1934-1953, The great gypsy did pretty much all his recording during the pre-album age, and while he was justly honoured by the French soon after his death, most early UK vinyl releases were haphazard collations in indifferent sound. Rec. Two weeks or so later LaFaro was dead and Evans left with the ashes of his first great group. (BP), Review: Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um (50th Anniversary Edition) ★★★★★, Monk (p, celeste), Ernie Henry (as), Sonny Rollins (ts), Oscar Pettiford/Paul Chambers (b), Max Roach (d) and Clark Terry (t). Rec. Some CD versions have as many as eight bonus tracks. They also sold albums in pop numbers and played arena rock stadiums. Sebastian Rochford (d), Pete Wareham, Mark Lockheart (ts), Tom Herbert (b), Leafcutter John (programming) plus Jonny Philips (g), Ingrid Laubrock (ts), Joe Bentley (tb), Emma Smith (v) and Hannah Marshall (c). 1949-50, The wonder of Miles’ career is the sheer amount of times he seized the moment, grabbed the right people, and got them to deliver their best creative thoughts for him. Machine Gun leaves you shaken to the core. Completely devoid of any of the fashionable Americanisms of the day, its music was full of light and colour derived from European modernist classical and film traditions. Using segue-like channel zapping on TV, one mood is thrust in harsh disjunction with another. 1959. Depending on which CD version you come across this can be a straight version of the vinyl original or contain two extra alternative takes. No wonder the album was called Emergency, with every member of the band having so much to say but so little time to say it. Rec. At Coltrane’s side pianist McCoy Tyner adapted Bill Evans’ innovation of quartal harmony, the use of fourths on ‘So What’, to legendary results. ‘Sounds’ is a tour de force of scat through shifting tempos and meters that lasts 25 minutes where at one point, Carter, Hicks, Lundy and Washington each play in a different meter. Rec. Vive le difference, we say… (KS), Feature: Wayne Shorter – Music of the Spheres, Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim) (ss, kys, p), Gary Chandler (t), Malindi Blyth Mbityana, Craig Harris (tb), Carlos Ward (as), Jeff Jaywarrah King, Dwayne Armstrong (ts), Kenny Rogers (bs), Lawrence Lucie (bjo), Cecil McBee (b), Miguel Pomier and Andre Strobert (d, perc). By the 1960s and 70s, things had only intensified on this front, with albums by leading players and breakthrough artists becoming major events, not only for the media feasting on them but for the fans, many who had come to the music from a flourishing progressive rock scene that thrived on such things. (KS), Coltrane (ts), Tommy Flanagan, Cedar Walton, Wynton Kelly (p), Paul Chambers (b), Lex Humphries, Art Taylor and Jimmy Cobb (d). 1983, A star-studded line-up this might have been, however, by the time they came to make their debut on an American label, Steps Ahead had forged a powerful group identity that critics were dubbing “the new acoustic fusion.” Much of this was down to a repertoire comprising original, ad hoc song forms that seldom employed straight ahead rhythms. Anyway, few observers of the day were bothered by the hyperbole, more by the claim that Ornette had any musical worth whatsoever. 1947, These early Monk sides almost sank without trace when first issued as 78rpm singles, and it was only because of a LP selection under this title in the mid-1950s that more than a handful of punters took any notice. For two years this group was the cutting edge of modern jazz: by spring 1956 they had Sonny Rollins as the resident tenor alongside Clifford Brown’s dazzlingly innovative trumpet: Miles and Coltrane were still playing catch-up in their quintet. Rec. The 1960s was a decade when British jazz emerged with a strong identity with classic albums from the likes of Mike Westbrook, Michael Garrick, Don Rendell-Ian Carr Quintet and Mike Gibbs to name but a few. I Talk With The Spirits, his flute album, came next and gave the world ‘Serenade to a Cuckoo’, while 1968’s Volunteered Slavery allowed Kirk to assault Burt Bacharach among others while giving him a new audience, but this one is the stone jazzer’s delight. 1958, Blakey was in on the ground floor when it came to the evolution of hard bop into soul jazz, having co-led the first Jazz Messengers with Horace Silver back in 1956. Nevertheless, it is tempting to call these original recordings definitive, if only because they do in fact define the essence of Rollins’ approach to improvisation, wringing every nuance and variation he can from the theme and its associated melodic and rhythmic patterns. (KS), John McLaughlin (g), Jerry Goodman (vln), Jan Hammer (key), Rick Laird (b) and Billy Cobham (d). But the real jewels on this album are the eight solo selections recorded in February 1951. Ornette set the musicians up in two parallel quartets, arranged some loose themes and collective playing to book end the entire performance as well as section off each solo, then let the musicians loose for a collective bout of improvisation that lasts well over half an hour reinventing the possibilities of jazz as it does so. Rec. Rec. 1966, Voted “new star” by Downbeat in 1965, the emergence of the Charles Lloyd Quartet took jazz by storm in 1966, expanding musical horizons with a challenging eclectic amalgam of modal and free jazz with Eastern textures and Spanish soul. MIC represents the point of separation between free jazz and free improv. (BP), Miles Davis (t), Lee Konitz (as), Gerry Mulligan (bar s), JJ Johnson (tb), Kai Winding (tb), Junior Collins (Fr hn), Gunther Schuller (Fr hn), Sandy Siegelstein (Fr hn), Billy Barber (tba), John Barber (tba), Nelson Boyd (b), Joe Shulman (b), Al McKibbon (b), Al Haig (p), John Lewis (p), Kenny Clarke (d),  Max Roach (d), Gil Evans (arr), Johnny Carisi (arr) and Kenny Hagood (v). Rec. Rec. This mixture of freedom (often “time, no changes”) and structure as well as the increasing sense of identity in McLaughlin’s playing framed by Surman and Oxley make for compelling listening. They all played for each other to such an extent that the group became one of the true 1960s greats. Taking ages old Swedish folk melodies from Svenska Låtar and then interpreting them from a jazz perspective, Johansson’s carefully nuanced sound, the gradation of his touch, the exquisite detail of every note revealed by the meticulous recording quality captured a unique approach to jazz that has become widely influential. So in a decade when the leitmotif was change, it’s arguable that Bitches Brew was the album that shook the music world up most. Today, there it is on Hollywood soundtracks, an incontestable signifier of hip. The blues ‘Blue 7’ was famously dissected for such methodology by Gunther Schuller back at the time of Saxophone Colossus’ initial release but that failed to stop Rollins from another two years of super-human saxophone playing before his dramatic retirement in 1959. Players such as Mike Brecker, Tommy Smith, Jan Garbarek, Esbjörn Svensson, Tord Gustavsen all were to come under the spell of the Nordic Tone. Apart from this masterpiece, he also lead from the front on Plus 4, an album featuring the Brown/Roach Quintet of the day in all but name, plus Tenor Madness (the title track featuring a head-on with Coltrane) and the exquisite Plays For Bird. 1956, Was Sonny Rollins ready in 1956? Miles got the altoist to shine through ballads and burnished blowing throughout, complementing in fine style while the rest of the crew kept a discreet distance. That it worked for others can be heard in Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, and that it was influential can be discerned through Bill Evans’s absorption of Tristano’s methods. (KS), Sanders (ts) Leon Thomas (v, perc), James Spaulding (fl), Julius Watkins (Fr hn), Lonnie Liston Smith (p), Richard Davis, Reggie Workman, Ron Carter (b), Freddie Waits, William Hart (d) and Nathaniel Betis (perc). I feel the ranking of a musical masterpiece is one that should be open to constant rethink, even if the status remains the same in the end. They did it without sounding glib, a trick their legion of followers never fathomed. An adept at solo recitals (his Facing You for ECM in 1970 was a strong harbinger), he began a series of in-concert recitals for Manfred Eicher’s label that attracted acclaim and increasing public interest, but no-one was prepared for what happened to The Köln Concert when it appeared. (DH), Esbjörn Svensson (p), Dan Berglund (b) and Magnus Öström (d). 1956, Ellington often acknowledged that the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival offered him a virtual rebirth in terms of his in-person and recording career but there is little doubt as to why. Ask any number of influential music-makers who have been around, such as Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, and the like, they all agree. But that only scratches the surface of this album’s achievement. Albums became an increasingly important way for musicians to communicate with the wider world beyond the smoke and limitations of the night club circuit.

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