Retro-Bop (Vintage Jazz)

John Coltrane, LOVE SUPREMEIn a time when jazz was becoming less popular, this four-part masterpiece recorded in 1964, is John Coltrane’s attempt to give thanks to God. In doing so, and regardless of your religious beliefs, he delivers a performance in the company of McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums) that makes it clear what he meant when he said in 1966 he planned “to become a saint” in response to the question about his plans for the next decade. Sadly, he died of cancer not too long after that statement, but he left a legacy of work that -like this album- are testimony of what an inspired soul can let flow and give to others. Today, almost forty years after its original release, Coltrane’s memory is alive and kicking and his timeless work continues to inspire musicians of all genres across the world. In my journey of discovery of this beautiful jazz music, this album has turned out to be a true musical revelation and I want to share it with you too. ~Customer Review by Manny Hernandez | Amazon

Sonny Rollins, SAXPHONE COLOSSUSThough he lacked the improvisational fire of John Coltrane or the restless curiosity of Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins played with a rich, round tone that complemented his melodic inclinations, making him the most accessible of the postbop musicians. Saxophone Colossus is the most successful of the late 1950s albums that made his reputation. Rollins’s playing never falters; he’s backed by the redoubtable Max Roach on drums, Tommy Flanagan on piano, and Doug Watkins on bass. Rollins is equally at home with the lilting Caribbean air of “St. Thomas,” standards (“You Don’t Know What Love Is“), blues (“Strode Rode,” featuring a driving Flanagan solo), and a smoldering version of Brecht-Weill’s “Moritat” (better known as “Mac the Knife“). If you are new to jazz, there is no better place to start than Saxophone Colossus. ~Steven Mirkin (Editorial Review | Amazon)

Ron Carter, ETUDESSophisticated, elegant quartet date from 1982, with Art Farmer‘s serene trumpet and flugelhorn playing setting the tone, backed by tenor and soprano saxophonist Bill Evans, who’s more restrained than usual.

Carter‘s bass and Tony Williams drums are both understated and definitive in their support and backing rhythms.

~All Music Review by Ron Wynn


Oliver Nelson, THE BLUES ANS THE ABSTRACT TRUTHThe late Oliver Nelson really came up with a classic when he went into the Van Gelder studio in his new revision of the blues and hard bop structures. This is still adventurous music and of course many of the cuts have become staples in the jazz repertoire particularly the title tune. Also, Bill Evans has never sounded so adventurous as he has been in on this session listen to his solo particularly on “Cascades” and contrary to what’s stated about his inability to play the blues, he turns in a pretty decent solo on “Yearn’ng” almost sounding like a cross between Red Garland and Ahmed Jamal. Dolphy and Hubbard also shine on this session–this is one for the ages!! My only regret is that it just runs over 30 minutes. ~Customer Review by Dennis Wong | Amazon

Herbie Hancock, MAIDEN VOYAGELess overtly adventurous than its predecessor, Empyrean Isles, Maiden Voyage nevertheless finds Herbie Hancock at a creative peak. In fact, it’s arguably his finest record of the ’60s, reaching a perfect balance between accessible, lyrical jazz and chance-taking hard bop. By this point, the pianist had been with Miles Davis for two years, and it’s clear that Miles’ subdued yet challenging modal experiments had been fully integrated by Hancock. Not only that, but through Davis, Hancock became part of the exceptional rhythm section of bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams, who are both featured on Maiden Voyage, along with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and tenor saxophonist George Coleman. The quintet plays a selection of five Hancock originals, many of which are simply superb showcases for the group’s provocative, unpredictable solos, tonal textures, and harmonies. While the quintet takes risks, the music is lovely and accessible, thanks to Hancock‘s understated, melodic compositions and the tasteful group interplay. All of the elements blend together to make Maiden Voyage a shimmering, beautiful album that captures Hancock at his finest as a leader, soloist, and composer. ~AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Cannonball AdderleyCannonball Adderley, SOMETHIN' ELSE gave up his own band in 1957 when he had the opportunity to become a sideman in Miles Davis‘ epic ensemble with John Coltrane, eventually resulting in some of the greatest jazz recordings of all time (including Milestones and Kind of Blue). Davis returned the favor in March of 1958, appearing as a sideman on Adderley‘s all-star quintet date for Blue Note, and the resulting session is indeed Somethin’ Else. Both horn players are at their peak of lyrical invention, crafting gorgeous, flowing blues lines on the title tune and “One for Daddy-O,” as the rhythm team (Hank Jones, Sam Jones, Art Blakey) creates a taut, focused groove (pianist Hank Jones‘ sly, intuitive orchestrations are studies of harmonic understatement). Adderley‘s lush, romantic improvisation on “Dancing in the Dark” is worthy of Charlie Parker or Johnny Hodges, while the band refurbishes “Autumn Leaves” and “Love for Sale” into cliché-free swingers. And “Alison’s Uncle” puts a boppish coda on Somethin’ Else, one of the most gloriously laid-back blowing sessions of the hard bop era. ~AllMusic Review by Rovi Staff

Larry Young, UNITYRecorded in 1965, in the afterglow of avant-garde jazz’s first significant wave, Unity proved what organist Larry Young’s Blue Note debut, Into Somethin’, foreshadowed. Young had been a straightforward protégé of Jimmy Smith prior to his Blue Note years, and he later went full-tilt into fusion, eventually joining Tony Williams’s Lifetime for their rightly named debut, Emergency. But here Young dug into an exploratory groove that fed in part off the Hammond B-3 tradition and in part off the pulse-oriented rhythmic developments then occupying Cecil Taylor and others. That said, the tunes are all keeled on even tempos, with thoughtful, tight soloing from Joe Henderson and a young Woody Shaw. With drummerElvin Jones powering the quartet, the music cruises along, but Young’s free-flying organ is the most striking point, with its fall-apart deconstructions and its architecturally complex solos and melody statements. More than anything, this recording helped clarify how relevant the B-3 was for the new breed of jazzers. This Rudy Van Gelder remaster improves the sound, both brightening it and bolstering the low end. Also added are a couple of great photos and a new liner essay. Andrew Bartlett  | Amazon

Miles Davis, NEFERTITIWhen reviewers type up accolades of Miles Davis and point out his key albums, a few names are inevitable: “Birth of the Cool”, “Kind of Blue”, “Sketches of Spain”, and “Bitches Brew” to start with. Slightly more adventurous reviewers will grab the First Great Quintet Prestige albums, “Round About Midnight”, “Miles Ahead”, and “In a Silent Way”, or be daring enough to add “Jack Johnson” or “On the Corner“. Usually, though, the Second Great Quintet albums are somewhat lumped together, considered more valuable as a whole than the sum of their parts. Some will go ahead and nominate “ESP“, since that was the debut of this special quintet and contains a few obvious classics, but to me the album that deserves a place beside the immortals is this one.

Recorded over two months at almost the same time as “Sorcerer“, this album shares almost nothing in common with the warmer sounds of the previous record besides the somewhat angular song structures and the playing styles of the musicians. Pushing the ease of the prior album to one side, this album gave its prime real estate to the rhythm section and the greatest trophy to Tony Williams. Williams received amazing press almost from the beginning for his unique approach to the drums, using them more as an active frontline instrument than a timekeeping one. But here, especially on the opening title track, Williams is thrust to the forefront. With Davis and Shorter playing the hypnotic melody line in the manner that Ron Carter usually played his bass lines (compare what they do here with Carter’s bass line on “Masqualero“, for instance) Williams is encouraged to thrash, bash, push, and generally, tear down the song structure. ~Customer Review by Disink | Amazon

Bill Evans Trio, WALTZ FOR DEBBYThis is a genuine classic. But, be forewarned it may spoil you because the level of individual musicianship and the group interplay of the three musicians is at a level rarely equaled by other jazz (or any style) musicians. Its companion volume, “Sunday at the Village Vanguard,” which focuses more on bassist Scott LaFaro, is its equal. Evans’ touch, sense of rhythm, intelligence and his long, flowing melodic lines have been better documented by others than I can. And LaFaro’s inventiveness and technique have, too. But, I find few people talk about Paul Motian on drums. His is some of the best drumming ever committed to cd. He is so much more than a timekeeper, he is a melodist and an equal member of the trio. He is endlessly creative, in tune with the other musicians, mindful of the ebb and flow of the music and plays in the context of the other’s contributions and the song at hand. (Compare to the drumming on Rubalcaba’s “The Blessing” which is often brilliant, but often too busy or loud for the context he’s playing in.) Nobody uses brushes as well as Motian. (Though the style of music and drumming is very different, I find Motian the equal of Art Blakey in Monk’s trio recordings–“Work” and “Nutty“– in that the drummer is not subservient to the gifted pianist, but makes him even better by his level of musicianship and inventiveness. Both Motian and Blakey prove that drumming can be about much more than rhythm but about music.) Many people talk about the fact that this is an ensemble in which all three members solo, play lead and push the envelope. The best proof of that is that I find myself listening differently to the same cut at different times. Sometimes I focus on Evans, sometimes on LaFaro and sometimes on Motian. ~Customer Review | Amazon

Wayne Shortet, SPEAK NO EVILWayne Shorter’s compositions helped define a new jazz style in the mid-’60s, merging some of the concentrated muscular force of hard bop with surprising intervals and often spacious melodies suspended over the beat. The result was a new kind of “cool,” a mixture of restraint and freedom that created a striking contrast between Shorter’s airy themes and his taut tenor solos and which invited creative play among the soloists and rhythm section. The band on this 1964 session is a quintessential Blue Note group of the period, combining Shorter’s most frequent and effective collaborators. Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Elvin Jones merge their talents to create music that’s at once secure and free flowing, sometimes managing to suggest tension and calm at the same time. Stuart Broomer | Amazon

Charles Mingus, LET MY CHILDREN HEAR MUSICMingus just continues to wow me. Every time I hear one of his albums I am left believing that music can never end, there is still so much yet to be composed…
Mingus has bridged the gap between jazz and classical music in this album, the two are pieced so well together that a symbiotic relationship is formed. To me, he has created a new kind of music altogether. I have never heard anything like this album. So many elements are included; the master workings of the brilliant avante garde jazz and classical artists play a part in the arrangements. One can hear John Cage and John Coltrane but this does not mean that they do not hear Mingus. Everything is Mingus! Who can ever claim to be as expansive a musician or composer as Mingus? When Willie Dixon boldly said “I Am The Blues,” no one doubted him. Mingus could say something similar, he is the prodigal son of jazz and classical, he always returns to his roots triumphantly while going far out and above and beyond. Excerpt Customer Review | Amazon

Lee Morgan, THE SIDEWINDERThe Philadelphia-born trumpeter and superb bop stylist Lee Morgan apprenticed with Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey before emerging as a leader in his own right in the early ’60s for Blue Note Records. Although Morgan owed a stylistic debt to both Gillespie and Clifford Brown, he quickly developed a voice of his own that combined half-valve effects, Latin inflections, and full, fluid melodies. While many of Morgan’s later sessions for Blue Note would find him paired with saxophonist Hank Mobley, The Sidewinder features then up-and-coming tenor player Joe Henderson, plus Detroit pianist Barry Harris, bassist Bob Cranshaw, and drummer Billy Higgins. Along with the title track, an unconventional 24-bar blues, the album’s compositional standout is “Totem Pole,” a minor Latin groove featuring an outstanding solo by Henderson. This is the kind of relaxed blowing date, invigorated by thoughtful performances, that forms the backbone of the Blue Note catalog. ~Fred Goodman (Amazon Review)

Thelonious Monk, MONK'S DREAMOriginally released in early 1963, Monk’s Dream was the first Thelonious Monk album for Columbia. At the time this was recorded (fist sessions on Halloween, 1962), he had become one of the preeminent figures in contemporary jazz. His move to Columbia put him in the company of a couple of the era’s other major talents and commercial successes, Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck, and his quartet was stabilized for a couple years with tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse (with him since 1958), bassist John Ore, and drummer Frankie Dunlop. This album set the format for his succeeding works for the label over the next half-dozen years: a few standards mixed with originals, most of which had been recorded earlier in his career (the only new composition is “Bright Mississippi,” itself a variation on the chordal structure of “Sweet Georgia Brown“). However, these performances find Monk in exuberant good cheer. His playing sparkles with invention and the relaxation and calm of a career in well-deserved ascension. Critically under-celebrated in its day, Monk’s Dream is rich with the confidence of a band at its peak. ~David Greenberger (Amazon Review)

Charles Mingus, AH UMMercurial bassist and bandleader Charles Mingus was signed to Columbia Records for the briefest of time during 1959. His Columbia recordings, however, remain some of the most inspired, mood-jumping jazz in history. The flowing sadness of “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” (unedited here for the first time on CD!) rings like a funeral chorus that pitches headlong into a celebration of Lester Young‘s life and improvising flexibility, rather than his death. And there’s the funky furnace blast of “Boogie Stop Shuffle” (also unedited!), which reaches its glory with Booker Ervin‘s Texas tenor sax, wrapped tight in bluesy tone. With the index of emotions captured, these songs nail why Mingus is possibly the most relevant jazzer for the ’90s generation. He swings and shouts and hollers and somersaults. His tunes either induce foot-stomping with their intensity or reach for poignant yearning with their lyrical tapestry of orchestral colors. ~Andrew Bartlett  (Review Amazon)

John Coltrane, BLUE TRAINThe tenor sax giant had signed with another label when he embarked on this one-off date for Blue Note, an excursion that paid off with an enduring modern jazz masterpiece. Boasting volley after volley of smart soloing and intuitively swinging rhythm work, Blue Train is a joy, from the coolly precise ensemble entry on the opening title piece through the set’s balance of elegant hard bop conversations and smooth downshifts into ballads. John Coltrane wrote four originals for the date, all of them now regarded as standards and assembled a rhythm section including pianist Kenny Drew, Miles Davis’ rhythm section of bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones, and trumpeter Lee Morgan and trombonist Curtis Fuller, both recent Blue Note recruits. Coltrane’s signature sound, now fully developed but still hewing more to familiar blues and chromatic harmonies than his later modalities, is confident and expansive, and his partners respond vividly throughout. ~Sam Sutherland  (Review, Amazon)