It is only a short while since I reviewed a suite of dances from Rameau's opera, Nais. Now, hard on the heels of that disc (also conducted by McGegan, Harmonia Mundi, 7/95) comes a reissue of the entire work, albeit with judicious cuts. Nais was commissioned to celebrate the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, and first performed the following year. Thus it was a vocal counterpart to Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks, both pieces marking the conclusion of the War of the Austrian Succession. The present recording was made in 1980 following performances at London's Old Vic Theatre and at Versailles under the auspices of Lina Lalandi's enterprising English Bach Festival.
After twenty one recordings there may not be too much more to say about the superlative English threesome of saxophonist Evan Parker, bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton. Some 30 years on since their debut Tracks (Incus, 1983), they converse in a language entirely of their own making, which relies on a staggering density of ideas, chops to burn and a preternatural responsiveness. Live At Maya Recordings Festival, captured at Winterthur, Switzerland in 2011 forms another top notch entry into an already distinguished discography.
The Avant Garde was a coffeehouse in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that played host to a variety of rock, blues, and folk performers in the '60s, and Windy City guitar wizard Magic Sam (aka Sam Maghett) rolled in to play a few sets in June 1968. A local kid with an interest in recording named Jim Charne showed up with a reel-to-reel machine and a couple of microphones, and he captured Magic Sam's show on tape; 45 years later, those tapes have finally been made public on the album Live at the Avant Garde, and given the relatively small amount of material that's surfaced on the late blues legend (who succumbed to a heart attack when he was just 32), this set is a very welcome find. Live at the Avant Garde has a decidedly different feel than Magic Sam Live, which preserved radio broadcasts from 1963 and 1964 and a 1969 appearance at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival; while those recordings blazed with intensity, this captures Magic Sam and his band in more laid-back form, playing a small, booze-free venue rather than a rowdy bar or a festival audience in the thousands.
On the face of it, this live double-album is an expert genuflection to jazz-rock fusion, with five guitarists and a crop of punchy drummers (including Return to Forever's Lenny White and percussion virtuoso Zakir Hussain) to confirm it. But the playing of the seven bands is anything but predictable. The members sit in with each other here, and their embrace of risk and the pleasure they take in spontaneous performance are palpable. John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension have Hussain sit in for usual drummer Ranjit Barot in two fiercely vivacious pieces, including an infectious, choppy, 20-minute Hussein showcase, Mother Tongues. Barot leads a violin-dominated Indian-inflected sextet featuring the New York guitar maverick Wayne Krantz as a guest; Krantz also appears with an edgy avant-fusion trio. The chord-crunching, metal-inspired guitarist Alex Machacek opens proceedings with a fast-moving group extensively featuring electric bassist Neal Fountain.