This week sees new releases from Caroline Herring and Enrico Rava plus a recording of the Miles Davis Quintet in 1960.
Miles Davis Quintet – Live In Zurich, 1960 (TCB Music)
Following on from the Getz CD reviewed recently, this rounds up the evening’s entertainment at the Kongresshaus in Zurich on 8th April 1960, recorded by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. It captures the Miles Davis Quintet and features John Coltrane, along with regulars Paul Chambers on bass and drummer Jimmy Cobb with piano from Wynton Kelly.
Coltrane had been playing regularly with Miles since 56, but by the time this was recorded had already given his notice, only for Miles to persuade him to remain in place for the European tour. It follows hot on the heels of Kind Of Blue, the quintessential expression of Mile’s new modal approach to jazz, developed in tandem with Coltrane. The second half of the hour’s set includes So What and All Blues from that album, with the former taken at some lick and Coltrane in fiery form, while the latter sees Miles exert some cooling influence. But you can see the two are starting to diverge in their approach to improvisation. From the off, through If I Were a Bell, Coltrane is urgent and stormy, where Miles is the calm in the eye of the Hurricane. It’s an intense set that captures the pair striking out for bold new frontiers.
[Reviewed by Simon]
Caroline Herring – Camilla (Continental Folk Song City)
Caroline Herring was a participant in the Cecil Sharp Project from last year and that finds its way into this CD via the inclusion of the song Black Mountain Lullaby and the presence of Kathryn Roberts, Leonard Podolak and Jackie Oates. Sean Lakeman, Kath’s partner, along with Mary Chapin Carpenter are other notable guests augmenting the talented core band, which includes the versatile Fats Kaplin. Caroline’s tremulous quaver of a voice adds an unmistakeable southern, country flavour and she draws on tunes, themes, motifs and locations that help to give a strong sense of real people at the heart of these songs.
There are songs about freedom, justice and making a stand. In Camilla, a mother is heading for the titular Georgia town to plead for clemency on behalf of another woman, only to be beaten and lose her unborn child. White Dress commemorates the Civil Rights, Freedom Rides and Mae Francis Mouterie in particular. Maiden Voyage weaves Woody Guthrie’s This Land into the song and Joy Never Ends includes Auld Lang Syne: the message seems to be that together we are stronger. It’s beautifully sung and played, eloquent and thoughtful, an antidote to the hectoring blare of modern life. [Reviewed by Simon]
Enrico Rava & Parco Della Musica Jazz Lab – Rava On he Dancefloor (ECM)
Enrico Rava may not have discovered the music of Michael Jackson until he was nearly 70, the singer’s death prompting him to seek out his music, but Italian jazz trumpeter Enrico Rava has successfully pulled off a project that could so easily have fallen flat. Working with music as universally popular and singable as Michael Jackson’s, there was little point in aiming this at Jackson fans – no one could make a better job of it than the man himself. Instead, Rava engaged the talents of the young jazz ensemble Parco Della Musica Jazz Lab, with bandleader and trombonist Mauro Ottolini sharing arrangements, recorded it live at the Rome Auditorium where he’d just been when he first learnt of Jackson’s death, and released it, like the rest of his work, on esteemed jazz label ECM.
While it may be an album of covers of one artist’s work, bar Charlie Chaplin’s Smile for which Jackson also shared a penchant, the variety within is the secret of its success. From the sultry solo opener Speechless, to the funky rock riffs of Privacy and the ska treatment of They Don’t Care About Us, a lot of thought has gone into these arrangements. Within a classic like Thriller, the dynamic is constantly changing – congas set up the Latin vibe, brass punching out the fat melody, with slinky bass and soulful trumpet one minute, wiggy improv the next.
It’s a uniquely personal tribute but the PMJL have risen to the challenge and with Rava leading the way, they produce some thrilling performances. [Reviewed by Sofi]