The Needless Kiss was the first CD by Phillip Johnston's Transparent Quartet, the drummerless quartet he formed in the late 1990s after leading The Microscopic Septet and Big Trouble. It was released in 1998 on Koch Jazz, but is now out-of-print, due to the corporate downsizing of that label. In addition to originals by Johnston and pianist Joe Ruddick, the group played distinctive arrangements of tunes by a variety of composers, for instance on this CD, Frederic Chopin & Raymond Scott.
Same Train, Different Time is Merle Haggard's affectionate tribute to Jimmie Rodgers. Haggard provides narration between the songs, offering tales of Rodgers' life and music. While the album is rooted in the past, the key to its success is how Haggard updates these traditional songs without losing sight of their roots. There are contemporary folk, country and blues influences scattered throughout the record, adding depth to the music and proving that Rodgers' music is indeed timeless.
I’m honored to discuss this CD. I found Fred Ho’s Monkey: Part One a glorious surprise, and this second section of his musical setting for the trickster tale is no disappointment. The ensemble’s personnel has few changes, notably Francis Wong as tenorist; but its spirit remains dramatic, flexible and visionary as Ho achieves tremendous range from trombone, three saxophones (including his own baritone), bass and drums, and several performers on Chinese traditional instruments.
Monkey is a two-part recording of baritone saxophonist Fred Ho's multimedia musical Journey Beyond the West, centered around the Chinese trickster figure of Monkey (à la Coyote in much native American lore) that combines Chinese folk music and instrumentation with jazz. Acts I and III (composed in 1990/1989, respectively) are featured here, with Acts II and IV (both written in 1994) on the companion Monkey, Pt. 2 disc.
Hot on the heels of his commercial breakthrough Touchdown, which contained the monster hit "Angela (Theme from Taxi)," Bob James teamed up with acoustic guitarist Earl Klugh for the first of two hit duet albums. One on One is not strictly a duet side, however. The pair is accompanied by a band of crack studio types that includes James' former CTI mates acoustic bassist Ron Carter and drummer Harvey Mason and a host of others as well as string and woodwinds sections. The fare is light, breezy, and barely there in places. Out of these sessions came "The Afterglow," which lit up the charts right after "Angela" did, making James the hottest jazz commodity on the scene.