By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Maria Schneider Orchestra, AllĂ©gresse (Enja). The pairing of jazz and an orchestra tends to be a fight, one that jazz almost always loses. But Maria Schneider has been getting more and more attention for her work with big groupings, and it’s deserved. The Minnesotan’s light hand wafts the 19 instruments on AllĂ©gresse like a leaf in a breeze; her harmonies are modern without being forced or irritating Â¾ here’s beauty you don’t have to be embarrassed about. Her old boss Gil Evans would smile.
Romano, Sclavis, Texier, Le Querrec, Carnet de Routes (Label Bleu). One of the marvels of socialism is the way you can get government money for strange art projects. Photographer Guy Le Querrec smoked up the notion that he could become some kind of Euro-griot by assembling three top French jazz musicians, trotting them around Africa and taking pictures. Later, the trio (drummer Aldo Romano, reedman Louis Sclavis and bassist Henri Texier) recorded music inspired by the experience, and put it in a CD-size package with a booklet featuring some 80 of Le Querrec’s black-and-white photos. The music, though it’s hardly African, radiates an intelligent, jumpy energy, and the pix are clean, well-composed and sometimes funny (my favorite: Africa Brass creator John Coltrane on African TV). Points for originality.
Myself When I Am Real: The Life and Music of Charles Mingus by Gene Santoro (Oxford). Bassist-composer-bandleader Charles Mingus was an extremely complicated character Â¾ angry, vulnerable, lusty, spiritual, crazy, prodigiously talented. So it’s kind of appropriate that The Nation columnist Gene Santoro treats his biography as an epic, with eyewitness testimonials that ring like the Gospel of Matthew and a telegraphic writing style a lot like James Ellroy’s. Interspersed with cultural parallels and jammed with details about Mingus’ racially ambivalent L.A. youth and revelations about previously underacknowledged influences, Myself When I Am Real is the most complete bio on its subject.
Jazz Generations: A Life in American Music and Society by Buddy Collette with Steven Isoardi (Continuum). More L.A. jazz: Reedman Buddy Collette was a lifelong friend and mentor to Mingus; he even persuaded Mingus to switch from cello to bass. Jazz Generations has the feel of a veteran simply recalling a full life, with a good memory and solid perspective. Collette reports Charlie Parker’s own version of why he was called “Bird,” takes you back to the amalgamation of the black and white musicians unions, relates a racial confrontation in Arlington, Virginia, when he was on his way to play JFK’s inauguration with Frank Sinatra. Exciting times, and Collette was on the frontlines.
Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpieceby Ashley Kahn (Da Capo). If there’s any jazz record that will inspire fans to scrutinize every “Ready?” and “What?” transcribed from the session tapes, it’s the 1959 slab Kind of Blue. The music just has that kind of universal pull, and the fact that — excepting Foreword author Jimmy Cobb — all the main participants (Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly) are dead adds to the mystique. Through 200-plus pages of musician commentary, scholarly research and pictures (many from the actual dates), Ashley Kahn shows why fan derives from fanatical.
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