the singularly unique Touff, together and united in swing.
Combining sessions that blues pianist Sunnyland Slim and blues guitarist Johnny Shines recorded separately on the same day in Chicago in 1968 for the Blue Horizon imprint, this interesting little set shows two blues veterans doing what it was they did, which was, in part, to push and pull the Delta blues one small step closer to being in the modern urban world. The Slim sides, several of which are new to digital disc, are a bit more interesting than the Shines sides, but only by degree. Slim's songs can appear on the surface to be tossed-off exercises in the usual blues clichés, but they were actually carefully written, while Shines worked similar territory, giving old blues figures a slightly ironic twist. Since both played at one time or another with Robert Johnson, and both straddle the old and new worlds of the blues as it transfigured into an electric and urban form, it makes perfect sense to stick these two sessions together in one package.
For her entry into the increasingly popular Great American Songbook subgenre, Diane Schuur de-emphasizes the vocal histrionics that in the past have come close to spoiling some of her recordings and maintains a steady, clear, exuberant tone. Good move: one of Schuur's gifts is her multi-octave range, but she has often over-relied on it at the expense of whatever song she was singing. Here, she takes to the classic compositions of George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, and the like with a respectfulness and glee that allow her to frame and expose these culturally embedded lyrics and melodies without beating on them.
This 1961 set has appeared under Eric Dolphy's name, but it is, in fact, bassist Ron Carter's date - his first as a leader. Carter and Dolphy had played together in Chico Hamilton's group and on Dolphy's important 1960 date Out There. Where? has elements in common with both, but is closer to Hamilton's late-'50s chamber jazz than to the more outward-bound Dolphy date. As on the Dolphy session, Carter is heard on cello for three of the six tracks. Carter's skill is undeniable, but his playing on Where? is a bit polite and monochromatic. The easygoing duet with George Duvivier, for example, is a quiet, back-porch conversation that makes few demands on either of these bass giants…
At a time when Horslips were rapidly drifting away from their quasi-traditional Irish roots, they unexpectedly delivered this gift-wrapped gem. With the exception of Barry Devlin's electric bass and John Fean's occasional contemporary guitar stylings, this is a solid traditional Irish album and certainly the most autochthonous recording by Horslips. All 13 of the selections are of Irish origin, among them three Turlough O'Carolan tunes including the sprightly "Sir Festus Burke" (it is unclear whether it was ever intended as a Christmas song). It unfolds into a Celtic "wall of sound" featuring Jim Lockhart's harpsichord, with banjo, flute, fiddle and guitar gradually joining in the round. "Thompson's/Cottage in the Grove" is a pair of reels that progress in much the same fashion. This time, the concertina of Charles O'Connor is followed by banjo, piano, whistle, bodhran and bones. The nearest this record gets to familiar holiday carol territory is found in a passage from the hornpipe "Piper in the Meadow Straying," which bears a calculated resemblance to "Don we now our gay apparel" from "Deck the Halls." This was a surprising and risky recording for a mid-'70s rock band, but it definitely rejuvenated them and paved the way for their 1976 tour de force Book of Invasions: A Celtic Symphony.
While only the faithful are likely to try this 17-disc set of violinist David Oistrakh's complete recordings for EMI, they will no doubt fall all over themselves in their rush to get it. How could they not? It contains all the recordings the great Soviet violinist made for EMI: his 1958 and 1969 recordings of Beethoven's Triple Concerto, his 1954 and 1958 recordings of the same composer's violin concerto, his 1956 and 1969 recordings of Brahms' Double Concerto, his 1960 and 1969 recordings of the same composer's violin concerto plus recordings of concertos and sonatas by composers running the gamut from Mozart to Shostakovich.