Last Call Notes

Jul 30, 2012

Strong new recordings from well known guitarists Pat Metheny and Mike Stern will be featured this month. We will also present a new disc from Japanese jazz trumpeter deserving much wider recognition, Shunzo Ohno.

Pat Metheny's Unity Band is a new configuration of sorts for the guitarist and well-known jazz artist. Metheny adds saxophonist Chris Potter to the musical adventure this time in addition to Ben Williams on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums. The result is another satisfying Metheny recording with something for almost every taste--most notably on "Signals(Orchestrion Sketch) which features the guitarist on "Orchestionics"; a reminding this listener of his previous recording which featured the Orchestrion. Metheny fans will have much to enjoy here with melodic electric statements on "Roofdogs" & "Leaving Town" & other tracks on the new disc.  Potter adds a lot to the recording on tenor and soprano saxophone and bass clarinet, the colors he creates contrast nicely with Metheny's guitar and enliven the overall session into something quite unexpected for long-time fans of Pat Metheny.

Guitarist Mike Stern is back with a new recording,  All Over the Place.  An eclectic recording, Stern's roving muse is on display, especially on "OCD", "AJ", and "Flipside". Special guests help to make the effort memorable. The veteran guitarist is joined by trumpeter Randy Brecker; saxophonist Kenny Garrett; drummer Dave Weckl, in addition to high-caliber electric and acoustic bass players: Esperanza Spalding, Richard Bona, Victor Wooten, Anthony Jackson, Dave Holland, Tom Kennedy, Will Lee and Victor Bailey. Mike Stern is a guitarist whose work has been featured many times on the Last Call over the years. Landing gigs with Blood, Sweat & Tears and drummer Billy Cobham, the guitarist broke through with trumpeter Miles Davis' comeback band from 1981 to 1983, and again in 1985. Stern then launched a solo career, releasing more than a dozen albums. Guitar Player magazine hailed him as the Best Jazz Guitarist of 1993. In 2009 he was listed on Down Beat's list of 75 best jazz guitar players.

Shunzo Ohno is a trumpeter deserving wider recognition, at least in jazz circles. He is a well known artist in his native Japan.  An accomplished trumpeter, composer and arranger, Ohno is known for his hit 1970s single "Bubbles"  that was featured on Norman Connors million-selling recording "You Are My Starship".  Ohno also toured the United States with Art Blakey's band in the 1970s. Later he also toured and recorded with Machito and his Afro-Cuban Orchestra as well as Gil Evans. Unfortunately a serious automobile accident in 1988 and a bout with throat cancer in the late 1990s temporarily sidelined Ohno, but after both ordeals he returned to the music scene, determined to push forward and continue playing. Ohno's release "Home" is a potpurri of excellent trumpet work from which the listener can enjoy breathtaking work. "Go On", "Awa Odori", "Firefly", "Epic" and " Bubbles" are standout tracks featuring Ohno and his colleagues including John Hart on guitar, George Colligan on piano & keyboards, Billy Kilson on drums, and Danny Sadownic on percussion.

One of the most impressive ensemble recordings to be released in quite a while, The Devil's Hopyardis a compelling introduction to Trombari, co-led by Glenn Wilson(baritone sax, flute) and Jim Pugh(trombone). The ensemble presents music of the late saxophonist/composer Thomas Chapin in addition to originals sublimely crafted by the co-leaders. This is an exceptional listening experience.  

Another fine recording comes to us from Steve Smith & Vital Information. "Live! One Great Night" presents one of the best-kept secrets in progressive music in high gear. Bandleader Steve Smith on drums is with Tom Coster, keyboards; Baron Browne, bass, and Vinny Valentino, guitar. Together they far exceed the measure of simply good music; excellent, compelling artistry is the rule here on this release which includes a DVD of the same performance. A thoroughly solid live date!

Two new discs of note that were released recently are also worth your attention.   Citizen Rhythm explores new directions in fusion on their recording Of The People, For The People, By The People.  The liner notes say:    "Miles Davis, Soulive, and Cream get into a bar fight…it’s the closest imagery that describes the sound of San Francisco based music collective, Citizen Rhythm. It is the music of Mingus, Monk, Miles, and more fused with funk, hard rock, hip-hop, and odd-meter grooves."

Citizen Rhythm is comprised of four of the San Francisco Bay areas most talented and in demand musicians; guitarist Terrence Brewer, keyboardist Michael Coleman, bassist Gabe Davis, and drummer Rob Rhodes. As sideman the members of Citizen Rhythm have performed with Ledisi, Mary Wilson, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Louis Bellson, Buddy Guy, Elvin Bishop, Joyce Cooling, Pete Escovedo,  Calvin Keys, and many others. Together they create compelling covers of jazz classics, taken in bold directions.

Also recently released is a rock-solid new recording that pays tribute to the music of the legendary Curtis Mayfield.  From Jazz Soul Seven, Impressions of Curtis Mayfield is a collection of a dozen reinterpretations of some of Mayfield's most potent compositions, recorded by  Terri Lynne Carrington-drums, Russ Ferrante-piano, the late Master Henry Gibson-percussion, Bob Hurst-bass, Wallace Roney-trumpet, Phil Upchurch-guitar, and Ernie Watts-saxophone. There is much to enjoy here: "Superfly", "Keep on Pushing", "People Get Ready", and more gems for fans of the late, great soul writer and musician. It is worth a listen!

Stay tuned to the Last Call for classic & new progressive jazz recordings all summer long!

-Christopher Cooke