This 1999 live set features the great drummer Elvin Jones leading an all-star group. The repertoire, comprised of three jazz standards (including John Coltrane's lesser-known "Wise One"), three originals and an adaptation of a folk song, generally featuring one or two soloists on each cut. The straight-ahead and basic "E.J.'s Blues" has spots for trumpeter Darren Barrett (who sounds a bit like Freddie Hubbard) and Jones, while "Straight No Chaser" puts the spotlight on trombonist Robin Eubanks (in a J.J. Johnson mood), pianist Carlos McKinney and the drummer.
Avishai Cohen, who became well known in the jazz world during his period with Chick Corea, is one of the top bassists in the world. His virtuosity and constant creativity in both a modern mainstream format and on funkier grooves seem effortless. As Is…Live at the Blue Note contains a CD (the first seven selections) and a DVD. "Smash," "Feediop," the ballad "Remembering" and an overlong "Caravan" (the one non-original) are featured in both formats while three songs are different.
Pianist Oscar Peterson had a reunion with guitarist Herb Ellis and bassist Ray Brown at a well-publicized get-together at New York's Blue Note in March 1990. The trio (his regular group of the late '50s) was augmented by Peterson's late-'60s drummer Bobby Durham for spirited performances. Rather than using their complex arrangements of the past, the pianist and his alumni simply jammed through the performances and the results are quite rewarding. On the first of four CDs released by Telarc, the quartet performs "Honeysuckle Rose," a ballad medley, three of the pianist's originals and "Sweet Georgia Brown." As this and the other CDs in the series show, the magic was still there.
Percussionist Francisco Mela's second CD as a leader is a compelling blend of many influences, mixing neo-bop, Cuban jazz, and South African jazz, with a fine cast in support that includes pianist Jason Moran, guitarist/vocalist Lionel Loueke, bassist Larry Grenadier (sideman with Brad Mehldau on a number of his CDs), and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner. Six of the eight compositions were penned by the leader. "Tierra and Fuego" is an intricate, adventurous melody with Mela's tense percussion lighting the fire under Turner's burning tenor.
Always one of the most tasteful of musicians, guitarist Kenny Burrell is in fine form on this set from 1996. He is joined by a rhythm section led by pianist Sir Roland Hanna, trumpeter Jimmy Owens (who is in excellent form), either Steve Turre or Benny Powell on trombone and the underrated tenor-saxophonist and flutist Jerome Richardson. Burrell sings a heartfelt "Dear Ella" (his voice is just average) and there is a vocal apiece by Jeannie Bryson (a sensuous "I've Got A Crush On You") and Vanessa Rubin ("All Blues"). Other highlights of this relaxed bop set include Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer," Richardson's "Groove Merchant" and a medley of "Embraceable You" and Charlie Parker's "Quasimodo." (allmusic.com)
Arturo Sandoval, one of the great trumpeters, leads his high-powered septet on a variety of diverse material. The uptempo bop original "The Real McBop" introduces the audience to the strong solo playing of pianist Phil Magallanes, tenor saxophonist Felipe Lamoglia, Sandoval, and guitarist Rene Toledo.
This live date, recorded at the Blue Note in 1999 in commemoration of Elvin Jones's 72nd birthday, was one of the drummer's last recorded performances before his death in 2004. Jones's Jazz Machine turns in an exciting program of nervy hard bop, with nods to both the mainstream and the avant garde. The band, comprised of Michael Brecker and Antoine Roney on saxophones, Robin Eubanks on trombone, Darren Barrett on trumpet, Carlos McKinney on piano, and Gene Perla on bass, displays an impressive sense of group interplay, while not skimping on brio in the solos.