Seeking some easily available jazz recommendations, but kind of specific.
December 2, 2007 11:30 PM   Subscribe

Jazz-heads - help me fill out my Xmas wish-list. Especially seeking those with rec's for (say) quartets to octets featuring Baritone Sax, Trombone, and/or strong and prominent rhythm sections.

I'm still pretty new to jazz, and while I've enjoyed some big-band/orchestra stuff in the past, my fancy for the past couple of years has been more towards quartets/quintets and the like. If it helps , the ideal standard for me is Charlie Mingus's "Mingus Ah Um", along with the traditional jazz standards from Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and the like.

However, I really really dig the Baritone Sax, Trombone, and strong, strong Bass/Drum duos. I've done some research tonight and have run across some names (Serge Chaloff, Albert Ayler, Charlie Haden, etc.) that I can't quite find solid samples of to test them out.

So, hivemind, given that, what do I need. What will I love? And, most prominently, what can I request from kind-hearted individuals that aren't going to dig through obscure dusty record shops for them to gift me?
posted by Ufez Jones to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Getz Meets Mulligan in Hi-Fi.

Verve label founder and record producer Norman Granz found great commercial appeal with his formula of putting together noted jazz soloists for "encounter" session. Many of these are just what you're looking for, and canon for jazz fans.

Ben Webster Meets Oscar Petersen
Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster

You could also look into some of pianist Art Tatum's Tatum Group efforts for Verve, particularly the Volume 8 re-issue with tenor man Ben Webster.

In more contemporary names, recently deceased sax man Michael Brecker's work might be interesting to you. Branford Marsalis is someone whose work you'd find rewarding.

Tenor and alto sax are much more popular as lead instruments, than baritone, because their physical tonal range more naturally approximates human singing voices than does the baritone sax. Also, the baritone sax takes more wind to make sound, and so long phrases are easier to play on the soprano, alto and tenor horns. So, you'll find guys like John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Stanley Turrentine, Illinois Jacquet, Wayne Shorter, Ornette Coleman, Art Pepper and of course, Charlie Parker are all seminal sax players whose works you would enjoy coming to know.
posted by paulsc at 12:06 AM on December 3, 2007

Looking through my albums...Coltrane's Blue Train has Curtis Fuller on trombone and Paul Chambers on bass. Both are fine soloists. The album Money Jungle has fantastic bass/drums interaction between Mingus and Max Roach, though I'm not sure if there's ever a 'solo' strictly speaking. If you don't have Mingus' Blues and Roots you need it right quick, it has a hair-raising baritone sax solo on "Moanin'".
Archie Shepp's Four For Trane is on the free side and has some fucked-up tromboning from Roswell Rudd.
posted by creasy boy at 12:43 AM on December 3, 2007

Also, Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come might be too free for you, but the bass and drums (Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins) are flawless. Billy Higgins is a name to watch out for in drumming.
posted by creasy boy at 12:49 AM on December 3, 2007

Gordon Goodwin, of course, and his Big Phat Band. Kurt Elling.

Chris McDonald, anything he's arranged, anything he's ever done. His is the only big band Christmas album that is tolerable. In fact, I might just buy it right now.
posted by arnicae at 1:35 AM on December 3, 2007

Also: Fred Hersch, especially the album Fred Hersch + 2

If you're into straight up jazz, REALLY straight up jazz (as in all of the tracks are only 2:50 long) than perhaps Ralph Sharon would appeal. He's Tony Bennet's pianist. His trio does really straight up stuff, in the style of George Shearing.

The Bill Watrous Band, out of Los Angeles, and anything Bill Watrous has been involved with. He's a trombone player, attracts the best and the brightest.

Also, Shelly Berg.
posted by arnicae at 1:42 AM on December 3, 2007

Seconding Getz, Webster & Oscar Petersen and adding Bill Evans.

There are some great recommendations in a question I asked 2 years ago (the Cannonball Adderley went down a treat with my father).
posted by ceri richard at 1:50 AM on December 3, 2007

In fact, those answers were so good I've just realised that I can dip into it again for this year's gift so thank you for asking the question and reminding what a fantastic resource we have here.
posted by ceri richard at 1:52 AM on December 3, 2007

Mingus' live album At Antibes is pretty effing spectacular. You've got Dannie Richmond on drums, along with Mingus on bass laying down heavy rhythm, and the three-horn front line of Booker Ervin, Ted Curson and Eric Dolphy wailing on a few of Mingus' classics. I recommend "I'll Remember April," which features a (roughly) four minute stretch where Ervin (tenor sax) and Dolphy (bass clarinet) trade fours, then twos back and forth in what, for my money, might be the most exciting stretch of music I've ever heard.

I'll nth everyone else's selections, and try to go a little off the beaten path with a few:

>> I love tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath, and highly recommend On The Trail and Really Big!, the latter of which features Heath fronting a ten-piece band. Heath's strengths are as a songwriter and arranger, and both shine through brilliantly on these discs.

>> Eric Dolphy's Out To Lunch is where the Mingus and Monk aesthetics collide to great effect. Dolphy is inventive and angular, a stark contrast to the brawny sounds of Coltrane or the wry intelligence behind Sonny Rollins.

>> Henry Threadgill (alto sax/flute) and his Very Very Circus band released Too Much Sugar for a Dime back in 1994, which answered the question, "What if John Phillips Sousa dropped acid with Charles Mingus (really, the gold standard for imaginative jazz composition) and Jimi Hendrix and wrote some songs?" It's a little (okay, a lot) out there, features two tubas and a French horn in place of a bass, and manages to fit a dual electric guitar attack into the front line. I saw this group live back in 1995 in a club and they blew me away. I'm a huge admirer of Threadgill's originality, and while there's no single representative album in his catalog with which to get you started, you've got to start somewhere, right?

Happy listening.
posted by peacecorn at 3:46 AM on December 3, 2007

Seconding Bill Evans and "At Antibes". "Blues and Roots" is also essential Mingus.

RE: Ayler and Hayden - "Spiritual Unity", "Witches and Devils" and "Live in Greenwich Village" are all good places to get started with the former. Hayden's catalog is huge and diverse - a few I keep coming back to are his recordings with the Ornette Coleman Quartet (esp. "This Is Our Music") and the Liberation Music Orchestra, and a more recent LP with Hank Jones, "Steal Away".

Some other saxophonists to look into:

Joseph Jarman, Roscoe Mitchell, David Murray, Kidd Jordan, Pharoah Sanders, Hamiet Bluiett, Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake, Mats Gustafsson, Booker Ervin, Charles Gayle, John Gilmore, Charlie Parker, Jackie McLean, Frank Lowe, Evan Parker, Sabir Mateen, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Sonny Simmons, Archie Shepp, Pepper Adams, Marshall Allen, Arthur Blythe, Peter Brötzmann, Anthony Braxton, Gebhard Ullman, Marion Brown, or Joe Henderson

Several of the folks above are very free players, but may scratch the itch for you if you find yourself enjoying the Ayler records. Roland Kirk you should absolutely look into.

RE: trombone - I can't say enough good things about Steve Swell . He's hugely inspiring live, and his recent records (esp. "Desert Songs and other Landscapes") are all excellent. Roswell Rudd is also brilliant - I esp. recommend an early record of his, School Days (used copies of which are pretty easy to come by ). It's an inspired run through the Monk cannon with another great, Steve Lacy.

All of these folks have at least some records in print and readily available through Amazon or Cadence Records.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:35 AM on December 3, 2007

Sahib Shihab
posted by caddis at 7:01 AM on December 3, 2007

I'm a huge admirer of Threadgill's originality

Me too—I used to see him live when I lived in NYC. I thought most of his great albums from the '90s (Too Much Sugar for a Dime, Carry the Day, Makin' a Move, Where's Your Cup) had been deleted, but Amazon offers all of them, so maybe not. Go buy them, everybody, you won't regret it!

His previous band Air is great too.
posted by languagehat at 7:18 AM on December 3, 2007

Art Blakey's Night in Tunisa. In fact, now I'm going to have to go rip that. I can't imagine not loving the opening track, the way the drums just stop whatever else is going on in the world when they start. Almost any Coltrane works for me: Blue Train and Giant Steps, especially. If you want something with a higher Wife Acceptance Factor (as the squares say), Amazon has Coltrane and Johnny Hartman for $6 as a download. Fantastic album and my wife and I can meet in the middle on it.
posted by yerfatma at 7:22 AM on December 3, 2007

The most 'big band'-like Coltrane album is Africa/Brass; get the complete sessions disc from Impulse, it's a gorgeous album, though listening to three 20-minute versions of 'Africa' can be wearying if you're not (ahem) obsessive. Thirding Mingus's At Antibes; though it features slightly sparer arrangements than his studio tracks, the 'Better Get Hit' and 'Folk Forms' are more or less definitive versions. (Consider, by the way, Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus, which features reorchestrations of several of his classic tunes, some superior to the originals.)

OK and here's the bonus pick: Wynton Marsalis's Live at the Village Vanguard set. Seven discs, $35 or so brand new (even less used), a ridiculous assortment of Ellingtonia and small-combo stuff with a rich horn sound (fantastic trombone player) and unimpeachable taste and technicalities. Marsalis has clearly learned a lot from Mingus as well, and his gnarliest tunes capture some of Mingus's sexual energy. The last two discs feature compositions of 45 and 60 minutes in freer performances than his studio albums (many of which are also excellent).

Ever heard Sex Mob? Try their Bond album, it's nasty and features the rare slide trumpet on the front line (and a rhythm section that will rock your balls like a Playstation).

Give Dave Douglas a try too - masterful horn player, he's 1/4 of Masada (also recommended), and his solo albums are lovely.
posted by waxbanks at 8:49 AM on December 3, 2007

Seconding Air - for drum/bass interplay, Fred Hopkins and Steve McCall are hard to beat. All (or almost all) out of print right now, but lots of their records have been showing up on
the blogs for download recently.

I'm going to come out against the Marsalis brothers - they're competent but ultimately unimaginative players, and excuse their lack of creativity and spirit with hidebound, conservative bluster. If it was up to them, jazz would be nothing more than the musical equivalent of a Civil War reenactment.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:27 AM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

You might want to see if you like jazz made by guys who are mostly not dead yet. All the classics mentioned by folks are excellent choices, too, but it's nice to hear where the genre is "currently" and have a chance to see these guys live.

Here's a small circle of guys who are mostly not dead yet:
Michael Brecker, though recently dead, has a small big band album ("Septdectet" I believe), and has awesome sidemen who are worth seeing with whoever they're touring with --drummer Dennis Chambers and bassist John Pattitucci, for instance. Brecker's "Time Is Of The Essence" is the most insanely great jazz album in a long time for both challenging but musical compositions and understated performances by Pat Metheny (who is so much more awesome as a sideman) and Larry Goldings on B-3. Larry Goldings often plays with Peter Bernstein on guitar and Bill Stewart on drums, and there are CDs issued in each of their names.

Bill Stewart has played with a bunch of people, among them John Scofield (guitar), but is always worth hearing. And if you can stand Scofield, you might like the drums and bass in modern stuff like The Bad Plus, and Martin, Medesky, and Wood.

Also connected with these guys at one time or another are Larry Grenadier (bassist), Joshua Redman (sax), and Brad Mehldau (pianist).

These are guys you'll be able to see in concert, which is what jazz is all about. Give money to the living artists, not to the heirs and corporations of dead guys.
posted by lothar at 12:30 PM on December 3, 2007

If you are looking for guys who are not dead, check out this post from languagehat (the first link should go here). David S. Ware has a current hot band which is currently touring Europe but they will be back in NYC soon enough. I saw them just before they left on tour and they were pretty hot. Also, check out the the Vision Festival and the artists playing there for interesting new jazz. This stuff is freer than free and is a bit of an acquired taste, but is some of the most interesting stuff happening in jazz and it isn't that far of a leap from Mingus.
posted by caddis at 1:21 PM on December 3, 2007

"... Give money to the living artists, not to the heirs and corporations of dead guys."
posted by lothar at 3:30 PM on December 3

Some of the notable dead guys, however, went to some trouble, before they were dead, to see that their estates continued to support jazz musicians, into the future. So, feel good about them, and buy their classic records, and keep the music coming...;-)
posted by paulsc at 2:39 PM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

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