Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Short Takes - CDs of Note

Bands led by trumpeters are in the spotlight…

Miles Davis, Bitches Brew: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Columbia/Legacy)

Two weeks after releasing its three-disc Legacy Edition of Miles Davis’s genre-smashing Bitches Brew project that pulled jazz together with the commercial rock world, Columbia/Legacy is out with a Collector’s Edition. The boxed set includes CDs containing the original recording plus six bonus tracks, a previously unissued performance by Davis’s evolving septet at Tanglewood in August 1970 and a DVD of a previously unissued quintet performance in Copenhagen, plus much more. The other items are an audiophile vinyl replication of the original album, a 48-page color book with an extended Greg Tate essay, and reproduced memorabilia.

Why so much attention now to Bitches Brew? Remember its times and Davis’s ability to take his jazz into distinctly new styles throughout his career. This time, he went head-to-head with arena rock bands at major venues – and found a rock audience welcoming his new group sound. It spawned a new wave of jazz-cum-progressive rock that soon became known as fusion. It paved the way for Weather Report, the Brecker Brothers, the Mahavishnu Orchestra and many other adventurers. Jazz purists at the time were questioning where Davis was headed. Whether or not they embraced it, now we have a clear sense of its progeny and impact.

Alex Sipiagin, Generations – Dedicated to Woody Shaw (Criss Cross)

If you like modern jazz trumpet played with melodic clarity and fire, Russia-born, New York-based Alex Sipiagin is worth a listen. Several listens in fact. He was an instrumental part of the late Michael Brecker’s sextet and now brings his talents to bassist Dave Holland’s big and small bands, and the Mingus Big Band. This session is a tribute to Woody Shaw, who was a key influence on Sipiagin’s development. The leader puts his own stamp on five tunes written by or associated with Shaw and adds four spirited originals. His partners here, all Michael Brecker alumni, are guitarist Adam Rogers, bassist Boris Koslov and drummer Antonio Sanchez. Favorite tracks: there takes on Shaw’s “Cassanadranite” (with terrific soloing by Rogers) and “Katrina Ballerina,” and Sipiagin’s “Greenwood I.”

Jim Rotondi, 1000 Rainbows (Posi-Tone)
Trumpeter Jim Rotondi is a stalwart member of the New York-based jazz collective One For All. He’s also a great leader and writer in his own right, as evidenced on this third release as a leader on Posi-Tone. Vibes player Joe Locke is a strong front-line foil for Rotondi in this swinging setting and contributes the burner “Crescent Street.” Pianist Danny Grissett, bassist Barak Mori and drummer Bill Stewart add strong support. Favorites: Rotondi’s “Bizzaro World,” the band’s teasing take on the Lennon/McCartney classic “We Can Work It Out,” and the Buddy Montgomery title track, “1000 Rainbows.” The latter is a ballad that has long deserved more recognition. This tip of the hat is most welcome - and beautifully done.

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