Recorded in 1963, The Sheriff features the Modern Jazz Quartet in fine swinging form. The program is not as sharply focused as on some of the earlier Atlantic releases, but it is compelling nonetheless. There are four originals by pianist John Lewis, including the fleeting, bluesy title cut, and the moody, spacious "In a Crowd," – originally composed for the 1961 film A Milanese Story. Its stepped-up time signature and series of phrases played by Milt Jackson grounds the tune in blues, but Lewis' solo feels more like a solo trumpet breezing through the center. The set includes Heitor Villa-Lobos' "Bachianas Brasileiras," a classical piece the quartet first performed with guitarist Laurindo Almeida. Bassist Percy Heath is stellar here, playing both arco and pizzicato and alternately moving the work forward with deftness and precision. Lewis and Jackson engage in gorgeous counterpoint throughout.
For her entry into the increasingly popular Great American Songbook subgenre, Diane Schuur de-emphasizes the vocal histrionics that in the past have come close to spoiling some of her recordings and maintains a steady, clear, exuberant tone. Good move: one of Schuur's gifts is her multi-octave range, but she has often over-relied on it at the expense of whatever song she was singing. Here, she takes to the classic compositions of George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, and the like with a respectfulness and glee that allow her to frame and expose these culturally embedded lyrics and melodies without beating on them.
For his third CD, organist Yahel brings back guitarist Peter Bernstein, drummer Brian Blade (see Trio on Criss Cross) and percussionist Kahlil Kwame Bell, who plays percussion on two tracks. There's much more going on under the surface than initially meets the ear, and that's the beauty of Yahel's concept. He's stealth and lurking in underground caves, searching for light and finding mine shafts of pure gold, with the always capable and melodic Bernstein a veritable beacon of energy and soul. Yahel wrote two of these eight selections.
Features 24 bit remastering and comes with a mini-description. A great one from Sonny Fortune – done with the fusiony sound he was working so well with at the time, and still filled with a tight conception and an incredible group of musicians who bring depth and deliver some really great solos! The title track is an incredible 10 minute cut that breaks into a beautiful modal groove about 4 minutes into it – and that groove is completely wonderful. It's far from the only high point of a set filled with them. Players include Kenny Barron on Fender Rhodes, Woody Shaw on coronet & flugelhorn, Gary King on bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums, Sammy Figueroa on congas, Rafael Cruz on percussion, and Sonny doing his thing on flute, piccolo and sax. Other tracks include "Bacchanal", "Never Again Is Such A Long Time", "There's Nothing Smart About Being Stupid" and "The Afro-Americans".
Although best-known for his work in mainstream swing settings, guitarist Howard Alden has long been interested in later periods of jazz. On this superior outing, he doubles on seven-string acoustic and electric guitars (which allow him to add basslines). Lew Tabackin is on four of the ten numbers (three on tenor, one on flute) and pianist Renee Rosnes appears on six songs (including a duet with Alden on "Warm Valley"), while bassist Michael Moore and drummer Bill Goodwin are on seven. Alden takes "My Funny Valentine" and "After All" as unaccompanied solos but it is his meetings with Tabackin, particularly on exciting versions of two complex Herbie Nichols songs ("House Party Starting" and "The Gig") that are most notable. Recommended.
2006 seems to be a significant year for jazz's elder states persons. Pianist Andrew Hill has seen a year full of recordings: new music, reissues and previously unreleased material, as well as an outstanding tribute by guitarist Nels Cline. Chick Corea, who's a few years younger than Hill, has released a new record and toured with trios focusing on his back catalog. Super Trio (Stretch, 2006) documented a tour where the pianist was clearly in control of the arrangements; however, Live in Molde is an entirely different affair.