CD reviews for Nov. 4
November 3, 2005
Thelonious Monk Quartet
“… with John Coltrane At Carnegie Hall”Available at All That Jazz for $16.98
This is one of those “wish you were there” recordings.
This classic, spiral up your spine performance originally was recorded on by Voice of America on Nov. 29, 1957, at Carnegie Hall and recently re-released by Blue Note. Until this year, the recording had probably been heard by a few radio insiders.
Putting in this album is like opening a chapter in the history books. It was a moment when so much was happening, so much was about to happen, and paths were crossing in a way they would never do again.
It was the height of everything that jazz has ever been and is always trying to recapture.
It was the era of Miles Davis and Art Tatum.
The original performance was part of a benefit concert that also included appearances by Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie and Chet Baker.
An essay in the liner notes is written by Beat poet Amiri Baraka who was there to “dig” the music the evening it was performed. The world he describes outside the concert hall doors sounds like chaos — Emmett Till’s murder, a young Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. But inside, the hip and the Bohemian were digging on this jazz scene. They were in a trance.
Rated: Powerful stuff, man. Powerful stuff.
Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole
“Facing Future”Available at All That Jazz for $15.98
Deciding to review an album by one of All That Jazz owner Joe Kboudi’s favorite musicians is as risky as walking through a minefield in big wooden snowshoes.
As I put the CD in my stereo, I begged the gods that oversee local music store and music writer relations that I would like it.
For years, inspired by surf music, I have picked up Hawaiian music on vinyl at various library basement sales and from thrift store bins. Most of it was a disappointment.
I wanted to like this album not just to avoid the crossed arms and raised eyebrow of Kboudi, but because I have been looking for good Hawaiian music for so long.
This is a powerful album. It opens with a heartbreaking tribute to Hawaii and to IZ’s father. His descriptions of both weave in and out of each other until you’re not sure which he’s describing.
In the story “IZ will always be,” written by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin shortly after his death at 38, more than 10,000 people showed up for IZ’s funeral. His gentle examinations of traditional Hawaiian music touched everyone who heard them. He was described in the article as a “state treasure.”
I was an emotional wet rag by the end of this album, said by many fans to be his best.
In 15 tracks, this giant of a man with a ukulele whispers all his love for Hawaii and for his fellow man by extension. Only the most jaded will make it through without feeling something.
Rated: Joe was right.
John Scofield plays the music of Ray Charles
“That’s What I Say”Available at All That Jazz for $16.98
I have this great memory of sitting in my grandparents’ living room listening to Ray Charles’ “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.” There sat three generations — my grandparents, my dad and me — all equally enjoying the same record.
It’s probably the only time that will ever happen. We have such different music tastes, but Ray Charles can do that. His music crosses boundaries of age, race and class.
Last year’s release of “Ray” reminded the world of his music. Since then, music store shelves have filled with re-releases and greatest hits and covers of every Ray Charles song recorded. Some are better than others, and John Scofield’s “That’s What I Say” is one of the best.
Scofield strips most of the songs to expose their instrumental bones. He rearranges some of the songs for a jazz ear and leaves others as they were.
Scofield chose two tracks from “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “You Don’t Know Me.”
Although I’m not sure about the Aaron Neville warbling vibrato on “You Don’t Know Me,” I loved the way Mavis Staples growls out “I Can’t Stop Loving You” with an organ behind her. In this version, it’s a gospel song and one of the saddest songs ever sung by a woman.
Rated: Turn down the lights and bring out the spritzers.
— Autumn Phillips